Friday, July 27, 2012

It was a busy week trying to finish the baby dress and pattern.   I was so proud of myself for really making headway on the dress when I noticed (after knitting 5"), that my calculations for the pleats were for knife pleats, not box pleats so I had to start again.  It has been so humid here that the yarn I ripped out straightened out almost immediately and was a good as new.  The pattern writing went much smoother than the knitting!  I must say that the dress is unbelievably cute.

I spent another day writing a finishing article.  We've added a new series of articles to Cast On (starting with the Fall issue) on finishing.  I used Rowan Pure Wool Aran for the samples.  It is lovely so I will use it for the rest of the articles as well.  Westminster is sending me a box. 

I won't be doing an entry next week.  I will be in Colorado and Utah.  I am looking forward to the low humidity.

Not many lessons arrived this week.  It is funny how my students instinctively know when to send work.  I spent the bulk of the week chained to my computer working on patterns. 

I received an update from Lola on her sweater for the Swatch to Sweater class.  She is finishing up the back and will be ready to begin the front.

Back in January I started plans to do another correspondence course but when I inherited the Swatch to Sweater class I had to put it on hold.  For the past few years I have been teaching a class on gauge )(how to calculate it and how to use it to modify and create patterns).  I think this would work better as a correspondence course.  I have some time now to put my ideas together.  Gauge isn't fun but it is necessary and it makes designing much easier.

This tip doesn't apply to everyone.  Frequently (more frequently than you might think) I get a lesson to review where the swatches have twisted stitches.  I'm not talking about just a twisted stitch here or there but where every stitch on a row is twisted.

I've had students who want to know why this is a problem.  Well, if you ever want to use a pattern and have the garment turn out, you have to fix this.  Twisted stitches are smaller than the untwisted version so they will have a different stitch and row gauge.  You will have to use much larger needles to even come close to the expected gauge.  The resulting fabric will be very lacy particularly when stretched side to side. 

How do stitches get twisted?  There are two ways to twist a stitch.  If you knit or purl the stitch through the back rather than through the front, it will twist the stitch on the needle.  If you wrap the yarn around the needle in the opposite direction (over the needle for a knit stitch or under the needle for a purl stitch ) when making a new stitch, you will twist the stitch on the needle.

When I get a lesson that has twisted stitches, the first thing I do is to see if it has twisted stitches on every row.  If stitches are twisted on every other row and there are no twisted stitches on the garter stitch swatch, I know the  problem is with the purl rows.  If the garter stitch is twisted but the stockinette is twisted every other row, I now the problem is with the knit rows.  If every stockinette row is twisted, both knit and purl rows have a problem.

As you can see in these photographs, the twisted stitches are smaller than regular stitches.  If you aren't sure if there is a twisted stitch, stretch the piece from side to side.  Twisted stitches will be crossed at the base. 

The video for the week shows how stitches get twisted.  Twisted stitches

The good news about twisted stitches is that it is a very easy problem to fix.  You just have to work the stitches through the front or wrap them in the traditional way.  In every case where I have had students who do this, they have been very successful in making the change.

Sometimes you may want to intentionally twist stitches on the needle as a way to fix a tension problem.  In the upcoming weeks my tips will concern tension and I will discuss it then. 

Salon will be on Saturday.  One of the things I did last weekend was to go through all of my knitting books again.  When it took me 45 minutes to locate a book I needed, I knew it was time.  I now have stacks of books on my dining room table.  I hope everyone takes a few.  The rest will go to the Friends of the Library.

I have finished up everything for the winter issue of Cast On.  Since the photo shoot isn't until August 14th I am way ahead of schedule.  The baby dress turned out better than I had planned.

I photographed it hanging at first but you can't see the pleats. 

The bow makes all the difference in the cuteness factor.

Now that I have some time I decided to make myself a pair of socks from yarn I have had for years.  I never made myself a pair with the Leaves of Spring pattern I did a few years ago and I thought this yarn might work.  I love this stitch pattern.  I found it in Gisela Klopper's book but I made some modifications to it to close off the leaves at the bottom.

