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MORE ABOUT MULLEIN Mullein is the large plant with gray fuzzy leaves that you may have seen growing on road sides and pastures. It is biennial and blooms with a tall yellow spike that somewhat resembles a candle. If the area in which you find the plant is clean, it is fine to harvest and dry the leaves yourself. It has a reputation for healing and soothing skin when used externally as well as its breathing history taken as tea. HERB BOOK

Oct 19-20 event! A long-time knitting friend sent me this link to a wonderful fiber festival coming up in Tennessee. Hope some of you will be able to enjoy it! He says "Bruce and I will have lots of knit, crochet and embroidery items for sale. You can do some of your Christmas shopping here." Fiber in the Boro
HERBS FOR FLU Flu hit my part of the country early and hard this year. To make matters worse, it is a particularly nasty respiratory version that involves a lot of coughing. So I have done some herbal research to refresh my memory about suitable herbs and come up with the following: Mullein herb has a long history for all respiratory issues. Licorice is famously soothing for throats made sore by coughing. Cinnamon has been used in folk medicine to deal with nasty mucous and ginger to calm the cough impulse. These plants are on the GRAS [generally recognized as safe] list which means that the FDA has not noted any problems with moderate and ordinary use. Therefore, for treating ordinary flu symptoms at home, it may be a help to add these to whatever over the counter meds you choose. Because this IS such a bad respiratory flu, it also makes sense to watch for signs that professional intervention is warranted, of course. If you feel too tired to find these herbs yourself, Yogi Tea makes a "Breath Deep" formula that includes several of them and is quite tasty. See my herb book for other interesting facts about growing and using herbs
How shall I knit for thee? Let me count the ways! Sometimes people wonder about the relative merits of machine knitting, hand knitting and loom knitting. This recently came up on a group that I belong to. I do them all and here are some thoughts:

Hand knitting on needles and working on the loom are hand work. They proceed at a measured pace. Hurrying takes the fun out. But the enormous upside is that it is quiet, portable work with great tactile pleasure as the yarn moves through your hands. It is sociable work that is possible to enjoy while conversing with others. In my opinion, loom knitting is the quickest of the knitting skills to master and most accessible to those with any sort of disability including arthritis.

Machine knitting is quite a different animal. The fabric produced is the same [or can be--there are many fabrics possible with all knitting methods] but it is practical to knit on a much finer gauge on the machine than most of us have the time to do by hand. Machine knitting, once you are skilled, goes much, much faster. I knit DRESSY SUITS and intricate items on a knitting machine--something I would not undertake with any hand method. You can learn the basics of machine knitting in an afternoon but the expertise to make a suit or pants takes some real investment of time for most people to achieve. On the other hand, the machine is large and makes noise so machine knitting is a more solitary pastime. It also uses different muscle groups. And, like every kind of machine in the world, a knitting machine comes with expenses and maintenance needs as part of the package.

There are some real similarities between all the knitting methods, too. Conceptually, they are close to identical. What I mean is that stitches are actually formed in pretty much the same ways--loops of yarn being pulled through existing stitches to make more stitches--in every case. And once you understand the shape of a sleeve and how it fits into a garment, that is true for all garments of a similar style, no matter how they are knitted. The similarities mean that your 2nd and 3rd knitting skill may be acquired more quickly than your first because you are using the first as a building block and not starting from mental scratch. Also, motor skills are not identical but there is an overlap which helps, too.

A whole lot of whether a machine is worth the investment has to do with your personality. Do you like to see results fast--get an idea and have it come to fruition quickly? You'll love machine knitting. I also think that for production and sales, machines are a huge help. In general, the buyers don't know or care how an item was knitted and the machine is usually faster. Since knitting machine maintenance will mostly be your own responsibility, it helps if you are somewhat mechanically inclined. AND you must be willing to make a real investment in the learning process. I own quite a few knitting machines so obviously I think they are worth it. But don't get one if you are hoping for instant expertise or the ability to start making money this week. Won't happen. And how much do you really want to knit? I knit all of my own clothing, most gifts I give for any occasion, some clothing for others, some production knitting and design professionally. Ovbiously my machines are paying for themselves. But if you want 2 scarves a year the payback time would be a century or more. And when do you want to knit? If you have time to yourself that you'd like to use a machine is a good way. If you are working your needlework into odd moments while waiting to have your teeth cleaned and things like that, stick with a hand method.
On the subject of which machine is "best" people can get quite heated and opinionated. I have a representative from almost every brand so I can't say I really have a favorite. The cheaper machines, such as the Bonds [incredible sweater machine, ultimate sweater machines, etc.] offer a great entry level product. But is IS a basic item. I applaud the product in many ways and think that because you have to learn what is happening with the machine to work it well, it is a wonderful way to learn to knit on a machine. In recent years, the quick, inexpensive production has produced some literal rough edges that frustrate new knitters. Very often I have found that a Bond machine that was acting up needed only the application of an emory board to a rough mold mark in the plastic bed to begin working wonderfully. However a plastc machine will never be as sturdy or as fast as a steel machine. I have several and it's undeniably true. They are, however less expensive and more portable and do some lovely work.

