Monday, January 31, 2005

Curiosity: the Boye KnitMaster

Most knitters know about the Boye Needlemaster interchangeable kit:

... as well as the Denise interchangeable kit:

Last year I found a set of Boye KnitMaster interchangeable needles at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop:

There isn't much info online about the KnitMaster so I don't know when these kits were manufactured. (You'll mainly find ebay hits if you google Boye Knitmaster.)

The KnitMaster looks like a cross between the Boye Needlemaster and the Denise interchangeable needles. All the parts are plastic except for the round red rubber gripper. Another similarity to the Denise kit is the size range, the Knitmaster also has 5 - 15, the Needlemaster has sizes 2 - 15. This can be blamed on the thick cord, which is the same reason Denise can't offer a size below 5.

Attaching the cord to the needle requires inserting the needle into the cord rather than the other way around and then screwing it in. The join is smooth and the needle fits inside the cord securely but I wonder if Boye had a problem with the white plastic cords splitting at the join?

I saw this on the google hit results page: "The other set was the Boye KnitMaster. The latter set I actually was able to break the screw-in portion of. Boye replaced the broken element graciously." The link leads to an error message so I can't say for sure what her problem was or when it happened. I suspect the screw-like part on the needle snapped off and who knows if Boye still has replacement parts handy.

There's a fine ridge along some of the needles from the molding process but those can be filed down. The plastic case has not aged well at all, it is yellowed and very brittle.

Should you buy this kit? I wouldn't pay more than $5 for it but I'm cheap and not sure about the durability of the joins. The Yarn Tree price tag shows the KnitMaster cost $29.98 new, I paid $3.00 at the thrift shop. Google found proof that someone still uses her KnitMaster, Kathen posted a photo in her blog of a WIP on the blue needles.

Does anyone know when these kits were made and how well they hold up with regular use?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Casting On

the knitrider asked:
Are there very many cast on methods? all i know is the basic cast on method, and i know there are ways to make the cast on look neater. can you recommend a book that thoroughly explains them, or a site? Or is that Neatby book the best source?

If you're interested in a specific cast on you can try googling the name(s) it is known by, some sites include helpful videos or photos. I have a short list of sites that feature online knitting videos [click here], they all have videos for casting on.

The first book that comes to mind is Monste Stanley's Reader's Digest Knitter's Handbook, which boasts around 30 cast ons. That's overkill to be sure but hey, why not? Most public libraries should have this book in their collection. The writing is dry, like a school text book, but it covers a lot of ground.

Another book your public library should have is Vogue Knitting (not to be confused with the Vogue Knitting magazine), that book explains how to do about a dozen cast ons.

The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques by Nancie Wiseman features 7 cast ons and it's worth mentioning because she clearly outlines the benefits and drawbacks of each method.

Neatby's Cool Socks Warm Feet is a great resource for sock knitters, it shows 4 cast on methods (long tail, channel island, provisional crochet, tubular). I do have a complaint about the way this book teaches the kitchener stitch but that's a gripe for another time (if anyone cares to hear it).

How many cast ons do you really need to know? I have no doubt that thousands of knitters know exactly one cast on and their knitting doesn't suffer for it. But it's handy to know something versatile (long tail), something stretchy (twisted german), something firm (cable), something temporary (provisional), and maybe something decorative (picot). And the tubular cast on for K1P1 rib is a thing of beauty. Those are just suggestions, for example there's more than one stretchy cast on and long tail is stretchy enough for a lot of people. There's no reason to memorize everything, that's why I own reference books.

And finally I leave you with a conversation that has never happened before in the history of the Universe:

K: Have you heard of Rent? The musical, you know, Rent?

D: Yeah, Barbra Streisand was in that.

K: No.

D: Oh she was in Lent.

K: She was in Yentl, not Lent. LENT???

D: Oh right.

(at this point we are both cracking up)

K: I am SO putting this in my blog.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Totally Tubular (cast on)

I played with the tubular cast on while swatching for mittens last month but I hadn't actually worked it into a project yet. Last night I figured I might as well do something new with my familiar cuff-down socks so I started a sock with a tubular cast on. You can google for instructions online (and there are completely different methods of accomplishing it to be found) but I like Lucy Neatby's instructions in her Cool Socks Warm Feet book. Neatby gives instructions for how to do it with both K1P1 and K2P2 in the round. In comparison Nancie Wiseman refuses to explain how to do K2P2 tubular in her Finishing Techniques book -- because she doesn't like how it looks! heh.

One thing worth mentioning is that I haven't seen a photo (online or in a book) that adequately shows just how COOL this cast on actually looks in person. I took photos and they also fail to capture the magic.

