Monthly Archives: May 2010

A quick note about sizes and gauge

I’m not usually the type of knitter who takes the time to knit a gauge swatch, but let’s face it, when you’re mostly knitting scarves and such it really doesn’t matter. My first difficulty with gauge came when I made my first hat for the girls. The pattern was for a ‘one-size-fits-all’ ADULT hat, but when I’d finished it according to the pattern directions, it was too small to fit my (then) 6-year-old, whom I’d made it for. It did, however, fit my 4-year-old almost perfectly.

Which is I guess one reason why I haven’t worried too much about sizes (yet). With 3 daughters, there’s a pretty good chance that whatever I make will fit someone. But that doesn’t always go over very well, especially when I’ve made a point to tell them who’s supposed to get what I’m knitting at any particular time.

For example, when I made the shrugs for my older girls, I initially started with a size that I thought should fit my oldest. But knowing that I tend to be a tight knitter, I figured that if it was too small, then it would fit her sister – for whom I was going to be making a second shrug anyway. When I started knitting that first shrug, I was worried that it would turn out too big for my oldest – but then my initial fear came true and it actually ended up fitting her younger sister perfectly. I then made the next size up – and it fit my oldest. Phew!

With my current project (the smock top), I’m starting to get a bit worried again – but this time that it’ll end up too small for my youngest, whom I’m knitting it for. The pattern designer is apparently a tight knitter too and I’ve read on her blog that she does recommend making a size larger than you need, or adjusting your needle size. I initially started with the second smallest size for my 4-year-old, but thought that it looked very large, so when I had to pull everything out and start over, I moved down to the smallest size. As I get into the actual shaping of the top, it’s appearing that it’s going to probably be too small. And for the first time, I’ll have nobody younger to pass it on to instead.

Which is I think, the biggest reason why I’ve suddenly lost most of my interest in finishing this project. Oh I will finish it – and at the current size. I figure if I can’t find someone with a daughter small enough to wear it, then I can probably sell it somehow, if it turns out well enough. In any case, it’s good practice and then I can simply make another (bigger) one for my daughter. But I’m suddenly seeing the definitely need for making a gauge swatch to determine the best size to make next time.

I guess I had to experience something like this before I could ‘see’ why knitting a swatch is so necessary, even though I’ve had several people telling me that it is. Next time, I will – and hopefully the sizing will work out much better!

Wherever I go…

So I find myself lately unable to leave the house without my knitting bag – even when I know for absolute certain that I won’t be having any opportunities to knit while I’m out. It’s the same way that I used to be about books – I was never without a book at hand when I was younger. Well, before kids, really. It was like a safety blanket kind of thing – I just HAD to have a book with me, always. And apparently my knitting is filling that same need at the moment.

Although I do have to say that there have been a couple of times when I didn’t have my knitting with me – and then did wish I had. So maybe I’m not crazy after all. I just love to knit.  :)

I have two dedicated ‘knitting bags’ – a small one that I purchased off of etsy.com, that is specifically for knitting projects. Right now I have my unfinished sock in there – at some point I’ll actually have to sit down and work on that again. My other bag is a tote bag/handbag that I found on clearance at a Peebles store when I was shopping with a friend down in Angola, IN. I’d never been to Peebles before – never even heard of it beforehand actually, but found a few great deals there that day. Including my knitting bag, which was only $7.50. I love that it’s big enough for a medium-sized project – each of the shrugs fit in it, for example, even after they were done. And it zips closed, so I don’t have to worry about our cats getting into my knitting and yarn in there. There are a few pockets – both inside and out, so I can keep my scissors, stitch markers, measuring tape, and stitch holders with me too. The pattern is a floral one – reminiscent of Vera Bradley’s designs.

I’m starting to wonder if maybe I’m having diaper bag withdrawl or something? I mean for years I rarely left the house without one – which was handy to keep assorted odds and ends in too. I guess I’m just a bag junkie in general – I can rarely resist the lure of a fun new bag when I see one I like. And I don’t mind toting my knitting with me wherever I go – just in case, you know.  :)

Rocking Horse

So I finished the next washcloth yesterday…  I do really like these because they are so quick to knit. Kind of a bit boring after a while though, which is nice to have them as an extra project that’s easy to take on-the-go or if I just want to knit and not have to concentrate as much for a while.

