Showing posts with label tools and equipment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tools and equipment. Show all posts

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Gauge This


One of the most useful tools a knitter has is the knitting needle gauge, which is a tool for measuring the size of a knitting needle. There are various styles of gauges available for sale, and in this post we're going to have a look at some of them.

The Knitter's Rule handcrafted bamboo gauge above is probably one of the cutest I've seen, but sadly for those of us who might want one, the Etsy seller who made the Knitter's Rule gauges has retired from Etsy.





This is the utilitarian and widely available Susan Bates needle gauge. It's the one I have, and though it may be unexciting aesthetically, it could hardly be bettered in terms of its utility. The built-in rulers and gauge measure are very handy, and besides providing both metric and U.S. knitting needle sizes, it also measures crochet hook sizes, and as it's made of metal it's extremely durable. My one quibble is that it doesn't have U.K. needle sizes on it, but then no gauge that I've seen has all three.





These owl and Dr. Who-themed gauges are made by the Etsy vendor Tangerine Designs, who also makes gauges in sheep and hedgehog shapes. They aren't quite as useful as the Susan Bates gauge because they only have either metric or U.S. needle sizes and have little measuring capacity, but they are undeniably adorable.





This laser cut plastic Swift needle gauge was made by Etsy vendor Hipstrings. There are a lot of handmade and vintage gauges for sale on Etsy, so it's worth a browse through their listings if you'd like a gauge that is styled like your spirit animal or favourite theme.





Malojos.com offers those of us who feel married to our knitting this sterling silver needle gauge ring, which measures knitting needle U.S. sizes from 0-8.





Of course, if knitting needle gauges are too old school for you, there is an app for that.





If any sort of needle gauge isn't in the budget right now, here's a free needle gauge chart from Twisted Angle. Just print it off their web site at 100% and you'll be in the needle gauging business.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Tying on Some Knitting


A few days ago when I was searching for shares for my Facebook page, I came across this image. It's from the 1964 Sears catalogue. Just think, if you'd been a knitter back in 1964, this snazzy apron could have been yours, in your choice of red or aqua, for a mere $1.98. A few years back when I was at Fabriclands and browsing through their pattern catalogues, I came across a pattern for a scrapbooking apron, about which I joked with a friend who, like me, does not get the whole scrapbooking thing. But I never knew knitting aprons existed. The googling I did to try and track down some info about this ad led to my discovery that knitting aprons are actually a thing.





This illustration of and directions for making a knitting apron come from the May 1860 issue of Peterson's Magazine, which seems to have been a publication similar to Godey's Lady's Book in that it included fashion illustrations or "fashion plates" which women could use to plan their wardrobes for the coming season. I can understand why a nineteenth century housekeeper, who would have worn an apron half the time anyway, would find this a useful item. Such an apron must have been a good way of keeping one's knitting handy for those spare moments while one waited for bread to bake or while the baby napped.





Here's a vintage knitting apron that was listed on Etsy and has been sold. I can't find out how old it is, but am guessing it dates from the mid-twentieth century, say somewhere between 1930 to 1960. It reminds me a lot of an apron my grandmother used to have, which had an clothesline, clothes, and basket of laundry and clothespins depicted on it in a similar style of embroidery. Naturally Grandma Swan wore it only for hanging the wash up on the clothesline in the back yard. What else could she have worn it for? And what else could this apron be for but for knitting? Having the yarn come out of the centre of the embroidered yarn ball is very witty if a little impractical. It always amuses me to come across vintage or historical references to the fact that knitters have been fending cats away from their yarn for probably as long as knitting as existed.





There are knitting aprons available for sale these days, though they are handmade rather than mass produced. The one above is made by Etsy vendor KoalaCaddie, and is convertible from apron to bag and back again. It's a pretty clever idea, and you have the option of special ordering it from KoalaCaddie in a variety of cute fabrics, or, if you sew, whipping one up for yourself.

I can't see myself wearing a knitting apron, as I never wear aprons and wouldn't care to begin in order wear my knitting around the house. I generally will only knit during phone calls and while watching TV in the evening, and I can just fetch my knitting for that, though we were still living in the era of corded phones, I might feel differently. For me, knitting aprons are like yarn bowls — an interesting curiosity, though not logistically compatible with how I personally knit. But perhaps they will work for you.

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.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Stitch Markers You'll Want to Snitch


Recently, after years of using improvised stitch markers, I decided to treat myself to some real ones while on a visit to Toronto's Romni Wools, and was disheartened by the limited selection and general unattractiveness of the stitch markers they had for sale. But I knew I'm not the only crafter who loves using beautiful and high quality tools. There had to be some awesome stitch markers out there, and even better, I could write a post about them. Well, as it happens, there are and I did and here's the resulting post.

