Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Nine Days of Knitting - Wrap Up

So if you followed along, and finished your scarf yesterday, here is what your scarf should look like:
It is being modeled by our lovely telescope.  Don't you love the big color blocks - so fun!

If you missed the tutorial, here are the links:
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9

If you are an experienced knitter, and would just like the pattern, here it is:
Red Heart Super Saver Yarn, 1 skein each Cherry Red and Soft Navy
Size 10 needles
yarn needle or small crochet hook

Start with color of choice (I used red)
Cast on 4 stitches.  Knit across
Row 1: K2, yo, k2
Row 2:  K2, yo, k across.
Repeat row 2 until you've reached 33 stitches.
K2, yo, k2tog, k across.
Repeat this pattern until you've reached 30 ", then change to other color.
Continue in pattern for another 30"
Work decreases as follows:
K1, k2tog, yo, k2tog, k across.
Repeat until you have 4 stitches remaining.
Knit all 4 stitches, then bind off.  Weave in ends with yarn needle or small crochet hook.

If you use larger needles, you could hold 2 strands of the same or different colors.  Even 2 different types of yarns - for example, a regular worsted weight and a textured yarn like Homespun.  Or even just use a really bulky yarn.  Mix up how often you want stripes.

Play with it and have some fun!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Time and Money Saving Tips for Treats for the Holidays

On Thursday, we'll start Twenty-Five Treats for the Holidays.  These will be goodies to bake and make for others and ourselves, and I thought I'd share some time and money saving tips.

First, a few thoughts - lessons learned the hard way!  Don't try to be Martha.  She doesn't do it all herself - she has an army of assistants.  So, basically, don't go overboard.  Everything that will be on our list will be one-day-or-less projects and recipes, many of which you can do with your kids.  Spend your time making memories with your family and having fun.  Also, don't break the bank.  You know the old saying "it's the thought that counts"?  It's true.  If your budget is small (and whose isn't these days!), don't overextend yourself.  Focus on one or two things instead of a sleighful.

So here are some tips and tricks I've learned to help save time and money.

  1. Buy pre-made sugar cookie dough, especially if you can find it on sale, and use a coupon if possible.
  2. Also, don't be afraid to use "break and bakes".  Sale - coupon!
  3. Buy cake mix, but only basic varieties (chocolate, white, yellow), and again on sale and coupons if possible.
  4. DON'T buy lots of fancy flavorings - stick with vanilla and peppermint.  I don't even buy almond extract - for one because I don't like it, but also because vanilla works just as well.  Again, think sale!
  5. AFTER Christmas, stock up on Hershey Kisses and other similar treats at a fraction of the cost, then sort them by color and store in your freezer.  This is a great game to play with your kids.  You can use silver Kisses all year long, red for St. Valentine's Day and the patriotic holidays, green for St. Patrick's Day, and whatever hasn't been used can be set out next Christmas! 
So #4 is from a teacher I had at a local community college, but the rest I've learned over the years, mostly the hard way.  One year, I was determined to make all kinds of cookies so that several people who were business associates of my husband's would all get these amazing treats.  I bought dozens of eggs, tons of flour and sugar - you know, the works!  Hopefully, he won't read this, but it cost us over $400.  I never would have spent that kind of money, and we could have done other, just as meaningful gifts for a fraction of that price!

Then came the gluten issues...

I don't keep "regular" white flour in my house any more.  To replace the amount of flour I would need, just to do my regular amount of baking would be an added expense, and Heaven help us if I tried to use gluten-free flour to do my baking - it runs about 3 times the price per pound!  I can buy pre-made dough and cake mixes for pennies on the dollar of what it would probably cost me if I made everything completely from scratch.

Now I listen to Sandra Lee of Semi-Homemade - take whatever help you can from the store, and add those little finishing touches that make something "homemade".  No one will notice the difference in taste, and you won't go broke or crazy trying to squeeze in all that extra time for baking.  You'll see what I mean over the next few weeks.

Can't wait to get started!!!