I like how this one turned out. I think I want to always try and keep a half dozen or so of these on hand for quick and easy baby gifts and right now I have five different ones made in five different colors. I need to pick up another skein of cotton yarn before I can make the sixth though. So far I’ve managed to stay away from true pink or blue since not everyone knows what gender baby they’re having, but it would be nice to have a few ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ ones made up just in case too, I guess. The color in the photo below is a bit off – it looks pink, but it’s actually more of a peachy/orange-ish.

I’m toying a bit with the idea of maybe trying to sell a few of these, like maybe on etsy.com. It’s an attractive idea since they’re pretty easy and fast to make and I could bundle several together into a cute baby gift with a ribbon – people could pick and choose from the already-made ones based on the gender (or lack of). I did an etsy search and didn’t find many people already selling them. On the other hand though – since they’re a pretty quick and easy knit, they’re easy for people to make on their own, even if they’re beginning knitters. I guess it’ll require further thought.

Rocking Horse washcloth

Righty – Lefty

I am one of those people who am not specifically right or left handed. It’s been a source of frustration in my life actually – beginning way back when I was a child and my kindergarten teacher couldn’t figure out which hand I should be writing with. Apparently I switched back and forth easily and didn’t favor one hand over the other on a regular basis.

My mom, thinking of all the left-handed people she knew who complained that the world was aligned better for ‘righties’, figured that it probably didn’t matter and told the teacher to ‘make’ me right-handed. Since I tended to write my letters backwards when I wrote with my left-hand, it was also a logical choice.

It was also, I believe – the wrong one. I struggled throughout elementary school with my writing – my hand would get horribly tired and hurt on a daily basis. I never knew specifically why – and my mom apparently never thought that it might have something to do with that choice she’d made. I was smaller and almost a year younger than the other kids, so she just thought I needed more help to mature. So she made me practice writing at home – right-handed, of course.

When I was in middle school, I began to ‘teach’ myself to write left-handed when I was bored in class. It was easier than I ever thought and I used to amuse myself by writing my class notes with my left hand and then comparing the handwriting to my usual right-handed writing. At first it was much messier, but by high school the two were pretty much indistinguishable. In college, I switched to writing almost entirely left-handed – there were only a few situations where it was more comfortable to write with my right hand, like on an uneven surface or a small notepad.

This ability to write with either hand came in extremely handy during long essay tests. I could just switch off back and forth when one hand would get tired. Maybe that’s why I never minded taking essay tests very much…

Interestingly, I do many things right handed – but I also do a lot of others with my left hand. When I look at it, the things that your parent shows you how to do or helps you to do when you’re a child – like brushing teeth, eating with a fork, cutting with scissors… Those things I do right-handed and can’t do at all with my left. But things like opening doors, turning a key, dialing a phone or turning a dial on a combination lock, those I do with my left hand. I also use a computer mouse with my left hand – since I didn’t start using one of those until college and that’s what felt more comfortable at the time.

In sports, I throw a ball and bat left-handed. I can throw a frisbee with either hand, but it’s more comfortable with my right. I play tennis right-handed. I bowl right-handed too – I tried switching to my left as a teenager for a while, but it never felt as comfortable that way so I switched back. In mini-golf, I putt left-handed.

When my mom first taught me how to knit as a child, it was right-handed, of course. And I never really liked knitting. When I took a crocheting class in college, I wanted to learn left-handed, but the teacher couldn’t figure out how to teach me, so I learned with my right hand. I am terribly slow at crocheting though – and I don’t hold the hook in the traditional way at all. In fact, I kind of use my left hand to wrap the yarn around the hook even though the work goes in the direction it should for a right-handed person. This awkward position may be one reason why my left thumb began to cramp up at the base whenever I would crochet – which is one big reason why I decided to re-learn to knit a couple of years ago.

This time, I went ahead and taught myself left-handed. And I think one reason that I enjoy knitting so much is that it does flow and feel so much more comfortable that way. I’ve taught my daughter to knit right-handed, and the needles are so much more awkward for me to handle – it’s not an easy process to switch my thinking around to help her when she runs into trouble.

It’s harder to learn new techniques since most of the diagrams, drawings and videos out there are aimed at right-handed knitters. I have found a few for lefties and I’m thinking about doing some videos myself one of these days. I’ll post them here if I do.  So far I haven’t had any trouble with reading patterns, but from what I hear it can be difficult. I guess I’ll have to deal with that when I come across a problem.

