Archive for the Knitting Category

All Your Sea Creatures Are Belong To Us

Posted in Fiber Friday, Knitting with tags , , , , , , on February 13, 2009 by Ms. Ex

Sorry this Fiber Friday freak show is so late in the day.  I was up making cupcakes at seven this morning (real ones, not knitted), then I had to drive all over the damn place getting everyone where they needed to be and running to the store because we forgot something and running back home because we forgot the toy I promised to bring to Granny and Grandaddy’s for Ethan’s visit and…you get the picture.

I keep mulling over the whole geek/freak/knitting thing and wondering why so many of us are nuts about science and even darker, mysteriouser things.  I mean, would it have ever occurred to our grandmothers to knit a zombie-themed scarf?  Or an intricate coral reef (okay, crocheted, but still)?  We do seem to have a particular affection for things from the depths.  The depths of the oceans and maybe our souls.

I can’t help but wonder if we are knitting some of these oddities in reflection of our times, or if it’s simply that there are fewer needs to be met – like warmth, clothing, dishcloths – and so crafters are free to be whimsical.  And are we like the wave-particle dilemma?  Do we change our needle habits and products because, thanks to the Internet, they can be seen?

It will be interesting to see how difficult financial times affect the crafting community.  Will we go back to darning socks?  Will we be sought after because we can knit beautiful things that no one can afford to buy ready-made?  Or will we keep meeting in coffee shops, building community in an increasingly isolationist society and making funky stuff to sell on Etsy?

Just in case it’s that last thing, here are some really cool, FREE patterns for geeky stuff, and one Etsy shop that has the best ocean critters evah.

Mochimochi Blog – adorable, useless little things (except maybe the toilet paper, that might be useful)

Mammogram conversation starter

On and on and on – A Moebius capelet (it vexes me that WordPress thinks Moebius is a misspelling).

And more one-sidedness – a Klein Bottle hat.  I actually like this one better, but her patterns are written for left-handed knitters, so be aware.

For your viewing pleasure – and to remind me that I do not have enough leisure time – these fractal representations.

And finally, some cephalopods, from Hansigurumi’s Etsy shop, to occupy that coral reef that we’ll never have time to do.  Her patterns are *so* worth buying, and her creations are really beautiful.

Happy geeking.  If impact can be a verb [shudders with revulsion], then dammit, so can geek.


Geek is the New Chic: Yarn Theory in Practice

Posted in Fiber Friday, Knitting with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 6, 2009 by Ms. Ex

Growing up, when I heard the word “knitting” I thought of those haloed, plastic-feeling acrylic baby blankets, old ladies in rocking chairs, and the world’s most unflattering sweaters.  If you know enough to have found this blog, chances are you know the needle arts have come a long way.

Not only do we now have thousands of  amazing patterns available for funky clothing, accessories, and even lingerie, but we have BODY PARTS (just in time for Valentine’s Day)!

And in line with our total geekiness, I am writing today about one of my very own LYSs (that’s Local Yarn Store for people like me who are new to the lingo) whose name comes from the field of physics.  Yarn Theory in Bedford, Virginia, owned and operated by Jan Mosely.

The LYS is beginning to take the place of the coffee klatch, girls’ night out, and other forms of therapy.  Yarn Theory is no exception.  Every Thursday evening from 6 pm to 8 pm you can find anywhere from two to twelve knitters seated in the comfortable conversation area in the middle of the store.  The store itself is situated in downtown Bedford, in an old house with a lovely wrap-around porch.

Jan personally welcomes people to the store, which is soothingly tidy and homey.  She seems an unlikely candidate for a yarn store owner, as a former physics major (yes, she graduated), but she joined the cult of the knit and never looked back.

I figured I would pose the same question to her that I posted last week here – where is the strangest place you’ve ever knit?

Like many of you, she didn’t think it was all that strange that she knitted on the TGV (a high-speed train through France).  But when I asked her the oddest item she ever created – well, it puts Baby’s First DNA Model to shame.

While studying physics in college Jan handed in an assignment that included her interpretation of the origin of the universe.  Knitted.  She says it was many-colored, and had a series of ever enlarging triangles in a spiral.  The end was, of course, unfinished (whew!).  I would love to post a picture, but she left it there.  In fact, it was on display at Loyola University in New Orleans for a time, and for all she knows it still is.

