The Touch of Yarn

Contributed by Davey Hulse


Once again, Crystal and Ana have really honored me by asking that I update my article about my book “The Touch of Yarn, Beginner Knitter’s Primer”, copyright 2009.


The first question you should be asking is:  Are you blind or just another sighted author trying to teach us something.  I’m totally blind and have been since grade school.  So, I’m one of us.


Most people ask why I wrote it, and the simple answer is:  Because when I started knitting around Labor Day of 2007, I couldn’t find a set of instructions or book that really spelled out each step in absolutely clear terms.  How do you hold the needles?  How do you control the yarn?  What’s a stitch?  Where do I set the ball of yarn to keep it under control?  Oh, and what’s a ball of yarn?  The stuff in the store looks more like a tube or a disk!


So, once I picked enough brains and did enough trial and error, I got the basic skills under my belt.  Then as new people joined our blind knitter group, I started trying out my skill at explaining things is simple, straight forward language so that there couldn’t be any mistake what I meant.  It worked.


And, so, the Touch of yarn was born.


The other thing was that in all the instructions, no one gave any real guidance about sorts of projects that would bring success quickly, and I know that for myself if I don’t have success pretty quickly, I get frustrated.  That’s why every chapter and lesson has its own project that can be done within a couple or three hours, long enough to learn the skill but quick enough so that the project is done and the student can move on.


I’d watched many first-time knitters take on a scarf with ordinary worsted weight yarn on medium sized needles.  That’s a project that is somewhere around nine or ten thousand stitches.  When a person is just learning it’s going to take a minute or so for every five or six stitches.  Fifteen hundred minutes or twenty-five hours is way too long for a first project.  No wonder in many of the bags of yarn I buy at the thrift store there are obvious scarf projects done by beginners.  They get bored and frustrated and give up.


Before I started writing the book, I thought my audience was going to be only low vision and blind knitters.  But when I started having friends and family use the lessons, my sighted family members were really excited.  My daughter wrote in her blog that the typical lesson book with all its pictures just confused her and that for the first time knitting instructions were making sense.  A special ed teacher who had also been a mentor for a youth knitting guild was extremely complimentary and said that she wanted to use it for her sighted kids.


So, what can you learn from the book?  And, what kinds of projects can you get done?


It will take you all the way from buying your first supplies and knitting a piece of fabric about 4 by 4 inches (10cm by 10cm) through what I call advanced beginner skills.  Can you knit up a fancy scarf?  Yes.  Can you knit up a sweater using cables?  Yes.  Can you sew stuff together?  Yes.  Can you fix things when you make mistakes?  You bet.


And, there’s enough in the book that if you are adventurous and creative, you can even take a pattern from the Internet and modify it to make it truly your own thing of beauty.


I’m not much of a self-promoter and it feels awkward for me to sort of hawk my wares to you, but I’d really love you to be able to knit and to have the sort of success that I’ve had.  At my granddaughter’s third birthday I gave her a hooded sweater that I had knit up.  It was just as gratifying to hear the adults in the room muttering, “You made that,” as it was to have the little sweetie put it on, say “It fits,” and come over and hug me.  Also, when my Mom suffered a heart attack, I knit up an afghan and got it to her for comfort and her naps during her recovery.  Later she said she used it every day.  I knit my Dad a shrug to keep his shoulders warm.  He used it up until his recent passing.


And, of course, I can’t count the number of smiles I’ve had as I feel one or another of the many scarves and shawls I’ve made my wife as she wears them.


So, come along and join me in this wonderful, addictive and creative art form.


Davey Hulse, Salem, Oregon


Ordering The Touch of Yarn, A Beginner Primer


Pick a format:


Hard Copy

Print: $25

8.5 by 11 Braille (2 volumes): $30

11 by 11.5 Braille (one volume) $25


Electronic: $20 each

MS Word


.brf for 8.5 by 11 (2 files)

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Ordering process:


I use PayPal.  My account is:


Deposit the money into that account, then email me with your choice of format.


If you want hard copy, I’ll need a physical address.


If you want an electronic copy, please specify which one.


When I get notification from PayPal that the money has arrived, I’ll begin processing the books.


Thank you for your interest in my book, and happy knitting.




The Glory of Great Mistakes and Greater Influences

Contributed by Timothy Harshbarger

Who knew knitting would lead to so many bad influences and so much good folly? After four months of knitting, I still feel like quite the novice. So far, the only thing I’ve completed is what I am calling the misshapen-pink-Barbie-dishcloth-with-built-in-button-holes.

My friend Stacy, the bad influence who got me into knitting in the first place, and I went to a yarn store where we both bought lots of … well … yarn. I picked up a bunch of small skeins of cotton blend to make dishcloths, and the first skein I happened to grab when I got home and broke out the needles was bright pink, a fact I discovered when the guys were over talking and drinking beer—while I worked on my dishcloth. They all stepped up to their man-friend duty and informed me of the color. Fortunately, I think I carried it off manfully myself.

