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Reading one’s knitting

February 14, 2007 1 comment

I recently read a post by someone who was confused as to why her flat knitting *always* looked like garter stitch. When she tried stockinette – it didn’t matter if she always knit or always purled, it looked like stockinette. And her ribs looked even odder. Circular knitting worked out just fine – just flat was weird.

Yes, I know. It seems obvious to us. Jonathan, who has never picked up a pair of knitting needles unless he was moving them from one place to another, understood what she was doing wrong.

What she was doing, you see, was following the patterns. And maybe she began with circular knitting, so she knew that all you needed to do was knit round and round for stockinette – and to maintain the same pattern around and around for the ribs. So she was reading the patterns – and you need to read the pattern. What she wasn’t doing was reading her knitting.

This is a skill. Okay, on this level, it’s pretty basic. If you’re knitting flat and you want stockinette, you knit on the knit side and purl on the purl side – just look and see which side you’re on. If it’s all Vs, it’s the knit side. The other, bumpy side is the purl one. If you want ribs – knit the knits and purl the purls, no matter what side you’re one. If you want seed, purl the knits and knit the purls.

If you’re doing garter, both sides will be the same. Just knit. Whatever row you’re on, just knit.

This gets more difficult and more important when you get into more elaborate stitches and lace. If you don’t learn how to read your knitting, it will always be a challenge when you put it down and pick it up again – even if you’re knitting from a chart that you keep carefully marked with post-its or a magnet board. Things move and fall off, or you forget to change a marker.

Instead, pay attention to what you’ve worked. This takes practice in general and each project is different, bu the effort will pay off. An example would be the cable-lace stole I made. The pattern is just four stockinette lines, but each line had its own yarnovers and decreases, and it was important to keep track of where I was. I figured out how to read the knit side first, because the two knit lines looked distinctive, but it wasn’t until I learned the purl side that the knitting began to move. Not only was I able to put it down at any point and pick it back up, without a lot of tinking and frogging if I made a mistake, but if I did make a mistake, I could pick it up right away – the knitting just looked wrong.

The charts and patterns are still vital, of course – even a simple motif like the diamonds in my current shawl would not be possible to work without a chart – but I don’t mark it at the moment (other than a couple of lines of highlighter so I know which is the central repeat) because my post-its always fell off and they were a pain to move. Instead, I count the border stitches and check if it’s a knit or purl row, and I’m pretty much good to go. Oh, I’m counting compulsively between the markers because if I don’t, I *will* miss a mistake, but at least I won’t lose my place.

(And I have to say – making lace is amazing. I can’t believe something so pretty and delicate is coming from my hands.)

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Categories: knitting

New yarn/new needles/new project

February 7, 2007 Leave a comment

When I got home from work last night, my Knitpicks order was waiting for me. That means ten skeins of Swish, two sets of Options tips – US5 and US6, two 32″ cables (plus caps and key), a US2 32″ circular, a needle gauge (with a very *nice* magnifying strip) and couple more toys.

So. Swatching! This is going to be a baby blanket for my mother’s fiancé’s daughter-in-law, a woman I’ve only met once. Which means it’s going to be painfully tasteful – rich green with a tan border. The idea is to have alternating rectangles of seed and garter, with a contrasting garter border. This way it’ll be reversible. I needed to know how many st/inch so I could get the rectangles right – I want them to be about 6″ wide and 8″ long, to make a blanket about 36″ wide and 40″ long.

And here is where math gets fun. I want the blanket to be balanced, but 6 goes into 36 6 times, and six is an even number. That would mean it would begin with, say, a seed box and end with a garter one. I didn’t want that. So. The first and last blocks will be 3″, with five alternating in the middle. Nice and balanced. Since 8 goes into 40 5 times, it’s already balanced. My plan is to knit the first row of blocks until it reaches 8″, and then count the rows.

I attached the US5 tips to the cable, cast on (I used the knitted on cast on just to see how it would look) and swatched, sort of. It’s a blanket – it doesn’t need to be exact. I got 3.75st/inch – and that new gauge was very handy indeed. The magnifying strip made counting the stitches easy. So. 22 st for each block, with eleven for the side ones. 132 stitches. Place the first marker 11 st in, then 5 markers 22 st apart and then 11 more.

And here was where the Options really came in handy – I cast on with the size 6 tips, moved all the stitches to the cable and switched to the size 5s. Perfect. Then I knit four rows of garter and put the project down because the color change is next and I wanted to knit my lace at least to end of the current repeat.

Categories: knitting

Additional notes on finished projects plus lace!

February 6, 2007 Leave a comment

1. I knit the Mason-Dixon sweater in combined instead of continental. It’s basically the way I taught myself to knit anyway, and it makes purling much easier for me.

Combined knitting means that when you purl, you pull the wool straight through the loop instead of curling the wool around the needle. This twists the stitches, so you then untwist them by knitting through the back loop on the next row. It works best for flat stockinette or, I suppose, for garter in the round – for any pattern where you alternate knitting and purling between the rows – flat ribs, seed in the round. It also only really makes sense for those of us who knit Continental style.

