COLOR all in caps – it is the hardest thing for me when I am beginning a project. I am paralyzed by all the choices. I love color but I always stick to the same colors when I am picking out something to myself. I seem to be drawn to safe colors blue as in denim blue, browns and grey when making something for myself. Two out of 3 of the sweaters I have made this fall have been brown and the third is grey although it has a pop of green at the collar and cuffs.  I would love to walk into my LYS and confidently pick out colors that will look good together and when finished be something I love to wear. So I decided to do something about it and went to a class at Cream City Yarn to learn more about COLOR.  Amy Hendrix of  Madelinetosh was our teacher. The class opened my eyes about color and choice.

Now after a short 3 hour class I am no expert but I will look at my color choices a little differently. I still might feel a little overwhelmed at all the choices when confronted by a wall filled with beautiful yarn but who doesn’t feel that way when shopping. Now at least I will have Amy’s confident voice whispering in my head urging me to break down the colors into values and hues as I pair  yellow and purple together. And as I try out new combinations I will be able to think about what makes them work and in a worse case scenario why the combination fails. When I look at pictures of patterns I like I can refer back to what I learned to see why it appeals to me.

All said and done I had a great time I even bought some Madelinetosh yarns to play with. I didn’t manage to break out of my safe zone as you can see –but I don’t care the yarn is soft and lovely. The colors are irresistibly rich and saturated. They are colors I love and am happy in- and now I understand why I like these colors which is a good thing!




cheater quilts

I am one of those pet owners that allow her dog to come up on the bed at night. Yes we are co-sleepers. She doesn’t stay very long – she prefers to stretch out and there isn’t enough room for 3 in a queen size bed. So she jumps up on our bed for about 15 minute and then either goes out on the deck or she goes in the guest room and stretches out on that bed by herself.
Now this could be a problem because she is a big dog and who in their right mind wants to wash the bedding after she climbs up there. So I made what I call cheater quilts. Smaller than the quilts we normally use but big enough to cover the top of the bed. They are small enough to throw in the wash and also pretty enough to leave on the beds during the day.
I love scrounging around thrift stores and sometimes find beautiful handmade tablecloths. I bought a few that were to pretty to pass up but once I got them home they sat on a shelf because I just don’t use tablecloths. Once we got Meva and let her sleep with us I really hated her on my beautiful quilts so I decided to make  comforters to cover the top of the beds and protect our bedding. Its pretty simple I lay out the table cloth and cut a square of plain cotton fabric the same size. Then I figure out how much bigger that it needs to be to cover the top of the bed.I cut out strips of fabric to make my square larger. Then I sew them log cabin style to my square of plain fabric. Another thrifty trick is to use an old worn out sheet for the plain square in the middle. 

Next I pin the tablecloth to my sewn pieces.Now you are ready to sew along the edge of the tablecloth- for this one I used white thread. I also  sewed further inside in a couple of areas so that the quilt was secured inn the middle. Then I finish them like you would a regular quilt with a backing and  batting sandwiched inside. Since this is a cheater quilt I just tie it off to finish.

I think my cheater quilts look rather nice on the bed.  I get to enjoy seeing these beautiful tablecloths instead of them being hid in the linen closet. They are thrifty – mine cost under $20 each. I even have some beautiful cutwork napkins to match one of them and maybe this winter I will sew them up into shams to match our comforters.And the best thing is I don’t yell at puppy to stay off the bed anymore.



This morning I am up early- it is dark outside my window and the world outside is quiet. Meva (our dog) is outside stalking the yard – something woke her up(maybe a raccoon). Its nice to sit in the dark and think and have the house to myself. I used to do this when the kids were small it was the only time I had to myself before the happy chaos would start. Its a nice time for contemplating. I am thinking about what I will see today. We like to spend mid week at the cabin. It is not very far from here – about a 2 hour drive. We will travel on the backroads through little towns. For the last two weeks we have been seeing familiar fall colors. It seems to early but then I remind myself that October is almost here. We saw a white egret in a pond last week and I remember two years ago when we saw almost 20 of them in a pond getting ready for their migration. Soon we will see V s of geese flying south for the winter and hear the honking as cranes fly in formation. I wonder what I will see in the garden when I get to the cabin. Will the cold weather knocked down the flowers or will they still be struggling to produce a few more flowers before going to seed?  I am hoping to pick some golden rod to simmer over the fire but if it is too late I will settle for jewelweed. I wonder if the fishing will be good this evening. Last week it was so windy we couldn’t anchor the boat to fish. Soon it will be time to get everything ready for the winter. The boat will need to be taken out and the pier dragged up on shore. We will have to tidy up the garden so it can sleep through the cold months. And the house will have to be sealed up and the water lines drained so they don’t freeze. For now I am going to stop thinking about winter coming and enjoy the sunrise over the lake and then pack for our drive this morning.

edited to add the sun is up and the rest of the family is awake and my day has officially started with the words — “the dog has puked on the bed you need to do something with the comforter” oh well ; )

Cast On Bind Off

Cast On Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor


I won this wonderful book from Weekend Knitter. It has came in so handy while I knit hats for the August charity. I never knew there were this many different cast on.