The Nine Days of Knitting - Tutorial and Knitalong - Day 9 - Finishing Up

Well, today is Day 9 - the big day!  We're all done!

So, after yesterday, your scarf should look like this:
Pretty nifty!  So now we need to bind off (sometimes it's called casting off - like casting on - just in case you see it in a pattern that way, don't freak out).

Start by knitting the first stitch.
Next, knit the second stitch.  Nothing too hard, right?
Ok, so this is the tricky part.  Using your left needle, slide the first stitch up and over the second stitch.  Here's a photo when I was near the end that shows it best.
The left needle has already pulled the stitch up and over, so now you can slide it off the right needle.  Like this:
Here's another view:
Now slip
And slide
Knit the next stitch, then slip and slide, all the way across until you are down to one stitch.  Use your needle to make that stitch a big loop, then remove your needle.  Pull a yarn loop through your big stitch, and cut the center of the loop you just pulled through.  Now pull tight.  You are done!  If you'd like, make another knot to secure your work.  I do this just because I'm pretty sure these will get washed in a wash machine.  You never know if someone else will think to use the gentle cycle or not.

So now you have this amazing scarf that's all done, but it has all these strings hanging all over it.  What do you do?  Use a yarn needle or smaller crochet hook, pull the ends through the loops of the stitches on the back side.  That's the side where you can really see the color change.  On the front, it should go straight from red to navy.  On the back, there will be some double-colored loops.  That's the side you want your ends to be woven into.  Weave the ends into the loops on the edges (where we did all those knit 2's).  Trim if necessary.

When I make anything that's a variation on this pattern (technically, it's a dishcloth), I also knot the bottom end where I started.  I pull a loop through what I call the base loop.

I also make a knot (or 2) for the same reason I make sure to knot the top, and I make sure to weave in the ends.

So now that you're done, here's what you need to do next.  Go to the official Scarves for Special Olympics website for directions on packaging and mailing.  Pay special attention to the deadlines for each individual state!


Monday, November 28, 2011

Princess Makes It Monday

Ok, so today's dish was actually made for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, but nonetheless, Princess chose the recipe, and she made it.  She also learned a valuable life lesson.

We started with Stephanie O'Dea's More Make It Fast, Cook It Slow recipe for Stuffing with Apple and Sausage on page 236.  It reminded us of a recipe that we all love, Rachael Ray's Apple and Onion Stuffin Muffins, except that Stephanie added pork sausage

Here's a photo of Princess measuring out the bread cubes.
And here's a photo of Princess adding the celery she chopped.
See the apple pieces in the big bowl?  She did all the chopping herself, even the onion.  She even figured out that she could use Hubby's safety goggles from the garage to eliminate the onion fumes from hurting her eyes.  She stirred everything together in Big Red, and we turned it to high.

After 3 hours, the bottom was "overbrowning" and the top was soggy.  This is not stuffing, at least the way I like it.  Stephanie's recipe says to cook it til the top and sides have browned.  So, we turned Big Red down to low and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  After about 8 hours, the bottom 2 inches were well over done, and the top was still soggy.  Like mushy soggy.

So, the valuable kitchen lesson here is that sometimes things in the kitchen don't work out.  This is an especially valuable lesson for her - usually when I try a new recipe, she's the first one to criticize.  And usually in a less-than-pleasant way.  Now the shoe is on the other foot.

At least she got practice chopping...

The Nine Days of Knitting - Tutorial and Knitalong - Day 8

Wow - can you believe we're almost done?!  Hopefully, you've made it up to 30" past the color change.  If not, that's ok, you can always come back here when you're ready.

Today we do learn something new - decreasing - but you already know what to do.  Doesn't that make you feel smart and confident - just what you need on a Monday!  Well, besides a stiff cup of coffee.

