240 Days until Christmas

ugly Christmas sweater

Avoid mistakes like this ugly Christmas sweater.

It’s never too early – plan ahead because, trust me, no one wants a Christmas sweater like the one pictured above. No one. Ok, maybe to wear to an Ugly Christmas Sweater party and be in the running for 1st prize. Then all your hard work will be burned or sent to a thrift store. Where they will sell it as a dart board.

How to begin your Christmas gift knitting – gathering free patterns, of course. I’ve been gathering like crazy, downloading, bookmarking, filing away neatly. I’ll share some of my favorite places to browse:

1. Ravelry – mostly knitting patterns, but some crochet. Here is the place knitting designers can post their free patterns and links to patterns on their websites. There’s also an ample supply of patterns you can purchase. And if you crochet, there are all of the above there for you as well, just not in such abundance. Plenty to keep us all busy forever.

2. Knitting Daily – Sign up and receive access to free knitting patterns from Interweave; you also can subscribe to their email list and get knitting tips, notifications of workshops and all the goings on at Interweave Press, and more. Free knitting patterns and PDFs, knitting books, etc.

3. Paradise Fibers – This is an affiliate link, which, if you use it and ever buy something, it helps incrementally to support my yarn/knitting addiction. No, I’ll never join a 12-Step program, so you don’t need to feel guilty. I love these folks because they’re just folks – this is a family-run business in my home state. They’re quirky and knowledgeable because they do it all, raising animals, making spinning wheels, and just being happy yarn people. Yarn, knitting tools and supplies, spinning supplies, etc.

4. Knit Picks – Another Pacific Northwest yarn and accessories company who’s yarns are well known as reliable standards as well as always having a few delicious surprises. KP operates ethically and responsibly on an international scale while keeping prices reasonable. Knitting yarn and books.

5. Classic Elite – Their newsletter arrives with free patterns, can’t beat that for easy. Their patterns are usually uncomplicated, making them perfect for beginning knitters, and serve as a great springboard for creative experienced knitters. And they have yarn, of course.

6. Tahki Stacy Charles – Stylish and quirky, these patterns don’t always appeal to my more conservative tastes, but I love the accessories – scarves, knitted jewelry, slippers – they take me out of my comfort zone where you never know what inspiration may strike! Yarn and patterns.

7. Quince & Co. – Alright, these patterns are not free, but they are some of my absolute favorites, and the yarn is beautiful too. (See my Knit Kimono where I used Owl yarn from Q & C.) Since knitted gifts need to be fast and beg to be attractive too, these simple basic patterns satisfy both. Yarn and patterns.

8. Still haven’t found what you’re looking for? Then head over to Janice Phelps Williams’s blog. Be sure you’ve got a pot of your favorite beverage and plenty of time to kill, her list is incredible!

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

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Classic Knits At Home by Erika Knight

knitting pattern book for the homeThe words that come to mind when describing the knitting projects in Classic Knits at Home: 15 Timeless Designs to Knit and Keep Forever are cozy, tactile, warm, timeless, classic, and everyday. These knitted gems are simple enough for beginning knitters with enough pattern interest to keep more experienced knitters coming back time and again.

Each project is one that can find a place in any home and will be put to use as soon as it is completed. The yarns used are natural fibers in neutral colors, and this is why I took this book off my bookshelf to share with you today.

Yesterday I wrote about the homespun-like qualities of Shetland wool. The patterns in Classic Knits at Home: 15 Timeless Designs to Knit and Keep Forever came to mind as I wrote about that yarn. This seems to be a match made in heaven and there’s a pattern which would be lovely in Elemental Lace — a lace throw. The pattern calls for mohair lace yarn knit on size 8 needles, but I prefer a less fuzzy wool yarn. The shawl is knit in four sections plus an edging, making it a great summer project since the pieces are small and oh so featherweight.

The patterns run the gamut of rugs, throws, pillow covers, a doorstop, plant pot covers, slippers, wash mitt, and all are simple and charming. Of particular usefulness is the descriptions of each yarn used at the end of the book, making it much easier to substitute of similar thickness, weight and texture. Website addresses for the recommended yarns are also given.


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Inspired to Knit by Michele Rose Orne

knitting pattern bookAs I gather my thoughts about “Inspired to Knit: Creating Exquisite Handknits“, the book is prompting me to explain my category choices, that I’ll give fair due to the book’s unique character by doing so.

