Review: Arne & Carlos Field Guide to Knitted Birds

Trafalgar Books provided a copy of Arne & Carols Field Guide to Knitted Birds for my review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own. This page may contain affiliate links, which help support me, but don’t cost you anything extra.

I’ll just bet you never thought of knitting a bird. Neither had I, but with their Field Guide to Knitted Birds, Arne and Carlos have convinced me that I need to knit an entire flock.

The Birds

Greentail

Arne & Carlos’ signature whimsical style is in full force and effect here. There are so many real and imaginary bird species here you could stay busy for the rest of the summer just knitting little birds. Who can resist Juanita and Pedro, with their colorful chullos? And Ola and Kari with their hats and matching scarves? And the sequined and feathered birds of paradise? And the birds in traditional sweaters, like the Bird with an Icelandic sweater? There’s even a bird with an Arne sweater and one with a Carlos sweater, because why not?

The Knitting

Easter birdBegin by collecting your basic materials: small amounts of dk-weight wool or cotton yarn—or embroidery floss—for each bird, a set of 5 double-pointed needles, a crochet hook, a little bit of stuffing, a couple of beads for the eyes, a sewing needle and some thread. (I know, right? You already have these things in your stash!) You may also want some embellishments like beads, sequins or feathers, depending on which type of bird you want.

Now move on to the Anatomy of Knitted Birds. There’s a basic bird pattern, given in both text and chart form. Here the publisher has been super–helpful: besides giving the basic instructions just in the middle of the book, there’s a lovely fold-out page at the back of the book which includes these basic bird text and chart instructions. Variations on the basic pattern, including patterning, shaping, yarn choices and embellishments create the different birds.

Any knitter who can handle knitting in the round on double-pointed needles can knit these birds. It is a bit fiddly at first, with a few little stitches on tiny double-pointed needles, and less experienced knitters will want to start with the one-color birds. More experienced knitters will love using stranded techniques to create the more complicated designs.

The Finishing

Birds

Stuff your tiny birdies, add beaks, eyes—and maybe glasses—and you’re finished!

How do you display your newly created flock? Arne and Carlos have you covered here, with instructions for making simple wire supports with bird feet! Or simply hang them from a tree branch or other support.

Now, I am no kind of bird watcher, but maybe I could use this book as an education of sorts. Do you think if I knit all of the birds, I’ll recognize any in the wild? After all, this is a “Field Guide”, which sounds pretty scientific to me. I’d better get started on my “research”.

More Whimsy from Arne & Carlos

Ruffle-Tail


Larcenous Knitting Rhymes and Other Poetry

Knit Rhyme 1Many knitters recognize this children’s rhyme as the way to make a knit stitch, but have you ever considered that it could also describe a crime?

Neither had Jennifer Hoyden, a knitting teacher at a shelter for homeless families in New York City. She was shocked when her students told her it sounded like a teaching tool for burglary. Wow! As a teacher, I know that I need to adapt my message to fit the needs of my audience, but that’s a tough crowd!
Knit Rhyme 3This got me thinking of rhymes that we use to teach the basic knitting stitches. There are quite a few of them, yet there is some disagreement about which are most descriptive of knit stitches and purl stitches. For example, some people consider the “bunny hole” rhyme a description of purling, while to me it sounds like another knit rhyme.

 


Generic rhymesYet these two seem to describe purling, but could be used for either knit or purl.

Knit rhyme 2While it’s nice to have these mneumonic rhymes at our fingertips (at the tip of our tongues?), when the unexpected happens, teachers have to adapt quickly. Here’s the new rhyme that Jennifer made up on the spot to replace the one about that sneaky Jack.

How’s that for fast thinking? And it encourages cleanliness instead of larceny!

What’s your favorite rhyme for teaching beginners, young and old?

 

The following affiliate links support my day job but don’t cost you anything extra.


Photos by Pezibear on Pixabay. Used under Creative Commons CC0.