If you've never used stitch markers, they are quite a simple and handy little knitting accessory to help you keep track of where you are in your knitting project by marking the beginning of a round or a lace pattern. One simply slips the stitch marker from the left needle to the right when one comes back to it. There are both closed loop and locking stitch markers. The latter are preferable because they have more uses in knitting and can also be used for crocheting. This Lion Brand blog post goes into some more detail about how to use stitch markers.

It's quite easy to make your own stitch markers with items you probably already have lying around your home. You can use earrings, paper clips, safety pins, bobby pins, twist ties, plastic drinking straws cut into small pieces and slipped onto the needle, or a contrasting strand of yarn or embroidery floss slip knotted over the needle. But if you'd like to indulge in some special stitch markers, I've picked out a selection of stitch markers from around the net that you can either buy or make for yourself with beading techniques. If you've never done any beading, Worm Spit has a primer on how to make beaded stitch markers.

The notation stitch markers above (which are the closed loop type of stitch marker) are available for sale at Stitch Culture.





Craftsy suggests you can make these yarn and bead markers with technical reminders on them. I don't think I could be bothered changing the beads as they propose doing, but it's workable idea if it suits you.





These number and pearl stitch markers from Seahorse Designs would be an easy way to keep track of your rounds.





If you don't want to use your yarn makers to keep track of technical requirements but still want them to reference your love of knitting, these yarn ball markers from Hiya Hiya North America are cute and colourful.





Make sure you don't lose these little sheep! From Caryll Designs.





These green bead markers from Yarn Tomato are ever so pretty. You could make something very similar yourself, and once you know how to make stitch markers, your ability to make them will be limited only by the kind of beads available to you.





Here are some pearl markers from Shade Tree Art. What else would one put with cashmere yarn but pearls?





How do you like these apples? From Creations Jacqueline.





Here are some adorable owl stitch markers from the Etsy shop Lavender Hill Knits. There are a number of lovely stitch markers in this shop, and for that matter the entire shop is well worth a look.





These are definitely the coolest stitch markers I came across while researching this post. From Etsy seller Lady Danio.





These disco stitch markers will add a little bling to your knitting projects. From Etsy seller rosyretro. There are a lot of stitch markers available on Etsy.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Get Shorty



Michael Sellick of The Crochet Crowd demonstrates how you can shorten long plastic knitting needles to whatever length you wish.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Knitting Needles From Somewhere Over the Rainbow


If you find wood- or metal-tone knitting needles too visually bland or boring, you could always make these rainbow-coloured knitting needles out of wooden dowel and some watercolour paints. It's easy and inexpensive and the resulting gift would make a good gift for a knitter. Make It Handmade has posted a tutorial that tells you how it's done.

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Blocking Board Blueprint

Over the last year or so I've been making a concerted effort to improve my knitting skills. I learned to knit as a child and once I got to a certain skill level as a teenager, I just stayed there. I thought I was an expert knitter because I could easily make patterns designated as expert level, but I wasn't. My projects did turn out quite well, but there was room for improvement, especially in the finishing details. I only knew one way to cast on and one way to cast off, there were a lot of techniques I had never tried at all, I didn't know how to seam a garment properly, and I'd never blocked a sweater (I did press the seams). Besides improving in all these areas, I'd also like to acquire some design skills. I do freely alter patterns to suit my needs and tastes, and I have made sweaters without patterns, but it was all pretty basic stuff and I've never written a pattern. I'd like to learn to design more complex knitwear to a professional standard so some of the designs I have in my head can become a reality.

Towards all these ends, I recently decided I would get myself a blocking board and start blocking my work. An ironing board can be used for blocking, but it isn't big enough to work for anything but small projects. You can use a mattress, but who wants the bother of unmaking and remaking the bed before and after, to say nothing of having the bed out of commission for a few days at a time? You can use towels on a table, but those towels are going to shift about and make the task difficult, and again you won't be able to use the table for a day. A special purpose blocking board was what I wanted.

I priced blocking boards and found one of the size I wanted would cost something like $90(USD) plus shipping and probably duty, so I decided to make one for much less, and did. In case anyone would like a tutorial on how to make one for themselves, here's how I did it.

