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DIY style

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"She makes things up and they come out creative and beautiful," says Nina.

I had promised myself that I would not get sucked into a knitting project without further research and reflection. That didn't work.

I bought a book of patterns for (allegedly) simple clothes (Rowan's "Big Just Got Bigger"), a "Magic Ball" of sunset-colored fiber and knitting needles as thick as kindling.

As instructed, I'm winging it. Two hours later, voila . . . a stubby knit hunk that resembles a giant place mat. Evidently, I need a little more practice. But I've caught the fever. And once surrounded by the glorious possibilities of a well-stocked knitting shop, you will too.

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Beyond the scarf

TIPS FOR MAKING A SHRUG:

- Measure the circumference of your biceps. Depending on how tight you want the arms to be, add 1 to 3 inches. That's the width of your rectangle.

- As you knit, throw the rectangle across your shoulders to see if the length is right. You're aiming for a piece of knitting that goes from wrist around your back to your other wrist.

- Measure length from wrist to armpit. That's the length of the seam for each sleeve. Take your rectangle and fold it lengthwise. Sew two seams--one on either end--the length you want your sleeves.

RESOURCES:

Classes: Type "Chicago knitting" into an Internet search engine and you'll be overwhelmed with options. We suggest Nina's beginner class at noon this Saturday. Tangled Web, 177 S. Oak Park Ave., Oak Park, offers 3-4 week beginner lessons in January. Call 708-445-8335 for schedule.

Free knitting groups: Check stitchnbitch. org and windycityknittingguild.com. The Museum of Contemporary Art just started a free stitching group in the cafe the first Tues-day of every month (312-280-2660) and Nina hosts one every Wednesday evening.

How-to: Popular books include "Last-Minute Knitted Gifts" by Joelle Hoverson and "Stitch 'N Bitch: The Knitter's Handbook" by Debbie Stoller.

Shops: Nina, 1655 W. Division St., 773-486-8996, ninachicago.com; brand new Chix with Stix, 7316 W. Madison St., Forest Park, 708-366-6300, chixwithstixknitting.com; and the more traditional Flying Colors, 15 Walker Ave., Clarendon Hills, 630-325-0888. Plus many others.

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Your biggest knitting mishap? Tell me at chicagotribune.com/shopellen

shopellen@tribune.com
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