Review & Giveaway: Knit Noro Accessories 2

Knit Noro Accessories 2
Sixth&Spring provided a copy of Knit Noro Accessories 2 free of charge. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own. This page may contain affiliate links, which help support my day job but don’t cost you anything extra.

NKnit Noro Accessories 2oro Yarn is the quintessential color-changing yarn. It offers wonderful, sophisticated colorways and a range of weights.

But with all that beauty-in-a-ball comes with a challenge: What can I knit that will show off the yarn to its best advantage? Add too much stitch patterning and you muddy the loveliness of the color changes.

Knit Noro Accessories 2 meets that challenge, with 30 designs from a multitude of designers. Although the tagline on the cover says “30 More Colorful Little Knits”, that’s a bit misleading because there are plenty of not-so-little projects included. Of course, you’ll find the expected hats, mitts and scarves, but there are plenty of larger shawls and ponchos to choose from.

I loved seeing the unisex designs photographed on guys. In my experience, that’s a great way to convince your guy that he needs a hand-knit something. (“See, that guy is wearing a scarf! Don’t you want a scarf just like that?”)

Knit Noro Brickstitch Scarf The photography is good. Really good, with lots of full-page beauty shots and smaller shots from all angles, making the book a delight to flip through. The text is clear and easy to read.

I was disappointed that there weren’t more charts. While there were some charts, there could have been more. Another disappointment is that is not a way to look up projects by yarn weight or yarn name. I have a few skeins of Noro waiting to become something, but found myself having to flip through the pages—not that that was a hardship (see above)— to find projects that used the yarn I have. It would have been nice to be able to check the table of contents or index and go right to those project appropriate for my yarn.

Knit Noro Square ShawlThe projects run the gamut of skill level, technique and yarn weight. If I had to tag attributes for the projects, the list would include (in no particular order):

  • Garter stitch, stockinette stitch, lace stitches, slip stitches
  • Short rows, miters, cables
  • Hat, cowl, scarf, gloves, boot toppers, socks, cape
  • One skein, multiple skeins
  • Fingering, sport/dk, worsted, chunky

Pros: Appealing projects, good variety, great photography, cute models, easy-to-read text

(Little) Cons: Not enough charts for this chart-loving knitter, indexing

Win a Copy

Thanks to Sixth&Spring Publishing, I’ll be giving away a copy of Knit Noro Accessories 2. Simply fill out the form below to enter and to join my mailing list. (Make sure you “confirm” through the email you’ll get when you sign up.) If you are already on the mailing list, please sign up below to win, but don’t worry, you won’t get onto the mailing list twice!

On the morning of April 28, I’ll notify the winner via email. Check my Facebook page to find out who won!

In the meantime, I have some colorful knitting to plan.

Update: The giveaway winner has been chosen. Stay tuned to the blog for upcoming giveaways.

 

The Loom Knitting Project

Finished Hat


Ultimate Oval Loom Knitting Set
Loom knitting, also known as frame knitting, has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years. I decided to make it my third project for National Craft Month, because although it is “knitting”, it’s nothing like the knitting I’ve done in the past. I know how to knit with all kinds of needles, and with a knitting machine, but I’ve never tried it on a loom.

This post may contain affiliate links, which help support my day job but don’t cost you anything extra.

The Looms

There are many sizes and styles of knitting looms, made for different weights of yarn and different lengths or circumferences of knitting. They can be rectangular, circular or oval. Gauge is determined by the size of the loom pegs and how far apart they are spaced.

Leisure Arts kindly provided their Ultimate Oval Loom Knitting set, which contained small and large looms, along with a stitching tool and how-to book. I dutifully read the instructions all the way through first, because I knew there would be a test—in the form of this blog post—at the end.

