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  • Learn to Knit the Cable Cast-On


    Today, we're getting crazy with a two-needle cast-on!

    Knitting confession time:  How often do you have to unravel your longtail cast-on because your tail wasn't long enough to make all your cast-on loops?  Half the time?  A lot of the time?  Never, because you use a different cast-on method for that very reason?

    I have this problem just often enough that I don't keep track of how often it happens.  It's like it's my brain's way of protecting me, because if I had a record of how often I underestimate my yardage it would crush my spirit.  The general rule of thumb is to make a tail that has an inch of yarn for every stitch you cast on.  60 stitches = 60 inches.  But the best of intentions and plans sometimes still have you ripping back and swearing under your breath.  And even if you are one of those rare, magical creatures who can also start out with the perfect amount of yarn, it's always handy to know more than one way to get yourself started.

    The cable cast-on kind of lets you knit as you're casting on.  That's the best way I know how to describe it.  As the woman says in the video below, some patterns require you to add stitches to the knitting you're already doing, and this is a fairly discrete way to do it.

    I worked on a pattern once that require the cable cast-on for some extra stitches in some increase portion of the project, and doing it was the strangest thing.  I remember laughing a little to myself as I did it because it was just such a strange way to add stitches, and I kept thinking, "This won't work."  But it did!

    And for some reason, I remember that little bit of knitting trivia from my past but not what in the world I was working on at the time.

    Also, it's mentioned in that video that the cable cast-on isn't super stretchy.  So while you might not want to do this when casting on a hat or a sweater.....well, you know what?  Actually you might want to if you're the type of person with a really loose gauge.  Speaking as someone who regularly knits at least two needles smaller than what a pattern calls for, I've used the cable cast-on just because and my projects have turned out fine.  My biggest hang-up was inserting my right needle between the last stitch and the second to last stitch.

    Yes, I know you're supposed to use both hands.  But I was taking pictures because I don't trust my camera with my husband.  My daughter is fine, but not the camera.

    Well, that, and then seeing my knitting look like this:

    And then sliding the new loop around the last loop back onto the left-hand needle.


     Fine, if I compare it to the cast-on method I always use, then it's all very weird.  But I still like it!  It's pretty, quick, and simple.  Plus, I can cast on 10 stitches or 100 and it doesn't matter how much of a tail I have.  And sometimes I just get bored with casting on in my usual way, so it's nice to do something different every now and then.


      Different cast-ons for different crafters, you know?  I like this method, and I think you will too.

    Happy crafting!

  • Making Cheerful Dischloths with Neon Colors

    I was looking for a nice weekend project, and decided to keep up with my own personal fixation on the Fast Favorite pattern from Dishcloths.  I don't know, but I'm really in the mood to make this dishcloth in one solid color with a contrasting border.  But I like the end result, so I'm going to keep doing it.  As much as I like a variegated cotton for a dishcloth sometimes, I was in a mood to  make bold dishcloths with bright edges.  Apparently I want my dishcloths to be stylish?  I guess that was the decision I made after making two dishcloths one evening in Tangerine and Hot Green.

    "You know I coulda been born just plain white trash, BUT FANCY WAS MY NAME!"

    By the time the weekend hit, I was in a mood.  Simple, bold....dishcloths.

    Lots and lots of dishcloths.

    I made two dishcloths with yarn in Red and Hot Blue.  And two small dishcloths with Denim yarn that I edged with Tangerine and Hot Green.

     Once I started using the Tangerine yarn as an edge on the dark color of the denim, I wished I hadn't used it for entire dishcloths last week.  I really like these lighter and brighter colors for just the edges.

     I considered crocheting a dishcloth in Hot Green, but made it about 3 rows in before my eyes hurt.  But as an edge, it's a nice bit of brightness.

     I've been seeing color arrangements with bits of neon for a while now, especially in Martha Stewart publications and on the Purl Bee.  I don't know if I'm really a neon convert, but while I'm on this wild crochet cotton bender I think I'll keep feeling stylish and daring with my color choices.