I used a different cast on for each hat I knit last month. It was a good opportunity to try some new stitches. When I learned to knit my Mom taught me to cast on with a long tail. A few years ago I learned the knitted cast on which is my current favorite.  Sometimes I get fancy on my stranded mittens and use two different colors in my cast on.


This book has so many more cast ons to try. And even better it explains where you might want to use each one. The photos are clear and the directions precise. The book is small enough to go into my bag and travel with me. And the spiral binding means I can lay it on the table open to the page I am using with out weighing it down to keep it open.

But thats not all the book covers binding off – so when I am done with my knit I can pick the right bind off. My bind off can match the cast on.  While this might not seem important to everyone – there are times you want to match. Each method outlined in the book tells you where you might want to use it. There are stretchy cast ons and bind offs. There are lacy ones- ribbed and temporary ones. I am going to work my way through the book and I am sure I will find myself with new favorites.

Charity hats is the perfect place to experiment with cast ons. I like to keep a project  in the car to work on when we are driving somewhere. And then there is always something in my hands while we are watching tv. The Ravelry group Itty bitty Knits sponsers a charity each month and this month is Hats for Sailors. Hats for Sailors began several years ago by a female commander who wanted to provide warm hats for every sailor under her command, she enlisted the help of her mom and the knitters/crocheters of Ravelry. Hats for Sailors continues its mission to handmade hats to entire crews one ship at a time. Currently they are trying to outfit the USS Decatur who left on an 8th month deployment in August. So tonight while I watch the Packers play I will be working on a hat for a sailor and using a new to me cast on.


My sister and I were visiting over the phone yesterday. And we both commented how busy we are. Peg and I are so busy right now in our gardens picking and thinning and trying to capture the last of the summer before the cold settle in. Peg commented how we are like squirrels hoarding nuts for the winter. She laughed and said an arial movie of her day would be quite funny- I imagine a picture from above of scurrying from point A to point B and then to C and back to A hustling to get everything in the yard done. I think my life is easier than Peg’s because I am not canning any produce this summer.

Instead of canning fruits and vegetables I have been  preserving the colors of summer in my fiber. I imbed memories of the warm days and nights into the wooly yarn that I will knit with this winter. I have several projects planned and look forward to knitting by the woodstove. Peg has also been preserving the colors of her garden. I was very excited to open a box of yarn that arrived in the mail form New Hampshire. Indigo and woad blues and a weld and woad blend  green that is out of this world. I failed with my woad experiment a few weeks ago and was thrilled to see Peg’s yarn. The colors are just beautiful. The blue from the woad is light and airy like a summer sky streaked with a film of white clouds. The indigo blue is the strong blue of a cloudless summer day-  the kind of intense, hot day where the heat wouldn’t break this summer.  The green is another of her woad blues dipped in a pot of weld- it is light, soft green- vigorous  like the new leaflets on a plant in the spring.  I quickly went to my basket of wool and pulled out skeins to pair with them.I chose the earthy colors that I love. Jewel weed is a favorite of mine with its strong clear orange tones not nearly as intense as the in your face orange of the cosmos flower. It looks great with indigo blues. A cosmos skein over dyed with the first of this years walnut dye. The orange cosmos  blends beautifully with the browns and golds of the walnuts and is gorgeous with the green weld and indigo. And  the woad paired with goldenrod toned down a bit by a gentle simmer in cosmos. Golden rod is normally an intense yellow that screams summer sunshine but I was dyeing with the exhaust from the two pots so my yarn is lighter and more golden with this combo. I tried different combos and they all look great its hard to decide what I like best. Luckily I don’t have to decide because I am packing up all this wooly goodness and shipping it to Minnesota where my sister Kathy will work her magic with it. I can’t wait to see how she decides to pair the colors.

As for me its back to the garden and scurrying  to try to get everything done. I just heard on the weather channel that there was snow at the cabin this morning. Just a few flakes mixed in with the rain that is falling. I have to hurry and stock the cupboard with yarn for the winter.

Woe is me

Yes you got that right– woe is me or maybe it would be more accurate to say woad is me!

I planted woad this spring and have a nice little patch in my garden where I can control it so it won’t get out of hand and spread. Its been growing nicely. My sister sent me information about dyeing with woad. It is similar to dyeing with indigo. It is more complicated than most of the dyes plants I play with. Usually I just pick and add  plants to the water and simmer over the fire. Woad like indigo requires following  careful steps to insure success.

I followed the directions and picked the plants and packed the leaves into 2 big jars and set the jars into a pot filled with water. I used a thermometer to make sure that it didn’t get too hot and started to watch. After the simmering you add baking soda to raise the alkalinity of the water and then introduce oxygen to the mixture. At this point I was seeing some blue and green in the foam. I was also seeing rain so I moved my chemistry experiment inside to the mud room. Next step was to get rid of the oxygen in the dye liquid – so I stirred in the spectrolite and voila ……the liquid turned yellow just like it was supposed to. I added the yarn and let it sit in the pot. This is the part that is magical even though it looks like nothing is happening when you take the yellow yarn out of the liquid if everything has gone right it will slowly turn blue. Success…. a beautiful robin egg blue….I was elated. Now I searched for other things to throw in the pot and found a some golden rod yarn and some orange cosmos yarn. Ahh a nice green from the yellow yarn and well the orange was kind of a mud blah. But it had worked. I moved everything out to the garage to dry overnight quite thrilled with myself. Alas  in the morning the color had disappeared.

