Monthly Archives: August 2009

Too itchy? So what.

You are Shetland Wool. You are a traditional sort who can sometimes be a little on the harsh side. Though you look delicate you are tough as nails and prone to intricacies. Despite your acerbic ways you are widely respected and even revered.

This was a result from a quiz I took a long time ago (which is now defunct). It’s true – all of it 🙂 I mean it’s a fairly accurate description of myself. There are moments where I can truly be acerbic, but what can I do? Not all of us can be a “Melanie.”* I love Shetland wool. But I tend to go for loyalty, durability, and dependability over softness, comfort, and reassurance. Besides in the winter here it’s cold enough for wear a shirt or turtleneck under the sweater. If it’s itchy… so what. It’s not a hair shirt.

I’ve actually been a bit busy. A sort of metamorphosis has occurred in me over the past few months… I’ve become a Spinner… and my favorite fiber to spin… is, not surprisingly, Shetland Wool. I took a lovely class over at the Naked Sheep several months ago on how to spin using a wheel. Bob and Meghan of Datura Fiber Arts are actually teaching the class again. This time they are providing a good amount of fiber from different breeds of sheep for students to try. If you’re local to Portland, OR, and you’ve been thinking about diving into the craft, I highly recommend this class.

Getting back to Shetland wool and spinning, I am now addicted to spinning. Although I once lamented that I would never take my hand to a wheel because it would take me from my beloved knitting, I am now finding time to fit spinning into my schedule. After trying all of the fibers in Bob and Meghan’s class I discovered that Shetland was my favorite followed by a blend of Merino and Silk.

In the process of learning to spin, I also discovered how relaxing it was to spin right before I went to bed. The constant whirring of the wheel seem to put me in a state of calm.  I’ve been such a busy little spider that I’ve made about eight 100 gram skeins.

The green fiber is a merino silk blend. The lavender is a Blue-faced Leicester blend I picked up from the Sock Summit, the natural brown is Shetland wool.

*Melanie from Gone with the Wind


Filed under Spinning

Explore the New “Black” in Craft Fashion – Crochet

Lily Chins gorgeous crochet lace dress

Lily Chin's gorgeous crochet lace dress

The image above ( Lily Chin designed lace crochet dress found in the first issue of Interweave Crochet – 2004 under “Lace Dress”) and many others inspires me to learn and make more crochet garments that are fashionable and practical. I will always be a knitter, but in the past two years I’ve developed a burgeoning love affair with the craft of crochet.

I’m again teaching beginning crochet at the Naked Sheep Knitshop in North Portland. I get more and more excited each time I teach this class. It simply seems that crochet designers are really challenging the stereotypes of crochet as being the clunky and less graceful of the fiber arts. Gorgeous designs from Lily Chin, Doris Chan, Kristin Omdahl, etc have proven that crochet can not just be couture gorgeous, it can take the form of practical fashion.

“Beginning Crochet” can help learning fiber crafters attain the skills needed to start exploring the fashion options in crochet. In the last class, after we learned all the basic stitches and how to increase, decrease, and crochet in the round. We learned how to make basic lace in crochet. The students were very interested in learning how to crochet hats and berets so I taught them how to calculate increases in the round and develop your basic hat and beret like this one:

Crochet Beret with the Puffy Stitch

Crochet Beret with the Puffy Stitch

I actually adjusted Pretty Puffs Slouchy Hat for smaller gauge yarn so I could use Elsebeth Lavold’s Cable Cotton. In the class the students learned how to ‘do the math’ to figure out how to adjust stitches in a pattern to match their sizes and the type and weight of yarn they were using.

You can read about the basic structure of the course in a previous post and view some pretty examples of crochet stitch patterns:

Here are the class details which you can also view on the Naked Sheep’s Knitshop’s Website. Hope to see you there 🙂 :

Learn to Crochet- Starts September 15th
with Natalie
If you want to learn to crochet or just need a refresher course, this class is for you! You’ll learn the basics in just 3 classes and get started on the project of your choice!

