Surviving at Home without a Sewing Machine

Life’s just not the same since my machines moved to the office. I can’t sew at home anymore! All of my sewing takes place at the office now. It’s nice to get home, and have a completely relaxing night so I’m excited to get back to it the next morning. (Mr Sewaholic certainly appreciates that I’m not looking over his shoulder at my sewing machine and dreaming up my next project.)

So I bet you are wondering what I do with my evenings now that I’m not sewing? What about those times where you just have to make something and keep your hands busy?

Well, guess what – I’ve taken up knitting! I armed myself with knitting needles, a Ravelry profile and lots of YouTube videos, and got to it!

I picked up a bunch of inspiring although mystifying vintage knitting books, plus three sets of needles and two balls of yarn for less than $10! From the styling, the books range from the 1940s up to the 1970s. I’ve already picked out a few favourites even though I have no idea how long it will take to get to this skill level.

Then I started my first ever knitting project, which totally bombed. It was a sweater, with just too many new techniques for a beginner to master! (Yarn-overs were what did me in, I think.) It looks nothing like the project photo in the bottom left corner and looks even less flattering when I try it on.

The good part about knitting is that you get to go backwards! You can’t un-cut fabric but you can undo a knitted thing. So I un-knitted the whole thing and will try again. (Later.)

So I knitted up a quick and easy knitting project with fat yarn! I’m guessing this is the knitting equivalent of a simple A-line skirt.

Pretty! A success! Warm and cute and cosy. I gave it to my sister as a present. (Knitting seems easier to make and give away, as compared to sewing!)

Who else knits? Can anyone suggest the next project after neck-loops, that’s not making a sweater? There must be something in-between that I can puzzle through.

Anyone want to host a knit-along for total beginners, so we can go from making neck-loops to whipping up cute vintage sweaters?


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44 Responses to Surviving at Home without a Sewing Machine

  1. Ms.Cleaver May 25, 2011 at 6:07 am #

    I’d recommend doing a hat next. You can practice increases or decreases – and knitting in the round if you’d like.

  2. Sara May 25, 2011 at 6:09 am #

    congrats on your knitting journey. i second the hat suggestion, or maybe a pair of mittens. or if you’re feeling adventurous, socks.

  3. Ashley May 25, 2011 at 6:12 am #

    Yay, I love knitting and look forward to seeing your projects :) I recommend the Knitty Gritty: knitting for the absolute beginner. I’ve known how to knit for about 7 years, but only ever simple scarves! It’s only recently that I’ve wanted to progress. The Knitty Gritty book is perfect for me as it walks you through each project with photos. It’s set out so that you learn a new technique, then do a project that incorporates the new technique so you can practice! A couple of the projects are for babies, but I knitted them anyway for practice and gave them away :) I’ve just ordered The Gentle Art of Knitting too, which looks to have slightly more complicated patterns in, so should be a good book to progress to :)
    Happy knitting!
    Ashley x

  4. Andrea May 25, 2011 at 6:12 am #

    A hat is a natural next project after a scarf or neck loop. There are tons of free cute paterns on Ravelry, and if you’re willing to venture into cables and knitting in the round, here’s my favourite free ravelry pattern:

    Happy knitting!

  5. Miriana May 25, 2011 at 6:14 am #

    Find pregnant friends / people with young children. Knitting for kids is cheap (less wool which is often pretty expensive), quick and if it doesn’t fit they can grow into it (if in doubt go for a bigger size). And, if they’re young enough, they can’t complain that they don’t like what you’ve made. When I was pregnant I bought a Debbie Bliss book called ‘Baby knits for beginners’ (or something like that) which has lots of projects each of which introduces a new thing.

    And if you want to make something adult, make a simple hat, but you’ll have to get the hang of double pointed needles. Or a tea cosy (basically a hat made in two halves). Fingerless gloves are a good option – a rectangle, seamed up with a hole left in the seam for your thumb. The link below is for an easy pattern (the second thing I made I think)

  6. Andrea May 25, 2011 at 6:14 am #

    Oh, and a good beginners book with lots of good technique info is “Stitch ‘n Bitch: The Knitter’s Handbook” by Debbie Stoller.

