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Love to Knit and Sew

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Location: Amsterdam, New York, United States

Friday, October 28, 2005

Setting Up My USM Knitting Machine

Today I got busy and started setting up my USM knitting machine. It is such a quick way to make Christmas gifts, especially hats and scarves for everyone. As I worked on the project, I discovered that the table I purchased is too thick to allow me to easily clamp the machine down. So I have had to get a board to first clamp the board onto, now I need to get some C-clamps to clamp the board to the table. A little extra work, but in one way, a good step, as I can take the machine off the table without disassembling it. Just unclamp the board, take board, machine and all off, and lean it against a wall near by. Use it again? Put the board back on the table, use the C-clamps again and away I go. Fast, easy and it makes access to my sewing machine easier, too.

So tomorrow is C-clamp day. My son is supposed to get some for me. I had a set of C-clamps, but they may still be in California in a box there! Just wait! I'll buy these and the others will show up! Definitely have to have them or the weight of the knitting will pull the machine off the table.

You can see that my work space is very limited--but it holds all that is important!

Happy knitting and hug the people you love!

Easy Mitten Pattern and Yarn Sources and Books

If you are inspired to start knitting some mittens for charity (and I hope you are with the cold weather ahead of us!), here is my favorite site for free patterns:


In the section for Winter Items there is this easy mitten pattern, just right for beginners.


Use wool or part wool yarn if you have it as it is much warmer for the person who wears the mittens. But use whatever you have to begin with--cold hands are no fun for those out in the winter weather and in need. The knit stitch has an insulating factor due to the way it is formed.

To learn how to do an afterthought thumb, which lets you knit round and round and then do the thumb on dpns last, you can go here:

At www.woolworks.org
Catherine Wingate talks about how to do an afterthought heel:

"To make this heel, knit to where the heel will begin, knit X amount of stitches (X being the number of intended heel stitches) on waste yarn, put those X stitches back on the left needle, and reknit them with the sock yarn. After completing the sock, take out the waste yarn and put the resulting loops on facing needles (one needle will have one more loop than the other!) and "make a heel." Generally the heel is similar to a toe and, in many socks, the heel and toe are shaped identically, both being shaped by double-decreasing. "

For the afterthought thumb, you only need to do this for 7 sts. then knit round and round until until it is time to make the mitten top. Then you will take out the waste yarn and knit the thumb on dpns. It goes very quickly!

The pattern that I personally use is Elizabeth Zimmermann's 36 Stitch Mittens in Knitting Without Tears. This was one of my first knitting books and one that I still refer to today.


My favorite place to buy inexpensive yarn is:


For about $30 you can buy enough yarn to keep you busy for a very long time! No affiliation with them--just a place I have found to be dependable and affordable. The yarn does not not have wrappers on the skeins and is Red Heart or Caron or something like that. They choose the colors. Nice colors and easy to work with. Because they are mill ends, there is an occasional knot in the skein, but at that price, I just cut it out and carry on.

Of course, whenever I get into a thrift store, I check out their bins. I have found some nice wool yarns in places like that and tuck it away for winter knitting.

In the summer, check the garage sales.

If you belong to a FreeCycle group in your area, post and ask if anyone has yarn they could donate to you for making charity items. People sometimes have bags of yarn languishing in closets or garages that they are happy to give to you. A woman just gave me 12 skeins of yarn she no longer wanted. Lots of hats and scarves and mittens!


Knitting in Plain English by Maggie Righetti. If you can only afford one book right now, this is probably a good choice , especially for beginners. All the info that a beginner or intermediate knitter needs in one place. Casting on, increasing, decreasing, tips. Very well written and easy to follow. Has projects to do which teach you the basics. I especially like the black and white line drawings and illustrations as they are clear and simple and do the job well.

Knitting Without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmermann. One of the best bargains in knitting books you can buy. Good reference book with lots of patterns. Add this book as soon as you can and you will be happily knitting for years!

