Friday, December 14, 2012

I won't be making an entry this week.  Time is getting away from me.  I completely forgot that I will be out of town from Dec. 17-21st.  I will resume in the new year.  I hope everyone has a lovely holiday!

Friday, December 7, 2012

The selection meeting for the summer issue of Cast On was Tuesday in Zanesville.  The Fashion Framework article will be on shrugs and the Stitch Anatomy lesson will be on the trinity stitch.  There were lots of lovely proposals.  I am going to do a linen dress, a sleeveless blouse with a peplum and socks with the trinity stitch.  I hope none of the yarn arrives until after Christmas.  I still have gifts to knit.

A few new orders and lessons arrived this week.   It continues to be slow and I expect it will remain so until after the holidays.  Handmade gifts are so wonderful. 

A discussion on Ravelry prompted this topic.  Whenever I teach at conferences I always give my students a package of dental elastics.  (No, I don't use them as a bribe for a good evaluation.)  I forget sometimes to tell them how to use them.  They must think I am crazy.  I use them as row markers.  There is a difference between stitch markers and row markers.  Stitch markers separate stitches on the needle.  You slide them along as you work the stitches.  They do not stay in the work itself.  You can use safety pins or stitch markers that open in the work but they tend to stretch out the stitches.  I use dental elastics for this.    In the photo below I have labeled the stitch marker and the row markers (more about the life line later.)

To use a dental elastic, place one on the right needle before the stitch you want to mark.  Work the next stitch.  Pull the dental elastic OVER the stitch you just worked.  Basically you use the dental elastic for a psso.  The dental elastic stays in the work until you cut it out.  Row Marker Video

What do I use these for?  Anytime I want to mark a place in my knitting I use them.  The photograph shows how I use them in cable patterns.  Most knitters have difficulty "reading" cables.   By that I mean counting the rows.  What I do, is place a marker in one of the cable rows, generally row 1. 

If I am working sleeves or fronts separately, I use them to mark the placement of increases and decreases so that each side or sleeve is the same.  Yes, I can read my work but the dental elastics make it easier.  I find counting rows a pain so I may place a marker every 10 or 20 rows.  (Seaming is much easier when you have the same number of rows.)

Where do you get elastics?  I get mine from a wholesaler.  You have to buy 50 packets of 100 since I give them to my students.  If you know an orthodontist or a kid who wears braces, you are set.

Elastics come in different sizes and weights.  I use the 1/4" for most projects but the 1/8" are ideal for socks.  They cannot be used as stitch markers as they do not slide.  If you have a latex allergy you have to be careful to get latex free elastics.

Another way you can mark your rows is with life lines.  To place a life line, you thread up a needle with thread or dental floss and run it through the stitch ON  the needle, taking care not to split the stitches.  You then continue working.  Life lines are essential for complicated lace patterns.  If you make a mistake and have to rip out rows, the life line holds live stitches.  It is very hard to rip out lace due to the yarn overs and decreases.  If you leave the life lines in you can use them to count rows as well.  KnitPick interchangeables have a hole in the needle.  You can put thread through the hole on the right needle and this will place the life line as you work.  This is a lot easier than trying to run a needle through the stitches on the needle.

Salon will be on Sunday as I will be at Un Ballo in Maschera.  It is the 200th birthday of Verdi so they are doing quite a few Verdi operas.  I've seen Ballo before in Chicago and in Vienna.  I am looking forward to this production.  The running time is over 4 hours but that includes 2 intermissions.  I better bring some knitting.

I'm still working on gifts.  The trip up to Zanesville cut into my knitting time.  I finished up the mitts and the hat for Martha (good thing she doesn't even know I have a blog!).  I could use the Happy Sparkle Day pattern for the mitts but not for the hat.  I had it almost done and I decided it needed to be bigger so I started over.  I also thought an invisible cast on would work better.

Everyone is getting mitts this year.  Some may get hats as well if I have time.  I am using stash yarn...Knit One Crochet Too Richesse et Soie which is 65% cashmere and 35% silk.  I am sad they don't make this yarn anymore as it is wonderful to work with.  I have several colors.

Here are the next pair of mitts.  I used invisible cast on and bind offs just to make it a bit more interesting.  I have to fit in my knitting with baking.  I always bake 15 or so different types of cookies as gifts for friends and family I don't knit for.  Yes, I am crazy!  To think I used to do this AND stage manage the Nutcracker as well.

Friday, November 30, 2012

I can't deny any longer that the holidays are getting close.  Yesterday I went through my stash with my list.  Word of advise...don't give someone a hand knitted present unless you are prepared to do so forever.  I wish I were better at organizing my time.  I plan to use stash yarn as much as possible.

I spent some time on my proposals for the summer issue of Cast On.  The selection meeting is next week.

TKGA has been updating their website and I did not get any new orders during that process.  It is up and running now and is quite nice.  Take a look.  New website  There is a photo of me on the home page.  I think it is the Argyle class from the Reno Knit and Crochet Show.  I hate having my photo taking but I try to be a good sport. 

I didn't get many lessons to review during the holidays.  Things really slow down this time of year as everyone seems to think they will knit Christmas presents.

The tip for this week is how to seam stockinette stitch.  Since I did how to seam garter stitch a few weeks ago, I thought I should probably add the mattress stitch. 

Seaming stockinette stitch is the most satisfying of all seams.  When done properly, it is completely invisible.  What makes a good seam?  The rows on either side of the seam must line up.  Before you begin, identify where you will place the seam.  You will use the horizontal bars between the selvedge edge and the first column of stitches.  This is one reason to block the pieces first and to flatten the selvedge stitches.  It make it much easier to see where to place the seam.  If you are having trouble seeing this, consider marking the first column of stitches with waste yarn so you don't get off.

