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Book Review – The Knitter’s Life List

Confession time:  I’m a library junkie.

Related confession:  I use my library shamelessly like a “try before you buy” service.

I order online and have other libraries send my branch all the latest (and oldest) popular pattern books, stitch books, and technique books.  Why, back when I was doing the Master Knitter Level I, I ordered the original June Hemmons Hyatt Principles of Knitting, and was able to renew it for months on end… and this was back when it was out of print and it’s secondary market value was inflated to $300+!

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I voraciously preview crafting books from the library.  So far, I haven’t done much to review the hundred or so craft books that pass through my hands every year.  Most don’t intrigue me enough to pursue past flipping through the patterns.  But today I’m going to give a review, simply because the book I found was such an interesting oddity.

During a recent rare browsing visit to the library (usually I just pick up my holds and dash), I found a book called The Knitter’s Life List.  As far as I know, a “life list” is a term from birding, in which the birder has a list of all the birds in a region, maybe listing rarity, and checks them off as they are observed in the wild.  I think it’s kind of a self-competition thing, a goal to try to catch a glimpse of the “rare whosiwhatsit bird”, and it also provides hobbyists with a point of reference when conversing with one another.  I think I went on a field trip as a kid where we were given life lists to inspire us to search the area carefully and quietly for wildlife.

And inspiration is certainly the point of The Knitter’s Life List.  The book is chock full of entertaining tidbits about our knitting hobby, the “who’s who”, and what this author feels are the big accomplishments.  The book’s chapters are organized by categories such as yarns, fibers, techniques, and types of commonly knitted objects such as scarves.  In the beginning of each chapter, there is a “life list” for the category which is subdivided into categories such as who to meet related to the category, resources to discover, knitting techniques to try or learn, and maybe other sub-categories like places to visit or “extra credit” questions.  Reading the rest of the following chapter will help explain some of the items on the life list, which give you a sense of being lead through a lesson.

On the whole, this is a fun book to get from the library.  There are lots of odd little facts, quotes from the luminaries of the current knitting world, tips and tricks, bits of history, and lists of movies or books that contain some knitting homage.  It’s fun to flip around and discover something new.  There are one-page biographies too, that offer a little more insight into some of our favorite knitters:  for example, Barbara Walker who is famous in our industry for creating some really great reference books of stitch patterns, is also an award winning author in comparative religion and a painter.  It’s nice to have a little more insight about an knitting author than the back of a book jacket might provide.

The life lists themselves have challenging and intriguing tasks and accomplishments, even for a moderately advanced knitter such as myself.  Almost every crafter ever has some area that they are more accomplished in than another.  Let’s take a look at a few from the socks section, as I’ve only ever knit about a half-dozen pairs:  “Make two socks at once on one circular needle” – done, but didn’t like it.  “Knit a sock using double-point needles” – done, definitely my preferred method.  “Knit a toe-up sock” – you know, I don’t think I actually ever tried this!  Don’t revoke my knitter’s license now!  “Knit and donate a historic Red Cross pattern.” – well, now, that’s a really cool idea that I would never have thought of!  There’s a good page and a half more to the sock list, as well as blank spaces for your own ideas.

So the lists are pretty cool, and a fun idea if you like to challenge yourself to try new things in the world of knitting.  And the rest of the chapter between each of the lists is fun and enjoyable, in kind of a knitter’s Mental Floss way.

And yet, I wouldn’t really want to own this book.

There are a few reasons why.  First, I don’t enjoy writing in books.  Obviously, I didn’t write in the library’s book!  But in general, I dislike the concept of writing in a book like this. It feels like a regular, bound book, with semi-glossy pages, and the kind of book one is not supposed to write in.  I don’t even think the page texture will take a mark very well, and would probably get kind of smeary if you used pen.  Although again, library book – I didn’t actually try.  If it was spiral bound or something though, and they had the list section with a different page texture, maybe I would feel more “invited” to write.  Semi-glossy, soft-bound, 320 page books do not feel like an inviting medium in which to work on a list.

