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Free Knitting Now, Right in Your Own Home

Dear Kay,
In these challenging economic times, I have been doing a fair amount of dumpster diving in my closet–the place I keep yarn and also, in a pinch, clothes.
I keep finding unfinished objects, and I keep resuscitating my excitement about them. I can hardly encourage you enough to try this budget-stretching technique:
Go find an unfinished object, and sit for a minute with it in an intentional way. Array it beautifully on the kitchen table in a sort of 17th-century still life, maybe with a bowl of pears or a wheel of Gouda or a pheasant beside it. Or cup a skein of the yarn in your hands the way they do in all those knitting books, you know, face out, waist level, the way you always carry your skeins of yarn. If you can make your hands look like the hard-working hands of a farmer or sheep rancher, all the better.
Now: recall the instant you had the impulse to make whatever that thing is. You will feel a tingle of excitement, and it’s likely that you’ll want to start working on it again. Not certain, but likely. If you ditched something because you hated the lace pattern, or a sizing issue finally broke your spirit, don’t go back to that.
But I am finding that mojo can return, and will return, if you’ll just contemplate the way your project is already half done, the way it didn’t cost any money to dig it out of your closet, the way it’s right there in front of you, waiting for you.
clifstailgate4.jpg
These squares were the beginning of a blanket for young Clif. Remember the Great Four-Inch Square Raffle Blanket Extravaganza of 2007? I caught the fever, briefly, and thought a four-inch squares blanket for Clif would be really awesome. I got over it.
But the desire to make a blanket for Clif didn’t really go away. When I found these little squares, along with the basket of yarns that I had pulled together to make the squares, I decided to move on to a less punishing sort of square, the log cabin square.
clifstailgate2.jpg
HIGHLY addicting, an open-ended way to use up all sorts of tweedy favorites, and less fiddly than the four-inch garter square knit on an angle. It’s hard to find something less fiddly than a four-inch garter square knit on an angle, but after finishing that maximally fiddly Pearl sweater, I was MOTIVATED.
clifstailgate3.jpg
Size 6 needles, DK and aran weight yarns, fudged when necessary. The pattern draws from the Tailgate Rug (Ravelry link) from our book.
Of course, the design decision to add a line of contrasting color in there is resulting in . . .
clifstailgate1.jpg
the opportunity for a LOT of meditative finishing down the road. I’m just going to ignore that part right now.
Love,
Ann
P.S. We are working on our next Problem Ladies column for Twist Collective. So if you have a burning question about knitting, please leave a comment, and we’ll try to give you some sort of likely-sounding answer.
PSS Dept. of Incredible But Sounds Like a Plan: Amid the ruins of the horrible earthquake in Italy, a 98-year-old woman crocheted while waiting 30 hours to be rescued.

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55 Comments

55 Comments

  1. Err – I have started a legacy 4-in square blanket with my sock leftovers. I look forward to digging the squares out of the yarn pile during the next economic downturn (as my progress on the squares is currently full-steam ahead but will wane).

  2. That was in 2007? Holy moly.
    Could you use those diagonal squares as the centre of some of your log cabin squares? That would be fiddly at the start but cool looking at the end, I think!
    I have no knitting problems for you right now, except the eternal, “Why isn’t this project finished yet?” And the answer is usually, “Because I haven’t been working on it.”

  3. Is there any cure for casting-on addiction? That explains all of my UFOs!! (I frog them after a year if they still aren’t even close to being finished.)

  4. I am going to dive for my Bob, a short sleeved sweater would be just the thing right now.

  5. Would that be a live pheasant or dead pheasant? Either could be the making of a still life, I suppose. Love the blanket, those little lines of murky red.

  6. Much as I hate to weave in ends myself, I have to agree that the contrasting lines in your log-cabin squares really look fab. I would probably try weaving in the ends as I go, though. Years ago I stuck myself with finishing THREE intarsia sweaters in a row– all with seemingly hundreds of little, fiddly color sections whose tails I had left to weave in as the last effort of each project. The horror! Sisyphus had nothing on me.
    Great attitude in that earthquake survivor. So THAT’S how one lives to be 98.

  7. Personally, I found those single lines of contrasting color to be the crowning touch of genius in the blanket. Definitely worth all the weaving-in of ends that await you.

  8. It’s a little scary how totally I get this post, from the rediscovered UFO’s, to what you did with the log cabin squares, to the 98 year old grandmother crocheting while she waited to be rescued. I’m not sure what it says about my life, but I totally get all of it.

