Friday, June 1, 2018


I was out of town last week and have been trying to catch up on what didn't get done.  It is always a bit of problem getting yarn to the designers for the Fall issue of the magazines.  It can take quite a bit of time to get everyone their yarn.

STUDENT NEWS
Summertime...things really slow down!  I've only received a few lessons.  I've mentioned before that I send back lessons using the first class rate.  This allows me to keep the cost of the course the same.  If you want your work back sooner, you can include a prepaid Priority mail envelope.  Again, when you send your lesson I would appreciate a heads up with a tracking number so if there is a problem I can let you know.

TIP OF THE WEEK
This week's tip was suggested by Binka Schwan who write the "Skill Building" articles for Cast On.  The next issue's article is about evenly binding off.  Binka let me know that I've never done this topic, binding off in pattern, yes.  Since this is something I evaluate in the Basics course it was an excellent suggestion.

This topic makes me think of Goldilocks and the Three Bears....Bind offs can be too loose, too tight and just right as the following three photos show.







To get an even bind off, make sure that you are working the stitches on the barrel of the yarn, not the tips and to take care how you tension the yarn.  If you pull too tight, you will get a strangled bind off that pulls in the top of the piece (picture this type of bind off on a shoulder seam!).  If you don't control your tension at all you might wind up with a really loose bind off.  I sometimes recommend using larger or smaller needles for the bind off row but it is far better just to work on achieving an even bind off with the project needles.  It spares you from having to carry around a full range of needle sizes.

While we are on the topic of bind offs....look at the top photos and then at the last photo and compare the size of the last bind off stitch.  I made no effort on the first swatch and on the last swatch I used a suggestion from Suzanne Bryan.  I mentioned this in my last post but here is the link: Last BO Stitch I wrapped the second stitch the wrong way on the row before the bind off.  This works great if you can remember to do it!

Here is my video on binding off:  Evenly Binding Off

KNITTING SALON
Salon will be on Sunday (June 3rd) from 2-4pm.

CURRENT PROJECTS
Since the topic of the Stitch Anatomy lesson in the Fall 2018 issue will be Bavarian stitch I decided to do a baby sweater.  God forbid I do something sensible working it in the round.  No, I'd rather do it flat which requires much more concentration.  The baby sweater is done.  I'm going to have to put tissue paper in the arms for the photo shoot as I made it a bit big.



Now I'm working on the Size 6.  It is going much faster...




I took the time to work on my Blackbird sweater chart.  (This isn't the final chart.  I've made some changes.) 



Elff sent the yarn and I did a small swatch to check out the colors.  We've done some small adjustments as some of the colors didn't have enough contrast.  I can't wait to get started!






Friday, May 11, 2018

Recognizing Tension Issues

This will be a fairly short entry.  I'm right in the middle of ordering yarn for the designers of the next issue of Cast On.  It takes much more effort than you would think.  The Summer issue of Cast On went live on May 5th and the 7th was the deadline for proposals for the Fall.  It really is a bit of a merry-go-round.

STUDENT NEWS
I received very few lessons to review which was actually a good thing.  It takes quite a bit to get the magazine out.  Send them in now!  I have will lots of time next week to review lessons.

TIP OF THE WEEK
The tip this week was prompted by something I saw in two very well know knitting publications last week.  Cast On is different in many ways from other knitting publications since we are the sponsors of the Master Hand Knitting Program that certifies Master Knitters.  The standards by which we evaluate candidates' work is very stringent and for that reason we have to be careful about the garments we have in Cast On, particularly as regards tension and finishing.  If something slips by, we will hear about it from our members who require to develop a critical eye towards their own work.  If you don't know that something can be better, you can't fix it.

In the magazines I was reviewing I noticed two sweaters that had very poor stockinette tension.  Both sweaters had reverse stockinette on the RS and there were clear gutters.  Not only is it unattractive, it can effect row gauge adversely. 

If you aren't sure what poor stockinette looks like, examine the photographs below.




