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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Knitting 101 - March YO, K2tog, SSK

The simplest increase in knitting is the YO, or yarn over.  Unless you want your garment to get wider, every time you increase a stitch, you'll want to decrease one to keep your stitch count even.  The decreases are K2tog, or knit two together, or SSK, slip slip knit.  Here's how.

To increase, wrap the yarn over the knitting needle up the backside of the needle and over the top to the front.  Then tuck the yarn under the needle again, completing one full revolution.  Making the wrap this direction means the new "stitch" will be facing the right direction when you need to work it in the next row or round.

To K2tog, you'll literally knit two stitches together.  You'll put your needle into both stitches at the same time as if to knit, wrap the yarn around the needle, and pull it through making one stitch where there were two.  This decrease leans toward the right, making it a Right Leaning Decrease.

Matched Decreases from ArendaHoliday.com
What if you want the decrease to lean left?  No problem.  Then you SSK.  Slip one stitch from the holding needle to the working needle as if to knit.  Slip the next stitch from the holding needle to the working needle as if to purl.  Now, slip the working needle into the front of both stitches, and knit.  This creates one stitch where there were two, and the decrease leans to the left.  SSKs make a nice, smooth decrease that perfectly mirrors the K2tog. 

Some people will tell you that K2tog through the back loop (K2tog tbl) is the same as an SSK.  No, it's not.  K2tog tbl results in a smooth stitch over a twisted stitch, which makes a little bump.  SSK is completely smooth.  SSK is only interchangeable with K2tog tbl if you are making matched decreases, like in a sleeve for a sweater or in a piece of lace knitting.
YO increases from MonsterYarns.co.uk

To practice this exercise, cast on 20 stitches, and knit 10 rows of stockinette.  Then, on the second stitch in each knit row, k2tog.  When there are 3 stitches remaining in the knit row, SSK, then knit the last stitch.  After a few rows of this, you'll find your decreases match perfectly and are beautiful!

When you get down to 6 stitches remaining on the swatch, on each knit row, knit 2, YO, then knit to 2 stitches remaining, YO, then knit 2.   Knit in this fashion until you build back up to 20 stitches.  Isn't it beautiful?  Look what you did!  Nice work!  Next post, a pattern using your new skills!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Knitting 101 - Combining Slip Stitch and I-Cords

Garter edge left, I-cord edge right
See Original Post
You've been doing the Knitting 101 exercises.  It's been going well.  You should be proud of yourself.  Now, let's combine those skills!  You're ready to make an I-cord edging!  It's a pretty little edge for a variety of purposes. 

The photo at left comes from Happyknits.com, from Jessa's wonderful post about i-cord edges. As you can see, it's a very different edge from the one on the left.  Like learning regular i-cords, it takes a little bit of practice to make it lay smoothly, but that's what swatching is for. Ready?

Cast on 16 stitches.  Knit across.
On all successive rows, Slip the first three stitches with yarn to the back of the work, then knit across.

As you knit along, you'll notice that the i-cord edges pull a little bit.  This is okay!  It will smooth out in blocking. The added tension is what allows it to curl evenly.

Knit this along for 16-20 rows, and by then you should like the results.  Look what you made!  This edge can be added to your knitting on anything with a plain edge.  As Jessa describes in her post, you'll need three stitches on each side to work the edge.  If the pattern needs the full width, add three stitches to the side or sides where you want to use the i-cord edge,

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Knitting 101- Slip Stitches - the patterns

Slip Stitch Speckles
from Halfknits.com
How's that slip stitch going?  I hope you're having a ball with it.  These are a few free patterns that include slip stitch as their primary design element.  So pretty!

The cloth at left is more practice, and much like one of the exercises in the first article.  It's nice in that it's fast to knit, and would make a great blanket square or washcloth.


Slip Rib Fingerless Gloves


The fingerless gloves at right are from Cascade Yarns.  The photo shows them made in Pure Alpaca, in a particularly lovely heathered colorway.  This pattern is knit in the round, so if you're not there yet, be patient.  If you already knit in the round, you'll love this project and the beautiful gloves.  The finishing and weaving in goes in a flash!