     I think you should try it!  Or, you know, buy stock in Lily Cotton. 

    Because I don't see myself stopping any time soon.

  • FO Friday: It's the Little Things

    Dishcloths.  Alllll dishcloths.

    I regret nothing.  I'm not even a little embarrassed.  My attention span and my time are limited, so dishcloths it is!

    This little guy is the Variegated pattern from Dishcloths

    I actually made it a little smaller than the pattern because 1) I am a little lazy and 2) this pattern is very boring to work with if you don't use variegated yarn.  I'm not quite sure what I was thinking with this one, but I think it's actually going to stay in my house as a little scrubber.  And the next time I try it out, I'll use variegated yarn so I can have some color-changes to look forward to.

    The rest of the dishcloths are also from the book Dishcloths, and they're all the Fast Favorite pattern.  I'm not sure if I'm too lazy to use different colors of yarn--this is supposed to be alternating rows of three different colors of yarn--or if I just like crocheting this pattern so much that I don't want to stop.

    These two dishcloths are made from some scrap yarn that turned up during a stash reorganization.  I think I bought it in 2009.  

    And then I made two of these pretty guys in one sitting.

    Magazines and websites keep trying to convince me that little accents of neon is a good thing.  I don't know if I'm convinced, but I don't want to make a dishcloth out of just lime green yarn.  It's probably going to use some more as edging on some navy blue dishcloths, and I think I have enough peach yarn to use as a border around another one of these.

    Because I'm far from done with this pattern.  It's fast, and it's my favorite.

    I'm really excited to have a favorite crochet pattern.  Dishcloths are great gifts, and I'm happy to have these in my stash. 

    I want so many more! 

    It really is the little things with me.

  • Eco-Conscious Crafting

    Well, it looks like I missed Earth Day.  Again.

    But it's okay!  We can keep caring about the world! And I'm going to get the jump on it next year.  I'm writing my Earth Day post just a few days after this year's Earth Day has passed!  I'm fairly confident that we're allowed, and probably encouraged, to be conscientious crafters year-round.

    I'm hardly the greenest person out there, but I still think it's best to do the best I can in small ways so I can avoid burnout and giving up on doing anything to conserve resources again. I'm all about little baby steps.  In addition to daily activities like air-drying dishes (mostly because I'm lazy), or using simple household cleaners, I also try to be mindful when I'm knitting and crocheting.

    Here are some things I've learned to do:

    -BYOB(ags).  Yes, we all know about bringing reusable bags to the grocery store.  But, not to be super-obvious, you can bring them to your yarn store or craft supply store, too.  I typically forget, but I'm going to try to do better after I realized how many Michaels bags I have lining my bathroom trash can.  Yikes.  Don't have reusable bags?  Let me prattle on....

    - Make your own bags.  If you're reading this, then you're probably already a crafty person.  You've totally got this!  My favorite lazy method is to stitch up the bottom of a tank top. That's it.

    I probably had no business wearing this in the first place.  If it can barely hold produce, chances are it can't hold you.

    And this bag is one of the first things I sewed when I was 11 or so.  It's a tote bag my Mamaw helped me make using my granddad's pants leg from some worn-out jeans.  I still use it as a project bag because it holds happy memories for me.  I smile every time I see it!  Plus, that cowgirl applique is too amazing for me to not trot it out for all the world to see.

    Bask in this repurposed glory.

    The Internet is full of patterns for knitted or crocheted bags as well.  I've noticed that many of them call for recycled cotton or other reused materials, but you could always just use what you have. 

    -Speaking of the Internet, epatterns are a great way to save resources, space, and money.  If you typically have your laptop by your side, or you're one of those lucky iPad people, then epatterns are a fantastic option.  I've noticed that most of the ebooks Leisure Arts sells are at least $2 less than than their paper versions, but most are even better deals than that.  The Big Green Book of Recycled Crafts is currently $19.95 in paper form, but only $9.99 if you download it as an ebook.  Holy smokes, the future will actually save you money!

