Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Quick and Dirty Striping


Are you getting tired of untangling your colors and looking at big loopy "seam" stitches when you stripe in the round? It was driving me crazy when developing the Witch Warmers pattern. So I figured out a quick-and-dirty method of striping that saved my sanity.

The standard way of striping is to twist the two colors together at the beginning of each row, so the unused color is carried up the inside of the knitting.

My Quick and Dirty Way

Work the first stitch of each row with both colors held together. This leaves a multi-colored seamline, but it’s much faster and easier... fewer gaps and big stitches, no long threads showing on the front, fewer tangles between the skeins, etc.

This technique will give your in-the-round piece a bit smaller circumference, so you might consider using the next larger size in the pattern instructions.

Follow these steps at the beginning of every row, whether or not you change colors:
1. Before starting the first stitch, pull tightly on each color’s working yarn individually.
2. After knitting the first stich with both colors, again pull tightly on each strand individually.
3. Insert the right needle into the next (second) stitch in the row. Pull the working yarn for the one color to be used in that row tight, and proceed with the stitch.
4. Continue knitting normally in the one color, to the end of the row.

Note: for ribbed stripes as in the neckwarmer, it comes out better if you purl the 1st stitch of the round in the same color as the previous round, then use both colors to knit the 2nd stitch, and proceed with the correct color for the round on the 3rd stitch.

For more knitting tips that will help with Witch Warmers see
Preventing Uneven Ribs
Big Magic Loop
Closing the Bind-Off Gap
Preventing Ladders
Exquisite Striping in the Round
Adding a Color in the Round
Straightening and Joining in the Round
Magic Loop Rocks!
Short Witch Warmers
Black Attack: Working with Dark Yarn
Cast-Ons: Keeping Count
I Love Cable Cast-On
Swatch Wars

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Adding a Color in the Round


When striping in the round, here’s how to add a new color for the first time:

1. At the beginning of the round to be worked in the new color, work the first stitch with the new color, leaving a 4-inch tail behind. Continue working in the new color to the end of the round.

2. When you are ready to start the next round (with the new color again), hold the 4-inch tail together with the working yarn and work 3 stitches.

3. Drop what is left of the tail and continue the round.

4. A couple of rounds later, when the tail stitches have been knitted off the needles, pull on the end of the tail to tighten up the last doubled stitch.



For more knitting tips that will help with Witch Warmers see
Preventing Uneven Ribs
Big Magic Loop
Closing the Bind-Off Gap
Preventing Ladders
Exquisite Striping in the Round
Quick and Dirty Striping
Straightening and Joining in the Round
Magic Loop Rocks!
Short Witch Warmers
Black Attack: Working with Dark Yarn
Cast-Ons: Keeping Count
I Love Cable Cast-On
Swatch Wars

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sneak Peek... Gypsy Turban in Crochet


I've just finished re-designing the knitted Gypsy Turban pattern to be done in crochet. It will be for sale on Ravelry after it has been tested.

If you'd like to be a tester, please let me know and I'll email you the pattern for free. When I've got enough testers, the freebies will no longer be available. It's easy to make, and it takes about 200 - 250 yards of worsted weight yarn. I used one of the new Lily Sugar 'n' Cream Super Size skeins, and it was just the right amount for size medium, with the swatch frogged and used in the turban. One 236-yd. skein of Lion cotton works perfectly.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Straightening and Joining the First Round



The tricky parts of working in the round are avoiding the gap between the first and last cast-on stitches and being sure the work doesn’t get twisted after casting-on. Keeping the stitches from twisting is fairly straightforward with double-pointed needles, but it can be quite challenging with techniques such as magic loop or 2 circulars. If your work is twisted, you’ll end up knitting a Moebius strip instead of socks or whatever you’re aiming for.
Here’s a great way to join the cast-on stitches for knitting in the round:
1. Cast on 1 extra stitch.
2. After casting-on, straighten the stitches:
    a. Divide the stitches between the needles and slide them about halfway up each needle.
    b. At the dividing point, straighten the knitting so the cast-on edges are next to each other. Pinch about 1 inch down from the dividing point to secure.
    c. At the dividing point, straighten the knitting so the cast-on edges are next to each other. Pinch about 1 inch down from the dividing point to secure.
    d. Below the pinched stitches, straighten again so the edges continue to face each other.
    e. Continue straightening and pinching until you reach the ends on the needles.
3. You can tie the cast-on tail to the working yarn now, OR work the first round before tying. This has the advantage of letting you tie up the almost inevitable slack that appears after the first round is done.
4. To work the first round, start with the stitches that were cast-on first instead of turning and working the last cast-ons to start the round.