Here it is, with K1P1 ribbing for the cuff of a sock:

with the waste yarn

after the waste yarn was pulled out

Hmm, I don't know why but it just looks so much better in person. The only downside is that it seems to take forever (at least it did for my 78 stitch socks on size 0 needles) and I'm not sure it's worth the effort. People rarely notice what color your socks are let alone what the cast on looks like. I suppose it's something a knitter does to please oneself, because nobody else is going to care at all.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

new sock on a new bed

I have a finished sock and a new bed. New mattress, new box springs, new bed frame, new headboard, new pillow, new sheets, new bedskirt, new mattress pad, it's all NEW. Rumor has it that a new duvet will magically appear before the end of the day as well. There are no words to express how much I love this new bed. Consider that I had been sleeping on the same Sears mattress for 27 years. Right. The old wood headboard was over 50 years old and it was peppered with screwdriver scars courtesy of my younger brother. He must have been angry about something.

I love the new mattress so much I can't bear to cover it with sheets quite yet. So here's the new sock on the new bed:

Now I remember why I didn't like knitting those toe-up knee socks a few years ago. I simply don't like working wrap stitch short row heels, it's not fun. I can get 2 pairs of socks from the 3 balls of matching sock yarn so I'll make the 2nd pair cuff-down.

Monday, January 17, 2005

I fixed my circular needle holder

After three years my homemade circular needle holder finally has a 10.5 slot. The reason it didn't have one in the first place is a boring story that starts with a low stock of embroidered numbers on clearance and me thinking "I don't even own any 10.5 circulars, who cares?" At the time I didn't know it would annoy me whenever I looked at it. The funny thing is that the 10.5 slot is still empty.

Edge has hair because the poster is 20 years old

The 000 circ has to be stored with the 0s and the two size 17 circulars are in the size 15 slot but I can live with that.

If you want to make a similar circular needle holder I put all the info on its own page here:

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

toe-up socks & a silly cow

Current WIP: I'm knitting toe-up socks for a change of pace but I'm still using my trusty 47" size 0 Addi Turbo circular. How much abuse can it take before it breaks? Stay tuned. FYI: The instructions in the Magic Loop booklet for the figure 8 cast-on (onto a single circular needle) are brilliant. That's worth the cost of the booklet.

Before casting on I looked at the stripey knee socks, my only other pair of toe-up socks, to count the number of stitches in the cast on -- and noticed a hole near the cuff!

Better than a hole near the foot. A stitch was secured with a safety pin before it dropped too far. After close examination I determined that a single stitch broke and the strand below it also looks weak, it's ready to break. Do bugs eat so daintily? I don't know if the sock snagged on something sharp or if an insect munched through 1.5 strands and then stopped. The latter seems improbable but what do I know. There's only this one spot of damage, both socks were stored together (and by "stored" I mean they were folded over and sitting on top of a box in my bedroom for the last 2 years). Any insight?

I almost started a pair of stripey socks using black and variegated yarns but decided it was better to use the Regia yarn mom gave me for Christmas. See, she's visiting this weekend and I'd like to make it clear that yarn is a lovely thoughtful very much appreciated gift. This is the first surprise yarn I've received as a gift, it was very exciting to find it under the Christmas tree. The message I want to broadcast is: "I love wool sock yarn, I love it soooo much that when you give it to me I am compelled to use it right away because it's so fantastic. More yarn please." Actions speak louder than words.

Tell me, which would you rather receive as a gift?

Christmas 2004 gift


Birthday 2002 gift

No kidding, my parents gave me the cow a few years ago for my birthday. (When my friend saw this photo he asked, "Do your parents hate you?") Later I saw this line of costumed cow statuettes in a Hallmark store for ~$25.00 each. *thud* Apparently they're considered collectible. Uh, if anyone wants to trade the clown cow for some yarn my e-mail address is in the sidebar.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Faux in-the-round swatching

Due to recent snowfall we have cancelled birthday festivities. I phoned my parents at 6:15 this morning and told them to go back to bed, it wasn't safe for them to travel three hours and drive around town up here. (We had a bunch of errands planned, including buying me a new mattress.) The snow should be gone by next weekend so it's not that big of a deal, they can come up then.

icicles outside my front door

click for larger photo

Yesterday I walked to the store in the snow and boy was I thankful for my warm handknits: hat, scarf, mittens, and socks. My hiking boots were soaked through by the time I got home but my feet weren't cold, I love wool socks!

I never did get around to taking a photo of the mittens I made last year and now you can see why. It's hard to muster excitement about charcoal grey plain mittens:

The yarn for these mittens came from a recycled wool sweater and there's enough yarn left to make a matching hat and scarf, if I ever feel like it.

I just updated my circular needle page to include info about how to knit a faux in-the-round swatch. I forget where I first read about this but I'm pretty sure Meg Swansen mentions it in one of her books.

How to knit a faux in-the-round swatch

Q. Is it true that the gauge (sts/inch) will change if I knit my gauge swatch flat and then knit my sock or hat in the round?

A. It's certainly possible, due to differences in your knit and purl tension.

Quick reminder: When you knit stockinette flat you are knitting a row and then purling a row. When you knit stockinette in the round you are knitting every round, you never purl to achieve stockinette in the round.

Knitting a gauge swatch in the round can be a pain. You have to work on it twice as long to end up with the same width to measure as a flat swatch: an 8" circular swatch is 4" when flattened to be measured. There are two ways around this:

1) Knit a 5" circumference circular swatch (make it a good 3" - 4" tall) and then cut it once down the side so it's 5" wide flattened. You can't rip out the swatch to use the yarn in a shortage emergency (without a ton of ends to weave in!), but it works.

