Wednesday, February 10, 2016


I was asked to make two more mermaid cocoons, just like here, but the size of the smaller of the two.  And a bit wider at the bottom.  And bigger tails.

As I mentioned in my last post, I hadn't written anything down.  So, once again, I was blowing up pictures and counting stitches.  This time I wrote it all down.  Including the new tail design. 

If the pictures look fuzzy or small, click on them and look at them through the Blogger picture viewer.

 When I first  started this blog, we'd had a digital camera only a few months.  I took pictures because, well, this is a knitting blog and if you can't see what I'm talking about, what's the point.  When I first started TracyKM Designs, I was doing some newborn photography props, so I didn't worry too much about my own photos because I knew I'd have some awesome, "real" photos to share.  But not all my orders were for photo props, or weren't custom ordered (they were things I made up in hopes of selling).  I had the basics of good photography, but hadn't done actual product photography.  It's been a fun journey.  There are times I get frustrated by having to wait for the perfect lighting outside (not too bright, not too overcast), and times I get cold, or it's taking too long, or I'm stumped by composition or design.  I liked the trick of using heavy invisible fishing line in my last mermaid cocoon pictures, but I hate our deck as the flooring.  I got some laminate floor to put together, but it hasn't happened yet.  And even though it was thick line, it wasn't quite strong enough to support these cocoons.

The benefit of dabbling in sewing is that I have collected quite a bit of fabric.  I started searching and saw this golden sand coloured piece and knew I had to use it.  However, the cocoon was a bit too big.  I wasn't thrilled about scrunching up the cocoon to get it to fit, although I thought it actually added to the lines of the composition.  Looking at the photos now, (I had to crop them as the fabric wasn't quite wide enough), I'm very happy!  Curving the cocoon seems to add a bit of "movement" to the photo.  Draws you down, through the photo. 
I wish I could offer photography for other crafters.  I cringe when I see Facebook pages with blurry, dark, crowded, or distracted photos.  I don't have fancy equipment, so I'm not a "real" photographer.  I don't have a light box, or a studio.  I also know that other crafters tend to be just as broke as I am LOL.

This is the new tail design.  I don't want to give away all the secrets :) I kept thinking of using short rows because I wanted more width across the middle, but not at the top.  You don't see short rows in crochet very much, but I realized one night what you do see, is the different stitch heights used to their advantage.  That's all I'll say :)

Yarn In: 918gr
Yarn Out: 889gr + 890gr + 1284gr = 3063
Balance:  2145gr more USED than bought
Costs:  43.09/41days = $1.05/day

Monday, February 08, 2016

The Benefits of Being Organized

So often when I get an order, I think it's going to be the only one of it's kind.  So, I don't do much about keeping track of what I did.  Even with this blog, I often forget to mention what hook/needles I used, or what size it was.

I had those two mermaid cocoons before Christmas, and the client wanted two more, the same size as the smaller of the first two.  I had to enlarge the pictures I took and try to figure out how many stitches I used.  I settled on 50 as that was a nice number LOL.  This time, as I crocheted the first one, I kept markers on all the decreases.  I worked on the tail and hated it.  She wanted it bigger, but I really didn't know how big the other one was, and I wasn't 100% thrilled with the shaping on it.

When I started the second cocoon, I wrote down how I did the first one!  Imagine that, I just had to follow along with my notes!

I recreated the tail, remembering that instead of short rowing in crochet, you can use the height of the various stitches to their advantage.  I didn't write down what I was doing as I went along, and tried to figure it out for the second half of the tail, and wrote it down as I went.  Then I did the second tail.  And wouldn't you know it, the tails look nearly identical! (I made a simple error on the second one that changed it a bit).

I just weighed them to get them ready for pick up, and despite being massive (nearly 900gr each, or two pounds), there was only 1 GRAM difference between the two!!  I like it when I impress myself LOL!

Stay tuned for photos!  We've got the computer running well again, but now to use picmonkey to add my watermarks, I have to upgrade Flash.  One thing at a time!

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Red #1

When Mary Anne Oger ("MAO") posted the pattern for a red scarf for AIDS Awareness Week, last fall, I didn't really pay attention.  I was busy!  Then she posted about challenging herself, and her readers, to create 10 scarves for this year's campaign.  Mmmm...that seemed interesting!  I have a cone of a fine red yarn that just hasn't found the right projects.  I tried a tank top, back in my earlier days of using the standard gauge machine, but got bored and ripped it back into balls.  I thought it might be the perfect thickness for this new scarf.  Or, I could use it doubled, since I had a cone and several wound balls.  I started with it single strand, and that seemed to work fine.

I worked through the first ball, struggling with the cast on instructions, and changing all the settings so much!  I would forget one of the four things each time I got to the zig zag row--if I remembered to stop for it when the row counter was at multiples of 20-2!