The two best known brands of steel machines are Brother and Studio. Studio has also been marketed as Singer and Silver Reed. Brother has been sold as KnitKing on other countries and there may be other aliases. Both are well known for excellence. However there are instances of bad apples in every item ever manufactured so you could conceivably get a troublesome one. Brother is no longer manufactured but they are still widely available. Silver Reed is still being made and there are active dealers. I know of 2 newer brands in the marketplace: Artisan and Taitexma though I am not sure of the spelling of the 2nd one. Artisan has been the victim of some rude talk. I have no idea if any of it was really deserved but personally, I have been happy with my Artisan mid-gauge and happy with the integrity of the importer. Taitexma is an unknown to me except that I know it is out there. I think that both of the new brands have purchased lapsed patents from other companies and are reproducing machines that were once made under other names. Don't quote me on that but it is the impression I have gathered. I checked far enough to determine that doing so is perfectly legal. Nice to have some famously popular machine styles available again, I think.

Sometimes people ask me, "if you could only knit one way" or if you could only have one machine" which would it be? How can you ask me such a thing? I can't answer and hope it never happens to you or me or anyone!

Let me finish by saying that these are my thoughts and opinions. It is entirely possible to feel differently about the issue and still be a wonderful person and a superlative knitter! But I hope you find my take on the matter at least slightly helpful.

On the Road Again! An exciting trip in my future

I am getting my samples together for a trip I have been looking forward to for some time. I'll be teachng the Eastern Connecticut Machine Knitters on May 11-12. I understand that there are a few places left. So get in touch with Nancy Elliot at nanknits1951@yahoo.com if you would like to join in the fun.

This will be my first trip to Connecticut since I was a little girl. I have insider information that this is an especially charming group of knitters so I expect to have a wonderful time.

My husband will be coming too and will be performing his "Ask Jack" function. SO if you come, bring along any machines that are having issues and he will try to help you solve them. Naturally there are show specials and freebies to tempt you, too.
Classes for the Seminar
Snug as a Bug-the magic of Turtleback jackets
Socks of All Sorts
I feel Like Felting
Merry Go Round
Great Knitted Gifts
Fuzzy Logic--knitting with furry yarns
Crazy for Cables--a recently expanded class that includes reversible cables, faux cables and wanderlust cables
Knitting and Sew on--NOT your basic cut & sew
I have finished a hat and half of a scarf. So what do I think of the new board so far? IT'S A WINNER! I like all of my knitting boards but here are a few reasons why this one is special. First: the new needles are shaped and positioned in a way that makes it very easy to get even stitches and to avoid dropping any. The groove will make it easier for beginners to pick up the stitch correctly. Second, the needles are placed closer to the inside edge of the wooden part of the loom than the other models. This does a couple of nice things. It makes it easier to pull the knitting down and get it knitting smoothly, especially at the beginning of a piece. It also makes it easier to peak under the loom and check your work to make sure of where you are and what you did. Additionally, this placement shortens the yarn path when double knitting so that it is possible to get a smaller gauge that is truly suitable to worsted weight yarn. The change-over between the spacers and the 5 peg sliders the convert the loom between double and single knitting goes very smoothly, taking maybe 2 minutes. The 5 peg sections create enough room for your hands to manipulate the yarn with ease when working in the round. All in all, it is clear that a great deal of thought went into this loom. We'll enjoy it for a long time to come. My first pattern for the new All-N-One loom is ready. Click the picture of the hat to see a full description. You can also get there from the Double Knitting Board Page