The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns Ann Budd. Basic designs in a wide variety of sizes. Mittens, sweaters, hats, socks. Lets you knit for family and friends and community with easy size variations.

Knitter's Handbook by Montse Stanley. Put out by Reader's Digest, I chose this one for clarity. I couldn't afford the big Vogue book (still can't), but have been very happy with this book as a basic reference. When you begin knitting, you do need some reference books to help you. Check your library to see which ones YOU prefer. Then save your money till you can get the one you like. It will save you hours of grief and anguish at 2 AM when you run into a problem and you can't call a friend!

I think I got most of these books at Amazon.com--my favorite place to indulge my knitting obsession and books at the same time! Wish I had stock in the company! Sometimes it is WAY too convenient to shop there! But I am sure these books are available in a variety of other places as well, so look locally, too. Local yarn shops often carry good selection of basic books.

Happy knitting and keep those needles busy!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

2 socks 2 circs and tangling yarn

I think I wrote before that I stopped using the 2 sock 2 circ method because I got so frustrated with the yarn tangling. Well, I have finally mastered that--thanks to Queen Kahuna! I bought the book Crazy Toes and Heels some time back, but haven't spent a lot of time with it.


I want to learn how to do the toe up method and she shows it very clearly, so got it out--and found the answer to the tangled yarn! So simple and easy--and it works! So I am happily knitting my last pair of challenge mittens on 2 circs with NO TANGLING YARN NOW!!!! I am doing stripes on this pair, so it will make it easy to keep them matching. No counting--just change colors whenever I need to. I plan to make some with small motifs later, so this will be a helpful method for that as well.

I highly recommend this book--no affiliation, just a visual learner who has gotten a lot of help from the book. It is well worth the money she is asking for it. Now I'm actually looking forward to learning the toe up method and will make a bunch of warm wool socks for myself for the winter to practice on until I get comfortable with it. I have some lovely sport weight wool yarn and will reinforce the heels and toes with left over fingering yarn from other sock projects. That will give them a little more durability--and most of the fingering yarn is multi-colored so it will brighten up the solid colors, too! I am planning to make these socks longer than I usually do--probably up over the calf--need the warmth. I also have some worsted weight wool--that I may make into some bed socks--can you tell that I hate to have cold feet????

I have my sewing table and sewing machine set up--and will be able to set up my USM knitting machine. I want to use it to make some everyday sweaters--fast easy and washable! Fast to knit, but it takes a while to sew them together. Good tv/movie activity, I've found. I'm getting better at it.

Cora has already asked for another sweater--she loves the Baby Surprise Jacket I made for her, so will whip something out on the Bond. Plan to do one for Piper as well. I have some intarsia patterns that I want to play with for them. Kids are so much fun to knit for!

Hope your week is a happy one.

Friday, October 21, 2005

My Sewing Table is Finally Here!

Hooray! I finally was able to get a table for my sewing machine! I found one at WalMart that will work very well for me--and it is long enough to set up my Bond Knitting machine as well. That is going to make some fun activities for me now that I can get it set up. Sewing, quilting, and knitting on the USM. I want to use the USM to make myself some everyday sweaters. Much faster than handknitting, have lots of washable yarn for easy care--and the cold weather IS coming!

So that is my plan for tonight when I get it upstairs--work things around till I get my machine set up.

Pat should be home soon! Then he can bring it upstairs for me and I can start to work!

Number 7 on the Needles! Photo of all seven

Finished Mittens #6 and have cast on for #7 pair in bright royal blue wool. I found some bright red yarn to make some stripes in these and will probably do small stripes. Have thought about making candy cane stripes that travel diagonally. Just read about doing that, but may save the pattern for a scarf instead until I really work out how to do it. Once the pattern is established, it is just a matter of moving the color over a couple of sts. every 2nd row. The directions I found use 6 stitch stripes that travel, but I'm sure that can be adjusted if you want a narrower stripe. It would be fun to play with--and kids would love it!

