Eight Little Words

Eight little words that can strike fear into the heart of a knitter: Take time to save time, check your gauge.

This can also be worded as:

  • To save time and to ensure accurate sizing, check gauge.
  • Gauge calculated after blocking.
  • Before you measure, please take time to wash and block your swatch in the same manner that you will wash and block your sweater.
  • Use needle size to obtain gauge.

Some patterns just have the gauge listed: 20 stitches and 27 rows = 4″ in stockinette. Sometimes the words washed and blocked will be added. Sometimes the designer will specifically say the swatch should be unblocked. I assume designers want us to wash and block our swatch, unless they tell us not to.  Yeah, I know what happens when you assume.

We’ve all done it, been so excited to start a new project that we just cast on. Maybe we start with the back, or a sleeve, and tell ourselves that this is our gauge swatch. But do we follow the designer’s instructions, and wash and block that sleeve after knitting 5 or 6 inches to check gauge? My guess is no. When we block that finished back or sleeve and find that doesn’t match the measurements listed in the schematic, we either lie to ourselves and keep going or rip it out and start again with a different needle size. I don’t know about you, but my knitting time is precious. Knitting a sweater, or part of a sweater, multiple times, is a waste of time. If only I had taken the time to swatch.

Patty Lyons has written extensively about gauge. This Patty’s Purls of Wisdom post is one of my favorites. She explains why swatches lie and what to do about it.

I’m currently swatching for Olive Knits Foxtrot Cardigan. Marie Greene is at it again with her third annual 4 Day Sweater KAL.

My yarn is a lovely blue non-superwash worsted that I dyed a number of years ago. I ‘may’ have had to order a new cable as all of the others are in use. Yes, I have a large collection of WIPs, but that’s a post for another day.


Gauge for this sweater is 20 stitches and 27 rows = 4″ (10 cm) in stockinette (blocked) on US size 7 (4.5mm) needles. I knit an extra big swatch (60 stitches) as well as a smaller, bordered swatch. The second one was just to prove to myself how much small swatches with a garter stitch border can lie. Another reason to make an oversized swatch is that you can measure the full 4″, in multiple places, and there’s no math involved in trying to calculate how many stitches 4″would have if my 20 stitches only measure 3.75″. Yes, I’ll knit a little bit more to avoid math.


Pre blocking, I had a gauge of 22.5 stitches and 29 rows. Post blocking it changed to 19.5 stitches and 32 rows.  Based on the ease added into the pattern, I could live with the stitch gauge but not the rows. Time to try again. Since my knitting is done with interchangeable circular needles, I’ll change the needle tip for purling to a US size 8 (5mm) and report back with the results. Until then,

Happy Knitting

P.S. the small swatch lied, after blocking and doing the math, it was 21.33 stitches and 30.85 rows in 4″


Hello Again, It’s Me

Lots of things have happened since my last post.

Went to the Grand Canyon in September 2014 and hiked Bright Angel trail on my birthday. Best. Birthday. Ever.


Brought home little Sarah puppy in October 2014.


Celebrated our 10th anniversary in 2015 with a trip to Green Lake.


Hubby was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2015. Spent my birthday in an oncologists office. Worst. Birthday. Ever.

Hubby fought hard but lost his battle in June 2016.

Tried to find a new normal. I dug dandelions that summer.

Visited Pikes Peak, Estes Park CO, and RMNP in June 2017. Took hubby with.


Drove to Maine in September 2017 to attend the Make. Wear. Love. knitting retreat, which was over my birthday weekend. Also spent a day at Acadia National Park. Took hubby with. Birthday was better this year.



Learned how to weave in October 2017. I had been fighting that rabbit hole for many years.



Nephew graduated from UW Madison in 2018.

Company I worked for was sold in June 2018. Unemployed since December 2018.

Learned how to solder in June 2018.


Put in a garden and actually grew stuff. Lots and lots of tomatoes. Made and canned pasta sauce. Didn’t blow up the pressure canner.


Replaced crappy, faded, glued down linoleum tiles in the kitchen with “luxury vinyl plank”. Learned lots. Next up, guest bath.

FINALLY made it to Rhinebeck, aka New York Sheep and Wool festival in October 2018. Had a fabulous time with some of the best people on earth.


