Friday, January 27, 2012

I just heard from the folks at TKGA and there is still room available at the Grand Retreat if you are interested.  Click here for information about the retreat.  It should be a fun event.  The homework for my course is available and a diligent student has already found a mistake.  For the ribbing swatch, disregard Row 2.   If you don't, you will wind up with seed stitch!  No matter how many times I proofread something, mistakes seem to get through.  If you are signed up for the class and you have ANY questions, please contact me. 

There has been a steady stream of new students.  Most who sign up for the course do so as a preliminary step before beginning the Masters Program.  It does let them know what to expect.  It is scary to turn your work over for evaluation but you can't improve if you don't know what needs improvement.

Keep the lessons coming my way!  I hope you are finding the tips helpful.

Many knitters have problems with the standard bind off.  The photo below addresses two problems.

If the bind off is too tight, it pulls in the top (as you can see in the photo).  For a project that isn't seamed like a scarf, this is just plain unattractive.  If the bind off edge is to be seamed or if it is to be used for a band, the edge will be very inelastic.   This can make the garment difficult to put on or uncomfortable.

The elasticity of a bind off edge and the cast off edge should be similar.  When you bind off, don't cut the yarn until you have stretched the bind off edge!  You can always undo it and try again.

How do you fix this?  As you bind off don't pull the working yarn too tight.  Check each stitch after you bind it off to make sure it isn't too tight.  If this isn't enough, use a larger size needle to bind off.

I noticed on the TKGA forum on Ravelry that Always Rosie mentioned the first stitch of the bind off as a problematic area. This stitch shouldn't be a problem if you bind it off loosely. If you don't, it distorts the right selvedge.

The other issue is the over sized and ugly last bind off stitch. 

My approach to knitting is to figure why something happens so you can prevent it rather than have to fix it later.  How does the final stitch get so stretched out?  When it is the only stitch on the needle, it can stretch and elongate if it has to bear the entire weight of the fabric.  Once a stitch is stretched out, it is hard to "unstretch" it.  When I am binding off and I am close to the end, I make sure to hold the fabric so that it doesn't hang from the stitches on the needle.   When I bind off that last stitch, I make sure just to use the tips of my needles,  I also try to manipulate the stitches as little as possible.  The further you insert the needle, the larger the stitch becomes. 

There are several other things you can try which I demonstrate in this week's video.  Another thing you can try requires some pre-planning.  On the row BEFORE the bind off, wrap the first stitch (this will be the last stitch on the next row) the opposite way (under the needle for purl stitches and over the needle for knit stitches).  This "twists" the resulting stitch and also makes it tighter and smaller.  Work the rest of the row in the pattern as established.  When you bind off the last stitch, you should work it through the back (while supporting the fabric and using just the needle tips).  This should eliminate the over sized stitch. 

If the stitch gets stretched out, what do you do.  The video demonstrates two techniques you can try.  Tip of the Week Video

There is a UK basketball game Saturday at 4pm so the Salon will be on Sunday from 2-5pm.  By the way, the opera, The Enchanted Island, was wonderful...comic and heart-breakingly beautiful at the same time.  Jan joined me but I doubt I'll get any takers for the next one on February 11th, Gotterdammerung.  The running time is 6 hours. 

I noticed I have not put in any of the obligatory cat photos which I will remedy now.  These are from a Salon before Christmas.  Jan was doing some needle felting and Petipa could not resist the roving in Jan's bag.  Jan quickly worked up a Mozart wig which Petipa actually tolerated.

The cabled tunic is coming along fine.  The back is finished and I am almost done with the front.  I have to seriously think about the neckline shaping.  I want a ribbed, funnel-style neckline with bateau shaping.  I should have it finished up by Sunday if all goes well. Sleeves are next.

Anytime I lay out any knitting, George feels it is his duty to make sure it stays put.  In the second photo he is inspecting the cord on a Signature needle. By the way, the cord on my shorter Signature needle broke at the join while working on this project.  I have had the needle for at least a year but Signature replaced the needles at no cost to me (not even for shipping) within a week's time.  I am very impressed.  I like the stiletto tips for cables.  In the tip last week about cables I mentioned you distort the cables less if you use just your needle tips when making the cables.   The stilettos make it much easier.
By the way, these photos show the true color of Vlad.  It is a beautiful deep red.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Registration opened for the Mackinac Retreat on January 17th.  I'm not sure how registration is going as the staff are all at TNNA in Phoenix.  I would have liked to have gone but TKGA does not have a booth at the winter show, only the one in June in Columbus.  Also, I really try to minimize how much I travel in the winter.  I have a knack for booking a seat on flights that are delayed or cancelled.  I have spent many a night in airport hotels and it is worse in the winter.  

