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  • How to Cast On: E-Wrap Cast On

    Let's talk more about cast-on methods!  It'll be fun!

    The E-wrap cast on, or backward loop cast on, is a pretty neat little cast on.  You don't need a tail, which makes it a perfect method for adding stitches in the middle of a project, and you don't have to worry about running out of tail yarn like you would with a longtail cast on.

    Watch the video to get the full idea.

    Video can also be viewed here.

    Like she said, it can be a bit more difficult to knit into, but it's not terribly hard.  I actually just cast on using the E-wrap cast on and knit a few rows before writing this post and it was fine.  I should mention that I'm a ridiculously loose knitter, though.  But if you are a tighter knitter, using a needle a couple of sizes larger than the needles you'll need for the body of your project should give you a a good beginning row.

    Plus, I think it's a nice-looking edge.

    Happy knitting!

  • My First Cabled Hat

    I finished my first cabled hat this weekend!

    This is the smug face of someone who has made a beautiful toboggan and is now very, very warm:

    As I wrote last week, I had some troubles. Or, more accurately, my head did.  I liked the pattern, but didn't think my mods all the way through, and things just got awkward.

    [No pictures of that because it was embarrassing and gross.]

    But this time was different!  This time I had a plan!  I was going to be patient and focused and make my modifications without doing something dumb like accidentally deviating from the number of stitches called for.  I might have accidentally made that mistake on patterns in the past.

    [Definitely no pictures of that.]

     First, I knitted a brim nearly three times as long as the pattern called for.

    And then I repeated the crown rows before moving on the shaping.


    The result?  Warm ears!  My eyebrows are not showing!

    Um, I'm sorry about my face.

    It doesn't quite look like the pattern in the book, but I still got my cables.

    That hat model seems to doubt the greatness of my hat, but whatever Hat Model Lady. Whatever.

    The hat fits well, I used up some stash yarn I've been wanting to use on myself for two years, and I feel really awesome about having worked cables in the round.  (There's no reason why cables knitted in the round should be any different than cables knitted flat, but I was a little worried.)

    I'm not sure if you're tired of hearing me talk about the book Expand Your Knitting Skills, but I hope you aren't.  And I hope you're not tired of hearing me talk about cables, because I want to talk some more about them as well.  Because there's a pattern in there for some cabled handwarmers and I have a friend with a birthday coming up soon and since she doesn't read this, I'm probably going to want to tell you all about it.

    I can promise there will be fewer pictures of my face in that post. 

    But you will be seeing my hands.

    I'm very sorry.

    But I do like talking about the patterns in Expand Your Knitting Skills!  Even if you consider yourself an expert knitter, you'll still enjoy the designs.  And if you don't consider yourself an expert knitter, then maybe you'll feel like it after trying a few patterns.

    In closing, I apologize in advance for showing you my hands.  Winter is pretty rough on me.


  • It Really WAS a Simple Hat

    As I've mentioned before, 2013 is turning out to be the Year of the Baby Knits for me.  Baby #1 on the list arrived last week and I wanted to add a little hat to the gift I was going to send him.  I love baby hats and I want to make them for every baby I know--even the summer birthday kids.

    But because last week was a fairly disastrous knitting week, I had a ridiculously hard time making a baby hat.  I wanted to make one pattern, but I cast on incorrectly and flubbed the ribbing pattern 3 times.  I tried a different pattern and messed that up so many times I lost count. 

    This is unusual for me.  Not the messing up part, but the part where I lose track of how many times I have to start over.  I typically remember that number so that I can accurately complain about it later. 

    My baby hat misadventures lasted through the weekend, and reached a fever pitch on Sunday night when I nearly scared my husband with all of my sweating and swearing and needle-thrower. 


    I flipped through Expand Your Knitting Skills again.  We're getting to be good friends, that book and I.  I saw a pattern for a hat, almost tried it, and then realized the Simple Hat pattern would suit my gift a bit better.

    Of course!  Just a little knit stitch hat with a rolled brim.  Perfect for a little baby head, with (I hope) a little room to grow.

