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.

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

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.

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

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

Friday, February 2, 2018

Mirroring Bar Increases

I've spent the week working on the Spring issue of Cast On.  It really is a ton of work.  I'm taking a few minutes break to do this entry and then back to WordPress.  I have most of the photographs from the photographer.  We should be able to go live this weekend if all goes well.

I had a day after uploading all of the patterns and articles where I was waiting for photographs.  I took the time to start the revisions on the Basics course.  I've finished Lesson 1.  First of all, I haven't added any new swatches.  Most of the changes are to the reference section.  I am having the students knit a preliminary stitch to make the materials more in line with Level 1 of the Masters and I've added an Extra Credit swatch.  As soon as I've finished Cast On, I will revise Lessons 2 and 3 as well. 

As always, if you are a student or have taken the class in the past I will be HAPPY to send you the new files when they are finished.  For students who have just signed up and not started yet, I'm going to send them the new Lesson 1 and they have the choice of whether to do the preliminary swatch or not.  Please just email me at for more information. 

After reviewing the Basics class I realized that there was an omission.  I never discussed using bar increases (or kf&b) for garment shaping.  The reason is I never use these.  The bar increase leaves a purl bump as part of the increase.  There is usually a small hole at the base as well.  It is very noticeable and I prefer lifted increases for my own projects.  However, this use of the bar increase is covered in the Masters Program so I've added this use to the reference information and an extra credit swatch. 

The swatch below shows bar increases.  The increases label "A" were made in the first and last stitches.  If a project is to be seamed or have stitches picked up along the selvedge DON'T EVER do this.  It makes finishing more difficult and the final result looks "homemade" rather than "handmade".  It is fine to do this for shawls and scarves but not for an edge which will be finished.

To make a bar increase you knit into the front of the stitch and then into the back.  When you knit into the back you create the bar.  This makes mirroring bar increases more difficult.  If you look at "C" in the photograph above, notice that the selevedge stitch and two stitches are before the purl bump.  The increase was worked IN the 3rd stitch from the edge but the results appear AFTER the 3rd stitch. Now look at B.  There is one stitch and the selvedge stitch after the purl bump. The increase was worked IN the 3rd stitch from the edge and the purl bump appears AFTER that stitch. The increases are not mirrored.  When you look at a project where this is done, it draws the eye and not in a good way.

"D" shows mirrored bar increases.  To use bar increases in this situation, if you want the selevedge stitch and a knit stitch before the increase, work the increase in the first stitch after the selvedge on the right side.  On the left side, work in the the 3rd stitch from the edge.

The video shows how to do this as well.  Mirroring Bar Increases

Salon will be on Sunday, February 4th at 1:30 to 3:20.

Today is the deadline for proposals for the Summer 2018 issue.  I'm working on personal projects--texting gloves for me and a hat.  The yarn is from Anzula.  The hat uses Ava and the gloves use Cloud.  The color is Red Shoe.  Normally something like this would take me a day or so but I have had NO time to knit.  I've been chained to my computer.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Counting Rows in Garter and Seed Stitch

I have been working on the Spring 2018 issue of Cast On.  What a lot of work!  This issue has been quite frustrating to work on due to the havoc the weather has played on postal and UPS deliveries.  I pushed the photo shoot back a week in hopes that a few more items would arrive.  Alas, I am still waiting.  The process of uploading the WORD files after our tech editor, Sharon, gets them to me can take a long time.  I spent over 6 hours on one technical article but it will be well worth it to our readers.  That is an explanation of why I don't have much listed under my current projects.  If I am at home, I am sitting at the computer with my dear friend (and enemy) WordPress.

We got great news this week at Masters Day at the DFW Fiber Festival is sold out!  We are testing the idea out of piggy backing on fiber festivals since we are not going to do full blown conferences again.

I haven't posted a photo of George and Petipa for quite some time.  This photograph documents a rare occurrence.  They never are this close together.  They are sharing the sun near a heat register since the temperature is in the teens.

I've had several students finish up the Basics course.  It always makes me happy to see them complete the course.  Once I get Cast On out of the way, I'm going to look at the course and make some revisions.  It's been quite a few years since I've updated it.

