Saturday, 28 September 2013

Behind the Scenes: Row Counter Bracelets for Knitters

I probably came across row counter bracelets (or abacus bracelets, as they are also known) only about a year ago. Up until then I thought you could only count rows with the twisty or clicky counters lots of knitting shops offered, and I had never actually seen a row counter bracelet in person. All of a sudden, this craze for bracelets exploded in one of the Ravelry groups I am in and I wondered how they work.

At first it looked as though they'd be really complicated to use, mainly because they looked fiddly. Once I started making my own, though, I was surprised by how convenient they are! I can move the beads around with one hand and needn't worry about losing the bracelet either. I really like that!
I made a bracelet for my friend Ella and she said: "The row counter bracelet's colours are beautiful and it fits perfectly - not too tight and not too loose. Simply perfect. It works really well as a bracelet and is much better than some others that hang too loosely and fall off." 

So how do they work? Well, the bracelets I make allow you to count to 109 rows. Here are the instructions I used at Abso-knitting-lutely:

Basically, it's like using an abacus. One wire carries 10 large beads while the other carries 9 small ones. The large beads are used to count in tens while the small beads are ones. As you get ready to start your first row, push one of the small beads through the elastic beaded ring. This shows you that you are knitting row 1. When you start the second row, push another small bead through the elastic ring. You now have 2 beads past the ring, which equals two rows in your knitting. Continue in this manner until you have knitted 9 rows and all small beads have been used.

When you are ready to begin row 10, push all the small beads back through the ring and instead push through one of the larger beads. The large beads mark 10, 20, 30, 40 ... 100 rows. When you are about to begin row 11, bring a small bead forward through the ring once again. So you now have a large bead (10) and a small bead (1), making it a total of 11 rows. 

Continue in this manner and enjoy your bracelet!

Honestly, it's easier than it sounds. I have been using my bracelet to knit a pair of socks for Christmas and haven't had any issues at all. Apart from being a very practical tool, these row counter bracelets also look great simply worn as jewellery, I find, so it's a win all around.

Have you tried row counter bracelets? What do you think?

Monday, 23 September 2013

Pi in the Sky

My grandmother always says she doesn't want anything much for Christmas, especially not something knitted (presumably because she thinks it is too much work). So I have resisted for four years and not sent her anything knitted, but this year I'll just do it!

I have two large balls of no-name yarn that feel like they are probably 100% acrylic. There's so much of it that I had no idea what to do with it all other than knitting a shawl from it. That's when I had the idea to make one for my grandmother for Christmas because she is already complaining about how cold it is in her flat right now. What's she going to do in winter?

During my searches on Ravelry, I came across the Pi in the Sky shawl that is a pattern modelled after Elizabeth Zimmermann's Pi shawl recipe. This is something I've always wanted to try, so the choice was made.

The shawl is a surprisingly quick knit and very pleasant to make. I got the first small chart wrong because I didn’t read the rows the right way round (this happens more often than I would like to admit), but because it is just a small section, it isn't too obvious and you wouldn't know if you hadn't made one yourself. The pattern instructions and one chart contain small errors, but nothing that can’t be fixed. I also like the frilly edging that gives it a playful, little-old-lady look that will be perfect for my grandmother. The colour is spot on as well!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Blue Steps - Baby Booties

No, we are not having a baby!

A friend of mine asked me to knit some baby booties for her and I really liked the look of Blue Steps. The original pattern is in German and from what I gather it is best to use that version rather than the English translation. if you want to knit these, make sure you read other knitters' notes on Ravelry first. They are incredibly helpful.

I had a lot of issues with the way in which the English pattern was written. So much so that the first bootie looked entirely different and was huge! I tried again and finally got it right. However, the way the brioche stitch is described, it actually ends up back to front so that I had to turn the bootie inside out once it was finished. Also, this meant I had to purl the rolled edging rather than knit it.

