Tag Archive: how-to


It’s official! I finished knitting my first raglan sweater! After receiving the book, New England Knits by Cecily Glowik Macdonald and Melissa LaBarre, I fell in love with the pattern for the Derry Raglan and Cowl. This didn’t surprise me in the least as MacDonald was the designer of the pattern for the first sweater I ever made, (See Knit, Purl, Knit …). I just love her designs! They highlight simplicity with just the right touch of intricate detail.

The Derry Raglan has a plain front, but a beautiful lace pattern runs down the sleeve. Seeing as I live in a mild climate, the idea of ventilated sleeves on a sweater made this the perfect project for me. Plus, it had the added bonus of learning the raglan technique for the yoke and shoulders of a garment. I’m always ready to try something new.

Before doing anything I had to learn how to do a Right-lifted Increase and a Left-lifed increase. Luckily, I found two great videos on youtube for both stitches. It’s rare to find a knitting video that clearly explains every step and takes the time to visually go through those steps slowly and repeatedly. If you need to learn these stitches, follow the links!

Pyrrha Designs: Right Lifted Increase

Pyrrha Designs: Left Lifted Increase

Aside from lifted stitch increases, the hardest part of this sweater was the first round. After casting on, the pattern stipulated lifted increases with only the cast on stitches to pick up.  I had to start over at least four times before I found the right tension!  Once I got that first round, everything fell into place.

The finished project turned out great!

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A little magic math on the gauge lead to a perfect fit!

The yarn is Berroco Remix in Red. Made from recycled fibers and cotton, this yarn is not only soft, but also earth friendly!

When I bound off the final stitch, it was 80 degrees outside. There’s nothing worse than finishing a beautiful sweater and knowing you’ll have to wait more than six months to wear it. However, as luck would have it, a cold front swept through my area for one day this week. I got to wear my new sweater after all!

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2014

The Writer’s Waiting Game

Query letters have been sent. Competition entries have been submitted. Drafts have gone off to beta readers. In the age of instant gratification, waiting for a response in the writing world is a grueling endeavor. Weeks and months are a long time to wait when you’re dying to know whether your work is good enough to get picked up by a publisher. Or at the very least, whether somebody like it well enough to say, “good job.”

In the case of waiting for a literary agent to respond to a query letter, I go in with the assumption that nothing but silence with follow my inquiry. When a kindly worded rejection shows up in my inbox, I’m thrilled. Positive thinking is a powerful thing on this journey. So is keeping busy. The wait for any sort of a response is agonizing and it never seems to end. You’ll go nuts unless you keep yourself occupied with something other than obsessing over that elusive response.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve perfected the art of waiting with distraction. Trust me, keeping yourself busy makes the process a lot easier to take and in many ways softens the blow of rejection. Here’s a few ways to keep your muse inspired and give your patience a boost…

1) Keep writing.

Start that next novel or punch out a few short stories. Maybe even dabble in poetry or non-fiction articles.  Follow your muse and write because you are a writer, regardless of your publication credits, (or lack thereof). Sometimes a “distraction” piece can turn into something great. My second novel began as a distraction and ended up as my passion project. It got me through a number of rejections and ultimately lead me to a new path.

2) Research literary agents.

Finding the right agent takes a lot of work. It takes research, research, and more research. Every agent has different tastes, query package requirements, and personalities. For those of us playing the waiting game, all the work and time required to find the right agent plays right into our hands. It takes a lot of time to compile a list of possible agents and prepare customized query packages. Luckily, time is something we have in plentiful supply!

3) Read.

Every writer I know is also a voracious reader. Between loving a good book and wanting to figure out how published authors crafted a great story, writers are inherently addicted to reading. While waiting for any sort of response to arrive, it’s nice to escape to another world and enjoy the ride. Plus, some authors thank their agents on the acknowledgments page. This ties in nicely to #2.

4) Edit.

Most writers are never happy with a “final” draft. We’re always looking to make a sentence better or find a more perfect word. My final draft for The Muse has been altered (albeit slightly) multiple times since I started pitching it. A word here, a comma there, I’m always tinkering with it to make everything about it a little bit better. It’s time consuming and tedious work, but well worth every hour. While waiting for that one e-mail to arrive, I am happily ensconced in my fantasy world.

5) Find a hobby.

My craft closet has more stuff in it than my clothes closet.  When an afternoon of writing is done, I’ll pull out a craft project to keep my hands busy and my mind occupied. It beats sitting around and thinking about why an agent hasn’t sent an excited request to read my manuscript. Of late, knitting has been my savior as it inspires my creativity and challenges me to try new things. My muse loves it, too. While I’m knitting row after row, she whispers to me and new stories are born.

