Types of Knitting Needles

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Yesterday I wrote about my favorite knitting needles and pictured some of my Knitter’s Pride Dreamz straight needles. Today I’m going to explain the difference between straights, circulars, and double pointed.

Straight Needles

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These were my very first knitting needles, and they’re great for learning. Straight needles are defined by their long size, point at one end, and a stopper of some kind at the other end. This stopper prevents your stitches from sliding off the back of the needle while you’re knitting; this is why they’re good for beginners.

Straight needles aren’t just for beginners, though. They’re also good for anyone making a flat project. I’ve even knit sweaters on them before (by knitting the pieces individually and sewing them together at the end).

Circular Needles

Fixed circulars

Most knitters I’ve come in contact with over the past couple of years prefer circular knitting needles. They’re great for any kind of project, either flat or round (tubular). With circular needles, you can join your stitches to knit around and around in a tube, or you can turn the work over at the end of the row and knit back and forth to create a flat piece. You can also use the “magic loop” method to knit small diameter things, but I don’t particularly like that, so I won’t focus much on it.

Double Pointed Needles

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Double pointed needles (DPNs) are use for knitting small diameter projects in the round. They’re mostly used for the tops of hats and sweater sleeves. DPNs come in a set of 5, and each one has points at both ends (rather than one point and a stopper). They’re also quite a bit shorter than straight needles. When you use DPNs, you put 1/3 of the stitches on each of three needles and then use a fourth to knit with, one needle at a time (just like straight needles). When you get to the end of one needle, you rotate your work, move the now-empty needle from your left hand to your right, and keep going. 

The main downside with DPNs is that they don’t have that stopper on the end, so it’s very possible for your stitches to fall off. It’s not a huge risk so long as you don’t fill them up too full; typically there’s plenty of room on a given needle to keep the stitches in the middle and avoid them being dropped.

Blessings,

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Book Club: Keep Moving

Book Club with Lori

You know who Dick van Dyke is, right? He’s one of Hollywood’s most loved actors, starring in such films as Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He was also the star of the TV shows The Dick van Dyke Show and Diagnosis: Murder for a number of years. I didn’t grow up watching him much, but my husband did, and I was introduced to his work as an adult. Since then, I’ve become a big fan.

When I found the audiobook Keep Moving on my Overdrive app, written and read by Dick van Dyke himself, I knew that was one I wanted to read (listen to) for Book Club. Luckily, Lori happily agreed, so here we are.

We weren’t able to find questions about the book (it’s fairly new – less than a year old, I think), so we’ve decided to just write a few words about our thoughts on it.

Keep Moving is a memoir of van Dyke’s life, but it’s also more than that. Besides the anecdotes and stories from his lie in Hollywood, the author reminds us of the importance in moving every single day. As he approaches his 90th birthday, I think he’s a pretty good source on what might help us to live longer, and he says that moving – exercising – especially something you love doing – is a vital part of that. That’s where the title of the book comes in. Keep Moving. Sing and dance and walk and run every day. If you don’t like any of those things, find something you do like to do, and move every day. This is good for your body and your spirit.

Besides having lived a long and full life himself, Dick van Dyke has one other piece of personal history that gives him credibility to the “Keep Moving movement.” When he was a young man (mid-30s) and acting in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, he had an accident on set. He visited the doctor, where he was told that he had severe arthritis and would be basically lame within the decade. He rejected this notion. Not all of it, obviously – arthritis isn’t something you just decide that you no longer have. But the part about being unable to walk within just a few years… he rejected that. He continued to sing, dance, run, jump… move. And by fighting his arthritis, he has been able to live a full and happy life, continuing to do all the things he loves. What an inspiration!

I have really enjoyed listening to Dick van Dyke read his own book. It’s one that Will and I have been listening to together in the evenings while he works and I knit. It’s a fun book, and hearing his voice has made me want to find some old Diagnosis: Murder episodes to watch 🙂

Make sure to head over to Lori’s blog and find out what she thought about this book.

Next month, we’re reading An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff. It’s “the true story of an 11-year-old panhandler, a busy sales executive, and an unlikely meeting with destiny.” The based-on-a-true story genre is my favorite kind of movie (not documentaries, but films with actors telling a true story), so I’m looking forward to this book. We haven’t been able to find questions on that one, either, so the post will be much like this one was.

