Friday, June 28, 2013

I started week at TNNA in Columbus.  I only went up for one day.  I didn't see all that much that was new but it is always fun to see the new products.  The main reason I go is to scout out things for Penny to review in Cast On.  The most novel thing I saw was some kits that a yarn store in Montana, Camas Creek Yarns, has put together.  The owner/designer has managed to get licensing agreements with quite a few universities to do hat, mitten and scarf kits.  Brown Sheep Wool has dyed the yarn to match the pantone colors.  This interested me as I generally knit something for the kids of friends when they go off to college.  Finding yarn the exact color can be very difficult.  The kits were very cute. 

Despite the heat and thunderstorms it was a very pleasant week.  I spend some time updating the handout for the finishing class I am teaching in Indianapolis and Charlotte.  It is very similar to the course I taught in Mackinac but there is not a workshop at the end of the second day.  We will spend that time weaving in yarn tails in different stitch patterns.

This was the slowest week I've ever had!  I got just one lesson to review and two new students.  Summer slow down!

The past couple of weeks, the tips were from requests.  If you have something you would like me to video, just ask.  If it is something that doesn't require a ton of knitting and can be demonstrated in a 4 minute video, I am happy to consider it.  (For example, don't ask me to do a video on planning increases on a sleeve,  too long and too complicated. 

So I'm back to finishing tips.  This one is for the three-needle bind off.  This is probably something most knitters have done.  A quick look through patterns will show you that most designers recommend this as a way to seam shoulders.  There is a swatch for this in Level 2 of the Masters Program.  I am not a particular fan of this technique but I will get to that later.

To work a three-needle bind off, the stitches for the shoulders are placed on holders until you are ready to join them.  (Before starting make sure you have the same number of stitches on each shoulder.)  There are some holders that look like DPN needles.  I would recommend these.  Invariably if you use the type that look like big safety pins, you will have the stitches oriented incorrectly.  With the wrong sides facing out, and the needles parallel, you knit the stitches on both needles together.  You then work a regular bind off.   You can see the bound off loops in the photograph below.  By the way, these swatches use short rows to shape the angle as if for shoulders.  Here is the video:  Three-needle bind off.  By the way, I apologize for George's appearance in the video.  He wanted to help.

I rarely use a three-needle bind off for my projects for a variety of reasons.  First of all, I always block pieces before finishing.  When the stitches are on holders, they can become stretched out during blocking.  The shoulder seam must be sturdy to hold the weight of the sweater.  This is particularly important for heavy sweaters, like Aran sweaters, or drop shoulder sweaters.  Next time you work a three-needle bind off, stretch the seam.  Notice that it has quite a bit of give.  Picture this seam supporting a drop shoulder sleeve worked in a dense stitch pattern with worsted weight yarn. 

The only time I use a three-needle bind off for shoulders is on baby sweaters.  They have such big pumpkin heads, you need all the give you can get.

Why is this such a popular finishing technique?  You don't need a tapestry needle.  Many knitters are into quick finishing.  Just look at the titles of many books and you will see what I don't mean.  I don't mind finishing and I don't panic when I have to use a tapestry needle so I generally seam shoulders.  Stretch a shoulder seam and you will see there is very little give.  Again, this is a personal preference of mine so I will get off the soap box now. 

Salon will be on Saturday from 1:30-3:20. 

I finished up the left front of the sweater.  I've blocked it.  I need it to plan for the buttonholes for the other front.  (See, I practice what I preach!)  The front bands fold over so there will be two buttonholes for each button.  I spent quite a bit of time swatching trying to decide what type of buttonhole to work.  I finally decided vertical buttonholes will work best.  I generally do some form or an eyelet or a one-row horizontal but the yarn tails from the vertical buttonholes will be useful for reinforcing the two buttonholes together. 

The bottom bands are a provisional cast on worked directly onto a needle cable.  When the sweater is finished I will graft the band to the sweater body.  The front bands have mitred corners which I've just noticed don't appear in the photograph.  When it is finished I will be sure to do a close up. 

I am putting that project on hold to do the coat for the Winter issue of Cast On.  It is a cabled swing coat.  I'm calling it the Caduceus Coat.  There will be a cable motifs which resemble a Caduceus.  It took a bit of time to design this thing.  I've learned over time it is best to consider ALL sizes when working the sample.  It is really hard to back track for sizes.  This coat required charting out the entire length (approximately 40" long).  The loops on the caduceus get smaller. 

