What’s in your knitting bag?

If you knit the way I knit, then you have at least one (and possibly 45) projects going all at the same time.  And you have probably also found that with that many projects you end up moving them around a lot.  Which means that what you carry your knitting in is important.  And of course what you carry IN your knitting bag is even MORE vital. So today I start a sometime series on “What is in your knitting bag.”

When you first learned to knit you probably started off carrying those projects around in the bag you got from the yarn store!  But you soon found that they left a bit to be desired aesthetically.

What you carry your knitting around in not only says a lot about you, but also can make a big difference to what you carry IN the knitting bag.  The really exciting thing is that there is a whole world of opportunities!

I think it’s important for me to come clean right now and admit that we are stepping into some dangerous territory for me. As a normal human I have many faults (MANY!), some personality quirks, and a few obsessions. Or maybe more than a few. One of my particular personality quirks is an obsession that could be construed as a fault. I LOVE to containerize things.

Give me a small item and I will find a bag or box to put it in.  If  you give me a few different items I will find bags for some, boxes for others, and a bin to put the bags and boxes in.  And if you are kind enough to give me many items I will find bags, boxes and bins for each type of item – divided perhaps by shape, color, size, use, material….yes, yes, I know.. The word you are looking for is obsession.

So it’s no wonder that one of the little joys I get from knitting, that doesn’t have anything to do with actually KNITTING, is containerizing my knitting and my knitting toys.  And boy, oh boy, do we have options.

Canvas, cotton, linen, clear plastic, wicker baskets – oh the list is endless!  Everyone has their favorite style, their favorite bag material, their favorite shape or size.

Every knitting project has specific needs and there is always a bag to fit every project.  Remembering that even a brown paper sack will work in a pinch, here are some ideas I have been playing around with over the years.

SIZE

Knitting BagsIf you are looking for a holder for a very small project, you need a very small bag.  If you are looking for something to put a whole sweater project in obviously the bag must be bigger. So size matters.  Size also affects how a bag will react with gravity.  If it’s big and has a thin bottom it won’t’ stand up. Is that OK?  Or do you want it to stand alone?  My Durham bag is HUGE. I can fit more than one project bag in there. It stands up, so it’s great for trips, but not so useful day to day.  The Galapagos bag is a more normal size for projects.

knitting bagThe Terra Cotta bag won’t stand up with that narrow bottom, but it’s big. Because the opening at the top is narrower than the bottom stuff is less likely to fall out of this bag.

The zoo bag is another favorite, the handle makes it easy to go over my shoulder so if I know there is a lot of walking I grab that one. It’s great in an airport.

CLOSURE

Bags that don’t close presents the problem of having things fall out of a knitting bag. One way to prevent this is to find one with a nice solid bottom. knitting bagNow this purple bag sits very firmly on the floor and won’t tip.  It has space for 6 projects, side pockets for notions but because there is no top things can still fall out. OR worse, things can fall into it and get lost.  This is a good bag for a trip when I know I will be sitting – maybe a car trip, or knit night – where I know I will be relatively stationary but want more than one project to play with.

But personally, I really, really like a knitting bag that closes. Buttons work, ties work, zippers are better, velcro is a serious no-no!knitting bag

COLOR

This is where my opinions get a little divided.  I dearly love a little black (knitting) bag.  Let’s face it, we know it’s going to be sitting on the floor, so black is great because you can’t see the dirt.  But black is awful if you drop a stitch marker or other small something- it’s like the black hole of Calcutta in there! Trying to find something small in the bottom of a dark bag in a room with sub-“knitting-normal” light is really, really hard. (And the Knitting Gods help you if the stitch marker is dark, too!)

I really prefer light colored linings when given an option!  A lighter color makes it easier to find stuff, and frankly I find it more cheerful!  I have a CRAZY large assortments of bags – I pick them up when traveling, friends pick them up for me when they travel, and it’s always a good birthday gift (hint, hint!!) – and the majority of my bags have light linings.  It doesn’t mean I don’t have any with dark insides,  I just use them less.

knitting bagFor smaller projects a light colored drawstring bag like this one is perfect, or some people prefer the clear plastic bags. You can certainly see what’s going on in there!