This photo shows the WS.  Notice the very distinct gutters.  Imagine a cabled sweater with the filler stitches looking like this.  Ick.  This swatch also has another very common problem.  One side is much longer than the other.  This happens when the tension problem is worse at the selvedge.

By the way, the photo above and the next photo were lent to me by Binka Schwan.  She is the instructor of the Taming Tension class offered by TKGA and she is a miracle worker.  She not only helps her students with this type of problem but also ribbing, seed, etc.

This photo shows the RS of the same swatch.  Notice how the size of the stitches vary from row to row.



What causes this problem?  For the vast majority of knitters, they purl looser than they knit.  I see it much more in the work of Continental knitters or knitters that work primarily in the round.  I tell my Basics students, they don't need to tell me how they knit.  I generally can figure it out.  Many knitters have just a tension issue at the selvedges.  One fix you can try for that is to begin each row a little tighter & end each row a bit looser.  It will take some practice.

Every knitter has tension problems at times.  Some yarns are more prone.  Generally inelastic yarns, like cotton and linen are more prone to tension issues.

If you have a tension issue and can't solve it, you can use darker yarns which hide the problem, particularly on the stockinette side and avoid patterns which have reverse stockinette on the RS side.  If you are doing the Masters Program, this is something you have to fix before you progress any further.

I'm not going to give any further tips for fixing tension or do a video.  Fixing tension might require trying several different methods and a lot of practice.  If you are a TKGA member, I can recommend Binka's class.  As I said, she is a miracle worker.  I can also recommend looking at some blog entries from a former Co-Chair of the Masters Committee.  Suzanne Bryan is a very analytical knitter:  Suzanne Bryan, ridges and Suzanne Bryan: Enlarged BO stitch

Once you realize what good tension looks like, you will find yourself looking at knitting magazines in a different way!

KNITTING SALON
Salon will be this Sunday from 1:30 - 3:20.

CURRENT PROJECTS
I'm still waiting for yarn for my Cast On projects.  I finished the socks with the yarn left over form the Tea Roses, just time for warm weather! 





I then made a very long infinity scarf...500 yds of Zen Garden Serenity Silk.  I used the whole skein.  The stitch pattern is one of those elongated stitch patterns.  I like it.



Friday, April 27, 2018

Placing Increases and Decreases

I had to euthanize my darling, blind Petipa on April 13th.  She was close to 19 years old and she had a very good run.  We miss her terribly.  We thought George would be upset as his day (when he wasn't sleeping) was devoted to knowing what she was up to.  Not the case.   He is acting like the king of the castle.  Requiescat in pace, Petipa.  (Glad to know a classical education comes in handy.)


I've spent the past two weeks working on the Summer 2018 issue of Cast On.  I've uploaded all of the patterns and articles to the platform but it won't go live until I add the photographs.  The photographer had a family health emergency but she hopes to get them to me this weekend.  All of the hard work is done. 

STUDENT NEWS
Just a reminder...when you send your lessons make sure they can be tracked.  Not only can you track priority packages, tracking is free for first class packages as well if you take them to the post office.  If you don't track them, we will have no way of finding it.  I've had very good luck with tracking lately.   I always track every package I send.

TIP OF THE WEEK
The final project for the Finishing Class is to knit a sweater and finish it.  I provide a pattern for a doll sweater which doesn't require much knitting which most students use.  I've noticed that a few students have problems picking up stitches along the neckline since they did not place the decreases properly.  I do emphasize where to place increases and decreases in the Reference materials but somehow it gets missed in the final project.

Anyone who has ever sewn knows that patterns always add 5/8" for the seam allowance.  Knitting requires the same thing if the project will be seamed or has any type of band.  That is what the selvedge stitches are for.  You use the horizontal bars between the selvedge stitch and the next stitch in for the seam.  You use the spaces between the horizontal bars to pick up stitches for bands.  If you work a decrease or increase in the first or last stitch, you've just made proper finishing impossible.  I blame patterns.  Most say something like "Dec 1 at beg of next 4 rows."  Unless you know better you would assume this means "beg" means just that, not 1 or 2 stitches in. 

