Thursday, July 30, 2009

Introducing mac knits Knitting Bags!!

I will admit that there are times, as I plow my way through returning to college at the age of nevermind, when I am lacking in inspiration for subjects to bring to you here on the blog. For the most part, I write about what I am doing. Unfortunately, when my brain is taken up with Italian verbs or English grammar or algebraic equations, there aren't many brain cells left over for knitting at the end of the day. I have found myself deliberately doing projects that don't challenge my brain--quite the reverse of my usual modus operandi.

So when I am at Kiwi on alternate Friday's to play Knit Doctor, I like to trawl the shop with my camera, looking at what's new, and what's inspiring. I always find something. This week's find, however, is especially exciting!

If you have spent more than five minutes at Kiwi Knitting in the last 4 years, you know Marianne. Teacher extraordinaire, designer, brilliant technician. Marianne and I first met when we worked together years ago at another shop that has long since closed. When I found Kiwi Knitting just after Lynn opened, I called Marianne and told her to come on down and talk to Lynn about working and teaching here. Marianne had been very generous to me and I wanted a way to pay her back for that great generosity. I also knew that future Kiwi-ers would benefit greatly from Marianne's font of knowledge and experience. She would have found Kiwi on her own, I know, but I like to think that in some way my phone call has repaid a little of that generosity. But what I write here and show you today has nothing to do with debt, and everything to do with delight.

You may already know that Marianne has been designing and teaching under the umbrella of her mac knits label. Now she brings wonderful knitting bags to the mix. I've sewn since the age of five so I appreciate great craftsmanship, and you wouldn't expect anything less from Marianne. "Good enough" is never good enough for her, she only turns out "perfect" products, no matter if it is knitting, sewing or designing, and these bags fall right in line with that philosophy.

First of all, who better to design knitting bags than a life-long knitter and seamstress? Take a look at this first bag here, the messenger bag.

Really pretty, right? Fresh-looking fabric, contemporary design. Then, as I always do, take a look inside. That is where you really see the quality of a product. These bags are not only lined, but the linings coordinate with the outer fabrics in a really lovely way. Marianne says, "I am...striving for function. There are pockets in all the bags and a piece of elastic tacked down to slip your needle tips into: no more poking needles thru the bag!" The pockets faces are thick and cushy. Instead of just a single layer of fabric as with most bags, these are not only double layered, but also have a layer of batting in between to make them very sturdy and solid. The insides of the bags are finished beautifully, I know I'd be showing them off to everyone who admired my bag.

I asked Marianne to tell me more about her bags and what inspired them. "One of the reasons I am doing this is because I see many great choices online for bags but not available locally. So, I thought I would make them myself."

mac knits bags come in a really nice variety of sizes and styles, and I suspect we are seeing just the tip of the iceberg. "I am focusing on lots of little sock bag types that are fun to carry. So far, every one that I've carried has gotten tons of compliments."

Marianne tells me, "I don't like bags that look like old sofa cushions!" [Lynda's note: I find that a really funny comment. I hadn't thought about it, but she's right!] "There are so many great fabric designers out there to choose from. I am trying for the middle of the road but I will definitely do quirky or kitschy such as the one with dogs or an upcoming design with pigs."

"I also know that I get bored quickly with my project bags (and sometimes my projects) and I just want a little something new," Marianne says. Personally, I think knitting bags should be like any other accessory--you should be able to change them out not only from project to project, but also depending on what you're wearing that day, if you want to. Why should they be non-fashion? Clearly, Marianne agrees.

"Additionally," Marianne says, "seasonal fabrics. We used to change our purses with the seasons when we lived in colder climates. No rattan in mid-December, so I will be offering styles in wool fabric and linen as an example. For interest, a little appliqué or hand embroidered design will appear!"

Marianne also tells me that "I really want these bags to function so am open to suggestions or wishes." She is also open to doing custom designs at her discretion.

In addition to styles found at Kiwi Knitting, mac knits bags will also be available at Marianne's etsy site.

It's hard for me not to be selfish when I look at wonderful bags like these, I want a fistful for myself! But I also know a few knitters that I buy birthday and holiday gifts for. And I know what they are getting this year!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Crochet Cast-On as a Provisional Cast-On

There are any number of reasons why I like the Crochet Cast-on. It's wonderful when I am starting with an edge that is not going to be finished further later on in the project, or if I am not sure of how I want to finish my edge later and want to keep my options open. Excellent when I am making something like a scarf, shawl or blanket where all 4 edges are going to show in the finished piece, and I want them all to match. It is also pretty darned handy when I want to use it for a provisional cast-on.

I'm making the Flow tank top by Norah Gaughan, in Berroco Seduce. Because the style of the top is very simple, I wanted to keep my cast-on edge simple as well. Normally, if I were using wool, I would work this edge as a crochet cast-on, so that it would look just like a cast-off edge and look very clean. And 9 times out of 10, this would work perfectly. There's just one problem--because of its fiber content, Seduce has no elasticity. With a crochet cast-on, this results in a loose, sloppy looking edge. Not what I want here. Or ever.

I still want to use a crochet cast-on, but in this instance, I'm going to use it as a provisional cast-on, and go back and finish the edge later. I start by using the Crochet Cast-0n with waste yarn. Next, I start knitting right from my cast-on with my project yarn, but leave a very, very long tail. I measured it as three to four times the width of my piece, and tied it into a little bundle to keep it out of my way.

Now I knit a good few inches with the project yarn according to my pattern. When I have enough fabric to hang on to and work with easily, I am ready to go back and finish my edge off properly. Likewise, I could also wait until I finish knitting my piece entirely, and then go back and fix up the cast-on edge. It doesn't matter. It's just easier to work when you have a couple of inches of fabric knitted.

With a needle that is one size smaller than my project needle, on the bottom of my fabric, I pick up each stitch of my project yarn as it is held by the provisional cast-on (PCO). I like to start getting my PCO unraveled so that I can unravel the PCO stitches at the same time as I pick up the project yarn stitches from the PCO.

In essence, I am turning my project upside down, and getting ready to knit from the opposite (beginning) edge.

Once I have all of my cast-on edge stitches on a needle, I check to make sure that all of the stitches have the legs oriented to suit the way that I knit. For most of us, that means that the right leg of the stitch is on the front of the needle, the left leg is in back.

Now, remember that big bundle of yarn I left when I started knitting with my project yarn? Using that bundle, I loosely bind-off all the sts on my needle at the cast-on edge ONLY.

Voila! I now have a neat edge that looks like a crochet cast-on, but is really a cast-off!

I was pretty certain that I had already done a video on how to do the crochet cast-on, but checking my account on YouTube, I find that I'm wrong. I'll demo that for you asap!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

How to Do Short-Rows

This week we go to the movies! After two days of trying to figure out how to make this work (let's face it, I always have technical problems), here we are.

So without further ado, I bring you two videos on how to do short-rows three different ways: the classic wrap-and-turn, Japanese short-rows, and my own technique.

Get out your needles, cast on 25 sts, and work til you have enough fabric to hang onto.

Part One

Part Two