Category Archives: Challenge

#knitchat 9/1: The Knitting Bucket List

Actually, the term “Bucket List” bothers me… just a little. This is perhaps because it is a reminder of our own mortality. Maybe I should think of this as more of my list of challenges I want to overcome while the rest of my life occurs. There I go candy-coating things again. On my “list” is knitting an incredibly intricate Estonian or Shetland lace shawl. On a larger scale, I’d like to knit some curtains.

Here are the #knitchat questions:

Q1) What skills (kniting, crochet or fibercraft-wise) are on your “Bucket List?” #knitchat

Q2) Any sweaters or projects on your Bucket List? Any epic dream projects? #knitchat

Q3) When you want to learn or accomplish a new skill what motivates you or keeps you going? #knitchat


DETAILS… DETAILS… If you want to know more about what #knitchat is and how it works

  • Where: Twitter (follow the #knitchat hashtag)
  • When: Thursdays on the date listed above at 6:30 PM PST/9:30 PM EST (1 hour)
  • Who: Me you and other Twitter Knitters/Crocheters & Fiber-crafters
  • How: Need a primer on Twitter Chat… check this out: What does this Twitter chat thing look like?
  • How: to post photos – 5 ways to share photos on Twitter
  • How: to shorten your links. Simply paste your link into the field in and shorten it. Copy and paste this link into the twitter feed.



Crown Prince Shawl by Nancy Bush



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Filed under #knitchat, Challenge, Creativity, Crochet, Knit, Knitters, Knitting, Lace

Sock Summit – I’ll never be ready or finished!

You know it’s been over a month since I started my goal of knitting three pairs of socks for the Sock Summit. I’m barely done with just one, and actually I think I’ve decided I’m not going to be done with this one because I want to make knee-highs. Oh well, such is life.

I am almost finished with the Nautillina shawl I started and I’ll have it ready and blocked I think by Friday. But this isn’t for me, it’s for someone else.

Also, I needed to knit something fast so I’ve been thoroughly entranced by gigantic needles. Yes, this is the same woman who once swore off knitting with anything larger than US 10 needles because knitting with anything bigger than that was like doing the “Chicken Dance.” But I had the perfect opportunity to use those size US 19’s that were gathering dust behind my laptop. So I finished a shawlette with some Artfibers Baccarat (a lovely iridescent ribbon yarn that reminds me of Japanese Beetles) which has been languishing in my stash, but I have so much of it left that I think I’m going to undo the bind off and continue knitting until I have a full shawl.  Arrrrgh. I’ll never be done. I need to lie down on the floor and remain calm.

Mulberry kettle dyed socks

These are the socks that never end...


Nautillina Shawl

Nautillina Shawl


Bacarat Shawlette

This yarn reminds me of Japanese Beetles

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Filed under Challenge, Colors, Knitting, Sock Summit, Socks

Problem Projects? #knitchat discussion

Sackboy doll with jacket & hat

The Sackboy's fingers almost had me pulling my hair out

Lately I’ve had pretty good luck with projects I’ve tried to knit, but I’ve been thinking that I need to get out of my comfort zone by picking up more challenging knitting projects. Though I fully realize that I can never solve all of my knitting problems on my own. I need help.  Last week I had one of these “Help me” moments when I was trying to knit the fingers on my Sackboy doll. I resorted to looking for forum threads on Ravelry on the pattern, and low and behold, I discovered that others were having similar problems knitting the fingers. I was quickly able to find a solution in the forum posts on this thread. Thank goodness for social networks and knitters that populate them!

Also, I’m fortunate enough to have a very friendly knit shop in my neighborhood with a community of very experienced knitters who are often willing to help me problem solve. This #knitchat we’re going to talk about problem projects and the avenues for getting help.  In this chat feel free to chime in with your advice or even words of support. Sometimes challenging projects can be quite frustrating.  I’m only going to post two questions for tonight because I’m thinking that we will not run out of things to say when it comes to our problem projects. Can’t wait to see you there!


Knitchat Questions for 4/14/11

Q1) How do you normally get help for problem knitting projects? Where would you like to seek help?

Q2) Do you have a problem project right now? Have you had one in the past? Tell us all about it.


DETAILS… DETAILS… If you want to know more about what #knitchat is

  • Where: Twitter (follow the #knitchat hashtag)
  • When: Thursdays on the date listed above at 6:30 PM PST/9:30 PM EST (1 hour)
  • Who: Me you and other Twitter Knitters/Crocheters & Fiber-crafters
  • How: Need a primer on Twitter Chat… check this out: What does this Twitter chat thing look like?
  • How: to post photos – 5 ways to share photos on Twitter
  • How: to shorten your links. Simply paste your link into the field in and shorten it. Copy and paste this link into the twitter feed.

