Everything else can wait until I finish this row…

4T: Tips for Surviving a Fiber Festival

This past weekend was the New York Sheep & Wool Festival, more commonly known simply as Rhinebeck, the city where it’s held.   I have been dreaming of going to this fiber festival for years.   Now that we are living in Connecticut we are only two hours away from it and I had really hoped this would be the year I made the journey, my husband even offered to make it a trip of it as my birthday gift.  But I am too close to my due date to be making such a long drive or comfortably explore the fair grounds with my big belly, so I will just have to wait a while longer.  Next year for sure!

Though I haven’t made it to Rhinebeck, I have been to many fiber festivals over the past few years and just wanted to share with you some tips if you’re venturing out to one near you.

  1. If you are on a strict budget bring cash only; leave the credit cards and check book at home (or give it to someone reliable to hold them for you for yarn emergencies only).  Most vendors will prefer cash anyways and some might even have shorter lines and/or offer discounts if you don’t use plastic.
  2. Come with a few patterns in mind.  If you know the weight and yardage of the yarn you need for that sweater that has been sitting in your Ravelry queue you won’t risk buying too much or not enough. Festival are great places to discover new brands and a terrible place to guess the correct number of yardage needed to complete a project.  Since a lot of the vendors are small farms or dyers their supply is limited especially in the matching dye lot, so make sure you get what you need to make what you want.
  3. Sun block, sun glasses and a hat OR an umbrella, rain coat and wellies.  A lot if festivals take place outdoors so you need to be prepared to fight the elements.  I’ve been to muddy fairs and sunny fairs, it is rare to have a picture perfect day in terms of weather.  If Mother Nature is being cooperative, at the very least make sure you wear comfortable shoes that will keep you moving all over the festival grounds for hours.  I’d suggest you avoid sandals and other open toed shoes, people will step on you and there are animals (and their waste) all over.
  4. Pack a lunch and/or snacks, especially if you have dietary restrictions.  Festival food is made up of delicious fried goodies and fresh meat from the farm (especially lamb), not a great option if you are glutten free or a vegetarian.  Plus that’s money you could be spending on yarn.  I usually put things in ziploc bags or a container that I can throw away when I’m done eating – that way I don’t have to worry about carrying tupperware around and I end up having more room in my bag for my purchases.
  5. Water, water and more water!  You need to be hydrated or you might just pass out from the excitement of seeing all of the new fiber goodies around you.  It’s better to take a Nalgene bottle with ice and let it melt gradually throughout the day, than it is to pay the overpriced plastic bottles that the food vendors will sell.
  6. Bags! You want to carry a purse with a strap that is long enough to go across your body, leave the cute tote at home it will weigh you down.   Another good option is an empty backpack, its great to carry all of your purchases and a lot easier to handle than all the various bags filled with your new fiber goodies.  Plus, it keeps your hands free to pet the yarn.
  7. Foldable chair, beach towel or picnic blanket.  Some people go to socialize if you bring your own seat you might just join a knitting circle and make new friends.  Just remember to keep it as compact as possible, because you will have to lug it around a very crowded area when you do your shopping.
  8. Proudly wear your beautiful knitted garments!  Outside of LYSs, Fiber festivals are the BEST place to flaunt your finished projects.  You will receive so many compliments and start so many conversations with complete strangers that share your excitement, it will make you dizzy.  So don’t be shy, go ahead and wear a head-to-toe knitted outfit if you choose.  You won’t be getting a second look b/c people think you’re the crazy knitting lady; nope, instead you’ll be getting a second look so that people can admire your craftsmanship.

Have I missed anything?  What tips do you have for spending all day at a Fiber Festival?

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Tip About Superwash Yarns

The great thing about knitting is that you are always learning something when you start a project.  Sometimes its a different cast on, often is a new stitch, and occasionally the designer will drop a little knitting knowledge on you that you had no idea.  Today’s tip is (unofficially) brought to you by Cascade Yarns, because I found it in one of their free patterns that I am currently working on.

My WIP is the Pretty Mallory Sweater designed by Vera Sanon, and here is the tip she shared with those making her design:

Pattern Notes:
When working with yarn that is superwash, please keep in mind that the finished fabric will
grow in length when washed. Thus, when deciding on the desired length of the sleeves and
body of garment, simply multiply the knitted length (before washing) by 1.17 to get the
blocked (washed) length. For example, if the pre- blocked length of the sweater is 22”, multiply 22” x 1.17 = 25 ¾”. This will be the length of the washed sweater.

I never knew that about superwash yarns!  I don’t know if this comes as a surprise to you, but it was for me.  Of course, these specific measurements might only apply to the Cascade Yarn brand, other superwash yarns might be slightly different, but it is certainly something that is worth keeping in mind.

In other news, I am sad to say that one of my Knitting Gurus has passed away this week.  She was a very lively, outspoken woman and a brilliant, masterful knitter.  There was never a time that when she joined our knitting circle out in California that I didn’t learn something from her, she had a lifetime of knitting knowledge and was happy to share it.  In the short year that I knew her, I often went to her for advice, not just for knitting but also for other life situations which she helped put in perspective for me.   She inspired me to further my knitting curiosity, encouraged me to pursue my passion, and I am forever grateful to have known her.  To her family and all my friends out in California my thoughts are with you even if I am not.