MATERIAL

Your knitting bag doesn’t have to be made of canvas or cloth!  There are baskets of all kinds that are very useful. These African bags are just the right size! It can sit easily at my feet and hold five or six projects easily.  It stands up well, and has a relatively light interior. I am fond of this bag, but only for times when I don’t move a lot.

If I know I am going to be carrying this bag for any length of time then I leave it at home because the handle is JUST a bit too big for my hands and I don’t find it comfortable over long distances. Car to chair is perfect – car to distant picnic spot, not so much. knitting bag

BEWARE: with baskets you have to be careful. If they are lined, then you are good to go, but be careful of the unlined wicker basket – snags are a serious concern. Wicker is lightweight, and very attractive, but if you are working with a fine yarn or something that snags easily I recommend serious avoidance. This is never a problem for me because I generally use this bag to hold multiple smaller project bags.

BOX BAGS

The really popular and most common “go to” bag for smaller project’s is the box bag.  You can buy them everywhere and the choice in fabric (inside and out) is astounding!knitting bag

They come in all sizes, from itty-bitty for socks to quite large for whole sweaters. They are commonly made of fabric with a cloth lining, but can be made out of plastic, leather or other materials.

I like box bags.  A lot. These are all the ones that are currently full of projects.  I have more.  Yes, it might be a problem. (Even worse: I just started making my own!)
knitting bag

My Favorite Box Bag

This is my favorite box bag, currently. It was made by a wonderful seamstress, Dani Miller at KSC Designs.  (She doesn’t make box bags anymore, she’s into leather now! Needles and Hide)  I chose it for the fabric, but it encompasses all the characteristics of a perfect box bag. Here is why it is my favorite knitting bag right now, and things to look for when you buy or make your own box bag:Knitting bag

  1. It has a handle. A nice strong handle that is large enough to put over my wrist if I need it to.
  2. The handle is located at the end of the bag where you find the zipper pull when the bag is closed.  If the handle is at this end, when I put it on my wrist if it’s not completely closed things don’t fall out. AND I can open the zipper to get things from it when it’s on my arm without things falling out. Brilliant.
  3. The fabric is strong and doesn’t pick up dirt or lint.  It looks as fresh as the day I bought it.
  4. The lining is a light color.
  5. It has a tab “pull” on either end to give me an easy thing to grab and pull against when I want to open or close the zipper.
  6. It’s big enough to hold a small to medium project, my cell phone and my wallet so it works great as a purse as well.

Zippers

A word about zippers.  A good knitting bag uses a zipper to keep everything safe. However, zippers can be a problem on project bags.  It’s very easy to snag your yarn if you aren’t paying attention.  knitting bagI have developed a habit with my zippered bags (both large bags as well as box bags).  First I grab the zipper pull with my thumb and my index finger. Then I stick the rest of my fingers IN the bag and under the zipper. Then I pull it closed.  This way my yarn never (OK, almost never) gets caught in the zipper.

OTHER OPTIONS

There are lots of other options, everyone has their favorite knitting bags, here are a few more I wanted to share.knitting bag

The purple suede bag is lovely because it opens up like a book.  There are lots of places for tools and it travels well.  My only problem with this one is the handle. It’s way too short!

My Mum made me the blue bag ages ago and it closes with a drawstring.  I love the fabric and it’s a great size for socks or hats. It travels well, too. It doesn’t show the dirt and I can get my wallet and my cell phone in there no problem.

knitting bagThe Latest!

This is my latest project bag purchase.  This bag is specifically made for sock projects.  And even more specifically for two socks knitted at the same time from two balls.

The bag uses a built in zippered pocket for tools that acts as a divider, so each ball can have it’s own space.  There is also a handy-dandy snap-shut-able guide on each side of the bag. You can see that the guide near my thumb is closed.  These little tabs work as guides to help contain the yarn coming from each ball, which helps to keep tangles to a minimum.

The color of the interior is light.  The grosgrain ribbon is a great drawstring. Both things help make this bag very comfortable to me.

Show me Yours!

What is your favorite knitting bag? Share you pictures in comments or jump over to the Spinfoolish Facebook page and show us your favorite project bag!

Knitting in the Round – Using a circular needle

sock circularWe have talked about knitting in the round using dpns.  But there is another , more modern way to knit in the round that is very common now.

