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.