Then let’s talk about this layout a bit.  While I’m skimming along through the chapters, it is nice that there is a list and then information that explains the stuff on the list, but this isn’t a great layout for returning to reference a specific fact or list. I’m not going to flip through an entire book every time I want to see if I’ve accomplished something I can check off.  A discrete list, reprinted at the back might solve the problem.  Better yet, a discrete list reprinted at the back with perforations so I can tear out the list and carry it around in my knitting bag might be better.  Or even maybe, like the textbooks do it, a one-time use code that leads me to a code-locked website where I can download and print a personal copy.  Or a downloadable PDF I can keep on my phone for reference when I’m at a class or guild meeting.  But no, it’s like this book invites you to enjoy it’s list and then mocks you for wanting to check things off.  Indulge my hyperbole, if you would please, it’s fun to pretend to be a book critic for a moment.

So, I’m not running out to buy my own copy, but I did find The Knitter’s Life List to be inspiring and entertaining.  If you see it at the library, check it out!  And I think I’ll use it as a jumping off point to create my own “life list” of crafting accomplishments and techniques I want to learn as a challenge to myself.  But, I think for mine, I’m going to use Wunderlist or something, so that I can carry my list around wherever I go.  Digital is a very good medium for lists.

What about you?  Do you have a list of knitting accomplishments that you want to try or master?  Would you keep a list for yourself to challenge yourself, or would you rather learn new things as they come up in service of a particular pattern or class?

Until next time, keep your needles clicking…

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Before we get too comfortable…

Lest anyone think I could focus on any one craft genre at a time…

Just when I have re-committed myself to pursuing the Master Knitter program, I got a tantalizing email from another knitting guild member offering up knitting machines and a garter carriage to anyone who might want them… for FREE.  I called and said that if no one else was interested, I would take the whole lot.  And that there were a couple of the machines that I would like dibs on even if there was a line out the door behind me.  It seems I was the first to call.

So far in my life, I have spent about $200 on three knitting machines and maybe $35 on some parts/accessories.  The first one was a gift for my sister, and the only knitting machine that I think is still sold new on the mass market:  The Bond Ultimate Sweater Machine.  I didn’t know much about knitting machines at the time, but she had a dream about felted squiggly curtains, which sounded like long tedious plain rows of knitting.  I was trying to be supportive, but it turned out that it’s a lot to have a knitting machine in one’s small apartment with cats, finding the right table for it is tricky, and ultimately the machine came back to me.

Before that machine came back, I got my own first knitting machine cheap on ebay.  A few years later, my Mom’s friend gave her (who gave me) a free 12-stitch punchcard machine, the Brother KH 800 from the 1970s.  And just now I’ve gotten a carload of machines and accessories!  It’s an embarrassment of riches!  Or maybe a lot of people are getting out of this dying art.

In truth, it’s challenging to get started when there are few teachers, the machines are (usually) prohibitively expensive to get sight unseen, I don’t think any book or magazine publishers are currently publishing sexy modern patterns for machines, and unlike hand knitting, it’s hard to take your problem project over to a friend’s house for troubleshooting.

In any case, I feel very lucky, this is a whole lot of machine value for the cost of a car ride.  It pays to join knitting guilds, folks.  One guild member’s clutter can be your future clutter… er, treasure!  But seriously, we didn’t talk much but I got the impression that my benefactor had enjoyed machine knitting but was having difficulty taking the bulky, heavy machines to classes and was now ready see someone else enjoy these machines. Carol Murdoch-Miller, you are an angel of the knitting world.  You have given a stranger a beautiful gift of crafting happiness.

As for the added equipment to my small home – my husband smiles, and groans, and teases about the space my stuff takes up.  But I am grateful every day that he appreciates the value of tools.  He really gets it – he was genuinely excited for me to get such an awesome collection of machines and accessories.  And then he lets me store as many knitting machines as I can find in our tiny house!  At least they fold down flat and slide under the bed easily.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not actually planning to keep all of the machines currently in my house.  I have friends and family who might putter around with them too, and are eager to take them on.  I think I’m just the obsessed one who gets other people going along with these kinds of things.