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Filed under #knitchat, Challenge, Knitting

Episode 22 – Art for Fiber’s Sake

Somehow this episode became all about art inspired knitting or the other way around.

I talked about my current sweater projects and knitting a new skirt for myself. I also share about my first attempt at freeform crochet.

We’re available on both iTunes and Podcast Alley. Just check for “Cloudy with a chance of Fiber.”

Episode 22

My first attempt at freeform crochet


Filed under Art, Challenge, Craft, Creativity, Crochet, Knitting, Podcast, Stash, Stuff I made, Sweater, Techniques

My Fiber Ed at the Knit and Crochet Show

I attended the Knit and Crochet Show this week and was fortunate enough to take two classes.

Fine shaping in crochet with Lily Chin. I recommend taking this class to anyone who has felt frustrated or limited with construction and design options in crochet. Lily’s excellent class helped open doorways to understanding how to shape garments in crochet.

Part of our homework including making an eight inch swatch of a crochet stitch pattern of our choice and making several Xerox copies of the stitch. She showed us how to create a graph template using inch grid chart paper from any garment. She also demonstrated that we could carefully lay out the Xerox copies of our stitch pattern and estimate or plan out our design on the template.

Lily truly is a talented instructor and a storehouse of knowledge about her craft. She shared some of her design stories and swatches.  She told the story of her adventure of crafting a beautiful metallic thread crochet dress and the trial and error process she went through to make a stunning evening dress worn by Cindy Crawford. I scoured the Internet looking for an image of the dress but I could not find it. I honestly think this was one of the most helpful classes in fiber craft I’ve ever taken and I recommend this for anyone who’s itching to boost their skills in crochet and garment design. I can only imagine that her knitting classes are just as enlightening.

I went home and ordered a copy of Couture Crochet as soon as I got home.

Click the image to view the book at Interweave Press

Click the image to view the book at Interweave Press

Designer Day with Janet Szabo. I got a lot of important and useful information and insights on launching one’s own career in the world of fiber design. It was a really valuable class for anyone who is interested in becoming a designer of knit or crochet.

She was able to dispell some of the myths lodged in my brain about getting started as a designer and self-publishing. One of the most important lessons I learned: if you want to insure that your patterns are the best and secure a good reputation as a designer, hire a tech editor to check your patterns.

This class was a good start to understanding what it takes to launch a business as a designer but I would also encourage those who are interested to check SCORE or the SBA (Small Business Association) for classes. I took a class a year or so ago on writing business plans that was very helpful.

On another note, Janet has written two books that I’ve found indispensable:

I Hate to Finish Sweaters &

Aran Sweater Design

Click the image to view the book at Janets site.

Click the image to view the book at Janet's site.

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Filed under Aran, Challenge, Creativity, Crochet, Fashion, Garment Design, Knit

I want to be the “Sweater Evangelist”

My Two Week Raglan Sweater

This was an uncommonly cold and snowy winter out here in the Pacific Northwest this year.  I actually was able to knit at least five sweaters from the beginning of fall last year to this date. I finished another raglan in a bulky yarn for my husband this year. I joke with friends that it’s too bad I didn’t knit it earlier because it might have helped save on our heating bills this year. It occurred to me that knitting sweaters is a way to keep people warm and happy. It’s a way to keep them safe, help them feel loved and perhaps save a little money on fuel bills.  Not to mention the fact that a well-made sweater can bring someone joy for years to come.

Yet I hear so many people say things like:

  • “I could never knit a sweater… it’s too hard.”
  • “I don’t have the time to knit a sweater.”
  • “I’ll never be able to knit”
  • “I’ll never be able to knit that well”
  • “It’s too expensive to knit a sweater”


A basic raglan that’s knit from the bottom up is actually  not too hard to do.  Many of my raglan sweaters are based on Elizabeth Zimmerman’s raglan instructions in Knitting without Tears. You only need to know how to knit two stitches (knit & purl). In addition, you need to knit on circular needles and in the round. I think the hardest thing about knitting this sweater is joining the armpit stitches with Kitchener stitch. But hey… even if it’s not perfect, the stitching is in the armpit. How many people would you actually allow to lift up your arms and inspect your armpits?

