Recently in Technique Category

Well, I survived my high dose of glucose and the four needle sticks that the long form glucose tolerance test required. No results until late afternoon sometime today (Friday), but I'm optimistic. A lot more so than I was when I got on the bus to go to my doctor's office Thursday morning. I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was the nice woman who gave up her seat on the bus for me (completely unprompted on a very full bus) or the fact that it was such a nice morning when I had the test and I got to go walking between bleeds. Even if it doesn't help my glucose readings, the walking definitely made me feel better. How can you not be happy when the morning sun is shining over Lake Michigan and you can feel the breezes off the Lake? And I even managed to turn the heel on the second of my Sprung socks.

Anyway... to pick up where I left off yesterday, once you put those pieces back in place, it's time to add the next piece to the diamond, small triangle set that you have.

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Step 7: Add a Big Triangle to the Diamond and Small Triangle

To do this, you simply place the larger triangle, right sides togther, aligned with the other edge of the diamond.

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Step 8: Pinning the Big Triangle

Once again, your pins are your friends! You want to line up the square corner of the triangle with the square corner of the diamond/small triangle combination and the edge of the diamond. You do this for all 4 diamond-small triangle pieces that you pieced in the first part.

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Step 9: Ironing Open the Seams

As you did with the previous pieces you're going to iron open all the seams on the back sides of the pieces that you just sewed together. Now you have two triangles and a diamond fit together as a larger triangular piece that is the first half of the 4 square blocks that make up the larger LeMoyne Star block.

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Step 10: Admire Your Work and Get Ready for the Next Set

Once all the pieces are ironed, take them back to your table and lay them out where they should go. You're done with these pieces for a little while, but it's always nice to admire your handiwork.

The next thing you're going to do is repeat all these steps for the second batch of diamonds and triangles. It's the exact same process, only the final pieces are going to be mirror images of the first set of final pieces. When you're done with that, you'll be coming down the home stretch!

Thank you to everyone who left comments yesterday to help me with my concern about my glucose tolerance test. If you have time to think good thoughts at my pancreas tomorrow morning it will be much appreciated. And it will be the first time my pancreas has ever received so much attention in my life!

In the mean time, I've been documenting the process of putting one of the LeMoyne Star quilt blocks together. Let me state very clearly, a quilting expert I am not. What I am good at is listening to good instruction and taking advantage of what I have learned from other more experienced people. A lot of what I'm going to post today is based on the good advice I got from others. Also, rather than create one very picture heavy post, I'm going to divide the process up into some natural chunks.

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Step 1: Lay Out the Block

The very first step is simply to lay out your block, getting the diamond shaped pieces in the orientation that you want them to be in, and selecting the background fabric that you want to surround the star. In this case, I chose the light aqua Kaffe Fassett print because I thought it was a nice background for the pink and blue elements in the start.

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Step 2: Set Up the First Pieces to Sew Together

The order of sewing that I learned in my class makes a lot of sense when it comes to making sure that you piece the right things together. One thing that may not be apparent initially is that certain pairs of pieces have one orientation, while other pairs have the opposite. This is true of the diamond shapes and the small triangles, which ar ethe first pieces you want to put together. You can start with any diamond shape, and then flip the bordering small triangle onto it so that the right sides of the fabric are facing. You line up the long side and point of the triangle with the point and side of the diamond. And you do this for every diamond/triangle pair where the triangle has the same starting orientation -- in other words, you are going to do this with every other diamond/triangle pair.

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Step 3: Pin The Triangle and Diamond Together

This picture should make it clearer which edges should align with which other edges. The important thing here: don't be afraid to use your pins! This will help you keep the points from squirming away from each other when they go through the machine. Really, if I learned anything from this quilting workshop, it was just that: pins are your friends. Pin early, pin often. Use as many pins as you need to to feel comfortable that your fabric is going to stay where you want it to.

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Step 4: Start Your Sewing Machine

This isn't so much a step in the process as it is a handy tip that I learned from Carolyn. To avoid those nastly little thread globs that can show up at the beginning of a seam because the top or bottom thread gets caught where it shouldn't, use a scrap piece of fabric to start your chain piecing seam. This picture also shows another very helpful tool when it comes to making nice seams -- my Bernina #57 foot -- this foot has a 1/4" guide on the right edge that makes it very easy to keep track of where you need to be seaming. I love this foot!

