DK: life/craft advice archive

March 11, 2018

DEAR KNITTER: Can you take knitting on an airplane, and what are the best projects to bring? Also, are the rules different if you’re flying in the US or Canada or Europe? –TRAVEL KNITS

DEAR TRAVEL KNITS:  The quick answer is, yes you can bring your knitting on the airplane…in most cases.  In all my years of travel (Canada/US/Europe/Asia), I have only had a problem coming from Mexico, to Canada/US (so now I crochet on that flight).  Every now-and-then I hear stories of security taking away needles on flights to the US, but it is very unusual. Here are some tips to decrease your chances of getting your needles taken away and being stuck on a flight without your knitting…gasp!

  1. For the flight, always use wooden needles (opposed to metal); my theory is they are less likely to detect them in the X-ray machine.
  2. Always have a project cast on and have at least a few rows complete.
  3. Limit yourself to one or two knitting projects.
  4. If you’re nervous about it, bring a crochet project (wooden hook) …just in case.

Projects I tend to bring on flights are lighter ones.  Ones that don’t take up too much room and have limited yarn balls.  Like a shawl, or a cowl or hat.  In the past, I have brought full sweater projects on flights, with all the yarn needed (ridiculous); but, I find these bigger projects take up too much room and I never end up needing all the yarn…like, I think I will finish my sweater in 8 hours…whaaat?! 

I personally love either a more complex project for airplane knitting, like a lace shawl, or quick project I can start at takeoff and finish at landing, like a hat.

If you are traveling with your family, I would suggest a project like the Anywhere Cowl.  It is easy enough to not get lost in any stitch counts and it is big enough to last a few flights and a week or so vacation!  


April 06, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: I knit so much my arms and fingers and shoulders are starting to feel pain, any suggestions? – NO PAIN, NO GAIN

DEAR NO PAIN, NO GAIN: While knitting can be extremely beneficial for your brain, mind and soul, it can take on toll on your joints, arms, hands, shoulders & neck. When I knit I try to be conscious about how I am sitting; my shoulders and neck position, my arm placement and my back/spine stance. Of course, it is easy to slip into a spine hunch, hold your needles in a tight grip, drop your neck and sink your chin into double trouble so it is important to train yourself to reevaluate your stance every once in a while mid-knit.  It’s best if you can try not to look down at your knitting constantly, try to relax your shoulders and loosen your grip on your needles.  If your hands are hurting think about how you hold the yarn and needles, think about how you are moving from stitch to stitch; changing your stance from time to time or retraining your knitting style to a more comfortable position might be all it takes.  My mother reminds me to create bigger arm movements instead of tight hand/finger movements when working my yarn and stitches.  “Froggy” is what my husband whispers as a reminder to drop my shoulders, and stick out my chin when I get too cramped. If my hands or wrists are hurting I massage the area using BFC (bone, flesh, cartilage) cream or oil purchased from Gaia Garden in Vancouver BC Canada (they ship) right before bed, when I wake up the pain is often gone or greatly reduced. 

BFC oil

Here is a great exercise that really helps: stretch your arms to your sides shoulder height. Turn one wrist up facing out and one wrist down facing in.  Keeping your body facing forward turn your neck looking at your wrist pointing up.  Now switch: the wrist pointing up, point down; the wrist pointing down, point up; and rotate your neck to look at the wrist pointing up.arm wrist exercise

I certainly will not advise you to stop knitting or to cut down your “therapy;” rather, being aware of how you are knitting, your posture and way you move the yarn and stitches is key. Stop, stretch and reposition; try to improve posture and knitting stance.


February 10, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: What is the etiquette for bring my knitting projects to parties…and then…knitting.  – POLITE PARTIER.  

DEAR POLITE PARTIER: First rule of thumb, never leave your house without your knitting!  Sure, call it a ‘security blanket’ but you never know when that moment to knit will present itself; your friend is five minutes late, your car breaks down, you’re stuck on a bus, the grocery store line up is stalled…I could go on….  As for parties, I don’t know if there is a steadfast rule or a right or wrong answer to this one; I always assess it when I am in the situation and I certainly am always prepared to pull out my knitting when the timing feels right!  More importantly, I think it is the type of project you choose to knit/crochet at a party; if it is a super complex project where you have to constantly look down and it takes too much concentration I would probably say this one is best left at home: you certainly cannot tell your friends to keep it down or stop talking while you finish counting, or tell them “just one sec, I need to finish a row;” and perhaps bringing your knitting to the table, while enjoying a meal, is taking it too far.  On the other hand, if it is a ‘no brainer’ knit or a project that keeps your fingers busy but doesn’t take away from making eye contact or participating in conversation then I say, why not!  I am sure your friends, by now, all know you are never without your knitting and expect to see yarn hanging out of your purse or knitting needles sticking out of your pockets!  If not, start bringing your projects out everywhere and they will get used to it pretty quickly!  Knitting can also be a nice icebreaker and conversation starter.  It can also help you concentrate better and be more present in the moment.  So, to summarize:

1) Never leave the house without your knitting.