Begin with the "Figure 8" which I discussed in the entry for October 26th.  One the Figure 8 is complete you insert your needle into the piece on the left in the same hole between the horizontal bars where the yarn came out.  You bring your needle under the horizontal bar and then bring it up into the hole on the other side of the bar.  You repeat this process on the right side, always inserting the needle into the same hole where the yarn came out.


Some sources tell you that you can go under two horizontal bars on each side. Yes, this does work and it might be quicker but it is much easier to get off so that the rows don't align properly. When I was reviewing submissions for Level 2 of the Masters Program, I noted that this was a very common problem. Going under each horizontal bar may take more time but it will give you a better looking seam.

The photo shows the completed seam.  Notice that two column of stitches line up exactly.  This swatch also demonstrates why tension is important.  Many knitters have tension issues at the selvedges.  When the pieces are seamed, the stitches on one side differ in size which detracts from the appearance.  The stitch in this swatch have nice tension.

Another way you can seam stockinette is to use the horizontal bars IN the selvedge stitch.  When you do this, half of a stitch is on either side of the seam.  There are many problems with this.  Since selvedge stitches are often ugly and misshapen, it is better hidden in a seam.  The swatch in this photo doesn't demonstrate this as the tension is fairly even.  I have seen some really ugly seams in my time.  When might you want to do this?  If you are working with a very heavy yarn, this will make the seam less bulky.   

We started a new regular feature in Cast On in the August-October 2012 issue called Finishing with Confidence.  The articles goes into more detail.  Here is the video:  Seaming Video

Salon will be on Sunday from 2-5pm.  The Met Simulcast of La Clemenza di Tito by Mozart is on Saturday.  There is an opera for the next three weeks.  Ashland (the Henry Clay Home) which is across the street is having their tree lighting at 5pm.  I'll probably walk over after Salon.

I FINALLY finished the cat scarf.  Double knitting is fun but very time consuming.   It didn't help that I undid the thing four or five times.  I couldn't decide on a width.   When I got to the center I reversed out the chart so that the cats are looking at you.  Suzanne's instructions in the May-June 2012 issue of Cast On were invaluable.  If I ever do double knitting again, I'll use heavier yarn.  This was sock yarn and size 2.5 needles. 

Now that I've finished this project, I am beginning my holiday knitting.  Most everyone is getting fingerless mitts.  I plan to use the Happy Sparkle Day pattern.  The great thing about them is that since they are ribbed, I don't need to make many modifications to the pattern since the ribbing stretches and contracts.  I am using some cashmere-silk yarn I have had around for years for the first pair.   I love this yarn.  It isn't made anymore.  I bought a ton when Patternworks discontinued it.  It is the softest yarn and unlike most cashmere-silk blends it doesn't pill.

Friday, November 16, 2012

I won't be doing a blog entry next week but I should have time the next week.

I went up to Granville on Monday for the photo shoot on Tuesday.  It went very well but I forgot to take photos.  The Fashion Framework article is on skirts.  There were several designs for babies and children and we had three adorable models.  It should be a fun issue.
The proposals for the Knit and Crochet shows were due this week.  As always I put things off until the last minute.  I have proposed doing a two-day finishing class.  Students could take both day or just one.  I love teaching finishing and I haven't met a knitter who hasn't benefited from a finishing class.  I am going to make some changes to the handout and add a few things.  Pretty much everything required in Level 2 of the Masters Program will be covered.  The students will have a complete finishing reference work if they take both days.  (Of course, this is dependent on it being accepted!)  I also proposed doing my Intarsia class and an increase/decrease class.  If they are accepted, I am requiring that the students get a yarn kit from me.  I am tired of students bringing in yarn that makes it very hard for them to focus on the techniques.  Black mohair!
This is the first week since I have been teaching the Basics class that I can remember not getting any new students.  I did get a few lessons to review, all of which were excellent.  I know I am preoccupied with my holiday knitting so I imagine everyone else is as well. 
My topic this week addresses something I saw on the TKGA forum in Ravelry as well as a few questions from my students. 
In the Masters Program and for the Basics Basics Basics class, students are to use worsted weight yarn and "appropriate sized" needles.  We don't suggest a needle size.  We leave it up the knitter to determine which size would be the best.  When you work with a pattern, you have to use a needle size that will give you the suggested gauge but for the swatches you have to do this work on your own.  This photo shows three swatches knit with the same yarn but using 3 different needle sizes. 
When you are determining what size needle to use, the main consideration is the fabric drape.  For swatches in the Masters Program or Basics class, the fabric should not be so stiff that it can stand on its own.  Nor should be so loose that the fabric is lacey.  The place to start is with the needle size recommended on the yarn's label.   I'm not sure how yarn companies determine this number.  Do they base it on one knitter's sample or do they average several knitters' samples.  The thing to remember is that chances are, it won't be what you get, most likely.
If you are a new knitter and you think you want to continue knitting, invest in a set of interchangeable needles.  Or, you can find another knitter who has a lot of needles.  You should have a range of needles to determine the "appropriate" size.  Knit small swatches to test the drape.  Pick the one with the best drape and then do your gauge swatch.
For worsted weight yarn, the Craft Yarn Council of America states that the recommended gauge (for stockinette) is 16-20 stitches for 4".  This is what is expected for the swatches in the Masters Program. 
This swatch was knit using Size 4 needles and the gauge is 7 stitches per inch.  This gauge does not work for swatches where you are demonstrating techniques.  Perhaps if you are knitting a jacket or a pillow where you want a denser fabric, it would be "appropriate."  Using smaller needles can disguise tension issues but this isn't a solution to a tension issue.  If you plan to use published patterns you will have to use larger needles for worsted weight yarn.
This photo shows a swatch knit with appropriate sized needles.  The yarn label recommends Size 9 needles and a gauge of 4 stitches per inch.  I prefer a slightly tighter gauge so I used Size 7 to get 5 stitches per inch.  This is within the recommended range so I could use this size needle for swatches. 
For this swatch I used Size 10.5 needles.  The gauge for  4" is 14.545 which rounds to 15 stitches.  This is just a bit too large for the recommended gauge.  I was surprised this swatch looks as good as it does.  It is difficult to maintain even tension when you are using needles too large.
I did a short video for these swatches which you may want to look at.  Photographs really don't let you see the drape.  Choosing Needles Video
I can't have the salon on Saturday as I will be spending the day at the district auditions for the Metropolitan Opera National Council.  There will be 24 singers auditioning.  It is a wonderful event (and free).  It will last all day.  I will be going to the Louisville airport on Sunday for the first of my Thanksgiving pick ups but I should be back by 3:30 for a short salon.
I spent a lot of this week in the car driving up to Ohio but I did finish Jan's socks.  I also did another UK baby hat.  (I made the mistake of showing one of the finished ones to a friend who just had her first grandson.)  It looks just like the others so I didn't take a photo. 
Here are Jan's socks.  I haven't knit a pair of Wasp Wings in a long time.  I love this pattern.  Jan likes neutral colors.  This is yarn I got at the Manchester meeting from TuckerWood yarns.  It was lovely to work with. 