The ones I’m keeping are the new-to-me 24-stitch punchcard Brother KH 881, the compatible garter carriage, and the KnitKing Bulky punchcard (because I love worsted!) .  I’ll probably pass along the 12-stitch Brother KH 800, since this new one is a real upgrade.  The KH 881 is about 15 years younger, and has two noteworthy features:  the knitleader – which appears to be some kind of guide in which you trace your pattern shape onto a thin plastic sheet and it helps guide your progress; and the punchcard reader takes a 24-stich card.  The old one was from a short-lived period before the 24-stitch card was standardized, there are plenty of patterns that can be halved, but there are a lot more available that cross 24 stitches.

For the recipient of the KH 800, there is a really good video on troubleshooting the card reader – I never got around to that fix.  I’m happy to try to fix it with you, if you’d like!

I looked at the KH 881, and I don’t think it needs a new sponge bar, that seems to be one of the first things that break down, but this one seems to be in ok condition.  I cleaned and oiled and tried to assess if there were missing parts.  So far, it seems like the only missing thing is the extension rails for the lace carriage.  Luckily, there are still shops that sell parts, even if no one is apparently manufacturing new machines of this type anymore.

By the way, while the Brother FTP site seems to be down (unless they moved or something), I found a great many knitting machine manuals over on this site:  http://machineknittingetc.com/ and specifically Brother manuals (even some service manuals) on the Mostly Knitting Machines site.

Investigating my new machines will keep me busy for quite some time, I am sure.  As will finding new places in my house to stash my new equipment!

Until next time, keep those needle-beds clacking…

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We now return you to the original purpose of this blog…

Way back when (in 2009), I started this blog with the purpose of recording my journey through The Knitting Guild Association (TKGA) Master Knitter program.  My craft interests, and thus this blog, have taken a circuitous journey since then.

The Master Knitter program is a correspondence program designed to test a knitter’s ability and comprehension of knitting technique, history, application, and design.  Much like an academic Master’s program (ask me how I know), there is a lot of research, writing, practice, and independent learning required.  TKGA also offers correspondence courses aimed at teaching beginner and intermediate knitters that have more hands-on help from instructors, if you do not feel you are at a level where “mastery” might be in your grasp.  For the Master Hand Knitter program, the expectation is that while you may not be at a “master” level when you begin, through the questions and assignments of the program, you will learn independently, and when your work is evaluated to mark a high level of understanding and achievement, you can pass onto the next level.

How long?  There are three levels to the program, and I passed Level 1 back in 2010.  Considering the rather slow pace of knitting projects in the past few years, completing something on that scale in just 22 months seems kind of extraordinary when I look back.  Although at the time, I was chagrined that it took me so long.  In any case, my husband has just started a Ph.D. program this fall, and our joking challenge to each other is that we are having a race – me to finish the 2nd and 3rd levels to be officially a “master knitter”, and him to earn a Ph.D.  Right now, I consider it fairly even odds… and considering that he is taking the program part-time and it may take him more than 4 years just to complete the coursework (let alone dissertation), you can guess that I’m expecting a slow slog on my end.

What’s my motivation?  Unlike my with husband’s PhD, achieving this Master Knitter distinction probably won’t immediately lead to new job prospects – maybe for some it would, but not for me.  I’m already in a career I like.  I do hope to be a knitting teacher, artist, and knitwear designer in my retirement career, but I’m a looooong way from retirement.  I probably have a good 20 years or more (the way they keep pushing back those things) before full-time knitter/artist becomes my new line of work.  So the Master Knitter distinction wouldn’t get me anything in the immediate sense other than a sense of accomplishment, and probably some props from other knitters.  I think there might also be a shiny pin.

Instead, the real benefit is the motivation to learn and challenge myself to be a better knitter.  I haven’t knit much in the last 4 years.  Between work pressures, finishing that other kind of Master’s, some issues with having a baby, and then actually having a baby, my knitting energy and enthusiasm slowed down for a while.  I’ve been disappointed, as I’ve gotten my mojo back, at how much I feel like my skills have atrophied.  And how slow I knit now!  It’s time to get back on the proverbial horse, get back to the program, and start “leveling up” as a knitter again!

The cost:  Back in 2010, when I passed Level I, I purchased Level II for $95 (the price appears to have been raised to $97 since).  In addition, in order to interact with the program (i.e., buy a level, or submit anything), you must also be a current member of TKGA.  This is, currently, $35/year with possible discounts for choosing the digital subscription to Cast-On magazine or for going with the two-year membership.

