Armed and ready …

Now that you’re ready to start your sleeves, here are some tips and techniques that you might find handy in making them go a little easier.

  1. Sleeves are like socks – there are usually two of them, and while most of us tackle the first one with a lot of enthusiasm, sometimes, the second one get a little less love. This can lead to one sleeve looking decidedly different from the second. A good method to combat this is to knit both sleeves at once. You would make sure your needles are long enough to hold all the stitches for both sleeves, and use two balls of yarn. Cast on the first sleeve with the first ball, and then the second with the second. The obvious advantage of doing this is that you will have both sleeves completed at the same time and they will be exactly alike!
  2. Increases – It is best to work your increases one stitch in on your sleeve, to make the sewing up later a lot easier. For this it is best to have a selvedge stitch so that you can use the raised increase. The raised increase can also be made as a knit or purl stitch, depending on what your pattern requires.
  3. Use stitch markers to make sure you know on what row you increased last. This is especially important when using the raised increase as it is not always easy to see.
  4. Make sure you increase on BOTH sides of the sleeve each time you increase. If you don’t you will get a very odd shaped sleeve. I like to count my stitches regularly and ensure that I have the right number. It’s worth the few seconds it takes to count the stitches to prevent a lot of frogging later.
  5. When you cast off your sleeves leave an ample length of yarn for sewing them onto the shoulder later. This makes for a better connection and only one end of yarn to darn in!
  6. If you prefer, and you are comfortable with it, you can knit your sleeve from the top to the bottom. This will allow for length adjustments later as children seem to grow tall quicker than wide.

That should be enough to get you through your first set of sleeves painlessly. If you have any tips that have been overlooked here you can leave a comment below or put it in the Knit School section on the forum page.

Yarn Over and Out!


Interlaced – working Entrelac!

The back of an Entrelac Scarf using 4 colors

Continuing with our working with color series, we’re going to delve into the world of Entrelac knitting. Entrelac is a French word, translating to mean interlaced in English. It is a unique thing in knitting, as it is a texture and a technique at the same time. You can use it to make a wonderfully textured piece of fabric in a solid color, or use two or more colors and make a multi-colored AND textured piece of fabric. It is for this reason why we’re including it in the color discussion. When working entrelac, it is best to try and visualize the formation before you actually start knitting. Entrelac uses a series of triangles and rectangles to create a rectangular or square shaped piece of fabric. This is achieved by making a series of isosceles triangles in the foundation row, using right angled triangles for the edges, and rectangles for the main body of the fabric. The triangles in the foundation row can be made in two ways. You can cast on 2 stitches and work increases until you have your necessary number of stitches for your triangle, or cast on all the stitches used in your foundation row and work one triangle at a time using short rows. The latter method is a little easier to work and doesn’t require you breaking the yarn.

A vest done in Entrelac on a different angle

Once the foundation row is finished, you make one of the edge triangles and then go on to your rectangles. The finished look of entrelac is one of a woven piece of fabric and you can get some phenomenal effects by either using different colors or using a variegated yarn. A single color will still produce a beautiful piece of fabric. Once you have gotten the knack of entrelac, you can also change the angles of the work to produce a different effect like in the vest shown here. While the actual technique is not very difficult, you should be comfortable with picking up stitches before jumping into this. Here is a link to a page that has a sample of entrelac and excellent instructions (why re-invent the wheel?) that will give you some good practice with this technique. Entrelac Instruction. I recommend using some spare yarn for your first project until you are used to this technique. Once you are, try some of the free patterns in the links below.

Entrelac Scarf

Entrelac Afghan

Good luck!

Yarn over and out!


Neck and Neck …

Well, K1’s, as you are probably getting really close to finishing the back or front of your baby sweater, this is probably a good time to go over neck shaping with you. Necks are obviously important with pullovers, but they are especially important when making baby sweaters. As we all know, a baby’s head is disproportionately larger that its body. This is why the neck shaping is so important with a baby’s sweater and is often reinforced with aids (buttons, zippers) to make putting the sweater on easier. Regardless of the size of the sweater, there comes a time when you have to account for where the neck is going to be and start to shape the front/back accordingly. The back neck shaping usually starts higher up than the front as it is not as deep, but it is also usually a little wider. The front is the opposite, in that it starts lower down and is a little narrower. It is not unusual to find them the same width in a baby sweater, although adult patterns are different.