You are now going to make the point at the opposite end of the scarf.  When we made the first point, we started small and got big.  Now, we are starting big and going smaller.  Here's how to do it:

K1, k2tog, yo, k2tog, k across

This should look pretty familiar.  I'll break it down step by step, so you can see what's going on.  K1 is knit 1.  That's just making the first stitch.  Seems easy enough, right?  K2tog is a decrease - it's our "take one" that we learned the other day that balanced out the yarn over "make one".  So far so good.  Now, we are taking another one away - that's the second k2tog.  This means we are taking 2 and only making one, so we lose a stitch each row.

Continue the pattern above until you have only 4 stitches left on your needle.  Once you get down to about 15-20 stitches, it starts to go pretty quickly.  Then, take a well deserved break - tomorrow we bind off and finish up!  Hooray!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Nine Days of Knitting - Tutorial and Knitalong - Day 7

Ok, broken record time - ten more inches for Day 7.  I promise we'll start something new tomorrow.  I promise!  I pinky swear!

Hopefully, this piece will inspire you to make more knitted scarves - especially for charity.  Many charities collect scarves this time of year, and you can see how easy it is to squeeze in a project during what is, no doubt, the craziest, most hectic time of the year. One of my many mantras is that I always have time to squeeze in a charity project.  Cookies can be baking for bake sales while I clean.  I can knit/crochet/sew while the dishes are running in the dishwasher or the kids are working on independent work for school.  Yes, that usually puts me behind on other projects (and housework), but the folks who are on the receiving end of the gifts know that if their deadline was missed, it was for a good reason and a good cause.  They also know that the gift they get is a one-of-a-kind, handmade heirloom.

When I was growing up, we didn't have a lot.  There was hardly ever extra money for anything.  Somehow, though, my mom always found a way to help those who were less fortunate than we were.  Even if it was the last can of cream of celery soup in the cupboard for a food drive.  I like to continue that tradition, and I hope my kids continue it as well.

That's why I'm hoping that after the holidays, you'll continue to join me in our Monthly Craftivism Challenges.  With things the way they are, there are plenty of organizations in need, and many who would love to receive something handmade.

Keep up the good work, and hang in there, tomorrow we learn something new!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

SPH Turkey Carcass Stock/Soup

We all have turkey leftovers, and this is a great way to use up that turkey carcass.

This recipe is based on a chicken stock recipe from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

1 Turkey carcass, picked clean plus wings and leftover leg bones
1 onion, peeled and chopped into large chunks
1 large spoonful of chopped garlic (should be about 2 tablespoons if you use a measuring spoon)
1 small handful of dried parsely
Pepper to taste
3-4 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
5-6 baby carrots, chopped
2 quarts Pacific (brand) Free Range Organic Chicken stock
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (use the real stuff from the health food store - Bragg's brand)

Break carcass apart to fit into your crockpot if necessary.  Add remaining ingredients, and cook on high for several hours.  Strain through large colander into a very large bowl.  Chill overnight in refrigerator, and skim fat from top.  Use broth for any recipe.

For soup, add diced cooked leftover turkey, fresh chopped celery and carrots, and rice or noodles, if desired.  Add salt and pepper to taste.


Simple Things to Do Now to Be More Organized in the New Year

I know that Thanksgiving is barely over and Christmas is rushing toward us at a dizzying speed, but think for a moment how many times you've said to yourself "Next year I am going to be more organized" as a New Year's Resolution.

Now, I am a very lazy person.  You may not agree with me, but I am.  And I live by the rule that while necessity is the mother of invention, laziness is the mother of efficiency.  I don't want to work - not one lick!  So, to have more time to enjoy myself being with my kids or doing crafts or really anything other than work, I try to be as organized and efficient as possible.

If this your resolution for 2012, and even if it's not, here are some ways to help you start getting more organized and keep you that way.

