Category Archives: Techniques

“Heaventree” finished

I stayed up stupidly late last night so that I could finish spinning the second 4 oz of the beautiful merino/bamboo fiber from Fat Cat Knits called “Heaventree.” I was especially excited to finish it because midway through spinning the singles I decided to try a little experiment. The truth is that I was a little underwhelmed at the final product of the first 4 oz. It’s lovely yarn, and it will find a use, but it didn’t really seem to do justice to the colors of the original braid that made my mouth water. You can see how the vivid colors in the fiber are muted and muddied in the first skein:



The colors are still there but the vivid wow factor is gone from the pinks and blues and the creamy yellows are all but swallowed up. For the second braid, I decided that instead of 2-plying, as I did with the first, I’d chain ply in an attempt to keep the colors more pure. Here’s the result:



See how the creamy yellows exist now? And the colors are more pure? I’m so happy with this little experiment. It’s taught me that if I want to preserve those colors that attract me to the fiber in the first place, I need to chain ply.  If I want a more muted yarn, then 2-plying is the way to go.



You can see the 2 ply at the bottom and the chain ply at the top.  I’ve shied away from chain plying because, as a 3-ply, I worry about losing yardage. After all, I want to get the most I can out of my skein.  The 2-ply was 452 yards, and there was a good bit of a single life on one of the bobbins when I was done. I used all of that and all of the other braid in the chained 3-ply and came up with 414 yards.  Looks like I need to stop worrying about decent yardage with chain plying!


Test Knit: Taliesin Shawl


I am pretty sure this shawl is up there in the Top 5 Most Complex Patterns I’ve Ever Knit.


The pattern is called Taliesin Shawl, and it is designed by Lucy Hague. It was a real privilege to get to test this pattern.


I ran just short of my brown yarn (Bugga! in Oak Timberworm) with 9 rows left to go, but luckily had some yarn dyed by the same dyer, with the same red that peeks out of the brown. I kind of like the dramatic flair that the red gives.


I learned several new techniques, including how to get cables to move almost horizontally. Neat trick!

The Bedspread My Children Have Been Instructed To Fight Over When I Am Dead


I don’t really want my children to fight over this blanket, but I don’t want them to toss it, either! I told one child that it was going to be a family heirloom and asked her if she knew what that meant. She thought it meant they’d be fighting over it. Close enough. Hence the name.

My beloved quilt started disintegrating after the move. It wasn’t even gradual. It was like one day it just gave up and saw no point in continuing down life’s long journey. Poof. (Sean says it was falling apart before we moved and I’m feeling like Fletch trying to fake being a doctor–“but at the end, though, the very end, that was very sudden!”)

I’m all about anticipating and planning for the future, so one morning after I woke up with my feet through separate and significant holes, I thought it might be time to discuss the next option with the husband. I checked out some local stores and some online shops, but cringed at the prices for nice quality quilts. They’re worth every penny, and if my Japanese Magnolia had shed dollars instead of pink banana peel impersonators, I’d have gone straight to the Queen of Quilting (yes, Cathe, that’s you) and asked for a custom order.

I decided the more economical route would be for me to knit a glorious bedspread. I know, it’s completely absurd, as Sean pointed out the second time I needed a substantial yarn reload for this bedspread. It’s going to cost 3 times the price of a stunning hand pieced quilt, and take 10 times as long to work.  The labor is cheap, but my expectations for this blanket are high. I expect my grandchildren’s grandchildren to be squabbling about this one, and if any of you ever see it in a garage sale, you have my permission to give the seller a spanking and a life sentence in the time out chair. Good gravy.


I chose Kay Gardiner’s Mitered Crosses for Japan pattern, one that she wrote to support and raise funds for the earthquake victims in Japan. It’s a brilliant pattern, and I enjoy the perfectness of each happy square. Garter stitch has won me over from my poor first impressions, and it’s absolutely lovely to have something like this to alternate with more complex knitting.

The genius of this blanket, from my perspective, is that every known color in the universe is going to be in it, so I never (ever!) have to worry about matching pillowcases and sheets. A friend of mine says her best ideas are the ones that secretly allow her to be lazy, and I think I get a win in that category with this line of thinking. I don’t think it’ll even look weird for the pillowcases to clash with each other…they’ll still match with something in this blanket!

When I started last month, I had the cute idea that 30 squares ought to do the trick. I think I had 6 done before we realized 6 x 5 was not going to cover the Queen sized bed, and we actually wanted a blanket big enough to drape over the sides. Right now we’re looking at 8 blocks x 10 blocks. Last time I checked, that was 80 blocks. I’m on Number 27, my 3rd yarn order, and we have a long way to go, folks.

Don’t even ask about how many ends need to be woven in for each block. Denial is my friend.

Oh, and if you have any Noro Kureyon lounging about that needs a new home, let me know. I only need elebenty billion more skeins.

Birthday Scarf!

scarfMy friend sent me some lovely yarn as part of a birthday package. I knew as soon as I squished it that it was meant to be a scarf…one of those artsy, hip, highly-textured scarves that look fabulous on my teenaged daughter.

I used the backward loop method to cast on 150 stitches on size 11 needles. I then knit 20 rows of garter stitch (knit all stitches). I used Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off (a brilliant technique), and then cut enough fringe to attach to  22 garter ridge bumps (11 on each end of the scarf).  I was a little nervous about having enough yarn, but the 154 yards in the Universal Yarn Bamboo Bloom Handpaints was more than enough. This yarn needed to be showcased in such a way that the differing textured could really shine, and I think this sort of uber-simple pattern is just the ticket.



This teeny bopper is a little taller than 5’2″ and you can see the scarf is plenty long on her. I think the bind off is the necessary secret ingredient, as you want the scarf to be able to stretch evenly between the cast on and bind off without any puckering.

She seems to like it, even though it’s mine!


New socks!


Thanks to a KSU basketball game last night (radio) and the Illinois-Michigan game this afternoon, I had time to finish these fun socks. Afterthought heels are so good for the ego:  a little courage, a little daring, and a beautiful end product.  Not familiar with the technique?  Have a look at this old post from days gone by.

What’s almost as fun as a new pair of socks? Picking out the yarn for the next pair of Recitation Socks! School starts early tomorrow…better get to stash shopping!

Starting Position for Magic Loop

I’ve been teaching my knitting students how to use the magic loop method for knitting in the round. I don’t mind double points, and I learned how to use two circulars, but magic loop is my favorite, especially for new in-the-round knitters. It’s safest to transport (I shudder to think how many loops I’ve lost off of dpns), has the fewest possible transitions from one needle to the other, and it’s the most economical (only one circular needle length needed for anything from 3X sweaters to the last 2 stitches on the top of a hat).

I’ve developed a help I call Starting Position and have started handing it out in my classes. It does a good job of preventing the most common issues new learners seem to have until they become comfortable with the technique.  Whenever a student is ready to switch working from one needle to the other, I tell them to make sure they’re in Starting Position.  In case you or someone you know could use the help, here it is!

Starting Position for Magic Loop

1.   All loops (or as many as can fit) should be on the wood or metal parts of the needles. These will have been roughly split in half before beginning, with one half(ish) on each needle.

2.  Needles should be held with points to the right, with one needle in front of the other.

3.  Fabric (or cast on ridge) should be moved so it is hanging down with no twists.

4.  The working yarn should be attached to the back needle. (If not, rotate front needle to be in the back and check #3 again)

THEN, holding the loops with your left hand (hold front and back together), pull the back needle out to the right, in the direction it is pointing.

Here it is in pdf, for a printable resource: