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Sales Consultant and Trainer with great results and 30 years experience.  Very effective.  A little eccentric. Usually happy. Visit the Sales Dynamo website!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Knitting Math 1 - Non-fiction

I've been on both sides of the issue of Knitting Math:  does it exist, or doesn't it?  Math is math, right?  Or is it like Business Math, and Cooking Math, where some functions are key to everything else working?

I am now firmly a believer in Knitting Math.  Designing knitwear is one part sketching, 15 or 20 parts math, one part writing the pattern, and one big part knitting.

SIZE
If I want to design something simple like a baby blanket, I need to figure out how big I want it.  Then I need to figure out what yarn I want to use.  Then I knit test swatches to determine the gauge that gives me the look I want.  Let's say it's 6 stitches x 7 rows.

Next, I need to multiply the width of the blanket by the stitches per inch.  If I want the blanket to be 3 feet wide, that's 36 inches x 6 stitches per inch = 216 stitches.  This becomes the cast on number.

If I want it to also be 36 inches long, for a square blanket, I need to multiply 36 inches x 7 rows = 252.  Now I can create a graph, and start marking out stitches and color patterns.

Stitch gauge and row gauge are the essential two pieces of information for almost all "knitting math."  If you want your blanket larger, you multiply each inch by 6 stitches or 7 rows to know how much to add.  Likewise if you choose to make a smaller blanket, you subtract 6 stitches or 7 rows for each inch you want to subtract. 

YARDAGE
The gauge swatch gives you another critical piece of math to do - figure out how much yarn you're going to need.  Make a swatch that is whole inches on both the top and the side (like 4x6).  Multiply, and you get 24 square inches. 

Now cut the swatch off the ball, and weigh it on an accurate scale.  What does it weigh?  In this case, 1 gram.  The ball comes in 100 yards per 50 grams.  For now, disregard the yardage, and just focus on the weight.  That means each gram will cover 24 square inches.  Multiply that by 50 and you get 1200 square inches of knitting per ball. 

Multiply your original 36x36 blanket size out to square inches, and you get 1296 inches.  This tells me that one ball of yarn won't quite do it,  and you'll need to start a second ball. 

DIFFERENCE IN GAUGE
But what if you don't knit to the gauge specified in the pattern?  What if you knit to 5 stitches and 6 rows per inch instead?  You're going to need a lot more yarn.  Those same 216 stitches now represent 43 inches of knitting instead of the original  36.  The 252 rows now make 42 inches instead of 36.  Now your blanket is 1806 square inches.  Now you'll need 1 and 1/2 balls of yarn, because your piece is almost 30% larger than the designer planned for, and that's if your gauge is only off by one stitch!

I know, it seems like a lot to digest.  It's not really.  Look up any pattern in any magazine, and do the math.  You'll see that it works out every time.  A little practice (and a calculator) makes it easy to remember what to do and how to do it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sample Knits

Well, I've received a few more sample knits back, and I've learned a few things:

1.  Some sample knitters will lie and say just about anything to get you to send them yarn and an original pattern.

2.  Many of the liars mentioned above will then simply steal the yarn, and fall off the face of the earth.  (RUDE!)

3.  Others of the liars above don't understand the purpose of knitting a sample.

4.  Good sample knitters are worth their weight in cashmere.

Knitting a sample is a two-fold job - one, you need to create a wearable sample to be modelled for photography.  Two, you need to indicate any weaknesses to the pattern to the designer.  I have received beautiful mittens back into which you cannot insert a hand.  Pretty, but useless.  I've received samples back that are NOT beautiful, and the finish work is a disaster.  I've received samples back in which the knitter clearly is a novice.  (Whose work do they show me when they apply for the work?)  One recent sample was done by someone who does lovely right slanted decreases, and did not do one left slanted decrease properly.  Not one.

All of this makes me appreciate the good and competent sample knitters in my life.  They are a wonderful resource, and good women all.  I only wish there were more than three in my life. 

Of the original 8, I'm down to 3, with several previous projects needing to be re-knit.  All the current projects need knitting, too.  I'm tempted to commit a designer sin and knit my own samples just to clear the backlog.  It's a serious time crunch!  If only we could all knit in our sleep, I think we could be back on schedule by the Fourth of July!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Classic Elite Yarn Lovers

I started a group on Ravelry today for the lovers of CEY.  Different from the only other CEY group, this group is NOT limited to Classic Elite patterns, it's open to all projects.  If you love their yarns, Jill Eaton, Verde, Classic Elite, Twinkle, and St. Denis, drop by and let us know what's on your mind!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Freebie Friday - Surprise!

This week's freebie comes from Cherry Tree Hill Yarns, and it's not your standard late-spring fare:  Gloves!



Ok, hear me out.  First of all, many of my readers are from the Southern Hemisphere, so it's fall for them.  Second, in the summer, we want light, small, portable projects.  A whole lap full of wool is tough to take on a hot and sunny afternoon.  Third, they're made on TWO NEEDLES!  I know, right?  Thanks to Discounted Brand Name Yarns for making this PDF available free of charge.

Make these stocking stuffers now, and cross one recipient off your list.  Or make a few pair, and spend this fall baking apple pies and carving pumpkins instead of frantically knitting your gift list items.  Nobody will associate the knitting now with a gift they'll receive in six months.  Even if the recipient sees them now, you're golden!  Lie!  They'll forget by Christmas/Hanukkah.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Coming Trends

Don't you love off-season yarn shopping?  Fill your stash with the stuff you love at prices that remove all power-shopping guilt pangs.  And what about all the summer yarn and fiber fairs, festivals and conferences?  You want to buy the yarn you'll use in your favorite fall styles, but you haven't seen them yet!  What are the coming trends in fashionable knitwear?  There are several, and they're all fun.  (Trends in woven fabrics will differ slightly.  These are knitwear trends.  For trends in off the rack fashion, search "2012 fashion".)

Color:  The summer 2011 palate for knitwear is an "opposites attract" theme.  Vivid colors in soft, thin yarns, and soft colors in thicker, more structured yarns make garments that look fresh for the season.  These color trends soften for fall/winter, with dusty colors in pastel through deep tones.  Crayon brights are not featured, but if you really love them, rock your own personal style!

Coming next spring and fall  (2012) are the joyful colors of Indian saris.  Beautiful jewel tones are blended with one contrasting pastel or light metallic.  These pieces will be on trend in the textures listed below.  In spring/summer, these shades are sometimes separated into layers, and in fall/winter, vivid tones are highlighted by a pastel in the same garment. 

Texture - Summer 2011 is a vista of smooth textures punctuated with a textured statement.  Tight clothes are taking a back seat to tailored fits that are close without being clingy.  A cabled belt over a smooth blouse, or a smooth tank with a textured crocheted wrap or lacy cardigan would be classic look.  Smooth on smooth is always flattering to most figures, but this summer it will look conservative.

Fall/Winter 2011/2012 is moving in the texture direction, becoming more all-over textured, punctuated by smooth, or mixed separates of smooth and textured.  Think boucle with satin, or ruching with smooth slacks.

Spring/Summer 2012 stays with the texture/smooth theme, with layers of contrasting light textures and flowing pants and skirts.  Lots of open weaves and open lacework make for fabrics you want to touch and caress.   Softness rules, with linens and hemps being scrunched, not ironed.
The chunky theme is repeated fall (2011 and 2012) and the trend is evolving.  Things have been trending quietly in this direction for quite a while.  The new stuff is even chunkier, and relies on a mix of longstanding traditions (cables and lace) and dramatic silhouettes.  Think big, dramatic simple geometrics: triangles, rectangles, trapezoids and ovals as silhouettes.  The cables should look deeply carved, and the lace focuses on texture over refinement.  These looks are made with fat yarns on big needles.  (US 11 - 17 and up.) For more fun, hold a strand of two different yarns together.

The fall/winter 2012 theme emphasizes very textured knits all over the place.  Keep your smooth knits in the drawer, and celebrate totally textured garments.  Ribbing, moss stitch, cables, stripes, lace - anything goes as long as it covers an entire garment.  Take the easy way out with this trend, and knit favorite patterns in a more textured yarn - tape, ribbon, faux-fur, beaded, eyelash, boucle, or any specialty finish. 

