Monday, February 27, 2012

Peanut Butter and Gelly

This project was so easy, but my kids decided it was too sticky to do more that their obligatory "one." Did you get my play on words with "Gelly" standing for the Knox gelatin?  So far we haven't seen any birds on them even when the bird feeder in this area is ravaged every time I fill it.  I'm thinking only "clinging" birds will be able to get at them.  Nut hatches and woodpeckers maybe?

This project is a variation of an idea I found through Pinterest (eighteen25.) I have added peanut butter because my birdies respond well to peanut butter suet, and I doubled the recipe. This batch made all the bird feeders shown in their molds on the table (four larger feeders and four smaller ones).

1 1/2 cup birdseed
1/2 cup water
2 small envelopes of knox gelatin
twine or string
cookie cutters or molds
wax paper

Mix together the envelopes of gelatin with the water and bring to a simmer while stirring.  Continue stirring until the gelatin is dissolved.  Remove from heat and let cool for a minute.  Stir in the birdseed and peanut butter adding a little more if there is liquid still in the bottom of the pan.  Lay cookie cutters out on wax paper and fill half way with birdseed mixture.  Cut twine, knot the end and push the knot down into the birdseed.  Finish filling with birdseed, making sure to cover the end of the twine and knot. Push the birdseed evenly into the cookie cutter until it's full.  Allow them to dry overnight.  I didn't turn them as called for in the original recipe and they dried just fine.  Remove from the cookie cutters and hang them in your trees for the birds to enjoy.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Dog Walking Mitts

I have just released a new pattern called Dog Walking Mitts.  What started out as a way to use up a cool skein of discontinued yarn turned into more practice in the design world.  As I was knitting these gloves I realized that a simple pattern like this might be a good place to start if I ever want to design with brioche.  When I decided to target knew brioche knitters I thought it best to get some test knitters.  Thanks to Mary Ann, Melanie, and Quyen it became a very collaborative process.  Because it was going to be a free pattern I was able to use a forum on Ravelry to discuss modifications as a group. I tried my best not to use Nancy Merchant's terminology from Knitting Brioche, so the pattern developed into a bit of a tutorial.  I was trying to be as simple as possible with the pattern itself, but ended up with lots of information on brioche stitch.

Dog Walking Mitts has simple instructions with helpful hints where all newbies seem to struggle.  Worked in the round, this pattern utilizes a slip stitch method of brioche called Stockinette Brioche Stitch (not Fisherman's Rib) and has a plain stockinette thumb.  These mitts are a great way to highlight a yarn with colorful features as well as a great stash buster for those single skeins of yarn just waiting to be used up.

Finished Measurements

Cuff circumference:  7 ½" / 19 cm (unstretched);
Length: 7 ½" / 19 cm

These gloves are easy to size up by adding an even number of stitches to the cast on number. To make the thumb larger, work 2-4 more sts with waste yarn, and pick up extra sts on the sides.


150 yards of any worsted weight yarn; The sample shown was made using Araucania Magallanes (198 yds / 181 m; 3.53 oz / 100 g)


Set of size 7 US / 4.5 mm dpns (or circular needles for magic loop)
Size 10 US / 6 mm needle to bind off

Friday, February 17, 2012

Too Big for My Brioche Britches

Last night while watching Grey's Anatomy and knitting merrily along, I noticed I had crossed a cable incorrectly on my Brioche Stole.  I had  crossed the cables while driving through the carpool line to pickup my son at school.  Literally, a winding stop and go line through a huge parking lot to pick up kids.  I knit the whole time on the long straight stretches and when stopped.  I do stop on the 180 degree turns you have to take every so often, but until now, thought I was being pretty efficient.

Take a look a the middle cable cross over.  It has four blue knit columns between the two columns that branch off to the left and right.  It's supposed to have two.  Don't look too closely or even too far ahead in the pictures because you might catch something I didn't.

No problem.  I'm getting really good at Brioche. I can rip back 8 working rows (or 4 brioche rows) and repair it.  Check out my mom's groovy dpn needle from the seventies.

Here I am almost done with the repair.  And I did this with two annoying little boys trying to make conversation with me.  I bribed them with my favorite black cherry sodas to be quiet, but it wasn't very effective.

VoilĂ !  Crickets.....Damn.  All three cables on the left were wrong in the first place.  Now apparent from the six blue knit columns between cable crossovers #2 and #3.  There are supposed to be four.

This is what happens when you get too big for you Brioche Britches.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Two Hats

I finished these two hats for my boys in January.  Of course living in the southeastern United States leaves one little opportunity to wear hats. My kids have worn their winter coats a week at most so far.  I used my Root for the Team pattern as a starting point, but the logos were a bit fiddly.  Since I didn't repeat the logos around the hat like the pattern calls for, I couldn't use stranded knitting techniques.  Somehow, I was still able to knit in one piece with a little stranding, a little intarsia, and some tricky wrap and turns. 

Seneca's hat has black embroidery to add the last color

Alden's logo is a little wrinkled at the top because of the size of the S.
If you are interested in trying to make these hats please let me know.  If I get enough interest I might write an adendum to the pattern on how I did this.