But I was talking about bad influences. After the misshapen-pink-Barbie-dishcloth-with-built-in-button-holes, I started on a scarf. I was doing really well until I snapped the yarn while sitting out front waiting for my ride to work. I am undaunted, though because my knitting list, a passel of bad influences, has helped me believe that I may theoretically have either a very thick woolen dishcloth or the world’s smallest, squarest scarf, or I can always try to pass it off as a coaster with a little salesmanship.

It’s like this. I realized, when I finished with the dishcloth, that I had two choices. I could decide that I had done a bad job of it, or I could change the name of the project, thus encouraging myself in turning it into a success. I pause here to reiterate that both my friend Stacy and my knitting list are the reason I am turning out this way.

My conversations with Stacy usually start out like:

Me: I really messed up. Can you tell me where I went wrong so I won’t do it again?

Stacy: Let me take a look at it?

Stacy takes the fabric from me and checks it over.

Stacy: Tim, you discovered the yarn over.

Me: I did? Goodness, I am just a creative genius and don’t know it. Now if I could only make mistakes on purpose.

Stacy: You are doing better all the time. Here’s what you did to create the yarn over ….

And she goes on to tell me all about yarn overs, how to make one (on purpose,) what I might use them for, and we finally discuss how to fix the mistake. Thus she encourages me to make as many mistakes as I possibly can so I can learn all sorts of new things. Such a bad influence.

Then there is my knitting list, with all their talk about the yarn sometimes telling you what it wants to be, their seditious nonsense about making patterns your own, and blasphemy of blasphemies, their outright support of making mistakes. They are happiest when I take chances and experiment. True instigators.

They all make knitting just too enjoyable, too risky, and too exciting, and I really want to be daredevil enough to do some fancier things, though topping a misshapen-pink-Barbie-dishcloth-with-built-in-button-holes will take some skill indeed. I’m looking forward to the first time I give a finished project to someone, and I know I’ll do it with so many knitters to lead me astray.

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!”

Karen’s Alphabet Blocks

Contributed by Karen Schrade

This pattern makes stockinet cubes. Each side of the cube is worked in a different color with a print letter in the center of each side. Cubes are roughly 3x3x3 inches (7x7x7 cm) in size.

This is a basic recipe for the blocks. Lots of things can be changed to suit your own preference:

I used Peaches and Crème and Sugar and Cream Cotton Worsted. Originally, I tried these using Caron Simply Soft yarn. They were nice, but for a baby, I wanted something not so fuzzy.

To get the fabric right, I used size 1 knitting needles because I tend to knit loosely. That gave me a very dense fabric, which was what I wanted.

The stuffing is simply polyester fiberfill. I could use the blocks as covers for foam rubber cubes, but I wanted them to be totally washable. With the fiberfill, they can just go into the washing machine.

For my letters, I used Marjorie Arnott’s Charted Alphabet. Most of the letters are 8 stitches wide and 10 rows tall.


My blocks are coming out almost 3 inches (7 cm) square on each side, so if you knit tighter than I do, you can probably go up a needle size or two.


To make 4 sides of the cube, I make a strip of 4 squares, then seam the cast on and bind off edges together. I do a turning row between each square to give the cube its shape. Then I make two individual squares to sew into the spaces at each end of the box.

You can do whatever you want with the colors. I am making each block as bright and varied as possible. I’ve been doing my individual squares in white with colored letters, and on each strip, I’ve been doing two colored squares without letters and two colored squares with letters.


Cotton Worsted yarn, 7 colors including white.

Size 1 (2.25 mm) straight knitting needles or size to make a block the way you want it.

Polyester fiberfill for stuffing the blocks.


The Strip

With one of the bright colors, cast on 16 sts.

*work 18 rows in stst starting with a k row and ending with a p row.

Knit two rows for the turning. You get a ridge on the right side of the fabric.

Change colors.

**Work in st-st for 4 rows starting with a k row and ending with a p row.

Work your letter over the next 10 rows continuing in stst and changing colors for the letter itself. (I’ve been using white for the letters but you can use any color you want that will contrast with the background.)

Then work 5 rows in st-st, starting with a k row and ending with a k row.**

Do your turning row again, a knit row to create the ridge on the RS.

Work the next two squares of the strip by working from the * again.

Bind off loosely and join the cast-on and bind-off edges together.

For the individual squares

Make 2.

Cast on 16 sts.

Work from ** to ** as above.

Bind off loosely and sew into the side of the strip. The corners of the individual square will match the turning ridges.

Make sure to leave a small opening when joining the last individual square so you can stuff the block.


1. If you cut off about 2 yards of yarn in the “letter color” you can just let it hang behind the square till it’s needed again. That makes it easy to twist the yarns together to avoid long floats on the back of the square.

