Technique

Do I Feel Stupid

We all do stupid things when knitting and I’m certainly no exception. I thought I’d knit the sleeves before finishing the body so that I could get all of the shaping out of the way. Imagine my dismay when I took the waste yarn out of the saddles and realized that I had attached one in the wrong direction. The live stitches are supposed to be at each armhole edge, but they are at the neck edge on one side!

I didn’t have stitch holders with me when I knitted the saddles so I put the live stitches on lengths of the working yarn. Because I didn’t use contrasting yarn, I didn’t notice that I had one oriented the wrong way when I picked up stitches for the back. I toyed with the idea of just picking up stitches along the cast-on edge of the errant saddle, but that would spoil the continuous line from neck to cuff and it would have been apparent (to me at least) that the stitch pattern changed directions at the join.
Here’s what I can salvage: two saddles, one front, and a few balls of kinky yarn.

Thank goodness I didn’t decide to knit the entire body before the sleeves!

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Glory Days — Off to a Good Start

Sometimes the combination of yarn, needles, and stitch pattern come together so beautifully that a garment seems to knit itself. That seems to be the case with the Briar Rose Glory Days yarns, size 5 needles, and textured rib pattern that I’m using for my next sweater.
I’m following the instructions for a saddle-shoulder cardigan in The Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters (page 187) for a 40″ circumference at 6 stitches to inch.

The textured rib pattern is a multiple of 4 stitches + 1, so instead of working the saddles on 20 stitches as directed for my size/gauge on page 187, I worked each on 21 stitches. To make it easier to pick up stitches along the edges of the saddles later, I knitted the first and last stitch of every row to make garter selvedge stitches:
RS rows: K1 (selvedge st), *k1, sl 1. k2; rep from * to last 4 sts, k1, sl 1, k1, k1 (selvedge st).
WS rows: K1 (selvedge st), *p3, k1; rep from * to last 4 sts, p3, k1 (selvedge st).
To begin the back, I picked up 24 stitches across one saddle, used the knitted method to cast on 41 stitches (instead of the 40 instructed to accommodate the stitch pattern), then picked up 24 stitches across the other saddle. This gave me a total of 89 stitches (instead of 88), which balanced the stitch pattern at the two armhole edges (with right-side facing, both sides have a selvedge stitch followed by a k3 column).
Again, knitting the first and last stitch of every row for garter selvedges, I shaped the shoulders with short-rows (in two increments of 7 stitches as directed, but working 8 stitches in the last increment), then worked straight for 6 1/4″ (indicated by the marker), then started the armhole by increasing one stitch (using the M1 technique) at each end of the needle every right-side row six times, followed by casting on 4 stitches at each side to end with a total of 109 stitches (instead of 108).
I’ve just picked up 24 stitches along the other edge of one saddle to begin working the right front.

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Counting Rows

Whenever I teach a class, I can be fairly certain that I will come out learning something myself. This has never been truer than my recent sock class at Wild Purls in Billings, Montana. I was explaining how to count slipped edge stitches along the selvedges of a heel flap when Joyce Fletcher mentioned the method she developed out of desperation.
Unable to convince herself that she could tell the difference between slipped and knitted stitches, Joyce turned to the wrong side of the flap (shown here on a completed sock) hoping that the slipped stitches would be more visible than on the right side. On first inspection, they’re not.

But Joyce took a spare needle and poked around to find that it was pretty easy to slip the needle under the horizontal strand associated with each slipped stitch.

Joyce stumbled on a foolproof method that had the rest of us in awe. There are 8 rows of slipped stitches in the heel flap in this example and I can assure you that they are much easier to count from this perspective. I hope you can make use of Joyce’s trick next time you have to count rows of slipped stitches.

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Another Video

I don’t know what possessed me, but I agreed to do a video workshop on cast-ons and bind-offs for Interweave. I’ve spent the last couple of months researching techniques and knitting endless swatches in preparation for the taping last week.

Interweave has a pretty good method to organize the tapings–the materials (in my case, swatches, needles, etc.) are grouped in trays in the order they are to be presented. So that I could keep track of what was what, I did the cast-on swatches in red:

And the bind-off swatches in blue:

We taped more than 30 cast-ons and more than 20 bind-offs, including variations. I don’t think I’ve ever talked so much in a single day!

I believe the video will be available in August, but that probably depends on how much editing needs to be done. Hopefully, there will be something left after all my bloopers have been removed. If you do have cause to watch the video, be kind. I’ll never get used to being in front of a camera (or three!).

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Two New Classes

Today I fly the friendly skies to Rochester, New York, where I have the good fortune to teach at Clara Parkes’ Knitter’s Review Knitting Retreat this weekend.
I’ve developed two new classes this year, both of which will debut at the retreat. It’s fair to say that I’m a little nervous. But I’ve made handouts and have knitted swatches so at least I’ll have something to show.
On Friday, I’ll teach shadow knitting. This is a magical technique where you manipulate garter ridges in two colors to create patterns that seem to appear and disappear, depending on the angle at which the fabric is viewed. Very cool!

