Beware pin pricks

Two weeks ago I poked a pin underneath my left index fingernail, painful, but a common occurrence. I thought nothing of it. Then a week later my finger had become progressively more painful to the touch. I was away from home and didn’t have any antiseptic with me so hoped it would calm down. However the side of the nail went black and the top of my finger – above the last knuckle – became red, swollen and began to throb. ‘Uh oh’, I thought, that looks, and feels, infected.

Once home I applied Magnesium Sulphate, but eventually needed antibiotics to bring it under control. Now my finger has drained and is on the mend, but it was a silly thing I could have avoided. I did the same into my thumb over the weekend, so I was straight to the TCP antiseptic this time.

So learn from my mistake, and remember that it was only a tiny pin prick that led to all that.

Don’t scroll down if you don’t want to see the repairing finger. The bandaged appendage severely hampered my hand knitting and sewing activities and it still catches fibres when knitting as it heals.

Annoyingly this catches on everything, but I am trying hard not to pick at it.

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Today is beanie day …

OK, I know it’s now mid January and this is a post about a Christmas gift but I’ve only just got around to finishing it off and getting it online. This is the story of knitting the hat worn in this photo.

December 2018…

I’ve started a beanie hat as a Christmas gift. Its in yarn from my stash, a rather nice airforce blue tweed 90% wool 10% acrylic blend Aran weight yarn. I dithered about the acrylic content I have to say, as I believe one’s toil is best rewarded by natural fibres, but the the colour (and having the yarn to hand), won the day.

The brim should work out to be around 7cm (3″) deep, and I’m going to knit it in a 3 row 2×2 cabled rib, with the shaped crown in stocking stitch. The pattern has been designed for a 61cm (24′) head circumference.

Gosh that doesn’t look very blue, more grey, must be the light. The rib shows though.

The cabled rib is worked on a 3.5mm circular needle, and the crown on a 4.5mm circular needle.

I have a set of those lovely interchangeable KnitPro needles, which means the world is my oyster when using circulars, but because the yarn is quite dark I have decided to use a white Prym triangular pointed circular so its easy to see the stitches. These are also comfortable to work with, and have a strange knob on the point that I quite like.

So far I have cast on 80sts (has to be divisible by 4 for the 4 stitch rib repeat) worked 2 rows rib and 6 repeats of the cable, and then 6 rows straight rib. I used the 2×2 alternate rib cast on recommended by Woolly Wormhead. Its not as stretchy as I had hoped, but looks good. Any stretchy one will do though, don’t beat yourself up about it.

How to work the c2b cable on the rib: Either use a cable needle, or work them as follows: slip the two knit stitches one-by-one knitwise, then insert the left needle from the right into the front of these stitches and slip them back to the left needle. This twists the stitches. Knit them one by one.

How I knitted the hat:

Cast on 80sts, using a stretchy cast on.

Join the round securely in your favourite way; for example work the first stitch, and pull the yarn to tighten the join before working the next stitch, or before working the first round slip the first stitch of the cast-on onto the point of the right needle so that it will be knitted at the end of the first round.

Mark the end of the round with a stitch marker.

Round 1 and 2: (k2, p2) to end.

Round 3: (c2b, p2) to end.

Repeat round 1-3, 5 times.

Round 16-20: (k2, p2) to end.

Round 21: purl.

Move the marker up to the current row.

Now you have the option to work all the stocking stitch in purl, and replace the knit decreases with purl versions, or if like me you find knit faster than purl, this is what I did.

Slip the last stitch to the left needle, and take the yarn to the back between the stitches then slip the stitch back so that the yarn is caught around the stitch. Invert the knitting and working in the opposite direction to former rounds, work the rest of the crown as knit stitches.

Round 22: knit

Continue working as Round 22 until the work measures 20.5cm from edge of rib.

Now to do the shaping.

I worked the first and every fourth round as a decrease round as follows.

First round,: k7, k2tog (70)

Second and third round: k all.

Fourth round: k6, k2tog (60)

Fifth and sixth round: k all.

Continue in this sequence, knitting one less stitch between decreases until 50 stitches on needle. Then work decreases on every second round until 20 stitches remain, finishing with a knit round.

Break yarn leaving a 40cm tail. Thread yarn onto a darning needle and slip the open stitches onto the darning needle. Draw the stitches in and secure the yarn end.

The Multipom

The designers of the Multipom have been kind enough to send me one of these little gadgets so that I can try it out.

