Announcing: Bead Dazzled

We are really excited that Shirley, from Swallow Hill Creations, will be coming to our meetings this week to demonstrate bead knitting. You can see her beautiful creations at Shirley will be at both groups and will have her kits available for purchase, if you are interested. This is a great opportunity to see one of the innovative ways knitting has incorporated other medias.

Show and Tell: Have you caught Olympic fever? If you have something red or Canadiana (or something that represents your heritage), bring it for show and tell this week!

We will take a little break from our projects this week – be ready for next week when we get going again!

Yarn over and out,

Knit 1s: the hat pattern is attached for your decreases…

Wrap up: 10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – …

The Knit 1s are now well into their hat project. Some have even gotten to the point where the decreasing to shape the crown of the hat begins. As the excitement of the completion of the project grows, we now get to a little obstacle. As we decrease the number of stitches on the circular needle, the remaining stitches are no longer able to reach around the needle. There are basically three ways to solve this and the one you choose is simply a matter of personal preference. 

Four Double Pointed Needles – the first method developed for knitting in the round was using four double pointed needles (DPs or DPNs). First, divide the stitches evenly  between three double  pointed needles. If you think about it as if you were using two needles, the fourth needle becomes your second needle for each section. Since you can only use two needles at a time, it’s just like regular knitting. You simply knit the stitches off one needle at a time and once this needle becomes empty, use it to knit with the next needle in the circle. The advantage of this method is that as you decrease the number of stitches, you have less stitches on each needle and nothing else changes.

Two Circular Needles – Another way of dealing with decreasing stitch counts is to divide your work evenly on two similar sized circular needles (the lengths can be different). Once the work is on two circulars, you’re really at the same point you’re at when using 4 DPs – look at each tip of the circulars as a needle. By looking at it this way, the knitting process becomes simple. First, slide the stitches just worked to the nylon on the circular needle. This is your “limbo” or resting area. Now slide the stitches to be worked to the tip of the needle they are on. This is your “working” area. Using the tip of the other circular needle, knit the stitches on your working needle. Now you have all the stitches on one circular with the nylon being pulled between them  (looped) and keeping them separate. This now allows you to use the empty circular needle to knit the next set of stitches and bring you back to where you started. Repeat this process as necessary to get to the end of your project. 

The Magic Loop – this method uses just one circular needle. In it, you simply pull the nylon between the stitches about halfway through your work. The work will now be sitting on the tips of your circulars. Slide the last set of stitches worked to the nylon and work the other set of stitches with the now empty tip of the circular. As you repeat this process, you need to also adjust the nylon by pulling it through the stitches and putting a twist into it so that the stitches don’t come together. While this method is a little trickier, it is the most convenient in that you are only using one needle. With a little practice, it may very well become your favorite. See the last diagram of Two Circular Needles for a look at what the Magic Loop looks like.

Happy decreasing!

Yarn over and out,

Sleeve it up to you …

One of the decisions you have to make when designing a sweater is what kind of a sleeve to have. Figuring out the armholes on the body of the sweater is dependant on the sleeve design. This week, we looked at two options and will cover another two next week.

Drop shoulder –  the simplest of the armholes to make because there really is no shaping for it. Basically, your sleeves will start off your shoulder and lay straight along the side of the body of your sweater. If you pick up your favorite sweatshirt and look at it, you’ll notice it’s probably a drop shoulder design. The sleeves have no shape at the seam with the body and are practically straight. 

Raglan – A raglan sleeve armhole is a little more complicated, but probably the next easiest to make. The raglan shape starts at the bottom of the armhole and decreases evenly up to the bottom of the neck. Sometimes, there is an initial decrease at the beginning of the armhole to form a “shelf’ for the sleeve to sit on. This is usually done when the sweater is made in pieces and then sewn together. If you make your sweater in the round in one piece, it is usually done with this initial decrease (usually done by casting off x stitches at the beginning of the next 2 rows). 

There are advantages and disadvantages to all forms of sleeves/armholes and your choice will ultimately depend on which one best suits your particular need. We will cover two more common armholes next week and then discuss the advantages/disadvantages of all of them.


Knits and Purls …

The Knit 1s have started to work on the meat of their hats – the seed stitch. As they worked on it, it became quite clear that it was far easier to understand what seed stitch is and what it should look like rather than to try and remember a specific pattern. For this, stitch recognition and understanding plays a vital role. In learning to recognize stitches, there are a few important things to remember:
  • Knit stitches look smooth and flat, and form v’s in your work
  • Purl stitches have a horizontal bar across them and are bumpy
  • Knit stitches look like purl stitches on the reverse side and vice versa
  • All textures are a combination of these two stitches formed in a pre-arranged order
  • Remember: “Knit up (vertical lines) and Purl across (flat bar)”

In a nutshell, here are how a few common textures look and a brief explanation on how to make them.

