Shawls are a great project to knit or crochet, because they have so much to offer. For one thing, they are practical. Nice to drape around you on a chilly autumn morning, or to wear to the movies and survive the temperature of the air conditioning. They are elegant as well, and when done in a lustrous color or sparkly metallic, will dress up that evening wear or church outfit.
Another way they make a great project is for the learning skills you develop as a knitter or crocheter. Shawls can be a simple rectangle, or they can be a bit more involved by becoming a triangle or semicircle. Patterns abound using short rows to create gentle curves, and others start at the deep center with a garter tab.
I worked up this shawl recently with the Intermediate Knitter in mind. It's semi-circular in shape, and it has a nice texture at the finish that looks pretty complicated, but is deceptively easy. The look occurs at the bind off, and all you do is drop the 10th stitch off the needle and pull it down all the way.
You all have dropped a stitch before. It's easy to do: look up to watch that exciting scene in the movie you've been listening to, get your pet tangled up in your yarn, have too many stitches oozing over the edge of your needle.
A dropped stitch can be a mistake. Can be is the operative phrase. WIth this shawl, the drop stitch is the desired effect. And, it helps offer a bit of a cheat: it added length to my project without me having to actually knit to that length.
I did this on Lace Ball, a superwash wool. Wool is a sticky yarn that likes to cling to itself, so I had to convince the stitches to drop all the way, and it even looked like I was wrestling my shawl at times. For the beginner who is timid about intimidating their project by tugging on it forcefully, look for a mercerized cotton, a bamboo or a silk yarn. Something nice and slippery that will drop all the way down like a child on a playground slide: whee! Faster!
Here's the pattern. Enjoy
Purposeful Drops Shawl
Fingering weight yarn, 450 yards (sample was done with Schoppel Lace Ball, 800 meters (I used half)
Size US 10 circular needle, 40 inches long
Finished Size after Blocking:
60 inches long by 15 inches deep at center
5 sts per inch in garter stitch
Gauge is unimportant for this project.
Shawl is a semicircle with increases done on each end every row. Use whichever increase you like best. Sample was done with K f/b, but a yo,K1 would look fantastic, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with the M1.
CO 30 stitches
1. K1, work your favorite kind of increase over stitch #2, knit to last two stitches. Work favorite increase on next stitch, end K1.
Repeat row 1 until there are 230 stitches. Piece should measure at least 12 inches from cast on. If it is too short, then keep doing Row 1, ending your total stitch count with a multiple of 10. (I.e., 240, 250 stitches, etc. )
BO 8 stitches, drop next one from left needle off. *BO 9, drop next stitch, BO 9*. Repeat to end.
If your drops are uncooperative, gently tug the ladders out and help the stitch fall to the bottom of the work. A crochet hook helps also.
Wet, block to size, weave in ends and enjoy!
Your LYS (Local Yarn Store) is so different than a big box store that sells yarn. It's like the difference between a public golf course and a private country club.
How do I come up comparing yarn shops to golf courses?
Well, I have held jobs as a waitress in numerous places. I loved waitressing. I worked at chain restaurants, family-owned, and corporate, private membership clubs. I never used to understand why anyone would want to pay to belong somewhere. But my job at the country club changed my attitude about that and set the standard for how I operate my own LYS.
Customer service was a priority at the country club. We were very well trained. Wait staff was instructed to call the member by name at least four times during the course of service. We were equipped with a crumber, to sweep the table cloth clean after a meal, and carried a lighter in our pockets to catch a member lighting a cigarette before he/she managed to get their own out (this, obviously, was in the days before non-smoking rooms). We loved to surprise them with our attentiveness.
I began to understand why someone would want to buy a membership and then continue to pay a monthly fee to such an establishment. It feels really good to be greeted by name, and your favorite beer deposited in front of you before you even order. It feels good to be known.
Someone browsing my yarn one day asked me why she should buy yarn from me rather than go to the large craft stores that carry yarn.
I think about her question a lot.
It seems to me a local yarn store carries the same misconceptions that a private club does. The attitude is it's exclusive, snobby, for rich people.
That's not really true.
A yarn shop is for everyone. For the doily maker that only uses crochet thread, the afghan knitter that likes washable worsteds, the artsy knitter that wants a luxurious fiber on their skin for that heirloom cardigan.
True, there are some yarns there that are expensive. Looking around at my own inventory, that is very true. But if you look around, you'll find some that are quite reasonable. Quite. Like, you could knit a blanket for $25. That's pretty good.
There's more variety at a LYS. Big box stores might look like they carry a lot of yarn, but it's really a lot of colors of the same kind. If you are an afghan knitter, you are most likely going to shop for washable and worsted. You'll exhaust your fiber options after the second blanket. At a LYS, you can make that afghan in a single spun, try superwash or acrylic, chain construction, core construction, hand dyed, hand spun, all different weights, fibers,etc, galore.