  7. Caralee May 25, 2011 at 6:50 am #

    yes! i love to knit, i’ve been doing it from the time i was a wee itty bitty one. i would love to host a knit a long for a basic (yet cute and flattering) sweater. let’s do this!

  8. julia May 25, 2011 at 6:52 am #

    Oh, very good initiative! I also would say a hat is a good idea. It’s quick (hence quick to undo and reknit if necessary) and you can practice all sorts of techniques. Ravelry is a wonderful place (just don’t get lost), I’ve been there since it started and I often regret that sewers don’t have a place like that.

  9. julia May 25, 2011 at 6:55 am #

    And that bolero you started, what yarn is that? And what pattern? From where I sit it looks a bit like a bad yarn/pattern combination.

  10. Caralee May 25, 2011 at 7:03 am #

    ……now I’m super stoked to hold a beginners knit-a-long for gals new to knitting but with basic sewing know how……. I’m going to start drafting this up…… super cute sweaters for all

  11. Stephanie May 25, 2011 at 7:10 am #

    Fun! I’m going to try my hand at embroidery. I wanted something that I could to on the couch and take with me to do in waiting rooms etc. I’m sure you’ll get to the cute vintage sweaters before you know it!

  12. B @ Sweet Limes May 25, 2011 at 7:14 am #

    Shows what I know about knitting, which is absolutely ZERO, I thought your project looked good; I was impressed! That chunky scarf is GORGEOUS and I’m sure your sister loved it. Never thought I’d say this, but if you start knitting tutorials or knot alongs I’d have to join in. Honestly, I’ve never had an interest in knitting before! Oh….and I like Miriana’s idea of the fingerless gloves, I’ve always wanted a pair of those.

  13. Michelle @ If Toys Could Talk May 25, 2011 at 7:23 am #

    It’s funny, I remember reading your post about your new office and the first thing I thought was, “What in the heck is she going to do in the evenings without a sewing machine?! I’d go crazy!” ;) Glad to hear you’ve taken up a new craft!

  14. Ellen May 25, 2011 at 7:29 am #

    I’m a beginning knitter, too… just started last October. I can’t sew at night anymore, because I just need so much light to actually see, yet I can practically knit in the dark! I’ve never tried a knit along, but who knows, could be fun.

  15. Tasha May 25, 2011 at 7:33 am #

    Yay for not getting frustrated and double yay for taking up knitting!!

    I’ll need a break before I jump into hosting another knit-along, but I’m definitely planning to do more in the future!

    Hats are definitely a small commitment project that can teach you about new techniques and give you a sense of accomplishment in a short period of time. Verity is a cute beret in aran/worsted weight (i.e. will work up quickly), and the instructions are written out and charted. Probably as a newbie you are not going to want to delve into charted patterns just yet. ;)

    If you decide you want to learn more about YOs (yarn overs) and a bit of lace a bit further down the road, cut your teeth with the Foliage hat pattern:

    You can knit it in worsted or bulky (there are 2 version of the pattern), meaning it goes fast. It’s a great hat to learn about lace, learn about using double-pointed needles, and working in the round. You can also choose to use the written instructions or the charted ones, so you can use it to learn about knitting charts, too, if you’d like. When I first knit it several years ago I had to rip it out about 4 times before I got the hang of it, and all told I was still done with it in a few days because it goes so darn quick.

    I second the recommendation for the Stitch n’ Bitch books, the first one has a ton of useful info on techniques, written in a very chatty and fun manner and makes it very easy to understand. Also has videos on just about every technique you can think of, both in Continental and English style knitting (I knit English).

    I will stop yammering now. Can you tell I like this subject? LOL

  16. Zilredloh May 25, 2011 at 7:38 am #

    Although we’re at the end of our KAL (knit along), Tasha of By Gum, By Golly has put together a lot of great posts on how to knit a vintage jumper.

