How to Knit, Part 1: Casting On

In honor of the New Year, I am introducing a brand new series on my blog. I’m not quite sure how many segments it will be yet, at least a few.

You see, I’ve never learned how to knit, not even the basics. I know there are many more, like myself, who would like to learn but don’t even know where to start. So, I’ve done some research, bought some basic supplies, put in some practice, and I think I’m ready to teach you the very first step in knitting. (If you’re interested–if not, kindly disregard these posts. I’ll be spreading these out amongst other content as well.) The very first basic thing you need to know is something called casting on. Basically, casting on is putting the first row of stitches onto one of your knitting needles. If you’re doing a project that is twenty stitches wide, you would cast on 20 stitches. However, before you cast on, you need to make a knot. Most sources that I’ve checked recommend a slipknot, which I’ll now demonstrate.

Make a loop in your yarn.

From the “tail” end, pull up a loop of yarn through the loop you just made.

Pull taut. The beautyof the slipknot is that by pulling on an end, you can adjust the size of the loop.

Now that we have a slipknot made, let’s try casting on, shall we? This is by far the easiest method that I found out there.

With your right hand, hold knot on needle taut with right index finger (not shown since I’m holding a camera!)

With left hand, make a “V” shape using your left thumb and index finger, as shown.

With right hand, push needle up and to the right, scooping up a loop of yarn created by your finger formation as you go. Let’s see that again:

Make a V with your left thumb and index finger.

Push needle up and through.

Pull yarn semi-taut. You don’t want to make it too loose OR too tight! This could cause problems once you try to knit the second row. Really, it’s all about practicing and getting the hang of it. Once I caught on, I was able to do this pretty quickly.

A small row of these looks like this.

If you want to follow along with this series, here are a few other recommendations:

Buy plain, worsted weight yarn. Nothing fancy to start out with!

Use whatever needles you are comfortable with.  There are many sizes and materials to work with. To start out, I bought a large pair of aluminum ones and a #8 pair of bamboo ones.

Check out YouTube and other sites if you don’t dig my instructions. There’s a ton of differing information out there, I’m just trying to do it the simplest way. Remember that I’m just learning too!

Don’t give up right away if you’re frustrated. I’ve had a couple of those moments and found that if I didn’t overthink it and relaxed, it went much better.

Thanks for tuning in. Part 2 of my series will be teaching you how to do the Knit Stitch.

Happy New Year! Rachel

Mary Did You Know?

When I was about 5 years old, I was given the opportunity to play Mary in our church Christmas pageant. No, not because I was a great actress or had any stage presence, but probably because Mary had no speaking part. My brother, a mere 13 months older than myself, was asked to portray Joseph alongside me. Again, probably because Joseph didn’t have to say anything and we were both painfully shy kids. I know the role of Mary is coveted by little girls in Christmas plays round the country, but for some reason I was adamant that I was NOT going to be Mary, instead settling for a bit part on the sidelines.

A number of years ago our church held a Christmas pageant in which all of the kids participated in some way. That year “Mary” definitely stole the show as she carried baby Jesus down the aisle. She was an adorable golden-haired 6 or 7 year old, just old enough to carry her several-month old baby brother in front of an audience and calmly sticking a pacifier in his mouth when he started to make noise. At church the next Sunday, everyone told the mother what a perfect little Mary and baby Jesus they were. The mother laughed and explained that her daughter, when asked to play Mary, also refused that role and wanted to play a part more on the sidelines. Her mom pointed out to us that the real Mary probably didn’t want to be Mary either. Honestly, I had never thought of Mary that way before. Here she was, a mere girl, being told by an angel that she was going to conceive, give birth to, and raise the Son of the Most High? What teenager, let alone adult, wouldn’t be completely freaked out by that? I’m sure Mary was more than a little terrified, but instead of making excuses or saying “No way,” she says one of my many favorite statements in the Bible:”I am the Lord’s servant…May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38 NIV)

What is God asking of you today? Is it something far out of your comfort zone? Are you wanting to just tell God “No way” or give a laundry list of excuses? Or, like Mary, are you willing to tell Him “I am the Lord’s servant…May it be to me as you have said.”

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

This December 24th, I thought I’d take a brief moment to wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas. I appreciate all of my readers, whether you’ve visited my blog once or have read practically every post I put on here. Believe me, I am highly flattered!! Hope you all have a great holiday and I wish you all…

Above all this, remember why we are really celebrating. Merry Christmas everyone!

Rachel

Baby’s First Christmas Handprint Ornament

This ornament has been a tradition in my family since I was a baby. My grandmother made these for all of her grandchildren for their first Christmas. Now that I’m a Mom, she continued the tradition and made one for each of my kids when they were babies. Therefore, I didn’t make this OR come up with the idea, but I thought it was a great one to share with you all.

This particular one was done for Joseph, one of my twins. Basically, you trace your baby’s hand and transfer it to red felt. Cut out 2 and embroider the baby’s name and year in a contrasting color on one of the handprints. Hand-stitch the two together, stuffing with a little bit of poly-fil as you go.