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Step 5: Press Seams Open

For the other two tops I have put together, you just press the seams to one side or the other. when you open up your pieces. For these blocks, you actually want to open up the seam and press it down. The why of this will become clearer later when the pieces start getting larger. For this process it is very handy to have a nice, heavy iron. And I think a dry iron works best because there's no way for the pieces to distort with the addition of water.

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Step 6: Put the Pieces Back in the Layout

The last step of this part is easy: just put the pieces back into the layout where they go. This allows you to admire your work and do a visual check on whether things are lining up well. Word to the wise: don't be afraid to rip if you aren't happy with what you see. It's a lot easier to rip at this point than it is when you've built the blocks up a bit more. And it takes a lot less time to rip and re-sew a seam than it does to rip and re-sew knitted stuff, so don't be afraid of the process.

Yarn Finishing

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After talking about spinning up John's "Boyfriend" sock yarn, a couple of folks asked me how I "finish" my yarn. Finishing involves all the things done to the yarn after it's plied. My finishing regimen is relatively simple and has been derived from information from other spinners and bloggers. But it works for me. Rather than just typing out my "recipe" I thought I would illustrate the process with some pictures. In this case, I'm working with some "Sock Hop" sock yarn from Crown Mountain Farms. Since I'm planning to make knee socks fromt his and my Sloopy remnants, I wanted to make sure there were no differences in how my yarn and the CMF yarn was processed following spinning. And really, this process can be used for any commercial yarn when you aren't so sure about how it's been treated or handled.

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Step 1: Wind Up Your Yarn

If your yarn is already in a skein, then you can skip this step. Otherwise, I niddy noddy or a reel are handy tools for converting a ball into a more manageable skein.

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Step 2: Preparing for Yarn Bondage

Tangled yarn more or less sucks. I cut 4 ties to bind around the yarn in four places (you might choose more if your yarn is particularly slippery). In general, I prefer to make my ties out of yarn that is unlikely to bleed color, but the content of the ties doesn't reall matter. In this case I used white Plymouth Galway, but I've used other things as well.

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Step 3: Tie Your Yarn Up

I use figure 8 ties in four places that are relatively evenly distributed across the hank to prevent tangles. I try to avoid tying things up too tightly so that I don't have an area where the yarn is compressed or limited by the ties. I also always do this while my yarn is on the niddy noddy. I think it's just easier that way.

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Step 4: Give Your Yarn A Bath

Generally, I do my soak in warm water. I have never measured my preferred temperature, but it shouldn't be uncomfortable to put your hand in, and except in special circumstances I never use cold water (note: this is just me... your mileage may vary and you should always take your fiber and how it has been dyed into consideration when you pick water temperatures... if in doubt, cooler is better). Just a pleasant warm bath. I add a little Eucalan for aromaticity and to help clean the yarn if it needs it. I also think Eucalan and other no-rinse wool-washes make life a lot easier since you don't have to spend a lot of time rinsing. And then I take the yarn off the niddy noddy and submerge it in the bath. I let it soak for 20-30 minutes at least so that it can relax in the warm sudsy water.

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Step 5: Put Your Yarn Under Pressure

After draining off the water, I press the yarn against the side of the sink to help remove as much water as I can. Depending on the fiber content of your yarn, you can be more or less aggressive about this. Since this is superwash, I could pick it up and wring it and agitate it without worrying about felting, but other yarns require more care. Always err on the side of being gentle if you think felting could be an issue. The idea is just to make the drying process easier and shorter by getting out as much water as you can here.

If a lot of color has bled out of the yarn during the soak, I will rinse several times in cool water until the color exhaust subsides, but otherwise I don't do any rinsing at all.

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Step 6: Towel Your Yarn Off

Next, I place the yarn on a nice thirsty cotton towel (cotton likes water more than wool does, so it's easy to get the yarn to share with the towel) and then I roll the yarn in the towel and compress the roll to squeeze as much water out of the yarn as I can. This is clearly an optional step, but I think it helps to speed up the drying process. If your yarn likes to bleed color, you might want to have a couple of ratty old towels dedicated to just this process, rather than using your good towels. Also, you probably want to stay away from towels with a smooth chenille-like finish, they don't absorb as well as the regular terry finish ones.