2. I’ve found that it’s better not to stuff the blocks too tightly. They tend to round out if they’re too firm.

3. Sewing the squares into the strip is the most time-consuming part of the whole thing. You can either overcast or mattress stitch the squares in place. If you overcast them, sew them firmly.

4. Any ends do not need to be woven in, but I’ve been tying the beginning and ending strands of yarn for the letters together. I don’t want them to figure a way to work themselves out!

5. Instead of choosing colors, I’ve been putting all of the yarn except the white into a bag. I randomly pull out a color for the square to be worked. When it’s finished, I put it into another bag and pick a second yarn randomly. Then when I finish the whole set of yarns, I start again. It’s making for some interesting combinations, like orange next to purple, but they’re children’s blocks and I want them to be as bright as possible. You can do the strip in a solid color, but remember to do the turning ridges. I’ve also done a couple with only two colors on the strips. Another option is to use a variegated yarn for the “non-letter” squares. That works well too, and you can do the other squares with a complementary color.

Tips for Braille Instead of Print Letters

If you want to put Braille on the blocks instead of print, you can work a popcorn for each dot: just knit into the front and back of a stitch repeatedly until you have five stitches instead of one; then pass the second, third, fourth, and fifth stitches over the one that is closest to the tip of the needle.

For contrast, you can make each side of the block in a solid color and later work the Braille dots with a different color.

Put a pin into the stitch you will make the popcorn in, and keep working. Then when you’re finished, pull a strand of whatever other color yarn you want to use from the wrong side of the fabric, pick up one of the stitches that has a pin, and work the popcorn. When it’s finished, pull the yarn back to the wrong side, and tie it to the beginning of the strand so it doesn’t come out. Repeat this process for any dots.

I’ve done this with bobble buttons and it works fine. It looks really nice to have a contrasting color button on a baby sweater.

I-Cord Ideas

Contributed By Karen Schrade

I-cord is a narrow knitted tube. It can be an accessory, an edging, a decoration, and so much more. It is usually made by casting on 2, 3, or 4 stitches.

Stockinet I-Cord

I-cord is made like this:

1. Cast the number of stitches called for (usually 3 or 4) onto a double-pointed needle.
2. Knit them with a second dp needle.
3. Slide them to the other end of the needle, without turning the work.
4. Bring the yarn around the back.
5. Repeat Steps 2 through 4 until you have the length called for.
6. Finish with sl1, k2tog, psso, drawing yarn through loop and fastening off.

**You don’t need double points. You can just return the stitches to your left-hand needle if you’re using “regular” straight needles.**

Reverse Stockinet I-Cord

The basic directions for I-cord make a tube with the knit side out. To make the I-cord with the purl side out:

1. Cast on 3 sts.
2. Slide to other end of dpn, or return sts to left-hand needle.
3. Pull the yarn across the front of the sts.
4. Knit 3.
5. Repeat Steps 2 through 4 until you have the length called for.
6. Finish with sl1, k2tog, psso, drawing yarn through loop and fastening off.

By pulling the yarn across the front rather than across the back, you are effectively turning the I-cord inside out.

Applied I-Cord

There are variations that allow you to knit i-cord onto another piece of knitting:

Applied I-cord is attached to an edge after the item is completed.

1. Work two rows of I-cord in the regular way.
2. For the third row, knit the first two stitches; then pick up a stitch from the garment and knit it together with the third stitch of the I-cord.
3. Repeat Row 3 along the edge of the item.
4. Either sl1, k2 tog, psso, drawing yarn through loop and fastening off, when the end of the i-cord is reached, or if working in the round, graft two ends of I-cord together.

You can use a contrasting color for your I-cord edgings.

Attached I-Cord

To attach I-cord while knitting a piece of fabric, add 3 stitches (for a 3 st I-cord) to the side(s) of the piece of fabric.

Row 1: Work to the last 3 sts (the I-cord sts), and with yarn in front, sl 3 purlwise.

Row 2: K3 (the 3 I-cord sts), work across, or if you want I-cord on both sides, to the last 3 sts, with yarn in front, sl3 purlwise.

**Wrapping the yarn clockwise, in the opposite direction from usual, on the I-cord sts makes the corded edge firm and regular.**

I-Cord in the Middle of a Row

(Ana’s addition)

You can work i-cord in the middle of a row to mark the turn in a purse or make decorative piping near a button band.

Just slip the same 2 or 3 stitches on alternate rows. For example:

Cast on 11 sts.

Row 1: P11.
Row 2: K5, kfb, k5.
Row 3: P5, sl2, p5.
Row 4: K12.
Repeat Rows 3 and 4, ending with:
Even row: K5, k2 tog, k5.
Odd row: P11.

I-Cord Cast on

Elizabeth Zimmermann’s I-cord cast on:

1. Invisibly Cast on 3 stitches.
2. Work I-Cord until you have as many “rounds” of Cord as you want stitches for the project.
3. Weave the end of the Cord to the beginning of the cord.
4. With the working yarn, Knit Up one stitch for each round of Cord.