I decided to use the Briar Rose yarn I bought at the Kentucky Fiber Festival before I forget I have it.  I wanted to do a Medusa's jacket for me.  The one I did for Cast On a few years ago was red.  I want mine to be blue.  The Briar Rose is 50% merino and 50% tencel.  I did a swatch to test it out first and it will be perfect.  The tencel makes it lighter.  It blocked well and I think the snakes will show up even in this dark color.

I like the shine as well.  I would really love to finish this in time for the conference in Reno but we shall see how that fits in with my schedule for Cast On.  The next Fashion Framework is on skirts and it looks like I will be doing it.  First pleats, now skirts!  What were we thinking!  Both require so much knitting!  This yarn would actually work well for a skirt....hmmm.

Friday, July 20, 2012

My computer is fixed so I am a happy camper again.  It is much easier making an entry on this one.  I spent a large portion of the week replacing music on my new iPod.  The one the thief took was 5 years old and was on its way out.  Unfortunately the computer which had all of the CDs copied to it died 4 years ago so I had to copy all of those CDs again to this computer.  This kept me occupied as I finished up the pleated jacket.

Considering that it is summer vacation time, I reviewed quite a few lessons.  I'm glad people aren't letting the heat get in the way of their knitting.  I especially enjoy reviewing the Swatch to Sweater lessons.  There are so many creative people out there with wonderful ideas.  It is very inspirational to me.  I enjoy the process of helping them try to make their designs a reality.

Purlside decreases aren't part of the Basics Course but they are included in Level 3 of the Masters Program.  However, an understanding of these techniques can be useful in projects.  When I talk about purlside decreases I mean mean decreases that are made on the purlside when the purlside is the WS of the work.  If you are decreasing where reverse stockinette is the RS it really doesn't matter which decrease you use.  Decreases made in purl stitches just aren't that noticeable. 

When would you be making purlside decreases?  There are several situations where these techniques are useful.  You do see purlside decreases in more complicated lace patterns.  Some lace patterns, Traveling Vine comes to mind, use purlside decreases.  If you look at a lace pattern and there are a different number of stitches on rows, it is a good sign there will be purlside decreases.  Generally in lace, there is a decrease for every yarn over.  This keeps the stitch count the same from row to row. 

This is something you have to be aware of if you find a lace pattern which was written for circular knitting which you want to knit flat.  The lace pattern in the round may call for decreases on every row.  You then have to translate these to purlside decreases for flat knitting.

The vast majority of patterns call for decreases on RS rows.  The language used to describe where to place the decreases states "Dec 1 every RS row" or "Dec 1 every other RS row.  If the decreases begin on a RS row and the pattern states "Dec 1 every 4th row" or Dec 1 every 6th row", this also means the decreases are placed on RS rows.  If a very particular decrease slant is required (say for raglan shaping) you might see "Dec 1 every 3rd row".  For the snowboarding hats I just did, I wanted the ear flaps to have a severe slant so I used decreases every row.

What do you need to know about purlside decreases?  You need to know how they will look on the RS.  P2tog is an exact match for K2tog.  SSP is a match for SSK.  SSP decreases are a bit tricky to make.  Like the SSK, you have to slip each stitch and reseat it on the needle.  You then purl them through the back.  This is a bit tricky.  I demonstrate this technique in the video for the week.  I also show you how I make them which reduces how much they get stretched out.

Decreases are an area of knitting where knitters can get into heated discussions about quality issues.  The problem is the SSK.  It is really hard to make a SSK to mirror the K2tog.  If you look at the decreases above, you can see that the SSP is a neater decrease and a better match to a K2tog.  There are knitters who will use K2tog as their right slanting decreases and SSP for their left.  This means that the decreases will not be on the same row.  The other thing you can do is to make all of your decreases on the purlside.  I might consider doing this to shape the v-neck of a white sweater.

