Crazy Monkey Creates

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“No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting” by Anne L. Macdonald May 1, 2009

Filed under: 2009,book review — crazymonkeycreates @ 1:26 pm

As a kid, I wasn’t much interested in History … at least, not in the way it was presented in the history classes I took. All the battles and names and dates with no way to relate them to human beings. I don’t have a head for that kind of history. I love the stories of history, and I remember having a teacher in High School who would tell stories (even though I don’t remember his name).

Those stories of history stuck with me much better than the dry name/date/battle lectures. When Ben & I went to the library earlier this week, I picked out some audiobooks, as they’re a way to get some imagination into our day, and I picked out “No Idle Hands: The Social History of American Knitting” by Anne L. Macdonald. Not only is it full of the stories that I’ve always liked about history, but it’s the history of knitting, which is fascinating in its own right. We take for granted so much, even as knitters. Like patterns with gauge measurements, schematics, and even photographs. In the discussion about having to protect one’s clothing and furniture from one’s hair pomade, there comes this bit:

A “French Pattern,” however, called for the knitter to shape the crown and then “when your cap is large enough round . . . knit until the cap is three-fourths of a yard long: make the end like the beginning.” Lacking a clarifying sketch, one’s imagination soars in ruminating on an object with a cap at each end to double the wear. For the imaginative, old pattern books supply the stuff of conjecture, such as a “save-all bag . . . so called because it may be made with odds and ends of netting silk, or all of one color, at pleasure [which can be worked] until the bag is long enough. The bag looks well with a clasp, and a tassel at the bottom.” It must be taken on faith.

or this bit on knitting for the confederate soldiers:

Young girls who had never learned to knit stockings because advances in the textile industry had improved “store-bought” ones gamely grasped the fundamentals under their elders’ tutelage. One student remembered her mentor: “With what delight, after days of toil, she would triumphantly hold up for examination the rude, ill-shapen garment for evaluation . . . [my] ‘soldier’s sock.’ Many a merry laugh has been provoked as the grotesque thing was submitted for critical examination.”

Show me a knitter who can’t commiserate with that though, of being so proud of the misshapen thing that they spent so much time on that they want to show it off to their teacher, and getting giggles at the scarf shaped like brazil, or the blanket that’s twice as big on one end as the other.

I’m only up to chapter 7, but if you’re looking for something that ties american history up with a slipknot to start casting on and knitting, I’d recommend this book in a second. It’s made me ask a couple of times why we never heard things like the fact that George Washington refused a salary during the Revolutionary War, but insisted that Martha Washington be paid for her trips back and forth to the front (knitting and doing handwork all the while to clothe the troops)? Why didn’t we hear about the wives and girlfriends who marched along behind the troops as support?


I blame Kirsten March 10, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — crazymonkeycreates @ 12:29 am

Kirsten talked about not being able to find a button large enough for one of her vintage patterns, and I figured that I could turn one. This was Saturday afternoon that she said that, and I dreamed all Saturday night about turning buttons. I woke up Sunday morning, thinking I had actually done so, all night long.

Today, I finally decided to turn the buttons, and found some scrap wood that we had used for gluing up laminated drop spindles. I cut it into smaller pieces, and … voila. Prototype buttons. I think I need to figure out a way to make the holes more evenly spaced, but other than that, I think they turned out well, and they’re addictive. Like potato chips.

Hand-Turned Button Prototypes


Knit it Forward! March 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — crazymonkeycreates @ 8:38 pm

I was chosen by Knitknacks to be part of her Knit it Forward meme… I don’t generally like memes, but I think this one will be awesome. 🙂

Here are the rules:

The first five people to respond to this post will get something made by me! My choice. For you. This offer does have some restrictions and limitations:

– I make no guarantees that you will like what I make.
– What I create will be just for you.
– It’ll be done in the next 12 months.
– You have no clue what it’s going to be.
– I reserve the right to do something unusual.

The catch? You have to put this in your blog as well.

I make interesting things; you’ve seen them on my rav projects page, or on the blog. Come on and comment! 🙂


Party Socks and Knitty Surprises February 3, 2009

Filed under: 2009,FO,knit group,knitting,sock — crazymonkeycreates @ 12:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

On January 10, my knit group did this “Party Socks” swap, where you bring in a 100g ball of yarn, and leave with 100g of sock yarn.  While a fun idea, everyone has since agreed that next time we’ll do a themed swap, where the yarn you get looks like… something.

