Knitters and Not-Knitters

If I asked you: Where were you, Wednesday May 4th, 2011, at noon, Pacific Time, what would you say?

Would you say: “Huh? What did I miss?”

Or would you say “I was clicking the Register Now link on the Sock Summit registration page”?

A little sock on a pruned shrub

Okay, I get it. Really, I do. 10 years from now, I probably won’t remember where I was on Wednesday May 4th, noon Pacific Time; I will forever remember where I was when I heard that Osama bin Laden was dead. (I was walking to the breakfast table when my son ran out and told me about bin Laden with the awe and wonder present only in the eyes of a person experiencing an historic moment for the first time.)

But since I happen to be one of those people who was clicking on the Register Now link, I had occasion to notice, once again, the differences between knitters and not-knitters. My brow was furrowed as I clicked around, trying to get into the classes I wanted. I ignored the colleague eavesdropping on my screen while asking, “Sock Summit? Is that a code? Or is it really about, y’know, SOCKS?” I deigned to answer him only after completing my first pass through registration. Finally I said, “Yes. It really IS about socks. Hand knitted socks.”


I whipped a little sock out of my knitting bag. “Look at this. Wouldn’t you want this on your foot? Feel how soft it is!”

“Naw. It’s too small.”

Another colleague happened to be watching by now. She said, “Oh. Well, I guess if it was a convention about pirates, I’d feel the same way.”

Huh. So I guess there are Pirates and Not-Pirates. Who knew? I’m a Not-Pirate Knitter.



I think about design all the time

I’ve decided to open up the focus of this blog a little bit, especially since I think I’m largely talking to myself.

I think about design all the time. It can be a little maddening, so here’s my outlet. I can get the design thoughts out of my head if I post them here. I’m going to rationalize it by saying that I started this blog to write about knitting and mistakes. Expanding the focus to include design of just about anything and mistakes isn’t that big a leap.

Microsoft gives me ample opportunity to think about user interface design. Today, I wondered how many people are kept gainfully employed due to Microsoft’s mediocrity. Thousands? Millions? I know I’ve earned a fairly large chunk of money resolving web display bugs in Internet Explorer 6. Perhaps I shouldn’t despise Microsoft quite so much. They’re doing wonders for our economy.

Today’s complaint about Horrible UI* design from Microsoft.

The Task: I need to create a bunch of sample files in formats produced by Microsoft Office 2010. We’re testing how electronic discovery tools process the files. (Stay with me, I promise this will get funny.)

I need to create an archive of my files from my Microsoft Outlook account.

I poke around all the usual places I’d expect to find an “export” command. No go. The interface for Office 2010 is different enough from previous versions that I can’t find anything.

I turn to my favorite companion: Microsoft Office Help. I type in the query “export as PST”.

After several clicks, I arrive at the help page I need: Export Outlook items to an Outlook Data File (.pst)

I’m happily following the instructions when I get to this gem:

Note: The Import and Export Wizard can also be opened by clicking the File tab, clicking Open, and then clicking Import.

Oh. Okay. No wonder I couldn’t find it. In order to Export, I have to click Import.

Thanks, Microsoft.

* User Interface


Siren Song Cowl

Siren Song Cowl ImageIt’s happened again: You’ve accidentally acquired a couple of skeins of incredibly beautiful, hand-painted, luxury yarn. You may have succumbed to an impluse at your LYS. Your well-meaning partner may have purchased them as a gift. However you came by the yarn, you look at it now, thinking: what am I going to make with 300 yards of this stuff? You may pet it and sigh with bliss at its softness…imagining the blobby mess it would make when knit up into a sweater. Which you don’t have enough yarn to make anyhow. You only have a skein or two.

I give you: The Siren Song Cowl. It’s a big, long, loop of tv-knitting easy-peasy lace with a tubular edge. Graft the ends together and you’ve got a throw-it-on-and-look-hot fashion statement, designed to take advantage of the variegated colors in handpainted, luxury yarn. That yarn that sang its siren song that you could not resist.

