Monday, 28 April 2014

Knitter's Guide to the Galaxy

The knitted sequence from the movie The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, featuring what may be the most innovative use of variegated yarn ever. It almost makes me wish they'd done the whole movie that way, although the presence of Morgan Freeman reconciles me to the live action option.

Friday, 25 April 2014

A Needling Question of Storage

How do you store your knitting needles? My last post about how to make one's own knitting needles got me thinking about options for storing them. You're looking at my method, a cut glass vase that I found at Value Village for $6 and that sits on a chest of drawers in my attic workroom. Vases and other containers with an elongated shape are probably the simplest and most cost-effective solution for knitting needle storage. People use all kinds of containers for their needles, and often employ whatever's already sitting around the house: old paint cans, mason jars, cookie tins, or Pringle or coffee cans. One attractive option is to use those tubular gift boxes designed to hold wine bottles.

If the vase option isn't organized enough for you (the one drawback of the vase method is that fishing for a certain size needles can take a few very frustrating minutes), there are a number of types of needle cases to consider. This is one of the higher-end options, a Namaste Double Wide Red Circular Knitting Needle Case. Namaste makes a range of storage cases that are designed specifically for knitting needles and knitting notions, and I must admit they are all pretty snazzy looking.

Another storage option is to use a binder to hold your knitting needles. This option is probably best for your circular needles and DPNs, because your straight needles may be too long to fit within the binder. You can assemble a knitting needle binder yourself and organize it in exactly the manner you wish fairly easily and inexpensively, because Staples will have a selection of binders and hole punched envelopes and cases. A zippered binder like this one would be ideal because it prevents your needles from ever falling out, but an ordinary 2" school binder will serve the purpose as well. If you wish you can dress up an old binder by making it a special fabric or knitted cover, to which a zipper, tie or snap closure can be added. The needle-containing envelopes inside the binder can be labelled and organized by size to make it easy for you to find the needle you want, and the binder itself can be stowed away on a bookshelf.

A fourth knitting needle option is to use a folding fabric storage case. These cases are widely available for sale (the one depicted above was made by Etsy vendor Lena Brown). If you have even basic sewing skills, you can try your hand at designing your own. Sometimes people use placemats for this kind of project rather than raw fabric as so much of the cutting, shaping, reinforcing, and edge finishing is already done. A case like this can be made exactly to your specifications and can potentially hold all your tools — not only all your needles but also your scissors, stitch markers, tape measure, needle gauge, etc. The case can also be made to tie, zip, or snap shut. Another option is to stitch a casing along the top of their fabric needle cases so that a dowel rod can be slipped through it, attach a cord or ribbon to the ends of the dowel rod, and hang the needle case on a wall or to the back of a door.

Have you found another storage option besides that of a vase, box, binder or handmade or purchased needle storage case? Tell us about it in the comments!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

How to Make Wooden Knitting Needles

If you'd like knitting needles with character, you might try experimenting with making your own. Making wooden knitting needles is easy: you can buy wooden dowels at your local craft or building supply store (take your needle gauge with you if you want a particular size), cut them to whatever length you like, use a pencil sharpener to create the pointed ends, sandpaper the whole needle lightly, and condition the wood with wood or mineral oil. Once you've done all this, you've reached the fun part of making your own wooden needles: decorating them with end knobs in the style of your choice. For this you can use polymer clay (best known by its most common brand name, Sculpey), a crafting clay that is baked in a kitchen oven.

This tutorial explains the needle-making process in more detail.

Polymer clay can be molded in any style or shape you chose, and then hand painted. The Babushka doll knitting needles above were hand made by Etsy vendor Sail on Baby.

These knitting penguin needles are both meta and quite cute. They are from the Etsy shop of The Clay Bean Co.

If your tastes run to the macabre rather than the cute, try your hand at making skull or zombie knitting needles.

And there's no need to confine your decorating solely to the knob ends of the knitting needles. It's possible to paint the needles themselves. You'll need to add a few coats of varnish once the painting is done to keep the paint from rubbing off onto your work. These striped needles are the work of Etsy vendor Soup to Knits. I've also previously posted about how to dye wooden knitting needles.

If you try making your own needles, have fun with it, and feel free to link to pictures of the results in the comments.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Knitted Baskets You Can Safely Put All Your Eggs In

'Tis the season (or at least the weekend) for baskets, so let's have a look at a selection of knitted baskets. This Basket Liner Tutorial, by Waco Knitters, isn't technically a knitted basket, but it looks like a great way to spruce up an old basket that's become prone to snagging everything. It's a free pattern.

These rectangular baskets, designed by Debbie Bliss, may not be of a shape to seem right for eggs and chocolate, but wouldn't they be perfect for your linen or craft closet? The pattern was published in The Knitter's Year: 52 Make-In-A-Week Projects - Quick Gifts and Seasonal Knits.

Ah, there's nothing quite like the sight of yarn in its natural habitat, is there? This yarn basket, designed by Anna & Heidi Pickles, looks like a quick and easy knit, and it's a free pattern.