2) Be aware of the situation and vibe.

3) Do not feel embarrassed to knit in social situations outside of your house.


January 27, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: I work for a crappy company and I am thinking of quitting my job. But I'm also worried about how this move will affect my yarn budget. What do I do? – NO MORE CASHMERE?

DEAR NO MORE CASHMERE? We all make sacrifices in our day-to-day and what keeps you sane in your crappy job is probably the fact that you knit with cashmere! I kid, while cashmere is beautiful to work with, it’s really just the fact that you knit and craft with yarn that is keeping you sane; that being said, everyone has a breaking point. Whether it a forced quit or you decide to quit, insecurities of the unknown are looming and you are most likely taking a serious look at your expenses (yarn included).   My favorite line, for those who feel like their yarn budget is too high, or they feel particularly guilty about a ‘too’ big or luxurious yarn purchase is: “yarn is cheaper than therapy….” (In most cases)…. My advice for you is this:

  1. ORGANIZE: before you make a new/realistic budget for you and your family, take apart your yarn stash (I know you have one). Organize it, go through all your yarns and re-fall in love with the yarn you already have! Go on ravelry, start saving projects or dream up designs that will work for the yarn you have. Making a budget with the secure knowledge that you have hours of potential knitting time now nicely organized will make, making a “yarn budget” easier.
  2. BE SPECIFIC: It is one thing to make a budget, there is another sticking to it. If you see yarn that you absolutely love, before you make the purchase think of exactly what you will make with it (subject to change). Try not to purchase yarn (for a while) that you just “have to have” but have no idea what you will make with it. Avoiding these rash purchases will prevent over or under yardage buying and buyer’s remorse.
  3. TAKE A PHOTO & WALK AWAY: This is a great practice for anything. If you see something (yarn in particular) that you LOVE…take a photo of it & walk away…like, leave the shop or get off the website. Wait 24 hours, think about what you will make, revisit the yarn photo and you will know if the purchase is a must or a bust.
  4. THRIFT STORE YARN: often times thrift stores are a great place to find yarn treasures. If there are only crappy single balls for sale then look at the ready-made sweaters for texture and color. If you see a sweater you love: buy it, wash it, unravel it, re-ball it & knit with it!
  5. YES TO CASHMERE: we must not forget the healing properties of knitting, crochet & crafting. To me, I find great joy in the feel of luxurious (namely cashmere) and other quality fibers. Knitting would not be as enjoyable if I used a crunchy acrylic. It is so important to maintain your quality knitting experience, whatever that is for you. Purchase less; find the sales and discounts to keep your yarn quality the same.
  6. TEMPORARY: lastly, change is hard, scary and uncertain. Sometimes taking the jump to find a new job or work place is worth the uncomfortable leap. We are at work the majority of our days, and it is important to be happy there! Your situation is temporary; when one door closes another door opens. Keep those needles click’itty-clacking during this stressful time!


January 20, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: What is the best advice to substitute yarn in patterns? –YARN SUBSTITUTER

DEAR YARN SUBSTITUTER: It can be hard to always get the yarns the designers intended for their patterns and there can be many reasons why substituting is necessary: LYS doesn’t carry the yarn; the yarn is discontinued; you might have sensitivity to the fibers; you are looking for a cheaper or more luxurious swap. Here are some helpful tips on making the process a bit easier:

