Friday, December 4, 2015

Helix Knitting

It is that time of year again where I divide my time between baking a zillion cookies (no, I am not kidding) and finishing up holiday gifts.  For many years my Novembers and Decembers were spent as the stage director for a ballet company putting on The Nutcracker which pretty much ensured that complete exhaustion by the end of the run.  I now have replaced that activity with others.  I can't complain, no one is holding a gun to my head!

This is a gift my dear little George left for me.  He pulled this skein out of a bag and had a lot of kitty fun.  There must be something about The Fiber Company's Cumbria that is intoxicating to cats.  I untangled it and used it to make a hat for myself (see below).

I am going to be updating the Basics class in the new year to match some changes to the Masters Program which is currently undergoing some revisions.  As always, anyone who has taken the class in the past can request the new materials.  I will post a message when the updates are made and ready.

I had an email from someone who liked the entry I did on one row stripes in flat knitting and asked if there was a technique for circular knitting.  I said there was and that I would do it for my tip this week.  Well, I should have checked the index before doing this post but what can I say, I've done a lot of videos so now there will be two.  Also Helix Knitting is the topic of the Stitch Anatomy lesson in the Spring issue of Cast On.  Leslie Gonzalez wrote the article and has two wonderful pillows to demonstrate the technique.

I have a fondness for this technique.  I "discovered" it in Montse Stanley's A Knitter's Handbook (which is full of arcane tips if you just sit down and read it).  I used this technique for the very first pattern I did for Cast On magazine a million years ago.  It was called Varsity Socks and since the magazine is published in Ohio, they selected Scarlet and Gray, colors of The Ohio State University. 

This technique lets you work single row stripes in the round without every cutting the yarn.  No Yarn Tails to Weave In!  For this entry used only two colors.  (For the previous entry I used three.)

Basically, how this technique works is that you divide the total number of stitches by the number of colors you have.  In my sample I have 32 stitches and two colors.  I cast on 16 stitches in each color.  You can work this technique on circulars but my sample is on DPNs.  If you look at the photograph below you can see two yarn tails at the cast on edge.  You can also see that I have two strands of working yarn.  Once you have cast on, you join the stitches in one color to the other by knitting a round with Color A.  (You have to be careful not to twist the colors like you would with any join in the round except with this technique you have two joins).  You work up to the working yarn strand of Color B knit the round up to the working yarn of Color A.  That is all you do.  For two color stripes you work the complete round.  If you are using more colors you work up to the next working yarn (Multiple Color Stripes).

 The first time I tried this technique it seemed like magic.  How does it work?  If you've done any color knitting in the round, you know that when you end a round it does not line up with the beginning of the round.  You get a jog,  Circular knitting is a spiral.  There really isn't a beginning and and end and this technique takes advantage of that property.  In the photo below, notice how the white yarn cast on spirals over the blue cast on edge.   

Before you get too excited about this technique, there are pitfalls.  Like any colorwork, yarn management is a problem.  For each stripe, you must have a ball of yarn.  The other problem is when you pick up the new color.  When first tried this I had a tendency to pull the new yarn tightly.  All this does is make the stitches from the previous round much smaller.  It is quite ugly.  Be sure to work the first few stitches in the new color with an even tension.

Here is the new video:  Two Color Helix Knitting

There won't be Salon this week as I will be in Las Vegas for the weekend.  It is the anniversary of my mother-in-law's death and Las Vegas was her favorite place so we are dedicating our trip to her.  If I never make another post, you will know that I won big and have moved to the South of France.

I was reminded that we needed a pattern for new TKGA members.  I designed this hat years ago and have been meaning to write up the pattern so here is my opportunity.  Like last year, I am making hats using the the pattern for the TKGA staff and a few others.  I've finished four hats and have three to go.  It doesn't take much time even though it uses reversible cables.  I used Swans Island Natural Colors for the blue and cream hats.  Recognize the gray as George's favorite yarn?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Do I Have a Tension Issue?

If I write something stupid you can blame it on the cold I picked up somewhere.  I feel absolutely miserable but if I don't post today, I might not get to it.

We had the photo shoot for the spring issue last week.  It went very well.  I took videos of all of the garments.  Here are a few with mine.  Here the for the Love Birds Dress.  The model is absolutely adorable and Kyle is a genius at working with kids.

Here is the video for the pleated linen shirt.  The drape of the Shibui Linen is amazing.

Here is the polka dot skirt & crop top.