The "official" policy from TKGA is that students have a year to complete the course.  This policy is necessary mainly when there is a change in teachers so the prior teacher isn't getting lessons five years after they have retired.  I do not enforce this policy.  As long as I am the teacher, I am willing to continue review your work.  If more than a year has passed, let me know so I can send you the latest version of the course materials. 

I do think you have a better chance of completing the course if you start right away and try and do each lesson as soon as you get it but I know that life intervenes and we all have responsibilities to others.

This tip is a continuation of the tips from the past two weeks.  Lesson 3 of the Basics Class and all three levels of the Masters program require cable work.  Two things can contribute to the sloppiness of cables:  ladders and stretched out stitches.

You can see there is a ladder on the left side of the cable.  Not only is this ladder unattractive, it can also change the gauge of a piece.  Compare the left side of the cable to the right side and you can see there is no ladder to the right and the knit stitches are the same size as those to the left. This is caused by the same thing that makes ribbing and seed stitch sloppy.  Remember to pull the yarn forward tightly when changing from the knit to the purl on both the RS and the WS.

The other issue is the over sized stitch in the cable cross.  Anytime you slip a stitch from one needle to another, you run the risk of stretching that stitch out.  When a stitch is stretched out it generally stays stretched out.  When you are slipping a stitch, try to manipulate it as little as possible and use just the needle tips.  This minimizes the distortion.  If you notice a stretched out stitch on a previous row, you can use a tapestry needle to try and pull yarn from the large stitch to the surrounding stitches. 

To see a video on cables, click this link:  Cable Stitch Video

There is a UK basketball game Saturday at noon at Rupp arena so Salon will be on Sunday.  The real reason Salon will be on Sunday is that there is a Metropolitan Opera HD Simulcast.  I try to never miss them as I am an opera fan.  This Saturday at 12:55 they are premiering The Enchanted Island which is "new" baroque opera.  The plot is a combination of Midsummer's Night Dream and The Tempest.  The music is from baroque composers. 

By the way, if you are ever plan to be in Lexington on a weekend, let me know.  There is always room at the table. 

I finished up the skirt and shell last Sunday and I actually wrote the pattern and did the schematics the next day.  My New Years Resolution is to write the patterns as soon as I the garment.  I have been know to wait until the very last minute.  It can be difficult trying to figure out what you did, 3 weeks after you finished.  So far, so good.

It wasn't raining or snowing (for a change), just another gray day in Kentucky so I dragged the mannequin to the back deck.  The color is a bit lighter but you can see the lace quite well. 

Now I am hard at work on the cabled tunic.  I'm using Miss Bab's Northumbria DK.  What a change from working with two strands of linen!  It is absolutely wonderful.

This color is COMPLETELY wrong.  It looks orange.  The sun came out for a brief moment.  The name of the color is Vlad (Dracula's first name) and it is a deep red, not orange.  The tunic is wider at the bottom and I had some difficulty in deciding where to do the decreases.  I ripped out about 6 inches since I was dissatisfied.  The reverse stockinette between the cables reduces from 4 to 2 stitches.  If you don't space out the decreases evenly and gradually the drape is wrong.  The row markers (dental elastics) remind me where I placed the decreases. 
The photo shoot is February 15th so I have to get a move on.  I also have to finish up over-the-knee striped socks which will accompany an article on jogless joins.  I haven't missed a deadline yet!

Friday, January 13, 2012

It has been a busy week.  I had to work on the homework assignments for the retreat at the Grand Hotel in Lake Mackinac in May.  Registration goes live on January 17th.  I will be teaching a two-day course on finishing.  Nobody really likes to finish their knitwear but lousy finishing can ruin even the most beautifully knit item.  I hated finishing until I learned how to do it correctly.  Now I like it.  There will be a lot of homework but the students will have a complete reference work on finishing (complete with samples) when the course is over.  I am encouraging students to bring actual projects to finish during the last 3 hours of class.   Here's a link for information about the retreat.

Since the holidays are finally over, I am getting more lessons to review.  Keep up the great work!  I generally get the reviewed lessons in the mail the day after I receive them. 

I now have all of the course materials in my Drop Box.  I am happy to send links to the lessons to all current and former students.  Just send me your email address.  I know many of you probably only have hard copies. 

Lesson 3 of the Basics class and Level 1 of the Masters program require a seed stitch swatch.  Frequently this swatch has to be redone to fix tension problems.  Seed stitch should produce a dense fabric without holes between the stitches.  Holes occur  when yarn is not brought forward tightly when changing from a knit to purl stitch.  Sound familiar?  This is the same reason for sloppy ribbing.   The solution is the same as well.

The same needle size and yarn were used for all of these 12-stitch swatches.

The swatch in the center shows seed stitch where the yarn has not been brought forward tightly.  Notice the holes?  Seed stitch should not look like lace. 