A LYS really knows their customers. I not only know who are my sock knitters, but I know their names. And I know the names of their husbands who receive the socks. I know the colors they prefer.
A yarn shop owner also has a lot in common with his/her customers. They both like to use yarn. The yarn shop owner might have years of experience in handling yarn, reading patterns, creating garments. They can be very informative and love to babble. A customer can get a lot of assistance there. Not just what aisle to find a yarn, but how much to purchase, how to perform a certain technique, how to finish the project for a professional look.
Yarn shops also want you to continue to be their customer. You are not anonymous. We are accommodating and will bend over backwards to help you out. On top of my desk is a hold pile. It's a stash for my customers who buy little at a time for the same project.
So consider becoming a member at your local yarn shop. It doesn't cost a thing, and you'll have a place to go where someone knows your name and understands your needs.
This is Winston.
He's a young Springer Spaniel, full of personality and energy. It's been my pleasure to dog sit for him recently. You see the red yarn draped over his snout, don't you? He likes to hang out with me while I do my knitting.
He's so rambunctious that I really should have been suspicious one day while he sat at my feet quietly. But if you like to knit or crochet, you know how it goes. You get in a zone, and your mind just drifts off to another place.
Here's what my Kitchener Stitch repair looks like. Not invisible - you can see 8 rows down or so there's a stitch going in the wrong direction, but remember, I am lazy. I will not fuss over it because I felt these ropes so much all stitch definition goes by-by.
Conclusion: If the dog eats your knitting, all is not lost! I'm not sure about the homework, though. I'd think that's just gone.
I recently knit a neck piece out of Feza's Alp Premier yarn. It was fun - the most challenging part was counting to 231 for the cast on (tip: plop a stitch marker of some kind every 20 stitches or so, and count abacus-like as you progress and forget how many you've done.)
It's a great pattern for a beginner, because it's all knit, and the shaping is done through binding off a (sometimes) large number of stitches each row.
As you know, all knit fabric, called garter stitch, is reversible, so everything looks the same. Think about that, as you are slowly cruising through 200 stitches. It takes so long you forgot what you did at the beginning of the row. Was this the 5th time you bound off 4 stitches? Or was it the 6th? And you have to do that for 12 rows. It's easy to lose count.
Here's a few ways to keep yourself organized:
1. Keep a row tally. This means having a row counter at your side or around your neck. A scrap of paper works well, too. My daughter likes to put out 12 chocolate chips, and each time she starts a new row she treats herself to a chocolate chip. When they are all gone, she's finished that section. For this pattern, that method might cause you to gain weight. From 231 down to 3; that was a lot of shaping!
2. Count your stitches, and do the math. If you have cast on 231, and you bind off 4, then you should finish the row with 227, and so on.
3. Look at your rows, and read your knitting. Count the bind off sections (this is not always that easy, especially with this yarn, which uses so many novelty types.)
4. Watch your tail.
This is the real point of the blog; the usefulness of that cast on tail. Especially in garter stitch, where even though a fabric is reversible a designer will still insist one side is the right side, and shaping will often occur on the same side throughout.
I did the knitted cast on for this project (next time I'll use my favorite, the long tail. I wasn't sure I'd have enough left over for my fringe. But there was plenty.
Depending on your cast on method, your tail will either be on the right or left of your stitches as you begin row one. Glance at the little dangle there. For the knitted cast on, the tail is on the left; for the long tail, it starts on the right. And let me mention while I'm at it, don't be stingy with that tail. It should be at least 6 inches. This is so you'll be able to hide it later using a tapestry needle. If it's too short you won't have any flexibility with the needle. Plus you should weave around at least 8 stitches in different directions to hide it successfully and keep it from playing peek-a-boo with you later, after it's gone through a wash. So don't be miserly. If it's too short it will pop out on you, guaranteed.
What does your 6 inch dangle tell you while knitting garter stitch? It tells you odd from even numbered rows and it tells you if you finished a pair of sequences. For instance, I may have forgotten how many times out of 12 that I performed a certain bind off, but just by looking at my dangling friend, I can tell if I need to stop and count (tail on right side) or if I can just do what I did last row (tail on wrong side and I'm doing the same at the beginning of each row in pairs.) So at least one more, and then I should stop and think and count and maybe eat another chocolate chip.
Your tail is your friend. In human evolution maybe we once had one and now it's lost, but while your fabric is evolving as you knit, don't let that tail disappear until you are finished and ready to weave in your ends.
Here's the link for that pattern. I have another version, written a little more clearly, so if you need help don't hesitate to stop by the shop, leave a comment here, or email/text/Facebook
It's mid-September now, and business has started to pick up with customers planning on doing some holiday knitting. Scarves and dish cloth sets seem to be popular, as are afghans and hats.
