Friday, March 29, 2013

If I had known how much easier my life would be with faster Internet service, I would have upgraded long ago.  It was no fun last week dealing with all of that but it is so much easier to upload the videos and photographs!
There are still openings for the retreat in Mackinac.  I am really looking forward to it.  I finished up Lesson 3 of the Finishing Course today so next week is devoted to the design class I am teaching at Mackinac.   During the two days we will design a hat, a mitten and a simple sweater.  I wish I could have taken a class like this.  I had to figure out all of this on my own and it took years!  Anyway, it will be fun.  
Another slow-ish week...I did get a few lessons to review.  I have been very pleased with the lessons from the students who are taking the Gauge class.  It is wonderful to review lessons where it is clear the students have a good grasp of the material.  I am anxiously awaiting someone to send in the first lesson of the Finishing Class.  The first lesson requires a lot of knitting.  That is the problem with need two pieces.  The third lesson is about buttonholes.  I really enjoyed working on it.  I researched a couple of buttonholes I haven't used in a project but I intend to now. 
After the brief foray into stranded knitting, I am coming back to how to read your work.  I had planned to do how to read simple lace patterns but decided it would be good to break it into two parts.  Most lace patterns consist of decreases and yarnovers.  The placement and type of decrease is what gives the lace its look.  You can really change the appearance of lace by changing the type of decrease. 
Several months ago, I knit a pair of socks where I fooled around with how to place the decreases.  Look closely at the photograph below and see the difference the placement of the SSK and K2tog decreases make to the appearance of the triangles.  When you place SSK decreases on the right side and K2tog decreases on the left, a "line" of stitches outlines the triangle.  You see this frequently in lace patterns where the decreases outline the shape.  In the triangles at the top, the placement of the decreases has been reversed which changes the appearance of the triangles.  The K2tog decreases are on the right and the SSK decreases are on the left.  There is no line of stitches.  The decreases abut the edge of the motif. 
Now look at the top of the triangles where double decreases are used.  In the S1K2togP decreases, the center stitch is on the bottom, and the stitch to the right is on top of the stitch to the left.  This decrease works well when you have used SSK and K2tog decreases to outline the motif.  In the S2K1P decreases the center stitch is on top.  Your design determines which decrease to use.
Here is the link to the video:  Reading Decreases in Lace.  There is a quiz at the end of this post.
In this photograph, the triangles are shaped by double decreases made in the center rather than with decreases at each side.  You can clearly see the difference in the results of the two decreases. 

I thought I'd put in a photo of the socks to show my final decisions.  By the way, these socks were for my friend Martha who really likes purple.  The yarn is Miss Babs and the color is Impatiens.  It is the brightest purple I've ever seen.  Speaking of Miss Babs, she will be at the Kentucky Fiber Festival in May.  I am looking forward to it.  I'll only be able to go on Saturday as I will be driving up to Mackinac later in the day.


Salon will be on Saturday from 1:30 - 3:20. 
I've finished up one sleeve and have started the second.  It is my plan to get this sweater done this week.  I have really enjoyed working on it.  I'm pleased with the results.  I've ordered pewter claps which should arrive this week.  Then on to the other projects for this issue.
I haven't blocked the sleeve yet. 

Identify the type of decreases used in these two lace swatches.
Swatch 1

Swatch 2


Friday, March 22, 2013

It seems I spent most of the week futzing around with electronics.  I had to get a new camcorder at the last minute.  Also I'm in the process of upgrading our broadband.  Everything should be done Monday. 

It was a very slow week.  Only two lessons arrived. I think everyone is doing their taxes!

I have taken a detour this week from how to read your work.  I've had quite a few people want to see how I do stranded work and since I have a stranded project on my needles I thought now would be a good time.  First of all, let me emphasize I AM NOT AN EXPERT in stranded knitting.  I am well aware I have some idiosyncratic methods.  First of all I don't do steeks.  I rarely do stranded work in the round unless the project is a hat or socks.  However, my stranded work is very nice, if I do say so myself so I do have some tips which others may find useful.  

For traditional stranded work, you are only using two colors per row.  I find it easier to hold one color in each hand.  When I first tried stranded knitting I did not.  I would knit with one color, drop it, pick up the other color, and so on.  The problem with this method is that the yarn can get really tangled and it is difficult to keep one color dominant.  (I'm not going to go in depth into color dominance.  Read the Fall 2013 issue of Cast On--the Stitch Anatomy Lesson is about Fair Isle Knitting.  Take a class at a conference.)  In simple terms the stitches you form with the left hand are a bit more visible on the RS.  For the project I am currently working on, I hold the background color in my right hand and the motif color in the left since I want those stitches to "pop".  I keep the strands for the background color on top.  I show how to do this in the videos.  If you do not do this, your motifs may be a bit muddled.  It also makes the WS look very nice.

The goal with any stranded knitting is to have uniform strands.  If you strand too tightly, the RS will be puckered and stitches will disappear.  If you strand too loosely, you will have overlarge stitches.  The best advice I can give is that when you are ready to work stitches with the new color, slightly stretch the stitches on the needle before working the first stitch.  Periodically check the stranding on the WS of the work.

