JKnit Knitting Project Assistant for IPhone

I recently invested in an IPhone. It has been amazing to be able to use every feature of a phone. I haven’t been able to do that since I lost my sight ten years ago. But, rather than gushing on all the wonderful things I can do with the phone, I’ll just tell you about one app I found.

JKnit is a knitting assistant app. It costs $5.99 so I was very hesitant to try it out. Luckily for me it works perfectly with voiceover. The app allows you to keep track of your projects by the piece and by the row. You can use the online web portal to input all your project directions along with the row numbers they affect. Then you sync the app and all the information transfers to the phone. JKnit has a built in row counter and each time you get to a row it shows the directions for that row.

I’ve really enjoyed having an easy row counter. I turned off screen lock within the app so all I have to do is position voiceover to the counter plus button and sinply double tap each time I start a row. It will keep your place on multiple projects and it’s just so easy.

I can’t say enough wonderful things about JKnit. As a blind knitter it’s even more helpful since it allows me to have an accessible version of the pattern wherever I am. It’s true that I can also read online and text versions of patterns with the IPhone but having one integrated with a row counter is even better. The online web portal is also easy to use. Copy and paste your individual pattern instructions and you’re ready to go. I highly recommend it and the price is well worth it.

Here are some links to more information on JKnit:

JKnit Knitting Project Assistant App

JKnit User Guide

Ravelry Group for JKnit App Users

Direct Link to JKnit in the ITunes Store

Spinning Time

The good news is spinning is taking a lot longer. The bad news is spinning is taking a lot longer.

The part I like about spinning taking longer is that I’m getting better at it. The singles I’m spinning are a lot thinner and more consistent. When I ply the two singles together it will probably be somewhere between a sport and worsted weight yarn. Much better than my first yarn which was bulky with very large slubs that look like little worm cocoons. The other good thing about it is that I’m not going through roving at such a fast pace. After I went through the first 16oz. in less than a week I was getting worried. Roving isn’t much cheaper than yarn and at that rate I wasn’t going to be able to afford to spin very much. This was very disappointing since I was having a great time doing it. Luckily for me, my spinning has improved and it’s taken me a couple of weeks of serious spinning time to finish my current 16oz. project.

This leads me to the bad part. It turns out I can spend a lot of time spinning. Enough time, in fact, that I’ve managed to make the muscles in my right hand sore. I’ve done this with knitting but I didn’t really see how it could happen with spinning. Last week I went to a spinning get together. I want to call it a sit and spin but that conjures up way to many funny images. Anyway, I rode with another spinner and she actually wasn’t spinning because she had done too much over the weekend and her wrists were hurting from it. Now I understand. It seems that any repetitive motion, no matter how minor, can cause stress and pain. I know it’s obvious but it’s so easy to forget when you’re having fun.

I had to take a couple of days off from spinning but now my hand is all better and I can get back to it. I’ll be sure to let you know how my latest yarn turns out after I get it plyed.

Back to work on a UFO

I began working on this sweater for my mother about a year ago. I was in the mood to make something for her but before I got very far on it, I went into baby knitting mode. The baby was due in October and I spent all summer making baby blankets and little diaper soakers. It’s taken a while but I’ve finally found the time to get back with it. Better late than never, though.

The pattern is from Drops and is a cardigan style. It has 2×2 ribbing on the sides and sleeves with diagonal ribbing on the front halves and the back. In the back, the diagonal ribbing makes a V shape and comes to a point well below the waist. The front angles up just a little to the button band. The sleeves are either half or three quarter length. I haven’t gotten that far yet and I’m sure you could adjust them to be whatever you wanted. Overall I think it’s going to be a very pretty jacket when I’m done.

I’m using Knitpicks Gloss sock yarn in a dark blue. It’s a fingering weight yarn and has a nice sheen to it. It’s 70 percent wool and 30 percent silk. I needed size 3 needles to get gauge so it’s still going to be a while before my Mom gets her sweater. Hopefully it will be done by this fall. She’s still very happy to know I’m working on it again.

On Display at the Smithsonian

Contributed by Dixie

My name is Dixie. Yep, from the deep south … of New England on the Connecticut coast. I have been crocheting and knitting for nearly forty years, the last seven of them in the dark. I also learned to spin a couple of years ago. I just returned home from a trip to Washington D.C., which involved my stitching and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

I was one of the volunteers who crocheted pieces of coral for the Hyperbolic Crocheted Community Reef, which was on display in the Smithsonian until last Sunday, April 24, 2011. I wanted to visit the reef while it was on display.

I guess I should explain what the reef was exactly. It was a three-dimensional reef made up of crocheted pieces of coral. The finished reef was huge, measuring 16 feet long, 9 feet high, and 10 feet deep.

