Getting to the Point

knit ndl blog 1Knitters can’t do without them, but there are so many types of knitting needles available, how do you choose?  I often tell people it’s a personal thing, but here is some information to help with the choice.


Straight – these are the style that most people think of when you say “knitting needles”.  They are basically a straight stick with one end tapered to a point and a knob on the other end.  Straight needles come in a shorter or longer length, to accommodate fewer or more stitches. I only use shorter straight needles (I’ll explain why in the next section).

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Circular –  these look like they have two straight needles connected by a string.  Actually, they are basically two short, straight needles with a flexible cable (often plastic) joining them. These have become my preferred needles. You can knit flat or in the round and they come in a variety of lengths (use longer ones for bigger projects like sweaters and afghans, shorter ones for hats, scarves and smaller projects).  The biggest reason I like the circular style is because of my hands and wrists and elbows. Circular needles are much easier on your joints (especially if you have arthritis or tendonitis). They are also easier to travel with, since your project can slide down to stay safely on the cable, and they are easier to store (mine are coiled in a tote bag).

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Double Point – these look like straight needles, except that they have tapered points at both ends. Double point needles are most often used for knitting smaller items in the round, such as hats, socks and sleeves of sweaters. I also like to use them in place of straight needles when knitting a small flat piece.  Many people are afraid of double points, but while they do require a bit more attention, and seem a bit awkward, they really aren’t that different.

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Knitting needles are available in a variety of materials too, including metal, wood, plastic and even a few more usual materials like bone or glass.

The Addi Turbo line of needles is one of the best out there, designed for experienced knitters.  I usually don’t recommend them for beginners.  They are a slick coated metal, so the knitting seems to fly, but if you’re not prepared, the knitting can fly right off the needles!

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I used to be a fan of the standard aluminum, but have fallen in love with bamboo.  The smooth texture, the warm feel of wood, and the way the yarn moves across the needles, but still grips is wonderful.  And bamboo is sustainable (one of those important Eco friendly words) because the trees can be harvested and then regrow quickly.  The needles also have a flexibility (which you don’t really notice) that makes them comfortable to use.

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You do have to take into consideration the yarn you’ll be using when  you choose your needles.  Sometimes I have started a project then had to change needles because the yarn didn’t move the way I wanted it to.  Some yarns slide too much on some needles while others won’t slide easily enough.  For example, chenille type yarns do not slide well on bamboo needles. If one thing isn’t working, switch needles so that you’re comfortable working.

One more needle tool you should consider:

Needle Gauge:  I’m on my third needle gauge – I am always loosing them!  They are a little investment (we have a number of options including one that sells for $2.00.) that is so helpful.  My Addi Turbo needles are marked on the cable with the size (of course I don’t keep packaging) but it is so small and partially worn off, that I can’t tell what size the needles really are without the gauge.  Also, I do have a few aluminum double point needles and no idea what sizes they are.  The little ruler on the gauge is also handy for measuring your gauge swatch.

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Go ahead and try a few things and find what works for you!

Happy Knitting!                                 by Cathy Mark

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Stow It! Stow It in Style!