    I love the stitchcraft magazines!! :) I try and post a “new” vintage knitting pattern every week on my blog from those too.

    Ravelry is the best yarnning resource. has some good tutorials also, but I taught myself how to knit primarily from people’s youtube videos. I went from knitting myself a sample swatch straight to making a sweater.

    This is my first project:

    Good Luck!

    P.S. I knit up the Anthro capelet and it wasn’t pretty either. Don’t let that deter you!

  17. Emma May 25, 2011 at 7:51 am #

    I’m fairly new to knitting myself, although I’ve been a crocheter for years. Start with scarves, move on to hats and mittens, and then you can think about sweaters. Just be sure to swatch for every garment! No point in making something that will be the wrong size.

  18. Mary May 25, 2011 at 7:58 am #

    Scarves are a great way to try out more advanced patterns without a lot of other details to bog you down. Here is a cute little drop stitch pattern that looks difficult, but really isn’t once you do a few rows.
    You can also knit it with cute ribbon yarn. Socks are really fun and portable too. Don’t let turning the heel scare you. Just follow the directions and after the first pair it becomes clearer. Knitting is so portable and easy to do anywhere. Good luck on your new venture!

  19. Maria May 25, 2011 at 8:46 am #

    I enjoy knitting and after several years of a hiatus I’ve recently started again. I made a baby blanket for a friends baby shower. For new knitters blankets and throws can be pretty straightforward – if you pick a basic knit/purl pattern, of course.

    I save my sewing for the weekend as I don’t have a sewing room and have to use my dining table. And, it’s easier to get stuck into something for 4-5 hours at the weekend! So, I plan to knit during the week nights when I get home from work. I have several vintage and modern patterns – some from and some from generous blogs (like Zilredloh) who post some of their patterns for followers to download – Thank you so much!

    My main problem is I live in South Florida, so there are few days where a sweater or cardigan is suitable. However, I can be selective and choose patterns I love and ones that challenge my skills, or even make some things for friends and family!

  20. Susan - Knitters Delight May 25, 2011 at 8:53 am #

    Congrats on your knitting success. You could probably try another bolero that doesn’t have as many techniques. Ravelry will be a great resource for you in addition to YouTube.

  21. Alicecloset May 25, 2011 at 8:58 am #

    °o° wooowww!!!
    Amazing work! I’m a beginner too ^_^

    Good luck for your next project!


  22. HipDroppedStitches May 25, 2011 at 9:09 am #

    Don’t give up on that capelet! You can do it!

    Here’s mine:

  23. Misty May 25, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    So glad you’ve joined us knitters! I definitely recommend making a cute hat and some mitts to match. You’ll appreciate them when it’s a bit chilly or windy in the morning on your bike ride. There’s tons of free patterns for both on ravelry, and they don’t really take very long to make.

  24. Amanda May 25, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    I agree with the suggestion of knitting for babies or kids. Sweaters don’t have to fit perfectly (in fact, they should have room to grow!) and you can practice techniques without investing as much time or money. Plus things for babies are so cute!

  25. Samina May 25, 2011 at 9:57 am #

    I think a hat’s a good idea too, but don’t rule out a baby sweater. There are plenty of cute & free baby sweater patterns on Ravelry. They’re small enough & simple enough to let you get the hang of things without being intimidating. Just pick one without YOs!

  26. Kerry May 25, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    I love knitting, and it’s the reason I relish train journeys for uninterrrupted knitting time. Baby clothes are definitely the way to go for quick projects. If you can master circular knitting too, it means you have less sewing together to do!