  9. I need some new cast offs! (No, not yarn, although if anyone has yarn or a WIP in need of a good home, I’ll gladly adopt it!) I know how to bind off in the usual way (pass previous stitch over the newly-knit stitch) and I’ve done EZ’s sewn bind off. However, there MUST be some other cast offs out there! I particularly want some nice, stretchy ones since I prefer to knit top down sweaters. I have all these sweaters nearly done on the needles, but no way to get them off the needles, Help!

  10. I do this deliberately, usually with socks. I’ll knit a sock, then tuck it away for a while and do other things before knitting the second sock. Makes the whole thing much more palatable.

  11. I’ve been doing that. I have a project I want to cast on, but I didn’t have the instructions lying around. So, I went project diving and found one of the sweaters I started an undisclosed (because I can’t remember) time ago. It’s nice to find something that wasn’t as bad as you remembered and voila, a new sweater in just a couple more weeks!

  12. Problem ladies, I need some pyschological help. ha ha. I am what some call a hardcore “product” knitter. I have a hard time enjoying the process of knitting because of that infernal internal drive to get a finished item that I need and can use. Perhaps when I have amassed a wealth of hand-knits it will ease, but in the meantime, I need some help so that my attitude to my knitting is better.
    BTW, that Italian lady totally reminds me of my great-grandma. Telling television crews, “…at least let me comb my hair.” Spunky lady! Handicrafts promote longevity??

  13. Go, Grandma!
    You know, I was trying to keep the knitting out of the bedroom, to prove to myself that fiber craft hadn’t taken over my entire life. But, now, I’ll have to rethink that policy…. You never know when you’re going to need 30+ hours of handwork.

  14. Problem Ladies,
    I have been inspired to knit a lace stole (I usually try to stick with at least worsted weight) and I started by making a swatch. Gauge: 4 inches = 21 stitches by 28 rows in stockinette stitch, size 3 needles suggested. I started with size 2 as I am tend to go down in needle size rather than up (plus I couldn’t find my 3′s!) and worked my way up to size 6 before I came close to gauge. I cast off and blocked and the swatch didn’t change significantly. I like the look produced by size 3 needles the best and am least happy with the 6′s. On Ravelry, many have gone down to 1′s and 2′s, only two have used 6′s. Do I knit to the appearance I like figuring that blocking will be my friend? Go somewhere between? Does it matter on a lace stole I never expect to actually use? (I do expect to treasure it and take it out to look at occasionally!)
    By the way, it is the Hanami stole.

  15. Dear Problem Ladies -
    What can I do to alleviate the parsimonious guilt that is not allowing me to sack up and throw out the bad, bad knitting Fug that is taking up space in my closets? This includes Fug which needs finishing (which I don’t want to do at the best of times) that I really don’t want to do when I know that then I will simply have finished vs. unfinished Fug? Does finishing really ever redeem fug?
    By the way…I am not interested in a giant but random assortment of felted coasters. My house just isn’t styled to be able to carry off recycled oddment decorating with panache.
    Glad to supply pix if they will help your consideration.

  16. Problem ladies: While at the computer reading emails and wonderful knitting blogs like this one, I work on my charity blankets. Since they require washable acrylic yarns, the ends can be a problem. Right now I’ve got a sport weight, 2-ply doubled yarn in the works and the ends look like they will want to escape in the wash. I’ve been thinking that maybe I should try a product like Fray-Check. What is your opinion on this?

  17. That’s the best news I have heard out of that horrible earthquake stuff so far! As for problems, I am coveting a dozen or so items that require nupps. This causes me to put those yearned for items back in the ‘tomorrow’ pile while casting wistful glances their way. Can you give advice to the nupp adverse among us? An alternative would be rilly, rilly helpful directions for either leaving the nuppage out or replacing with a bead. I say this knowing that I’m not really a bead person, but those nupps are never gonna happen on their own. Now, I have to go remind myself why a project the size of a blanket is also going to be something excavated in a few years for finishing.

  18. Your idea about resuscitating unfinished projects reminds me of any idea I once had, when I used to get those J Peterman catalogs. It occurred to me that what was wonderful about those catalogs wasn’t so much the stuff itself, as the romantic descriptions. I thought I could save a lot of money if I just wrote descriptions about the things in my closet. “If Catherine knit for Heathcliff, she might have used this rugged tweed from Rowan . . .”

  19. I love your plan to get back the knitting mojo. I’m going to try it as soon as the project I’m just finishing up is done. Thanks, Jo!

