My Needle Cabinet

I love to go thrift store shopping. It is not uncommon for me to spend a couple hours scouring just one thrift store. I love the hunt. I’ll park myself in an isle & crouch down low to dig at the back of the shelves where other shoppers might take a glance down, but usually walk right past.  That is where the good stuff is hidden. But that is not where I found this. This cabinet was setting on table near the cash register. I glanced over in that direction in search of a clock & there it was. From across the room, I heard it call my name.  I made a beeline over to the table & scooped it up in my arms. It was love at first sight.
knitting cabinetToday, this perfectly rustic cabinet sets on my shelf & proudly holds all of my knitting tools.

drawer 1

drawer 2It’s drawers are the perfect size for storing all my knitting needles.  This is my collection of needles made by Joes Fiber Tool.

Drawer 3I realize this may not be the most efficient way to organize my knitting needles.  The truth is, I love all of my needles, I like to look at them, I like how they feel, & I enjoy digging through them to find the right needle that I need. I’ve seen all kinds of different ways that people have their needles organized, but having ADD, I know that none of those systems would work for me.  I’m a dump & run kind of girl, so this is what works best for me.  How do you keep your knitting needles organized?

TKGA Master Knitters Level 1: Swatches 7-9

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When I first received the program in the mail & started reading through it, I felt overwhelmed & unsure about where & how to begin.  If I hadn’t been working through the program with a friend, I would have struggled & probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it much.  Having someone to talk to about the program, & to work together made a big difference for me. There are questions that my friend & I asked each other, & we scoured the internet together for examples from others who have also worked through the program. I want to be that resource for others.  In this series I will describe what skills a knitter needs to know about & helpful resources that can be used in answering the questions. I will  share pictures of my swatches, & the feedback I receive after my swatches have been reviewed. I hope that this series will be a companion for those working through the program.

Swatches 7-9 are designed to demonstrate your knowledge of decreases.  You will need to know how to decrease using K2tog, SSK, SKP, KSP.  Some of these stitches created a right slanting decrease & the others create a left slanting decreases.  You will need to know which is which & how to use them to create a mirrored decrease. You will also need to know the  difference between SSK and K2tog (Blended) & K2tog and SSK (Full-fashioned) decreases.

When answering the questions that correspond with these swatches * “Decreases Part 1” by Arenda Holladay. Cast on Spring 2005: 22-24 is a helpful article to read.

*These articles are only available to TKGA members.

TKGA Master Knitters Level 1: Swatches 4-6

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When I first received the program in the mail & started reading through it, I felt overwhelmed & unsure about where & how to begin.  If I hadn’t been working through the program with a friend, I would have struggled & probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it much.  Having someone to talk to about the program, & to work together made a big difference for me. There are questions that my friend & I asked each other, & we scoured the internet together for examples from others who have also worked through the program. I want to be that resource for others.  In this series I will describe what skills a knitter needs to know about & helpful resources that can be used in answering the questions. I will  share pictures of my swatches, & the feedback I receive after my swatches have been reviewed. I hope that this series will be a companion for those working through the program.

Swatches 4-6 are designed to demonstrate your knowledge of increases.  You will need to know how to increase using bar, lifted/raised, & Make 1 (M1) increases.  Knitty has a great article demonstrating how to make these increases.  You will also need to know how to evenly space increases.

When answering the questions that correspond with these swatches you will find that the following articles are a great resource.

“Evenly Spaced Increases” by Mary Forte. Cast On November 2010-January 2011: 67-69

“Single Increase Savvy” by Binka Schwan. Cast On August-September 2011: 70-71

*These articles are only available to TKGA members.

TKGA Master Knitters Level 1: Swatches 1-3

7956973104_a65e1ed837_zAt the beginning of 2012, I decided that I wanted to test my knitting skills by enrolling in TKGA’s Masters Program for Hand Knitting.  I recruited a friend to join me & in March we both began.  She has finished the first level & passed.  I, on the other hand, have been dragging my feet to get everything I need completed.  I am about 3/4 of the way through, & I really just need to buckle down & finish it.   Maybe by writing about the program here, I will find the motivation that I need.

When I first received the program in the mail & started reading through it, I felt overwhelmed & unsure about where & how to begin.  If I hadn’t been working through the program with a friend, I would have struggled & probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it much.  Having someone to talk to about the program, & to work together made a big difference for me. There are questions that my friend & I asked each other, & we scoured the internet together for examples from others who have also worked through the program. I want to be that resource for others.  In this series I will describe what skills a knitter needs to know about & helpful resources that can be used in answering the questions. I will  share pictures of my swatches, & the feedback I receive after my swatches have been reviewed. I hope that this series will be a companion for those working through the program.

Swatches 1- 3  show that you are familiar with Long Tail Cast On, Garter, Stockinette, Seed Stitch & Ribbing, as well as, binding off in pattern.  You will need to know the difference between the right & wrong sides, be able to determine gauge, maintain consistent tension, & how to correct tensions problems.

*The articles “More Thoughts on Gauge.”  by Binka Schwan, (Cast On May-July 2010: 65-69) & “Tension Problems” by Arenda Holladay, (Cast On Feb-April 2009: 1-3) are 2 helpful resources when answering questions about these first 3 swatches.

*These articles are only available to TKGA members.

Knitting Behind Bars

An article written by Jill Rosen, The Baltimore Sun.

