Sunday, July 3, 2011

Color Choices For Hand Knits

There are a of variables that contribute to choosing what colors to knit with.  Your personal preferences, the intended recipients preferences, culture, tradition, what the item you're making will be used for.  So, really, there is no magic formula to the perfect color choice ... you get to make up the rules!  But, if you want a few suggestions as a starting off point.... 

Colors may convey a special meaning.  For those who want to knit an item that expresses solidarity with a specific cause, here are some colors associated with special groups.

Pink - Breast Cancer
Red  - Heart Disease, DUI Awareness (MADD), HIV/AIDS
Grey - Diabetes
Yellow - Testicular Cancer, Deployed Soldiers, Liver Cancer & Liver Disease, Bladder Cancer
Blue - Drunk Driving, Epstein-Barr
Purple - Alzheimer's Disease, Animal Abuse, Cancer Survivor, Children with Disabilities, Crohn's Disease, Cystic Fibrosis
Orange - Hunger Awareness, Leukemia, Lupus
Silver - Abuse of the Elderly
Teal - Ovarian Cancer, Sexual Violence, Spaying & Neutering Pets, Substance Abuse
White - Peace, Bone Disease & Bone Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis
Black - POW-MIA, Anti-Gang

Colors are also associated with specific emotions.  

Pink - this color generally represents sweetness and sensitivity, and is seen as indicative of health and vibrancy. It stands for faith and fidelity, and is a good color to demonstrate steadfast friendship.

Red - a passionate and energetic color, this color has long symbolizing energy, power and courage, and can give the wearer strength and fortitude. It also signifies romantic love.

Purple - dignified, mysterious and sophisticated, this color has long been associated with royalty and magic. It inspires awareness and sensitivity, and taps into the unconscious.

Lavender - This refined and delicate shade stands for sensual femininity. It has a genteel presence, and suggests elegance and grace.

Mauve - This noble color projects a high regard for style. Simultaneously subdued and rich, this color projects both a regal and exclusive air.

Blue - this color is associated with stability and steadfastness and often represents tranquility. It is cool and peaceful and can have calming influences.

Green - the universal color of nature, green represents growth, fertility, and health. It is also youthful and fresh, and can symbolize luck.

Yellow - calling to mind sunshine, this color is optimistic, cheerful and full of vitality. It is the most luminous color of the spectrum and is naturally eye-catching.

Orange - this color has psychological connections to excitement, warmth and energy. The color of flames and the sun, orange has inspiring and provocative qualities.

Brown - Earthy, rich and warm, this color represents comfort and durability.

White - clean, crisp and pure, this color symbolizes newness, innocence and purity. It is often used in religious ceremonies.

Grey - this color is cool and balanced, with crisp and sophisticated connotations. While lighter shades are conservative and formal, darker shades convey a sense of depth and mystery.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Choose Your Knitting Needles Based on Your Preferences

Needles are your main tool and are a very personal choice. The type of needles you choose has a substantial effect on the finished project and as a beginning knitter on your knitting experience as a whole.  As a beginner, don't let displeasing needles spoil your knitting experience!  Each needle type feels different in your hands so it’s important to try several different types to see what your preferences are and what works best for the project you are working on.

The different Types
Knitting needles are grouped into three general types: straight, circular and double-pointed. You can read a general discussion about the uses for each of these types of needles here.

They also come in various thicknesses from 0.75mm to 25mm and you will need a variety of thickness to be able to get gauge. Gauge is important and I talk more about it here.

Manufacturers are not standardized as far as identifying thicknesses go.  A US size 8 needle in one brand will not be the same thickness as a US size 8 in another brand.  Not only do different brands vary in size, but also the material the needles are made from will affect the thickness. You will definitely need to buy a gauge card to help you sort things out. These are usually made of plastic or metal with holes punched in them that correspond to the standard metric sizes.  Generally, they will have the U.S. equivalent for each size printed on the card and often the U.K. equivalent as well.

The different Materials

Needles are made of several types of materials including aluminum, nickel-plated aluminum, bamboo, birch, walnut, ebony, casein (a milk protein), and various plastics.