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Step 7: Give Your Yarn A Whack

This is an optional step. Some spinners do it, some don't bother. I do it if I remember and if my yarn isn't likely to release dye onto my white counter top. I think the idea of whacking your yarn against a surface is to help even out the twist. If I whack my yarn, I do it two or three times before shifting to another part of the hank for my grip.

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Step 8: Hang Up Your Yarn

The last step is to just let the yarn alone to dry. To do this, I hang it over a hanger and just let it hang loose without any weighting other than it's own natural weight. Usually I hang it over a place that can get wet and can be cleaned easily if there's some residual dye leakage, like a tub. I also like to have a place that is relatively warm and/or gets good airflow to help speed the drying process. I figure faster drying is good for two reasons 1) less chance of yarn mildew (yuck!) and 2) I get to enjoy the finished yarn sooner.

So that's it! At least for me. I think this process varies a lot from spinner to spinner. Some people will never choose warm water. Some folks like to use dish detergent or shampoo as their cleaning agent. Some whack some don't. Some swear that hanging a yarn to dry instead of lying it flat may make it harder to detect an unbalanced yarn because the natural weight of the yarn holds down the twist. There's definitely more than one way to finish a yarn.

I've had a couple of people ask me to go into more detail about why I would pick a three-ply yarn instead of a two-ply yarn for Rogue if I were to do it again. So, since I am without an exciting knitting progress picture for the post, and I think it's something that I never would have thought about if I hadn't taken up spinning, I thought I'd revisit this topic.

The best thing I can do to start the discussion is to point you to a post I made in April, wherein I discuss the geometry of two and three ply yarns. I'd recommend clicking on it and taking a look, at least at the pictures, because it's something of a long discussion, and I'm far to lazy to repeat it tonight. And I'm going to assume, going forward, that you understand the geometry of 2 and 3 ply yarns.

OK, so now you know that 2-ply yarns are two dimensional and 3-ply yarns ar three dimensional. So how does that factor into deciding what kinds of yarn to use for certain kinds of knitting projects? Well, let's take Rogue. Rogue has a bunch of lovely cabling in it. Cabling is a three dimensional knitting technique. The idea is to create a raised area of stitches that you can look at from multiple angles and see a defined, rounded, shaped structure. When you choose a three dimensional yarn to work with a three-dimensional structure, you end up emphasizing that texture and rounding it out. It brings the texture work to life better. Three-ply yarns have a rounder quality to them as well, and that also helps to pop out that cable.

So does that mean that 2-ply yarns are inappropriate for cabling? Not at all. 2-ply yarns can still be excellent for cables and designs. But they give you a different look. For instance, do you remember my Pearl Buck Swing Jacket? I made Pearl out of Silky Wool which is a two ply yarn. The textured stitches lay flatter against the fabric, creating a more subtle patterning. Now take a look at Sigil, a cardigan I made with a bulky weight 3-ply yarn. See how those cables jump right out at you? That has a lot to do with the extra dimensionality of the three-ply yarn.

Two-ply yarns, on the other hand, are wonderful for lace work. Lace is meant to lie flat. With lace, you're not interested in a 3-dimensional fabric, you're interested in being able to have beautiful stitch definition that will lay flat and show off all the open work, making 2-ply yarn a perfect selection for lace-based projects. Compare this short scarf knit in a two ply yarn that I spun with my Flower Basket Shawl which I knit out of a 3-ply handspun. Notice how the two ply scarf shows off the pattern better than the three-ply shawl? The extra-dimensionality of the yarn in the shawl obscures a bit of the pattern work in the shawl. It's still a shawl that makes me perfectly happy (and keeps me a bit warmer), but it's a different look than if I'd chosen a two-ply yarn.

Of course, it is not solely the number of plys that determine the final look of cables and lace in your project. You still have to consider the loft of the yarn that results from the fiber the yarn was spun from. For instance, wools from Merino, Targhee, Cormo and CVM sheep are all springier and crimpier and pack a lot of poof into a yarn. That's one of the reasons why two-ply 100% merino Koigu PPM has the three-dimensional look of a 3-ply yarn. Yarns from sheep like the Blue Faced Leicester tend to have less springiness and the yarn looks a bit flatter. Spinnning technique makes a big difference too, if you spin woolen, you get a loftier yarn than if you spin worsted. And then you have to factor in gauge. Knitting a poofy yarn on smaller needles yields a different fabric than if it is knit on big needles. For instance, I probably would have gotten better resolution on my Flower Basket Shawl if I'd gone up a needle size or two.