While there, I of course fondled every single yarn in the place.  She keeps some Mmmmmmalabrigo, Auracania, some really gorgeous sock yarns, some specialty bling yarns, and some super reasonably priced wool in a great assortment of colors and a variety of weights.  There are really tons of others, but I’m so addicted to Malabrigo Worsted I had a hard time walking away.  As for her favorite yarn, Jan says, “Whatever I want to work on next is my favorite yarn, not necessarily what I’m working on now.”

If you are anywhere near the Lynchburg, Bedford, or Roanoke areas, her store is definitely worth the trip.  If for no other reason than being in a store with such a great, geeky name.

And so you know, I have no affiliation with Yarn Theory or its owner, nor is this a paid advertisement; I just wanted to highlight a local business.

Jan shares tips and techniques with Teresa

Jan shares tips and techniques with Teresa


Better Than Prozac

Posted in Knitting, People Are Idiots with tags , , , , on February 5, 2009 by Ms. Ex

Since there is no day of the week that starts with an ‘a’ so I can have an antidepressant day, I will call today “Therapy Thursday.”

It’s a lazy post, because I am trying to figure out what to talk about for tomorrow’s Fiber Friday.  But it’s chock full of nuts.  Er, I mean laughter.

And also, it’s very late.

First up:

Lost in Translation – Movie Posters gone awry

And we wonder why our kids want to use drugs.  First comes sugar, then spinning, then the dentist.

I don’t know why I find this funny, but gosh darn it, I just do.

And finally, as a warm up to Fiber Friday, here is a site with excellent writing, and some of the sickest knitting I’ve ever seen.

Go pee first, so you don’t suffer laughter leakage.  Then click away.  And while you’re at it, do your Kegels.

And the winner is…

Posted in Fiber Friday, Giveaway, Knitting with tags , , , on February 1, 2009 by Ms. Ex

Number 22!  That would be Liz who knits in her research lab.  I just love down time at work, don’t you?

I’m impressed with the yarn prowess out there.  Knitting while walking a dog?  In the bathtub?  Kudos to you all!

Nicole L. and Marlene – than you for sharing.  Ahem.

And in church?  I confess, I have pulled the yarn out and fondled it, but really ladies…

I love the idea of knitting in a bar.  And at a casino.  Actually, I like the idea of doing odd things at any inappropriate time or place.  But what about the cigarette smoke?  Isn’t that a problem?

And one has to wonder if all the labor/hospital knitters are the reason for things like these and this.  WARNING:  the first link is not for the faint of heart; it contains photos of crafted naughty bits.  Can we say, “too much time on their hands”?

I thank you all for playing, and I hope you will stay tuned for more exciting adventures.  And in case that’s not enough – more free stuff.

Fiber Friday Yarn Giveaway!

Posted in Fiber Friday, Giveaway, Knitting with tags , , , , , , on January 30, 2009 by Ms. Ex


I had no idea I was so good at marketing myself!  I expected a much smaller response, so I have decided to close this contest earlier than expected.  This way, the odds won’t be so paltry for everyone.  The contest now officially closes at noon EST February 1st.  Please remember that I cannot ship internationally, so if you do not have a U.S. mailing address, you cannot win.  Of course, you can still comment if you like.  I will use that random integer program doo-dad to generate a number, and I will announce the winner by 3 pm February 1st.  That’s tomorrow for all of you who, like me, normally have no idea what the date is.

And fear not!  There will be more giveaways coming.  I will likely stick to needle arts supplies, and I will try to highlight WAHM wares.  So if you make something beautiful for knitters and crocheters and would like some advertising for the low cost of a donated prize item, let me know!

Thank you all so much for participating, and for entertaining me.  And I do hope you’ll be back to follow me shamelessly using my dysfunction as writing fodder.  I am so relieved to find I am not the only one who hides in the bathroom, and I cannot wait to try knitting in the bathtub.

Well, here it is:  the first Fiber Friday giveaway.  I decided to donate my own handiwork to the cause and offer up this lusciously soft, hand-painted 100Purewool 3-ply yarn.  If you aren’t familiar with Purewool, they are a wonderful supplier of Uruguayan hand dyed merino and corriedale wool yarns in a variety of weights and some really fun colorways.  This was a natural three ply yarn that I hand painted in shades of eggplant, brown, maroon, orange, and some purples and blues.

