Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Waiting for the zipper to come for Janet’s ‘Omega’ and I just sorta unconsciously or maybe it could be said involuntarily, started knitting again without a definite plan – that’s what I was telling myself anyway! I still had the sleeve chart in the knit contour, didn't need to bother with a swatch for gauge and I had this cone of ‘olive garden’ wool crepe deluxe that had been kicking around my knitting room for the past almost two years that I couldn’t quite decide what to do with. I had ordered it back when Janet wanted a new dress in a print and there must have been a sale or clear-out or something because I had 3 cones of variegated stuff that I usually avoid at all costs unless it’s for socks. One was the ‘watercolour’ (royal, navy, peacock), that I did her dress in (and later managed to eke out a TLR cardi for her as well
 - I was sure it was colours she really likes and that I do not - I hate when I make something for someone else and it turns out spectacular and I must give it away! And, I admit, I do sometimes get carried away when placing a mail order - I think of the time waiting for it to arrive and if it's not what I really want, then I have to wait that long again for the second order to come so I might as well go all out and have a few choices in the first order, right? That's how I ended up with the olive garden (plum green, beigey-pink that she might like) and my third choice, 'tacoma' (quite dark, browns, black and a bit of green that I probably could like, just in case - of what, who knows?)
Back to the olive garden WCD, I did knit a couple of  small samples – one in stockinette and one in that Tuck Lace Rib and I couldn’t say yay or nay, it just was not speaking to me…
You might be asking, MAO, what do you have against variegated yarn? Well, it’s the patches or spots or weird diamondy things that happen in stockinette when you aren’t really wanting it to, especially in larger pieces and they won’t ever be the same, especially with different widths/number of stitches. When I made Janet’s dress, I’m sure that I just got lucky and the diamondy things appeared from the waist to just under the bust and looked nice when the dress was on.
I thought of the usual ways to avoid the spottiness, like sideways knitting and mixing in another yarn but again nothing was really appealing to me. While I was knitting Janet’s hoodie, it crossed my mind that I’d been noticing yoga wear hoodies with saddle shoulder sleeves in a print fabric, with solid body and that’s when I just started to knit the sleeve of Omega, figuring there might be enough shaping all over the sleeve to really change up the colour stacking and maybe offer something that would work for me without having to actually knit fairisle which would make the sleeves thicker than the rest of the garment and I didn’t want that. By the time I finished the second sleeve, I was hooked on this fabric – it sort of reminds me of a ‘camo’ print and if I do the body plain – the leftover ‘rosemary’ WCD looks nice with it and I just happen to have a zipper that may work too! Bonus!
Notice the flat hood at the bottom of the photo – it is basically a straight piece, same width all the way up with no increases or decreases and see how the fabric ends up with short, little stripy bits and no splotches or diamonds until the shortrows at the top, whereas the sleeves have both splotches and diamonds randomly throughout because the width of the knitting is constantly changing. When the sleeve is formed into a circle that won’t be so in-your-face noticeable as if it were on the front of the garment. Fingers crossed! I made the sleeves a little extra long in case I don't end up liking it and have to give it away..

Monday, January 30, 2017

confessions of a waste yarnaholic...

I know you’re going to think I’m totally weird. After all, I’ve been beating you up about not wasting waste yarn for years. I’ve been at hands-on workshops where people were spending more time re-winding waste yarn than they were actually getting any knitting done. I harassed you about it, I admit - it just seemed so unproductive, time-consuming and increased the probability of things going wrong.
I used to purchase a couple of cones of Bramwell fine 4 ply (100% acrylic in a nice T6-8 weight that works well for almost anything, great yardage, lasts a long time) per year to use specifically for waste yarn and of course, toss it! Because that’s what waste yarn was for – to waste! In fact, in one of the most embarrassing moments of my life, I was overheard by a member of the Bramwell family - when asked my opinion of that yarn in a workshop, I proudly stated it made great waste yarn – I still turn red thinking about that! No regrets though, it was my honest opinion! They didn’t call me the natural fibre princess for nothing!  
a bed of worms!
And, it still does – make great waste yarn, I mean, but I have succumbed to the necessity of re-using it. Oh, you can think badly of me, I don’t mind! But I have found a way to make it easy to re-use, without the necessity of re-winding it.