Free Download! Siren song cowl


Got some spare worsted-ish weight yarn, hanging around, uncertain of what to do? Got a tween who may or may not want to wear a hat you knit, depending on how cool it is? This pattern is for you. It’s a stash-busting stranded colorwork pattern in which hearts are disguised as space aliens. You’ll know you made a hat of hearts to show you love your kid (well, most of the time.) Your kid may think space aliens are kind of cool, and actually wear hat. Bonus: your stash is reduced. What could be better?

Space-aliens-hide-hearts Pattern: Free Download


How To Make Beaded Stitch Markers: The Video


Here it is, the video showing how to make stitch markers.

Here is a link to Accu-Flex, the beading wire I used in the video. Fire Mountain Gems and Beads has a fabulous selection of seed beads as well.


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Last-Minute Lacy Wine Gift Bag

Project picture

Last-Minute Lacy Wine Gift Bag

Quick-to-knit, this wine gift bag will turn even an ordinary bottle of wine into an exquisite gift. The bag is knit in the round from the bottom up using a disappearing loop cast-on and the magic loop method. Horseshoe lace is easy to learn, making this a great pattern for knitters who are ready to try lace. The cotton yarn is fabulously soft and washable—serve the wine from the drip-catching bag, then toss it in the laundry. The stretchy lace will accommodate a variety of bottle types.


I was about to entitle this post “Holy crap, I did it!” but then I thought it would probably be better to use the title of THE FIRST PATTERN I’M PUBLISHING. I am not sure quite why this feels like such a big huge deal, but, well, it does. I’m selling through Ravelry, which gets just a touch more traffic than my blog here. That means that if you click on the Buy Now link, you’ll be whisked away into Ravely’s fulfillment service on PayPal.

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Dishtowel Blocking Board

Possibly genius idea: Block on a dishtowel! Y’know, one of those that has a nubby grid woven in to wick moisture away, should I ever happen to put the towel to its intended use–which is rather unlikely, given my antipathy for housework.

I am swatching a leaf lace in various yarns, trying to figure out a new pattern. I soaked my little swatches overnight, then rolled them in a dishtowel. I spread the towel on my mini-trampoline (a great place to block swatches, as air can get at the work from underneath.) (Heaven forbid that I put the mini-trampoline to its intended use, either.) I started pinning my swatches to the towel and epiphany struck! Hey, I can square these up and align them with the grid on the dishtowel!

All right, it may seem silly, but it’s important to take our joy and epiphanies where we can, right?

Three lace swatches

Lace swatch


Sometimes a great notion

Stitch markers. I have strong opinions about stitch markers. I love how they help me knit lace, I would be lost without them. However, I have yet to find, anywhere, a stitch marker that I enjoy using. The round rubber ones stick to my needles. The split ring plastic ones let stitches wander in to them, messing up my repeat counts. The beautiful, handmade ones that look like earrings always wind up on the wrong side of my knitting, interfering with the next stitch. Ditto with the green and orange plastic ones that open like safety pins. I love what stitch markers do, but dislike what’s on the market.

So, I made up my own stitch markers, using beads. I road tested them last night on some super-fuzzy, snag-prone alpaca yarn. They did not snag. They slid nicely along the needles. They didn’t get in my way. I think I’m in love with my stitch markers.

Stitch Markers

The larger ones will work on a needle up to size 10 1/2. The smaller ones work on a needle up to size 6. Below are instructions if you’d like to make your own. I’ll also be offering them for sale from the site later this week. If you’re interested in purchasing some stitch markers, please drop me an email and I’ll let you know when they’re available.

Beaded Stitch Marker Instructions


  • .012 in / .30 mm beading wire.
    • I used Beadalon 7-strand
  • Size 11/0 round beads.
    • I used glass beads. A tube containing about 300 beads cost me about $2.50 at a bead store. This size bead is also available in tubes from Michael’s.
  • Size #1 crimp tube
  • 4mm crimp cover
  • Crimping tool
  • Bead wire cutting tool/nipper

For the larger size stitch marker, use 18 beads

For the smaller size stitch marker, use 12 beads

  • Cut a length of beading wire about 5 inches / 12 mm long.
  • String the beads onto the wire.
  • String the crimping tube onto the wire.
  • Insert the first end of the beading wire through the crimp tube.
  • For extra strength, push the first end of the beading wire through all the beads and through the crimp tube again.
  • Pull the ends to make a small circle.
  • Flatten the crimp tube with the crimping tool
  • Turn the flattened crimp tube sideways in the crimping tool and squash it again.
  • Snip off the extra ends as close as possible to the crimp tube.
  • Put the crimp cover over the crimp tube
  • Close the crimp cover with the crimping tool

Construction notes

It isn’t necessary to double-string the beads, I just did it because I was messing around and thought it would make the stitch markers stronger.