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Organizing stash

So excited here’s how the shoe rack my husband fixed up for me helped me organize (part of) my yarn stash:


It makes me feel like I have my own little LYS. Now I just need about 5 more of these and then I can house all of my yarn!

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Giving Knitting Purpose to Everyday Objects

Ok, so my last post I showed you a shoe cubby that I plan to use to organize my yarn.  And so I wanted to open the forum to see what other everyday objects are people out there using for crafty purposes.  Here are some of the things that I use myself or have seen other knitters use:

  1. Over-the-door Shoe Organizers: Another great way to store your yarn so that it is visible – I guess just about any way you can organize shoes, you can use to organize yarn
  2. Make-up bags: just about any little make-up bag pouch can be used to carry crafty supplies.  A friend from California used a roll intended for brushes to keep her crochet hooks
  3. Suit cases: I have an old Samsonite hat box that I use to hold all of the many smaller bags of crafty supplies.  Also, the handle of my carry on just broke and though my first thought was to throw it away, I realized that it would be a great place to store my yarn
  4. Dental Floss Case: Once you have used up your dental floss keep the little plastic case, the compartment that held the floss is great for holding stitch markers and you have a thread cutter that can easily go with you on the airplane
  5. Bread Bag Ties: This is another trick that I picked up from my California Knitting Group, they make great yarn bobbins.  They might be too small for Intarsia purposes, but it certainly is great for holding the tail end of your yarn in place
  6. Pantyhose: The ladies in my SoCal Knitting group are great innovators, some used cut-up pantyhose to hold their center pull balls of yarn, which kept it tightly packaged and protected from tangles.

    I don't think the Surgeon General really needs to warn us about cable needles

    I don’t think the Surgeon General really needs to warn us about cable needles

  7. Pencil Erasers: With the smaller sized needles (2 or smaller), you can use erasers as tip protectors
  8. Cigar Tubes: If you wash away the smell thoroughly, you can store your DPNs and/or cable needles in there
  9. Packaging  Bags of Linen Items: Next time you buy new curtains, sofa cover, duvet, towels, bed sheets, pillow shams, etc keep the zippered bags.  They are great for carrying a small project, which can protect it from a spilled drink at the table or a quick run through the rain to get inside the LYS
  10. And there are a ton of small, round, and clip-on items that can be used as stitch markers, including:
    • Rings
    • Earrings
    • Electric Toothbrush Markers
    • Safety Pins
    • Wine Glass Charms
    • Paper clips
    • Keychains

These are just a few things that I use, what everyday object do you use for knitting purposes?

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From Trash to Treasure

Driving home from the dog park yesterday I spotted a great solution for storing my yarn, check in out:

Shoe Cubby

Someone was throwing out this awesome shoe rack and (even though it was next to a recycling bin) I could totally envision filling up the 25 cubbies with my yarn.  OOoh, I am pictureing how bright and colorful the sock yarns in my stash would transform this little shelf.  Not sure if I’d arrange it by yarn brand or by color families, but I know it will look FIERCE!

Plus, this will be a big improvement on my current storage situation which are some plastic bins.  I know better, I do.  I know that keeping yarn in air tight plastic bins eventually could cause some moisture problems, but I think I would rather risk that then bugs having an all-you-can-eat-buffet out of my beautiful fiber.   Thankfully, I haven’t had any issues with that (knock on wood) so I stick with it-  especially in this  house that we moved into, where we have stink bugs and spiders coming inside for the winter.

Now, my husband, being the supportive man that he is, loaded the shoe shelf  into the car and dried it off for me (it rained a bit yesterday).  The wood that forms the frame is a bit wobbly, so he is going to embrace his inner handy-man and build a new box for the cubbies.  I amexcited to see the transformation, but sad that I have to wait until Christmas to start using it.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving here in the US and I just got back home after a long day of cooking, eating, football, and festivities!  The best tip that I can offer after such a busy day is to get yourself a Knit Kit, it is the best thing a knitter can have while travelling.   This is the Swiss Army Knife for knitters, it has everything you need for your project on the go.  I always carry mine with me b/c  it is so easy to grab it from one project bag and transfer it to another.    It has all the little things you need in one container: measuring tape, stitch markers, row counter, crochet hook, scissors, and point protectors.   I compare it to your wallet when changing purses, because it has all of your essentials: ID, cash, cards, photos, etc.  My husband gave me mine for Xmas last year and I don’t know how I ever managed without it, worrying about gathering and carrying all those little things whenever I grabbed a different project bag.  Honestly, I want another one… maybe even more!  It would be great if I could keep on permanently in the car, another one by the couch, one in my suitcase, one in my purse, one in my craft room, one at work, everywhere!

We did about 8 out of the 23 hours of driving already and in case you’re wondering I decided to cast on some socks for this weekend trip.  I was inspired by other bloggers who I have encountered are avid sock knitters (something that I still hope to become one day).  Plus, I wanted to give one final push towards my New Year’s Knitting Resolution of knitting a sock a month.   So farI have only made 5 pairs (if you count the ones for the dog, which I do) and I wanted to be able to say that I accomplished at least half of my goal.

