Monday Mishaps: Needs More Coffee

If there is a huge problem with you knitting, the answer is obviously that you need more coffee, right? I mentioned before that I had spilled my coffee all over when I was knitting on the Crazy Striped Cardi, but that was perhaps an example of too much coffee. I am going to lay out a couple shorter stories about time when I could have used more, or less, coffee for my knitting.
With the Crazy Striped Cardi, I was sitting in the morning, next to computer with my knitting and pattern. This is a familiar morning ritual for me; some quiet time before I start my day. It was going as well as a pattern full of short rows and an early morning can go when I reached for my cup of coffee and knocked it over. It spilled everywhere, luckily missing the top of my computer. I jumped up and got a towel to wipe off the bottom of my computer case and picked up my pattern. The pattern was still legible, but obviously ruined; I will tell you with complete honesty that the pattern marker didn’t move an inch through all the coffee and rough handling as I tried to dry it off.

Coffee Issue

I didn’t notice until later that I had actually gotten some of the coffee on the sweater itself. I can’t exactly wash it when I am half way through knitting it, so whenever someone commented on the stain, I just told them that I could block that out with any sweater problems.
A couple examples of when I could have used more coffee include when I have been blocking. My washing machine has a wool cycle, so when I am blocking things, which are super wash, I put them on the wool cycle of the washer with a little bit of soak. This works perfectly for me because the cycle doesn’t agitate it at all, the drum simply fills with water and it slowly rocks from side to side. There is even a section of this wash cycle where it allows the garment to soak in the water before it drains the water out.

Shawl

After the cycle is done, I will get my garment and pin it out on a towel to block. The last TWO TIMES I have blocked anything, I completely forgot I had a knitted garment soaking. I left my green shawl in there for a good few hours. Luckily it was all balled up and scrunched so it didn’t start to dry while in the washer. If I had to guess, I would say I forgot about it for about five hours; just left it there. Knitters everywhere had a collective aneurism at the thought.
One more example of a need for coffee, or perhaps just more sleep, is when I started the Crazy Striped Cardi ribbing on the hem. You have to knit along a stripe of about 27 stitches then pick up 120 then continue knitting along other stitches that were held. As complex as this sounds, it really wasn’t too bad. It was just a hell of a lot of stitches. Knit one round plain, purl one round plain, then start the ribbing. It is a 1X1 ribbing done on size 3.25mm needles; needless to say it took me a second to pick up the rhythm of it. I was also using the Addi needles I have because I didn’t have a circular needle with a cord long enough and a gauge small enough to pick up the hem. Using unfamiliar needles and 1X1 ribbing a hundred billion stitches, it was not the most fun I’ve ever had in knitting. Along the second row of the ribbing I noticed that I had a seed stitch going instead of a ribbing. Smacking myself in the head I started looking back to see where I had gone wrong, I had actually messed up my foundation row and put two purls together instead of a knit and a purl. This was an easy fix though; I un-knitted back to those two purls and just purled two together and kept going like it was nothing at all.

1X1 Ribbing

It’s the small mistakes that happen the most and there is usually something that can be done about them, but the huge mistakes that involve very elaborate corrections are usually better to write about. I think I will end up trying to do a small anthology of stories like this once a month. Otherwise I might lose my mind trying to think of huge mistakes I’ve done. Let’s be honest too, if I had a huge mistake once a week, I would probably put all my knitting in time out, cover my ears and rock in a corner.

Technical Tuesday: Steam Blocking

As promised here is my post about steam blocking! While wet blocking is a wonderful thing and has it’s place in knitting, so does steam blocking. The first and most important thing is to understand how to steam block!

This is by far the best video I have found! I really loved the part where she showed us how to make a latte with her steamer. I should note that an iron will work as well; there is no need to run out and buy a steamer. As awesome as they are…

I use steam blocking specifically for lopi sweaters and anything with texture. If you have a garment with a lot of texture, such as a shell pattern or a wide rib, the wet blocking with make it lay completely flat. This could have the adverse effect of making you garment bigger than you want and taking the oomph out of your stitch pattern.

In this case, I take my iron, put it on steam and iron out anything that needs to be adjusted. Make sure you place something between your knitting and your iron, after you have worked so hard on a garment you don’t want to lose it to an ironing incident. Also be aware of your fiber content! There are usually different types of heat levels for different fibers.

Another way to utilize steam blocking is when you are about to seam something together. The following video explains it fairly well.

In the video, she says she continually steams her lace to see how it looks. I personally am a subscriber to the other school of thought. I like it to be a surprise; when you are knitting lace, it always looks like a snarled mess until you block it. I like to be surprised!

With lopi sweaters I learned the importance of steam blocking along the seams. I made a sweater for a friend and the arm and shoulder seams were a bit tight. I brought it to my ironing board and just applied tension and steam, worked like a charm. The sweater fit perfectly after that!

Paul and the Sweater

I am not going to lie, usually wool in this form smells heavily of lanolin after it has met with steam or water. I personally dislike the wet-sheep smell so I like to wet block these sweaters with wool wash. But, wool in this form really responds well to steam blocking, as with the last video you hover your iron over the garment and the stitches lay flat!

Technical Tuesday: Wet Blocking

On Wednesday, when I talked about the fiddlehead mittens, I mentioned blocking in its various forms. I realized this weekend that not everyone will A) know what blocking is and B) know what is involved in the process. Since I don’t have any great pictures to do with blocking, I am going to break up this post with the best blocking videos I can find. So, what is blocking?

Every knitter knows about tension, how loose or tight you knit. This is very important when you are determining which yarn, needle size and pattern size you are going to do. Blocking comes at the end of this project; your garment is completely knitted and you heave a sigh of ‘finally’. I am sad to say that you are not done yet my friend!

Blocking is that final essential step in the knitting process. This post, I am only going to go over wet blocking, so those who are fans of steam blocking hold your horses, that post will come next week!

In a nutshell, to wet block a garment, you soak it in water then pin it out to dry. Outside of a nutshell, it is more complicated, but well worth it.

When you are filling your tub or sink with water, it should not be hot water! I try to hit room temperature water so I don’t freeze my hands off. Fill the tub first and add your fiber conditioner, such as soak or eucalan. Usually you need very small amounts of these soaps, when diluted with a tub of water, they still manage to give your knits a great smell. I first started using these to cover the wet sheep smell some yarn produces when blocked. It works wonderfully and now I associate the smell of Soak with a finished object that you’re wearing for the first time.

Once your tub and water are ready, put your garment in the water. You want to be careful not to agitate it too much, just press it into the water until it is fully saturated. If the water is too hot or your garment is agitated in the water it will cause felting. Depending on your yarn and the ease with which it felts, you may be able to get away with a little more or nothing at all. Take care here and remember the cautionary tale of the girl who touched her knitting too much while blocking. It just didn’t end well.

Now that your knitting is saturated with water and you have presumably let it soak for 15-20 minutes. Drain the tub. I generally hold my knitted garment towards the back of the tub so it isn’t sucked towards the drain at all. This is a benefit of using a tub as opposed to a sink. When the water is all gone, gently press the water from your garment. No twisting or wringing it out, just press straight down like you are applying chest compressions to said garment.

I usually prepare a towel beside the tub so I don’t have to walk far with it. When you pick up your knitting, don’t let any of it hang out of your hands. If a sleeve drops, the weight of the yarn will stretch it. You garment is in a very precarious stage now and is vulnerable to all sorts of misadventure.

Place the garment on the towel in a generally flat attitude. This is not the part where you pin it down, so it does not need to be perfect.

I order to get the water out, I use Elizabeth Zimmerman’s technique. I roll the towel with my garment inside. From the bottom up, I roll it as tightly as I can and press along the length as I go. When it is completely rolled up, throw in a few more of those chest compressions to get all the water out.

When you are using wool or another natural fiber that is prone to shrinking, water is evil. You want to get as much of the water out of the yarn as possible. Don’t be afraid to get a little rough with it; standing on the roll is acceptable and even encouraged.

Once you have sufficiently beaten the water out of your yarn it is time for the pinning. I know a lot of people use those foam puzzle piece mats to pin their knitting, but I currently have not upgraded to that. I just lay out a dry towel and pin my garment down to that.

This is where you lay everything out nicely. Make sure the sleeves are the same length, the hem is not rolled and the stitches down the side are all in a row. However you want the garment to look when it is dry, lay it out and pin it to look like that.

After this, you simply let it dry! There you have it, a fully finished and perfectly blocked item. Everyone develops their own system because everyone’s means and needs are different. While I can block things in my tub, not everyone will be able to. Don’t be nervous about experimenting, that is how everyone learns.

Monday Mishaps: All Buttoned Up

Another Monday and more mishaps to tell. This one happened a while ago as well, but it is keeping with the theme of Nordic sweater misfortunes. It was on Paul’s special request sweater, if you remember I blogged about it here.

Folded Button Mishap

He wanted a cardigan and I didn’t know how to do a zipper at the time. The obvious closure was buttons. There were no problems knitting the sweater itself, everything went as smoothly as could be expected. However, when it came time to do the seed stitch button band, I was not careful enough. When picking up stitches, I watched to make sure I wasn’t picking up too many. I started knitting and everything looked good. I think my tension must have loosened as I got closer and closer to binding off because when I finally finished, there was a very definite curve in the material.

Paul Button Mishap

It wasn’t extremely noticeable so I started on the other side in hope that I would do better, but I didn’t. At this point I took solace in the fact that they matched and it wasn’t a glaring mistake.

Apparently I don’t learn from my mistakes because when I was doing the button band for my coolbreeze cardigan, blogged here, I did the same thing! It really wasn’t quite as bad. I knew the type of yarn I used significantly relaxed after touching the water, so I knit the body a little on the small side. The button band, on the other hand, was a ribbed surface. It looked much smaller than it actually was. As soon as I blocked that bad boy, the button band sagged so badly that it was decorative.

Butten Mishap

I did rip this one out, and did it again. I still haven’t sewn on the buttons. I am thinking if it still looks bad this time I will attach a zipper on the inside so when the buttons are done up, they won’t pull at the fabric and make it look like I am about to explode out of said sweater. I don’t care how skinny you are, if you’re wearing a button up cardigan and EVERY SINGLE button is gaping, it’s not flattering.

One of the best pieces of advice for button bands that I have ever gotten was to use your swatch to test how often you need to pick up stitches in order to get the perfect number. Believe it or not, I actually did this with my coolbreeze sweater. The integrity of the yarn changed so drastically I didn’t anticipate the drape well.

I love the coolbreeze pattern so much that I am determined to make it work out. It has no chance to thwart my plan, this cardigan WILL behave!! Trust me, it’s happening.

I’m Nothing if not Honest

Okay, here is the promised post for the Julissa.

Julissa front lace pannel

Before Mom and I went to the Purple Purl, I knew I was going to get TFA yarn. I wanted to pick a pattern in advance so I could choose a colourway that would complement the sweater and highlight details properly. I searched around on Ravelry under the term ‘sweater’ for a while, but nothing was really striking me. I found the French Braid cardigan on the TFA Ravelry project page, but I still wasn’t satisfied. I was nonplussed, where the heck am I going to find a pattern? I wasn’t about to wade through the hundreds of thousands of Ravelry hits I got, so I checked the books. I went through the many knitting books on my shelf and tried to find something I was in the mood for, again, nothing jumped out. That’s when it struck me, Lena. I work with Lena and we’ve known each other the entire time I’ve been with the company; we actually bonded over knitting and TFA as well. I remember talking about all the patterns we found online and wanted to knit, so we put them in our Ravelry libraries, so I did what I had to do, I creeped her library. Low and behold! I found my pattern, the Julissa! It was exactly what I was looking for. Lena, thank you for diligently keeping your library stocked with great patterns!
Julissa is a top down sweater with a lace panel in the front. The three quarter sleeve length is very flattering especially since there are cables down the arms as well.

Sleeve Cables[\caption]
 

 

It was a rocky start, but since it was my first top down anything, I don’t feel too bad. Starting with the neck ribbing, I was a bit worried that my cast on edge would be messy, but after the fourth time I frogged it, my edge was neat… ish.

A couple times I had random number of stitches and had to start over, and the raglan increase was tricky. I think I may have tried it three different ways before I caught on. I was meant to slip the middle stitch and not just the marker. It creates a really nice line along the shoulders. It would have been immediately obvious if I had thought about it rather than trying to do exactly what the pattern was saying.

 

On the left you can see the raglan increase. On the right you can sort of see the waist shaping.
Aside from the beginning, the rest went very smooth. Before blocking it was a bit tight, but after washing the yarn relaxed and allowed a bit of positive ease. Now it fits perfectly.
I am almost finished my Mom’s second alpha sock. I have rounded the heel and am making my way towards the toe!