All of these designs will be in the Spring 2016 issue of Cast On magazine which will be available in February.

I've been getting quite a few lessons to review lately.  Keep up the great work!

Often I decide on a topic based on what I have been seeing.  Lately I've had several students sent me photos wanting to know if they have a tension issue.  This post is not about how to fix tension as much as recognizing there is a problem.  I will have some suggestions at the end.  Tension is something that is at the heart of the Masters Program.  It is an absolute requirement and most knitters do not know if they have a problem or not.  There are several reasons for this.  Some yarns disguise tension issues.  If you use heathered or tweed yarn you might not notice it.  Since the swatch examples in many books and magazines have tension problems, you might not even know that this is an issue.  Your work looks like these examples.   Here is the video for this topic:Do I Have a Tension Problem

The following two photos show reasonable stockinette tension.  Do not every expect absolute perfection in hand knitting.  Machine knitting, yes, hand knitting, no.  Notice that the stitches are approximately the same size as the stitches on the same row and the rows below and above.

Sometimes tension issues are best seen on the WS.  Here is the WS of a piece with reasonable tension.  Notice that there are no gutters between the rows.

Now for the examples of poor tension.  Notice in the swatch below that the size of the stitches alternates from small to large.

It is much more noticeable on the WS.  I can't tell you the number of cabled sweaters I have seen where this is what separates the cables.  I had one knitter tell me that this was a special stitch pattern!

This type of tension issue is much more prevalent in continental knitters or knitters who work most of their projects in the round.  Generally, the knitter is not tensioning purl rows the same as knit rows.

This is another type of tension issue I routinely see.  Notice how one side is much longer than the other.  You can see that the size of the stitches alter from row to row.  Some knitters have this on the right side, other on the left and some on both sides.  This can really be problem in an actual project. One side is longer than the other.  A garment will not hang properly.  Seams look just awful.

Here is the WS of the work.

Tension issue are specific to individual knitters.  There are many factors that contribute to poor tension and fixing the problem can be complicated.  A former Co-Chairs of the Master Hand Knitting program has two excellent videos on diagnosing the cause and suggested fixed.  Here are the links:Knittingsuzanne #1 and Knittingsuzanne #2.  You will find these helpful.  The other suggestion I have, if you are a member of TKGA, is to sign up for Binka Schwan's Taming Your Tension class.  She works with you individually to find out why you are having issues and then to find solutions.  The class also covers tension issues with other stitch patterns.

I'm not having salon this week.  I would hate for anyone to get this cold for Thanksgiving.  I am going to the opera tomorrow, Lulu, which I have never seen but I am going alone and will sit miles away from anyone else.

I couldn't resist taking a few photographs of the skirt and top.  They look so much better on Julia than my dress form!

I'm still working on birthday presents.  This is a scarf.  It is quite long.  I used Zen Garden Serenity Silk +.  This took the entire skein.  I think there was 10 yards left over.

This is also Zen Garden.  This is a close up of the stitch pattern.

 Here is the scarf.  It is so soft.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Am I Twisting My Stitches?

It will be a few more days before all the ginkgo leaves drop.  I took this photo this morning in the rain which is why the colors are so muted.  I'll try and get one more photo when they all drop.

I've been receiving more lessons the past two weeks.  Keep up the good work!

I have been inspired to do this topic again by a question on Ravelry.  This comes up every so often with my Basics students and occasionally in Level 1 of the Masters Program.  I've run across many self taught knitters who twist their stitches and aren't aware of it.  As I've said before, most knitters look at their stitches on their needle and not at the work coming off their needle.  Depending on the project, twisted stitches can be subtle and if you don't know what a knit stitch is supposed to look like you may knit merrily along for years twisting all stitches or stitches every other row.  What is the problem with twisted stitches anyway?  Well, they are tighter and smaller and have a dramatic effect on gauge.  Knitters who do this will have difficulty reproducing a garment in a pattern.

When I get a lesson with twisted stitches the first thing I have to do is figure out where and how they are twisting the stitches.  There are several different ways this happens.  First, you need to know what untwisted stitches look like.  Here is a photo of stockinette stitch where I have stretched it. Notice that the stitches are open at the bottom.  They resemble "V"s.