Then there are yarn costs:  There are some worsted weight swatches, a couple of laceweight swatches, a colorwork wristlet, one argyle sock (although seriously, I’m going to want to knit a pair so my husband can wear them once approved), and a vest required.  I might actually be able to manage all of this from stash, as I think I optimistically bought all the materials needed back when I purchased the level… the only question is whether I used some of it up for other projects in the meantime.

The requirements (as of Rev. 5/1/15):

Written materials:  A 3-page report on the history of knitting, four book reviews, 16 questions, gauge worksheets based on a couple of the swatches, and a written pattern for one of the swatches.

Knitted materials:  

  • 19 swatches – mostly demonstrating finishing techniques like seaming, buttonholes, and necklines, but also some for colorwork, lace, and demonstrating cable problem-solving,
  • a fair-isle wristlet
  • an argyle sock – demonstrating intarsia and duplicate stitch, as well as sock construction and seaming (because the fancy part of the argyle sock is knit flat!)
  • a vest… I think it’s supposed to have side seams – but maybe there’s an exception if you want to do Fair Isle… I need to find out more as I do love the look of Fair Isle vests.

I think I’m most intimidated by the prospect of the vest and sock, since I haven’t finished anything that technical or shaped or large (in stitch count) in a very long time!

Until next time, keep those needles clicking…

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Knitting with scales

‘Tis the season for me to obsess about costumes.  For most of the year my crafting obsessions are largely to do with gifts, or sometimes a new thing for home or everyday apparel.  But in June, just before my favorite (and sometimes only) gaming convention of the year, I think obsessively about what new technique-y thing I can learn to make my costume-idea-du-jour the most awesome.

Every year, I try to add a few new things to the costumes I wear to the June gaming convention.  This year, I have too many ideas left over from last year, plus new ideas. Last year’s innovations included prosthetic ears, wigs that I learned to style myself, and a new bustle and overskirt.  And the effect was awesome!

Also, I have since realized, that I’m not just a person who attends convention in costume, I am a cosplayer.  I didn’t realize until last year, that cosplayers weren’t some special people doing something different than me, it’s a thing I also do.  If you, like me, don’t know much about the word “cosplay”, it means that you like to dress up in costume just for fun (probably at appropriate venues, where other people are in costume, like a geek-culture convention of some sort), beyond something you would do for work (say, if you worked at a museum), beyond historical reenactment activities, and beyond halloween.  You just like to assemble and wear elaborate costumes (you can buy or make them).  And it doesn’t have to be a costume representing a specific character from a movie, graphic novel or book (another area in which I was confused).  So far, I dress up in costumes as a character of my own creation.  But down the road, I have a vaguely formed wish to make a costume to represent each of the Pathfinder Iconics in a victoriana-ish style, just to meld together some disparate geek passions of mine.

So I actually did accomplish a lot of new things on the costume front last year despite May having a nearly-walking baby to chase after, a husband finishing graduate school, a graduation, and getting the longest-lasting cold of my life.

One of last year’s ideas that I never capitalized on was the idea of knitting with scales.  The Crafty Mutt has some beautiful tutorials and patterns, and there are sellers on Etsy with finished projects for sale as well if you are intimidated by the idea of knitting with scales.  From what I could find though, The Crafty Mutt seems to be the only one out there designing patterns for knitting with scales.

I picked up Crafty Mutt’s “Knitted Scale Mail Gloves” and “Scale Choker” patterns, and got myself a big sack of various scales from TheRingLord.com.  Ready, set, knit!

Buying Scales: 

For the patterns I bought, the needed size was the “small” scales from TheRingLord.com (other places sell scales for scale-mail too, and their are some etched ones on Etsy, but this was the best place I could find good deals on bulk plain scales).  I got some polycarbonate plastic and some aluminum. They are all very lightweight individually, but since I was buying online, I couldn’t be sure, so I planned my project to be mostly comprised of black plastic scales.  I don’t think it will matter for the gloves so much, but I also have a notion to convert the design into knitted scale spats, and I think at that quantity, and because they would be worn vertically, the scaled material might be too heavy for the fabric and sag.

I also went mostly plastic because they are much cheaper:  bag of 1000 plastic was $0.01 per scale vs. aluminum which are about $0.03 per scale.