This is the Twine Notions Basket, by Heidi Atwood-Reeves, and as you would expect from the name, it's knitted out of twine, which would make it a sturdy little affair. It's a free pattern.

This pattern is called My First Felted Basket, by Ratchadawan Chambers, and the name suggests that it would make a good first project for a beginning felter. It's a free pattern.

The Nantasket Basket, by Susan Lawrence is a slightly more complex felted basket, with handles and colourwork. This pattern is available for $5.50(USD).

These Nesting Baskets, by Lily/Sugar'n Cream, look like a useful decor item. Unfortunately the pattern is no longer available online, but it shouldn't be too hard for a good knitter to replicate the look.

A knitted and felted basket of many colours, by Beate Zäch. This is a free pattern.

This lined and handled basket is the Vegetable Basket, by Deborah V. Gardner, is so named because it was originally designed to hold vegetables, though basket-like it will hold nearly anything you wish. It's a free pattern.

I felt I had to include one specifically Easter basket pattern in this post, and these are pretty cute. The pattern for these Easter Baskets, by Jean Woods, is available for download for $3.00.

This is the Felted Snowflakes Yarn Basket, by Mary C. Gildersleeve, and the pattern is available for $5.00(USD).

There were any number of lovely felted basket patterns on Ravelry, so I just selected a few of my favourites, such as this Felted Baskets pattern, by Julie Weisenberger. This pattern is available for download for $7.00(USD).

The addition of leather straps makes basket pattern the Knitting Bowl on the Go! by Sharon Mooney. This pattern is available for $5.50(USD).

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Twist Collective Spring 2014: A Review

Twist Collective has released its Spring 2014 issue, and it's probably the best spring issue I've seen yet this season — and I've seen quite a few. So, while snow falls in Toronto and I worry about the well-being of my tulips which had just begun to come up, let's have a look at it.

The Restalrig design is one of those good minimalist designs that have a good shape and just enough detail to keep things interesting. The result is a very useful sweater that will go with lots of other items in a woman's closet.

The Aello design is just stunning. This is a shawl fit for a princess bride, and for bringing out on special occasions for decades to come, such as wrapping around the baby at the christening.

The Aphelion is a cute and wearable little summer top with a retro vibe.

The Nopales cardigan. I'm usually less than enthusiastic about gathered front closures on a cardigan, but I think this one is working because it sits well and has good lines.

The Ivyle top. Very pretty and wearable.

The Carnica shawl. I wish we could see this shawl better, but what is shown here looks good and seems to have an interesting texture.

The Tybee top. Quite like this one. If the drawstring detail isn't for you, you can always omit it and perhaps add a little waist shaping. This top has plenty going for it without it. Love the picot edging and the back view.

The Daralis cowl is beautiful. I love the intricate cable work.

The Belleville cardigan. I'll be adding this one to my Ravelry favourites. It's perfect.

The Chainlink design is another very wearable and attractive summer cardigan.

The Belarra shawl is just as gorgeous as the Aello shawl above.

The Crush socks are cute, and I love the combination of hearts and stripes, which keeps the hearts from being too twee. My one nitpick is that perhaps those hearts could be better shaped.

The Brightwood design apparently can be knitted as either pullover and cardigan. It's a classic, wearable item in both views.

The Walkabout socks are cute.

The Finery cardigan is a lovely piece. The shape is good and the openwork edging around the neck and front pieces is distinctive.

The Facet design. Oooh, those twists and openings are a truly original touch. I like this one, which lets a woman show some skin without being all "EVERYTHING'S IN THE WINDOW COME AND LOOK" about it. I'm also adding this one to my Ravelry favourites, but I will have to figure out how to get a bra underneath it before I let myself make it. Strapless is probably the way to go.

The Megunticook design is another very useful, wearable piece that will flatter most women.

The Glaize pattern. This is a nice little summer top. Do make sure when you make it that it is properly sized to fit the wearer. This one is a little small on the model and is gaping between the buttons and pulling apart too much at the top.

The Interleaf design is really striking and graphic. This is a striped design that really pops.

The Leola sock pattern. Quite like these, but then it would be hard to go wrong with a classic sock pattern like this.

The Aristea shawl is a lovely piece, and offers both a rectangular and a triangular option. Both are beautiful.

The Portia top. I'm not sure how flattering this drawstring waist style will be on most women, especially considering it's not doing a lot for this model. You could make the top in a standard fit, but then it might be easier to just make another pattern.

The Lanai top. Very wearable summer top. The lace v-neck detail is really well done, quite unique and attractive.

The Verbena top. Asymmetrical modern designs like this one don't usually appeal to me, but I like this one. It's well shaped and it drapes well. Alas, the Verbena top is verboten for me, because it's for small-breasted women, but I can see several women I know rocking it.

The Sugarbeach top is a nice classic summer top that almost any woman could wear.

The Calendula top. I love this top on the whole, but I don't love that centre front seam, which keeps catching my eye, and not in a good way, but more in the way a run in a stocking does. If I were to make this top, I'd rejig the design to make that front piece seamless.

And we end this excellent issue of Twist Collective on a good note. Love the Demeter skirt, which is cute and polished.