I started with the small loom and with no intention of actually making anything, just to get the hang of things. This is called “swatching”, and it’s something you always do in needle-knitting, right?*

Beginner's Guide to Oval Loom KnittingThe Beginner’s Guide to Oval Loom Knitting, which came with the set, includes seven projects that teach the basics of loom knitting as you learn the e-wrap cast on, e-wrap knit stitch, knit stitch, purl stitch, twisted garter stitch, binding off, and other techniques. If you happen to have an electronic device handy while you knit, you can even watch Leisure Arts videos that demonstrate the techniques used in each project.

 


E-Wrapping (Kn)it

E-Wrap cast on and knitI grabbed some purple Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice that I had on hand and, with the book open on my lap, I cast on stitches using the e-wrap method. Another series of e-wraps, working counterclockwise around the loom, served as the first part of the first round. I then grabbed the little tool thingie and used it to lift each cast-on loop over the top loop on each peg to complete the first round.

Although I was a bit awkward because I had to figure out how to hold things, it was pretty easy and went relatively fast. The worsted weight yarn I used was the correct weight for this stitch/loom/yarn combination. I got this. 
Twisted Stockinette and Regular Stockinette Using the e-wrap method throughout creates a soft. relatively loose twisted stockinette stitch fabric. In other words, each of the stitches has a little twist at the base of the stitch, where its feet cross each other, as shown in the red-outlined stitches. It looks and feels fine, but I wanted to make a fabric that looks like standard stockinette stitch, with rows of straight V’s, as shown in the green-highlighted stitches.


Loom Knit Stitch

The Knit Stitch

Changing to grey yarn, I followed the book’s instructions for the knit stitch. This involves holding the working yarn on the outside of the peg above the existing loops, and using the tool to left the bottom loop over the working yarn and off the peg. In the beginning I was terrible at managing to hold the loom, control the tool, and maintain a loose enough tension in the working yarn to allow the loops to pass over each other easily. In other words, typical novice crafter problems.

It became easier as I practiced, but the tension was still pretty tight. A lighter-weight yarn would have been a good idea here. My stockinette stitch looked okay, but it was fairly compressed, row-wise, and uneven in spots. It’s a small sample, but my gauge is about 15 stitches and 32 rounds = 4″.

 


U-wrap loom knit stitch

U-wrapping (Kn)it

Not being satisfied with the tension I was achieving with the knit stitch, I did some research and found that I could wrap the yarn differently to create a looser stitch. By taking the yarn in a U-path—holding it behind the peg, bringing it forward, around, and back—I made the path of the working yarn longer than with the previous method. This U-wrap method was incorporated into the next section.

The Purl Stitch

Still working on my swatch, I practiced the purl stitch. Purling on the loom is a bit tricky. You hold the working yarn below the loop on the peg, use the loom tool to draw the working yarn up through the loop; then pull the entire thing off the peg and replace the new loop onto the peg. It’s more fiddly than the knit stitch. The book and video say to pull the loop off the peg using your fingers. With practice I was able to do the whole procedure with the loom tool in hand, without really having to use my fingertips much.

Just as with regular knitting, k1, p1 rib is created by working knit and purl stitches alternately around, so I practiced that for a few rounds, then bound off.

Enough already. I’m ready to make something!

The Hat

I chose to go with my own design rather than one of the projects in the book. With the larger loom and the same yarn, I cast on 70 stitches and worked k1, p1 rib for a round.

Almost immediately I ran into a problem. When I’m needle-knitting, I can see the stitches and read my fabric, so I don’t get confused about whether I’m on a knit or a purl. In loom knitting, the stitches are somewhat hidden by the loom itself. You have to peer over the pegs to look at the wrong side of the fabric to determine which type of stitch comes next. Permanent marker to the rescue! I simply marked every other peg, which helped me keep track of which stitch went on which peg.**

After a few rounds of ribbing, I switched to knitting in the round, adding stripes as the mood took me.