This is me discussing how I fared following the packet instructions and making 12 tiny pom-poms in DK yarn. I chose acrylic yarn for these test pom-poms, because I thought that would be a good test. In my experience wool yarn, or at least with some wool in it, makes the most luscious pom-poms. They must be steamed though. This opens out the fibres at the cut ends of the yarn, plumping them beautifully.

This was my method, following the instructions that came with the Multipom.

Firstly I wrapped the yarn 40 times, lengthwise around the Multipom. Doing fine so far.

Next it needed to be tied off into 12 equal lengths. Well not equal, as the end tie is closer, which was tricky. Somehow I managed to tie only 11 ties, but couldn’t work out where I had gone wrong. A ruler has been printed on the instruction sheet so it should have been easy. I put it down to me being tired!

Tied yarn on the Multipom

Tying the wrapping threads was challenging. Another pair of hands to hold the knots tight would have been helpful. The advice to use a strong thread is very sensible as you have to tug hard to make a nice ‘waist’ on each pom-pom before cutting.

Tying the knots tight enough was fiddly. Strong yarn needed, and strong fingers.

Anyway I decide to get ahead and cut them anyway. Cutting the end ones was awkward,so that pom-pom was more ragged than the others immediately after cutting.

Getting the scissors in to cut the end folded yarn was a bit awkward.

I rolled each cut pom-pom between my palms to encourage them into balls, and then started to trim them. This is where a pair of curved blade embroidery scissors would be useful.

The pom-poms after cutting but before being rolled between my palms.

Once again, a good tip is given in the instructions, ‘Don’t be afraid to cut too cut off quite a lot’, and thats what they mean Take it a little at a time and turn the pom-pom as you work; there is a lovely nugget of firm roundness inside those straggly monsters.

Trim,turn,trim,turn. And again

It took me at least 10 minutes to trim them all to my satisfaction.

Trimmed and almost done

Then I steamed them by hanging them inside an electric kettle. Do be careful if you do this. Don’t put too much water in the kettle so the pom-poms won’t get wet, and when you take them out be very very careful not to scald yourself with the boiling steam. Use an oven glove and let them cool before handing them. If they do get wet, don’t worry as this can improve their density. It just means you’ll have to wait for them to dry before working on them any further.

After steaming the outer fibres expand and fill in the shape.

So what’s my verdict on the process and result?

Is it quicker than making individual pom-poms on other gadgets?

Yes, although the trimming is a bit more arduous.

I find the yarn management much easier than when wrapping the small, individual pom-pom makers. It also avoids that situation where you are struggling to pop the two parts together, but they always spring apart again, or worse still the hinged bit pops off.

Cutting is a lot easier because you are just slicing straight across rather than inserting the blades between the plastic halves and trying to cut in a narrow space, whilst trying to hold the maker together. When using the Multipom there is the rather fiddly end cuts on the frame to deal with, but that’s only 2 per 12 pom-pom s, so pretty minimal compared to using an individual maker.

Wrapping core yarn is easier on an individual maker, as you seem to be able to get a better cinch around a circular waist, although that may improve with practise.

I haven’t tried larger pom-poms yet, but I suspect the individual pom-pom makers may give better results because trimming becomes more important to the final shape on big pom-poms.

So the Multipom gets my vote if you want to make lots of smaller or mini pom-poms, which after all is what it was designed for. However there is still space in my workshop drawer for the larger, individual pom-pom makers

Thanks once again to the Multipom team, it’s good to see innovative tools being designed to meet the diverse needs of the craft community.

Crochet revisited in a caravan

We are in our caravan. It’s a bit windy to sit in the awning even though it’s quite warm. So I decided to practise my crochet skills. I want to make an Afghan (granny square blanket) for the caravan, so tried a wagon wheel square in some rather garish DK acrylic yarn I have here.

The instructions are US terms, so I’ve become a bit stress trying to convert it UK terms.

I think I got it right.

I can’t make it in acrylic. All those hours of work that will be needed should be rewarded by working in wool, so I can’t start until I get home and sort some out.

Although the dog will sleep in it so it will have to be fully washable.

Tying a blowline knot

For years when sailing I managed not to really learn how to tie a bowline – I mean not so that I could tie one without thinking, or behind my back, or with my eyes closed as my friends could.

This summer, whilst caravanning in Scotland I tried to re-capture my rather dismal knot-tying skills, with poor results. Google-in-hand I tried and tried; the little pneumonic about the rabbit and the hole failed to click, and I vacillated between laughter and tears at my ineptitude. What I thought was a successful bowline ended up undoing itself and losing the dog’s ball-thrower. All in all a bit of a disaster.