It knits up beautifully, as you can see in the photo below.  It seems that when I paint yarn I always love it so much I have to keep some for myself.  This skein is worsted weight at 218 yards and 3.5 ounces.  One skein would probably do a pair of shorties (hint, hint!) or some fun baby hats and booties.  Or you could actually knit something for yourself for a change.  Be decadent.  You’re worth it.

Or maybe not, what do I know?

So here’s the scoop:  Leave me a comment telling me the weirdest place you’ve found yourself knitting or crocheting.  I’ll tell you mine:  on a bus in NYC after a day of kicking around town.  My baby was attached to my breast.  I’m a multitasker, what can I say?

And you don’t win by being the weirdest.  I already occupy that spot.

Instead, I will choose the winner from both entries by randomly drawing a name  from the empty bucket of Sam’s Club cheese balls that I finished off the other night.

I promise not to get artificial cheese powder on your yarn.

I’ll announce the winner next Friday, February 6.  Comments will close at 8 p.m. Thursday, February 5.  Please note this contest is for U.S. Shipping addresses ONLY.  Pass it on!

Sheepy Pants

Norwegian Wood Hand Painted Yarn: Sheepy Pants

Sheepy Pants in Norwegian Wood

Sheepy Pants in Norwegian Wood

If you don’t know about Sheepy Pants, go check them out.  It is absolutely the best pattern out there.  Amanda Harrington (the awesome designer) does an excellent job of explaining all the different techniques, including the kitchener stitch.

Wooly Bully: Watch it Now, Watch It!

Posted in Cloth Diapering, Fiber Friday, Knitting, Motherhood with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2009 by Ms. Ex

It’s Fiber Friday again, and as I promised, I am about to send you down rabbit holes aplenty and I guarantee you will never change a cloth diaper again because you will be too busy clicking around the fabulous sites for eco-minded moms.

If you are new to cloth diapering in general Green Mountain Diapers is an easy site to navigate and is written in a welcoming way.  They are very good at making you feel that you can easily manage this whole cloth diapering thing.  While they are an on-line store carrying a huge variety of diapering supplies, they also offer simple, clear help for all aspects of using cloth.  Best of all, they understand real world problems like the difference between breastfeeding poop and solid food poop.  Did I mention practicality?  Amen.

By the way, they aren’t giving me any kickbacks, though I wouldn’t mind some free samples.  Ya hear me out there??  Check out their FAQ section, and also look for the link to the lanolizing video.

Another site that is full of great info plus excellent reviews of the various products is diaper pin.  If you just don’t know which kind of diapers to buy, check out the review section.  They also have many helpful tips and simple instructions for laundering all kinds of cloth and covers.

If you are frugal like me, check out Diaper Swappers.  They have bunches of forums for buying, selling, or trading all things to do with cloth, and some things that don’t.  They even sometimes run group buys so you can get your hands on yummy wool yarn for cheap.  Just hang out and click around for a while, and you’ll start to understand how the whole things works.  Or maybe you are not like me, and you already understand the Internets.  Bully for you.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, the moment you’ve all been waiting for.  The knitty gritty:  wool links.

For those of you who are new to wool and have questions, or who are seasoned veterans and have experience to share, the wool soaker group on Yahoo! is a great resource, not to mention a fun place to hang with other cloth-diapering moms.  One thing, though: it will make you joyfully squander most of the attention you used to give to your home and children.  And if you start to see women from the group* in the news and you tell someone, “Hey, that’s a friend of mine!” it might be time to expand your horizons.

If you want to make your own recycled sweater longies, here and here are two free patterns with great photos to guide you.  I prefer the style of the DIY one (the second link), because the thighs are more roomy.  They are so simple to make.

If you are not a seamstress or crafty person, recycled longies and knitted ones from WAHMs (Work at Home Moms, if you are new to the acronym world) can be found used on the Diaper Swappers site or new on Etsy.  You can search by title and tags on etsy, which means you can narrow your search by things like color, which is pretty cool.  You can look for items made from recycled fabric from sweaters, or hand knit longies and soakers.  You could search for say, longies heart.  And you might come up with something adorable like this (yes, I am shameless).  Support handmade, be kind to the planet, and get some groovy gear for your favorite babe.