Before going to Washington D.C., I contacted Jennifer Lindsay, the designer and organizer of the reef project, to ask what accommodations were available for those of us who are blind. She told me there were docents on duty with some touchable pieces, and she also said she would come into the Smithsonian when I was there so she could meet with me.

Sure enough, when my husband and I arrived, a docent was on hand with some samples that the public could see and touch. I got to check out a piece made into bell coral, which was very much like one of the pieces I submitted last autumn. I also got to touch a few pieces of dead coral crocheted out of VHS video tape, cassette tape, and plastic grocery bags. The very coolest piece I handled was a jelly fish. I have to find directions to make myself one: it was so very cute!

The reef itself was made out of 4,000 pieces submitted by 800 crocheters, who ranged in age from 3 to 101. There were three submission categories. the first was the healthy coral. These pieces were done in vibrant colors, all shades of reds, pinks, greens, blues, and purples. The second was the bleached coral, the coral that is dead. These pieces were in light neutral tones, various beiges, tans, grays, and whites. The third was the toxic corals. These were worked in found items and trash (like the plastic shopping bags) to show pollution in the coral reefs.

The highlight was touching my own pieces. They fell into the bleached coral category. One was a cream colored bell coral, and the other a tan brain coral with brown spots. When the reef’s designer met with me, she researched where my 2 pieces were placed, and she allowed me to reach into the display to touch them. This was not something others were allowed to do, but an accommodation she kindly made for me.

My husband took pictures of me standing by the reef, pictures of the 2 pieces I submitted, and a picture of the plaque on the wall with the names of all of the crocheters who contributed pieces.

The reef is now going to be moved, but no definite destination has been set. I am hoping it goes on tour to other museums so it can be seen nationwide. Still, it is very cool to say, “I have a couple pieces on display in the Smithsonian!”

finally Spinning

I’ve been interested in learning to spin for a while. A couple of years ago I bought a drop spindle, some roving and an instructional book online. I knew you held on to the spindle and dropped it while it spun to create the yarn. I couldn’t think of any reason a blind person wouldn’t be able to manage it. I missed one obvious point. The drop spindle falls toward the floor while it’s spinning and a totally blind person isn’t going to have any way of knowing when it is getting close to the floor. If you touch the spindle to find out where it is, you’re going to disrupt the spinning. If it hits the floor, it will lose the twist you’ve built up in your yarn. There might be a work around for this but I had one other problem when learning to spin with a drop spindle; I had no idea how to draft the roving. I tried to find instructions online but nothing made any sense without being able to see the videos. No one I know knew how to spin so I was on my own. Granted, I could have solved this problem by asking someone sighted to help me learn by watching the videos and explaining, but with the other problem of the spindle hitting the floor, I was discouraged. The drop spindle and the roving have sat in a box along with the instruction book since then. I’ve had vague intentions to scan the book but I didn’t think it would explain how a blind person could keep the spindle from hitting the floor so I never got around to it.

Flash forward to the present when a fellow blindstitcher mentions on the list that she’s selling her spinning wheel. Add to that the facts that she lives less than an hour from me and I’ve been harboring this wish to be able to spin, and you have one happy woman. I am the new owner of a Louet S51 double treadle. Louet wheels are supposed to be great to learn on. That specific model has been discontinued but the nice thing about Louet is that most of their wheels have interchangeable parts. If I ever need more bobbins or a different kind of flyer, it won’t be a problem.

I had no illusions that I could learn to use the spinning wheel on my own like I tried to do with the drop spindle. This was much more involved. I did some research online with the idea that I was going to need to drive about 45 minutes and take lessons at a yarn store. Luckily for me, I found out otherwise. It turns out there is a wonderful woman who lives in my county and gives private lessons. On top of this she used to be a special education teacher so she understands the nature of disabilities and is more likely to be able to explain things to a blind person. Out of curiosity, I did some asking around at the next Knitwits get together. Not surprisingly, she’s a member of the knitting guild I just joined) it’s not a very big town after all). They also sang her praises and said she would be a wonderful spinning teacher. All of these things seemed to come together in such a way that it felt like I was meant to learn to spin at this point in my life.

I’ve had one spinning lesson so far with two more to come later this week. I think it went fairly well. From the things she said, I’m doing just as well as the average sighted person. The hardest thing at the moment is trying to do four different things at once. There are a couple of issues with spinning as a blind person but they all seem manageable. One is making sure the wheel is going in the right direction. It has to be able to spin both ways because you spin the yarn one direction and ply it together in another. I will have to feel the wheel each time I start to make sure it’s right. The other issue that comes to mind is making sure the yarn stays on the hooks of the flyer. It looks like the problems that are coming up are simple and can be solved by doing a quick checklist before I start treadling.