I figured that even if I hated knitting with scales, I could probably make some jewelry out of the metal ones, so I did get a variety of small packs to experiment with, as well as a sampler pack of different sized scales.

Knitting with Scales:

Not nearly as difficult as I feared.  I’ve never even knitted with beads before (although I always fancied that I would at some point).  The hole on the scales is pretty huge, so even though you stick your needle in the hole and pull the yarn through, it’s not too difficult.  I had some trouble getting the scales oriented the way I wanted on my swatch, but figured it out half-way through.  Crafty Mutt’s directions are really quite good, but it might be worth re-reading the section on scale orientation.  I noticed that in some of the other projects that people show on Ravelry, their scales are sticking out funny.  I had this problem too in my swatch, until I realized that I was not following the directions correctly.  Each scale should be curved inward towards the fabric when you put it on the needle, but the act of pulling the stitch through flips the end-point of the scale to the wrong direction (vertically up instead of down).  Before you knit the next stitch, you manually rotate the point downward and lock it in with the new stitch. When I did it this correct way, the scales hugged the fabric nicely, making the scales naturally lay in a nice smooth fashion.

 My tension on this project is also pretty loose and the non-scale fabric pretty squishy, so that may be a factor in them laying nicely too, but I think the biggest factor is how the legs of the stitch pull the scale down and inward when you get it right.

Before long, I was whipping through the rows pretty fast.  Since the fabric is just garter stitch, the yarn is worsted, and the scale-attachment is only for 6 stitches every other row, it really moves quite quickly.  Happy day!  I might get this part of the costume done before the convention!  Even if I only knit during commutes!

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A Knitter’s Fantasy workshop

For the second time, I have had the delightful opportunity to attend a workshop in Youngstown, Ohio called “A Knitter’s Fantasy”.

The workshop has, in the past, been run as a rotation among three Ohio knitting guilds.  I understand however that the event has become too much work for one of the guilds involved, and it may no longer occur at all in future years.  It is too bad, because it is a wonderful event for attendees, although I can’t imagine the amount of work that is probably put on a few individuals from each guild.

The format of the workshop is what makes it really amazing, it’s like a mini-convention or expo (comparing to my other niche-hobby frames of reference:  boardgaming and quilting).  For $45 (this year), you get admission to a charming “Yarn Market” of about 20 or so vendors, access to a morning class and an afternoon class, and a lunch.  There is also a fashion show at lunch, door prizes, a “swap” table where knitters can destash and other knitters can pick up free yarn, tools and patterns, and, for the two years that I have attended, there has also been a demonstration room for machine knitting hosted by a machine-knitting guild.

The classes themselves are what really make this event great.  As far as I understand, all of the teachers are volunteering their time.  The cost of attendance is included in the $45, but some classes cost an additional small fee for materials or extensive hand-outs.  I find the quality of teaching and/or expertise of the teacher has varied widely, but all the classes have still been a lot of fun.  One year, for example, I took Tunisian crochet and the intended teacher had gotten sick, so two very enthusiastic volunteers learned the skill the night before, printed lots of handouts, and ran a great class!  It was tough for them to answer questions of any depth, however, I really felt that they made the class fun and I did successfully learn the basic Tunisian crochet pattern.

knitted broomstick lace swatch

Swatch of Knitted Broomstick Lace that I worked on in class

This year, I learned the Broomstick Lace knit stitch.    I was hoping there was a little more to the class than just the one stitch, as I have tried a little crocheted broomstick lace and there is a lot you can do with the crocheted version.  I’m not sure if there’s a lot you can do with the knit version, because the class really only covered the one stitch.  It was a tricky stitch to learn though, so I’m glad to have had the class to help me get into it.  If you’re curious, there is a very good video on this technique here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GerQQRmTuc0

Her written knitted broomstick lace pattern actually makes a little more sense than the version I was given in the class, which caused a lot of confusion for myself and other class participants.  Luckily, the teacher was able to straighten us out.