Question: Knitting with four needle seems hard because there are so many needles to deal with, it overwhelms me.  Knitting with a circular needle seems almost as overwhelming, there are only two points, but it seems like it’s easy to go wrong…How do you do it?

There are a couple of different ways to knit in the round using circular needles.  It is a good idea to be familiar with all the methods because once you have learned how to knit in the round, AND mastered knitting in the round using the magic loop you can knit ANYTHING you want, using only rather long circular needles.

Knitting in the Round with Circular Needles

When you knit in the round using four needles you are only really using two needles at any one given moment.  When you use a circular needle you are doing the exact same thing – you have one needle that holds the stitches from last row, and one needle that creates and hold the new stitches.  But the crazy and wonderful thing is that those two needles are ATTACHED, so it’s just one needle.

Knitting with a circular needle has a few benefits.

  • Remember those pesky angles that sometimes created a weird and annoying enlargement of the stitches at the beginning of a new needle? GONE.  There is no “end” or “beginning” of the needle, it’s just round, and round, and round…
  • You can’t drop one of your needles and have to go scrounging around on the floor looking for them.  If you drop anything you drop the whole project, which hopefully will be easy to find!
  • You can’t loose a needle.  Well, you can loose the whole needle, of course, but you won’t lose ONE needle in the middle of a project and not be able to continue until you get to a store and buy more, they are attached – just like mittens on a child that are attached by string through the arms of a jacket!

The only real downside to circular needles is that you have to have the right size needle AND the right length cable for your project.  Circular needles come in every size needle, but they also come in different lengths of cable.  That means that if you are knitting socks you have to have a very small (in length) circular needle, like the one pictured above.  The length of the needle must be shorter than the total circumference of the item you are knitting.  If the needle cable is too long then the stitches won’t fit around the length of the needle and you won’t be able to knit.  Well, until 2002 you couldn’t anyway!

Spinfoolish Tips:

1. The best thing to get yourself if you really like to knit in the round is a set of circular needles with interchangable points and cables of multiple lengths.  That way you can pick the size of the needle and the length of the cable to fit your project.  It makes life a lot more fun! There are lots of different types so check around to find out your options.  Remember to ensure that the join (between needle and cable) is SMOOTH!

2. Just because you have discovered circular needles doesn’t mean you don’t need your dpns anymore.  They will always come in handy, don’t just dump them for circulars – every type of needle has a use!

3. When buying circular needles be aware of your personal preferences for: material (wood, plastic, metal), points (very fine point, mid range, very blunt point), cable joins (metal, plastic, smooth bumpy). If you aren’t sure what you want borrow a friend’s or try some out at a yarn tasting. Buying needles that you then hate because of one small thing is really annoying!

Knitting in the Round with Magic Loop

FAIR WARNING: This is one of those things that it is much easier to just do it than to explain it.  I am going to try, obviously, but  I strongly recommend that if you find this explanation more confusing than helpful get a friend or your LYS to show you how to do this.  After you have had an in-person lesson then feel free to roam YouTube.  Watching a video is great once you have some idea of what you are doing but an in-person lesson is the best and only correct way to START the learning process.  They have yet to develop a video that will correct your errors as you knit. Until then find a real human to start you off.

41i0NMGfPPLSarah Hauschka is credited with introducing us to, or “unventing” (clearly she read and appreciated Elizabeth Zimmermann!) magic loop knitting. Then in 2002 Bev Galeskas wrote a little booklet titled “The Magic Loop” published by her company Fiber Trends. This small booklet (20 pages) walks you through casting on and knitting one sock with the magic loop.  It caught on like wildfire!

The concept behind magic loop knitting is that instead of using a needle that is the appropriate length for your project, you use one that is intentionally much longer than you need, then you pull out LOOPS of the cable and bingo, it become the right length.  Knitting with the magic loop is NOT hard to do, but like knitting with four needles it often intimidates people from the way it looks.

I teach a beginner class on sock knitting at my LYS and we do a toe up, after-thought heel sock pattern (find it here) using magic loop.  I can’t tell you how many times my students tell me they can’t do it before they even pick up the needles! But in the end they are always so overjoyed by the socks they create!