I've started my first double knit project.  Double knitting was not a requirement of the Masters Program when I did it.  I used Suzanne Bryan's wonderful article in Cast On May-June 2012 to teach me the basics.  I am happy to report that the article did the job.  I am doing a reversible scarf in black and white with a cat head design for a friend of mine who lost her 18 year old black cat this year and now has a new white kitten.  I am having so much fun.  The photograph shows the scarf before I ripped it out.  It was a little too wide and I wasn't happy with the tension.  (I figured out how to correct that problem and I had told Suzanne I wouldn't let it bother me but I was wrong.)  I'll take photos when I finish.  I won't be surprised if I do a couple of other double knit projects. 


Friday, November 9, 2012

I'm sure everyone is as glad as I am that the elections are over.  Between the pollsters and campaign workers, it seemed my phone rang every ten minutes...a drawback of working at home!

I received only three lessons to review this week.  Two were Lesson 3 so the knitters are now ready to do the Masters Program (not that they weren't ready before!).  It makes me very happy when my students persevere and finish up the course.  There are always fewer lessons at this time of year.  So many of us are starting our holiday knitting, including me!

This week's tip is a special request.  (Yes, I take requests.)  Last week I did the numbered diagram of how to weave in a yarn tail in reverse stockinette stitch and the request was for garter stitch.  I did discuss this in an earlier blog but I am happy to do it again with different photographs and videos.  (I've put a link to both videos later.)

True duplicate stitch does not work all that well with garter stitch.  In the post of April 20, 2012 I discuss this and have reproduced the photo here.  When you use true duplicate stitch (following the path of ONE row, it may show through in garter stitch.  It is better to use the "smiles" and "frowns" of TWO ridges. This keeps the tail on the WS of the work.  This photo shows the path of the yarn using two ridges. 

This photo shows the ridges and a numbered path of the yarn.  In the Basics class, there is one garter stitch swatch in Lesson 3.  In Level 1 of the Masters Program there is also one garter stitch swatch.

The video for this week also includes a demonstration of how to seam garter stitch.  Starting in the Fall 2012, there is now a series called "Finishing with Confidence."  The article for the Spring 2013 issue covers seams in reverse stockinette and in garter stitch.  I decided to include this in this tip. 

As for weaving in tails, you need to be able to identify the "smiles" and "frowns".  A properly worked seam is one where the stitch pattern continues over the seam.  In garter stitch and reverse stockinette, smiles and frowns interlock to form the stitches so for the stitch pattern to continue over the seam you must also interlock smiles and frowns. 

When you seam garter stitch, you seam the RIDGES together, not the rows.  (Remember a ridge is made up of two rows.)  You seam the "smile" on one piece to the "frown" on the other.  If you remember from other tips, the stitch is the frown, the smile is the space between stitches.  This means that on one piece you are using the frown between the selvedge stitch and the stitch next to it.  On the other side, you have a choice.  You can use the frown in the selvedge stitch (as in this photograph) or you can use the frown in the stitch next to the selvedge stitch.  For garter stitch, I recommend using the selvedge stitch as garter stitch is bulky as it is.  When the seaming thread is pulled, the stitches line up.  It will never be as invisible as mattress stitch in stockinette stitch.

Here is the link to this week's video:  Garter Stitch.  Here is the link to the earlier entry:  04/20/12.

By the way, I never planned to do tips on finishing but if there is interest in this, I can add that to the topics.  Drop me a comment if there is something in particular you'd like to see.

Salon this week will be on Sunday.  The Met is doing a new production this weekend for the simulcast--The Tempest which I've not seen.  I am looking forward to it.  The previews were pretty spectacular. 

I've been trying to catch up on gifts.  I did get a photograph of the Happy Sparkle Day mitts. 

I think I mentioned last week that the yarn was donated by Lion Brand for the goody bags at the Reno Knit and Crochet show.  I very rarely work with acrylic fibers and as someone who is obsessed by tension, I found these frustrating to work on but I think they turned out OK.  I am writing up the pattern for Stephanie.  If anyone else who went to Reno and has the yarn would like the pattern, let me know and I'll send it off.  I am thinking of making some in more natural fibers for my daughters.

I had enough yarn to do a matching hat.  I find this photograph so funny.  Normally I block my hats on balloons but there is absolutely NO POINT in blocking acrylics.  This hat would look much better on an actual head.  I don't think anyone has a head this round!

Anyone who has ever designed a hat with K2P2 ribbing knows the difficult part is shaping the crown.  I have seen some very ugly hats at the crown which should only be worn by very tall people.  I came up with a solution for this hat.  The properties of the yarn are not ideal but this photo shows the basics construction. 

If I were to knit this hat again (which I think I will do) I would make it longer so the bottom could fold up.  I wasn't sure I had enough yarn.  As it turned out, one skein was plenty.  I am writing up this pattern as well.

