Staff Tips & Tricks: May 2010 Archives
When one starts to knit there are certain rites of passage that are necessary to complete. It is not that they must be completed in order to be a great knitter, it is just that most knitters do complete them whether or not they mean to. A mistake in lace knitting is up toward the top and also the most frustrating.
When a knitter is ready to start knitting lace, they dream of flow-y shawls, delicate patterns and a true sense of accomplishment. However, once they cast-on they are met with counting errors, dropped stitches, and "what row was I on again" for the hundredth time. It happens to the best of us; a little help is needed. Life Lines are one of the few true to their name. When you are waist deep in your sister's wedding shawl or 3 weeks committed to a new sweater pattern that cost you $86.27 in yarn than you want a life line. A life line is a piece of yarn woven through your lace knitting that should you make a mistake, you can unravel back to your life line and put your stitches back on your needle and pick back up. You will not need to frog all the way back to the beginning or guess which row you are on. It is the net for a tight rope walker. And guess what... It is simple. Here are the steps
Step 1) Obtain some waste yarn in a contrasting color to the yarn you are knitting with (so it will be easy to see. The same reason life vests are Bright Orange!) Make sure it is at least twice the length of your knitted project. You want slack so it won't pull out if you sit on it, your baby pulls on it or the cat thinks it is the most fun toy-EVER.
Step 2) Thread it through your tapestry needle.
Step 3) Thread it through the loops on your needle- just right through. I like to do this on row one of my lace repeat and then move it up when I get back to row 1. However, if you lace repeat is 12 or more rows you may want to do it more often. If that is the case, do it when you stitch count returns to the original stitch count (some increase and decrease as you go along) or the row after a YO. It is easier to pick up a knitted YO than a YO.
Step 4) Continue knitting but do not knit the life line, push it out of the way if needed. It should go straight through your knitting. Move it up every once in a while and only move it when you are sure you won't need it. Sometimes it is safer to have 2 life lines, if you are a real worrier.
My discovery of life lines made it fun to knit lace where it was too stressful before. It really helps if I can't interpret a pattern and want to risk just guessing. I can also put my work down and pick it up at a later date and know where I am. It has opened up a new door for me and I hope you as well.
The stitch pattern is Travelling Vine from A Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara G. Walker, knitted with size 8 needles and a sport weight yarn.
Where to begin to explain how important and helpful swatching is? Where to begin? Hmmm..
Ok, when I was in 5th grade my class was given a special test. We were not told beforehand if it would affect our grade or really why we were given the test. We were just given the standard pre-test pep talk "read the instructions and begin". And we did. Heads down, we were hard at work. There were about 30 questions and they were all surprisingly simple: How many equal sides does a square have, Red and Blue make what color, etc. There were some that required a little thought but for the most part, easy. I was at questions #18 before I really looked up and took stock. Some of my classmates were just sitting there, done and waiting. I was shocked. I was totally rocking this test and I wasn't even close to done. Surely, something was amiss. And there was me like most of my class, who had not listened and not read the instructions on the top of the test: Put your name at the top and wait for further instructions from the teacher. I had just skipped the instructions and failed the test.
Luckily this test was to remind us to read instructions because obviously the teacher was on to us and we needed the lesson. Swatching is like reading the instructions. If you don't do it you will miss something and with projects such as sweaters, shawls, and other heavily involved patterns that can mean unflattering fits, sizing issues and realizing you don't understand the stitch pattern until it is too late. When you have hours and many balls of yarn involved you will really wish you had taken that extra 30-60 min (at most) to knit a swatch.
For example, I recently cast-on to swatch for a sweater I am interested in. The swatch gauge states that with a size 8 needle 18 stitches and 20 rows should be 4 in. by 4 in. So I cast on 18 stitches and planned to knit 20 rows so see where I am. - I must inform you that for 96.25% of my projects I do not need to adjust my needle size--20 rows later I measured and found that I was way off, 1 in. off. I was shocked and relieved. Had I not knit my swatch and just started my sweater, I would have ended up with a sweater a toddler or other wee person would wear much more than me. I also discovered that the stitch pattern is poorly written and I needed to examine the picture as well as re-read the pattern before I got it and was able to knit my swatch. I cast-on for the swatch twice before I could get past row 1. I was frustrated but not as frustrated as I would have been had I needed to cast-on twice for 100 stitches instead of 18. You probably would have heard me through your computer and, of course, wine follows choice words.
I hope this serves as a warning and a comfort to you. As anxious as you are to start that project do not taint that joy with frustration and failure. Think of your swatch as a peek at how unbelievable your fiber and color will look knitted up. Then when you are on row 100,000 out of 200,000 you can remember how gorgeous your swatch was and find the will to chug through.
· As of this printing, I know of no pattern with 200,000 stitches, so fear not! But then again I have never bothered to count.
Swatch shown in Lion Brand Cotton Ease in Lime
If you knit, sooner or later you do so outside of your home. I call it knitting on the go (KoG for short). I would venture a guess that I knit outside my home about 50-60% of the time. I knit in the car, waiting for meetings, DMV, Doctor's office...you get the picture. KoG is awesome. I repeat: KoG is AWESOME.