Designers are showing all-over texture in close fitting styles, which separates them from the chunky trend with the big, showy silhouettes. 

Shape: Shapes are continuing to emphasize curves, and through 2011 will focus on one statement piece and one lean piece.  The statement could be a flowing skirt, with a lean turtleneck, a tailored jacket with a slouchy camisole, or a drapey wrap with an otherwise slim silhouette.

The chunky trend has its own shape, and it's geometric.  Very little softly curving work is being shown outside of scarves and wraps.  It's all kindergarten shapes of square and boxy, straight lines, triangles both normal and inverted.  These garments tend to require only very easy shaping, focusing most of the interest on the wonderful chunky textures.  Doubled, and even tripled yarns make these quick knits.

Going into 2012 and right through winter, shapes become more and more contrast-driven:  big tops with little skirts, little tops with big skirts, big hats with lean knits, chunky sweaters with tiny handbags... Not quite more is more, the mood is pretty attention grabbing. 

Go off season shopping with an eye for what you'll be wearing in the next year or so.  Build up your stash on the colors and textures that will work for you.  Remember that these textured styles take more yarn, so grab about 25% more yarn per garment than usual.  And have a ball!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Surprising New Favorite

Fall 2011 and all of 2012 fashion highlight all-over texture in every garment.  Gorgeous stuff if you're a knitter, to be sure.  But how?  Boucle yarns?  Complex pattern stitches?  I can be kind of predictable in my yarn preferences.  I wouldn't say that I'm in a rut; I'm more diverse than that!  But I don't usually go for a textured yarn, or a particularly chunky yarn.  Usually.

Then, over the weekend, I started playing with Katydid, a fully organic-cotton tape yarn (conventionally dyed) from Classic Elite's Verde Collection.  I had some mixed feelings at first: as beautiful as the colorways are, and as soft yet strong the yarn is, I was out of practice with tape yarns.  Would I find this tape yarn, technically a bulky (though extremely light) awkward?  The long and short of it is, NO!  I was pleasantly surprised to see that Katydid is as easy to knit with as any simple worsted.  Really!  Much of the credit goes to its easy drape and smooth hand.  If you haven't worked with tape yarns before, this is an ideal first choice.

Tape yarns can create rich and beautiful textures without the need for lots of fancy stitching.  Soft yarns often pill and shed, but tape yarns don't, due to the way they're woven.  Katydid has the best of both worlds.  In the swatch below, I worked stockinette, knit-purl alternating, reverse stockinette, yarn overs, and then bobbles.  None of these are difficult stitches, though I understand they may seem complex if you knit them in such close succession.  The question was this: the texture is great on stockinette, but does it enhance other basic stitch work?  My answer is definitely YES!



Tape yarn tips: 
1.  Use the recommended needle size, or larger.  Smaller needles will remove the textured affect.
2.  Use a dowel to hold your yarn.  Like your paper towels, tape yarns are much easier to use if you work the skein from the outside with the ball on a dowel.  Take a spare knitting needle and stick it into a block of styrofoam.  This will keep the ball from rolling around, which can lead to excessive twisting of the yarn.
3.  If you twist the yarn as you work (though the dowel thing makes this unlikely), untwist frequently.  Twisted tape yarns look like standard yarns if they are very twisted during the knitting process. 
4.  Tape yarns are not ideal for garments with negative ease, as they tend to be much less elastic than standard yarns.  If you are making a garment designed to have negative ease, consider sizing up to ensure a good fit. 
5.  If it isn't listed in the pattern, consider doing a cable bind off.  It's a little stretchier, and will make your seams and edges behave like the rest of your garment.

I encourage you to go get some.  Play with it.  It's delightful.  If you're unable to get your hands on Katydid locally, ask your LYS to order some.  Don't want to wait?  It's available online at WEBS, Yarn Barn, and many other shops.  Enjoy!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Should We Knit Superhero Capes?

Yesterday over coffee with my dear friend and assistant, Colleen, I got some interesting news.  Colleen decided that I'm a knitting superhero, Knitgirl, and she is my faithful sidekick, Bobbin.  (Get it?  Batman and Robin?)  I managed to avoid laughing the coffee out through my nose, and thought the idea was delightful.

