Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Circular Sock Machine

My sock knitting obsession led me to other sock knitters online. In reading the posts I came across an answer to a query about antique sock knitting machines. As you can imagine, my interest was piqued. There I was, not the fastest knitter and knitting socks on size US 1 needles with two-inch 1x1 ribbed cuffs on seven- or eight-inch stockinette legs for long feet and owning a very, very enviable sock yarn stash. I'm not young. There are not enough years left. A sock machine? That could be the answer. Now don't get me wrong. Most of my love is for the process, the hand knitting. I have the 'Intermediate' and 'Advanced' sock patterns to prove it. But I was stuck in 'Easy' basic pattern mode in order to get many pairs made for me, my family, my friends and my gift list. If I could whip the basic ones out on a sock machine, I could devote my hand knitting of socks to those fabulous patterns obtained from the Internet and from all the books on sock knitting I bought. (I have them all!) I immediately clicked my way to the suggested sites and joined a Yahoo group to learn more. Hooked again! I could hardly wait to buy one.

After much research, fear and trepidation I bought my first circular sock machine, an Auto Knitter with a 60-slot cylinder and 30-slot ribber. I thought that set up would best duplicate my hand knitting pattern.

Would it, could it be that easy for me? Ohhhh no! It was just the beginning of another journey.

Bona Fide Knitter

Is it Me?

Before I regale you with information about the circular sock machine I hinted at the other day, I want you to know how softly I'm treading with grammar here in this first attempt at blogging. I know I'm not always grammatically correct. Sometimes I'm wrong on purpose. (That should get me off the hook for all my mistakes in grammar!) However, I have this thing about me and I, or is it I and me? Anyway, I seem to be out there all by myself when I say "they invited me and my husband" as opposed to "they invited my husband and I." I am going to take a firm stand here and declare the former as being the correct way to say it and here is why: the invitors know me. My husband is invited because of me. I give myself top billing so I say "They invited me and my husband ." If you are more courteous and wouldn't put yourself first, it is correct to say, "They invited my husband and me." I can feel your shudders. "My husband and me" and not "my husband and I"? YES! Because if I am the subject in the sentence, I am "I," but if I am the object in the sentence, as in this case, I am "me." Totally confused now or just totally disagree? One way to test the theory is to take out the other person. Would you say, "They invited I"? No, you would say, "They invited me." Put my husband back in the mix and you have, "They invited my husband and me." Case closed!

Before I posted this proclamation I decided I'd better check my facts. Lo and behold I found backup at The site also saves me from any discussion of he/him, she/her and they/them with I/me and pardons me from split infinitives. Now if only I could get the punctuation thing under control!

Back to knitting . . .

Bona Fide Knitter, sometimes grammatically correct

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

And Then I Corrected My Purl

Fast forward 40+ years. Three doll-collector friends, who also happen to be accomplished knitters, introduced me to Stitches East in 2001. One friend told me about it because it was in my area and I had started making some attempts at doll sweater knitting. That friend couldn't attend. The other two friends said they would drive up from Maryland and join me. Stitches East was being held in Pennsylvania at that time. The three of us attended the show and I was completely taken by what I saw there. I decided to attend a free Learn to Knit session because they were giving out free yarn and needles. 'Free' is my favorite four letter word. My friends thought I was too advanced for a "Learn to" class, but am I so glad I attended! I learned that for I-don't-know-how-many years I had been purling backwards! No wonder my stitches were so tight. They were twisted! No wonder I was so slow at knitting. It was hard to knit into each tight, twisted stitch! I immediately bought yarn and needles to make two of the newly popular big-needle scarves.

However, those scarves were not to be my pivotal purchase. I saw that one of my friends was knitting a pair of socks on skinny, short, wooden, double-pointed needles. I was mesmerized. I remembered wanting to knit socks in high school when girls were making argyles for their boyfriends. I never put forth an effort to learn because the point was moot. I didn't have a boyfriend in high school. But I digress. About those socks my friend was knitting at Stitches, I couldn't get them out of my mind. After Stitches we were IMing one day when she told me she had used Learn to Knit Socks by Edie Eckman. She had bought a second copy in error. I bought her extra copy and knitted my first pair of socks. This first pair, basic anklets, were of Lion Brand's Woolease, the closest I could come to DK weight at the craft store.

Oddly enough soon after my first few pairs of socks on double points, Socks Soar on Two Circulars by Cat Bordhi took the sock-knitting world by storm. I bought the book. I made my first pair on two circulars and put my double points away. This first pair was made of Regia cotton in shades of the sand and sea. I knit them on the beach at Cape Cod.

