Just Hangin’

The other day, my mom, who is my crafty accomplice, was at one of those Dollar Plus stores, the ones that sell a little of everything, from the groceries and toilet trees you use everyday to the gadgets and containers you can’t find anywhere else. She found a perfect holder for the spare yarn that can’t be put away because it’s being used in a current project, but probably shouldn’t be cluttering up the coffee table or CD rack.

According to the label, the container is meant to hold stuffed animals and other small toys. It’s shaped like a drum or the sort of pan you boil vegies in. Well, it’s shaped like two, one stacked on top of the other. It’s made out of a fine netting or mesh, the stuff collapsible laundry hampers are made out of, and to give it shape, it’s got three plasticky wire rings, one at the top, one at the bottom, and one in the middle, where the two drums or pots meet. Each of the drums or pots has a hole in the side. This is where you reach in to fill the container with yarn or to pull another ball out. There’s a loop on the top surface for you to hang the contraption.

So far, it seems to be working, though I miss the lovely yarn accent in my decor.

Yes, it really is a Ravelry app for the IPhone!

And it works with Voiceover!!

 

I’m pretty sure I’ve been saying there needs to be a Ravelry app since I first got my IPhone. Just a little over a year later my dreams have come true. Yay me!

 

Wooly is a new app for Apple IOS. It’s definitely a work in progress but it looks like the developers have the potential to make this a great app. I’m already impressed. We all know about the trepidation every time we have to buy an app. Is this going to work with Voiceover or not? At first glance this app is almost completely accessible. The only thing I had a problem with was something called Happiness. First of all I didn’t even know this feature existed on Ravelry. Apparently it adds descriptive words based on how high you rate a project on the Happiness scale. My Petri Shell now says it is an Uggh! On the Happiness scale. I must have done this with the app but I can’t recreate the action. This project would have actually been something like 90% which is a lot better than Uggh! Other than that I could edit all the things the app says I should be able to edit. One very exciting thing is that I could adjust the progress percentage. I can’t do that on my PC. I tried to explain how awesome this was to my husband and it just went right over his head. Poor darling probably thinks his wife is crazy. So far though the most totally awesome thing about Wooly is its photo uploading feature. You can take a photo from within the app and upload it directly to Ravelry. Had previously mentioned husband take photo of me in Petri and I had it uploaded in about 30 seconds. We all know how long it takes with the usual digital camera to computer to Ravelry to project method. The app has the photo option from within each individual project so it eliminates that step. There are also photo editing features right in the app.

I’m really excited about this app. It has a lot of great features and the potential for many more. I’m going to contact the developers about the one issue I had with accessibility. Oh, and the edit button says 14gear. I think they could fix that without much trouble. Wooly costs $2.99. I would have paid more so this is a really great price.

 

For more information:

 

Wooly in the ITunes store

 

Ravelry group for Wooly

 

There are also Ravelry apps for Android and Windows users. Check out the article on apps for Ravelry on the Ravelry homepage. You might need a Rav ID to see the article.

 

One last interesting thing is that Ravelry developers are creating a mobile site. It can be found at m.ravelry.com. From my windows PC this site is totally inaccessible. From my IPhone it appears to work fine from a quick glance over. It looks like you can use it to browse all your project information plus a few other things. The developers say they are updating it as they add more features so it’s not finished yet.

 

 

Plano Organizer

A few of the knitters I know have been using little plastic organizers for their knitting accessories. I thought they were just really organized knitters and that was too much for me. I would just continue using my little bag system. This involved putting all the little bags of markers and things into a larger little bag along with all the other little odds and ends I need. So of course I’m spending a few minutes at a time digging through this little bag to find one or another of these little things. I thought I was being organized by having everything in one place but now I know the error of my ways.

Last week I decided to check the little plastic organizers out at Wal-Mart. The first nice surprise was that they were only a little over $3. I just love prices like that. Especially when I’m not entirely sure I’m going to like something. I still open one up in the store and investigate. The organizer has two identical sides. If you opened both lids they would open opposite to each other like the front and back covers of a book. I wouldn’t open it like this though; all your stuff would fall out. Each side has 5 long sections and there are little dividers you can insert wherever you want and create up to 10 sections. The whole thing is about 6 inches by 4 inches and a little over 2 inches deep. Not really too large for a knitting bag. I should also mention that these handy little organizers can be found in the fishing section at Wal-Mart. I did have some trepidation about having my husband take me into this section but he behaved himself and it didn’t take us long to get in and out.

