Category Archives: Stuff I Use

Hurry Up and Wait

My life seems to made up of two types of time these days: The majority of it is super busy times when I am juggling multiple things at once, such as when I am trying to cook dinner and teach both kids different subjects simultaneously. Occasionally, I get a little respite where I get to sit somewhere and wait for one of the kids of finish a lesson or sports game or, as I did today, sit and listen to a whole roomful of kids give presentations. These are the times when an easy portable project is super handy.

Yesterday, I cast on a sock. By the end of the younger son’s soccer game last night, it looked like this.

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No, I didn’t knit that whole sock in the back! That one was finished months ago! The blurry cuff in front of the bag was what I worked on last night.

Now, after about two hours of presentations today, it looks like this.

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That’s about two and half more inches. If it looks different to you, it’s probably because I have switched to using two circular needles instead of 4 double pointed. Over the past year or so, I have been slowly making the switch over to this method because I find it easier on my hands. I still find casting on and ribbings easier with double pointed needles, but once I get into the actual patterns, I find that circulars are not as pokey and leave things a bit more flexible.

Anyway, with more soccer games and an all day swim meet in the near future, this sock should be done in no time.

What do you do when you are waiting?

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DIY Stitch Markers

When I started knitting 12 years ago, I tried using stitch markers. They were the plastic rings that you get at big box craft stores and I hated them. They seemed to get in the way sometimes and make the stitches around it wonky. So, I stopped using them and used little bits of yarn instead. They worked pretty well and did not get in the way of my knitting, and were cheap and always available.

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A couple of years ago, I got a set of metal ring stitch markers in a swap. I did not use them at first, but little by little, I did begin using them and found them quite handy. The rings are thin and they are easier to move from one needle to the next than a piece of yarn. Plus, there’s no way that you will miss it when you are knitting without looking. I now have a few sets of these stitch markers and they are indispensable to me now, especially in complicated lace projects. In one project alone, I had 13 stitch markers in use. A sweater knit in one piece will often take at least 5 or six or more. Pretty soon, I had run out of stitch markers.

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Instead of going to etsy and buying more, I decided to try to make my own. I had a bunch of beads leftover from shawls that I had knit, so my purchases to try were really minimal. It turned out to be pretty easy, quick, and inexpensive, so I thought I would share with you what I did.

Here’s what you will need:

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The beads are glass and are 6/0 size, which is the size commonly used in fingering weight knitted beading projects. They come in strands or in tubes. If you get the ones from Japan, the holes will be more uniform. Why use beads? Well, I suppose you don’t have to, but it does cover up the gap in the ring and you can make them all different colors to designate different things in your knitting. A green one can mean make a stitch here, while a red one can mean decrease a stitch, for example.

I used 10mm jump rings, which fit up to a size 6-8 needle comfortably, depending on your yarn. Right now, I am knitting a chunky sweater on size 8 needles and I found that the markers were getting a little stuck on the yarn, so I am using bigger, dangly ones for that project instead. Since I used up the 10mm ones, I got some 9mm rings which is not a huge difference in size, I know, but the package came with more rings for the same price, making the markers even cheaper!

The hypo cement, the tool, the beads, and rings can all be found in the beading section of your local big box craft store. The tool is just your basic wire cutting pliers. I think I paid less than $5 for this pair.

Got everything? It’s easy from here. The first step is to take a ring and use your tool to gently open it enough to slip a bead on the ring. Just insert the tips of your tools inside the ring and gently pull on the handles.

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Slip a bead on. Then, place the ring in that little notched part of the tool like this:

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The notch holds the ring in place while you squeeze the opening closed. Be gentle here. Too much force can cause the ring to break or get out of shape.

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I do a whole bunch of these at once before I get out the glue. It helps to make the gluing process go more quickly and then you don’t have to smell the fumes as long. Before you begin gluing, make sure you are in a place with pretty good ventilation. The glue is quite smelly! Also, be sure to work over a surface that you don’t mind getting glue on. I used a plastic tray from the grocery store. The top of a salad greens container would work perfectly, especially for drying the rings.

Take a ring and apply a tiny bit of glue over the seam of the ring.

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Then, slide the bead so that it is situated over the seam and the glue. Don’t worry if the glue makes hairs or gets in your fingers.

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The tube takes a little getting used to since it is heat sensitive. I had a lot of glue oozing out at one point, but I just left it in my container and let it pool there. That allowed me to dip the rings in the pool of glue, but it was a bit messier that way. Anyway, just be sure you are working over something plastic, preferably. Paper will stick to the glue.

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Place the beads on a spare piece of plastic tray or lid and let them dry. When they are dry, it will be easy to pull off any stray glue hairs or globs. Incidentally, I did try making these without glue at first, but I found that the beads slid around too much and left the gap in the ring exposed. That gap can get snagged on your yarn; something that is most definitely not desirable!

Check your rings when you are done. I jiggle the beads a bit to see if they will move, which they should not. Sometimes, the gap in the ring will still be open if the bead has moved. I just discard those. I think out of about 150, I only found one or two that needed to be thrown away. Pretty easy, right?

Well, I will hope you will try making your own, but in the meantime, I’ll give you a chance to win a set. Leave a comment and I will enter you in a drawing to win a set of 20 stitch markers of varying colors. If you want to give me some fun ideas for cheap activities to do with the boys this summer, that would be fabulous, too! Drawing will be next Wednesday, June 11, at 10:00am, EST. I will ship anywhere, so comment away!

