Friday, June 15, 2012

This will be my last blog for the month since I will be traveling so much.  I am leaving today for Washington, DC until next week.  Then it is TNNA in Columbus and after that the conference in Manchester.  My next entry will be in July.  I'll report on TNNA and the conference.

I received a fair number of lessons for review and two of the students in my Swatch to Sweater class are ready to shape the armholes.  I'm glad I heard from them before I left. 

Last week I discussed SSK and K2tog decreases.  These are the most commonly used decreases in US patterns.  If you look at British or Japanese patterns you will see they use SKP decreases much more often.  The SKP decrease is the older decrease.  I am not sure when the shift occurred in the US but you rarely see SKP decreases in books printed after the mid-1980s.  You will see it in the new Harmony Guides but the editor is British.  The reason the SSK replaced the SKP is that SKP decreases tend to be a bit larger since just one stitch is slipped.  Also passing a stitch over another stitch always stretches it out a bit.  When worked properly, the SSK is a much better match to a K2tog.  That doesn't mean that you can't work an acceptable SKP, you just have to work at it.  You just have to use your needle tips and to really try not to stretch it out. 

If you work on Level 1 of the Masters Program or do the Basics class you are asked to work a KSP decrease which you will probably NEVER  see in a pattern.  I know I never have.  Why do we bother to include it?  Well, we like to expose knitters to a wide variety of techniques and it is a good match to a sloppily worked SKP.  It gives you a point of comparison.  We also want to encourage knitters to look at their own work with a critical eye.  It is the same details which make a garment look hand made rather than home made. 

It is rather hard to find a reference for the KSP decrease.  There is one in Vogue Knitting but it produces a twisted decrease.  The video for this tip shows how to make both types of decreases.  SKP and KSP

The photo shows K2tog, SSK, SKP and Ksp decreases.  You can see that the SKP and KSP decreases are a bit larger.  Any time you slip a stitch or pass it over another stitch, it will get stretched out.  Remember your friend the tapestry needle.  You can tinker with the afterwards.  I didn't tinker at all with the decreases above.  

During July, the tips will be about twisted decreases, purlside decreases and double decreases.

I finished up my personal projects.  Now I just have to remember to send them.

These socks sure are purple.  Martha will love them.

I had to work up a baby hat for some people we are visiting on our way to DC.  They have their first granddaughter.

For the pink and green I used some Millamia I had and I bought the white at Magpie.  It is so soft and lovely to work with.  I had the whole thing finished and noticed that I left out a row in the flowers so I took the whole thing out.  Here's a something I should put on a needlepoint pillow.  LOOK AT YOUR WORK EVER SO OFTEN.  I really hate it when I do something so moronic.

The first thing I am taking on for Cast On are the snowboarding hats.  The yarn Baah! yarns).  The colors are so bright and vibrant.  After looking at the yarn we had picked out in the selection meeting I thought some yellow yarn would perk them up.  The owner of the company is so accommodating.  I'm contracted just to do a toddler, child, and young adult hat but I decided to throw in a baby hat as well.  I've got enough yarn.  Here are the hats I've finished so far.  I won't do the dreads until they are all done. 

The child hat will be green and the young adult hat will be red.  These should be lots of fun. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

The selection meeting for the Winter issue of Cast On was on Tuesday.  There were lots of lovely submissions.  The lessons for the issue are felted handbags and pleats.  After the selection meeting we drove up to Cleveland to visit a friend who is at Case Western.  We had planned on going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but since we had been there before we spent our time at the Art Museum and Botanical Gardens.  Both were lovely.  On the way back we stopped at Ohio State University.

Before I left I upgraded my iPad to the new model.  I had the original camera.  I practiced my photography skills at the Art Museum.  It looks like it captures color better than my old camera.  I am hoping to use it for my videos as well but it doesn't work with my tripod.  I need to find a helper.

Again, my students are so considerate.  No lessons arrived while I was gone.  Thank you so much.  Now get back to work! 

Decreases Part 2.  This week I will discuss the SSK decrease which is the preferred technique in the US.  (In Britain and Japan, the preferred technique is SKP which I will discuss next week.)   As I said last week the goal in making mirrored decreases is that they are approximately the same size.  If the decreases on one side are larger, the symmetry is disrupted.  This isn't an easy thing to accomplish since the K2tog decrease technique produces a very neat and tidy right slanting decrease.  In the photo below, no care was taken when making the SSK decrease.  Notice that they are larger than the K2tog decreases. 

The thing to remember is that you will probably NEVER have left slanting decreases exactly match right slanting decreases every single time.  I've come to think this is an impossible task.  You can get close but I've found it always requires work.  (Remember the mantra...It is HAND knitting not MACHINE knitting.) 