In this photograph, the color looks like a dark pink but it is really a deep red.  It is Rowan Kid Classic in Cherry Red.

Friday, June 21, 2013

My surgery went fine and the stitches were removed today.  My hands are sore but it doesn't hurt to knit or type so everything is fine.  So what if I can't vacuum yet?

Driving is a bit tricky but I feel well enough to drive up to Columbus on Sunday for TNNA.  I usually spend a couple of days but this year it works out for me to go up Sunday.  I'll probably drive back Sunday night but I might stay until Sunday.

I didn't receive many lessons to review while I was recuperating.  I think summer must be here!  Registration has opened for the meeting in Charlotte.  (Registration for the Indianapolis meeting is open until June 24.)  I'm teaching the two-day finishing course at both meetings.

A student requested the topic for this week's tip.  She was working on a project where she was supposed to bind off stitches in the middle of a row and was having trouble counting the bound off stitches.  This is something I find hard to describe when writing a pattern so I thought it would be a good topic.  If you are binding off stitches and get distracted, it can be hard to figure out how many you have bound off.  The key is to ignore the bind off loops on top of the stitches and instead count the column of stitches.  Binding off requires two stitches.  You work them both and then pull the first stitch over the second.  The resulting loop appears to be between the two stitches.  If you count the loops you probably won't count the first stitch.  When you bind off the last stitch, you pull the last stitch over the next stitch.  When you are binding off center stitches, this means that the next stitch (the first "live" stitch) after the bind off has a stitch around it.  If you look at the photograph below notice that the stitch labeled "1" after the stitch labeled "10" has a stitch around it.  I think this is what causes the problem in counting bind off stitches.  It is easy to count this stitch. 
When you are working with a pattern of this type, it generally reads, "Work X sts, BO next x sts, work to end of row--xx sts remain on each side."  If you have trouble counting bound off stitches or you want to be completely sure that you have bound off the correct numbers, consider placing safety pins in the stitches to indicate where the beginning and end of the bound off stitches. 

Another confusing aspect to binding off stitches in the center, is the "live" stitch at the end of the bound off stitches.  This live stitch is not part of the bind off.  In the example above, when the 10th stitch is bound off, there is a stitch on the needle.  This is the reason I had trouble with a pattern not too long ago.  I originally wrote it, "Work 5 sts, BO 10 sts, work 5 sts."  The problem I had was that when you got to the last stitches, there were only 4 since the 5th stitch is worked with the last bound off stitch.  I decided this would be confusing so I avoided the issue, as other designers do, with the "work to end of row" instruction.  Here is the link to the video:  Counting Bind Off Stitches

Counting stitches when you are binding off all of the stitches isn't really important, provided you have the required number on your needles.  You just bind them all off.


Since I am not leaving for Columbus until Sunday I will have Salon this week.  It will be Saturday from 1:30-4:30.

The selection meeting was the day before my surgery.  Since I wasn't sure what shape my hands would be in, I only proposed one thing...a cabled swing coat.  I got the yarn a few days ago but I haven't started to work on it yet.  The photo shoot isn't until August.  I'd like to finish up my sweater.  The back is done and I'm almost to the armholes on the left front.  The button band is worked with the front and will fold over.  I had to do a bit of origami to figure out how to do the mitre but it should be fine.  I am dreading the sleeves...So much knitting.  I've photographed the sweater I am recreating.  You can see I opted for a different shade of blue.  The yarn is Miss Babs Yasmin, color Regent.  It is too bad you only get this type of drape with such fine yarn & itty bitty needles.

I was in Magpie Yarn ( a local shop here) and was reminded of how much I like Shibui Linen.  I've had Jane order me a bag of the latish gray.  I want to do a version of my wasp wing coat.  The first one used Redfish Silk & was worked on 000 needles.  I've been asked for the pattern but I am not doing a pattern for that version.  I have been looking for a lightweight yarn with the right drape.  The Shibui Linen should be perfect.  I will knit it up for me and then determine if I want to write the pattern.

