Since I knit (and crochet) in public a lot, I am often asked why I knit and crochet. The short answer is usually that, “It’s cheaper than therapy and I have socks (or whatever I am working on) when I’m done.”
When asked about spinning (I will use a drop spindle in public), the answer is that, “It’s cheaper than therapy, and I have yarn when I’m done.”
In truth, though, I knit and crochet because it’s what I do. It’s what I’ve done ever since my parents taught me when I was a kid. And, yes, I said parents. My mother taught me to knit, but Pop taught me to crochet. (Pop also taught me the joys of geometrical design, but that’s another column.)
Like many craftspeople, I have my strengths and weaknesses. My strengths are my color sense, and my love of textural knitting. My weakness is designing, although I can claim one of the first toe-up sock patterns on the Web (“Deb’s Almost-Easy Toe-Up Sock),” at Socknitters.com.
Currently, my favorite things to knit are socks, shawls, and shawlettes. My favorite designers are many: Wendy Johnson, Cookie A, Vickie Howell, Ysolda, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Mary Ann Beattie, and many others. I have at least five projects going most of the time, and I switch back and forth depending on mood, event I will be at, and whether I can do the pattern from memory, or need a printout or proximity to a computer.
When I am not plying needles or hooks, I am either making beaded jewelry, writing (I’m a freelance writer by trade), reading, walking, or some combination of the above. I live in Brooklyn, NY, with a roommate and two cats, and I love to show off my city, wander through parks and museums, and try most of the ethnic foods so readily available in New York (Indian and Hispanic are particular favorites).
I look forward to meeting many of you online, and possibly in person if you are ever in New York City.
We as a group of women are widows, retired, seniors, disabled or people who just want to help Keeping Kids Warm in any way we can. I have found that a lot of these ladies just want to still feel needed and useful.
When I started this group back in 2003 I never thought that some of these ladies would actually become close friends. When I started this charity to help our homeless teens I did it as a memorial to my own mother and grandmother. My mom passed away at the age of 50. I was then 32 and the oldest of 10 children.
Unable to properly grieve for my own mom, I did so when my maternal grandmother passed. My grief was so overwhelming that I grieved for both, realizing that this is not what either of them would have wanted me to do. So, I got hopeful and started Keeping Kids Warm. KKW provides knitted warm clothing items to homeless teens.
With my journey started now I try and get others like myself who enjoyed knitting and wanted to feel useful. We have been able to distribute over 10,000 items and still going to our homeless youth in our community. Its a wonderful feeling for all of us to know that we have helped so many.
It has now been 8 years and we are going strong. Keeping it going has been a struggle but with yarn donations and our wonderful volunteers and some small monetary donations, we are still active and always looking for more people to help. We have just recently been given space to store supplies and run a small office. We are so grateful for this.
Keeping Kids Warm is a small not-for-profit charity and we will continue for as long as we are able.
Homeless youth are in dire need of help… One Stitch At A Time
I joined Twitter last year after swearing I would never, ever participate in something as silly as that service. Bear in mind, I also said the same thing about Facebook. There are several reasons that these types of services can be of great help to artisans.
First, say you are working on a pattern and you get stuck, don’t know what an abbreviation is, or are having a problem selecting a pattern. Head over to your “Tweeps” and ask! This is a great resource for finding new patterns, getting opinions on patterns or yarn that you are considering, etc. I found Cookie A’s Monkey socks pattern in exactly this way.
Second, as a stay at home mom, it is really nice to be able to “chat” with others when I’m sitting at home watching endless hours of kid’s movies and cartoons as I’m working on my various projects. It’s even nicer when these relationships that are developed online transition into the real world. I’ve met several of my knitty tweeps in real life for knit time at local yarn shops, and they are just as delightful in person!
Third, if you are a seller on Etsy, Artfire, or simply in craft shows, social media is a great way to promote your items and what you are doing! Pattern notifications, both for sale and that are listed for free… those postings run rampant on Twitter. Special sales, discounts, and promotions are consistently listed on social media. I’ve found out about huge sales from Lantern Moon and Blue Moon Fiber Arts through these channels and have saved a ton because of it!
Finally, it can result in great opportunities both for individuals and businesses. I have made enough connections that I will be working with a dyer and spinner in the future with her new business that she is starting up! I’ve always been computer savvy, but was late to the social media game. I am so excited to say that I have embraced it whole-heartedly, and I wish more crafty types would do the same! It really is a great networking tool, and can be used as much or as little as you like.
Intarsia is actually a woodworking term, where it refers to inlaying different colours or types of wood to create a design.