There are no holes between the stitches in the swatch at the bottom since I pulled the yarn forward very tightly before each purl stitch. 

Why did I include the swatch at the top?  I want you to see the difference in the sizes (or gauge) of each of the swatches.  If you are working seed stitch for the Masters Program you will most likely be asked to resubmit the seed stitch if it looks like the center swatch.  Should you redo it if there are a hole or two?  No! Always remember it is HAND KNITTING, not machine knitting.  Some variation and imperfections are expected.

To see a video on working seed stitch: Seed Stitch Video

I finished the skirt last Saturday and blocked it.  The weather was so nice I put it out on the deck.  I can't do the same for the matching shell (now blocking) since it is snowing.  I put in the waistband elastic and took care of all of the yarntails this morning.

The photo on the left (no flash) shows the true color of the yarn.  The photo on the right (with flash) shows the skirt edging better.  I can't say I enjoy working with linen, particularly two strands but I love the result.  The skirt has a nice drape. 

It took the better part of this week to knit the shell.  I think it took longer since I kept ripping it out to get the shaping exactly how I wanted it and it was knit flat, unlike the skirt. 

This photo (with flash) gives you an idea of what the final shell will look like.  The linen fabric is fairly stiff so I decided the top should be more tailored.  It will button in the back.  There will be narrow bands around the armholes and neckline.  It will probably take a day or so to dry but I will definitely finish it up next week and write the pattern.  I've learned the hard way I have to do the pattern pretty soon after the garment is complete. 

I will start work on the cabled tunic later today.   Unfortunately I have figured out that the cable pattern I originally wanted to do just won't work for a tunic.  I have another one in mind that will work perfectly.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Why a blog?  I have actively avoided creating a blog as I have seen no need to add to the list of stuff that I need to do each week but I've decided it will be yet another way to reach my students.

What will you see in this blog?

Information for my students
I am the instructor for the Basics, Basics, Basics correspondence course offered by TKGA (The Knitting Guild Association).  It is my policy that I review and send out lessons the day I get them.  When I go out of town, this obviously doesn't happen.  I like to give my students a heads up so they can plan accordingly.  I update the materials ever so often and since I don't enforce a time limit for completion, I am more than happy to send out the updates.  By they way, I've recently added the materials to my DropBox so it is very easy to send out links... and that includes students who have completed the course.  When I add new courses (and I am working on two right now) I will announce it here. 

Tip of the Week
I am the advisor to the Master Hand Knitting Committee which certifies Master Knitters for TKGA. My brain is littered with tidbits on how to improve one's knitting and I think it would be helpful to start writing this down SOMEWHERE. The tip will usually include a video as well. To the right you will see the shortcut to the Tip of the Week. The blog will have the complete tip.

Current Projects
I do design work for Cast On, the official publication of TKGA and I thought it might be interesting to record the design process here for anyone who wants to knit the designs when they are published.

What will you NOT see in this blog?

Personal Information
I consider my personal beliefs and the lives of my family members to be very private.  I may periodically include things about the Knitting Salon that meets once a week at my house on either Saturday or Sunday depending on the schedules of the UK basketball team (I am not a fan but I am considerate to those who are) and the HD broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera (I am a big fan).

My cats, Petipa (named for the first choreographer of the Nutcracker ballet) and George Bernard Chat (named for George Bernard Shaw, the playwright) are fair game.  What would a knitting blog be without the obligatory cat photos?  Yes, I am a cliche. 


Ribbing Swatches
Have you ever wondered why most patterns suggest using smaller needles for ribbing? The reason why is that going down a size or two will produce tighter ribbing. Instead of reaching for your needle case, try this. When you are changing from a knit to a purl, bring the yarn forward VERY tightly. You might even want to give it a bit of a tug. If you don't do this, the excess yarn between the knit and the purl stitch either works its way back into the knit stitch making it big and sloppy or it forms a "ladder" between the stitches. Neither is very attractive.  Compare the two swatches in the photo to see the difference this can make.

When you use smaller needles, the amount of yarn is reduced between the stitches which makes it look much neater.

This tip also works for seed stitch and cables as well. Give it a try!  Here's the video.

I'm working on things for the Summer 2012 issue of Cast On.  I'm doing a skirt and shell set knit in Louet Euroflax.  Things haven't gone exactly as planned.  I was originally going to use a single strand.  After working a gauge swatch I discovered to my horror that it would be completely see through (not such a great idea for a skirt) if I did not use Size 2 (!!!) needles.  I rethought the design and tried using two strands together.  MUCH BETTER.  The bottom of the skirt will have a crossed stitch pattern. 

Crossed Stitch pattern

The skirt is now blocking and I am working on the shell.