What I’ve learned so far in all my spinning adventures is that it’s better to learn from an actual person. I know this isn’t always possible but sometimes it’s necessary. With that being said, I’m happy to answer any questions about spinning as a blind person.

Now that I know more about drafting I might get the drop spindle out and try it again. I’ll let you know if I can make it work. I think I’ll spend some time mastering the spinning wheel first, though.

Here is a directory of spinning terms and what they mean just in case you want to know.

Too Much Yarn?

Everyone who crafts with yarn most likely has a stash. Whether it’s only left over bits of yarn from a project or yarn that’s waiting to be made into something wonderful, there must be a stash. Some people could possibly refuse to buy more yarn until they’ve used what they have and throw away all those little bits of leftover yarn. This is a really hard concept for me to grasp. And I honestly can’t imagine throwing yarn away. It’s just not in me. I also love buying yarn for a project. There’s something about beginning a new project; it has so much potential and I just know I’m going to enjoy making it. Top this all off with loving family members buying boxes of yarn for me when they find a good deal at flea markets or yard sales and you have a serious stash problem.

Part of me thinks that I actually have a space problem, not a stash problem at all. I need a whole room for my crafty stuff. A room with built in storage, a large table, a comfy chair and an open window in honor of spring comes to mind. This really isn’t feasible in this house. Just not enough rooms and the husband has his own interests that take up as much space as mine do.

So, now I’m left with the problem of what to do with all this yarn. I can’t have a whole room but I can have a closet. The den closet has nothing but junk in it so I’m taking it over. A few shelves and my storage problem will be solved. I would have already done this but I would much rather be knitting than organizing yarn. I know it’s probably going to take a couple of days, at least, to get all this situated. There are bags of yarn that I bought on sale as well as some UFO’s. There’s yarn on the kitchen table. There’s yarn in the baby’s room. There’s yarn for the baby’s toys on the kitchen bar stool. There’s yarn on the book shelf in the living room. This isn’t even counting the dresser I already have full of yarn. I would say that I probably need to go on a stash diet but I know that’s not going to happen. I’ll just say I can’t buy any more yarn unless it fits in the dresser or the closet. I suppose I need to get to work on the yarn closet instead of just daydreaming about it.

The Art of Crochet

Crochet is a wonderful way to make fabric for many different uses. It can be used to make blankets, clothes, lace, household items and even toys for children.

I first learned to crochet as a teenager when my mother enlisted my help to finish some baby blankets she was working on at the time. I didn’t do much of it for a while after that, until my cousin got pregnant with her first child and I made him a baby blanket. Since then, along with a few more baby blankets, I have made some full size blankets for family members. It was with crochet blankets that I first experienced the feeling of satisfaction when giving a gift that has been hand made with love.

After spending a lot of time knitting in the past few years I’ve recently become interested in crochet again. Mainly to make some Amigurumi toys for my infant son but for other projects as well. I’m also starting to appreciate crochet more fully for what you can do with it that you can’t do with knitting.

Crochet is like knitting in that it uses yarn and makes a fabric. That’s just about where the similarities end. . It uses one needle with a hook on the end instead of two straight needles. It makes a thicker fabric than knitting and uses more yarn. For me, crochet seems faster but I don’t know if this is generally true for everyone or only particular to me. Someone who has been knitting for twenty years and only crocheting for one may not agree. The most obvious difference is that with crochet, you only work with one stitch on your hook at a time while with knitting you have all the stitches for an entire row on the needles at once. This is the reason why some things are a lot easier with a crochet hook than knitting needles.

Overall, I like to crochet and I still turn to it when I want to do something a little different. It’s not any better or worse than knitting; it’s just different. They both have their own place in my heart. I can’t wait to learn more about crochet and expand my knowledge of this wonderful craft.

Short History of Crochet

 

The word crochet comes from a French word that actually means hook. Very appropriate for the craft, I think. As far as anyone can tell, crochet didn’t become popular in Europe until the early 1800’s. It may have existed before that in various countries but there isn’t really any definitive proof. It is theorized that crochet became popular when it did because if the invention of two things. The cotton gin revolutionized the picking of cotton while the Spinning Jenny did the same for the industrialization of spun fiber. By the early 1800’s cotton yarn was much more affordable than at any time in the past. Since crochet uses more yarn than other textiles, this was a very good thing for its advancement.