It makes me wonder about the suit, though.  All superheroes have really distinctive suits, and we would have to be no exception.  (And amazing bodies, but that's not me...)  And would there be a gadget belt to hold notions? 

The image in my head is a kind of younger Miss Marple, Agatha Christie's elderly knitting spinster sleuth.  I would have a cape, like the old British lady, but rather than look like Batman's, it would be more like Sherlock Holmes', or Red Riding Hood.  I'd have a knitting bag, and it would be filled with luxurious needles and yarns, magnificent patterns (by me, of course),  and cookies.  The gadget belt would not only hold notions, it would make me look thinner, and set off the rest of the outfit perfectly.

Bobbin is a younger, curvy and petite woman, allowing her to wear something more form fitting - a knitted silk t-shirt and vest over some well-fitting jeans, perhaps.  Her gadget belt would contain some anti-pilling potion, goggles allowing her to see the fiber of any yarn missing its ball band, and an unlimited Starbucks gift card.

What about the super powers?  I would be able to decipher patterns in a single glance, invisibly pick up a dropped stitch, combine cables and lace with perfect tension, and seat sleeves into shoulders so they'll lay smoothly every time.  I'd always buy exactly as much yarn as I need; never an extra skein, and never one skein short.  I'd be able to untangle the worst mohair knots with ease.  Best of all, anything I knitted would be loved by the recipient - always the right fit, color, and style, every time. 

We would use these skills to help fellow knitters far and wide get maximum enjoyment out of their craft.  Eventually, they would make action figures out of us, and there would be knock-off gadget belts available on eBay. And of course, capes would suddenly be wildly fashionable. 

If only we really were knitting superheroes.  Alas, today I'll be paying for my coffee, and hoping I bought enough yarn to complete this UFO in my lap. It was fun to dream.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Freebie Friday - Luna T

This easy t-shirt is the Freebie today!  Made with Cascade Luna, which is available in 52  colors, you can definitely find the shade that compliments your wardrobe.  The lace repeat is about as easy as such things can get, so it's a quick knit.  Luna, a soft, fluid cotton worsted yarn, has a great texture in the skein which creates a softer look in the finished piece.  If you've never used a yarn that wasn't your standard twist, this is a great one to try - it behaves the same way on the needles as your standard worsted, so no worries there.  Add a little texture to your knitting without using a boucle or ribbon yarn.  Try this!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Going Nuts

Well, I submitted a pattern to Knitty on March 30th for the "Early Fall" "Deep Fall" dates, and I still haven't heard a thing.  I've checked the forums, and lots of folks have received their rejections.  A couple have received acceptances.  I haven't gotten even a maybe.  Is it worse to receive your rejection late?  Yes, it is.  If I'm going to be disappointed, I'd like to do it before spending weeks ripping my hair out.  Just saying.  Bald isn't my best look.

A big chunk of the book went off to the publisher 10 days ago, and I'm waiting to hear what they think.  More stress!  This pattern writing gig is a strange job.  Lots of work.  Lots of meetings and negotiations, lots of math, lots of swatches.  And after all the work, I sit around waiting for news and approval from the publishers.

I like my work.  Creating patterns and sharing them with my students and readers is very fulfilling.  This sitting by the phone/email is not so fulfilling.  Until the day the phone rings, and they say they've accepted a submission.  Then it's like winning the lottery!  If I win, I'll let you know.  And it's addictive.  One acceptance leads to the desire to have two.  Habit forming.  I need a twelve step program.  Soon.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Knitting for Kids - what size?

What size clothing to knit for a child, and how accurate the pattern is to that size, are the two toughest things about knitting for children who don't live with you.  It's fun to give a garment that both the parents and the child will love, and it's even better when the fit is perfect.  "How did you know?" is a great question when everything works.

But how do you know?  Well, there are several good starting points.  The following applies to US sizing. 

In babies (up to 12 months) the child usually fits in garments sized for double their age.  A 2 month old baby wears 4 month clothes.  (I know.  This makes no sense.  It's just how it is.)  If you have any doubt, knit a size larger, or find a way to ask the parents what size the baby is now, and do the math for the anticipated date the child will wear the garment.  A baby who is 4 months old now will be wearing 18-24 month sized garments this fall and winter.

