To join in the round invisibly, cast on one more stitch than your pattern calls for. Then, when you’re ready to join in the round, slip this extra stitch to the left needle. Using the working yarn and the yarn tail held together, knit the first two stitches together. Now drop the tail and knit as you normally would.
Archive for the ‘Tips & Techniques’ Category
J. learned the lesson of stitch markers the hard way. Here, he shares with us how he fell in love with lace, and the stitch markers that kept him knitting.
My girlfriend, Katy, likes to say I started knitting lace because I didn’t know any better. I had been knitting for a few months; cowls, hats, scarves, a pair of baby socks, mostly stockinette, seed stitch and a few passes at colorwork. I’m a true process knitter and I have yet to knit anything for myself. But somewhere there’s a scarf ”for me” that’s not even halfway done. I took a peek at one of the Haapsalu books at WEBS and was so intrigued with lace that I had a dream I made a shawl for a friend. The next morning I woke up and searched for my first lace project.
I chose the Mariposa Shawl by Marisa Hernandez. I bought a cone of 2/14 Alpaca Silk, a set of circular needles, and then went home. I knew nothing about knitting lace so most of the stitches were foreign to me; and lace tab cast on seemed like such a strange thing. After many trials, I got myself through the first few rows. I had moved from pattern reading to chart reading and then I got to Row 23. Time to really check my work because the next chart was about to begin and I wanted to be sure that things lined up. One side was beautiful while the other was certainly not a mirror of that at all. I hadn’t used lifelines or stitch markers – I was totally heartbroken.
I scoured the internet and learned the error of my ways. I walked into WEBS knowing that I wanted stitch markers, but somehow I clearly missed just how they work. Leslie Ann very patiently explained how to use them. It honestly was about fifteen minutes of my saying “What happens to them in the next row?” and her replying, “They’ll be there, right where you need them. Trust me.” It wasn’t until the walk home that it all clicked. I started the project over, placed markers and fell back in love with lace.
That project has long been off the needles and I’m working on yet another lace pattern. I was a little cavalier and started with only edge and center markers. I promised myself that I’d add markers after the second chart – most of the charts for this project are relatively short. When it came time to add my markers, Katy held up her current project and there they were. I thought I was sunk. Then the Clover Triangle Stitch Markers came in at WEBS. I love these stitch markers!
Why triangles? They’re easier to put your needle through when you’re slipping them between repeats. The triangle shape creates an opening that you can always find which can be quite a relief when your pattern has all of those fiddly lace stitches. The bright colors are also highly visible in any work. My first set of stitch markers, that are currently residing in Katy’s project, are black (the Bryspun Sock and Lace Rings). While they are dear to me because they are the set that got me through my first lace project, the visibility of the Clover Triangles is definitely a benefit. There are those that will say, “I can make my own stitch markers,” and they are correct, but nothing equals a tool that is designed so well for its purpose. A great tool that makes your work that much easier is well worth the money.
You get the Yarn Pop Commuter and Mini Commuter. When I first worked in the store at Webs, customers would bring in their patterns, sometimes tattered and illegible, when they searched for yarn. Nowadays, most of our clientele has moved their pattern library onto their iPad, Kindle, iPhone, or Android device. And why not? Technology has it all over in the world of fiber. Check out this blog post by my co-worker, J, on the many, many apps, tricks, and techniques that knitters and crocheters can use on their notebook computer. Wouldn’t it be great to carry your iPad or Mini around in a case that also holds your needles, scissors, and stitch markers? Yarn Pop, maker of great totes and project bags, has come to the rescue again with the Commuter and the Mini Commuter.
It comfortably holds an iPad or Mini securely in a clear plastic case that allows fingertip access, and has a dedicated space protected by a microfiber panel, for circular and double-pointed needles. The handy zipper pocket even holds a small skein of yarn or the beginning of a project so you can knit on the go. I think the best use for this ingenious gadget sherpa is to carry along with your project bag, so that your pattern, tools, and yarn is right at your fingertips. No more screen scratches from an errant needle, no more guessing at yardage because you don’t have your pattern with you at the LYS. There’s a Mini version for e-readers and the new iPad Mini, in great patterns as well.
Our store associate, Suzette, has some great tips for washing and storing your knitwear.
When warm weather hits in late May or early June, it is time to put hand-knit woolens away for the summer. It is an active time of year for the small gray wool moths, and I have way too many sweaters! Here are a few tips I have come up with to make the process a little easier and more pleasant.
First, I sort through the pile, setting aside all the ones I know I have worn a fair amount. Moths love to munch where any food has splattered, so being a cook, I always include the sweater I was wearing to cook Thanksgiving Dinner. I hold each one up to the light to make sure there are not any holes already. If I find one, I carefully stitch it up using a matching cotton thread and a sewing needle. I find it easier to use thread because it is thinner, and I have made many invisible mends right in the fronts of cherished old sweaters. It is important to do this mending before you wash them so the holes don’t get larger. With any luck, you won’t find any holes.
I always end up with about 12 sweaters to wash, so I start early in the morning on a dry sunny day. I have a top loading washing machine, so I fill it with cold water and pour in about 3-4 tablespoons of Eucalan wool wash. This product is fabulous because it restores some of the natural lanolin to the fibers and it doesn’t have to be rinsed out. I turn the machine off and put in about 6 sweaters, pushing them down with my hands until they stay well under the water. After letting them soak for 30 minutes, I push them down a few more times, and turn the machine to the final spin cycle (no agitation!) The sweaters emerge clean and ready to be put outside in the sun. Then I put in the second load of 6 sweaters. If I am hand washing just a few sweaters in the sink, I soak them for the same 30 minutes and then carry them in a dishpan to the washing machine to spin them out. The final spin gets a lot of the water out and the sweaters dry much more quickly. Of course there is the roll it up in a towel and jump on it method too!
To save having sweaters drying flat on towels on every floor of my house, I spread a canvas drop cloth or tarp in a sunny spot outside and lay the sweaters out, patting them into shape. I usually turn them over once, and they dry in around 4 hours. I have never had any trouble with fading, but of course, something very delicate might be better off inside. So at the end of the afternoon all the sweaters are clean and dry
and ready for storage.
Any tight storage container will do. I use plastic storage bins and plastic bags that I close tightly with twist ties. Moth-balls are very effective, but I really can’t stand the smell, so at the top of each bin or bag I place two or three pieces of cedar wood. I bought a package of thin cedar boards (which are designed for lining a cedar closet) at Lowes*. I sawed them into 8 inch lengths – they would probably cut them for you for a small fee. I did use a little 150 grit sand paper to smooth off the corners so they wouldn’t poke through the bags. I have reused these same pieces of cedar for many years. If the smell fades, I just rub them with a little sand paper to reactivate the oils in the wood. When I open the bags in the fall, the sweaters smell fresh, and the cedar aroma fades quickly.
* Ever True 4 foot Aromatic Red Cedar Wall Panel Molding – $29.78- plenty of wood!
Amazon also sells cedar products, including drawer liners for around $11.00 but there is much less wood.
Many projects like gloves and socks require you to pick up stitches and then continue knitting. Your pattern may call for you to pick up 15 stitches, but you know you’ll have a big gap if you follow those directions exactly. This can be easily fixed!
Pick up one extra stitch at the space where you suspect a gap will form. On your next round, make sure you decrease by 1 stitch to remove that extra stitch. There are many types of decreases, but usually a simple “knit 2 together” will work fine. These gaps usually form in discreet places on a project like between the fingers of a glove or on the side of a sock.
Reading crochet charts can seem daunting to a crocheter that’s never used one before, but they’re not as scary as you might think. Crochet charts are a map of your stitches, they are a visual guide to the stitches you need to create.
The first thing to do is familiarize yourself with the standard crochet symbols, these are the symbols you’ll see in every charted design, no matter what language the written pattern is published in! The Craft Yarn Council has a great list of the most commonly used symbols on their site. You’ll notice that most of the symbols have a physical resemblance to their stitch counterparts.
As with anything new start simple and familiarize yourself with the process before tackling more complicated projects. Let’s walk through a small swatch in one of the most basic stitches, single crochet.
Here we have a simple, single crochet swatch.
The written pattern:
To begin: Ch16
Row 1: Turn, 1sc in 2nd ch from hook, 1sc in ea ch across
Row 2: Ch1, turn, 1sc in ea sc across.
Repeat Row 2 three times more. Fasten off.
The charted pattern:
You’ll see that the charted pattern builds upwards from the foundation chain just like your swatch.
Each row begins with a number that tells you which row you are on and alternate rows change color to help you see which stitches are part of that row and to avoid confusion between rows.
When you compare the chart with the swatch you can see the tail from where you began the chain in the bottom left corner which corresponds to the “Start” symbol and the tail from where you fastened off in the upper left corner which corresponds to the “End” symbol.
Take your time and build your experience. The Complete Book of Crochet Stitch Designs by Linda P. Schapper is a great resource for transitioning to using charts. Each stitch pattern includes an image of the pattern, the written version of the pattern as well as the chart.
What’s your favorite tip for reading crochet charts?
Katie was working on these bibs when she realized she had a better solution for the closure. Putting a bib on a wiggly baby isn’t the easiest thing to do; you usually have to use two hands to snap the bib in place. For these, Katie decided to use Magnetic Tote Bag Closures instead! This is a fantastic idea. You can put the bib around the baby’s neck with one hand, and the magnets match up to each other with only a little help. This technique doesn’t have to be limited to bibs either. Almost any project needing a closure can use these magnetic closures instead of buttons or snaps.
For these bibs, Katie used Plymouth Jeannee Worsted. The pattern is Crochet Baby Bib by NeedleNoodles.
