Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Product Review: Creative Comfort ™ Crafter's Comfort Glove



I decided to try the Crafter's Comfort Glove because I often suffer from swollen and stiff fingers after long knitting sessions. The box says that they provide relief for arthritis, swelling, pain and cold hands. I knew I had seen something like this at my big box craft store and of course none of the employees knew what I was talking about when I asked for their specific location. I had to walk the sewing aisle several times before I spotted them wedged in a tiny space that was surrounded by large cutting mats. They come in sizes small, medium, and large and have a guide on the box for choosing the correct size.

I first experimented using the gloves with my fingering weight sock yarn and they were nearly impossible to use. I found it very difficult to tension my yarn in my left hand. I hold the yarn in my palm for tension and I could not close my hand tightly enough to secure the yarn. It was more functional to wear one on my right hand only, but my size 1 needle kept slipping out of my hand when I tried to move into working position on the next double-pointed needle. I will revisit these gloves when I am working with larger needles and yarn.

One positive is that they make my hands feel a lot better while typing. They restrict my finger movement enough to add stability without losing speed and the open finger tips prevent any clumsiness. There is noticeable compression around my fingers and I think it will help with swelling. They are looser and very comfortable through the palms and wrist.

What devices do you recommend for hand comfort?

Monday, April 28, 2014

Crocheting My Stash



Yes, this is still a knitting blog even though I am talking about crochet. I am a terrible crocheter, but I have always been attracted to granny squares. They have that classic crochet appearance. People who are bold with color can make some stunning pieces.

I decided to use my easy center-pull ball stash to practice making them. I can do crochet stitches, but I have a hard time reading patterns and putting it all together. I crocheted along with a YouTube video to make these squares. Hopefully muscle memory will kick in soon. I don't love the colors, but I have high hopes for the final motif.

This post isn't about crocheting. I wanted to talk about some of my yarn stash habits. I don't like to keep a large stash, which is probably different from the majority of knitters. I rarely buy yarn just because it looks nice or because I may be able to make something beautiful with it. I like to have a project in mind with every purchase. Sometimes I will create a tiny stash because I buy yarn for a new project before I finish the current one. This bad practice encourages unfinished objects. Try to avoid.

It's hard to avoid a small stash of leftovers. I can't think of a time when I had a project that magically used every inch of yarn. Some leftovers are perfect for embroidery or other embellishments. I also use them to experiment with color and stitches before I am ready to do true swatching. 

Do you like to keep a large stash? How do you use your leftovers?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Tangled Mess



Just when I said I have not had any problems with tangled center-pull balls purchased from my local yarn store I end up with this mess, but this ball was already wound. I had a few close calls from the start. I would have to give a less than gentle tug, but it continued to pull from the center in one beautiful strand. My last major tug birthed a huge clump of yarn.

For most people this is a source of frustration, but I have to admit I was mildly excited. I enjoy untangling things. Untangling my parents jewelry was a reward for me. Fingering weight yarn did pose a bit of a challenge. I knit as much of the slack as I could, but stopped when I noticed the yarn was fraying. I had to cut twice and ended up with a little ball that I wound around my fingers.



It was unfortunate that I had to break the yarn in the middle of a sock – more ends to weave. It also wasn't the best idea to break the yarn at the end of a double-pointed needle. I had a hard time maintaining tension on the old and new yarn, which resulted in ladders for a few rounds. I still love center-pull balls despite today's hiccup.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Cheap and Easy Center-Pull Balls

I think center-pull balls of yarn are the bee's knees. I like that i don't have to put down my knitting to unwind yards of yarn to avoid the ball bouncing around. I used to distrust center-pull balls because they tangled so often. I only recently started shopping at my local yarn store and haven't had any problems with the balls they wind for me.

I had some yarn left over from my latest project and the skein was in a tangled heap by the time I finished using it. I remembered that my Vogue Knitting Knitopedia has directions for making a center-pull ball using an empty toilet paper roll. It was a very simple process and went by faster than I expected. I still don't think I will use this method for large hanks of yarn, but it is perfect for leftovers that will go into my yarn stash.

I pulled apart the roll at its natural seam to secure 
the yarn end pointing inside of the roll.

Then I wrapped the yarn around to form an X. I wrapped 
several times to form the left diagonal then changed 
directions to form the right diagonal. 