Why is it so hard to match the K2tog decrease.  To have the decreases slant to the left AND not be twisted, you must slip a stitch or stitches.  For SKP you slip one stitch and for SSK decreases you slip two stitches.  Whenever a stitch is slipped, it is easy to stretch it out. Unless you are very careful when making an SKP decrease, it is larger.  SSK decreases came about as a solution to this problem, the logic being that since two stitches are slipped the stretch is shared.  As the photograph above shows, this isn't a guarantee.  There are several things you can try which I demonstrate in the video for this week:  SSK Video.

The first thing to try is to avoid stretching out the stitch in the first place.  Use just your needle tips to slip the stitches and make the decrease. 

I've been playing with something else for a while as well.  One day I took time to analyze the process of making an SSK.  When you slip the stitches and return them to the needle, what you are really doing is changing the orientation of the stitches on the needle so they will not be twisted when you knit them together through the back.  You can also change the orientation of the stitch by wrapping it the wrong way on the previous row.  When you purl, you wrap the yarn OVER the needle.  If you reverse this, the orientation is changed.  So I tried wrapping the stitches the wrong way on the row BEFORE the decrease.  This way you don't need to slip them at all.  You just knit them together through the back loop on the next row.  If you try this be careful not to wrap the stitches too tightly on the previous row or you get itty bitty stitches. 

What you will also see in some reference books is to slip just the first stitch and then work the decrease.  Don't do this for the swatches in the Masters Program.  If you do, the second stitch is twisted.  (I'll go into twisted stitches in a later Tip of the Week). 

Cat Bordhi has a solution to this problem as well.  Here is a link to her video:
As I recall the last step gives you a twisted stitch so if you are working on swatches for the Masters Program, avoid this.

Am I brave or what?  Here is a photo left slanting decreases which are SIMILAR to K2tog decreases.  Are they perfect?  No. 

As a last resort what you can do BEFORE blocking is to get a tapestry needle to manipulate the size of the stitch on top.  You can try and shift some of the excess to the selvedges or to the stitch underneath.  Would I bother to do this for most projects?  No.  But I would give it a try for the decreases along a neckline.

Salon will be on Saturday from 2-5 pm.  Yes, I know it is the third race of the Triple Crown but since the race is at 6:40, I figure people can still get to their parties.

I'm finishing up the last pair of birthday socks.  I really have to get started on my projects for Cast On.  I do have the yarn for the Dread Snowboarding hats but none of the rest of the yarn. 

Here are the socks for Susan:

I just have to weave in ends.

I've finished one of the socks for Martha who loves purple. 

This is a pretty accurate photo of the color.  The yarn is Yummy from Miss Babs and the color is Impatiens.  It is so purple it hurts my eyes!  The stitch pattern is one I adapted from a Japanese stitch dictionary.  It is a very stretch pattern which makes it ideal for wider ankles and calves.  The original used S2K1P decreases in the center of the stockinette triangles.  I didn't want any decrease lines so I used K2tog decreases on the right side of the triangles and SSK decreases on the left.  If you check out last week's blog, you'll see this is full-fashioned shaping.  I actually swatched to see which I preferred.  Compare this swatch to the one last week and you can see the difference.

Here is a close up of the sock so so you can see how it worked out.

I hope to finish the second sock tomorrow. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

It was sort of a boring week...not much happening.  I spent a day getting my proposals for the next issue of Cast On ready.  One of the lessons is on pleats so I am proposing a pleated cardigan/jacket.  I'm also doing the design for the lesson which will be a pleated baby dress.  We generally do a pillow as the project but that really doesn't work for the lesson.

I spent another day getting my handouts ready for the conference in Manchester.  There will be a "Masters Day" the day before the conference opens.  Registration has been very strong.  We decided to open it up for another 10 students.  The format will be slightly different this year, based on our experiences last year.  TKGA is taking care of the handouts and wanted them this week.  Instructors for regular courses have to provide their own handouts.  We can ship them to the location rather than haul them which is what I am doing.  I generally put things off until the very last minute but I have a deadline which forces me to get organized.  I'm teaching four classes.

I will be gone several days next week.  I have to go to Zanesville for the selection meeting and have decided to take a trip up to Cleveland to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  When we drove up to Michigan for the Retreat we stopped in Ann Arbor to visit the University of Michigan and check out the local hangouts.  We've decided to do the same in Columbus.  I've never visited The Ohio State University.

I received several lessons to review this week for the Basics class.  Looks like things are back to normal!  I also heard from two of my students in the Swatch to Sweater class.  Both have started knitting.  I am really enjoying working with the students on their designs. 