Here is the good and the bad on several different materials:

The Good: They are lightweight, quiet, feel warm in your hands; have slightly rough surface which grips the yarn when knitting so you work more slowly and have more control over the stitches.  This is good for beginners or advanced knitters working on complex patterns.
The Bad: Availability can be limited and they can be expensive. They may break or splinter; some people don't like the slow knitting.

The Good: These are also lightweight and quiet; they feel warm in your hands and they are easily available in most shops and they are reasonably inexpensive; surface grip can also slow your knitting speed, but this can depend on the brand.
The Bad: Like other wood needles, these can break or splinter at the tips, and some people don't like the added surface grip that can slow down your knitting.

The Good: Easily available in most craft shops; can be very inexpensive; smooth, they have a slick surface that allows you to knit very quickly with minimum resistance.
The Bad: They may make a clicking sound while you knit which can be annoying for some people; surface can scratch and the color can fade over time; the metal can feel cold and they are rather inflexible, some knitters (particularly those with arthritis or carpal-tunnel syndrome) might find them uncomfortable.

Nickel and nickel-plated aluminum
The Good: The nickel plating makes the surface even smoother than aluminum, which equals speedy or slippery knitting; they are very lightweight.
The Bad: Depending on the brand, they can be expensive; like other metal needles, they can make noise while knitting; and, the rigidness of the metal can be annoying for people with arthritis or sensitive hands.

Swallow Casein
The Good: These are made of a natural milk protein; they are available in a wide range of colors; they feel warm in your hands; their surface is smoother than wood but not as slippery as aluminum; they bend and flex and are generally very quiet while knitting.
The Bad: Although these needles are made from organic materials, Swallow casein needles can look and feel artificial; also, because they are only manufactured by one company, availability can be limited.

The Good: These very flexible knitting needles are made of milk protein and are ideal for knitters with arthritis; they are warm and smooth to the touch.  They have concave points and many knitters really love them.
The Bad: Some people find the plastic texture too flimsy; their availability is very limited, so you may have to order online.

The Good: Bryspun flexible knitting needles are made of a special plastic and are very popular for knitters with arthritis; they are warm and smooth to the touch.
The Bad: Many people find the plastic texture too flimsy; their availability is very limited, so you may have to order online.

Pony Pearls
The Good: These are made of cellulose acetate and come in a wide variety colors.  They have a fairly smooth surface for quick knitting.
The Bad: Sizes 0-8 are reinforced with steel wire, which can rattle around inside the needle while you're knitting and this can be distracting plus the wire adds extra weight to the needles.  Also, although these are cellulose, they aren't as flexible as Bryspun or Balene needles. 

You may think that you'll only need one pair of needles in each size. But, truthfully, you can never have too many duplicate sets of needles. Needles do get lost, and if you like to work on more than one project at a time you'll need plenty of needles standing by.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Six Steps To Designing Your Own Handknits

Just because you're a beginning knitter doesn't mean you can't design your own hand knits.  Here are six steps to help you get started:

1. Make a swatch
The swatch is a sample of the fabric you'll be creating.  Swatching is your friend!  You'll swatch for gauge, of course, but also:
  • To test out stitch and color ideas.
  • To check how different stitch patterns work together.
  • To try out different cast-ons and bind-offs.
  • To see how different needles affect the fabric you are knitting.
2. Try out different yarns
You may have some ideas about which yarns will work with the stitch patterns you have in mind, but nothing is more revealing than actually knitting a sample of your stitch patterns with different yarns.  You'll discover that different stitch patterns result in different widths over the same number of stitches and that this will also vary with different fibers - even if the yarns are the same weight category.  Its best to have an idea of what to expect in advance.
3. Measure an existing garment that you really like
Base your dimensions for your design on a similar knitted garment that fits the way you like.  
4. Give in to your knitting preferences
There is no sense in torturing yourself by working with techniques you don't like.  If knitting on size 3 needles and fingering weight yarn makes you cringe, then use bigger needles and thicker yarn!  If you hate seams, knit in the round.  But, if you crave intricate details, love beading, go gaga over cables and really complex lace ... then, knock yourself out, its your knitting after all.
5. Do the math
Ok, so I'm not a fan of math and numbers make my brain feel all melty, but unless you love ripping and re-knitting, you'll want to check your math before you start.  Ideally, you'll want to do the actual knitting as few times as possible, you know, just the one time.
So figure your gauge. Take your measurements. Grab your calculator and do the math. Work out how many stitches to cast-on and where to increase and decrease. Have a bit of faith and start knitting.
6. Write it all down
Even if you're not planning on drafting out a full pattern of your design, give yourself a break and write stuff down!  That way you won't have to agonize over which row you started your shaping or any other tweaks you made as you've been working your design. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Learn to See Your Stitches, or Read Your Knitting