5. Before starting the first round, move the last cast-on stitch from the right needle over to the left needle. Knit 2 together (the moved stitch with the first cast-on stitch).
6. Proceed with working the first round.
7. After the first round, straighten again.
8. At the end of the first round, tie the cast-on tail to the working yarn.
For more knitting tips that will help with Witch Warmers, see
Preventing Uneven Ribs
Big Magic Loop
Closing the Bind-Off Gap
Preventing Ladders
Exquisite Striping in the Round
Quick and Dirty Striping
Adding a Color in the Round
Magic Loop Rocks!
Short Witch Warmers
Black Attack: Working with Dark Yarn
Cast-Ons: Keeping Count
I Love Cable Cast-On
Swatch Wars
(Kitty Helping)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Magic Loop Rocks!


Magic loop is my favorite technique for knitting in the round. It’s much faster than using double-pointed needles, with fewer needle changeovers, meaning fewer opportunities for developing ladders or distorted stitches. And of course, there’s much less chance of dropping stitches off the many needle ends--no fiddling with those rubber tip protectors or rubber bands, either. I have used magic loop for large circular projects, socks, and even glove fingers. It works great on Witch Warmers.

The tutorial I learned from is no longer available online, but here’s a good one (with the exception of pulling the cable—see below):

http://www.trishknits.com/resources/patterns-and-how-tos/yes-you-can-knitting-small-round-items-without-double-pointed-needles

Here are my additional tips, that make magic loop even better:

1. Never pull on the cable to move stitches up to the needle. It’s too easy to pull the wrong way and zip the other needle right out of half your stitches. Always push the empty needle to slide it into the stitches on the cable.

2. Do use a long cable—36” to 40” is good. You can get by with 30” if the cable is flexible enough. This is a good investment, since long-cabled circular needles can be used for large projects also.

3. Use circular needles with a very smooth transition from cable to needle.

4. Beware of interchangeable-cable circular needles. The ones I have tried have a cable-to-needle junction that's just not smooth enough. There's a brand mentioned in the comments section below, which I have not tried, that might be okay.

5. My favorite circular needle for magic loop is Addi Turbo. The cable is thin and very flexible, which makes a huge difference when trying to avoid ladders. The connection between cable and needles is very smooth, too.

6. If the right loop is flipping to the front and getting in your way, just twist the needle and the loop should rotate around to the back.

7. If you’re working on a large in-the-round project, like a cowl or Moebius wrap, you can use a single magic loop between the end of the round and the beginning.


In the words of the immortal Jim Croce,

“You don't tug on Superman's cape,
You don't spit into the wind,
You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger,”
And you don’t pull on the cable in magic loop!



For more knitting tips that will help with Witch Warmers, see
Preventing Uneven Ribs
Big Magic Loop
Closing the Bind-Off Gap
Preventing Ladders
Exquisite Striping in the Round
Quick and Dirty Striping
Adding a Color in the Round
Straightening and Joining in the Round
Short Witch Warmers
Black Attack: Working with Dark Yarn
Cast-Ons: Keeping Count
I Love Cable Cast-On
Swatch Wars

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Short Witch Warmers


Short and sweet, these wristwarmers and anklewarmers are super fast to knit... great for stash-busting too. Basically, you just knit up to the top of the straight stockinette section in the pattern, and finish off with 2 stripes of ribbing.

You can find more variations for Witch Warmers here:
Evening Length: I'd Open a Vein for You Armwarmers
Yule Warmers

Black Attack: Working with Dark Yarn


Going blind from working with skinny black yarn?? Here are some ideas I have gleaned from other folks and my own experience, that will make knitting the Witch Warmers pattern much easier:

- Wear your strongest reading glasses, if you have them.

- Have plenty of light, preferrably from the sides.

- Use a light-colored visual background like white clothes, or spread out a white cloth in your lap. Holding the pattern pages in your lap helps brighten it up, too.

- Avoid dark-colored needles.

- If you’re making stripes and you have to rip out stitches, take out enough rows to be able to pick up stitches in the colored yarn instead of black.

For more knitting tips that will help with Witch Warmers, see
Preventing Uneven Ribs
Big Magic Loop
Closing the Bind-Off Gap
Preventing Ladders
Exquisite Striping in the Round
Quick and Dirty Striping
Adding a Color in the Round
Straightening and Joining in the Round
Magic Loop Rocks!
Short Witch Warmers
Cast-Ons: Keeping Count
I Love Cable Cast-On
Swatch Wars

Monday, September 21, 2009

Witch Warmers



Witchy-striped, ruffled armwarmers, legwarmers, and a neckwarmer are knitted in the round and fitted for a feminine look. Fast and fun to knit: no seaming or blocking. These warmers are great for Halloween, and they can be made in other holiday, piratey, or school colors… or to complement your everyday witch wear.

The legwarmers are kneesock-length and can be made in a short sock length, if desired. The armwarmers cover most of the forearm and can be made in a short wristwarmer or gauntlet length. Another variation would be evening length, going past the elbow.

