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.

Friday, September 7, 2012

I have been busy trying to get ready for the meeting in Reno.  I usually ship out my course materials in advance but it slipped my mind.  I'll have to drag everything with me.  Since we are going on a camping trip in California immediately after the meeting I have to get that stuff ready as well.  I guess I know what I will be doing this weekend. 

So far I've received yarn from Miss Babs and Briar Rose for the door prizes at Masters Day.  Hopefully the rest will get here before I leave.  I appreciate their generosity.  I know the attendees will also!

I will not be making a blog entry again until September 28th.  I am going to try and remember to take photos.  I think there will be 10 (!!!) committee members at Masters Day.  I hope to get a photo.

I reviewed lots of lessons this week.  I will be able to review any that arrive today and Saturday.  My neighbor will take in any that arrive while I am gone.  I will review them on September 12. 

This weeks tip is a continuation of last week's tip.  One thing that I have noticed in many of the lesson I review is that students have difficulty with blocking ribbing and cables.

When you are blocking textured stitch patterns like ribbing and cables, it is very important that you do not flatten the stitches during blocking.  You can flatten them by stretching the fabric too tightly or by over enthusiastic applications of a steam iron.   Blocking ribbing and cables

Compare these two photographs.  These swatches have the same number of stitches and rows.  The first has been stretched during the blocking process.  Notice that the stockinette stitches are open and lace-like.  The ribbing is no longer ribbed.  It is absolutely flat.  In the second photograph, the knitted fabric is not stretched.  The selvedge edges are flattened and pinned and the ribbing is not stretched at all.  It is smooshed into place and the edges are flattened.  Selvedge stitches should not be curled under the fabric.  It makes it easier to finish the edge when they are flattened.

Many knitters try to solve problems with their work through blocking.  As the first swatch illustrates, yes, you can make something larger but it may not look right.  Yes, you can disguise some tension problems by overblocking but they will still be visible.  Blocking should enhance the fabric, not make it look worse.  Lace is the one fabric type where it is almost impossible to overblock it.  Stretching just opens up the yarnovers.  Refer to the photos in last week's blog of the Wasp Wing lace.
Cables present a different type of problem.  When you are planning a cabled project, the first thing to consider is how you want the cables to look in the final project.  For example, in an Aran project you do not want the cables stretched very much.  The beauty of an Aran project is the texture of the different stitch patterns.  When blocking the pieces you would want to be very careful not to flatten the cables and bobbles.  For other types of cable patterns, you may want to stretch the fabric a bit as in the photograph below.   The swatch was blocked the way I wanted the final fabric to appear.  The reverse stockinette is flat but the cables are not flattened.
In photograph below, the swatch hardly looks blocked at all but it is.  For this project, I did not want the reverse stockinette between the cables to be very visible.  By the way, those are dental elastics in the cables.  I use them to  mark the cable row.  It makes it easier to keep your place.  You cut them out of the fabric when you are finished.
Sue from IN, who recently finished the Basics course and is embarking on the Masters Program came to Salon last week.  It was very nice to put a face to a name (and Ravatar).  We are a very informal, friendly group.  We just sit and knit.  If you are ever in Lexington when we are having Salon, let me know.  You will be welcome.
Salon this week will be on Saturday from 1-4pm.  Friends have asked us to the UK game and tailgate party.  I will need the extra time to get ready since it is supposed to be cold.  The next Salon will be on Sunday, Sept. 23.
I am so close to finishing the skirt.  I've got about another inch or two.  I've pinned it to the form.  I really like who the yarn is working out.  This skirt demonstrates why garter stitch needs to be blocked.  It just looks a bit lumpy and bumpy.  I'm not sure I will have it finished before I got to Reno.  I have to graft the sides together and pick up stitches for a waist band, not to mention, finish the knitting.  I am going to work on the other skirt on my trip.