Going Around and Around

Last week I talked about how I was avoiding double pointed needles. Well, I still am, even though I had success finishing the husband’s socks, I am still wondering if other methods of knitting small circumferences in the round will be better for my hands and perhaps faster.

On this sweater I am experimenting with super short circular needles for the narrowest parts of the sleeves. This needle is only nine inches long!

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It takes a little getting used to because you can really only hold the needles with your finger tips. I think I am really preferring these for sleeves, though, because there is no danger of getting those unsightly ladders. However, they may not be as fast as dp needles because of the fiddly factor.

On these socks, I am using the two circular needle method. It’s especially good for this pattern because it is divided into a front half and a back half. It’s easier to keep track of which half I am working on with this method and the bonus is that the needle set that is not being used can be pressed into service as a cable needle. No more hunting around for a cable needle!

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I have also tried the magic loop method and that works ok, but it still does not leave an evenly textured fabric. Can you see the uneven spiral of stitches that were left behind on this sweater sleeve from the magic loop method?

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Much of this washes out during the blocking stage, but not all the time. However, I do have one or two sweaters with ladders on the sleeves from dp needles that, despite repeated washings, still persist. I don’t notice them on socks as much or things that are ribbed, but they show up on a plain knitted background quite clearly, I think. This is because it is difficult to get the tension right when switching needles. I try to err on the side of tighter rather than looser, but that is difficult to achieve all the time, especially as your needle sizes get bigger.

Don’t get me wrong, I am still happy to use dpn, just not in all circumstances. I will probably use short circulars on sleeves from now on, and the two circulars might become my new way of knitting socks. We’ll have to see how that goes especially around the heel part. Magic loop will probably not make its appearance again unless I can be convinced otherwise. This is one thing I love about knitting. There is always more than one way to do something!

It’s Coming

For many, this winter has seemed interminable and never ending. We have had more than the usual number of winter storms and some unusually cold days for our area. Many of my friends and acquaintances and even random people at the store have expressed some despair over this cold, wet winter we have been having. For me, this winter has been one of the most pleasant in recent memory. I always feel that cold weather without snow is a waste and I have not been disappointed in that respect this year.

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We’ve had multiple snowfalls and a couple of ice storms, which turn the world into some sort of glassy wonderland. If I am going to be stuck in the house because of the temperature, I like to be able to look at some beauty outside as well.

Despite all of this, I can sense that Spring is coming. The days are getting longer and the sun seems a tad more intense. I am thinking more about spring colors than deep, rich tones or grey shades.

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The other day, I made these cute little pin cushions using this tutorial (oops looks like their server is down. I will add the linky later). Isn’t this a fun little project to get into the mood of spring?

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In the process of making these, I used these little clover clips for the first time. Where have these been all my life? I love them! So much easier to use and lays flatter than pins. I think I need about a hundred more! Seriously, if you sew or knit, you need some of these. They come in different sizes and I plan to get them all.

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I’m also finished with my hoegaarden cowl, which goes with the hoegaarden mitts and hat that I made last year. Whoa.

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This is my first ever completed set of accessories that all match. Usually, I look a bit like that lady who can’t find matching sets of anything, so she goes out with five accessory items that all clash, but at least she is warm.

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Now, I will look like I have it all together, which I SO totally don’t, but that’s ok, because we all know that looks are deceiving, right?

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And now, it looks like I will have to cast on something new. And pink. Because spring, it’s coming.

Challah and a New Kitchen Companion

I love challah, but you already knew that from this post and this post.  I was pretty happy when the Tuesdays with Dorie schedule was posted and challah showed up for today because it just gave me an excuse to make a bread that we all love.

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It always turns out beautifully.  It’s good warm, plain, toasted, or frenched.

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Over the years, I have developed some shortcuts in the mixing method. All of the ingredients stay the same, but with the availability of instant yeast, the proofing step of the recipe can be cut out, especially if you bake bread often and you are sure that your yeast is active. So, I heat up the milk in the microwave until it is bubbling around the edges. Then, I add the cold butter and stir it around until it’s all melted. Next, I add the sugar, honey, and water that would normally have been used to proof the yeast. All this goes into the mixer bowl and sits until it is below 110 degrees. Once that happens, I add the eggs, salt, yeast, and 2 pounds of flour.

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From there, the mixer does all the work. Oh, look! I have a new mixer!

My old 6 quart was really, really loud. So loud, that the husband bought ear protectors for me because he was worried about my hearing. It was true that standing next to that mixer while it was running usually resulted in some ear ringing. If it was on, no one could talk on the first floor of our house and be heard. After four years of this, we’d all had enough and that mixer was sent to mixer purgatory, while this shiny new one came home with us to stay.

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So far, it is working out. This challah dough was its first workout and it handled the dough with ease and near silence, except for a clicking noise. In fact, every time I use it now, I feel compelled to exclaim something about how quiet it is. Amazing. And, of course, the 7 quart size will get a workout in the coming weeks leading up to Christmas with all my holiday baking.

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Ok, back to the challah. This dough always looks great, feels nice and silky, and rises well, too.

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It’s easy to work with.

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It looks pretty, even while it is rising.

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Now, as I have said in a previous post, this is not a completely traditional challah with the butter and milk added, but it is worth re-arranging the diet, in my opinion, to have this once in awhile, if you have to do that. Other oil-based challahs are good, but this one does owe some of its yumminess to that buttery flavor.

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Best of all, it tastes great, has a wonderfully soft texture, and keeps well on the counter for a few days or indefinitely in the freezer, if you don’t eat it all up first.  So, what are you waiting for?  Go make some challah!