Texture Study 1


This last is a stunning scarf that has the wonderful benefit of being easy while looking intricate and difficult.  Like the turkey at Thanksgiving, it's a WOW piece that merely requires a little patience and attention.  It's from Flying Dog Fibers, and it suggests you find "300 yds of the softest sport weight yarn you can find" and have a go.  I agree!  One caveat - it will not look as textured the fuzzier the yarn you use is.  Low-halo softies like cashmere and baby alpaca will be stunners.  Mohair and other high-halo yarns will hide your wonderful stitch work.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Texture

Texture in your knitting is more than pretty in each of your projects.  Texture is a design element that is often used to create longer wear, and greater warmth.  It changes the thickness of the fabric, and depending on how the texture is formed, it can trap substantially more air.  As we all know, more trapped air means greater warmth.

Silk Knitting Yarn .Com Worsted Silk
So why are some patterns that aren't textured so warm?  It comes down to the yarn.  The more "halo" or fuzziness a yarn has, the more air it will trap.  The smoothest yarns will trap the least.  And of course, loosely twisted yarns will trap a bit more air than those that have a tighter twist.

The yarns above in the washcloths photo are organic, vegetable-dyed cottons.  They don't hold much air, so adding texture to the fabric is one quick way to add warmth to a garment made with them.  The texture in each cloth is different, with the ribbed texture being the warmest, and the diagonal cable ridges being the coolest.

When you're modifying a pattern, adding texture can make a significant difference in the warmth of the finished garment.  It will also change the amount of yarn the pattern requires.  A general rule of thumb is the more texture you add, the more yarn you'll need.  Adding a few bobbles will require less additional yarn than changing the entire pattern to intricate cables.  Added texture can require up to 40% more yarn!  Plan accordingly.

If you know a pattern will receive hard wear, you may choose to add texture to increase the strength of the fabric.  Palms of mittens can be made stronger by making them seed stitch or linen stitch instead of stockinette.  Heels and toes of socks can be made in eye of partridge or 1x1 rib to extend their wear.

Lastly, remember that most textured stitches knit up at a slightly different gauge, so in order to make sure your garment will be the right size in the end, swatch the textured stitch.  If there are more stitches per inch, you'll need to go up a size or two.  If there are fewer, go down a size.  Enjoy the warmth and beauty of added texture in your work!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Knitting 101 - February Slip-Stitch

Simple slip over stockinette from
The Walker Treasury 
Yes, slipping a stitch on purpose is a "design element".  No, not when you do it by accident.  It's the next step in knitting after you master that K/P thing.  And it's beautiful on its own or with other stitches!

Slipping a stitch is very easy, and it's a gateway to scads of interesting and pretty knitting.  Cables, lace, some button holes, trellis stitches and many more have you slip a stitch at some point.  Let's get started.

Here's how: Cast on 31 stitches.  The odd number is important here, so make sure.  Now knit across one row.  Purl across the next row.

On the next row - Knit 1 stitch.  Slip one stitch from the holding needle to the working needle by sticking the tip of the needle into the stitch as if to knit, but then don't knit the stitch.  Slip it onto the working needle.  This is called Slip 1 Knitwise.  It's abbreviated Sl1k.  K3.

There is another version of the slip stitch, and it's just as easy.  Stick the working needle into the stitch as if to purl, and slip it onto the working needle.  This is called Slip 1 Purlwise.   It's abbreviated Sl1p.  K3.

Complete the row by sl1k, k3, sl1p, to the last stitch.  K last stitch.

Purl the next row.

1. K1, (sl1k, k3, sl1p, k3) across, k1.
2. Purl across.

Repeat these 2 rows for at least 4 inches.  You can see there is a subtle but distinct difference between the two types of slipped stitches.  Pretty, eh?  You can finish the swatch to any size you like.  When a slip stitch pattern does not indicate weather to slip knitwise or purlwise, always slip knitwise.