For toddlers, height often dictates size more than anything.  If you can get the height of the child, you're golden.  You can look on sizing charts and make the appropriate size.

For children sizes 6x - 14, or ages 5-12, you need the size they usually wear from the child's parents, or from the child himself.  Depending on how long until you plan to give the garment, you may want to knit the next size up.

This chart is the most thorough and accurate children's size chart for knitting dimensions I've seen, and correlates to most mainstream children's clothes measurements.  The measurements listed are for garments in most of the cases, not for the actual child's body.  Height is an exception.

Now, put it all together.  If the child's height dictates they wear a size 6, and the chest measurement for that size is 25", it's time to check the sweater pattern for its width at the chest.  The garment should be approximately 12.5" wide at the chest, because that means it's 25 inches around total.  Most children's garments fit a little loosely, and that's fine. If the pattern is way off (more than 1.5 inches) make a different size.  Most patterns have schematics showing the exact dimensions of each part of the garment for every size.  Pick the pattern size that has roughly the same measurements as the chart listed above, no matter what the pattern calls that size.  (We've all come across mediums that were really smalls, and mediums that were really extra larges. Disregard the name of the pattern size.  Trust the numbers.)

Remember that children's clothes receive harder wear and more laundering than most adult clothes, and choose your yarns accordingly.  Cottons should be mercerized (controlling shrinkage), wools should be superwash, and acrylics should have a high twist.  Keeping these things in mind will assure that the clothing you knit will be worn and cherished by the child you love.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Buffalo TKGA Auction

The Buffalo Knitting Guild of America chapter held its monthly meeting in the form of their annual yarn auction this week.  It was my first visit, and I had a wonderful time.  Nice people!

It was held in the community room at a local temple, and there were easily 150 members in attendance.  125 yarn lots were sold, for literally pennies on the dollar.  What a bargain!  The auctioneer, Sharon Gerstman, did an entertaining and efficient job of keeping things moving along, which was appreciated by all.

What did I buy?  Well, I didn't buy yarn.  I have a stash that dwarfs my couch at this point, and it seems excessive to add to it when I have so many projects backed up.

That didn't keep me from shopping, though.  I bought pattern booklets, books, and magazines.  13 to be exact. For $9.25.  I know.  All I want to do is dive in head first reading all the articles, and deciphering construction techniques!  (I know, my nerd is showing!  I can't help it.)  There are so many articles and patterns to learn from - it's why I love this craft so much.  The learning curve is infinite.

(This pic is the auction haul plus a few magazines I picked up at the Hub Mills store at Classic Elite on Tuesday.)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Freebie Friday - Mayfaire Cami

How pretty is this?!  I love it.  The pattern is by Corrina Ferguson for Classic Elite Yarns, and it came out late last summer, too late for me to make it before the weather turned here in Buffalo.  This year, though, I have plenty of time. 

In a cotton/silk/nylon blend, it gets the best of all three fibers.  The cotton keeps it cool, the silk keeps it soft and light, and the nylon adds durability. 

Over a skirt, or under a jacket, this is definitely one of my new summer wardrobe staples.  Give it a try!
Download here.

Back From Classic Elite

I'm back from Massachusetts, and had a fabulous visit at Classic Elite Yarns.  As you might think, it's nothing short of knitter's heaven.  Wandering their halls, seeing samples, skeins, sketches, and of course lots of great people made me think I'd walked through the looking glass to the perfect wonderland.

If you haven't been, they're in Lowell, MA in the historic mill district.  Their building is a treasure of a place, and huge!  It's now home to dozens of artist studios, a musicians' studio and music school, a restaurant, their entire company, a yarn shop, and more.  This is several city blocks' worth of interconnected real estate with an 1890's feeling.  Really amazing.  Their "Hub Mills" yarn shop is chock full of their yarns as well as several other very high-end brands making for shopper heaven.  I particularly loved the cashmere display with 6 shelves of cubbies!  I could have died happy just with the shopping.

