Craft Dates – Will Someone Have One and Invite Me?

Hi Friends! A new book came out today, and I want to share the basic idea of it with you: a Craft Date– a party to get together with friends and make a craft within the space of a couple of hours, plus refreshments. 

The concept of a craft date is to have a get-together with friends, have some food and drinks, and everybody makes a craft together. Every attendee is given a kit of supplies with everything you need to make a craft during the party – yarn, needles, pattern, or whatever supplies needed to do the craft at one sitting. The hostess has everything ready to go when the party-goers arrive, so that everyone can get going on the craft, help each other, and have a good time.

I would love to attend a craft date, and on a regular basis. Of course, I realize someone needs to put in a good amount of work to plan a craft date, gather and purchase supplies, provide refreshments, and host the party. But I’m thinking what a great idea for women’s clubs of all kinds, church groups, and local yarn shops. As a former church program planner, I’m thinking this would be a great way to get people together, perhaps monthly, to form connections and invite new people into a community. The effort would be well worth the time spent planning and rounding up materials. 

Would I pay a fee to participate? Oh yes. Instead of attending a “class” at a yarn store, I would much rather pay to attend a “date” or “party” with an emphasis on building friendships and learning a skill I could complete and take home with me in the space of a couple of hours. Why didn’t somebody think of this before?!

In our polarized, often over-digitalized world, knitting and crafting offer a chance for people of all walks of life to sit down and get to know each other in a pleasant, non-threatening, enjoyable, and welcoming community setting. As an added bonus, craft dates – duh – teach people the crafts we love so much and open them up to newcomers.

So I hope those of you who own yarn stores, plan events, or host women’s groups will consider sponsoring a craft date soon. (And I hope you’ll invite me!)

Blessings, Cindy

A Year of Creativity: A Craft Date Planner to Meet, Share, and Createby Petra Hoeksema; Lidy Nooij; Miriam Catshoek; and Bregje Konings, is available on Amazon in paperbackonly, currently on sale for $14.01 in the U.S. I especially liked the usefulness and practicality of the crafts featured. All of the crafts can be done in the space of a couple of hours. A few recipes are featured, as well. I hope this idea catches on! Thanks to the publisher, Quarto Publishing Group, and NetGalley for an advance digital copy of this beautiful book.

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a collection of interrelated short stories about knitters and those they meet through knitting and sharing prayer shawls. Available in e-book for US $4.99 and in paperback for $14.99. Read it for free if you have Kindle Unlimited! 

Your First Piece of Knitting Will Be Awful, And That’s Okay

I don’t know how many people have told me, “I tried to knit a scarf (or sweater, hat, blanket, sock), and it was awful.” They never try knitting again, and it’s a shame. I want to take such people by the hand, sit them down, and patiently ask them to at least try a second knitting project. It will be better, I would promise them.

When you learn to do something for the first time, you WILL make mistakes. That’s okay. It’s part of the learning process. I seriously doubt that anyone in the history of knitting (or any other craft) started and finished a project without at least a half dozen visible, obvious, and potentially disastrous mistakes. I now tell new knitters that they should plan to put their first project in the trash. If they do come up with something worth saving, we’ll all be happy and surprised. 

Do you remember your first knitted garment? I sure do. The first knitting project I tackled was a big orange and white blanket made solely with garter stitch, because my mom didn’t know how to purl. She didn’t know how to tie up loose ends either, apparently. That first blanket I made (now enjoyed by my dog) has less-than-charming little pieces of loose ends hanging out on every side and seam. 

As a twenty-something, I took up knitting again, this time asking help from the experts at my local yarn store, The Knit Wits. The elderly ladies who worked at the shop patiently taught me how to purl, increase, decrease, and properly sew my pieces together and tie up loose ends. I’m eternally grateful to those ladies. The sweater they had me knit ended up kinda messy, but that’s okay. My skills increased by leaps and bounds. My next sweater looked terrific, and I was well on my way to the ranks of “accomplished knitter.”