  1. Buy yourself a calendar.  Whether it's a large paper or dry erase wall calendar, an app for your smart phone, or a small pocket planner you carry with you, get one and start using it.  You already know when birthdays and anniversaries are - write them in.  Two weeks before each, pencil in "get gift for ______________".  If you're not sure what to get the person or couple, make that the day you email or call for suggestions, then follow through the same day (at least within 24 hours).
  2. Make your bed.  It sounds really strange, but I get more done on the days I take the 5 minutes to make the bed.  It starts the day with that "something accomplished" feeling.
  3. Set out your clothes at bedtime.  Include everything from socks to earrings and in between.
  4. To make #3 easier, sort your clothes in your closet by item, color and length.  I start with shirts, then skirts, then pants, then dresses.  You can squeeze in vests and jackets/blazers between shirts and skirts if needed.  I also only generally buy pants and skirts that are black and navy blue. This makes it much easier to buy shirts and accessories because everything goes with black or navy.  Grey and brown are good neutrals, too.  You can always add color with a blouse and accessories.  Oh, and by the way, if it doesn't fit or it's been out of style for a really long time (I'm so sorry to tell you, but Hammer Pants are NOT coming back!), donate it to charity (and get a receipt!).  That's right - out it goes!  Be strong!
  5. And sort your shoes, too.  Go from flats to heels to boots.
  6. Take your vitamins.  Set the bottle next to your clothes for the morning so you don't forget.  It's a lot easier to tackle the world when you feel better, and vitamins will help you stay healthier and more focused (PS - I'm not a doctor, I don't intend to replace your doctor, I am not giving medical advice, this is just a suggestion from a friend).
  7. Make a basic menu.  I'm sure by now you know what nights will have holiday parties for December, when the kids' activities will be, etc.    Use a basic calendar that you can print from word processing software, and write down what's for dinner.  Use this menu for a few bigger shopping trips instead of making a bunch of last minute dashes. 
  8. Use your crockpot.  I love the fact that I can do my chopping and peeling in the morning when I have more energy.  If you need the morning to get ready for work, do your chopping after dinner and get the  crockpot ready to go for the morning, or set aside some time on a weekend to do "chop and store" for items like onions, celery, and carrots.
  9. Start some good financial habits - save your receipts for EVERYTHING, pack your lunch, make your own coffee drinks, put leftover loose change in a jar.  These will not only help you develop a better budget, they will help you cut expenses and start saving money.
  10. Be resolved and determined to do it.  Most coaches will tell you any sport is more than 90% mental, rather than physical.  Keep your head in the game, your eye on the prize, and don't give up if you stumble.
I hope these are as helpful for you as they were for me!

The Nine Days of Knitting - Tutorial and Knitalong - Day 6

So we are 6 days into our Nine Days of Knitting.  Hopefully, you were able to find some knitting time the last few days.

Just wanted to share with you some upcoming posts:  Twenty-Five Days of Christmas Treats; Home Management 101 (for the New Year); monthly Craftivism Challenges; Giveaways; Knock-off Patterns, and much, much more!

So, today, we continue knitting in blue.  Ten more inches, same pattern:  k2, yo, k2tog, k across.  By now, you should be feeling pretty confident.  This is why scarves make the BEST project to learn knitting and crocheting techniques.  The rows generally aren't that long, so you get plenty of practice turning your work, and by the time you make a piece that long, you really have the hang of making the stitches (or pattern).

Congratulate yourself - you really ARE a knitter now!  YAY YOU!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Nine Days of Knitting - Tuturial and Knitalong - Day 5

Well, hopefully, you're not still in a turkey coma or exhausted from all the cooking and shopping!  Let's continue working on our scarves, shall we?

Today, we are changing colors.  Your scarf should be 30" long from the corner and look like this:
You'll notice I cut the yarn that was attached to the skein.  You should do this, too.  Give yourself about a 6" tail.  It's ok - we'll be sure all those hard-earned stitches won't come out!

So to change over to the blue, insert your needle into the first stitch of the row, just like usual.
Then, loop the blue over your needle, just like you would have looped the red if we were continuing in red.
Be sure to leave yourself about a 6" tail.
Continue knitting in our pattern (k2, yo, k2tog, k across), using the blue yarn from the skein.
Here is what it looks like when you've gone all the way across the row.
Follow the pattern back across to the last 2 stitches.  Knit the first of the two,  flip the 2 tails in between the last 2 stitches, then knit the last stitch.  Pull the tails to snug up the stitches.
Work the first stitch, flip the tails, then knit one, yo, k2tog, k across.  Work next row in our regular pattern.  You'll want to continue the tail flipping just a few times, leaving the tails on the side where you can clearly see the color change.  This will now be the back of your scarf.  Here's what it looks like with a few rows done after the change.  See how I've left the tails on the back?

