Category Archives: Knitting Tips & Tricks

Streamline Your Knitting

As we all begin a new year of knitting, it’s important to have our supplies in order. Three simple tasks will make your knitting easier and more enjoyable.

  1. Clean out your yarn stash! Give partially-used skeins and colors you once liked (what were you thinking when you bought that?) to your local senior center or a friend who’s into crafts. Paring it down to the yarn you actually want to use makes it easier to grab a skein and KNIT!
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Leftover skeins and balls of yarn take up space.

2. Wind that yarn sitting in your closet! You’ve put off knitting that gorgeous sweater. Why? Because every time you have the urge to knit it, you realize the yarn is still in hanks…you’re in the mood to knit, NOT wind yarn! Need I state the obvious? Wound yarn begs to be knitted!

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Please wind us!!!

3. Purge old knitting patterns! We all hoard knitting patterns, on paper and electronically. Go through them and ask yourself a few questions:

  • Already knitted it? BYE!
  • Thought it was cute five or ten years ago? BYE!
  • No more babies in your circle? BYE!
  • Grabbed it just because it was free but it’s really not you? BYE!
  • Inherited it along with your late aunt’s bent knitting needles? BYE!

Only keep patterns that EXCITE you or “go-to” patterns that come in handy for last-minute gifts.

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Such a happy sweater-wearing family!

 

With your yarn organized and wound, and your best patterns at your fingertips, it’s so simple and easy to FIND a project and start knitting!

Start the year fresh. Start the year strong. And you’ll knit wondrous things!

Happy Knitting in 2017!

 

Dani

The Knit Knoodler

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Best FREE Yarn Storage Solution

Knitters love yarn! We love the textures, the colors, the possibilities that arise with the acquisition of new skeins. It’s difficult to walk out of a yarn shop without a bag of yarn to add to the home collection.

So soft and pretty…had to have it!!!

Eventually, a problem arises. After several years of living life as a knitter, one has accumulated quite a stash. Even if you’re one of the more disciplined yarn purchasers, you still end up with leftover balls of yarn that simply can’t be thrown away. Each one of those lovely loners has a future purpose: as a hat, as embellishment, or perhaps as a patchwork throw.

The issue becomes STORAGE. I’ve tried all sorts of storage solutions over the years. Stacked on a shelf in my closet…pretty, like a yarn shop, but the yarn attracted dust. Stuffed into plastic shopping bags and tucked into a large ottoman…I felt like a cat digging through a litter box, trying to find anything. Filed away in a special plastic hobby caddy with nice, deep drawers…my yarn smelled like plastic. Stashed in a non-plastic storage table that used those fabric cubes…eventually dust filtered in and nosy little ladybugs nestled in.

Then, one day, while cleaning out the attic, I came across a handful of clear plastic, zippered bags which originally held newly-purchased sheets and curtains. AHA! I knew I saved these for something! (I don’t throw anything away that even remotely hints at a future use.)

Glad I saved those curtain bags!

YARN STORAGE!! That otherwise throw-away packaging has become the best yarn storage I’ve come across yet. These little babies are:

  • enclosed – zippers keep out dust and critters
  • clear – you can see exactly what you’ve got and enjoy the beautiful colors
  • stackable – they have squared-off corners
  • FREE – more $ to spend on yarn

Stacked neatly in closet.

If you don’t have any of these zippered bags, ask friends and relatives. More than likely there’s somebody in your world who saves that sort of thing.

Happy Knitting!

Dani

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Evaluate Your 2012 Knitting Projects

To me, a New Year means evaluating my knitted projects from the previous year…

  • Was that scarf a success? Nope. It’s tucked away in a drawer, unused, because the yarn is too scratchy for me to wear.
  • Have I ever once worn that cowl in public that looked so chic in the Vogue Knitting magazine? Not after my husband burst out laughing and called me a babushka. (Vogue models can make anything look fabulous…and granted, maybe my yarn was too thick, so instead of languid sexy drape, I got the thick peasant look.)
  • And why am I not wearing that Icelandic sweater that I finished months ago? Besides the fact that I had chosen a rather startling color combination.