If you still haven’t gone to bed even though it’s two in the morning, here are a few more fun links to keep you going until the baby wakes up in a couple of hours.  They are in no particular order, and simply add to the basic information you now have in your arsenal.  Have fun, and don’t forget to eat.

An eBay guide for Wool Diaper Covers (take or leave the ‘scientific’ info on antibacterialism and self-cleansing; it doesn’t detract from the value of the article)

The Diaper Hyena on wool (includes some purchasing links)

Tiny Birds Organics wool (I LOVE her stuff – so adorable.  And I know from experience that the wool fabric she uses is the softest stuff around.  She offers many different products, but also has great info)

A couple of final notes:  a wool cover is great, but is really only as good as the diaper underneath.  If you have a heavy wetter, you will need to boost the absorbency of your diapers with a doubler, or use a more absorbent diaper to start with.  Sometimes compression wicking can occur when your baby is wet and the wool cover is pressed tightly to the diaper (think tight car seat straps or baby pressed against you in a sling or carrier).  Generally this just means that the cover will feel damp and any clothing over it can get damp.  If your baby is wearing wool as clothing and cover, I find that this dampness evaporates fairly quickly once the baby is out in the open air.  Just prepare for this possibility by putting a layer between you and the baby in a front carrier or having an extra absorbent diaper on him.

To felt or not to felt:  felting is the process of matting the wool fibers together and making a tougher, thicker fabric.  It also shrinks the fabric (you remember that cute sweater you accidentally washed on hot water?  now it’s felted).  For an extremely heavy wetter, sometimes a felted cover is the best option, but the wool loses its stretch when felted, so the fabric will feel stiffer and be less flexible.  One alternative to felting is using a double layer of wool, an extra wool soaker sewn into the crotch, or only felting slightly.  I can often get just enough extra thickness to the wool but still maintain its flexibility by keeping an eye on it while I machine wash it in hot water.  I remove it when I am happy with the thickness.  Of course, this should be done before you cut your pattern.  Shrinkage and all.

Thank you for joining me for another exciting episode of Fiber Friday.  I have no idea what our topic will be for next week.  Hope you like surprises!

*Emma Kwasnica (whose name I became familiar with from the wool soaker group) was photographed tandem nursing her two wee ones, and Facebook subsequently deleted her account, ostensibly because of those photos.  The whole story and a letter from her can be read here.

CYA: Wool for Baby Bottoms

Posted in Fiber Friday, Knitting with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2009 by Ms. Ex

This is supposed to be fiber Friday, though I’ve been a total slacker on that front for a while.  It’s not that I haven’t been busy with sewing and knitting and such – I just haven’t written about it.

So in the grand spirit of discipline that I am *so* good at – I am forcing myself at this late hour to pass along some wooly information.  And just so you don’t think I am being too generous – I have to sit here anyway while my wool interlock simmers in the dye pot on the stove.

I was asked to do a custom job for an etsy customer, and like some of my buyers she did not know much about wool and how to care for it as a cloth diaper cover.  There is a wealth of information out there on this, and I will post links, but I would also like to gather some of the most important stuff in one spot.  This is the spot.  Hold onto your hats, mamas – it’s going to be a wooly ride.

Part One:  The nose knows, or Why I Use Wool

Wool makes an excellent cloth diaper cover.  It will hold up to 30% of its weight in liquid without feeling wet to the touch.  The lanolin naturally found in wool reacts with urine and prevents ammonia from forming, which means no odor!  You can add lanolin back to the wool after laundering, and this is called lanolinizing or lanolizing.  Wool diaper covers can be just a cover to be worn under clothing, or shorties or longies (basically shorts or pants) that can be worn as both cover and clothes.  The best part is that wool is breathable, and will not make baby too hot or too cold.  Great stuff for sensitive skin.

Many, many sources will say that wool and / or lanolin is naturally antibacterial.  Someone please cover me – I’m going in:  I have never seen any scientific data to support this.  Urine is actually sterile, except in cases where there is an infection such as a urinary tract infection.  Bacteria from the air decompose the urea in urine, producing the ammonia odor, but as I said, the lanolin interrupts this process.  In any event, wool can be used over and over without laundering, and simply air dried when it gets too wet.  If it gets soiled or starts to smell, it is time to wash it.

