Saturday, January 30, 2010

Free Pattern: Plastique Plarn Purse

Like many, I have a moral opposition to the plastic bags that are handed out like it ain't no thing by every store in these United States.

They drive me nuts.

Finding ways to re-use them is crucial. Better than recycling, which melts them down (using energy) to create other plastic things (using energy).

So--using them as pooper scoopers, good. Plarn (plastic-yarn), even better.

I give you, then, Plastique.

Pattern Name: Plastique Plarn Purse

Designer: Katie Rose Pryal of the Knitty Professors

- Plarn (instructions below)
- Any cotton or other non-stretchy yarn (I used Caron Simply Soft from my scraps bag), half a skein, wound into two yarn muffins using a ball winder, because you need to work this 4-ply.

- Crochet hook in size 6.50mm
- Crochet hook in size 17mm (p or q will work)
- Circular needles in size 11, 16" or 24"
- Circular needles in size 17, 16" or 24"

Other supplies
- Bag handles. Reclaimed from an old beat-down thrift store bag is best. Purchased new at A.C. Moore is not best, but will do.
- Sharp, large scissors

To Make Plarn
- You will need thirty or forty high-quality plastic bags, from the Gap (blue), Barnes and Noble (green), Target (red and white), etc.
- If you have lots of the lower-quality bags, such as brown or white grocery bags, those will do, but the cutting instructions are a little bit different (see below.)

(1) First make each bag into a tube by cutting off the bottom of the bag and any handles at the top.

(2) Starting at one end, cut a spiral out of the bags. This will create one, long continuous strip of plastic.

**With the high-quality bags, you want this strip to be somewhere between 1 and 2 inches in width on average. With the lower-quality bags, you will want this to be between 2 and 3 inches in width on average.** (This is so that you maintain a steady-ish gauge with your plarn--the thinner the plastic, the wider the strip, see?)

(3) Using a square knot, knot the strips together and wind into a big ball. To make stripes as in the sample in the pictures, you should try to keep 1-3 bags worth of plarn of the same color together (depending on the size of the bag), and then switch colors. Just keep knotting and knotting.

You Have Plarn!

Work the Bag

Using the larger crochet hook and plarn, chain 5, then join to work in round (using a slip stitch). You will work in an ever-increasing circle with regular increases, forming a disc that is the base of the bag. Each crocheted round ends with a slipped stitch.

Round 1: Work 2 sc into each st, slip st to end round. 10 sts.

Round 2: Work 1 sc into first stitch, 2 sc into next stitch, then repeat to end of round. 15 sts.

Round 3: Work 1 sc into 2 sts, 2 sc into next st. Repeat to end of round. 20 sts.

Round 4: Work 1 sc into 3 sts; 2 sc into next st. Repeat to end of round. 25 sts.

Continue until the base of the bag measures between 10 and 12 inches in diameter.

Using larger knitting needle, pick up knit stitches around the edge of the crocheted disc you just made. Now you will just knit in the round until the bag is as tall as you want it to be, between 10 and 12 inches. Work the plarn loosely to make it easier on your wrists.

After you have achieved the height you desire, switch to the regular yarn (shown here: Caron Simply Soft held 4-ply). Work 1 round.

Switch to smaller needles. Work 2 rounds more. Bind off. DON'T BREAK YARN.

Assemble Handles

This is the hardest part of the project. You need to attach the handles to the bag using single-crochet. If this is just too hard to figure out, you can sew them on using a yarn needle.

Step 1. Using smaller crochet hook, work 2 single crochets into each stitch, wrapping the stitch around the handle each time. Continue for the entire length of the handle.

Step 2. Using your eyeball, mathematical skills, or measuring tape, figure out where the second handle should be placed.

Step 3. SC until you reach the spot you ascertained in Step 2.

Step 4. Crochet the second handle to the bag as in Step 1.

Step 5. Crochet the rest of the way around. Break yarn and weave in.

And that's it! Cute, strong, and often the cause of gasps from strangers in public places when they realize what it's made of. Sew in a lining if you want to carry smaller items in it. Old bedsheets, curtains, and men's dress shirts from the thrift store make excellent fabric for linings.

Reuse. Redesign. Redefine.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Best Use of a Pattern of Mine, Ever

Last week, my dear friend S.'s child died. It was shocking, surprising, horrible, and unspeakably tragic.

Today was the memorial service.

Yesterday, my friend B. knit S. a shawl using the Sediment pattern, and gave it to S. today.

You can go see the FO on B.'s blog here.

Today is sadness.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

FO: Frontwards Cable Sweater

This is my rendition of Wendy Bernard’s Backwards Cable Sweater from Custom Knits (a gift from Katie!).