So what went wrong. I made a call to my little sister and asked for advise. And started a new cook. Yes I said cook–we have been watching Breaking Bad here and this dyeing project has so much more chemistry involved in it I am starting to feel like Jesse and Walter starting a batch. I picked again and weighed the woad. I was not discouraged by last nights failure so I doubled the amount of woad and decided to go for broke. As  the liquid simmered it took on a lovely rosey brown hue finally it was time to add the baking soda and agitate. I poured over and over again but the color didn’t change although the side of the bucket I was using did pick up some blue. The fish tickler took pity on me and found me a paddle that attaches to our drill cause I was getting wore out. Still nothing. So then he had the brilliant idea of putting a lid on the bucket and shaking it — much easier….but still no change. More soda…no. Ok I am not a science whizz – I only managed a C in chemistry class and that was over 30 years ago but I was just going to have to fly by the seat of my pants and trust so I stirred the spectrolite in the pot and waited a bit and then put the yarn in. Nope nothing. However that is the yarn I used yesterday so I searched to find something else. I put in a square of wool fabric. Ok a faint blue and now the water does look more yellow than brown. So I found another hank of yellow sock yarn dyed with golden rod and twisted it up so the dye could only reach parts of it and lowered it in the dye. And then we left to take the dog for a walk — I wanted to follow the sage advice that a watched pot never boils. At last a partial success..I came home and pulled it out and had a Packer green and gold skein of yarn. Hung it out to dry and the next morning still green and gold a little faded but still green and gold. 

So dyeing magic didn’t happen this week. It’s not that I didn’t try. I tried hard. I set up the pots and picked in the garden but I had an epic failure. I still had fun but I didn’t achieve the colors I was hoping for. Now I have to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it. The one thing I would like to try is getting some spectrolite from a dye company. I was using Rit color run remover maybe that is the problem. The recipe says you can use this but maybe I need to buy the real deal to use.  I would also like to get some washing soda to replace the baking soda even though I don’t think that is the problem. I am sure that my woad leaves will grow enough that I can harvest another batch before winter so maybe in a few weeks I will set up to cook again. And maybe … will happen.


Firing on all cylinders

I have been awarded a Blog on Fire Award.

nope I didn’t fly to close to the sun and catch on fire.

and I don’t think it means I am firing on all cylinders like a smooth running engine.

Thanks Pia at Colour Cottage nominated me – I am not sure I deserve it. I haven’t been blogging long. And I still struggle with writing my thoughts but my family encouraged me to give writing a try. And its fun to share the things I like doing by writing about them. And I get to meet new people all the time through the internet.

I love reading Colour Cottage – Pia is into a lot of the same things as I am. She knits and dyes her own yarn so it just seems natural that I am drawn to her website.. And she is starting a dye garden and later this fall I am sending seeds  from my dye garden to her garden to grow. Dyeing your own yarn is such an adventure when you use plants. You never know what is going to emerge from your pot. Just because a flower is red doesn’t mean you will get reds from the dye pot. But none the less it is fun to experiment and have unusual yarn for your projects. Part of this award means I have to tell you 8 unusual things you might not know about me and then tell you 8 blogs that I read.

so bear with me I hope I don’t bore you…8 things about me-

1. I am left handed –that might not be unusual but I have 5 brothers and 2 sisters and only me and my little sister are left handed. I  grew up when the nuns at school discouraged writing with your left hand. Well actually I had many teachers that were nuns but the teacher that tried to make me write with my right hand was my 3rd grade teacher Miss Valentine not one of the sisters.

2. People see my dog and ask me if she is a wolf. For the record she is not a wolf –wolves are much bigger than she is. But she does look a little wolfie I guess-– but she is German shepherd and huskie.

True story -we were walking her once on the rural roads near our cabin when we heard a car coming so we called her to come to us. She came at a gallup out of the woods and the van driving by stopped before she got to us and told us to hop in the car to get away from the wolf bounding out of the woods.

3. I love to play in my garden. I grow mostly native plants which some of my neighbors call weeds. I find that growing native give me more time to actually play in my garden and not work in my garden. Native plants are more drought resistant and if a weed or two creeps into my flower bed I just don’t care.

4. I knit almost everyday. I like to challenge myself to learn new techniques while knitting. I don’t consider myself an expert but I am not afraid to try anything.  The fact that  knitting has been around for hundreds of years and knitters continue to come up with new ways to twist and manipulate stitches into new designs amazes me  A new challenge for me this year is writing patterns for some of the things I make.