  27. Alessa May 25, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    That’s cool, I love the scarf! I’m not especially good at knitting, although I know how to do both the knit and purl stitch. But the most difficult thing I’ve made is about half a dozen scarves, I’ve never even attempted socks…

    I have, however, just invested in a book about crochet. Crocheted lace collars seem to be totally in right now and I figure, maybe I can try and do one myself…

  28. Kristen May 25, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    I am a gung-ho knitter! Welcome to the club! Actually I think your Anthro-inspired capelet was looking lovely! Really, blocking your finished knits makes a HUUUUGE difference – it turns something that looks hand-knitted into something that looks store-bought. This articleis great on proper blocking for the fiber you’ve used.

    The scarf is so cute! I love knitting something and giving it away to friends/family. I can’t bring myself to sell my knits, mainly because the time it takes to knit makes for an expensive piece!

    I think hats are a nice next step. There are some easy beginner hats on Ravelry, esp. Cheeky and Simple Pleasures. Knitting in the round is easy, but decreasing to such few stitches at the crest of the hat requires double pointed needles, which although tricky at first, is a real useful technique worth learning. There are loads of tutorials online for stuff like that.

    Happy knitting!


  29. Suzy May 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    I’m also a knitter, although my primary passion is sewing and I only started knitting recently. You can make a sweater or cardigan as a beginner, you just need to choose a simple stitch pattern. I’m doing a cardigan out of “A stitch in time” book which is all stockinette stitch, so straight forward to do.

  30. Lynne May 25, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    Yey for knitting!! I’m a Knitter who has recently got into sewing, so we’re the same but the other way around!! One of the first things I knit was that little caplet; in fact, I made two. (I’m Ozzy Blackbeard on Rav, and they’ll be near the bottom of my project page if you want a nosey.)

    My best knitting advice is to ask Ravelry. It’s never let me down yet on technics and issues on specific patterns. Ravelers know EVERYTHING! Also youtube is great for how-to videos. Good luck!! :)

  31. Becky May 25, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    I also agree with the idea of hats and baby items as next steps. Both require relatively small time commitments, and they give you the opportunity to try out new techniques on a small scale (like yarn-overs!). If you don’t have many friends with babies, local hospitals are usually pretty excited to receive hand-made items (hats especially) for patients in the NICU.

    Also, I didn’t see that anyone had mentioned it, but has fabulous videos for learning basic techniques. (There are probably a million videos on YouTube as well.)

    Finally, don’t underestimate the value of a good local yarn shop. Not only do many offer classes, but most of them are great about offering advice if you’re stuck on a specific project.

  32. Becky May 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    I took up knitting around the beginning of the year, mainly so I could have something to do when my crafty friends get together for our geeky sci-fi marathon/crafty hangout days. (Bringing the noisy sewing machine doesn’t go over so well with those.) I started with a scarf, did some super-easy handwarmers next, then a couple of hats, a simple wrap, and now I’m starting on my first (sleeveless) sweater. I’ve been trying to choose projects that I like and can use that help me learn 1 or 2 new techniques at a time, so I don’t get overwhelmed. Since you’re on Ravelry already, I’d highly recommend the advanced search feature on there– you can sort it to get all the free patterns of a certain type that are at level 1 or 2 of difficulty. I’ve been living off of that. (And favoriting the more complex stuff I like for later, when I have more skills.)

  33. Stacy May 25, 2011 at 1:18 pm #

    Hurray for knitting! I actually work at a knitting shop, and was recently helping a student make that very same sweater. :) Knitting is fun, and so much more portable than sewing!

  34. Renay May 25, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    Oh gosh I love knitting. & I have just finished my first cardigan! I used the Miette cardigan pattern on ravelry (I actually just saw the pattern in your ravelry favourites) and I found it quite easy… maybe not for a beginner though…
    Can’t wait to see what you come up with! I agree with hats being the next step :-) good luck!

  35. Annabelle May 25, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

    I love that you are taking up knitting. It will compliment sewing quite nicely. I think I saw someone else suggest this, but hats are a great way to progress past scarves and cowls. Mittens are another favorite of mine. Good luck with the new hobby – I’m sure plenty of your followers will be more than happy to help you with any questions along the way.