Ok, so here's the best part - you probably can guess what's coming next.  Continue from this point, working in pattern (k2, yo, k2tog, k across) until you've added 10 inches from the color change.

Happy Black Friday, All!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!  We are especially grateful to those in our Armed Forces and their families, our police and fire departments, and others who are working today to keep us all safe.

Speaking of those working today, if you should venture out shopping today, pass on some holiday cheer to the staff.  Many of them are working today not by choice.  A little kindness and sympathy will go a long way.

And speaking of shopping - here's my best tip ever for what to buy today and tomorrow:  Fall related items.  Yep, they'll be on clearance so take advantage of the prices.  Also, if you have a percent-off-your-entire-purchase coupon (Michael's, JoAnne's), use it!  A few years ago, I was able to purchase an entire year's worth of papercrafting supplies for less than half of what I would've paid full retail.  I've also gotten great deals on pumpkiny things and leafy things.  These items will still look amazing and fall and Halloween and Thanksgiving next year.

Again, Happy Thanksgiving.  I am so grateful to have you all along on these wonderful ventures!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Nine Days of Knitting - Tutorial and Knitalong - Day 4

Well, here it is - Day 4 of our knitalong.  It's also the day before Thanksgiving, so I won't keep you.  Thanks so much for sticking with this, and hopefully you'll get some good knitting time in to relax those holiday nerves.

Just 10 more inches of our pattern:  K2, yo, k2tog, k across.

And, PS - tomorrow we are taking a holiday for Thanksgiving.  So, for now, we are pushing "pause" on the knitalong, and we'll pick it back up on Friday.

Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Nine Days of Knitting - Tutorial and Knitalong - Day 3

So your scarf is starting to really look like a serious knitting project, huh?!  Aren't you proud of yourself?!  I'm proud of you!  So let's continue on Day 3 of The Nine Days of Knitting...

Ok, the knitting portion of our presentation today isn't that exciting, so I thought I'd tell you how I learned to knit.  Hopefully, it will encourage our knewbies to keep trying no matter what!

I learned to crochet when I was 10, in Girl Scouts.  Petey Leopold's mom taught me.  It was love at first chain.  I made my mom this horrendous, 1970's gold, funky shaped potholder.  Like I said - horrendous, and not just the awful color either.  I forgot to chain one when I turned about halfway up on one side, so I guess I discovered ergonomics before it was really a thing.  But, it gave me such a boost - I could finally do something that my mom could do, and she was amazing at so many things.

But not teaching me how to knit...

My mom was ambidextrous.  She could do anything with both hands.  When she knit, she used her right hand, and when she purled, she used her left.  Like I said the other day, I'm terminally right handed.  I can't knit that way.

I tried and tried on my own - no luck.

My super-over-achiever nuclear physicist sister (yes, she really is a nuclear physicist) pulled out one of my mom's books one day and taught herself.  Yeah, that did a lot for my self-confidence.

I tried and tried again - and still no luck.

Finally, our local Michael's store offered a class.  For my 39th birthday, I signed myself and Princess up.  I finally got it because this type of knitting is all right-hand-based.  I may not be as fast with my needles as I am with a hook, but I can now call myself a knitter.

And Petey's mom made us promise that we would someday share our skills with others, so they could learn too.

Someday, I'll teach you about pretzels and bunnies, but I digress...

Our job for today is to continue in pattern for 10 more inches.  Your scarf should be 20" from the corner of the point.

