Posted in knitting

Farewell to Craftsy

Two years ago, NBC Universal purchased Craftsy, the on-line service offering classes in all sorts of arts and crafts disciplines. It re-branded the site as and continued to make Craftsy classes available on a subscription basis. I resisted buying the subscription for a while. But eventually I did, and was very glad to have it. About a week ago, I, along with other subscribers, was notified that would be closing its doors and winding down business. This is quite a blow for me. Over the past year I have taken dozens of classes. While working in my studio, Craftsy has been my daily companion. So many talented instructors have shared their valuable knowledge, allowing me to master skills as I need them and when I need them.

Today I want to pay tribute to the Craftsy knitting instructors. Knitting was the first craft that grabbed my attention nearly twelve years ago. I knew from the start that I wanted to be the kind of knitter who designed her own patterns. And it was by watching Craftsy classes that I gained the necessary knowledge and skills to reach this level.

Let me introduce you to four women who helped me get here.

Shirley Paden

It’s just my way to start at the complex and work my way back to the simple. Shirley Paden is a NYC based knitwear designer whose work has appeared in Vogue. I took her class “Handknit Garment Design” during my first year as a knitter. Her careful, thorough and detailed design process dazzled me at first. This class was not for the casual viewer. Eventually I mastered her technique and was freed from the tyranny of purchasing patterns every time I wanted to knit something new.

Clara Parkes

Getting to know your materials is a crucial step for artists and crafters. Clara is the guru of yarn. Her class walked me through the many characteristics of both protein and plant fibers, and what to expect from the resulting yarns. I learned about staple, crimp and ply. This knowledge is so important when purchasing yarn. And when you live in the middle of the country, forty miles from the nearest yarn shop, on-line shopping is a necessary evil. I avoided many poor choices because of what I learned from Clara.

Eunny Jang

No knitter can avoid lace stitches forever. Well, she can, but if a knitter wants to master the craft, lace is part of the story. This lady gave me the information I needed to succeed with lace patterns. Okay – here is the biggest tip Eunny taught me about knitting lace: Never, ever attempt to knit a lace pattern that has a repeat longer the four stitches and four rows from written-out instructions. ALWAYS USE A CHART. There were several more important bits in Eunny’s class. But the chart was the break-through moment for me. After taking this class I proceeded to chart out all of the lace stitches that I wanted to try.

Laura Nelkins

Now that you know how to knit lace, what are you going to do with it? Laura is the one who gave me the key to making amazing lace shawls. In addition to offering four different patterns, she also taught me how to produce many different styles and shapes of shawls. By using Laura’s shawl shapes and any charted out lace stitch, I can design my own shawl patterns with ease.

I hope you enjoyed meeting these instructors. The links I embedded to their websites, (when they were available), will allow you to learn more about them without relying on the now-defunct Craftsy platform.

Posted in knitting

My Favorite Thing I’ve Made

Yesterday, fellow blogger Karen of Nothing But Knit, put out a challenge. “Write a post about the favorite thing you have made. “

This post is my response.

Tailored Sweater

Those of you who follow me may be a bit surprised at my choice. It looks nothing like the color-filled fiber objects I usually post on my site. This color is a subdued neutral and the style rather conservative. What makes me happy about this sweater is that I chose every aspect of the design. I worked out the pattern details on graph paper and knitted it up.

It turned out exactly as I imagined and fits like a glove.

Schematic and specifications of my design

I can’t say enough about the quality of the Patons DK Superwash yarn. It is soft, but not a merino. Therefore the sweater has not pilled. The yarn has a heathery tone and a beautiful hand when knit. I used a twisted stockinette for the main body which makes a tighter fabric and plays up the variations in tone.

Back view showing pleat and waist shaping

The hem, cuffs and collar feature a cable-style stitch called Repeated Circles from 750 Knitting Stitches – The Ultimate Knit Stitch Bible. The vintage buttons, which I found on Etsy, mirror the oval centers of the cable. Love it!

Another detail that worked out well is the skinny cable at the shoulder edges. The few stitches worked on the outside edge of the cable made a perfect road map for setting in the sleeves.

Well, that’s about all I have to say about this project. Every time I see it in my closet I long for cooler weather, so that I can wear it again.

Posted in quilting

Inspired by Tangoes

Actually, this experiment came to mind while I was viewing Cindy Anderson’s blog “Sew Much Fun.” She had made some quilt blocks in the shape of birds. Check it out here:

After admiring her work, I began to think that it reminded me of the puzzle Tangoes.