After putting the baby to bed and feeding the rabbits and all those things that just have to be done before you can relax at night I was finally able to sit down to see just how organized I could be. At first I was disappointed that my folding scissors wouldn’t fit. I left the center slot open just for them. Then my husband pointed out that the side slots were longer because of the space needed for the latches to close the lid. So I moved the open slot to the side and the scissors fit. I put the things I use the most in one side and put a braille label with my name on it on that side just so I would know which side was which. They are identical otherwise. It’s made of clear plastic so the contents can be seen but that doesn’t help me. I put the less often used things in the bottom. The only things I couldn’t put in were things like larger cable needles crochet hooks and stitch holders. These went into another plastic case and I have everything I could possibly need all together.

Once I got everything where I wanted I really started to like this new organizing plan. I can just put the organizer on the table and leave it open during those times when you find yourself needing a lot of little odds and ends. For me, that’s when I start and finish a project. One major downfall I can imagine is leaving the organizer open beside me on the couch and forgetting it. It would be entirely too easy to sit down in the wrong place and spill all of the nicely organized stitch markers and things. I feel confident that this is bound to happen one day. It really seems inevitable for me. I just have to remember to close it when I’m through using it. For now, I’m just going to enjoy being super organized. At least with my knitting; we won’t talk about the rest of the house.

Interchangeable Needle Sets

I’ve been hearing about the Knitter’s Pride interchangeable needles for a few months now. I’ve also heard about a few other sets recently. I don’t think they are all new but the only ones I knew about when I started knitting were Knitpicks and Denise so I thought I would spend some time and do a review of some different sets. But, alas, another blogger has gotten to it before me. No surprise there but here is the link to her post listing all the different sets. There are definitely more than I thought.

 

The Knitluck Guide to Interchangeable needles

 

I’ll give a couple of thoughts on the two sets I have. The first set I acquired was the Knitpicks Harmony needles. I love these but it helps to have a tube of super glue around. Maybe it’s just that I’m hard on needles but I’m pretty sure they have all been super glued back to the metal joining at least once over the years. I’ve had my set for about 4 1/2 years. The cables did start coming apart and this is a little harder to fix. I chalked that one up to them being old so I just replaced them and the new ones are fine. It was pretty irritating when I dropped a lot of stitches because my cables broke though. Knitpicks is really good about sending you replacements if anything is wrong.]

I also have one set of the nickel plated tips. I love the way stitches just glide on the needles. I’m seriously considering a set of metal interchangeables. When I was a beginner knitter the metal needles were a little harder to manage but now I think the knitting goes faster with these.

I am not an acrylic fan. A lot of people love them but I’m just not one of them. I have a couple of Knitpicks Zephyr tips. They are fine for acrylic and the price is one of the best selling points.

I also have the Denise interchangeable needles. I really liked these for a while but the longer I knit, it seems I like the acrylic needles less and less. The Denise set has fatter cables which can make it harder to maneuver your work. They also come apart easy if the cable gets worn out. Also the flexibility of the acrylic sets has started to hurt my hands a little.

One important thing to note is that I’m a tight knitter. This makes the drag on acrylic needles much worse. If you are a loose knitter it might not bother you as much.

That’s all the ones I’ve tried for now. I’ll just have to decide which metal set I want. I have a feeling I’ll be sticking with Knitpicks but its fun to shop around. Also the metal tips are one solid piece so I don’t think I can break them.

 

So, go check out Knitluck’s wonderful guide to interchangeables. I found her articles very helpful and I hope you do too.

JKnit Knitting Project Assistant for IPhone

I recently invested in an IPhone. It has been amazing to be able to use every feature of a phone. I haven’t been able to do that since I lost my sight ten years ago. But, rather than gushing on all the wonderful things I can do with the phone, I’ll just tell you about one app I found.

JKnit is a knitting assistant app. It costs $5.99 so I was very hesitant to try it out. Luckily for me it works perfectly with voiceover. The app allows you to keep track of your projects by the piece and by the row. You can use the online web portal to input all your project directions along with the row numbers they affect. Then you sync the app and all the information transfers to the phone. JKnit has a built in row counter and each time you get to a row it shows the directions for that row.