My husband has a colleague who just adopted a baby.  They are fanatical UK fans.  I used the pattern for the Dread hats which are in the current issue of Cast On (just got my copy yesterday). My husband requested pom poms instead of dreads...much easier and quicker.

I did one for now, one for later.  The only yarn I could find in the right color of blue was Cascade Pima Cotton.  I really don't like working in cotton at all.

I also finished up a pair of socks for a birthday present.  Don't be fooled by this photograph.  The yarn is black. 

I used a stitch pattern from one of the Japanese stitch dictionaries.  I like how they turned out.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

You'll notice I am doing my post a day early.  I have too much scheduled tomorrow. 

I survived Halloween.  The photo above is of my front porch last night.  I generally put the luminaries along the curved sidewalk to the house but it was raining, not that I am complaining at all.  We had it so much easier than those on the eastern seaboard.  I did feel sorry for the trick or treats but it looked like they had fun anyway.  When my children were small I used small pumpkins as luminaries.  I used a power drill to put lots of holes in them.  I'd carve 20 or so.  These luminaries took a fraction of the time and can be used again. 

I got a few orders for courses and several lessons to review.  I appreciated the time.  I spent the week writing at the computer.  I had a couple of articles to finish up and all of the samples for those articles to knit.  Not much fun.  I also am finishing up Lesson 2 of the Gauge class.  I finished up today.  It covers gauge swatches for lace and circular knitting plus using gauge to adapt patterns. 

I finished up the Finishing Class I taught at home.  It was a lot of fun.  I hope that the students thought so also.  Thanks to Stephanie for the delicious cookies and to Mary and Elisha for the Garretts popcorn!

One of the things I have learned as a teacher is that everyone learns in a different way.  It is the job of a teacher to figure out methods that help students with different learning styles.  What is easy for one student may be difficult for another.  This is particularly true for the duplicate stitch method of weaving in yarn tails where stockinette is the RS.  This past week I had several students have difficulty with this.  I spent some time trying to think of alternate ways to explain this.  Let me know if this helps. 

This photo shows the stitch anatomy of reverse stockinette.  The stitch itself looks like a frown.  (On the stockinette side, this is the top of the "V". ) The spaces on either side of the stitch look like smiles.  (On the stockinette side, these are horizontal bars between the "V"s.   Notice how the stitch interlocks with the smiles and then into the frown of the stitch in the row below. 

What I have tried to do is to label the stitches with arrows and numbers to show the path you follow when using this method to weave in a yarn tail.  This isn't as cryptic as it first looks.  Start on the right side.  You would insert the needle under the frown labeled "1" and follow the direction of the arrow to insert the needle under the smile labeled "2".  You then follow the direction of the arrow and insert the needle into the smile labeled "3" and then back into the frown labeled "4".  This is the same frown you inserted the needle for "1".  The first stitch has been duplicated.  To go to the next stitch, follow the direction of the arrow to insert your needle into the frown labeled "5"....and so on.  The video demonstrates this technique in much more detail.  Stitch Anatomy video

For decorative duplicate stitch you go completely under the stitches but to hide yarn tail you don't want to do this.  Slightly split the smiles and frowns as you insert the needle and this will keep the tail on the back of the work.

I used a different colorway for these socks.  The colorway in the original would require you to buy two packs of the yarn to make one pair of socks.  True, you could use the yarns for mittens or some such thing but I thought it was only fair to come up with a colorway that uses one pack of yarn.  I like this one as well.  I am actually going to keep this pair after the photo shoot as it was my idea to do them.  I liked this pattern so much I've decided to use it for some Redfish yarn I bought years ago.  Who knows when I'll get around to that pattern!

Now I have started on personal projects.  I've got birthday presents to do, a couple of baby gifts, Christmas and the project I am doing now for a friend.  I am calling them "National Sparkle Day" mitts.  There is a very funny story behind the mitts but it isn't my story to tell and I don't want to get anyone in trouble.  The alternate name is "Happy Sparkle Day" mitts.  That story I can tell.  A friend of mine has a friend who lives in Japan.  My friend used the computer to translate something on her friend's facebook page.  You got it, the translation was "Happy Sparkle Day."  Lion Brand included some Vanna's Glamour yarn in the goody bags at the TKGA conference in Reno.  I managed to snag extra from committee members.  I'll post photos of the mitts next week.



Friday, October 26, 2012

Every morning this week after my walk to Starbucks, I've walked over to this street and photographed the ginkgo trees.  This is the prettiest street in Lexington this time of year.  Expect an update next week although rain is forecast which could bring down all of the leaves.  The ginkgo trees remind me of aspen.
Besides taking pictures of ginkgo trees, I spent the week finishing up my obligations for the spring issue of Cast On.  I wrote the pattern for the shawl, knit the socks, wrote the pattern for the socks, wrote the third article in the finishing series, knit samples for the Fashion Framework article on skirts and started the second pair of socks.  I'm hoping to finish up the Fashion Framework article today.  I will be completely ready for the photo shoot which isn't for a couple of weeks!  What will I do with all that time...November birthdays are coming up not to mention my holiday knitting!
It was a slow week.  Again, it is like my students can see my calendar!  The response to my gauge class has been pretty good, considering the topic which isn't exactly exciting.  Important, yes.  Exciting, no.
The tip this week was a special request (yes, I do take requests) from one of the Co-chairs of the Masters Committee--how to begin a vertical seam.  The focus of Level 2 is finishing.  This is probably the toughest level for most knitters since most knitters hate finishing.  The ironic thing about finishing is that if you know how to do it, it isn't all that bad.  Sometimes I compare finishing to baking a cake.  Yes, you can be a terrific baker.  Your cakes may taste great but if they are lopsided and ugly it detracts from the cake.  Finishing is like frosting the cake.  It can make it exceptional. 
When you begin a vertical seam (think bottom of sweaters and sleeve cuffs) it is important that both sides line up exactly at the bottom. It looks sloppy when they don't.  The photograph shows an example of a poorly started seam.   Several of the required swatches in Level 2 address vertical seams.  One of the things the reviewer look for is if the pieces line up.