Ribbing and stockinette stitch on loomThe stitches on the loom are stretched width-wise. When they come off the loom you have to tug the fabric gently to set the stitches vertically. This causes the stitches to draw together in width and stretch in length. For this reason, I couldn’t quite tell how long my hat was getting, or whether it would even fit. (Maybe I should have followed one of the perfectly good patterns in the book.)

It took me quite a while to discover that placing the loom on a table or other surface makes it easier to hold. Most of the time I had the loom in my lap, and found it uncomfortable to handle that way. Putting it on a flat surface made a world of difference. Eventually I developed a kind of rhythm and got faster at the knitting. Even so, I could have needle-knit three hats in the time it took me to knit this one. This isn’t as bad as it sounds. At this point, I’d been needle-knitting for 40 years, and only loom knitting for about ten hours.
When I decided I had knit enough length, I gathered the live stitches with the working yarn and pulled it them together to create a slouchy-top hat.

Finished HatIt’s not perfect. The cast-on looks sloppy, there are errors in the ribbing where I should have purled when I knit and vice versa, and some uneven rounds and stitches where I didn’t keep an even tension.

BUT…

It looks like hat! It fits like a hat!

My first needle-knit hat certainly never looked this good!

Dropped Stitches

Takeaways

  • Loom knitting is easy to learn, even if you’ve never knit before.
  • You may find it faster than needle-knitting, although if you are a fairly fast needle-knitter, this may not be true.
  • It’s especially good for those who have trouble holding knitting needles, or who just haven’t quite figured out how to manage two needles and tension the yarn at the same time.
  • As with needle knitting, it is possible to drop stitches (see photo) and to have uneven tension. I did both!
  • Getting gauge to match a pattern and creating exact sizing may be more difficult with a loom than with needle-knitting. The loom sizes are more constraining than individual knitting needles.

Loom Knit Stitch DictionaryWould I try loom knitting again?

Probably, because I still have more stitch patterns to learn. Leisure Arts also provided me with the Loom Knit Stitch Dictionary. A stitch dictionary. Squee! I’m a sucker for a stitch dictionary, so there is some serious loom swatching in my future.

 

 

Loom Knit SocksTwisted Garter Hat Back ViewPlus, take a look at some of the projects you can make with the patterns in The Beginner’s Guide to Oval Loom Knitting. Next time, I’ll probably follow a pattern!

How about you? Have you tried loom knitting? Are you a fan?


*Just nod and agree. We both know you are fibbing, but it makes us feel better to think that we always do a good swatch before starting a project.

**Note to loom manufacturers: Alternating colored pegs might be a helpful improvement to your product.



The Shibori Project

Shibori Scarf closeup

This week’s National Craft Month project is shibori dyeing. Shibori is a Japanese resist-dyeing technique–a way of creating pattern by preventing dye from reaching all parts of the cloth. Shibori uses some combination of binding/stitching/folding/compressing the fabrics before dyeing, typically with indigo. In other words, it’s fancy tie-dyeing.

Dyeing is a fascinating process, but to someone who has never gone beyond dyeing with Kool-Aid*, the idea of buying all those supplies and fumbling around with them is somewhat off-putting. It would be so much nicer if someone who knows what they are doing could set up all the equipment, mix the dye, and show me how to do it, so I could be assured of success, or at least as much success as I’m capable of when trying a new thing.

Scarf blankCharlottesville Fiber Arts Guild to the rescue! My local(ish) fiber arts guild has some great programs, and this month it was shibori dyeing.  Valerie, our fearless leader, and Susan** came early and set everything up for us. We started with nice clean empty wine bottles***, which we wiped with Liquid Wrench to make them slippery. We used pre-hemmed silk scarves from Dharma Trading Co., which Valerie had dyed; mine was pale blue. The scarves were folded in half lengthwise, ironed, then folded lengthwise and ironed once again.