K2, yo, k2tog, k across

Keep those sticks clickin'!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Princess Makes It Monday - Garlicky Potato Chard Soup

Princess is making Garlicky Potato Chard soup this Monday.  If you've never tried chard before, it tastes a lot like fresh spinach, but it doesn't get as soggy or wilty when you cook it, and it's our absolute favorite green!  The recipe is easy, and only requires eyeball measuring.
homegrown red, white and blue potatoes

Here's the recipe:
1-2 tablespoons of oil
1/2 stick butter
about 1 teaspoon dried thyme
a heaping spoonful of minced garlic (we use the stuff in the jar)
about 3-5 pounds of potatoes, peeled and cubed - feel free to use prepackaged
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
Water or more stock if desired
1 small bunch chard, any color (green, red or rainbow - all tastes the same), stems removed and sliced into thin strips

So we also practiced time management in the kitchen last night - an important lesson for anyone, not just homeschool.

Start by drizzling olive oil in a large soup pan.  Add the butter, and melt it into the oil over medium heat.

When butter has melted, add dried thyme and garlic.  And, yes, we like LOTS of garlic!

Cover, turn off heat and let rest.  This infuses your oil with more flavor.

So, this is where the time management come in - doing 2 things at once.  While your oil is being infused, peel and chop your potatoes into cubes.  We used our potatoes from our garden.  There were some really weird shaped ones, so we did the superfast-peel-and-cube-at-the-same-time method.  Place a potato on your cutting board and cut one end off to make a flat surface.
Put the flat side down (gives you some stability), then continue cutting off the peel of the potato by slicing off straight edges.  You do lose a bit of potato this way, but I've tried peeling some of these with a potato peeler.  I'd rather lose some potato than lose a finger!  Certainly not wishing THAT on my beginner chef!

Anyway, after you have gotten the peel off, you can cut the rectangular block into smaller cubes.  I highly recommend this because they will cook faster.  Put the cubes into the heated oil and stir to coat.  Add stock, and bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Allow to bubble for about 20-30 minutes, or til potatoes are tender and can be mashed.

Mash with a potato masher or immersion blender, your choice.  We like ours really chunky, so we use the potato masher.  Give everything a good stir.  If it seems too thick, or too dry, add water or more stock.

Add chard to pot, cover, and remove from heat.  Allow to stand for at least 10 minutes to wilt chard.  You want it wilted, but not soggy.  If you need to give it a little more heat to move it along because you have a hungry hoard on your hands, use low heat, and only for a few minutes.

Serve hot with a crusty bread if desired.  Also can be topped with cheese and/or sour cream and/or crisped bacon.  We also think this would be good with some diced ham.

A Handful of Dishcloths

Here is the stack of dishcloths I've finished today for the Puppy Rescue Mission Auction.  Three are knitted, 3 are crocheted.  The top one is a cute (but very efficient) little scrubby.  I love having bright colors on my dishcloths - it just seems to make doing dishes just a little bit more bearable and fun!

There are lots of us out there doing amazing fun things - you can check them out at Made by You Monday on Skip to My Lou!

The Nine Days of Knitting - Tutorial and Knitalong - Day 2

Welcome back, KNITTERS!  Today is Day 2 of our Nine Days of Knitting.  Are you ready to put your new knowledge to work for you in a whole new way?  Cool - let's go!

Our next new stitch is knit 2 together (k2tog).  It goes like this - instead of  sliding the working needle through just one stitch, you will slide it through 2 (see the 2 loops in the photo?).  I know, I know. Radical stuff.  But, you already know how to knit, so you'll catch onto this pretty easily.

So, our pattern for the next roughly 60" is as follows:

K2, yo, k2tog, k across

Relax - it's ok.  Think back to yesterday's post, where we learned the abbreviations for knitting stitches.  K is knit, so knit 2 stitches.  Yo is yarn over, so yarn over.  K2tog is our new one for the day, so knit 2 together.  After that, you'll knit across the rest of the row.

Ok, so now I have to make you do some math.  I know, I'm sorry.  It's simple math, though.  Yesterday, we learned that the yarn over made an extra stitch.  Well, we've reached the number of stitches we want, so we have to offset that increase somehow.  The yo is a "make one" and the k2tog is a "take one".  Or plus one, minus one.  Whichever works for you.  It's Monday after all!