Here’s the artistic shot:

Party Socks

And hold onto your breakfast, because here’s the full shot, on the sock blockers, with the last color turned down because they’re too tall for the sock blockers.

Party Socks II

Mine are the first finished pair of socks. Lyn made an awesome bag out of her yarn, a couple people are knitting their socks, and some haven’t even started, not figuring what they want to do with the ends yet. I did the ‘weave in as you go’ method, with one russian join in the heel section. 3 weeks of knitting, and they’re done. More info on my rav page for this project. I’m thinking as a teaching tool, as a ‘this is how much yarn one needs to make socks of this height’, it wasn’t such a bad project. I just got stuck in some of the colors for longer than I thought necessary.

After finishing the party socks, the Knitty Surprises were posted. There was a coat, a funky hat, and a heart. I think I might knit the funky hat at some point, but I thought the heart was really kinda cute. So yesterday, I sat down and knit one.

Why I Aorta

I kinda messed up the first ‘valve’ — it’s supposed to be taller by 4 rows, but if you didn’t know that the pattern was supposed to be a little taller, you’d never see it. Back view (or is it front?) on its own rav page. I had a hard time naming it. “Ya gotta have heart”? “I left my heart in San Francisco”? I settled on “Why I Aorta”. It makes me giggle. The red and orange is handspun that’s been sitting around for a while, and the red is Cascade 220 Heathers. I stuffed it with some of the ‘beginnner roving’, carded & pin-drafted mystery wool.

The kind of weird thing about the heart is that I got row gauge without even really trying. I didn’t measure my stitch gauge, but there are several parts where you’re supposed to knit for X inches, and I based that on the number of rows in the given row gauge. When I measured, I was spot on. I thought it was rather strange, given that the yarn requested was sock weight on 1’s, and I was using worsted on 3’s, but it wasn’t until almost the end of the project that I figured that out, so I was somewhat pleased and a little weirded out.

I’m currently knitting a hat with the leftovers, but I don’t have a link for that yet. It’s a surprise.


Calf Shaping for Toe-Up socks January 27, 2009

Filed under: anatomical,knitting,sock,technique — crazymonkeycreates @ 7:51 pm

Calf Shaping. There, I said it. It sounds like a dirty phrase, but it’s not. It’s a way to make your socks fit better, and not slouch and bag around your ankles because you can’t get them properly on your leg further than the 3″ above the ankle. I’ve got legs, you see. Legs with calves that don’t go straight up and down. I found that when knitting a full 100 grams of sock yarn, first the stitches stretch to go around my calf, and then they decide not to go around them at all. I thought, since I’m knitting these for me, why not custom-shape my socks? So I started thinking about it, and now I can tell you’re thinking about it, too.

The first thing to think about when you’re thinking about making socks that are tall enough to need calf shaping (which, considering how varied bodies are, this could mean anything from anklets to knee-highs) is the pattern. Is there anywhere in the patterning that would allow you to add in stitches without ruining the carefully set-up patterning? If you’re knitting stockinette or ribbed socks, the answer is “SURE! Put increases anywhere!” If you’re knitting from a pattern, it’s a little harder to tell.

The easy way to figure out if you can use x pattern and do calf shaping is to look for columns of knits and/or purls. For example, the Primavera socks pattern has an 11-stitch repeat where columns of knits sit next to columns of purls. The Wyvern socks have ribbing on the back. The Nutkin socks are stacked knits and purls in nice, neat columns, too. Even the Boyfriend Socks are a good candidate for calf shaping because there are places to hide your increases that won’t affect the patterning of the sock.

The second thing to think about is where exactly you’re going to hide extra stitches. Adding purl stitches to a rib, or to a background that already has lots of purls is a good idea, because it keeps the ribs straight looking (even if they are actually veering). If you’ve got a stockinette background or just a plain stockinette sock, you can (pretty easily) just add more stockinette stitches without too much fuss. I like to put my increases on the back of my sock, just because that’s where my calf is. Because of knitting’s forgiving stretchyness, you could easily put your increases all around the sock, but they’ll look funnier when they’re not on legs if you do.