Tuesdays ( September 15, 22 and 29)


Filed under Cotton, Craft, Creativity, Crochet


Owls Sweater in Cascade 128

Owls Sweater in Cascade 128

I forgot to post the link to this pattern. You can find it here:

I can’t wait to teach a class on how to make this sweater this October. This is a great sweater for beginners to sweater knitting.  Not only is the body and the yoke knit in one piece, it’s done in bulky weight so you could potentially finish your sweater in less than two weeks.  I’ve read of people doing it in a week, but I can’t imagine the strain on your hands after constant use of bulky gauge needles.

Again, I did both sleeves at once using the magic loop method.  I found it’s easier to keep my sleeves more uniform this way. One thing I adore about this sweater is how the waist shaping is done by a series of increases and decreases done on the back side of the sweater (see image below).

Waist Shaping of my Second Owls Sweater in Universal Classic Chunky

Waist Shaping of my Second Owls Sweater in Universal Classic Chunky

If you’re interested in taking the class (and live in the pdx area), it should fun. This is a great sweater for people who are starting to consider knitting  their first sweater. I’m excited to be able to share the experience for knitting this pattern with others. Here are the class details (you can also view an abbreviated version on the Naked Sheep’s website):

Owls Sweater Class:

Saturdays (October 3, 17 and 24)

Have you always wanted to make that perfect sweater as a gift for a special friend or relative this holiday season, but you don’t have loads of time? Knit in bulky weight yarn this stylish sweater makes the perfect quick knit gift.  Also, this sweater requires very little sewing or seaming. Natalie will help students customize size dimensions for the pattern if needed. She can also convert the pullover pattern into a cardigan version if desired.  Students will learn how to make two sleeves at a time using the magic loop method.

Notions & Supplies Needed:

  • Large tapestry needle
  • Cable needles (if you are new to making cables)
  • 24” circular needle in appropriate size for yarn used
  • 32” or greater circular needle in appropriate size for yarn used. If you are using the Magic Loop 40″ circulars are highly recommended.
  • Optional: 40-50 buttons or large beads for owl eyes

Recommended Yarns:

Any bulky weight soft yarn.

  • Universal Yarns Chunky Classic
  • Cascade 128
  • Cascade Soft Spun
  • Eco Wool or Eco +

Not recommended: any boucle or fur yarns.

Prerequisite Skills:

Advanced beginner. Students must be able to Knit in the round as well as increase and decrease.

Once you get the sleeves done its smooth sailing all the way

Once you get the sleeves done it's smooth sailing all the way


Filed under Knit, Knitters, Knitting, Patterns, Portland, Portland Knitters, Stockinette, Sweater, Teaching, Techniques, Wool, Yarn

More thoughts about the Sock Summit

I am very reflective… sometimes I will return to an event or idea that happened or occurred to me months or years back. Sometimes I wonder why I even blog… I’m a bit of a turtle when it comes down to documenting things. It took me a bit of time to really digest what happened to me at the Sock Summit 09. I’m going to post my discoveries or epiphanies here:

Discovery 1: Heather Ordover (of CraftLit) is a really nice lady.
I got to meet Heather Ordover in person… what a lovely person she is. I accidentally popped into her class early, but I just sat there listening to her voice. Because I love listening to her podcast and usually listen to it at night before I fall asleep, I found myself being lulled into a pleasant trance just listening to her talk. She was really the only person at the Summit whom I wanted to have my picture taken with… and here it is.

Okay it’s not the greatest photo of me… but she looks quite lovely in it.  Heather has done a lovely job discussing some of my favorite books including Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, & The Scarlet Letter (yes, I enjoyed reading the Scarlet Letter when I was in High School). If you are not familiar with Heather’s podcast and you love listening to classic audio books, her archive guarantees hours and hours of listening/knitting pleasure.

Discovery 2: I liked taking short classes.