The past few weeks have been dedicated to reusing yarn that was knitted into something that I wasn’t entirely thrilled with. The scratchy scarf is still tucked in my drawer, awaiting rebirth.

My new hat knitted from my babushka cowl yarn.

My NEW hat knitted from my babushka cowl yarn.

But the cowl has been re-knitted into a lovely cabled hat that doesn’t make me look like I should be hauling firewood across the steppes on my back. I no longer have one of my best props to make my husband chuckle. But I have a new, warm winter hat.

And the Icelandic sweater?

The original Lopapeysa sweater.

The original Lopapeysa sweater.

I wasn’t happy with it. I didn’t like the added color along the bottom—it always reminded me of Charlie Brown’s sweater—and the hem was ribbed. Ribbed hems gather around my hips and balloon out the rest of the sweater.

So I ripped out the bottom color work, and did a simple loose bind-off. The sweater is still plenty long enough and now I actually wear it!

NEW Lopapeysa sweater without bottom color and ribbing.

REVISED Lopapeysa sweater without bottom color and ribbing.

How to Shorten (or Lengthen) a Sweater

Tearing apart a finished knitted project is a scary prospect after all the time put into knitting it. But it’s actually pretty easy to do. To shorten or lengthen a sweater, simply:

  • Decide what row will be your cutoff point.
  • Snip a thread.
  • Insert your knitting needle into the first open loop.
  • Continue picking up each loop along that row while carefully pulling out the previously knitted yarn.
Carefully pick up each stitch.

Carefully pick up each stitch.

NOTE: Don’t keep snipping the yarn if you want to re-use it…keep it intact as you unravel it, then roll it back up into a small ball for re-knitting.

  • Once you have the sweater on your needle, do the bind-off of your choice using the ripped-out yarn OR grab some new yarn (the same or a complementary color), and add a new bottom section.

The only issue I ran into was making sure I was picking up loops from the same row. Once in a while, I would wander off-row. It’s obvious when you do, because suddenly you can no longer pull the previously knitted yarn out of the garment. If that happens, just back up a stitch or two and get back on track.

So, take some time to evaluate your finished knitting projects from 2012. If you’re anything like me, they’re made from yarns that are too precious to pitch into the giveaway pile. That lovely alpaca or hand-dyed wool deserves a place in your wardrobe. Take the time to make it happen. You’ll be glad you did!

Happy knitting!

Dani

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Make Your Own Blocking Board

I finished knitting the first front half of my “Sanderling” lacy summer vest designed by Asami Kawa!

Photo © Asami Kawa

It was time to block this thin, lacy knitted piece and check my workmanship and fit. Time to pin my pieces to the padded top of my annoyingly wobbly, narrow ironing board. Oh. Yay.

I’ve been asked not to set up a makeshift blocking station on the ping pong table again. The last time I did that, the steam permeated the blanket and sheet I had carefully arranged as my blocking surface and marred the table top. I really couldn’t see how my stain was any worse than any of the others left from old beer pong matches or from my husband using it as a work station to paint his Day of the Dead dioramas. But, being the sort to not make waves, I figured maybe it was time to invest in a blocking board.

I started shopping around. There are some really nice blocking boards out there. But to get a good, sturdy one with handy 1” square measurements, I would’ve had to drop around $100. I like to spend my money on yarn and patterns and other cool knitting stuff. In my opinion, a board isn’t cool knitting stuff.

Hmmm. My brain started churning…it couldn’t be that difficult to make my own. Turns out it’s easy-peasy. I found a very helpful blog post by FlowerGirlKnits.  I really liked her idea of a LIGHT blocking board made out of inexpensive materials. So, I made a few little adjustments to her instructions. I made one big blocking board instead of two smaller ones and added padding. And voila! For about $27 in supplies and about 15 minutes spent carefully taping some stuff together, I now have a great blocking board!