We'll work some other basic slip stitch patterns this month.  You'll be delighted what interesting patterns you'll make!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Knitting 101- Knit and Purl I-Cords

Photo By Knit Purl Hunter
If you haven't made them before, I-cords are a nice embellishment, and EASY!  You can use them as handles, buttonholes, decorative additions, and much, much more.

I-Cords are the next natural step in knitting and purling.  They look extremely professional and fancy, and they're one of the easiest things to make.  They're easier than standard knitting.  One thing that's fun is that it is only the knit stitch!  For those of you who have never used double pointed needles or look at them like they're scary, no they're not.  I wouldn't ask you to try this if I had any doubts that you're ready, and that you'll be successful.  Take a breath!  Ok.

From Hattie My Love blog

You can make I-cords on straights, or you can make them on DPNs.  DPNs (double-pointed needles) are funny looking needles it you haven't used anything but basic straights.  They have a point at each end.  Other than that they are the same as any other needles, and come in all the same materials.  You'll probably like your DPN's very slippery for I-cords, so if you haven't made them before I recommend metal.  You'll only need two of the set of 4 or 5, so set the others aside.


These directions work for straights.  Cast on 3 stitches.  This will result in a 4 stitch I-cord.  Really!  Knit across the 3 stitches at regular tension.  *Now, slide the work back to the first needle.  From the front of the work, with yarn on the left side of the work, pick up the working yarn, and knit across the work again in absolutely regular tension.  Repeat from the asterisk.

From KraftyKritter1 blog

These directions work for DPNs.  Cast on 3 stitches.  This will result in a 4 stitch I-cord.  Knit across the 3 stitches at regular tension.  *Now, slide the work to the other end of the needle..  From the front of the work, with the yarn on the left side of the work, pick up the working yarn, and knit across the work again in absolutely regular tension.

If you're the type who does better with a video, this one is good.  It's by elsteffo on YouTube.

For the first few rows, the work is going to look really strange to you.  It's okay.  Just keep going until the work is about 4 inches long.  The bottom of the cord is probably a little wonky, but as you went along, it became very regular and smooth.  You'll notice that as you have knit, the yarn you've drawn across the back of the work has created a fourth stitch!  So cool!

I-cord Frog Closure from Threads Magazine website
How do these cords become something useful?  It's almost always listed in the pattern.  The tail from the cast on and the one from the bind off will usually be used in securing the I-cord to the garment.

 
 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Free Class on Grafting

You need to take this class!  If you're confident about grafting, it's an excellent refresher.  If you have any doubts or problems, this will resolve them.  The class is taught by the incomparable Anne Hanson, knitter, designer, and owner of Knitspot yarns.  No, this isn't just for Kitchener stitch! Ins and Outs of Grafting

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Knitting 101 - Knit and Purl recap

If you are working on the Knitting 101 course, then you've probably worked your way into the squares I recommended.   How are they working out?  The cotton yarn should be showing you where your weaknesses are. 

Stitches of Uneven Size

This is a question of tension in most cases.  Tension varies for a few reasons: lack of experience, failing to keep your points together during the knitting itself, or letting the knitting sit on straight needles for more than overnight.  Experience can only be gained by knitting more.  Keeping your points very close consistently (half an inch or less apart) is a question of building a new habit.  To practice this, you will have to look at your work while you knit, and be careful not to hold the needles in a death-grip.  Your hands need to be able to move smoothly across the needles and the work.  Lastly, knitting shouldn't sit on straight needles for extended periods of time (especially cotton and cotton blends!)  Knitting on circular needles eliminates the problem because you can slide the work onto the cord.  Otherwise, transfer your work to a needle at least two sizes smaller than the one you are knitting with.

