Friday, November 29, 2013

Craftsy Class: How To Teach It

I love Craftsy classes. For those of you who haven't tried them, they're video classes that are accessible all of the time. I've been watching classes on a PC, but you can also watch them on any device with a high-speed internet connection. More information about that is here. It's something to consider if you ever end up waiting a long time in an airport or something like that.

I ran into Gwen Bortner of Knitability at TNNA this year and she told me about her How To Teach It class. (I took a class from her, last year, on knitting back backwards.) Gwen said that her class would be good for anyone thinking of teaching at any level. I agree.

I have taught knitting, informally. I have taught photography and bellydance for money, and those have been awesome experiences. I wanted to take her Craftsy class because I'm thinking about trying to teach knitting in a more structured environment.

I'm on lesson 4 (out of 10), and so far I've already learned a lot. Gwen made great handouts with things like sample contracts for teachers. When you buy the class, you can download them and print them for future reference. As a photographer, I have purchased entire books to get the rights to use one model release form, so having a solid contract template is important to me.

Here's the breakdown of lessons within this particular class:
1) Meet Gwen (she's awesome!)
2) The Business of Teaching
3) Class Development
4) Project Development
5) Marketing
6) Teaching Logistics
7) Personal Best Practices
8) Best Practices in the Classroom
9) Going National
10) Tips for Shop Owners

One feature I haven't used before on Craftsy is video notes. Basically, you can add bookmarks with your comments anywhere you want during a class's video. This is great for keeping track of points you want to revisit later. I've been using it a lot on this class.

I don't always take full advantage of class chat rooms. You can ask and answer questions from other students or ask the teacher for help. It's nice to know that help and suggestions are just a few keystrokes away.

If you haven't tried a Craftsy class before, I encourage you to try one. They are always full of good information and well worth the cost.

P.S. - All of the Craftsy online classes are on sale right now (through 12/2) for $19.99 or less. That's up to 66% off.

P.P.S. - The random number generator chose ikkinlala as the winner of Head to Toe. Thanks for commenting!

Thursday, November 28, 2013


If you want to: 

- Curl up at home at eat turkey. 
- Be with your family. 
- Call your family because you can't travel right now. 
- Try to make a gluten-free version of an old favorite.
- Celebrate ancient traditions and new ones. 
- Meet up with old friends or make new ones.
- Get ready for the end of the year. 


and anything else you want to do today, I hope you get to. :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Doesn't Everyone Have a Tower of Scarves?

Tower of Scarves, courtesy of weaving.

My Partner: "What do you think we should give people this year for Christmas?"

Me: "Oh, I have so, so GOT that managed."

P.S. - There's a huge sale starting over at Craftsy today. Up to 80% off yarn!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Speed Swatch Hidden Feature

I can't show you the front of today's swatch because it's a secret for now. But, I discovered an extra feature of my speed swatch.

Most knitters, including me, have different gauges when they work in the round instead of working back and forth. To deal with that, I often make speed swatches. Using dpn or circular needles, I work to the end of the swatch. I don't turn the work, but just slide it back to the beginning of the needle, bring the working yarn around the back and start working again.

This does leave an unattractive mess on the back of the work, but who's looking, right?

I like to steam my swatches so that they behave and photograph better. For something small, I just use a kettle of water boiling on the stove. I don't like to be burned or leave tong marks on the swatch. So, I just hung the swatch by its messy back side over the kettle.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Design Inspiration: Schaad Hat

I always need a Christmas present for my dad, Schaad. He's not an easy man to knit for (are any of them?)

He lives in a warm-ish climate, has enormous feet (so no socks), and when I made him golf club covers years ago he decided they were too nice to use and put them in a shadowbox.
A compliment, of a sort, but I want to knit things people will use. So, I turned out this hat.
This is an easy,ribbed hat in two sizes - one to fit adults and one for babies. There is a lot of stretch in the ribbing, so the “adult” hat will fit most children, too.
If making it for a child, consider making the hat about an inch (2.5 cm) shorter, before the crown shaping.
The end of the pattern has notes for making a hat in almost any gauge, which was fun.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Why You Want A Kitchen Scale

I have a small kitchen scale at home. I use it to measure yarn, fiber, and (now that we're gluten free at home) ingredients for baking.

I feel it's important to have one, as a designer, because I use it to see how much of that 100-gram skein of sock yarn I REALLY used. I can then do some math and see how many sizes are possible with one skein.