  20. Dear Problem Ladies,
    One of my favorite knit blogs is giving me an inferiority complex. Not only do they make Pearl sweaters, have clean houses, and do mind-bending red accent stripes, but they are apparently starting some campaign of posing handknits with wheels of fancy-schmancy cheese and wildlife.
    Question: should I order more yarn?
    Sincerely,
    Slightly Harried

  21. I remember those cute little tweedy squares when you first started that blanket for Clif. I love the tweedy log cabins and I think the little squares would make a nice border. I can’t wait to see it finished.
    I have two questions for the Problem Ladies. 1. I always knit in my tails (unless I need them for sewing up)and am wondering why you left all of those ends for later. So pros and cons for finishing those tails would be helpful. 2. I have taught several people to knit and am always stumped when told by a new knitter that they are left handed. Is there a different way to knit for left handed folks? I always tell them that I’ve heard that they are smarter than us right handed folks anyway and tell them to just try knitting like I show them and see how it feels. We use both hands to knit and there is not really a dominate hand (that I can tell). No complaints so far but just curious to hear from other lefties.

  22. Dear Problem Ladies,
    Please help me figure out this Great Sock Mystery:
    When I knit socks from the toe up, I always need fewer stitches than when I knit them from the cuff down. For example, any sock I knit for myself (plain or ribbed, no cables or anything else that might influence stitch count) from the cuff down usually requires 56 stitches (on #2 needles). Using the same yarn and the same needles, those same socks would take a mere 44 stitches working from the toe up. I don’t get it! I’ve had the same mysterious shenanigans go on when I knit socks for my husband … cuff down is 60 stitches, toe up is 52.
    Of course, either way is fun, but I haven’t figured out why this happens. No other knitter I’ve asked has had an explanation.
    Thanks for the great blog, ladies!
    Liz

  23. This is a BRILLIANT idea!
    Now, where did I put that pheasant….. ;)

  24. You go, grandma! Way to represent!
    Considering the number of knitting projects in baskets, bags, purses, satchels, and other assorted carryalls in every room of my home, unless an earthquake caught me in the kitchen (not likely), I should be good to go.

  25. Holy sheeet-a! I guess that, even when in crisis mode, there really is no excuse for wasting time.

  26. Holy sheeet-a! I guess it just goes to show that, even in times of crisis, there really is no excuse for wasting time. Git ‘er done, Grams!

  27. dear ladies i have a hard time
    slipping the first stich
    if working in garter st
    just does not look good
    yes i use non wool
    i made some of the little squares
    so many people will our help this year

  28. Those squares are incredibly yummy-looking. I just adore your sense of color, Ann. And Kay, too! I do! But today is all about Ann.

  29. I am making log cabin squares, inspired by your book. I am weaving the ends in as I knit, following the instructions on this blog:
    http://scrapdash.blogspot.com/2007/10/weave-in-ends-while-knitting.html
    I find it faster than weaving them in afterwards.

  30. I am making log cabin squares, inspired by your book. I am weaving the ends in as I knit, following the instructions on this blog:
    http://scrapdash.blogspot.com/2007/10/weave-in-ends-while-knitting.html
    I find it faster than weaving them in afterwards.

  31. I am making log cabin squares, inspired by your book. I am weaving the ends in as I knit, following the instructions on this blog:
    http://scrapdash.blogspot.com/2007/10/weave-in-ends-while-knitting.html
    I find it faster than weaving them in afterwards.

  32. Dear Problem Ladies,
    What’s my problem not finishing the Birch in Kidsilk Haze Trance that I started three years ago? There’s only one ball left to knit. It’s a great design and the color is…entrancing.
    (Birch)Barking Mad

  33. Oh, you always have the best UFOs! I love the squares, and now wish I had a wee one to make something like that for. It’s going to be gorgeous!

  34. Sorry–the commenting system was too challenging for me. I accidentally posted 3 times! Feel free to delete.

  35. Sorry–the commenting system was too challenging for me. I accidentally posted 3 times! Feel free to delete.

  36. Sorry–the commenting system was too challenging for me. I accidentally posted 3 times! Feel free to delete.

  37. whoa, i started reading the comments, and i thought someone called you ‘grandma’! then i thought, yippee! girl fight! (best girl fight i ever saw was over a pair of sparkly plastic heels at a 4-year-old’s birthday party, and it doesn’t get any better than that. but i’d still watch you try. grandma.)

  38. Well, I’ve got the “hard working hands” look down pat lately! Just not model hands anymore.
    I love your new log cabin squares, *especially* the lines.
    And I knew there was a good reason to bring my knitting upstairs at night, and downstairs in the morning, and to work even though I don’t knit there. Because you never know…

  39. Confession is good for the soul: (especially since its Holy Week and all) I quit on my linen squares. You’ve inspired me. I’ll take it out after Easter and get back at it!

  40. Here’s a question for your column:
    Is there a way to bind off (when knitting from the top down) so as to prevent stocking stitch from curling up? Drives me crazy!
    Cheers.