Obviously, it’s a book so it goes in the Book category, many pattern books include designs suitable for both beginners and experienced knitters, and what knitter can’t harvest ideas and excitement from just about any pattern book? What’s the big deal?

The big deal is that when you read about the author, you’re pretty much floored by her experience, and it shows in her patterns. She has been designing for well over 20 years for the likes of Vogue, Classic Elite, and Tahki, and as in the book’s subtitle, “Creating Exquisite Handknits”, her patterns are indeed exquisite, and most (but not all) require the skills of a somewhat experienced knitter.

Yet the book is a must read for beginners because Michele shares quite eloquently and simply where and how she gets her inspiration, and how she records what she sees and transforms this inspiration into a pattern (or an adaptation of a pattern, for beginners).

Beginners usually choose a pattern and yarn, then knit as directed. Michele takes you along as she looks at colors, patterns, and textures in nature and chooses yarn(s) accordingly. She guides you on your own journey of learning how to observe and see all these things in nature, your surroundings, fashions, and so forth.

Michele urges you to see and to observe your reactions to what you see. For example, I look out my window and see greens and browns, with a dash of pink from the rhododendrons and blue and white in the sky. Michele has taught me to look closer, at the tints and shades created by sunlight and shadow in the forest and on the lawn and flowers.

A tremendous palette gradually emerges. Greys, golds, so much more than simply brown. Lichen greens, bright leaf and grass greens, blue-greens of fir trees…I love the pink of the rhodies against the blue-green of the leaves, but there are so many shades of pinks and greens, plus the browns and grays of surrounding tree trunks – then the sun comes out and there are more…see what I mean?

If I could do one thing over, it would be to learn to see when I was beginning to knit as a child.

Michele gives us a window into her design process as well. She gives us hints on how we might change a pattern; she shows us how she dealt with a pattern not knitting up as desired or expected. As we follow her along on her journey, we begin to learn how to take our knitting into our own hands.

Choosing colors for a project can sometimes be daunting; Michele reminds us that nature never fails to offer up a palette of compatible colors. And even if the beginner feels overwhelmed by Michele’s patterns, s/he will appreciate learning so much about where and how to find inspiration, before picking up needles and yarn and launching into the next project.


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Mothers Day Shawlette

knitted shawlette

100% wool knitted shawlette

Mothers Day is coming right up here and my mom is not doing very well. Actually, she’s doing pretty good for being 91, but she may not be with us much longer. I wanted to knit up something for her, something with love in every stitch.

I had a couple of skeins of a lovely maroon shade of Brown Sheep ‘Lambs Pride’ yarn and a free shawl pattern (Alpaca Sox Shawl) from Classic Elite Yarn company. Off I went, confident that I could knit up a small shawlette quickly.

Which I did…but I ran short on yarn as I was finishing it up. As the last rows are a lovely picot edge to match the other two sides of this triangular shawl, I had to rip, knit, rip, knit a few times before I was able to finish the edging with what remained of the yarn.

So it’s a bit smaller than either version of the shawl in the pattern, but lovely nevertheless.

And the love in every stitch is priceless.

Happy Mothers Day, Mom!


Photo Credit – Seattle Image Design

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Knitting On The Road by Nancy Bush

sock knitting instruction bookIf you knit for people with feet, you have to get this book.

Knitting on the Road is full of sock patterns that are simple and easy to knit while traveling, one of the advantages being that they don’t require much yarn, so you can easily pack it into your luggage or weekend bag. Nancy Bush has meticulously matched yarn, pattern and technique to create flawless socks.

However, the simple patterns and flawless designs are not what have made this book a “must buy” for me. Seldom do I feel this way about a knitting book, simply because I could impoverish myself with my purchases if I gave myself free rein. Why has this book found a chink in my frugality armor?

Because not only do I feel I could knit each sock to perfection, thanks to Nancy’s impeccable patterns, but her “extras” are worth their weight in gold. From her instructions for casting onto 2 needles instead of one (to avoid that inevitable tightness as you knit the first round), to her charts of conversions and yarn lists that make it super easy to substitute one yarn for another, to her clear photos and charts, to her incredibly readable and easily understood instructions for all those details that make your socks absolutely perfect (such as kitchener stitch), to — I love this most of all — the fact that the book is ring-bound so it lies perfectly flat.