This is why I say that if I were to buy yarn for another Rogue I'd probably try to start with a three ply, but I'm happy with the Bartlett. The Bartlett has a reasonable amount of dimensionality that comes in from the wool that it's made of, and the way the singles that make up the two plys in the yarn are spun. To my eye, it looks like the singles were spun semi-woolen (or semi-worsted, depending on your perspective) so they have some extra loft to bring to the party once plied. So while I don't expect the cables to pop quite like they did for Sigil, knit at the gauge that I'm going to knit it in, I should still get nice resolution and dimensionality with the cabling in Rogue. My Rogue will be a little reserved, but those cables will still show up well and let people know they're there. Which seems about right for a sweater that gets it's name from a stealthy sort of character.*

*At least if you're playing a Rogue a la D&D -- which I have on my brain right now, since I've been digging into the last two major add-on for Neverwinter Nights before I charge into Neverwinter Nights 2... yes, I am a geek on so very many levels!

Picot Sock Cuff

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So you've gotten that provisional cast on taken care of, your yarn is joined in the round, and you want to start your sock with a picot cuff. Where do you go next?

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Step 1: Join Stitches in the Round

I'm starting with a repeat of yesterday's last photo just so we're all at the same place and there's a visual reference for how things start. To get to this point, please check out my post on the provisional crochet cast-on in the round. As a side note, I cast this cuff on using needles two sizes smaller than I am going to use for the body of the sock. This is not absolutely necessary, but I'll explain my rationale for doing it in the next step.

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Step 2: Do Some Knitting, Don't Forget that YO, K2Tog Row!

The knitting for a picot edge is simple, you knit the number of rows you want to give you a cuff height that you like, knit the fold over row -- which means repeating the YO,K2Tog stitch pair all the way around the round until you return to the beginning. Then you knit the same number of rows that you knit before the turning row. The photo above shows what things look like after that is complete. The provisionally cast-on edge is at the bottom of the picture to help orient you.

A couple of notes about how I do picot edges. First of all, they are not a stretchy edging like a ribbed cuff. Because of that, you can't really count on a picot edge to really help hold a sock up unless it is relatively tight and/or a bit stiffer than the rest of the sock fabric. One way to make this happen is to knit the first set of rows before the turning row on a smaller needle than the rows after the turning row. Thus, for this demonstration, the first 7 rows were knit on 2.0 mm needles, and the turning row and the next 6 rows were knit on 2.75 mm needles.

Now, if you look back at my original instructions, you might notice that they don't seem to jibe with what I just wrote, since I am doing fewer rows after the turning row than before. The reason for this is that the length of the fabric after you do the turning row is longer than before the turning row because the needles are bigger and, thus, the stitches are bigger. If you join the edges at this point, the outside edge of the picot edge will bulge and you will have to rip out the join and that last row and go at it again. Ask me how I know this...

So my general feeling is that the formula you should use if you change needles at the turning row is to knit one less row than you knit before the turning row. Another way to say this is that you should knit an equal number of rows on each needle size, and count the turning row as the first row on the larger needles.

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Step 3: Removing The Provisional Cast On

So now you get to the point where you're going to be happy you didn't pull too tightly on that end after finishing your crochet cast on. Find the end of the waste yarn with the crochet chains and gently undo the chains and start to pull the waste yarn out and put the free stitches on a set of double pointed needles, matching the number of stitches on each needle with the number you have on each of the working needles. In order to prevent dropped stitches, I like to use a smaller set of needles than my working needles, even if I didn't change needle size at the turning row. I also like to insert the needle in the soon-to-be freed edge stitch before I pull out the waste yarn. It helps me maintain the correct stitch orientation (I poke the needle in from the top) and dimishes my angst over dropping stitches.

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Step 4: Pick Up Free Edge Stitches on Smaller Double Pointed Needles

After you transfer all the cast on edge stitches to double pointed needles, you should have something that looks like this. In this image, the cast on edge stitches on the smaller needles are at the bottom of the picture and the working edge is at the top of the picture.