My next project on the new loom is a shadow work scarf. As far as I know, this is a technique that I have invented. I'll add photos and more about it soon.
How can you knit round items on a rectangular loom?
I get asked this quite often. The answer is that the fabric doesn't know about the rectangle. It only knows that the needles are evenly spaced all around an opening. When the fabric is removed from the loom, the structure of the loom disappears and you have a tube of fabric which can be oval, so as to fit around a body or round so as to fit around a head or square so as to fit over a box.
MARCH 9, 2012--big news for loom knitters The Authentic Knitting Board company is releasing a new loom, pictured at left. I just received an e-mail this morning. The innovations are several: The loom is adjustable and can be arranged to knit socks and hats in the round or to use as a double knitting board. In addition, there is a grooved style of needle[also known as peg] that many knitters find immensely helpful in when picking up the stitch with the hook. Needles are permanently imbedded in the wooden frame so there is no risk of popping out. It is super-lightweight and easy to handle. The loom sells for $42.99 which is a real deal in my opinion. The looms will begin shipping on March 14 but you can actually place your order today at the link below. You'll find more photos and details so that you can fully understand the cleverness of this design at the same link.
Order the All n One Loom
The company is already offering 2 free patterns that are appropriate to the loom. Of course, many patterns that you already own will also work. And I promise you that there will soon be more available because I will begin designing the minute I get my hands on my new loom! I am certain that other designers are as excited as I and will also be working hard. The presently available freebies are available from the link below. Free knitting board patterns
Are knitting boards cheating?
Nope. The craft is several hundred years old. It is just a different way of approaching the issue. Many people find it a little bit easier to learn than needle knitting and a little bit easier on arthritic hands. but you can get the same fabrics either way. Is your knitting method really a moral issue? Unless the knitting tools are used violently, I really think not. We do it for fun. I myself find ALL knitting methods fun. One extremely nice thing about knitting boards is that most people can get some kind of positive result in a single sitting. For a new knitter this is wonderfully encouraging.
October 21--exciting news! I have been designing patterns for the double knitting boards such as The Authentic Knitting Board, Knifty Knitter Long Looms and Noble Knitters.Some are available on my own loom knitting pages. Others are at VivaLoom.com See the links at right. Keep in mind that many patterns may be knitted on more than one kind of knitting board or loom so it's in your best interest to visit all the pages. Knifty Knitter patterns
Double Knitting Board patterns
VivaLoom
September 26--Love, not money--charity knitting Years ago, a speaker at a machine knitting conference impressed my by pointing out that "we are fortunate women--we can afford our hobbies!" At the time, I could barely afford a used machine and had laboriously scraped up the conference fees but I had to agree that she had a point. I WAS there at the motel, learning great stuff and I had a place to go home to. Our charity project for the conference was to knit small bags and fill them with necessities for women who had to leave abusive situations and hide out in shelters. Many left home without even a toothbrush. By comparison, I was fortunate indeed.

Since that time, I have learned more about charity knitting. For one thing, an amazing number of knitters participate! At times I have contributed patterns to help things along.

At present, an exciting new project has presented itself. My friend Angela McClellan from the Country Knitting of Maine yahoo group came up with the most adorable cat-toy pattern: a catnip stuffed mouse. These seemed to me like a perfect fund raiser for animal shelters so I spoke with my sister who is a long-time volunteer with PAWS in Atlanta. She agreed. So PAWS will be accepting mice to help socialize the cats in the shelter and to sell in the gift shop to help support their work. I'm sure that your local shelter would love to have some, too. If you cannot find a worthy recipient and want to knit from the pattern, which will soon appear in Country Knitting of Maine News and Views, you may send mice to me and I will pass them on to PAWS via my sister. Mail them to po box 384 Crawford, GA 30630.

If you would rather knit something besides mice, Country Knitting of Maine combines a hat contest with a project called "Keeping Maine Warm" to provide hats to the needy. Project Linus provides blankets to children to help with traumatic situations. Another worthwhile cause is to provide head-coverings to cancer patients who lose their hair. I have been there, as have many of you, and I know that soft, warm head-coverings can add a lot of comfort both physically and socially. Newborns in need accepts clothing & blankets for infants and preemies in difficult situations. The link marked "cancer caps" will take you to some info on that subject. The link marked "charity-suitable patterns" takes you to the page where my book "Great Knitted Gifts" and "Kangaroo Covers" are sold. Kangaroo covers has been popular with project Linus knitters. The bath turban in Great Knitted Gifts is a superior cancer cap. Keeping Maine Warm project linus charity suitable patterns cancer caps newborns in need

There are some surprise rewards in charity knitting beyond the obvious. It is a great way to keep the knitting room orderly [not that mine ever gets there] by using up odds and ends. It is also a great way to practice your knitting skills. Believe me, the recipients of these unexpected gifts are not in the mood to criticize! They will be grateful for whatever you do so feel free to use your charity work to build your confidence.
These are Angela's mice. Aren't they just perfect? The pattern is not difficult at all so you can have lots of fun knitting without stress. Also pictured are the turban and Kangaroo Covers pattern mentioned at left. Below right is Afghan for Everyone, also from Great Knitted Gifts and also great for project Linus. News and Views subscribers will find 2 hat pattern series running concurrently. These are also designed for charity knitting. They are "Stripping with our Clothes On" and "Hats with Character"



NIFTY NEW YARN--July 15 I have been looking for quite awhile for the perfect bulky yarn and I think I have found it at last! It's a luxury yarn at a moderate price. Merino/acrylic blend. Here is what I like: it's springy with nice memory. It knits easily on hand needles, on the Authentic Knitting Board and on the bulky knitting machine.

For the AKB use 1/2" spacer to get a nice robust double knitted fabric. It is easy to find and hook over the correct strand with this yarn. I have designed some slippers using this yarn for knitting on the AKB. The pattern will soon be available.

On the bulky knitting machine, use stitch size 10 and every other needle. Use weights, especially at the edges of the work. After the work is off of the machine, give it a lengthwise pull to get the stitches properly aligned. I am working on some slippers for the bulky machine.