    -Working with recycled materials is always a great way to find more environmentally friendly ways to use up new materials.  Making your own recycled materials is another option.  I've heard of people going to thrift stores and buying sweaters and unraveling them for the yarn.  I've only gone so far as to buy clothing that I salvaged for the fabric at thrift stores or garage sales, and it's a great way to get some unique fabrics.  I'm also a big fan of cannibalizing my own projects for the yarn.  See this scarf?

    I crocheted it back in the fall of 2010 with some gorgeous self-striping yarn I bought from who-knows-where for who-knows-what-price.  I never wore it and I never gave it as a gift.  It's been sitting in a pile for nearly 3 years and I'm not entirely thrilled with how it looks.  So it's going to be unraveled and knitted up into a hat.  I think I'll really like the look of that, and I think I know what place it will have under the Christmas tree.  Awesome!

    I only broke the yarn once!  And you can't see, but there's orange in there too.

    -I know unraveling is not everyone's preference, so a less destructive approach would be to simply declare some weeks or months 'no-shopping' periods so that you're focused on crocheting, knitting, scrapbooking, welding, sewing, or whatevering from your existing stash of supplies.  You'll not only save money, but you'll have a chance to really figure out what you like working with and how much you want/need.  In the long run, you could buy less of something you don't like and then you'll take up fewer resources that you won't use.

    -Repair something instead of throwing it out.  Sewing machines can be fixed (usually).  Scissors can be re-sharpened.  Crafters are already an impressively resourceful bunch, and I know you have plenty of things you probably do to give new uses to old items.

    -Pass it on.  Yarns and fabrics can be swapped amongst friends.  Unwanted items can be donated.  Regifting is actually pretty great.  There's always a second chance to use what you have for something unexpected.

    -Have fun and be creative.  I like seeing how I can take what I have and use it to fit the needs I have at the time.  Looking at a shirt and imagining it as a bag, mixing two really different yarns to create unexpected texture in knitted fabric, or taking just about anything and using it as a container for supplies is like a grown-up version of the hidden pictures games I play with my little girl.  Looking for a dress for her in a skirt I don't wear anymore is really not that different from looking at skeins of yarn and knowing what they'll turn into.  And I like that.

    What are your green tips and tricks?  Is it part of your overall mindset, or do you stick to a few baby steps here and there?  Either way, I want to know!

  • Everything is terrible. How are you doing?

    It's been a really rough week.  I cringe a little every time I go to a news website because it just worse.  And worse.  And worse.

    It feels disingenuous to post a video about how to wear a scarf, or to try to tell you about more things you can buy. 

    So.  This is a link to the Red Cross donation page.  Please consider donating to that, or to any other worthy charity that you know of.  I know it won't be hard to find something that needs your time or money.  I know some crafters start cranking out hats or blankets for victims of disasters and crimes.  And some folks recommend taking the money you'd spend on yarn or other supplies, and just donating that because there are some situations that just don't need your knitted or crocheted handiwork, weird as that it so believe.

    And yet, I have found myself knitting and crocheting a lot this week.  Dishcloths, hats, and little baby things.  They're small things that give me something to do with my hands other than wring them frantically or put them over my eyes.  Baby projects give me  hope. 

    Kristin Nicholas wrote about this earlier in the week, and asked people what they do to cope--do they work or exercise or clean their houses or make things?  Most people wrote about the positive things they try to focus on: lists of gratitude, knitted projects, gardening.  If photographing sheep isn't your thing, I'm sure you have other methods of seeking comfort whether it's volunteering, cooking more, calling up relatives to keep in touch, or just taking a few extra minutes out of your day to pray for people who are hurting.