rehanging stitches from waste yarn
remove ravel cord to make worm
Make a worm: start off with the weaving cast-on for single bed knitting. Select every other needle, put the weaving brushes down, place one of those clippy things on the tail (it will look after the end, freeing up your hand), lay that end over the selected needles and then thread the other side up into the yarn feeder in the carriage. Knit several rows as you would for that cast-on. Gradually tighten the tension/stitch size so that the last 2-3 rows are at one number lower than the main tension for your project. This will make the stitches of your first row that you will be picking up pop out and be easier to manage. Now knit a row of disposable ravel cord. I have this cone of a hard-twist rayon yarn in white, that is quite strong and slippery. I knit a row of that and cut it off so I have about 6 inches at each end, for easy removal. Now begin the main yarn, whether it is a fixed edge cast-on or just working off the open stitches already there. Get your piece knit. After you rehang the piece and join it to something else or whatever, pull out the ravel cord to release your waste yarn worm.

holding worm up so it unravels
using worm for weaving cast-on
Use a worm: Set up for the weaving cast-on again as above. Now holding the ‘waste-yarn-worm’ in one hand, use the other hand to move the carriage across, and lift the worm with your other hand, holding it above the carriage so it doesn’t get caught up or tangled and it will unravel as it is needed. Adjust the tension, gradually tightening it so your last two (or so) rows are one number tighter than your main tension will be. When you almost run out of yarn from the worm, that’s the end of your waste yarn rows – don’t trim the tail. Now to re-use it, it’s quite easy to see which end was the weaving cast-on – take the other end because it will unravel freely and repeat the above. I have several worms, for full-width cast-ons, like the back of the garment and some smaller ones that can be half the front or a cuff – you want to make sure you have 8 to 10 rows of waste yarn, but more is better and when re-using them they are more versatile with a few more rows rather than less…
At the end of a piece, normally I would just knit the waste yarn because it unravels from the top but then you'd have to re-wind it - to make a worm, knit a row of ravel cord before the waste yarn and then the ravel cord can be pulled out, resulting in a new worm! ;-) I'm not trying to squirm out of this...

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

i was wrong...

again...I don’t plan to make a habit of it, even though the past few weeks may seem like it! What I’m talking about this time is, I was wrong thinking that the brass zipper wouldn’t look good in my brown linen 1RT GirlFriend Hoodie…I mentioned last week, when I was multitasking, that I hadn’t liked the way was the zipper was and I washed it after removing the nylon tooth zipper. Yesterday, re-evaluating the front edges of the hoodie after being laundered, I decided that I had installed a-too-short zipper. I pinned in the nylon 20-inch one (same length as the one I shortened) and put the hoodie on and it did the same thing as the old one, buckled out like I had major stomach issues. Yikes! Took that one out and pinned in the remaining brown 22-inch with brass teeth, put it on and it looked excellent! I sewed the zipper in properly , put it on again and it’s perfect. I wore it all afternoon/evening and it was still fine. I put it on again this morning, with a white tank underneath, hoping I could get a decent photo to show you. I went over to son Derek’s after lunch and asked him to take a photo – I have a goofy look on my face, like I must have been talking, but who cares? You can really see the garment well and what's more important? I was hoping that putting white underneath would show how thin/lightweight/see-through-ish the fabric turned out and it shows up very nicely. I held out the bottom so you could see how the A-line shape is – I really like this! I know you’re going to get right on making yours now!

Monday, January 23, 2017

i was in denial...

