Category Archives: Learn to Knit Afghan


Elder daughter’s Walker Learn to Knit book afghan continues to grow. She’s working in Cascade 220, in assorted greens gleaned from the orphan skein shelf at Wild & Woolly in Lexington (our local yarn shop).


Her goal is to have enough finished by next fall to furnish herself with an off-to-college blanket. Younger daughter has decided that crochet is easier for her to handle than knitting, and armed with books from my library and yarn from my stash, is making a stab at a zig-zag blanket for her favorite stuffed animal. So the transmission of obsession is prospering here at String.

On my own knitting – I am making good albeit slow progress on the olive green tablecloth. The section I’m working now is rather spider-webby. It’s an eternity of rows alternating between [S2-k1-PSSO, (YO)2] and [K (K1,P1)] to make an infinitude of center double decrease columns with large eyelets between them. Given that the piece has something close to 1,200 stitches per round at this point, each row takes forever. Especially the double decrease row. The last thing I want to do is miss a loop. So progress is slow to accumulate, especially because I want this spider web area to be at least six to eight inches deep (yes I do have the play in the linking brides to accommodate the fixed stitch count of this patten and corresponding total diameter increase of the round cloth over the added depth).


In other news, I heard that a local yarn source is closing. Not my favorite shop (thank goodness), but a two-outlet big-box store that focused mostly on fabric and decorating, that greatly expanded and then shrank its yarn department in response to the scarf knitting fad of a couple of years ago. I was always ambivalent about it. Although I did buy fabric there on occasion, didn’t buy their yarn because I wasn’t fond of that store’s effect on other area yarn shops. At one point they absorbed several of the better mid-range suppliers’ products, then using their volume purchase to engineer discounts from the makers, sold those yarns at prices significantly lower than smaller stores could manage. Doing this they cornered the market on (for example) Plymouth Lopi. Small knitshops could no longer afford to stock it and lost significant foot traffic as a result. Now the big box store is closing. No more yarn, no more fabric.

Now the reversal of yarn sales wasn’t the cause. I suspect rising rents (the mall in which it is located has expanded considerably in the past two years), the general decrease in discretionary spending (much of their revenue was from their home decoration department), and a decrease in interest in quilting and home sewing in general. Most of the times I hit the fabric department, I was the youngest person shopping, and being a Boomer, I’m no longer a sweet, young thing. Changes in the economy, changing customer demographics, crashes in the popularity of multiple hobbies, rising infrastructure costs all add up to the loss.

Now there’s a new problem. Where to buy fabric? What’s left in the inner/outer suburb belt here is woefully inadequate – shops that have scaled back their sewing departments in favor of scrapbooking and other low-investment/low skill hobbies. There are a couple of small stores scattered around, useful but with very limited stocks. I haven’t been downtown to what used to be the garment district in Boston in years. It used to be the home of several stores where bolts went to die – remnant shops and mill end type places. But that was long ago, and that neighborhood has gone upscale.

In the mean time, I note the store’s passing, plus the closing of a couple of the smaller yarn shops that opened up at the crest of the scarf knitting fad, and hope that retrenchment will leave us with local yarn stores. I for one need to see and feel yarn for inspiration – the texture, the drape, the weight, the loft, and most of all – the color. I can’t buy blind off the web, based on photos, descriptions, and reviews – even those on wiseNeedle. I value the expertise and help available at local shops, and am willing to pay a small surcharge per skein to support that help (rather than spending it on shipping). And most of all, I like the experience of seeing and evaluating alternatives in person, being able to take leaps of inspiration based on the stock of yarns and patterns at hand.

Perhaps the rise in Internet yarn shopping is part of the stampede towards sameness I see across many knitters’ projects reported on line. Someone knits something, and it turns out quite well. Other well-connected knitters see the success and want to duplicate it. So they too buy the same pattern and same yarn. Both being known entities, purchase sight-unseen is a viable option. Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing any of that, knitting up something that’s a proven winner, or using the exact yarns (or even colors) specified in a pattern or that someone else has used. It’s safe. It’s proven, and the chances of success are magnified. But it’s not the way I knit. And I’m guessing that there are other “bungie jumping” knitters out there that find the proliferation of the latest got-to-knit item stifling, and yearn for a wander through a warren of tactile and visual inspiration. If you’re out there, please speak up. And visit your local yarn shop before it’s gone, too.

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I’m not sure what the next challenge should be. I really should finish the Galaga hat. I’m still working on the Kyoto (finished with the body pieces, now about a quarter of the way through the two sleeves). But having partially finished things has never stopped be from beginning something new before.

One possibility is to do something lacy taking advantage of the color properties of Noro’s Kureyon sock yarn. I couldn’t leave Wild & Woolly (in Lexington, MA – my favorite yarn shop) without it because these colors latched on to my magpie self and refused to let go.


I’ve been told that some folk think this yarn is too twisted and just a little bit harsh for socks. While not Regia smooth, it’s not particularly harsh to me. I suspect that like most Noro yarns, while they never achieve Merino softness, washing will make a tremendous difference. And for my purposes, rewinding to reduce twist and in the process increasing loft, isn’t optimal. I like my lace yarns to be tightly twisted.