Wrapping

Now for the hard part: wrapping the bottle. We started by taping the end of our cotton thread on the bottle, then holding the scarf strip at a 45-degree angle as we wrapped the string tightly around the bottle in parallel wraps about 1/4″ apart. Getting started was the hard part and I was glad that Valerie was there to add her two hands to mine. There are no pictures of that (because we were already using four hands, and there were none to spare for the camera) but here’s a picture of the wraps once I got them going.


Scrunching

Every 4-5 wraps, I stopped and scrunched the threads together, causing the fabric to bunch up in between. Wrap-scrunch-wrap-scrunch-wrap-scrunch. This went on for a while until the entire scarf was spiraled around the bottle. Then it was time for a dunk in a vinegar bath to get the fabric nice and wet.

Dyeing

I placed a folded paper towel in the center of an X formed by long strips of plastic wrap. After dabbing off any dripping vinegar, I put the bottle on the paper towel and moved over to the dyeing station.

This was the most awesome  part, because Valerie had already mixed up the dyes and put down drop clothes, and generally done all the stuff that kindergarten teachers do to make sure their students don’t make a complete mess.


We had several colorways to choose from; I chose a mix of 3 greens and a purple. It was a matter of a few moments to paint stripes of color vertically onto my scarf. For me, the hardest part here was remembering which brush went with which color-even though she had them labeled very clearly. I had to make myself slow down and think about it. I found that the purple wanted to wick into the green more than I wanted it to, but since I wasn’t trying to accomplish any particular look, I felt pretty relaxed about it.

Steaming

Now it was time to wrap that plastic up and around the bottle to form a sealed cover, Then into the microwave with a bowl of water for steaming. Cook on high for 3 minutes, then turn, cook on high for an additional 2.5 minutes. Take it out and wait for it to cool.

Waiting is hard.


Rinsing

Once it was cool enough, I took off the plastic wrap and rinsed under cool water until no excess dye remained. On my scarf, there wasn’t actually any excess dye at this point, but others did have some rinse dye out. Here’s where we went off in different directions.

The Reveal, or Being Patient

Some people wanted to see the results and unwrapped their scarves immediately after rinsing. All the scarves came out beautifully, with chevron-like V’s in the original scarf color, where the thread resisted the dye. When you unwrap the silk before allowing it to dry, the scarf turns out flat, but if you wait until the silk is dry, the true folding aspect of the shibori appears.

I decided to wait.
Waiting is hard.

I knew I had to write this blog post and I would have more interesting results if I waited. So I waited. For science.

The Final Reveal

Here’s a super-quick video of the unwrapping. You can see that it is really tightly folded and short. The chevrons are more evident as folds than as lighter dye-resist areas, which is not what I expected but is OK with me.

Shibori Scarf hangingI haven’t decided yet, but I may try to steam it out just a bit to see if I can maintain gentle folds, but allow it to be a little bit longer. However, I know that if I’m not careful, I can make it too flat and permanently destroy the folds. What do you think? Should I try it, or just see if I can relax the folds a bit by hanging it with light weights attached, like this?****
Shibori Scarf closeup

Takeaways

  • Taking a class is a great way to try out new skills. (I knew that, but this reinforces it.)
  • It’s worth the wait.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected.
  • I need to start with a much longer scarf if I want to keep the folds.
  • I can’t be great at everything the first time.

Would I try shibori again?

You bet! Next time with indigo dye.

Further Reading

World Shibori Network

Shibori DIY

Shibori Techniques board on Pinterest


*One of the first articles I wrote for a magazine, in 1999, was on Kool-Aid dyeing with children. In the interest of family harmony, I am not sharing those photos here.

**Her sister, our program chair, who coerced Valerie to drive 300 miles round-trip to do this.

***That must have been some class-preparation party!

****Completely un-Pinworthy laundry room photo provided gratis, to make you feel better about the state of your laundry room. At least the wall color matches the scarf.

The following affiliate links help support me, but don’t cost you anything extra.