As for price, there are many levels of affordable fiber out there.  You can support your local yarn store and purchase a sweater’s worth of yarn in good but affordable wools like Cascade 220, Universal Deluxe Tweed, Ella Rae Classic for less than $50 for a medium sized sweater (womens). You can also keep a look out for sales at your local LYS’s and wait for good prices on the yarn you’d like. If you’re really strapped for cash. You can actually find good worsted weight yarns for a good prices from sites like Elann or LittleKnits. Yarn for bargains can also be found at Good Will stores and other thrift stores. Some people even unravel sweaters from thrift shops and re-purpose this fiber in their own designs.  I believe that knitting can be accessible for all people. I will confess that as I got better at the craft (mind you I’m still learning), I really began to see the benefits of investing in good yarn as opposed to buying quantities of inexpensive wool and other fibers.  I still buy some bargain yarns, but often I use them to experiment with techniques, construction or designs that I want to try later in more costly fibers. But I don’t want to sound holier than though about they type of yarn you’re using if you’re a beginner or if you cannot afford a sweater’s worth of Kid Silk Haze.

I made a sort of informal new years resolution this year that I would teach at least six people how to successfully knit themselves a sweater. I’m quite serious about this resolution because I feel it’s incredibly empowering to make a useful thing like a sweater for yourself or for someone you love.  More, I feel that in these somewhat troubling times of economic uncertainty understanding how to be self-sufficient in many ways including creating ‘useful’ objects like garments and clothing will not just be a pleasurable hobby for some but a necessity of living for many.

I’m actually working on putting together and editing a simple pattern/recipe for knitting the sweater pictured on the left.

PS. I’ve actually finished my Amigurumi Frog pattern, I’m just in the process for finding a place to host my pdf files.

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Filed under Challenge, Community, Knit, Knitters, Knitting, Sweater

Scratch that… no, unravel it

In the previous post I mentioned that I would dye machine knit blanks of my cotton yarn, assuming that I would knit all of these up in the handy knitting machine I bought for making hats and things.  I tried making a long blank with three 109 yard skeins of cotton and discovered that this knitting machine abhors working with cotton. After picking up slipped stitches with a crochet hook over 2 dozen times, I said enough!

So I unraveled the long ugly tubey thing I spent the entire afternoon making and unwound it around two wooden chairs set about 12 feet apart.  I did this with two more skeins until I got bored and moved on to something else. 13 more skeins to go… sigh.  It occured to me that I could play something cheery and tongue in cheek as I walked around the chairs to wind the yarn. Maybe… some Lord Kitchener.


Knitting has taught me the value of endless patience. Dyeing seems to be gifting me with the lesson of careful preparation and planning.  Several months ago, if you asked me if I would go to this length to prepare fiber to knit a sweater, I’d flatly say… no.  I couldn’t see past my love of knitting.

A year later, and now I’m finding myself branching into other fiber related crafts. I actually want to spend more time investigating crochet in depth and improve my skill at shaping and building structures in crochet.  I spend a great deal of time making garments, maybe I need to investigate knitting and crocheting other objects including un-utilitarian ones.

It’s a little late, but here’s my short reflection/inventory of things learned and things I’d like to learn this year.

A few things I tried last year:

  • Knitting with metal and beads – fun but it hurts.
  • Spinning – I used a drop spindle to make my first single ply yarn. I think I’m going to continue investigating
  • Dyeing – I… am addicted. Sad when you get to the point where you’re looking through your stash for lightly colored or white yarns just to satisfy your need for a dyeing fix.

Things I still need to do or want to try:

  • Gansey knitting – I still need to finish my Lochniver sweater
  • Steeking
  • Crocheting a small blouse in a simple lace stitch
  • Color work/Fair Isle knitting
  • Design and knit a real Aran sweater (with cables)
  • Start a podcast- this is a difficult one for me. I often think that I haven’t started this yet becuase I get my “I need to talk about knitting/crafting” fix with the wonderful group over at my knit night at the Naked Sheep Knit Shop.


Filed under About Me, Challenge, Community, Craft, Creativity, Crochet, Dye, Dyeing, Dyeing_yarn, Fair Isle, Knit, Knitters, Knitting, Portland Knitters, Reflection, Yarn

Dye Party Extravaganza

Dont drink the Kool-aid. Use it for dyeing

Don't drink the Kool-aid. Use it for dyeing

I had a yarn/fabric dying party yesterday with some friends.

I have more pics of the finished yarns I need to share but here are some of the original batch of Kool-aid dyed yarns we finished yesterday afternoon. The Dye party was a huge success. We used my old kitchen microwave to set the dyes in the yarn and fabric. All items were wrapped in microwaveable plastic bags and zapped for about two minutes and then two minutes again to set the dye.

The Kool-aid dyes worked suprisingly well especially with the superwash wools. We also did a batch of acid dye yans/fabrics. I did dye some dupioni silk which turned out quite well. I discovered that my Eco wool didn’t take dyes very well. probably because there was excess lanolin there even after a thorough washing with synthropol.