Hallelujah! someone finally designed a knitting book FOR KNITTERS. Hello world — if I’m knitting, I can’t hold my pattern book open, and putting my coffee cup on it usually leads to disaster, or at least to covering up some of the instructions so I can’t read them.

And besides all that, Nancy’s picture on the back of the book makes her look like someone I would love to sit and knit with.

Yes, I will buy “Knitting on the Road”, and if you knit for people who have feet, you should too!

You can also find this book on my bookshelf at Powell’s Bookstore.


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Knitted Baseball Cap

knitted baseball cap

knitted baseball cap

I’ve felt sorry for those guys that HAVE to wear a baseball cap year-round. BRRRRR! So I’ve taken it upon myself to attempt a knitted wool one.

If you’re knitting for a sports fan, you might want to choose his team colors. Otherwise, I suggest sticking to a somewhat neutral color – a shade of black/gray/brown, or a deep forest green or navy blue. For summer you might try linen or hemp; I happen to love wool.

I’m knitting the cap like I do a watch cap ala EZ (Elizabeth Zimmerman), her Prime Rib stitch, just because it is so extremely elastic and forgiving if you don’t have the size just right. I follow her hat pattern, knitting it up without any allowance for turning up the edge, and then it’s time for the brim.

I could not for the life of me figure out how to knit the brim and have it be stiff enough. I finally decided to take a brim off of an old hat and use it for a pattern. I cut one to match out of plastic needlework canvas.

Finally, the brainstorm for how to knit the hat brim. I channeled EZ (that’s how Elizabeth Zimmermann is known amongst her adoring fans). She reminded me, rather sternly, that of course we want to knit in the round. Make it like a sock toe, methinks!

Now, back in the sock article I gave you the url of a page with lots of sock toe options.

Was it Forrest Gump who said “simple is as simple does” or did I just make that up? At any rate, that’s my motto. On the sock toe page, the first option, “Joan’s Favorite Toe”, fits my purposes just fine. Others swear by the short row, knitting from the toe up method. That one works very well when knitting a sock for someone who can try it on as you go.

I prefer simply knitting a little bag in the round for my hat brim, “trying it on” and adjusting the shaping to fit my brim exactly. Obviously the decrease rounds will need to be further apart for a rounder, less pointed brim than the picture of the sock.

When the brim is done, slip in the needlework canvas, then sew it to the cap.


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Knitting Socks As Gifts

spiral tube sock

spiral tube sock

Knitting spiral tube socks takes some of the guesswork out of knitting gifts and leaves some of the surprise in.

Half of the fun of gift giving is the surprise and delight on the recipient’s face. Knitting for gift giving is problematic however – you need measurements to keep the delight on that face, but asking for measurements takes away a lot of the surprise.

There’s no delight in a sweater big enough for two, or a sock two inches too short. But don’t give up, the spiral tube sock is a great option.

This pattern is considered “intermediate” because it assumes you’ve overcome the quite irrational fear of knitting in the round with four or more double-pointed needles.

These socks have a lot of lateral stretch so you don’t need to worry about knowing the exact circumference of the leg or foot. Perfect, eh?

This is the basic pattern but as always, mix it up to your own satisfaction. Experiment with different size ribs, how many rounds you knit before the “twist”, horizontal stripes, etc.

Start by knitting a K1,P1 rib for about 1 inch. Keep track of how many rounds this is, for the second sock.

Then switch to a wider rib, at least K4,P4 – if you are knitting with thinner yarn, you may want to expand this to K7,P7 or whatever pleases your eye.

You will now knit a series of rounds, let’s say 4 rounds, in your rib of choice. For this example I will use K4,P4.

Therefore, knit 4 rounds in K4,P4.

Next 4 rounds, K3,*P4,K4, continue around from *.

Next 4 rounds, K2,*P4,K4 around.

Next 4 rounds, K1,*P4,K4 around

Next 4 rounds, *P4,K4 around.

See? It’s forming a spiral.

Continue knitting and twisting until you are 2″ from the toe and maybe quite dizzy 🙂

If your knitting measures 14″ at this point, your leg length will be 6-7″. This is how my socks fit me, a size 8 woman’s sock. Since there is no knitted-in heel, there is leeway for differences one way or another.

Here are some great ideas for different toes. My favorite for tube socks is the star toe – plus the instructions are short, not so intimidating!



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