This weekend, I sent off my entry to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, which means a new round of waiting and waiting has commenced. I suspect my to-read stack of books will get shorter and the sweater I’m knitting will soon have sleeves.

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c.b.w. 2014

When I posted I Made Socks and You Can, Too! I had no idea it would garner so much attention. People from all over the world stopped by to leave comments about their projects, but also to ask questions. A lot of questions. Over the last couple of months, the comments section has turned into a full-scale conversation forum about troubleshooting everything from wide cuffs to gauge issues.

Loom knitting is very different from traditional needle knitting, so of course, it has its own set of issues. However, after working with my loom on more than 20 projects, I’ve figured out a few things that makes the process much easier. Some of the common questions that have popped up on my post are listed below along with some tips and tricks.

How many pegs should I use?

The instructions that come with the KB Sock Loom are quite good, but they might scare those who are bit squeamish around math. For my first pair of socks, I bugged my husband and his calculator brain instead of doing it myself. Then, I realized there was an easier way to “calculate” pegs: know your shoe size and check out sock loom patterns. They will tell you how many pegs to use for various sizes.

When I bought my sock loom, I bought a pattern book that turned out to be my lifeline, Sock Loom Basics (Leisure Arts #5651).  Inside, there are fantastic visuals for casting on, and turning the heel, but what makes it golden is the fact that it has patterns for various sizes of socks that include specific peg counts.

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Ahhhh! How many pegs do I need? Don’t worry – it’s easy!
Photo by: c.b.w. 2014

My ideal peg count is 52, but I’ve also realized different yarns and patterns call for different peg counts. This isn’t an exact science!  When it comes to socks you just have to get close enough. When I’m using thicker yarn like Paton’s Kroy, I know I’m going to get a bigger sock, so I can go down to 50 or 48 pegs. If I’m using a thinner yarn like Premier sock yarn, I know the stitches will be smaller, so I need to go up to 54 or 56 pegs.

Another thing to keep in mind is elasticity. More elasticity means your socks will stretch more and therefore can accommodate various sizes. When using a plain flat stitch, there will be little or no elasticity, so that means a couple pegs more might come in handy. When knitting a rib pattern, there will be more elasticity, so subtracting a couple of pegs will create a more ideal fit.

Ultimately, it all comes down to trial and error. My first pair of socks were knit on 48 pegs. They fit snugly and I liked them, but I realized I wanted a little more ease, so for my next pair I added four pegs, to arrive at 52. The trick is remembering it doesn’t have to be perfect. Most socks will stretch enough to fit, so erring on the side of a bit too small is best.

The bottom line: Don’t be afraid to experiment and try a count that’s a little bigger or smaller than you calculated.

Why is the cuff so wide?

Cuffs are tricky business on a sock loom! Everything from gauge, yarn, tension, and peg count can effect the overall size and elasticity of a cuff. Despite all the variables, I have one simple answer to this question. In my experience, the K2,P2 rib pattern creates the best cuff in that it is simple and has fantastic elasticity. It works on multiple weights of yarn and compliments just about every pattern.

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The ideal cuff “tucks in” a bit, but don’t expect it to be tight without a little help from elastic!

In my humble opinion, the K1,P1 pattern that is often called for in knitting pattern does not work on the loom. I’ve tried on multiple occasions and I always end up with a wide-mouth cuff that never shrinks down with any sort of elasticity. I rip it out every time and reknit with a k2,p2 pattern instead.

That being said, for bulkier yarn (Weight 3), I’ve found a k3,p1 rib creates a nice, elastic rib. For anything thicker, upgrade to the KB Sock Loom 2 and revert to a k2,p2 rib.

Another simple fix involves a trip to the craft store. In the knitting aisle, look for a spool of elastic yarn thread. For those who like a tighter cuff than average yarn can provide (no matter how stretchy the rib), this super thin elastic is knit right into the sock via the working yarn and blends in completely.

What yarn should I use?

Yarn labeled as sock yarn will work 99% of time. I typically stick to Weights 1 and 2, but will go as high as 3. Just remember thicker yarn (in terms of gauge or ply) will create larger stitches and thinner yarn will create smaller stitches. Some of my favorite brands include:

  • Paton’s Kroy Sock
  • Premier Yarns Serenity Sock
  • Plymouth Yarn Happy Feet
  • Misti Alpaca Hand Paint

How do I make the toe longer?

You don’t. The KB sock loom uses the short row method to create both the heel and the toe. Once both circuits of wrapping stitches have been worked, the toes is complete. Adding more rows will create a bubble on the seam of the toe that can’t be fixed. Instead, think about adding length to the foot. The toe typically adds 1.5 to 2″ to the length, so always knit the foot about 2″ shorter than the desired length. I’ve gone as far as trying on the sock while it’s still on the loom. When the last row reaches the base of my big toe, I know it’s time to start working those short rows!