Here are some of the links that I’ve found which are helpful for left-handed knitters – I hope they might be of use to any lefties out there who might want to learn!

OTN: Washcloths

When I finished knitting the girls’ shrugs in April, I thought for a little bit about what I wanted to try working on next. I started the Smock Top project, but ran into a stumbling block fairly quickly on that. I also realized during the last few days of knitting the second shrug (during temperatures in the 70’s) that having a lap full of knitting isn’t exactly a good idea in the summertime.

So, I wanted to find some kind of project that I can basically always have on hand and that would be something small and fairly quick to knit. I do have a sock that I’d started last fall, but I’m kind of intimidated by it so it’s not exactly something easy to pull out when I have a few minutes.

I’ve already written about the baby washcloth pattern book that I found, and my first experience with trying out one of the patterns. At this point, I’ve now completed four washcloths – they’re not going as quickly now that I’m back to work on the Smock Top too. But that was kind of the idea anyway – just something quick and easy to grab on the go or to pull out when I get tired of a larger project. And I really like the idea of having a few of these on hand in case I need a quick baby gift.

So you’ve already seen the Duck and the Bunny washcloths – here are the latest two, a butterfly and a sailboat. Next on the needles is a rocking horse.  :)

ButterflyWashcloth2

Sailboat washcloth

OTN: Smock Top

I suppose I should probably give an update about what I’m currently knitting at some point here.  You can see updates as well in the sidebar, from Ravelry. I try to keep that fairly well updated as I go. But I feel like I can go into more detail here for some reason – one reason why I created this site to begin with.

I started this pattern back in April, after I’d finished the shrugs that I was working on for my older girls. I figured that it was time to make something for my youngest then. I’d bought the two books at the same time – the one by Debbie Bliss that I made the shrugs from, and this book by Claire Montgomery. It also has a shrug pattern in it, but in the end I went with the long-sleeved ones instead. But there are so many other projects in here that I want to try – and given that it’s spring, I decided that the ‘Smock Top’ would be perfect to knit for my 4-year-old, since it’s sleeveless and knit in a cotton-ish fabric.

I couldn’t find the recommended soy/cotton blend locally but the knitting store that I like had a cotton/acrylic yarn that feels nice and cool – I think, anyway. My little one insisted on wanting blue, so I went with a light blue color.

I can’t remember the exact date that I began knitting it, but I do know I was working on this project when my husband went in for his thyroid surgery on April 13th. I knit several rows while I was at the hospital, but ended up having to take the entire thing apart afterward and start over again. I guess I was a bit distracted by hearing the word ‘Cancer’ come out of the surgeon’s mouth. Thankfully it’s a highly curable cancer and his prognosis is excellent, but I was rather freaked out that day.

I started over again, but ran into a couple of issues with trying to follow the pattern for the ‘main body’ section. It’s written differently from any of the (admittedly few) patterns I’ve seen before – referencing stitches to knit on the 3rd, and then the following 6th rows, as an example. I’m used to patterns that simply read like Row 1 – do this, Row 2 – do this, Rows 3 through 10 do this, etc. This one has a buttonhole that you add every 10th row and then you decrease every 6th row until you end up with 125 remaining stitches (you start off with 141 in the size I’m knitting). I understand it now, but it took a little bit of work and some help from the knittinghelp.com forums before I was sure I’m knitting it correctly.

Then I realized that the decrease row in the pattern doesn’t take into account the fact that you ARE decreasing – it tells you how many stitches to knit based on the original 141, but doesn’t tell you what to do the second time you get to the decrease row when you only have 137 stitches left. Or the third, when you have 133 left. I asked at the knitting group at church that I go to – and both of our knitting ‘gurus’ were stumped as well. So I went to the book author’s website and discovered that she has a blog. One blog post deals with revisions to her first book, but I saw that she’d answered a question about a different pattern in this book on there too, so I asked mine.

After about a week, when I didn’t see an answer posted, I looked further and saw that the author also has a Twitter account, so I posted a tweet asking her if she’d happened to see my question on her blog. A little while later, she responded on Twitter! She apologized, saying she’d been away at a class and would take a look for me. And she answered my question on her site – which was both a relief and an honor. I mean here’s someone who knits well enough to design her own patterns, teach classes and write books. And she apologized for the error in the pattern – it seems she hadn’t realized to write in placing markers so that beginners like me can follow it more easily. Once she explained how that decrease row works, I understood and have resumed knitting the project.