This is what your scarf will look like after a few inches:

See how we've made a point for the end of our scarf, and now we are making straight sides?  Pretty amazing, huh?!  That's the purpose of the yo - k2tog combo.  Kinda fun to see it in action.

So here's our goal for today.  Keep working in pattern (K2, yo, k2tog, k across), until you've added 10 more inches.  You can do it!  This is what your scarf will look like at 10":

Remember it's 10" from the corner where we started working in today's pattern.  Also, be sure to keep count of your stitches - make sure you've got 33, and to paraphrase one of my favorite movies - My Cousin Vinnie - AND ONLY 33 STITCHES.  It's really easy to work past that k2tog.  If that should happen to you, and you find yourself at 34 or even 35 stitches, just add an extra k2tog the next row, preferable somewhere in the middle of the row.  Remember, it's a decrease, so that should bring your stitch total back down to where it should be.

Happy stitching and see you tomorrow for day 3!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The 9 Days of Knitting Tutorial and Knit-along

Welcome to The 9 Days of Knitting tutorial and knitalong!  If you are a seasoned knitter, feel free to jump right in to the pattern.  If you are a Knitting Knewby, grab your gear, and let’s get started.

We are making scarves for the 2012 Special Olympics USA Scarf Project.  Knitters and crocheters sit and stitch to make scarves for the athletes, coaches, families, volunteers and supporters of each participating Special Olympics Program.  If you are a veteran knitter (or crocheter, too), and would like some free patterns, check out their link.

 What you need:

1 Skein Red Heart Super Saver Yarn, Cherry Red

1 Skein Red Heart Super Saver Yarn, Soft Navy

1 pair size 10 (6mm) knitting needles

1 yarn needle (not shown), for weaving in ends when finished

Since Red Heart Yarn is the sponsor of the scarf project for Special Olympics, please use their yarn in their colors. I love RHY because their acrylics are the least likely to have the fiber split while I'm working with them, and they are made right here in the USA .  Also, by using RHY in the recommended colors, all the scarves for the athletes will “match” – at least in color.

I buy quite a bit of RHY at WalMart - price is right, and usually I only need a skein or 2 of a given color. If I can't find it there (and we have 3 that are pretty easy to get to from our house so you know I really REALLY looked high and low), I go to our local Michael's. And THEN if I can't find it or I absolutely need to be sure I have a large quantity that's all the same, I use Herrschner's .

The pattern we will use is very simple for beginners, and is based on a dishcloth pattern - just casting on, knit stitch (k), yarn over (yo), knit 2 together (k2tog), and casting off. By doing just this same stitch all the way up the scarf, you will really get the hang of it. We will also learn how to change colors. Oh, and you'll learn to read a pattern, too!  When we are all done, you will be a confident beginning knitter, and you’ll have contributed something to a Special Olympian.


I am not. I am terminally right-handed. The method I will be demonstrating in this and any future knitting tutorials is a "right-hand-friendly" method, which is how I was able to learn it.  Unfortunately, I do not know how to teach you to knit and crochet left-handed. If my mom were alive, she would know, and I'd gladly take photos of her doing what she did so you could see. Sadly, she went to Heaven and took her knowledge with her. There are lots and LOTS of videos on YouTube that may be helpful for you.

Now that you've got your yarn, let's get started on the pattern.

SPH Special Olympics Scarf Pattern

measures approx 6" x 60"

So, for those of you who've never picked up a pair of needles before, let me start by sharing with you what you've already learned about reading a pattern. You know how big your project should be so if it's really big or really small, you know something's not right. That's called gauge, and usually it only matters for fitted garments (think sweaters). Because the Scarf Project folks have a specific size in mind for their scarves, it's important to try to come close to their specifications. If your scarf is 5 1/2 inches versus the 6, it's ok. You are still within their specs. If you are OCD like me, you may want to start again with larger needles, or not make your stitches too tight. If your scarf is really big, then switch to smaller needles.  You've also already learned how to say Cherry Red in French and Spanish - you are so clever! 