So if you’re just learning to knit or still a beginner, give yourself a break. If your knitting isn’t perfect, know that we’ve all been there at some point. I would guess that all knitters have an awful mess of a first project they’ll never forget. But those of us who love knitting so much eventually tackled a second project and maybe even a project down the road we consider a minor masterpiece. And we all hope you’ll try that second project, too. 

Knitting blessings, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of the just-published book, The Prayer Shawl Chronicles. This fictional collection of short stories includes tales of several newbie knitters and those saintly women who mentor them, forging friendships and incredible connections. Available at this link in paperback and e-book edition. Included in Kindle Unlimited.

Let’s Talk Needles – What Do You Really Need?

Knitting needles come in all materials, brands, and sizes. But what do we really need in our “must have” toolkit? 

Recently, I cleaned out my drawers of unused knitting needles and donated them to my child’s school. The librarian had a knitting elective for the middle school students and needed starter needles. (Wish I had gone to that school!) I learned a lot myself, seeing what I kept and what I donated.

I’ve gone to almost exclusively bamboo or wood needles. Maybe it’s all in my head, but I seem to be able to knit longer and more comfortably with bamboo needles. However, I had a surplus of my favorite size, 8, and still had to go to the craft store when I needed yet another size I didn’t have. I finally purchased a set of interchangeable bamboo needles. Not only are my knitting needles much more organized and in one place, I have just about every size I could possibly ever need. It was a good investment.

And then I took up sock knitting, which I quickly learned needed a whole new set of knitting tools. I’m adverse to double pointed needles, so I got myself a teeny-tiny set of interchangeables just for socks. They came in a cute little cloth pouch that’s handy when travelling and includes teeny-tiny markers I didn’t know I needed until I began using them. Once I got to the toes of my first socks, I grudgingly realized I did need a set of double pointed needles. Having read reviews saying the small wooden double points tend to snap in two, I got an inexpensive set of metal double points to cover most projects. They get the job done. 

Despite the cost, I’ve become a fan of sets of needles sold in organized, built-to-last packaging. I’ve ultimately saved a lot of time scrounging around my needle supply drawer, wondering if I have the right sized needles for a new project. Now I know I’m set for life (I hope). Are the sets more expensive? Yes. I wish I had started out with sets years ago, but they weren’t available back then. 

And is my beloved craft of knitting worth an investment in the most effective and comfortable knitting needles I can afford? You bet!

Happy Knitting, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles, a book of interrelated short stories and women who knit and those who receive their wonderful gifts, mostly out of the blue. The first chapter of The Prayer Shawl Chroniclesis available to read as a free sample by clicking “Look Inside” at this link

Knit Generously – Knitting for Charity

I was in a fabric shop recently when I heard a woman at the cutting counter say this to the clerk: “I want something as cheap as possible. It’s just for charity.”

My immediate reaction was “ugghhhh.” In one respect, I get it. You have your own bills to pay, but you still want to donate your crafting skills to a good cause. You may need to spend as little as possible to make a gift for someone else. But it’s all in the tone of voice, and I had the distinct impression that this woman thought those on the receiving end of her charity crafting didn’t quite deserve anything but the cheapest, lowest quality materials for her project.

It all goes back to the purpose and intention of a gift. Do we go cheap and give as little as possible, even if we could afford much more and much better? Or do we give the best we can afford, thinking about what those receiving our gifts will appreciate?

This is not to say that inexpensive yarns can’t make great charity gifts. I’ve knitted numerous hats, scarves, and prayer shawls using clearance sale yarn or even remnants from other projects. But each of these items were gifts I could be proud to share and present to someone, anyone. I’ve knitted little hats for kids in an orphanage in a cold place, so they could go outside wearing cute, cheerful knitwear that might help them feel good about themselves and let them know that someone, somewhere, cares about them. I’ve knitted prayer shawls for cancer patients and nursing home patients in bright colors to cheer them up and help lighten their emotional burdens. 