In 2019 I continue to look for a job, cleaned up the basement workshop and am learning to use hubby’s woodworking tools, bought a lathe and am learning to make useful objects rather than just sawdust, continue to knit, spin, weave, dye, garden and wage war on the dandelions.

Sarah puppy isn’t so little anymore, but continues to believe she’s a lap dog.


My goal for 2019 is to post at least once a month.  That’s all I’m willing to commit to at the moment.

Visiting the Frog Pond

Every knitter has been there. Sometimes it’s a small mistake that screws everything up. Sometimes it’s a really BIG mistake. Yesterday, I had one of each.

Mistake number one was on a shawl that I am designing. It’s actually a design as I go. Unfortunately, I can’t count and did not increase enough to be able to do the second section of the shawl. Since this is a project with a deadline, I just broke the yarn took it off the needles and started something easier.

Mistake number two. Sigh. I should have known better. This is an Orenburg scarf that a friend of mine is also doing. She’s gone to Galina Khmeleva’s knitting camp for a number of years. She knew better. Orenburg knitting is always done on a garter stitch background. I didn’t pay attention to the key and purled the wrong side rows. If you are a knitter, you know this will give you a stockinette background. 300 some odd rows done before I realized my mistake. It would have driven me nuts. It would not have blocked properly. I ripped it out.



A Small Pet Peeve

Pet peeves. Everyone has them. Those little things that just make your teeth itch.

My current peeve is about conjugating verbs. Specifically, the verb cast.

Every verb has a present tense, a past tense and a future tense.

Present: cast(ing) – I am casting on.
Past: cast – She cast on.
Future: cast – I will cast on.

Do you see the word casted in any of these examples? No, I didn’t think so.

Why don’t you cast on a new project today.

Happy Knitting!

Needle Review, Part One Signature Needle Arts

A couple of weeks ago I made an offhand comment about reviewing knitting needles. Well, some of my online friends ran with that. So, here it is, part one.

I’ll start with Signature Needle Arts, as a size 3 circular is the only needle in my knitting bag at the moment.

Now, you may be asking yourself, why does she only have one needle in her knitting bag? I cleaned it out last night in an attempt to organize…stop laughing, it’s not that funny.

Signatures come in fixed circulars, straights, DPNs, and convertible circulars. You have the choice of three tips, blunt, middy, or stiletto.
The straights come in three different lengths. Personally, I own fixed circulars and DPNs. All of the needles are made from aluminum.

Apparently, the fixed circulars are being discontinued and have been replaced with the convertible circulars. Tips and cords are purchased separately allowing you to have multiple cord lengths for one pair of tips. I don’t have any of these so my review will be on the fixed circulars.

For me it’s all about the tip. Decreases, nupps, gathered stitches, Signature stiletto points handle them all with ease. The tips are also offered in middy, but really, what’s the point?

I chose a 5 inch tip with a cord that makes the over all length 47 inches. There is an approximately 1 inch ferrule that the tips fit into, making the needle an effective 6 inches.

There is a ball bearing in the ferrule that allows the cord to swivel. This is a nice feature, however, it would be more effective if the cord wasn’t so floppy. The joins are smooth and your yarn will flow nicely. I have had a few problems using lace weight and snagging but that doesn’t happen on all of the sizes of needles I have.

Signature needles have had at least three different cord types. Personally, I think they could do better.

Signature DPNs come in 4 inch,5 inch,6 inch and 8 inch lengths. I have the 6 inch because they fit so perfectly in my hand. I do not have a bad thing at all to say about these needles. They have a little bit of texture so your stitches won’t go sliding off. They are sturdy enough to handle k4tog with ease (and without bending). The stiletto point is great for cabling without a cable needle.

Yes, they are a bit pricey. If you do decide to indulge, you won’t be sorry.Signature Needle Arts


A friend of mine on Ravelry asked me about knitting socks that fit. She’s having problems with the socks she’s making for her hubby.

So here is my knitting socks that fit wisdom.

I often hear “I need to knit socks to fit my size (insert size here) feet.”

Here’s a secret. Knitting socks that fit is more about fitting the circumference of the ball of the foot than about the length. Circumference is dictated by the number of stitches (otherwise known as gauge). Length is dictated by rows. And you can knit as many rows as you need.