The yarn comes from Turkey and will be direct shipped to you. From my yarn page [see link below] you can read more about shipping and get directly to the order page for Kuka bulky merino/acrylic. The yarn site in its entirety is enormous and confusing so on my yarn page I have provided a link directly to the correct yarn. You can buy any yarns you wish but be aware that I have not tried them ALL. I will review them here as I try more. My relationship with this company is what they call a "reseller" and what I would call selling on modest commission. So far, it seems to me to be a good, reliable yarn source. We'll see how it goes. Keep in touch and let me know what you think.

Hope you enjoy this new yarn as much as I am!
click here to visit my yarn page
March 29--release stitch lace I have been having fun with release stitch lace. This is basically stockinette fabric but 2 needle beds are used. Wherever a lacy hole is desired, a needle is raised on the ribber and knitted for 1 or more rows, then dropped. When it drops, the stitches in the main fabric enlarge to include the extra yarn creating the lace holes. You can knit the main fabric on the ribber and use a punchcard to select lace stitches on the main bed or you can knit in the normal way and manually select stitches on the ribber. In either case, rack the beds so that the needles alternate. When it's time to drop the stitches, do so manually or with a stitch ditching tool of some kind. Another option is to detach the carriages[locks] and move the one with the temporary stitches across the bed without any yarn which will also drop the stitches. The choice of methods depends partly on what is available but also on how many lace stitches are in use and how many rows are being knitted. Sometimes one method will be much more practical than another. This kind of lace is much faster than hand transferring. I think it is about the same in time consumption as using a lace carriage.
Seminar news! The Carolinas Machine Knitters Guild is hosting a seminar in late April. I have greatly enjoyed these events in the past. If you need instruction, this is a great place to get it. If you are skilled already, it's a great place to find inspiration. There is detailed information available at the following blog machine-knitting-in-raleigh.blogspot.com Knitting seminars in the south are somewhat rare so make time for this if you can!
March 29--fantastic stitch saving idea I was talking with fellow knitter Jo Ann and she happened to mention the coolest technique. I have never run into the specifics of this one before so I got her permission to share it with you. When, for some reason, you must hold a bunch of stitches, try inserting fishing line rather than yarn through them. It comes in many sizes and is much stiffer than yarn. Select the line that is closest in size to the diameter of the yarn, run it through the open stitches, then stick a pencil eraser on each end of the line to keep it from dropping the stitches. From this point you can re-hang or work the edge in any way much more easily. Jo Ann discovered this when she bound off a blanket edge much too tightly and had to re-do it. In such cases, I have either worked the new bind off while undoing the old a few stitches at a time, run yarn through the open stitches, run a knitting needle through them or attempted to re-hang them directly. In each case there are hazards. Her method avoids many of them. Great idea, I think. I'm sure it won't be long before I need this to get me out of my next jam!
An upcoming knitting retreat: I just received the note I will post at right. This is my first exposure to this group and event--I have never been. But a quick look at the website made a good impression. We would like to ask your assistance in notifying knitters in the southeast about a Fiber Arts Retreat that we are hosting. It is being held at the end of April in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. We will have 55 attendees coming to relax, knit and learn. We will have workshops, evening programs and lots of time to socialize and explore the area. we would appreciate it if you would include the retreat information in your newsletters. Registration just opened so there are still spaces available. www.unwindgetaway.com
JAN 30---BEADAZZLED FINALLY! I had the felted bead party that was repeatedly canceled due to horrible weather. You can see the results at right. At first, the girls were a little uncertain but as soon as they detected the beads actually hardening in their hands, the excitement level rose. I was astonished at how pretty and un-childlike each necklace turned out. I had knitted the beads in advance and simply demonstrated knitting a single bead so they could see what we started with. Then we dished up hot soapy water, tossed the beads in and started felting them in our hands. It took about an hour to get all the beads felted. We took a cookie break. Then another hour got them all strung. I had the help of all the mothers, 2 extra adult women and we had to call in my husband. This was NOT a surplus of adult help so any of you who are thinking of having such a party, keep it in mind. We got a couple of surprises: the girls felted their beads so firmly that we had to get out pliers to get the needles through the finished beads but once we did, it worked fine. Also, I provided stretchy beading thread in thick and thin. The older girls selected the thin because it will go through the more elegant tiny glass beads. It knots fine to finish the necklace. But the thicker thread, used by the younger set unties no matter how well you knot it. My husband saved the day by crimping the necklaces with electrical connectors! Proper connectors are sold for this thread but I did not buy it because the package says "use our connectors OR knot the thread to finish". All in all it was a labor intense day but very successful!
JAN 13---hand knitted scarves because I am snowed in! This is unbelievable but for the 2nd time this winter, I am really and truly snowed in and I live in GEORGIA! this is not supposed to happen to us but it has and it gives me new empathy for those of you in routinely chillier spots. My knitting room heater has been temporarily moved to protect the plumbing pipes. Although they are wrapped and covered, we are not convinced that they are sufficiently so and "better safe than sorry" seems to be the path to take. Obviously, I can't machine knit in an un-heated room. No matter how hardy I consider myself, at a certain coolness, the machines cease to work well. SO I have been sitting in the heated part of the house hand knitting scarves. I can't seem to focus on knitting bikinis or tank tops in sub-freezing weather so scarves it is. I have come up with a couple of somewhat unique and very easy ones that you may download for free from my hand knitting page. JAN 13---downloading freebies safely from Mediafire My free things are hosted on a file sharing service called mediafire. It is entirely reputable but, as I use the free version so I can afford to offer free downloads, advertising is shown. That is OK but sometimes the pop-ups are persistent and annoying. Happily, I demonstrated last weekend and one of the ladies who attended my class is quite a computer expert. She referred me to a pop-up blocker that I have just installed and it works wonders. This blocker works with the firefox browser which I use and highly recommend. It is free, fast and relatively safe because most viruses target internet explorer because it is the big one. Below is the link to download the pop-up blocker