Anyway, it made knitting the sweater very fast and a lot easier on my wrists.

2. I attempted a subtle pattern on the Frankenmittens, which pretty much failed. Standard increases for a figure-8 cast-on toe or tip (or standard decreases for a cuff-down toe or cuff-up tip) are done one stitch in from either end, creating a pretty ridge effect. At least, I think it’s pretty. I wanted to continue that ridge all the way down the sides of the mittens. Since m1s are effectively twisted stitches, I thought could approximate that by twisting one stitch in from either side.

Maybe it was the thickness of the yarn, or maybe it was the variegation or maybe the idea just didn’t work, but while there is *something* there, one needs to look closely at the mittens to see anything. I didn’t try doing this for the liner mittens because no one would see them.

Also, next pair of mittens I knit will have gussets.

3. Lace is addicting. I had to rip out and start the Diamond fantasy shawl again on Saturday night, and I’m already half way through with the “scarf size” repeats. And I cannot believe my hands have produced something so intricate and pretty. I’m already thinking about what my next lace project will be. The only thing I know right now is that it will be laceweight.

(Oh. And I should have known better than to post WSIP. I also had to completely restart the socks.)

Categories: knitting

Finished objects

February 1, 2007 2 comments

These were all finished in the last week.

Mason-Dixon Perfect Sweater
Yarn: Cascade 220 Plum Heather
Needles: Inox US4 and Addi Turbo US3

mdsweater.jpg

What I learned: How to knit a sweater – shaping, three-needle bindoff, mattress stitch and how to set-in sleeves.

Notes: I knit six more rows after the border to make it about an inch longer, and since I had to go down two needle sizes to get stitch gauge, I I had to make other adjustments in the body to adjust for the change in row gauge. In this case, I used the instructions for shaping the XL sweater while otherwise using the instructions for Large. It does show my tummy, but the shaping in the sides is actually very flattering – more so than a looser knit. And, honestly, nothing knitted would hide the tummy. I decided not to adjust the shaping in the sleeves, and they do fit perfectly.

sweatercuff.jpg

If I were to make this sweater again, I’d probably add another row or two of seed in the collar, as I prefer a higher neck. And I loved working with this yarn, so I will be using it again.

Wendy’s Generic Feather-and-Fan Socks(modified)
Yarn: Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock “Watercolor”
Needle: Addi Turbo US0
sharonsox.jpg

What I learned: This is my fourth pair of socks, but I did learn a new bind-off – instead of passing the first stitch over the second, you knit them together. This is in the pattern, but I’ve used it elsewhere. It’s easy, loose and very pretty.

Notes: The stripes behaved beautifully here – nice stripes on the foot and gorgeous waves on the leg – it hardly looks like the same yarn. I also modified the lace pattern a bit:

ffdetail.jpg

When I knit the yarnovers, I twisted them as if doing M1. This was inadvertent for the first few repeats. When I realized my mistake, I did a repeat without twisting them, and decided that I liked my way better. It’s not as stretchy, but it’s more dramatic. I’m calling this modified feather-and-fan. These are a gift for a friend and I hope she likes them.

Frankenmittens
Yarn: Fiesta Watermark Safari/Patons Kroy Sock yarn (Grass)
Needles: Brittany Birch US6 dpns/Knitpicks Classic Circulars US1
Pattern: My own – tip down outer mittens, cuff-up inner ones.

frankemittens.jpg

What I learned: Mohair is itchy. Also, how to do figure 8 caston using dpns, which had given me problems in the past. And while I’m still not very good at it, I’m getting a clue as to how to do kitchener stitch. It helped that the tips of the inner mittens would never be seen.

Notes:: Knitpicks US1 is actually larger than standard, but they were just what I wanted for this project. The liner yarn came from a pair of socks I wasn’t going to finish because the yarn itself kept tangling. It took just over one skein – I finished the second liner (not visible) by knitting straight from the one sock I’d come close to completing. Again, no one would see the liner, so who cared if it was curly?

I’d originally bound off the mohair mittens using the k2tog bind-off from the socks, and that turned out to be a good choice – it’s so loose I could rip it out even a week afterwards. I had to break a couple of “bridges”, but that was about it. For the first mitten, I picked up two stitches of sock yarn per stitch of mohair, but the resulting liner was too large, so for the second, I picked up four fewer stitches per side.

frankenmouth.jpg

The one on the right is the first mitten, and you can see how the join is much neater than the join on the second but that doesn’t show when they’re being worn and the second line fits better.

With the liners, the mittens are now quite bearable, and much warmer. Which is good because it’s been cold here in NYC the last few days – in fact, I rushed to finish them Tuesday morning and wore them right away. I know they need a wash and block, but I’m going to wait until things get warmer.

Also, the Knitpicks 32″ circular is absolutely flexible enough to do magic loop, even for the thumbs.

And just for a bonus, my current works in progress:

wsip.jpg

On top is a sock for my husband. The yarn is Brown Sheep Wildfoote in Master Grey. The bottom is the beginings of the Diamond Fantasy Shawl, for which I’m using Knitpicks Gloss in Dusk. This is my first charted lace shawl.

Categories: knitting