Note to students: If you have decided that there is something you want to learn, then you spend the money to take the class, then purchase your materials, and finally show up for class DO NOT ruin a good thing by immediately telling me you can’t do it or that I can’t teach it to you.  If you got up, dressed yourself, and drove over here in your car then I can teach you how to knit, or knit in the round with a magic loop.  The ONLY thing standing between you and learning what you want to learn is your attitude.  And there isn’t always something I can do about that, although, goodness knows I will try!!

The best way I can describe knitting in the round with a magic loop is like this:

When you knit something flat you knit back and forth.  If you imagine the actual path of the yarn up the knitting piece it would look like this:

straight needles

You start at the bottom you knit cross, you turn, you purl back.  Right?

Now say you wanted that flat piece of fabric to be a sleeve, or a hat – something where the fabric was a tube.  In order to create a tube-like structure with your knitting you would have to sew two of the sides together.

OK, so when you knit with a magic loop you take that same FLAT piece of knitting but instead of knitting back and fourth, you work the stitches in a tube – going around and around without end like a slinky.  The path of the yarn in the sleeve will look like this:

Spring 2

When you knit magic loop style you do just the same thing – you work around and around and around like a coil, rather than back and forth.  But, you do it with circular needles that are much, much longer than you need.  Obviously if you are knitting a sock (which maybe has a circumference of 8 or 9 inches) you don’t want to use a 32 inch circular needle when you knit in the round!  But when you knit in the round with magic loop you DO want a much longer needle.  This means that there is a lot more cable than you need to hold the stitches so the extra cable must hand out the end.

Sleeve 01Here is a sleeve I am knitting in the round.  Here it is before I begin a round.

The needles are sticking out one end of the tube of the sleeve and one loop is sticking out the back end (which is actually the middle of the round.)

When you knit circular you don’t have “rows” you have “rounds.” When you go all the way around from where you start to where you end (the stitch next to where you started) that is called one round.

 

Sleeve 02Here is the sleeve about three quarters of the way around.  you can see I have the two needles that I am working with but now there are TWO loops (one off the left, and one off to the right in the picture) – one marking the beginning/end of the round (You can tell that is the one to the left cause there is a marker hanging out on the loop) and the other sticking out the middle of the round.

Because you can tell where the end of my round is (because of the stitch marker) you know that I have completed about 75% of this round and am just coming in the end.

When you knit using magic loop the actual knitting part is not hard. The trick is to learn how to manipulate the cables so you don’t lose the loops.  I think of my tubes as two pieces, one piece on the first needle, the second piece on the second needle. Really, of course, its two sides of the same tube just like it’s two sides of the same needle.  When I finish knitting the first part (on the first needle) I pull the loop (there is only one when I get to the end of a “piece”) so that the needle I was just putting the stitches onto is now pulled out long and is ready to receive stitches from the second piece.  Which means the second needle has now been pushed so that it holds the second part of the stitches near the top so I can knit them.  (Did I mention this is easier to DO than it is to EXPLAIN? Seriously, find a local knitter to show you, it will take two minutes and save you a world of confusion.)

Once you get Magic Loop knitting under control you will want to learn how to cast on for knitting two at a time using the magic loop method, I do all my socks, mittens, and sleeves this way – so much fun!

Spinfoolish Tips:

1.  When you knit in the round arrange your knitting so you can see the outside of the tube on the outside.  This will enable you to see mistakes in order to correct them and easily see where you are in your stitch pattern.  It’s not wrong to knit with the tube inside out, it just doesn’t provide any benefits and makes your life more difficult than it has to be, so it’s a habit to avoid.

2.  It is possible to knit in the round with 24 inch needles, but it’s harder than it has to be.  I think 36 inches is the shortest you should get if you intend to use them for magic loop.

3. Do not try to attempt magic loop with the plastic needles made before 2002 (or 2006 to be safe!!) because the cable will be very inflexible and trying to use them for magic loop will make you think or say many bad words.

Knitting in the Round with Two Circular Needles

Another way to knit in the round is by using two circular needles.  You will want them to be the same size needle (of course!!) and it’s usually easier if they are about the same cable length.  Sometimes that isn’t possible, so don’t worry about it, it’s not that important, it just makes it less fussy.