On Saturday, I’m scheduled to teach “Conquering Kitchener Stitch”. In three hours I hope to make 30 people comfortable with Kitchener stitch, whether it’s used for stockinette stitch, reverse stockinette stitch, garter stitch, or ribbing. And as a extra bonus, we’ll master the invisible ribbed bind-off, which has its roots in Kitchener stitch. Want to place any bets on whether or not everyone in the class will leave feeling at peace with this most misunderstood grafting stitch?

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Happy-Go-Lucky Boot Socks–Gusset Trick and a Finished Pair

As I was working my way down the leg of the second Happy-Go-Lucky Boot Sock, I got an email from Sharyn Sutherland from down under in Australia. Sharyn has found a fool-proof way to prevent holes from forming at the tops of the gussets and was kind enough to share her discovery with me. The timing couldn’t have been better–I was getting ready to start the heel flap on my Boot Sock. And you know what? Sharyn’s trick worked beautifully. Here’s what I did:

Step 1: A couple of rows before the start of the heel flap, place 3 stitches that correspond with the instep and 3 stitches that correspond with each side of the the heel flap on a coil-less safety pin (I use the little plastic pins from Clover). This keeps the stitches on each side of the heel divide from stretching out as the heel flap is worked.

Step 2: Work the heel flap, heel turn, and gussets as normal. You can probably remove the safety pin after a few rows of gusset decreases, but I left it in for good measure.

Step 3: Remove the safety pins and marvel at how there is no hole to be found. Because the heel flap is worked in a contrasting color for these socks, there was a small hole on the other side where I joined the new color. But once I woven in the end, it disappeared!

I happily went on to finish the second sock of the pair.

Notice how there is a much tidier look to the top of the gusset in the second sock (on the right) than on the first (on the left), where I didn’t use Sharyn’s trick.

You can bet I’m going to use this simple trick on my next pair of socks.
Thank you Sharyn!

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Mia Culpa

Over the summer I worked out instructions for toe-up socks that look just like top-down socks. The pattern was made available on the Quince & Co website a couple of weeks ago. Problem is, I failed to specify the type of cast-on to use. I am such an idiot!
You should use a method that casts on stitches for working in the round such as Judy’s Magic Cast-On or the Turkish/Eastern Cast-on. You can find instructions for these methods online through a Google search.

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Thoughts on the G-word

I like to cast on stitches and get started on a project as much as the next knitter, but it’s an inconvenient fact of life that if I don’t knit a gauge swatch first, the project will likely end up the wrong size. Besides ensuring that you’ve chosen the right needle size for the project, a swatch can tell you a lot about how a yarn knits up. You’ll learn if the yarn is sticky or slippery on a particular type of needle or if the pattern stitch is too boring or too fussy for your peace of mind. This allows you to make adjustments in needle type or stitch pattern before you embark on a full-scale project.
But one of my favorite things about knitting a swatch is the opportunity it gives to experiment with different needle sizes. This is particularly useful when I’m designing a pattern from scratch. The ball band on most yarns specifies a particular gauge with a particular size needle. Rather than a rule, I consider this a guideline for what the manufacturer thinks will be a suitable fabric. Depending on the project I have in mind, it’s not unusual for me to disagree with the manufacturer. For example, I habitually knit socks at a tighter gauge than recommended, even when using dedicated sock yarns. Recently, I knitted a long swatch of each of the four yarns available from Quince & Company. Because I expect to knit socks with this yarn, I knitted the swatches in the round, beginning with at least two sizes smaller needles than recommended and ending at a couple of sizes larger. This gave me a nice range of fabrics from very tight (appropriate for socks, mittens, hats, and gloves) to quite loose (more appropriate for airy scarves or shawls). I now have a record of a variety of gauges to choose from when designing socks with these yarns, which gives me more freedom in choosing stitch patterns that repeat over a variety number of stitches.

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Sock Heels

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve become obsessed with knitting toe-up socks with round heels—the kind that heel that is most commonly used for socks knitted from the top down. I’ve taught a class in toe-up socks with short-row heels for a few years, but some students have requested a more “normal” heel for these socks. To determine the method I like best, I’ve knitted a number of samples to experiment with the methods used by Chrissy Gardiner (Toe-Up! Patterns and Worksheets to Whip Your Sock Knitting into Shape), Wendy Johnson (Socks from the Toe Up), and Melissa Morgan-Oakes (Toe-Up Two-at-a-Time Socks).
Finally, I think I’ve come up with my favorite variation. To test it out, I knitted one sock from the top down (shown on the bottom), then a mate from the toe up (shown on top). There are only subtle differences between the two—the most noticeable being that the “wedge” on the sides of the toe-up sock is narrower than that of the top-down sock. This is because I worked the increases one stitch in from the edge instead of two stitches in. I’m happy to report that when on my feet, I can’t tell the difference between the two.

I plan to write up instructions for the toe-up version for multiple sizes and gauges. If all goes well, the pattern will be available online this fall from Quince & Company. I’ll let you know when!

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