My rule of thumb for all of these projects: knit generously. Make a knitted project someone else would truly love to receive and wear. Use yarn you’d use in making something for yourself or a loved one. Because when we knit for charity, we knit for someone who needs to be loved. That homeless person receiving the hat, that nursing home patient receiving a shawl might not have anyone else but you to knit for them and show them someone cares.

Blessings, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of the newly published book The Prayer Shawl Chronicles. The story “Hats for Orphans” in this book is based on her experience in knitting hats for children in Arkhangelsk, Russia.  Available in paperback and on Kindle, included in Kindle Unlimited

New Knitting Books for Summer 2019

Greetings, Knitters! I hope you are having a wonderful summer (or winter, for friends Down Under) and getting in some good knitting time. 

Do you get patterns from knitting books? Personally, I get my patterns from a variety of sources – online patterns sold individually, magazines I pick up in the grocery store, and a handful of go-to and much used knitting books. I know online patterns bought digitally from Ravelry, Etsy, or other websites are all the rage, but believe or not, some good knitting pattern books are still being published (and you can keep them all in one place on your bookshelf).

Sycamore Cove Knitting reviews the new ones in advance of publication and gives you the scoop on what’s new and worthwhile. Here’s what new and just published in knitting books for June-July 2019:

Big Yarn, Beautiful Lace Knits by Barbara Benson. A very nice pattern book for the coming cool weather season. The concept of this book is lace knitting with larger sized needles and bulkier weights. The results? Quicker projects with more intricate, showier designs than you normally see with bulky yarns.

The Art of Circular Yokes by Kerry Bogert. This book of yoke sweater patterns give the advanced knitter plenty to sink her teeth into. The designs are lovely and intricate. Most of them are designed for small needles and fairly fine yarn. These are projects that will take a lot of skill, time, and concentration.

 One Stitch Baby Knits by Val Pierce. This is a nice collection of baby knit patterns. They are intended as “beginner” level patterns, but I would rate them as more “advanced beginner” or even “intermediate” level patterns. This is by a British knitting expert, and I appreciate that she took the trouble to translate some of the British knitting terms into American English. However, many of the yarns listed are those available in Britain; I only recognized one yarn readily available in the U.S.

 A Year of Creativity by Petra Hoeksema, Lidy Nooij, Miriam Catshoek, and Bregje Konings. This books is all about “craft dates” for knitters and other crafty people. The idea is to get friends together, share some snacks, have fun, and everybody makes a craft together. I quite like this idea, and it’s a beautiful book. Coming July 23.

And now time for the shameless plug:

The Prayer Shawl Chronicles by Cynthia Coe: Set in an Episcopal parish in Tennessee, hear the stories of women who knit and donate prayer shawls and the remarkable and remarkable connections with those who receive them. A fairly quick read of short stories, this book is great for taking along on vacation.

Enjoy your Summer Knitting! Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of The Prayer Shawl Chronicles: Stories of Unlikely Connections & Unexpected Gifts. Available worldwide exclusively on Amazon and included in Kindle Unlimited. Paperback edition coming very soon.

Designing the Perfect Beach Cover-Up

Before I went to the beach this summer, I dreamed of the perfect beach cover-up. It would be all cotton and a light color for high temperatures on the coast of South Carolina in June. It would be mini-skirt length and have kicky vents on the sides to show off my legs and for freedom of movement when I went on one of my long and meditative walks on the beach. It would cover my shoulders and prevent sunburn. It would have a rounded but modest neckline. It would feel loose and free and fit me perfectly.

Alas, I looked and looked through umpteen pattern books and magazines but found nothing even close to what I wanted. So, I designed my own. I’ve been knitting since I was a teenager, usually easy patterns that allow me to watch TV or just sit and think while I knit. I don’t go for anything complicated or patterns that have me glued to an incomprehensible piece of paper or that gives me eye strain.