On My Needles

This is what I am working on now  Bi-Color Brioche Stole by Lily Chin.  Nineteen inches done, thirty three to go.  I have been a little addicted to brioche right now.  It's definitely getting easier with practice and I'm feeling brave enough to try more designing than my soon to be published Dog Walking Mitts
Light Color Side

Dark Color Side

Lovely design and easy to master, but be warned that this pattern has errata.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Test Knitters and Tech Editors

I recently spent some time giving my opinion on a Ravelry forum and though it would make for a good blog post.

I came up with an analogy for the valued Test Knitter and Tech Editor.  My analogy is related to engineering since I used to be a manufacturing engineer. I think of the designer as the engineer who designs the factory process to manufacture a product. The test knitter is like the lead operator on the factory floor who tells the engineer if the process is going to be operational for all the factory workers, and the tech editor is the technician who makes sure all the process set points make sense for all the operating speeds. A high quality functional product cannot be produced without all three.  I might add that icing on the cake is a layout editor, and since I have had a hard time finding a good factory analogy they might not be as necessary as the first two.

My best test knitters make sure my pattern actually produces a wearable garment, find the errors, and make recommendations for pattern flow. My best tech editors will even test knit a swatch if they change something significantly, but their main function is checking for knitting nomenclature errors, checking grading, and making sure you’re sticking to your style sheet (if you have one).
If you are good at grading and editing your own patterns a tech editor won’t cost much. I could almost tech edit, so I haven’t really paid much…..but I ALWAYS get an editor. I spend more time interacting with the test knitter, so I think I find more value there, but that is more of a personality trait on my part.

PAUSE.  Several people on the forum disagreed with me that the test knitter is as important.  so I said:

A while back I recall reading a thread somewhere about what comes first: Tech editing or test knitting? Of course there was no hard and true order, but I remember thinking the same thing I am thinking here. The best way to eliminate errors is to have both, and I stand by my feeling about the test knitter. Without the test knitter you don’t know for sure whether the pattern is workable and will actually make the advertised garment. Nothing irritates me more than errata. It seems every publication and pattern has errata. I always start a pattern by looking for errata on the Internet. It’s not small stuff either, and seems to be worse on major publications churning out a lot of patterns. I agree that it is cost prohibitive to pay a test knitter what they are worth, but in my engineering world it’s the equivalent of slowing down and/or shutting production down. I guess the deference is that knitters are just crafters who do not place a huge financial value on their wasted time compared to a production line which losses money when shut down.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Just a Little Something

Just a little something I have been working on that turned into a lot more.  I made these fingerless gloves one weekend in an attempt to find a home for a single skein of really cool yarn I have.  I decided brioche stitch would be a simple enough stitch to highlight the yarn, but a little more interesting than stockinette or ribbing.  I just winged it, casting on my best guess number of stitches and ended up with this cute glove.  It was so cute and easy I thought it might make a good knitting pattern to offer on Ravelry for free.  Not to bore you with the details, here I am about two weeks later with a stable of terrific test knitters who have given me great feedback, a tech editor with the pattern in hand, and a publication date of February 20. 

The pattern is targeted towards experienced knitters trying brioche for the first time.  I say experienced knitter because I almost ended up with a "hater" on Ravelry after a beginning knitter misinterpreted the "beginner" part and really couldn't get started on the gloves.  Knit in the round on dpns and learning brioche at the same time would be too much for a new knitter.

It is such a perfect pattern for using up that single skein of hand painted, self-striping, or tweed yarn that you just love but can't find a home for.  The ribbed nature of this brioche stitch (also called fisherman's rib) allows for variability in gauge so that you don't really need to swatch.  I give the gauge in the pattern, but I never swatched it myself.  Only one of my test knitters swatched because she wanted to up size them for her father.

Another key point to this project is that it is a quick lesson in brioche that results in a useful accessory.  For me everything has to have a purpose.  I have a hard time knitting a swatch just to learn a stitch, or knitting a shawl because it has a beautiful stitch pattern.  By the time you finish this glove you will know whether you love brioche, and it doesn't take long to complete your pair.

BTW - The yarn in these mitts have been discontinued, but if you really have to know what it is wait for the release of the pattern which has all the details.  Sorry, but I'm too lazy to look up the info for a hyperlink.

Friday, February 10, 2012

To Begin With

I have made a big decision to change from WordPress to Blogger because it is FREE and easier to understand.  Until I sell a lot more knitting patterns and/or win the lottery I have to do what makes financial sense.  I have also decided to include my musing on my other big hobby which is endurance racing.  Anything that includes cycling, running, swimming, orienteering, and being outdoors.  You name it, I will try it.  And just to make it interesting, maybe I can throw in a few parenting tips.  Who knows. I could end up being some famous Mommy Blogger. 

This is me, Jean Miller, mom of two little boys who loves to knit, ride bikes, and ponder life in the milli-second before she falls asleep after an exhausting day of living.