    The pattern calls for two different size needles (one set for the brim and one for the hat), but it's a straightforward little knit.  If you're a newer knitter, this is a good introduction to working in the round and/or on double pointed needles.  I'm not the biggest DPN fan, but there were so few stitches on the needles that everything stayed in place and I was done after one night and one morning of knitting.

     You can't quite see it in this picture (I think this would have fit a grapefruit), but there are decreases at four points and they make the top of the hat just the right amount of boxy and even.

    Like I said, if you're a newer knitter this is a great way to practice your in-the-round knitting as well as some simple decreases.  I also recommend this to anyone who needs a nice little pattern for a baby hat.  This is a great way to use some any leftover yarn you have from a larger baby project and it makes a sweet matching accessory.  

    I really can't recommend this enough.  It's cute and sweet and it really is a simple hat.

  • Let 'er Rip

    Oh hey, y'all.  Look at my hat.


    I normally don't have a problem ripping out a project and trying all over again, but I really didn't want to this time.  I just didn't want to!  It was my first cabled hat project and I wanted to feel like I was good at this!  I (tried to) knit the Starter Cable Hat pattern in the book, Expand Your Knitting Skills. But I should have known I was doomed from the start.

    Exhibit A:

    See the extra long brim?  I wanted a brim that would be long enough to roll up while simultaneously covering up more of my head than the pattern would.

    Exhibit B:

    Wait no, that was just a picture of my progress.  This shows you that the pattern is pretty and that I was really enthused about making the hat and wearing it.

    But this is the finished product:

    The hat just wasn't long enough for me.  I didn't take a picture of me wearing it because it just didn't look good.  Blocking didn't stretch it out enough, and while the brim made the hat as long as I like, it wasn't long enough to roll.

    So I ripped it out.

    Ha ha!  No.  I actually tried to pick up the stitches on the brim and start knitting a few more inches because I wasn't ready to see reason yet. 

    Yes, really.  It was not my best idea, and I'm glad there are no pictures of that particular shame. 

    But then, I finally came to my senses.  After, you know, 2 or so weeks of denial and rationalizing. 

    This particular hat wasn't working for me.

    The problem isn't with the pattern or the yarn.  The problem is that the pattern is for a cute hat that's more of a beanie style, and I am the kind of person who wants a hat large enough to cover everything but my neck and eyes.  I don't feel like my hat is big enough until I look like a kid who stole her dad's toboggan.  I just like toboggan-style hats that cover my ears.

    Which brings us back to this.

    I pulled the needle out of the project, and started to rip back everything this morning.  I unraveled the yarn and wound it into balls once again.  But as I worked, I made a plan.  I still want to use the pattern because the crown fit my head circumference just fine, and the cables are pretty, and the yarn looks good in this pattern.  A repeat of the cable pattern should extend the crown, and give me a chance to do a few more cables.  Also, I'll need to knit at least 5 inches for the brim, which is going to bore me to tears.  That's probably why I stopped too soon last time.  But!  I want a hat and I want one that is well-knit and thoughtfully planned out (even if I wind up looking nothing like the woman in the pattern picture.  But then again, I never do).

    I've already cast on my stitches, and tonight I'll get back to work.  My husband and I are watching a TV series on DVD and there are two episodes left.  I think that should get me through at least half of the brim.  Plus, I'll have the peace of mind that comes from NOT feeling like I have to start all over with another pattern and spending too much time on Ravelry searching for another pattern.  I've got a fairly well-rationed plan for altering the very nice pattern I've already got.  I'm expanding my knitting skills, and getting a warm hat out of the bargain.

    Ripping everything back wasn't such a bad idea.  It usually isn't.

    I'll let you know when the hat is finished and you can judge for yourself.  Happy crafting!

  • Knooked Dishcloths

    It's been a while since I talked about my seemingly endless quest to make every dishcloth in the book Dishcloths Made with the Knook.  When I started the project, I had just learned to use a Knook and I thought working on a smaller project like a dishcloth would help me learn how to Knook different stitches and get a few gifts in the process.

    I was right.

    I'm a little more than halfway through the book's ten dishcloths, and dishcloth #6 was the Mini Blocks pattern.

