To mend and to make, warm hands edition

Yesterday I woke up to the first snow fall of the season. It was nice to bundle up in several layers of warm wool, so I didn’t freeze while shoveling. Today is for tending to one of those layers, while shoveling I discovered that my mittens has a hole.

Grey hand knit mitten worn on right hand with pinkie finger poking out the side.

This isn’t surprising, I knit these mittens quickly in 2009 out of single-ply bulky wool (Ravelry link). Since then, I’ve improved my skills on mitten fit (I recommend Kate Atherley’s Knit Mitts, my review). I’ve also grown my understanding on fiber choices, yarn structure, and knit fabric due to all my swatching. Even though it’s not supposed to snow again for at least a week, I’ll mend the hole. I discovered this morning that I never wove in the ends, so I’ll use that yarn to make the fix.

Of course, my next thought was to knit a new pair of mittens. While this pair is something I can wear, I’ve never been pleased with them. They have many faults; the cuff is too short, and the knit fabric is very loose resulting in a mitten that isn’t very warm.

One mitten leads to three new projects

As I began to write this post, I realized I’ve tried to make one pair of mittens perform optimally in multiple roles; that’s asking too much of a humble pair of knit mitts. This is a work mitten; it needs to fit over a pair gloves and shovel snow. It needs to be tightly knit so wind and wet snow doesn’t penetrate. When I’m outside in winter I’m almost always wearing mittens over a pair of fingerless gloves, regardless of activity. This everyday pair does not need to be as hard wearing, they are primarily be worn while walking. The pair I’ve worn for the past few years is another quickly knit pair, it’s time to make them nicer. I also now have the results of my experiment in finger-less gloves. These also should be reknit!

Notebook of initial sketch and notes with mittens that need mending laying on the opposite page. Also visible is a pencil, empty coffee mug, and a computer keyboard.

It’s fascinating how one small hole can lead to sketches for multiple new projects: a new pair of finger-less gloves, everyday mittens, and work mittens. Will these become published designs? Time will tell. I will include updates here as I go through the process of choosing yarn, swatching, fine tuning my design, and knitting.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey.

in progress (25 September 2020)

Instead of becoming distracted by posting to social media, I periodically write about the projects I’m working on here. Honestly, there hasn’t been much progress on existing projects since the last time I wrote. The humidity this summer was not kind to my planned work and there were too many large projects. No one wants a lapful of wool in August!

New Project – High Sierra Shawl sample for LGF Suris

When Margaret posted some yarn color combination ideas for Rosemary (Romi)’s High Sierra Shawl re-release (Ravelry link), I drooled publicly over the greens. Next thing I knew, yarn was on its way and I’d offered to knit a sample!

progress on the High Sierra Shawl sample in LGF Suris, green combo

It’s beyond a lovely design to knit, and the LGF Suris yarn is delightful.

Yes, you may see some of these photos on social media, just because I’m not posting doesn’t mean I won’t send pics to someone else!

In addition to the LGF Suris sets, there’s kits by other amazing businesses, you can check out the list on Ravelry.

Project 2 – Designs: Oink Pigments and LGF Suris

My tech editor sent me very useful feedback on the Oink Pigments poncho design. I need to sit and incorporate the changes, it’s tedious and at the moment similar in editing nature to my other work, so I’ve neglected it. I really do hope to release the poncho design by the end of October.

Once it’s complete, I’ll finally return to the Transposon vest pattern in LGF Suris Sock. My goal is to release that by the end of the year. We’ll see how I do!

Project 3 – Swatches

The Anzula swatches have been patiently waiting for a bath since June. I have no excuse other than I got bored. Now that I’m working on my overall swatch library project, my goal is to design this sort of long-term swatching program in a way that helps to prevent repetition boredom.


I’m still slogging away on gifts, a blanket isn’t very summer friendly. At the end of August I set aside the large projects and began to work on smaller items such as hats. Hopefully this will help momentum to return.