The photo also shows how decreases look when placed every row.  This might be useful for some projects.

You can also make twisted decreases.  P2tog tbl (purl two together through the back) is a left slanting twisted decrease.  It is the same as an SSK where you don't slip the stitches (k2tog tbl?).  To make a purlside twisted right slanting decrease, you would slip the two stitches to adjust the stitch mount and then purl them together.

The video shows all of these techniques:  Purlside Decreases

Salon will be on Saturday from 2-5pm.  I'll be driving up to the airport in Cincinnati on Sunday.  I enjoyed seeing every one's projects last week.  There was a good turnout.

I finished the pleated jacket.  It really didn't take that long to knit it.  I think it turned out quite nice. 

The buttons are quite heavy so I am going to put snaps at the top to keep the band in place.  The braids are nice but this yarn is so fuzzy it sort of obscures the colors. 

Now I have to do the garment which will accompany the lesson on pleats.  We usually do pillows as we want the focus on the stitch pattern but that really doesn't work for pillows.  I am doing a baby dress.  I spent the better part of yesterday figuring out the sizes.  I used the recommended needle size and worked about an inch when I realized that the fabric would be too stiff.  I've used Baby Ull a lot but 32 sts for 4" inches just won't work for this dress.  I need a much looser drape so I've changed from 2.5mm needles to 3.5 needles.  I'm much happy with the feel of the fabric.  The gauge now is closer to 26 sts for 4".

Now I have to redo all of the sizes.  It won't take long to finish the dress.  I'm doing the front and back separately.  One thing I've noticed is that when I design for babies and kids I get a lot of flak from knitters letting me know what a waste of time it is to do such an elaborate design.  I've never really seen it that way.  I knit some beautiful things for my children and I now consider them heirlooms.  This might fall into that category as well. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

It has been an unpleasant week which began with a break in at my house and ended with my computer deciding not to start up.  I should be glad the criminal mastermind who broke into the house didn't decide to take anything of real value, just my peace of mind!  I am also lucky that I decided to replace my old computer BEFORE it died so I have a back up.  This computer is slow so it will probably take me the better part of the day to finish this entry.

Compared to last week, this week has been fairly slow.  I did receive a few lessons to review...some before the computer malfunction, some after.  Again, I'm glad I have this old computer.  I did back up the course materials to it awhile ago.  Unfortunately I hadn't backed up all of my student files so I couldn't refer to past letters but at least I could write the letters!

Last week I said I would do purlside decreases but I noticed I had not discussed double decreases yet.  I'll get to the purl decreases next week.  In the Basics class, double decreases are used in two swatches.  One mimics the band you would pick up for a V-neck sweater.  The other is a simple lace swatch.  The first decrease is the Central Double Decrease or S2K1P.  Both abbreviations are used but S2K1P describes how to make this decrease.  You slip two stitches as if you are going to knit them together, not separately.  You then knit the next stitch and pass the two slipped stitches over the stitch you just knit.  What can go wrong?  Since the two stitches are slipped at the same time, they really don't get stretched out so you don't have to worry all that much about their appearance.  About the only thing you can do wrong is to slip the two stitches separately.  The center stitch does not stay on top if you do.

This swatch shows a common use for this decrease.  It is ideal for making the decreases in the K1P1 band of a V-neck.  It is also used in lace, generally at the top of some triangular shaping with yarnovers on either side.  It is also used for the shaping of hat and tam crowns.  It is particularly effective in Fair Isle where the center stitch is worked in one color while the surrounding stitches are worked in another.  It looks like the spoke of a wheel.

When students do this swatch for the Basics class there are two things that seem to go wrong.  The first is that there are purl bumps in the center stitch.  When you use this decrease in ribbing, do not maintain the K1P1 pattern in the center 3 stitches on the WS.  Treat them as knit stitches or you will get purl bumps.  The other thing that sometimes happens is that students forget that they are losing a stitch to the right and left of the center stitch each time they work the decrease.  They continue to work the decrease after the same number of stitches as in the first decrease row.  The causes the center line to slant towards the left.  To work this decrease you work in pattern up to the center three stitches.