I didn't really look closely at the second front - I was on a roll, knitting pieces like no one’s business, hand stitching the cuffs and bands, joining pieces and admiring my progress! Right down to the end, collar and hood are on, all pieces seamed, ends darned in and then, funny, it seemed that one front was longer than the other. Maybe I was too enthusiastic when I pressed it? In my haste to get this done and be able to order the zipper (yes, even though I do have 2 light blue options, I’m not completely happy with either even if the length is right) - I made the chained edging for the shorter side and completely ignoring the fact that the other front edge appears to be a good 5 cm/2 inches longer. (On that last blogpost photo, I bodged the pieces and hid the longer front under the cast-on edge of the hood – who was I kidding? like you knew?) I even attempted to hang that side on the same needles, hoping to 'ease' in the excess but had to abort! It just wasn’t going to work. So, still with the utmost confidence, I figured I'd wash it and that would fix the obvious problem - I must have stretched it in my original pressing when it came off the machine.
good to go!
Nope, that didn't work! Facing the fact that I must have followed the Back instructions instead of the Front, I now, very calmly with no swears, began picking out the seam between the sleeve/shoulder, hoping against all odds that I could salvage this operation...OMG! It worked. With the undoing of that single seam, I was able to unravel the left front back down to the start of the underarm  - I know how many stitches and what row I should be on -  a piece of cake!
 Fake it till you make it!

Monday, January 16, 2017


 I’m breaking in my new hiking boots, copying all my old cds onto my new-for-Christmas iPod, knitting little/big sister Janet a hoodie and laundering/fixing some knitted things. New hiking boots because Janet and I are heading to New Zealand with a stopover in Australia on a hiking trip from Christchurch to Queensland on the South Island - leaving mid-February, returning mid-March and it's her birthday while we're gone so I figured the hoodie would be an appropriate gift. Wearing the hiking boots around the house for a few days before heading out is a good way to break them in, no matter what you’re doing. I am making my Omega (from Serial Stuff #4) hoodie for Janet instead of the GFH for a couple of reasons - she remembered seeing me wearing my dill/black hoodie when we went to Europe two years ago, and wanted one like it. Omega is quite a bit fancier, not only the yarn being Wool Crepe Deluxe, but it is kind of a cross between a raglan and a saddle-shouldered sleeve, more fitted and dressier than your average cotton hoodie. It is thinner and fits under a coat or jacket nicely. Also for packing, a hoodie out of wool crepe deluxe packs smaller than the same thing out of the thicker cotton that I originally used for the GFH. She really liked the idea of two colours and we settled on swordfish blue and midnight tweed - I know she is going to end up wearing it with her French navy dress at some point and at least it will match colourwise! ;-)
Holey-ness is in the laundry along with my brown linen GFH - I wore it a couple of times and love it but the #3 molded plastic zipper (that I had shortened) started to pouch out at the bottom??? Why? I have no idea but I got my second order of zippers and decided to switch out that one for the thinner # 3 nylon coil one.
I un-picked the zipper and threw the garment in the laundry (along with Holey-ness – no point in washing just one) just because - maybe I had inadvertently stretched it out while installing the zipper (?) and washing it would reset the stitches...I'll post again on how it turns out later but that brings me to the Omega I'm working on right now. I have it almost all knit, just need to finish putting it together and I've decided that I want to sew the zipper in with the sewing machine – I find that so much easier and quicker than hand stitching, so I’m using the stabilizing technique for the front edges from MFH/GFH instead of the stockinette bands from the original Omega which required hand-stitching the zip
oh, and I threw in the stuff about the ipod just to make it seem like I'm much more tech-savvy than I really am! ;-)

Monday, January 9, 2017

taking measures....

Have you ever had an idea to do something but you keep putting it off and mentally saying, okay, next time…well, every time I need to measure something quickly, I spend a huge amount of time searching for a tape measure. Now, I probably have at least two tape measures in every room of my house, if I knew where they were at any given moment but those things, I swear, have legs and run and hide every time I want one. And then you take the time to roll it up and put it in a new safe place for next time…and I kept thinking, there’s got to be a way to have a tape measure placed permanently, like you know, in the fabric store where they have them built in to the table top…and it finally dawned on me – on the front edge of my desk! I had briefly entertained putting it on the front of my LK150 table but if you were knitting,
the fabric would be in the way. I toyed with the idea of using a yard stick but mine has imperial on one side and metric on the other so that was out. I wanted to have both centimetres and inches - I think in centimetres for knitting anyway but I always like to have the inch conversion there too so after I found it this time, I took a cm/inch tape measure and glue gunned it to the front of my desk! You can’t miss it – no more searching and wasting time! And it seems like you have another hand - I can hold up my swatch, stretch it and figure out how many stiches I`ll need for the front bands on this new `holey-ness`…

Saturday, January 7, 2017

life lessons...

