Spinning Archives - Patty Lyons | Knitting Teacher

Top Ten Least Favorite Knitting Myths!

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UPDATE: Since there were so many amazing comments, check out the sequel to this postYOUR Top Ten Least Favorite Knitting Myths

A few days ago a knitter came into the “Knitting Doctor” (a knitting help session) with a scarf that had gotten off in pattern.  I ripped down 5 rows to where the pattern looked like it went astray and then I told her we were going to read her knitting to figure out what row she was on so we could get her back on track.  I started to read the row on the needle and I saw that the second stitch was unworked.  I told her that can happen when she pulls her work off the needle to rip, she had dropped a stitch and so when she put all the loops back on, what she had was a slipped stitch, no worries, we’ll fix that.

I read the knitting and checked the pattern – no match.  I tinked back one more row and again the second stitch was slipped.  I asked her if she was following the pattern exactly (it had a selvage edge created by slipping the first stitch purlwise).  She said yes, she was keeping a selvage edge and working the pattern.  Again the row did not match anything.  I said “are you sure you weren’t slipping the second stitch?”  Again, she swore she was “keeping her selvage edge and following the pattern” . . . then the truth came out . . . she said she means, not counting the two stitches she added.  She said she did what she always does, she adds two stitches to the pattern, “you know, a selvage edge.”  A bit baffled I counted her stitches – yup, 26 stitches on the needle, 24 in the pattern, WHICH WAS WRITTEN WITH A SELVAGE EDGE!!!!

Turns out her friend told her that in knitting you “always” add two stitches to every pattern.  So . . . the helpful designer had written a scarf with a slipped stitch selvage edge, which she was doing on the second stitch, since her friend told her that helpful (read – crazy) bit of advice.

This leads me to my Top Ten Least Favorite Knitting Myths (some real, some fanciful).  Please read in the voice of David Letterman.

Top Ten Least Favorite Knitting Myths

#10: You always add two stitches to any pattern!!

(Note: The designer helpfully thought of the edge so you don’t have to – that sounds like a TV commercial.)

#9: If you become a spinner and make your own yarn . . . you will buy less yarn

(Note: There’s no way to sugar coat this – THIS IS A LIE.  You will simply have more yarn.  The yarn you spin and the yarn you continue to buy, AND you will have less time to knit this yarn, since you now spin. Welcome to the rabbit hole.)

#8: It’s always better to create an SSK by slipping the first stitch as if to knit and the second stitch as if to purl

(Note: This is one of the least offensive myths on the list.  It’s good hearted.  It does create a nice flat SSK by twisting the second stitch. However, there are very few “alwaysessss” in knitting or in life.  In some lace patterns that have YOs on alternative rows that reveal the base of the SSK, it doesn’t look great.  Moral of the story – by wary of “always.”)

#7: Knitting is hard

(Note: the number of times I hear people tell me “I could never knit, it looks so hard, I would not have the patience.”  This statement usually comes out of the mouths of brilliant people who have mastered their careers, and in some cases are juggling child care mastery at the same time . . . but somehow two sticks and string seems impossibly intimidating.)

#6: Knitting is easy

(Note: nothing to say.)

#5: You ALWAYS slip the first stitch of every row.

(Note: a cousin to #10 – this one makes me crazy go nuts. It’s spread like wildfire through yarn stores.  Although a selvage edge is lovely if that’s your finished edge, if you are knitting pieces that you will be seaming, a slipped stitch in many yarns can makes mattress stitch a sloppy drag.)

#4: If you are a combination knitter you can’t do (fill in blank: lace, double knitting, brioche . . .)

(Note: This is posh & nonsense.  I teach combination knitting, and I assure you, there’s nothing that an eastern and combination knitter can’t do.  Once you understand the anatomy of your stitches and how to control them, the knitting world is your oyster.)

#3: Knitters are always friendly and kind

(Note: Knitters are human beings – for the most part, therefore, like all human beings, some are awesome and some are  . . . well . . . not.)

#2: To get a long tail cast on with an elastic edge, use a larger needle (or dopier still) two needles.

(Note: This is by FAR my least favorite myth, and one that simply will not die.  The needle creates the size of the stitch, therefore using a larger needle only creates a first row with taller stitches.  The elasticity of the edge would come from how far apart you space your stitches, controlled by the thumb yarn. When doing a long tail cast on, plant your finger on the needle to the left of the stitch you just cast on, to act as a spacer between it and the next new stitch.)