The other version of this decrease is the S1K2P or S1K2togP.  In this version the center stitch is UNDER
the stitches to the left and right.  You rarely see this decrease anywhere other than lace.  What can go wrong with this decrease?  Well, since you are slipping the first stitch, you can stretch it out or twist it.  The decreases in this example look stretched out to me.  Any time you are slipping one stitch you must take care not to stretch it out.

If you look at my entry for June 8th under Current Projects, you can see a swatch I did to test out a pattern for some socks where I used both of these decreases.

The other double decrease in Lesson 2 is K3tog which you almost never see except in bobbles.  It isn't a very attractive decrease.

Here is the link to the video for these decreases:  Double Decreases

It was nice seeing everyone and catching up on projects.  It seemed like I had been gone months and months.  I hope the rain doesn't keep everyone away tomorrow!

It took over 6 hours to do the pleats and braiding on the cardigan.  I made videos of the process for the On-Line Extras in the TKGA website.  It wasn't hard, it was just extremely tedious.  It was wonderful to go from 656 to 244 stitches.  It took no time at all to finish the back and fronts.  Here it is blocking.  It looks kind of lumpy and bumpy but that all flattened out.  I guess 100% humidity is good fro something!  I sewed the pleats in place before blocking them.  They took forever to dry.

Here is the back after I sewed the shoulder seams.  The pleats are still sewn.  I probably won't undo them until the photo shoot.  There is a center box pleat and "S" and "Z" pleats on either side.  (Thanks Binka for the terminology!  We are co-authoring the article.)

I'm working on the sleeves now.  They also have a pleat (inverted box!) at the center. I'm hoping to finish it this week. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

I am glad to be home after all my travels.  I did get a day or two home between each trip which allowed me time to review lessons, etc.  It was nice going back to DC and seeing friends but I don't miss the traffic.  I had forgotten how horrible it can be at certain times of the day.

TNNA was fun as well.  I prowled the booths looking at new products for Penny to review in Cast On and yarns to use in our designs.  There were lots of fun things.  I would have liked to take some photos but it isn't allowed.  The linen skirt and shell from the last issue were in the fashion show.  They looked great on the model. 

The TKGA conference went very well.  I think everyone had a good time.  Masters Day was successful and we will continue to tweak it.  I enjoyed my classes.  I was having such a good time I didn't take any photos!  The TKGA facebook page will have photos of the meeting.  As always, the best part is getting to meet my students and seeing the Master Committee members.  I think we had more Master Knitters pinned this year at the banquet than every before. 

One of the high points for me is that B.J. Licko-Keel, one of the earliest members of TKGA and a fabulous crocheter who was in my Picking Up Stitches class taught me a new cast on.  I've never seen this one before.  I had been trying out various cast on techniques for my pleated cardigan and this one was perfect.  I will do a video for the cast on for the On-Line Extras in when the pattern comes out.
Quite a few students signed up for the Basics Course while I was gone.  Luckily I can send them links to my DropBox so they can get started right away.  Some students have had trouble getting all of the links.  There should be four:  Cover Letter, General Information, Reference and Swatches.  If you don't get all four, let me know right away.  Also the files have lots of photographs so some students have had trouble printing them out.  If that is the case, I can easily send a hard copy.

I saw quite a few students who have completed the course at Masters Day.  I'm glad they are going on.  The Masters Program is a lot of work but it definitely helps you improve your skills.

The students in my Swatch to Sweater class are all making great progress.  Lola was in Manchester and brought her sweater.  She is well on her way.  Lois sent me a photo of her progress.  She is now shaping the V-check.  Kate, who has just started has come up with a great design.  She is posting her progress in a blog and is giving updates in Ravelry.