I am not really fond of math. But it does have it’s uses. Simple math is really all you need to have happy, sock clad feet. For example:

My foot circumference is 9″. My gauge in stockinette is 7 stitches per inch. 9 x 7 = 63 so I need 63 stitches. Most sock patterns are written for a multiple of 8 stitches. That makes 64 stitches. This is for plain stockinette. It might be different for a ribbed pattern or a pattern with cables.

When it comes to length, less is more. Negative ease is what I’m talking about. About 1/2″ less than the length of my foot is what works for me.

That’s all the wisdom I have at the moment.

Happy knitting.

Swedish Seed Crackers

There is a wonderful Scandinavian bakery in Kenosha WI. Linnea Bakery has the most wonderful Knäckebröd, otherwise known as seed crackers. Unfortunately, I don’t get there as often as I would like so I had to come up with an alternative.

After combing through all the Scandanavian cookbooks I could get my hands on and finding a few recipes on the internet, here is what I’ve come up with.

IMPORTANT: this recipe is for the following size pan. If you choose to use something different, you’re on your own. Don’t complain to me that your crackers are overdone or burned or are not crispy.


Swedish Seed Crackers

1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup tapioca starch (also known as tapioca flour)
1 cup boiling water
1/4 cup peanut oil
Kosher salt to taste

Put the sesame, flax and sunflower seeds and salt in a bowl.


Add the Tapioca starch and mix it all together.


While you wait for the water to boil (microwave 3 minutes in a 2 cup measuring cup so I can add the oil to the boiling water and eliminate washing another thing), prepare your pan. Spread a bit of oil on your pan and then line the pan with parchment paper. The oil will keep the paper from moving around when you are trying to spread the dough.


Dump the boiling water and oil in the bowl and mix well. It should look like a sticky, seedy mass.


Spread this blob in your prepared pan. Try to spread the mixture as evenly as possible so that it will bake evenly. More than likely you will get some spots that are slightly thick. This really isn’t too much of a problem.


Bake at 325 F for 45 minutes. I rotate my pan a half turn after 25 minutes because my oven temp isn’t exactly even.

After 45 minutes, remove the pan from the oven, bump the temp up to 400 F and cut the crackers into strips. Sprinkle the kosher salt on the freshly cut strips. I just lift the parchment paper onto my cutting board since it’s just sitting there, protecting my pan. If you’re not really agressive cutting your crackers you can just cut them on the paper and easily move them back to the pan.


Bake for 20 minutes. If you didn’t cut your parchment paper to shreds you should be able use that to transfer your perfectly baked crackers to paper towels to cool.


Are some of your crackers not quite crispy? No problem. Just pop them back in the oven for a few minutes.

If you can’t find raw sunflower seeds you can use ones that are roasted and salted but you might want to eliminate the salt in the mix.

You can use other types of oil such as corn or canola.

Yes, you can use corn starch.

I think I might be nuts

A while back, actually it was in August at Stitches Midwest, I picked up this book.

It’s been sitting on the counter in my studio, occasionally trying to lure me with its siren call. I’m sure the knitters have all heard something similar. It goes like this: “Come page through me. You are bored with your current projects. You want to start something new. It doesn’t matter that you have a deadline for that sock/hat/shawl.”

This past week that bloody book decided to stop playing fair. It started invading my dreams. I finally stopped fighting and gave in to the call of beautiful twisted stitches.

Almost 100 stitches on size 0 needles for a sock. Swatching had begun. Am I nuts? Time will tell. At least I’m finally using the size 0 Signature DPNs I borrowed from my friend Helle.


Women of a certain age

If you’re one of them, then you know where this is going. Yep, one of the wonders of being a girl. Menopause.

My mom says she never had hot flashes. So, I’m thinking, yay, I’ll get one of the good things from my mom. I’ve already inherited her varicose veins. Not so much. Although I’m happy that Auntie Flo (aka “the bitch”) doesn’t visit every month anymore, I’m no so enamored with her friends Sweaty Selma and Darla Dryness.

Darla must have stock in Lush and Bath and BodyWorks because lotion is now one of my best friends.

Selma doesn’t come to stay, that would be too easy. I could dress for being warm and not have to do the off on off on of the sweater. All day long. No, she comes to visit whenever she damn well feels like it, stays a while, then leaves. It’s pretty bleeping inconvenient.

At least she doesn’t wake me up at night but she does come to visit.

Gotta go, time for my morning shower and to figure out what I have to wear that hasn’t been sweated on.

Thanks a lot, Selma.