Shaping the neck is accomplished by dividing the work in to two pieces – left and right shoulder – and working a series of decreases on alternating rows at the neck edge to produce a curve. Don’t worry, you’re still going to have just one piece of fabric, it’s just that you’re going to work on one shoulder at a time. Most patterns divide the piece of fabric in thirds, and ask you to cast off the center stitches. As we discussed on Sunday, it is not necessary to cast off these center stitches. as you will be picking them up later to actually knit the  collar. Another option is to work across them and then place them on a stitch holder (using contrast yarn threaded through a darning needle is a good idea here as it gives you flexibility to work with the fabric later) and start working on the right shoulder. For the purposes of this discussion the directions are as we look at the fabric with the right (side to be worn) side facing outward. So as we look at the sweater in progress, the left shoulder is on our right and the right on our left (this is for the front and reversed for the back). Now as you look at the front/back, you’ll realize that once we start the shaping (a series of decreases), the neck will be the side closest to the center stitches on the stitch holder. This is an important concept to grasp and it will make understanding the instructions much easier. Here is what typical instructions look like for working the decreases on a neck edge.

Work across 21 (22, 24, 25)sts and turn work (leaving the remaining sts on your needle to be worked with the right front).
Working these stitches only, dec 1 st at neck edge every RS row 4 times. Break yarn.
This completes the left front.

Join a new ball of yarn and BO the center 14 (16, 18, 20) sts and work across rem sts. Dec 1 st at the neck edge every RS row 4 times then cont knitting in stripe pattern until the front matches the back.

You’ll notice these instructions tell you to bind or cast off the center stitches. You’ll also notice that the decreases on the neck edge are every other row, so you’ll only work the decreases at the start of every right side row (the neck edge). Sometimes the instructions ill work across to the right shoulder first and then come back to the left one, but either way is fine. You might want to find the neck shaping instructions in the pattern you have and just go over them to ensure you understand what they are telling you to do.

Special Note: For anyone interested in dyeing fibers, this is a very good link that explains how to do it with Kool-Aid but a Google search will yield even more results.  Kool-Aid Dyeing.

If you prefer to watch a video, here’s a good one! Kool-Aid Dyeing Video.

Have fun!

Yarn over and out.


A World of Color!

There are two main ways that you can create wonderful works when knitting – the use of textures and the use of color. Since we have mostly looked at texture variations to this point, it is time to look at what we can do with color. The good thing is that even though you can create an almost infinite number of patterns with various numbers of colors, there are only a few techniques needed to create them. Today we are going to look at striping and intarsia and next time we’ll tackle stranding.

Striping – Using stripes or changing colors in new rows is a great way to add color to your knitting and a visual pop to your garment. It can be a multi-striped sweater like the designs of Missoni, or it can be a simple 2color sweater of your own making. Whatever your decision, making a striped garment is as easy as changing colors when the whim strikes you. When changing colors in a striped garment, all you have to do is pretend that you’re joining a new ball of yarn at the end of the row. Leave a tail (this will be sewn in after) and start knitting with the new color. If you are changing colors frequently you can carry the colors up the side of the work until they are needed. This will reduce the number of ends you have to darn in later on.

If striping while working in the round, you can literally change colors every row. If you’re knitting more than 2 rows before your color change, you’ll want to learn a technique to prevent the slanted jog or dogleg that you’ll get between rows. This jog is created because you’re knitting in a spiral and the end of the row you’re on is actually higher than the beginning of that same row. There are a few ways to avoid this jog and you may want to research them and use the one that best suits you. This is one such method:

Knit 1 round of the new color.

When faced with the first stitch of the second round: pick up a loop of the first color from the preceding row and place it on the left needle. Knit together both the first stitch of the new color *and* the picked up stitch of the previous row. Continue knitting around. The jog should be virtually invisible.

Intarsia: If you’re alternating between colors in a row where you have “blocks” of color, you’ll want to knit those colors using the intarsia technique. Some people refer to this as “picture” knitting, because you could literally knit a picture into your garment using this technique. For intarsia, you will need to have a separate ball or bobbin of yarn for where you change colors. This is because you will knit with a new ball or bobbin of yarn each time the color changes and twist the yarn in the back to prevent gaps. You may recognize this as the technique you use when you’re changing colors at the edge of the row, but here you’re doing it in the middle. Don’t worry, it’s quite alright, as long as you twist the yarn on the back there won’t be a hole.

Simple squares make great practice for Intarsia

To do work in intarsia, knit with your first color for as many stitches as described in the pattern. When you get to the next color, drop the first color and knit with the next. continue to do this to the end of the row. Turn your work and start to purl on the reverse side. When you get to the color change, To do this, when you’re on the reverse (purl) side of your work, pick up the new color from underneath the color you were working with. This will cause the new color to lift the old color and it will become twisted with it when it gets knit again on the knit side of the work. Once you try it you’ll see what I mean. Continue in this manner, remembering to always lift the previous color with the new on the reverse side. You’ll see a string forming where you have the border of colors on the reverse side. If you notice a hole or gap where the colors change, you’re not lifting the colors right. Try practicing making simple squares within squares until you get the knack of it. Once you’re comfortable with this technique, there’s no limit to how many colors you can have on a row (well, except for the number of stitches you have, of course). Remember though, the more colors you have the more bobbins you’ll have and you’ll need to devise a system for keeping them tangle free!

Yarn over and out!