#1: (Paul Shaffer’s drum roll here)  KNITTING IS THE NEW YOGA!

(Note: STOP IT.  Really, everyone stop saying that.  First of all, knitting is not the “new” anything.  Knitting is it’s own thing and has been around for quite a few years. Second of all, that pithy little sound bite was first uttered about 10 years ago – I remember first reading it in 2003, so seriously – get a new line. Seriously.  I mean it.)

Please share your favorite (or least favorite) knitting myths in the comments.  Love to hear them.

Knitting Bag of Tricks - DVD CoverFor more myth busting, and some awesome knitting tips, check out my new Interweave DVD Patty’s Knitting Bag of Tricks


CLICK HERE for Digital Download

Sheep, Cherry Blossoms, Veggies & SPRING

Nothing says Spring like the Shearing of Sheep. Last weekend I enjoyed two of my favorite springtime Park Slope rituals. . . The Cherry Blossom Festival in Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the Fleece Festival at the Prospect Park Zoo.

We started the rainy day at the BBG. Despite the rain, the blossoms were amazing.

My pal Micheal and I relaxing in the outdoor lounge

Next it was off to the zoo to the adorable little Fleece Fest. It’s really just sheep sheering with some music, but I love it anyway

In the land of knitting, I finished my Short & Chic Cardi, pretty happy with it

I was also inspired by the Knitting Surgeon class I just taught at the Studio, to revisit an old sweater. I was teaching how you can lengthen or shorten a knitted piece and I remembered the cotton boat neck sweater I had whose sleeves always bugged me. So I came home, cut, put it back on the needles and started fixing the sleeves. One down, one to go.

I also got back to some serious spinning. I did about 4 hours on the wheel, and I forgot how much I LOVE spinning. I really want to get through the roving I have so I can get my hands on the stuff I bought at Rhinebeck in October.

I also almost finished Stew’s baby sweater. I’m so loving the LB Collection Cotton Bamboo, and it’s turning out really cute. She better not turn out to be a boy!

A perfect Sunday in Park Slope

I woke up at 7:00 am to David’s little voice saying “I have to go to the Food Coop, do you want Bagels & Lox or Pancakes?”. As if that wasn’t nice enough, I got out of bed and saw this out the window:

You can’t really tell from the photo, but it was snowing. Now I am sitting on the couch, waiting for the pancakes (we were going to have lox, but David came home and found we had no cream cheese), and our firewood delivery. I used up the last log of last year’s wood. I ordered a full face chord, and I’m going to spend all day tomorrow spinning by the fire!

Speaking of spinning. I bought some dreamy dark Blue Faced Leicester from Spunky Eclectic Fiber, to ply with the free 1lb of light Blue Faced Leicester that came with the wheel. Last night I gave my new jumbo plying head a whirl, and plied up my first 200 yards of yarn!!! Here it is on the plying head:

and on the niddy noddy

It’s all over the place gauge wise. It goes from fairly chunky in spots (like 3 st/inch) to almost thread thin. I think I’ll get between 600 – 800 yards when I finish spinning up everything. I should be able to make a 3/4 sleeve sweater I have in my head.

Last night after the shop closed, David came by to pick me up, and we hung out with Leia as she closed out the cafe (and she showed me the AWESOME shawl she’s working on!) and I finally got around to balling the skeins of yarn I bought in Rhinebeck. Here’s the Clapotis waiting to happen

And for Mr. Green Jeans (see pic below), here’s the beauties awaiting that pattern

In my current knitting life, After knitting about 10″ of the Vogue pattern Grey’s Anatomy traveling cable sweater, I ripped it all out and conceded to this simple reality: good yarn, bad choice!. I was using Rowan Tapestry. It’s a lovely self striping yarn. However, what bone head (read, me) thought that a horizontal self striping yarn and a vertical cable pattern would be a good match. I returned the yarn to my Point account (love the ability to change my mind!), and gobbled up 8 skeins of the brand new Manos Silk (as Homer would say “ahhhh, Manos Silk”). Here’s the pattern I’ve picked out for my beloved Manos Silk (from my beloved Vogue magazine)

So for now, I’m knitting up the Pin Up from Stitch ‘n Bitch, that I’ve been meaning to knit for YEARS, in a lovely worsted Alpaca. It’s a short row sweater, which is always fun, but first I have to get through 13 1/2″ of 2 by 2 rib (boring).