Part Two:  Feeling groovy (the fabric basics)

Wool does not have to be scratchy!  There are many different processing methods and types of wool, and much of it is unbelievably soft.   And a blend of fibers including wool can also work as a diaper cover.  Most sources say use something that is at least 50% wool.  I have also had fabulous luck with cashmere, and thrift stores have plenty of it available (more on recycled sweater longies later).  I stick to lambswool or merino wool, angora/nylon/lambswool blends, and cashmere.  Wool with a small amount of acrylic and/or lycra will also work great.

Knit fabrics are much better for longies than woven, because they are stretchy and tend to be softer and thicker.  Wool jersey that has been felted is nice and can be found in great colors, but is a bit pricey.  Wool interlock (either 100% or a 97/3 blend of wool and lycra) makes really nice, comfortable pants or shorts that look like “real” clothing, but again – hard on the wallet.  The fabric can be felted as much or as little as you like.  And of course, you can knit or crochet longies or shorties or a cover from wool or cashmere yarn.  These are gorgeous, and can be found for a good price considering the time and effort put into them.

But my favorites, at least as for the price, are the recycled sweater longies, also known as “butt sweaters.”  Browse your local thrift store, and you will find a goldmine of wool:  Fair Isles, stripes, glitzy, flowery, earthy – you name it.  You can sew them yourself from one of the many free patterns available online, or you can purchase them already made from some wonderful WAHM like (ahem) me.  Or you can scout out the sweaters you like and have someone sew them for you.  Any way you do it, you are reducing strain on resources, reusing a discarded item, and saving an incredible amount of money.  Oh, and your kid will have some funky, fun, one-of-a-kind pants.

No Icky, No Washy, or:  Cloth diapering for the lazy

So I said you don’t have to wash the wool every time you change the diaper, right?  I wasn’t kidding.  I didn’t believe it myself until I tried it.  I can go a couple of weeks or so before I get any odor at all, and sometimes I only wash it because the lanolin makes my hands feel soooo good.  Or if it gets poo on it.  There is that.

To wash, grab dish soap or a castile soap you like (Dr. Bronner’s or Kiss My Face can be found in health food stores,  and Kirk’s Original Coco Castile can be found pretty easily in a Wal-Mart or grocery store, usually with cleaning products or in the laundry aisle).  Fill a basin or the tub or whatever with tepid water and squirt a bit of soap in there.  You can experiment with this.  If you use more than enough, you just might have to rinse a little better.  For bar soap, I just rub a little into the wool on the hot spots then swish in the water.  Wash, wash, swish, la di da…okay, now drain.  Rinse them out a bit, but you don’t have to be too vigorous.  Put some tepid water back in the tub, just enough to cover the wool you have.  Then take some lanolin (I use too much – most folks say use about 1/2″ squirt from a tube like Lansinoh to do 2-3 pairs of longies.  I use more like 1/8 cup, but I’m crazy like that) and put it into a cup or bowl or the mason jar from the moonshine you finished last night.  Add SUPER HOT water and a squirt of soap (any kind, as above).  Swirl it around, and the water should turn milky looking as the lanolin melts and mixes with the soap.  Once the lanolin is melted, dump it in with the wool and squeeze it all through the fabric.  You can let it soak for a while and go watch your stories.  If anyone asks, you are hand washing your knitwear!

Once it has soaked, or not, depending upon your mood, you can do one of two things:  squeeze the water out enough to carry the whole load to your washing machine and send it all through the spin cycle, or squeeze as much as you can out then roll it up in a towel or two and step on it.  Both these methods will leave you with just damp wool.  Then hang it up to dry.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Using very hot water with a lot of agitation, going from very hot to very cold water or vice versa, or drying wool in a hot dryer will SHRINK AND FELT YOUR WOOL.  Um, this would be bad.  Unless they were too big.  And your child is a barbie doll.

So there you have it.  The long and the short of longies and shorties.

Next week’s Fiber Friday will have some links to all kinds of sources for fabric, wool care products, patterns and support groups for wool addicts.  Don’t laugh.  You’ll understand soon.