Sometimes I get a little overconfident in my knitting, since it's sort of my home-base craft. Sound familiar? I take shortcuts, or fail to take common-sense precautions, since I usually have little trouble finding and fixing any mistakes before they become a huge problem. And really, whether I'm knitting something for the first time or I've had to rip it out and re-knit it, it's all knitting, which is usually fine with me. I like knitting, after all.
Enter my first lace-weight shawl. For you non-knitters, this means knitting with yarn roughly the thickness of dental floss. And it's a big shawl with multiple different lace patterns. Sort of a rite of passage for serious knitters.
Now, I'm no stranger to big knitting projects, and I've knitted lace before-- even with such skinny yarn. So I figured I didn't need to use a lifeline, which is a length of contrasting yarn temporarily threaded through your lace work in case you have to rip out part of it. Yes, I realized that it can be tough to get things back on the needles correctly with lacework, but I'd never used a lifeline before. Why start now? Well, I'm not completely sold, but lifelines are looking more attractive after I caught a mistake two rows later. Two 315-stitch rows. And then I did it again a few rows after that.
But the biggest a-ha moment with this project? The humble stitch marker
made my knitting much easier. If your stitch pattern calls for you to repeat the same 4 or 8 stitches all the way down the row, you can pretty quickly memorize that so you're not looking at the pattern every 5 seconds. It's almost like music, but in my head; I tell myself what I'm going to do, and the rhythm of the pattern that I repeat to myself as I work it helps keep me on track. It's like counting out the measures of the music you're playing. (I was a hard-core band geek in another life.) But a 16-stitch repeat? This was just too much for my wee brain and the skinny yarn that's hard to see, and I had to rip out another couple of rows.
Finally, I swallowed my pride and put stitch markers between each of the 16-stitch repeats in the section I was knitting. Stitch markers come in many forms, but they're essentially a ring that either slips or clips onto the needle between stitches as a visual and tactile reminder that something different happens when you get to that spot. (For knitting you can use either kind as long as it is an appropriate size for your needles. For crochet it needs to clip onto the stitch itself and open up again, or it would become a permanent design element in your finished piece. We don't call them mistakes. Design elements. Remember that now.) This helps me make sure that each repeat starts and ends where it should, so if my count is off I notice it quickly; and if I do get to the end of a row before I find the stitch count is off, I can look for the section that doesn't have the right number. It's a lot easier to count to 16 than 315.
For the same reason, stitch markers are also great if you have to cast on a huge number of stitches, e.g. because you're crazy enough to work a long scarf side-to-side instead of end-to-end. Casting on 20 stitches makes your counting pretty easy, but if it's 200, it's really helpful to put a marker on the needle after every, say, 20 stitches. That way, my attention span and I only have to be able to count to 20. And to make it even easier to keep track, you can alternate colors of markers, since they usually come in 2-color packs (e.g. 15 green and 15 red). Raise your hand if you've spent more than 30 minutes casting on, counting, recounting, casting on more, recounting, taking off a few.... yes, you! Personally, I'd rather spend that time knitting than puffing up my chest and counting to 200 AGAIN.
Here are some stitch markers hanging out on the needle with my work scrunched up:
And here it is stretched out. This is just before the bindoff on my "camping shawl", which you'll see more of below. See how there's a marker every time you get to the end of a scoopy section, then you start over?
This all helps you keep track of your progress even with complicated patterns, and you get to make things like this:
(yarn: Cascade Alpaca Lace, 2 balls; FREE pattern: "EZ 100th Anniversary Camping Half-Circle" shawl, by Mwaa Knit, available as a free download at ravelry.com.) I am in LOVE with this shawl. You can wear it a hundred ways, even over casual clothes, and you look effortlessly chic even if it falls out of place. I had worn it so many times before I got around to taking this picture that the points had already lost some of their blocking.
But thanks to my stitch markers, I still have all my hair. As for the lifeline, the jury's still out.