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Step 5: Fold Tube At the Turning Edge

This next part is probably the fiddly-est part of the whole operation. You need to fold the tube so that the wrong sides on either side of the turning edge are touching and the right sides of the fabric are facing towards you and into the center of the tube. This will involve moving those needles around and about each other to get them where you want them to go. When you're done, each working needle should be paired with a needle holding stitches from the cast on edge. In the picture above, you can also see that the smaller(cast on edge) needle is on the inside of the tube, and the larger (working) needle is on the exterior.

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Step 6: Knit the Working Edge and Cast On Edge Together

The next thing you are going to do is a Japanese three needle bind off. If you've ever done a regular three needle bind off, the idea is conceptually similar, except you're going to end up with a set of working stitches left after you're done. Which is important, otherwise you'd just have a sock cuff and no easy way to proceed on your sock.

To get started, you're going to hold a pair of needles together, and put your working needle knitwise through the first stitch on the front needle and on the back needle. Then you're going to wrap your yarn as if to knit and draw the stitch through. You've now bound a cast on edge stitch with a working stitch to create one stitch.

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Step 7: Knit Stitches From Both Needles All the Way Around the Tube

All that remains to do be done now is to work your way all around the tube, knitting one stitch from each needle together. The picture above shows two needles completed, the third needle half-way through and the last needle pair left to be done. The only thing you need to worry about is making sure that your working needle is always the same size as the outer needle of the pair.

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Step 8: Admire your Lovely Picot Edge

After you've made it all the way around, it's time to flip it over and admire your work. Picot edges should be stiff enough to stand up on their own most of the time and should have a reasonably nice solid structure. If you look on the inside, you'll also see what I think is a very neat and lovely joined edge that becomes almost invisible against the inside of the sock if the rest of the sock is based in stockinette.

Now you're ready to knit the rest of the sock, or whatever other tubular structure has captured your fancy!

Before I end this post, I'd like to point out another excellent guide to working a picot edge and one that I most certainly referred to when I was trying this technique out for the first time. I would also like to recommend Nancie Wiseman's Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques which also provides very helpful information about executing crochet-cast ons, provisional cast ons and picot edges.

Provisional Crochet Cast On in the Round

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I spent most of Saturday afternoon working on writing up the pattern for my "Wiskers and Paw Prints" Socks. Generally speaking, I like to work up one sock, write out the pattern, and then follow the pattern for the second sock so that I can revise the instructions by reading through them and using them. Little by little I am developing a rhythm for putting patterns together in a way that is both aesthetically pleasing and organizationally useful, so the process takes less time than it used to for me, but it still takes a reasonable amount of concentrated effort to make sure the text makes sense and that the charts are legible, sensible and mistake-free.

The process of writing up the pattern also helps me identify what special techniques are used in the pattern that might need more explanation than makes sense for a short sock pattern. For instance, how do you execute a provisional crochet cast-on in the round for a sock? Does everyone understand the general instructions for making a picot edge on a sock top? What about doing wraps for a short-row heel?

With that in mind, I decided that I would do something I haven't done in a while and add to my "Techknit" section. Today I will have a discussion of how to do a provisional crochet cast-on in the round. This is the way I start my picot edged socks. Tomorrow I'll complete the with information about how to go from the cast-on to the picot edge.

To start with, when you do a provisional crochet cast on you need to have a knitting needle (for socks it's best if this is a double pointed needle) and a crochet hook of similar diameters. You also will need a yard or two of waste yarn that is a contrasting color to the yarn you are going to use for the main body of your sock. For a picot edge start, I usually use a double pointed needle about 2 sizes smaller than the one that the main body of the sock will be knit on.

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Step 1: Getting Started

The first step is to create a slip knot and put it over your crochet hook. This slip knot should be close to the end of your waste yarn. This is the same thing you would do if you were going to start a crochet chain. Then you want to get your double pointed needle ready.

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Step 2: Creating the First Cast On Loop

The second step is to take the end of the waste yarn connected to the yarn source and put it underneath the double pointed needle. Then, you put the crochet hook over the top of the needle and grab the working yarn and pull it through the loop on the crochet hook. The first stitch can be a little fiddly, but otherwise, it's not too hard to get started.