I first tried to download it from internet explorer. That is complex and I don't recommend it. But accessing it through firefox is a piece of cake. So if you don't already use firefox, install it first, then add the blocker. I think you'll be very pleased. Thank you Sheron!!!
popup blocker
DECEMBER 7--keyhole scarves The term refers to scarves that have a slit into which one end is inserted to secure the scarf. No knot is needed. They are tidier and less bulky than other scarves to wear and great for people like me who are accessory impaired. In the past I have always made these on knitting frames or by hand but recently have been experimenting with the possibilities on knitting machines.
Then the subject was raised by another knitter in a discussion group so I am wondering if there would be some interest in a series of patterns for scarves of this type??? Let me know your thoughts.

In the mean time, here is some info that is included in the frame knitted keyhole scarf pattern that I sell. I am changing the wording a little because the original refers to "pegs" which correspond to needles on our machines. These basics will help you design a scarf of your own if you are adventurous.

Think of the scarf as being made up of segments: 2 tails, 1 neckline, 1 slot. Cast on enough stitches to make the width of scarf you want. Knit the length of tail you want. Knit the slot by knitting rows that will equal the width of the scarf minus 1". First place half of the needles in hold and knit this length. Break the yarn. Now place the needles that have just knitted in hold and the others in work. Knit the same length again. Resume knitting on all needles for the rest of the scarf. For most adults, knit 16” for the neckline after the end of the keyhole and before starting the 2nd tail. There will be no difference in the knitting as you transition from neck to tail, it's just a way of thinking of the work to keep the row count straight and simple. Knit 2nd tail to the same length as the first. For children, knit 14” or 15”for the neck section. For extra large adults knit 17”
or 18”.

knitting frame pattern page
NOVEMBER 27--2011 Hat Challenge As you know, I write for Country Knitting of Maine News & Views. The publisher, Linda Williams, has been running a hat contest each year. The hats are donated to charity. In 2010, I challenged myself to knit 100 hats to contribute to the charity and challenged readers to knit 100 also for which I'd give them a reward.

I'm delighted with the response to this year's challenge. I hope you'll keep knitting along with me & that more of you will join me. As before, I'll reward you! If you don't know about Linda's "Making Maine Warm" charity, paste http://www.countryknittingofmain.com
into your browser and go see what she has to say.

This year, what I am challenging myself to do is knit 100 hats that can be strip knitted. What I mean by that is that all 100 could be knitted continuously with waste yarn in between them. My idea is to think of as many creative things to do within those parameters as I possibly can. Some of what I knit will be worth passing on to you so Linda has agreed to publish the "stripping for charity" series in News and Views and the first of the series has already appeared. There is an introduction to the series in the latest issue that will fully explain.

My challenge to the knitters is to knit 100 hats to contribute but I'm not requiring you to knit them in any particular way. It seems enough that you knit 100! However, you may get some nifty ideas from the strip hats series. There is also a "hats with character" series running concurrently. These can also be strip knitted though ears and features to create the faces of the characters are knitted and applied separately.

I have finally received the photo of the hat This year, I also contributed knitting to the Habitat For Humanity auction. I was astonished to see a very simple hat that auctioned for between $35-40. The hat is super simple [see it at right] but the colors are great. I think it shows that we need not knit with bells and whistles to make things people really appreciate. Simple hats answer my challenge just as well as elaborate ones do.
NOVEMBER 17--a new approach to fairisle. I have been experimenting with ways to make fairisle fabric more wearable. The problem is always the floats. They catch on things and also limit the stretch and flexibility of the fabric. My latest effort has worked out well. It combines 2 features: 1) a fairisle pattern with very short floats. None are over 3 stitches wide. 2) using a stretchy yarn for the contrast color.

The result is a very unusual gauge. The stitch and row gauge are the same at 8 stitches & 8 rows per inch. But the fabric does have more stretch and movement than is typical of fairisle.