Other Projects

I upgraded the motor on the ball winder! The original one (likely from a VCR) wasn’t quite strong enough to easily pull yarn from a swift. This one is, I wound all the High Sierra yarn without any extra intervention. However it’s very loud. Right now that’s a trade off I’m willing to live with.

DIY electronic ball winder working on a skein of LGF Suris Sock in Silver

I’m planning what to knit in memory of Cat Bordhi. Her influence on my knitting is undeniable. I remember when I first discovered Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles: A Manual of Elegant Knitting Techniques and Patterns, my world expanded and was forever changed for the better.

do the electric wind

As I organize my studio following the mini-renovation, I’ve been winding a lot of yarn. While I often quip that winding yarn is a form of exercise, I’ve wanted a motorized ball winder for a very long time.

We’re a DIY family. In addition to a large amount of fabric, craft supplies, and woodworking tools, we have a vast number of electronic parts.

For years I’ve wondered why I keep saving for a motorized unit. Between us, I reasoned we have the skills to make this happen.

The other day I decided it was time to try to motorize the ball winder.


The first yarn winder I looked at is a perfectly serviceable tool. It was straightforward to take apart, if a bit fussy, there are several split rings to contend with. After looking at it and the motors that we had available, I decided to leave this one as it is. It’s a very good ball winder, but not as straightforward to motorize.

The second one is unique, it’s a handmade wooden model. The maker is unknown (it’s most similar to a popular wool winder). I’d swapped with someone years before since I had tools (& skill) to fix it — the drive wheel had a crack and it was a quick fix. However, I never found a source I liked for the drive band. While I used a combination of rubber bands and thick cotton string over the years, I could never quite get the tension right. I knew this one would work.

Building version 1

After rummaging in the parts bin, we settled on what’s likely an old VCR motor and set about building something that would work.

Tensioner & Base

I mounted it on two pieces of wood to use as a tensioner (by drilling holes spaced an inch apart). This served two purposes: I’ve struggled to find drive bands so the holes would give me options based on what parts I could find. The second is that I didn’t have the entire yarn winder. It seems that part of the base was forever missing. I’ve clamped it to a table for years and this would provide more surface area. As a reuse bonus, the wood was once a shelf in the studio. Now with the addition of four rubber feet on the bottom I don’t need a clamp anymore!

Soldering the ball winder controls on a messy wooden desk

After evaluating switch options, we decided on one that has two positions so the winder can go forward or in reverse.


Proof of concept was reached with a 9V battery. It didn’t take long to want to upgrade and we soldiered on a 12V AC adapter.

It worked!

First run of the ball winder using a hair tie and 9V battery
First run!
Tension & Oil

I noticed that it was important to pay close attention to the tension of the yarn being wound, but I thought that was the old motor or my initial drive band (hair ties).

Once I upgraded to a larger and more substantial o-ring, that’s when I started to have significant issues. It kept slipping, producing loose and lopsided yarn cakes. I apparently didn’t take photos of this.

It took additional diagnosis before we (and yes it took we) realized that the parts weren’t all turning properly. It took only a dab of (sewing) machine oil and things were back to even spinning. Until I realized that the wood hadn’t seen any TLC in a very long time and yarns were catching on the subtly rough surface. That was fixed with some 220 grit sandpaper. I’m going to give it a more thorough sanding soon (including in the circles of the wheel) and rub on some beeswax to condition the wood.

Next steps

I plan to look for a new switch and change its placement. The current switch isn’t easy to quickly toggle or access as I thought. When we laid the parts out, I kept looking at it horizontally but it will likely be vertical, as that fits better on my desk and puts the yarn guide in a better position for the swift.

Upgraded ball winder to 12V adapter, still using a hair tie as drive band

I may add a foot pedal to allow for temporary pausing in case of tangle or other mishap.

I need to give the entire thing a good sanding and some wood conditioner.

Want one?

I apologize, this is one of those projects that isn’t easy to duplicate.

It requires you to have experience with basic electronics and soldiering (check) and motors (why it was a joint project).