The Freeform Knitting class was really my favorite of this year.  The teacher, Sandy Hardy, was enthusiastic and very knowledgeable.  Someone had volunteered a load of plain and novelty yarns, and everyone was encouraged to bring in yarns to share as well.  This is the first time I’ve seen novelty yarns really go to an amazing and versatile use! Usually, I think of “novelty yarns” as the uni-taskers of the yarn world – they might do one thing really well, but you’re probably not going to want an every-day sweater out of it, and the appeal of the item you make might be limited to just a year or two before the look is out of style.  Normally I approach novelty yarns with extreme caution, but after this exciting class I’m wondering where I can get a grab-bag or someone’s destash!

Sandy began the class by trying to establish a relaxing atmosphere for creative exploration of a knitting form that is really versatile.  She then encouraged all the students to grab yarns from the share table, and gently pushed students with more subdued palettes to add in bits of yarn with more sparkle and contrasting color.

We received a handout with lots of resources as well as a few basic stitches, and she coached us through starting a mitered or garter block as a foundation, and then picking up stitches to make small units that could be pieced together later for handbags or other items.

Sandy had the most amazing example piece that she had created.

freeform knit purse by Sandy Hardy

Gorgeous Freeform knit purse by Sandy Hardy, front (photo used with permission)

She used a purse-form from a local yarn store (River Color Studio, which is my favorite yarn store, in Lakewood, OH, just sadly not very local to me anymore), but mentioned that plastic needlepoint canvas should work as well as a stabilizer and foundation to sew on the modular units.  I did admire the purse-form she had, as it was more flexible than rigid plastic canvas, however, I haven’t found the exact same thing online yet. [Update:  Sandy emailed me a link to the Lacis catalog, search TM22 to find the plastic mesh frame she used in her example.]  I think I might do ok with buckram (a stiffened linen) for my purposes.

From the resources in Sandy’s handouts, and the books she passed around, it seems like one of the luminaries of the freeform knitting arena is Prudence Mapstone.  Check out Ms. Mapstone’s inspiring freeform knitting gallery!

To add to the spirit of adventure, Sandy walked around the room and dropped small crocheted buttons or contrasting bits of yarn on the students’ desks and encouraged them to figure out how to add these extra bits.  I was very impressed by how she really got everyone to move beyond their comfort zones, and I found it quite liberating myself to stop thinking about pattern or count, and just pickup and add stitches, decrease and increase willy-nilly!

Gorgeous Freeform knit purse by Sandy Hardy, back (photo used with permission)

Gorgeous Freeform knit purse by Sandy Hardy, back (photo used with permission)

Just one more testament to Sandy’s skill as a teacher: in addition to teaching veteran knitters, there were actually two brand-new beginning knitters that had just learned to knit in a morning class and she coached them with equal finesse in the art of freeform knitting.  I think I remember that the brief teacher bios said that Sandy holds a TKGA educator certificate of some kind.  I’ll have to find out more about this, as I would like to try my hand at teaching again some day after I’ve gotten a little farther in the Master Knitter program.

The final dose of inspiration in the freeform knitting class was that one of the students happened to have a needle-felted handbag, which prompted a lot of discussion about the possibilities of needle felting by machine (either dedicated machines or with a needle-felting attachment to a regular sewing machine).  Thinking about this in context with freeform knitting had me visualizing all kinds of fun hybrid pieces with knit, crocheted, needle-felted, and sewn embellishments.

freeform knit swatch

The beginnings of my first freeform knitting project

 

My mind has been whirling ever since!  I hope I can capitalize on this momentum and have a great project or two to share in the next few months!

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To the frog pond!

partially knit collar

The big mistake! The increases are all screwed up here

Let me start this story by explaining that typically, I am not much of a “Type A” knitter, especially if it’s something I’m knitting for myself.  If there’s a mistake, I’ll think of ways to correct it as I go along, or see if it can be ignored.  I embrace the wabi-sabi, let go of ego, accept that the screwy details are rarely noticeable when the whole is good, etc.

There is a very old “meme” if you will, one that predates the intertubes – it’s about humility.  I had heard that it was from quiltmakers, but googling implies that it’s just a story fondly embraced by crafters the world over.  The story goes that great quiltmakers (or Persian rugmakers, or Native American beadworkers, etc) would intentionally introduce one flaw into their nearly perfect work as a sign of humility because only God’s (or gods’, or Great Spirit’s, etc) work could be perfect.  I have always joked that I never need to worry about spiting the gods with my excessive perfection, because my work is full of mistakes, but if the gods are equally concerned over excessive mistakes, I might be in trouble.