Araucania Nature Wool (100% wool; color #56)

(This was on sale at Webs for $5.99 a skein--a great deal! Though not as soft as some yarns, I think it will hold up well).


  • put the cable in the front
  • added vertical and horizontal bust darts
  • did regular ribbing on edging instead of baby cable ribs–too time consuming!
  • added long sleeves


I’m very pleased with this sweater overall. I like that the scoop neck is lower in front than the back (thanks to short rows in back and to the neck increases in front). I should have alternated the skeins of yarn every few rows, because they were slightly different since this is kettle-dyed yarn. You can see where I switched skeins in the photo above, although I don’t think it is quite that noticeable in real life.

I might make this sweater again in a short-sleeved, layering version.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Some Vintage Wool

I found this at the local thrift today. Yet another example that proves the maxim, "They just don't make 'em like they used to."

The bonus in this situation is that, in this world of let's all dress like teenagers, this dress fits like it was custom-tailored for my post-baby body.

The detail stitching the bust area is flattering and fabulous.

It's knee-length, perfect mate for a pair of tall black leather boots (a wardrobe staple, of which I have 3), professional and funky at the same time.

Only one small blemish--a moth hole that I sealed up with some Fray-Check--to give us a sense of its history.

That, and the woven Marshall Field & Company tag.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Baby on Sediment

Babies make everything cuter, even insane leftovers blankets like Sediment [Read about it. Ravel it.]

Here's my son Adrian modeling the super-soft and squishy blanket.

Once more:

He likes the furry sections. I like that when he loses his balance and clunks his head, he's got a lot of padding with all of that garter stitch.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Free Pattern: Sediment Scraps Blanket

[Updated February 2, 2010]

The best thing about knitting a garter-stitch blanket on the bias with leftover stash yarn and recycled fiber I'll never use for anything else is that this pile:

turns into this:

I'm such a cheapskate at heart. We got it all in here: recycled cotton and wool sweaters, craptastic eyelash yarn, satin ribbons, cotton in overly-bright colors, some Caron Simply Soft that simply would not go away, a wool sweater I sliced in a spiral to spin with but never used, etc. etc.

The best thing is that you already own the yarn for this project.

Name: Sediment Scraps Blanket

Designer: Katie Rose Pryal of the Knitty Professors

Yarn: Any combination of yarns that will make a bulky-to-super-bulky weight fiber, usually 5ish strands of a worstedish weight yarn. Ideally recycled, reclaimed, or cut from a felted sweater (like the light green stuff in the picture at the beginning of this post). Fiber content is not critical. I used a mish-mash. It takes a lot though--my finished blanket weighs about 5 pounds.

Finished size: About 4 feet by about 6 feet. (I call this "couch blanket" size.)

Needles: Size 11 circulars, the longer the better. I used my Denises lengthened to about 4 feet.

Special Stitches:
kfb = knit into the front and back of stitch. This increases by one stitch.
k2tog = knit two stitches together as one. This decreases by one stitch.


Cast on 1 st.

Row 1: Kfb.

Row 2: Kfb, k1.

Row 3: Kfb, k to end of row.

Repeat row three over and over and over. You will start making a big garter-stitch triangle. Work until one of the (non-working) sides measures between 48 and 50 inches wide.

**About adding yarn: I started with five balls of yarn. Then, I started knitting. When one ball ran out, I knotted a another ball on. That's why the color changes are more gradual. The knots got sucked into the thick garter stitch and I didn't worry about weaving in ends.**

Now you will start working length-wise only.

Row 4: Kfb, k to end of row.

Row 5: K2tog, k to end of row.

Repeat rows 4 and 5 until the length starts to look good to you--or until you fear that you will run out of yarn.

Now you will work the end section.

Row 6: K2tog, k to end of row.

Row 7: k2tog, k to end of row.

Work rows 6 and 7 until you have "closed" the rectangle. Knit the last 2 live sts together, bind off, weave in end.


REUSE, PEOPLE. It's a moral imperative.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cleaning is Catching

Jordynn organized her yarn, and Ysolda cleaned up her studio as well. So I decided to do the same. (Certainly this desire for cleanliness and organization was in no way driven by the desire to flee my real work, the book manuscript revision that was imminently due. I finished it, by the way.)

(See those 6 skeins of that lovely mango colored Brown Sheep Worsted? Jordynn found that at a thrift store for 75 CENTS A SKEIN. Then you know what she did? She emailed me and said, "This would look a lot better on you. Do you want it?" Now tell me. Do YOU have a friend like that?)

