Friday, December 3, 2010

How to block a knitted item

Blocking an item is quite simple and can help hide slight flaws.  Blocking means to steam and iron at the same time.  It will flatten, help the item stay in shape, help the sides stay straight, and give your knitting a polished appearance. I crochet edging on almost everything I knit, so when I block it, the open work on the edges shows up nicely.  Sometimes if the scarf is textured on the knitting part, I won't block that, but I will block the outer edges.  Caution:  Some yarns (& fabrics) may not  be suitable for blocking as the high heat will melt the synthetic fibers.  I take great care with ribbon, blocking very slowly as I go along.  But natural fibers are excellent.

Items to block, scarves, shawls, ponchos, afghans......even wool skirts, wool coats.... with a little creativity even some hats.

Depending on the size of the item, my ironing board, or a towel spread out on a table works fine. If your working on a good table, double the towel to protect your top.

I keep a peice of muslin to use, but have been known to use a clean cotton pillow case.  With my iron set on it's highest steam setting, I spread out the item, trying to get it in the correct shape and size. I thourougly wet the muslin and wring it out. Now I place the damp muslin over over the item, being sure the item is still properly placed. Next, placing the iron carefully onto the muslin, I steam the area, do not "iron" in a back and forth motion, place iron, pick up iron, move to the next area, place iron, pick up iron, and so on. Checking under the muslin on my scarf from time to time.

The muslin may dry out, throughly wet, wring out and move on. When I'm finished with blocking, I may have to re-do a section or two.

I hang my completed scarf to fully dry.      

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Christmas Story

Ah, Christmas.........what to get whom, color, size, gets to be too much.  When you're a knitter, planning has to take place months in advance. 

My late father-in-law was always someone that took a lot of musing over what sort of present would be appropriate.  Many years, I got some very strange looks, when his presents were opened.  Like the year we gave him a hose.  Yes, I said a hose.  He owned a used car lot, and never could keep hoses in working order.  They'd get run over, chewed by his dog, whatever, they were always ratty, never had an end to attach a sprayer. So, being a very practical person, what else could I give him?  He had that hose until the day he closed his lot, then took it home to use.

When he started getting ill and could no longer work, I had a bigger challenge.  What to do?   My mind raced...... he wasn't a reader, we'd gotten him all the John Wayne movies he could watch, of course the infamous hose........what was left?

That Christmas morning, I admit, I was a little nervous over what I had chosen. Presents were passed around, and I waited with baited breath for him to tear open the pretty paper.  Everyone stopped.....waited.....watched.....He was looking down at the sky blue afghan nestled in the wrapping.  I was watching his face for his reaction.  The tears came.  He pulled that simple afghan out of the remaining paper, and hugged it to his chest. "No one has knitted me something since my Grandmother". 

I'll always remember how he looked, sitting in his recliner that morning, covered from chest to foot, with his new Christmas afghan. And the larger than life hug I got.

Merry Christmas, Big Guy, and thanks for the memories

Done with Christmas Knitting

I'm pretty sure that I'm done with my power knitting for Christmas!  Yeah!  In the last 6 weeks, I've made 6 hats, 1 scarf, 1 pr of slippers, 2 men's hoods........ Actually, I've lost track.

My family has been receiving homemade items from me for many years.
I don't live close to my niece and nephews, so when I make them something to wear, or an afghan, or a doll, I hope they feel closer to me. About 2 years ago my oldest nephew and his future wife stayed with us for a couple of days.  He asked if he could use the washer and dryer.  As I was standing with him putting detergent in the washer, he held up a blue afghan I had made for him years earlier.  "Do you remember this?"  he asked.  Boy, did I.  It was a present for his first year in college. Serendipity, that year I had made an afghan for his intended, white, black and red.  She was so surprised, as those were her colors.  Really, I had no idea.

This year my niece asked me to make her a sock monkey.  I was so thrilled that she asked. She'll never know how many people were involved in finding those socks!  Of course, Auntie won't just send the monkey, Oh no, Auntie has plans for at least 2 outfits.

Writing this, I'm filled with remembrance.  The doll I sewed for an elderly neighbor, she was buried with it.  The 1st hat I made for Aunt Rosie, she wore it for years, white angora with a flower on the side.  The doll with the turquoise dress I sewed for an auction at my nephews school, my mother bought it, it sits on her bed.  My older sister "keeps for good" the Christening blanket I made for her son. 

So, I hope, long after I'm gone, my niece and nephews will look at the items I've made for them over the years, smile, and remember the laughing lady that knits.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Getting ready to knit!

When you decide on a project, what are the items you need in your basket?  