This time, however, the mistake demanded instant frogging.  This one was too big to finagle my way through with stitch witchery.  So what did I screw up?

I’ll do a full review of my first Craftsy class experience later, after I’ve completed more of the class, but here’s a quick sum up of the Crazy Lace Cardigan class I have started taking:  Great class, terrific hand-outs, engaging teacher, but having some issues with their mobile site.  On the mobile site, you can’t (currently) fast-forward, skip ahead, or otherwise navigate through the different “lessons” in a single video.  The class as a whole is divided into 14 videos, but some of them are over an hour.  My lunch break is only 1hr, and that includes procuring and eating food.  I want to do Craftsy class on my lunch break.  This has all conspired to make me impatient with the classes on occasion.

Its not that the classes are poorly paced either, it’s just that the class is meant to teach a broad range of experience levels, and sometimes they go on for a few minutes about stuff I already know, and on my tablet I can’t skip ahead.  But you know what is awesome?  When I sent tech support a message to let them know I’d like to see them improve that aspect, they told me they already had mobile apps in the works and ready to release in a few weeks!  So hooray for Craftsy!  I can’t wait to see if this new app addresses my issues!

So that brings me to my problem with the knitting.  I was heading to a fun craft night with one good friend and a bunch of gals I hadn’t yet met, and I was debating what project to bring.  I wanted something that would really keep my attention, in case I was out of the social loop, but nothing that would look too rarefied because I didn’t want to weird anybody out on the first meeting.  So to prepare, I skipped ahead a little on the Craftsy class.  That’s where the Big Mistake came in.

I reviewed the cast-on, and then grabbed the pattern and did a quick scan to see if there were any techniques I needed to know.  Rather than watch that section of the video, I just grabbed a good stitch reference book and headed out the door.  It looked pretty good, and I was cruising along feeling that this was a very pleasant pattern and that I would be done with the top yoke part in no time.

Today at lunch, I noticed a couple of small mistakes.  A missed increase, and an extra yarn-over.  But maybe it would all come out in the wash, so I counted some stitches… that’s when i noticed that the increase sections on the two front points of the v-neck didn’t look symmetrical.  Uh-oh!  I started catching up with the Craftsy video… there it is, there are supposed to be double yarn-overs at every marker.  If you look at the image above, you will note that there are only single yarn-overs.

But here’s the kicker… the pattern is not wrong.  The video would have helped me not make the mistake by carefully reinforcing what the pattern says, but the pattern is written correctly.  This is what I get for ambitiously trying to jump ahead, not reviewing the pattern and stitches carefully, starting a new pattern stitch in a busy social environment, and in general NOT paying enough attention!

So here’s the moral of this story, even though it’s common sense and I really, really ought to know this by now:  read all pattern instructions carefully and really pay attention to the instructions while you are setting up a knit.  And let’s hope that the knitting gods aren’t inclined to smite cocky, hasty underachievers any more than they seem to be inclined to smite those unhumble perfectionists.

Until next time, keep those needles clicking…

5

Project Swapway: Designing a Cape

A few months ago, I joined a Steampunk Swap in the Odd Duck Swaps group on Ravelry.  My swap target (or “spoilee”) was very talkative and fun, so I got loads of ideas for what to make for her.  One thing she mentioned caught my fancy right away as a great opportunity to set a design challenge for myself.

The inspiration started with a page of illustrations of Victorian capes that my “spoilee” had posted.  One caught my eye immediately.

Victorian Cape

Victorian Cape

So gorgeous!  I loved the high neck, the tailored look, the weighty drape of the luxurious fabric (presumably fur, in the original).  I imagined that this would be a lined cape that would keep a lady warm on the coldest winter strolls, and yet be easily tossed aside for a waltz with a beau.

So then I started to think about how to put my own spin on it.  A steampunk cape with a bit of my own flair.  I toyed with the idea of buying fabric and sewing, but I really wanted to knit it.  A yarn with a good drape should mimic the weight of the fur better than even faux-fur.  And what would a knitted cape be without a heavenly lace trim? Continue reading