With the humid weather we've been having here, I figured I should get this summery project posted finally; its color cheers me up, and it won't make you melt in the heat!
Since I am from a fibery/yarn
background, my sample-creating duties at Project anthologies usually mean I knit swatches to show off our different yarns.
But in May, I wanted to knit something special and summery to showcase our
new cotton blend yarns. (Yes, it's taken me this long to upload all the pictures and finish the post about it!) Hot weather is no excuse to stop creating and wearing
beautiful handknits! Plus, I wanted to learn how a semicircular shawl is
constructed. After getting Melany’s approval to use so much yarn, I found a
pattern, and in five days I finished this:
Yarn: 3 skeins of Cascade Yarns Sierra Quatro (worsted, 80%
cotton/20%wool) in Summerdaze.
Pattern: “Miami Vice Shawl”, available for free on
ravelry.com from Threebagsfulled. I did slightly modify this by adding a little
more to the edge before binding off.
Here it is blocking out to open up the lace. It is a half-circle shape, which I love because you don’t
have pointy corners sticking out everywhere as with triangular or rectangular
shawls. The cotton makes it comfy, while the wool makes it a bit warmer and
gives it some memory to help it keep its shape. Sierra is beautiful to work
with too! It’s perfect to wear on cool summer evenings, or covering up indoors
in air-conditioned spaces without getting too hot. This would be great in
Cascade’s Pima Silk as well (a cotton/silk blend), which is another of our new
summer yarns. (Remember: always double-check yardage when substituting yarns!) And of course, if you like the idea but don’t want such a big
project, you could use these yarns for a little infinity scarf instead. =)
Was this overkill for a sample? I don’t know, but I found it
a tremendously satisfying knitting fix; and having done this quick
worsted-weight version (yes, it will take longer than 5 days if you don’t knit
as quickly as I do!), I embarked on my first lace-weight shawl to treat myself, which is constructed in the same way using
different stitch patterns. That's finished now too, but is for another post. =)
If you don’t knit, or
you only knit a little, remember we do offer knitting classes at Project
Anthologies. And I have heard whispers that we may start offering on-demand
classes soon, so that you and a group of friends can pick your project!
Let us know in the comments if this or another summery
project is calling to you!
Okay, knitters: do you have any knitting needles that are stamped with their size, but you can't read it unless you hold it near a bright light at just the right angle? I have a bunch. And I abhor the idea of actually having to use a needle gauge to find needles of the size I need.
I was using some of these needles recently while the kids were coloring, and it occurred to me that I could DO something about it. I won't claim I was the first to do this. I'm sure someone else has. But when it dawned on me, it was as though the clouds had parted and I wondered why I hadn't done this yet in the 9 years of squinting since I'd bought these needles.
On the bottom in this picture is the "before" (yes, there's a number there!), and on top the "after". So much easier to see!
I realized I could use my kids' black crayon to rub into the number. You have to make sure to go across the lines rather than along them, to scrape as much crayon as possible into the grooves.
Then wipe away the excess with scrap paper (junk mail is great for this) until it looks like this:
I also tried it on some bamboo needles. It worked, but the grain meant that the lines weren't as clean-- and on teeny needles like these (you know, toothpick-sized), it's harder to limit the color to the area you need to see better without having to do the brand name and everything too.
I certainly won't be doing this on all my needles right away, maybe just as I need them. And maybe it's not groundbreaking, but it will make my knitting a little easier-- and hopefully yours too. It's the little things. =)
My first blog post (below) was several months ago, but fear not: I have been making tons of stuff, even though I haven’t shared it with you. I'll be sharing my experiences with you as I stumble from one project to another, and hopefully
you’ll get some ideas to play with on your own! Now we return to our previously scheduled programming:
Do you have a cell phone, mp3 player, or camera? Do you sometimes drop it? Does it get all scratched up against other things in your pocket or bag? Do you have trouble finding it in the dark recesses of your bag?