Much to my surprise, for my first beach cover-up design, I came up with an incredibly simple pattern that fits me perfectly, covers my shoulders, and is flowy and comfortable to wear. Here’s the pattern (such as it is – it’s in plain English, no abbreviations, challenging techniques, or anything a moderately experienced knitter couldn’t pull off):

The “Cindy” Beach Cover-Up

General Concept:Knit two large rectangles and a drawstring. Knit holes below the bustline to insert the drawstring.  Adjust measurements to fit yourself. (I’m 5’4” and wear US dress sizes 10-12.)

Materials:

Bernat Handicrafter Cotton Yarn(Two 12 ounce skeins, you’ll have lots left over)

-Size 9 circular needles

-stitch holder for neckline

Front: 

-Cast on 84 stitches (more or less if you’re bigger or smaller)

-Knit until you’ve got 21 inches (again, adjust if your waistline if longer or shorter)

-Put in holes in the next row. (I used a pattern of knit two + yarnovers to accomplish this)

-Knit until you’ve got a total of 30” (more or less, adjusting for your size)

-To make a simple rounded neckline, bind off about 20 stitches in the middle of the garment, decrease on each side of the neckline until you have about 22 stitches on each side

-Bind off each side

Back:

-Cast on 84 stitches (or same number you cast on for the front)

-Knit until you’ve got 21 inches (or same length to drawstring row as the front)

-Put in a row of holes for the drawstring (Knit Two + yarnovers)

-Knit until you’ve got a total of 31” (more or less depending on depth of back neckline)

-Cast off about 20 stitches, decrease each side until you’ve got 22 stitches on each side

-Bind off each side

Drawstring:

-Cast on 3 stitches, make an I-cord (look online for how to do this; use double pointed needles or circular needles – it’s easy)

-Make the drawstring as long as you want it (I’d make it 70” to 80”, depending on your waistline)

-Cast off

Construction:

-attach the front to the back by putting seams on each side between the drawstring row and about 8-10” from the bottom (leaving vents for ease of movement)

-if neckline is floppy, crochet one row around it to cinch it up a bit

-sting the drawstring through the holes and cinch for comfort

Extras: (These are what I did to personalize my own beach cover-up)

-for a cooler garment, make rows of holes (simple knit two + yarnover pattern) along the bottom few rows

-to add texture to the bottom of the garment, I used this pattern: Knit rows 1, 3, & 4; purl row 2

-to add texture to the top of the garment, I used this pattern: on reverse side, purl two, yarnover, purl 2 more, pull yarnover stitch over the last two purls (I added this pattern about every 4 rows)

For more info on basic stitches and construction of garments, I highly recommend the new Vogue Knitting book. It’s a huge book that covers it all.  If you had to buy one book on knitting, this would be the one. Available at: https://amzn.to/2sImZ7W

If you like to design your own projects, a good comprehensive stitch dictionary is invaluable. You might try Debbie Tomkies’ Knit Stitch Dictionary: 250 Essential Knit Stitches, available affordably in both paperback and Kindle editions at: https://amzn.to/2JzCJjS

Blessings, Cindy

Copyright 2018 Cynthia Coe. All rights reserved!

Knitting Terminology Justs Makes It Seem Hard – Socks Aren’t That Difficult

When I last blogged, I had just finished knitting my first pair of socks. I used the “afterthought heel” method, leaving a grafted row where the heel would go, then knitting the heel last. That method seemed less intimidating, an easier way to knit a pair of socks than the more traditional method of making a heel flap, heel turn, and gusset.

Heel flap? Heel turn? Gusset? I couldn’t imagine what those things could be. Even after knitting a multitude of sweaters, shawls, blankets, and tote bags, that knitting terminology scared the living daylights out of me.

Then I actually tried knitting a pair of socks using these traditional elements, and bingo, I mastered them on the first try. I’m not a knitting genius; these techniques just aren’t that hard.