 5. I sometimes feel like a witch when I am stirring my cauldron over the fire outside. In my cauldrons are dyes made of native plants. It was inevitable that I learned to combine my 2 hobbies knitting and gardening by dyeing yarns with native plants. I am always astonished by the colors that emerge from my dye pots. It is  magical to pull a skein of yarn from the pot and see the colors that have adhered to it. A comical sight in my garden is when I am deadheading all the beautiful flowers that have bloomed and putting them in bags to freeze. It  reminds me of  Morticia in The Addams Family deadheading her beautiful roses in her greenhouse leaving only the thorns on her bushes.

She knits too!! Who would have thought I would grow up to be Morticia!!!

6. I had a third hobby – I love to bake. At two of the places I worked they called me the cookie queen. I have given up baking because I have given up eating sugar and flour products. Well maybe I should amend that to say for the most part I have given up flour and sugar. I still have just a few cheats but I feel much better not having it in my diet. But I might have to cheat and bake for the holidays because I like to give candy and cookies to my family and friends for X-mas.

7. I walk on water. Ok I better tell you real quick– before you think that I am stuck up–I only walk on water in the winter months. I live on a lake and when winter comes it freezes over and we take long walks on the ice. The cold and the snow transforms my world during the winter months. As the ice grows thicker and the temperatures drop we take long walks on the ice. Some times the early ice is so clear you can see fish below your feet as you walk. And early in the morning the ice talks to you, creaking and groaning as it forms, leaving designs in the ice as it heaves.   I love winter! I don’t think I could live somewhere it was warm all the time.

8. I like a simple life. I am content and don’t have many wants. We don’t go away on vacation or out to eat. I prefer my kitchen and my own backyard and the company of my husband and my dog.  Our vacations are spent at home when my son and daughter and son-in-law come to visit. During the summer you can find me out in the garden, sitting on the deck or maybe in the boat  fishing. During the winter – life slows down but I still get outside for long walks and sometimes I fish through a hole in the ice. In the evening when January winds are howling outside my window and the snow is knee deep you might find me sitting by the woodstove knitting a stranded mitt with browns, yellows, green and orange dreaming about the warm summer afternoon when I collected the plants to dye the yarns with.

wow It is hard to think of 8 things about yourself. So on to the next step- this might be even harder. There are a lot of blogs I like to check in on. Some of them are bigger names that you might read too. So I think I am going to list some that I think are great but might not get as much traffic.

1. Vini I love this site. I wish they would write more often(ok here is where you hear my kid groaning because this is the site of my daughter and son-in-law and they are pretty busy working and don’t always have time to write at their site). But you should check it out to find out about all the cool things going on in Memphis.

2. Cauchy — well suddenly I am at a loss of what to write. Here is a blog about quilting, crocheting and knitting. Cauchy is crafting is diverse and her writing is well versed. Maybe that is not well written but what I am trying to say is I learn a lot as I read her blog. Hers is not the typical crafting blog. Sure there are lots of pretty pictures of her beautiful projects but her projects also make me think and in my book that takes her projects to the next level.

3. Jana is a good friend that I have never met face to face but we have been conversing through our computers for a couple of years. I am lucky enough to be on her list for test knitting. Jana has taught me so much about knitting and her designs are genius. Even though her knit Escher designs look extremely difficult they are built on simple stitches  that combined form animals that swim and fly off the needles. You really must check this blog out I can’t express how much I love her designs.

4. Barbara Benson or you might know it as the Trumped Duck this is a design that I have swatched for and will be knitting up sometime this fall- I just need to pick out the right colors. But no matter what I pick I keep coming back to this picture this combination of blue and gold is out of this world. I had no choice but to buy the pattern and add it to my queue.  So far I have tried 4 different colors from my own dye pots and I am pretty sure I will have to have the yarn she used to make myself happy. This is another one of those designs that  looks incredible difficult but is easier than it looks. Other knitters are bound to swoon and exclaim about your expertise when you wear this.

5. Sharon  is like me laughing and enjoying life and knitting toys. I have knit her dragon pattern and am about to embark on a knitting a fancy frilled lizard. What’s not to love knitting lovely toys? In fact if a frilled lizard tickles your fancy check out this group and sign up to knit one for free.

6. Rachel at cornflower blue has great tutorials and one day I would love to crochet just like her.

7. Annie at Wattsolak – what can I say who else designs a mitten especially for her  wedding anniversary. 1st year is paper, 2nd is cotton and 3rd year is leather so it stands to reason that the 9th year wedding anniversary present would be  a wool mitten design based on  your husband’s band poster. I love the new robot mittens but I really think I need to knit the octopus gloves even more.Do you think , perhaps, I have octopi on the brain lately?

8. Lisa at lil fish studios lives in the neighboring state of Minnasota. She explores daily in the woods that surround her home and loves to dye with the mushrooms and fungi she finds.

9. Karen at sweaty knitter is another blog writer that makes me think while helping me better knitter. She was a college professor that now writes about her adventures in the world of fiber arts.

ok I didn’t stop at 8 and I could have listed a few more I like too…..but I spent a lot of time writing and now its time to cook our Friday night fish fry.   Yeah- I know it isn’t Friday but I have a big adventure planned for tomorrow and I will be to busy to fry fish.


all hands

So if you have read the last two posts I have been knitting an octopus so I can show you how to double knit an arm. I wrote down the recipe in a similar fashion to how I send my notes to my daughter who then spends a lot of time editing my writing because I am much too chatty when I write. Then she formats it and adds pictures and diagrams to illustrate it. So you are warned this is the chatty unedited version of my knitting.