There I was working on my fourth piece in a row – there is nothing more satisfying than completing one full lace piece without a single hitch or dropped stitch but I had 2 Sleeves and the Back done perfectly. Of course, I got cocky and thinking of you, decided to give you a little ‘shortrows with ravel cord’ lesson as a refresher, you know. Big of me, right? Yeah, I can laugh now…I was perking along, writing a few sentences, going back and knitting a row or two, checking what I wrote, taking a photo or two and feeling magnanimous and proud and suddenly realized that I blew right by the start of the vee neck shaping! ARRGGH!!!
4 perfect pieces!
I turned back my knit radar, row by row and what do you know, I was over by 14 rows – this will be a piece of cake! My stitch pattern is a 14 row repeat so I won’t even have to re-read my lace stitch pattern – just rip back the 14 rows and I’ll be back on track, ready to shape the neckline half way through the underarm decreases which I’m doing with shortrowing instead of casting off each decrease – it makes a much smoother line, is neater for finishing and I usually find it much quicker than casting off at the edge on every other row which ends up with a step line. Calmly, I ripped out the 14 rows - didn’t take too long, and of course, still feeling superior and totally confident, I re-threaded and resumed my lace knitting and shortrowing and shaping at the neck side as well. After about 10 rows, I realized the sound of the lace carriage wasn’t quite right and stopped to inspect. ARRGGH! It was only transferring the stitches from left to right and not the other way. I panicked, thinking my lace carriage was broken. OMG! This is a catastrophe! I was going to drop it all from the machine in a fit of rage but decided to leave it for tomorrow. Man, good advice, MAO – know when to walk away! This morning, down a few pegs, I checked my needle arrangement and saw that in the undoing, I had messed up the 2-working-one-not needle arrangement part way across the row so it couldn’t transfer the stitches going to the left because those needles were now out of work! And now, I had no idea what row I was supposed to be on because I had turned off the machine and reset things before I figured out the real issue. Do I abandon it or attempt to pull off the coup of my knitting life? Ah, what the heck? May as well give it a try…the machine knitting gods were on my side today! I ripped out the rows that were incorrect, guessed that I was now on row 3, programmed it and gosh, darn it worked! Life is good!
To shortrow/decrease with ravel cord and deal with needles out of work:

step 2
step 3
To shortrow at right side, at underarm point, knit to left. At right side, fill in any empty needles that are within plus one of the stitches to be ‘decreased’, e.g., 5 sts. Using ravel cord, knit 4 sts back to A position. Knit to right (step 1). At carriage side (right) take next stitch back to A – this takes the place of the wrapping if you were using holding position and completes the 5 st decrease. Knit to left. The next decrease would be 4 sts. Fill in empty needles within that plus 1 and knit 3 stitches back to A with ravel cord. Knit one row to right. Take the one stitch at the carriage side back to A. Continue in this manner until all stitches to be cast-off/decreased are in A position. If there is only 1 stitch to be decreased per two rows, take it back on the carriage side only, to prevent holes in your edge. When all stitches are held in A position– carriage will be at left. Knit to right. Unthread yarn from carriage and carefully pull out ravel cord from left to right and the stitches and wraps should just pop back up into the hooks of the needles. 
 4- pull out ravel cord
5 - manually knit same size row

Take the main yarn and hand knit those stitches as close to main tension as you can get, going from left to right. Now, on those same stitches, hand knit a loose row (larger than main tension) right to left. Chain off those stitches from right to left, ending at the new edge of the work and place the last stitch on the new end needle to anchor. Re-thread and continue knitting!