I designed a paisley-ish punchcard for this jacket. I've always loved paisley. In researching it and trying to figure out how to make a punchcard design that would be satisfactory, I discovered an odd piece of trivia: paisley has sometimes been called "Persian Pickles".

So far I have worn my new jacket 3 times. It has been comfortable and there have been no floats snagged. In case you wish to experiment, the strechy yarn I used is "Walkaway" sock yarn from Hobby Lobby and the main yarn is Tamm Bebe. It may seem an odd pair to choose because Bebe is fuzzy and not a texture one would imagine choosing for a jacket plus Walkaway is noticeably thinner. However, when I swatched, this was my favorite combination and it is working well. Walkaway does not come in true solid colors. This one has a main tone of gold but tweedy varigations that include pink and green. It's subtle enough to make good fairisle without disrupting the design but adds some interest.
OCTOBER 15--knitting a tubular dress If you have 2 beds, you can knit a dress all in one piece. This is easiest on the Passap but a Japanese machine with a well adjusted ribber can do just as nice a job. To begin with, you need to know the desired circumference of the dress at the hip area, at the bust area, the length of skirt you want and your back-waist length. Figure the skirt by multiplying gauge X desired flat width to get the number of stitches to cast on per bed. Don't add any seam allowance. For example: to get a skirt that finishes to 40" when the stitch gauge is 7 per inch, multiply 20X7=140 needles to cast on per bed. The 20 is because 20=half of the total circumference which is what will be knitted on each bed. Most of us need our skirts wider than our tops so for a 1 piece dress, we'll also need to figure the desired bust size in the same manner. Between the 2, decreases will be needed.

You will need to knit twice the number of rows that the row gauge indicates because only half a round is knitted each time the counter clicks. So if your row gauge is 10 stitches per inch, multiply the total number of inches desired by 20 to get the correct row count on the counter. Example: you want a skirt 24" long. Add 2" for a hem which will be turned under and stitched in place after the knitting is complete. So multiply 26"X20=520 rows on the counter to the waist. If the bodice is to be narrower than the skirt, work the decreases in the top 4-8" of that length, depending on your shape. Simple decreases on each side of each bed work fine. The above-waist portion is figured by multiplying back waist length by row gauge. If you like traditional shaping, figure our where the armhole should begin using row gauge, place one bed in hold at the underarm and shape the front and back armhole and neckline one at a time. I prefer finishing with the techniques detailed in my book "KNITTING AND SEW ON" which means knitting tubular to the back-waist length and adding an inch for safety, the removing on waste yarn. Besides the advantage of speed, this method allows you to complete the armholes AFTER any drop has occurred in the knitting and to copy the fit of your favorite top perfectly.

Begin on waste yarn. Hang comb and weights. Make sure that the needles are racked to be exactly opposite one another so that there is not a transition bump at the side of the knitting. Make sure the beds are getting the same gauge even if the stitch dials are set differently to achieve it. Knit a few waste yarn rounds using circular settings. This will be CX/CX for Passaps. Levers are used on the Studio and Part buttons are used on the Brother. Now knit the skirt rows, work the waist shaping, knit the bodice area and remove. If you shaped the top, you need only sew the shoulder seams and bind the armholes and neckline. Otherwise, you'll finish these by cutting and sewing.

Before finalizing the finishing,pull the knitting lengthwise, wash and dry the dress and let it hang for a few hours so that any of the gauge change we call "hanging out" gets over and done with while you still have some fitting options.

The great thing about this style is that the lack of side seams makes for a very smooth & flattering fit. It is also a pretty fast way to make the dress. The essential factor for success is to be absolutely certain of your gauge. It is also important to select a yarn that will reach a stable size and stay there.

I just finished a dress in Diamante using this method. If you don't feel up to designing your own, you may have a chance to knit mine in a few months as I have offered the pattern to News and Views. Last night I wore the dress with this reversible cable sweater from "EVERY WHICH WAY CABLES". Made a nice sharp outfit and was comfy, too.

Easley Adventure We spent Saturday the 9th in Easely, SC with Lorraine Brown's knitting group. Had a wonderful time teaching the Merry Go Round sweater and meeting this lovely group of knitters. Jack fixed a couple of carriages, too. I was pleased to see many knitters keeping their vintage machines in work.

I have known Lorraine was there at the Knitting and Lace Making Cottage for ages but have never gotten myself together for a visit. It is delightful! The shop is in a building with a fascinating history and Lorraine has it lovingly stuffed with enticing yarns and needlework goodies of all sorts.