2) Make a flat no purl stockinette swatch (aka faux in-the-round swatch) with a circular needle or double-pointed needles.

Instructions: Cast on a likely number of sts to equal approx 5" and knit a few rows of garter stitch to prevent curling. Now you're going to switch to faux in-the-round stockinette. Knit a complete right side row. Slide the sts to the opposite end of the circular/dpn and place that needle in your left hand. Strand the yarn very loosely behind the swatch and knit another row. Repeat until the swatch is at least 3" - 4" tall and finish off with a few more rows of garter stitch. Look ma, no purls!

This is a lot like making i-cord but you don't pull that stranded yarn tight, it has to be VERY loose to avoid distorting the swatch when it's being measured. The edge stitches are sloppy and must be avoided when measuring for gauge but that's OK, this is a swatch and not a work of art.

Optional: You can cut the yarn at the end of every row to avoid stranding it behind the swatch but that renders the yarn almost useless for shortage emergencies.

Q. How do I know the number of sts to cast on for a 5" swatch?

A. Guesstimate. If you're aiming for 8 sts/in then multiply 8 x 5 = 40. Cast on 40 sts and if your gauge is close then your swatch will be approx 5". Due to edge stitch distortion you should measure over 4" to determine gauge (instead of measuring the entire width of the swatch and adjusting your needle size based on whether or not it hits 5" exactly, that won't be accurate).

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Hat Blocking

This isn't the first or last word on the subject but it's how I block wool hats:

Items needed:
* small bowl
* tall cylinder that is the same size or a little smaller than the bowl (such as an oatmeal canister or rolled up towel tied closed)
* plastic shopping bag (optional)
* towel
* wet wool hat

My bowl is 19" around the widest part (6" diameter) and the canister is 16" around (5" diameter) but I imagine you could achieve excellent results with different sizes. Avoid using a bowl with a lip on the rim, if possible. If you can't find a suitable bowl in your cupboard then visit a thrift store, they should have oodles of super cheap bowls to choose from.

1) Invert bowl on top of canister. Place plastic shopping bag over bowl. Turn the bag inside out if it has markings, in case there are dyes on the bag that stain when wet. (I use a plastic bag to protect my wood bowl and cardboard canister, you might decide it isn't necessary.)

2) Soak hat, gently squeeze out excess water, roll hat in towel to draw out more water, place hat on bowl.

The sides of the hat hang down so the ribbing isn't stretched out of shape while the top is nicely shaped by the bowl. Every so often I remove the hat to squeeze out more water. Place in front of a fan or open window for faster drying time.

Before I found the right bowl I would use an inflatable Gertie ball (a children's toy) which works for big heads but not so great for heads under 23" around.

If the hat was too small for the gertie ball I would pat it into a flat hat shape on top of a towel and flip it over every so often until dry. That works fine but I like the bowl method better.

Other hat blocking suggestions I have read about but not tried myself:
a) foam head (art supply or beauty supply stores, they cost under $5.00)
b) glass head (Pier 1 Imports stores, $15)
c) stuff the hat with plastic shopping bags or small towels until it's the right size
d) wear the wet hat on your head (!)
e) professional foam/wood/plastic hat blockers (not cheap)

A LYS sells pricey cylinders with rounded tops for hat blocking. Guess what? They look a lot like a bowl on top of a canister.

Monday, January 03, 2005

one of these things is not like the others

Dad's boring OSU hat, made from Lamb's Pride Bulky:

Mom with her shawl:

I thought there was something wrong with the photo and then realized those white blotchy spots are the snowmen on mom's sweater peeking through the lace. Yes, mom wears cutesy winter sweaters. I didn't inherit that gene.

Bob's boring blue hat, made from Lamb's Pride Bulky:

Zzzzzz. Boring hats are so boring -- but that's what they'll actually wear.

If you're near Bremerton, Washington check out the new yarn shop Sweet Stitch on Wheaton Way. It's not bursting at the seams with stock (like Acorn Street in Seattle) but I was impressed with the quality of yarn on their shelves. The owner really likes alpaca. Clean and classy atmosphere but not "don't touch!" sterile. They had me at hello: I walked in and heard Billie Holiday playing on the stereo. It's the only place I've been to in person that carries Nature Spun sport weight as well as worsted weight. The owner was very friendly and interested in helping us shop without being intrusive, which is a delicate balance to achieve indeed. I could have spent an insane amount of money in there and I hope to see them flourish. Unfortunately their location isn't that hot (it's not exactly visible from Wheaton Way, unless you know where to look) so they won't be able to count on a lot of "hey there's a yarn shop!" foot traffic. Get the word out, eh?

Knitting time will be scarce this week, I must focus on cleaning/decluttering my home in preparation for birthday festivities this weekend.

Someone recently asked how I block my hats so I'm preparing a very simple tutorial (simple as in blink and you'll miss it), that should be up in the next day or two.