My latest articles for KNITmuch! Click on the photos to follow through to the articles.
My latest articles for KNITmuch! Click on the photos to follow through to the articles.
One of the most invaluable skills I learned about early was yarn substitutions. I was extremely lucky and am very happy the way I went around learning to knit. It was totally on accident as well. I was looking up patterns for my first sweater project when I saw a pattern that I LOVED! I had to have it immediately, but it was only available in the book.
This happened to be Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Seamless Hybrid Sweater. This was published in Knitting without Tears, which was first published June 1971. I went out looking for this book at bookstores; checked if I could order it from Chapters etc. No such luck, it was re-printed 1995 as a Fireside paperback edition. I gave up on bookstores after discovering that some yarn stores carried books (don’t judge me, this was in my knitting infancy). I ended up finding it at the third store I checked and promptly bought it and headed back home. I had already seen the yarn requirements from Ravelry, and wanted to cast on immediately.
If anyone has ever read an EZ pattern, you will know that it is a little more difficult than just casting on 98 stitches and doing the ribbing. On one hand, I had not expected this and was slightly annoyed, but on the other hand, it really made me THINK. It gave me that fundamental understanding of gauge and how it worked. There are instructions on how to measure your store bought sweaters and work with a swatch and those numbers to specifically get the perfect size for yourself!
Knowing this now, I always use a witch-crafty combination of checking my actual gauge and what size I want the garment to be and comparing the patterns gauge and what the expected outcomes will be. This might sound confusing, but it allows me to measure a well fitting sweater and figure out how many stitches I would have to cast on (at my current gauge) to get that size. Then I look at the pattern and check if that is a legitimate size.
This process definitely sounds overly complicated, and it totally is. There are much easier ways of checking your gauge, BUT what happens when you have a totally different yarn size and the pattern gauge is just not going to hack it?
I am actually re-writing a pattern for a friend right now. She chose a smaller yarn size than the pattern calls for and it is an all-over cable style. This was not too bad; I just had to take the measurements of the sweater and her gauge swatch and apply it to the pattern. If pattern has to be a multiple of 8 for the cables to work out (I am just using random numbers for the example) and the number of stitches is 200, then you’re golden! It is a little bit trickier with cables, because 8 stitches cabled is not the same as 8 stitches in stockinette; but I digress and there is a formula for that!
I think this book deserves it’s own place in my Technical Tuesday posts, because it built an AMAZING foundation for learning about gauge. If there is one knitting book I would prompt someone to read, it would be this one. Elizabeth Zimmerman was a clever, witty woman and I think I can lay at least part of my open-mindedness in knitting at her door.
I know this might sound obvious, but in order to knit… you need to take care of your hands. The idea for this post came to me the other day while I was knitting. I had a hangnail that kept bothering me when I was working with some really soft yarn. It made me feel like I had crypt-keeper hands, but just moisturizing wasn’t enough.
Since I work with a lot of fibre, paper and my hands are always in and out of water, I need to pay a little more attention than most. I find it is usually my cuticles or the skin around my fingernails that gets really dry. When I am working with soft or fluffy yarn, like mohair, I really notice this. In the past year, I’ve had an abnormally high amount of manicures. There were weddings, showers and parties that called for getting all dressed up. Now that I’ve gone without a manicure for four-ish months, I am really noticing the benefit of getting them. I’m not even talking about going out to your salon and paying for one, but the kind you give yourself at home in your own living room.
First and foremost is moisturizer! Some fibres will dehydrate your skin a little bit, but use your judgement; if you know working with cotton causes your hands to dry out, be proactive about it! Wool naturally comes coated with lanolin, if you’ve ever felt unprocessed wool before you will know what I am talking about. To totally break it down, lanolin is the grease that comes from sheep fleece. It’s a natural moisturizer and is actually bottled and sold. Recently I have seen wool wash that has been augmented with lanolin; to bring fresh life to your wool sweaters. I digress, any fibre with a natural amount of lanolin will help keep your hands healthy.
Giving a little extra love to your hands is never a bad thing either. I make sure to keep my nails in check. Filing down sharp edges and making sure they aren’t too long, without reason. Your hands help you to make beautiful things take care of them!
Stretching before every knitting session is another great way to take care of your hands and prevent injury. Whether we know it or not, knitting and crochet take muscles, be sure to acknowledge that with a few pre-crafting stretches. Going hand in hand with stretching is taking breaks. I am as guilty as anyone for getting into a groove and knitting straight through a couple hours, but at the end, my hands are sore. Taking a few breaks really helps me realize when I just need to stretch my hands and perhaps apply a bit of ice.
Among all these tips, the last thing I will say is to use ergonomic tools and techniques. If a technique isn’t working out for you, then change it up. Hold the yarn in the other hand, learn how to knit Portuguese style, or continental. There are also many tools that are being re-invented to become more ergonomic. Take notice, but also do your due diligence; read reviews etc to see if these tools are legitimate before trusting completely!
I have heard a lot of people talk about how the feet are the most underappreciated part of the body. We walk on them all day and put them into uncomfortable shoes, but they still manage to carry us to most of the places we want. I wouldn’t say that our hands are the absolute most treasured extremity, but we do put them through a lot as well. Over all I would say to take care of yourself in general, but a little extra love on your hands would never go amiss.