The "traditional" way to knit is to wrap the yarn UNDER the needle for knit stitches and OVER
the needle for purl stitches and then to work those stitches through the front on the next row.  If a knitter reverses the way the yarn is wrapped AND works the stitch through the front, the stitches will be twisted.  If your knitting looks like the photograph below, you are twisting the stitches on either the knit or purl rows.  Note that not all of the rows are twisted.  I will get how you can tell whether it is on knit or purl rows a bit later.

If you are twisting stitches on both knit and purl rows, your work will look like the photograph below.  Notice that the column of stitches look braided and that there is a lot of space between the columns.  This photo demonstrates why you don't want to do this.  The resulting fabric will have very little stretch.  By the way, it is not that easy to knit this way.  Working those twisted stitches through the front requires some effort!

The fix for this is quite easy.  Just wrap the yarn the correct way OR work the stitches on the next row through the back.  A lot of knitters do this to solve tension problems anyway.

If you are twisting stitches every other row, work a small garter stitch swatch.  If it looks like this one, you are twisting purl rows.  None of these stitches are twisted.

If it looks like the photo below, you are twisting on the knit rows.

When I have students who twist stitches I find that it is an easy fix for them.  Often they are very embarrassed that they haven't noticed the issue before.  I have found that very few shop owners are willing to bring this up with the knitter even if they notice that the stitches are twisted.

Here is the video:  Twisted Stitches

I was teaching a gauge class at a conference a few years ago and I had a student who came in and was really mad.  The teacher in the morning class had told her she was knitting "wrong".  (I try not to use this term.)  She was twisting stitches on every row and she liked the way the fabric looked.  I just let her know that it was her decision but that she would have problems getting recommended gauge. I also told her that doing the Masters Program would not be a good idea.  Everybody is different...

Salon will be on Sunday from 11:00 to 1:00 pm.  I have to drive to the Louisville airport.

It was a close call but I got everything finished in time to send them up to Zanesville for styling.

Here are photos of the crop top.  It buttons in the back.

The little girl's dress took no time at all.  The Love Bird design is from Mary Beth Jacobs.  She designed this for a yoked sweater in the issue.  By the way, this dress, the skirt and crop top, the pleated linen shirt and the vest will all be in the Spring 2016 issue of Cast On.  The photo shoot is next week.

I finally have time to start Christmas presents and a few birthday presents.  Here is the first one.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Fixing Missing Decreases

It is time for my annual ginko tree watch.  I took this photo yesterday.  The photograph show the next road over.  It is lined with ginko trees.  Since the berries are now dropping this is a close as I wanted to get.  Not much stinks as bad as a ginko berry.  I'll update the photo in my next entry.

I've started getting lessons again.  Keep up the good work!  As a reminder, remember I do not enforce the year limit.  You don't need to clear this with me.  If you received your materials before April 2014, let me know and I will send you the updated materials.

Continuing on with how to fix mistakes, this week's video is about how to fix a missing decrease.  As with all fixes, you might not get the results you want.  If you don't catch a missing decrease fairly soon, you may as well rip out the work.  All of the extra yarn can really make the tension look awful.  Here is a photo of a swatch where I have made a decreases after a few rows.

The decreases with the black arrows were made the correct way.  The ones with pink arrows were made after the rows were knit by laddering down.  Note that the ones at the sides look slightly better.  That is because (as you will see in the video) I made them before I had knit more rows.  To make the one in the center, I laddered down from the current row.  The tension for all of these is pretty bad.  Yes, you could use a tapestry needle to work the excess yarn to the selvedges but that probably would take as long as ripping to the location for the decrease.  Whether you opt to fix or rip depends on a couple of things.  Many yarns disguise tension problems.  If that is the case, go ahead and fix it.  I have found that for many lace patterns the repairs aren't as noticeable.  All of the holes can really hide the tension of the fix.

If you do repair a decrease, make sure that it slants the right way.  The video points out how to do this.  Also, make sure you don't twist the stitches when repairing.  It is very easy to do!

Here is the link to the video:  Fixing a Missing Decrease

Salon will be on Saturday so I can go to the Anzula Trunk show at the Stitch Niche on Sunday.  I obviously love their yarn since I have used it for so many projects.  It is a treat that they are in town.  It will be earlier in the day (12:00-2:00) since I have to drive to CVG in the afternoon.  To make up for this I am making an early morning run to Spalding Doughnuts.  I hope the line isn't too long!

I finished up the pleated linen shirt.  I love Shibui Linen.  It floats.  The pleat is in the back.


The front is very simple.

There are saddle shoulders with the same cables as in the back.  Here is a close up.