Blessings,

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My Favorite Knitting Needles

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There about as many different types of knitting needles as there are knitters who use them. Plastic, metal, hardwood, bamboo, even bone. And that’s just the materials the needles themselves are actually made from. You also have straight needles, circular needles, and double pointed needles (more on those differences tomorrow). And the size of the needles is another thing to consider. 

Big box stores are going to have a much smaller selection to choose from. If you go there, you’re likely to only find plastic or aluminum needles. At a “local yarn store” (LYS) you’ll have many more options. 

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My focus is on my favorite needles, though. Not all the different varieties on the market. My taste in knitting needles is quite small; in fact, I’ve really only used two kinds. I have a couple of sets of bamboo double pointed needles that I bought cheap from Amazon, and they do a fine job. But my very favorite are my Knitter’s Pride Dreamz needles. These are the basic needle available at my LYS, and therefore the kind I bought for my knitting class. They are made from a strong, polished wood, and each size (diameter) is a different color so you can tell the apart quickly and easily. The points are sharp enough to allow you to go through stitches easily, but not so pointy that you split stitches. Because they’re wood, they give your yarn a little grip, making the dreaded dropped stitch less of an issue (not a nonissue, though). I can not recommend these needles enough, especially for a beginner.

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This post is not sponsored in any way. Every pair of needles I own, I’ve purchased. Knitter’s Pride has no idea who I am, and I was not compensated for this post. I just really love their product and wanted to write about it today.

Blessings,

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Yarn Fibers

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We’re still talking about yarn today. Yesterday was all about the different thicknesses available; today is about the different fibers you’re likely to come across as you shop for yarn.

If you purchase your yarn from a craft store or supercenter type store, you will likely be limited to acrylic yarns. Acrylic is a byproduct of oil, so acrylic yarn is basically plastic. Don’t let that deter you though; not all acrylics are created equal. Some are really terrible and some are softer and cozier than wool. Acrylic is very easy to care for (almost  all are machine washable and dryable) and easy on the budget, so it’s a great choice for knitting or crocheting items for babies and children.

The next most popular fiber for yarn is probably wool. There are as many different types and feels of wool yarn as there are species of sheep (and llamas and alpacas, and…). That is, quite a lot. Most of the pure wool yarns I’ve worked with tend to be pretty scratchy, but with some TLC and wool wash, they soften up.

Cotton is a popular yarn for making things like washcloths and summer garments. It’s cool and breezy, but also tough. It can tend to be pretty heavy, so it’s not ideal for heavier clothing like winter sweaters.

These are the main types of yarn I’ve seen as “pure.” There are also a nearly infinite number of blends on the market. Some of the lower-cost companies have wool-acrylic blends available, for example. I’ve used a cotton-bamboo yarn for a shawl I made, and that yarn has a nice drapy quality that was perfect for the shawl. I’ve tried that same yarn for other projects (a sweater and a pair of mittens), and it was no good for either of those. If you’re making socks, the best yarn to find is a wool-nylon blend. They nylon gives you the strength you need for the heels and toes, while the wool keeps it from being a nylon sock.

This list barely scratches the surface on yarn fibers, but it covers the kinds I use most, so I’m going to leave it here. Come back tomorrow for the next most important thing you need to knit: needles.

Blessings,

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Yarn Weights

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Welcome back! Today I want to talk about yarn weights, by which I mean thicknesses (as opposed to pounds). You might remember from yesterday’s post that your label will tell you what weight your yarn is. But what do those terms and numbers mean? I’m going to enlighten you right now.

Size 0 is also called lace, fingering, or thread weight. As you might guess from its first name, it is often used for creating airy, lacy knits. I have never personally used yarn this small; I tend to mostly knit sweaters, which require thicker yarn for warmth.

Size 1 also has a few different names. You might hear it called “sock,” “fingering,” or “baby.” This is the yarn you use for knitting socks if you want them to fit inside your shoes. It’s also a really nice feeling yarn for shawls and baby blankets.

Size 2 is called Sport or Baby yarn. It’s a little thicker than sock yarn, but used for a lot of the same types of projects.

Size 3 is called DK, which is short for “double knitting.” I’m not entirely sure why it’s called that, because double knitting is a technique also; perhaps double knitting works best with this weight of yarn. I’m not sure, though. DK weight yarn is suitable for just about any project. I’ve used it for numerous sweaters and shawls.