This little fella is here to save the day! I designed this for my next knitting class at Project Anthologies, which meets this Tuesday, July 9 and Tuesday, July 16. If you're already comfortable doing basic knitting on your own, and are ready for something a little more challenging, sign up and learn to knit this critter. You don't HAVE to add the button eyes and embroidered beak (in fact, you don't have to use an owl-shaped cable; I'll bring ideas for other cables you could substitute if you so desire), but don't they add panache? Knit it in a bright color, and not only will your electronic baby be snug and cozy, it will be easy to find! You could even add a strap so it can hang on the outside of your bag, if you prefer. If you want to be able to plug cords through the cover, bring the device and I can show you how to make a hole in just the right spot.
This project is knit in the round on DPNs. We will also use a bit of a variety of other techniques, so you should come away with skills that will help you with lots of project possibilities.
Full disclosure, the owl cable pattern concept is not my invention; you can find tons of patterns by tons of people that use a similar cable. But I did design the cover itself and incorporate the owl. =)
What are you waiting for? Your electronic babies want to be snuggly! You can enroll in the class here
How did a novice like me end up sewing a cactus-shaped pin cushion?
Some people go running to help relieve stress and keep them sane
in the face of, well, life. Some people self-medicate, clean the house from top
to bottom, or take the dog for a long walk.
I make things.
My name is Dorothy and I am Melany's new part-time help at Project
Anthologies. I've been knitting and crocheting for several years, and teaching
knitting classes at Project Anthologies for a few months. I am also a mom, a
part-time Spanish professor, a soap maker, and an organic gardener, who tries
to find time regularly to play a little ukulele and bake a fairly mean loaf of
bread. Recently I have started learning to use a sewing machine. I would
say I'm a serial hobbyist, but all my hobbies seem to stay with me, like the
Morning Glories you were confident wouldn't become weeds in your zone-5 garden
because they'd get killed by frost in the fall, not realizing that they're
prolific self-sowers. (Now we both know not to trust Morning
Let's just say I have a lot of interests. I am, you could say, an
interested person. I enjoy matching a suitable method to the desired end
result. Don't even get me started on fiber choice for the perfect knitted
garment. It's embarrassing. And tremendously satisfying. But I digress.
Given my tendencies to take on interesting but sometimes
impractical challenges, it's perhaps not surprising that I have trouble setting
realistic goals with new projects. And the more I started sewing, the more
obvious it became that I needed a good pin cushion, since I now needed to use
so many pins at once. So rather than making or (gasp!) buying a simple one,
what did I decide to do? Why, make one that looks like a cactus, of course. Of
my own design. Because it might be cute / funny / a learning experience. I'm
sure you've heard yourself say this before: "How hard could it be?"
I present to you my cactus pin cushion, with tutorial below. I
apologize for the photography. Be warned, though, that I made no attempt
to create a facsimile of any particular extant cactus. I didn't even look at a
single photo of a cactus.
I also didn't iron anything for this project, because I am really
good at rationalizing my lazy choices. A good deal of my knitting is in the
round, purportedly so that the finished piece has no bulky seams to irritate
the wearer; but really, it's because I hate seaming knitted fabric. If I wanted
to sew, I would be sewing. And ironing is to sewing as seaming is to knitting.
Plus, it's meant to look like an organic living thing, which is bound to have
I used cotton fabric left over from other projects, bought a
4" terra cotta pot so the whole thing wouldn't be top-heavy, and filled
the cactus with sand to keep the pins sharp. (I found a 1-lb. bag of sand,
which was more than enough, in the paint aisle at the hardware store.) You
could also use poly fill, in which case you wouldn't have to worry about making
stitches teeny enough to prevent spillage when you close up the cactus.
How it's made:
1. I cut three rectangles 4" x 8" and sewed a simple
1/4" seam at both skinny ends of each piece, facing the same side of the
fabric. Or maybe it was 1/2". Doesn't matter, as long as they're fairly
consistent. Stop measuring!
