Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Some ideas just make you say "WOW"

Sometimes you come across something something which opens your knitting mind in directions never considered before. I have been accumulating these WOW's for some time, and want to share them with you:

Many, perhaps most knitters already know about Ravelry, the knitting community website. Yet, if conversations with random knitters in airports and waiting rooms are any indication, Ravelry remains unknown to a surprising number. So, if you don't yet know, Ravelry is a black hole into which you will fall with your knitting, never to emerge. Need 3 ways to bind off at 3 AM? A new way of keeping track of your stash and needles? Are you seeking just more ball of a discontinued yarn? Ravelry is all that, and more. The brainstorm of Jessica Forbes and Casey Forbes who administer and run the site with grace and humor, Ravelry is a game-changer: what has up to now been essentially lone pursuit is now a social one and knitting information previously restricted by area, custom or expertise is now in the public domain, archived and searchable by all. Sign up HERE. PS:  As Angie points out in the comments, Ravelry is a site for crocheters, too. (Not to mention that spinners seem to have gotten in on the act when no one was looking!)

Use every inch of that
expensive, fancy yarn sock
Ravelry is great because of the neat people you "meet" and the great tips they post. Here is an example of a really splendid tip from an expert knitter on Ravelry, who goes by the Raverly-name of "Potteryfreak." Potteryfreak (real name Cheri) posted as follows:

You could do something wonderfully cool to make sure you get the maximum bang for your [expensive sock yarn] buck, if you are making a plain sock: Start with a ribbed cuff in contrasting yarn. Switch to your main yarn and knit one long sock-leg tube until you run out of yarn, then end it with a second cuff out of your contrasting yarn. Measure it and insert two lifelines a row or two apart at the center of your tube. Snip one stitch and unravel the row so that now you will have two equal-length tubes of sock. With your contrasting yarn, make your toes down from the live stitches on your lifelines and your afterthought heels in the appropriate spot.

Cheri was careful to note that the idea was not original with her, and that she wished she could remember where she'd read it so as to give credit where is is due. A great tip nonetheless, and thanks Cheri, for permission to re-print your post. (PS: Cheri has an online shop here.)

"Cable reassignment surgery"
The problem: the Boye interchangeable needles have many excellent qualities, but flexible cables are not among them. The solution: as a result of a brainstorm, Fleegle got her old Boye needlemaster tips drilled out by a gunsmith to accept the far more flexible Knitpicks cables. Fleegle is a brilliant genius. Read more about it HERE.

Addendum, November 24, 2010:  Here is another "wow" way to make cables for a Boye interchangeable needle set.  This new method is ALL do-it-yourself!!

Home made yarn swifts
Two low-cost home-made yarn swifts that will have you slapping your head--wonderful Rube Goldberg devices of the first order. Webecca is a brilliant genius. Click HERE and HERE.

Three charting sites
Shut down your spreadsheet, put down your graph paper, retire your pencil. Instead, check out these three free charting sites
1. Chart-a-rama: Into the "form" box, you type a pattern written in standard knitting shorthand, formatted according to some easy-to-understand rules. Click "make the chart," and Chart-a-rama will automatically generate a perfectly-formatted knitting chart. This would be very handy if you prefer to work from charts, but only have a older-type knitting pattern written out in knitting shorthand instructions.
2. Knitting Chart maker by Jacquie: If you prefer to type in your chart symbols directly, this site has loads of symbols and is easy-to-use.
3. Microrevolt's Knitpro application makes a color chart directly from an image. Want to knit your dog's face onto the back of a sweater? Knit a message on your socks? Knit giant flowers onto your afghan? This app will create the chart for you, and it's pre-set at the correct knitting ratio of stitches to rows.

Needle gauge
I use a micrometer to size needles. It is accurate but delicate, so it never leaves the house. My needle gauges are allowed out of the house, but are flimsy and are now bent and banged up from their adventures. To the rescue came Agres, another Ravelry member, who noted in a post that "drill gauges are cheap and tough." A trip to a local hardware store confirmed that: for a few bucks, I landed a sturdy metal drill gauge with the sizes actually engraved into the metal, so they'll never rub off. With a conversion chart, or two my drill gauge sizes all. Perfect for road trips.

Surprisingly stretchy bind off
Last, but not least, here is a link to a new sort of  bind off--Jeny's surprisingly stretchy bind off. The raves are flying for this one! Try it yourself and see what you think.

Thanks to all these great knitters who've illuminated the community of knitters with their generous sharing of time, talent and ideas.



wildwoodflwr said...

WOW! This post is a landmind of resources! I had seen a couple of these before but it is absolutely fantastic to have them gathered here. Thanks!

Also, that sock yarn trick, that's astounding! I need to try it immediately.

Crafty Cripple said...

That bind off looks very useful, that is definitely getting bookmarked for my next sock project, my bind offs are always too tight.

JellyDonut said...

You are amazing! How do you manage to cram so much useful information in one post? Genius, I tell you, genius! Thanks.

Abby said...

Great post! There's so much information available on Ravelry that it's nice to have someone point out excellent tips we might have missed.

I love Ravelry's project and stash features. It's easy to go back and see what needle size or yarn I used for a project because I'm not one to write it all down (like I'm sure you do) but I will enter it in Ravelry.

Michelle said...

I'm a member of Ravelry, but have not fallen into the Black Hole; too much else in my life to take priority.