I knew that I didn’t have the stomach to take an all or even half day class about sock knitting. I could do a sweater workshop, but not a sock class. Don’t get me wrong. I love making socks but I adore making sweaters even more. I would give my eye teeth to go to a sweater design conference actually.  I took mainly 1 hour classes from folks like Cookie A & Chrissy Gardiner, and I also made sure that these were classes on techniques that I could use in making sweaters. Overall my learning experience at the Sock Summit was very productive.

Discovery 3: “It’s not about the time… it’s about what you are making.”

That’s a quote from one of the Luminary Panel members. My memory is fading so I cannot remember who said it.  Obviously, as knitters we’re in it for the ‘process’ since none of us can compete with the speed at which ‘manufactured’ knits are produced. Knitters knit because of their devotion to their craft and the love that goes into producing the knitted object. Many of use knit to give our products to others, and we often internalize the experience that went into the making of the object… thus imbuing it with additional meaning.

Discovery 4: Quote from Anna Zilboorg, “Exams are Stupid!”

I wish I’d written more about this in my notes or even remember the context in which it was said. I think she was getting to the point that the formal world can be such a trial full of trifles that we really don’t need to deal with. Some of the hoops we have to jump through are ridiculous, but the creative part is figuring out how to get around or under them 🙂

Discovery #5: I want to attend a Sweater Summit or a Lace Summit or both.

Socks are great and I make several pair a year, but I would really love to attend a knitting conference focused on either sweaters or lace knitting.  Wouldn’t it be great to attend a fair isle design class or a steeking workshop? How about learning how to create the perfect sleeve cap. After knitting several stockinette based sweaters this year… I really want to focus on improving my technical skills in knitting and that includes knitting lace.

Discovery #6: I have more reserve than I thought

I actually didn’t buy too much yarn… two skeins of sock yarn and enough Blue Moon Fiberarts Twisted to make a bolero… oh and some roving. After viewing the ‘flashed’ Sock Summit stashes on Ravelry… I actually don’t feel that bad about how disciplined I was in not buying too much sock yarn.

Regret… I have but only one:

I wish I had talked to or said hello and thank you to Lucy Neatby. I wish I had her sign my DVD. Thanks to her I now know how to create gorgeous button bands. I really love her knitting videos and she seems to have the kind of dry wit I do love.


Filed under Knit, Knitters, Knitting, Sock Summit, Socks, Stockinette

Raglan Sweater Episode 4 – Sleeves

Raglan Sweater Made from Custom Yarnia Yarn :)

Raglan Sweater Made from Custom Yarnia Yarn 🙂

My most humblest apologies for being excessively tardy with posting this. I’ve been obsessed (obviously) with other things.  I still want to help more people make their own sweaters before the end of the year. For me it’s helping us deal with the downturn one sweater at a time. Also, it’s wonderful to see the pride in people’s faces after they’ve made their first sweater.

Today. I”m going to review how to get those sleeves done! You can view the earlier episodes for my Raglan Sweater instructions here:

Raglan Sweater 1: Selecting your Fiber

Raglan Sweater 2: Calculating Stitches and Casting On

Raglan Sweater 3: Working up the Body and Arm Pit Gussets

I use the “Magic Loop” method for making sleeves all the time. You can knit a sleeve in the round and gradually increase the circumference of the  sleeve from the cuff to the upper arm; therefore, you can knit it using the magic loop method to knit both sleeves at once. I absolutely love doing this for three reasons:

  1. You get both sleeves done at the same time
  2. When you knit both sleeves at the same time it helps guarantee that both sleeves will be knit at the same guage
  3. As your doing increases or creating features on the sleeve at the same time this gives you the opportunity to keep these design features as uniform as possible between the two sleeves

Here’s how I calculate the increases for the sleeves:

Measure around your cuff (Measurement A), and measure around the thickest part of your upper arm (Measurement B). The calculate the number of stitches you need to begin the sleeve based on your gauge with the yarn. For example:

I want to do the cuffs and hem in garter stitch using a smaller pair of needles. I know my gauge is 16 stitches for a 4″ swatch or 4 stitches an inch using these needles. The circumference around my wrist or “A” is 6.  I’m going to multiply 4 x 6 and I get: 24 stitches.  But I like my cuff a little bit loose so I’ll add 2 more stitches to make it 26 stitches for the cast on.

