Baby Sweater…in Ten Steps

aaron-sweater.jpgThis striped baby sweater took me a week to knit, my second no-pattern sweater. It’s basic shape is a “cross,” folded in half, and stitched along the lower part of the arms and the sides where the front and back meet. The neck was the trickiest part. Since my first (and only other) sweater was knit top-down, knitting this baby was a challenge to conceptualize. Top down necks are straightforward: knit a tube in the round, proceeding downward. This neck, because it was placed in the middle of the big “cross” shape I knit, required me to hold stitches, and then add them back on a few rows later making a big hole in the middle of the “cross” shape. After I folded the cross over and seamed the sweater, I came back in picked up stitches with a crochet hook and finished the neck. The basic concept when something like this:

  1. Cast on 6-7 inches of stitches, knit ribbing
  2. Knit back up to arm pit, cast on 5 inches (or so) of stitches on both sides of the back.
  3. Knit a few more inches (maybe 3 or so), put a neck’s width of stitches on a holder
  4. Knit a few rows using two balls of yarn–one for each side of neck hole
  5. Add back on stitches at base of neck
  6. Knit a few more inches and cast off arm stitches
  7. Knit to/through ribbing on front of sweater
  8. Cast off front bottom
  9. Seam it
  10. Pick up stitches and knit neck ribbing, cast off

The first version I knit–a test version–came out poorly around the neck because I’d added my stitches back on unevenly. I’d tried adding a few stitches each row to close the neck hole and found it was easier to just add back all the neck stitches at once after a few rows of knitting the shoulders. My next version, I think, will have a hood instead of the collar. What you can’t see in the picture here are the cuffs–which are rolled. Another version here would be to make shorter arms initially, and then pick up stitches on the seamed arms and add in a ribbed cuff to match the neck and waist.

Uuuhm. Did I just post a “pattern?”

March 5, 2008 at 7:20 am Leave a comment

Strung out on Fiber

handspun.jpgLast week I used my bathtub to wash a dirty, orange dirty, fleece into buttery cream puffs. For my birthday, I got a spinning wheel and have been turning the woolen stuff out ever since. I wake up early (I’m no morning person), so I can spin. I stay up late, so I can spin. I put the wheel in the back of my car and take it with me so, I can spin. I’ve brainstormed reasons to bring my wheel to work, so I can spin. I dream of vacation time spent on white beaches of fiber…or at least bringing my spinning wheel to the beach. And I’m not the only one that gets dreamy while I spin. My cat will fall asleep two feet from the wheel 8 out of 10 times that I spin. I think he, like my boyfriend, is lulled by the rhythmic sounds of wood turning out wool. I am anything but lulled by spinning. If anything, I’m hung up, hooked, strung-out over spinning.

My first skeins were over twisted while recently I’ve under-twisted yarn that breaks apart. I peddle too fast, and then too slow. wheel.jpgBut lately my hands and my feet are starting to dance together…in the same room. My yarn started thick and uneven. Now I try to spin spider webbing–imagining the threads are emerging from the palm of my hands out into the orifice of the wheel. I’ve tried spinning with one hand (not successfully), spinning worsted and woolen. The Ashford Book of Spinning which I checked out (and renewed several times) from the local library and many mistakes together been my teachers.

Fiber Fantasy: I’ll spin wool onto the bobbin, while my mother and grandmother knit it off the bobbin. I’ll discover reasons to call in sick to work, so I can stay home and spin. Have you called in sick to stay home and play with fiber? Lied or broken dates to knit? Collected pet fiber off of friends’ couches while they weren’t looking? What are the signs of Fiber Madness?

January 30, 2008 at 8:13 am Leave a comment

Knitting Software?

I’ve been looking for knitting software that I could use to help me design or create my own knitting projects. Ideally, it would allow me to pick basic shapes, then add in specific measurements (in inches or centimeters), and a gauge. From this information, it would render a 3-D image of my knitting project with the number of stitches at any given point. I could add or decrease stitches in particular areas of the pattern, add in textures or color patterns and have the program generate written patterns/directions from various start points of the project design.

I know this technology is possible, but so far the only programs I’ve been able to find aren’t intuitive–like there is no project wizard to prompt information from you–or they are designed for knitting machines, literally machines, not obsessed knitters who plow through projects like a machine.

Does anyone know of such software?

November 4, 2007 at 8:23 pm 1 comment

Spinning Out of Control

cotton-balls.jpg This week I tried spinning cotton balls (from my bathroom) into thread, and at the grocery, began to unconsciously roll the tufts of a lamb’s wool duster between my fingers into a mini rolag. I want to spin everything into elaborate “yarns.” I got the idea to spin the cotton balls from Mary Karr’s, The Liar’s Club where she writes for a brief passage, how her grandmother could pick seeds from tufts of cotton and then spin them into thread with her fingers. In my case, it didn’t go as well.