After more and more pairs of socks, it was time for Stitches East again. I attended Stitches East 2002 alone but no less enthralled. At the Manning's booth I was introduced to The Magic Loop. The book, Sarah Hauschka's "magical unvention," written by Bev Galeskas, a 40-inch circular Addi Turbo size US 1 and many balls of sock yarn came home with me from that Stitches East. I was hooked on socks! The many sets of Addi Turbo size US 1, 24-inch needles went the way of my wooden double points. I became a Magic Loop afficionado. I still am. They call me "The Sock Lady." This first "Magic Loop" pair were made with Regia and were for my mother. Can you tell which one was tried on before I took the picture?

The book that changed my knitting life is the first of Sally Melville's Knitting Experience series, The Knit Stitch. Somewhere in the midst of all the sock knitting I started using what I learned from that book. I no longer pinch the yarn between my right thumb and index finger. I am still a "thrower" but I have the yarn wrapped around my little finger and over my index finger and with circular needles I'm almost fast. Heck, I am fast! But a circular sock machine is faster . . .

Bona Fide Knitter

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

In the Beginning

A long, long time ago I won a very small prize in a drawing. I had always wanted to learn to knit something. There was a neighborhood yarn shop I worshiped from afar. I wanted to enter, but was afraid I knew too little about knitting. I'd look through the window wanting to be a part of that society of women showing off their knitted works of art. There was a sign on the window, "INSTRUCTIONS" and emboldened by my $7.50 prize money, (Yes, seven dollars and fifty cents. I told you it was a small prize!) I finally ventured inside. I learned that "instructions" didn't mean "classes." It meant patterns. I would be given the pattern to make anything I desired, one part at a time, and a little help with cast on, knit and purl, increase and decrease if needed. I needed.

I chose to knit a cardigan sweater. My $7.50 was enough to buy all the wool yarn needed and the required needles. (Didn't I tell you it was a long, long time ago?!!!) I was told to begin casting on. My needle with e-wrap cast on using my left index finger was wrested from me and I was shown the knitted cast on. I was then given a mimeographed sheet of paper (What part of "long, long time ago" did you not understand?) with the instructions for the back of the sweater. I also got a refresher course on purling, a crash course on decreases, and was sent on my way with the command to knit the back of the sweater and bring it with me when I returned to the store for the instructions for the front.

I made a few false starts but finally had a cast on and some inches of stockinette (no ribbing required) that I thought was near perfect. I continued to knit that navy blue wool every available minute, including some stolen minutes at work in a stall in the ladies room. Holding the yarn pinched betweeen the thumb and forefinger of my right hand, I was a very. slow. knitter. I knitted and knitted and knitted and could hardly wait to take my completed "homework" back to the shop of horrors, er, the yarn shop.

Finally the day came. The back was finished, every stitch in place and perfect armhole decreases. I walked into the shop as proud as a peacock. My knitting Nazi took my piece and examined it closely. She was quiet for so long I thought the beauty of it had made her mute. Finally she said, "Your knitting is lovely." Then she screeched, "But it's as stiff as a board!!!"

My feathers fell. I would never recover. I was glad I was the only customer in the store at the time. My precise knitting was too tight?!!! Gauge? Gauge? Did my knitting Nazi ever mention gauge to me? Never! And she was not dismayed. It could be fixed. We would just make the two front pieces wider. She adjusted the amount of stitches to cast on for the front pieces to make up for the narrowness of the back and sent me off to make the left front. Perfectionist that I was and still am, the sweater lost its appeal. I could imagine the side seams ending up not under my arms and not far enough in the back to become a design detail. It would be a design derail! It would never be truly worthy. I began to knit less and less often. That sweater became my first official UFO.

Verklempt now. I'll be back with more another day,
Bona Fide Knitter

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Friend or Foe

My knitting friend and Stitches East 2006 roommate wrote a post on an e-list and called me a BFK because of knitting plans I had posted. BFK? Luckily she had it starred (*) and included the meaning at the bottom. But before I read the meaning I tried to figure it out: Black Female Knitter? Burger Freakin' King? Big Fat Knitter? Big Friend Knitter? Best Friend Knitter? Well, it turns out that it stands for Bona Fide Knitter. I'm not questioning it! I'm taking it and running with it. I have finally settled on a name for my blog. You heard it here first, well second, "Bona Fide Knitter" that's me!!!

Now that I've taken the first step and set up this blog I wonder if my roomie is friend or foe. Look what she has gotten me into! Actually I can't blame her. She just got in on the tail end of the blog idea and inadvertently coined my blog name. It was another of my knitting gurus and other friends who have been egging me on. I signed up for a blog once before, but after a long length of time without my ever publishing an entry, the blogmaster booted me off, and rightly so. I had a ton of excuses for myself back then: I needed to have pictures for my blog; in order to upload/download pictures quickly I needed Broadband; in order to take pictures I needed a new digital camera; I needed a better name for my blog; I needed blab for my blog. Well, I'm back. I have everything I need now and I'm a Bona Fide Knitter. You can't beat that combination.

A Bona Fide Knitter