2. I folded each piece in half so the raw edges (wrong side) faced
out and traced a 4" circle
(in this case the lid of an extra-large peanut butter jar) against the folded
3. Then I sewed a 1/4" seam allowance up the sides and
inside that curve, and cut along the line to form the top curve of the cactus.
You can obviously do this with 6 separate 4" x 4" pieces, but for
some reason the folding method made sense to me at the time.
4. Then I turned the 3 pieces right side out, flattened them on
top of each other in a stack, and pinned them together. (The tops do need to be
lined up carefully, so that the sections all come to a point in the same spot.)
I sewed a line right down the middle of the stack, going over it twice for
5. Putting the assembly upside down in the 4" pot kept it
from falling over while I filled it, and because I'm a klutz, I put that inside
a larger bowl to catch stray sand. I filled each cell halfway, pushed it down
into the "top" corners with the eraser end of a pencil, and filled it
to 1/4" from the open edge before hand-stitching it together. Here's where
I started to get lazy, because A) it's crazy tedious making stitches close
enough to keep SAND from getting through, and B) this part ends up not very
visible. So keep the stitches close if you're using sand, but don't worry about
making it pretty.
6. Next you have to create a base on which the cactus will sit
inside the pot. You'll notice I have no pictures of this phase. That is because
at this point, I didn't care how the thing got finished as long as I didn't
have to look at it anymore. So it's not exactly elegant-- because its job is to
sit inside a pot, underneath what everyone
will see. Basically you make some kind of round sand-colored beanbag (it
doesn't have to exactly fit the inside shape of the pot, but it helps to make
sure the top diameter will sit at the right level inside the pot), hand stitch
the base of the cactus onto the beanbag before filling it (I filled mine with
pebbles I had originally bought as houseplant mulch), close that up too, and
stick the sucker in the pot.
7. If you like, you can trace and glue on a circle of felt to
cover the bottom of the pot, so that it doesn't scratch your tabletop.
Now you can get on with other things. But this time, your pin
cushion is decorative enough that you don't have to put it away out of sight.
Let me know what you think!
Here we are a month into the New Year already! Time flies when you're having fun. Cliche but true! The shop is doing well - the holidays brought many customers looking for stocking fabric, gifts for sewists, handmade goodies and yarn for knitting something for a loved one. I LOVED it. January was also good - a bit slower - but actually better than I expected.
Living where I do, in upstate NY, I think people crave getting out and doing something this time of the year. The hard part is that the weather sometimes prevents us from doing just that. I've found that the snow doesn't keep people away as much as the bitter cold or rain. However, the shop has managed to stay pretty busy with people coming for classes and shopping for supplies to take home for new creations.
(This was an impromptu class making jersey knit infinity scarves with some of my running peeps!)
One of the most exciting new things that the new year has brought is the addition of a part-time employee. She is an accomplished knitter and becoming an accomplished sewist! She's helping revamp and build the yarn selection and her knitting classes are all the rage. She is even going to share some of her projects on the blog as she continues to build her creative skills!
I also have a new intern this semester. She's proving to be as delightful as Trista - and I look forward to helping her complete some projects while she's here this semester. She completed a major task on my to-do list her first week here - she built our Project Inspiration Board!
Now, you can shop at Project Anthologies, go home and make something cool, bring in a picture and earn 10% off your next purchase! Plus, your picture will hang proudly on our wall inspiring other shoppers and class participants. If you don't live in Oneonta, no worries. Participate online too. Just post a picture on our Facebook page and I'll send you a discount code for your next purchase!