    I used the H/8 Knook and 2/3ds of skein of Sugarn' Cream in the Red colorway.  Yes, just red.  It was part of a set of three for a little stocking stuffer gift for my mom so the color wound up being very festive.  I also made these two dishcloths.

    The Textured pattern.  I should have used a solid color.

    See? Texture!

    The Sunny pattern.

    I folded up the three Christmasy-colored dishcloths, stacked them, and tied them up with a ribbon.  My mom was enthusiastically thrilled with them, and I rested on my laurels for a while and took a week-long break from any kind of gift knitting.  I don't think I have any dishcloth gift events or holidays coming up any time soon, but I'd like to have a stash set aside.  I'm not sure which pattern I'm going to pick, but I do have the yarn ready.  See?

    Back to the Mini Blocks dishcloth. 

    I liked this pattern a lot, and now that all of the Knook tutorial video posts are up on the blog, I thought it would be nice to link you to the posts addressing the stitches you would use if you were Knooking the dishcloth.

    If you bought the book.  Which I think you should, especially if you want to practice lots of stitches on the Knook.  Which I think you should.


    The techniques in the Mini Blocks dishcloth pattern:
    Foundation rows
    Knit stitch
    Purl stitch

    The left-handed techniques in the Mini Blocks dishcloth pattern:
    Foundation rows
    Knit stitch
    Purl stitch

    Six down.

    And four to go!

  • Husband Houseshoes

    It's cold out there, you guys.  That probably goes without saying.  But after a pretty mild winter last year, we are a little surprised to be freezing this year.  Literally.  This is a cold and frosty morning and it's only going to get colder (This is Arkansas!  We've already had snow once!  Why would there be more?!).  So I thought it would be a good time to share a houseshoe pattern to keep you warm and cozy.

    I should say that by "pattern," I mean "this thing I wrote down while making stuff up."  I'm mostly sure that counts as designing.  And I remember mentioning a while ago that if you liked rib stitch, you could make some killer bootees.

    I'm wearing mine now.  They're essentially just some tubes that my grandma knit for me with double stranded magenta Red Heart.  I've had them for maybe 15 years or so, and they're holding on just great.  I stared at them for a while in December to help me make a larger pair for my husband.

    Now might be a good time to mention that I am a bit smaller than my husband.

    My husband has a wide foot and wears a size 12 or 13, so I made these pretty large.  If you know a Hobbit, or if you just really enjoy a comfy pair of slippers yourself, then you'll probably enjoy these.

    I used Lion Brand Fishermen's Wool and Size 10 1/2 (6.5 mm) knitting needles.  This probably uses a full skein, give or take a little bit. I bought another skein to use with my scraps just in case, but I probably didn’t need it.  But I didn't know that at the time, and then at least saved me from trying to knit from both ends of the skein and tangling myself up.

    There's really no trick to doubling up your yarn--just set the balls or skeins close together and make sure you always have both strands in your hand while knitting.  With such large needles, you shouldn't have too much trouble with the stitches being tight.  But if you do, move up to a larger size--especially if you're using a thicker yarn.  I only used the Fishermen's Wool because I wanted to use wool, and because the brown seemed like a good choice for my husband (most of the things I knit for him are brown).  Use any ol' yarn you want, though!

    Okay, let's set things out in a more orderly fashion. 

    600-800 yards of yarn, preferably in two skeins
    Size 10 1/2 (6.5 mm) knitting needles or corresponding Knook
    Tapestry needle for finishing off and weaving in ends

    Cast on 46 stitches
    Knit in K1P1 ribbing for 16"

    After your knitted fabric is long enough to suit you (lay it against the foot that's going to wear it to get the best idea), decrease by knitting two stitches together for a row.  On the next row, purl two stitches together for a row.  K2TOG for another row.

    Cut an extra long tail on your yarn pieces, and thread the tapestry needle.   Thread the yarn through the remaining stitches and pull it up tightly.  The seam goes on the top of the foot, and tends to make the houseshoe curve a bit, and I think it helps it stay on your foot a bit better. 