I also finished the skirt, or should I say skirts as there is an overskirt and an underskirt.  Here is close up of the fabric.  I haven't written the pattern yet so you can see the row markers I use to show where the decrease are.

Both of the models were are going to use are very tall so I had to make the skirts longer.  The overskirt should come to mid calf.  I had to adjust my dress form.  The underskirt comes to mid thigh.

Here is the side view.

 I now have to knit the crop top.  You heard me right.  I am knitting a crop top.  Don't ask.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Avoiding Holes and Extra Stitches

I was in Canada last week and didn't make an entry for that reason.  It was a great trip but it will be a while before I need to have seafood!

This is what I found when I got home.  I think they were thinking that it was about time.

I think all of my students are enjoying the fall foliage too much.  I have received very few lessons!  Keep me busier...

I am back on track for fixing mistakes.  One of the things that causes new knitters problems are unintended holes and too many stitches.  There are three main reasons this happens.  Although you can sometimes fix mistakes of this type, the finished product will look better if you rip the work.  I will briefly summarize how the mistakes happen but for full information, see the video.  Holes and Too Many Stitches

Turning the work in the middle of a row (red arrow)--How this happens is you have put the work when you are in the middle of a row and when you pick it up again you work in the wrong direction.  This is basically an unintended short row.  There will be a hole at the turning point and one side will be longer.  There is no fix for this other than ripping out the work.  You can avoid it by always finishing the row before putting the work down.  If that isn't possible, look carefully at your work before starting to knit.  The working yarn should be on the piece on the right.

Knitting twice into the first stitch (light blue arrow)--Since the stitch below the first stitch on the row can look a bit large, some new knitters try to fix this by bringing the working yarn over the needle.  This does make the stitch look smaller but it then looks like there are two stitches on the needle.  If you work both of them you wind up with one more stitch than you want and if you do this every row, you can get MANY stitches you don't want.  The only fix for this is to rip out the work,

Unwanted Yarnovers (black arrows)--On knit rows, if you bring the yarn forward before working the stitch, you get a yarnover.  If you work this on the next row, you get an extra stitch.  The best way to fix this is to look carefully at your work.  The yarnover is easy to spot.  Just take it off the needle.  If you don't do this and you work a few rows, the only fix is to rip out the work.  You could try, "laddering down" the extra stitch but it has a very negative impact on the surrounding stitches.

Do watch the video for more information!

Salon will be on Sunday, October 11, from 2-4pm.

I finished up the Confident Beginner pattern for the spring issue.  This is a vest with a concave edge on the front and a convex edge on the back.  There are very deep armholes.

I'm now working on a linen shirt which has a pleat in the back.  The front is plain.  I'm knitting the sleeves now.  There are a saddle shoulders with cables in the center.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Fixing a Dropped Yarnover

I got an email with a photo from Elf at Redfish.  They are in Texas for Stitches.  Here is a picture of their booth.  If you are in Texas and plan to go, stop by and say hi from me!

I wish I could have gone.  They were at our conference in San Diego and I bought yarn for my latest project (more about that later) and I left my season sweaters with them to take to the show. 

I was out of town last week and I was surprised that more lessons had not arrived.  Generally the fall is quite busy.  I did get several requests from students who had signed up over a year ago wanting to know if they could continue.  Again, I do not enforce any time limits.  Just send me an email to see if the materials have changed.

I am back to topics on how to fix mistakes.  There are two "lace" swatches in my Basics class.  Frequently students have difficulty with these swatches and the problem is always due to the yarnovers.  If you miss a yarnover anywhere in the swatch, it will not turn out correctly.  I've noticed a couple of types of mistakes over the years.

One student contacted me to let me know that there was a problem with the swatch instructions, that there was not enough stitches.  It took me a while to figure out what she was doing.  She was interpreting the abbreviation of YO to mean "bring the yarn forward and then knit the stitch."  Of course she was running out of stitches.  (For the purposes of this discussion, I am making the assumption that all of the stitches on the RS are knit stitches.)  A yarnover means just that, bring the yarn forward and over the needle.  This places a strand of yarn between the stitches.  You then go to the next instruction. 

I've had students contact me to let me know that the instructions are wrong when they are working on perhaps the 4th or 5th row and the stitch count is no longer correct.  This is almost always due to a missing yarnover.  In lace for each decrease there needs to be a compensating yarnover or increase.  If you don't make the yarnover, you will reduce the stitch count.  For simple lace patterns, the stitch count remains the same for each row.  To avoid mistakes count your stitches every row.  It is a lot easier to fix a missing yarnover on the next row.  (The video shows how to fix this type of mistake.)