** Ana’s note: If you don’t like picking up stitches, you can insert a skinny needle purlwise into the first stitch before working each row of i-cord. When you’re done, use the project needle to work the stitches off the skinny needle through the backs of the loops.**

I-Cord Bind Off

For a nice edge on a bind off, do an I-cord bind off.

1. With the sts to be bound off on the left-hand needle, cast on 3 extra sts.
2. For Row 1: k2, k2tog-tbl. This is the last of the 3 “extra sts” and the first of the sts to be bound off.
3. Return 3 sts to l-h needle.
4. Repeat row 1 until all sts have been “bound off”.
5. Either sl1, k2 tog, psso, drawing yarn through loop and fastening off when the end of the i-cord is reached, or graft two ends of I-cord together if working in the round.

** Ana’s note: If you want the i-cord bind off to be in a contrasting color, work the last row before the bind off in the CC. **

Three-Needle Bind off with I-Cord

You can do a 3-needle bind off with I-cord for a decorative seam, joining two pieces for a cushion cover; shoulder seams; the bottom of a bag, etc.

With your 2 pieces of knitting facing each other, right side out, cast on 2 I-cord sts.

*Knit 1, slip 1, knit together the first st of each shoulder piece, pass the slipped st over (1 st effectively bound off)*

Slip the 2 sts on the right needle back to the left and continue working from * to * until you run out of sts to be bound off.

** You can also do 3 or 4 sts for the cord. **

Double I-cord:

1. Cast on 7 stitches.
2. Knit 4. Slip the last 3 stitches purlwise with the yarn held in front. Turn .
3. Repeat Steps 1 and 2 until the double i-cord is the length you need.

Reinforced I-Cord

This method for making a strong, non-stretching I-cord came from Joan Hamer. It can be used for purse handles or anything else when you want a stiffer cord.

1. Using #4 dpn’s, cast on 3 sts. Do not turn.
2. Slide sts to the other end of the needle.
3. Hold a piece of cable cord the desired length of your I-cord in back of work, with 3-4 inches (8-10 cm) sticking up above left needle.
4. Bring working yarn underneath cable cord and knit 3 sts. Yarn will be coming from left edge of piece. Do not turn.
5. Slide sts to the other end of needle and UNDERNEATH cable cord, thus enclosing the cord inside the I-cord tube.
6. Check your work to make sure your cord is always enclosed in the tube. As you work, keep pulling a bit of cord up so that 3-4″ are always sticking out the top.
7. Continue in this manner until you have the desired length of cord. Pull down on the piece periodically to even out the gaps.
8. Finish off ends, taking yarn through the cable cord to prevent the cord from slipping, or use sewing thread to anchor them. Tie the ends together in a slip knot after threading through eyelet holes in your bag, or knit tabs to attach to bag and thread the cords through the tabs.

Joan L. Hamer Editor/Publisher Pine Meadow Knitting News

Square I-Cord

The directions for square i-cord are in Elizabeth Zimmermann’s book, Knitting Around, .

Just make i-cord as usual, but K1, P1, K1 rather than knitting all 3 sts.

I-cord Bobbles

From The Santa Barbara Knitting Studio & TRISH DESIGNS

1. Knit into the front, back, and front of the same stitch.
2. Slip these new stitches back to the left hand needle and knit them again.
3. Repeat Step 2 as many rows as needed.
4. Pass the 2nd and 3rd sts over the first, ending with your original stitch. You never have to turn the work, and if you pull the yarn tightly across the back the bobbles come out very rounded.
5. if you pick up the original stitch from the left edge of the bobble (right at the beginning of it), slip it onto the right hand needle and pull the new stitch off over it (as in binding off), pulling the bound off stitch tight. This closes up the back of the bobble and makes it more like a little ball.

Uses for I-cord

• I-cord can be coiled and sewn together to make coasters, placemats, hot pads, even a throw rug if you aren’t easily bored.
• I-cord works as bag handles and the ties on caps.
• I-cord can be threaded through eyelets for booties, caps, or bags.
I-cord can be used as ribbon to tie up gift packages.
• I-cord can be glued around a picture frame with perhaps a bow tied on one corner as trim.
• I-cord at the top of a cap, tied in a knot, makes a cute finish.
• I-cord in various colors can be sewn onto finished fabric for flowers, letters, etc instead of duplicate stitch.
• I-cord can be used to make a tassel as follows:

I-Cord Tassel for the Top of a Cap.

After decreasing the crown of the cap to app. 15 sts, sl all the sts onto a holder. *Taking one stitch at a time, k into the front, back, and front of the st making 3 from 1. Work I-cord for desired length, maybe 2 or 3 inches and finish off.*

Repeat for each of the sts and tie a piece of yarn around the base of the cords to complete.