Easley itself was a treat. It has the original downtown nicely restored and in use. We had stellar pizza & salad at Michael's Pizza in an old building that overlooks the railroad that runs through town. A train went through while we were there. Plus it was one of those fall days just made for a country drive.
All in all a happy experience! I hope more local knitting groups will invite me to cool places to teach nice knitters.
SEPT 24--put your foot in your hand My great grandmother used to say that to mean "hurry up" or "get a move on" but I am using it in a new way. Here's the story. My friend Marianne and I share a love of knitting and crocheting. We were comparing projects the other day and I complained about getting a terrible pain in my back from overdoing the needle arts. My pain is most intense below the left shoulder blade but eventually encompasses the neck and shoulder and may even pull my spine out of alignment at about bra strap height. In professional life, Marianne is a ballerina who has owned a dance studio and school for many years and has degrees in things like dance physiology so she knows a lot about body mechanics. She asked if I was stretching. I answered yes, but obviously not with success and she suggested the following 2 things. First, support the elbow on the side that tends to hurt with a pillow as you work. 2nd: put your foot in your hand. Sit where you can lean back for support as on a large sofa. Bend the left knee and place the left foot in the left hand. Press your foot away from your body for a gentle sustained stretch. Repeat on the other side. I felt the most amazingly effective stretch in the problem areas when I did this. I now do it regularly with wonderful results. I know some of you are as obsessed as I and therefore end up as knotted as I do. I hope this helps you as much as it is helping me.
SEPT 19--success with the Channel Isle cast on The unique thing about the Channel Isle cast on is that it produces a beaded effect at the edge of the work. It is also sturdy. I tried oodles of things that looked pretty nice and were sturdy but had no beads. After much cogitation, I realized that the beaded look is produced because the working yarn wraps the doubled strand and enters the doubled loops from 2 different directions, making a knot-like effect where this occurs. The instructions below do achieve the effect. They are a little labor intense but worth it for some projects.

Pull the needles you need into working position. This should be an even number of needles. Cut a piece of yarn 4X the width of these needles. Fold this piece of yarn and hang the fold on a needle a few places to the left of those in work. Make a slip knot in the working yarn [single strand] and hang it on the same needle. This needle is just a holder. Pull the first 2 needles on the left from working position to hold position. E-wrap both of them in a single wrap with the doubled yarn. With the single strand of the working yarn, wrap under the first needle, then place the strand in the hook and manually pull the needle back forming a stitch. Place the hook of the latch tool in the hook of the 2nd needle and pull the needle back so that the loops of yarn transfer to the latch tool. Reach down with the latch tool, wrapping it around the doubled strand that is hanging down and catch the single strand with the hook of the tool. Pull the single strand through the loops on the hook, forming a stitch. Transfer this stitch from the latch tool to the 2nd needle. Pull the next 2 needles forward and repeat the process just described. Do so all the way across. Drop the loops off of the holding needle at the left and you are ready to go. I have not tried it yet but suspect that for cotton yarn, this cast on will be enough to prevent rolling.

SEPT 18--a new cast on and notes about Mediafire While at Ileen's I chatted with some ladies who were hand-knitting about their projects. Two of them convinced me to resume my efforts at learning to knit with circular needles. Yesterday I found this little video on the Channel Isles cast on. So I combined both things and have successfully knitted a hat in the round using the cast on. I got to thinking about how the cast on could be duplicated on the machine. My first try is not quite right but is still nice so I'll pass it on: use a separate doubled piece of main yarn to weave over one needle and under the next working from right to left across the bed. E-wrap all the needles from left to right with main yarn. Place the yarn in the carriage at right and knit from right to left. This entraps the weaving yarn in the first row and beefs up the edge considerably but the weaving yarn is not actually knitted and can be used to adjust the edge. What is NOT accomplished is the beaded look of the Channel Isle edge so I'll keep working. In case you'd like to try the Channel Isle cast on by hand, here is the link to the video I learned from: channel isle cast on

From time to time, someone asks about Mediafire which is where you get taken if you click on the links throughout my website that offer you free downloads. Understandably, safety is a concern. Mediafire is OK. Nothing sinister is going on. It a file hosting site & is the way I can afford to house all that stuff and offer it for free. There is a note on my home page that explains in detail. Basically, when you click the link on my site, it takes you to media-fire. Mediafire has levels of service as most such sites do. I am using their free hosting plan so I can afford to offer lots of stuff. Since this is the case, they will present ads and offers. Ignore them all and only click on the page you went for. I'm not aware that anything on Mediafire is bad but it would waste your time. The downloads work very smoothly and never contain anything other than my file. Sometimes you have to scroll up or down to see the link to my file because they re-format the hosting page all the time. My free downloads are almost all .pdf files so Adobe Acrobat reader will load for you to read them. Most of you have that but if you don't it is a free download available from the Adobe website and well worth having. You can check out the service by visiting mediafire
SEPT 14--a new option: gift certificates You will find a new gift certificate button just above the index on the home page. This will allow you to give Answer Lady items as a gift even if you are not sure which ones the recipient would prefer. Gift certificates may be sent in amounts from $5 up. When you click on the button, paypal will ask you for details about where the certificate goes and when and how you'd like it delivered. Delivery may be by e-mail and you can specify exactly when. Or you can print the certificate yourself and hand it over in person. This is very much like buying a gift card without the plastic card. Paypal keeps excellent records so I fully expect this system to work smoothly. Still, it only makes good sense for you to print your records of the transaction for yourself so that, in case of a glitch, you and I can iron it out quickly.
SEPT 12--some clarification I heard from a reader who was concerned that I was using styrofoam to restore sponge bars which seemed to her to be a bad idea. I agree. Let me explain that by "craft foam" I mean the colorful sheets of flexible EVA material sold for childrens' crafts. In our local stores it is labeled craft foam so it did not occur to me that the name could imply something else.