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These are the yarn sizes I work with the most. This picture shows the differences between sizes 2, 3, and 4.

Size 4 is called worsted in the United States and Aran in much of the rest of the world. This is the yarn you’ll get if you buy it anywhere that’s not a yarn-specific store (JoAnn, Michael’s, the craft section at Walmart, etc). It’s the “standard” yarn and is great for warm sweaters, Afghans, and more.

Size 5 is the beginning of the really thick yarns. Commonly called chunky or bulky, it’s good for a quick blanket (thicker yarn means bigger stitches, which means your project goes faster). 

6 and 7 are very similar to 5, just a bit bigger.

For a nice printable on yarn thicknesses, visit this post at Moogly.

Now that we’ve discussed thicknesses and ideas for projects in different yarn weights, I want to briefly mention how yarns get to be different thicknesses. This is done by twisting strands of spun yarn together. The fewer the strands, the thinner the yarn. Size 0 yarn uses 1-3 strands, while size 7 can use in excess of 16 strands. Understanding those numbers, it’s easy to see how and why the thicknesses are so different!

Blessings,
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Reading a Yarn Label

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For my first post on the joy of knitting, I wanted to start super basic, with the most important thing you’ll need: yarn. Of course, you need knitting needles, too, but yarn is even more important than the needles because a) it creates the fabric that will be your finished product and b) there are tutorials out there for knitting without needles (finger knitting, for example).

So… yarn. How do you know what you’re getting when you buy yarn? While it can be pretty confusing as first, the yarn companies do what they can to make it easy – or at least understandable – for you. They put all the information you need right on the label, or ball band, of the yarn. Today I’m going to go over the information on a skein of yarn I have on hand.

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On the front of the label, you’ll see the name of the company that made the yarn (Berroco), as well as the name of the product line (Comfort DK). Below this is the name of the yarn weight and a description of the fiber content.

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When you rotate the ball of yarn, you come to a new panel on the label. This one has a series of tiny pictures. The three main ones tell you approximately what gauge (a fancy term for “stitches per inch”) you should get using this yarn and the specified needle sizes. The gauge you need will be listed on your pattern, but using the guide on the yarn label can give you an idea of whether your yarn and pattern are compatible. There are these gauge pictures for both knitting and crochet. Below that is another little picture; this one looks like a skein of yarn with a number on it. This gives you another clue as to the weight of the yarn (besides the name on the front, because not all yarns will list the weight there). I’ll talk about yarn weight in more detail tomorrow. Also on this panel is the size of your skein. This is usually listed in ounces and grams (for weight) and meters and yards (for length).

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Rotate the ball one more time and you get to the final third of the ball band. On this section are the washing instructions for your finished garment, the color number and dye lot number, and the store’s pricing sticker. The dye lot is probably the most important piece of information on the label, especially if you’re making a project that will require more than one skein of yarn. By matching the color and dye lot, you can be assured that your yarn is all exactly the same color. (Matching dye lot numbers means they were colored in the same dye bath.) Even if two balls of yarn have the same color number, if their dye lots are different, it’s very possible that they won’t quite match. They’ll be close of course, but subtle variations are possible. 

And that’s the information you’ll find on a yarn label. I hope you’ll come back tomorrow, when I’ll be discussing the different weights of yarn.

Blessings,

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31 Days of Writing

There’s a challenge going around the “blogosphere” this month, and that is to write something each day all month long. That’s 31 blog posts (though I’ll have a few more since I have some reviews this month that will be sprinkled in). There are a few different bloggers hosting different versions of the challenge, and the one I chose to participate in is to write a little bit each day about a single topic. I’ve chosen to focus on my favorite hobby: knitting.

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I’ll cover all sorts of topics related to the subject. Here’s my basic road map for the series:

10/2: Reading a yarn label

10/3: Different weights of yarn

10/4: Different fibers of yarn

10/5: My favorite knitting needles

10/6: The difference between straight needles, circular needles, and double pointed needles

10/7: What is an “interchangeable needle set”?