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Step 3: Pull the First Stitch Through and Start the Next Stitch

This image shows one stitch cast on, with the needle and hook set up to create the second cast on stitch. You repeat this process until you have as many stitches on the needle as you need to have for your cast on edge.

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Step 4: Complete Cast On and Secure Cast On Tail

Once you have cast on all the stitches you need, chain several stitches through the working loop on the crochet hook without wrapping the yarn around the knitting needle, cut the yarn and pull the tail through the final loop just as you would if you were ending a crochet chain. Don't pull the end too tightly, because you will be using that end to undo the provisional cast on later on.

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Step 5: Knitting on the Main Yarn

It really doesn't matter what side you start knitting your main color on with, but I usually start with the edge that has the crochet chain tail to help me keep myself oriented. Pick up your main color yarn and start knitting across.

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Step 6: Complete the First Row in the Main Yarn

I think it's easiest to knit across the entire row of provisionally cast on stitches before joining things in the round. This is the way things look for me before I set up knitting in the round.

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Step 7: Setup for Knitting in the Round, Divide the Stitches in Half Across 2 Needles

The next thing I do is transfer half of the cast stitches to a second double pointed needle and then "fold" the line of stitches so that the ends are adjacent to each other, as shown in this picture. The needle in the back should be the one which has the yarn connected to the yarn source, while the needle in the front is the one that has the free tail of the main yarn color.

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Step 8: Using Working Yarn, Knit First Quarter of the Stitches onto a Third Needle

To get things started, make sure that you have not twisted any stitches where they bend to extend across the second needle. Twisted stitches = mobius sock, which is not an easy to wear article of clothing. Pick up a third double pointed needle and start knitting in the first stitch of the front needle with the working yarn. Knit the first half of the stitches on the first needle. Be sure to pull the first couple of stitches tightly so as to prevent a gap between the first and last stitches.

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Step 9: Knitting Up the Second Quarter of the Stitches

Now pick up a fourth double pointed needle and knit across the second half of the stitches on the first needle. You'll end up with three needles with stitches on them and two free needles (from a package of 5).

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Step 10: Knitting Up the Third Quarter of the Stitches

Pick up one of your remaining free needles and knit across the first half of the stitches on the second needle. You'll end up with 4 needles with stitches on them, and you'll finally have something that looks like you're used to if you knit in the round with 5 double points.

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Step 11: Knitting up the Final Quarter of the Cast On Stitches

It's a cake walk from here. Now just pick up that last free needle and knit across the last section of stitches from the needle in the back. When you complete this you'll have freed up another needle and you'll be ready to start knitting in the round for what ever pattern you want to get started with.

I just love using this general method to set up knitting in the round for socks. If you're knitting socks on two circs or on magic loop, you don't need to do anything but do the part that involves dividing the stitches in half. If you prefer to work in the round on 4 needles instead of 5, just knit a third of the stitches on to each needle you add in. I've found this method really helps keep me out of trouble with regards to twisting the cast on.

Tomorrow: How to turn this into a picot edge.

Knitting Backwards, Continental

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All the turning the work in Ruffles got me thinking that I needed to learn a new technique that would save me a little bit of knitting effort: Knitting Backwards. I figured this would make my life a little easier when dealing with relatively short stretches of short row knitting. Finding information about how to do this sent me into the way back machine of my old VKs in search of an article I remembered. I struck pay dirt in the Winter 2002 edition (the one with the Koigu Chullo on the cover). Here's a little pictoral summary, so that when I need to remember how to do it again in 6 months, I'll have my own personal reference. The nice photographs were kindly taken by my very lovely husband.

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Step 1: Insert the left hand needle through the back of the first loop on the right hand needle.
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Step 2: Wrap the yarn around the needle counter clockwise
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Step 3: Start to pull the loop onto the left hand needle
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Step 4: Complete the transfer of the new loop to the left hand needle
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Step 5: Ready to go on to the next stitch!

Repeat as necessary until all the stitches are on the left hand needle and you can knit forwards again.

This technique doesn't work out to be as fast as if I was purling across since I have to throw the yarn with my left hand. However, when the time it takes to turn the work and re-wrap the yarn around my fingers is taken into consideration, this does turn out to be faster for me. If I was traversing more stitches, it would probably be a wash, but this works quite well for short stretches of knitting.

Now I have to get back to my bad computer gaming habit... I just bought Civilization III: Conquests tonight. Time to see the new civs and to watch the game inflict natural disasters on my creations!