What happens if you don't catch it soon?  Well, you can fix it but keep in mind it might not look great since you are creating stitches out of nothing.  This photo shows three locations where yarnovers are missing.  The one on the top row is the easiest to fix.  You just pull up the horizontal strand between two stitches on the WS row. 

This photo shows a close up of one of the missing yarnovers.  To fix it, you have to create stitches out of the horizontal strands indicated by the arrows.  The problem is that they are hard to see.

In this photograph, I have pulled the stitches apart to show the horizontal bands more clearly.  Now you can fix this mistake the same way you would fix any dropped stitch.

Here is the fixed yarnover.  Notice that the yarnover at the top is now very small.  That is what happens when you stretch the fabric to accommodate the new stitches. 

Yes, you can fix a dropped yarnover but in some cases it is better to rip out the work to the mistake.  That is why I recommend using lifelines in lace.  (See the index for entries on that topic.)

Here is the video:  Fixing Dropped Yarnovers

Salon will be on Sunday, September 20th.

We had the selection meeting for the Spring issue on September 10th.  As usual, I am doing more than I planned.  The yarn for one project has already arrived.  I've made the gauge swatch and blocked it so I should be ready to go later today. 

I finished the cat scarf and sent it off to Martha who commented that it will be very kidding!  She lives in Utah so I am not worried.

Next up on the birthday front was Cara.  I used Lorna's Lace Pearl which is 51% Silk and 49% Bamboo.  I made a cowl for her.  The photos don't show how shiny and gold this fiber is.

This is wrapped around twice.  You could even wrap it three times.

I've started on my dress using the RedFish 3-ply.  It uses a raglan construction.  The bodice and the top portion of the sleeves are black but I am going to use gray gradients as the dress gets longer.  It will be natural at the hem.  Obviously I have a long way to go!


Friday, September 4, 2015

Picking Up Stitches for a Double Band

Last week we had the photo shoot for the Winter issue.  We have some beautiful sweaters.  I took videos.  I am the worst videographer ever.  Here is a sample:  August 27, 2015

I spent the week writing the article for the Fashion Framework, Finishing with Confidence and Correspondence Course News.  It feels great to have that all done.

I realized I hadn't posted photos of the cats for a while.  Here is my sweet little blind Petipa.  She is expecting a treat.

George is on his couch (typical male), plotting evil, no doubt.  He loves lounging on knitwear.  The orange is one of those ruffled scarves Harriet made for me.  George has claimed it as his own.

I received a few lesson the past two weeks.  I am expecting an uptick due to the number of emails I have been getting.  Fall is on its way!

I fully intended to continue on with tips about fixing mistakes but I selfishly got sidetracked.  The Fashion Framework for the Winter issue is about Collars and as I was writing the article, I realized I have never discussed double pick up bands in the blog.  This technique is ideal for collars which can be worn either up or down.  Think of this tip as a preview of the Finishing with Confidence article 

When you pick up stitches, there is a raw edge.  This technique encases the raw edge.  Here is a photo of the RS.

And here is the WS.

I don't use this technique all the time but it does add a certain something to special projects.  For example, if I am making a baby sweater, I take the time.  (Think sweater folded in a box.)  It is ideal for reversible garments.

This is my favorite thing to teach at conferences.  Once the students have the basic concept, they use it in a variety of ways.  To use this technique, you need two circular needles; one the size you use for the band, the other should be at least three sizes smaller.  Working the first row is a pain since you are dealing but once you have the first three stitches set up, it is easy.  Here is the video:  Picking Up Stitches for a Double Bands.

Salon will be on Saturday (September 5) from 1:30-3:20.  

I've had time to try and catch up on gift knitting before I start garments for the Spring issue.  These scarves are for Cynthia and Jordan.  I plan to get them in the mail today.  The pink one may look familiar.  I did knit one several weeks ago.  That scarf is gone.  I donated it to a charity auction.  Luckily I had enough yarn to knit it again.  

I really do like the Seafoam pattern.  I am exactly halfway through with a double knit scarf for Martha's birthday.  I made a version of this scarf several years ago.  I can't say I love double knitting but it does produce a fun fabric.

One more gift to go and I can start on the dress I want to knit.  The yarn arrived from RedFish several weeks ago and it is haunting me!