Measurement “B” is 11″  (4 stitches x 11 = 44 stitches). There for I have to increase the circumference of the sleeve by 46 stitches. I usually increase a both the beginning and the end of a round of stitches (a total increase of 2 stitches per increase row). So this would mean I would have to increase a total of  23 times over the length of each sleeve. You can calculate the number of rows you would need to achieve the length based on your gauge. Take a brief look at the example illustrated below:


Slide2 - Sleeves

Slide3 - Sleeves

Using “Magic Loop” to knit two sleeves at a time:

I usually start the first few rows of each cuff separately (sometimes on double points) then I put both cuffs with the yarn tails on the same sides onto the circular needles. Knit both sleeves at a time. Make sure to do your increase rows on both sleeves as you knit up the sleeve.

If you haven’t seen or tried the “Magic Loop” method there are a number of helpful tutorials on Youtube that can help walk you through the process. I’ve embedded one of my favorites here:

Leave a comment

Filed under Craft, Garment Design, Garter stitch, Knit, Knitters, Knitting, Stockinette, Wool, Yarn

I interrupt this knitting blog with a moment of cuteness

Totoro Cream Puffs - So Cute It Hurts

Totoro Cream Puffs - So Cute It Hurts

Okay if you’d like to learn how to make them or just admire the beautifully photographed process.  Check out the post here: How to make Totoro Cream Puffs.


Filed under Uncategorized

Sort of final note about the Sock Summit

I don’t have a lot of time to blog about this now. I will probably return to some of the witty and insightful comments I heard yesterday. Even though I had a ripping headache for most of the afternoon, the Luminary Panel was well worth it.  I have a very fuzzy picture of the panel, but I figure with all the photo snapping that went on yesterday… someone has a better photo than me.

I especially liked Anna Zilboorg’s dry wit. I need to read more of her books.

Also, one person had a very thoughtful comment about how mono-chromatic (in terms of racial and cultural diversity) the knitting culture is. Even though, as one panel member pointed out knitting is not part of all ethnic and minority groups cultural background, many ethnic peoples have taken up knitting because it is a practical way to clothe their families. All this talk made me want to belong to an outreach group that teaches all people how to knit, and how accessible and affordable it can be with some creative wrangling and selections of yarns. I started a list of yarns by price for making a plain raglan sweater in  previous post. (By the way the final installments for the raglan sweater instructions are on their way). On another note, when I teach my classes I try to include all price ranges for suggested yarns because I do want people to be able to afford to knit the objects in the class.

Also, the notion that knitting should be available to groups rural areas as well reinforced my thought that online shops are good for people who do not live withing close proximity to a local yarn store.  Here I am living in a city that has one of the highest number of yarn stores per capita and I forget that someone in a smaller town or rural area may not have access. Also, there is the comfort-zone factor or that that the yarn store in a city may not be in a neighborhood where some ethnic minorities feel welcome or comfortable.

Knitting should be universal - Photo from the morguefile

Knitting should be universal - Photo from the morguefile


Filed under Uncategorized

Audacity for Podcasting

I’m posting this for the folks in my podcasting class with Heather Ordover who were interested in using Audacity for sound recording.  Audacity is a free-ware program that you can download.

Please note that in order to convert or export your audacity project files or AUP’s into the MP3 format most used for podcasting you need to download and install a plug in. The instructions for downloading and installing are linked in the tutorial (last link listed) below.

To download visit the following link and find the link on the page that says “Download Audacity” and click it.

There is another version in Beta; however, if you’re a newbie to using these devices I strongly suggest you download and use the earlier version.