Right now my daughter is working on a monkey pattern I wrote that has double knitting for the arms and legs. And I thought it would be helpful to show how I made the arms. This little octopus is perfect for learning arms cause he has 8 arms to practice on. And besides who would what to do a swatch when you can make something small to play with after you learn a technique.

well if you have been following along you’ve knit a head with afterthought spots for legs. Afterthought knitting is a great thing to have in your repertoire. You can use it to add a pocket to a sweater or a heel to a sock. But my favorite place to use it is the thumb hole when I am knitting stranded mittens.

next you have learned to double knit. Another great trick to have. You can knit 2 socks at a time or knit a reversible scarf whose edges don’t curl up or the fingers on a glove.
now its time  to add the mitten at the end of the arm.

So here we go.

double knit the arm till it is the length you want and then cut the yarn. My arms are 5″ long. then attach the color yarn you have selected from your scrap pile and start double knitting.  double knit 6 rows for the cuff of the mitten.


row 1-6:    k1,pslip1  6X

row 7:    k1,pslip1 5X    k2

ok something different here I knit the last two sts of row 7 on a separate dp needle instead of knitting 1 and slipping 1 purl wise. I am  setting up to knit the thumb in i cord. I cord is short for idiot cord and is useful for all kinds of things. You might have knit i cord as a child with a spool. My sisters and I would churn out miles of i cord with a wooden spool that my father put 4 nails in.  However it is pretty simple to knit an i cord on 2 dp needles.

*I also  want to point out a something in the photo that you may already of noticed. Even though I am knitting row 7 of my green mitten you can only see 4 rows of green stockinette. That is because I  am slipping stitches every  row so technically I have slipped and knit each stitch a total of 7 times which shows up as 4 rows if you were to count it. Clear as mud right– but once you are knitting it makes sense. But back to the pattern. turn the needle holding the 10 sts you have just double knit and knit the first st from that needle onto the spare dp needle holding the last 2 sts you knit. Now you are ready for the i cord thumb. You have 3 sts on the spare needle instead of turning the needle to start the next row slide the sts to the other end of the needle.Pull the yarn tight and knit  3 sts. Slide the needle – pull and knit 3 sts. Simply keep doing this and you will have a nice cord or thumb – I knit 5 rows of i cord and then bound off by passing the first 2 sts on the needle over the third. Cut the yarn and you can see here is a nice little thumb.

Now for the hand portion of the mitt – there are 9 sts left on the needle starting with a purl st closest to the thumb.insert your needle into the st just to the side of it in the base of the thumb to m1 stknit the st you have just made and then slip the next st with the yarn in front and continue down the row double knitting. You now have 10 sts on your needle.

turn to start the next row k1,pslip1 5X at the end of the row pick up one st at the base of the thumb and knit it. Now there are 11 sts on the needle.turn to work the next row. Now you have a purl at the beginning of the row again- put the yarn to the back and pick up one more st at the base of the thumb and knit 1 then pslip the next st and continue down the row double knitting k1, pslip 1. You now have 12 sts on your needle.

Double knit 8 rows and its time to start decreasing for the top of the mitten.row 1: k2tog(k1,slip1) 4X p2tog    10sts total

row2: k2tog(pslip1,k1) 3X p2tog    8 sts total

row3: k2tog (k1,pslip1) 2X p2tog     6 sts total

row4: k2tog,pslip1,k1,p2tog         4 sts total

row5: k2tog 2X  slip 1st st over the 2nd one cut yarn and pull through

finished except for sewing in a few ends

Actually a whole lot of ends because there are 8 legs.

Which leaves you with a pile of scraps.

What do you do with your tiny pieces of scraps?  I save mine in a glass jar that was overflowing. So this morning while I was having trouble wording this I grabbed them and made a little wadded  up mess of ugly

and then took some unlabeled yarn and wound around the wad till I started to get a ball shape……then started winding a 100% wool yarn that felts on top of that until I had a nice layer covering all those yarn scraps of unknown origins. After I had a reasonable ball size I cut the yarn leaving a 2 foot tail and threaded this on a needle and proceeded to stab into the ball here and there stabilizing it …….and voila — a dryer ball from the scraps that I didn’t throw away. I will put these balls in socks and knot the socks wash and dry them with the next few loads of laundry so that they felt up. And then I just leave them on the dryer to pop in with my clothes – it speeds up the drying time (now if I didn’t screw around avoiding writing this by making scrap balls I would have been done in half the time ; )

But no matter– now I have a scrappy octopus and 2 scrappy dyer balls.

Next up….. I have looked at so many octopi on google that I am starting to think about ways I can alter this  pattern and make my own 20,000 leagues under the sea monster.