But, preparation is everything in the KoG game. You will need a bag, dare I say it, a knitting bag. Wait! Before you stop reading right now and imagine old ladies with needlepoint floral carpet bags that more than hint at moth balls, you need to realize that is a myth created and exploited by Hollywood fat cats. It holds no basis in truth. Ok, that is a lie-- but you can choose your own knitting bag. One will not be assigned to you. There are some really cool ones out there. The "Cool Stuff" feature at Knitty.com is always a great place to check--they are featuring a super bag in this edition called the Swift. Jondana Paige is force to be reckoned with among knitting bags. Don't forget you can sew up the perfect bag from one of the many patterns at Fabric.com. Choose the fabric, trim, pocket placement and handle length. I have made all of my knitting bags. My current favorite is the Betty Shopper because I am making several sweaters.
Next, taming the yarn. Depending on your style there are different options. You can toss your skeins in individual zip-top plastic bags, allowing a tail to slip out. This will keep your yarn tangle free and prevent the gummy bears stuck to the floor mats from depositing sugary goo on your merino. If you "don't do" plastic then there are some other options. This one here is a really cool drawstring yarn ball bag made by Funtific. If you prefer to make your own, let me suggest the Amy Butler Stash & Dash bags in any size. With their zip top you can leave a hole open for your yarn but there is plenty of space inside for your ball to roll around unhindered. Plus they are pretty cute too.
Third, you will need some travel tools. If you would be so kind as to refer back to my previous post on notions and the included pouch pattern, that would sum up this section. However, those with a tendancy to misplace items like to have multiple sets of tools, this kit is perfect for KoG (look how shiny!)
Last, take your pattern. I would recommend either printing an extra copy or photocopying if needed. This chart keeper is great for keeping your place in a chart or for holding any knitting pattern while on the go.
I hope all of these tools and tips help. Your first trip out with your knitting may not go as planned but you will soon learn what works for you. Good luck and feel free to leave a comment adding your recommended tools and suggestions for KoG!
One of the great aspects of knitting is that it is portable. Knitting on the go is fun and a great way to pump up your otherwise bland activities. Long car trip, more like a great time to cast-on for a new project. Concert in the park, how about background music for a spicy lace shawl. Waiting for your table at a restaurant, now you are working a few more rows on that hat for your niece's graduation present.
At the end of this post you will find a knitting pouch sewing pattern so you may create your own arsenal of knitting tools for stitching on the go. This is a quick and easy pattern that you can customize to fit your knitting persona. I will show you my pouch and all the tools I pack inside. I never leave home without a project and this bag. It is as close to me as my wallet and I forget it less than my cell phone (which is not really proving my point, but anyway...)
The Yarn Cutter and scissors are redundant but I find on bumpy roads and when babies are toddling around scissors are best left in the pouch. Plus, it's pretty.
Most of these items need no introduction but I will explain the rest. Crochet hooks are great for picking up dropped stitches and on occasion they are called for in patterns. I have also used my crochet hooks as cable needles when mine escaped. Tapestry needles are used to weave in ends once a project is complete and for some cast-offs. Stitch Holders are like parking spaces for your stitches when not in use but you don't want to just leave them unattended. They have a tendency to run away.
Now the Bobby Pin is the secret weapon. I have used it for everything from stitch marker, row marker, stitch holder, keeping my pattern in place when there is a breeze. Plus. when I decided to go for bangs and then grow them out, this little baby kept the peace and my hair out of my view. You never know when or what you will need it for, so stock it.
These are the basics. From time to time, depending on my project, you might find more tools in my pouch but you will never find less. Invest in quality products and take care constructing your pouch and you will be happily knitting on the go in style and ease. Enjoy!
So you're not a newbie but you don't really consider yourself a knitter anymore. If has been awhile since you have put yarn to sticks then step closer. It doesn't take much to get back in the game, even if the game was 20 years ago. In fact, it will be easier than you realize; once you have momentum you will be whipping out projects in no time.
1) Take Stock
Do you have supplies? If not do you remember what you used most? Did you use wooden or metal needles? Was your favorite yarn cotton, wool, or a blend? Start there. If you hung onto your old supplies and still have a stash then go through it and pick something that gets your attention, it is more likely to hold it.
2) Set the mood
Find a comfortable place to sit for a while, something nice to drink, maybe some music and plenty of time. Relearning to knit (or any skill) is not something easily done with kids running around, hungry cats rubbing your leg or phones ringing. Knitting is relaxing so setting the mood is key to triggering your memories.
3) Where to start
What do you remember about knitting? Practice what you remember and think about what you don't. Start at the beginning with something simple. Cast-on 10-20 stitches and work a row in a knit stitch. If you get to the end, do you recall what comes next? If your first row was a success (it doesn't need to be perfect but recognizable) try purling on the way back. Keep at it till you feel comfortable. If practice is all you need-awesome! But if you know practice is not enough then refer to the Learning to Knit post. You can use any of those methods to gain a refresher lesson.
If knitting and purling itself is not your trouble but just feel out of the loop with yarn fiber combinations, needles materials ("Back in my day we knit with metal needles and we liked it, we loved it") and pattern choices, feel free to contact customer service with any questions. If you are looking for opinions, recommendations or reviews try leaving a comment here on our blog or contact us via Twitter or Facebook. Social Networking is a great way to be in contact with knitters from around the world without leaving your house. Once you get back the horse, it will be like you leaved got off.
Check back Friday for Knitting on the Go: Notions with a notions pouch sewing pattern