Now that I have one, I can't see how I went without it. It's even better if you use it to help manage your stash on Ravelry. If you check out my stash page for the yarn above, you'll see that I have about 360 yards left of this particular yarn. In Ravelry, you can plug in the percentage you have of a skein of yarn (in this case, 80%), and it figures out the leftover yardage for you.

Why does this matter? 360 yards isn't a lot of sock yarn. But, I can use the Pattern Browser and Advanced Search for patterns on Ravelry to see that over 6,000 patterns use less than 300 yards of this type of yarn. So, instead of stash diving, I can "pattern dive" for my next project.

Incidentally, if someone out there searches stashes for this particular yarn and discovers that I have just enough to save their bacon and let them finish a project, then I can be their personal hero. That is always a good thing, and wouldn't be possible without a precise way to measure my leftover yarn.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

(Comment to Win!) Book Review: Head to Toe

Katya Frankel’s designs are always adorable and the 24 patterns in Head to Toe: Kids' Knit Accessories, just released by Cooperative Press, showcase her amazing talent and relaxed style.

Back Hand Hitch

Divided into “Head Things,” “Neck Things,” “Hand Things” and “Foot Things,” the patterns cover a range of ages that can challenge any knitter. They aren’t babies, and they aren’t adults. But, we still want to knit for them.

A handy size chart  on page 9 will help clear up any confusion if the recipient of your knit isn’t available for measuring (or you want to keep their gift a surprise). Sizes and measurements of everything are given in both inches and centimeters.

A small, but detailed, technique section covers everything from short rows to what the author means when she says “work each stitch as it presents itself."

One of my favorite patterns is “Northumberland.” The sport-weight hat has just enough colorwork to make it interesting, while still working well for both boys and girls. All of the patterns in the book are versatile in that way, which is great.

"Foot Things" are all knit from the top down, except for the Roam Slippers.

Cooperative Press is offering one lucky reader a treat: a free copy of the e-edition of the book. Leave a comment with either your favorite design from Head to Toe or your most cherished memory of kid knits by midnight on November 28, 2013. I will select a winner at random on November 29. Good luck!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I Guess This Is The Week When I Freak Out About Things (in a good way)

Annie's photo, used with her permission.

Annie Modesitt, one of my favorite people/knitters/teachers/designers, is starting her own yarn line! I could not be more excited. I love how she works with color and can't wait to see what she does for the rest of us to enjoy.

If you aren't familiar with her work, check out her Dreamcatcher CardiganImperial Cable & Plaid Poncho and the Asquint Skirt. (The skirt is crochet, but Annie makes crochet awesome.)

Einstein said "It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge." Annie has been that, for me. If you ever have a chance to take an in-person class with her, do it. If you can't, buy her books.

I cannot stress her influence on me as a knitter and person too strongly. She's right up there with Elizabeth Zimmermann in showing what is possible and that following the beat of your own drum is the only way to go.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Christmas is Coming Early - The Yarn Harlot Will Be Here

Can we just stipulate that I am WAY TOO EXCITED about Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (The Yarn Harlot) coming to speak and teach here in Fort Wayne?

All of the details are on the Simply Socks Yarn Company blog. Be there or be sorry!

P.S. - The random number generator chose auntsandee as the winner of the free copy of my Sherwood Slippers pattern. Thanks to all who commented!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Design Inspiration: Hold Me Close Shawl

Almost exactly a year ago, I knit this shawl out of my own handspun Jacob yarn. It uses a lot of the same techniques as the Eulalia Shawl. But, instead of curling stockinette at the beginning and end, I made sure the shawl has a smooth, double-knit edge all of the way around. It is also worked at a much larger gauge and has a little extra detail at the top, by the neck. Test knitters helped me work out some issues with the instructions and the pattern was pretty much ready to go.

I had a small problem, however. I didn't know what to name it.

Some relatives were visiting from out of town, and they agreed to pose with the shawl for photos. When I handed it to my sister-in-law, she immediately wrapped it around herself and gave me a 10,000-watt smile. The Hold Me Close shawl was born!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Flash Sale!

Craftsy is having a flash sale this Friday & Saturday on Yarn and Fabric at up to 80% off! You can check out each sale here: 

Craftsy yarn sale! Save up to 80% on yarn for 48 hours, November 15 & 16.

Craftsy fabric sale! Save up to 65% on fabric for 48 hours, November 15 & 16.

The sale only lasts 48 hours and products will sell out fast, head over to Craftsy today and check some items off your crafting wish list! 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Knitting for Chelsea's Light

When Dream in Color put out the call on their Facebook page for volunteer knitters to help the Chelsea's Light Foundation, I jumped at the chance.