I will post pictures of those as soon as I get the time 🙂

Rinsing set dyed yarns & fabric in a bucket

Rinsing set dyed yarns & fabric in a bucket

More yarn photos:

Cascade Eco Wool in Acid Dye Colors

Cascade Eco Wool in Acid Dye Colors

My Sock Yarn in Blues and Brown

My Sock Yarn in Blues and Brown

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Filed under Challenge, Stuff I made, Techniques, Yarn

Beautiful Babette

A whole lot of yarn

A whole lot of yarn

At Knit Night at the Naked Sheep Knit Shop, Elaine brought in an armful and then some of Cascade 220, wound it up then placed most of the colors on the table. She wanted us to help her select the colors for the massive Babette Blanket she’s planning to finish before October for a wedding gift.

Babette Blanket Example 1

Babette Blanket Example 1

Maybe I was just uber tired that day, but looking at all that yarn, in so many colors really overwhelmed me. Plus, I like crochet, but not that much. This project is pretty modular and you can take it with you in small pieces where ever you go, but still I think it would take me years to finish it if I was not monogamous. Kudos to Elaine for starting this project and setting her time frame goal.

I love the blanket itself because done it some color schemes it looks a lot like the background of a Gustav Klimt painting.  You can view all the different renditions of this blanket here: Babette Blanket Pool.

Personally, I think that this would be a great group project for several people to tackle. Say if you were giving the gift as a comfort item for someone you cared about… or even a wedding gift.

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Filed under Challenge, Knit, Knitting, Yarn

You say Guernsey, I say Gansey

I’ve decided to embark on a little investigation and comparison of yarns as I learn more about the art of knitting a gansey. For some reason, I’ve become infatuated with the idea of knitting a Gansey with the traditional drop shoulder shaping. I know that drop shoulders are somewhat dated and reminiscent of the 80’s probably due to the popularity of these sweaters and the proliferation of Bennetton stores. Still, I want to knit the gansey in it’s traditional form. I guess I’m a purist.

Also, I’ve noticed that some folks swear that knitting with a more expensive, reputable yarn is better than knitting with a more inexpensive and affordable brand. Their argument is that the quality of the yarn is of the most importance. I’ve also seen a few heated conversations about yarn brands online, noting that some hold fast by the idea that you should stick with the more expensive brands.

My feeling is that, not everyone can afford to use these expensive yarns. Is it wrong to exclude people’s desire to knit a gansey just because they cannot afford yarn at $7-8 dollars a skein? If you’re knitting a sweater that takes 18 plus skeins it adds up. Also, I wanted to figure out, for myself, because I’m stubborn and often rely on my own experience to make my judgments, whether one yarn was indeed superior over the other.

I wanted to run a comparison once and for all between a ‘bargain’ yarn vs. a more expensive (within reason) yarn. At first, I thought I’d knit the same sweater pattern twice, but I realized that this could be akin to a form of mental torture, so I settled for knitting two similar sweaters.

I will judge the yarns on the following criteria (as a start):

  • Average number of knots or nubbs found per 50 grams of yarn.
  • Knitting experience (rough fiber, vs. soft)
  • Amount of piling (little, average, excessive) before and after seaming
  • Dye resistance
  • Stitch definition
  • Texture/softness after first washing
  • Splitting
Telemark Alpine Frost

Telemark Alpine Frost Gansey 7/6/08

I’ve decided to compare the two yarns:

  • Knit PIcks Telemark
  • Frangipani

I started on the Lochinver gansey by Alice Starmore. I know there are probably some who are gasping in shock, but I’ve cast on and finished the bottom flaps in Telemark. Overall my experience with knitting this yarn has been fine. It’s rough, but that’s to be expected from a yarn that’s made for creating an ‘outdoor’ sweater. My experience with really ‘soft’ yarns has often been disappointing because they pill so much and require regular care with a sweater stone or fuzz eater.

I haven’t been able to order Frangipani yet, but I think I’ve seen a local store that carries it. Perhaps they can place an order for a certain color. I have discovered that finding good quality Gansey and Fair Isle yarn is a bit of a challenge in the U.S. It makes me really want to help popularize the art of knitting these wonderful garments in the hopes of increasing distribution and decreasing the prices of this yarn.

It did occur to me that it’s a little strange and perhaps uncomfortable to knit such a heavy sweater during summer time, but I decided that waiting the weather to cool down would be more than my patience could bear. Also, I would knit it only at night.

Knit Picks Telemark Yarn

Knit Picks Telemark Yarn

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Filed under Challenge, Knit, Knitting, Yarn