The majority of students who take the finishing class say they are taking it since they hate finishing.  If you don't know what you are doing and you get poor results, you will definitely hate doing it.

If you are seaming the inside of a sleeve where you have placed increases in the first stitches, the seam will be ugly but who is going to notice?  If you screw up the neckline you will never want to wear the sweater.  Every time you look in the mirror you will be reminded that you don't know how to finish. 

Increases--If you are using M1 increases you don't need to worry.  It is impossible to work them in the first stitch.  You have to use the horizontal bar between the selvedge stitch and the next stitch.  Lifted increases don't really work either.  When you try to work a right slanting increase in the selvedge stitch it just slips off the needle.  Yes, you can work a left slanting increase at the right side and a right slanting increase at the left side but it is unlikely that a novice knitter would choose these increases.  The increase that most novice knitters would pick is the Bar or kfb increase.  If you look at the photo, look at the bottom two increases.  The ones on the right side sort of blend in but the ones on the left just make the selvedge edge bumpy.  (By the way, if a project isn't going to be seamed, yes, you can use this increase at the beginning of a row.  I've seen lots of shawls do just this.)  I just used bar increases to make the leaves on the First Saturday dresses.  I found that at the left side, if I didn't want an ugly edge, I had to work the bar increase in the stitch before the selvedge.





The increases at the top are worked with one stitch before and after the selvedge.  This provides a seam allowance.

Decreases--This is the one that causes problems in necklines.  In the photograph below the decreases at the bottom are worked in the selvedges.  There is no way to seam the edges or pick up stitches.  It will just look awful unless the yarn is really dark, heathered or tweedy.  The decreases at the top are worked so that the edge can be properly finished.



Again, this applies only to garments where the edge will be finished.  Here is a link to the video:  Placing Increases and Decreases.

KNITTING SALON
Salon will be on Sunday from 1:30 to 3:20. 

CURRENT PROJECTS
I have had very little time to knit.  Putting Cast On together requires a lot of time.  I am using the pink Savannah yarn left over from the roses for the First Saturday dresses to make a pair of socks.  By the way, next Saturday is the First Saturday, Derby Day. 

I did spend some time charting a design for a sweater for the Fall 2018 issue.  The name will be Blackbird Singing and I'll be using RedFish yarns.  Elff is working on the colors.  I'm thinking of doing a baby sweater with a Bavarian design.  I did a sweater as a baby gift 10 years ago.  I never wrote a pattern for it.  I'll do something similar.  Here is the link to the Ravelry project:  Franklin's Sweater.



Friday, April 13, 2018

Purlside Double Decreases

Last week was the DFW Fiber Fest in Dallas.  We held a Masters Day which was quite successful.  The meeting is a very nice one and the market is curated...no drek.  Unfortunately I had a bad cold so I wasn't able to have as much fun as I would have liked--maybe next year.

STUDENT NEWS
I've received a few lessons but things have slowed down.  Keep the lessons coming!

TIP OF THE WEEK
This tip is prompted by things I've encountered in my projects for Cast On.  I checked the index for my blog to remind myself how to work the CDD (S2 k1 psso) decrease on the purlside for the leaves for the dresses (see photos below) and I discovered I had not included it with the other purlside decreases I'd done before.  Also, I'm writing the Learn Something New article for the Summer Cast On which is about working single-row stripes while working flat without all of the yarn tails.  This technique is also especially useful for adding a new skein with kettle dyed yarns.  When you use this technique you might find yourself having to work decreases or increases on WS rows.

I researched this a bit to see if there was an easier way than I knew.  Nope. 

In the photograph below the decreases labelled A and B are worked on the RS of the row.  A is the CDD or Central Double Decrease.  Notice that the center stitch is on top of the stitches to the right and left.  This decrease is used most in lace, mitred work and V-neck bands.  To work it on the RS, you slip the first two stitches to the right needle as if you were going to knit them together (never separately). You knit the next stitch, then you pass the two stitches over the stitch you just knit.  It is a bit more complicated to work it on the WS.  It is a four-step operation.  First you slip the the first two stitches, one at a time, knitwise and return them to the left needle (this changes the stitch  orientation in preparation for the next step).  The second step is to insert the right needle into these two stitches from the back (as you would for an SSP decrease).  The third step is to transfer these two stitches back to the left needle (note that this repositions the stitches).  The final step is to purl the three stitches together.   If you look at the decrease labeled as "C" it is identical to "A".