From their call:

"Part of what Chelsea’s Light Foundation does is offer college scholarships to young changemakers. Every year, Kelly King (Chelsea’s mother) knits hats and/or scarves for a care package for the young men and women in this program. This year Kelly has been very busy organizing the next Finish Chelsea’s Run, which raises most of the money for Chelsea’s Light Foundation, and she ran out of time to make everything."

They gathered the knitters they needed quickly. Who doesn't love to knit for a great cause?

I made "It's A Cinch," a free pattern by Elisa McLaughlin. I made it in the Smooshy in Autumn Rainbow that Dream in Color sent me. It took about two episodes of Boardwalk Empire to knit.

My only problem? I'm now kind of obsessed with Autumn Rainbow. Sigh. So gorgeous.

If you want to help out Chelsea's Light in a knitterly way, consider buying a Chelsea's Shawl kit. Lovely yarn and a fun knit that benefits a good cause. What could be better?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My Furry Companions

I can't help it. I need to show you photos of our kitties. They just got lion cuts and look like something Dr. Seuss invented.

Travis, a.k.a. T-cakes

Boomer, a.k.a. Boo
Both of our boys were rescues. Boomer was adopted as a kitten by my sister, who later had to give him to me. He's about 10 years old now. I adopted Travis as an adult from a shelter. He could be 10. He has a lot of kittenish energy, but sometimes he walks like a little old man and I think he might be older than that.

Why did we shave our long-haired cats? It wasn't to avoid cat hair - with these guys that's unavoidable. Since they're a little older, they can't reach everywhere to groom as well as they used to. So, they get matts and clumps of hair and that's bad for their health and happiness.

Most cats hide for a few days after a haircut. Embarrassment? Anger? Not our boys. Travis even seems more laid-back and happy than usual. He can be kind of a scaredy-cat and it's nice to see him relax. 

They are great companions and generally good with leaving yarn alone. If something smells especially "sheepy," Boomer will sometimes chew through an unattended strand of yarn. Ditto for spinning fluff. I once found him face-down in a pile of Cheviot roving.

They love to watch me spin, especially Travis. He pays close attention when I'm knitting, too, but that seems to be mostly because he is waiting for me to put down my needles. If I stop to so much as get a glass of water, he jumps in my lap and wants cuddles. There are worse problems to have!

Do you have furry friends? Are you insanely attached to them?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Yarn is Gone, But the Joy Doesn't Have To Be

I was tooling around Ravelry this morning and found, to my horror, that Cascade 128 Wool has been discontinued!

Cascade 128 superwash is still around. But that won't work for even lightly-felted items like my Sherwood Slippers.

What to do? You could knit the slippers with two strands of Cascade 220 held together. One skein of yarn might be enough, but you are safer with two.

Want to try the pattern but don't have Cascade 128 Wool in your stash? Leave a comment on this post by midnight (EST) on 11/18/13 and tell me which yarn you would use to knit the pattern.

On 11/19/13, I'll choose a comment using a random number generator and give away a copy of the pattern.

(Interested, but already have the pattern? Let me know which one of my patterns you've been wanting to try and I'll give you that one instead.)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Design Inspiration: Square Route Mitts

Part of the story of my Square Route Mitts is really about the awesomeness level of Shannon Okey. (Hint: It's a high level of awesome.)

I sent the pattern notes to her with some photos of a version of these smocked mitts in a worsted-weight yarn. She emailed me back: Great idea! The gauge, maybe, is not the best, though. 

I love that she saw potential in the idea, encouraged me to pursue it, and published the final pattern.

I made up a version in the scrummy Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Merino

Well, not only did Shannon publish it, she made it the cover of the second issue of Knit Edge magazine.

Pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

If You're Thinking of Shopping at Craftsy, Anyway...

Please consider getting there through my affiliate links, like this one: Improve Your Knitting: Alternative Methods, Patty Lyons. It will help me justify the amount of time I spend writing this blog. :)

  Knitting Supplies at

Personal Knitting

It's a rare thing, but sometimes I still get to knit for myself (or my home, anyway).

Right now it's a (free!) pattern I called the Surprise Bitter Knitter Pattern because my knitting group, the Bitter Knitters, used it to make an afghan for one of our members when he moved away.

It's easy and the size 10 needles make the work feel fast. The yarn is such a dark navy, it's almost black, so I have to make sure I have ok light in which to knit.

I will make either four 60-inch panels or five, depending on when I run out of yarn. It's Cascade 128 - a favorite of mine.