Octopi continued

Ok before anyone points it out I did look up octopi and made sure it was indeed a word. There is a whole lot of info out there in google land about whether it is octopi, octopuses or octopodes. And I think the last word on this subject was best stated Kory Stamper. I think I am going to continue to use octopi because it tickles me to say octopi.

Octopi are rather interesting creatures – they have 8 legs –well that is kind of obvious otherwise it would be a sextapus or a hextapus or well… you get the idea. Both the male and the female die in the process of having young – males die a few months after mating and the female dies shortly after the eggs hatch. Octopi have 3 hearts. They are very intelligent and can use tools. I didn’t see any that wore mittens like my octopus however they will take coconut shells or seashells to use as a shelter so it is entirely possible that octopi might wear mittens if they happened to find them in the ocean.

take a gander at this gorgeous octopus it would be fun to knit one that looks like this.or maybe this one. The way I always picture an octopus is the giant one  in 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. But when I googled that I found that it was a giant squid not an octopus – oh well it was a long time ago.

well that is neither here nor there this post is supposed to be about double knitting. the only thing octopi have to do with double knitting is that I set up an octopi to take photos of my double arm knitting. After all what could be better than having 8 legs to practice on……ok I have to answer myself cause its obvious that 16 legs are even better when you are crazy like me.

so here is a picture of my octopi, one almost finished  and one just started.

now I made the arms on my first octopus the same way that I made the arms and legs of my monkey — using double knitting. For the monkey I picked up stitches and cast on to start double knitting instead of using the afterthought technique I use in the octopi. You can see me working on size #1 dp needles here and you could imagine how awkward it would be to juggle 8 itty, bitty sts on 4 dp needles to knit these arms. So that is why I choose to double knit the appendages. It really isn’t any harder than knitting a 1×1 rib st and once you learn how to double knit you will find all kinds of useful ways to sneak this into your knits. you can double knit a stockinette scarf that says flat instead of  the edges curling up. Or you can knit patterns into a reversible  hat like on the blog of extreme knitter Alasdair Post-Quinn.These patterns are seriously gorgeous and I bought the book before it was out cause his knitting truly boggles the mind.

But back to monkey business– the double knitting on these is just the run of the mill- starting out- double knitting. Using straight needles to create a two sided material- there is no right or wrong side when you look at it.

So lets go to the octopi I had in the last post to show how this is done.

First up is picking out that afterthought scrap of yarn that was knit into the head/base of the octopus. As you pick out the yarn.. put the sts on two needles to hold them.I think you can see in this picture how easily this  scrap yarn is unraveled out of the knitting and how easy it is to pick up the loops and put them on your needles. There I have 6 on the bottom needle and 6 on the top needle. The next step is transferring all 12 sts to one needle. To do this I first take a st from the top needle and then one from the bottom……and keep doing this until all the sts are on one needleOk this picture shows it a little  better the top is actually on the top and the bottom is on the bottom . there are 6 stitches on the needle closest to my hand and 3 sts on the top needle and 3 on the bottom needle.

Once all the sts are on one needle you are ready to start knitting.

 First up– knit the 1st st on the needle…… …..then put the yarn in front as if you are going to purl the 2nd st but instead of purling– slip the st and return the yarn to the back. Then you knit the 3rd st and pslip the 4th st. You continue across the row k1,pslip until you have worked all 12 sts. *my mom would be horrified at these pictures and the only excuse I have for my nails looking like this is working in my garden and walnut stains from the current dye project. so now that you have worked all 12 sts just turn the work like you would if you were working on straight needles and………….start all over again. Knit the first st on the needle then pslip the second st. Because there is an even number of sts here -the first st will always be a knit st and the second a pslip1. Basically in double knitting each row alternates and you knit the sts you had slip purled on the previous row. And it is pretty easy to see on this sample because I changed to a darker blue when I started the legs – the sts I slip purled and didn’t work are a light blue and the ones that I knit are dark blue.  If you are knitting along with me and start to get the rhythm of the row going –it might feel real familiar.  This isn’t much different than a 1×1 rib except that you slip all the purls on each row. When I reach the end of the second row all my sts are dark blue. Now you just continue knitting each row this way. Written out it would look like this.


or the short version would be

k1,pslip1  6X

after knitting 12 rows the leg looks like this and if everything is going right…you can pinch or pull apart the 2 sides and feel that it has formed a tube. If you can’t do this it means that you have knit a st that you should have slipped purlwise. That is ok just keep practicing and you will get it.

So that is probable as clear as mud– but believe me it is a whole lot easier to knit this than to explain it. Like most directions once you have stitches on your needles in your hands it becomes clear as you work. So just cast on and give it a try.I changed back to the lighter blue color and you can see I am knitting every other st and slipping the other st with the yarn in front like I am going to purl.right about now you may be thinking big deal why would I want to learn this silly parlor trick. But believe me– it is a pain in the butt to manage just a few sts on 4 dp needles.Sure you could be stubborn and say “I will work on 2 needles to avoid having too few sts on the needle and having the needles flop around awkwardly as I struggle to knit”. you could do that — but then you wouldn’t learn to double knit and it is fun to have a new trick up your sleeve. You could always go on to double knit a pair of socks the way the nanny, Anna Makarovna in War and Peace did. She would knit the socks and when she finished she would gather the children around her as she pulled one sock out of the other like a magic trick to astonish them. You would never again suffer from second sock syndrome. Well it isn’t a sock but look I could use this trick for the fingers on a glove.