Splitting the Yarn

If you find the yarn splitting while you knit, the problem is likely either the yarn or the needles.  If the yarn is a very loose twist, it should still hold together well enough to be knit with ease.  Let it go, and upgrade to a yarn with a higher twist.  If the issue is the needles, they may not be smooth.  Wooden needles are notorious for this.  The points may be irregularly shaped.  Lastly, they may be lace needles.  Lace needles come to a much finer point than knitting needles, which makes them split lower-twist yarn.  Bamboo needles may need to be sanded smooth with an emery board, then lightly waxed with furniture wax.

I hope it helps!  Keep knitting!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Tight Knitters, Let it GO!

tight, uneven knitting tension
No to knitters have the same natural gauge or
tension.  It would be great if we did, but we don't.  Instead we work to "get gauge", or make our swatch have the same stitch count per inch as the pattern recommends.  One type of knitter seems to have more trouble establishing gauge than others - the tight knitter.  This problem starts when you first learn to knit, and if you don't break it, it follows you for the length of your knitting life.

I'm talking to and about the knitters whose wrists hurt from trying to force the needles into each stitch.  The knitters whose work never slips off the needle because the stitches are strangling the needle.  The knitters who can't imagine how people perform the magic trick of cabling, because every time they try, they break the cable needle due to extreme stitch tension.  Does your stockinette stitch always look wavy, even after blocking?  Then this is for you.

wavy knitting due to knitting too tightly below,
 corrected tension above
Besides the fact that it's physically uncomfortable to knit this way, why stop knitting so tightly?  Well, it's definitely going to improve the look of your knitting.  Loosening up will allow you to explore a variety of stitches that have never worked for you before.  And knitting at an average gauge extends the life of the garment you create.  (Why?  We'll get to that in a minute.)

How do you stop choking the needle?  First, commit to breaking this habit.  Just take my word for it, this works.  In between every step of the stitch, let go of yarn and needle and put your hand in your lap.  Put your needle into the stitch- hand in the lap.  Wrap the yarn around the needle- hand in the lap.  Draw the new stitch through the old- hand in the lap.  And start again.  After the first couple of rows, it gets much easier. 

check your tension
Now look at the knitting you've created with the new method.  It's much looser, and it's very, very even.  Did you need to learn to hold your needles in a slightly different angle so the work didn't slide?  Did you see that holding on to the yarn for dear life didn't, in fact, create any benefits?  Great.  Now, slowly but surely, as you move forward in your swatch, you can return to holding your yarn, but loosely this time.  At the end of every row, assess the tension of the stitches on the needle.  If you see that you're tightening up again, return to putting your hand in your lap.  Cool, huh?

When you pick up your work next time, repeat the exercise.  Do this until you check the last row you've worked, and it isn't tightening up.  You'll see that it doesn't take too many sittings.  You're most susceptible to going back to tight knitting when you're on autopilot.  But after a few sittings, regular tension will become second nature. 

Why do your garments suffer when you strangle the needle?  Because all the added tension you put on the yarn stresses the fibers.  They no longer behave the way they were designed to.  Flexibility and loft are lost, and twist is exaggerated.  This exaggerating causes the knitting to twist or bias on the diagonal as the yarn tries to return to its relaxed state.  Everything you do to the fabric you've created after it has been knit in very high tension breaks down the yarn, causing pilling, more twisting, messy edges, and irregular wear patterns.  Enjoy the fruits of appropriate tension.  You'll find it's faster and much more satisfying.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Freebie Friday

Colorblock Hand Warmers
These hand warmers come to us from the Purl Soho website, the website for the wonderful yarn shop in Manhattan. 

Why do we like this pattern?  Lots of reasons.  The long length of the sleeves is a great start.  It means they'll never come untucked from under your sweater or jacket.  Also, this pattern was designed to please the beginner and the experienced knitter alike.  Thirdly, there are instructions for a light weight version and a heavier version.  What's not to like about that?

This is a terrific "first" pattern to knit in the round, as it's big on satisfaction and low on complexity.  You will need needles in US 2 and US 3.  Like all "pair" patterns (mittens, gloves, socks) there is a slight risk of UFO if you don't stay committed, but you'd never let that happen, would you?