I'm one of the lucky ones who gets a whole room to herself. It's my office/studio, and its great in many ways. My husband was a huge help in designing the yarn storage--since the yarn must share space with books (my two competing vocations)--storage creativity was a must.

He built this pegboard wall for me:

And made these otherwise crappy shelves work:

It all fits very nicely in a small space, especially with those stacking baskets for my fleece and roving.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Please, please, please help


I live in Haiti.

The other day in the midst of Port-au-Prince, the great degraded capital city that is my home, I saw a car, an old battered car, a jalopy, falter and sputter and come to a slow halt. It was out of gas; this happens often in my destitute country, where everyone and everything is so poor that the donkeys and horses are starving and even the cars must try to get by on nothing. The man who was driving the car got out and looked at it, stuck there in the middle of traffic, helpless. Then I saw another face, the passenger. A woman. She looked out of the back window with tears in her eyes, and the driver looked around the street at the unemployed loungers who are always there, and said to them, "She is going to have a baby right here." He told them that he had taken the woman from her home because the midwife was unable to help her. The pregnancy was difficult, and the woman needed to go to the hospital to have her baby. Now the tears were coming down the woman's cheeks. "If we do not get to the hospital, she will die," the man told the loungers. "Her baby will die, too."

The loungers - hungry young men who had never had a job and who will never have a job if my country goes on as it has done for the last half century - looked at the car and heard the man's voice and saw the woman's tears. Their backs straightened, their cigarettes fell to the ground, their eyes cleared. They approached the car, eight of them, leaned over, and put their shoulders to the chore. The driver steered. The woman lay back. Down one long dusty road, a left turn, and down another, through the green and white gates of the State Hospital, and she had arrived.

by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a former president of Haiti, "In the Parish of the Poor" (Orbis Books, 1990).

From the New York Times today.

Please donate using the link in the post below. Read more about our fundraiser there, too.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Knit for Haiti Relief: Special Promotion

To help the international relief effort for Haiti, the Knitty Professors have set up a donation page with Partners in Health. Partners in Health is a nonprofit organization that has been working on the ground in Haiti for over 20 years. We chose them because of their high efficiency rating—94.8% of their donations go to programs (as opposed to 90.1% for the Red Cross or 86.7% for World Vision). You can find out more at Charity Navigator.

As a thank you, we'll send you one free pattern for each $5 donation you make to Partners in Health (up to 3, total). Here’s what to do:
  1. Go to our donation page to make your donation.
  2. Check out our list of patterns (at right).
  3. Forward us your confirmation email ( and tell us which pattern you would like.
Of course, you can also donate directly to Partner’s in Health and just forward us your confirmation email:

Stand With Haiti

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cute Baby Pattern for Your Little Professor

I just saw this adorable (free pattern) and had to share it with our readers, for obvious reasons: it’s called the Baby Professor Vest. I love how the designer, Sam Lamb, describes the ideal color choices for this pattern: “Basically if it matches a corduroy jacket with elbow patches, let's just say it will be perfect.”

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Stash Before & After

Copy of yarn 004

My stash circa 2008


Circa 2010.

Taking stock here, you can see that I’ve significantly expanded my book collection (and there are more laying about my living room), and my collection of neutral yarns. But, I haven’t made much headway on some of this yarn, which I’m supposed to be using up rather than buying more—like the blue-purple section (which has expanded quite a bit). I’m happy with my stash, though, and I figure that as long as it fits in this cupboard, I’m not going overboard. (This does exclude the crappy yarn I’m trying to get rid of…)

At any rate, this is how I organize my stash—by color.r  (I have cedar chips inside to deter moths). This makes the most sense to me—it is how I organize my clothes closet and my bookshelves, too. I love being able to open my closet and see all my yarns. How do you organize your stash?

Monday, January 11, 2010

No-Blog Apologia

For those of you who don't know us well, Jordynn and I really are professors. Which means that we start back to teaching Today. Which means that the blogging will fall off for a few days while we get resettled back on campus and in classrooms.

Over "breaks" we do a lot of writing work, true, but its easy to "find" time to blog while immersed in a writing project at one's desk. Not so easy when there's 80 students hollering for your attention.


More fun stuff soon.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Knitting Resolutions 2010 (with early progress update)

1. I will use my stash yarn before buying more.

Already broken, due to yarn sale at Michael’s (I stocked up on Paton’s Classic Merino to make Indigo Playmate and either Corona or Quadrat.) You really can’t beat Paton’s for price/quality, IMO. I like it better than Cascade 220 as a staple yarn. But I think I’ll be set for a while now.

2. I will get rid of the crappy novelty/craft store yarns that have been clogging up my closet.

Not yet—3 craigslist deals have fallen through so far.