As for the sock yarn idea, I don't get it! It sounds like a LOT of extra work. I've only knit two pair of socks, but started after reading TONS of people's opinions. After all the reading, the only thing that made sense to me was knitting socks toe up two at a time on Magic Loop. I will never be frustrated by a DP slipping out of my knitting again, I use every inch of my yarn, never have SSS, and I can try on as I go to put the heels in just the right spot, etc. What am I missing in the other methods that would make them more attractive?

Rachmouse said...


I'm glad you've been doing regular updates again. I missed the techy stuff! Always great and informative info.

kmkat said...

That tip about having a gunsmith re-drill the Boye needle tips is worth its weight in gold (whatever that means). I haven't used my Boye interchangeables since I got the Knit Picks Options, but sometimes the Boye tips would work better for a particular yarn. Now I know what to do.

As to using every bit of expensive sock yarn, here is my method. I bought a drug deale--, er, um, a very accurate scale on eBay. I wind the sock yarn into two identical-weight balls, then knit the socks toe up using Wendy Knits's pattern. I don't bind off the first sock until I have knit the second one to the same point, just in case my weighing was not accurate to the last yard. The contrasting heels, toes, and cuffs are a good idea to stretch the yarn, especially for those that are a bit skimpy in yardage. But what's-her-name's method seems like a lot of extra work to me. My scale is an Escali and weighs up to 5 kg, but you will find many scales to choose from on ebay if you search for "digital scale". I use mine all the time; it never gets put away.

Angie said...

I love all of your posts and have learned a lot from you. I don't usually comment, but I felt pretty strongly about your description of Ravelry being a "knitting" community. I knit and crochet and Ravelry is both a knitting and crochet community. Please don't take this as criticizm...maybe just clarify it to your readers?

Thank you,

Susan Flockhart said...

Excellent post, I love the drill gauge idea!

--TECHknitter said...

Hi Angie--you're quite, quite right, Ravelry is for knitters AND crocheters. I stand corrected, thank you.


cheramy said...

@kmkat - I do the same thing and weigh my sock yarn with my "very accurate scale". works every time! i always end up with small bits left over but it's by choice and i use them to make wild baby socks. :)

Heather said...

Thanks for this fantastic list of resources! I can't wait to try out the charting software.

For me, the best aspect of Rav is being able to see the gallery of a pattern's finished objects. It's there that I learn if a pattern is a PITA, or if all of the sizing for a sweater is off.

Kyamo said...

Very useful post - I didn't know about the Knitpro site. But check the original ravelry link, it is broken because it has an extra http.

--TECHknitter said...

Hi Kayamo: Thanks for writing. I left out one of the links for Webecca's swifts, also, so both of those things have been corrected. I really appreciate your giving a shout-out about the broken link.


Pandora's Box of FIber said...

My love and respect for you are endless, especially with amazingly helpful posts like this!

Linking to you in my blog as well.

julie said...

I love the charting sites - but.. does such a site exist where you can input a chart and then see a diagram of how the chart will look in knitted fabric? I am painstakingly trying to design some lace and it would be a real help!


--TECHknitter said...

Hi Jules: I haven't seen such a site, but if you find one, be sure to write again, OK?


Laura Sue said...

Regarding the tip about saving sock yarn, sounds remarkably like the Cat Bordhi technique found in her Twist collective Houdini sock. I know this because right after your blog, I read Knitter's Review on Cat's newest book. Check out this blog post and see if the two techniques don't sound very similar:

Pat (golfandknit on Ravelry) said...

I joined Ravelry a couple of weeks ago and I tell you....I could sit and be mesmerized all day. I've had such fun documenting my three projects and reading the posts in the forum. I've even had my first finished project featured.

OTOH, I absolutely LOVE this site. With the birth of our first grandson, I've dusted off my needles and am working up a storm. When stumped by something a Google search produced your commentary on the subject. Now I tune in regularly for clear and helpful instruction.

I've seen you mentioned a few times in discussions as a go to site for help and information.

Thanks for the help and wishing you great success.

Kookababy said...

Did I ever tell you that I love you...Um, wait, I mean your blog :)

Your such a wonderful resource!

Bluegrace said...

I joined Ravelry about a month ago and here I am at 3.45am wondering how to do two socks Magic Loop!I didn't get the link to the bind off but I'll Google it.You're bookmarked!

Jeny Staiman said...

Can I just say, I am honored to have Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off chosen as part of this topic. :) Thank you TechKnitter!

AnaMarie said...

Excellent bind-off. I've been using it for years and have seen it in a few different published sources for lace bind-offs and toe-up socks, and didn't realize it wasn't known in the knitting community at large until it got so popular so quickly.

Love your techniques, keep up the great work!

Ali-BA-MA? said...

Hi I am a research student in the UK (MA.RPT. Nottingham Trent University) would you be willing to talk to me about your background as you seem to to have a wealth of technique and I am interested in where you am massed it and your background. FYI my research question revolves around "How far can designer led innovation affect the development and use of knitting machine technology?" and I have an industrial background and my first degree is also in knit. Allison

--TECHknitter said...

Hi Ali...

Sure--my e-mail address is under the "about me" button--so it's easy to get in touch w/ me. As far as where I learned technique--some from the old folks, of course, especially anything to do with sewing, but then others of the technique comes to me from the structure of the knitted fabric itself. Of course, as shown by this particular post, the spirit of innovation is strong in knitters everywhere!


Michaela said...

All those good ideas, chapeau!
Did you ever notice the IKEA yarn swift?