    I like to make baby things.  When I was pregnant, my supervisor was a very dear woman who assured me that I was about to reach the sweetest phase of life.  She told me she believed that the love and happiness children experienced early on, could carry them the rest of their lives.  I felt terrified and quipped "Wow, no pressure." like a jerk.  But I'm sure she was on to something there.  My daughter is a lucky child who is loved by her family and friends.  She is happy and engaged, and I can't help but feel that this great start has to count for a lot.

    And I feel like handmade things are a good way to show love.  It's something you made with your own hands that people can grasp, or wear, or wrap around their children.  And isn't that something we all try to do when things like this happen?  To take all our distress and frantic energy and turn it toward something good?

    I can at least try.  Making things for tiny people who need all our love and care makes me feel like I'm helping new parents in that weird and thrilling time.  And it keeps me from refreshing websites.

    So, how are you doing? I hope you're finding ways to get through the day, and I hope you're okay.  Maybe next week will be better.  We can always hope.

  • WIP Wednesday

    It's WIP Wednesday and I was looking through pictures when I realized I still technically have a lot of works in progress.  Or, maybe I just have some works that aren't quite working.  I'm still a little iffy on the status of how some of these will end up, but stroll with me through this little review.

    This is the Ribbed Beanie from Knit Slouchy Beanies and Headwraps.

    This yarn did such terrible things to my hands that I still haven't bothered to unravel it!  I'm sorry to say that it's just standard Lion Brand Fishermen's Wool.  I've never had problems with it before, but something's happened in the last few months.  Maybe it's just that batch, or maybe I'm just turning into a delicate special snowflake.  Either way, this project is not in progress.   Great pattern, terrible yarn.  The yarn is going to find a new home, and I'll use the pattern for upcoming gift projects.  

    This is a swatch I plan to knit up for a yarnbombing.

    I've only knitted a few more rows on this but we still haven't received permission to yarmbomb our intended location, so I'm in no rush.  It'll be a big ol' blue square and I'll use up this yarn.

    This is a Tomten jacket.  I'm not sure what I'll do with it.  It's just resting.  I think it might knit up well, but I'm not entirely sure.  I've started on a sleeve, and I'm just not sure how this is going to turn out.  I think it should rest a little while longer.

    This Basketweave dishcloth is going to be unraveled.  I'm going to try again, but with different yarn.  I think this is a cute pattern, and a good way for me to practice front post and back post stitches.  But not in this incarnation.  I will break the curse!

    This dishcloth (the Blossom pattern from Dishcloths) will be picked up again very soon.  I've got a few more things to get out of the way before this weekend, and then I'm totally going to master more granny square dishcloth skills.  I really like giving dishcloths as presents, and there are some events coming up.

    Until then,though, I need to finish up these:

    I'm knitting these up for a few upcoming babies because I think their parents will like them.  (Isn't that why most baby gifts are made?)  I, uh,  messed with a pattern for a standard hat, made it look kind of crappy, and mixed in some colors.

    I think the red yarn would look nice for ear flaps.  Maybe more orange would look nice, but I think I'm going to stick with red.  Add a pom pom and I could have the sweetest hat ever.

    Pretty cunning, dontcha think?
  • FO Friday: It's Over!

    I have so many finished objects!  It's not too difficult to pull off when you give yourself 3 (4?) weeks between FO posts!  I've been working on things right and left and actually loving nearly every minute of it.  There are a few projects I haven't finished, or even started yet, but I'm looking forward to having some lovely projects to finish up in the next couple of weeks.

    First up, is a Honey Cowl of my very own.  You may remember that I tried this a couple of months ago and it didn't go very well.  If you don't remember, that's okay.  I'm trying to block it out myself.  Scratchy Allergic Yarn from Hell is a difficult thing to work with, and a difficult thing for my hands to get over.  I'm itchy just thinking about it, so let's talk about this incarnation.

    It's neither scratchy nor itchy.  It's some kind of kettle-dyed organic cotton yarn from the Andes that I found on sale at my local yarn store last summer.  I used 3 skeins to make this cowl, and I'm kind of wishing I'd used one more.  It's soft and drapey and nubby and I love it to pieces. 