EVA is used as a cushioning layer in shoes and Croc type shoes are made entirely out of EVA. This is what led me to think that its surface might be durable enough and its sponginess resilient enough to do the job. I have knitted several more things since I last posted and it is still doing very well. If you are unfamiliar with the product, it is normally sold with the things aimed at young children. Often it is cut into flower and animal shape but there are rubber sheets of it available in 2 sizes and 2 thicknesses.
SEPT 11--success! The finished and FULLY dried sponge bar is back in the machine and 3 hats have been knitted without a problem. These include the use of fur yarn and fair-isle which are both a bit challenging for a hobby machine so I feel quite pleased with its performance. I honestly cannot remember what it knitted like when new to compare but it knits nicely now.

There are many methods of restoring a sponge bar out there. I did not invent the idea and have borrowed ideas from many. For example, another knitter suggested white glue instead of a more permanent one so that removing the foam for the next restoration would be easier. My main innovation is the use of craft foam which is EVA and very, very durable as compared to the other sponge materials in use. My first tries were problematic because I tried to make the sponge the same thickness as it originally was. With craft foam, this is too thick and makes it hard to knit. The 2 layers I use now come just above the level of the metal channel but as they are very high in compression rating, that is plenty. It will take a few weeks to determine how well this bar performs in the long haul but early results are excellent.
THE ANSWER LADY'S SPONGE BAR RESTORATION STEPS
1. clean old foam out of the bar with solvent and a screw driver. Rubbing alcohol or "Goo Gone" work as solvents
2. cut strips of craft foam that will fit the channel in the bar using a rolling cutter or craft knife
3. glue 2 complete layers* of craft foam into the channel with Aleen's craft glue[selected because it is thicker than other white glues]
4. tape around each end of the foam & bar tightly with strong thin tape
5. allow to dry for at least 24 hours

*sometimes it is possible to get craft foam that is twice the thickness of the usual stuff. If you can get this, only 1 layer is needed. Remember that the total amount of foam should extend only a little above the metal channel
SEPT 10--oops! obviously I was not patient enough. When I inserted the sponge bar, glue oozed out! Fortunately, I used washable white glue [Aleen's] so I was able to clean up the mess and start over. sigh.

SEPT 7---as the hubbub of the long weekend and returning from Ileen's dies down
Things are returning to normal. Normal means knitting of course. Having finished up with the hats for this year's charity drive through Country Knitting of Maine News and Views, I am thinking of things to do for next year's efforts. More about that soon. Also, it's time to get the jacket knitted for that suit I began in August. I'm debating whether full needle rib would be a good fabric or too heavy. Any thoughts on that? It will be in Tamm Diamante so if you have used it for FNR and liked or disliked it, I'd love to hear from you.
SEPT 9--sponge bar experiment My very first knitting machine, a Singer HK100 is about to get a new assignment. When I checked the sponge bar I discovered that the ORIGINAL 25 year old bar was still in the machine! Obviously I have not checked it often. Amazing that it was still knitting! Happily, the old bar is not the rusty mess one might fear but it is totally defunct. So before searching high and low for a replacement, I'm attempting a restoration. I have read lots of methods and tried a few. All basically work but I have had objections to all of them also. One of my main dislikes is the necessity of applying that long strip of ribbon to the top. So this time I am trying craft foam which has a more durable surface. I'm waiting impatiently for the glue to dry right now and will give you a success report soon.

Before I left for Ileen's seminar, I promised myself that I would clean the knitting room before setting up the machine I traveled with again. Believe me when I say it REALLY needed it. I am happy to say that it is finally clean. What a joy. Very inviting. I confess that there are still some containers of oddments that I should and will sort but it is SOOO much better.
SEPT 2---happiness is a machine with 2 carriages and a clean knitting room I was talking with some knitters at Ileen's about using 2 carriages on 1 machine. This makes striping and some other patterns infinitely faster and easier but the carriages take up room on the machine and limit your working space, UNLESS you make extensions. That is what you see in the photo at left. Both carriages have been pushed to the left though you can only see 1. Jack added the support boards labeled at right and affixed plumbing tubing [they type that fills the toilet tank] to them to create the extensions on both sides. The tubing was selected simply because it was the right size to match the groove on which the studio/singer 328 carriages slide. It works great. Periodically, it gets out of adjustment and Jack fixes it with a scew driver. Lots of fun.