November 2, 2007 at 4:15 pm 1 comment

A Dictionary of Stitches

super-stiches2.jpgSuper Stitches Knitting is a basic pattern guide for anything from stockinette, cable, ribbing, seed, basket, diamond to lace stitches. For no-pattern knitters and for knitters who create or alter patterns, learning a variety of textures you can knit (247 pages of them) allows you to apply the basic theory of a texture to any project you’re working on or creating by repeating the basic stitch. For someone just learning to knit, the book could also be used as short knitting exercises, where a knitter could learn, play with and become familiar with stitches/textures before encountering them in a pattern.

With so many possibilities listed in this book, I can look for inspiration by flipping through pages, which have the textures broken into categories such as “Knit and Purl Patterns,” “Edgings,” “textured stitches,” “Ornamental Stitches.” Granted, some of the basic patterns are more complex than others, but this library of stitch types (or another guide similar to it) seems like a must have for

So for instance, moss stitch, as described in the text, works like this:

Knit in multiples of 2 stitches.

Row 1: Knit 1, Purl 1. Repeat until end of row

Row 2: Same as row 1

Row 3: Purl 1, Knit 1. Repeat until end of row

Row 4: Same as row 3

Repeat these four rows for entire project.

October 31, 2007 at 10:44 am 3 comments

No-Cost Drop Spindle

spindle1.jpgWool obsession. Felting everything in sight, knitting in the movie theater, driving 80 miles to buy wool sweaters at thrift shops. Sometime last week I started fantasizing about raising sheep, goats, rabbits, llamas, plunging my hands into piles of their fleece/fur. Buying farm animals, feeding them, cleaning them, is a long way off from knit, purl, knit, purl. I told myself I needed to learn every step of making yarn before I could buy animals to support my habit.

Step 1: Learn to card and spin wool.

I decided to begin my wool-education at 1:00am this morning. Reading step by step directions online gave me spinning theory, but I had a strong need to put my learning into action. Ebay, I found, has many inexpensive supplies: drop spindles, roving. The problem at 1:00am is that I couldn’t get my hands on a spindle–even if I bought it that moment. Inspired by an article on how to make your own drop spindle (and by my obsession with wool), I ransacked my house for items that could substitute. Here’s what I found: a pencil, cardboard, and a screw-hook.

spindletop.jpgI jammed a pencil through a round-cut piece of cardboard, secured in place with two rubber-bands. I then tried to twist the screw-hook into the wooden bottom of the unsharpened pencil, which didn’t work, so I screwed the hook into the eraser instead. The directions on The Joy of Handspinning were the most helpful once I was ready to put my drop-spindle to work. They include short video clips demonstrating the written directions. This allowed me see what I needed to do to get spinning with my recycled contraption.

Since it was 1:00am when I began my project, I wasn’t able to get roving. So I opted to practice spinning two very thin yarns together. This was a wonderful way to get used to the feel of the drop spindle without having to struggle with roving.

Here’s what my very first spun-yarn looked like after I boiled and dried it into place:spunyarn2.jpg

September 8, 2007 at 9:54 pm 2 comments

Red Recycled Sweater Blanket

sewingfeltblanket.jpgTwenty minutes in a thrift store, fifteen dollars, three red wool sweaters, several cycles in the wash, cutting and fitting pieces–Tetris with wool–produced asymmetrical lines, a felted crazy quilt. This recycled sweater craze has got me thinking: is felting old sweaters that great of a “recycling” project? All that cycling around in the washing machine certainly uses many gallons of water and power. Those who are ecologically-craft minded, might initially be drawn to this kind of project for the “recycled” appeal, but there is a wider “eco-footprint” involved. I guess this is true of many “crafts.” But knitting/felting still has a utilitarian appeal, for me, which other arts do not. Blankets, bags, sweaters, hats, gloves are functional items. Everyday use. Well there’s my soap box moment.

In the picture (above) I’ve pinned my felted pieces together before zig-zag sewing them in place (below). The pinning process took the most attention and time because I wanted to get all my pieces hooked together in a shape that resembled a throw, but that wasn’t too perfectly square. I avoided the “perfect square” mostly because it would have been challenging to create and would have required me to cut small pieces to fit gaps and I didn’t want a lot of left-overs.

feltedblanket.jpgThis is my grand puzzle spread out on my floor in solid shades of red. Asymmetrical lines that look unintentional remind me of cutting fabric without attention to the print on that fabric. That said, I’m not technically astute enough to cut said printed fabric, so I opted for print-free sweaters as a solid color is more forgiving. The thing I’ve noticed with cutting out felted squares from patterned knit is that the pattern doesn’t always line up well with the edges of the square (or shape you’ve cut out for your blanket). For example, stripes, when felted in a sweater tend to bow slightly, so when they are cut into squares for a felted quilt, the stripes look like rainbows. With the 90 degree angles of a quilt made from squares, juxtaposed against the “bowed stripes” looks askew. This can certainly add charm to a felted quilt, but I was looking for something more intentionally asymmetrical.

September 1, 2007 at 8:05 pm Leave a comment

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This site is a series of creative non-fiction works inspired by no-pattern knitting and equally unplanned, crafty endeavors. Called "Yarn" for the past ten years by her closest friends, Danielle is a two ply yarn: storyteller and knitter with her Master's degree in English Composition and Rhetoric.

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