    If you want your houseshoes to be smaller, just cast on fewer stitches.  As long as you have an even number, you should be fine.

    Reading back over this reminds me of trying to get a recipe from a friend when neither of you have a pen and paper.  Sorry about that.  I just blog over here, man.

    Still, if you want some warm feet--and who doesn't right now?--and are in the mood for tons and tons of rib stitch, I think you'll like these simple houseshoes.  Or maybe someone else will. 

    I'm kind of in the mood for a new pair now....

    Stay warm and safe!

    Oh, and one other thing!  I just re-read this and thought I should mention that my husband likes these.  They're a very warm and squishy knit!

  • Granny Square Appreciation Post

    Have you ever wished this blog was just a bunch of pictures of granny square-related crafts?

    No?  Because you know how photosets in flickr work?  As well as boards on Pinterest?

    Well, then.  I'm very about today's post because I took pictures of some of my granny square things over the weekend because I feel like the granny square deserves its own post every now and then.

    It's no secret that I love granny squares.  They're just so versatile!  It's like building blocks!  But with yarn!

    Here are a few of my granny square possessions.

    This is an afghan from my Mamaw.

    The lady can do just about anything with scrap yarn and the evening news to entertain her while she works.  When I was younger, she let me pull out a bunch of her granny squares for counting.  It was awesome.  I didn't know you could mix so many colors.

    I know now!

    This is an afghan I made for my husband when we were dating.  He was moving off-campus, and I thought it would be nice of me to make him a housewarming afghan.  He had always wanted a quilt, but I had no plans to make one a few months into a relationship.  Somehow an afghan didn't seem like it would be as much work.

    Yesterday, I spread the afghan across our king size bed and realized that with all of the trips I made to Wal-Mart for Red Heart solids that summer, all of the time I spent on it, and the sheer freaking size of this thing that I probably shouldn't have bothered telling him he'd have to give it back to me if we broke up.  We are obviously going to be together a really long time if I love him this much.

    Sure enough, the next thing I crocheted for him was a stocking.  Out of granny squares, of course!  I think it was our second married Christmas and I wanted us to have somewhat matching stockings.  We really do use them for our little stocking stuffers and you can fit a surprising amount of candy in them. 

    Two years after that, I made a stocking with the same brand of yarn (Reggia?) for our still-in-the-belly daughter.  I made some odd little things while I was nesting, but it still makes me smile when I pull it out and decorate with it anyway.

    This one was a little tricky to take pictures of, but I had to show it to you.  My Mamaw (the one who made the afghan up there) made this for me when I was 9 or so and I loved it.

    And yes, it's all granny squares.

    I have no idea if I can get my daughter to wear this when she's older, but I've been saving it for this long and I plan to keep doing so.  I love it.  It's beautiful, and I wish I knew where to find the pattern.

    My Mamaw taught me to make granny squares, which in turn is why this afghan was one of the first things I made my daughter.  I started it a few months before she was born, and I finished it a few months after she came along.

    I used the brightest, most cheerful, and most washable yarn I could find--Vanna's Choice Solids.  It was a good call for a vibrant and messy girl.  We snuggle under it to read books and watch cartoons now, and when she was smaller she loved it as a pallet.


    My baby, back when she was an actual baby.

    The afghan should be large enough to last her for a while, and I hope she loves it long after that.  I'll say it again.  I LOVE GRANNY SQUARES!  I love seeing what colors people use, and I love the things you can make with them, and I love how they use up leftover yarn.  I love that you can make one and set it aside for future use.  I love that they're my best chance at making afghans.  I love that I have about 180, just ready for.... something.  Anything.

    (I pulled them out this weekend and a friend and I went through them just for fun.  Because that's what we think is fun.)

    I love them so much a small, crazy part of me wants to try to crochet every granny square in the book 99 Squares to Crochet.  I know better than to make it one of my resolutions for the year, but I still kind of want to do it anyway.  Because, you know.   I love granny squares.

  • Organizing Crafting Supplies

    Consider this New Year's Resolution Update #1.

