Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Step Up Socks, Top Down

Quick photos in my mudroom, because that's how I roll.




It's easy to add colorblocking on the heel - a photo of that is on yesterday's post. 

The pattern is for sale on Ravelry and on Craftsy.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Step Up Socks, Toe Up

Step Up Socks, Toe Up, Self-Striping Yarn

Step Up Socks, Top Down, with colorblocked, slipped-stitch heel


In her Encyclopedia of Needlework (I use the English edition, published in 1886), Therese de Dillmont calls this heel the "heel in steps."


Her heel is beautiful, but can be hard to work out, from her instructions. I agree with her verdict: "A heel made like this is no more trouble than the former one (a square heel, what she calls the Usual heel); it fits closely to the foot and consequently wears better than any other shape."


I designed a version of her heel, which was knit from the top down, and reverse-engineered it to also be worked from the toe up. I have been knitting and wearing them since 2013. I don't wear out a lot of my socks, but I do have to darn some of them, every once in awhile. None of the socks I have made with this heel have required darning. That’s the highest praise I can offer a sock heel!


If this heel was first published over 130 years ago and I, myself, have been walking in it for over 3 years, why am I publishing it now?


I guess I was waiting for the right name and inspiration to push me: The Step Up Heel.


Donna Druchunas’s voice, especially, has been calling to me, since the election. When she asked if I had anything to contribute to her Knitting as a Political Act e-book, I was at a loss, at first. Then, I remembered this heel, tucked away in my knitting notes and sock drawer, and thought: “maybe this is the time for this heel pattern to emerge back into the light of day.”


I’m self-publishing the Step Up Socks pattern, as quickly as I can. There will be two versions: toe up and top down. I’m publishing the toe up first, since, for me, political action comes from the ground up. Top down will follow, since we need that, too. We need it all. We need everyone. No matter how you feel about politics right now, I think we can all agree that we should be on our feet, stepping up to the challenges laid before us.


I care about freedom, democracy, women's rights, indigenous rights and LBGTQIA equality. I don’t have a lot to give, but I am doing this: I’ll donate 10% of my proceeds from selling these patterns to a charity that I think will have the most impact. I may chose a new one every month, or I may stick with the same one for a long time.


Both patterns include stitch-by-stitch instructions for set sizes, very short instructions for if you want to use a customized stitch count, and tips for changing the colors and texture of your heel.

Look for them on Ravelry: http://www.ravelry.com/designers/lara-neel and Craftsy: https://www.craftsy.com/profile/lara-neel.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Mitten Knitting

There's nothing quite like knitting mittens. Quick, relaxing and fun!

This is a simple mitten pattern from One-Skein Wonders

Monday, January 09, 2017

Victorian Knitting Manuals on Archive.org

I included a link to Richard Rutt's collection of Victorian knitting manuals at the University of Southampton Library in my book. Sadly, pretty much right around the time that I published, they changed the way the collection was organized, which made it way less user-friendly!

They're now on Archive.org, and it's a pretty awesome resource! Go forth and marvel at how far we have come, but also remember that a lot of this wonderful knowledge has been "unfairly forgotten," as Barbara Walker said about at least one of the knitting stitches in her extensive collections. Or was it, "unjustly forgotten?" I really must read through those again, some day.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

New Serger Shopping List







I don't have a cute photo to go with this post, but I wanted to write it quickly because my darling sister received a serger this year as a gift!

So, this one is for all of you who either have a new serger or are new to using a serger. 

1. This should have come with it, but if your serger doesn't have its manual, Google around and find your manual. It really helps to have the manual for YOUR serger. If your serger is secondhand, ask how long it's been since it was used. If it's been more than a few months, consider getting it tuned up by a professional repairperson. The oil could have congealed while in storage, and it might lock up on you, which would require repair, anyway.

2. Buy this book. I've read a lot of serger books in the last year, and this one has the best troubleshooting information, in my opinion. I'll never pass up the adorably cheerful 1980s serger books when I see them at Goodwill, but I don't really use them in the same way. They're just so adorable.

3. Buy this book, too. It's not quite as great at troubleshooting when you have a problem, but it has lots of great tips for getting the most from your machine.