The "Figure 8" technique is the recommended method for starting a seam since it avoids this issue.  Compare the photograph above to this one:
This technique isn't hard.  The steps are:
  • Align the pieces RS facing, side-by-side, with the cast on edges at the bottom. Insert the needle from back to front through the cast on edge of the piece on the right.
  • Insert the needle from the back to the front of the cast on edge of the piece on the left.
  • Complete the Figure 8 by inserting the needle from back to front into the same spot on the cast on edge.  If you manipulate the yarn you can see that it forms a Figure 8.

When this is pulled tight, it anchors the two sides together and it is invisible.  I think the mistake many make is that they don't begin in the cast on edge.  By the way, when I say "cast on edge"  I mean the strand of yarn.  Don't split the yarn.

Here is the link to the video:  Figure 8

There isn't a salon this week as I will be at the simulcast of the Met's production of Otello.  This is the last week of the finishing class I am teaching at home. 

I have blocked the shawl and woven in the yarn tails.  The pattern is really lovely.

The drape is fabulous.  This linen is softer than other linen I have worked with.  I've posted more photos in my projects page in Ravelry.  Circles Within Circles Shawl

I finished the socks as well.  I decided to call them Thalassa Socks.  (What is the point of a degree in Classical Greek if you can't use it?)  Thalassa is the word for sea.  I think this design has a very Aegean feel to it.  Sorry, Isabel, I can't call them the Green Wave!

As I was knitting these, I realized that the color scheme I chose would require buying two packs of the yarn so I am going to knit up another pair with an alternate scheme which will use just one.  Now that I have finished the samples of skirts for the skirt article I can do the socks.  I decided to work up three skirts (gathered, straight and A-line) as illustrations.  They would fit an 18" doll.  They are blocking now so I will photograph them next week.

I was going to do ribbing at the top but it wouldn't match the drape of the rest of the socks so I did a foldover hem.  I grafted the hem using the same technique I used for the skirts.  It really works well.  The top is as stretchy as the rest of the sock.

I got a nice surprise in the mail on Wednesday. Elf and Sandy sent the yarn for the final sweater in the Utah series.  I spent quite a bit of time with Elf in Reno selecting colors.  She also sent some extra blues (not photographed) for me to play with.  Swatching will commence soon.  You really have to see the actual thing before you make final decisions.  I am NOT looking forward to winding all of this into balls!


I think this will be a beautiful sweater.  I'll post photos of the swatches as I do them.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A pretty dull week, not that I am complaining.  I got a lot done, not as much as I had hoped, of course.  I still have tons to do before the next photo shoot which is approaching faster than I had hoped.  I started the Fashion Framework article on skirts and decided it needed samples so I routed around through my stash to find yarn to do sample doll skirts.  After the socks, those come next.

Very few lessons arrived this week.  Ladies (and Gentlemen) please keep me busy!  I like to review at least as many lessons as new students.  This week I had far more new students than I had lessons to review.

As I've mentioned before I send links to my DropBox where I store the course materials.  It takes much less time to send the links.  Sometimes there are problems with this, depending on the service you use.  If you don't get it, check your SPAM folder first.  I can also send PDF files or mail you the materials if there is a problem.

The topic for this week was again inspired by the finishing class I am teaching.  Periodically when I get a lesson from a new student, I find that they have used a selvedge treatment on their swatches in an attempt to make them more attractive.  First, let me make it very clear, ALL SELVEDGES ARE UGLY.  That is their nature.  I wouldn't waste a minute of my time trying to make them pretty. (Tension issues are a different matter.  If they are ugly because they are oversized and loopy, this is something you need to fix.) 

I want to see the selvedge stitches which means you should work them in pattern.  This lets me see if there is a tension problem.  Selvedge treatments generally obscure any tension issues.

What do I mean by selevedge treatment?  The most common one is to slip the first stitch of every row.  This produces a chain on the side.  The photograph shows two swatches.  One where the first stitch has been worked, the other where it is slipped. 

When would you want to use a selvedge treatment?  Don't ever use this for an edge which will be seamed or used to pick up stitches.  As you can see in the photograph, the slipped stitches span two rows.  This does not provide a sturdy edge for either a seam or band. 

The time to use a selvedge treatment is if the edge is not going to be finished.  It does provide an attractive edge.  I used selvedge treatments on two of my latest projects, the bottom edge on the side-to-side garter skirt and the shawl which has a garter border.   I find this a better looking edge for a garter project.  

When you slip the stitch in garter stitch, you have to slip it purlwise and bring the yarn to the back in front of the slipped stitch.  The video show techniques for both stockinette stitch and garter.  Here is the link to the video:  Selvedge Treatments

There won't be a salon again this week.  I will be teaching the third session of the finishing class on Sunday.  I am going to use my Saturday to write the pattern for the shawl.  Next week is another opera so I won't be hosting a salon until November.

I don't know what it is about my work ethic but if you give me two weeks to do something, it is going to take me two weeks to do it.  I thought I'd have the shawl completely finished and blocked by mid-week but it took much longer than I thought.  I kept making stupid mistakes which required ripping it out.  It is a fairly complicated lace pattern but it got ridiculous.  I finally finished it this morning. 

It actually doesn't look too bad even though it isn't blocked.  Here is how it looks now:

One of the great things about linen is how quickly it absorbs water.  It was completely wet within 10 minutes.  As soon as I finish this blog, I am going to block it.  It should be around 80" long so this will take some time.  I'll photograph it as it blocks.  The other great thing about linen is how quickly it dries.  It is a sunny day here and I generally drag things to my deck to dry.