3. I will try new construction techniques, such as *shocker* knitting bottom up, trying set-in sleeves top down, and converting non-seamless to seamless designs.

Sort of –see seamless set-in sleeve sweater, below.

4. I will use newfound skills to design the perfect fit (for me) sweater: it will include short rows for neck shaping, bust darts, and set-in sleeves to de-emphasize the bust area.

Not yet—but I can picture it in my mind. I think it will be green.

5. I will knit some socks.

I’m pretty sure it’s the tiny needles that have put me off. So I’m going to do some nice thick ones, I think, toe-up on two needles.

6. And lace.

Lace befuddles me. Also, the tiny needles! I must conquer this issue. Again: I think starting with something thicker will be key.

7. I will knit other people’s patterns more.

So far so good! Currently knitting:


EZ’s Seamless Set-in Sleeve Sweater (which I plan to convert to top down after this go-around)

And Wendy Bernard’s Backwards Cable Pullover (only I’m putting the cable in front).

What are your New Year’s Knitting Resolutions? We want to know!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Chopin Redux - Better Cables, More Choices

Katie Rose here:

[post updated Feb. 2015]

The following pattern is available as a PDF download for $3.

One of my first handwarmer/mitten patterns was Chopin.

It was a perfectly fine pattern, but in my opinion it doesn't measure up to the design standards of my work now.

So I revised it.

I enhanced the cable work, fixed the thumb stitch count, and provided some options for length as well as width.

Like before, the pattern can be knit as a mitten or finger-less handwarmer. It can be worked with a long cabled wrist (red, shown), with a long ribbed wrist that can fold over like a cuff (gray, shown), or with a short wrist (not shown).

The pattern has three size choices, small (gray, shown), medium (red, shown), and large (not shown). The small will fit a large child's or small woman's hands, the medium a M/L woman's hands or a small man's, the large will fit most men except for NBA athletes.

Chopin is inspired by Frederic Chopin, the Polish-French composer of the Romantic period (b.1810, d.1849). He was often sickly, and cold. These handwarmers are designed to keep hands warm when using a variety of keyboards—piano or computer.

The pattern is available as a PDF download for $3.

**If you have already purchased this pattern, you should receive an automatic email with a link to download the pattern revision for free. If you don't receive the email, just send me your receipt and I'll send you a free pattern update.**

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

FO: Greywackes

Talk about a fast knit.

I recently whipped up two of Jordynn's recent (free!) pattern, Greywacke, in two very different yarns.


Pattern: Greywacke by Jordynn Jack of the Knitty Professors [Ravelry]

Size: One size

Yarn: Cascade Magnum, color 9408, 1 skein (250g/123yds); Lion Brand Nature's Choice Organic Cotton, color Blueberry, 3 skeins (85g/103yds).

Needles: Size 17

Modifications: I downsized the needles to 17s because I knit very loosely. For the cotton version, I cast on 40 sts instead of 48, because I had a feeling it would be floppier due to the fiber (I was right).


The first is knit in Cascade Magnum, a similar yarn to the newly omnipresent Twinkle Soft Chunky--it is a single-ply roving-style yarn the same gauge as my ring finger (color 9408, a coppery-brown).

The second is knit in Lion Brand Nature's Choice Organic Cotton in Blueberry. This one is my sister's birthday present. My sister is allergic to wool (for reals, people--an autoimmune thing), but I wanted to knit this in something lofty and natural. I held this yarn triple-stranded to make it thick enough.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Photographing Knitting - Lesson 1

I'm sure most of you will agree that one of the most enjoyable aspects of reading knitblogs are the photographs.

I wanted to share some ideas about photographing knitwear and yarns with the rest of you, in light of my recent purchase of the best lens ever (BLE).

First I'm going to talk about some gear. Then I'm going to talk about some photography concepts.


Here's what you need to take perfect pictures of your knitting:

1. A digital SLR with manual mode.

2. A lens with an f-stop of 1.4.

Now, you can spend $2000 on this kind of set-up, or you can spend $400. I bought my Nikon Nikkor 50mm 1.4 lens, the BLE, for $100 on Ebay. I use it with my Nikon D80, which you can get for about $600 used. The D40 or older digital SLR models work fine, too. You only need to have a manual mode.

The most important thing to keep in mind when photographing anything is LIGHT. Natural light is best. Light from a flash is most tricky to get right.

The 1.4 aperture on my BLE lets in a TON of light, so that you can take great pictures even when the light is low, and you rarely need a flash.

Before we go on to lesson 2, you need to learn about the relationship between (2) aperture and shutterspeed, and (2) aperture and depth of field.