I’ve really enjoyed having an easy row counter. I turned off screen lock within the app so all I have to do is position voiceover to the counter plus button and sinply double tap each time I start a row. It will keep your place on multiple projects and it’s just so easy.

I can’t say enough wonderful things about JKnit. As a blind knitter it’s even more helpful since it allows me to have an accessible version of the pattern wherever I am. It’s true that I can also read online and text versions of patterns with the IPhone but having one integrated with a row counter is even better. The online web portal is also easy to use. Copy and paste your individual pattern instructions and you’re ready to go. I highly recommend it and the price is well worth it.

Here are some links to more information on JKnit:

JKnit Knitting Project Assistant App

JKnit User Guide

Ravelry Group for JKnit App Users

Direct Link to JKnit in the ITunes Store

Winding Yarn the Modern Way

One of my favorite yarny gadgets is my Knit Picks Ball Winder. There are few things in life as miraculous and elegant as the center pull skein, a cylinder of yarn you just pull and pull from. Its one flaw, though, is that it gets misshapen and battered as it shrinks, so rewinding the leftover yarn becomes necessary when the project is finished or when yarn havoc is reeking as the work is still on the needles. “Grab a piece of paper, and wind around that,” you say. I can, but the paper slips out or loops of yarn drop off the ends, and I’ve got a tangled mess to take care of. This problem gets even bigger when I need to wind the yarn that comes in hanks, the braid-like twists expensive and handmade yarn is often sold in. For these jobs, nothing beats a ball winder or the cute cake-like center pull skeins it makes, and my favorite part of the ball winder made and sold by Knit Picks is that it gives users the option of a handle or a clamp, so they can pick where and how to use their winder.

This post is mostly about how to use a ball winder. The one I have is the Knit Picks Ball Winder, which sells for about 20 dollars, a good price, but the instructions should work for any ball winder since they all have a standard shape and work more or less the same. Mine is made out of durable plastic and is light-weight, so it’s easy to carry around the house. It’s relatively small, accommodating about 3.5 ounces or 100 grams of yarn, though thinner yarn works a little better than the thicker stuff.

The ball winder itself is a square platform with a tall wide-brimmed hat on top. One side of the platform has a crank, like the handle used to roll the windows in a car up and down, and on the other side of the platform is a sturdy L-shaped guiding wire that starts underneath and points straight up to the ceiling, like an arm bent at the elbow. These are the four important parts. The platform or base is the part that is clamped to a table. The “hat,” which is called a spindle assembly, is what the yarn wraps around. The crank is what turns the “hat” and causes the yarn to wrap evenly. The guiding wire is what keeps the yarn from tangling around the bottom of the spindle assembly and also lets the operator (you or I) put more or less tension on the yarn. The fifth part of the ball winder is the clamp or the fixed handle, depending on which either one of us is in the mood to use.

Clamping the Ball Winder to a Flat Surface

The clamp is a big L-shaped screw. The long leg of the screw has a wing nut and a large plastic wedge. The short leg of the screw has a small screw with a large head. To clamp the ball winder to the edge of a table, follow a few simple steps:

1. Remove the short screw from the short leg of the large screw.
2. Turn the ball winder so that the bottom of the base is facing the ceiling.
3. Locate a hole on the side of the platform. It is near the crank.
4. Insert the short leg of the clamp into this hole.
5. Locate a rectangular hole on the part of the base that is facing the ceiling now. It is inside a large recessed circle. You should have no trouble feeling the short leg of the screw in that rectangular hole.
6. Wind the short screw back into the short leg of the clamp. Make sure the long leg is pointing toward the ceiling.
7. Turn the ball winder right side up so that the bottom of the platform is facing the floor.
8. Set the ball winder on the edge of a table, slide the plastic wedge up to the underside of the table, and tighten the wing nut until the ball winder is firmly in place. For best results, place the ball winder near the corner of the table.

I position the ball winder so that the turn handle is to my left and the vertical guiding wire is to my right. Well, I guess I should say that I clamp the winder close to the corner of a table or counter and position myself in front of it so I can turn the crank with my left hand.