Other I-Cord Projects

Soccer ball hat:

Soccer ball hat:
Referee stripes border this close-fitting cap which is adorned with a 3-dimensional soccer ball. The ball is knitted of 7 bobbles in black and white. The pattern is written for circular knitting with row-by-row instructions and sells for a modest price.

I-cord gloves:

Using Meg Swansen’s I-Cord finger technique, these gloves are started at the fingers and finished at the cuff.

Maggie’s Rags Free Knitting Patterns – Christmas Wreath Ornament

You’ll make 3 I-cords and braid them together for this little ornament.

Learning to Love the Loom

Contributed by Renee Van Hoy

Why would you want to try loom knitting?

Well, it is fun, but that’s not the only reason. People who are challenged by reading patterns for crochet or knitting often find they can loom knit without difficulty. People who have trouble with their fingers, hands, and wrists often find loom knitting causes less pain, which is a huge plus. People who want simple and fast can find projects that suit them and so can people who like projects that are detailed and complicated.

How can you start?

Looms come in a wide variety of sizes and materials. They also come in different gauges just like knitting needles and crochet hooks. Most loom knitters start with the Knifty Knitter, a set of 4 round rings found at local craft stores. This basic set is a good way to try loom knitting for a small investment. When you find that you love to loom, you can expand your loom collection dramatically.

Where can you find patterns?

Although there are not nearly as many patterns and tutorials available for loom knitting as for other needle arts, there are enough to keep you busy for a very long time.

For books about loom knitting, Bookshare is a great resource. Here are some titles to start with:

• The Loom Knitting Primer
• Learn New Stitches On Circle Looms
• Learn to Knit Cables On Looms
• Round Loom Knitting Patterns
• Loom Knitting Pattern Book
• Learn to Knit On Circle Looms
• Knifty Knitter Booklet 2
• Knitting With The Knifty Knitter

For contact with other loomers, there is a very active on-line community ready to help the new loomer. The Knifty Knitter Loom Group at Yahoo Groups is hosted by a talented blind loom knitter from the UK, Helen Jacobs-Grant. Helen spins her own yarn, dyes it in natural dyes, and looms it into wonderful creations. She also writes and shares many of her patterns, and gives freely of her loom knowledge.

For an online looming reference, go to Loom Knitting Help. While there are many other tutorials for loom knitters on the internet, most of them use video clips or PDF files. Loom Knitting Help has tutorials that can be accessed with a screen reader. There is so much information that the site can be overwhelming at first, but it’s worth getting to know as it’s a great place to find looming tips and instructions.

For individual patterns, check loom knitting blogs or Ravelry. The majority are free, with some of the more complex offered for sale. The patterns often come as PDF files. Some of these files are accessible as is, but if my screen reader cannot work with them, I can often access them by using the “read aloud” function in Acrobat Reader. If I still can’t access the content, I have found that the pattern authors are usually happy to send me a plain text file on request.

These are some of my favorite pattern writers:

The Loom Lady: Brenda specializes in patterns for small toys and decorations, and has created “loomchet” a loomed version of crochet.

Kelly Knits: Kelly has written wonderful patterns focusing on Intarsia and designs within the loomed fabric.

Bev’s Country Cottage Loom Page: Bev has put together some great lists of loom patterns, and has an especially nice collection of baby patterns and patterns for the beginning loom knitter.

Invisible Loom and Craft: Well, this is my own blog. I focus on loom knitting for the visually impaired and blind, and offer over 30 patterns. The patterns come as large print PDF files, but just contact me and I will send a plain text version. My goal has been to push the boundaries of loom knitting, and I have focused on lace patterns for the past year.

As with other stitch arts, loom knitting can be as easy or as complex as you want it to be. There are many reasons to try it, inexpensive looms to start with, and lots of resources to get yourself going. So why not give it a try?

Shells & Stairways: a Reversible Scarf with scalloped Edging

Photo by Rich Hill

Contributed by Donna W. Hill

On receiving a Braille copy of Barbara G. Walker’s A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns (Schoolhouse Press, 1998) from National Library Services for the Blind (NLS) this winter, I headed straight to the last chapter — “Edgings.” These patterns, often under fifteen stitches wide, are generally made in long narrow strips and sown onto the bottoms of everything from fancy skirts and blouses to curtains and pillow cases.

OK, I hate to sew, but I love these little edging patterns. Nonetheless, unless you want them for headbands or belts, you’ve got to do more than just knit them as is. I started by incorporating several edgings into round table scarves using the short-row method, but I was looking for something else.

Walker came to my rescue. She suggests that some edgings can be seamlessly incorporated up the sides of things like afghans. The best edgings for this purpose are those that are reversible.

I wanted to make fancy scarves for the girls in our neighborhood, and I wanted them to be unique. I like scarves, but I’m not fond of fringes. They get caught on things and fray. What about using edgings as fancy vertical borders instead?