On to the office of Betsy Perry, the President and sole owner of CEY.  She is a cheerfully dynamic woman, and welcomed me warmly into her office. Her office has huge windows original to the historic building forming one wall, making for a spacious, naturally lit workspace.   Well-placed industrial antiques and turn-of-the-century knitting accessories gave the otherwise efficient room a clear personality and purpose.  We visited about Lowell and her company for a few minutes before getting down to work. 

I showed some sketches of patterns for their recently-added Verde Collection of eco-friendly yarns, and Betsy was very supportive.  We decided to work on a project together with a long ramp-up period. And then it happened.

Judy, an employee charged with trunk show and designer management responsibilities, brought in the fall color cards for Woodland and Chesapeake (limited color cards below).  OMG!  Woodland is a DK wool with nettles, a natural moth and bug retardant.  It's soft with a slight halo, and a faintly marled color absorption.  It comes in cozy, cottage-y colors that are heavenly.  Chesapeake is a worsted 50/50 blend of cotton and merino in richly saturated colors with a distinct marle.  With its high cotton content, it exhibits excellent stitch definition.


Chesapeake -
5903 Mephisto
5903 Mephisto
5904 Scuba Blue
5904 Scuba Blue
5912 Meyer Lemon
5912 Meyer Lemon

5920 Oxford
5920 Oxford
5925 Tokyo Rose
5925 Tokyo Rose
5938 Bracken
5938 Bracken

5948 Bronte Blue
5948 Bronte Blue
5949 Arabian Night
5949 Arabian Night
5955 Shanghai Red
5955 Shanghai Red

5957 True Blue
5957 True Blue
5979 Catawba Grape
5979 Catawba Grape
5981 Tendril Green
5981 Tendril Green

5985 Mandarin Orange
5985 Mandarin Orange
5995 Rosetti Purple
5995 Rosetti Purple
5998 Metro Green
5998 Metro Green

 
Woodland -
3101 Ivory
3101 Ivory
3103 Silver
3103 Silver
3138 Bracken
3138 Bracken

3148 Prussian Blue
3148 Prussian Blue
3150 Sunshine
3150 Sunshine
3155 Carnelian Red
3155 Carnelian Red

3175 Charcoal
3175 Charcoal
3177 Ash
3177 Ash
3185 Orange
3185 Orange

3192 Celestial
3192 Celestial
3195 Violet
3195 Violet
3197 Fern
3197 Fern
 

It's an abundance of riches to have so many exciting yarns in wonderful colors at hand.  Where to start?  After some deliberation I realized I can start anywhere.  It's all that good.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Classic Elite Visit

I'm so excited!  I'm visiting Classic Elite Yarns in Lowell, MA today, and I can't wait!  Not technically a manufacturer any longer, they distribute yarns made to their specifications in colorways they have designed.  I've used many of their yarns, and have a longstanding love affair with Alpaca Sox in particular.

I'm looking at eco-friendly yarns for my next major design project, and they have the wonderful Verde line.  Eco-friendly yarns are as durable and beautifully colored as conventionally processed yarns, and they have a wonderful "feel good" factor for doing a good deed.  In Classic Elite's case with Verde, they also have STYLE!  I'm hoping to create a design relationship with them, and give you some free patterns using these yarns.  I've been swatching with Sprout and Solstice (both great for children's things and baby blankets), and can't wait to break out into Katydid (tape style yarn) with all of its textural possibilities. 

Look at these!  I know, gorgeous.  And with 5 of 7 recommended for spring/summer, now is the time!

Verde Collection
Allegoro
Light
Spring
Verde Collection
Chesapeake
Medium
Fall
Verde Collection
Katydid
Medium
Spring
Verde Collection
Seedling
medium
Spring
Verde Collection
Solstice
Medium
Spring
Verde Collection
Sprout
Bulky
Spring
Verde Collection
Woodland
Light
Fall
I'll tell you how it goes, andif it goes really well, brace yourself for an onslaught of kid patterns!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Off to Massachusetts

This week the blog will be a little light.  I'm off to Massachusetts for inspiration, and to meet with Classic Elite Yarns at their HQ in Lowell, MA.  Have you tried their new Verde yarns yet?  Cool stuff.  I particularly like the Woodland, a wool/nettle blend.  Baby soft, and nettles are natural bug retardents.  Soft wool without moth issues makes for years of wear.  LOVE!