10/8: Buying yarn for a single project

10/9: Buying yarn “just because”

10/10: The “yarn stash” and how to store it

10/11: Where to buy yarn

10/12: Where to learn to knit

10/13: Teaching children to knit

10/14: My favorite resources (YouTube channels, books, websites, etc)

10/15: Knit vs Crochet

10/16: Basics of Knitting: casting on

10/17: Basics of Knitting: the knit stitch

10/18: Basics of Knitting: the purl stitch

10/19: Basics of Knitting: binding off

10/20: Attaching a new ball of yarn to a project

10/21: Choosing a pattern

10/22: Reading a knitting pattern

10/23: Knitting a gauge swatch

10/24: Knitting flat vs in the round

10/25: Knitting a seamless garment vs knitting pieces and sewing them together

10/26: Knitting things that aren’t clothes: wash cloths

10/27: Knitting things that aren’t clothes: dish scrubbies

10/28: Knitting things that aren’t clothes: bookmarks

10/29: How to dye yarn with food safe “ingredients” in your kitchen

10/30: My experience with food-coloring dyeing

10/31: Conclusion

Some of these will be longer than others, but I’m committing to writing about all of them this month. I’m excited about it, and I hope it’s as fun for you as it will be for me.

Blessings,

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Thanks to Finch N Wren!

My friend Wren, half of the blog Finch n Wren, has been doing a fun series all summer long: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About… where she sent interview questions out to some of her favorite bloggers. This was an easy way for her to keep her blog active while she dealt with some health issues, and I was more than happy to participate. Head over to their blog and check out my interview!

Blessings,

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6th Grade

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I have two middle schoolers this year. Two! I can’t believe it. Today’s post is all about Munchkin and what he’ll be studying for his 6th grade year, at least for the foreseeable future. (I’m not always the best at keeping things going, so we might change things up. Also, well add other things in as he finishes some of these curricula/topics.)

Math: I picked up a workbook for him for his math this year. We’ve tried lots of different things over the years, but I wanted to keep it very simple, clean, and no-nonsense this year. A $9 Spectrum workbook fit the bill.

Literature: He’s currently finishing up the Charlotte’s Web study guide we received from Progeny Press  when that’s done, we’re going to go back to Readers in Residence from Apologia.

Grammar: I plan to buy level 3 of Fix It! grammar from IEW soon. The website is a little confusing, but if I’m reading it correctly, the level we need has been on back order. Hopefully I can get it to our house in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, we’re using Daily Grammar from SchoolhouseTeachers.com.

Foreign Language: Rosetta Stone French is the main one we’re using. But he had such a great time when we reviewed Greek ‘n’ Stuff that he’s continuing on with Greek as well.

History: Were doing the unit study route for history this year. I let each of the boys choose their own topic, no limits. Munchkin chose the French Revolution, so I’ve cobbled a few things together, including a lapbook from Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus and a list of books for him to read.

Cooking: Each week, the big kids are each cooking one meal. I’m guiding them through it, and they’ll each learn 3 or 4. We’ll repeat them monthly until they have them mastered and can cook the meals independently, at which point we’ll add in more. Munchkin has has 2 lessons so far: chili with cornbread and … I don’t remember what the other one is right now. But there have been two, I swear! This week he will learn to make pancakes and syrup from scratch and hash browns.

That’s it for now. We’ll add in science before too long, but we haven’t yet.

Blessings,

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Traveling the World (Let’s Go Geography review)

Learning about the place we live can be exciting for a young child, and it’s fairly easy to teach them. But what about teaching about places that are far away? That’s a lot trickier. A good homeschool geography curriculum is vital in that, and I have one to tell you about today.

Let’s Go Geography is a downloadable curriculum that offers a lot of hands-on activities, which is perfect for its target age demographic of grades K-4. Because my two older boys are outside the age range, Small Fry (K) and I have been learning about the world around us for the past few weeks. He’s barely at the point where he can differentiate the city from the state where we live, and definitely doesn’t understand about the countries yet, so his little mind is perfect for starting fresh with something like this.

lets go geographyAfter you purchase the curriculum, you are given access to the site, where you can download the lessons. If you’re like me, you may not want to print the entire year’s worth at a time though. Let’s Go Geography sends you an automated email each week (at roughly the same day and time as when you first signed up – for me, this is on Sunday evenings), reminding you to get the new lesson ready, including direct links to the lesson (just log in to the site to access). I think that’s pretty neat! There’s no excuse for forgetting that way.