The third thing to think about is which increases to use to add stitches. Here are a few of my favorite ways to add stitches:

  • KFB: adding a purl stitch between ribs, just knit in the front and the back of the last knit stitch of a rib.
  • M1(L): the normal make one is a Make 1 Left. I use this on the left half of the sock by lifting the strand between the stitches, putting my left needle in from front to back, and knitting in the back of that ‘stitch’.
  • M1R: Used as a mirror to the normal M1 (M1L), add stitches on the right half of the sock by lifting the strand between the stitches, put your left needle through from back to front, and knit in the front of the ‘stitch’.
  • M1P (L or R): Make one purl — instead of knitting into the front or back of the strand you pick up to make a stitch (to lean the correct way), purl it instead.

Now for the hard part. The math. No, wait, don’t leave! We’re taking baby steps here! Since we’re knitting socks toe-up, the easiest way to figure this out is to TRY ON THE SOCK. Take your measuring tape and measure the circumference of your leg where your sock is. Write that down somewhere.

Now, take a marking device –a pen works fairly well, but if you can get away with making a non-ink mark on your leg, you can try a pencil or the tines of a fork or something — and, using a measuring tape, measure one inch (or some useful measurement for metric people) above where your sock hits currently and make a mark. Connect your marks with the measuring tape. Measure this part of your leg and write that down somewhere, too.

Here’s the really hard math. Subtract your at-sock-currently number from your 1-inch-above number. Multiply that number by your 1″ stitch gauge. That’s how many stitches (approximately) that you need to add to make your socks fit the next 1 inch of leg. Your husband/wife/significant other/knit group/cat/dog/hamster may look at you funny for having marks on your leg, but this is the easy way to measure.

So let’s say you need to increase 12 stitches in the next 1″ of sock. You know (because you’re good and measure these things like I don’t) that you have a row gauge of 6 rows per inch. You have a couple of different ways to tackle this increasing. You can increase 2 stitches every row, 4 stiches every other row, 6 stitches every third row, or 12 stitches in one row.

If you increase ALL of the stitches in one row, you run the risk of the sock bagging there, because your leg isn’t big enough to fill in that part of the sock. You may also have a more noticeable line where your sock magically becomes bigger all of a sudden. I like to try to match the increase rate to the pattern. If you have a 2-row pattern, increasing on the plain-stitch row (or the plainer-stitch row) will let you see where these increases go without messing up your very careful patterning.

I also like to make my increases symmetrical, so if I increase 1 at the beginning of a row, I also increase at the end of the row. Or if I increase after the first rib, I increase before the last rib (if I have ribbing). Since I knit my socks 2 at once on magic loop, this is fairly easy to remember. If you’re knitting one at a time, WRITE DOWN what you do for one sock and put it in a safe place so you can reproduce it for your second sock. If you do 2 socks on 2 pairs of dpn’s, you can do one increase row and the plain row or rows, then pick up the 2nd set of dpn’s and do the same thing, making slower progress, but progress that will make sure that both of your socks turn out the same.

With a LITTLE math, and a few weird marks on your legs, you can get your socks as tall as you like, and you can get those tall socks onto your legs.


2009 opens with a … grumble January 8, 2009

Filed under: My Etsy Site — crazymonkeycreates @ 3:53 pm

We went to bed early on New Year’s Eve, because we were exhausted. Fireworks started at 8pm, as expected, and I muttered “8pm is NOT midnight” several times. I’ve been doing a little yarn work, but it’s slower than I’d like because our counter’s broken again. So I’m hand-winding 100g balls of yarn and skeining them (thankfully Ben makes an awesome skeiner), and dyeing fiber, since it doesn’t need to be wound.

The update to last night included these 8 yarns:

2 of the colorways are panda toes in the same colors as monkey toes, so they got similar names. “Love is Patient” (MonkeyToes) is paired with “Love is Kind” in PandaToes. “Hothouse Flowers” in MonkeyToes is the same as “Forced Blooms” in PandaToes.

I’m also experimenting with the photography style of what we’re posting on etsy, making it more ‘artsy’, and hopefully making it harder to resist a skein or two of lusciously photographed yarn.

There will be more etsy updates coming, including what I’m calling “Spin me a Sweater” kits, which are simply, 2 lb of coordinating roving for you to spin up into yarn. They’ll be priced at 25% off the normal price if you had bought 2 lbs of fiber, and offered with Priority shipping. I’ve got them in Merino (drying right now) and BFL (dyeing right now), and if they do well enough, I’ll offer superwash merino and superwash BFL.