Materials: uses US 4/3.5 mm circular needles with 30” - 40” cable; larger size needles are recommended for neckwarmer bindoff; you’ll need 2 stitch markers.

Yarn: the pictures show Wool-Ease Sportweight, which has been discontinued. Plymouth Encore DK was swatched and tested with this pattern (see picture below), and it works fine.

Gauge: 20 st x 26 rows = 4" x 4" (flat swatch) in stockinette

Difficulty: medium

3 Schematic Diagrams: Armwarmer, Legwarmer, Neckwarmer

The Witch Warmers pattern is available for purchase as a download here and on Ravelry. $3.00 USD



You can find knitting tips and variations on this pattern in the following posts:
Evening Length: I'd Open a Vein for You Armwarmers
Yule Warmers
Halloween Legwarmers
Fingering Weight Variation: Halloween Treat-Warmers
Preventing Uneven Ribs
Big Magic Loop
Closing the Bind-Off Gap
Preventing Ladders
Exquisite Striping in the Round
Quick and Dirty Striping
Adding a Color in the Round
Straightening and Joining in the Round
Magic Loop Rocks!
Short Witch Warmers
Black Attack: Working with Dark Yarn
Cast-Ons: Keeping Count
I Love Cable Cast-On
Swatch Wars



Saturday, September 19, 2009

Croutons, Freshly Made

Serve these with cabbage soup... yum.

a few slices of whole wheat bread
softened butter

Spread butter on the bread. With a bread knife, cut each slice of bread into 3 or 4 strips. Place on a cookie sheet and toast in a 400 deg. F oven, or 350 deg. F toaster oven. Cut or break each toast strip into squares and add to soup.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cabbage Soup


Really... this is good... really... I promise. It's the rosemary that makes this so good.

CABBAGE SOUP

1 sm. head cabbage, cored and chopped in about 1” pieces
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cups rice milk or regular milk
6 cups vegetable stock
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary

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In the bottom of a soup pot, sauté celery, onions, and pepper in butter until softened. Add cabbage and stir fry for a few minutes. Add milk and bring to a boil--just up to a simmer if using regular milk. Turn heat down and add vegetable stock and salt. Simmer.

Grind the rosemary with a mortar and pestle or finely chop in a food processor. Add to soup.

Continue simmering until cabbage is crisp-tender, or 10-15 minutes. Serve with croutons.

Serves 8

-----------
see: crouton recipe


For more of my favorite cabbage recipes, see
How to Cook Non-Yucky Cabbage
Barely Borscht
Colcannon
Onion Pie
Maple-Pecan Fried Slaw

This recipe appears on
Vegetarian Cabbage Soup on Foodista

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cabbage: Another Misunderstood Veggie


The poor cabbage has a reputation of being tasteless, mushy food for impoverished Victorians. I grew up eating boiled cabbage several times a year, which was indeed an amorphous mass on the plate and on the palate. To my delight, I have discovered several ways of cooking this food that make it truly a pleasure to eat.

Important: do not overcook.

Okay, now that we're straight with that, you can cook tasty cabbage by stir-frying in some butter or olive oil, or by cooking it in milk (I use rice milk). I don't know why, but bringing chopped-up cabbage to a simmer in milk makes it cook up very nicely-- just stop when it's crisp-tender. I have also baked it in a vegetable tart (in a pie crust with onions, tomatoes, and cheese)... mmm.

Here are some of my best cabbage recipes:
Borscht
Cabbage Soup
Colcannon
Maple-Pecan Fried Slaw
Onion Pie

Friday, September 11, 2009

It's All About the Flour


Today I solved a mystery... the mystery of the pygmy loaves of bread. About a month ago, my loaves of whole wheat bread started coming out half as tall as usual. Still tasted really good, just denser and shorter loaves.

At first, I thought the new jar of yeast I had was bad. Replaced it. Still got shrunken loaves.

Finally today I realized that it might be the whole wheat flour that I bought in bulk at my favorite store: Wheatsville Co-op in Austin. So I got some of the same type of w.w. flour I had before, King Arthur 100% organic whole wheat, and yes, the loaf is the right size. What you see here is the last part that I have managed to photograph before it completely disappears into our stomachs.

I can't believe it made such a difference!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sneak Peek: Witch Warmers


I've just finished a new pattern for Halloween, which will be for sale on Ravelry after it's been tested. It is a set of witchy armwarmers, legwarmers, and a neckwarmer.

If you'd like to be a tester, please let me know and I'll email you the pattern for free. When I've got enough testers, the freebies will no longer be available. It's an easy project, and it takes about 800-900 yards of sportweight yarn. I used 2 skeins of Wool-Ease sportweight, but I checked the gauge on Plymouth Encore DK, which is a fine substitute.