Category Archives: while knitting

How to Read while Knitting

Knitting can sometimes be really boring: get a pattern with not much changing from row to row, and there really isn’t anything for the brain to do.  Listening to music or NPR is always a good option, but sometimes I would rather read.  For those of you who want to keep that brain active, even through the depths of garter stitch, I have devised a recipe for How to Read while Knitting.

You will need:

  • a trade paperback book
  • a banana
  • a flat armrest
  • a simple knitting project

Settle yourself in your favorite knitting spot; mine happens to have a flat armrest.  Place the book open on the armrest, weighting it into submission with the banana.  If your spot lacks an armrest, try putting a pillow on the cushion next to you as a book stand.  Now your book will happily stay open, leaving your hands free to pick up your knitting.

Today’s book is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  Choosing a book can be an important factor.  Trade paperbacks tend to work best; their flexible spines almost always prop open successfully.  I have had limited success with smaller paperbacks or hard covers.  The book’s content should be interesting, but not too engrossing–I might neglect my knitting if I’m too excited about the book’s narrative.  Save the fabulously inspiring books for a reading-only session.

A banana makes a wonderful book weight.  Their weight and length, even their curvature, is almost uniquely suited to the role of a book weight.  Much of the banana rests in the margins, leaving 90% of the text readable.  The banana requires positional adjustment according to the progress of reading; sometimes it needs to be replaced altogether, if I get a little peckish. For alternate book weights, you might consider using: a knitting notions bag, a stone coaster, or a digital camera.

Choosing a simple knitting project is a matter of individual preference; it must be something you can do without looking at it.  Today, I have chosen the sleeves to my Tweedie cardigan; using just one yarn at a time and decreasing every 12 rows, this is mostly plain knitting.  I can knit for the width of the sleeve (~60 stitches) without looking away from the book. In choosing a simple knitting project, focus on flat-knit garter stitch designs (such as the most basic dishcloth) or in-the-round stockinette stitch patterns (such as a felted shoulder bag).  You’ll be most successful in reading while knitting if your project avoids a lot of K-P changes, cabling, colorwork, or shaping.  Think brainless knitting.

Some beginners have difficulty in knitting without looking.  To build your confidence, try watching a DVD while knitting.  Your eyes can shift from the screen to check on your knitting every little bit, and soon you’ll find you need to check in less and less often.

So here’s a picture of my set up, complete with a Phoebe cat for cuddling:

person with a cat, knitting, open book

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trying new things: Jacques Cousteau Hat and Silo Ice Climbing

I tried two new things on Saturday:  the Jacques Cousteau Hat pattern and Silo Ice Climbing.

The Cousteau Hat has a lovely 3×2 rib, a deep fold-over brim, and a lovely four-section crown.  So I set-to with a ball of yarn I wanted to use up: a weird blend of 70% acrylic to 30% merino (‘why waste the merino?’ is my question).  Knowing I had a road trip coming up, I wanted a simple project to keep my hands happy.  I know I could have traveled with one of my pending UFOs, but I wanted something new.

I knit most of the Cousteau Hat on the road to Cedar Falls, IA for a day of ice climbing with the Dirty-Fun Havers.  The Dirty-Fun Havers are a group of girlfriends who like to go camping and canoeing and such like.  We agreed: Silo Ice Climbing seemed like a challenging and fun way to spend a winter’s day.  Masses of ice are frozen to the side of a grain silo, climbers are given crampons, ice axes, and rappelling gear, and then attempt to climb the columns of ice.  Belayers are there to catch you when you fall, so it’s all pretty safe, but it certainly is challenging.

The guys running the place were very friendly and helpful in guiding newbies in climbing.  A couple of our group were really good at it.  It was fun to watch them scramble up the silo, just as if they’d been doing this all their lives.  I didn’t do very well, but I’m glad I tried it.  And, it was a fun day out with the girls.

Meanwhile, back at the hat: since my chosen yarn was a mite bigger than the pattern calls for, I cast on a fewer number of sts (90 instead of 120).  Since I’m not very good at planning, I later had to change the crown-shaping from 4 sections to 3.  Hopefully that all works out OK.  This’ll be the best hat I never made, that’s for sure.

I plan to finish up the hat tonight, while watching Downton Abbey.

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