Knitting Book Sale! November 23, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — crazymonkeycreates @ 12:34 pm

I’ve gotta make room for some other stuff, so I’m offering up some knitting, spinning, weaving books for sale. I’m listing anything new for half its cover price. Shipping via Priority Mail in the US, $4.80 for the first book, $2 for each additional. Please ask for international shipping, and I’ll price it for where you are. I have 2 Starmore books, both listed at 1/2 of what Amazon wants for them. All books are in good condition, no rips, tears, or dogeared pages, unless noted. If you’re interested, send me an email at christy at crazy monkey creations dot com. If you know someone who would be interested, send them over to my blog.

I am not willing to ship media mail. For one thing, it means finding an appropriately sized box, and I will end up passing that cost on to you, as I do not currently own boxes of the right size for mailing books. This means that the end cost for shipping is about the same as priority, and the mail gets there much more slowly. Priority shipping is my preference because I can get the boxes for free, it’s a reasonable shipping price for what you get, the items get to their destination quickly, and PayPal lets me print the labels directly from their site. Paypal is my preferred method of payment, and I do take credit-card funded transactions. Since I’m only charging you for the first pound ($4.80) and books weigh more than that, you’re still getting a deal.

Edited list to show what is available. (The Starmore books were the first to go.)

Knitting Socks

Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles, Cat Bordhi, $6 (Paperback)
Folk Socks, Nancy Bush, $10, Paperback

Knitting Instruction

Mason-Dixon Knitting, Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne, $15 (Hardback, Dust Cover Intact)
Stitch & Btich, Debbie Stoller, $6, Paperback
Stitch & Bitch Nation, Debbie Stoller, $6, Paperback (marked in one spot due to errata)

Knitting Sweaters

Sweaters for Everyone Kids to Adults, Mary Rich Goodwin, $7, Spiralbound
The Best of Knitter’s Arans & Celtics, $10, Paperback
Knitting Sweaters from the Top Down, Cathy Carron, $12, Hardback, Dust Cover Intact.
Big Girl Knits, Jillian Moreno & Amy Singer, $15, Hardback, Dust Cover Intact

Other Knitting

One Skein Wonders, Judith Durant, $9 (Paperback)
Odd Ball Knitting, Barbara Albright, $10, Paperback
Cables Untangled, Melissa Leapman, $16 (Hardback, Dust Cover Intact)
The Elegant Knitter, Gina Macris, $12, (Hardback)
World of Knitted Toys, Kath Dalmeny, $7, Paperback
The Knitter’s Bible Knitted Accessories, Claire Crompton, $10, Paperback
Modular Knits, Iris Schrier, $9, Hardback, dustcover torn in one spot.
Felted Knits, Beverly Galeskas, $10, Paperback
Scarf Style, Pam Allen, $9, Paperback, slightly bent corner.
Yarns to Dye For, Kathleen Taylor, $10, Paperback
Easy Beaded Knits, Jeanette Trotman, $10, Paperback


Spinning Designer Yarns, Diane Varney, $8, Paperback
The Joy of Spinning, Marilyn Kluger, $5, Paperback
Spin to Knit, Shannon Oakey, $10, Paperback (some water damage on the corner)


Weaving without a Loom, Veronica Burningham, $8, Paperback
The Weaver’s Companion, $10, Spiral Bound


Colorful Stitchery, Kristin Nicholas, $9, Paperback
The New Crewel, Katherine Shaugnessy, $7, Paperback

Vintage & Out of Print

Encyclopedia of Knitting and Crochet Stitches, Fran Westfall, $5 (Hardback, Dust cover torn in 3 spots, copyright 1971)
The New Paris Fashions in Laines du Pingouin Yarns (No 23), $2, Pamphlet, 1963.
Bernat Raglans (Book No 97), Copyright 1961, $3. (Name written in the front, pages still holding together)
Woman’s Day Knitting Book, Fawcett Service Series, Number 7, $3, (Magazine, name written on front, back cover falling off)
Classic Designs, An Exclusive Collection of Knitted Sweaters, 1985, $10, Hardback, dust cover intact.
The Bantam Step-by-Step book of Needle Craft (1979), $3, Paperback