Oh, firewood is here! Gotta stack wood and then light up the fire.

to paraphrase Bette Davis . . .

Retail is not for sissies. Saturday gave me a tiny glimpse into what my life would be between now and Jan 1st. From 9:00 am – 7:30 pm I did not stop moving! We are selling out of stuff as fast as the new boxes come in. We are getting so many deliveries at the shop it’s hard to keep up sometimes. It’s my own fault (since I do the ordering). It’s a live and learn for me. It’s my first christmas in retail and I’m just trying to get the hang of the ordering. My first round of books I was WAY too conservative, and all the great titles sold out in the first three days. I placed a second order the day after the first order arrived . . . and don’t get me started on the yarn. My biggest dilemma is what I’m going to pick out for myself before it’s all gone.

David’s sweater is coming along swimmingly. The handspun (maybe my last on the spindle, now that the wheel is here!) is a little chunkier then the Luxury Tweed, but the flecks of color running through the handspun looked rocking with the tweed.

Here’s a close up, it still doesn’t show the color’s to the best effect

Because I want to use every inch of the handspun, I am knitting the front, back and both sleeves at the same time. As soon as I switch back to the Luxury Tweed, I’ll go back to knitting the pieces separately.

Got to sit by my roaring fire and spin on my new wheel.

Thomas Wolfe was wrong . . .

. . . or so my mother says. Maybe you can go home again. Over the weekend, my sister, brother and mother did just that. We went back to Forsyth Mo as a kind of memorial for my Grandpa. My Grandparents bought a house in this tiny town in the Ozarks when I was 6 or 7. We spent every summer there and we loved it. When my grandpa died recently we decided that rather then getting together for a funeral (we aren’t funeral people, our family is too small) we would all meet up in Springfield Mo, go to his grave, and then go to Forsyth and do everything we used to do with my Grandparents when we were kids. It was a perfect trip.

I got in first after a miserable sleepless night. Springfield MO not being a huge travel hub, there weren’t a lot of choices on how to get there from San Fran. I left straight from Jersey Boys Saturday night show and took a 12:50 am flight to Dallas Fort Worth. I landed at 6:20 am (4:20 San Fran time), so not a lot of sleep was had. I then had a DELIGHTFUL 3 ½ hour layover. No more sleep for Patty. Next a 1 ½ hour flight to Springfield, where I took a cab to our hotel and immediately fell asleep from noon – 2:00 pm. After the rest of my family got in and we got something to eat we went to the cemetery where my Grandparents are buried. It was interesting; it’s the only military cemetery in the country where both Union and Confederate soldiers are buried together.

I forgot how hot it is in the Ozarks in Aug. It’s like Africa hot. It was 103 all four days we were there. We were a sweaty mess after visiting the cemetery, so the natural thing was to do a little shopping in the cool air-conditioned Target. We needed “creek shoes”, and I needed a bathing suit (I somehow forgot to pack one). Pickens were slim in the bathing suit department, but we found awesome water shoes for $2.50. NOTHING makes my family happier then a bargain. We were still crazy full from our late lunch, so we decided to go out and drink our dinner. We found a funky looking cocktail desert place in the middle of a strip mall in the middle of nothing . . . weird. After eating and drinking our fill, we went back to the hotel, sat in a hot tub for a bit, and then fell sound asleep.
The next morning we headed for Forsyth. My mom booked us a really cool place down by the lake. It was a huge three bedroom cabin.

After dumping our stuff we headed into town. At first it was weird because as we neared the
town we saw all sorts of new things, a Sonic Burger, a tanning salon, a big grocery store, but as we got closer to the town it all looked exactly the same as it did 20 years ago. Our first stop was my grandparents old house

It looked exactly the same. It was really weird seeing it again. So many memories. We took a walk by the park at the base of the hill. The creek was a pretty good height. When we were kids it seemed like the only two seasons were flood or drought.

There were times when the water was so high that it came up to the walking bridge

We walked around the tiny town and went to visit the Library where my Grandma worked. The two people working there didn’t remember her, at first I was surprised because I was so used to everyone knowing them, and then I remembered how long it had been since she worked there. The rug my Grandpa made was still hanging in the library

as we were talking about the rug a woman walked by and said “Are you talking about Mollie and the Doctor?” She remembered them both, and it was so nice to talk to her about them. Everyone loved my Grandma, and we were so glad there were still people in town that remembered them.