Of course, like any project using small parts, be sure to keep an eye on your little one when they’re wearing their bib!
Many new knitters find reading charts to be intimidating, but it’s actually quite easy once you break it down. It’s just like reading written directions.
What about all of the symbols? Do they all mean a different stitch?
Just like familiarizing yourself with the stitch abbreviations in the written portion of the pattern you’ll want to get to know your stitch symbols. Take a moment to look at the stitch Legend. Every symbol you see in the chart is there and the Legend explains what each symbol means.
Working in the right Direction
In most cases, you read your chart from right to left on the first row. You’ll notice that when you’re working a pattern in rows that the Row numbers appear staggered on each side of the chart.
If the Row number is on the right hand side of the pattern then this row is worked right-to-left. If the number appears on the left hand side of the chart then this row is worked from left-to-right.
When I’m working from charts, I find it really helpful to color the different stitches. It’s easier for me to glance for a color than the symbol. Plus, it’s just fun to color!
(A sticky note or highlighter tape is a great way to keep track of and easily follow which row you’re working on too.)
Use Your Stitch Markers
Often, a chart won’t have the entire piece charted out, just the stitches on either edge and the small section of stitches you repeat across the row. Adding markers at the beginning/end of every repeat makes it easy to keep track of where you are and makes it obvious when to stop the repeat.
Do you have any tips for reading knitting charts?
Greta has a tip for us this week about counting your rows. Counting rows in stockinette stitch is pretty easy. You simply count each little “V” stitch you see. Counting garter stitch rows is trickier since we don’t have all those little V’s to count anymore; they’ve been replaced with wide bumps. The solution is simple! Each ridge counts as two rows. To keep track, put a locking stitch marker in the first ridge of your piece and that counts as your first 2 rows. Then you can count by two’s going up the piece where each garter ridge equals 2 rows. This is also good for projects that aren’t entirely in garter stitch because the stitch marker also marks which side is your “right side”. This makes it easier to keep track since the “right side” and “wrong side” of garter stitch are identical.
It can be hard to translate runway fashion into our everyday lives. (After all, can you really see yourself wearing Alexander McQueen’s over-the-top heels to your 9-5 office job?) Designers put their spin on oversized garments for the Fall/Winter 2012/2013 season, and the trend shows no sign of stopping as breezy blouses, dolman-sleeved tops and easy sundresses now fill the racks of stores everywhere. Positive ease makes positively perfect sense for warmer weather, so how to explore this look with your knitting?
Raid the men’s section like Katie did! This is Fairbank from Rowan Dalesmen. Men’s patterns are a great way to add ease and a relaxed feel to your wardrobe, since they eschew the waist shaping that many women’s patterns favor. Bonus: You can borrow from a man in your life to have twice the clothes to choose from! Katie balances the masculine nature of the vest by adding a cute necklace, bright tights and heels, while her menswear-inspired hat matches the vest. Those tights (love the tights!) coupled with the shorts show off her legs and draw the viewer’s eyes down her body, which further helps to keep everything proportionate.
A loose, oversized cardigan can take you from day-to-night with a quick change of styling. Theresa, our Customer Service Supervisor, knit this gorgeous Creature Comforts Cardi and graciously let me borrow it for the shoot. For a daytime work look, I paired the cardigan with a sleek pencil skirt and a waist cinching belt–the combination highlights the smallest part of the body and helps the cardi look chic-ly loose rather than sloppy. When the clock hits 5 and it’s time to head into Northampton for a date, slip on some skinny jeans and untuck the shirt for a more casual, but still put together outfit.
Here are my top tips for rocking an oversized knit:
- Opposites attract. Try and pair your oversized piece with slimmer ones to provide contrast and show off your shape. A vest like Katie’s can work with voluminous trouser pants that properly fit in the waist and when paired with a fitted blouse, so don’t feel like you always need to reach for the tightest clothing you own.
- When in doubt, wear your favorites and then add a new garment. You already know that your stand-by sheath dress is a winner, so why would a swingy cardigan suddenly change that? If you’re confident in what you’re wearing you’ll exude that same confidence all day long.
- Start small. Add a large shawl like Color Affection to get comfortable playing around with volume, or another accessory of your choice.
- Educate yourself! Amy Herzog’s Knit to Flatter is a great tool to help learn more about your body shape and how to best flatter it. The book includes patterns, fashion advice and tips on how to modify patterns to better suit your body. And Amy has weekly ‘Fashion Friday’ posts on her blog where she showcases different outfits while explaining what works and what doesn’t.
For more inspiration, check out these other oversized patterns: VersaciKnits’ Suit, Manos del Uruguay’s Mirkwood, Blue Sky Alpaca’s Smock Top and multiple patterns from Berroco’s Norah Gaughan Collection Volume 12. Pay attention to how the model is styled–would you wear it like she does? What part of the body is highlighted or downplayed by the garment and the styling choices? Pick the right pattern for you and join the oversized bandwagon! I’ll save you a seat next to me.