But, I repeat, it's mid-September. If you have several recipients on your holiday knit list, you'd better be busy at it.
Today I played around when I should have been doing other things, but it gave me a great idea.
Believe it or not, my biggest online sales are for size US 36 and 50 needles. Huge honkers! So I pulled out a US 50 and thought I'd play with them. I have a fuzzy, acrylic yarn that failed me as a hat. Less than an hour later, I had a fashionable, chic scarf. Pleased with my result, I thought of you holiday knitters and thought I'd tell you about it.
Here are some other things you should consider when knitting scarves:
1) Use a larger needle size than the label recommends.
If you aren't going to follow a pattern and just have some nice yarn, use a larger needle than the yarn label calls for. A worsted yarn label will suggest a US 7 or 8, but that's more for a sweater fabric. A scarf should have more drape, flow and softness. Do it on a 9 or 10 for a looser weave and a less stiff fabric.
2) Use a reversible pattern
When a scarf is looped around a neck, the back side is going to show. Some patterns have really cool back sides, but a reversible pattern is very tidy as it looks the same from both sides. Some to consider:
Garter Stitch (knit every row)
Seed Stitch (k1,p1) ever row on an odd number of stitches
Rib (kp a certain number and k and p what you see). Examples are k1,p1 (that's a 1x1 rib), k2p2, k3p2, etc. Cast on a multiple of your minimum rib repeat. If you are doing a 2x2, then cast on a multiple of 4. If you are doing the 3x2, then cast on a multiple of 5 and you only have one row to remember.
For the more advanced knitter, look for reversible cable patterns. Those are fun.
3.) Knit at least as tall as the recipient.
For a scarf to wrap around once, its length needs to be as tall as the wearer. If your friend is 5' 2", knit at least that much. Usually people go for 6 feet of scarf, but if your friend is taller than that, you'll want to do 7 ft. Or more - it's fun to wrap it around several times or tie intricate knots.
Have fun with your holiday knitting! The joy of giving is felt each time you work on your projects.
I had a super busy summer, teaching eight camps to children 7-14. I offered Embroidery, Fiber Fun, and Hooks and Needles at the Museum of East Texas here in Lufkin.
It was fun, and the kids occupied so much of my thoughts and were such a routine part of my day. Now that school is starting up again, I find I am still thinking of how wonderful it was to see children enjoy crafting. I want them to be that comfortable, that satisfied, all year round. And I want them to have an outlet should life get a little uncomfortable.
Kids are busy. They have school, and if they aren't busy after school with sports, or dance, they tend to attach themselves to some electronic device. Hopefully they are attached to books!
Each of these activities make for a structured, concentrated time. Crafting is the opposite. It involves imagination and freedom from conform. Yes, there are rules: don't touch the glue gun or saw a finger off; always start with a slip know and don't cut yarn longer than shoulder length. But these are just to get them started on the right foot. After that, anything goes.
Granted, during camps I had some whose creativity wasn't sparked. They found it hard, whined a bit, wandered off. Maybe they liked sculpture or painting better. But, the general atmosphere was calm stimulation. Children were spread out around tables, on the floor, in a corner weaving. I had to prompt some to stop and remind them to enjoy their snack. One week I had to scold three kids from using all my supplies up in one afternoon for their finger crocheting. They brought their own yarn in from home and spent their lunch hour - free time - together, making a gigantic chain.
So how can adults foster a child's creativity at home and school?
1) Keep supplies handy.
Things like yarn, plastic canvas, and blunt large-eyed needles are available lots of places and very inexpensive!
2) Encourage thinking out of the box and reinventing the wheel.
Got some old clothes they outgrew? Turn that old t-shirt into a pillow or bag. Take an ugly piece of plastic or packaging and cover it with fabric or yarn.
3) Busy hands make for better behavior.
This really applies well in the classroom. Students with various degrees of The Fidgets benefit from being allowed to finger crochet or braid a bracelet. Their physical demands are being met but at the same time their minds are wide open for listening and learning. And they stop disrupting the class.
4) Let their creativity schedule itself.
When a child announces they are bored, suggestions fall on shrugged shoulders. You might as well order them to clean their room. Just don't give boredom the opportunity to set in. Leave something out on the coffee table for them to explore on their own, when no one is watching. Boxes are so much fun to play with. Glue and clay or dough are a great tactile experience.
5) Allow yourself, as parent and teacher, to let go and let a child enjoy a mess.
This is important. So many of us have forgotten what it feels like to be a child, to be lost in the moment. We burden ourselves unnecessarily. Yes, crafting can make a mess, stain a shirt. It's not the end of the world! Just let it go, and for an hour or two, everyone be free to enjoy themselves and their creativity.