    Last weekend I cast on the Sockhead Hat because I wanted to use up some sock yarn that had been sitting in my stash for far too long.  I used Size 1 needles and approximately 1.75 skeins of Patons Kroy Socks Jacquards in some kind of dark blue colorway--over the course of maybe 3 days.  It. Was. Awesome.  I liked the gradual color changes, and would have probably kept it for myself if it hadn't been so fantastically large.  I'm going to give it to my brother-in-law as a very belated birthday present (it's been over a month now).

     One of the big reasons I tend to get frustrated and not finish projects is because I'm impatient.  So I like to whip out small projects like dishcloths every now and then for some instant gratification and the confidence boost.  This is the Shells pattern from Dishcloths.

    I really like this pattern. Give me a G hook and some Sugarn' Cream and I feel like I do anything!  I also made this pattern with some red yarn, and I can't find it.  Not to save my life.  It was a nice dishcloth!  I think this might be a quick go-to pattern for short-notice gifts, or for when I just want to make something in the time it takes me to watch a movie.

    Another quick pattern is the Fast Favorite.  I can see why.  The pattern calls for 3 colors, but at the last minute I decided I wanted to use only 2 colors.  So that's what I did.

    I liked this a lot.  It's just double crochet stitches with increases in the corner.  I mean, I don't recommend saying that as you're giving it to someone as a gift but this is a very fast pattern.  It could become a favorite.

    And finally, this guy.

    My days of knitting miles upon miles of seed stitch are over.  Or, if you want to quibble over facts, 3 feet by 3 and a halfish feet of seed stitch.  Either way, I'm done! 

    Or I will be once this is washed and evens out a bit more.  Then it will be wrapped up with a couple of hats that do not yet exist, and mailed off to a little family.

    This is a very modified version of Purl Bee's Eleventh Hour Blanket.  Instead of using 2 strands of bulky yarn and jumbo needles, I used one strand of bulky yarn and Size 10.5 needles.  2 skeins of Lion Brand Thick & Quick later, I started cussing myself out for not using Size 13 needles.  By Skein 8 or 9, my hands were in a nearly permanent claw position.  Still, it's a very, very simple knit.  All you have to do is cast on an odd number of stitches and then alternate your knit and purl stitches.  Keep going until the blanket is at least as long as it is wide, or until you think you just can't take it any more.  Then knit a little while longer after that.  Ta da!  Blanket!

    The next time I make an afghan, I will be using a pattern just so I'll know when I'm done.  That would be lovely. 

    But this was a nice project for this time.  And I wound up just doing a simple single crochet stitch around the border.  I had initially thought some kind of shells or even a little picot stitch would be a nice embellishment to the simple little blanket, but then I realized I'd have to count out stitches.  The mere thought of doing math--and then having to rip back once I figured out how I'd done the math incorrectly--was enough to give me cold sweats and a racing heart.  Because I believe that crafting should never trigger a fight or flight response, I just kept it simple.  And I think that turned out okay.

    I love finishing things.  It just makes me want to make even more things.  There are sewing projects and knitted baby hats and a whole mess of crocheted dishcloths.  A whole mess, you hear me?!  They're just waiting to be created and now I can't wait to get to them. 

    Have a great weekend!  I hope you make all kinds of wonderful projects.

  • The Beauty of Handmade Things

    I stayed up late last night working on something that isn't going as quickly and smoothly as I'd like.  When I'm tired, I get frustrated.  And when I'm frustrated with something, I want to just throw it all in a bag and forget it. Especially if I accidentally burn myself.

      But I looked at these pictures again.  I took pictures of my daughter on a beautiful spring evening a few weeks ago.  I dressed her in this beautiful pink dress.  At least 3 people stopped to tell me how pretty she looked in it.  I thanked them each time and told them that my Mamaw had made it.  But she didn't make it for my daughter.  She made it for me when I was around the age my 'baby' is now.  My mom had kept it all this time, and then I kept it for my little girl.

