Knitting’s many health benefits

Don’t miss Jane Brody’s article on the health benefits of knitting in yesterday’s New York Times:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/01/25/the-health-benefits-of-knitting/

Posted in Knitting, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Another Shetland Spindrift Shipment

Fair Isle knitting kits

Mary Ann’s Fair Isle style knitting designs, using Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift 100% Shetland wool yarn. Available as kits through her website. Links below.

Yippee, another dearly-awaited Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift shipment just waltzed through my door last night! A couple of  colors for some of my Fair Isle knitting kits have been missing in action the last few weeks.  If you’ve been wondering when your kits will ship, now you’re in luck – today’s the day!  If you’ve been hemming and hawing, wondering when to order, here’s your chance, while the elusive Spindrift colors for my kits are all in stock.  Here are links to the details on the individual kits:

Polar Chullo:

Polar Chullo by Mary Ann Stephens, in the Winter '09 Twist Collective, a fair isle polar bear ear flap hat

Tulip Mittens:

Tulip Mittens copyright Mary Ann Stephens

Amaryllis Hat:

shetland natural version of the Amaryllis Hat, a ladies' tam

Allamanda Hat:

Fair Isle hat with embroidery, Allamanda Hat, by Mary Ann Stephens, copryright 2012

Sagebrush Chullo:

Earflap hat knitting pattern

Shamrock Mittens:

shamrock mittens knitting pattern, perfect for st. patrick's day

Spice Route Gloves:

Fair Isle knitting pattern for gloves

 

 

 

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Top 10 Tips for Machine-sewn Steeks

steek cutting

Cutting the steek on my Wintergarden Pullover.

It’s that time of the year again!  Knitters scramble to finish up gifts, they scurry to gather provisions for the wintertime queue and I get inundated with frantic calls and emails about steeking – a finishing technique that’s central to stranded knitting – one that elicits shock and panic from the uninitiated, yet pride and delight from the practiced.  If you’re new to this concept and wonder “Why in the world would any sane knitter ever cut their knitting?!”, check out this old 7-page steeking tutorial of mine.  In a hurry?  (Who isn’t?!)  To get you through today’s really-not-at-all-terrifying task, here are my top ten tips on how to make your machine-sewn steeks a quick, and ever-lasting, success:

  1.  I would NOT use crocheted steeks on anything other than Shetland wool.  All smooth wool yarns, and ANY plant-based or synthetic yarns, require machine-sewn steeks.
  2. As with all things in Knitting, it’s the lowly swatch that’s key in separating the pros from the schmoes. Use your swatch for a little trial sewing-and-cutting run, to take the guesswork out of the process.  Didn’t swatch for this project? (Boy, are you in trouble!  We’ll have to talk about this later, Young Knitter. In the meantime…) Use any old swatch, or part of a frogged project, or even that Ugly Christmas Sweater you can’t believe you’ve kept in your closet all these years…as long as it’s about the same gauge and similar material, any scrap knitted fabric that you can experiment on will be a huge help in giving you a carefree, and informative, practice run.  Better to find out how your machine behaves – or misbehaves – on something you don’t care about!
  3. Use a very short stitch length on your sewing machine.  The reason crocheted steeks fail with smooth yarns is that they typically loop around each strand of yarn.  With a slight tug, most any smooth yarn can slip right through that crocheted loop.  (But, if it’s sticky, like Shetland wool, well, you might not even need that bulky crocheted loop to begin with.  But, that’s another post, for another day.)  If you bisect, or even trisect, each yarn strand with short machine stitches, cut strands will not be able to slip through – they’ll be locked in place for good.
  4. Sew two lines, right next to each other, for the ever-helpful belt and suspenders approach.  (I always use straight lines.  Some people like zigzags.  I don’t see the point. And, I always have at least one stitch column for cutting in the middle of my steeks, sometimes two.  But, I have seen patterns without any extra columns at all.  I think an extra stitch or two in the middle is great insurance – well worth the effort!)

    Steek sewn twice

    Sew 2 lines, right next to each other, down each side of your steek.

  5. Odds are you’ll be covering your sewing lines with hems, facings or maybe even a covered steek, so feel free to use a contrast color of thread to make the process easier on your eyes.
  6. Keep loose yarn ends away from your sewing lines by temporarily tucking them aside under plain, old scotch tape – it takes seconds and it works wonders!

    tape yarn ends before sewing steek

    Simple scotch tape, better than a 3rd hand!

  7. Another plain, old wonder: A layer of tissue paper between your knitting and the machine keeps fluid, textured or extra fine fabrics from getting snagged by the machine’s feed dogs (those pesky, gnarly gears below the needle that pop up to pass the fabric through.)  Once you’re done reinforcing, the tissue peels away in a snap.

    steek backed by tissue paper

    Tissue paper saved my fabric from the evil feed dogs!