Items required for this project:

• a sheet of plywood in whatever size you like
• enough 1/2"–1" thick foam padding to cover the surface area of the plywood
• a piece of gingham fabric six inches longer and six inches wider than the plywood
• glue
• scissors
• a tape measure
• an upholstery stapler and staples
• a hammer, screwdriver and pair of grips to deal with the staples that won't cooperate
• a sewing machine and thread (optional)





I bought this 30" x 48" sheet of plywood from Home Depot for $12.42 (CDN). I would have preferred it to be about 30" x 60" but I would have had to buy a huge sheet of plywood and had it cut down, which meant it would be much more expensive with a lot of wastage, and so I settled for this size. It will do. I should be able to fit the pieces for a sweater for me on it, or do a dress or a coat if I want to, though I'll have to block those pieces separately.





Then I went to Fabricland and bought foam padding and a 1.25 metre length of green gingham. It would probably be better to get a sheet of foam for this project, but the day I was at Fabricland they had packages of four 1" chair seat foam squares on sale, while the sheet foam would have cost quite a bit more. It being spring, the gingham was also on sale. A gingham or checked fabric is the best thing for a homemade blocking board, because it gives you a grid to work on and does a lot of the measuring for you. Total cost of the foam and gingham was $16.22 (CDN).

I placed the foam squares on the board and cut two of them to fit, then I glued them down and left them to dry for a day or so.





I cut my gingham fabric to size, leaving a 3" margin all around. I also took an extra five minutes to overcast the edges of the fabric on my sewing machine to be sure there would be no fraying, but that's not necessary. As you can see here I've folded the edges under to make the back look neater, and that should prevent and/or hide any fraying.

I placed the fabric on the board as straight as I could, stapled the four corners from underneath, and then flipped the board over to staple the rest securely. Some of the staples were cantankerous things that wouldn't go in properly, so that's when I either pulled them out with vice grips and tried again with new staples, or hammered them the rest of the way in.





The finished board. You can see the lines where the foam squares meet — they weren't exactly precision cut to 1" — even though I tried mixing and matching them to get them to be level. But it won't affect the efficacy of the board, so whatever. The gingham isn't lined up to be perfectly straight either, but there's no need for architectural precision as we're not exactly designing a basilica here.

I'll be placing the board across the stair railing like this whenever I want to use it. It's the perfect place for it: it's at a good height to work on and it won't be in my way while the pieces dry.





The blocking board put to use for the first time. I invested in three packs of 40 rust-proof stainless steel pins for the purpose, but ran out when I blocked this child's sweater, so looks like I could use another two or three packs. When the board isn't in use, I store it on its edge behind the cupboard you see in the background.

The total cost of the board was $28.64(CDN), though I am not counting the cost of the glue, thread, staples and other equipment I already owned. The gingham and fabric should last a fairly long time, and when they do wear out can be replaced and the plywood reused. With an hour's work I saved myself close to $100, so I'm pleased.

This seemed rather too easy a project to really require a tutorial, but given that I'm running a knitting blog it seemed too on point not to share, so I wrote it up in the hope that it'll be of use and interest to some people.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Yarn Bowling


Since I began researching and writing for this blog, I've been seeing and reading about yarn bowls, those little slotted ceramic bowls that are designed to hold and dispense your yarn while you knit. Many of those for sale are handmade, and very lovely, desirable objects in their own right, but I doubt I'll ever be buying one for myself. Granted, I haven't tried using one, and perhaps they have attributes I'm not aware of (they're supposed to prevent the ball from tangling and rolling), but I can't see how they'd be practical for me. Most of my knitting is done on the TTC or in bed during my evenings in while I watch TV (I watch TV as an excuse to knit), and in either of those scenarios there's no available surface on which I could safely place a yarn bowl. Yes, my yarn balls do tend to roll onto the floor, but I'd rather pick up a ball of yarn and dust it off than weep bitter tears at the sight of a shattered handmade stoneware bowl... and then pick up the ball of yarn and dust it off. Then there's the fact that those round bowls will only hold a ball of yarn, not an elongated skein, and I don't bother winding new skeins of yarn into balls unless there's some reason it's absolutely necessary.

Ultimately, they're just too frivolous for me, the kind of thing my grandmother, who kept a house and a farm, raised her five children (and a lot of poultry), and knitted many an item during the Depression, all with the aid of a wood-burning stove, oil lamps, an outdoor water pump, and an outhouse, would have called "a pack of silliness". But then let it be said that Grandma Swan never thought it mattered how things looked as long as one was clean, neat, and mended, and was always one to patch the seat of her decades-old housedresses until the end of her days in 1993, so I try not to let her rock-bottom brand of practicality influence me too much. Need is too nebulous a construct to base one's purchasing decision on; I decide whether to buy things based on how much I'll use and enjoy them. So I would buy a yarn bowl if I really thought it would enhance the way I knit, but since it probably won't, I'll have to subvert my handmade stoneware lust into buying some tableware or something.