I got to the end of the first ball, and the knitting was not the prettiest, but I felt like I was getting it.  Somehow, half the knitting dropped off!  It was an omen to start over and do it better!

 The yarn had been used previously, obviously, and although it had been balled up for quite a while, it still knitted with a bit of a waviness.
I steamed the ends, just to see how it would look, and there was much improvement.  I decided to wash the scarf in the machine, as I was doing laundry and the basement is a dust bowl right now.  Once it came out, I was a bit surprised to see it wasn't totally smooth (above).  I even hung it before it was fully dry, hoping for gravity to help.  Plus, I thought I did my calculations based on it being 6ft long and now it was only 62" long!  I stretched and steamed and got it to 64"  Then I went back to the pattern and the blog and saw it was supposed to be 6x60".  Phew!

 I decided to steam the whole scarf, and it looks so much better.  Almost "commercial"!  This picture shows the bottom half steamed smooth and the top half just with being washed.  My edges seemed uneven but I noticed that it was just where the zig zag rows are.  This is a clever design for scarves...knit as a tube, but with zig zag rows that connect both sides, every 20th row.  So, it can't twist and will always lay flat.

However, it barely made a dent in the red yarn (which isn't a soft and snuggly yarn, but a more dressier yarn)!  Good thing there's 9 more scarves to go!!

Yarn In: 918gr
Yarn Out: 68gr + 1216gr = 1284gr
Balance:  366gr more USED than bought
Costs:  43.09/34days = $1.27/day

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

How to Alter Knitting Patterns

So often in knitting books, they tell you simply to add more stitches to make an item wider.  They don't really get into actually fitting knitted garments, because "knitting stretches and is forgiving".  Wanna bet that was written by a man, or a B cup lady?

Ever chose your sweater size based on the chest size (often the only measurement given), knit up the item and been so disappointed?  You check the measurement--yup, it's 42" around.  You check yourself--yup, you're still 40" around.  So why is it sagging in the back and stretched thin over your chest?

Do a quick check.  Circle your chest with a tape measure, with the 0 at a side seam.  Go around your back and note what it says at the other side seam.  Continue over your bust, and note the finished 40".  Was your back measurement half of that?  No?  Your back was 16"?  So that would make your front 24"?  Look at your sweater.  The back and front are both 21".  The designer assumed you were shaped like a 0 but really, like most women, you're shaped like a D.  The extra width in the back just sags, while the knitting is forced to stretch 3" extra across the front, before accounting for any ease (which should have been one inch, so really, it should have stretched 4").  This is a lot to expect of many yarns!

Here is a step by step guide to getting started on fixing this common fitting issue!

Step 1) Measure the "Upper Bust"--around the chest, tight under the armpits, above the breasts. So don't wear your sexiest push up bra. Wear whatever you expect to wear under the garment you're making.
Step 2) Have a friend measure from the shoulder seam to where you want the bottom to be. Mark this with a pin on your side.
Step 3) Have friend measure your front length, from same point on shoulder, over the fullest point of the bust, to the same length as marked on your side. If it's close fitting, bring the tape measure in to reflect that (not too much, but an inch can change it from a fitted look to an oversized look).
Step 4) while doing step 3, mark where the bust point is and how far down from shoulder.
Step 5) Measure from side seam to side seam across the bust point. Also measure how far apart the bust points are
Step 6) Measure from back side seam to back side seam

The difference between 2) and 1) tells you how much to add in short rows.

The difference between 5) and 6) tells you how much bigger your front is and you can use this to compare with 1). If they are close (half of the measurement in 1 or twice the measure of 6)) then simply choose the size that corresponds to that and add short rows for the front length. If there is a bigger size difference than what the natural stretch of knitting will allow (or if you're knitting a non-stretchy pattern/yarn), then you can play with front width. If you have a belly and no butt/hips, I would automatically go with a larger front size. Compare the bust/waist/hip measurements on the schematic to see how it compares to you. 

If you need a larger front size, you can reduce the short rows somewhat. 

You'll need to cast off under the arms and make the arm shaping decrease so that by the time you get to the shoulder seam, (using the armhole depth of the smaller size), you have the same number of stitches as the smaller size. Depending on the neck design, use the numbers for the smaller size.

Of course, there is much fine tuning that can be done to these guidelines. Making a "sloper" or a "block" of a basic shape that fits you, in a plain yarn that is typical of what you use, can really help cut down design time in the future. Then transfer all the info to a paper pattern for the knit radar/knit leader/knit contour.

This is a very basic starter guide, to teach when to use just short rows and when to knit the front a larger size.  Even just adding short rows to the front can make a big difference, but mostly if your front and back are close in size.  However, you really should knit the back to fit your back and your front to fit your front.  A person who is "just" busty can get away with making the size to match the upper bust but adding short rows.  

