Knitters and Gifts

Most knitters (and crochers) I have known or met are very giving.  They love to knit or crochet and then gift their creations.  Too often, however, newer knitters plan grand knit gifts for their friends and families and find themselves in “over their heads” or with scant time to knit for themselves.  (By way of example, a good friend of mine started a large all-garter stitch blanket when she heard she would be a grandmother.  Still unfinished, her grandchild is now four and now has a younger sibling.)

I urge newer and less experienced knitters to remove some stress (and cost) and knit simple (but nice) gifts.  Such gifts show your love and, if they are useful gifts, the recipients will think of you every time they use them.  Here are some ideas.

  1. xmasornament (2)If your friends or family observe the Christmas holiday, visit  Lorna Pearman’s site where she explains how she made this lovely knitting-related ornament.  Minimal knitting involved!  (Even though Thor and I don’t celebrate Christmas, several of our friends and family members do, and I think I may have to make a couple of these.)
  2. Washcloths … I can’t say enough about the utility (and beauty!) of even the simplest of washcloths knit or crocheted from a nice cotton.  Strikkelysten, a knitter with self-professed limited skills, regularly makes lovely but simple washcloths.  Visit her site and be inspired!  soapwashclothIt’s a great way to experiment with simple patterns too.  If you prefer a little more challenge,  try Fiber Trends “Bathing Beauties.”  I have knit and gifted all the sets multiple times but kept this blue soap jacket for the guest bathroom and this red lace washcloth for myself.  (I knit both of these at least 15 years ago.)
  3. Headbands are another quick knit, for instance, Drops Design 86-10dropsheadbandSimple to make yet, when knit from a nice yarn they are quite stylish.  (My daughter loves hers and, during those one-month winters she has in California, wears it.)  If you want to expand your skills, headbands possumbandmake a good project to try cables.  Chic Knits Elisbeth Collection contains has a lovely cabled headband pattern that I’ve knit several times.
  4. The “Easiest Wristerwarmers” by KiwiYarns Knits are indeed the easiest fingerless easy-fingerless-gloves-21gloves or wristwarmers I’ve ever made.  (In fact, Granddaughter O is working on a pair.)  Newer knitters won’t be bored senseless by miles and miles of garter stitch.  Rather, they can quickly knit these wristwarmers (perhaps out of yarn leftover from something made for themselves?!) to wear or gift.  These also make a great and unique gift to knit up and take to a holiday gift exchange.
  5. FusciaFlowerFairy (2)If you like knitting with sock needles (and lots of different colors!), how about something like this little creature?  It’s the “Fuscia Flower Fairy” by Lorna Pearman and is approximately 6″ from tip to toe.  She has several DollTopsydifferent flower fairy patterns available.   To the left is a picture of a knit doll I first saw in a 2001 issue of Interweave Knits.  The Topsy Turvy Doll is actually two dolls in one.   (I always thought I’d make it, though I haven’t yet.  The issue still sits on my shelf waiting for me to make it.)

We like to think someone to whom we give our handmade creation will appreciate and value it.  Too often, sadly, that’s not the case.  So even for us experienced knitters, knitting and gifting simple gifts that bring us pleasure to both make and gift is a way to not be too upset if your labor of love is re-gifted or ignored.   Plus it’s a great way to use up small amounts of nice yarn in your stash!

Call to knitters and crocheters:  What other patterns or ideas that are fast and easy-to-make and that do not take up too much fiber have you found to be good fiber creations to gift?!

Posted in Crocheting, Fibers, Knitting, Miscellany | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Fana Mitts and Breads

Thor requested a pair of fingerless mitts he could wear when he played the guitar.  He asked that they be low enough so as not to interfere with strings when playing and curved to match the slope of his knuckles.   He also requested that they be “unusual.” (How’s that for guidance?!)  :)

I used a silk-pima cotton blend, probably DK weight.  I knit the remaining yarn into a matching (sort of) hat.  Thor likes his ensemble.

LarryFanahatThose familiar with traditional Scandinavian patterns will see that my design choice was influenced by Norway’s traditional Fana pattern.  As explained Susanne Pagoldh,

“Fana, which is just south of Bergen, gave its name to Fana sweaters (Fanatrøjen) … The sweater, or cardigan, was originally part of the traditional man’s costume in Fana and evolved from an everyday undersweater which was worn under the vest and tucked into the trousers.”  (Nordic Knitting, 46)

To see a picture of my mother sporting a Fana sweater and matching hat (both knit by my grandmother, of course), sometime around the beginning of Germany’s occupation of Norway, take a peek at one of my earlier posts.  Decades later, people still use the Fana design!  If you’d like to see its influence on a modern sweater, take a look at Norwegian book309_fanadesigner Sidsel J. Høivik‘s Bolero Fritt etter Fana.  Stunning!  You may also want to visit Two Strands‘ recent post that opens with modern Fana sweaters for children from Dale Garn Kids’ Book NR 309.

Some (but not all!) of recent breads.

I have been corresponding with a weaver who is also a committed artisan bread maker.  Thanks to her encouragement and guidance, I tackled:

struan21.  A multigrain Struan bread adapted from a Peter Reinhart’s recipe in  Brother Juniper’s Bread Book.  Starting a few days in advance, I made a Struan1biga (white whole wheat) and a soaker (white whole wheat along with an array of goodies – oatmeal, polenta, rye flakes, flax seeds, wheat bran, oat bran, and sunflower seeds).  I made the dough today and, after two proofs, baked it in a Romertopf Clay Baker.  Since this first Struan effort, I have also made it using Humphrey (my rye starter who lives in the refrigerator) in place of the biga.  Works perfectly well!

ThomLeonardLoaf2 ThomLeonardLoaves2.  Two deliciously sour loaves based on Thom Leonard’s Country French Bread (Maggie Glezer, Artisan Baking).  I baked one loaf in the Romertopf Clay Baker and the other in my Emile Henry Bread Cloche.

I use the EH cloche and R clay baker whenever possible; it avoids a lot of burns on my arms that came with turning my ordinary oven into a steam oven.

(Note:  I say “adapted from” or “based on” as I tend to approach recipes the same way I approach knitting patterns:  As suggestions and/or guides!  [I’ve always liked that the word oppskriver in Norwegian translates to either patterns or recipes!])

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Corralling Stitch Markers

I use different markers for specific marking purposes and thus had multiple little containers of an array of stitch markers.  Of course every time I needed one, I had to root around in my knitting bag for the right little container or check bookshelves looking for an elusive package of markers.  When I couldn’t find any I’d start searching between couch cushions!  Worse, when traveling I dragged my whole knitting bag with me just to ensure I had my various notions should I need them.

SnapNGo2Then one day I popped into a weaving store and saw a neat little notions case for $5 US.  I quickly grabbed the last one (pink).   What a great SnapNGo3size – neither too large nor too small – with 6 separate compartments in 3 different sizes.  By the evening I had my stitch markers all organized.  At last!  (I just noticed there’s a pink split ring marker in with the green and orange lock markers.)  I was one contented knitter.

A few months later as my daughter and I sat companionably side-by-side knitting, she asked for a stitch marker so I passed her my pink notion case.  “Neat,” she exclaimed.  “I could use that!”  After she flew home, I tried to find this notion case locally – to no avail.  I found them, however, on Exchanging Fire website!

SnapNGoCase3Exchanging Fire carries the Snap ‘n Go Notions Case in two sizes – Jumbo & Original – and in several different colors.  I already had a pink original and realized I need (yes, needed) the jumbo in lime green.  As you can see, it’s slightly SnapNGo4thicker and larger than the original but not enough to be cumbersome.

And, of course, I ordered two more originals – one in blue for SnapNGo6my daughter and one in pink for my pink-crazy granddaughter.

I urge you to visit Exchanging Fire and check out the knitting and crocheting notions available.  (Also, be sure and take a peek at the Ruched Eye Sleep Mask pattern.  I saw it and thought “this year’s holiday gift!”)

BarnStrikkerAs an aside, my daughter has started to knit even when we’re not visiting each other.  In fact, today she told me she’s finished the body of her top-down knit sweater.  She’s waiting for my arrival (coming up quickly) so I can help her knit the arms and button bands.  Also, the last time I visited, Granddaughter F graduated from the knitting spool to knitting (Continental) on a set of needles (pic at right)!

maiden__mother__crone_by_ellenmillion-d5wffwjIn a few weeks, we, three generations of women – maiden, matron and crone – will be knitting together.   (Pic source)

(By the way, the woman on the right represents the “crone” aka me.  In fact, with the longest hair of the three of us, I frequently wear my (silver) hair just like that.  Coincidence?  :) )

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“What’s That You’re Doing?”

knitting continentalAs I learned to knit from my Norwegian mother and grandmother, I knit (and purl) in the Continental style (Wikipedia pic source).

Many times knitting quietly in a public place (e.g., park or coffee shop), in the U.S., someone comes up to me and asks what I’m doing.  When I tell them I’m knitting, the response I frequently get is:  “No,  I’ve seen knitting and that’s not it.” :)

Of course I see it as my duty to educate the person on different styles of knitting, historical shifts, and so on – undoubtedly giving far more information than the person ever thought s/he would receive!

I know how to knit in the English style but use that only when knitting with more than three colors in any one row.  (I can knit three different yarns off my left hand; any more than that and I have to use my right.)  I think the Continental style is faster, though I’ve heard a skilled English style knitter can be equally swift.  Perhaps.  I do think, however, that the Continental style uses less hand motion and as such is probably better physically than the style adopted by most English style knitters.  Everyone I’ve taught to knit I’ve taught the Continental style.  When I am helping someone who has already learned to knit in the English style, I have to rethink how I teach so as not to confuse her or him!

Undoubtedly you hear my bias.  :)

So, what knitting style do you prefer?!


Posted in Knitting, Miscellany, Norwegian Knitting | 24 Comments

“Can You Make One For Me?”


elderlywomanknittingI was asked this question by a woman who came up to my table in my Milanesefavorite coffee spot as I sat quietly sipping a latte and knitting.  (No, that’s not me in the black & white picture!  The color picture, however, shows my latte and the beginning of the Milanese Lace Shawl, one of Linda Marveng‘s sumptuous designs, I was knitting in a San Francisco cafe.)  How do you respond to such questions?!

I’ve been asked this question by so many strangers over the years.  The conversations generally went something like this:

Me:  “Yes.”
Person:  “How much?”
Me:  “For what?”
Person:  “Umm, you know, a sweater.”
Me:  “What kind of yarn?”
Person:  “You know, regular yarn.”
Me:  “Cotton or Wool?”
Person:  “I’d really like a cashmere sweater.”  (Wouldn’t we all.)
Me:  “Size?”
Person:  “Medium.”
Me:  “Medium woman or medium man?  Tall or short?  Thin or stout?”
Person:  “Umm, just regular medium.”
Me:  “A pullover, cardigan, or vest?  A v-, turtle-, boat-or round-neck; drop, raglan, saddle or set-in shoulders …”

Okay – you get the idea of the path of the conversation.  When I’d finally narrow it down to something where I could quote a ball park figure, the horrified response was generally along the line of, “What?!  I could go to Wal-Mart and get a sweater for under $20!”  (What’s stopping you?!)

So now when I get asked, “Can you make one for me,” my response is always “No, but I am happy to refer you too good local yarn stores that offer knitting lessons.”

The conversation generally ends there.

How do you respond?  :)

Posted in Crocheting, Knitting, Miscellany | Tagged , | 44 Comments

“It’s Too Short!”

Sometimes you find that a child or grandchild grew taller without growing much wider!  The long sleeves of the sweater you lovingly knit that once fit perfectly now end several inches or centimeters above the wrist.  Or maybe even the body is now too short!  What was once a normal length sweater seems cropped.  Perhaps you knit a sweater and simply miscalculated the arm or body length!   Or perhaps your scribbled design notes were so disarrayed that you knit the arm to the wrong measurement – like I did with Thor’s most recent sweater!

What to do?

  • You might pick up stitches from the cast on rows of the sleeves or body and lengthen the cuffs/bottom band.  (Of course, this may create an oddly disproportionately long cuff or band.)
  • Alternatively, you could rework the sweater into one with three-quarter lengths arms or even short sleeves.

Or you could try my preferred method.

  1. stitchesWith a blunt needle and a contrasting color yarn, pick up all the stitches in one row.
  2. Now, being sure to leave a row in between, pick up all the stitches in a parallel row.
  3. Cut between the rows of picked up stitches.
  4. Transfer the picked up stitches from the bottom garment piece onto needles and knit as many inches or centimeters you need to lengthen the garment.
  5. KitchnerStitchTransfer the top row of picked up stitches to needles and then, using the Kitchener stitch, graft the pieces together.  (Picture from Nancy Bush’s Folk Socks; see also YouTube demonstration from Webs.)

I have used this method many times over the years to lengthen both sleeves and bodies.  The addition and join is invisible in Thor’s sweater.

But …

knittedbandsWhat if you haven’t saved enough yarn from the original project?  Use contrasting yarns of the same weight and knit in a patterned band.  (Source)

stitchpatternWhat if the project has faded from sun or washings so your yarn saved from the original project is now a different shade?  Use an interesting stitch pattern to knit the band.  (The eyes will be drawn to the stitching.)

fakeseamWhat if the sweater and arms weren’t knitted in the round?  What if you knit each piece in the flat and them seamed them together?

Don’t panic … Create a “fake seam” on the addition section.

What if the original project doesn’t lend itself to simply adding in a lengthening section (e.g., heavy cables, Fair Isle, etc.).  There’s always regifting.  :)

What do you do if you find the sweater body or arms are too short?


Posted in Knitting, Pattern Construction, Sweater Design | Tagged , | 23 Comments

A Few Pictures of FOs


After Thor’s Valentine Day sweater was blocked and dried, he graciously agreed to model it for blog post pictures.

Larry_Sw2First Picture:  Raglan sleeves work well on Thor.  This picture shows how the faux (twist) cables I worked in between the decrease stitches (separated by a purl stitch) morphed beautifully into the cables on the neckline.

Larry_Sw1Second Picture:  Thor wanted a kangaroo pocket.  (He doesn’t like to wear gloves unless it’s snowing.)  You can make out the row where I joined a kangaroo pocket back to the body.

Larry_Sw3Third Picture.  This shows not just the cabled cuff but cable that goes up each side of the kangaroo pocket.

It is important to be sure and use a good, well-spun wool when making a kangaroo pocket.  Otherwise, you risk both the pocket pulling the sweater out of shape or stretching out and becoming more of a hanging pouch than a neat, kangaroo pocket.

Thor is quite happy with this sweater!

I’ve also been baking breads … here are some pictures of this week’s efforts.

First is a picture of my first attempt at making a couronne (crown).  I used Peter Reinhart’s recipe for Pain de Campagne (“a type of sourdough bread used throughout France for many types of breads sold under various local names”).  It was leavened with a pâte fermentée and proofed in a brotform.

breadcouronneHere is a picture of the two loaves I just took out of the oven.  They’re both Jewish (aka deli) ryes.  The recipe is based on George Greenstein’s Secrets of a Jewish Baker: Authentic Jewish Rye and Other Breads.  I prefer dark rye flours (must be my Norwegian childhood) so instead of using the standard white rye flour, I used dark rye flour in the 750g starter.  (White rye flour is to dark rye flour what white flour is to whole wheat flour).

Bread_RyeWithout exception, every person who has told me they don’t like rye breads loves the ryes I make that don’t have caraway seeds.  I make many types of rye breads, but I only use caraway seeds in the Jewish/deli ryes (which is the traditional way).

If you like rye breads, I urge you to skip trying to sour a dry-yeast leavened rye bread with dried onions, pickle juice or artificial flavors.  Experiment with sourdoughs!  Nothing beats the complex flavors of a “real” sourdough (rye or otherwise)!


Posted in Breads, Cooking, Knitting, Miscellany | 30 Comments