  36. Elise May 25, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

    Love that scarf, great for a beginner! I’ve been knitting longer than I can remember but only started learning proper techniques like using more than one colour and fancy stitches in the past year or 2, its a fun learning curve, good luck! :)

  37. K-Line May 25, 2011 at 5:01 pm #

    I would totally join a knit along! Great idea…

  38. woolcat May 25, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

    Lovely loop! Nice work!

    I am a totally addicted knitter currently making Bitterroot from Knitty (and Sylvi from Twist Collective and a bunch of other stuff….) Since you are happy giving your knitting away I totally recommend trying a baby or kid sweater – there are cute patterns out there, some of which involve yarnovers but good place to master them. You get to learn sweater construction stuff without having to worry about getting the sweater to fit.

    I am glad you started knitting! Within a year you’ll be designing your own patterns and adding them to your business plan!

  39. Jessica May 25, 2011 at 7:05 pm #

    If you really want to knit a sweater, I recommend starting with the “Hourglass Sweater” out of Last Minute Knitted Gifts (the first one). I found it to be a nice “entry” sweater!

  40. indigorchid May 25, 2011 at 9:46 pm #

    My goodness, you really did jump in! For a first project, that looks pretty good! I second the hat and the baby-clothes and the more advanced scarves suggestions. I’ll toot my own horn and direct you to a hat I designed, which does have yarn-overs and purls and decreases, but is otherwise quite simple:

    But really – you’ve started down this knitting path is quite a grand way! I’m impressed!

  41. Jessica May 25, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

    Yay for knitting! It’s great for at home time, because it keeps the hands busy. I added you as a friend on Ravelry (Oh, how I long for a sewing site like Ravelry!)

    You know, I’ve never liked that capelet pattern you tried out… I think that simple raglans are doable by near beginners, but not that one – it seems to have some vagueness to the directions. There are lots of designers that specialize in one piece sweaters (Wendy Bernard is one who I like,) though you may find that (since you sew) knitting something in pieces isn’t hard at all, since the seaming won’t be intimidating, once you have a few more projects under your belt! I prefer to knit in pieces, because then I don’t have a whole sweater hanging off my needles!

    I knit a clapotis shawl for my second project, and a lace scarf (branching out, from Knitty) for the third. I don’t like knitting hats, but that’s a personal issue – the large double pointed needles or tiny
    circulars hurt my hands, so I only knit hats that I can seam up at the end!

    You probably know this, but be sure to check your gauge for any project, and wash your swatch (because gauge can change a lot once the yarn gets wet – I had a sweater grow 5 inches once!)

    Um… apparently I have a lot to say about knitting! Yeah… I’m in a knitting phase at the moment!

  42. Casey May 26, 2011 at 4:42 am #

    Knitting is such a relaxing way to keep your hands busy! I tend to be on-again/off-again about it, but lately have been bitten by the knitting bug again and have been laboring away at a little draped-neck pullover. It’s taking me forever, mostly because it’s miles of a 2×1 rib, so it’s a bit boring. But mindless–which is good for times I want to do something but not think deeply about the process! lol.

    I love that cowl you whipped up and can’t wait to see what else you make. Off to friend you on Ravelry!

  43. lisa May 27, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    hats are very easy to knit. Once you get the idea then you do not need a pattern and you can create your own styles.

    also, you can make your home the design studio for sewing so you do all the patterns and cutting out fabric at home then take the pieces to the office for sewing. it is actually better that way because now your home will not get covered with bits of thread and fabric and misplaced needles on the floor. So it will be easy to keep your home clean for company, or your family (if you are married).

  44. Ginger May 29, 2011 at 5:39 am #

    Happy knitting! Hats are a good choice for a second project, and although it’s hardly the season, fingerless gloves or handwarmers are a great choice! They’re small, so you can get through them quickly. I think I will host a knitalong for brand new knitters in the fall (since it can be kind of sticky and unpleasant to knit in the summer… at least for folks without AC like myself).

    Here’s a very cute (and free!) pattern for handwarmers: