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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?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Knitting 101 - Knit and Purl

Perfect Stockinette in Cotton from Knit-together.com
Knitting 101 is an educational knitting series designed to take your knitting to a new level with ease.  Just like world-class musicians still play scales every day, expert knitters practice basic skills.  January's Knitting 101 skill is mastering the knit and purl combination.  If you knit the entire skill-building series, by the end of the year you will have significantly improved your knitting skill and confidence.  We will be improving our skills by swatching.  Swatches are like so many basics we've learned in our lives; sometimes we let them fade away into the background.  In this Knitting 101 series, we're going to swatch all the skills that make knitting the wonderful art that it is. 

The knit and the purl stitches are the building blocks for all the rest of knitting.  Let's brush up to make every stitch uniform in size, tension, and texture.  Look at some of your stockinette knitting.  If your purl stitches don't look like your knit stitches, or if your stitches have one thin side and one thick side, or if your stitches have a little twist at the bottom, you know you have a problem. 
Simple Knit and Purl Swatch Exercise



If you hate knitting in silk, cotton, or other un-stretchy yarns, you may have a problem.  If you discover your stitches or rows are not all the same size, you may have a problem.  If you have no concern, do the exercise anyway!

More often than not the problem with stockinette knitting is the purl stitch method, so here's a video for a refresher.  If you knit in the American style, also known as "throwing", this is the method for you.  It's available at knittinghelp.com. 

http://www.knittinghelp.com/video/play/the-purl-stitch-english-English

If you knit in the Continental style, also known as "picking", this is the purling method for you.  It's from allfreekintting.com.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58BLppajAyo

The fastest way to learn to make perfectly even stitches with even tension is to work with a very unforgiving yarn.  Most cottons will work well for this purpose.  Use size 5 needles and  DK weight yarn or US weight 3.  Go with a solid color, and work with a yarn that has absolutely no give to it.  This will quickly reveal any unevenness in tension, structure, or skill.

Seed Stitch

Cast on 30 stitches, and work alternate knit and purl rows (stockinette stitch)  until you have a beautiful, smooth piece of knitting at least 4 inches long.  If that means you need to knit a total of 9 inches to get to 4 smooth inches, knit 9. 

When your swatch looks good to you, bind off.  Start a new one working a basic knit/purl pattern.  There are several available here: http://knittingwithkarma.blogspot.com/p/clothsquare-charts.html  Or, you can use the Vogue Knitting Basic Stitch Patterns page to make up a square.  Seed stitch is always good practice.  Make at least one full square of your pattern, whatever the chosen dimension is, and if you feel it isn't as smooth and neat as you'd like, knit another one.  (Remember, everything looks better after blocking!)

If you're a new knitter, it will take you a fair amount of practice to produce swatches you are proud of.  This is normal!  If you start with cotton, you will quickly learn to identify your mistakes, as yarns with no give and no halo (fuzz around the main strand) make every mistake really stand out.  This makes them much easier to correct!  Try it.  You'll love it!
 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

First Freebie of 2014

It's been a long time since I brought you another great, free pattern.  Sorry!  I will return to Freebie Fridays at least once a month for the next year.

I've searched high and low, and found one that is well written, and adorable!  If you're a fan of the Scottie dog, knitting a toy for a child, or allergic to dogs and this is the only way you'll be able to own one, this pattern is for you.  It's called Radley Dog.  Make it on US Size 4 needles with DK or light worsted wool.  It comes to us from UK Hand Knitting, alongside over a dozen other charming free patterns.  Enjoy!

 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Yarns Storage: Part 2

kitchen scale
In the last article, we discussed some of the materials you'll want to have on hand to organize your stash for better storage and efficient stash dives.  You'll need the zipper bags for each skein or for groups of several skeins.  You'll need index cards, plastic bins or boxes or bags, and a kitchen scale that weighs in grams.  Bins are available at major department stores ($3-$15) as are kitchen scales ($18-$40).  Zipper bags are available at the grocer, or in a variety of sizes in large quantities on line.  (I find the online resources to be cheaper.)

Everyone knits differently, and works on different projects.  This will have an effect on the larger storage choices, but the smaller packaging I recommend will be the same.  The yarn needs to be clean and dry, and you need to bag it in dry circumstances (not on a rainy day near an open window!)  Lay out your bags, yarn, index cards, and a Sharpie marker.

Each individual skein or group of skeins in a particular dye lot needs to go into its own bag.  So if you have 4 skeins of Mountain Colors Bearfoot in Juniper colorway, they'll all go into the same plastic bag.  Or, if you have 2 full skeins and a partial skein of Bearfoot, they will also go in the same bag.  The total contents of each bag should be weighed on the kitchen scale.  The bag contents will be listed on an index card in large, bold writing as follows:

Mountain Colors Bearfoot

zip close bags
Juniper
426 grams total

If your stash is large, you'll want to squeeze all the air out of the bag before you close it.  Most skeins are almost 1/2 air!  Squeezing it out gives you more storage room.  (Don't worry, it bounces back after a few hours out of the bag.)  The purpose of the big printing on the index cards is that it's easier to read than a ball band, and gives you all the information in one place. 

Now, the question I'm always asked at this point is, "Why do we have to weigh everything?"  Because you can tell how much yardage you have by knowing the weight.  If your yarn gives you 200yds per 50g, you do the math and get 4yds per gram.  Now, however many grams are listed on the index cards multiplied by the number of yards per gram = how much yardage you have in your stash.  Exact yardage is great to know before you start a new project.  The pattern will tell you how much yarn it needs, and you know at a glance whether you have enough.

If you're on Ravelry, you don't need to do the math for your yardage.  The "Stash" function keeps track of it all for you.  And you don't need to look into your stash boxes, either.  Click on the yarn name in your "Stash" list, and you can locate a photo of the yarn!

Group yarns as you wish.  I choose to group by weight and by fiber.  Worsted cotton has a bin, worsted alpaca is in another, and worsted wools are in another.  (My stash is embarrassingly huge!)  Other people group by color, manufacturer, season, or whether it's machine or hand spun. 

Doing all of this takes some time.  You may not want to do it all in one sitting, or even one weekend.  But when you're finished, your stash will be compact, safe from pests, smells, and other contaminates, and neat.  What more can a knitter ask for?