I have put it off as long as possible but I think I have to delve into the dark and murky world of decreases.  I've reviewed a few lessons for the Basics class and a Masters Level 1 submission where there was some confusion over decreases.  The discussion of decreases is much more complicated than for increases so I will break this into several weeks.  When you talk about decreases you have to discuss the mechanics of making the increases, how to make the increases look better, where to place the increases, mirroring and twisted vs. untwisted decreases. 

This week I will begin with mirroring and K2tog decreases.  Where do you use decreases?  Sometimes you evenly space them at the bottom of a sweater or at the top of a hat.  In those cases it really doesn't matter which decrease you use.  The direction of the slant isn't all that important.  You use decreases in lace but lace patterns are very specific about the types of decreases to use as the slant and type define the lace pattern.  When determining which decreases to use is important is when decreases are used to shape armholes or a neckline of a garment.  Most patterns do not specify which decreases to use and leave it up to the individual knitter.  In these cases, the placement of the decreases and the slant of the decreases should be mirror images of each other.  This makes the garment symmetrical.  The human eye expects symmetry and when something is asymmetrical, it draws the eye (and not in a good way).  You know something is not quite right.  Non-mirrored decreases is something that can make a garment look "homemade" rather than "handmade."

The photo below shows K2tog decreases worked on both sides of the swatch.  K2tog decreases slant towards the RIGHT (/).  When K2tog decreases are placed on the left side of a piece,  the stitches to the right are "tucked under" the decrease.  In the Masters program we call this placement "Blended" which means that the decreases slants in the SAME direction as the slant of the piece.  When they are placed on the right side of a piece, they "abut" the stitches to the right.  In the Masters program we call this placement "Full-Fashioned" which means that the decreases slants in the OPPOSITE direction to the slant of the piece.  Initially, it make look like this is symmetrical as the piece decreases on each side and they are the same size but when you look closely or stand back a bit, you can see that it is not symmetrical.  There appear to be two stitches on the right side before the decrease but three stitches on the left. 

In the photograph below, K2tog decreases are worked on the left side of the piece and SSK decreases are worked on the right.  Notice that the stitches on both sides are "tucked under" the decreases and there are three stitches on both sides.  SSK decreases slant towards the LEFT (\).   One of the difficulties in mirroring decreases is that SSK decreases tend to be larger than K2tog decreases.  SSK decreases will be discussed in future weeks.

The two photographs that follow show simulated "V"-necklines where decreases are used to shape armholes and the neckline.  The types of decreases used at both sides are labeled.

Does it really matter which placement you choose?  For most projects, no.  It is a matter of personal taste.  For colorwork and some stitch patterns, full-fashioned placement works better as there is a clear definition between the body of the piece and the border. 

What is very important is that you are consistent.  Don't mix and match different types of decreases on one side. 

The video for this week is about how to make K2tog decreases.  These decreases are the easiest to make and you really can't go wrong. You simply knit two stitches together. The video for this week shows this process. K2tog Decreases.  In the upcoming weeks, I will discuss the different types of decreases (SSK, SKP, KSP) and the various ways to make them and ways to improve their appearance.  I will also discuss twisted decreases.

Salon this week will be on Saturday.  I'm going to be traveling a bit this month on weekends so I will have to cancel several times. 

I worked up some swatches for my proposals with mini pleats.  Pleats aren't hard but require upfront planning.   The last thing you want to do is to discover that you miscalculated when you are at the top of the pleat.  The major disadvantages of pleats are that the fabric is double which can make it bulky and requires a ton of knitting.

I finished up the Breakfast at Tiffany's socks.  I have proposed doing the pattern for Cast On as they demonstrate very well the problems of knitting certain patterns in the round.

When I finished up these I started on another birthday pair which taught me some valuable lessons which I already know.  I just didn't pay attention.  I used a variegated yarn which I try to avoid.  It is so hard to work with variegated yarns.  The pooling problem I can deal with.  The fact that you can't see ANY stitch is another issue.  If anyone sees me at a show with variegated yarn in my hands, do me a favor and take it away.  I tried out 3 different patterns.  Naturally I didn't knit a gauge swatch to test it out.  I knit the socks up to the heel to decide I didn't like it.  I'm not thrilled with the stitch pattern I chose (not that you can see it anyway) but it does reduce the striping and pooling.

This isn't really the color of the socks.  The purple has more red in it. 

I am using Miss Babs' Yummy color Blue Ridge for the next pair of birthday socks.  Although this is variegated as well, it is a lighter color and I have chosen a stitch pattern which works very well.

The color again, isn't quite right.  Check Miss Babs' website for a truer color.

I am following my own advise for the next pair which will be a solid color.  I did a swatch to check out the pattern.  I am having so much fun with the Japanese stitch dictionaries.

This would have worked well with the Blue Ridge as well.  Stockinette and Reverse Stockinette next to each other work well for variegated yarns.