Friday, June 7, 2013

I am finally back from my travels.  The Retreat at Mackinac was wonderful even if the weather was a bit disappointing.  Suzanne took this photo as we walked back to the hotel.  (You can see a bit of Charles at the right.  My students were terrific.  I was a bit apprehensive about teaching two days of design with absolutely no knitting but I felt the students learned a lot.  (I hope they feel that way as well.)

The best part of staying at the Grand Hotel is hanging out in the lobby knitting.  Suzanne also took this photo.  It must have been early in the day as I don't see any knitters there!

I spent a few days at home before heading out to the Olympic National Park.  I don't suppose you can complain if it rains when you are visiting a rain forest.  We didn't see the sun the whole time but the rain just adds to the appeal of the scenery.  This is one of the beaches. 

We spent our last night at Lake Quinault.  It was interesting to compare it to the Grand Hotel.  This is the view from the back of the hotel.  Not bad!

I may not be making an entry next week as well.  I am having surgery on both hands on Tuesday.  It shouldn't be a big deal but I may not feel up to typing by Friday.

An assortment of lessons arrived while I was traveling but it didn't take long to catch up.  I am continuing to be impressed by the quality of the lessons for the finishing course.  I received a few orders as well.  Luckily, none arrived while I was in the Olympic National Park.  Cell services was very spotty.

Before I left town I received an email from a former student of the Basics class who was having difficulty seaming seed stitch on a horizontal (bound off) edge.  I realized that my tips regarding how to seam horizontal edges showed just stockinette stitch.  I didn't bother to use other stitch patterns as examples as the process is exactly the same.  I promised I would have some examples this week.  When you seam ANY horizontal edge, you ALWAYS place the seam in the stitches IMMEDIATELY below the bound off edge.  It doesn't matter if those stitches are knit or purl stitches.  For knit stitches, the needle goes in and out of the "V".  For purl stitches, the needle goes in and out of the center of the purl stitch which is right below the "frown."  (I discussed the anatomy of purl stitches in an earlier posting.  You want to be careful not to insert the needle above the "smile."  the "smiles" are the space between stitches.  The goal, as for any seam, is that the stitch pattern lines up. 

In the photograph below, notice how the seaming thread seems jagged.  It may look like the seam is jumping from row to row but it is actually placed in the same row.  When it is pulled tight, the seam will be straight.

This example shows what the shoulder of a cabled design might look like.  The reverse stockinette stitches are seamed in the center of each stitch immediately below the "frowns" while the stockinette stitches are seamed in the center of the "V".   The cables will be aligned at the shoulders when the seaming thread is pulled tight.

When you are seaming horizontal edges in a stitch pattern, make sure you have the same number of stitches on each piece and that the stitch patterns will line up.  The video shows the process of seaming both the seed stitch and the cable pattern.  Seaming stitch patterns on horizontal edges.

The next tip will be about how to count stitches when binding off.  A former student requested this topic.  Again, it may not be next week.

Salon will be tomorrow from 2-4:30.  It will be nice to see what everyones' projects!

Since I'm not sure how much time I will have to take off from knitting, I am finishing up all of the socks for upcoming birthday gifts.  I found a stitch pattern I liked in my Japanese stitch pattern books.  I made some slight modifications.  I'm not sure what I will call it...maybe gum drops?  Here are the socks for Cara, Jordan, Susan and Martha.

The dark purplish yarn is the new Rowan sock yarn.  I had started these socks in a different purple variegated yarn but the pooling was very unattractive.  We stopped at Churchmouse Knits on Bainbridge Island and I picked up this skein.  I love the way these socks turned out.  Very Subtle.  I am happy to say that Magpie Yarns here carries the yarn.  I am going to stock up!  I always swear I will NEVER EVER buy variegated yarn again.  It looks so nice until you knit it up.  The dark pink socks are for Susan.  I love this color.

The final thing I had to do before surgery is work up a few pairs of baby socks for Stephanie as an accompaniment to  a darling kimono she is making for the new daughter of a nephew.  (Is that convoluted enough?)  Baby socks are a great way to use up leftover sock yarn. 

The only other thing I am working on is a sweater for myself.  I am replacing a beloved commercially knit sweater which has finally fallen apart.  I'm using some lace yarn from Miss Babs.  The color is Regent which is spectacularly beautiful.  Babs stayed with me while she was at the Kentucky Fiber Festival.  It was great seeing her again.  Her yarn is so lovely.  I especially love the names.