This type of circular knitting is sometimes easier for people because they don’t have any loops to worry about.  Of course, this way also means you have A LOT more ends to worry about so I think it’s a bit harder.  I think magic loop is easier, but if magic loop doesn’t work for you give this a try.

Here are the same sleeves, this is how I am actually knitting them: two at a time, on two circular needles.  If I had a #7 needle that was 42 inches long I would do them magic loop but I don’t, so I am doing them on two 24 inch needles.  One needle goes across ONE side of BOTH sleeves.  The other needle goes across the SECOND side of BOTH sleeves.

Sleeve 03

The big secret here is to knit with the two ends of the SAME NEEDLE.  I know that sounds ridiculously obvious, but when you get started if you don’t pay attention you will end up knitting all four “sides” onto one needle.  It’s no big deal, just bring in the other needle at the appropriate time and you are all fixed again.  But it’s most annoying, so try not to do that.

You don’t need to do both sleeves at the same time so you could even knit this way using a much smaller needle length, like 16 inches!

Spinfoolish Tips:

1. Consider working with two very different needles, one metal one wooden for example, to make it easier to avoid knitting with the wrong ends.

2. Work with needles that are close to the same length.

3.  This is a great use for those old circular needles that aren’t very flexible, they still need to be a bit flexible but not nearly as much as they do when you are working with magic loop.

What else?

What else do you like or dislike about knitting in the round? Do you prefer dpns or magic loop or somewhere in between?  Is there something you aren’t sure how to do or want to learn more about?  Let me know, I am just sitting here spinning, foolishly!

Yarn Bra

Yes, I agree.  Yarn “bra” is a particularly inelegant phrase, but such a useful item!  I was recently asked how I make the small bags I use to tame my yarn while I am knitting.  Most people call them yarn bras.  You can buy them for crazy amounts of money from online stores, but I am always happier if I can make my own, so this is a cheap and easy solution.

Mymmy's SweaterI used them to great advantage when I knit a sweater for my Mum a few years ago.  The sweater used vertical columns of color so I used a number (quite a number!!) of smaller balls of yarn put into the yarn bras.  Then I used coil-less safety pins to attach them to the sweater, moving them up as I went. The yarn didn’t tangle, and it was really quite easy to do.  It looks scary though, huh?

This is what I do:

YarnBra 01I start with a bath scrunchy.  The label calls it a “Jumbo Bath Sponge” but in our house we call it a scrunchy.  Call it what you will it’s a “poof” of nylon-like plastic netting that is used like a sponge in the shower.  I generally get them at a dollar store for, yes, you guessed it – about a dollar!

The directions on the label say “replace every 1-3 months” but I figure it’s used with soap every time so it’s CLEAN for heaven’s sake, so I don’t replace them nearly that often.  I would say in our house they usually last more than 6 months.  When I notice that my finger has gone through the netting or the scrunchy starts to feel very soft then I break out a new one, and use the old one for yarn bras.

WARNING: I am being totally honest about how I make them.  If you are more fastidious than me then you can certainly use them brand spanking new.  To me that just seems wasteful.  Everyone has their own level of what is acceptably clean – don’t judge! 🙂

There are two reasons why I personally don’t use brand new scrunchies for yarn bras.

  1. I am a total cheapskate.  I know they only cost a dollar, but why shouldn’t I get my value out of them first?  “Breaking” something that is brand new is anathema to me, so I choose to use them first.
  2. The biggest reason I use them first is because I want them softer.  The whole purpose of the scrunchy is to clean your body, so a bit of coarseness to the fabric of the scrunchy only makes sense.  But if I am going to put my lovely yarn inside then I want all the hard edges that might catch on my yarn to be smoothed off.  Using the scrunchy as it was intended to be used for a few months does just that.  They are softer, there are no snags to catch my yarn, and (just between you and me) they smell nicer when they have been immersed in my soap for a while!!

Easy Steps

YarnBra 02Follow the hanger back to the middle of the scrunchy.  There is a white piece of string that holds the whole thing together.  (The color of your string may vary!)

YarnBra 03If you try to cut through ALL of the sting at the same time you might end up cutting the mesh, which you want to avoid as that creates unwanted holes in your bra. I choose just one of the white strings and clip it.

YarnBra 05Then I unwind it from around the scrunchy.  I always seem to do this slowly and gently, to avoid ripping the netting. Remember that when it is a whole cluster of netting it is tougher than when it is just one small layer.

