Friday, July 29, 2011

Helpful Hint #11: When knitting two—just knit two!

This is by no means a new concept, and certainly not a new problem. For socks, I’ve seen it called “SSS” (Second Sock Syndrome). I’m talking about that issue of…the OTHER one—the other sock, the other sleeve, the other cardigan front panel, etc. For some, the issue is the daunting task of doing what you’ve just done…AGAIN. For others (myself included), the issue is trying to make item #2 look like item #1. Theoretically, it could be months between the time when you finish item #1 and when you cast on for the next. In that time, your gauge could be wildly different. Months ago, you could have been knitting during a family crisis, which caused your knitting to be tight to the point where item #1 is now bulletproof; whereas when you cast on for item #2, you could be on a vacation with out a care in the world—or visa versa.

So, I’ve hit upon a solution. Whether it is two socks, two sleeves, two sides to an article of clothing—I just knit both at the same time. I have not yet learned the art of knitting two at a time with the magic loop or even 2 circulars, so what I do this: I have two separate sets of needles going with an item on each set. I either go back and forth, doing an inch or so apiece, or I alternate which days I work each item (Monday—item #1, Tuesday—item #2, etc.).

This sounds insane, but in the end I end up with 2 items fully knitted, instead of 1 item fully knitted and 1 item still in an old knitting bag stuffed under my bed for all eternity. But, of course, this brings us into UFOs (Unfinished Objects), a subject best left for another day…

Friday, July 22, 2011

Helpful Hint #10 – Your sleeve as your gauge swatch

I’m going to confess this right now…I HATE doing gauge swatches. I’m one of those knitters The Yarn Harlot calls a “Product Knitter” (as opposed to a “Process Knitter”). My big thrill comes from the knitted item in question shaping into a beautiful finished project, which is why muddling along with little knitted squares just makes my teeth grind involuntarily. I’ve tried various things to stave off the boredom: knitting them in front of the TV, knitting them listening to music or a podcast, and my personal favorite – knitting them in public. Yes, there is nothing worse than some stranger, who knows NOTHING about knitting, coming up to you and saying something like:

“Oh, is that going to be a scarf???” Suuuuuuure…all 4” across of it.

“Is that your first project? How cute!”

“Is that going to be a little doll blanket?”

So, I’ve hit upon a solution that, come to find out, has already been thought of by several thousand other people in the world, but I figure I’ll share it anyway: If you are knitting a sweater, do a “gauge swatch” by starting on a sleeve. This has the advantage of getting you to do your “swatch” according to how you are going to knit the garment. If you are doing it in the round, you’ll most likely be doing your sleeve in the round. This is ideal for determining gauge for this type of knitting, vs. trying to knit back and forth, hoping that your back-and-forth gauge and your in-the-round gauge are going to be the same (Spoiler Alert…they’re NOT). Conversely, if you are working back and forth, you will end up with a nice representation of your gauge that way.

This way, if you are off on your gauge, it’s not going to be a major hardship to rip it out and start over again. If you are right, then you can keep going!

Haven’t hit upon an ideal gauge workaround for other types of knitted articles…I’ll have to get back to you on this…

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Helpful Hint #9: Managing your spouse…sneaking yarn into the house

I will preface by saying that my Sweetums is very supportive of my yarn hi-jinks, so there is really no need to hide anything—we generally make a joke out of this (“Oops—I seem to have MORE yarn in my project bag!), but it occurred to me that the tongue-in-cheek tips below ARE legitimate ways to sneak yarn into your home…

Try to plan for your yarn purchases to enter the house when your spouse is not at home. This may be a little tricky with on-line purchases, but can be suitably planned for if you keep checking the package tracking. Either that, or get packages delivered to you at work. If you don’t work, this is better, because 9 times out of 10, UPS and FedEx deliver during the day (when your spouse is at work). If a package DOES arrive when your spouse is home, race to the door first, exclaiming that “Darn it all, I was hoping your Chrismas/Hanukkah/Birthday/Anniversay present wasn’t going to arrive NOW!” Perfect excuse to wisk said package away into a hiding place without anyone being the wiser. Note: This excuse will only work so many times…and for God’s sake, get RID OF THE PACKAGING somewhere other than your own garbage. Also, use Paypal or some other method of payment that isn’t going to send up red flags.