A New Blocking Board

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First off, I'm just overwhelmed by all the nice comments about Audrey and my hair cut. Both make me pretty happy. And it shouldn't have taken me so long to get to both of them either!

....

One of the things I've been struggling with lately is how to block scarves. This isn't a conceptual problem for me, but a spatial one. I just don't have that many surfaces long enough to mount something 6 foot long onto. And the ones that I do, such as beds, need to be undressed and covered in plastic to be used and to be protected from the damp.

Up until now, I'd mostly dealt with this problem simply by not blocking scarves. But then I blocked my Alpaca Silk scarf, which was short enough to block along the diagonal axis of my blocking board and saw that the result was good indeed. Thus, scarf finishing in my house was destined never to be the same again.

So I took an (html) page out of Bonne Marie's book and invested in an inexpensive carpet runner that I found on clearance at the Home Depot.

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My New Mohawk Blockng Board

This particular piece of carpet is handy for a variety of reasons. First of all, it already has relatively straight lines drawn into it, giving something that a scarf edge can easily be lined up against.

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Blocking the Organic Alpaca Scarf

See how nicely that works? It's also just over 7 feet long, so almost any scarf that I make (I don't think it's possible for me to knit 7 foot of anything in the same pattern without dying of boredom) will have plenty of room to stretch out and get comfortable. It's all made out of a synthetic material, so no need to worry about any bleeding from the rug, and it can easily be pinned into (although I have to admit I pinned through it into the carpet below, but that doesn't bother me too much). And finally, when I am done with it, I just need to roll it up and stash it in a corner. So there's no storage problems, either.

It can't beat my SpaceBoard in a fair fight, but it does solve my scarf blocking problem exceptionally well. And, hey, if I ever find a new solution, this rug will actually make an okay runner in my front hallway.

Picot Problems

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Is their anything worse than being inches away from a neat finished item but being thwarted by a technique that you just can't seem to figure out? While I have no illusions about my knitting knowledge, I like to think that with good reference material and a willingness to dig in, I can figure out most anything.

But the picot edging/cast off for my Filigree Lace sweater is eluding me. I present exhibit A:

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The Ugliest Picot Bind Off Ever
Can't get enough? Just click here

This picot edging distorts the fabric, is too holey curvy. And it just looks like it's been smacked with the ugly stick one too many times.

Most of this was done using the instructions for the Picot Cast Off in the big Vogue Knitting reference book. Cast off two stiches, cast on two stitches using a cable cast on, bind off all the stitches so that only one remains on the right needle. Cast off two more stitches.

Some of it was done using the instructions from the sweater pattern:

*K2Tog, using cable cast on method, cast on 3 stitches (4 sts on needle), bind off 3 stitches k next 2 stitches together; on right hand needle, sl 2nd st over first. Repeat from * to end.

Both Vogue Knitting and the pattern show nice neat edging that doesn't distort the fabric and without prominent holes where the edging makes a nice scallop. I'm not seeing that here.

I've made several test swatches trying to figure out what I am not doing correctly, but have been stunningly unsuccessful. I'd show more of my misery off, but they don't look radically different from the ugly swatch above, so I decided not to waste the electrons.

I have spent a great deal of time combing the web for visual assistance. I did find some additional help in Alison's archives and in one of Stephanie's patterns as part of my Google expeditions, but something isn't quite clicking with me.

Can anyone out there help? If you know of a site with good visual instructions, or you live in Chicago and would be willing to trade your knowledge of this technique in person for a latte and my undying gratitude or you can tell by looking at my ugly swatch what I am not doing correctly, let me know. I don't even want to think of dealing with this in Kidsilk Haze* until I know I can make it work correctly on a simple swatch with unsticky yarn...

*yes, I did launch into my first attempt at this with one of my lacy sleeves and a double strand of KSH...it looked terrible, which is what lead me to the swatching. It was a b***h to rip out, and I don't think I could face doing it again without some hope of success

Before I did it for Dad's sweater, I had never tried using applied I-cord as an edging. In fact, I didn't really understand what it was. I did some web searching (as I mentioned yesterday) and came up with two places where I got some insight into how it is done. The best information I found was at Knitting-And (here and here) and in Bonne Marie's TekTalk on I-cord

Both of these sites provided lots of good info, but I am an intensely visual aide oriented person when it comes to learning something new related to knitting. If I can't see a picture (or detailed series of pictures), I have a hard time really understanding what I am doing. Most of the time, the hardest thing for me to do is just get started. So with that in mind, I took this series of photos for myself and for anyone else who needs a little help getting the process started.