Garter Stitch – is made by either knitting or purling all your stitches on all rows. This is a flat, bumpy texture created  by having an alternating row of knit stitches and purl stitches facing you. The knits lay flat and are “hidden” between the ridges of the purl stitch. Remember that each stitch is its opposite on the reverse side so even though you are only knitting or purling, you are creating the other stitch as well.

Stocking stitch – is created by alternating between knitting one row then purling it on the back. Stocking stitch is the most common stitch pattern in knitting and is a smooth texture. Unfortunately, without a combination of knit and purl stitches in the same column, this texture will curl.

Reverse stocking stitch – although the knit side is usually the side shown in stocking stitch, the purl side is an interesting texture as well and is sometimes used. It is created by purling the first row then knitting the second and repeating this process. You can also make a stocking stitch texture and flip it over.

Seed stitch – also called moss stitc – is formed by alternating between knit and purl stitches in the same row. On the reverse side, you knit on top of the purl stitches and purl on top of the knit stitches in the row below. You continue in this manner throughout your work.

Ribbing – is created by alternating between panels of stocking stitch and reverse stocking stitch in the same row. A 2×2 rib for example would be k2,p2 across the row. On the reverse side you would knit your stitches as they appear. In other words, if you see a knit stitch, you knit it and if you see a purl stitch, purl it. 

A good way to learn these textures is to get a stitch dictionary and practice, practice, practice! The blanket squares allow you the opportunity to make any combination you want and the finished product will go towards something useful. Making dish cloths using different patterns is also a great way to get used to different textures.


Wrap-up: Counting, Calculating and Casting On …

Both groups are working on their projects during the lesson time. The Knit 1’s have cast on their stitches and joined the first round (being careful not to twist it) . This was particularly challenging as we cast on using alternating knit and purl long tail cast on so that we have a nice finished edge for our seed stitch hat. The Take 2’s have made their swatches and are almost ready to cast on some stitches to start making that sweater. So what’s next? Well, unfortunately for some, a bit of math but I promise  that it’s not too bad and the good thing is that once you get the hang of it, you’ll realize just how simple it is.

Before you can calculate how many stitches to cast on, you need to  determine your gauge. The best course of action is to find a 4″ patch on your swatch in the desired stitch pattern. Lay your blocked swatch on a flat surface and place your ruler on top of it. Try to place the ruler in such a way that you are not using the edge of the ruler or the swatch for your measurements. Now count the number of stitches over 4″ of pattern.  Remember that knit stitches are identified by the tell tale “v” and the purl stitches are the  horizontal bar. (‘Knit up, purl across’). It’s not important to know the difference between the two right now – just make sure you count all the stitches over that four inches. It’s possible to have half a stitch in your count. The number of stitches you just counted is your stitch gauge. Write it down. Turn your ruler vertically and repeat the process, but this time you’re counting rows. You may find it easier to do the rows over reverse stocking stitch (or on purl stitches). When you look at it,  you’ll notice a row of smiles alternating with a row of frowns. Make sure you stay in the same vertical column and count each smile as a row. This is your row gauge. Write it down.

If you can’t find 4″ or if that particular pattern isn’t 4″ wide, don’t worry. Count the number of rows and stitches over as large an area as you can. If you are doing a cable panel or a repeating texture that isn’t 4″, make note of the width of the particular panel. You will write that information into your pattern later as it will be important for knitters to test their gauge with the different textures in your pattern. Now that you’ve figured out your gauge, it’s time for a little math. Most sweaters start with a ribbing  and it is often done with a smaller needle. A general guideline is to make the ribbing 90% of the width of the body but that is up to you. Using your stitch gauge, calculate the number of stitches you will need to cast on. Here is an example:
Gauge = 20 sts/4 in = 5 sts/in
Body (finished size) = 48 in. 
48 x 5 = 240 (entire body) Front/Back – 240/2 = 120.
120 x 90% = 108.
I will be working in a 2×2 rib so this works perfectly. If necessary, I can adjust this number up or down to fit the repeat of my ribbing. I am also going to use a selvedge stitch to make finishing easier so I will need to add 2 stitches (one on each end of the work). My final calculation will be 108 + 2 = 110. So I will cast on 110 stitches and start my ribbing, working the selvedge stitches in stocking stitch. A general guide for sweaters is 2.5″ of ribbing but again, this is up to you. Once I have knit the ribbing, I need to increase to the total number of stitches needed for the body. For half the body (working on the back), I need 120 stitches. I have 110 but 2 of those are selvedge stitches, so I need another 12 stitches (remember the selvedge stitches are not part of the pattern). On my last row of ribbing, a wrong side row (or back), I need to increase 12 stitches evenly across it. Space out your increases and do this. In this case, I would increase a stitch every 9 stitches. I like to start the first increase before the 9th stitch so I would probably do it after about the 6th stitch, then after every 9th after that. After that is done, you need to switch to your larger needles – the ones you did the original swatch in – and start knitting the back of your sweater. It is that easy. Unless you have specific shaping for your sweater, you won’t need to worry about increasing or decreasing until you get to the armholes. We’ll be covering that next week – see you then!