One of the most common errors I see in Lesson 2 of the Basics Class and in Level 1 of the Masters Program is twisted decreases.  Why is this such a big deal?  Twisted decreases have a different gauge and are more noticeable than the untwisted variety and if decreases are twisted on one side of a neckline, they draw the eye and not in a good way.  They do not mirror untwisted decreases.   Luckily it is pretty difficult to twist most decreases.  The only one that is easy to twist is the SKP.  Write this rule down:  If you are slipping a stitch that will be worked on the SAME row (like a decrease), always slip the stitch KNITWISE.  If you are slipping a stitch which will be worked on the NEXT row (like mosaic stitches), always slip the stitch PURLWISE

In the video I did for this tip, I show how to produce the twisted version of the K2tog, KSP, SSK and SKP decreases.  To test for a twisted decrease, stretch the stitch sideways and you will see it is crossed at the bottom.  Untwisted decreases are open at the base.  Twisted Stitches Video

For most projects you want the decreases to be unobtrusive.  If that is the case, use untwisted decreases.  If you want the decreases to stand out, use the twisted versions.  About the only place you will see twisted decreases in a pattern is in lace.  In upcoming weeks I plan to discuss purlside decreases (untwisted and twisted) and twisted stitches in general. 

Salon will be on Saturday this week.  It seems like forever since I've had my friends over.  I am looking forward to it.  

I did not get much knitting done while I was traveling.  Of course, I took several projects with me.  Even though we drove to DC I didn't knit much in the car.  I enjoyed the scenery.  It was quite a trip down memory lane.  We drove down to Charlottesville to visit UVa and our old haunts (many were still there!) and ran into the protests over the forced resignation of the president.  Several of the more business oriented members of the Board wanted her gone she she was dragging her heels at getting rid of unprofitable departments like German and Classics.  I was appalled as a student of the classics.  All in all, it is a terrible situation.  

Anyway, I did finish the hats while at TNNA.  I made the mistake of asking Jane Miller, one of the editors of Cast On if she thought I had enough I-cords on the hats.  She gave the wrong answer so I spent my evenings making I-cords.  Again, I want to thank Charles Gandy for the idea.  His Dread Socks in this new book The Embellished Sock (a blatant plug!) inspired me.  It is so lovely, it is now on my coffee table!

The hats were so much fun to knit.  I showed them to Mira Cole, the owner of Baah! yarns and she was thrilled.  After the photo shoot I will send her one. 

I finished the Breakfast at...socks for Cast On as well.  Since I photographed the pair I made early I won't post another.

Now I am working on the Pleated Cardigan.  I am beginning to realize that I am crazy.  First of all I do all of those Fair Isle sweaters with lace weight yarn and now this!  Pleats require three layers to be folded.  The sweater has 10 pleats.  Think about it.  I had to cast on 656 stitches.  The pleats are at the bottom of the sweater and are 6.5" long.  I only have one more row until I can work the pleats. 

This photograph does not really show how long the piece is right now.  According to my gauge calculations it is 107 inches long.  After the pleats are worked, it will be 40 inches.  (The back and fronts are worked at the same time.  The photo does show all of the markers.  When you do pleats you have to have slipped stitches at the fold lines.  Figuring how many stitches to cast on really requires math and geometry.  I found it exhausting.  I am so glad B.J showed me the cast on.  I didn't want a bulky cast on (the pleats are bulky enough).  This one is perfect.  Also, it isn't a long tail variety so I didn't need to try and figure out how long of a tail I needed for 656 stitches!

Later today I will pleat the thing.  There will be a braid using three colors to separate the pleats from the body.  One of the booths visited at the TKGA conference was Dusty's Vintage Buttons.  They only sell at shows, not on-line since so much of the stock is one of a kind.  She has amazing buttons.  Penny Sitler, the editor of Cast ON, picked out the buttons for this sweater...composition buttons from 1880. 

I always look forward to visiting the booth as I have a weakness for vintage buttons, especially mother of pearl and bakelite.  Here are the latest for my collection.