4. Get a cover for it. You could make one, but I just bought this one. I'm a little paranoid about dust getting into my tension disks and messing up my machine. I consider this especially important if your machine is stored in a basement or other area that maybe isn't cleaned/used a lot. If you think your machine will go longer than 1 week without use, you really should cover it. 

5. Buy a bunch of needles. If your machine takes regular machine needles, great! If not, buy the ones that your manual says you should have. If you're anything like me, when you're learning a machine, you're more likely to break needles.

6. Buy 1 cone of thread to match each of the tension disks on your machine. Ok, that's a weird sentence. What I mean is, if your machine takes up to 4 threads, each thread will have its own tension setting wheel. These are usually color-coded in some way. They might be yellow, pink, green and blue. My machine takes 5 threads, and I think they are blue, black, red, yellow and brown. When you're first threading up the machine, I think it's really helpful to thread each needle or looper with its own color, preferably matching the color on its tension wheel. It takes some practice to be able to see which thread is which, so if you already have it color coded, you'll be able to tell where the tension is off. I may never use up that yellow cone of thread, but it sure made my life easier when I was learning the machine. If your machine isn't color coded, just pick colors you like, but make sure they're easy for you tell apart.

7. Buy sets (3, 4, or however many your machine will take) of cones of thread in blendable colors. Unlike a regular sewing machine, all of the threads on a serger don't have to match. You can just use a matching thread in the left-most needle. I like to have black, grey, tan and peach in my arsenal. I've used Maxilock and Madeira Aerolock and I like them both. It's ok to look for deals, but cheapo thread is usually a false economy.

8. Buy these teeny vacuum attachments. If you're not perfect about cleaning a sewing machine, it's usually ok. If you're not at least good about cleaning your serger, it will break.

9. Get some oil. Now, you should have this, already, but see #8 for why I'm mentioning this. I have this one and I like it but if anyone has any tips for keeping it from leaking all over me when I use it, I'm all ears. As it is, I kind of swaddle it in a rag, but I still manage to drip on myself.

10. Buy some hemostats. It sounds weird, I know, but they're great for when you're threading the machine. Much better than tweezers. You can also use them to make grabbing short threads while seam ripping easier. 

One more general tip: Try to set up your space so that you can have both your sewing machine and your serger ready to go at the same time. Switching back and forth when you actually have to move the machines will really wear you out. 

Ok, still one more general tip: When you're getting to know your machine, just cut a bunch of fabric scraps into long strips, for practice. I try to cut myself strips to test stitches for every project. It really reduces my angst. 

Craftsy class recommendations: 

Sew With Your Serger: Quick & Easy Projects - If you haven't taken a Craftsy class with Angela Wolf, you are MISSING OUT! She's an absolute delight.
Coverstitch: Basics & Beyond - If your machine has coverstitch options, you don't want to miss this class. Gail has a lot of very useful tips. 



Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Santa Hat


The person who this is meant for doesn't read this blog (I don't think). But, just to be safe, I waited to share it until after I gave it to her. 

It's from Kwik Sew 3743, which might be out of print, but you can still get it. I saw the zebra-print fleece on sale and I couldn't resist - my mom LOVES animal prints of all kinds. 

Everything went together quickly. I used the serger for everything except the pompom. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Pins and Needles


Are you looking for a last-minute gift for the sewist in your life? May I humbly suggest a wrist pincushion? 
For real, putting pins and needles in your mouth is dangerous. Don't. Just don't. I'm even a little leery of holding stitch markers in my mouth, since I read the above story.
I don't have a pattern for these. The round one was a little hard to make. The rectangle was easier. I used scrap fabric, scrap elastic and cut-up cardstock. The cardstock is to put on the bottom of the cushion, so you can't accidentally stick yourself in the arm with a pin. Very heavy felt might also work, too, but I didn't have any of that. 
For the elastic, make a casing about an inch longer than the elastic by sewing a tube, then turning it inside out. The elastic will gather it a little bit, but it will still be able to stretch and fit over your hand when you pull it on. 
If you're weird like me, you might want at least two of these suckers. One is for "regular" pins. The other, in knit fabric, is for ballpoint-head (knit fabric only) pins. I hate trying to guess which is which!



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