Here’s the honest truth about this terminology:

           “Heel flap” just means knit straight down for a couple of inches. Put half the stitches on a holder to keep them out of the way. Your pattern might call for you to slip some stitches. No big deal.

            “Heel turn” just means flip the dang thing around to the other side when the pattern says so. Make some decreases along the way. Again, no big deal. 

   “Gusset” just means you pick up some stitches, then decrease along the sides of the sock for a bit. Again, easy-peasy. You make a nifty-looking triangle before you know what hit you.

There, that’s not so bad, is it? The process of making a sock simply uses basic techniques you probably already know – decreases using either K2Tog or slip-slip-knit, slipping stitches from one needle to the other (easier than actually knitting or purling), or turning your work around backwards.  To learn to do these skills, view a couple of YouTube videos for a few minutes. Google these terms, and a zillion video links will pop up, most of them free and well-done.

It’s the knitting terminology that scares us from improving and expanding our skills, I’ve learned, not the actually knitting of the sock itself. So if you’ve never gotten out of your comfort zone to try a new skill, remember that whatever you’re learning likely won’t be as difficult as you imagine – whether it’s knitting or any other life skill.

Blessings, Cindy

Tackling Hand-Knit Socks for the First Time

After knitting since I was a teenager, I finally knit my first pair of socks. I’ve knit blankets, sweaters, five sets of place mats, more shawls than I care to think about, and even a couple of baby outfits. But socks???!!!  I was totally intimidated by the mere thought of knitting socks.

But my husband dearly wanted a pair of all-wool, hand-knit socks. He’s a serious woodworker, and he’s made me a living room sofa, chairs, picture frames, and numerous book shelves. How could I refuse to make him one measly pair of socks? My darling husband pushed me over the edge of my discomfort by telling me that knitting socks is like making a chair in woodworking. Yes, it’s difficult; but if you want to call yourself a serious crafter, this is what you need to learn to make. 

Then, lo and behold, the knitting kit subscription service I just joined sent me – of course – a sock knitting kit. I’d have to do it. Despite my lack of comfort with double-pointed needles, yarn so thin you can hardly see it, and teeny-tiny needles, I bit the bullet and endeavored to persevere on my first pair of socks.

Sock Under Construction, with graft for afterthought heel

Okay, sock knitting wasn’t so bad. I ditched the irritating double-pointed needles for a new set of tiny circular needles, only using the double points for the end of the toes and heels. The pattern called for an “afterthought heel,” which involved “lifelines” and a “graft.” As terrifying as those concepts seemed, I mastered them on the first try and actually produced a functioning pair of socks. My husband loves them. All’s right with the world around my house.

Like any new endeavor, knitting socks came seem daunting before you actually try it. But if you have some basic knitting skills, you can take the dare and master a couple of new skills that open new possibilities for your craft. You just need to give it a try. 

Here are some tools I found helpful in tackling sock knitting for the first time:

ChiaoGoo Twist Shorties Red Lace Interchangeable Knitting Needles. Pricey? Yes. Necessary? Oh yes. After deciding I couldn’t deal with double pointed needles for an entire project, I found these after a lengthy search for just the right sock needles. They come in a well-made pouch that will fit in a purse. The set includes teeny-tiny stitch markers for use with small sized projects (my regular sized markers fell off), a small ruler, three tiny cables and two sets of needle points. Highly recommended.

Clover Double Pointed Needles. Even if you use circular needles for most of your socks, you’ll still need double points right before you bind off the toes and heels. I love my Clover bamboo needles and added a new set of double points to my collection just for socks. 

Getting Started Knitting Socks by Ann Budd. If you don’t use a kit, this book comes highly rated. Methods using both circular needles and double pointed needles are covered, including all the basics. 

Good luck to those tackling sock knitting for the first time!