The decreases labeled "B" and "D" are identical as well.  Notice that for these decreases, the center stitch is underneath the stitches to the right and left.  This decrease is most often used in lace.  To work it on the RS, slip the first stitch knitwise, knit the next two stitches together and then pass the slipped stitch over the two stitches just knit.  To work it on the WS, purl the first two stitches together, slip the next stitch knitwise and return it to the left needle, return the stitch you created by purling the two stitches together to the left needle and pass the slipped stitch over that stitch.

The video demonstrates both of these decreases:  Purlside Double Decreases

KNITTING SALON
I won't be having salon this week since I'm going to the Met HD production of Luisa Miller on Saturday and Sunday is the photo shoot for Cast On. 

CURRENT PROJECTS
I finished everything up for the photo shoot with a few days to spare.  Here are the socks (the color is absolutely wrong.  They are golden.)


The project to go with the Learn Something New is a striped sweater I'm calling Fishing in France.  It was a very quick knit.


Here are photos of the dresses with close ups of the roses.












Friday, March 23, 2018

Masters Program Notebooks


All I've been doing is knitting like mad to get things finished for the photo shoot.  It will be close but I think I'll make it.

STUDENT NEWS
A word about how I mail things...To keep the cost of the course the same, I send back swatches in a large plain white envelope after each lesson by the USPS using First Class rates.  This is the least expensive but you can track the envelopes.  (For Non-US students, I hang onto the swatches and send them back when the course is complete.)  I have only had one lesson out of hundreds lost and one damaged.  Periodically due to weather or the holidays a lesson might take a while to get there, but so far every one has arrived.  If you would like your lessons sent back by priority mail, include the postage and I'll be happy to return it to you that way.

TIP OF THE WEEK
This week's tip is a departure.  Many of my Basics students take the course to see if they might want to to the Masters Program.  It covers many of the same techniques as Level 1 and it give the students a feel for what it is like to have your work evaluated by a stranger.  (My Basics course is divided into three lessons while the Masters work is sent in when the whole thing is complete.)  This evaluation process can be very stressful.  All of the reviewers have been through the process.  The evaluations are very detailed but they focus on ways to fix issues. 

Each level requires that the work be organized into a notebook and the instructions are very specific as to how to organize the notebook.  There are two reasons for this.  All of the reviewers are volunteers and the evaluation can take as long as 10 or more hours.  A poorly organized notebook can double that time.  The other reason is that the ability to read and interpret directions is an important skill for a knitter.  Many who complete the program go on to work in the industry and we want to make sure they have the skills they need to do accomplish their goals.

With all of that said, there have been lots of questions on the TKGA Ravelry Group on how to organize the notebook.  People have different learning styles and I've often found a few photos can really help.  Since the instructions have changed dramatically since I completed the program, I asked someone who recently completed Level 1 if we could show her notebook.  (I've blocked her name and address with a Post It.)

We recommend you use a 3" ring binder for Level 1 (By the way, these instructions apply to US submissions.  For  non-US submissions, there is leeway on this).  A 3" binder fits neatly into the USPS Medium Flat Rate box. 



It should be organized into six sections separated by tabs: Blocking Report, Swatches, Gauge,   Worksheets, Questions, Project and References.  One of the most often asked questions is why the answers to the questions go in a separate section rather than with the swatches.  (Most of the questions refer to specific swatches.)  It is easier for the reviewers if they are in a separate section.  Believe me, they have the questions memorized. 


Each swatch should be placed in a page protector with the written information regarding that swatch.  Below is an example of the Swatch Information Sheet (SIS) for the seed stitch swatch.  If you staple sheets together or use paperclips, that will add to the review time.  If there is a second sheet, it should be placed so that it is visible when the page is turned.