If you think you're the type of knitter a yarn bowl will work for, let me indulge in a little vicarious stoneware fun by showing you some pretty ones. The whimsical birdie stoneware bowl pictured above is from Uncommon Goods.





It may just be my love of turquoise talking, but this yarn bowl from Etsy vendor OCPottery is a feast for the eyes.





The Mud Place offers yarn bowls with pertinent text incorporated into the design — they also have "Purl" and "Knit" bowls.





If the words in the yarn bowls above are too generic for you, you can have a yarn bowl custom made and ask to have your name incorporated into the design, as Little Wren Pottery does for its customers.





As the owner of a white cat with a yarn fetish, I find this cat yarn bowl from Etsy vendor Heidi very funny if slightly disturbing.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Haul That Barge, Tote That Bale, Organize That Yarn


Lorna from Knits for Life explains her inventive concept for organizing her yarn stash here. As you can see from the picture above, she's installed pegboard in a niche in her apartment, wound all her yarn into skeins, and arranged the skeins on them by colour, to an effect that is not unlike some yarn fetishist's version of the game board from Risk, with the primary object being world yarn domination. She has her needles and other knitting supplies handily stowed away in baskets below. She can even sit on the couch beside it and knit without taking her skeins off the wall. As a storage idea, it's innovative, it's visually effective, and it's readily accessible. But it wouldn't work for me.

For one thing I am a tidy-it-up-and-put-it-all-away-out-of-sight kind of organizer. I can admire something like this in someone else's home, but in my own home it would agitate me no end to look at all those supplies waiting to be used up. And then too I can think of practical objections. One generally knits with yarn that is all the same weight and/or fibre content. It would drive me crazy to search all over a wall of yarn for the fingering weights yarns, or the pure wools. I would want to see all the yarns in a particular weight or fibre together to figure out what I could make from them, and if I had to pick through all that yarn to gather them together, I would be sure to miss some. You could organize your yarns on the wall by weight and fibre content, of course, but then visually it wouldn't be nearly as appealing. I also like to save the ball bands in order to be sure of fibre content and stitch gauge when it comes time to knit with the yarn. And then there's the matter of the dust and other flotsam and jetsam that always settles over any kind of open storage unit over time.





Would you like to see how I organize my yarn? You're looking at it. I came across this chest on a curb in my neighbourhood some years ago. I pounced on it at once, lugged it the two blocks home to my house, hauled it up the two flights of stairs to my workroom, reupholstered it, and painted the legs (not all in the same day, of course). It now sits in front of the dormer window in my attic workroom, doing double duty as a storage bin and a window seat. It contains four large plastic boxes of yarn. Three of the boxes hold mixed wools and acrylics sorted by weight: one of fingering/lace weight, one of sport/DK, and one of worsted/bulky. The fourth box contains my cotton yarn of all weights. Then on top of those boxes sit the yarns I intend to use up this year, all sorted by project into plastic bags. I have two projects currently in my workbasket elsewhere in the house, and when they get finished I'll just grab one of those plastic bags and get started on the next project. My goal for the end of the year is to not have so much yarn sitting around — to have no more than will fit in those four boxes and my workbasket. So, like Lorna's, my organizational method is accessible, out of the way and visually appealing, but in a totally different way from hers. My organizational method may not have that "this is a studio where great design happens minutely" visual vibe that Lorna's does, but it does have a certain serenity and elegance to it that I value much more.

Organizational technique is highly individual and there really isn't a best overall method. It's like designing a diet or exercise plan for yourself: the supposed world's best diet or exercise régime is useless if you personally can't stick to it. Whatever organization method you use has to suit your space, your budget, the amount and type of stuff you've got to organize, to accommodate others who share your space, and also must take into account the way you work and relate to the objects you use. Some people need to see their supplies so they'll know what they have, while others prefer to keep their working area cleared away.

You're welcome to share your own tailor-made method of organizing yarn in the comments if you wish. My guess is that your method of organizing yarn is nothing like either mine or Lorna's.






But I think we can all agree to mock Vanna White's supposed method of organizing yarn, as demonstrated in the video above. Her antique pedestal bowl is really just some sort of especially rarefied workbasket that even she probably doesn't use a lot of the time. Can you really imagine her lugging that thing all over her house when she wants to crochet in different spots, as one does? It's telling that she doesn't have a real project in it, only an assortment of her name brand yarns, and it's a sure bet she's got a closet or some kind of storage unit somewhere in her house that's stuffed with yarn and that doesn't look anything you'd feature in a magazine spread.