Friday, October 12, 2012

I put the final touches on the Understanding Gauge course this week.  I am very happy with the materials.  The focus is using gauge rather than how to measure gauge, although that, of course, is covered as well.   I want the course to be useful to anyone who has already taken the Basics class without two much repetition.  It will take a lot of the mystery out of the "nuts and bolts" aspect of the design process.  You can't teach creativity but you can explain the process.  This course would benefit those who don't have much design experience who want to do Level 3. 

My students are so considerate.  Somehow they know when I am busy writing and they don't send in their lessons.  Of course, the beautiful fall weather could have something to do with it as well.

The first part of the finishing class went very well (at least I thought so but I guess you'd have to talk to the students!)  It is very nice teaching at home.  If I forget something or someone needs needles or some such thing, it is easy to get it.  The hardest part was putting in the extra leaf in the dining room table!

The difference between the smooth and bumpy edges came up in the Finishing Class.  I thought it would make a good topic for a tip as well, along with how to read your work.

The long tail cast on is probably the most commonly used cast on technique.  Most knitters just cast on and then follow a pattern but an understanding of this cast on can help you avoid potential problems in your work.  The long tail cast on produces the first row of stitches as well as the cast on edge.  Unless you are using some other version (and there are many!) this first row produces the smooth edges which is a match to knit stitches.  For most projects the stockinette side is the RS or public side of the work.   When you turn the work for the first row, the bumpy side (purl stitches) is presented.  If you work this row as the first RS or public side, you have selected the bumpy side of the cast on as your RS. 

The photograph shows the smooth and bumpy sides of these small swatches.  How big a deal is this?  It isn't important at all as long as you are consistent.  For example, if you have the smooth side as the RS on one sleeve and the bumpy side on the other sleeve, it isn't symmetrical. 

It is a matter of personal opinion as to which you prefer.  The next time you use a pattern, see how the designer handles this.  If the first row of the pattern is designated as a WS row, you know they have elected to have the smooth side as the RS.  If they have the first row after the cast on as a RS row, then it is up to you to change this, if you want the smooth side as the RS.

Quite a few projects begin with ribbing which is one reason designers don't specify one way or the other.  This photograph shows ribbing.   You might want to look at it and see which your prefer.  Generally speaking, if there are any knit stitches, the smooth side is preferred since the purl stitches recede into the background but again, it really is up to the knitter.  Just pay attention to see which side you are choosing so that you are consistent.   The video for this week shows how you can determine which is the right side.  Smooth vs Bumpy Video

Reading Your Work
If you are doing the Masters Program or taking any TKGA classes, you know that you have to tag your work.  Tags are always placed in the upper left hand corner of the swatch.  (The arrows mark this spot in the photograph.) This is the industry standard.  This lets the person looking at the swatch know which is the RS and tell the top from the bottom.  In the Masters Program, this lets the reviewer know that the knitter can tell the difference between the cast on edge and bind off edge.  The nature of the knit stitch and the purl stitch is that they look the same upside down. 

If you are seaming something it is important that you start from the cast on edge and work to the bind off edge.  Otherwise the stitch orientation is upside down and you will either use a half stitch or a stitch and a half for the seam.  In most projects this isn't a big deal as the shaping tells you what is the top and what is the bottom.  For something square or rectangular, it can be a problem.

If you don't know what the bind off edge looks like (as I've said, lots of knitters never look at their work), pay attention the next time you bind off and you will notice that the bind off edge is interlocking loops.  (That assumes you are using the standard bind off.)  The bind off edge does not look like the cast on edges, smooth or bumpy.  By the way there are very many different ways to cast on and in some cases you can match the cast on and bind off edges if you are knitting something like a scarf.

There will not be a knitting salon this week (or probably for the rest of the month.  I've got some deadlines I need to make and between that and the opera schedule and teaching on Sundays, it may not happen.  I'll decide each week.  

I have been yammering on both here and in Ravelry about the importance of looking at your work.  You think I would take my own advice.  I was looking at the shawl I am working on (and I was at least half way done) when I noticed a GLARING ERROR about half way down.  I wish I could just say, "Oh, well" and then make a note for the photo shoot to hide the error but I simply cannot do that.  I ripped it back to the error so I am pretty much where I was last week.  Hence, no updated photo.  This particular lace pattern requires that you pay attention.  I'm hoping to finish it up this week.  I now am looking at it very closely every 12 rows. 

The yarn for the final project I am doing for the Spring issue of Cast On arrived.  I saw this yarn at TNNA and thought it looked fun.  I am doing the wave socks I did for Babel but in these colors.  They package the colors separately which makes them ideal for fair isle or intarsia.  There was some confusion over what yarn I wanted and the lovely people at Blue Ridge have been very generous sending me yarn.  I am sending the extra to Penny Sitler (the editor) and she is going to give it away on the TKGA Facebook page. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

I spent time putting together the Understanding Gauge correspondence course.  It will be more comprehensive than the course I could offer at conferences since the students have more time.  The first lesson will be about how to knit gauge swatches and calculate gauge (also covered in the Basics course) but it will it include how to use gauge information when working with patterns.   The gauge information in the Basics Class is designed to help prepare students for the Masters program.  The gauge course is more about using gauge in actual projects.  Lesson 2 covers how to use gauge information to alter patterns (use a different weight of yarn, change necklines, etc.)  Lesson 3 will cover how to use gauge to design garments.  I am having a lot of fun putting this together.  The course will be available on October 15th.

Things are back to normal.  I received quite a few lessons to review.  Generally more Lesson 1 swatches arrive.  This week most were Lesson 2.  It makes me happy to see students progressing through the course.