So just keep knitting until you have an arm that you think is long enough for an octopus and the next installment will be a mitten for the end of the arm.


after thoughts about double knitting

I have been knitting these cute little monkeys with snaps on the hands and legs. I love them in the larger size but the minis really tickle me. They snap together and I find them hanging about doing all kinds of acrobatic tricks and getting into mischief.The monkeys are fun and knit up in about 6 hours. I use double pointed needles for the appendages. The tail is easy you can make an i-cord for it. But the arms and legs would be too skinny using an i-cord but knitting a small amount lets say 8 sts on 4 needles would be awkward and fiddle-ly and drive a person insane. But  you can learn to double knit and finish the legs and keep all your marbles in the process. BUT (I know I am using the word BUT a whole lot here) including all these instructions in a pattern would drive my Chief Pattern Writer & Editor  insane. And I wouldn’t want to drive my daughter to the brink. So I promised to write up a some instructions here to explain the process.

Then I talked to my sister who is the Chief Pattern Test Knitter Extraordinaire. I know that is a lot of words but test knitter just doesn’t cut it- not when that person is your sister and you spend an hour on the phone with her telling her that the way it is written is right and she is wrong. And then knitting it together over the phone line a dozen times and suddenly in a small voice you have to say –damn it you are right ,I am wrong. It might not seem like a big deal to the Fish Tickler but there is a world of difference between a k1 and a pslip1. After hanging up the phone I had a good belly laugh because while we were knitting together I cast on 8 sts and then started in double knitting them but my little sis had picked up her sts on a spare hat that was lying around. and I could picture the arm growing out of one of her kids hat with a hand at the end of it. The way my brain is working or not working I think I could use a pair of hands on my hat – they could cover my ears to keep the grey matter in my head instead of leaking out.  BUT for this demo I thought I would make a little animal…..

 So I cast on a whatzit that

looks a little like a light bulb

or maybe a hot air balloon

BUT it is a practice knit to demo

double knit legs. When it is

finished it will be a cute toy.

As I knit I thought maybe the legs

on an octopus would be a neat place

to do some afterthought knitting.

After all I like the afterthought technique and the whole purpose of the octopus is just to make a sample that I can demonstrate double knitting.

The afterthought heel(thumb, pocket) is a great way to create an area for sts when you are done with an article of clothing without putting stitches on a holder and casting on stitches to continue knitting. I first learned about afterthoughts in a book by Elizabeth Zimmermann. It also makes a cleaner line than casting on more sts I think.

The Yarn Harlot wrote a great post about adding an afterthought heel to a sock. It is a fun read and she took excellent pictures of the process – check it out.

There are other ways to do this too. And like some people you might get nervous seeing scissors cutting into the knit item that you have spent so many hours on.  If you have a scrap length of yarn in your knitting bag and you know exactly where you want the afterthought knitting to occur you can knit those stitches on scrap yarn and then back up and knit over those stitches with the yarn you are using and continue knitting until you are done. Now here I could insert pictures of my octopus and the afterthought legs but why when so many great tutorials exist out there. I just googled and found a blog I really love with great pictures of the after thought heel with scrap yarn. Check out Knitting up a Storm and look at her great socks – her pictures and her writing explain the after thought knitting very well.

So this is a real cool trick to have up your sleeve and even better those afterthought leg openings are going to be where you can learn to double knit legs just in case you don’t need a hat with hands.


So here is what I wound up with.

I have 8 afterthought slots knit into

my sphere so I will be able to knit

8 arms. Oops well that kind of gives

it away. This sphere will be an octopus

when it is finished. Then I started

knitting the legs and taking pictures

and suddenly it occured to me that it

would have been great if I had written

down directions to the sphere  so that a knitter could follow along and make one of their own octopuses to practice double knitting on. Because really who wants to knit a swatch when you could knit something really useful like an octopus.  So I thought some more and knit some more legs and finally after 6 legs decided I just needed to back up and knit a second octopus and write a recipe for it as I knit. 

so if you want to follow along grab a scrap ball of yarn out of your stash and an appropriate set of double pointed needles. But I will warn you it is a rather wordy recipe because I am not going to have my daughter edit it.

set up row : cast on 4 sts. knit  back

row 2:  k1,m1    4X      distribute  8sts on 3 needles as follows 3sts on needle 1 & 2, 2 sts on needle 3

row 3:  knit round

row4: k1,m1   8X     needle 1 & 2 –  6 sts   needle 3 –  4sts    now you have 16 sts total

some people might already be asking what kind of m1–well that is really knitter’s choice I use my favorite increase or m1. I knit one then pick up the st in the row below it and knit it for my increase. If a yarn over is your favorite increase you can use it but I would caution you that you must twist the yo as you knit it in the following row to close up the ‘lacy hole’ so you don’t see the stuffing.