But there remains the question of what to do with it. Something directional might work well with the repeat lengths, but so many other people have done Entrelac in these yarns. The same method I used for the Kureopatora’s Snake might be an idea – upping the number of stitches across to yield the same finished dimensions in the smaller gauge – but I want to do something else that’s more airy. Mating lacy stitches with the riot of hues is always a big challenge because textures tend to fight with the patterns produced by the yarn’s transition among colors. I’ll have to do more thinking on this one.

My other looming temptation is one of two tightly twisted little knots of Malabrigio Merino laceweight. I bought two – one in Emerald Blue (blues and teals) and one in Amoroso (a stunning garnet/cherry blend). I wound the blue into a ball last night.


The super-soft single-ply yarn relaxed and got considerably more lofty in the process – a bit of a disappointment for me, but not fatal. It just means I will have to use a much larger needle than I originally anticipated. Also some teasing apart was necessary because the thin strands were in the process of mating with each other, and some were slightly fulled into their neighbors. Thankfully I did not have to break the yarn to tame it. This slightly variegated yarn presents a smaller color challenge than the Noro, but a larger one due to skein length. 470 yards should be more than enough for a small scarf. To be sure that I will not run out mid-project, I will need to work it differently than the pieces I’ve been doing. I would revert to the method I used for Kombu – first knitting a narrow width of edging (the bottom), picking up stitches along the top and then knitting both the body and the left and right edgings at the same time. That way I could see how much I had left at all times, and maximize the scarf’s length by continuing until I had just enough yarn left to do the small strip of edging at the top. Or perhaps I’d chart out something with two decorative ends and included borders…

In the mean time, going back to a single color world – I can report that Elder Daughter is making excellent progress on her Walker Learn to Knit Afghan Book project. She’s using Cascade 220, all various greens and creams, bought one skein at at time from the orphan end of dyelot bin. She is going more or less in order, with skips ahead dictated by how much of what color she has on hand at any one time. I suspect that she’ll soon start improvising because she’s beginning to accumulate a stash of little leftover balls too small to use even for the book’s two-tone squares. Here’s the collection to date:


and a few close-ups (unblocked):

1asquare-1.jpg 2asquare-2.jpg 3asquare-3.jpg
4asquare-4.jpg 5asquare-5.jpg6 asquare-6.jpg

So far she’s covered basic knit and purl (4 above), twisted stitches (1), simple directional decreases (2), yarn-overs (2), simple increases, cables (5), mosaic knitting (3,6). All in easy to digest aliquots and explained well enough that she’s been able to noodle it out all on her own. To be fair, I did show her a couple of tricks for 1×1 twisted stitch cables, but that was just a hands-on for the same methods described in her book. If you’re an experiential learner and you’re looking for a nice survey course in basic knitting, you might benefit from this classic bit of instruction. My only criticism of it is that it was written before Walker moved to charting – a vital skill these days as more and more resources rely heavily on that technique.

Needless to say, I’m quite proud of Elder Daughter and her ongoing project.

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O.K. I’ve gotten quite a few notes disagreeing with the opinion I posted on Friday. That’s fine.

Don’t mistake me though. I’m not against passion or enthusiasm. Both are part of falling in love with a hobby, craft, or other pursuit. Passion is great. It’s the fire in the furnace that feeds us all. To torture the metaphor, mindless gushing is the annoying component of the fire’s smoke that hurts one’s eyes. Sure, tell the world how much fun you’re having. But if you want people to 1) read your comments; and 2) take you seriously, try to limit the LOLs, the "me-too-ism" and group-think, the over-use of "!!!," all caps, the run-on sentences, and mindless statements like, "I love it SOOOOO much, I’m dying." A blush of enthusiasm is like spice; too much is overpowering and swamps any content you may wish to convey.

Kid Report – Learn to Knit Afghan

The Larger Daughter has just started a new knitting project. She’s already done several foofy scarves, a felted bag, and a pair of fingering weight wristlets. She wants to learn a bit about things beyond basic knits and purls. To do this, she’s going to march through Barbara Walker’s Lean to Knit Afghan Book.

Walker presents a series of patterns for squares that can be assembled into a blanket. Each square is for a different texture or colorwork pattern. They’re (more or less) arranged in a sequence, with each new square introducing a new skill or technique. If you work your way through the entire set you’ll have experienced a wealth of styles and stitches, and will have gained valuable experience in following knitting directions.

Yes, one could compose a project like this on one’s own – taking stitch dictionaries and selecting interesting patterns from them. In fact all of the stitches in the Walker book are in either her own stitch treasuries, or in her other books. The advantages of having them in this one volume are portability of the directions (no lugging around a suitcase of books to choose the next square); having the repeats and cast-on numbers pre-calculated to produce a set of (mostly) same size squares; and having the lessons presented in a logical order, with new skills building on previously learned skills. There are other people who have or are writing about this project on the Web. /p[eu]rls of wisdom?/ has been blogging the project, and has a particularly nice set of finished squares up for the enjoyment of all.

The Larger Daughter is going to make her blanket from many shades of green, accented by cream and possibly another framing color to be chosen later. She’s using Cascade 220, 100% wool, and is knitting on US #6 needles. She’s on Square #1 right now – plain striped garter stitch, and is breezing through it. My role in this is to stay on the shelf as a benign source of last-resort help, not interfering unless she’s got a specific question. That and buying the yarn, of course.

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