A question that comes up when students do the extra credit pattern in Lesson 3 or in Level 1 of the Masters program is about the difference in Multiples and Repeats in patterns.  Part of the problem is the terminology.  If you have knit for more than one week you know that there is very little consistency with knitting terminology.  I am going to use the terminology we use in the Masters Program.  I did do a video for this tip:  Video

If you look at stitch dictionaries like Barbara Walker's Treasury of Knitting series, you will see the information like the following included with the row instructions for each stitch pattern:

Multiple of 4
Multiple of 6 plus 2
Multiple of 24 plus 3

The "Multiple" is the number of stitches it takes to complete the pattern once.  The "Plus" number of stitches is the number of stitches you need to balance or complete the pattern if you are working it flat.  In the example below,  three multiples of the stitch pattern have been worked.  Each multiple is made up of 6 stitches,  4 stitches for the cable and 2 stitches for the reverse stockinette between the cables.  To balance and complete the pattern on the left side of the swatch there are 2 additional stitches for the reverse stockinette stitches.   

If I were going to use this stitch pattern in a swatch knitted flat and I needed to determine how many stitches to cast on, I would multiply the number of cables I want (3) by the multiple number (6). This gives me 18 stitches. I then would add the "Plus 2" which gives me 20. If I wanted a border (as shown in the photograph) I would then add those stitches.

The "Plus" stitch in this stitch pattern would be ignored if you were working this pattern in the round.  If you included the "Plus 2"  There would be 4 reverse stockinette stitches between the first and last cables. 

In the photograph which follows , the lace pattern is a multiple of 8 plus 1.  Each 7 stitch lace motif is separated by a single reverse stockinette stitch.  If I were casting on stitches for this swatch I would need 24 (8 stitches multiplied by 3 (the number of lace motifs I want).  I would then add the "Plus 1" for a total of 25.  If I wanted the border, I would need 6 more stitches.

In the Masters Program we use "Repeats" to indicate the the number of times you work the rows of a stitch pattern.  I think the confusion comes from the word itself.  As a noun, it identifies a specific thing.  As a verb it can be used in a variety of ways.  For example, "I am going to repeat the multiple 3 times." 

Here is an example of what you might find in a stitch dictionary for the first swatch:

Simple Cable

Multiple of 6 plus 2

Row 1 & 3: *P2, k4; rep from * to last 2 sts, p2.

Row 2 and all even rows: *K2, p4; rep from * to last 2 sts.

Row 5: *P2, C4F; rep from * to last 2 sts, p2.

Row 6: *K2, p4; rep from * to last 2 sts

Repeat Rows 1-6.

This pattern has a Repeat of 6 rows.  If I were writing a pattern for this swatch I would tell the knitter to repeat Rows 1-6 four times. 

You may want to think of the Multiples as giving you HORIZONTAL information and Repeat as giving you VERTICAL information. 

Some stitch dictionaries provide only charts.  For this chart the "Multiples" are shown as separate from the "Plus 2" by dark lines. 

In patterns for garments the designers have figured out the multiple and repeat information for you but it is usually provided, either in preliminary information or in chart format.  Each publication and individual designers present this information in different formats which contributes to the confusion. 

The examples used above are very simple ones.  It is fairly easy to use stitch patterns of this type in patterns or to translate to chart format.  Not all stitch patterns you find will be so easy.  The project I am working on is an example of that type.

Salon will be on Saturday even though there is a football game.  Since I am teaching the finishing course on Sunday, I had no choice.  Sorry Sports Fans!

I've been working on the linen stole for the Spring Issue of Cast On.  I fell in love with this yarn at TNNA.  It is Shibui/linen.  I wasn't sure what size needle to use so I did a gauge swatch.  Notice I practice what I preach. 

The top swatch was worked on Size 5 needles and the bottom one on Size 4.  I liked the larger size better.  One thing I like about this lace pattern is that it is reversible which makes it ideal for the stole.  I've used this stitch pattern before.  It is from one of Barbara Walker's books.  I've made slight modifications to it.  It is an excellent example of a more complicated stitch pattern.  The REPEAT is 24 rows.  The MULTIPLE is 12 but the Plus is the problem.  Technically, it is 3.  Usually the Plus is added at the end but in this case, 2 of the stitches are worked BEFORE the multiple.  Due to the way the increases and decreases at the beginning and end of the pattern are worked, you actually have to work the last two stitches of the pattern differently.  Writing patterns for stitch patterns of this type are always challenging.  I've worked up a preliminary chart using Walker's as a guide but it needs some editing to make it easier for another knitter to use.

Here is the stole so far.  It will look better when blocked.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Traveling is a lot of fun but it is so nice to be home.  I am almost caught up with the stuff that piled up while I was gone. 

I enjoyed the meeting very much.  I had great students and it was wonderful having so many Master Committee members present.  There were 10 committee members present.  (By the way, I got every one's permission to include this photo.  They are great sports!)  From left to right...Martha, Suzanne, Charles, Celia, Leslie, Binka, Sue, Mary, Christina and Sharon.  These are some of the folks who review the Masters submissions.

This photo shows my favorite view...Starbucks to the right, the casino to the left.  I had fairly good luck at the casino as did Charles.  I didn't knit as much as I normally do at conferences!

I got lots of orders for the Basics class while I was gone.  My iPad makes it easy to keep up.  I used to have to drag a laptop.  I didn't have that many lessons to review when I got home but I managed to get them in the mail the next day.  I am home now and waiting and ready for lessons!

I got news a few days ago that my Gauge correspondence course has been approved.  I need to work on the materials a bit to transform it to a correspondence course but it should be ready to go by the end of next week.  I am quite excited about this.  For many years I didn't bother with gauge but once I started designing I had to suck it up and spend time working out the kinks.  I am like a reformed smoker...I want everyone to understand how gauge works.  The course will cover how to work gauge swatches and how to accurately calculate gauge.  It will include how to use the gauge information when using patterns, modifying patterns and designing your own garments. 

My tip this week was partially inspired by the conference.  Sometimes the yarn that the students bring to class really causes a problem.  I generally specify in course descriptions that the students bring light colored worsted weigh wool and I am amazed how how this can be interpreted.  I've decided that for some of my classes I am going to prepare yarn kits for the students.  It is very difficult to learn a new technique with novelty yarns.  Part of being an accomplished knitter is the ability to select appropriate yarns for projects.  For classes you have to select a yarn that lets you see your work.  Fuzzy, nubby, heathered, tweedy, and dark yarns do not let you (or your instructor) see your work. 