I’m using salvaged parts so it’s difficult to do more than say you’ll need the following types of parts:

  • ball winder that will let you reroute the drive band around the shaft of motor.
  • motor that doesn’t have too fast an RPM speed and has a spindle you can pull a band around.
  • power source.
  • switch.
  • drive band (if you can’t use the one that is currently engaged).

Closing Thoughts

This is a project I’ve wanted to do for a decade. While I’m thrilled to have finally realized this (odd) dream, I wish the circumstances were different! Once all the yarn is reorganized I’ll be better able to inventory the yarn and make plans for its use.

Winding after maintenanceon all moving parts.

in progress (11 june 2020)

Instead of posting to social media and becoming distracted, I hope to periodically write about what I’m working on. I’ve ignored web stats for years, so it should solve that issue. I don’t know yet if they’ll all be long posts with multiple pictures like this one, or a short one image post — similar to current social media. Time will tell.

Project 1 — Anzula Swatches

I’m working with two warm-weather friendly yarns, Vera and Breeze. Both yarns are a blend of smooth silk (65%) and cool linen (35%). Vera is a 4-ply cabled sport-weight yarn while Breeze is a 2-ply lace-weight.

Anzula Vera garter stitch swatch in progress sitting on wooden bench and open notebook
Vera shown in colorway Nimbus.

I was working with Breeze last night while watching TV and the swatches are having fun! I’ve been been thinking about different shawl shapes, so I’m not surprised I wasn’t able to crochet a rectangle!

Anzula Breeze swatches on wooden desk, mix of knit and crochet. a crochet swatch with post-st cable in foreground. mug of tea also shown.
Breeze shown in colourway Parakeet.

Project 2 — Oink Dapper Designs

I have two designs in Oink Dapper, one a hat with twisted stitches and the other a poncho-type item that begins with casting on only 3 stitches—for all sizes. Yesterday I finished the complete draft of the pattern. I need to think on a few better ways to word a few parts, then it’s off to the tech editor. I’m trying to get this done by the end of the month, but we’ll see what happens. I’ve graded it for chest measurements of 30 – 64 in (76 – 162.5 cm).

Anzula Dapper in Random Carp

Project 3 — Gifts

I find my patterns are easier to write when I’m also working on someone else’s design. I’ve been using some of my extra time at home to work on gifts.

Little ones joined the families of several friends as the pandemic spiked. I can’t go hug but I can send one. This first blanket is in Lion Brand LB Collection Superwash Merino. The pattern is Swirly Blanket by Beth Graham. I’m working 7 rounds of each colour and alternating with charcoal. I’m slow on this as a certain cat likes to visit my lap whenever I try to work on it.

Swirly Blanket progress approximately 1/4 of the blanket circle shown laid out on wooden desk.

I also have a friend who is an awesome mom to an amazing trans teen. I’m making a Through the Darkness Cowl by Rachy Newin in Oink Pigments Dapper, using Cloud Surfing and Cotton Candy Clouds. It’s my small way to give a social distance hug.

Oink Pigments Dapper skeins in Cloud Surfing and Cotton Candy Clouds
Oink Pigments Dapper in Cloud Surfing and Cotton Candy Clouds

Additional Projects

The pattern for my LGF Suris vest pattern, Transposon. is back on my desk for intensive editing, the sample debuted way back in June 2018! I’ll turn to it soon. Mendelian was released in February of this year and you can pick up a PDF copy of the pattern at Ravelery or directly from my online shop.

I’m slowly putting my studio back together. In early March during our first days of sheltering in place, we realized that I needed to be in my basement studio full-time. Having my computer workspace on the main floor was convenient, but no longer practical. I was an interior wall apart from my husband’s endless conference calls, it was not good for either of us. I’ve wanted to rearrange this space for years and it was decided that now was as good a time as any. We tore out the closet, patched everything up, and repainted. It was a significant amount of work and the result is amazing, if challenging to photograph. Shadow loves this rearranged space and having me nearby.