1).  Yarn
2).  Needles
3).  Pattern
4).  Scissors
5).  Stitch counters
6).  Scratch pad / pencil

Now, find a comfortable spot to sit with good lighting. 
Be sure you understand the pattern.  Read through the pattern a few times.  If there are sections that are unclear, work through them before you tie that section into the full pattern.  I have a hard time understanding other peoples' patterns, so I reconstruct the pattern in my own language.  Looks like chicken scratch to most, but keeps me on track with where I am in the project.  Most patterns are written in a paragraph style, however, I break it down to:

Row 1). knit          +     /    /    /    /    /    /
Row 2). k1yok2tog       /    /    /    /    /    /
Row 3). knit            -    /    /    /    /    /    /
Row 4). knit                 /    /    /    /    /    /

As I knit Row #1 I check it off on my scratch pad, Row #2 the same..........and so on until the end.  Setting up a pad for this purpose can take some time when you first start a project, but can be well worth it.  I prefer a side, spiral bound, small note book.  I'll label the project at the top of the page.  On one side of the page I write the pattern per row, then rule off the rest of the page for my check marks. It's rare to find a pattern that's different every row and is not repetitive, so I only need to write the pattern a few times. 
Every time I knit, I finish the row.  That may be all I have time for, is one row, so with this system, every time I sit down, I know exactly where I am in the pattern.   If a row is an increase row, then I add a + sign, a decrease row, a - sign. (see example above). 

Simple, and easy to read at a glance.  If you've been having a hard time following patterns, try this method.

Good Knitting!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


A conversation took place yesterday with a fellow Pool Lady that touched my heart in many ways.  She told me the story of going to the doctor only to be told what she already knew. Her condition, while not exactly life threatening, was not surgically repairable.  Her life would continue to be ruled by pain.  Her doctor was stern but sympathetic.  "This is something your just going to have to learn to live with".  The same conversation with a doctor happened for me about 17 years ago.  My doctor was not sympathetic. Just have to learn how to live with.......Just? Just?  Lady, really, Just? Like I could twitch my Samantha nose and everything would be wonderful.  Just.... my butt!

When my friend said those words, my stomach fell through the floor and I was sitting on the exam table again.  I too, cried for days.  I could not imagine how I was to live, not just exist in this body that has betrayed me.  All my life I had lived a very strenuous life.  Chopping wood, hauling wood, construction, driving cars and tractors, grew up on a farm........well it was a shock to hear a doctor tell me that I had over used my body!  WHAT?  It never occurred to me that was possible. 

As I was trying to learn how to live in this worn out, painful body, and I was living in the grey world of grief, I lost many friends.  Just what I needed at the time, don't ya think?  Not only did my body ache, but my heart did too.  My husband, my wonderful husband, stood by me the entire time, and still does.   But serendipity is a funny thing.  I believe that God puts people in your path to teach you lessons you need to learn.  Well, thru a set of events, I joined the warm water pool.  I could have chosen any number of water classes, but this 4:00 class ......... The other women all have similar stories, rounds of doctors, pain management, surgeries, recovery, boy, we're all falling apart.  These women all get, that there are days I can do a lot, then there are days I can't.  Many of us knit, most of us read, we all laugh!  Laughter, my refuge. Pictures of me in childhood all show me clowning around, all of them. The years of grief over the loss of my former life, well, didn't get me too far.  It turned me morose, distant, on edge.  Grief was a lesson I had to learn.  Lessons can be so hard.  I try to laugh every day, many times a day.  That was one lesson, when you laugh, and put life in its place, not dwell on pain, or not being able to go and do, its no less painful, but it does get a little easier. I had to learn many other things before I could re-enter life.  Listen to my body, don't overdo (hard). Sleep when I need to, no matter what (not easy). Wear comfortable clothes and shoes (easy).  Include as many things in my life that make ME happy (easy).  Swim with a wonderful group of like minded, like bodied women (easy).  We swim, we eat, we knit, we talk some about how we feel, but none of us, on most days, live in the pain.

My friend that day needed more.  A few days have passed and its been on my mind.  I apologize to her.  The pain and heartbreak in her eyes, I couldn't handle it then. I promise to be more in the moment, just let her talk when she needs to, cry when she needs to, come to my house to eat cake (on the porch) when she needs to. As women, as women in the same pool, so to speak, we stand together. 

Laugh often, everyday
Turn your face to the sun, everyday
Breath deeply, everyday
Pray, everyday
Do what makes you happy, everyday
Do these things everyday!    

Monday, October 11, 2010

Changing Weather

When the weather turns cooler, my thoughts turn to knitting with yarns that are warm and fun.  Scarves, shawls, shrugs, hats, etc.  I can go thru a lot of yarn in a year and it took me a long time to fine an online company that I could trust.  I chose KarensKnits.yarnshopping (see last post for address).  4,000 yarns, largest selection I've found. Scrolling through the list of yarns for a knitter, is like Christmas morning!   Wools, Angora, Metallics, Cottons,  such a selection! And the yarn comes to my door within a few days.  Great!  This is one online company that I would recommend, and have to all my knitting friends.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Red mohair cape

Well, comsuming most of my time is a full to the waist, kid mohair, red cape.  So far so good, but seeing as I don't use patterns, I make my own, sometimes things come out fine, sometimes they don't. The yarn is luxurious, but fine, I'm using #3 kneedles. I'll finish the edges in a crochet open work.  In the future I hope to publish pictures of my creations. 

They say that knitting is zen like.  My theory of knitting is that it's fun to learn new stiches and patterns, but if you're constantly finding that your project is more of a dust bunny, rip it out!  I knit to calm myself and take time just for me to sit and produce something beautiful, functional, and texturally pleasing.