In the example, notice that the stitches are a uniform size. 

I take a lot of flak since I do stranded work flat.  There is a reason for this.  I have found when I strand in the round, I really have to work at keeping my strands from shortening.  Part of this has to do with the tubular nature of circular work.  When I work flat, I am forced to see the WS.  Working flat means that you have to purl (THE HORROR, THE HORROR, to quote Conrad) and that you may have to read some charts from left to right.  I don't find this that big of a deal.  Would I recommend that everyone do stranded work flat?  Absolutely not!  It just works for me. 

I did do two videos this with stranding on the RS and the other with stranding on the WS.  Hopefully upgrading my broadband will make uploading videos more pleasant.

Stranding on the RS and Stranding on the WS

One thing I NEVER do when stranding is "catching" the strand.  One of the pitfalls of stranded knitting is that the strands can snag.  For that reason, you don't want to have long strands.  When I design a chart, I just make sure that I don't have strands longer than an inch.  For the sweater I am currently working on, I don't have strands over more than 8 stitches.  If you look at the fish in the design above you'll see some little dots of green around the fish.  I placed those stitches so that my strands aren't too long.  This is something I am picky about as I feel the "catches" disrupt the fabric on the RS. 

In the photograph above, the checkerboard marked 1 is stranded with no "catches".  In the checkerboard marked 2, the strands are caught once in each color block and in the checkerboard marked 3, the strands are caught every stitch.  If you look closely, notice that the stitches in 1 are more even.  Those in 2 and 3 do not lay as smoothly.  Here is the WS:

 Next week I will go back to how to read your work.  I'll discuss simple lace patterns.

Here is the chart for the stitch pattern from last week.  It makes it much easier to see what is going on with the swatch:

Salon will be on Saturday from 1:30-3:20.  No operas, no basketball games (sniff!) so Saturday it is.

I've finished the sweater front and now am working on the sleeves.  All of the yarn for my other projects has arrived so there will be no lag once I finish.  I did get some more of the blues for the stars as it looked like I was running out.  The sleeves will only have stars and a border at the cuff.  I've also ordered clasps for the front opening.  I've learned that it can take quite a while!

Friday, March 15, 2013

The selection meeting for the next issue of Cast On (Fall 2013) was on Monday.  The focus of the issue is knitting for men and Fair Isle and steeks.  There were lots of good proposals.  The issue will also have some colorwork designs using intarsia and slip stitch patterns.  I am doing the stranded sweater and a few other things since the stranded sweater is going so well.

Five students completed Lesson 3 of the Basics class this week.  I think that is a record.  I believe many of them will move on to the Masters Program. I wish them good luck!

Continuing on with the "how to read your work" theme, this week's topic is about how to read more complicated cable patterns.  This week, I will discuss cables which travel across the background.  Typically the background stitch for cable pattern is reverse stockinette stitch.  For a cable to travel, the stockinette stitches are cabled over the reverse stockinette stitches.  I actually find these types of cables easier to knit.  The number of reverse stockinette stitches between the cables can be a guide line.  Generally, the cables travel every other RS row so if you are working flat, not much brain power is required. 

Reading the work once it is knit, can be a bit more difficult. The key is knowing where the first cable row is.  Once you have figured that out, it is much easier.  In the photograph below, I've placed row markers on all of the cable rows.  As we saw last week, when you cable a row, it affects the rows below so it can look like the cable starts sooner than it does.  As you will see in the video, if you can't tell where the first cable row is, turn the work over and you can see it more clearly.

Cables slant either to the left or right.  In the photograph below when a cable slants or travels towards the left, the cable stitches are placed on a holder and held to the FRONT of the work over the purl stitches.  In the case of this swatch, the next stitch is purled as it is a background stitch.  In this example, when a cable slants towards the right, the purl stitch is placed on the holder and held to the back.  The stockinette stitches are worked first.  Reading Traveling Cables Video

Sometimes it is easier to see in the chart.  I've charted this simple swatch.  

Next week we will look at some SIMPLE lace patterns.

Cable Quiz: 
The photograph below shows a gauge swatch for a pattern I call "Knots and Oughts".  Identify the number of rows in the traveling cables.  How many reverse stockinette stitches are in the widest portion of the "oughts."  Write a pattern for the cabled "knots":


Decrease Quiz Answers from Last Week

Here is a chart for the cable. 

Salon will be on Sunday from 2-5pm.  Saturday I will be at the HD broadcast of Francesca da Rimini.  I know the story since I have read Dante but I know nothing about the opera.  Should be fun....

I've made good progress on the front.  I'll be shaping the neckline next.  I've ordered pewter clasps for the opening. 



I thought it might be interesting to see the WS of the front.  I've seen several designs lately where the WS of stranded work is on the RS.  It is interesting to look at but I would be very concerned about the snags.  This is the way stranded work is supposed to look.  If you consistently keep one color on top, you can achieve this.  I've had several requests  to show how I do stranded work.  I'll do a video next week.  I AM NOT A FAIR ISLE EXPERT (no one who refuses to do steeks can say they are) but my stranded tension is pretty good.


