Posts filed under ‘DIY’

The year of knitting from my head

This year I’ve decided to do the majority of my knitting from my own head, without using someone else’s published pattern as a starting point. A good friend heard me proclaim this, and thought I was crazy, what with a dissertation to write and an unfortunate dearth of free time in my life, so asked me to explain my reasoning. She raises some good points, but I still think the pros outweigh the cons. Allow me to explain to you all…

Back when I re-learned how to knit in 2003, I didn’t have access to a lot of knitting patterns. I had a couple of booklets from big-box stores, and a few basic patterns I’d bought from yarn stores. So, I knitted a lot of very basic things, and used my knowledge of garment construction (from sewing and crochet) and color relationships to improvise things. The result was, at first, some very basic, often wonky or rectangular things. Eventually I discovered Knitty and some good knitting blogs and pattern repositories, and my eyes were opened. I started cobbling together different parts of patterns to make new and interesting projects. I started charting out designs in cables or colorwork and branch out in the shapes and kinds of things I knitted. Some patterns I altered on purpose, some by happy accident, and some I stayed true to, down to the smallest detail. I invented a fair number of things from scratch, and had to scrap a fair number of them, like the mesh yoga mat bag that was better suited to holding a dozen soccer balls, or the cozy alpaca shawl with dyelot issues that blocked out larger than a bedspread. But some were wonderful, like the iPod holder for wearing under my coat, or my first fair-isle hat, or the satchel with an endless knot worked in cables (which was given away with nary a photo taken). It was this kind of fearless and inventive knitting that got me a job at Stitch House, and which got my heart pumping.

 

Then, in 2007, after months on a wait list (get offa my lawn!), I joined Ravelry.  And it was awesome. But it also changed the way I knit. All of a sudden, patterns were not just something you could find on one webzine or in a shop. Patterns were fodder for conversation. People would recognize the patterns I knitted, and would complement me on them when they recognized them. I found that people at the yarn shop were more likely to swoon over a nice project that they recognized than one that they didn’t know. And, as a salesperson, it was in my best interest to knit things that customers could find online or in the store and buy yarn for. Saying, “Oh, I’m making it up as I go along” not only sounded strange, but it also didn’t sell any yarn. Soon, I was knitting almost exclusively from other people’s patterns, and preferring “hot” patterns over obscure ones. And it made me a little uneasy. One fantastic thing about other people’s patterns is that you learn how someone else would tackle a problem. And sometimes it’s fun to figure out what they’re doing, and make a judgement call: do I want to do it their way, or do I have a different idea I like better? But if the pattern is clearly-written and well-edited, and you don’t intend to do anything crazy like restructure the shaping or add in many new elements, often following a pattern requires very minimal mental acrobatics. And after a while, I started to miss those acrobatics.

So this year, I’m knitting from my head. I no longer have the pressure from working at a yarn shop, and, like the year in Russia that ignited the spark of my most creative early knitting, I’m knitting to keep sane and happy more than to show off my pretties to others. I’m not saying that I won’t knit anything from a pattern this year, because I’m happy to be carried away by something beautiful. There are a lot of gorgeous patterns in my queue, and I’ll be happy to work on some of them. But I’ve also got a lot of gorgeous ideas in my head. Knitting from my head means taking those ideas, and instead of going to Ravelry to find some close approximation that someone else figured out, it means going to my sketchbook and figuring out what my vision for the project actually is. It means swatching, and calculating, and trial and error. It means stash-down, it means cold-sheep, because I can tailor my projects to my yarn stash and not the other way around. And it means taking more control over my spare time, and using it to feel awesome about myself and the things I do. When I knit from my own head, I’m allowing my own interests to shine, and embracing the puzzles, the tricks, the difficulties. And the beauty in figuring out the solutions to those problems. And the pride of successfully having untangled the Gordian knot.

And, maybe I’ll make some lovely patterns to publish and share with all of you in the process!

March 20, 2014 at 2:30 pm Leave a comment

Socks on the go

So, I like knitting socks an awful lot. But my knitting time is not so copious these days, so I make sure to always have a project with me on the go so I can make use of those precious oft-wasted minutes waiting in lines, sitting on buses, or just waiting for my gosh-darn computer to finish loading whatever it is that’s taking so long. I find that knitting is especially useful in helping me avoid the black hole of internet distraction while writing my thesis. If I need a break to decompress or gather my thoughts, I knit a few stitches and let my brain settle, rather than checking Facebook or Ravelry and suddenly finding that a half an hour has mysteriously slipped out of my grasp.