The blog has been neglected as I suspected would happen as we got busy for the holidays, etc. Happily, I'm getting in a good groove with the business, I have some help now, and I hope to share more of what's happening here. In the meantime - if you're ready to THINK SPRING (supposedly we're having an early one??)...buy any Art Gallery Fabric and receive this Maxi Dress Pattern for FREE. No promo code necessary - it will arrive with your shipment. :)
Until next time,
I have had the pleasure of having an intern this semester from one of our local colleges. She is only here a few hours per week - but we try to pack a lot into those few hours! She is just learning to sew on the machine and I asked her to write a blog entry about her first big project. She did a Fat Quarter apron using Maureen's tutorial! I love this apron tutorial - and now so does Trista! :)
I have been an intern at Project Anthologies for about two months now,
and I have finally been able to complete my first sewing project! For a
gift for my grandma on Christmas, I decided to make her an apron. At
first I was overwhelmed with all the fabrics and patterns that I could
choose from. There were so many that caught my interest and that I
wanted to use. In the end I chose Christmas patterned fabric due to the
holiday season! However, there were a lot of great Christmas themed
patterns to choose from that even then I was indecisive.
When first starting to sew, I was very intimidated by the sewing
machine. This was going to be the first time I have used a sewing
machine in my adult life. The only thoughts that were going through my
head were "straight lines, straight lines" and "don't break the
machine!" After a little while of using the machine, it was easy to
become comfortable with the foot pedal and to stay consistent with the
speed of the needle. I was just so thankful that this project was a
beginner one rather than anything more difficult. The thread was
probably my biggest feat, and I am still working on how to keep it
right, but I suppose that comes with a little more practice.
The apron itself was not very hard at all to put together. I was
able to successfully and painlessly sew the separate panels of the apron
with consistent straight lines and very little flaws or mishaps with
the help of Melany, of course. I was able to finish about three quarters
of the apron, sewing three panels and a waistband, until it was time
for me to leave for the day. The next time I interned, the following
Thursday, I finished the apron by applying the straps to the waist band.
After the apron was complete, I have to say, I was very impressed with
the work I had done! I would have never thought that someone with very
little experience could accomplish making something such as an apron,
something that I wouldn't think twice about just buying.
After conquering my fear of the sewing machine, I now am looking
forward to making more Christmas presents for the family. I can't wait
to see how they all turn out! Take a look at how the apron came out along with the fabric I was able to choose from. Just know that if
I were to sew an apron like this, anyone can! Stay tuned for the
If you haven't been to THIS blog - you're missing out. Maureen is a multi-talented soul who between designing, sewing, creating, blogging and selling - somehow finds time to be a wife and mom to three adorable little ones. When I launched my online shop I knew that Maureen's blog was one I'd want to sponsor and be connected with! She has not disappointed!
Today I am doing a giveaway on her blog... 7 yards of Michael Miller's Tipsy Square Canvas. Check it out and enter to win! This fabric is fresh and fun and could create endless wonders. ;)
Our Sewing Classes at Project Anthologies have been a big success!
I love that we've had a variety of ages, abilities and interest levels. There are people who have come back for 2, 3, and 4 or more classes. The feeling of creating something that didn't exist before just never gets old!
Upon opening my shop, my intention was to leave the teaching to others - but after getting my groove going with running the shop I became interested in teaching as well. I love sharing some of what I love to do with a new group of people and seeing how they put their own twist on it! Part of the fun with our classes is that the possibilities are endless for different projects. We have some new classes in the works and I can't wait to get going!
Please join us if you can! You can find classes that still have availability HERE (they have been selling out). And keep watching for more - I post them as we get them scheduled. I hope I'll see you posing with your project soon!
This is another simple dress pattern that my friend, Alyson turned me on to. It's the Audrey dress from Indygo Junction. The thing about this pattern...and all patterns for that matter, is that you can't always tell by the picture how cute it really is. I think both this one and the Cowl Neck dress look much better in person. I'm so glad she encouraged me to try them. They come together quite quickly and I imagine I'll be making many more in different fabrics.
I had been dying to make something with Anna Maria's Field Study line. I think it's my favorite new line this fall. Don't tell the others though.
So - here it is in Sinister Swarm with a little Field Study coordinate belt. Do you like? That's me at my 40th birthday party this weekend. I'm learning that a huge perk to knowing how to sew (and having my shop) is that I can make myself something fancy right in time for a party. ;)