If it is not an on-line purchase, it is actually a little easier. Just go shopping and get a bunch of other things you need. One more grocery bag isn’t going to arouse any suspicion. If your spouse wants to be helpful and bring in groceries for you, just quickly stuff the Michaels or LYS bag to the back of the trunk (always put bags in the trunk) to pull out later. Make it a point to use old Big Box plastic bags for other things in your trunk and no one looking in there will be suspicious.

And for local purchases, most importantly, always remember: PAY CASH AND BURN THE RECEIPTS!

Another tactic is to simply bring individual skeins in by stuffing them into your WIP bag. No one is going to question more yarn in your project bag. Women in my SnB group sometimes arrive with leftover skeins of yarn they don’t want. Many skeins have made it into my house via the WIP bag.

In order to throw off suspicion, every now and then actually bring a bag of yarn into the house openly. Try not to make it something expensive. Red Heart Super Saver will be much less coronary-inducing than say, qiviut…

Friday, July 8, 2011

Helpful Hint #8: Counting on Crochet

Over the course of my knitting and crocheting life, I’ve experimented with various row counters. I’ve tried electronic ones, the Kacha-Kacha type ones, plain old pad and pencil – hands down, my favorite ones are those little plastic barrel counters, either the kind you slide onto the needle or hang by the loop onto circular needles. I have many, many of these in various project bags, as you never know when you might need one. I like the fact that it’s a row counter that stays WITH the project. Also, you can play around with it. If you have, say, a pattern where you need to repeat rows 1-8 six times, you can turn the barrel numbers independently of one another.  I know, there’s probably an App somewhere that will do this much more efficiently, but like I said, I like a counter that stays with the project. If you do a lot of crafting in public, like I do, you want a counter you can turn discreetly, versus having to whip out your Blackberry to punch in the next row repeat. 

This, however, poses a bit of a problem for crochet. Some have argued that you can just slide the barrel counter onto a crochet hook, but this is assuming two things:

1) I’m able to keep my crochet hook with my project. Sometimes I end up using the same hook for multiple projects, or I just misplace it.

2) I use a hook that’s of a size to accommodate a barrel counter. Being a tight crocheter, I tend to use a larger hook; and, because of my wrist/thumb issues, I like to use either those foam rubber hook covers or the Susan Bates Bamboo Handle hooks.

So, I’ve hit upon a solution (that I’m sure is not unique). I take a safety pin and fasten a looped barrel counter onto my crochet project. I either fasten it at the very bottom, or I keep moving the safety pin up as I go along. The latter is a more practical solution if you’re working on a very large project like an afghan.

Happy Crocheting!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Helpful Hint #7: Managing your spouse…Get them to buy the yarn

In the years AL (Anno Lana – Year of our Wool), I have come across friends and acquaintances with spouses or significant others. These spouses/significant others are either supportive of their better half’s yarn exploits, lukewarm, or downright anti-craft.

I feel that this sort of thing can be managed if one employs a certain degree of–well, I hesitate to say “manipulation.” Let’s just say…persuasion.

One sure-fire way to enlist the help and goodwill of your spouse is to get them in on the project. Ideal projects are some sort of present that neither one of you wants to buy–your spouse, because he/she doesn’t know the recipient very well, and you because you really would rather knit or crochet a present rather than buy one more fondue set or one more Winnie the Pooh-themed baby shower present. You can start by showing your spouse the pattern you want to make (or at least outline what you’d like to accomplish–if your spouse is a man, goals are very important). Explain that if your spouse buys the yarn, you will be more than happy to SLOG along for a good EIGHT weeks, TOILING away on said project, working your FINGERS TO THE BONE. All they have to do is front the money.

If your spouse is agreeable, you can bring them along to the store to get said yarn. My Sweetums usually likes to do this, and can be quite entertaining.  She once declared, in Wal-Mart, in a very loud voice, that I shouldn't buy the blue and pink variegated baby yarn because, “THE BABY COULD HAVE ISSUES.”

Overall, as they love to say in Corporate America, this is a win-win. You get yarn to play with and your spouse gets to avoid shopping for baby things or bridal registry items.

You know they’d much rather go to Home Depot…