My third small ball. 

I did three progressively better balls, but forgot to insert label information before I removed the roll. The book suggests using a figure-eight, but I had trouble doing that method. I think that it will form a neater and more balanced ball. My real test will be if they all pull from the center without any snags.

Do you like to make your own center-pull balls? Have you tried using a ball winder or a nostepinne?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Beginner Basics: Long-Tail Cast-On


The first cast-on method I learned was long-tail, but I didn't learn the name of it until a few months ago when I was looking for another cast on method. My Polish Psychology teacher who taught me to knit just said, “Hold the yarn like this. Do this.” That was my casting on lesson. But, there is a reason it is usually the first cast-on method learned. It is extremely versatile and works for most knitting patterns. It's also fast and easy once you get the hang of it. It also gives you a row of knit stitches. Purling the first row will have you in stockinette pattern, but note that most patterns don't consider the cast on row as the first row. I wanted to share a few things about long-tail cast-on that I have picked up.

Estimate Tail Length

20 loops over 2 needles so that I could cast on 20 stitches.
The loops don't have to be neat and tidy.

For years I would estimate tail length by pulling out yarn until I knew for sure I had enough. I ended up wasting a lot of yarn that way. Eventually I started to estimate half an inch for every stitch I cast on. This method also resulted in tails that were too long and I didn't want to pull out measuring tape with every new project. My new favorite method of estimating tail length is by wrapping a loop around both needles for every stitch that I need to cast on.

I am left with a tail long enough to weave in
after casting on 20 stitches.

First row of purl stitches establishes stockinette pattern.

Cast-On Over Two Needles

I prefer to cast on using two needles so that the first row is loose and easy to work. If I need a tight cast-on edge I can use one needle, but there are rare occasions when I use one. Nothing will put me off knitting faster than a tight first row of 50 stitches or more. My first time using a cable needle I cast-on over 100 stitches and became extremely frustrated knitting the first row. Since then, I cast on over straight needles, two cable needles, or both ends of a single cable needle. It just makes life easier.

Please share your feedback if you have a different preferred cast-on or a better way to estimate tail length.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Book Recommendation: Knitting Over the Edge



Yesterday I mentioned a book that pulled me from my knitting rut. I had passed it several times at my local book store and always made a mental note to check it out next time. I wonder where my knitting would be today if I looked at the book years ago. I was very fortunate that this book was at the library at the right time.

The reason Knitting Over the Edge by Nicky Epstein appeals to me is that it has techniques that give knitwear a polished look. A recent project of mine was a baby hat. The pattern was very basic, so I browsed the book for inspiration and fell in love with a few of the applique flowers. The flowers were fast to knit up and enhanced the beauty of an otherwise simple hat.

I have to admit that appliques and cords were my favorite part of the book. I like having them as fast take-along projects and their uses are endless. One of the appliques in the book struck me with a pattern idea that I will show in a future post. Sometimes just the color choices will light up my brain with a completely new design. This is not the book for you if you want a lot of words and explanations. There are pictures of every design and patterns are often in chart form. Stitch counts are given so that you can work the designs into your own patterns.

If you have not purchased the book already, it is worth at least trying to find it at your local library. This has become a permanent member of my knitting library.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Welcome!


Welcome to Southern MaMa's Knits. Ten years ago, my high school psychology teacher taught me to knit. Hooked instantly, I spent most of my free time knitting as many things as my parents' budget allowed. My enjoyment gradually faded as I ran out of useful projects. You probably wonder how I could run out of projects. It wasn't that difficult. I don't wear knitted clothing at all, so I was left with a few accessories, home d├ęcor items, and gifts. My interest quickly faded as life got busy.

I didn't pick up needles again until three years ago when I was pregnant with my son. Knitting him a baby blanket brought back a little of my knitting joy, but a passion wasn't sparked. That didn't come until recently when I knit a baby blanket for a pregnant friend. I went to the library and checked out as many knitting books as I could find.

In the end, I went with a pattern by Lion Brand, but one library book made me feel like a beginner again. My mind started firing off with new designs and inspiration. I have been knitting daily since I read that book and I am not bored yet. I decided to document my knitting adventures to help others avoid falling into a knitting rut.

I would like this to become a community so, please share your thoughts! Have you ever had to pull yourself out of a knitting rut?