The pattern I am using is Varsity by Melissa Morgan-Oates (2-at-a-time Socks, 2007) which is a good vanilla pattern to show off the self-striping yarn I chose, Schoppel-Wolle’s Ambiente.    I am knitting them up simultaneously, but not in the method described in the book.   Instead I am using two 9″ circulars and alternating between the two socks, which is working out so far.  Funny thing is the way the two different skeins are knitting up – it would be hard to identify them as being of the same colorway if you didn’t have the label with you.  One sock is coming out mostly gray & purple, while the other is has more brown & purple.  I guess that’s the problem with ordering yarn online, I got the skeins that someone else picked out.  Sure they are the same colorway and dye lot, but that was just someone quickly filling an order and moving on to the next one, if I had done it myself I would’ve carefully chosen two skeins with similar colors on the outside.   Oh well, I still like the unique look, check them out:

Not only are socks great portable projects to work in the car, but you can take them pretty much anywhere!  Here is a photo that shows you just how obsessed I am with knitting:

Please tell me I am not alone in this…. what are some unlikely circumstances where you have pulled out your needles to work on your projects?  I can’t be the only one that has worked a few rows while waiting for my hair to dry, right?


Going from Flat to Round

Once upon a time, people believed that knitted garments could only be flat like the Earth.  Now a days we know that the Earth is round and our knitting can be too.

I hate seaming my work, finishing the projects by attaching the front to the back and the sleeves to the body.   According to my Ravelry Projects page, the last time I made a project that required that much seaming was a baby sweater in 2008.  Whenever I come across a sweater pattern that is knitted flat I have two options:

  1. Forget about it and move onto the next pattern
  2. Knit it in the round instead

Today’s tip is a simple formula on how to make a sweater from a flat construction to a circular construction:

Cast On = (the # of  stitches for the front + the # of stitches to the back) – 4

Why subtract four stitches?  Because the first and last stitch of the front piece and the back piece usually disappear when you seam them together.  If you keep those four stitches when converting a flat pattern to a circular construction you will be adding width to the garment.

The hoodie that I am making for my husband is supposed to be knitted flat, I opted to make it in the round instead.  So inserting my numbers to the formula above I get:

C = (SF + SB) – 4

C = (83 + 83) – 4

C =  166 -4

C = 162

So I casted on 162 stitches and I was off knitting stockinette in the round.  There is a lot more to this tip than what I am telling you here, but that is the knowledge I have to share with you.   There is also a way in which to take a round pattern and knit it flat if that is what you prefer (but I haven’t tried it).  For further reading on the subject of going from round knitting to flat knitting or vice-versa check out this document from the popular needles & yarns company, Knit Picks: 

I hope this helps! Happy Knitting!

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Tip on Checking Your Gauge

Today’s 4T Tip is on checking gauge.  I cannot lecture much on the importance of gauge because that is one of the biggest things that I still procrastaknit on.  Too many times I have chosen to skip checking gauge and jumped right on ahead into the project.   This is a hat pattern that I made back in 2009; the one I gifted to my friend was made with  size 6 needles, the one I made for myself was made with size 5 needles because I was using my size 6 on a different project at the time.

Bad Gauge = Bad Fit

Perfect Gauge = Perfect Fit

While I wish I could say this was a rookie mistake, it’s not.  I still make such careless mistakes with my gauge because I am usually so eager to cast on a new project, I decide to throw caution to the wind and just cast-on with a needle size larger since I know I tend to be a tight knitter.   Currently I am working on a double-knit hat that I did not bother to properly check gauge, so now it is large enough to fit over my head as a cowl!  Consequently I will be making that project into a purse and will post photos once I finish.   New knitters learn from my mistakes, expert knitters go ahead and laugh.

Today’s Tip =  Making It Easier To Check Your Gauge

Most patterns give you a gauge in stockinette pattern, I recommend that you add about 6 or 8 extra stitches to the given gauge of the pattern so that you can create a garter stitch border (3 or 4 stitches on either side) which will help your swatch lay flat as you count your stockinette stitches.  Keeping with the border idea do a few rows in garter stitch before starting the stockinette portion AND before casting off your swatch.

Creating a garter stitch border helps you see where you changed needle sizes.

If you find that you have too many stitches per inch, switch to a larger size needles to lessen the number of stitches per inch.  If you have too few stitches per inch, go down a needle size to add more stitches per inch.  This is Finding Your Gauge 101, my tip to help you in the process is  to knit another 4 rows of of garter before you switch your needle that you create a separation of two different sizes.   Repeat this process as many times as needed until you have the right number of stitches per inch.

Keep changing needles until you have found the right size.

I have come across knitters that didn’t create a divider before changing needle sizes, so they were weren’t sure where the stitches with the smaller needles ended and the ones with the larger needle began.  Creating a border helps to differentiate the two without having to cast-on a new swatch.  If your gauge is given in garter stitch, just use a different stitch (i.e. seed stitch) for the border.

I hope this helps! Happy Knitting!

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