From my perspective there are 4 types of intarsia knitting.
- Knit a picture as you knit the garment – such as a truck on the front of a boys sweater, or a heart on a girls sweater. The pattern is provided on a graph.
- Create a geometric design over a whole garment such as tumbling blocks as per a Kaffe Fassett design.
- Let your mind take over and knit in a freeform way using many colours as I do on all or part of your garment or art piece.
- Icelandic Intarsia – where all the work is completed in garter stitch only.
Unlike Fair Isle knitting, in intarsia the yarn is not carried across the back of the work. You knit with a separate length of yarn for each block or section of colour
Knit Intarsia – basics:
Straight vertical stripes are the simplest intarsia design to create. After the first row, the pattern is continued by always knitting each stitch in the same colour as the previous row, changing colours at the exact same point in each row.
The twisting and changing of yarns always occurs on the wrong side of the work.
Do try to keep your tension consistent as you switch colours and to not knit too tightly or too loosely with a new colour although blocking will improve slight uneven tension in the knitting.
Learn to manage many yarns in one row without too much tangling. The yarns will tangle, so it is a matter of working out the best way for you to manage them. You can use bobbins or use lengths that are more manageable. Run your fingers through the yarns as you do to reduce the problem works well if using many short lengths of yarn.
Weave in the ends of the yarn as you go where possible.
Swiss darning can be used to change a section if you wish.
- When knitting a picture – to change the colour of a section of the design.
- If you missed a colour change add it when garment is completed.
- Embellish an intarsia knit
Knit Intarsia – work a simple design:
Create a washcloth using the intarsia technique:
Knit a wash cloth in cotton in two colours with a stripe knitted up the centre 15 stitches using the intarsia method.
- Cast on 45 stitches with an appropriate needle for the cotton being used.
- Knit 15 st white, 15 st red, and 15 st white.
- Knit to the desired size.
- Cast off
- Knit 16 rows
- Reverse the colour sequence – knit 15 st red, 15 st white, and 15 st red
- Repeat 2 times more or till the wash cloth is the size you wish it to be
- Cast off
Create a scarf using the intarsia technique:
Knit as above with wool or mohair yarns and an appropriate needle size and continue with the 16 rows of each sequence until you have the right length for a scarf.
Knit Intarsia – work a simple charted design: coming next!
We have all had those times where we want to knit or crochet, but we just don’t know which project to work on. So many lovely patterns out there but sometimes it is hard to find one to start working on. I can’t tell you how many times I have sat down wanting to knit only to get frustrated because I just couldn’t find my knitting mojo.
It wasn’t because I didn’t want to. It wasn’t because I didn’t have patterns or yarn. It was just because I couldn’t find the inspiration that I needed. Where can someone who has lost their mojo turn to? There are many different places and resources available.
The most readily available resources most of us have are knitting books and magazines. There are so many to choose from. Most libraries have at least a few knitting books. Sometimes beautiful patterns can be found in the most unlikely books or magazines. As far as magazines are concerned though, don’t just flip through looking at the pictures. There are so many wonderfully written articles about all different aspects of crafts that it can really get those creative juices flowing.
As for those of us that are a little more comfortable with the wealth of information that is available online, there are many resources there as well. There is everything from craft related blogs, to different types of online communities. The possibilities are endless when it comes to the internet. If you have particular yarn you want to use, no doubt there is a website for that yarn that you could gain inspiration from. There are even podcasts to listen to.
You don’t have to have an iPod to listen, just download it to your computer! They are like little radio programs about all sorts of different topics. I put knit in the search bar and there were so many to choose from! I was hooked instantly. I now have more than I could possibly ever listen to in a normal amount of time, because I like to go back and listen to all of my favorite podcasters episodes.
Imagine, getting to listen to someone talk about their achievements, difficulties, and general yarn journeys! Plus I can listen to them when I can’t have yarn in my hands.
Besides books, and the internet, the biggest thing that I do to keep track of my inspiration is to keep a journal. I write down everything. I make lists and notes constantly. I write down websites that I enjoy, blogs that I read, patterns that I love, and sometimes even notes on patterns that I am working on. It is meant to be something that I can look at to spark creativity when I am not feeling so creative. Having a knitting journal can also be really helpful in keeping my thoughts somewhat organized, even though there when there is no rhyme or reason to the order in the notebook itself.
And I can take it with me anywhere I go so if inspiration hits me when I am out, I can write it down and save it for later! Everyone has things that inspire them more than others and surrounding yourself with those things can really help find your knitting mojo.