Knitting the Stairways

Photo by Rich Hill

The main pattern for this scarf is Rib and Welt Diagonals (2nd TKP, p. 9). I first encountered this pattern as Reversible Diagonal from Amy Carroll’s out-of-print Pattern Library Knitting (Ballantine Books 1981). I didn’t alter anything about it except the name, which (in both instances) makes it sound much plainer than it is. It’s not just diagonal stripes. It looks like a series of staircases with a bit of ribbing between them, which could be handrails. It is reversible, though the staircases slant in the opposite direction.

The stairways are made from two-row blocks of 5 stitches which are alternated between reverse stockinette (purlground) and stockinette stitch. They are flanked by 3 stitches of k1, p1 ribbing. The purlground blocks stick up to form the steps, and the stockinette blocks are recessed, forming the risers between them. The steps role a bit simulating the way real steps hang over their risers. The ribbing follows the steps and accents the diagonal line.

The 8 stitch figure shifts one stitch to the right every right-side row. Thus, the pattern requires 16 rows. Walker starts with “k1, p1, k1, p5.” Remember that although we read left to right; we knit right to left.

Rows 1, 3 and 5 shift from having all three ribbing stitches at the beginning of the right-side row, to having just two and then only one. Thus, the pattern shows stitches before the asterisk and the last repeat is incomplete. On row 7, the full five-stitch block (as stockinette) is at the beginning. The right-side rows throughout the rest of the 16-row pattern find the first block reduced from five stitches to four, three, two and one.

For a more thorough explanation of how purlground and stockinette patterns interact vertically and horizontally in this pattern, visit The Knitter’s Gazebo: Lessons from Shells & Stairways Scarf.

Knitting the Shell Edging

The Shell Edging, which runs the length of both sides of the scarf, is essentially identical on both right and wrong sides. It is a combination of two stitches from Walker’s Plain Scalloped Edging (2nd TKP, pp. 255-6) with 9 stitches of fagoting and a 3-stitch garter strip, which serves as the inner border.

Several things are happening. After the 3-stitch garter section, little bundles of stitches (made from yarn over ssk, k1 on one side and k2 p1 on the other) separate the stairway design from the scallops. Each side needs 11 stitches for this vertical border. My husband originally called the scallops “clam shells” and then said they resemble the beehive hairdos of the ’60s. I prefer thinking of them as shells.

The Plain Scallop pattern requires 16 rows — a perfect match-up with the stairway pattern. Shells are made in garter stitch by increasing eight stitches, one stitch every row — yes, every row. Those two stitches grow into ten. Decreasing is then done on every row. For a shallower scallop, try it on every other row.

Although this scarf is reversible, be sure to plug in the right-side row when knitting it. I call the odd-numbered rows the right side, and it is from that perspective that I refer to the right-hand and left-hand shells on the edges of the scarf.

Variations on the Scarf

For a wider scarf, add a multiple of 8 to the center. Make it wider still, and call it a stole. Add more garter stitches to the inside of the edging, or add multiples of three stitches for extra fagoting.

Shells & Stairways Scarf

This pattern incorporates Rib and Welt Diagonals with a shell edging based on Walker’s Plain Scalloped Edging (2nd TKP, p. 255) and a bit of fagoting. The stairways can be widened by multiples of eight stitches to form a stole or rectangular shawl.

Materials: 8 oz. Bernat Baby Sport yarn (Baby Denim), size 5 needles and 4 place markers. Substitute your favorite yarn and needles.

Cast on 46 stitches

Note: place markers after the first 11 stitches and before the last 11 stitches to separate the stairway pattern from the two edges. The other two go after the first 2 stitches and before the last 2; these define the increase/decrease sections for the shells along the edge, which go from 2 to 10 stitches.

Inc: increase 1 stitch — knit into front and back of next stitch.

Preparation Row (wrong side): k 35, (to last 11 sts), PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, inc, k1 (3 sts, begins first right-hand shell).