So imagine my joy to find a page showing a different method. Its called Aegean Sailing School and makes so much sense. Aegean Sailing School how to tie a bowline knot.

So anyone with the same problem, give their method a go. I hope never to lose another ball-thrower!

Brother ScanNcut

Last week I made a bit of an impulse purchase of a Brother ScanNcut machine. A friend at a dinner party had mentioned that these existed, and I became intrigued, did a bit of web-trawling and found the CM900 on offer. So I pressed ‘buy’!

It took a week to arrive, which was frustrating, and then I had to go into work and other various things stopped me opening the box until this morning. My first test cuts were not successful, until I discovered it’s necessary to close down the handle of the knife holder! Ha ha, silly me!

After that it was a matter of testing the blade depth, based on the recommended depths, until the blade cut the paper but did not go into the mat too far. I’ve discovered that it seems to always mark the mat, but when thinking about this, to cut through its probably always going to do this.

The other thing I struggled with a bit was how to position the image and paper so that the cut is where you want it. A bit of maths and spatial understanding is needed for this, and I am still getting the knack.

The built in patterns are fine for practising on the machine, but I aim to work on the Canvas software later on today and transfer files by USB or wifi.

Editing on the machine’s screen is quite easy, you can resize, crop, flip, mirror and combine (weld) images to make your own outlines. So far I have made scallop edge with a cut out border above, not brilliant, but testing out how it all operates.

My first real cut – using an installed image, resized.
Scallop edge with a cut out border, made by combining two installed patterns

Apparently there is dust inside the lens of my phone, hence the dark spot at the top of the photos, great

Another technical glitch!

Any way back to the ScanNcut, so far I love it! Can’t wait to try other papers/cards and fabrics.

‘Translating between Hand and Machine Knitting’ – publication date is 31st August

Cover of Translating between Hand and Machine Knitting
The cover features a voluminous and irresistibly tactile 3D knitted textile by Marie-Claire Canning

Using snap on presser feet with a Bernina 1030 – take care with some types of adaptors

I have been using snap-on feet on my Bernina 730 and 1030 machines for years with the aid of a clip-on adaptor screwed onto a low-shank Bernina adaptor. This combination allows me take the adaptor apart and use the low shank adaptor to attach low shank feet, such as a ruffler.

Bernina feet, whilst clearly the best option, are exorbitantly expensive and I can’t justify this cost for some of the more exotic feet that I may only use for part of one project.

Through the years I have also acquired a Bernina clip -on adaptor with a metal lever at the back with which to ‘clip’ the clip-on feet to it, which is also brilliant at the job but obviously lacks versatility as it doesn’t allow for low shank feet to be used.

Recently I bought a set of 48 (? I think), clip-on feet to expand my collection at a reasonable price, and another ‘Bernina style’ clip-on adaptor which has a red plastic lever at the back rather than a metal one. Now for the weird bit.

I used the knit foot and then the cording foot from the new set, both with the combination adaptor, and all was well. Then the next time I sewed, I attached the rolled hemming foot to the machine using the adaptor with the red lever, and the needle smashed into the foot. Not having used this foot before, I thought the foot was a fault, and so, being in a hurry I sewed the hem with the standard foot instead.

Today I attached the knit foot to the machine, and picked up the adaptor with the red lever as it was at the top of the box in which I keep the clip-on feet. Lo and behold, when I started to sew (with a straight stitch), the needle collided with the centre plate of the foot and smashed! I was confused, this foot had worked last time, what was the problem! Having forgotten which adaptor I had used last time I spent some time fiddling around checking what could be wrong with the machine. Then I thought about it a bit more, and realised I’d most likely used the combination adaptor as this is always stored in the actual machine’s own accessory box. I swapped the adaptors, and sure enough, no collision and no broken needle.

A little analysis and test-driving was needed, and after re-checking it seems that the red-lever adaptor positions some clip-on feet too far forward, so that the machine needle hits the centre plate of the foot. I haven’t tested all the clip-on feet with both adaptors yet, but have written big notices one the storage box, machine and accessory box to remind myself to use the combination adaptor with the knit foot and roller hem foot, and to check any others carefully before starting to sew.

A lesson learned!

‘Translating between hand and machine knitting’ is about to be published

i have just received my pre-publication copy of ‘Translating between Hand and Machine Knitting’, it was waiting here on my arrival home from holiday. It’s a great welcome home present.

Holding the book
My pre-publication copy just out of its wrapper.

Here are some sample pages.