row5:  knit round

row6:   k1,m1, k1  8X   needle 1 & 2 -9 sts  needle 3 – 6sts      24 sts total

row 7:  knit round.

row 8:  k1,m1,k2 8X  needle 1 & 2 -12 sts  needle 3 -8sts     32 sts total

row 9: knit around

row 10: k1,m1,k3 8X   needle 1 &2 – 15sts  needle 3 10 sts     40 sts total

you have may notice that I am increasing in 8 equal segments. I think this is appropriate for a octopus and it will be easy to divide into 8 legs so I will continue increasing until the head is the size I  want. But I want the top of the head to be round not flat so I need to start putting extra knit rows in and spacing the increase rows farther apart to do this.

row 11 &12: knit around

row 13: k1,m1,k4  8X       needle 1&2 18 sts  needle 3 12 sts    48 sts total

row 14 & 15: knit round

row 16: k1,m1,k5 8X      needle 1 & 2- 21 sts   needle 3- 14 sts     56 sts total

so you can definately see a theme going on in the knitting here. like I said above there are 8 segments in my octopus head. and each time I start a segment I  k1 and then m1 and then knit the rest of segment. and each time the segment will have one more stitch in it.  And after a couple of round I also increase the number of rows between the increase round so that the head has a nicer curved shape. You can keep increasing and make a real large octopus or you can go smaller and make a small one. You could even use this formula to make a top down hat for yourself increasing until it is big enough to fit your head and then knitting a ribbed band and casting off.

row 17 & 18: knit round

row 19: k1,m1,k6  8X    needle- 1 & 2 24 sts   needle 3- 16 sts   64 sts total

row 20 & 21: knit round

row 22: k1,m1,k7 8X   needle 1 & 2- 27 sts    needle 3-  18 sts    72 sts total

row 23 – 25: knit round  *note 3 knit rounds this time

row 26: k1,m1,k8 8X  needle 1 &2- 30 sts  needle3- 20 sts   80 sts total

row 27 – 35: knit round

now this is the area where the eyes of my octopi will end up. you might want a longer head – if you do this is where you would add more plain knit rows. or maybe you want a really big octopus well just keep doing the increase rows until the head is as wide as you want it. Or maybe you want an elongated head that tilts to the back if I wanted that I would add in some short rows here. Oops I am getting really distracted here by all kinds of ideas and want to cast on another just to try out that head but I better just get back to this octopus I have in hand.

after making the head the size I want its time to start decreasing.

row 36: k2tog, k8  8 X   needle 1 &2- 27 sts  needle 3- 18 sts     72 sts total

row 37 – 39 knit round

row 40: k2tog,k7  8 X   needle 1 & 2- 24 sts   needle 3- 16 sts   64 sts total

row 41& 42:  knit round

row 43: k2tog, k6  8 X    needle 1 & 2-  21sts    needle 3- 14sts     56 sts total

row 44:  knit round

row 45:  k2tog,k5  8 X   needle 1 &2- 18 sts   needle 3- 12 sts      48 sts total

row 46- 51: knit round

row 52: k1,m1,k5 8 X    needle- 1 & 2- 21 sts    needle 3-  14 sts     56 sts total

row 53 & 54:  knit round

now it is time to throw in our after thought row.hopefully  you have  read the afterthought links that are in the beginning of this post but if you haven’t you can still grab your scrap of yarn and follow along cause it really isn’t that hard to do. I like to use a scrap of yarn that is bright and contrasts with the yarn I am knitting with so it is easy to see.

row 55: using the scrap yarn k6, slip 1 with yarn in front  8 X   I like to have the ends of the scrap yarn on the outside of the head when I am finished with this step to make it easier to pull them out later.

row 56 & 57: knit round   * note you aren’t using your scrap yarn any more you are using the yarn you have been knitting the head with

row 55: k2tog,k5  8X   needle 1 &2-  18sts     needle 3-  12sts           48 sts total

row 56: knit round

row 57: k2tog,k4  8X   needle 1&2-   15sts     needle 3-   10sts          40 sts total

row 58: knit round

the opening at the base of the head is getting smaller and smaller so this is a good time to stuff with fiber fill. I like to stuff it almost full and then just before binding off knead the body a little so that the stuffing is distributed nicely and then add a little more if it needs it.

row 59: k2tog,k3  8X    needle 1&2-   12sts    needle 3-  8sts         32 sts total

row 60: k2tog,k2  8X    needle 1&2-  9sts      needle 3-   6sts          24sts total

row 61: k2tog,k1  8X     needle 1&2-   6sts     needle 3-   4 sts        16sts total

row 62: k2tog   8X       needle 1&2- 3sts needle 3- 2 sts    for 8 sts total

actually you have to kind of fudge here taking a st from the 2 needle to decrease on the first needle but that is what happens when you get down to a small number of sts and it gets harder and harder for me to tell you how many sts on each needle. we have one more decrease row and we are done

row 63: k2tog  4X   and then cut your yarn and thread it through the 4 sts

finished- thats a whole lot of words so if you don’t mind I will leave off here and start a new post to explain  the legs or should I call them arms.