Cute, easy, and a wonderful family tradition to pass on. Such a great keepsake too!

Gotta love those sweet little baby hands.

Lemon Salt or Sugar Hand Scrub

The countdown is on…9 days to go before Christmas. Are you ready yet? Except for some wrapping, I’m pretty much done for this year. It is such a good feeling! One of the last handmade items I wanted to make and give is a sugar or salt scrub for hands. There are many recipes out there for these (most are very simple), but this is the one that captured my attention. It uses items you probably already have on hand, no need to run out and purchase special ingredients. Oh, and I also have a love for anything lemony, so this was definitely the recipe for me.

I used finely granulated sea salt for this, but sugar can easily be subbed in as well. To make sure it actually worked, I tried some out yesterday afternoon and was thrilled with how it scrubbed and softened my starting-to-get-dry hands. This is a great gift for anyone that works with their hands or gets especially dry hands in the winter time.

1/2 cup sugar or salt

1 TB olive oil

2 Tb lemon (or lime) juice

Combine and mix in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container. To use, wet hands slightly, scoop out the amount desired, and scrub into hands. Rinse well with warm water.

You may need to stir up the ingredients if they’ve been sitting for a little while.

Find a pretty container to package your scrub in, add a tag and ribbon, and you have a special, inexpensive handmade gift to give. I packaged mine in a vintage Avon moisturizer container that I thought would be pretty. However, a jelly jar, other upcycled container, or baby food jar would be good options too.

Gingerbread Play-Doh

Here is a simple handmade gift for some little people in your life– Gingerbread PlayDoh. It smells SO yummy…

Makes a great stocking stuffer or fun, frugal gift for a boy or girl. Let ’em roll it out and use cookie cutters to make pretend gingerbread cookies or other goodies.

The recipe I used was from sweetsugarbelle.com. It was pretty quick and easy to make. Even though I only made one batch, I’m sure it would be no problem to double if making a bunch at a time.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 TB cinnamon
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 TB vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

Whisk dry ingredients together in a medium saucepan. Mix in wet ingredients, turn heat on medium, and stir continuously until it reaches a thick consistency. Turn out onto parchment paper and knead by hand. Allow to cool completely and place in an airtight container or ziploc bag.

Cherry Almond Chews

Are you on the lookout for a new Christmas cookie recipe? Well, then, you’re in the right place! Today I’m sharing one of my all-time favorite cookie recipes ever. I make these every year, give them out, and get lots of requests for the recipe shortly after. Yup, they’re that good. Coconut, almonds, and a maraschino cherry make this a unique crowd pleaser.

In the mood to try some for yourself? Here’s the recipe I use to make these scrumptious goodies:

  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 tsp almond extract
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flaked coconut
  • 3/4 cups chopped almonds or pecans
  • 1 small jar maraschino cherries, drained and halved

In a mixing bowl, cream shortening and sugars. Add eggs, then beat in extract. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt–gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in coconut and nuts, if desired. Drop in rounded teaspoons 2 in. apart onto lightly greased baking sheets. Place a cherry half in the center of each one. Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes.

Recipe from Best of Country Cookies, Taste of Home, 1999.

Easy Eyeglass Cozy

As of this past Saturday, I now have 2 children that wear glasses.

Andrew, my 3rd grader, got glasses last school year and promptly lost his pair about a month or two into school this fall. Heidi, my 1st grader, failed her school eye exam pretty badly this fall as well. So, while on Thanksgiving break, we took a trip to America’s Best and actually got a pretty sweet deal on glasses for both of them. I bought 2 pairs for each child, one to wear regularly and one as a back-up pair. My daughter was checking out the hard shell eyeglass cases while we were picking up the finished pairs, but they gave us 4 cheapy soft cases to carry their glasses in. To surprise my little miss, I made her a cute little eyeglass cozy to keep at school.

Bright and cheerful in a fun, punchy print. It totally matches my little cutie’s personality and she was thrilled with her surprise. This literally took me about 10 minutes (if that) to make and cost almost nothing. It would make a fun, frugal gift for a friend that wears specs! Check out my easy steps to make this eyeglass cozy:

Pick out a piece of felt and a piece of fabric that coordinate. Cut out a rectangle of felt–I think mine was about 7 1/2″ by 8″ or so. Cut out the fabric so that the width is the same, but slightly shorter as far as length. You can see how my felt piece sticks out above the printed fabric.

Roll the top edge of the felt down over the top edge of the fabric. Pin and straight stitch across. This serves to cover up the fabric’s raw edge as well as form a collar at the top of your cozy.

Fold in half so that the felt is on the outside. Pin one long edge and one short edge. Sew along both sides, making sure to backstitch at both ends. Turn right side out.

Voila! Done. That’s really all there is to this. I use this same method to make cell phone cozies as well, just change the dimensions. ¬†Now I need to go whip up a boyish-looking cozy for my little man.