“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 , | 35 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 | 28 Comments



For a smile!

Originally posted on Babycakes Creates:

I love knitting. I love Cary Grant. And this video clip of Cary Grant’s character learning to knit in Mr. Lucky is hilarious. Happy Valentine’s Day!

View original

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Transforming Plain to Stylish for Valentine’s Day

Every Valentine’s Day I give Thor something I’ve designed and knit with him in mind.  I felt I had to make up for his birthday sweater out of yarn that quickly pilled miserably.  So last month I raided my stash for some good yarn.

I came upon many skeins of Mountain Mohair (40% fine western wool Targhee, 30% medium wool and 30% fine mohair).  Mountain Mohair is produced by Green Mountain BlueGenetianSpinnery, a worker-owned cooperative in Putney, Vermont, USA.  Mountain Mohair is worsted weight (2oz/140y).  This yarn is very warm and wears well.  I had many skeins in Blue Gentian – a color I knew would look great on Thor.



Thor loves cable, but with Valentine’s Day approaching quickly, I had no time to design and knit him heavily cabled sweater for him by February 14.  Instead, I designed and knit a simple raglan made elegant by the high quality of the yarn and set off by simple faux cable (twist) ribs.



(I washed and blocked the sweater and am waiting for it to finish drying.  The strong light in the kitchen has washed out the blue in these pictures, but the sweater looks very nice in person.  Truly!)

Thor asked for a kangaroo pocket.  It was easy to knit one in.  He spends a lot of time in front of computer

Edge of Kangaroo Pocket

Edge of Kangaroo Pocket



screens every day and, as we keep the temperature low in our house, his hands tend to get cold.  He can warm his hands in such a pocket.

The need to customize sweaters for excellent fit cannot be overstated.  Because Thor has large shoulders that are slightly rounded in the back, I put in some short rows on the sweater back so that it won’t give the appearance of “riding up” in the back.

Raglan decrease merging into the neck

Raglan decrease merging into the neck

He also has very long arms, so calculating the rate of increase from cuff to where the sleeve joins the sweater was also important.  I spread the increases over a longer slope to create a finished look to the sleeves.

Faux cable over the raglan decreases

Faux cable over the raglan decreases

I worked the typical raglan decreases on either side of the faux cable and then carried the raglan cable into the neckline.  The result was quite nice.

Though the sweater will not be a surprise for Thor tomorrow – he endured too many measurement and fitting sessions for this sweater – I’m making something else he doesn’t know about.  :)

Excellent yarn, good fitting/design and minimalist accents transforms a simple sweater into an understated, elegant garment that the wearer will turn to often.




Posted in Fibers, Knitting, Pattern Construction, Sweater Design | Tagged , | 12 Comments

The Knitter Kneads

panasonicOn my last birthday, Thor gave me a Panasonic bread machine.  I loved it (still do), and it encouraged me – after a 30 year hiatus – to start making bread again.  (I enjoyed having the bread machine as I wanted to make BreadMachineCkbkbread again but needed to avoid using my hands to knead.  After reviewing my breadbook(by now quite) old standby, The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, with great enthusiasm I worked my way through Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook.

The bread making bug struck big time.

breadbooksOne year later, my collection of bread making books has increased to include:

  • Amy’s Bread  by Amy Scherber & Toy Kim Dupree;
  • The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum;
  • The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart;
  • Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish; and
  • Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques & Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman.

I am now a committed (amateur) artisan bread maker.  Both Thor and I have come to adore sourdough leavened breads, particularly those with long ferments (2-3 days) and using rye, kamut and einkorn flours.

Once foreign artisan bread making terms are now part of my vocabulary:

  • using levains and the pre-ferments of poolish, biga, pâte fermentée and wild-yeast (sourdough);
  • mise en place (“everything in its place”); and
  • bread shapes:  auvergnat, baguette, bâtard, boule, couronne, épi, fendu, fougasse, pistolet and tabatièr – which, when talking about artisan bread making, sound so much “authentic” than using the English equivalents:  cap, stick, torpedo, round, crown, sheaf of wheat, split bread, ladder bread, roll, and cap.

(Of course, thanks go to my friend Alison, without whose French skills I would be mangling these terms horribly!)

My collection of bread-making tools and equipment has increased (thank you, great folks at Breadtopia.com!):

bread_toolsI now have two Danish dough whisks (different sizes), a lame (used to slash breads), a baker’s couche (pictured on the left).

bread_scales2I bought a new scale (the purple Escali Arti on the right) – a necessary tool when using the Baker’s Percentage method.  (This is a math-formula system “where all ingredients are viewed in ratio to the total flour weight” (Reinhart, p. 40).

bread_bowlsbucketsDough rising buckets, I learned, are invaluable.  I use them at least as often as breadformsI use my two large mixing bowls.

Proofing baskets (aka bannetons aka brodtforms) are immensely useful in artisan bread making.  I now have five in three different shapes/sizes.

breadcloches2Tired of burning my arms recreating steamy hearth ovens in the search for great crusts and crumbs, I bought an Emile Henry Bread Cloche (red bell-shaped), and Romertopf Clay Baker.  (They are perfect for baking boules and bâtards, respectively.)

I was concerned whether I could handle kneading or preparing bread dough outside of my bread machine.  The trick, I have found, is to be flexible and adaptable in what dough I tackle when I make bread.  Depending on the dough and my hands that day, I use any combination of my KitchenAid, the stretch-and-turn method and old fashion kneading.

bread_pic7 bread_pics5 breadpics2 breadpic1 bread_pics4 bread_pic12I am fortunate to have friends and neighbors who graciously accept loaves in exchange for feedback.  :)


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When Yarn Wears Poorly …

Sometimes we knit or crochet something that doesn’t wear well.  Several factors on the maker’s side can affect a garment’s wear, including (but not limited to):

  • improper cleaning (e.g., dry cleaning is very harsh on natural fibers),
  • too loose a stitch gauge,
  • a stitch pattern that does not suit the yarn (or vice versa),
  • poor care for (e.g., stored on clothing hangars), or
  • using a garment for other than how it was designed and/or intended.

But sometimes it’s none of those.  Sometimes the problem is a low quality wool, a yarn that’s too loosely spun, or a yarn that’s poorly plied.

So what can a knitter or crocheter do if the poor wearing of the garment is not because of the knitter’s or crocheter’s skills/choices or the wearer’s care?  Contact the customer service division of the company that made the yarn.  Companies have quality control divisions, and companies have been known to be responsive to consumer desires if they hear from enough customers.

After knitting for 50 years, I have always been selective about the fiber I worked with; some have called me a yarn snob.  :)  Not surprisingly to those who know me, there was never any yarns Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft patonmarlStore that were remotely tempting.  Then this past November I saw a handsome dark grey and cream two-ply marl 100% wool yarn in “Patons Classic Wool Worsted” at a great sale price patonnewdenimand decided try it.  After all, Grandson O’s birthday was coming up.  Thor thought the yarn was nice.  So I dashed back to Jo-Ann’s.  There weren’t enough skeins of the marl to make a sweater for Thor (also a November birthday), so I bought the Classic Wool Worsted in a denim.

Now, according to my daughter, Grandson O leaves the house for school every morning wearing his birthday sweater.  She said it has worn well, especially considering the abuse the average 9-year-old boy puts his sweaters through.  In particular, there was scant pilling.  Thor’s sweater, however, began to pill (badly) the moment he started wearing it, and it started losing shape rapidly.

Dismayed, I e-mailed the customer service division of Patons.  A few days thereafter, I received a very nice and professional response from one of its Customer Service Representative.  The representative assured me quality control is important to the company and asked me to send her the color and batch number so she could forward it to the Quality Assurance Department.  She also offered to send me yarn to replace the yarn that pilled and sagged.

Given that Grandson O’s sweater is holding up very well, I will accept their offer.  To be on the safe side, however,  I am going to ask for the marl yarn.  :)

So, back to the original question – what to do.  I strongly advise against immediately “trashing” a yarn through one’s blog.  Contact the maker and allow the company to respond.  Then go from there.

Posted in Crocheting, Fibers, Knitting, Miscellany | Tagged | 8 Comments