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Math4Knitters, Crafty Living: Show 63

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Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
This is the end of strip #2.

Math4Knitters, Crafty Living: Show 63

Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
I really like how smooth this transition looks.

This week's show features the halfway point of Gina's Afghan and a different sort of chat with Joan Hamer, also known as joanie77 on Ravelry.

This is the end of strip 2. There are 4 strips to the afghan, so we are halfway through the afghan. The third and the fourth strips are more simple than the first two. So, as we head into the home stretch, we will need fewer charts. I think we will need 4 charts for the third strip and 3 for the fourth strip. So, probably a total of 18 charts. Holy moley.

Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
Another look.


As we reach the end of the second strip, I can't put off talking about seaming any longer. I'm not going to do the full-on seaming of the afghan strips until I've had a chance to wash and block the first two strips.

I'm using a superwash wool yarn, which means that I can, and will, put it in the washing machine, on a gentle cycle, and in the dryer. I'm doing this for two reasons. I think that the recipient will do that, too, so I want to make sure it will survive. Also, the dryer step, although I skip it whenever possible on almost everything, is really needed with this particular yarn and this particular pattern.

The first time I washed a superwash swatch, for this project, actually, I was horrified when I pulled it out of the machine. I'm used to gently swishing hand knits around in a sink, lovingly lifting them out, squishing water out of them as thoroughly as possible, then gently tugging and pulling on them until they are in shape and ready to dry, in a cat-restricted area of my home.

When I lifted the swatch of the machine, it was droopy, out of shape, limp and lifeless. It was as if I had taken my knitting, attached each of the four corners to strong horses, and sent them all running off in different directions. It looked as saggy as a swimsuit that I really, really need to throw out. Just take your best mental image of something sagging out of control and looking horrible, and you're right on track. In other words, disaster.

So, I put in the dryer. Cascade, on their website, says to machine wash the yarn on warm and tumble dry on a cool setting. That's what I did and, when it came out of the dryer, it had popped back to its original dimensions, and looked great.

The moral of the story is, follow the directions. The second moral of the story is, make sure you treat your swatch exactly as you plan to treat the final item. I would have been really concerned if I were washing this yarn for the first time after knitting one fourth of an afghan with it.

This week, I shot a short photo tutorial about seaming garter stitch, where the last and first stitches are knit instead of slipped or purled or anything else. The afghan uses edges of reverse stockinette stitch, where the first and last stitches aren't slipped or purled or anything else. The final technique I will use for the afghan is very similar to the garter stitch technique, so I wanted to cover that first.

Basically, you line up the edge bumps of the two pieces you want to seam. Garter stitch side bumps have a bottom and a top. On one side, let's make it the left side, you will seam by passing your darning needle through the bottom bump. On the right side, you will pass your darning needle through the top bump. Repeat these two actions, going back and forth, until you have gone once through each ridge. If, like me, your mind sometimes wanders off and you forget which side is supposed to be the "top", just remember "the right has the upper hand." As long as you've started out with the right side being the top bump, you'll be good to go.

Take It Easy, but Take Care

As always, be sure not to pull tightly on the working thread. After you have finished stitching your seam, you pull. The exception to this is when you are working with a very loosely spun yarn or if you are using shorter pieces of yarn to seam. With loosely-spun yarn, I would pull up and check the tension every few inches or so. Also, if you twist the yarn as you go, adding more tension to it, that should keep it from breaking.

Why use shorter pieces of yarn to seam? I'll talk about that more in the next afghan show, but I will include a word of warning if you are ready to jump ahead.

I made an afghan for my other sister's wedding, over 10 years ago. It was my first afghan, ever. (This one is my second, I guess it takes a wedding for me to get over my, um, distaste for extremely large projects.) I used up every inch of yarn when I seamed. I worked right to the end of one piece of yarn, then added another and just kept on. Those points where I switched yarns were weak, because my ends worked themselves out. So, when you do need to add in more yarn for a seam, treat it just as you would when adding in new yarn in the middle of a row of knitting. Spit splice, darn in ends, or whatever method you prefer. Now, whenever I visit my sister, I usually have a look and fix at least one part of a popped seam for her.

But, I Did Something Right

There was one moment of foresight I had when I was 22, which has saved me from my own past ignorance. I took the leftover yarn from the afghan and made a small pillow from it. I told my sister to wash it, use it, and treat it exactly the same was as she treated the afghan. So, even after all of these years, I still have extra yarn that is an exact match for the afghan. When I need yarn for seaming, I simply pull out a row or two from the pillow, close it using a three-needle bind-off, leave the tail from that hanging out with a knot in it, and go from there.


I contacted Joan Hamer after Cheryl Oberle mentioned Pine Meadow Knitting News. She had some technical challenges that prevented a phone call, so we decided to chat through email. All of which means that you will have to visit the show's website to read our back and forth. I'd like to send out a big "thank you" to Joan for agreeing to this unconventional path.

When/how did you learn to knit?

I learned as a child from my mother. I think the only time I didn't knit was in high school because it wasn't cool at the time. My first sweater was a horribly ugly orange mohair cardigan but it did fit! I learned knitting with my mother at the local dept store and I would be supplied with skeins of worsted weight wool . I knit garter stitch squares and made them into a bed size cover. My mother showed me how to crochet the squares together. I think I was in my early teens when I did that.

Tell us about Pine Meadow Knitting News

I was a subscriber of another newsletter for charity knitting called Spring Valley Knitting Club by Lois Green of Colorado. When she decided to quit I asked if I could help since I knew desktop publishing. She said she had too much on her plate to continue but gave me her mailing list. I started with 18 subscribers and soon was mentioned in newspaper columns, Family Circle Knitting and other sources so it grew a lot. It was a 12-page quarterly for all knitters with the focus on charity knitting. There were patterns, book reviews, guest writers and lists of places to knit for. It went on for 11 years and slowly began to cost money that I couldn't afford. Also, I was getting ready to retire and needed to lessen the work load so it ended but I still hear from past subscribers which is really nice.

Are you a process or a product knitter?

Oh definitely a process knitter! I'm an ADD knitter for sure. Ideas of my own and other people's patterns make me want to see what something looks like. I am very good with deadline knitting but often my own knitting is a lot slower.

What inspires you?

A lot of what-iffing, if that's a word. I rarely do a pattern the way it was written. My own patterns are actually rather simple but I think there is a niche for that. I love color and texture. Having been a follower of Elizabeth Zimmermann for many years, I realized that I was in control of my knitting. I love to play with yarn and patterns including cables, mosaic, Fair Isle and stitches that look more difficult than they are.

Is there anything you haven't mastered that you'd like to know how to do?

I think the great thing about knitting is that you never know everything. It evolves as your life does. My tastes have changed many times over the years. I spin and I would like to spin skeins that actually look alike! It's hard for me to realize that handspun won't look like commercial yarn so that's my current obsession.

What's next/new?

I'm not sure. I have a lot of ideas in my head and notebooks full of notes that I need to format into patterns. Having retired has made me a bit more lazy and I knit mostly what I like. Right now, having been a fan of Barbara Walker and met her last year, I'm working on a mosaic sampler done in fingering yarn on size 1 needles. One rectangle fits inside an Altoids box and in fact one is in there holding my sewing up needles. I have no deadline and it's not original having been done in worsted by BW in one of her books. I just wanted to see what a wall hanging would look like in many many pieces of mosaics all edged in black. Real eye candy.