I'm using straight needles so that I can knit using the method I learned a while ago from the Yarn Harlot. She calls it "lever" or "Irish Cottage" knitting. It's fast and efficient, but I can only use it with long straight needles.

There are a few videos of the method here.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Sherwood Slippers Are Out!

Sherwood Slippers are toe-up, lightly-felted slippers for when you need just a little extra padding and warmth - perfect for when you’ve kicked off your shoes at home. They are felted to fit the wearer.

There is no grafting and you can choose between two methods of casting on. It’s the best of both worlds! I made these slippers just to take advantage of the construction techniques I loved. After I made them, they reminded me of Robin Hood, hence the name. They fold very flat, so they’re great for when you’re traveling with your merry men and ladies.

The final slipper should be about the same size as the foot of the wearer. 

Yarn: Cascade 128 Wool. 128 yards (117 meters)/100 grams (3.53 ounces). 1 [1, 1, 2] skeins. Sample shown in Red, in Women’s Medium.

Needles: Whatever type of needle you prefer for working in the round in a small circumference, plus a spare needle. Size #10 (6.0 mm) needles, or size needed to get gauge.

You will also need: 4 stitch markers; a stitch holder or waste yarn.

Gauge: 15 sts and 22 rows in 4 inches/10 cm of stockinette stitch, after felting.

Sizes: To fit U.S. Women's Small [Women’s Medium, Women’s Large/Men's Medium, Men’s Large]; Slippers are meant to have 0 ease (in other words, actually be around the size of the foot) and are 8 [9, 9.6, 10.66] inches/ 20.25 [23, 24.5, 27] cm around and 8.66 [9.66, 10.66, 11] inches/ 22 [24.5, 27, 28] cm long. The length can be adjusted, simply look for the note in the pattern. 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Ply Magazine

I was late to the game with Ply Magazine and missed out on the first issue, which makes me very sad. 

It is awesome! The Color issue covered, as you might guess, a lot of ways of managing color in your spinning. Some of it is information I've seen before, but it was nice to see it in such a bright, punchy format. There are lots of photos of techniques, so you don't have to guess about what is actually going on when the twist hits the fiber. 

My favorite piece was called Hot Button: Predrafting. Four different spinners gave their take on predrafting. Responses ranged from "I say 'prepare'!" to "Predrafting is the Devil." No matter where you fall on this issue, it is a great read. It's always nice to get more than one complete, detailed answer about the whys and hows of any craft. (For the record, I don't like predrafting, and now Michelle Boyd has given me good reasons to back up my preference.)

Along with all of the spinning information, there are also a few knitting patterns, profiles of fiber artists and reviews of tools. A+! I can't wait to see the next issue.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Design Inspiration: Für Eloise Shawl

Fur Eloise is another pattern that started out as a pattern in a kit for Simply Socks Yarn Company. Sadly, you can't buy more of the yarn it was designed for, individually. But, you can buy the pattern from me. 

This easy, top-down shawl shows off handpainted yarns perfectly. Increases and decreases create zigzags within the fabric.
Where the yarn colors line up and would normally create pools, the stitch pattern transforms them into intricate-looking pops of color.
With that said, sometimes yarn + pattern produces effects that are hard to predict. (But that's what makes it fun!)

Kath Gordon, one of my testers, used a great yarn that I've never seen before  (probably because it's German). It's called Superba Poems and it's by Rico Design. It has super-long color repeats, which make the shawl she made look almost as if it was knit with stripes of yarn. 

Photo by Kath Gordon. Used with her permission.
Another tester, Jan, used all but three yards of a skein (yikes!) of Cascade Yarns Heritage 150 Paints to make her version

Jan doesn't mess around when blocking!

Another great yarn for this pattern would be Friea Handpaint's Flux Fingering Weight. It would take three skeins to work, but it would be very worth it.

I would also love to see it in 4 skeins of Painter's Palette Premium Merino by Koigu, 2 skeins of Socks that Rock Lightweight by Blue Moon Fiber Arts, or a very subtle 2 skeins of tosh merino light by madelinetosh. I will probably never have time to knit more versions of this shawl, but a girl can dream...

Friday, November 01, 2013

Now Live: Keys to the Castle and Updated Für Eloise Shawl

I've updated the files on Ravelry and will add them to Craftsy later today. I'll share more details about the process of the shawl on Monday. For now, I'm just really happy to start out November with one new pattern and one updated one!

Buy Now: Keys to the Castle Baby Sweater

Buy Now: Für Eloise Shawl