This is the project for Level 1.  It also should be placed in the page protector along with the written information.


If you are working on Level 1, I suggest you watch the video I made showing the various sections in more detail.  Yes, the notebook requirements may seem overly picky but this is a notebook you will have as a reference guide for years.  You will come to appreciate the organization.  Many of the requirements are to make the review process as streamlined as can be.  All of the reviewers are volunteers and many have full time jobs.  They give up time they could be knitting themselves to pass on what they have learned.  Here is the video:  Master Hand Knitting Program Level 1 Notebook

KNITTING SALON
Salon will be on Sunday from 1:30-3:30.

CURRENT PROJECTS
I finished the sweater FINALLY.  I took the sleeves out twice.



Here is the back view.  (I've kept waste yarn in the pleats.  I hope I remember to take them out at the photo shoot!)


I've called it Baby Butterfly.  Here is a close up of the stitch pattern.


The dress worked up very quickly.  I still have all the markers in it as I use them to write the pattern.  Here's the front. 


Here is the back.


I'm making a girl's dress that coordinates will the adult dress.  A fitted dress looks pretty creepy on a kid so it is an empire waist.  This is the back.  (The front is blocking.  I'll finish it tonight.)  The dental elastics mark the decreases for the bodice and I use the safety pins to count the rows.  Finishing is much easier if both pieces have the same number of rows.



Friday, March 2, 2018

Better Bar Increases

All of the designers finally got their yarn and are busy working on their designs, including me.  I've got to pick up the pace if I am going to finish everything. My New Years Resolution was to write pattern as I go along and so far, so good.

STUDENT NEWS
I've heard from quite a few students who have wanted the updates.  Again, I'm willing to send off the materials to any former or current student.  If you are working on Level 1 of the Masters, you may want to take a look as I've provided links to my blog on quite a few topics where you need sources.

TIP OF THE WEEK
This week's tip is prompted by what I've been seeing in swatches I'm already getting for the revised materials. In the earlier version bar increases are only worked in ribbing.  I added an extra credit swatch where they are worked at the sides of a swatch as you would for sleeves.  A very common problem is that the knit stitch next to the bar is oversized.   Look at the photograph below where I have placed a label to the left of 5 bar increases and compare a and c to b, d and e. Notice that in a and c the stitch next to the bar is closer in size to the stitches below and above.  In bd and e the stitch next to the bar is overlarge.  They aren't very attractive and are far more noticeable.  What causes this?  When knit the stitch, if you do not tighten up a bit before you knit into the back of the stitch, the knit stitch gets overlarge.  Now look at c, bd and e and see how the stitch below the knit stitch to the right of the bar is pinched.  It isn't as pinched for a.  Why?  I stretched out the stitch when I knit into the back of the stitch.  This made the stitch smaller.  If you tighten up when making a bar increase AND use just your needle tips when knitting into the back of the stitch, you can produce a much better bar increase.  When you are using this increase in ribbing it is not as noticeable.


Here is the link to the video:  Better Bar Increases


I've heard from quite a few students who have wanted the updates.  Again, I'm willing to send off the

KNITTING SALON
Salon will be on Sunday from 1:30 - 3:20.  I'm really hoping I will have the sweater I've been working on finished by then. 

CURRENT PROJECTS
I've almost finished the Baby Butterfly Duster.  If you look at the photo below you can see I'm working on the sleeves.  When I work top-down short row sleeves I work one cap and then do the next sleeve to make sure they match.  No, those aren't pom poms hanging off the sleeves but small yarn balls.   There is a deep pleat in the back.  Am I a lousy photographer!  I guarantee this looks much better in person.



I worked gauge swatches for the next projects while I was blocking the fronts.  (I block the pieces before I put in the sleeves.  I'll have to redo it after I get the sleeves in).  The gray swatch is for a dress and the striped swatch is for a a French fisherman sweater to go with an article on single row stripes with circular needles.  I tried out M1 increases near the top.  I still haven't decided what increases to use.  I have a bit of time to decide.