6 - manually knit loose row
This gives a nice, smooth curve with a minimal edge that won’t look too thick or heavy in your finished garment, perfect for lace, tuck lace.  
Hope this makes sense!
You may notice marks of the needle bed to indicate every 9th stitch repeat for the ruffly rib - I found this invaluable - use a non-permanent water soluble marker that is easy to remove with a moistened Q-tip.

7 - cast off

Machine knit like you could earn a living at it! ;-)


Friday, January 6, 2017


So, you might be wondering why, if I still have the original ‘Ruffles and Lace’, would I want to be remaking this garment? The Bonita cotton isn’t going to wear out – I could say that it even still fits but only if I have the old huge shoulder pads that we were wearing back then! I did get it out last year and tried it on when I was looking for something to wear for a family wedding but the sleeve cap/depth of the armhole was just not working for me now. And what a shame because it is still a nice garment! I tried pulling it this way and that and decided there was no reviving it as is – it would have to be taken apart and re-knit and we all know that wouldn’t happen! I love the lace pattern and I love the trim/ruffly rib edging so why not re-do it?
To revamp this and make it 2017 wearable, I am going to change the sleeve to an elbow-length with a more fitted width and depth in the cap/underarm area. I’ll raise the v-neck and shorten the whole thing to high-hip length and add that little bit of A-line shaping to the body that I have become so fond of.
schematic from 1999
The original half-sleeve width at the underarm (I - for my size) was 23 cm, it will now be 18 cm; J changes from 20 cm to 15cm; K goes from 35 cm to 16 cm; H at 12 cm becomes 14 cm – wow, what a difference a fitted sleeve makes. Really the only change to the body is to slope the shoulder slightly by 1.5 cm, narrow the neck and shoulder width by 1 cm each and alter the depth of the underarm shaping, reducing it by 1 cm – which will actually change it by 2.5 cm when you add in the shoulder shaping.
2017 shape
Oh yeah, I changed the depth of the hem and only did 4 rows of the transfers – not just to get it over faster, but I didn’t feel like the shortened length needed to have as much extra weight at the hemline. And my swatch, I went with T5 (2 full numbers tighter than my original T7) for the lace and for the rib went 2 numbers down for all those instructions. The ruffly rib is a 9-stitch repeat so for all my hems, I will plan to be within that for a nice match at the seams. For example, on the sleeve, according to the schematic, I should have 46 sts each side, but the band will match when seamed if there are 45-0-45 ns so I start with the 45-0-45 needles, knit the band and transfer the stitches up. Knit a row  2 numbers higher than main tension to get rid of the doubled sts and allow for that row not to be too tight so the band won’t be kicking out. Then, when transferring to the every third needle out of work for the lace pattern, fudge the edges so you can increase to 47-0-46 ns so there are 2 plain sts at each edge and to make up the extra stitch for the lace pattern to be symmetrical.
I’m going to shut up and get knitting!
 Machine knit like you have a deadline! 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017


the cover garment
What are the odds? That I would pick a pattern with a mistake in it! Well, actually, maybe I don’t want to know…the fact there was a mistake or that it was never found…does it mean no one actually tried this pattern, maybe…or did they get frustrated and simply give up? I can only laugh about it now and apologize.
back in the day before digital photos!