And, as I’ve mentioned before, I really like knitting socks on double-pointed needles (DPNs). But traveling with DPNs can be tricky. Knitters worry about the needles slipping out of the work, or getting crunched by the other things in your bag, and for good reason! I’m fearless (and really good at picking up lost stitches), so this doesn’t stop me, but I can see why others are less eager to throw a sock with its 5 toothpick-needles into a backpack and pull it out on the bus.

So what’s the solution? This is my roundup of options for keeping your socks safe between bouts of knitting in public, including my own prototype DPN sock holder (DIY all the way, baby).

First, the solutions you don’t need to buy:

Wrapping your needles up in the yarn. This has long been my preferred method of transportation. You fold your sock up, squish the knitting to the middle, and wrap one end with the working yarn. Then, you wrap the other end. Then, you do a little figure 8 back and forth, and secure by catching the working yarn between the needles on one end. Voila, you’re good enough to go.

Rubber bands. This is too much effort for not enough class for me, but you can put rubber bands of any size (actually, I recommend fabric-covered hair elastics, so they don’t snag your yarn) on the ends of your needles, bundling them all together. Be careful not to make them too tight on small needles, though, or you could warp or even snap the needles.

Solutions from your LYS, or online:

CloverHolder

Clover needle holders. These little plastic coils work like the rubber bands, except they’re cuter, and will set you back $5-7 a package. They come in two sizes, and the size you choose will depend on how big your needles are and how many you’re bundling together. I actually think the flexibility of the rubber band wins in this case.

RockSocks

Rock Your Socks by NeuroticNeedles on Etsy

Rock Your Socks holders. This is available on Etsy from seller NeuroticNeedles, and I’ve seen similar (or the same) in a  yarn shop locally. They’re two plastic caps that fit over your needle tips, with an elastic that connects them and holds them together. Sometimes they have cute little charms in the middle. It’s a nice concept, and will stop dropped stitches or missing needles and accidentally poking through your bag, but if you shove your laptop on top of your sock, this isn’t going to offer any protection. But, a good concept, worth trying out. $6-8 on Etsy, depending on how fancy the charms are.

Knitpicks Sock Knitting Needle Holders. I’ve personally used these, and liked them. They are a pair of paperboard tubes that sit snugly inside one another, with a slit that allows your sock knitting to come out the middle. You can store empty needles in them too, by just rotating the tubes so that the slit is closed. The way they’re designed means they fit a wide range of needle lengths, and you don’t have to worry about elastics snapping. But, the quality is chintsy. They’re paper, after all. After using them a short time, the layers started to come apart. I taped them back up, but then my toddler found them, and that was the end of that. Advantages are the price ($5 for two sets of tubes). I’ve only seen these on Knitpicks.com, and I’m still boycotting Knitpicks because of their unprofessional security and customer service practices. But they’re an affordable product and do the trick for light use.

Tin holder – discontinued? Way back in 2006, the Yarn Harlot blogged about a tin needle holder that she’d gotten, that originated from Woolworks, Ltd. I’ve contacted them, and received no reply, nor does their website mention awesome needle holders, so I have to assume that they’re no longer being produced. Too bad, because they looked great.

KnitziFlow

OMG gorgeous – http://www.knitzi.com

Knitzi. This is the gold standard of sock knitting needle holders, and I want one so badly. They’re hand-carved wooden tubular cases to do essentially the same thing as the Knitpicks case, except gloriously. Instead of two nested tubes, there is one tube with a threaded cap. Because of this, they come in a few different sizes. Unfortunately for me, this makes my life trickier, because I have a few different lengths of needles. I’d rather get the smaller, 5″ one, to keep weight and bulk down, but I sometimes knit with 6″ needles. Dilemma. It’s okay, the beautiful “Flow” case in walnut above is $109. Regular Knitzis come in sizes ranging from 4″-8″, are in the $30-40 range, and are custom made, so they have a greater turnaround time, but only a couple of weeks. Not exactly instant gratification, but we’re knitters, we’re not in this for instant gratification. Covet, big time.

So, my own prototype looks like an absolute monstrosity following that thing of beauty, but I’m still pretty proud of it. Meet my 50-cent sock DPN holder:

P1060164

Yes, that’s a toothbrush case. I got it from the dollar store, 2/$1.

P1060166

And I cut openings in each half, and smoothed out the edges with an X-acto knife.

P1060165

And then I threaded fabric-coated elastic through the drainage holes and tied it together at tension, so the two halves would stay connected and have enough pull to keep closed in my bag.

And you know what? It’s great. I’m thinking of some modifications, to drop some hot glue in those holes to prevent extra needles from slipping out, and maybe finding a slightly better elastic. But it’s perfect. The hardest part was finding the toothbrush case, because CVS didn’t have this kind, just the over-the-head type.

Anyone else have stories of successful sock knitting hacks?

January 16, 2014 at 12:13 pm 1 comment


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