    I'm not the biggest resolution-maker.  I've given up on the ones like "eat better" or "try more yoga."  I may attempt both of those things, but they're not going to be items on a list because I can't check them off until the end of the year.  And even then, I'd have to think--really think and examine my practices--about whether or not I've improved my efforts.  Thoughtful self-awareness has its place and all, but I like checking things off of lists and seeing immediate results.

    Ten days later and I have some results!  At least a little bit.

    If you remember, my plans were to bring some order to my craft corner (and some mostly un-mentioned and definitely un-photographed areas that I'll try to get to later) and knit through at least half of my stash. 

    So.  My craft area:

    I really dislike this picture.  It looks gross and a little trashy.  The worst part is that is disorganized.  I could give a pretty good guess as to where most things were, and I could see my pattern books, but that's about the nicest thing I can say about that.  And even then, I couldn't find what I needed and there was a good chance that stack of books (on the right side of the photo) would slide out of order if I needed to pull out one from the middle.  It was a out of control.
    And now, it looks like this!

    It's not perfect, but it's a definite improvement.  Pulling everything out into the open was a little scary.  I'd stashed so many things into a too-small space.  I found a lot of yarn labels to used-up yarn, quite a few receipts and empty bags from craft stores, some items that had been accidentally washed and felted that I'd saved for ...... something, "stitch markers" (baby pony tail holders make excellent stitch markers. Tell your friends!), books my husband would throw behind The Wall to hide from our daughter when he was tired of reading them, TWO Size 15 16" circular needles, and The Art of War.


    There were also some stray bits and bobs of yarn.  Or maybe whole skeins.

    This bit of housekeeping was very needed.

    The bags went under the kitchen sink, the receipts and felted items went in the trash, the pony-tail-holder stitch holders were safely corralled, and all the books went on all the shelves.  I felt one moment of guilt for have 2 sets of the same needle, but then it passed because sometimes I have a hard time finding larger needles and I might need a second set if I was already working on a bulky yarn project.  I like bulky yarn, so it's a possibility.

    A half-opened bag of stuffing went to the back of my closet because I don't have many pillow-type projects, but it's right where I can find it.  A lot of my stuff is still stashed into bags, but I feel better the more of my yarn and supplies I have out in the open.  I thought I'd be happier with everything tucked away in its own hidden container, but that's not the case.  Being able to find something makes me more likely to use it, and being more likely to use my needles and yarn makes more likely to be happy.

    Throwing out the things that were cluttering up the space helped, but the shelf is what really makes the difference.  I had this shelf out at my parents' house because I thought we didn't need it in our new apartment.  It's a lightweight metal shelf that I dragged home from a neighbor's curb (don't judge), and I was afraid that  someday my daughter would pull it onto herself.  But we still have The Wall in front of it, so she should be safe.

    My favorite part of the whole thing is that I have all of my needles where I can see them. I just saved myself hours of hunting in the new year.  I had previously kept my needles in a bag.  It kept them safe and relatively in one place, but finding a new pair was a ridiculous ordeal sometimes.  Now all of the straight needles are in a Mason jar so I can get a good look at them.

    My DPNS went in some garage sale pottery.

    My circular needles can be reached from my spot on the couch (cue the angel choir).

    Crochet hooks and cable needles go in a jelly jar, and I decided to stick my Knook in a new ball of yarn so that I can just get straight to work on my next dishcloth whenever I'm ready.

    Several of the books and magazines are too tall to be arranged standing up, but I can still read the titles and the two smaller stacks make searching much easier before.  Another bonus was that I had enough space to pull my larger books off of a regular bookcase and arrange them over in my corner.  It saves time, and it gives me a little thrill to see all of my crafting books all together in one place because this is apparently the sort of thing that gives me a thrill.

    A few folders, books, and project bags go on the lowest shelf, along with some yarn.  That part of the shelf isn't as organized as it will be when I'm completely finished, but I'm incredibly excited with how it looks so far.  There are a few boxes with supplies I don't use often, but don't want to put away completely that are stored underneath the shelf and I can get to them easily enough.
    But where is the yarn, you may ask?
    Oh, you know.

    And here.

    And also there.