I am up to the last decrease row now – the one that will leave me with the desired 125 stitches, and then I just keep knitting in a basic stockinette stitch, with a garter stitch border at each end (plus the buttonholes every 10 row still) for a while. I’m excited to finally be really moving along on this and hope it comes out well. I measured my daughter and am making the size reflected by those measurements, but I tend to be a tight knitter, so am a bit worried that it’ll end up too small. I guess if it does, I’ll just have an excuse to knit another one.  ;)

Here’s how it looks at the moment – not much to see yet…

Smock Top

It’ll get there though!

Of moms and daughters – and knitting

Today is Mother’s Day – which got me thinking about those relationship in my life, with my mom, my daughters and how knitting relates to both of them…

My mom and I have a complicated relationship – but then again, most mothers and daughters seem to. I can remember back to when I was a small child, feeling so safe and loved as long as my mom was there. That was so very long ago. And I suppose that a part of me has always wanted to find that feeling again – of being safe, warm and loved. I think the closest I’ve ever gotten is when I sit and cuddle with my own daughters. I want to make sure that I’m always there for them – not just physically present, but really there in all the ways necessary.

My mom taught me how to knit a long time ago. I don’t remember how old I was or if I actually finished anything. I do have a clear memory of her showing me how to hold the needles though. She wasn’t a big knitter or anything herself – she dabbled in different crafts all while I was growing up. I think she was looking for something that suited her, and I’m not sure she ever really did. She crocheted for a while too – I remember a striped afghan that I loved that she was working on but never finished. She later told me that the cat used to knead at it with her claws and my mom figured that the afghan would just get ruined once it was done. She said she tried to pick it up a few years later but couldn’t figure out the pattern again.

I wish I knew what happened to it – I would have loved to finish it for her.

Mom also taught me the basics of crocheting – I remember learning to make long chains by finger crocheting, which is basically the chain stitch using your fingers instead of a hook. And later she bought me a spool and taught me spool, or ‘french’ knitting with it. I made long tubes that I turned into scarves for Barbie dolls but never really did much else with it. Later, in college, I tried knitting again, but then took a crocheting class and crocheted for many years instead.

My own oldest daughter is an enigma to me. She’s so much like her father in so many ways, but I do see glimpses of myself in her too. She’s never been a child who would play much with toys. She loved stacking blocks or lining up figurines, but never ‘played’ with them the way most other kids do. She has always loved to make things though – whether with paper and crayons, scissors and tape or any other kind of crafting medium. And when I began to take up knitting again a couple of years ago, she asked me to teach her how.

I didn’t think she was quite old enough at the time, so I followed in my own mother’s footsteps instead. I taught her how to finger crochet, and watched her make chained bracelets and necklaces for herself and her sisters. Then I hunted down a spool and taught her how to slip the loops over to french knit – and smiled to myself to see her take to that quickly too.

And then, I found a very simple, ‘learn to knit’ kit and gave it to her – either for her birthday or Christmas, I forget now and it’s not important. But I sat down with her, cast on a row and showed her the simple knit stitch (which wasn’t easy, because I knit left-handed and she’s a righty).

AbbyKnitting_001

Since then she’s made herself and her little sister scarves from that kit – with bulky-weight yarn and huge needles. And I’ve bought her a pair of ‘real’ metal needles – still fairly large-sized but more standard, and she’s knit a scarf for her Barbies on those.

She doesn’t have a lot of patience for large projects, and she doesn’t want me to teach her how to purl or do anything more complicated than just the simple knit stitch – yet. But she loves doing it and I know that she must feel close to me when she pulls out her knitting and sits next to me while I’m working on mine.

Safe, and warm, and loved. And I hope – I pray – that knitting will always be a way to help remind her of feeling that way.

Even years down the road when she’s too old to crawl into my lap and snuggle anymore.

On… reading?

Ok, so I know – I start a knitting blog and about the first thing I talk about here is books. Well it’s hard not to – reading has always been a part of my life. Before kids, I pretty much had no life – except in books. It wasn’t uncommon for me to come home from work, sit down with a book and not get back up again until I’d finished it, sometimes hours later.

