GADGETS – MAGNETIC BOARDS, BOUGHT & IMPROVISED

As I’ve posted before, I’m in the throes of moving. My entire stash, most of The Chest of Knitting HorrorsTM and the majority of my knitting tools are packed away in the storage cubby. Need however, does not sleep.

This weekend past I needed to work from charts. I like to use a magnetic board, but my slab-o-steel and fancy magnets were packed away with the rest of my goodies. I had several alternatives to the keeping-my-place problem. I could use plain old pencil ticks, marking off rows as they were completed. I could use yellow sticky notes to keep track of where I was. Or I could improvise a magnetic board.

Pencil ticks are a pain, and while they help me see what’s been done, they’re of little use mid-row, especially in a long, or wide repeat. Post-its are useful, but the stickum wears out, and any time I take a stack of them out of the Forbidden Drawer, the kids attack (corollaries to this type of household piracy include liberation of Mom’s Good Scissors, and unauthorized Scotch tape squandering.) Repositioning them is also trickier compared to just nudging a magnet bar.

As a result, I turn time and time again to my magnet board. I’ve gotthe standard issue 8×10 flat model:

Lo-Ran appears to be the leading (perhaps only) outfit marketing these.Boards come in several sizes both with and without pencil ledges at the bottom. Theyare marketed in several bundles, some with additional accessories. Accessory packs are also sold separately. Mine didn’t come with the little white magnetic ruler pictured, but I bought it a zillion years ago. I also don’t use the magnifying bars, stands, or other supplemental gadgets. The half-barrel shaped magnifiers distort too much for my liking, and as a Wandering Knitter – the less impedimenta, the better.

About the only down sides to using the boards are:

  • Even though the corners are now rounded off, the edges can be sharp. I suggest covering them with book repair tape or some type of tape that doesn’t bleed adhesive over time (NOT duct tape, woven electrical tape, or first-aid tape).
  • 8×10 is smaller than my pattern pages, so my copy gets battered;
  • Being thin, they bend easily. The magnets don’t stick well to an undulating surface, so I’ve had to resort tobangingmine back into shape with a rubber mallet a couple of times over the years.

If I’m using a published pattern, I make a photocopy and put my original back on the shelf (fair use under copyright laws – if I’ve annotated it with notes I want to keep, I staple it to the original and file both away after use; if not, I destroy the copy).I slide the copy into a plastic document sleeve or zip-lock bag, along with my thin metal magnet board. Then I use the magnets on the outside of the sleeve, positioning them as needed to highlight my working section. I place my magnet to cover the row above the one on which I’m working, sliding it up as I go along. That way I can see both the row I’m on, and the rows I’ve just completed. In knitting it’s rarely necessary to mark a vertical, but some people I know do position two additional magnets to frame a repeat, removing these vertical markers when they get to the final iteration and need to work any non-repeating stitches at the end of their rows.

Without my board thisweekend past, I had to improvise. My kid refused to let me borrow her magnetic paper dolls set, having seen my true nature when Iinvaded her K’Nex building toy set for rings to use as stitch markers. Not having a typist’s metal copy stand (remember those?), a tabletopmusic stand, or access to sheet steel and a machine shop, I raided the kitchen.

I found a flimsy, cheap Ecko raised lip cookie sheet/jellyroll panI bought back when I got my first apartment. You know the kind – the type of flat panthat warps at any temperature over 250F, and is guaranteed to burn anything baked on it. I’m sure you’ve got one squirreled away somewhere, making appearances to re-heat pizza or catch drips, but not to do any real cooking. Mine is the worse for wear, havingrecently been rescued froma three-year turn outdoors underneath the barbeque. It’s scrubbed clean, but it’s too nasty looking to use without foil between it and food.

Then I scarfed one of those promotional business-card style fridge magnets that breed with the same frequency as AOL CDs or coat hangers. This whopping big index-card size one came with the thank-you for your membership letter from WERS, a Boston-area Public Radio station based at Emerson College. (Just because I’m ancient doesn’t mean I have to give up on college radio.)

I cut the flexible WERS magnet into strips, slapped my chart on my pan and had my no-cost magnet board. While it’s not as flat as my regular fancy board, it is larger than my sheet of paper, so the edges aren’t getting battered. Also the pan shape has been very usefulas a tray forcontaining spare DPNs, pencils, and other items as I carry my knitting room to room:

My solution isn’t pretty or elegant, but it works; and using all scrounged materials – it was free.

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