I'm going today to get a sewing table for my room. I've looked for a while for a second-hand table but haven't found anything that suits. So will get one of those banquet tables about 6 ft. long to use. Can use the surface to cut material out on, anyway. It is a challenge organizing everything in just one room, but so far it is working out pretty well. As I get some of the storage solutions worked out, it will be even better. Thank goodness for clear plastic storage boxes and WalMart!

Have been watching the progress of Hurricane Wilma toward Florida. Another gigantic storm that can do catastrophic damage to areas already hit by so many others. And we have until Nov. 30th before hurricane season ends! With all they have gone through this year, I think I would really consider moving if I lived in those areas! The risk to lives has been so great--and the physical damage has been terrible. I suspect a number of people are seriously considering such a move. Every area has its disadvantages, but those hurricanes have been so powerful and beyond the response of most people. It certainly has made people aware of the need to have emergency supplies on hand. Not just talk about doing it, but actually put things into food storage, supplies, etc. I know I am planning to get extra medicines for myself to keep in a 72 hour kit for such an emergency. I'll need to get a backpack to put it all in again. Had one all set up in Calif. but will have to re-do it now. Which is fine, because with the colder weather here in NY, I will need to add some different things to it.

Time to work on my medical transcription course studies: this is turning into a very interesting area for me. Getting back into a study pattern has been a challenge, of course! Sort of "grit your teeth and do it!" But I'm always glad when I get to it and get involved. Isn't that the way it always is? We have this reluctance to get started and then find our enthusiasm building as we participate fully. Part of the lessons we learn as we go through life!

Enjoy your knitting and your families!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Mitten pair number six

I should be able to finish this sixth pair of mittens tonight. I'm really into the home stretch of this mitten challenge! and having a great time with it! I have one pair that I am going to really miss and will have to knit another pair for myself--I made a larger pair in red wool. My hands were bothering me before I went to bed (I have arthritis) so I slipped those wool mittens on and went to sleep. Woke up in the morning with my hands feeling great! Relaxed and warm and no pain! So that is a definite project for me in the making. These I will send off, though, as they are just right for a teenager to appreciate and enjoy--and I know those winds are blowing on the Rez. I can wait to make myself another pair.

I think after I finish these mittens that I will start making some socks and slippers. I have some great sport weight wool and can reinforce the heels and toes with regular sock yarn for longer wear. And some extra color! lots of little leftovers from other projects. Maybe put three strands of fingering yarn together to do the heels and toes. I really would like to learn to make socks from the toes up, just to learn the technique. So maybe this is the time to play with that. I hear a lot of people say they like that because they can better judge the sock length and not run out of yarn on the top. sounds good, but so far I haven't been able to wrap my mind around the concept! But I have the Crazy Toes and Heels book which shows in detail how to do it, so will follow that and see how I do. Lots of pictures and will take my time and should be okay. Will let you know how successful I am!

When I first got started doing 2 socks on 2 circs I got frustrated with the tangled yarn. Finally went to the magic loop system, which I like very much better. I cast on for both socks at the same time. Knit the cuff on one, then knit the cuff on the other. Knit to the heel on one, then knit to the heel on the other. Put in the sts for the afterthought heel for one, put in the sts for the afterthought heel for the other. And so on. I continue to alternate knitting between socks and when I finish, I have a pair of socks ready to wear--and no frustrations! I think every one has to find their own best way to make socks--this is the one that seems to work for me. I used dpns for years and still enjoy them from time to time, especially for very small things like the thumbs of mittens. But for my socks, I really like the magic loop and the ease it gives me to finish a pair of socks. It took me a lot of practice to become comfortable with the magic loop method too, but now that I use it so much, I'm glad that I spent the time learning it. And since I like to make things in pairs, I'm glad that I have the longer pairs of circs to work with. Now I'm starting to order some of the 36 inch and 40 inch circs for sweaters! Guess you can see where this is going! I'm going to have some fun making myself some pretty sweaters--have already started looking at my Spun Outs and EZ books!

