Knitting: May 2012 Archives
If you are like the majority of knitters, you cast on tight. Some just cast on a little tight, but most cast on really tight. This can be a real pain when it comes to sweater necks, top-down socks and even starting a nice scarf (you can clearly see where your knitting looses after the cast on edge). You can try teaching yourself to cast on loosely which can be an exercise in patience or you can just try one of my 2 easy, loose cast-on methods. You will love them both.
1) Bigger needle: depending on how tight you cast-on you can use a bigger needle for just the cast-on and then on row 1 switch to your pattern recommended needle size. I suggest going up 2-3 needle sizes (i.e. from an US 8 to a US 10). I prefer 2 sizes because my cast on is only medium tight. If yours is super tight, go up three. Try each with a gauge swatch to see which needle size works best for you. Remember the loose cast on may look pretty loose but this will be less visible after blocking and wearing.
2) Double your needle: If I don't have my needle pouch with me or if I am traveling I will cast on holding both my needles together. This doubles the size of the needle and gives a very nice, loose cast on. It is a little tricky holding and casting on with 2 needles but you will quickly get the hang of it. This one is especially handy because once you have cast on just slide one needle out and you are all set for row one.
A well-done loose cast on is not only better for garments and wearing but also for that trouble-some first row. If you cast on tight you probably dread working that first row because it is so tight and hard to get your needle in there to work each stitch. With your new loose cast on, working the first row will be as easy as working any other other row. On top of that, your knitting will no longer blossom out once you get past the first row. Your project will be the same size from cast on to the last row (unless you change the size). No longer will you need to knit a few rows to get a real feel of the width of your project. You can see evidence of this in the first picture. From the cast on row to about row 2-3 the sample flares out until it reaches its working width (see red marks). This may not seem like a big deal but if you are creating a beautiful color work scarf you will want it to be perfect from start to finish and don't want the color skewed by this flare.
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As you go along in your knitting career you may find a desire to branch out and design your own knitting patterns. This is a fun and creative outlet for any knitter how enjoys a good puzzle or a chance to create something only previously visible in their daydreams. One of the great hang-ups in knit design is transitioning from one stitch pattern to the next. Say you are constructing a lace shawl that features one lace pattern in the body and another for the border. If you are designing a triangle shawl, like my Tybee Cover-up, it is easier to plan your transition because the shawl increases every other row to create the triangle shape so if you need a certain number of stitches eventually your shawl will grow big enough and match the stitch count you need. However, it is often not that easy. You will not always want a triangle shawl and sometimes you want to place your transition in an area where the stitch count is not increasing or decreasing (i.e. at the elbow of a sleeve, below the bust of a sweater or the ends of a scarf). Or if you are working with a stitch count that is odd numbered and you want to transition to an even number stitch pattern. This can go on and on depending on your project.
However, transitioning can all be easy with some careful planning and choosing your stitch pattern wisely. Not only do you want to be careful from the start on your stitch pattern choices for the overall look of your design but also for ease of the transition. Try to stick to stitch patterns that are close in the stitch count, this will mean increasing or decreasing only a small amount and that is less stitches you will need to hide. Also plan ahead where you will hide your stitches. If you have a pattern that allows for a garter or stockinette row, this is an ideal place to hide your increase or decrease stitches. For my sample I used a 6 stitch repeat pattern and then transitioned to an 8 st pattern. This may seem easy since it is only an increase of 2 sts, but it is an increase of 2 sts per repeat. I started with 30 sts (5 repeats for the 6 st pattern) and then increased on an all knit row to 32 stitches for the 8 st pattern. This meant I went from 5 repeats to 4 so I kept the size of the sample consistent but if I want to keep the 5 repeats I would have increased up to 40 sts which would have made my sample size increase by ½ in. With this pattern transition the reduction in repeats is not noticeable but if you wanted to transition and add some width this is a great subtle way to go about it.
If you are only increasing by a small amount or increasing by an odd number, space out your increases and decreases so they are less obvious. Also, try out different methods of increases and decrease to see which style works best with your stitch pattern choices!
If the thought of knitting in warm weather just doesn't get your excited but like many knitters you can't seem to quit the habit, consider small projects as a way to bridge the gap until the fall. Small projects fit into cute little summer bags, don't cover your lap and offer quicker turn around. A quick turnaround is key because as summer progresses and fills with activities you have less focused time to dedicate to big projects with lots of instructions. Smaller projects can be knit in a few hours and don't involve staying mentally centered on one technique or project for long, making it easier if you get interrupted or need to take frequent breaks (soccer games, doctors' appt, carpooling, etc).
I love knitting hats for all of the reasons above added to the fact that they can be customized with simple details. Allow hats to give you the opportunity to try new stitch patterns with little commitment. Hats also require smaller amount of yarn so you can try to reduce your stash to make room for your winter splurge or to try daring color combinations. I recently knit a small baby hat in just a few hours and loved every minute. I did try a color combo I was unsure of initially. I wanted something gender neutral since I don't yet know the gender of my incoming little one but also colors that I could add blue or pink to later after we find out. My baby hat was a great knit on a warm day because it was so small, I was totally comfy working my cotton/wool blend yarn and it gave me a great excuse to take a break off my feet.
I used the pattern Kim's Hat from Last Minute Knitted Gifts by Jovelle Hoverson, one of my favorite hat patterns. This is the garter brim version; however I flipped mine inside out so the purl bumps are on the outside. Using the garter brim version but flipping it inside out gives me a look similar to the Land of Nod Chickadee Hat I posted a few weeks ago but keeps the brim from rolling as it would if the hat was knit entirely with Stockingette stitch. This hat is worked on the WS then turned inside out to the RS. I knit the brim in Lion Brand Baby's First Honey Bee then changed to Lion Brand Wool Ease Chunky Fisherman (I chose a wool blend for the majority of the hat because my hat will be worn in fall to winter) but you can stick with Baby's First for a cotton based hat. I switch colors on a knit row so you could see the color change on the purl side but if you don't want to see the color change do it on a purl row in the brim. The color change will face you but, remember, the WS is facing you right now. I finished off my hat with a cute little tassel, wound around 3 of my fingers using about 3-4 yds of yarn. Then tie to secure and clip to even up the tassel. Tie onto the top of your hat. The duplicate stitch vertical row and brim whip stitch will be added later once the gender is known.
Call me crazy but of all the detail work in knitting (most of which I detest) I love picking up stitches. It is a reason that I cannot narrow down but I like it, I enjoy it and I am pretty darn good at it. Picking up stitches is an acquired skill but it is based on the foundation of knitting; it is not like not like learning to knit itself. Learning to pick up stitches is similar to learning to drive in the rain. It is a lot to take in at first but since you already know how to drive you are just pushing your boundaries a little. Learning the nuances of picking up stitches will help you apply this skill to any gauge or any yarn fiber so you can pick up and knit with confidence. Picking up stitches is great for button bands, hem details, or simply adding details you didn't realize you needed originally. I used this instance when I knit my daughter's first hat. It was an undemanding ribbed brim hat that I thought would stay in place well on her (then) 9 mo. old head. And it did until she was 12 mo. old and decided hats weren't for her anymore. With the temperature outside falling, I picked up some stitches on the brim of the hat and added ear flaps with ties to keep the hat on her head. It worked great. You can add length to your socks after binding off, length to sleeves or a scarf or even add a ruffle trim to your favorite cardigan.
First with the WS of your project facing you, begin picking up your stitches by sliding one needle under 2 loops (if you only pick up 1 loop it will pull away from the knitting by accessing the slack from neighboring loops, by picking up 2 loops you anchor your picked up stitches so it won't put too much pressure on one stitch). When picking up stitches from a bound off edge I like to use the 'V' shape the bind off makes and slide my needle under both lines of the 'V'.
Slide your second needle into the same space as your first and make a loop with your yarn and slide it over your right needle and pull it through using your left needle to help the 'V' in place. Slide your left needle under the next 'V' moving to the left. Insert your right needle and wrap your yarn and pull through.
Above is a look from the WS. You can see the white purl bump against the yellow.
Above is a look from the RS. You can see the loops continue from the row above. From the RS, you can't see that the white row was picked up, it looks like a continuation.
Continue until you have enough stitches then turn your work and continue knitting. It is important that your pick up your stitches from the correct direction. Always pick up with the WS facing up (or facing you) because you will be picking up and knitting the first row with means the purl bump will be in the back. If the RS is facing you, then the purl bump with be on the RS and the picked up stitches will be obvious.