  1. FIBER: The first thing I look up is what the original yarn was made of; I look at the fiber. Was it 100% wool (less drape, holds shape, good memory, can be felted)? Was it cotton, linen or hemp (stiff, less drape, cool in the summer, less memory, stretches out if shape)? Was it an alpaca (heavy fiber, hot, lots of drape, sheds, not much memory)? Was it a bamboo (slinky, lots of drape, not much memory)? Was it acrylic (crunchy, hard to block, can’t be felted)? Different fibers act in different ways. When designing a garment, accessory or home décor, most designers take into account all of these things: how the fiber wears; how it drapes; how the fibers feel: soft, stiff, scratchy; are the fibers feltable? When substituting, I look at either using the same fiber or something close to it. If I make the decision to change the fiber completely, understanding the characteristics of the fibers helps enormously.
  2. GAUGE: Look at the original ball band on the yarn (search the yarn on Ravelry if the ball band isn’t accessible). The gauge info is typically written out or shown as a small grid. Looking at needle size is also a helpful indicator of gauge. It should say numbers like: 20 or 22 or 18 per inch or over 4”(10 cm). These numbers indicate the gauge of the yarn. I have added a standard yarn gauge guide here in the knitting 911 section. Substitute yarn that matches what the original yarn ball band says. Please note: sometimes the pattern has a different gauge than the ball band. I never follow the pattern for gauge when choosing my alternative yarn; I always use the original yarn ball band as a guide. I do this because the designer’s gauge could be different from the yarn or they could have intentionally changed the gauge in the pattern using a larger or smaller knitting needle size.
  3. QUANTITY: Look at the ball band for yardage or meters. I NEVER go by weight because different fibers weight different. You really want to make sure you get the right yardage or meters, nothing is worse than running out of yarn before the project is finished! Here is the formula: (original yards/meters per ball) x (number of balls needed) = (total yards/meters) / (new ball of yarn yards/meters) = (total number of balls needed of new yarn). Example: 100 yards x 5 balls = 500 yards / 50 yards of new ball = 10 balls of new yarn.
  4. DOUBLING YARN: If you want to double the yarn (hold two strands together) here is the math for that: gauge of yarn x 70% = doubled yarn gauge. Example: 18st (worsted) gauge x 70 % = 12-13 st gauge (chunky).


January 12, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: The holidays just ended and I worked so hard to hand knit gifts for my friends and family. Although some recipients seemed to appreciate the hand knits, sadly a few didn’t seem to appreciate them at all! What should I do? -- UNDER APPRECIATED

DEAR UNDER APPRECIATED: A word of advice, never knit Holiday gifts….and by that I do NOT mean never make handmade/knit gifts…let me explain. Putting such pressure on yourself to get knitted or any handmade gift complete for the Holidays, when let’s be honest you started December first…, is going to stress you out no matter what. Rather, give away your beautiful knits that you enjoyed knitting all year round; the blow of under appreciation might not feel so harsh when you didn’t stress or race to finish. If making gifts is your thing, then I would start collecting information on each family member and friend. Keeping a detailed file or notebook collecting information on what each individual likes would be helpful to insure your gifts are appropriate. Info to collect could include: favorite colors; magazine inspiration cutouts; swatches; comments they said about your knits “oooo I love that scarf you made….” It could also include details about what type of garments/accessories they like: do they wear scarves? Hats? Gloves? Are they sensitive to certain fibers? Do they have a preference to machine washing vs hand washing? All these things can help you choose projects/gifts that the receiver will appreciate more. Sadly, even after meticulous note taking or even taking requests, receivers still might not appreciate or really understand the time, the work and cost of handmade gifts. Unless you are a crafter, it is hard to really grasp the idea that yes, I could have purchased a $29.99 sweater from the store in under an hour, however I chose to spend 40 hours making a scarf that cost me $100 in yarn…. Lastly, I keep a mental note, those who don’t love receiving my beautiful hand knits rarely see another one.


January 04, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: Have you guys ever kept knitting a project even though you know something looks wrong and you're sure you've made mistakes but you just don't give a sh*t anymore and keep going?! -- BEYOND FRUSTRATED

DEAR BEYOND FRUSTRATED: We've all been there for sure and can totally sympathize with you.  Here are three choices you can choose to do:
1) TINK (knit backwards) or FROG (rip it, rip it, rip it).  If the mistake(s) bother you now, they'll bother you later.  Tinking and Frogging is the sure choice for perfection. 
If you look at it and realize you are the only one who will notice, or you simply make the decision that you are OK with how it looks, or if you are just SO ready to finish, then keep going without going back.
3) Sometimes mistakes are wonderful gifts.  What is known as a 'mistake' can become a new technique or stitch or look.  If you have made the 'error' throughout the piece, and it looks cooler or intentional, or 'normal,' then own it.  Rather than Tinking or Frogging, keep going continuing with the 'mistake' stitch.  Just be sure to make notes, if you need to make multiples and want to be consistent it is important to jot down what you did.

There is a long history of the importance of mistakes.  Depending on the culture, tribe or beliefs, artists and rug makers often added errors to honor 'The Creator' as being only perfect or some believe the errors acted either as gateways to let 'The Great Spirit' in or as a path to let evil out.  You can read an interesting blog about some of the customs here.