It doesn't take long to knit these and you should get done in two evenings in front of the television - once you've figured out the instructions, of course. I still like the booties, but mine are a bit twisted and I am not convinced a little bit of blocking is going to help here. I will give it a try though.

Friday, 13 September 2013

5 Reasons to Fall in Love With Handmade

Handmade has been on trend for a long time now and there are lots of fantastic things out there that crafters have made and are quite rightly proud of. But why do people love handmade? Here are just 5 of many reasons:

1. Every maker has their own approach, their own style, their own signature that makes an item truly unique. You are given a piece of their world.

2. A handmade item is often rare and won't be reproduced identically (depending on the craft and method, of course). No one else will have quite what you have.

3. Crafters do what they do because they love it. They really enjoy the work they do and put a lot of love and time into making something beautiful.

4. Handmade items are the result of skill, artistry, a creative imagination, and often years of practise to perfect the craft. There will have been trials and errors, and the final item will be the best it can be, ideally. 

5. The process matters. This isn't a machine-made, duplicated item for a few pence. There is more worth in a handmade product that has been made by a person with a creative vision and the skill to make it a tangible reality than a quickly put together factory-made product that's only travelled along an assembly line.

Why do you love handmade as a maker or buyer? What's the most important factor when you consider buying handmade?

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Discontinuing Hand-dyed Yarn

I have decided to discontinue my hand-dyed yarns and focus instead on stitch markers and possibly other accessories and tools. It's not been an easy decision, but the demand for stitch markers has just been much greater.

I will continue to dye, but only for my own personal use. Doing so on a small scale is also much easier in my current living conditions: trying to dry more than one or two skeins of yarn in a tiny flat, especially once it gets cold, is extremely difficult.

So if you want to get your hands on my yarns, this is your chance! Get the last skeins while they're still here. Check my sock yarns and lace yarns and help me make space for new products. Thank you!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Tools of the Trade: Working with Polymer Clay

As you probably know, I make all my polymer clay stitch markers by hand without the use of moulds. I have very few tools and have only recently bought some to make things easier. 

This is what my tiny work station looks like when I am about to start on a new marker:
There's the white tile I work on (you can also cure your items directly on the tile in the oven), clay, a craft cutter blade, and a short skewer I use to add details to pieces. Then of course there are headpins and the snag-free rings that complete my stitch markers. That, basically, is all you need for most things. Some weeks ago I finally bought a set of three embossing tools to help me make even indentations in different sizes (for eyes or ear holes, for instance), which look similar to this one here:
To complete the markers, I need to add findings that are easily put in place with my trusty pliers and cutters:
I don't know where I'd be without them! Whether you make jewellery, markers or other small things, I definitely recommend getting the right tools for the job. In my case, I bought a whole kit from a local bead shop long before I set up a business. With time you will recognise what works best and which tools you should invest in to make your work easier and more efficient - and, being German, I am all about efficiency.

What tools are essential for your craft? What's your favourite?

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Knitting Again: A Pi Shawl

The spell is broken! I am finally knitting again.

After all that spinning recently, I felt like picking up my knitting needles again to make something wearable. After all, this is the best time to start making Christmas gifts for family and friends before it's too late. 

I've decided to knit a shawl for my grandmother who always tells me not to buy her anything. I have two huge balls of no-name acrylic yarn in mauve that I never knew what to do with because I am not a fan of how the material feels. However, it is perfect for someone who doesn't want to worry about how to wash something made of yarn. My grandma will probably feel a bit chilly this winter in her basement flat, so I am making her the Pi in the Sky shawl in DK weight yarn. It might not look pretty in the end, but it will definitely keep her warm.

Thanks to my inability to read charts that are not numbered the way I like them to be, I ended up knitting the first chart really awkwardly! The pattern isn't meant to look quite the way it does now, but oh well. At least I won't be making that mistake again. I hope that blocking will help bring out the pattern as a whole in the end. 

At the moment I am already about halfway through the pattern, so it is actually a quick knit, and I get to use my pretty lace stitch markers and my blue bird stitch markers. What's not to like?