My Homemade 30" x 40" Blocking Board

My Homemade 30" x 40" Blocking Board

Supplies needed:

  • Two 20” x 30” foam boards, ½” thick – any color ($10 each at A.C. Moore…less if you have a coupon)
  • Two yards checkered fabric, 1” checks (just under $7)
  • Wide clear packing tape or duct tape (which I already had in abundance)
  • One old beach towel

1.)    Collect your supplies. Pick up the foam boards at your local craft store. Make sure they are ½” thick and not the thinner version, so you have lots of good stuff to stick your pins into. Then stop at a fabric shop and get 2 yards of checkered fabric, where the checks are 1” squares. This makes it really, really easy to measure your knitted piece as you’re stretching it to size. Grab some wide tape. I used clear packing tape. Duct tape would work fine, also. And dig out an old beach towel that has seen better days. This will be the under layer to provide a softer surface and to absorb some of the dampness.

2.)    Wash and dry the fabric. This removes any formaldehyde or other yucky stuff they sometimes use on new fabrics. It also protects you from possible dye transfer or shrinkage.

3.)    Tape the two foam boards together so they measure 40” x 30”. Run the tape the whole way around the seam, back and front. If you get the two pieces of foam board really snug up against one another, the two pieces won’t wobble at all. I originally thought I might need to put them on some sort of larger cardboard base or something, but that wasn’t the case.

4.)    Attach the beach towel to the foam board. My towel happened to be exactly 30” wide, so I laid it on the foam board and taped those edges to the foam board edges. The towel was longer than 40”, so I had extra to pull around the back and tape. Make sure all the towel edges are taped down securely.

5.)    Attach the fabric to the beach towel-covered foam board. The natural width of the fabric is what…36”? So you have an extra 3” on each side across the 30” width of your foam board. Cut the fabric to fit the 40” length of the foam board with about 4” or so extra at each end. Then,  wrap the fabric around one edge of the foam board, being careful to keep your checks in a nice, even line, and tape securely to the back of the board. Do the opposite side, pulling the fabric snug but not so tight that you’re stretching the checks out of shape. Then wrap the material around the remaining ends, neatly folding your corners under and taping securely.

It’s that easy! The foam board is nice and light to pick up and move anywhere for your blocking project. And, when not in use, it easily stashes behind a bureau, under a bed, or other hidey-spot.

Pins, pins and more pins!! LOVE my new mat!

Thank you FlowerGirlKnits for your guidance on this project!

Happy Knitting!

dani

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Turn Finishing into a Fresh Beginning

I was planning to show off a few more inexpensive knitting cases in this post, but several knitters this past week told me how much they absolutely hate finishing work.  A woman sitting across from me in a knitting workshop described the mounds of unfinished projects sadly languishing in her home.

I think so many people despise finishing work because of its name: finishing work.  I mean, what could be more intimidating and depressing?  You’re finishing your knitting project, which means the joy of knitting, the thing you love to do, is, well, finished.  And work speaks for itself.

Ingrid before she "blossomed"

I prefer to think of finishing work as coaxing a beautiful flower to bloom or blossom. Because what I’m essentially doing is bringing my knitted sweater, hat, gloves, plushy, whatever I’ve been lovingly knitting during the past days, weeks, months, into the world.

Ingrid has come to life!

Up until now, it’s only been in the growth stage, developing slowly on my needles, shaping into its true self.  And it isn’t quite complete, isn’t quite ready to open up and greet the world, to show off its beauty, until I’ve given it the final touches.  Only then are they – the beautiful sweater, the funky hat, the fabulous gloves – what they are meant to be.

“That’s all well and good” you say, “but I simply don’t like to sew things together or tuck yarn ends…for me it isn’t an enjoyable process.”  Well, only you can make it enjoyable.  Until then, it’ll be a thorn in your knitter’s side.  Here are a few tips to help you enjoy the blossoming of your knitting project:

  1. Find a peaceful place. Choose a quiet place, with a flat surface, good lighting, maybe a lovely view out a window or next to the fireplace.  Your special spot might not be in your home, full of squabbling children and/or a well-meaning, but sometimes distracting, husband or partner.  Perhaps you’ll find it at your local yarn shop (an excellent choice!), a table in your local library, or a corner at your favorite coffee shop.  My place?