Wow, that seems so very indulgent now. It’s hard to imagine having that much uninterrupted time, but that’s what my life was back then. At the time, I so wanted a family of my own. And I’m very thankful and blessed to have my husband and daughters, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Except maybe an hour of time to read here or there.  ;)

I do squeeze in time where I can – in between taking care of kids, husband and house. Plus blogging – and knitting, of course. Lately though it’s more a matter of having something around to actually read than not having the time. A far cry from the days where I couldn’t put down one book without having another at hand – even if I had to re-read something off of my own shelves for the dozenth time. In fact, I’ve noticed recently that instead of always needing to have a book with me at all times (just in case, you know) as I did before, I seem to carry my knitting bag with me wherever I go. Just in case.

Or maybe it’s something left over from years of never being able to leave the house without a diaper bag over my shoulder. Who knows…

One other thing that’s  changed over the years is the type of books I enjoy reading. When I was a kid, I loved anything science-fiction/fantasy. I have shelves upon shelves downstairs of books by Anne McCaffrey, Mercedes Lackey, David Eddings, Katherine Kurtz, and too many more to name individually. I also have always liked historical fiction, especially set in England, Ireland, Scotland or Wales. Sharon Kay Penman is a favorite author – as is Diana Gabaldon, whose books rather defy categorization, being part romance, part sci-fi/fantasy, part historical, and all around amazing overall.

It was my product review blog that first introduced me to books that involved knitting as a central theme. I had the opportunity to review the book ‘Knit Two’ by Kate Jacobs. At the time I really didn’t knit much myself – I’d been a regular crocheter for years though. I’ll tell the story of how I began knitting another time, but when I first read Knit Two, it didn’t have a huge impact – mostly, I think, because it is a sequel and I hadn’t yet read the initial book, called ‘The Friday Night Knitting Club’. Not being the type of person who usually starts in the middle of the story – and because I truly did enjoy the characters, I borrowed the first book from the library, and love it. I’ve read the most recent one now too.

Also through my review blog, I read another knitting-related book a few months later – this time it was ‘The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club’ by Gil McNeil. By this time I’d begun knitting myself, and really connected with the story. Ever since, I’ve been a sucker for a good book that involves yarn. Maybe it’s that women’s stories tend to interweave with a good knitting pattern, or that knitting groups bring out good stories – but some of my current favorite authors are ones who involve knitting in their books.

See, you knew I’d bring this back around to knitting at some point, right?  ;)

Currently, I’ve started reading the ‘Blossom Street’ series by Debbie Macomber, after reviewing her book ‘Hannah’s List’ recently. That book doesn’t involve knitting directly, but the rest of the series revolves around a knitting store called ‘A Good Yarn’. I’m in the middle of the first book now – ‘The Shop on Blossom Street’ and am enjoying it a lot. I bought the second book while I was out grocery shopping tonight.

As a result, my knitting projects have been largely ignored this week, but that’s ok. They’ll wait.  :)

knittysiggy

New digs!

Wow, it’s been a couple of years since I had a brand-new baby blog to get excited about. I’m so happy to have created this space though – as my little spot to talk all things knitting and yarn.  :)

By way of introduction, my name is Deb and I’m also known around the blogosphere as ‘Mom of 3 Girls’, due to my blog of the same name – which I’ve long thought was the most boring blog name ever. But, it’s too late to change it now, after 3 years. It’s part of who I am. I put a little more thought into the name of my second blog when I began it 2 years ago – Just a mom’s take on things… is a name that I’m actually very proud of. And it fits what that blog is for me – a place to talk about what I think. About products, websites, and more. But since I’m certainly not an expert by any means – it’s ‘just’ my opinion. For what that’s worth. And I love sharing it over there.

I’ve started both of my other blogs in the month of May, so maybe that’s why I suddenly started feeling restless and like I was boring my usual blog readers when I would go on about my latest knitting project. After all, they’re generally not knitters so I never wanted to go into too much detail about what latest technique I’d learned or my frustration with a certain pattern.

That’s what this site is for.

Yes, I’m a geek – and the thought of having 3 separate blogs is a bit intimidating, even to me. But the purpose of this site isn’t to have high stats or really even increase readership. It’s simply to have a dedicated place to write about knitting (or crocheting or whatever else is on my mind craft-wise). And if like-minded people happen to show up and maybe chime in – well, the more the merrier.  :)

So welcome! So far I’ve brought in a few posts over from Mom of 3 Girls – ones that were specifically knitting-related. I’ll still post general project information over there, but keep the geeky yarn talk – and the gruesome details (lol) over here for the most part.

I’m glad to be here.