I had been thinking about lace –  been a while since I’ve used my lace carriage and its always been one of my favourite techniques, especially on the Silver Reed as the single action lace carriage allows one to knit a simple lace pattern as easily as stockinette because this lace carriage transfers and knits with the yarn in the feeder. So, my choice is ‘Ruffles and Lace’ from KW#10 – back in Autumn ’99. I made the original one for myself and did wear it many times. I remember, in particular, at a show in Dallas, while standing in line at the fashion show, Danis McWest commented on it and asked where I got the lace carriage for the bulky machine? I explained that it was done on the standard gauge but every third needle was out of work which made for the larger holes. He thought I was brilliant (or at least that’s what he said! ;-)) The original was made using Bonita cotton (4ply mercerized, 1850 yds/500g, T8-9 stockinette) and though I still  have several colours of Bonita, I wanted something lighter weight – thinking of that summertime thing and checked to see what I had. Going through the index files, I saw I used Yeomans Brittany ( 2ply cotton, double stranded, 3000m/350g, T6-7 stockinette) quite a bit, but had never done an entire garment of lace so that was my starting point. Last week I had briefly entertained the thought of making another GirlFriend Hoodie in lace and was going to try the Brittany. D
Brittany washed
id a quick swatch (no hem) just to test out the lace pattern and make sure  of the correct needle selection. It knit up fine – the holey-ness was excellent but I wanted a better drape than this soft cotton produced.

mushroom swatch fresh off the machine
Then, Mina Dina (2200 yds/lb, T5-6 stockinette) popped into my head – it’s a rayon/cotton blend, very nice drape, a nice little sheen, quite a bit lighter than Bonita and I had this great mushroom colour, not brown, not beige, not gray but close. Began to make the Mini Dina swatch and as I knew that this would be the one, I started with the full needle ribbed hem and was shocked to find this glaring omission – not enough information for the average knitter to make this band! I am devastated! I felt simply awful and even after this length of time I feel obligated to share my shame with you! Here is the corrected info (because I, ever hopeful, know you’re going to try this out):
Ruffly Rib
Full needle rib, all needles working. Cast on waste yarn, knit about an inch. Circular, ravel cord, K2R.
CAL, MC, T4/4, knit zigzag row. Set to circular, T6/8, K2R. RC000. Cancel circular, everything knits, T8/8, K1R. Starting at centre, at each side of 0, *using 3 prong tool, transfer #2, 3, 4 , one needle space to n#1, 2, 3. n#4 is empty, #1 has 2 sts. Transfer #6, 7, 8, one space to n#7, 8, 9, #6 is empty, #9 has 2 sts. Repeat like this across row on knit bed only. Leave empty ns in work. Bring needles out, stitches behind latches, both beds. Knit 2 rows.* Repeat required number of times.
Got my swatch knit (see photo above) and even though it looks pretty loose and random, after washing, it looks fabulous! (see photo at right)
mushroom MD washed
Early this morning, I awoke with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach – I have a cold but this was different - that edging would be in one of my trims books…was the error there? You know that ole cut’n’paste trick? The good news - it is in ‘Knitting on the EDGE’ and it is correct, so I did obviously make a new swatch and have the correct information there (big sigh of relief).
Machine knit like you wrote the pattern!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

guilty pleasure...

I have something to admit – I loved Downton Abbey. No, let me say it again, I LOVE Downton Abbey! I just finished watching it again right from the beginning, on Netflix, just in time to catch the season 6 rerun on PBS. Actually, I think this is my third time…I forgot why Mary so hated Edith - I can’t stand her either, always so wishy-washy and desperate. And O’Brien, OMG!
I love the fashions, most of them anyway – the hats, especially. And old Lady Grantham, I adore her! She can do no wrong – my pet quote from her, after Rose’s mother asks for her assistance in telling Rose that her low-back dress is too risqué, Violet says, ‘ In my time, I’ve worn the crinoline, the bustle and leg o’ mutton sleeves. I’m not in a strong position to criticize!’
Last year when Mrs Patmore showed up in a dumb American scam show I was so disappointed in her! And Mosley…he certainly can play that down and out, oh-poor-me character. Thomas, I think in retrospect, is the best actor. A friend once said to me that the job of an actor was to make you believe in his/her role and elicit strong emotions - I totally hated him at times but in season 5 and 6 felt absolutely devastated for him, cried, and – spoiler alert – cheered at the ending. That is a great actor!
I could go on and on but the point is it’s brought me back to re-reading my KNITWORDS magazines and I’ve decided that I’m going to go back and remake some of my favourite projects along with a little updating here and there and maybe tell you about it…

All the best for 2017 and may you machine knit like you own a yarn shop!