    My Special Place

    A small glass-topped café table in my living room, situated next to a sunny southern window that looks out at my favorite maple tree.  The gas fireplace is nearby, so I can pop that on when it’s a bit chilly.  It’s my lovely little spot where I bring my knitting projects to life.

  1. Treat yourself. This is a special moment in your project.  You’re breathing life into it.  You’ve spent many hours lovingly knitting this woven fabric and you deserve something special.  I always make my favorite cup of tea and get out the Bahlsen chocolate wafers (being careful not to get chocolate smudges on my knitting).  Perhaps plan a lunch date afterwards with a dear friend, wearing, of course, your newborn knitwear.

    What a satisfying feeling!

  1. Put on music that makes you happy. Play soothing meditative music, or get down and get your funk on.  Whatever works for you!  But set the mood with music.   I often pop in a David Wax Museum CD or the latest from The Decemberists.
  1. Choose the time of day when your senses are sharpest. My best time is first thing in the morning.  For others it may be in the evening, while winding down.  But, if you like to enjoy a glass of wine before bedtime like I do, it’s best not to mix the two.  I’ve found that drinking and stitching aren’t a great combination.  : )

Whatever your choices in location, music, time of day, or reward, make it a celebration!  Remember, your project isn’t really finished…it’s beginning its new life.  And it’s only work if you see it that way.  So, now that Spring is almost here, dig out those unfinished projects and allow them to blossom!

Happy Knitting!

dani

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Make Your Own Knitting Needle Case!

I’m a huge proponent of reusing and recycling, of making unique items from found objects, and of finding super-inexpensive solutions for everyday needs.  I like to spend my valuable dollars on luscious yarns and exciting new patterns instead!! 

When my Aunt Marian passed away, I inherited her knitting supplies which included a large quantity of straight needles.

Just a handful of Aunt Marian's needles

I prefer using circulars most of the time, but I certainly would never part with Aunt Marian’s needles.  They have so much sentimental value, plus you never know when you’ll need a pair of US10 straights to manuever a 3-needle bind-off.

The big question was, where to store them?  Clutching a bunch of needles in one hand, it came to me…a tube of some sort.  Something with hard sides to keep them safe in my knitting backpack.  (I’ll show you the backpack in my next post.)  I save just about everything that could have a future use , so I made a beeline for my wrapping paper tube collection in the attic.  Hey, the tubes I saved are really heavy duty!!  I couldn’t throw them away!

Heavy duty wrapping paper tubes rock!

I measured and cut a length of wrapping paper tube about an inch longer than my longest needle.  Then I grabbed an empty toilet paper tube (no, I don’t save these!…I just happened to have one in my cardboard recycling bin) and gave it a try.  Just as I suspected, it fit perfectly over the wrapping paper tube.  I cut a length of about two inches to serve as a removeable cap.

Next, I needed solid ends for my knitting needle tube.  I dug around in my cardboard recycling and found a nice piece of stiff cardboard, the kind from the back of a paper tablet.  I traced my tube ends onto it, cut them out and used packing tape to secure them on the ends of the tube and the cap.

Naked knitting needle storage tube

Voila!  I had a super-sturdy container for my straight knitting needles!

It was super-sturdy, but it was a little too industrial-looking.  So I whipped out my bag of yarn labels, a pair of scissors, a bottle of white glue, and got busy.

I love the varied designs of yarn labels!

The result?…a very cute knitting needle case!  I had some laminating paper in my office stash, so I put a piece of that over the entire tube to protect the labels from frequent handling.  But I don’t think you necessarily have to do that.

Completed knitting needle case

As you can see, I left the section of the tube under the cap bare because my cap has a snug fit.