Cindy

My First Completed Sock

Temperature Blankets – Marking the Days With a Knitting Ritual

Intrigued by the idea of a “temperature blanket,” I began my first one on New Year’s Eve by casting on with a bright yellow to celebrate the gorgeous 70 degree day here in Tennessee. My temperature blanket soon became a mosaic of blues for our normal cool January, sprinkled with some pale greens for warmer 60 degree days and a few purple rows for crisper cold days. We have a saying here in the Smoky Mountains – “if you don’t like the weather here, stick around; it’ll change.” It’s the perfect climate for a temperature blanket.

Mostly to remember to work on my temperature blanket each day, I began a ritual of knitting my one garter ridge each night, right after dinner as my family watched a TV show together. I didn’t mean to start a new daily ritual, but that’s what it’s become. When I sit down in my favorite chair to work on my temperature blanket each evening, it’s as if I’m marking the end of a day, a time of peace and quiet. It’s a time to think, for better or for worse, I’ve done what I could do today. It’s time to relax and put all worries aside.

I’ve noticed I work my temperature blanket more slowly than my other works in progress. Perhaps that’s because, by definition, I only knit two rows a day, making a loop from one side to the other and back. The point of this knitting is to mark an occasion, not necessarily to “make” a finished garment. This knitting mimics the movement of the earth, making a loop each and every day. As I knit through the seasonal cycles of nature, my knitting reflects the cold days giving way to the warm, the short days turning into longer late spring days of bright yellow and orange sunshine. It shows the process in rich colors I can touch and feel. 

Marking these daily changes grounds me in nature and in the cycles of life. It’s a simple thing, knitting these two daily rows. But this daily ritual has become a little celebration of life ever moving forward, ever renewing. 

My Temperature Blanket Pattern:

-Cast on 100 stitches

-Knit 2 rows each day (one garter pattern), using a color to mark the temperature of the day

-At the beginning of each month, I knit one row of K2, YO. I knit the number of stitches for the number of the month (e.g. 4 stitches for the 4thmonth of April, 5 for the 5thday of May), then do the same number of K2, YO and repeat this pattern down the row. I knit the second row of this garter ridge as usual to keep the pattern on track for the rest of the month.

Blessings on your knitting rituals! Cindy

Cynthia Coe is a writer and avid knitter based in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Visit her Author Page on Amazon by clicking this link.

What to Do with All Those Knitted Shawls?

Knitted Shawls are all the rage at the moment, and for good reason. They’re fun to knit – projects that are not too small, not too overwhelming, and you don’t have to stitch them together or make fit any particular size. You can knit fairly plain shawls or jazz them up with fancy lacework or colorwork, as you choose.

But after knitting one or two shawls (or two dozen), you begin to wonder, what do I do with all these shawls? You could always wear them, of course. But in warmer times of the year, you don’t exactly need a sprawling piece of wool knitwear draped across your shoulders. It’s already 80 degrees during the days here in Tennessee, so my shawl wearing is confined to early mornings and the odd cool evening. 

After going on a shawl-knitting kick last summer, I couldn’t stand to simply put away all my pretty shawls until January. After displaying a couple of brightly colored shawls across chairs, I decided to leave them there on a more or less permanent basis. Textiles make a home, I decided. It’s the soft textures, bright colors, and our own personal touches that make a home feel comfy, cheerful,  and totally our own. 

So in my home, you’re likely to see shawls adding a pop of color and an inviting place to sit on many of my chairs and sofas. Even the dog gets his own shawl for lounging and keeping an eye out for passing wildlife. Shawls as housewares get more use this way than actually wearing them!

What do you do with your knitted shawls?

Happy Shawl Knitting, Cindy

Cynthia Coe knits as some sort of meditative thing before sitting down to write (or do anything else, for that matter). Check out her Author Page on Amazon to buy one of her novels or spiritual resources. 

Get news of new publications by following this blog or any of her social accounts, all listed on the right sidebar of this page.