Read about aperture here.

Read about depth of field here.

In summary: the larger the aperture opening in a lens, the more light enters the camera AND the shallower the depth of field becomes. Professional photographers use shallow depth of field to make their subjects "pop" from the background in a photograph.

For example, here's a photo of my son, Adrian:

Using a 1.4 aperture, his face is the only thing in focus--the bed, the pillows, the pile of laundry behind him, his cute bare bottom--it all fades. Which means that you don't have to have a fabulous studio backdrop to take great photos.

Here's another example. This is a photo of some of my hand-spun:

The sexy backdrop? My floor.

One more example--Jordynn, modeling her (free!) pattern, the Greywacke Cowl:

This one was taken on my front porch. That's my neighbor's yellow garage in the background. It is amazing how much the background doesn't matter when you have a shallow depth of field.

Next time, we'll talk about photographing knit garments.

Monday, January 4, 2010


I had a bunch of natural/undyed yarn on my hands from some sales over the last year or so, but it was sitting unused in my closet. Why? A lot of it was chunky weight, and while I used some of it for my Greywacke mittens and cowl, the Cascade 128 was too stiff for the bulky sweater/jacket I had planned to make with it. I also had 4 skeins of Cascade 220 in white, and while I like pure white for summer knits, I didn’t think I’d ever want a pure white winter sweater. (I guess they call it “winter white” for a reason).

So this week I took out my box of food dyes and Kool-aid and went to work.

Here are the results!

First, the Cascade 220, in colorway “Pimpernel,” which I achieved with cherry Kool-aid, a bunch of red and bright pink food coloring, and then some black food coloring, which I added after I had gradually lifted most of the yarn out of the pot. 

Next, I tried one skein of the Cascade 128 using Black Cherry Kool-aid packets and again the black food coloring for the end piece. I call this colorway “Serotina” (part of the Latin name for the black cherry, prunus serotina).

Then, I did two skeins of the Cascade 128 in colorway “Gawain” using green food dye: 

Next, I did a batch of “Yorkshire Gold,” so named because I added 5-6 tea bags (not actual Yorkshire Gold—that’s too good to waste) after first dying most of the yarn with yellow food coloring.

I added a few drops of purple and black food coloring to get the bownish color, as well as the tea.

The overall technique I used is shown here (for hand-painting techniques) and here (on Kool-aid, specifically). I primarily used the gradual technique shown on the first link. My main innovation was to add the black food coloring and/or tea for the ends, which helps when you are dealing with a limited amount of dye and/or non-professional dyes, I think.

Oh, and I found (by chance) that Selsun Blue shampoo takes the food dye off of your skin, with no rubbing.

Now I just need some small projects to knit with the chunky yarn. I have a few ideas for new designs up my sleeve….

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Chartres Lace Stole - Major Pattern Update!

Katie Rose here:

[updated February 2015]

Available as a PDF download for $2.00.

Necessity yields creativity, they say.

Let me tell you a story. The heroes of this story are a woman named Hope and a bag of Noro Silk Garden yarn she gifted me last year.

I love this yarn. The rich jewel-tone colorway, the squooshiness of the silk and wool and whatever other yumminess Mr. Noro saw fit to include in this yarn.

I had 12 skeins. I was ready to rock and roll.

The first thing I made was a lace stole. I named it Chartres after the most beautiful stained-glass windows in the world.

Then I discovered Britta--from Verena's fall issue, 2009. I had to have it.

The thing is, in order to finish this sweater, I had to go back to Chartres and poach a little yarn--shortening the thing by about 8 inches. Which made me very sad, and I never wore it again--it was just too short.

Meanwhile, I knitted the stupidest sweater in the world:

I used Cascade Pastaza (2 strands) and Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted (1 strand) in order to achieve the super-bulky weight required. When I frogged, I ended up with three basketball-sized balls of three ply yarn that I was SO UNMOTIVATED to unwind and re-skein.

Hmmm. Shawl too short. Lots of single-ply, jewel-tone yarn in a tripled ball.


There is a rich red stripe in the Silk Garden colorway that I wanted to highlight with the fringe. I cut 2 foot lengths of the basketball yarn, looped it on, knotted it a bit, and voila. Chartres is reborn.

I've rewritten the pattern to make it more perfect, and added information on various yarn choices and the fringe option. View pattern on Ravelry.

Available as a PDF download for $2.00

**If you have already purchased this pattern through Ravelry you will receive an automatic free copy. If you purchased the Winter 08-09 Collection that this was a part of and you would like the update, simply email me your receipt for the collection and I will send you this update swift as a birdie!**