It was 103 degrees out, and we’d been looking forward to swimming in the creek all day. It was one of our favorite things when we were a kid. My brother remembered exactly how to drive to our old swimming hole. It was like no time had passed at all. Over thirty years ago we built a dam out of rocks to make our area deeper. It was still there. Thirty years worth of kids must have kept adding rocks to it as it broke and got rebuilt, broke and got rebuilt. Crazy! We bought some cheap floats at Target and floated down the creek in search of deeper, cooler water. The top of the water had to be 80 degrees, but if you dig down we were able to find a little cool water. After a while it was time to sit on a rock and knit by the creek. What a life!

It was so lovely at the creek that we stayed until 7:30 or so. The only restaurant of the three in town that was there when we were kids was closed on Mondays, so we got a couple of frozen pizzas & some ice cream from the market and made dinner back at the cabin (it had a full kitchen).

The next day we went into a little town called Hollister. It’s this strange little fake English town. The main street is called Downing Street, and yes, there is a 10 Downing Street. After looking in the only open shop and buying the worlds cheapest homebaked cookies (everything was crazy cheap in the Ozarks), we headed off for the College of the Ozarks. It was called the School of the Ozarks when we were kids. It has a museum I used to love called the Ralph Foster Museum. They call is the “Smithsonian of the Ozarks”, and it kind of is. It has everything from the Ozarks (including the car from the “Beverly Hillbillies”). It had a great spinning wheel and hand carved loom.

My brother, sister and I all took pictures of ourselves by the tools from our chosen profession. My sister posed by a recreation of a country doctor’s office, my brother posed by a wood shop, and I . . .

After a terrific lunch at their brand new restaurant (it was a simple cafeteria when we were kids). It was time to head off to the main attraction . . . Silver Dollar City!!!

Silver Dollar City is hard to describe. It’s an amusement park that is designed to be a town from the late 1800s. They have glass blowers,

carpenters, carvers, metal workers, potters, candy makers, bakers, candle makers and on and on. We liked the rides as kids, but we loved watching all the artisans doing the craft demos. It had changed some. There were now roller coasters built on the outskirts of the park, but they still had some of the old rides. Didn’t matter to us, we had a ball. It was almost exactly as we remembered it.

We arrived at 3:00 pm which meant we got to stay until closing (7:00 pm) and come all day the next day for one days ticket price. On our way out we saw a humming bird that let us get really close to it. The wings beat so fast that they don’t even show up on the first photo

By the time we got back, stopped to check out the sunset, and changed into dry clothes (we were all wet from the raft ride) it was past 8:00 pm and the good old Longhorn restaurant closed at 8:00 pm.

So we went to a bar that served food and it was pretty darn good. We all got to bed early since we were going to head back to Silver Dollar City the next day.

Before we went back to the park we made a detour to Bonniebrook, the home and museum of Rose O’Neil, the creator of the Kewpie Doll. We went so my sister could buy a Kewpie doll for her daughter. It ended up being pretty cool. I can’t believe what a huge phenomenon this little doll was. It was on everything. Here’s just some of the TONS of merchandise that had Kewpie dolls on it

The big surprise was finding out she studied with Auguste Rodin, and was a celebrated serious artist in Europe. All while being the most commercially successful female artist in America. What a combo! Her serious art was kind of dark, lots of monsters. I suppose if you grind out Kewpie dolls all day that makes sense.

In her garden there were two of her sculptures. You can really see the Rodin influence in these:

Her house was in the middle of acres of forest that she owned. There was a little stream that ran beside the house, and she’s buried right on the grounds. My sister said she would love to live there.

We spent another great day at Silver Dollar City. Here’s some pictures to give you all an idea of what it looks like

We watched this amazing woodworker make rolling pins on a lathe. He had just finished one that was made from the most beautiful cherry. The wood grain was gorgeous. My brother admired it so much that I have a feeling that the ridiculous price of $20 was set just for him.

The artists set their own prices. They are all incredibly low. Handblown glass from $30 – $50 on average!! I was torn between thinking how wonderful it is that this way everyone can afford to buy something beautiful and thinking that artists are woefully undervaluing their own work.

I was surprised that with all the different crafts there was no textiles, no spinning, no weaving. Ah well. I knit enough on this trip to make up for it. (I’ll post finished pics of my two leftover cotton projects tomorrow).

We finished the trip with dinner at Lamberts. It’s this crazy place where they throw dinner rolls at you with amazing accuracy.