Row 1 (right side): k1, inc, k1, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, *k1, p1, k1, p5; repeat to PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, inc, k1 (3 sts, begins first left-hand shell).
Row 2: k1, inc, k1, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, *k5, p1, k1, p1; repeat to PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k2, inc, k1.
Row 3: k1, inc, k3, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM k1, p1, *k5, p1, k1, p1; last repeat, k5, p1, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k2, inc, k1.
Row 4: k1, inc, k3, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, k1, *p5, k1, p1, k1; end p5, k1, p1, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k4, inc, k1.
Row 5: k1, inc, k5, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, k1, *p5, k1, p1, k1; end p5, k1, p1, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k4, inc, k1.
Row 6: k1, inc, k5, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, k1, p1, *k5, p1, k1, p1; end k5, p1, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k6, inc, k1.
Row 7: k1, inc, k7 (10 sts, ends increase for right-hand shell), PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, *k5, p1, k1, p1; repeat to PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k6, inc, k1.
Row 8: k1, inc, k7 (10 sts, ends increase for left-hand shell), PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, *k1, p1, k1, p5; repeat to PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k7, k2 tog, k1 (9 sts, begins decrease for right-hand shell).
Row 9: k1, k2 tog, k6, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, p4, *k1, p1, k1, p5; end (k1, p1) twice, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k7, k2 tog, k1 (9 sts, begins decrease for the left-hand shell).
Ro 10: k1, k2 tog, k6, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, k1, *p1, k1, p1, k5; end p1, k1, p1, k4, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k5, k2 tog, k1.
Row 11, k1, k2 tog, k4, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, k3, *p1, k1, p1, k5; end p1, k1, p1, k2, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k5, k2 tog, k1.
Row 12: k1, k2 tog, k4, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, p2, *k1, p1, k1, p5; end k1, p1, k1, p3, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k3, k2 tog, k1.
Row 13: k1, k2 tog, k2, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, p2, *k1, p1, k1, p5; end k1, p1, k1, p3, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k3, k2 tog, k1.
Row 14: k1, k2 tog, k2, PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, k3, *p1, k1, p1, k5; end p1, k1, p1, k2, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k1, k2 tog, k1.
Row 15: k1, k2 tog (ends decrease for right-hand shell), PM, (k2, p1) twice, k3, PM, k1, *p1, k1, p1, k5; end p1, k1, p1, k4, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, k1, k2 tog, k1.
Row 16: k1, k2 tog, (2 sts, ends decrease for left-hand shell), PM, p4, *k1, p1, k1, p5; end (k1, p1) twice, PM, k3, (yo, ssk, k1) twice, PM, inc, k1 (3 sts, begins increase for next right-hand shell).

Repeat Rows 1-16 to desired length. On final Row 16, knit the last 11 stitches. Bind off.

Born To Knit

Contributed by Marjorie Arnott

I generally tell people when they ask me how I learned to knit that I was born with a pair of knitting needles in my hands instead of a silver spoon!!        

I was born in a tiny village in the North of Scotland where most of the menfolk worked on fishing boats, etc. so it was very common for the womenfolk of the village to make warm aran style sweaters for their husbands, brothers and uncles who spent a lot of time at sea under very cold conditions.

I could make simple garter stitch scarves or squares by the time I was six years old. However, I went to the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh when i was 13 years old and we had the most fantastic knitting teacher. Up until then I thought I was a relatively good knitter, but Miss Duffin taught me so much. We were having a class end of term exam so as my sister just had a little girl i decided I would make a little dress, my first major project. When Miss Duffin began checking our work she called me over and told me I had done excellent work, but there was one tiny flaw. She took my hand and showed me the tiniest of knots in the yarn almost at the bottom of the skirt. She made me take the whole dress back and do it again. As you can imagine I was not a happy camper but I learned a lot from that experience. If you want to do a job well, don’t try and hide anything. Miss Duffin was not only blind but she was deaf too; yet she taught us so much.

Being an avid knitter, over the years I have found it extremely difficult and frustrating to have patterns put into braille for my convenience; so when I decided to purchase a braille embosser, I thought it would be well worthwhile to compile several pattern books and try to help other people who, I am sure, have been in the same situation as I have been on many occasions. Therefore, I compiled several books with interesting patterns and designs I had collected over the years. They come from far and wide: as far away as Australia and Scotland and several of these patterns have been designed by friends themselves.

Although I don’t crochet, I feel there is a market for crochet books as well as knitting books, so a couple of friends have kindly helped me to put some books together, in the hope that you will find  something of interest to whet your appetite.

I started this very small brailing business 12 years ago, never thinking I would still be doing it today, All because I decided to purchase a Braille embosser instead of a Perkins brailler. Which, incidentally, was the same price as the embosser since I got the embosser from someone who was trying to find a good home for it.

Marjorie Arnott

Marjorie’s books are available in braille and electronic formats. To get more information or to request a catalog. Please contact Marjorie with the above e-mail address.

So-You-Can-Stick-Your-Fingers-Out Mittens

Contributed by Karen Shrade

These are seed stitch mittens with a flap above the palm. I designed them this way because I am lazy. There is no picking up stitches, no button or buttonhole, and no curling problem when you work them flat with two straight needles.

If you want to do them circularly, the numbers don’t change. The top shaping is different, though: you just do a double decrease at the beg and at the halfway point on every other round. Otherwise, it works the same.

I tried them out this weekend and they work quite well. I could slip my fingers out, use a key, or snap my hood, and then retract my fingers quickly into the warmth.

The pattern is written out for women’s mittens, but notes for men’s mittens are included at the bottom.

• Worsted weight yarn. I got 2 mittens (easily) out of a 100 g. skein. I used Karen Simply Soft for my first try and then Encore Colorspun for the second. Both worked fine. The colorspun seems a little lighter, though.
• Size 4 (3.5 mm)and 6 (4.5 mm) needles.
• 2 Stitch holders and 2 ring markers

Gauge: Approximately 4 sts to the inch in seed stitch with size 6 needles, but it isn’t critical.