Whenever I tell people about knitting, I always get the ‘Oh, I would never have the patience for that,” or “I could never do that.” I always say to never say never because I am sure there was a time when I would have looked at some of my current knitting and thought I would never be able to do something like that. Actually, I am 100% sure; I can even remember thinking that about the Fiddlehead Mittens. I got the kit for my birthday and put off starting them for a really long time. I didn’t want to mess them up and ruin the whole kit. I finally just got tired of NOT having those mittens and went for it.
Regardless, it can be overwhelming when you’re ready to take the plunge and knit, but have no idea where to start. I am going to scatter good beginner videos throughout the post, but the first advice I always give people is to pick a project. Lately, the projects have been dishcloths. They are one of the first things people mention, ‘my grandmother used to hand-knit us dishcloths, they were always the best ones.’ This is perfect because it is just a square! The best material for a dishcloth is cotton, or something else that says it lends itself well to dishcloths. If you’re in a big box store like Michael’s, sometimes the labels give advice for the kind of project that yarn is best suited for. If you’re in a local yarn store, just ask. The owners and employees will definitely know what you’re looking for as well as being able to set you up with all the right needles etc.
If you don’t really know what you want to knit, but you know you want to knit something, start on Ravelry. It’s free to join and there are 1000’s of free patterns on there. The most useful part about Ravelry, after you get sucked down the black hole of patterns and finally choose one, is it tells you what you need for it! What kind of yarn, needles, type, size and even where to buy such things.
There are also tonnes of groups to find other knitters with common interest. There are groups ranging from people within a geographic area to those with common TV interests. There are groups there for beginner knitters to ask questions and even suggest good first-time projects.
For the most part, YouTube is your friend. If you’re ever looking at a pattern and it is telling you to do something you haven’t heard of, look it up! Just Google the term, or search for it directly on YouTube. There is information out there and you just have to reach out and ask for it. If you are someone who needs to sit with another person and be shown something, reach out to your local knitting store. A lot of places will run classes you can take or will definitely know where you can find them.
There are rich resources and a real sense of community out there if you just know where to look for it! Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions because, trust me, we have all been there. I am also always available for email consultation about knitting, problems, pretences and parties!! 😉
The past few Technical Tuesday’s have been a little heavier with colours and how to make them work, so today I am going back to basics. One thing that always surprises me is how often I refer to a slipknot and people say “a what?” It has even happened once or twice with other knitters. I use a slipknot every time I start a project, or have to tie a knot in general.
You may not have known what it is called, but a slipknot is the first thing you generally learn when you’re first starting out. You have to tie the yarn onto the needle in order to cast on. There are a few cast on’s that don’t require a slipknot or have clever ways around it.
Jenny’s Magic Cast On, for instance, does not require a slipknot. The theory being that it is still a knot and this one would be at the toe of your socks. Usually the slipknot’s themselves are invisible, so it isn’t a problem of seeing a huge ugly knot on your hem-line.
All the basic skills that are out there, this one is the foundation of knitting. All knitters and crotchetiers use it and, if you’re someone who is just starting out, this is the place to start.
Now we get to the part where people are curious! How does your gauge affect the colours you are knitting with? Terms like ‘pooling’ will no longer hold fear for you here!!
When I went to Vogue Knitting Live in New York, one of the classes I took focused on using dip dyed yarn to make a pattern. There was no switching of yarns or anything, just math. This technique makes the yarn pool in a pattern. The best example I have of this is the snuggle sack I made my nephew when he was born.
The yarn was variegated within itself and my gauge just happened to be the magic number to make this pattern appear. I didn’t do it on purpose and when someone asked me how they could replicate it, I wasn’t able to answer their question. Another one that happened more recently was this pair of Paul’s socks.
They look striped, but that is just the gauge I hit. When I started the second sock, it wasn’t pooling the same; it turns out I had cast on a different number of stitches. Those two socks looked very different and that is what clued me in to my mistake!
Sometimes this isn’t always a mistake though. If you’re knitting a sweater and the body is 200 stitches, your sleeves are only going to be 40 stitches (these are rough ball parks, not in reference to a specific pattern). This means the body will look radically different from the sleeves.
This swatch has a different amounts of stitches from the sock above, but it is the same yarn. If you’re counting on the yarn to pool the same, you’re going to have to do some fancy math. In this instance, what I would do is to attach two balls of yarn to the body of the sweater and alternate balls every two rows. This will allow the pattern to be truly random and if you do the same on the sleeves, the colours should be mixed up enough that you won’t be able to notice a difference.
There are much easier ways to get around this. If you’re using a variegated yarn, you can always pair it with a solid colour. The solid colour will break up any unfortunate pooling. I bought some yarn online once; I thought it was mostly blue with a little bit of variegated colour in it. When I ended up getting it, the yarn was completely variegated. I got a sweater’s worth of the yarn and if I made a regular stockinette stitch sweater, it would have looked like a rainbow threw up on me. Needless to say, I have thought long and hard about what I am going to do with this sweater. I am going to make it a pattern of variegated with a solid. Now I just need the time to get around to doing it!