Friday, February 16, 2018

Revisiting Ribbing

It has been a busy couple of weeks getting the Summer Cast On lined up.  Selecting the designs, contacting the yarn companies, getting contracts out, contacting yarn companies again, is quite a bit of work.  Since I'm doing a couple of garments, I'm also trying to fit in some knitting.

STUDENT NEWS
I managed to finish up the revisions to the Basics class.  I did not make major changes but I added a few things to make it line up more closely with what is covered in the Master Program.  I have included links to this blog for related topics which can save time for those putting together their references for Level 1.  I've included working a preliminary swatch and a couple of extra credit items.  I am HAPPY to send any former student the updated materials.  Also, since I do not enforce time limits, if it has been a couple of years and you would like to continue or have any questions, just send me an email at aholladay@tkga.org.

TIP OF THE WEEK
This topic was inspired by a thread in the TKGA Ravelry group on ribbing.  A question that comes up frequently is if knitters can use smaller needles for the ribbing in Level 1.  The answer is no.  The reason for this is that most knitters' ribbing is very loose so dropping down a needle size or two can improve its appearance.  In the Masters Program we focus on figuring out why something happens and then finding a better solution. Yes, using smaller needles will help with ribbing but the reason the ribbing looks bad also makes any knit/purl combination stitch pattern (like seed stitch) or cables look bad and going down a needle size doesn't help there.

One knitter wanted to know the "rules" for going down a size.  Well, there aren't any.  You have to look at each project and examine the ribbing.  If it looks bad then you need to fix it.

The problem occurs when you transition from a knit to a purl stitch.  If you do not bring the yarn completely forward the excess creates a ladder.  Sometimes it can work back into the previous stitch.  The photo below shows an exaggerated example.  The white pin marks a column of stitches which do not match the column to the right.  The red pin shows ladders.   The easiest fix is to make sure that you bring the yarn forward completely.  This does NOT mean to yank the yarn forward and to pull it so tightly that you pull yarn from the stitches just knit.  That makes it look even worse.  It can take a bit of practice but it soon becomes a habit.  Next time you rib, look closely when you work the first purl and you will see what I mean.




This photo shows the same ribbing where I have taken care to bring the yarn completely forward.  Would using smaller needles help? Yes, but it really doesn't solve the underlying problem which is the excess yarn.  There would just be less of it.  Here is a videos showing this: Fixing your ribbing Actually the real reason I hardly ever use smaller needles for ribbing is it is pretty much a sure thing that I will forget to do so on the fronts or sleeve cuffs or somewhere else.  I do sometimes put it into my patterns to use smaller needles when I remember, particularly if the yarn is inelastic like cotton or linen.



The other thing I see in Lesson 1 of the Basics class is this:


So what is the problem?  The ribbing is fairly even but compare the size of the knit stitches in the ribbing to the stitches above.  The cause for this is the same...excess yarn between the stitches.  In the example below I've made an effort to fix it.  Is it perfect, no, but this is hand knitting.  This is one situation, IF IT BOTHERED ME (which it does not) that I might go down a needle size.



One time you may want to go down a needle size is when picking up stitches for a band or neckline, particularly if the yarn is inelastic.  There might be a gap between the edge and the band if the pick up stitches are loose which they frequently are.  Smaller needles can help this.  How do you know if you need to do this?  I am about to get on my Soap Box again.  If you save your gauge swatch you can use it to test out the band.  Work a few rows, then stand back and see if there is a gap.  It is a lot easier to test this out on a swatch rather than the front of a sweater.  

To sum up, there really aren't rules for this sort of thing.  Use your own judgment as a knitter (except for the swatches in the Masters Program).  Yes, you could use smaller needles.  The reviewers aren't watching you knit but the only person you are cheater is yourself.

KNITTING SALON
Salon will be on Sunday from 1:30 to 3:20.

CURRENT PROJECTS
Guess what this is?  Stay tuned.  It will all be made clear as I get further along.