Start by casting on 4 stitches.  To cast on, make a slip knot.  In case you don’t know how to do that, make a long tail of yarn from one of your skeins (I started with the red, but you can start with blue if you’d prefer).  The tail should be about a foot long.  Make a loop, with the “tail” (the end AWAY from the skein) underneath the yarn that is attached to the skein.

Reach through the loop, and pull up another loop using yarn that is attached to the skein.

Now pull the “tail” (it's in my hand in the photo above) to tighten things up.  And there you have a slip knot. 

If you pull on the yarn from the skein, it will make the loop smaller.  Insert your needle into the loop, and tighten the loop up to the needle, not so tight that you couldn’t slide the other needle tip in easily.

Now, let's cast on some more stitches - this would be a really skinny scarf!

Hold your needle in your right hand, and the yarn in your left, like a "Y", with the "tail" end over your thumb and the "skein" end over your index finger.  Hold the remaining lengths of both with your remaining three fingers.

Take your needle, and aim it toward your thumb.

 Slide the needle under the yarn.

Now point your needle toward your index finger.

Slide under the yarn on your index finger.
This might sound a little weird, but stay with me here.  Flip the loop on your thumb carefully over the tip of the needle.

Pull your thumb back, and pull the tail tight.

Repeat 3 more times.  You now have cast on 4 stitches.  There are other methods for casting on as well, if you'd like to check them out on YouTube.

From now on (like until FOREVER), the stitches you will be working from will be on the needle in your LEFT hand, and you will be picking them up with the needle in your RIGHT hand.  This is your working needle – it does all the work.  Hold the yarn from the skein in your RIGHT hand as well (I usually just hook it over my index finger).  This keeps your tension – the tightness of the yarn that makes your stitches all even.

Row 1: Knit across. This is your base row.  To knit, insert your working needle from left to right in the front of the stitch.

Loop the yarn you are holding in your right hand around the tip of the needle in your right hand. This is called throwing your yarn.  I know, it’s not like a baseball or something, but it is definitely different than picking your yarn – and that’s another story for a different day.

Using the point of the needle, guide the yarn through the loop and up and onto your working needle.

(through the loop)

Hooray!  You did it!  Now do it again 3 more times.  All your stitches should now be on the needle in your right hand.  Your project should look like this:

Now we are ready to move on.

Row 2: Knit (K) 2, yarn over (yo), knit across. You'll notice I added the common abbreviations for knit and yarn over. Here's how to do a yarn over.  Just loop the yarn around your working yarn between stitches 2 and 3.

You'll also noticed you increased one stitch, so now you have 5 stitches.

Row 3: Repeat row 2. Seems simple enough, right?  And now you are up to 6!

Repeat row 2 again each row until you have 33 stitches on your needle.

This is what it looks like when you have 15 stitches. 

You'll notice that the yarn-over is creating a holey, lacey effect.  Pretty cool, huh?  Keep going, all the way to 33 stitches.  Starting to feel like you're getting the hang of it? Good! By now, you will be an expert at this! Yeah You! This is what your scarf should look like:

If you feel frustrated and confused, don’t give up.  Look at the pictures, be patient with yourself.  Go slow – Rome wasn’t built in a day ya know.  If you need to, watch some videos on YouTube.  Whatever it takes - make that your new motto!  When I first learned how to knit, Princess, my daughter who was 9 years old at the time and not to be confused with Princess the dishwasher that was kicked to the curb this past week, had to walk me through this a few times.  Unstitch and practice if you must.  Hang in there, you'll get it.  You are smart, talented, and beautiful - I can just tell these things because I am a mom. 

This is where we’ll stop for today.  Rest up for now.  Tomorrow we will add another tool to your knitting toolbelt, and your scarf will start to really look like something.  Your friends and family will be amazed.  They will “oooh”, they will “aaaaah”.  Ok, maybe not, but the point is you, my friend, are now a knitter!  Congratulate yourself!

Have a great rest of the weekend!