Happy knitting!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Comment Verification added to stop spammers

I started getting spam comments from some money schemes, so added Comment Verification to prevent this. Regular comments shouldn't be a problems. Sorry for the extra step, but I can't stand those Trolls! This should keep the content to knitting, at least!

Thanks, Ann, for the idea--didn't even know I could add this and block those guys!

The BSJ and a personal knitting journal

I am knitting another Baby Surprise Jacket for the Rez and it is coming along very nicely. The pattern is in Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Workshop and is also available in a leaflet/SpunOut--both available from


I really enjoy knitting this little sweater as it is done all in one piece and then folded to make the sweater--quite clever! Just two shoulder seams to put together! The size can be adjusted from newborn to toddler very easily--and there is also an Adult Surprise Sweater SpunOut available too. I think I will try that one, perhaps this winter with the cold winds blowing to inspire me to keep knitting!

There is also a Yahoo group call Knit Baby Surprise that offers lots of help and tips as you knit your first one--very friendly and supportive.

I finished my challenge hats but still have a couple more pair of challenge mittens to do. Need to mail them by Dec 1st to make the challenge, but will be done long before that. Want to send ASAP to help those kids stay warm on the way to school.

I worked today reorganizing my yarn and needles. Found a large leather purse that I no longer use as a purse and it holds ALL my needles. I already had them sorted by size and labeled in ziplock bags, so it was just a matter of filing them in order in the purse. The purse fits into a dresser drawer nicely (away from Cora's little exploring hands!) and I always know where it is! Feels good to know where things are and what colors I have available in my stash! For my yarn, I packed it into two soft-sided travel packs with wheels: one large one and one medium size one. They are full! But easy to get to and check out what I need. I already had my knitting books on shelves under my night stands. Keeping everything organized in my bedroom is a challenge after having a whole house to myself, but I have all the essentials and have pared down the clutter. Which is good for my mind AND I don't have to take care of so much STUFF!

I still don't have a sewing table for my embroidery machine--hope to get that next month. Then I can sew little receiving blankets for the new moms on the Rez. But for now, I'm loving my knitting projects!

Tomorrow I have an appt. with a new rheumatologist in Schenectady--Patrick is going to drive me to the appt. so he can ask questions about Dermatomyositis. I'm glad he wants to go as it will help him understand what I am dealing with and why all these appts. are so necessary. I've really been doing pretty good--just get that awful fatigue and muscle aches, but the meds tend to control that and a nap helps me start over again in the afternoon! I rest when I have to, but keep going as much as possible!

I'm enjoying living here with my family very much. And I have arranged for a ride to my church, not this Sunday, but next. There are many women in Relief Society who love to do charity work and I'm looking forward to meeting them and getting involved with some of their activities, too. I ALSO plan to ask for some hats and mittens for the Rez if any are interested!

Many years ago, I ran across a 5 x 8 sturdy little notebook with wire binding. I labeled it KNITTING and started keeping important info in it that I wanted to keep track of--and it has proved to be so valuable over the years! I have my favorite mitten, scarf, booties, slippers patterns in there--anything that I use often. I keep family measurements in there (in pencil!) And just today I added a list of yarn/needle/size changes for the BSJ.

BABY SURPRISE JACKET Yarn/needles/size

fingering/us 2 or 3/newborn

sport/US 4 or 5/ 6 mos

DK/ 7's/ 9 mos

WW/ 8's/ about 1 year

Chunky/1o or 10.5/ toddler

So now when I want to make a new BSJ I can just look through my stash, select colors and needles, get my pattern out and get to my knitting!

If you don't already keep a personal knitting notebook, I encourage you to try it--it has kept me from losing some of my favorite charity patterns over the years--as well as organizing my info in an easy to keep low-tech way. My notebook stays in my knitting bag at all times--along with chatelaine with scissors, yarn needles, markers of various sizes, etc. It is a great little tool to work with!