  8. Norwegian armhole steeks are typically sewn and cut right into patterned body fabric, without any striped guidelines.  If you’re afraid your sewing might stray out of bounds on those spots, run a quick baste line with contrasting yarn down the center of the sideline, to the base of the armhole. You can pull it out as you sew along, knowing your stitches are staying right on track.  (As for cardigan and neckline steeks, I ALWAYS knit those steek stitches to create vertical stripes, but I know some folks like to create a checkered pattern. That makes no sense to me!  I say stick with the striped method and you’ll have your guidelines set from the start.)

    armhole steek on tiger lily

    Basted sideline on my Tiger Lily Jacket armhole steek.

  9. Work that backstitch!  The most high-risk areas tend to be the very tops and bottoms of the opening (aka the stops and starts of your sewing lines) and the base of the armholes.  Those are the areas where you’ll want to use your machine’s backstitch function liberally.  And it does not have to be a thing of beauty – you’re shooting for a thing of strength!  Remember, these areas will eventually be covered, so don’t hesitate to backstitch a couple of times to be sure you’ve caught the edge stitches securely.  Same thing on that armhole – it’s okay to go around the bottom corners a couple of times to be certain you’re leaving a secure line that will hold up to constant movement.

    steek edges backstitched

    Backstitch the heck out of those edges!

  10. Once it’s time to cut, use sharp, pointed scissors, sit in a well-lit spot and take your time.  A sheet of cardboard inside your sweater, underneath your steek, can keep you from cutting anything other than your cutting line – priceless for peace of mind!

HAPPY STEEKING!

covered steeks

My Rosalia’s covered steeks.

Here are my designs in knitting kits.  Here is my Ravelry PDF store.

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Ivy Headband

My new, warm, soft, stranded, braided, purpled, ivy-covered headband:

Ivy Headband, a knitting pattern by Mary Ann Stephens, knit with Dale Garn Alpakka yarn from her Kidsknits.com shop.

Ivy Headband, a new knitting design by Mary Ann Stephens

I used five different shades of Dale Garn Alpakka.  You’ll want about 40g out of a 50g ball of the main, background color – Purple 4845, in this case – since it’s also used for the solid-colored lining.  Aside from that one most-of-a-ball requirement, this is a great project for using up scraps.  The $5 PDF is available through Ravelry here.  Have fun!

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The Christmas Eve Collection

The Christmas Eve Collection – Three new Christmas ball ornament designs, making new Christmas memories for little ones; bringing back sweet, sugarplum memories of our own:

Christmas balls knitting patterns

The Christmas Eve Collection – 3 new Christmas ball knitting designs by Mary Ann Stephens.

The $6 PDF, which includes instructions for all of the designs pictured, is available through my Ravelry PDF store.  The Dale Falk yarns used are available through my Kidsknits online yarn shop.

I hope they help to make your Christmas extra special, for you and your family, for many years to come.

XOXOXOXOX,

Mary Ann

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Free Knitting Pattern – Sports Fan Hat

free knitting pattern for unisex knit hat with fold up ribbing and stripes

“Sports Fan Hat”, a free knitting pattern.

Son #3 loves to run.  No, make that LIVES to run!  He’s easy to spot in his favorite accoutrement for running: his funky, old, red-white-and-blue sweatband.  Kids from other schools come up to him, saying “Hey, you’re the dude with the headband!”

????

Son #3, last spring.

It’s fine for spring track (I suppose), but it certainly won’t do much for him on his long winter runs.  Not wanting to mess with the sweatband’s mojo, I co-opted its layout for a seasonally-appropriate version of his old favorite.

Sports Fan Hat, a free knitting pattern for an adult's ski hat.

He wore it all day! :)))

I gave it to him yesterday.  He was so happy with it that he wore it all day, inside and out.  Looks like it makes one darn good present!  So, here you go – an early Christmas present for you and all of your sports fans. :)  (See download link at end of post. The pattern even includes my tip for avoiding that pesky jog at the end of the round. )

Lately, he insists that blue – his school’s main color – MUST be on top; put the cross-town-rival’s red on the bottom!  Of course, your athlete’s, or athlete-watcher’s, colors, stripes and rivals may vary.  For that matter, feel free to use any combination of colors / stripes / motifs…or none at all.  Two 50g balls of Dale Garn’s MAGNIFICENT Hegre Aran-weight wool yarn make a wonderfully warm and cozy plain hat.  You’ll find Hegre  here in my shop.  Add as many balls, or remnants, in different colors as you’d like for your own, personal touch.  (I used 2x50g balls of off-white #0017, 1 of red #4018 and 1 of Norwegian blue #5744.)  Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Here’s the link for downloading your own, personal-use copy of the free pattern:

Sports Fan Hat PDF

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Posted in Free Knitting Patterns, Knitting, Mary Ann's Designs | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving!

Free chart for "Thank You" cards or needlework

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