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Ultimately, loom knitting and knitting in general is a lesson in patience and experimentation. A failed project is frustrating, but it always leads to a project that succeeds. Just remember, if something doesn’t work, so what! Rip it all out and start again. That’s the beauty of knitting – mistakes disappear into a ball of yarn and nothing is wasted.

Got more questions? Feel free to ask in the comments below. Next time, I’ll have some other helpful tips to help knitters get great socks while using the KB Sock Loom.

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c.b.w. 2014

Project Chapbook

In December of 2013, I found myself in the middle of two challenges. First, I was tasked with editing and organizing twenty poems into a chapbook manuscript.  The next phase of the Writer’s Digest 2013 November Poem A Day Chapbook Challenge  involved submitting a manuscript and I didn’t want to miss the deadline. Second, Christmas was a week away and I couldn’t decide what to give a good friend of mine. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend, yet I wanted to give him something special.

It turns out the first challenge helped solve the second challenge. With a completed (and submitted) manuscript, I realized I could turn my work of art into a one-of-kind gift. Thanks to a new bookbinding technique I learned last summer, it was a snap to turn my chapbook manuscript into a handmade book.

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Front Cover of “Finding Gravity”

I made the cover using standard card stock in navy blue. The cover design was made using only one layer of a contrasting color and two black and white embellishment pieces. The title, along with the poetry pages was printed from my computer.

Inside the front cover, I included a decorative page that continues the black and white pattern theme.

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A decorative page gives this book a little personality.

The poetry pages were a unique challenge in that I had to make sure each poem was placed in the same place on every page, no matter the length or width. Through a little trial and error, I figured out the margins. Then, I measured each page to be a hair smaller than the cover. This was the tricky part because it’s incredibly important for the pages of a book to fit inside the cover and stack evenly. A lot of patience and a paper slicer made it possible to cut out each poem page with spot on precision.

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A beautiful page of poetry!

To bind the book together, I used a Japanese side stitch bookbinding technique. A simple tutorial for hole-punching and stitch order can be found here. Once I had the holes punched, I stitched my book together using thick beading thread. I coated the thread in beeswax to give it more strength and to make it stick in place as I sewed the book together.

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Japanese side stitch binding.

Before I knew it, I had a handmade poetry chapbook! My friend got a unique gift and I got to live the dream of seeing my poetry in the form of an actual book. As nice as it would be to see my chapbook published, I wouldn’t mind making another handmade version of Finding Gravity for myself.

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c.b.w. 2014

As a knitter, one of my favorite gifts to get is a skein of yarn. I love gift yarn for a number of reasons:

1. Colors, textures, and weights I would never consider end up in my yarn basket. This constantly challenges my creativity and gets me to try patterns and techniques I might otherwise ignore.

2. When I knit with gift yarn, I think of the person who gave it to me as I knit each stitch. Yarn is already warm and fuzzy, but it’s even warmer when infused with the love of friends and family.

3. I never run out of yarn. Ever.

Last Christmas my aunt gave me some beautiful sock yarn. It was fancier than anything I’d used to make socks up to that point. Usually, I buy the cheapest sock yarn I can find or whatever is on sale! So, it was really exciting to get Plymouth Yarn Happy Feet merino wool sock yarn.

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Plymouth Yarn Happy Feet Color 0010

The yarn was so special to me, it sat in my yarn basket for a year while I struggled to decide on a sock pattern. I love who gave it to me and I loved the color. The pattern had to be perfect!

I must have paged through dozens of magazines and books before I finally settled on Isela Phelps’ Seeded Rib Socks. Merino wool is very soft and wishy-washy, which meant I needed a pattern that would make this yarn a little more meaty and sturdy. The seeded rib is a nice, tight stitch that doesn’t let the merino “grow” too much during regular wear. Plus, it puts a little spark into the basic rib pattern.

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Seeded Rib Socks

I made these socks on my trusty KB Authentic Sock Loom, even though the pattern was created for a different loom. The pattern only needed a couple minor adjustments in order to work on the KB Sock Loom. First, knit the cuff with a 2×2 rib, instead of a 1×1. I’ve found the 2×2 offers better cuff elasticity. Second, adjust the number of pegs to match your foot size, while also ensuring the number breaks down evenly for a 4-stitch repeat.* For my socks, I used 52 pegs, which works well for a Women’s size 7½.

As I worked those knit and purl stitches, I thought of my aunt and hoped we’d be knitting together very soon. We live far apart, but gift yarn makes the gap feel a little bit smaller.

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*Special Note: There is a typo in the pattern printed in Phelps’ book Loom Knitting Socks. Be sure to check for errata.

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What’s your favorite thing this week?

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c.b.w. 2014

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