This ancient Chinese puzzle started when a man named Tan dropped a 4 inch tile on the floor and it broke into seven pieces. Putting the pieces back together proved more challenging than he expected. Eventually, Tan began to visualize various forms that could be built with the seven shapes – animals, people and abstract forms.

Over the years the puzzle gained a large following, resulting in up to 16,000 possible solutions. The version that I have includes a deck of cards with 54 solutions. I decided to design a quilt block out of one of these images. Here is the one I chose:

To start with, I searched the Internet to see if anyone else has published a quilt block that looks like this arrow. While I found many different forms of arrow shaped blocks, none resembled this design.

Realizing that the design is actually a made from two triangles, I tried to make each triangle and them sew them together. After much cutting, pressing and sewing, I came up with this. It is actually a full inch bigger than the Tango shape.

A good start, but the proportions are wrong and it was very wasteful to make. Hm,

So I slept on it. It finally occurred to me that I could solve the lower triangle by making the stem of the Maple Leaf block. And the upper triangle could be solved by making a nine patch block, with two solid strips and one 3-patch strip then slicing the block on the diagonal. This solution would allow mass production of the block with a lot less waste.

Middle strip of nine-patch which includes the light square
Maple Leaf stem block, after slicing it diagonally.
Nine patch ready to be sliced diagonally and sewn to the stem triangle
The two triangles sewn together.

Here is my solution compared to the Tangoes solution. It’s still not quite right…

But it is close enough to require only tweaking. I would like to narrow the stem and widen the arrowhead. Also, it would be good to make the external block dimension 4 and 1/2 inches square, so that the finished size will end up a 4 inch square. (Sigh) I do believe a little math will be necessary if I hope to use this quilt block in a future fiber object.

Posted in painting, quilting

Update on Arches Quilt

I last wrote about this project on November 16th – almost a month ago. In that post I made a list of next steps. While I have completed all but a few of those steps, I started to lose enthusiasm for the project while painting my fabric. It seems that all of my fabrics began to look alike. I told myself that the background fabrics SHOULD look alike, otherwise they wouldn’t retreat into the background. But I still wanted more texture and movement in the colors. So I decided to go back to Cindy Walter’s fabric painting class, to review my technique and discover what I’m missing.

That did the trick. I worked a few variations on color washing and finished painting the background fabric. I now have enough fabric to start building the quilt blocks.

Looking at all the difference in the fabrics, it’s clear to me that I need to organize them in a way that illustrates the scene I want to paint. The solution came to me while I was in the shower. (Why do I get my best ideas while washing my hair?) The Arch stretches itself across three different backdrops.



And sky

I have my design, my structure, my fabric and my pattern. Now I can begin to sew.

Posted in knitting

Knitting Baby Clothes

The past two days have been cold and wet – perfect weather for curling up with a bit of knitting. My daughter let me know that the baby has outgrown most of her outfits which I knit last year. And she is crawling now. Here is the baby, seven months old, wearing the cotton overalls that I made in a 12 month size.

I picked up a similar yarn last summer, in an acrylic blend.

Designing baby clothes is really quite simple. All you need is an idea, some measurements, a swatch, and a schematic drawing. Everything else is math. While I don’t have my granddaughter’s measurements, I can use the standard baby size chart developed by the Craft Yarn Council. You can find it here:

Here are my drawing and swatch:

The lower edge will be a lace ruffle. The skirt will be in stockinette stitch and the bodice in garter stitch. I have decided to use the same style of buttoned straps as I did on the orange overalls. My swatch gauge for the lace section is 4 and 1/2 stitch per inch. I want the skirt to measure at least 32″ around. The lace pattern is a seven stitch repeat. So I will cast on 154 stitches. This works out to 22 pattern repeats and about 34″ diameter. After about three inches, I will switch to stockinette stitch. My gauge for this stitch is 4 and 3/4 stitch per inch, which will bring the diameter back to 32″ After knitting for seven more inches, I will reduce by K2tog every other stitch, eliminating about 40 stitches. This brings the diameter down to 24 inches for the bodice. Once I am there, I will figure out the armhole shaping.

Here is the dress so far. Ruffle almost complete.

Since rain is forecast for the rest of this week, I should make fast progress on this cute little dress in the next couple of days.