      And when she outgrows it, it can go to some future niece.  If my daughter has a daughter, she can wear it.  As much as I love this dress, I may someday take pictures of my grandson in it. 

    I love handmade things.  I love their unique look.  I love the personal meaning they often hold.  I even love the special care they sometimes require.

    After I looked through the pictures again, I decided to put away what I was working on.  It's all carefully organized and my plans are in place.  Numbers have been crunched, items have been measured, and the whole mess will be dragged out again as soon as I have time and space and mental energy.  I'm not giving up.  I'm just not going to try to make something in one night.  I'm going to work on this as I can.  I want to make things, but I also want to make them well. 

    I have no delusions of grandeur that anything I make will be on the same level as this dress, but I can hope that I can give people I love things that they use, and cherish, and save for people they love.

    I just love handmade things.

  • How I Spent My National Craft Month

    Well!  March was National Craft Month, National Crochet Month, and National Month of the Internet Giving Away All Kinds of Things.  I made the last one up, but it's true in spirit if not in name.  There were just so many celebrations of crafting!  It was great!

    I didn't participate as fully in things as I would have hoped, but there was quite a lot to enjoy.  I wanted to try a few new things, and I did at least do that.   Here's some other things I did.  Surely I earned a badge somewhere in all this activity.

    I spent some time with this sewing machine, and even learned how to wind the bobbin on it!

    I made and talked about granny squares, probably too much, because it was also National Crochet Month!  And also because of my deep and abiding love for granny squares.

    I talked to the wildly talented Kim Guzman about her Tunisian crochet designs--especially her newest book, the Tunisian Crochet Stitch Guide.

     I took my craft corner from this:

    to this:

    I got really excited and somewhat crafty for my daughter's second birthday.  I knitted a few bunnies, put up some banners, and arranged some flowers.  I'm so ready for spring and growing things! 

    I also helped co-host a baby shower, and thought it would be cute and creative to arrange some multicolored carrots around a delicious carrot cake my husband made.  It made sense at the time.

    And then I finally settled on a project for the baby shower babies!

    I even made a cowl for myself! 

    I didn't start stitching Pearl Jam lyrics onto a wall-hanging like I had wanted to at the beginning of the month, but I've bought an embroidery hoop and I did do this for my husband's birthday a couple of days ago.

    I wrote a message on some cardstock, traced along the words with a needle, and backstitched my way across some letters.  Next time, I will definitely print.

    I got to talk to the creators of a Facebook crochet-a-long group for military wives.  That was probably my favorite thing I did all month.

    I started and stopped more projects than I even feel like counting.

    I tried to figure out which yarns were making my hands break out in a rash.  It might be all of the yarns?  Craft-related problems are crafty, right?  (It was still my least favorite thing I did all month.)

    I tried to mess with some of the settings on my camera so I could take better pictures.  Baby steps.

    And there were my usual plans, pins, and gardening daydreams. On the blog, there were the usual posts revolving around video tutorials in addition to the special March crafting madness things.  It was a fun month, and I hope you tried some new crafts!  Or that you won something in an online giveaway, because there were a lot and that would be cool. 

    I'm excited for April!  I'm not really sure what I'll try or what I'll write about, but I'm still really excited.  It's spring, and things are new and exciting! 

    Happy crafting!

  • Happy Easter Weekend!

    Whatever your beliefs, habits, or location, I wish you a very happy Easter weekend.

    I hope you spend time with people you love.

    I hope you know some small children because they're so funny when they hunt for eggs.

    I hope you get to compliment someone on their Easter outfit and see them smile.

    I hope you decorated.  Even just a little.

    I hope your world looks a little more spring-timey than it did last week.

    I hope you get to decorate some eggs.

    I hope someone gives you a chocolate bunny.

    I hope you get the chance to take a few minutes for yourself, to enjoy the fresh starts a new season brings, and to welcome spring in all its messy and new glory.

    And I hope you have a very happy (hoppy?) Easter weekend.

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