Women made a cottage industry of crochet in Ireland during the potato famine. Their work became known as Irish lace and became very popular. During more prosperous times, young women used crochet to make things for their hope chests. Among other things, they would make fancy lace trims to sew on to their household linens when they married. Crochet has seen its ups and downs in popularity over the years. One of the down turns was during World War II when women had to go to work in the factories and presumably didn’t have time for needle arts. However, crochet has been on the upswing in the past few years. Many people are enjoying being crafty and making things for themselves.

Where to Find More

 

Here are some places to find out more about crochet. They are also my sources for this post. The Wikipedia article on the Spinning Jenny also has some very interesting history of the textile industry. If you are interested in learning to crochet, I’ll be writing some tutorials especially for blind people. Until then, you can check out the Lion Brand link below.

Wikipedia Crochet Entry

Wikipedia Spinning Jenny Entry

History of Crochet

 Crochet Guild of America

Learn to Crochet from Lion Brand

Discovering Amigurumi

My 5-Month old baby has started holding on to and playing with his toys. It’s ever so precious and all I want to do is give him more things to look at and explore. Combine this with the continuous urge to buy more yarn (Don’t worry about how I told my husband yesterday that I shouldn’t buy anymore yarn until I used some; that’s yesterday.), the 20% off e-mail I received from Red Heart and my discovery of Amigurumi and you get me buying more yarn. What else could possibly result from crafty brainstorming? I mean, other than actual craftiness.

Amigurumi is a Japanese word that means to knit or crochet stuffed toys. These toys aren’t very big. I think the largest I’ve seen so far is 24 inches and that’s an anomaly. Most of them have been about 7 or 8 inches tall. They don’t take much yarn and you can use them to get rid of leftover yarn that’s just lying around. You also don’t need to use expensive yarn. I’m planning to use Red Heart Super Saver because of the price and the number of colors available. Not to mention the 20% off sale. I think I can do an order of about a dozen different colors and I’ll have enough to make at least twice that many toys. I’ll probably never need to buy more yarn for Amigurumi projects but who knows.

Amigurumi can be knit or crochet but they are usually crocheted. There construction is a little different in that you don’t turn your work. You just keep working in a spiral. Add some eyes and some stuffing and you have a cute little toy. A lot of Amigurumi is made for looks but I like the practical application of making them as toys. Also, I’ve learned that you can use black yarn for the eyes instead of buttons to make them safer for that toddler and younger age group.

Here are some toys I’m thinking of crocheting.

Learn Your Colors Fish Counting Toy

Adorable Aliens

Amigurumi Dinosaur

Other Amigurumi Links:

Crochet Pattern Central’s Amigurumi Page

Knitting pattern Central’s Amigurumi Page

Wikipedia Amigurumi

Red Heart Super Saver yarn

Knitting Pattern Central

I’m very excited to share with everyone that my Be Mine Hat pattern has been listed on Knitting Pattern Central.

Now, honestly, this isn’t a very big accomplishment in the grander scheme of things. The only requirements for listing your pattern are that it be free and have a picture. But, as an amateur pattern designer, I think it’s awesome.

All I had to do was fill out the contact form. I included links for the blog post and the PDF download. She chose to list the blog link which is actually better than just the download.

Knitting Pattern Central is a great website. The owner has compiled a lot, probably thousands, of free patterns. They are all organized by type. You’ll find mine under “Hats”. If you haven’t ever checked it out, please do. The website I mean, not my pattern, but you can check that out too. There is also Crochet Pattern Central for crocheters so don’t worry if you don’t knit.

Hopefully, I’ll share more patterns soon and, if you’ve written your own pattern, spruce it up and share it with the world.

Thanks Honey!

The other day I was feeding the baby when my husband, Brian, came in and asked, “Do you still have that pattern?” I have no idea what he’s talking about, of course. At first I thought he wanted me to make him something but it turned out to be the other way around. He wanted the woodworking plans for a tabletop yarn swift. I’m thinking it’s been years since I asked for one but I’m not about to say anything now. Come to think of it, I have been mentioning lately that I have a lot of skeins of yarn waiting to be spun up. I’m sure Brian is picturing having to hold the skeins of yarn with his arms straight out while I spin endless balls of yarn with my ball winder.

So we dig up the plans and he goes to the hardware store. The materials cost under $5. Basically some wood, a bolt and a wing nut. The swift consists of two main pieces with a small block of wood in between so it will spin easier. The top piece is a large cross with peg holes drilled in the arms. There are dowel rods that you move to keep the skein of yarn snug.

We tested it this evening. With the addition of a couple washers and some waxing to reduce friction, it works wonderfully. I don’t know if it works as well as a commercial yarn swift but I’m sure the difference, if any, isn’t much.

Here’s the pattern he used. He did make a few changes but they are all minor.

So Easy Portable Tabletop Yarn Swift

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