Here is a link to the documentation on how to use Audacity (you can also access it from the page above by clicking the “Help” tab):

Here is a tutorial on the Audacity wiki that walks through how to create a podcast:


Filed under Uncategorized

Square Needles and I think I might be burned out…

Day 3 from the Sock Summit and I’m feeling overwhelmed…  just kinda “socked” out. I’m seriously considering giving up my ticket to the Luminary Panel for tomorrow afternoon and ditching my class. I just re-read the description. What was I thinking????! Of course I’ll go.

I bought two pairs of Kollage Circular Square Needles at the Sock Summit: sizes 2 & 8. These needles are easier to hold. I also really like the dull copper finish as it makes them stand out. The size of the needles is carefully etched into the needle itself. This makes sense since you couldn’t really use a regular needle gauge tool to tell what size the needle was.

The needle cord for these circulars was pretty soft and supple. I didn’t have to worry about straightening kinks in the cable as I was knitting.  My swatch stitches and rows seemed very even, though I did practice the trick of purling backwards so I wouldn’t have to turn over the work to purl.  This technique may have also contributed to the evenness of the stitches. It does appear that they feel a bit easier on my hands as I knit; however, I’d have to use them for an extended period to time to make sure that they work the way I want them too without strain.  I tend to switch between different gauge and types of projects frequently to avoid developing repetitive stress syndrome.

My only complaint: my stitches were a bit tighter than usual.  I used worsted weight yarn on size US 8 needles.  I’m not too tight of a knitter. I think I might go up a size when I’m using these… at least that’s how I felt from my perspective.  I’m actually thinking of maybe getting a pair of 10.5 US in these needles. I’ve been knitting a lot of bulky weight yarn and it would be nice to have large needles that are a bit easier on the wrists.


Filed under Uncategorized

Sock Summit Finds

I’m done.

I came away from the Sock Summit with a respectable but not an extravagant haul. Some of my favorite finds were two skeins of yarn from “Creatively Dyed Yarns.”  I apologize for the graininess of the photos, I will try to take photos in daylight soon and post them here.  I’ve become a big fan of the speckled dye job. I was just imagining really pretty socks coming from both of these yarns, but there’s over 500 yards of fiber so either skein can become just about anything including a crocheted scarf.

Creatively Dyed Yarns in Luxury & Calypso

Creatively Dyed Yarns in Luxury & Calypso

Check out the character of the dye/coloring

Check out the "character" of the dye/coloring

Sorry he looks sort of sad here trapped in a plastic bag, but I found the most adorable pattern for a “bendy” bunny.  I actually did a better job photographing his monkey friend. The title of the pattern is actually called “Harry Rabbit.” He looked very alive in a muppet-like way… staring at me from inside the bad. Okay, that’s kindof creepy, but I couldn’t resist. The pattern comes fromCiD Hancom Designs with two pink eyes, bendable wires for arms and legs and a square of pink felt. I purchased this from the  “The Fold’s” booth.  I almost bought the monkey, but stopped myself when I realized I’d never have the time to make him.

I also purchased some tussah silk & dyed pre-drafted roving both for spinning, and two sets of circular square needles (no that’s not an Oxymoron. They’re from Kollage. I plan to knit with them and hopefully write a brief review soon.

Harry Rabbit

Harry Rabbit



I didn’t purchase these from the Sock Summit but instead at the Naked Sheep during their “Sock Summit” promotion. During the entire Sock Summit weekend if you mention the code word “Sock Summit” you get 15% your entire purchase. I was able to purchase the slate gray and plum colored colorways. Bob and Meghan kindly named the plum or mauve after me (blushing). I’d actually begged Meghan to make a mauvish color which has become one of my favorite shades. I’m sorry I’ve been Anglicised and I call it “Mohhhh-ve” instead of “Mahhhh-ve.” 🙂

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Filed under Amigurumi, Craft, Dye, Dyeing, Dyeing_yarn, Knit, Knitting, Sock Summit, Socks