YarnBra 08Once you have unwind the string you can see that what a scrunchy really is!  It’s just a long tube of the netting mesh that has been “scrunched” together to form a ball.  It’s kind of like a pompom made of netting!

YarnBra 06This particular one was 16 feet long!! I have no idea how reliable that length is compared to other scrunchies.  If you buy one of the smaller scrunchies I am sure that your results will vary.

YarnBra 07Once I have shaken the ball of netting out it’s tight formation I check for holes and then I cut the netting tube into pieces.  I always cut them at least 14 inches long because if they are any shorter they don’t tend to hold the yarn as well as I like.

YarnBra 09I just measure the first one then use it to roughly measure the rest, so they tend to get longer as I go.  This is not an exact science.  Toward the end when I only have four feet or so, I fold what is left into thirds (making sure each section is over 14 inches long) to ensure I don’t have a short useless piece left over.  I got 12 out of this scrunchy, which means they averaged about 16 inches long.

YarnBra 11My personal preference is to have the bra long enough that I can put a cake of worsted in there and the tube will hold it firmly enough that it won’t fall out but loosely enough that the yarn will come out of the center pull ball with no effort.

YarnBra 10The last step is to tie a knot in one end.  I tie it then pull it as tight as I can.  It’s not a big deal if they come undone, but if it happens you KNOW it will happen at the most inopportune moment, so I tighten them real well to begin with.

Extra Hints

  • I made this one out of a purple scrunchy cause I am a bit wacko about the color purple.  I also don’t really care if I can see the color of the yarn inside the bra clearly when I am knitting.  If you think this will bother you, buy a white or light colored scrunchy.
  • To tear the scrunchy apart you need it dry.  I did it wet one time, and it’s doable, but it’s much easier when it’s dry.
  • When you get them from the store you don’t really know where the scrunchy has been…I have found small particles of sand or dirt or something in them when I brought them home from the store, so I generally wash them (by hand in the sink) before I use them on my body anyway, so even if you use them NEW I would recommend a quick wash first before you break it up.
  • Look over the length of the tube before you start cutting.  If you find any holes then cut that section out and deal with what you have left.  Holes are annoying, and depending on the size can mean the yarn falls out.  If you get a hole later don’t bother to try and fix it. (been there, done that, did I mention I was a cheap skate?) I try to remember that these things cost just under 9 cents each, so I can afford to toss it out and use a different one when I find a hole.
  • The first time you do this I would recommend you only cut a few at first, and use them for a bit to see what you personally prefer regarding length.  There is nothing more annoying that cutting an entire scrunchy up and then finding that you really wanted them about 1 inch longer.  Don’t ask me how I know that, just trust me.
  • These work EXCELLENTLY for wool, wool mixes, and many more exotic fibers.  If you are working with something crazy slick like some types of acrylic art yarns or pure silk and you are hoping that this will help keep the cake or ball together you might not be quite as happy with the results.  One thing that can help in this case would be to tie the top of the bra shut with a twist tie or a piece of yarn…you will want to do it loosely so the yarn will still be able to flow out smoothly.

YarnBra 12If I find that the yarn is so slick that the cake or ball doesn’t hold it’s shape then I don’t bother with a yarn bra, I go straight to my secret weapon.  I pull out old Tupperware with a hole in the top. If I have to travel I pack the inside around the ball with bubble wrap, but generally if it’s that delicate a ball, I just leave it beside my chair and only knit on it at home.

  • I use these constantly, but where I have found them to be particularly useful is when I am knitting from the inside and the outside of the same ball.  When I knit my mitts, for example, I do them two at a time, on one long circular needle, from the same ball of yarn.  The scrunchy works beautifully for this.
  • Even with a perfectly functioning yarn bra once the ball gets small you will have to rewind it.  It’s only the sensible thing to do!  And once your ball of yarn gets to a certain size, meaning small, then the yarn bra won’t work without a tie to keep it closed.

Got Another Idea?

Do you have any fun easy-to-make-at-home knitting tricks you want to share?  Or do you have some expensive knitting gadget that you really want to make yourself? Talk to me! I am always looking for good ideas, and happy to share any I might have with you!!