The swatches in this photograph show the types of yarns that students have brought to class.  Can you tell the stitch patterns in Swatches 1 and 4?  Absolutely not.  (By the way, it is garter stitch.)  Yarns like these have their place but not when you are trying a new technique.  You can see the stitches in Swatch 2 but it is next to impossible to rip out the stitches  which you sometimes have to do in class.  I've included Swatch 3 to demonstrate what heathered and tweedy yarn looks like.  A yarn is heathered when 2 or more strands of different colors are plied together.  Tweedy yarn has nubs of different colors in the strands.  Heathered yarn is great for projects because it hides problems.  This makes it a poor choice for classes.  If you can't see problems, you can't fix them.


Here are some swatches I've used for examples.  This is simple worsted weight wool.  You can clearly see each stitch.  Even if you never use worsted weight wool for projects, it is excellent for the class environment.  Once you learn the technique on yarn like this, you can translate that skill to projects worked in different yarns.

When I decided to do this topic, I asked the co-chairs of the Masters Committee if they had anything they'd like me to say about the yarns to use for the Masters Program.

Yarn for Masters (and Basic Class) Swatches
The first question you have to ask is if the yarn can be blocked.  This will rule out quite a few yarns.  It is very difficult to block acrylic yarns.   It either doesn't work at all or the swatches look limp and melted.  It is a problem for some superwash wools as well. The yarn that gives the best results are 100% worsted weight yarns like Patons Pure Wool, Lion Brand Fisherman Wool, Cascade 220, etc.  Sometimes knitters who live in warm climates or have wool sensitivities ask if they can use alternate fibers.  Yes, you can but the swatches have to be adequately blocked.  If the fiber can't be blocked, don't use it.  It may take some experimentation to find an appropriate yarn.  Remember, may fibers, like cotton, can contribute to tension issues.

Color is another issue for the Masters Swatches.  Don't use dark yarns.  The reviewers (and you) can't see the stitches.  Color is subjective but it is safer to stitch to pale colors.  Heathered yarn should never be used.  The reviewer will not be able to evaluate your tension. 

Yarn for Masters Projects
Several projects are required for the Masters programs.  The first question to ask is if it is an appropriate weight.  Chunky or Heavy yarn should NOT be used for any project.  Yes, it is quicker to knit a vest in chunky yarn but it doesn't allow you to show off your skills.  Yes, you can knit a fair isle hat in worsted weight yarn but part of the equation is selecting the weight of yarn traditionally used for such projects.  You will not be able to get the same complexity of design.

Color is another issue.  Many knitters raid their stash for yarn for the projects.  Color choices are evaluated as well for the argyle sock, fair isle, slip stitch and intarsia work.  Some research will be necessary.  There should be enough contrast to show off the design.  Some leeway for the vest and sweaters is possible but the reviewers still have to be able to see your work and that is not possible if you use a fuzzy, heathered or dark yarn.

Yarn for Projects
 It is also important to select appropriate yarns for your own projects.  Often knitters fall in love with a particular yarn.  Remember, how it looks in the skein has very little relationship to how it will look in a project.  You may love a particular variegated yarn but I can almost guarantee that if you use it in a sweater the colors will pool in very unfortunate spots.  You may love the black cotton you have selected to knit your husband an Aran sweater but the color will not show off the cables and if it rains the sweater will weight 20 pounds. 

My rule (which NO ONE EVER follows) is to buy just ONE skein of the yarn you want to use.  This can save you tons of money in the long run.  Knit your gauge swatch.  You may discover that the yarn obscures the stitch pattern.  You might find that it splits too much or is too slippery or fuzzy or that it hurts your hand.  You might find you can never get gauge with it.  The point is, you are not stuck with 10 skeins of the stuff. 

This photo shows some of the swatches I have made while trying out yarns for projects.  There are three herringbone swatches.  I decided to use the top one.  It was wonderful to work with.  The second one hurt my hand and the third one produced a fabric too soft for the project.  The pink pleated swatch taught me that I wanted to use a lighter weight yarn for the baby dress.  This yarn was too heavy.  The red swatches showed me that this yarn would work for the project.  It looked good in stockinette and it was stiff enough to show off the elongated stitch pattern. 

Salon will be on Saturday from 2-5pm.  I thought about changing the day to Sunday.  The historic house across the street is having a function.  Apparently a minor Civil War skirmish occurred there.  It is a "Living History Day".  Animals, crafts, etc.  Parking may be a bit difficult.

Starting next week I am teaching my finishing class to some of the knitters who come to Salon.   I love teaching finishing.  It should be fun.  We are having it on Sundays since the Metropolitan Opera simulcasts begin in October.  I can't wait!

I had finished pretty much finished the garter stitch skirt before I left for Reno so I took the cabled skirt with me.  I didn't get much knitting done as the casino proved a distraction.  Then we went camping and it got quite cold at night in the Eastern Sierras and Yosemite.  I did manage to finish it when I got home. 

I am quite pleased with how this turned out.  I also like the cabled one as well.  The drape of this yarn is wonderful.  It will really look nice when the wearer is walking.

I had a real epiphany while working on the waist bands.  One of the problems with skirts with elastic in the waistband (which don't have an opening) is that it has to be loose enough to go over the hips.  If you use a standard bind off for the waistband casing you can pretty much forget it.  I researched a bunch of looser bind offs and decided none would work.  What I did was keep the waistband stitches live and use a sort of kitchener grafting technique to close the casing.  Not only is is very elastic it also looks really good on the inside.  I suspect that this is a well known technique but I didn't research it at all so I am happy I figured it out on my own.  The pattern for Cast On will have a link to a video where I demonstrate this.