All in all it was an amazing trip. You really can go home again. . . and speaking of going home. I will be home a week from today, and a week from tomorrow I will start my new job at The Point Knitting Cafe.

Tonight I go say goodbye and thank you to those great folks at Chicks with Sticks. More knitting content and finished objects pictures tomorrow.

Two Monday’s could not be more different

Last Monday I was sitting by the water enjoying a relaxing day knitting and feeling fine. A week later, I’m 2000 miles away, I’m sick as a dog, and sitting by my 99 year old grandpa’s bedside, feeling like crap. What a week. I just got home and I’ve never been so tired in my life.

The week started out pretty nice. On Monday I went to the Embarcadaro to sit by the water, stroll around the shops, poke around the book stores, and sit, and sit and sit and knit. It was heavenly.

In the front there are lawns and tons of places to sit. On the inside are rows and rows of little shops. It reminded me a bit if the holiday craft market at Grand Central (or maybe I was just homesick).

Out the back door was the water. Plenty of benches to plop down, veg out, and knit.

From there I hoped on the MUNI to the Bliss Bar to meet up with Chicks with Sticks. It was so nice to see everyone again. I finished my first sleeve of my cotton mohair sweater.

It was a good thing I had one relaxing day. Tuesday at noon began our 8 show, 4 rehearsal week. That means being in the theatre noon – 10:30 pm everyday that week. At some point a sour throat turned to a cough turned to a lost voice. I felt like crap most of the week.

Saturday my mom let me know that my grandpa was not doing so well. I spent my dinner break between rehearsal and the show on Saturday looking into flights. I found a decent flight on United, took a bereavement day from work and left for the airport at 8:30 am on Sunday. My brother picked me up at the airport and we got back to my mom’s house around 6:00 pm. It was a LONG travel day, but it was worth it. My sister drove in from Michigan that morning, and we were all together by dinner. We ordered take out and drove my brother back to his house and all had dinner over there. The next day we spent a lot of time with Grandpa. All things considered it was great to see him and be able to talk to him and have all his grand kids together.

It was an exhausting couple of days, and coughing all night long and not sleeping didn’t help much. On the upside, two six hour plane rides let me finish the cotton mohair sweater. Here it is blocking back in San Francisco.

I also plyed up another spindle full of yarn that I had spun before I left. Here’s another niddy noddy full.

Now it’s time to sleep and wake to face another week of 10 hours of theatre rehearsal, 8 hours of studio rehearsals, and 5 shows for me. It will feel like a long time before I hit a day off.

Leaving on a jet plane (part two)

I’m back in San Fran. I just finished my first day back in the theatre. It was sad to leave Brooklyn. I finished Melissa’s sweaters in the nick of time. Here they are in small, medium and large. The large still has water marks on it from blocking:

She looked adorable in it! My first successful commission . . . even though I charged her basically $2.00 an hour. Live and learn!

My last day in Brooklyn was spent at the Wool Festival at the Brooklyn Zoo. It’s mostly for kids, but of course when you say wool, the Park Slope Knitting group comes a running.

The day began with the animals, the founder of our fiber feast, the woolly animals that make our hearts go pitter patter.

There were the oh so fuzzy Costwolds just dying for a hair cut.

The sheep and goats were all good friends.

The always evil looking Jacob sheep:

Then it was time to step outside and enjoy the beautiful Alpacas.

Ooh so soft and yummy . . .

The kids really seemed to enjoy the animals . . . and they weren’t looking at them as potential sweaters.

Next it was time for fun with roving. The nice folks at the Brooklyn General had set up a big ole table in the monkey house and filled it with roving and spindles. Our little knitting group descended upon the roving like a pack of hungry wolves (or appropriately enough, crazed monkeys). We started digging in and spinning away:

There was also a spinning wheel. Alexandra jumped right in to give it a whirl and then start teaching. Here’s a little spinning video:


If you notice the last thing Alexandra says on the video is “you’re next Patty”. Unfortunately I never got a chance to jump on the wheel, because I got a call from my pal who was having a crappy time at work.Yet I managed to do a little spinning while sympathetically listing to my pal.

Finally, the moment we’d all been waiting for. The sheering of the sheep.

“what the hell is happening”

Going . . .

Going . . .


The day ended up on the roof enjoying the last of the sunshine in our garden before it was time to go.
Goodbye Brooklyn. . .

Until we meet again