    Which brings me to my other resolution: knit through half of my stash.  This was my yarn collection a few months ago, but I've used up some of it.  I've also bought more, though, and discovered some stowaways when I was cleaning up everything.

    Thus far, my valiant stashdown efforts have resulted in......two-thirds of a hat.

    Baby steps, okay?  One of the few pieces of resolution advice I actually follow is to turn a goal into some sort of challenge.  So I joined a group on Ravelry challenging people to knit 13 items in 2013 from their stash.  Actually, there are a lot of groups on Ravelry doing this.  I'm just participating in the group challenge "Use it or Lose it" that's run by the podcasters of Stash and Burn.  It's fun because there's a chance to win prizes, and because I get to see what other people are working on.  I have a really good feeling that I'm going to be able to stick with some gift knitting throughout the year this way.

    That blue hat is my January project.  I'm knitting the Starter Cable Hat from Expand Your Knitting Skills.  I knitted the brim longer than the pattern called for because I like to be able to roll my hat brims and/or pull them down way past my ears, and because that uses so much yarn.  I'm also using a yarn that's not quite as bulky as what the pattern calls for, so the extra-long brim will keep me covered if it's not quite long enough. 

    I have nearly 2 skeins of it, and I'm currently going through so much of it you'd think I was crocheting.  Score! I couldn't be more thrilled to start using some of my beloved yarn, and I'm also really excited to get a hat!  Best New Year's resolution ever! 

    Bonus: I think the hat for myself will take just a full skein.  I have about 70% of another skein that I probably won't need, which means I'll probably have more than enough for a baby version of the pattern.  Yes, the pattern comes in baby, child, and adult sizes.  And yes, I am one of those mother-daughter matching outfits people.    

    How are your resolutions going?  How do you organize your stash?  How do you keep all your supplies from dying in between the couch cushions? 

    I like to ask the important questions.

  • Free Knook Pattern: Ridges Baby Hat



    Unfortunately, the baby does not come with the book.  Sorry.


  • Learn to Knook: s1, k1, psso

    Time for one of the last Knook tutorials I'm going to post in a while!  It's crazy for me to think about, but I've written about nearly all of the Knook tutorial videos on the Leisure Arts website.  What happens next?  Come back next week to find out.

    For now, though, we're going to talk about one of my favorite decrease methods.  I'm not joking.  I really like this decrease method.  The act of slipping one stitch, knitting one stitch, and then passing the slipped stitch over the knitted stitch leaves a clean-looking decrease, and takes me less time to do it than it just did to type it out. 

    This is how simple it is:

     Video can also be found here.

    Wasn't that simple and not-intimidating?  Because all of the warnings and wailings in books and on websites about how hard it is to correct accidentally dropped or slipped stitches, it can be difficult to make yourself slip a stitch at first.  To just pass that stitch from one place to the next without doing anything just seems a little wrong. 

    But once you're doing it mindfully, you know you won't forget.  As always, I'd like to offer the helpful advice of muttering the order of steps under your breath.  People will know to leave you alone when you're so focused on such important work, and saying the words as you do the work will help ingrain the process in your memory.  If nothing else, you'll learn how to say the long-winded-sounding process correctly.  Such a long-sounding name for such a simple process.

    This dishcloth that I Knooked uses slipped stitches. 

    But the slips are less obvious when they're passed over a knitted stitch and they pull the fabric a little tighter.  I love this method so much more than SSK (slip 2 stitches knitwise, then pass them back to your first needle to untwist them--or twist them, I never remember--and then knit the two together. ) because I'm really bad at that.  You don't have to worry about that, though, because I don't know if it's even physically possible to do with a Knook and you'd probably be just fine with it anyway.

    Like I said, this is one of my favorite decrease methods.  It pulls the stitches in a different direction than knitting them together, which is why some patterns will tell you to use both methods throughout a project.  I hope you're also the kind of person who gets excited and has opinions about decreasing.  It's always great to find a technique that you like, so that's it's your go-to method for patterns instead of just plodding along and doing whatever.  I bet you're not a plodder, though.  So good for you!

    Happy Knooking!

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