This week's tip is prompted by what I have seen in several of the Lesson 3 work of the Basics class which discusses how to measure gauge.  No, you don't knit 10 stitches and then get out the oldest tape measure you have and count the stitches.  I've done several blog entries on how to measure gauge (look at Gauge in the Index and you can find them) but since several students had this issue I decided to do a special post on the topic.  

The photo below is a close up of garter stitch.  In the Basics class I have the students calculate gauge and you have to be able to count rows and stitches to do so.  I have found it interesting over the years to discover that very few knitters know what a stitch looks like unless it is on their needle.  First for the way to count the stitches.  The "frown" is the stitch, the "smile" is the space between the stitch.  If you count the "frowns" and the "smiles" both as a stitch, you will get twice as many stitches as there actually are.  I like to tell my students you can save yourself a lot of grief when knitting a gauge swatch if you jot down the number of stitches you cast on.  Then you don't even need to count them.  (Subtract two for the selvedges.)

Now notice how the "smiles" and "frowns" interlock to make a ridge.  Several of my students have counted the ridges for their gauge.  It takes two rows to make a ridge as the photo below shows where I have stretched the garter stitch.

 You can clearly see the two rows interlocking to make the ridges so....

 Now onto seed stitch.  I've had a couple of students recently count the only the purl bumps for their gauge calculations.  If you look close you can see that there is a knit stitch at the top of the purl bump which is hard to see but it is there.  Yes, you can count the purl bumps for your row count by multiplying that number by 2.  Take care when you measure that you include the knit stitch on top of that purl bump or subtract one from the row count.

I've numbered the rows below.  When you are calculating gauge, it will only be as accurate as your measurement and the number of stitches/rows.  If you get any of those wrong, you gauge won't be accurate.

I won't be having salon this week as I'm not sure how long the photo shoot will take.  I'll have one next week from 2-4 most likely

As I said above, I haven't spent much time knitting.  I did manage to finish all of the texting gloves..4 pairs total.  I love the gloves but finishing is such a PAIN.  All those ends to weave in.  My dear sweet blind Petipa is guarding the last pair.  What really made me happy is that I used yarn I had in my stash for all of them.  They were all worked in Zen Garden yarn I picked up at TNNA several years ago.

I'm going to use up some Kidsilk Haze (I special ordered 10 skeins years ago. What did I think I was going to make!), Richesse et Soie from Knit One Crochet Too (I think it has been discontinued for over 15 years!) and the Mondo Fil metallic  left over from my Rose Gold Hoodie.  It will be a simple hat.  You don't need much of a design with all of these fabulous yarns...

Now I need to start thinking of what to knit for the Summer issue...

Friday, January 5, 2018

Twisted Decreases Again

Yes, I know it has been quite some time since I've posted an entry.  No excuses but I'll try to do better.

I did receive quite a few lessons and despite my general laziness in doing blog entries, I managed to review them all the day I received them.  A reminder...For my non-US students, I will no longer send back the swatches after each lesson.  Postage is just too high and I don't want to increase the cost of the course.  What I have been doing is photographing areas of swatches that need special attention.  I think this will work.

This week's tip was prompted by questions from several students.  In Lesson 2 of the Basics course covers different types of decreases with an emphasis on mirroring them.  If you are an experienced knitter mirroring isn't big news but for new knitters, thanks to the way patterns are written it can be new information.  The way most patterns state how to place decreases is part of the problem--"Dec 1 at each neck edge every RS row 3 times".  How would you know not to place the decrease in the selvedge stitch and that there are other decreases than k2tog.

Unless someone points it out, a knitter may not even notice that they are twisting SSK or SKP decreases which means they won't mirror the k2tog decreases.  In the photograph below I've labeled four left slanting decreases.  (K2tog decreases slant to the right.  If this isn't ringing a bell you might want to look at Mirroring Decreases, an earlier blog.)

A is a properly worked SSK where the stitches are slipped knitwise to the other needle to ensure that they won't be twisted.  Care was taken not to stretch out the looks.  Notice that the stitch on top is open at the bottom as is the stitch underneath.

B is a k2tog tbl (two stitches knit together through the back loop).  Another way to look at this is an SSK where the stitches haven't been slipped.  Compare A and B and you can see that both stitches in B are twisted at the base.  Twisted stitches are more noticeable and don't mirror k2tog decreases.

C is an SKP decrease where the stitch has been slipped purlwise, not knitwise.  This twists the decrease.  To make an SKP properly you must slip the stitch knitwise.  (General rule...if the stitch is going to be used on the same row, slip it knitwise.  If it is to be used on the next row, slip it purlwise.)

D is an SSK where only the top stitch is slipped.  I've had several students tell me that they are sure I haven't seen this before since it is so marvelous a solution to oversized SSK decreases.  Nope.  I'm aware of this decrease technique.   Compare A and D and see if you can spot the difference.  If you don't slip both stitches, the stitch underneath is twisted and yes, this does change the appearance of the decrease.  Feel free to use this technique in your own projects any time but if you are doing the Masters Program, you will be expected to produce an SSK without any of the stitches twisted.  

Here is a link to the video I did of these decreases:  Left Slanting Decreases

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

Actually I don't feel too bad about not making a posting after I looked at all of the knitting I've been doing.  Between holiday/birthday projects and things for Cast On, I've been busy.  By the way, I learned the hard way this year when I was trying to figure out what I'd given for gifts last year .  I didn't put them in my blog--hence the number of photos this year.

I did take a photo of the first thing I did for the Spring issue and posted it in my last entry.  This is a hoodie knit with Mondo Fil yarns.  One is a cotton strand and the other is a metallic.  The drape of this is really amazing, sort of like light weight chain mail. It is called the Rose Gold Hoodie.  The hood is oversized so that it drapes nicely on the shoulders when not worn.

I realized that we very rarely do designs for children so we bought a child size mannequin and we will have two designs for girls in the Spring issue.  This is a top and skirt worked in Anzula's Gerty, an American Targhee yarn.  I chose it as it is so springy.  This garment is sized from Child's 4 to Adult Small.  If you look closely at the photo to the right you can see our new baby mannequin and yes, it does have Christmas lights on it.  (I took the lights off of the child mannequin to put the clothes on it.  They were a nice addition to my dining room for the holidays.)

I did a bunch of presents....

Socks with zig zag pattern (which I love).

I liked it so much I used it for a couple of buffs (didn't photograph them all)...

My sister and my niece and nephew all wanted hats, in gray.  The first one has a cabled cuff and the last one has a sawtooth boarder and yes, there are lights around the mannequin head which I've named Anne Boleyn.

 I made several pairs of texting gloves (and I still have to do a few more pairs).  I kept one of the pairs I knit for the Fall 2017 issue of Cast On and I have to say, they do keep my hands warm.  When I walked to Starbucks this morning it was 9 degrees. 

Now to start thinking about things for the Summer 2018 issue....

Friday, November 10, 2017

Reading Your Work and Stitch Anatomy

Sorry I haven't posted for awhile but it is very time consuming trying to get a magazine out and I had surgery in the middle of all that as well.  The day the Winter 2017/2018 issue closed, was the deadline for proposals for the Spring 2018.  When we were managed by Offingers there were three people who worked on the magazine plus some contractors.  Now it is just me and our photographer.

Quite a few lessons arrived this fall and despite everything I managed to get them all out within a day or two.  It is funny how I notice trends in the lessons.  The tip of the week addresses one of those trends.

As I reviewed lessons for the Finishing Course and Lesson 3 of the Basics course I noticed something that many students did not seem to understand and it wasn't all that surprising to me.  I've taught at conferences all over the country and whenever I teach finishing or gauge, I have to build in extra time to discuss stitch anatomy.  Based on my experience the VAST majority of knitters only look at the stitches on their needles, never at the stitches in the knitted piece.  If you can't tell the difference between a stitch and the space between a stitch you will find finishing very difficult.  In Lesson 3 of the Basics class, students calculate gauge for different stitch patterns.  The best (and most accurate) way to measure gauge is how we do it in the Masters Program.  (If you aren't familiar with this method, go to the index of my blog and look under Gauge.  There are lots of entries.)  I ask that the students place yarn between stitches as the first step in calculating the gauge.  To do this you need to know what a column of stitches look like.  A stitch in stockinette looks like a "V". In the photograph below, the yellow yarn is IN the center of the stitches in the column.  The red yarn is BETWEEN the column of stitches.  If I were counting stitches or rows, I would count the "V"s.

In Garter Stitch and reverse stockinette, the stitch looks like a frown.  The space between the column of stitches looks like a smile.  In the photograph the yellow thread is in the center of the stitches.  The red thread is between the stitches.  If I were counting the number of stitches, I would count the frowns.

Dealing with half stitches in gauge calculations is possible but for finishing it is rarely a good idea.  Seams and bands look best if they are placed BETWEEN the selvedge stitch and the next column of stitches.  In the swatch on the right, the seam is properly placed and if it weren't for the green yarn tail you probably wouldn't see where the seam is placed.  In the swatch on the left, the seam is placed IN the selvedge stitch in the blue piece.  Notice that this leaves half of the "V",  For the first part of the seam on the white piece, the seam is also placed in the selvedge stitch which does create a "V" but it doesn't really match the other stitches.  Selvedge stitches are generally pretty ugly.  Half way through, the seam is properly placed on the white side but since there is only a half stitch on the other, it is very noticeable.  When seams and bands aren't properly placed, the finished piece looks "homemade" instead of "handmade."

When you are finishing you not only need to be able to see columns of stitches but also the stitch itself.  When you pick up stitches on a bound off edge, you pick up the stitch IN the stitch below the bound off edge.  If you pick up the stitches BETWEEN the stitches, you pinch the stitches together an you get the "dread 11s".  When you seam two bound off edges together you seam IN the stitches as well.  The photograph below the seam is properly placed in the right swatch.  Notice that the column of stitches continues from one side to the other.  In the swatch on the left the seam has been placed between the stitches.  You can see why the pinched stitches are called "dread 11s".

I have done lots of blog entries which include stitch anatomy.  If you check the Index you can find entries for this as well as "Reading Your Work."  I've also done a video for this entry which discusses some of these same topics.  Stitch Anatomy and Reading Your Work

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

I finished the Circles Tunic in time for the photoshoot.  I didn't knit much until last week.  I've been sitting at my computer uploading the Winter issue.  

I used Elemental Affect Civility Sport for the tunic and the duplicate stitch circles.  I had so much of the duplicate stitch yarn left over that I decided to use it for a top for the Spring issue.  It took no time at all to knit.  The colors aren't accurate.  I haven't woven in the ends yet and I haven't cut out the dental elastics yet as I need to write the pattern.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Flat Tubular Bind Off

I've been knitting like a fiend to make the deadline for the photo shoot.  What on earth possessed me to propose a poncho!  It is done and I am making good progress on the tunic but it will be a close thing.

Please photograph your swatches, front and back, before sending them.  There are two reasons for this.  I will email you my letter as soon as I review your work and, depending on where you live, it will take awhile to get the swatches.  Also, sometimes the swatches just don't arrive. 

One thing I've noticed lately in many of the swatches is how the selvedge stitches curl under and for the Masters Program we want them flat.  There are a lot of reasons for this.  It is a very good habit to develop.  Flat selvedges make finishing MUCH easier.  For the Masters swatches, it helps the knitter (and reviewers) see if there is a tension issue at the selvedges which is a common issue.  If you can't see it, you can fix it.

I took a close up photo of one of my current projects as it was blocking.

Notice that I've flattened out the selvedge stitch and pinned them at an angle so the edges will dry that way.  By the way, dental elastics mark the locations of decreases.  I am so bad at taking notes when I design that I've learned that writing the pattern is much easier when I "annotate" like this.

The poncho uses the tubular cast on and bind off techniques.  When I went to do the bind off I couldn't think of how to get started.  I checked my own videos and realized all of them show how to do this in the round since I use this technique mainly for socks or necklines.  This tip rectifies that omission.

The preparation for a tubular bind off is basically the same for both circular and flat knitting.  The stitches in two to four rows are alternately slipped.  If you are working flat, you generally work the knit stitches and slip the purl stitches with the yarn in front (provided you are working an even number of stitches) for all rows.  You can't do that for circular knitting.  On the first round you work the knit stitches and slip the purl stitches and reverse this for the next round.  Here is a link showing how to do this:  Preparing for Tubular Bind Off.

When you do the bind off in the round, you begin with a purl stitch and you can adjust your stitches so that a purl stitch is first.  For flat knitting the first stitch is generally a knit stitch and you can't just shift it to the right.  You have to work it separately.  To get started (after you've cut the yarn and threaded up a tapestry needle) you insert the tapestry needle knitwise into this stitch, pull the yarn tight and drop this stitch off the needle.  From here on the process is the same as for circular knitting.

Step 1--Insert the tapestry needle knitwise into the purl stitch.  Pull the yarn tight.

Step 2--Insert the tapestry needle purlwise into the knit stitch you dropped and into the knit stitch to the left of the purl stitch and pull the yarn tight.

Step 3--Insert the tapestry needle purlwise back into purl stitch and pull the yarn tight.  Drop the stitches from the needle.  You just repeat this until the end.

The video shows how you begin and end the bind off.  Here is the link:  Beginning and Ending Flat Tubular Bind Offs

I won't be having salon again this weekend.  Hopefully soon!

I finally finished the poncho.  You can wear it two ways.

I've finished the fronts and back of the tunic I'm doing.  It is going to have a duplicate stitch design so I'm not going to seam it until I've done that.  The sleeves will be picked and worked from the shoulder down.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Left Slanting Decreases

I had a nice visit with knitters working on the Masters Program at Stitches Midwest back in early August.  It was a longer drive than I thought, particularly since I only went up for one night.  I broke up the drive on the way there and back with a stop at the Albanese Candy Outlet in Indiana.  I have a weakness for Gummi Bears.  I have a few left from the 5 lb (!) bag I bought.

The official start of fall for me is when I start getting more lessons to review and new students signing up for courses.  Things have definitely picked up since the first of September.

The tip this week is prompted by what I have seen in several lessons.  Lesson 2 of the Basics class discusses decreases. Several students have had difficulty spotting the differences between left and right slanting decreases.  I've discussed this quite a bit in the past.  Here is a link to an earlier entry: Left and Right Slanting Decreases.

Another thing covered in the lesson is how to make left and right slanting decreases "match".  This is a problem for many knitters.  K2tog produces a small, neat decrease that slants towards the right.  The problem is with left slanting decreases.  They will NEVER EVER truly match a k2tog but you can work to make them as small and unobtrusive as possible.  To make this decrease you have to reorient the stitches to be decreased on the needle so that the decrease will not be twisted.  This is done by slipping them back to the needle which stretches them out.  An SKP decrease requires slipping one stitch and an SSK requires slipping two.  If you use just your needle tips you can minimize how much the stitch is stretched out.  In the photograph below, I have done that to make the decreases.  Notice that the SKP is larger than the SSK.  

A few years ago I was experimenting with this and it occurred to me that if you wrap a stitch the wrong way (under the needle for a purl stitch), this reorients the stitch on the needle.  I tried doing this to the two stitches to be decreased on the row before.  The trick is to remember to do this.   The other thing to avoid is wrapping the stitches too tightly.  This will make the decrease look pinched.  On the decrease row, knit the two stitches together using just the needle tips.  In the photograph I did this for the decrease on the top.  It is a bit smaller.  Here is a video showing all three methods:  Making Left Slanting Decreases

By the way, if you are doing the Masters Program, do not use the method where only the first stitch is slipped.  The stitch underneath is twisted and yes, this is visible.

I won't be having salon this weekend.  Stay tuned.

I've been working on a poncho for the Winter Cast On.  At TNNA this summer, they were showing a lot of cabled sweaters and ponchos/ruanas.  I decided to do a cabled poncho.  What was I thinking?  It is a lot of knitting.  I am almost finished with the first piece.  I'm using Kelbourne Fibers Arranmore Light which is wonderful to work with.  Here is a partial view.  The cables are meant to look like snakes.  They are random and asymmetrical.