Friday, March 8, 2013

It seems like I spent the week driving to and from airports, sitting in airport terminals and changing planes.  The trip was nice but it would have been nicer without the 6 hours flight delay in Memphis (equipment problem). 

A few lessons were waiting for me when I got home which I was able to review the next day.  Other than that, it was a very slow week.

This week the topic is how to read cables.  This is something I found very confusing as a new knitter.  If I didn't have a row counter I was in serious trouble.  I finally took the time to analyze cables which has made my life easier.  I am not so dependent on row counters.  I still do use row markers but in a pinch I can decipher a cable.  We'll do simple cables this week and more complicated cables next week.  All of the cables in this lesson slant to the left.  For a cable to slant towards the left, the stitches on the cable needle are held to the front of the stitches. 

As with increases and decreases, what looks like the first cable crossing is actually the row before the cable cross.  In the photograph below, it may look like the cable is made on what is labeled as Row 4.  The cable row is actually Row 5.  (RS rows are worked in cream and WS row are worked in blue.)
Reading Cables Video

The pattern for this cable (excluded the border rows) would be:

Row 1:  Knit.
Row 2:  Purl.
Row 3:  Knit.
Row 4:  Purl.
Row 5:  Place 3 sts on cn and hold to front, K3, k3 stitches on cn.
Row 6:  Purl.

Notice how the cable changes the appearance of rows 2-4.  This is what makes it difficult to read cables.  The easiest way I know to identify the actual cable row is to stretch the cable horizontal and example the stitches.  In the rows before the cable, the yarn used for the stitches is not continuous.  For the cable row, the yarn runs from stitch to stitch.

Reading cables can take time so what I generally do in an actual project is place a row marker on Row 1 of the cable pattern.  This can save time.  I use dental elastics which I have discussed in a previous blog:  Row Markers

In the following photographs see if you can answer the following questions: 

1.  How many rows are between the cables?
2.  How many stitches are in the cable?
3.  How would you write pattern instructions for the cable row?

Cable 1 Quiz

Cable 2 Quiz

Increase Quiz Answers

Salon this week will be on Sunday from 1:30-3:20.  There is a basketball game on Saturday. 

It isn't easy to work on a stranded project on planes and airports but I did manage to finish the back.  I'm quite pleased. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

I spent the week working on Lesson 2 of the Finishing Class.  It is about picking up stitches and bands.  Having looked at A LOT of sweaters in my time, I can tell you this is one area where many knitters need improvement, especially on neck bands.  Thanks again to Carolyn, editor extraordinaire!

I received enough lessons to keep me busy and orders for new students as well.  Just a reminder, I will be out of town Sunday-Tuesday for a quick trip to Dallas.  I will review any lessons I receive on Wednesday.

This week's tip is about how to read single decreases.  I am not going to discuss how to make the decreases (I have plenty of videos & blogs on that topic) but rather how to recognize them. 

As with increases, what most knitters will identify as the decrease row is the row before the increase.  In the photograph below I have used the cream colored yarn for the RS rows and the blue for the WS rows.  Notice the the "decreases" are all on the WS rows. 

If you look closely at the photograph you can see that when you make a decrease it places one stitch on top of another.  If the top stitch is the stitch to the right, the decrease slants left.  If the top stitch is the stitch to the left, the decrease slants to the right.  The decreases are marked with arrows in the photograph.

In prior blog entries I have written about the importance of mirroring decreases.  For decreases to be mirrored, there must also be the same number of stitches before the decrease on the right and after the decrease on the left.  There are two stitches before and after in this swatch.

As for increases, patterns generally say to work decreases "every RS row" or "every other RS row.  The first and second set of decreases are worked every other RS row.  The last one is worked every RS row.  You can also find decrease to be worked "every 4th row."  This is the same as every other RS row.  The rows are number in the photograph.  You start counting rows on the row after you make the decrease, a WS row.  You make the decrease ON the fourth row.  Here is the link to the video for the week:  Reading Decreases.

Decrease Quiz
In the photo which follows, identify the following: 
1. Which decreases slant to the right?

2. Which decreases slant to the left?
3. How many stitches are worked before the decrease on the left?
4. How many stitches are worked after the decreases on the right?
5. How many rows are between the decreases?
I will post labeled photographs next week.  The photographs for this week are at the end of this entry.

There won't be a salon this weekend. I will be at the movie theater for 5 hours and 40 minutes on Saturday.  Parsifal is not for the faint hearted.  Saturday night I will be at the UK Opera's production of Le Nozze di Figaro, one of my favorites.  The costume mistress is a friend and she has done a fabulous job.  Sunday I'll be on my way to Dallas.  See you all next week.

I haven't had much time to work on the sweater as I needed to knit some socks for Cynthia's birthday (tomorrow).  She lives in Dallas and I want to give them to her.  The yarn is wonderful...Anzula's Haiku which is bamboo and merino.

Here is the sweater.  I did finish the trees and now I'm working on the stars.

Quiz Answers