Small zippered pouches are SO popular! They are fast and fun to make (even with a zipper – more about that later). Make them for yourself, choosing your favorite colors and fabrics, or make a batch of them for gifts. I’m a fan of Atkinson Designs, and love their new pattern “Stowaways” (A29869). Besides offering six sizes in one pattern, Terry Atkinson always makes it easy to put in a a zipper. Really! I had hesitated doing anything with a zipper, until I discovered her wonderful methods. I chose two zippers for my first projects.  Then I chose three fat quarters from the Cotton & Steel line – I love their unusual colors and interesting prints- and interesting prints.stowaway blog 1The pattern tells you how to cut your fabrics, and calls for a fusible fleece for the body of the pouch. I used Dreamy Fusible Fleece (902553). The pattern says that two fat quarters will give you two or three pouches (depending on the sizes you make). I mixed my fabrics, and got enough prepared fabric to make four pouches – two larger, and two smaller. If you use a directional fabric, be sure to watch how you cut it so the design runs the direction you want. Terry offers little tips throughout the pattern to make the sewing process go even more smoothly. She also mentions Wonder Clips (A28989) to hold fabrics in place while sewing, and I really recommend them too!stowaway blog 2Now comes the zipper. At first glance, it looks a bit intimidating because you start by sewing the zipper to the wrong side of your quilted piece, but it ends up on the right side. Do not panic! Simply follow the directions, and it all goes together so easily you’ll be amazed! The pattern calls for top stitching to finish off the zipper portion, but if you’re not very confident in your top stitching abilities, you can hand stitch the zipper facing, just like sewing binding onto a quilt.stowaway blog 3I finished the two larger pouches, and the smaller are waiting for me. I need to pick up two more zippers ( 14” Atkinson zippers which work perfectly because you can trim them to size) and get those finished. This set is for me, but since I’m now comfortable with the pattern, friends will be getting sets for Christmas!stowaway blog 4By the way, if you need a larger storage solution, be sure to check out our By Annie patterns. We offer a variety, as well as Soft & Stable stabilizer. These projects are perfect for casserole dishes, power cords, electronic devices, and everything else you might need to carry or store.

So now, what do you think about sewing zippers?

This post was written by our Cathy Mark.  Thank you, Cathy.

(To find an item or event on our web page after clicking on the highlighted words, hold down the “Ctrl” key and touch F. Enter the item number in the box, press enter, and you’ll be taken to that item.) You can see what’s new at Erica’s almost every day!  Any page of our website has a column on the left that tells you where to find things, and all you have to do is look for “What’s New” in purple, and click to find out.  

They May Be Mini, But They’re Charming!

Good things do come in small packages! min charm blog 2I admit it, I collect mini charms! I prefer little projects, so of course, little bits of fabric are going to interest me. OK, it’s a bit beyond “interest,” as I now have a great stash of mini-size charm packs waiting for me to use them.   mini charm blog 1Moda started this whole thing when they began producing pre-cuts of their wonderful fabric lines. They are still the leader in that effort, though a few other companies have decided to also produce pre-cut packages.

Two years ago, before Christmas, I had the crazy idea to try something – I had a pattern that called for 5” square fabric pieces. I thought “What would happen if I used mini charms (2-1/2” squares)?” Since I love small projects, this worked out rather perfectly! I made four of those table toppers for Christmas gifts!   min charm blog 2Now, when I see a pattern that calls for charms, I immediately think “Mini Charms!” You don’t have to do any math, other than perhaps resizing borders and backings, but that’s basic enough to not give you a headache.

There are now a variety of designers using those mini charm squares for their patterns, so you can choose something small right from the beginning.

Moda offers two books of mini charm patterns. The 1st (A17866) has 18 projects, while the 2nd book (A27096) has 13 projects. (Both are on the page linked above.)  We have models of one project from each book. Choose your favorite Mini Charm pack, and make these items all your own!     mini charm blog 3mini charm blog 4Here’s a tip from Cathy Young, who made the samples: using a fusible batting for fleece makes quilting these small projects so much easier! You save wrestling with pins and basting, while giving your project a wonderful finish.

We have Mini Charms from bright groups, country groups, traditional groups and, at certain times of the year, holiday groups. For just a little money, ($4.00 for 42 pieces,) you can have a lot of fun!mini charm blog 5Thanks to our Cathy Mark for this fun post!


Let’s Color!

As a child, almost nothing made me happier than a new box of crayons and a coloring book or blank paper. The ladies at Crabapple Hill Designs must have felt the same way because many of their recent patterns include coloring. And yes, they use crayons!  I also enjoy handwork, so these patterns are a “win-win” project for me. Never mind how charming Crabapple Hill patterns are in general. Here are some tips for enjoying coloring once again, while creating and embroidered project.