Also, check out the other Gypsy Knitterz column posts for more tips and tricks on keeping you fiber projects organized and finding your knitting mojo.
Starting out as a new knitter the plethora of reading material can seem overwhelming. Being a former bookstore employee and current library card holder, I have come in contact with many, many books full of knitting patterns and techniques.
This “top 5” guide is a compilation of the titles I have found most helpful and entertaining to read and knit. Of course, this is all my opinion. Be sure to leave your thoughts and favorites in the comments!
Bag Style: 20 Inspirational handbags, totes, and carry-alls to knit and crochet, Pam Allen and Ann Budd
While very light on technique, Bag Style is full of beautiful, high quality patterns. Bag Style’s patterns have a decent time commitment and are not for the faint at heart. He difficulty level isn’t immensely high, butt this definitely wouldn’t be the book to find your first project in. If you’re looking for always fashionable bags for any occasion, this is the book for you.
ColorWork Stitches: Over 250 designs to knit, edited by Susie Johns
I believe ColorWork Stitches is a must-have for a knitter’s library. From simple embellishments to a full alphabet, ColorWork Stitches is a wonderful guide, especially for anyone new to colorwork or in need of ideas to brighten up otherwise bland yarn colors This too is fairly light on technique, but definitely has the goods to back it up.
Stitch n Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook, Debbie Stoller
This was actually the first knitting book I purchased. Now this is important: if you are offended by the title, then Stitch n Bitch is not for you. SNB is without a doubt the best book I have found for learning technique, especially when the reader is going in blind. Stoller includes step by step illustrated instructions for everything you need to know to start out and fabulous patterns to practice what you learn. This book is a must have for new knitters. (Be sure to check out her other titles as well!)
Last Minute Knitted Gifts. Joelle Hoverson
After 34 pages of wonderful basic information for newbies, Last Minute Knitted Gifts has a full 76 pages of gift patterns for any occasion broken down by time commitment. I was most impressed by how well Hoverson compiled patters for anyone, regardless of age and gender. If you are on a budget, be sure to pay attention to the fiber type, weight, and gauge of the projects to make correct substitutions, as the suggested yarns are a bit pricey. In all honesty, this is one of the best investments I have made in the knitting department.
*drumroll* Number 1:
Awareknits: Knit and crochet patterns for the eco-conscious stitcher, Vickie Howell and Adrienne Armstrong
Being a HUGE Green Day fan, I was excited to see their frontman’s wife Adrienne had collaborated with pro-stitcher Vickie Howell to create an eco-friendly knitting book. I was even more excited when I purchased and read Awareknits and realized just how fabulous it is. This book is just great pattern after great pattern with projects for every member of the family as well as the home.
The best part? All of the patterns use eco-friendly yarn and have tips to keep your projects green. This book is truly what it says it is. Stellar patterns for the “eco-conscious stitcher”.
Looking for a few more titles? Here are some honorable mentions:
Mason Dixon Knitting by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne
Knit One, Felt Too by Kathleen Taylor
Big Girl Knits by Jillian Moreno and Amy R. Singer
Hollywood Knits by Suss Cousins
It’s gorgeous, but what do I do with it? …OR… Tips for using those fabulous handspun novelty yarns
We have all drooled over the simply stunning, handspun, novelty yarns available by all kinds of talented spinners these days. Coilspun, Beehives, Boucle, Tailspun, yarns with added sequins, ornaments, doodads and ribbons. They capture your attention and light up your creativity! But, what exactly, do you DO with these fabulous work of art? Why you use them, of course!!
So many of us are in love with these yarns and absolutely at a loss when it comes time to decide what to make with them. I’m here to tell you that not only are these yarns fun to work with, but they are meant to be made into treasured objects! Here are some tips to get you started down the road to crafting with handspun art yarns.
The first thing to do is Keep It Simple. Any project you decide to make out of these yarns will be best if you are showcasing the beauty of the yarn and not the tricks you are doing with your stitches.
This is the time to pull out those fun and easy patterns that feature garter stitch, stockinette, simple rows of single or double crochet and simple elegant lines and shapes. We want our eyes to be drawn to the intricacies of the yarn itself.
The next important thing in working with these yarns is Keep It Loose. This is not the time to bear down on your handwork and make those stitches tight. Take a deep breath, relax and let the yarn lead you in the work. If there is a cool doodad hanging from your yarn, take a moment to push it to the front of your work so that you can enjoy it.
Make sure you aren’t pulling the yarn so tight that your beehives and coils are being pulled out of shape. Give the yarn an opportunity to go the direction it wants and you will find some exciting things happen in your finished fabric.