The Specifics of Let’s Go Geography

Each lesson covers a specific geographic area, and the first several lessons are all based on North America (Northeastern United States, Hawaii, Canada, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Belize are the first six, which is all I’ve gone through yet.) Each lesson is broken down into “chapters,” making it easy to divide the work up over a single school week. In order to get an idea of how the curriculum works, I’m going to go over the “chapters” in lesson 1 in a bit of detail.

Map It!

This chapter shows children what the country they’re studying looks like. Depending on the map you choose to download and print (there is one suggested and linked in the curriculum download, but it’s just a suggestion; ultimately, you’re responsible for finding your own map), it could also show them where the country is located in relation to the rest of the world also. Children are instructed to color the map. For older children, you could also have them label important parts (individual states, large cities, rivers, etc).

The Flag

flag mapIn this chapter, children learn to identify the flag of the country they’re studying that week. Included in the curriculum is a map of the overarching section of the study (in this case, North America and some of the nearby islands) with places to glue the flags. Students are also asked to draw a line connecting a flag to its country. Another option is to download the “passport” that goes along with the curriculum (an extra fee of $2.99, or go to the website and share about the curriculum on your favorite social media outlet to get it for free). Once you print out the passport and put it together, your child can glue the flags onto the correct pages of that.

The Music

An example of the page for the chapter on music. You can see that includes lyrics for the song as well as a link to hear the song. This is an example of a page that is better on the computer than in print.

The music page in the Hawaii lesson. You can see that includes lyrics for the song as well as a link to hear the song. This is an example of a page that is better on the computer than in print.

This section provides links to listen to musical selections from the country. There are also lyrics for the national anthem.

Let’s Explore

In this chapter, there’s lots of information specific to the area you’re studying. In the Northeast U.S. lesson, students are taught about the geographical features specific to the region. This includes photographs of the region and short descriptions of what you might find there or things the area is famous for.

Create

This is a fun chapter – it provides a craft for the children that relates to the region. For the first lesson, children use a red Solo cup and printable flames (included in the curriculum) to make a lighthouse.

The final pages include a coloring page of the region and a notebooking page for older students to make a written record of what they learned during the week. (Due to the age of my student, we didn’t use the notebooking page, but he loves to color, so we did use the coloring pages.)

How We Used It

As I mentioned before, I used this curriculum with my Kindergartner. It was a bit intense for him to go at the rate of even one chapter per day, so we took it nice and slow, getting through one region approximately every two weeks. At this rate, it will take us 2 years (kindergarten and 1st grade) to get all the way through this curriculum, but that’s okay – I was blessed with lifetime access to the product (I’m not sure if this is the way it works for everyone, or if your purchase of the full year is good only for one year). I had him glue his flags onto the map I described earlier rather than into the passport, simply because the passport gave me a lot of grief in the printing process (which is not a problem with the file itself, just in that reloading paper into my printer and getting it to print correctly was a bit of a hassle). Also, I didn’t have any cardstock to make a good passport cover.

Right now, all of his papers are just kind of loose all around the school shelf, which isn’t ideal. I think I’m going to help my 5 year old to turn all of this great info into a lapbook pretty soon. This will keep it all very organized, but also make it much more interesting to look at, and will give him a keepsake to look back on when he’s older. The curriculum download includes several notebook cover options, one of which we will put on the cover of the lapbook. If you have an older student who would do better to keep his papers in a binder, you can use the cover printout in that way instead.

Final Thoughts

We’ve enjoyed working with Let’s Go Geography. I didn’t realize when I blindly printed out the first lesson that a lot of it is better used on the computer because it includes live links to things (the printable map, a YouTube video of the national anthem, etc). But some of it works just fine printed – in fact, some of the pieces have to be printed. So my advice is to spend the time on your computer going through each lesson in advance and printing just the pages that actually need to be printed.

You can get a full year of Let’s Go Geography for $21.99. If that’s a bit difficult for you to swing all at once, they also have a payment plan, wherein you agree to the whole year but make two equal payments of $12.99, one for the first semester and one for the second. If you’d prefer to buy just one semester at a time, the first semester is available for $14.99 (I didn’t see anything on the site about the second semester individually). There are also coupon codes available from time to time – currently there is a 25% off special going, but I don’t know how long that will last.

Blessings,

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