Use Crayola Crayons. They may cost a bit more, but they’re worth it because they have more pigment, (the stuff that gives the crayon its color,) and give smoother results. This especially matters when you’re coloring fabric rather than paper. You want a crayon that puts the color down smoothly, providing better coverage.

Trace your pattern onto your background fabric first. You can use a light box and which ever type of fabric pencil, pen or marker you like.crayon blog 1

Be sure your fabric is smooth and sitting on a hard surface, like a table top.

Begin by coloring white all the areas that will have color. Using the white “preps” the fabric, filling in the fibers, making the surface more even and smoother.crayon blog 2crayon blog 3Then add whatever color you need to the appropriate areas. The amount of pressure you use helps determine how strong the color appears, but you can also work in layers until the color is as dark as you want it.crayon blog 6Heat set your colors by ironing. Place a piece of clean paper or a plain paper towel on top of your colored fabric, and gently press. The heat bonds the color to the fabric and melts the wax. The paper towel absorbs the excess wax, leaving the color behind, fused into the fabric. The crayon can add a stiff feel to the fabric once you’ve colored it, so melting the wax away will also make the fabric softer.

crayon blog 5After white and one layer of color, then ironing:crayon blog 6After one more layer of color, and one more ironing:crayon blog 7Now you can add the stitching to your project and finish it! The crayon color adds a wonderful richness to your project, adding another dimension to your piece.

Coloring is still fun! Who knew as adults we’d once again enjoy coloring with crayons? Enjoy!

Credit for some of the above information goes to the Crabapple Hill Designs.

Thanks to Cathy Mark for this post.


The Joy of English Paper Piecing

Because I enjoy hand work, I enjoy English Paper Piecing.
This traditional technique for piecing quilts uses paper templates to create precise shapes. Your fabrics are cut into shapes that are approximately the same size as the papers (maybe I like this because you don’t have to be perfect – the papers make it all turn out right). You may also choose to trim the fabrics closer to the paper shape to reduce bulk when quilting. Then, using a sharp needle and thread, you fold the edges of the fabric over the paper and secure it to the paper using a running stitch.paper piece 1paper piece 2

Once your paper pieces are all covered, you begin stitching them together. You don’t have to choose a thread that is an exact match, because you don’t really see these stitches very much. Choose something that blends with your fabric.

Hold two covered pieces right sides together, with edges matching. Using as small a stitch as you can manage, sew the two pieces together. With a little planning (and experience,)  you can stitch in the direction that will lead to the next piece you want to join, saving you from stopping and starting as often.paper piece 3

As you stitch, try not to catch the papers in your sewing; go through just the fabric edges. When you have all of your pieces sewn together, remove the papers – undo the running stitches and pull the thread out, then pull the papers out.

paper piece 4We’ve put together small kits so you can try out this relaxing piecing method. Each of these kits includes a mini lesson in how to do English Paper Piecing as well as plenty of extra papers and a mini charm fabric pack for you to use. We’ve even included a needle, thread and project ideas!
You’ll have perfectly joined shapes, without having to work so hard to accomplish this – no need for exact cutting, prefect seam allowances or precise sewing – the papers provide stability and control. Your shapes line up beautifully, points match and the pieces go together easily. You can create a quilt top of pieces or applique your pieces onto a background.paper piece 5

Papers come in a variety of shapes and are reusable. They come in large or small packages, so you can get enough pieces to complete your project. Books and patterns offer designs and arrangements for the pieces, or you can play with shapes and come up with your own design. Work with scraps or purchase particular prints that can be combined in creative ways for your project.
This technique is great for working in front of the television or while traveling – cut fabric pieces ahead of time and everything you need can be carried in a small bag! It’s nice to be able to work on a project while you wait for the kids, have time before an appointment, or take a lunch break.

Happy Stitching!    Cathy Markcathymark