I found that the crimping tubes were inconsistently sized. There was one tube that I couldn’t use for double stringing because it was too small. You could use a size 2 crimp tube, but the crimp cover doesn’t cover that as well, which increases the chance that the nipped ends of the beading wire might snag in your yarn.

Be sure to leave a bit of play between the beads and the crimp tube so that you can crimp without crushing the beads. I managed to play Godzilla to a fair number of glass beads yesterday.


Magic Loop – No YO

True confessions: I don’t like double-pointed needles. They’re fiddly. They’re annoying. They’re too short. They’re too long. They won’t get out of my way. I despaired of ever being able to make socks, or anything that required a small circle.

Then I discovered Magic Loop knitting. There are many demo videos on YouTube, here’s a link to one I learned from by The KnitWitch.

My first hint at it was from Melissa Morgan-Oakes 2-at-a-Time Socks, a book that got me over my annoyance with double pointed needles. I learned that I wasn’t that good at knitting two socks at a time, but the book does a great job at simply introducing basic sock construction. I have since become a sock knitting fan. I knit them one at a time, and I use either magic loop or two circular needles.

In a sidebar, Morgan-Oakes mentions an issue that I struggled with: Unwanted extra stitches caused by inadvertent yarn overs. Her advice:

When starting a new section of stitches, always keep your working yarn between front and back, or needle and cable. Don’t bring your yarn up over the needles from behind the back cable, or you will end up with more stitches than you counted on.

I struggled mightily with this advice, and finally, after two years, have figured it out. I’m so pleased with myself that I have to share.

No YO when the first stitch is knitted

NoYO image one

Make sure the working yarn is in front of the cable. Insert the needle into the first stitch on the left needle.

NoYO image two

Wrap the yarn around the right needle.

NoYO image three

Pull the right needle and yarn through the loop on the left needle.

NoYO image four

Pull the new knit stitch through and drop the old loop off the left needle. Look! No YO!

No YO when the first stitch is purled

Bring the yarn under the needle in your left hand.

Yarn at the ready for purling that first stitch.

Stab the right needle, as if to purl (because that’s what you wanted to do, right?) through the first stitch on the left needle.

Wrap the yarn around the right needle.

Pull the new stitch through on the right needle.

Drop the old stitch off the left needle and marvel that there is NO YO on the right needle in front of the purled stitch. Huzzah!

All this is fine and good, but what if you WANT a yarn over in front of that first stitch? Or what if you want a yarn over as the last stitch on the back set?

Luckily, I’ve figured out how to do that as well. Watch this space for an upcoming post on that topic.

Photos by Roger Devine


I have dyed

I have now dyed yarn twice. Here are pictures of the yarn that came in the TwistedPDX Single Skein Club April 2010 kit. It’s a bulky 100% wool (I forget which brand! Shoot me!) The color came out a bit paler than I wanted. However, I have wound it up and plan to experiment with knitting something to felt. I was inspired to do this because the yarn started felting as I dyed it!

Here are pix of the process.

Yarn to be dyed

The yarn, soaking in a tub. It soaked for an hour.

dye pot

Cherry Kool-Aid and vinegar heated to 185 degrees

Dying in process

I added the yarn to the pot. It instantly started slurping up the Kool-Aid

empty pot

This is the pot after the yarn came out. There was no color left.

yarn drying

The yarn, hanging in the shower to dry

Thanks to the fabulous women at Twisted for coming up with this project. I’ve been inspired to continue dyeing and have also experimented with superwash merino. More stuff to come. I promised myself I’d finish my Obligation Knitting so I can pursue Dying with Abandon.