Winding the Yarn

Winding the yarn is essentially a three-step process, which involves running the yarn through the guiding wire, securing it on the top of the hat-shaped spindle assembly, and turning the crank. Here’s how that’s done:

1. Running the yarn through the guiding wire — Notice that the top of the guiding wire has a coil, really just a loop with a hanging tail. Lay the yarn between the two loops at the top of the guiding wire. The Yarn tail should be in front, and the ball end should be in back. Next, pull the yarn tail down, behind, and to the left of the wire tail. Then pull the ball end down, in front of, and to the right of the guiding wire. The yarn is now through both loops, with the tail end closest to the rest of the ball winder.
2. Securing the yarn — Notice that the top of the hat-shaped spindle assembly has two grooves, where the bullet grazed the wearer as she ducked down. Turn the “hat” so that one of the grooves is close to the guiding wire. Then lay the yarn across the “crown of the hat,” positioned in both grooves. I like to leave a longish tail, at least 6 inches (15 cm). Some people like to put a stitch marker or safety pin around the yarn at the “crown” so they can find it easily.
3. Turning the crank – Pull the guiding wire toward you as far as it goes. Place your right hand on the guiding wire, loosely holding the yarn against the wire itself or against the table near the wire. Then turn the crank clockwise with your left hand at a slow steady rate, and use your right hand to put a small amount of tension on the yarn that is being fed to the ball winder.

When I was new to winding yarn, my preferred method was to cup my right hand around the guiding wire. I could use my palm to keep track of the yarn being fed to the winder, and I still had my fingers free to check that the yarn was wrapping correctly around the spindle assembly. Now I don’t bother checking the spindle assembly because I can tell I’ve got problems when I feel heaviness or lightness as I turn the crank.

Winding While Walking

If, like me, you don’t have very many good flat surfaces to clamp your ball winder to, you can remove the clamp from the Knit Picks model and attach the fixed handle. The handle is about as long as the guiding wire, and its general shape is like the handles at both ends of a big rolling pin.

Attaching the handle is simple.

1. Turn the ball winder so that the bottom of the base is facing the ceiling.
2. Run a finger around the flat end of the fixed handle, noticing two small tabs around the edge.
3. Locate a large circular recess in the center of the base.
4. Run a finger around the circular recess in the base, noticing two small notches around the edge.
5. Position the fixed handle in the circular recess so that the tabs fit into the notches. (This is where technical manuals get all male-and-female).
6. Twist the fixed handle clockwise until you feel it click into place.

The winding process is the same. The yarn is run through the guiding wire, secured on the spindle assembly, and wrapped around the device with the crank. In fact, the first few times I wound yarn, I balanced the winder on my stomach or thigh while I did exactly what I described in the previous section.

Once I felt comfortable with the process, though, I grabbed the winder by the fixed handle, catching the yarn between the handle and my palm, and cranked away. I paused to check frequently the first few times, but eventually learned to trust the yarn and the crank to let me know what was going on.

I decided to get a ball winder because I had a few hanks of yarn to work with, but I bought the cheapest one I could find because I thought I wouldn’t use it very often. It’s turned out to be one of the handiest gadgets I have, and I really do use it fairly often. I’m glad I got the Knit Picks Ball Winder because, aside from selling at a great price, it gave me a chance to experiment with the clamp and the fixed handle. I discovered I’m a fixed handle kind of gal, so much so that I didn’t try the clamp until today as I was preparing this post.

Review: APH Score Card as Row Counter

Many blind and low-vision knitters have a problem finding a good way to keep track of what row they are on.  One device I’ve found useful to count rows is the score card from APH.

These score cards are about 3” by 10” and very thin so they will go into most project bags easily. There are two rows of ten buttons each that can be used to count up to 110. I use the top row for tens and the bottom row for ones. The cards are made of thin plastic with a cardboard backing. They can be bent if you, for example, sit on one. However, they are very brightly colored so they would be easy for a low-vision person to see.

As for durability, I would say that, with care, they would last for a very long time. Now, if you compulsively press and un-press the buttons while talking on the phone, the plastic will break down and you’ll have holes where your buttons should be.

I like using one of these as a row counter. They are easy to lay on the table or couch and mark each row with just the press of a button. This can be done one handed so there is minimal interruption to your knitting or crocheting.

I would recommend these to anyone looking for a convenient way to count rows without a lot of hassle. You can find these score cards at APH and they are two for $15.

APH Score Cards

For other row counting ideas see Ana’s post, Asking Stitchers and Counting Rows