Lynn Zwerling speaks of knitting the way others talk about yoga or long distance running or even particularly potent cocktails. It’s life-changing, she’ll say. Mind-altering. Zen. The Columbia retiree doesn’t care if she’s making a hat, a sweater or a scarf. It’s just the way she loses herself in the lightly clicking needles, plush wool and repetitive motion.

Zwerling, who’s 67, took up knitting after retiring from selling cars, quickly becoming an evangelist, more enthusiastic than skilled. She started a knitting group that swelled to nearly 500 members and then — surprising everyone she knew — announced that she wanted to teach men in jail how to knit.

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“I just knew it would work,” she says. “I thought I could give a calming influence to people who really need this. I’m not a social worker. I’m not an educator. But I thought what it takes to do knitting are skills vital to human existence — setting goals, completing a project, giving to somebody else.

“And I thought, maybe when they get back in the world, these men might choose to be calm and do something worthwhile. But I’m a dreamer, you know.”

Defying every expectation, Zwerling’s Thursday night program, Knitting Behind Bars, has become in two years the most exclusive club at Jessup’s Pre-Release Unit, an all-male, minimum-security penitentiary in Howard County.

Men literally beg to get in. There’s a waiting list. And no one’s more surprised about that than the assistant warden who couldn’t help but harrumph when Zwerling told her she wanted to teach inmates how to make stuffed dolls and woolly hats. Every other prison in the area had already turned her down.

“I was like, ‘Mmmm, I don’t know,” says Margaret M. Chippendale, the prison’s warden. “I just had a hard time trying to grasp that an inmate that might have committed a violent crime or been a gang affiliate was going to want to sit in a room and knit.”

But they did. And do.

They want it so much, in fact, that they’re willing to be good in order to do it. Chippendale has noticed lower rates of violence among the men who knit. “It’s a privilege to be in that program,” Chippendale says. “It’s something that matters and they don’t want to do anything to be removed from it.”

On a recent Thursday, George Hopkins hunched in a chair, grimacing in concentration, pushing a needle through a loop of wool, wrapping it with yarn, then deftly tucking it under, through and around — again and again, over and over.

The 54-year-old from Baltimore, in prison for stabbing someone, had settled into a knitting-induced reverie. He was halfway into a hat and, just as Zwerling suspected, entirely transported.

“My mind is on something soft and gentle,” he said. “My mind is nowhere near inside these walls.”

That first night at the prison, Zwerling went alone. A grandmotherly figure who cuts her graying hair short and who likes to wear her own brightly colored creations, Zwerling stepped through the metal detector, held her arms out for a pat down and endured disapproval over her underwire brassiere. She says she wasn’t scared, not even for a minute.

“We were very naive,” says Sheila Rovelstad, a 61-year-old avid knitter who joined Zwerling at the jail not long after that first class. “At first we didn’t know enough to be afraid.”

They thought the guys were fundamentally good fellows who perhaps made “some bad choices.” But soon enough they realized that these were men who had beaten people, written bad checks for thousands of dollars, and in one case, kept someone locked in a room. One was a child abuser. “That one was hard,” Rovelstad says.

“They are criminals,” she says. “Most have hurt someone in some way. These are not good boys. But we’ve become fond of them.”

Both women will tell you they know boys. They raised their own. Zwerling’s sons are 31 and 34. Rovelstad’s son died in 1999 in an accident while he was attending Florida State University.

“We understand how easy it is go astray. It isn’t that we had bad boys,” Zwerling says. “But we had boys.”

In the bare, plain classroom that’s become the knitting room at the prison, the women lay down firm ground rules. No roughhousing. No coarse language. No prison nicknames. “Bring your best selves,” they say.

If one of the men steps out of line, Rovelstad finds herself telling him, “We don’t do that in this family.” It’s the same thing she’d tell her own kids.

For the sessions that run two hours every Thursday evening, the men do seem to bring their best selves. They shower. They put on clean clothes. When they walk in, they peel off their skull caps and greet the women respectfully. Before they leave, they’ll call out things like, “Drive safely” and “Have a great week.”

During an inmate’s first class, Zwerling, Rovelstad and a third volunteer will help him make a little swatch — nothing more than a few stitches worked back and forth. But before that new knitter leaves, the women will have him cut the yarn, taking care to leave a long tail. They’ll tell him to carry the square in his pocket and if he gets upset, to pull the tail.

That first class wasn’t easy for Raymond Furman, a 46-year-old from Washington who’s serving a sentence for telephone misuse and stalking. Frustrated and unable to do more than a stitch or two without a mistake, he threw down his work and said, “I can’t do this.” But, he remembers, one of the women said, “Just relax. Let the yarn have its way.”

Knitting is a Love Language

When my husband & I were getting married, we read Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages.  We were young and the wisdom we gained from reading this together was priceless.  As the title implies, the book explains that there are 5 love languages.  They are words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.  However, I believe that there is a sixth love language, KNITTING!

IMG_0122Ask any knitter/crocheter how many items they have created for themselves, and they will most likely give a modest number of items.  I  have made 4 thing for myself.  Now, ask a knitter/crocheter how many items they have made for other people and you likely hear a much larger number.  I can’t even tell you how many things I’ve knitted for other people.  I stopped counting a long time ago.  Why is this? Because, knitting is a love language!

Now, according to Gary Chapman, my love language falls under acts of service & gift giving.  So, when I want to express my love and appreciation for someone, my most natural response is to knit something for them.  As I spend my time crafting each stitch, my heart & mind are pulled toward that person.  I pray for health and I pray for safety.  I pray for blessing and joy.  The piece I create becomes my prayer and it is my gift to the one I love.

What is your love language?