Single Rib Stitch pattern
Row 1: * K1, p1 *.
Row 2: * P1, k1 *.

Seed stitch Pattern
All rows: k1, *p1, k1 *.

With size 4 ndls and worsted weight yarn, cast on 36 sts and single rib for 20 rows (or more if you want a longer cuff).

Change to size 6 ndls and k 1 row, decreasing 1 st at center (35 sts).

Work 9 rows of seed st (or more if you want a longer cuff).

Start the thumb gusset

First row (RS): work 17 sts in seed st, place marker, (p, k, p) into the next st, place marker, work 17 sts in seed st.

Next row: (Keeping in seed stitch pattern) Work 17, slip marker, , p1, k1, p1 slip marker, work pattern to end.

Next row: Work 17, slip marker, inc in the first and last stitch between markers (keeping seed stitch pattern), work pattern to end.

Next row: Work 17, slip marker, k1, (p1, k1) twice, slip marker, work pattern to end.

Continue in this manner till you have 13 sts between the markers. Then work one wrong side row even.


First row (RS): Work 18, slip 11 sts to a holder, work to end.

Next row: work 17, p2 tog, work to end.

Start the flap:

First row for right mitten (RS): Work 19, slip next 15 sts to another holder, turn and cast on 17 stitches, k1. You have 37 sts on the needle.

First row for left mitten (RS): k1, slip 15 stitches to a holder, turn and cast on 17, seed st to end.

For both mittens: At each end of the cast on section you will work 2 sts together. This keeps it nice and neat.
For the left mitten, work 19, p2 tog, work 13, p2 tog, k1.
For the right mitten, k1, p2 tog, work 13, p2 tog, finish in seed stitch.

Now, work on these 35 sts in seed stitch. When 20rows are complete, place markers on each side of the center purl stitch.

Top of mitten

Dec row 1 (RS): K1, k2tog, (p1, k1) to 3 sts before first marker, k2 tog, k1; Slip marker, p1, slip marker; k1, k2 tog, (p1, k1) to last 3 sts, k2 tog, k1: 4 sts decreased.
Dec row 2: K2, (p1, k1) to last st before marker, k1; slip marker, p1, slip marker; k2, (p1, k1) to last st, k1.
Dec row 3: K1, p2 tog, (k1, p1) to 3 sts before marker, p2 tog, k1; slip marker, p1, slip marker; k1, p2 tog, (k1, p1) to last 3 sts, p2 tog, k1
Dec Row 4: Work in seed stitch even, k1, (p1, k1) to end.
Rep these four rows 3 times: 11 sts rem.

Last row: (K2 tog) twice, sl1, k2 tog, psso, (k2 tog) twice: 5 sts.

Cut yarn and thread through these sts, pulling up tight and fastening off.
Now, go back to the flap stitches. Put them back onto a size 6 needle, and join yarn. Work 14 rows of seed stitch, this time starting and ending with a p stitch. Bind off loosely. Sew the flap to the inside of the mitten. Then sew the side seam of the mitten.

Return to the 11 thumb stitches, and work 12 rows. You will start and end with P1. Last thumb row: K2 tog twice, sl1, K2 tog, Psso, K2 tog twice: 5 sts. Cut yarn and thread through these stitches, pulling tight. Sew seam.

Notes for a Man’s mitten

For a man’s mitten, cast on 40 stitches and rib for 25 rows.

Dec 1 st at center of next row for 39 stitches. You will work the mitten the same way as above.

Thumb gusset will inc to 15 sts and the thumb will be worked on 13 sts.

The flap is worked on 17 sts.

You have to work dec rows 1 and 2 again for the top shaping.

This mitten fit my husband.

I hope you like the mittens.

Winter Wonderland Ice Skate Ornaments

Contributed by: Paulette Vickery

These miniature ice skates make cute holiday package decorations, lapel pins, or Christmas tree or wreath ornaments.

• Small amount of Karon Christmas Glitter worsted weight yarn in gold or silver
• 2 jumbo gold or silver paper clips
• Size H crochet hook.
• Tapestry needle

Gauge: Not important to over all size.

Row 1. With long smooth side of paper clip facing down, attach yarn with a slst to the top right end of paper clip. Chain 1. Work 7 sc over paper clip. Chain 1, turn. 7 sc.

Row 2. Sc dec over first 2 stitches. Sc to end of row. Chain 1, turn. 6, sc.

Row 3. Sc in first 4 scs. Chain 1, turn. 4, sc.

Rows 4-7. Work even. Chain 1, turn at end of each row. 4, sc at end of each row.

At end of row 7, the “toe” end of the ice skate, chain 30. Fasten off and weave in ends.
Repeat for other ice skate.

Tie ice skates together in a bow, using “lace” at toe end of each skate for ties.

Paulette vickery is the crocheting and knitting editor for Seeing It Our Way, the braille and large print magazine published by Horizons for the Blind.

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