A great site to learn more about adding short rows to shape the length of the front is  This basic pattern could become your sloper as it'd be easy to see where you need to make other changes.  Also take a look at sewing websites about fitting.  A sewing designer would never make the front and back of a piece equal!

Monday, February 01, 2016

Not Too Sure....

My desktop computer is dieing. (Apparently that's not a word?).  The computer is not too bad, but it's so old Chrome won't provide updates, Firefox tells me almost every site is unsafe, it can't keep up with the high speed internet.  I tried Blogger on Firefox, but I couldn't find anywhere to sign in or make a new post.  When I've tried to blog using Safari on the iPad, it hasn't worked.  I've downloaded the Blogger app and will try this.  I don't see anywhere to customize things though.  It'll have to do for now.  If you follow me on Instagram (TracyKM Designs), I'll be doing a post-a-day challenge for February.

Here's that picture:
See....I can't find how to centre it, make it bigger, add a caption, or the text that appears when you hover on the picture.

Another pair of size 4-6 mittens for my kindie kids I supervise at lunch.  Not much to say.  33gr of Patons "Decor".  I added the grey stripes because the blue ball weighed in at 32gr.  I have a small ball left, I'll just toss it in the bag with the rest. Slowly, slowly, the stash is being reduced!  I'm giving away some more yarn today!

Yarn In: 918gr
Yarn Out: 35gr + 1181gr = 1216gr
Balance:  298gr more USED than bought
Costs:  43.09/days = $1.27/day

Friday, January 29, 2016


I had to go buy yarn at some point.  Stockings just don't create their own yarn while waiting in the corner.  Michaels was having a sale and I thought I might be able to get some yarn that I needed.  I did pretty good, 6 balls of Impeccable for a Christmas stocking and a mermaid blanket (6x128gr=768gr; $4.99 each, buy 2 get the 3rd one free), and 2 balls of Loops & Threads "Pizzazz" (2x50gr=100gr; $6.99 each but I could use a coupon for one so it was only $4.19).  These are about a sock weight, 72% superwash wool, for a couple pairs of fingerless gloves for little girls I know.  All together, it was $35.19 and 868gr.  So am I still using more than I buy?....

Yarn In: 868gr + 50gr = 918gr
Yarn Out: 1181gr
Balance:  227gr more USED than bought
Costs:  $35.19 + $7.90 = 43.09/27 days = $1.49/day

Yay!  Just squeaking by, though I do have a 68gr red scarf to post, and two big mermaid blankets that are almost finished!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Lucy's Turn

Megan is my one child that is often requesting items crafted by momma.  Lucy asks once in awhile, and Hugh...well, not anymore and when he does, it usually something obscure and/or obtuse.

Lucy is playing in a jazz band made up of students from across our region.  She got a "band coat" that is, of course, black.  I don't get this.  Musicians are supposed to be creative people.  Yet our folders are black, our cases are black, or uniforms are often black, our jackets are black....

We were at Wal-Mart and of course I had to pass by the yarn aisle.  I stopped at the small selection of Red Heart "Heart and Sole" sock yarn.  This yarn feels thin and stringy.  I hoped it would wash up nicely.  She picked out this grey/black blend to make some of the fingerless gloves to go with her new coat.  I hoped she would help make them, but she wasn't interested :(

Before I started though, she determined she wanted an accent colour.  Perhaps bright green or purple.  What do I have?  We went through my sock yarn bin and she declared them all "boring".  I found a few yarns but they weren't really suitable.  I finally found a ball of Patons "Lace Sequins" but she didn't want the sequins!  Then I found two balls of a cheap, fake mohair from Dollarama (our big dollar store chain).  It's very fine, but with two balls, I could double strand it easily.
The white hand is cut from foam board and was a tracing of Rob's hand, Man's XL.  So you can see the stretch of these gloves!

I got to work, making random stripes in the cuff.  Got the hand part done, then it dropped a bunch of stitches.  I took it to show Lucy and she said she didn't want stripes on the cuff and wanted fewer stripes in the hand.  Whatevs.  I restarted, got the hands done quickly.  Worked on the thumbs.

I found with the other pairs that the "gusset" part of the thumbs don't seem long enough (not surprising since the length for the hand doesn't seem long enough and I add 8 rows), and it pulled up the wrist.  Not too noticeable in the multi coloured yarns, but if you did the cuff in one colour and the hand in another, it'd show.  I had experimented with changing the last couple decreases working down to the point, and that helped, but this time, something went wonky.  The first thumb worked out right (could still be longer) but the second one...I don't know.  I ended up finishing it up by hand.

She's been wearing them!  Yeah!  These gloves took only 36gr total (33gr of RH is left), which leaves me with some more boring yarn to add to the sock bin LOL.

Yarn In: 50gr
Yarn Out: 36gr + 1145gr = 1181gr
Balance:  1131gr more USED than bought
Costs:  $7.90/27 days = $0.29/day