Take It Slow. This is not the time for speed stitching! You will need to slow down your needles and hooks so that you can use the yarns to their best advantage. This is not to say that your knitting or crocheting will become painfully slow and boring.
Quite the contrary. You will find that you are enjoying the journey all the more because the yarn will entertain you in ways you never imagined along the way.
By slowing down, you will have opportunities to manipulate the yarn and show off the special areas within your finished piece.
Here’s your chance to Make It Bold! Most of these yarns are bulky and super bulky weights. Here is your chance to pull out the really big needles and hooks and make a bold statement in rough, oversized stitches. You will find these projects go faster than you think and that working in a large gauge gives you a new perspective on the actual creation of the stitches. I am delighted by the process of the stitches forming and by the raw, almost industrial, feel you get in a project created with super large needles and hooks. (Yes, I do giggle like a school girl while working on these types of projects!)
In case you needed a little push, I’m here to tell you to Take the Plunge! Grab hold of one of those eye popping yarns and just jump right in. Stop waiting for the perfect time, project or person. This is one of those ‘just do it’ moments!
Above all else, Keep It Fun! Once you get started working with these yarns, you will likely find that your crafting becomes something of a party. Go along with it and have a great time. If you loosen up and have fun with the process, it will show in your finished garment and everyone who sees it will be infected with the spirit!
In 2012, something will happen that has never happened before. My hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana will host the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl XLVI Host Committee is calling for a grand total of 8000 scarves hand knitted or crocheted for volunteers.
The program launched in January 2010, but at current they only have about 1200 of the scarves needed by February 2012.
The scarves, which will all carry a handwritten note by the creator, will warm the necks and spirits of the many volunteers leading spectators to their destinations and answering questions in the Indianapolis winter weather.
You don’t have to be a Hoosier to help, so let’s get knitty with it and make some Super Scarves!!
Pattern doesn’t matter- just so long as it is the specified colors.
The colors that have been approved are:
• Yarn available at Wal-Mart, Michael’s, and other large retail stores:
Red Heart Super Saver E300 – Color 0311 White and Color 0385
• Royal Yarn available at some local knitting stores
Cascade 220 – Color 8505 White and Color 9457 Blue
• Alpaca with a Twist Touchdown Blue and Touchdown White!
Alpaca with a Twist is an Indiana-based yarn company.
The patterns can include football icons, but no team specific logos, please!
You can visit http://www.indianapolissuperbowl.com/super-scarves/ for full instructions, information, and pics of finished scarves!
My favorite is our ‘flagship’ lash yarn. I tailspin a lot of it and have used the same spinning wheel forever. It is a Bulky Babe electric spinner. I cannot recommend the wheel highly enough and I adore Nels (owner/inventor of Babe’s Fiber Garden).
The BB gives my crooked back a break from treadling, allows charms, beads, locks and more to be spun into the yarn with out having to hand wind the yarn onto the bobbin. The wheel is also wonderful for plying, especially if you are working through a large order. Personally, plying day is a long one for me since I really like designing the single ply more.
I replaced my trusty BB a few weeks ago after it decided so many years had earned it a permanent vacation. The new wheel is basically the same, with a few changes to improve the ability to spin majorly bulky yarn.
This is completely a ‘me’ issue, I miss my familiar wheel. The need to immediately spin a custom lash yarn order forced me to try something new. You heard correctly. I, Sandyrella, got the push to try spinning the lash yarn on my Rio Grande wheel.
The Rio wheel came to me via a good friend in Taos, New Mexico. She already had one so I was lucky enough to buy this barely used wheel. It is huge, beautiful-and fast. I rarely allow myself time to do any serious spinning with the Rio, so good in another way too.
It was really good. Once I remembered to relax, treadle slooowly and sit up straight- we were off. It is actually easy to tailspin with this wheel too. No threading the yarn through hooks or loops since it is very much like a Great Wheel, with a spindle that allows you to spin off the point and a treadle.
My stable includes antique wheels, a Kromski Symphony, the BB and the Rio. It would be impossible for me to name a favorite but if you have a chance to try the BB or Rio- give it a whorl.
The BB will always be my bulky yarn spinning pal but the Rio is going to see more time with me now. Stretching boundaries and spinning outside the box- it does a spinner good!
Michele demonstrates the art of coloring yarn using Kool-Aid. She provides a step-by-step tutorial on dyeing yarn using this favorite childeren’s drink. Kool-Aid provides an inexpensive, environmentally friendly means of coloring your favorite animal fiber or yarn.