  41. I’m using this recession as an excuse to cut down on the UFOs…and I haven’t bought any yarn since last year (!)(Except I have been supplied with sweaters for frogging. But I didn’t buy them, and it’s recycling anyway). I’ve gotten things done that I NEVER thought I would get done. Feels so good.
    I’ve seen other reports that the 98-year-old woman was knitting…which make me wonder which it really was…I know that often the same word is used for knitting and crochet in spanish, and I wonder if it’s similar in italian….and if so, than it is a translation discrepancy.

  42. Now my Italian grandmother didn’t do much crafting but she did live well into her 90′s. I think I’m from good stock. I’m hoping for another 40-some-odd years of knitting and crocheting ahead of me…preferably without the earthquakes.

  43. Dear Problem Ladies,
    How do I live to be an awesome 98 year-old crafter like the Italian earthquake survivor? Even if you can’t extend my life expectancy that much, can you provide some tips for not getting a repetitive stress injury from doing decades of knitting?

  44. I’m sure I’m not the only one with this particular problem, since whenever we finish an object the tails have to be dealt with somehow. I’d like to know your favorite method(s) for weaving in – as you go, at the end, or whenever (never? can I let ‘em dangle? ha!) I’m always nervous when I give one of my handknits to a friend or family member, knowing there are little ends in there, itching to pop back out. Thanks for everything! The help, the entertainment, the inspiration!

  45. Dear Problem Ladies, I can’t seem to find out where to submit my Problem Lady question at Twist collective, so I’ll post it here too.
    I need a little help with up-sizing sweater patterns. I use a percentage of the cast on to start things off with and then, work to fit. Its fiddly and I reknit arms and necklines a lot. (I’m just getting to sleeves. I’m worried a great deal about making sleeves to fit into the arms knit into the sweater.) Is there any other way to up size? Are there standard size charts around for sizes above a 3x?

  46. Dear Problem Ladies: I’ve been compulsively knitting swatches for a month or so now, trying to find a bind-off that matches the long-tail alternating two-color cast-on for doubleknitting. It’s a beautiful, neat, stretchy cast-on. So far the only bind-off that comes close is a 1X1 rib bind-off in alternating colors. It’s not as stretchy. It doesn’t quite match. Help.
    I’m using Rowan Kidsilk Haze on size 7 needles, (because I want a doubleknit object that doesn’t weigh a ton). It’s so much fun knitting the little foofy swatches that I may end up with a big foofy throw before the right bind-off turns up.

  47. That’s us Italians – yep – nothing like putting your time to good use.I could just see her look at the rescuers like they were crazy – what do you think I did – I CROCHETED – then she would have called him an imbecile (spelled the same in Italian of course) See now – if she was my 96 year old grandmother she would have found a way to make a foccacia bread.

  48. Ah, those squares! They always touch my heart, and fill me with longing to “make a blanket for me”. Only, there’s always a project for someone else on the needles–but someday…
    LoveDiane

  49. No problems – well non I’m prepared to admit to here! – but I did want to send you a big smile for your WIP dressing suggestions, I’ll try that wheel of Gouda when trying to up my enthusiasm sometime :-)

  50. Dear Problem Ladies:
    Why, oh why, doesn’t my husband understand my yarn thing? I mean, I understand his karate and motorcycle thing, don’t I??
    I don’t expect you to solve this problem, but I figured I would throw it out there and maybe get a little sympathy. :-)

  51. Try as I might, I am just not finding such delightful little squares in MY closet that could be turned into these even more delightful log cabins. Sigh.
    Oh and your color choice. Sigh, again…

  52. I saw a video (it was in Italian) but, she was using both hands in a ‘knitting motion’ when she was talking to the rescurers. I did live in Italy for 4 years and they do use the same word to mean knitting and crocheting. So, I’m going to believe that she was knitting during that time.
    She was adorable in the video. Spunky lady… and now we have a legitimate excuse.. to have knitting stashed all over the house.. “You just never know” when you might have a long delay caused by a natural disaster/etc.

  53. “Meditative finishing”… HAHAHAHAHA I hope it really will be, for your sake, because I’d be pulling my hair out at the thought of all those ends.

  54. I just finished a 640-end blankie for my sister and new brother-in-law. I learned they don’t call it a labor of love for nothin’. It did actually turn meditative. I realized I could do 50-60 at a sitting. And when I realized that, all my other piddly little finishing seemed like nothing. I now have no excuse for not tucking in the 6 ends on a sweater.

  55. Dear Problem Ladies,
    Another question for you: is there a stitch that is more “economic” with yarn than others, say for instance stocking versus garter? Just wondering how to make the skein stretch in this current economy of ours.