Okay, now for the bizarre part of all this.  I swear that today I had myself scheduled to sit down and create this blog.  (I’m trying to be a better blogger in 2011.)  But I always check my inbox before launching into my work, and believe it or not….**twilight zone music here**…Kathleen Cubley of Knitting Daily posted a wonderful article this morning on creating a label-decoupaged needle box!  Make sure you read it…she has some excellent tips.

Until next time….Happy Knitting!

dani

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Knitting Tips & Tricks: How to Stuff a Plush Toy (So It Looks Great)

Beautiful Letters are Happy Letters

You’d think that stuffing a plush toy would be the easiest part. But there’s a knack to doing it so your cute little Alphabet People don’t come out looking lumpy and weird-shaped.

1. The first trick is to stuff it while you’re sewing it together. Place the wrong sides of your finished knitted pieces together and use a mattress stitch to sew up your letter. (YouTube has several excellent videos demonstrating the mattress stitch.) As a leg or arm or head is formed, before it gets too far along, gently place some stuffing in that cavity. Notice that I said “gently.”

2. The second trick is to stuff your plush toy gently. If you cram a piece of stuffing in and pack it down, it’ll form a hard wad. The next piece you cram in will form another hard wad, and before you know it, your poor little Alphabet Person will be all lumpy and bumpy. So, gently place a fluffy, un-wadded piece of stuffing into the cavity. Press it into place with care, then add another fluffy piece and press it into place with care. This way, the fluffy pieces will mesh together and retain their soft, cuddly texture.

3. Don’t overstuff your Alphabet People.

Just Enough Stuffing

Add enough stuffing to your plush toy give it shape, but no more. Your goal is to create a toy that looks really nice and feels good. If you overstuff, the knitted fabric will stretch too far. You’ll see the stuffing through the stitches, your seams will show, and your plush toy will look bloated.

Natural, gentle row shaping

4. Take time to look at what you’re doing. Think of your plush toy as a soft sculpture, and you’re the artist. As you gently press the stuffing into a cavity, look at its shape. Is there enough stuffing in the far corner? Is this arm/leg shaped the same as the other matching arm/leg? Every so often during the finishing process, hold the plush toy away from you, stand back, and evaluate how it looks. Are the knitted rows still neat and fairly straight? If you overstuff in spots, it will stretch the knitted material and the rows will look crooked. There should only be gentle, natural swells where the pattern has called for shaping.

5. Use your fingers to shape corners while sewing it together. Your finished corners should be ever so slightly rounded, not squared-off with a point. Stitch right up to a corner and pull your stitches tight. As you start down the next horizontal/vertical, make about three or four loose stitches. Then, on the wrong side of the piece, insert one finger into where the corner will be and pull your yarn tight. This helps to form that corner shape.

6. Weave your yarn ends into the seams as you go. A lot of loose ends can get tangled up in the stuffing and prevent it from meshing together properly. And by now, you know what that could mean – lumps in your plush toy! You won’t be able to weave the last few ends into the seams, but just trim those to about two inches and tuck them neatly along the sides as you stuff and sew.

Make neat corners

7. Make your final corner match the rest. When you get to the final few stitches at the very end, gently press those corner edges into themselves as you stitch. This will help to shape it into a slightly rounded corner to match the rest. Make your final stitch directly into the corner and bring your needle out another place on the body of the plush toy. Pull gently on the yarn to help your final corner be more of an “insy” than an “outsy.” Clip the yarn close to the body; the end will disappear inside.

8. Give your plush toy a massage. When you’re finished, gently massage the plush toy into just the right shape. If it’s a little bit lumpy, massage those lumps until they loosen up and redistribute a bit. If a limb is sagging, tug it into place. Smooth the knitted rows into place. Don’t be afraid to work with your finished Alphabet People to make them look their very best.

If you have any questions about making your Alphabet People beautiful, feel free to write in the comments section of this blog or email me at TheKnitKnoodler@gmail.com.

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