My kids and I have been volunteering at the Humane Society of Angelina County http://facebook.com/humanesocietyofangelinacounty
We go on Sundays and spend almost 2 hours with the dogs and cats. My 4 walk the dogs while I pooper scoop (someone's gotta do it) and then we head in to give the cats and kittens some loving. I'm the only one who doesn't mind unfolding newspapers to use as cage liners.
Our dog was a shelter dog, and she is the best. All the ones we've met at the shelter have been great dogs. They are so appreciative of our time. We get a licking or a tail wag after a romp in the grass.
The employees tell us our simple task helps to make the animals more adoptable. Maybe that's true - we certainly have seen many come and go, which is a good thing. I often find myself very moved when I hear of a dog's or cat's adoption, because you can't help but get a little attached. But even though we are a bit sad to not see them again, we are so many more times happy that they have gone to a loving home.
Now that I have my little Brick and Mortar shop, I am thinking I might be able to give even more than a little dog and cat loving. My thought process went something like this....
Dogs and cats have fur. Fur is a fiber. I sell fiber in the form of yarn and roving. Roving is sheep's wool. Wool is fur. Cats and dogs love to play with wool balls. I know! Let's make Fur Balls!
And the 1st Fur Ball Fundraiser was born. My thanks to the Humane Society for supporting me and helping to get the word out! I'm really excited about it and can't wait!
I finally got my needles in for Froggy Fibers. Based on past experience I chose the Knitter's Pride line.
Not to say there aren't other wonderful needles out there; Knitter's Pride, however, has a line of affordable birch or the more expensive luxury Dreamz, and I thought I'd get both. Some knitters like to treat themselves and feel good with dreamy needles while others have a goal of finishing the project and appreciate value and economy.
So, the needles arrived and I arranged them on their grid wall and got to twitching. I was dying to use them! Even though they aren't really for me but for you.
I pulled the Basix size 50 out of its packaging. Why the US 50 in particular? Well, it has a really nice, sturdy package. With a snap! I can put it back when I'm done and no one will be the wiser. Except you, since I've gone and confessed.
My first thought was the cable would have trouble uncurling it's kink. Wrong! Two rows later and its smooth.
I pulled out my "briefcase" with office supplies (i.e. Teeny balls of scrap yarn), and proceeded to cast on. Five stitches is all my long tail would allow on such honking big needles.
Imagine if I'd done some color coordinating! Garter ridges the size of Pom poms! I'll have a thick, chunky cowl done in no time, and be very fashionable to boot.
Next I thought what it would be like to use a single yarn. I chose my Casafina, a worsted weight cotton.its so airy and lacy and not a yarn over in sight! Wish it were still summer. I'd love a light wrap like that, or even something to wear over a tank top.
Bottom line: while I felt like Lily Tomlin in her oversized chair from Laugh-In, I found the needles to be exceptionally smooth. Sure, I dropped them and lost my stitches, but that happens all the time when you've got too big a needle for your yarn.
They are smooth, feel great in the hand, and give great results.
Come on in and try them. I've got two. Maybe we can race and see who gets the farthest in 20 minutes.
People who are crafty use their craft to make a statement about themselves. That sounds very bold and planned and maybe a little egocentric; it is in fact more gentle than that. Being crafty is merely an extension of who they are. Their craft reflects their life events and their interests.
I know people who began to learn or who returned to knitting when they learned they were about to become a grandparent. The first project was a blanket, then a hat. Soon they were ready to tackle a sweater, or a stuffed animal.
What does Froggy Fibers reflect? Hopefully a bit of all of you: texture and color and the desire to learn and create. But because it's a small business, it's inevitably going to reflect a bit of the person who started it.
So, let me introduce myself! The Froggy comes from the very first pattern I ever made up, back when I was still learning how. I had toddlers and wanted to make them something to play with. So Froggy was born. I still make them, and when I teach kids to knit or crochet, the Froggy is their first finished project. The picture above shows the Fiber Art wall of the Children's Art Camp Exhibit at the Museum of East Texas. If you peer hard you can spot a Froggy.
My knitting still shows I am a mother even though my kids are older. When they got into literary characters I made Harry Potter and Star Wars dolls. It brought a style, too; I knit folksy and whimsical and probably goofy. From Froggy evolved pigs (again a reflection: i have a pet pig), bunnies, cats, dogs.
I hate purses but Ok I'll carry one because for some reason women's clothing is deficient in pockets. The purse I carry of course I made myself. It's felted and colorful and small.
My favorite accessory is not the shawl (though that sure comes in handy in air conditioning) but my felted headband which I wear like a 1920s era flapper girl when I run. It has the inglorious task of acting like a dam from al