(As a small aside, if you haven't figured out how to use the macro setting on your camera, it is very worthwhile thing to find -- gives you good closeups when normally you would get blurry photos).

The first thing I needed to do was decide how wide I wanted my I-cord to be. I just wanted a simple edging about 1/2 inch wide. Since the gauge of LoTech is about 4.5 stitches/inch, I decided to do a three stitch I-cord (one stitch gets pulled around to the back, so only two are on the visible edge). In addition to the three stitches for the I-cord, yoo also need an extra stitch -- kind of like a selvedge stitch that goes into the seam when you mattress stitch two pieces of a garment together. Thus, I needed to cast on 4 stitches to get started.

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Step 0: Cast On The Number of Stitches You Want for Your I-Cord + 1)

After you cast on, you want to slip all the stitches toward the working end of the needle and switch the needle to your left hand. (This is simple, but is probably the most confusing thing to me about I-cord since I was used to knitting back and forth).

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Step 1: Setting Up for the First Row -- Sliding the Cast On Stitches to The Working End of the Left Hand Needle

You can use either circular or double pointed needles (you need to be able to knit from both ends of the needle -- Thanks, Michelle for reminding me of this). I wanted the edge to be very firm so that I could attach the zipper to a firm surface (the yarn is merino, and thus is somewhat soft and squishy), so I also chose to do the I-cord edging using the same size needles (two sizes smaller than those I used for the body of the sweater) I used to do the ribbing.

Then you want to knit all the stitches but one onto the right hand needle -- this is the start of the I-cord.

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Step 2: Start the I-cord -- Knit all But One onto the Right Hand Needle

Next, you want to slip the remaining stitch knitwise (as if you were to knit it) from the left needle to the right needle. The orientation of the stitch is important. Once you slip the stitch, it will look kind of elongated compared to the rest of the stitches, but that is okay.

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Step 3: Slip the Remaining Stitch Knitwise from the Left Needle to the Right Needle

Next, you need to pick up the first possible stitch at the base and edge of the garment you want to attach the cord to. Be sure to pick the stitch up so that it has the right orientation on the needle.

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Step 4: Pick Up a Stitch on the Edge of the Garment

Now you're going to knit the stitch you picked up off the left hand needl and onto the right so that you have one more stitch than you started with on the right hand needle.

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Step 5: Knit the Picked Up Stitch Off the Left Needle to the Right Needle

For the last step you are going to pass the slipped stitch over the stitch you just knit.

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Step 6: Pass the Slipped Stitch Over the Last Knit Stitch

Et Voila! You've finished your first row.

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Step 7: Completed First Row of Attached I-cord

Now all you need to do is repeat all the steps except the cast on step until you have worked over the edge you wish to work over. I did not follow any regular rule about the interval of stitches I picked up from the front panel. Instead, I just sort of "read my knitting" and picked up the stitch that was most even with the stitch I was going to slip after I gently tugged the I-cord stitches into place. This worked out fine for me and didn't distort the edge of the garment. An example after I had gotten a little farther:

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The Finished Product

I hope this was useful. I did it mostly so that I could re-trace my steps someday (I am always forgetting how to start things like this). I will eventually move it into the "TechKnit" section of my site. If you have any comments on how I could make it better or more useful, please let me know!

Finishing Question

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I'm working on the first sleeve of my Tai top now...I'm about midway through, so I feel like I'm almost coming into the home stretch. Hopefully by tomorrow I'll have all the knitting completed. (It was supposed to take me a little longer, because I wanted to go on a knitting expedition with Julie today, but a little stomach bug intervened early this morning and I figure it would be better for me to rest up a little). And then something occurred to me. Should I use a strand of Tai to seam up this top or should I use something else?

This leads me to a more general question that I would love to get input from anyone and everyone from: how do you decide what yarn/fiber to seam up your knitwear with? Up until this point I have never seamed any garment with a different yarn than the one it is worked in, to avoid color differences.

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