Crochet Guild of America Chain Link Conference

Crocheters, do you wish there was a place where you could connect with other crocheters, learn new stitches, see some *amazing* crochet designs, buy yarn, and be inspired by the art of crochet? There is!

Chain Link Conference

The Crochet Guild of America (CGOA) sponsors the Chain Link Conference each year. In 2017 it will be all crochet. Come to Chicago July 26-29, to learn from professional crochet teachers, shop the market, attend fun crochet parties, and “ooh” and “ahh” over the incredible designs you’ll see.

The event will be held at the Westin Chicago Northwest in Itasca, Illinois.

The weekend kicks off on Wednesday with the CGOA Masters’ Day Program, for those enrolled in the Masters of Stitches Program. Crochet Professionals (or wanna-be professionals) will benefit from Professional Development Day, where you’ll hear from professionals in the industry, network, and attend breakout sessions targeted to growing your business.

Plan to attend classes on Thursday, then attend the Market preview on Thursday evening. It’s open exclusively to conference registrants. Classes and shopping continue on Friday and Saturday, with an awards banquet Friday night. One of the most popular events is the Designer Meet  & Greet, where you can meet one-on-one with editorial staff from various publications, show off your designs, and perhaps arrange to get published!

The weekend ends with the Grand Finale Fashion Show and Banquet on Saturday night, leaving you plenty of time to return home and rest on Sunday before heading back to work on Monday. I’ll be teaching five classes, which are described below. Won’t you join me? Register here.

Crochet Critique Pattern Writing Workshop Chain Link ConferenceCrochet Critique Pattern Writing Workshop

Designers, make yourself understood! Crocheters, decipher those cryptic patterns! Do you struggle with the wording of patterns? Do you spend lots of time answering (or asking) questions? Is it possible to have too many words in a crochet pattern, or too few? How do tech editors and test stitchers help clarify pattern language? What happens when designers don’t really know how to make themselves understood? We will look at specific pattern examples and examine what works best in various situations. Students will have the opportunity to have their own patterns reviewed anonymously, and will receive suggestions on ways to improve their pattern-writing skills. The benefit of having an entire class working together is that we get a variety of viewpoints!

Yes, You Can! (Read a Crochet Pattern) Chain Link ConferenceYes, You Can! (Read a Crochet Pattern)

Inexperience in deciphering a crochet pattern can keep you from enjoying crochet to the fullest. Crochet symbols can foul your mood unless you understand how helpful they can be. In this hands-on class, we’ll work step-by-step through some typical crochet patterns and see what each abbreviation, punctuation mark and symbol means. We’ll look at different types of pattern writing, and see how the same thing can be said in many many different ways.

Crochet Stitch Workshop Chain Link ConferenceCrochet Stitch Workshop

Crochet is more than ripple stitch! See how crochet uses cables, lace, texture and openwork to create beautiful fabric. Try your hand at a variety of stitch families. Play with color and texture while learning to read crochet text and charts.

Go Bi-Textural: Combine Knitting & Crochet Chain link ConferenceGo Bi-Textural: Combine Knitting & Crochet

Break out of your knitting rut by blending techniques. We’ll combine the best properties of knitting with the best properties of crochet to get designs that wow and knits that fit! See how to use crochet techniques to make your knits fit better, create the perfect buttonhole, insert a crocheted motif into a knitted fabric, and other tips.

Understanding Symbol Crochet Chain Link ConferenceUnderstanding Symbol Crochet

More and more crochet patterns are using international crochet symbols. With symbol crochet, you can see what your stitch pattern is supposed to look like and see the relationship of stitches to one another. Many crocheters find this way of presenting patterns easier to follow than written-out instructions, allowing them to avoid mistakes before they happen! Learn the fundamentals of symbol crochet and see how this universal crochet “language” makes it easy to read patterns from any country. We’ll also talk about and see a demonstration of ways to create your own crochet diagrams.