A couple of weeks ago we considered the difference between a knit and a purl (to read that post, click here)

Learning to see your stitches within the fabric you are knitting is just as important as being able to see them on the needle.  Recognizing the stitches on the needle is like knowing the alphabet, recognizing the stitches in the fabric you're making is like reading ... reading your knitting.  Training your eyes to see, recognize and read your knitting is really important because being able to do this will allow you to see mistakes, see how a pattern should work out while your are knitting it and will enable you to make adjustments and corrections or improvisations as you see fit.  Can you see the stitches in each of the stitch patterns below?

Garter Stitch

Stockinette Stitch

Knit 1, Purl 1 Ribbing

Knit 2, Purl 2 Ribbing

Reverse Stockinette Stitch

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Gauge Swatch

They say its boring, tedious and time consuming.  I say its its a matter of perspective.  Really if you think about it, knitting up a gauge swatch is not an annoying first step that only delays your diving into your next knitting project.  Its an important step that will reveal if that knitting project is really worth your effort!  That little bit of initial knitting is going to give you a whole lot of information.  

1. Your swatch will reveal if you finished project is going to be the right size.
Making a gauge swatch, or a small sample worked in the pattern, is the way to see if your finished work will turn out the same size the pattern specifies. Your swatch will tell you if you are knitting the number of stitches and rows to the inch with the recommended needles called for in the pattern so you can make any necessary adjustments before you begin the actual project.

2. The swatch is a sneak peak of the fabric you will be making
The swatch is a great place to see if the stitch pattern will turn out well and let you know if you even like it!  It's better to find out that you don't like the results of a stitch pattern after making a small sample than after you've spent 5 hours working on it.  

3. You can decide what adjustments, if any are necessary.
Changes in gauge or tools can insure that your project ends up being the correct size, or gives you the look you were expecting.  A swatch will allow you to make changes to asses how you like the drape, texture and suitability of the fabric for your project. Nobody wants a garment that looks "slightly off", even if it was a gift. It's better to find out ahead of time if the fabric will work for your interned project by making a sample swatch.

4. You can determine if the care instructions for your yarn are accurate
There is no disappointment like pulling a shrunken project from the dryer. Before risking the fruits of your labor based on the recommended care instructions, try them out on your swatch.  Better to sacrifice a small sample than the whole thing.

5. The men in your life don't really want pink boxers ... trust me on this one!
A lot of care labels state the item can be washed with like colors. That may, or may not be true.  Here it is prudent not to trust the label without proof to back up its claims.  Soaking your swatch is a good way to see if your garment will be colorfast. Check to see if any dye bleeds into the water. Using your swatch to test how to properly clean and care for the finished object will let you provide the applicable care instructions when giving the item as a gift.

6. Will give you a sneak peak into a new relationship ... with the yarn, that is
Yarns have different characteristics and usually will not reveal how those features will act in an actual project while the yarn is innocently wrapped in its hank, ball or skein. Making a sample will  let you know if your new yarn find is suitable for a given project. 

As you can see, not all of the reasons for making a gauge swatch have to do with number of stitches or rows to the inch.  Although that information is critical, if you want your project to come out the right size, most of the reasons for making a swatch have more to do with evaluating whether or not the yarn and project will satisfy your overall expectations.  

Friday, April 1, 2011

What's all That Knitting Speak Mean?!

When you're just starting out learning to knit some of the language can be confusing!  Here is a list of common terms to help you out:
  • Bind Off In Pattern
    Generally this instruction is given when you have been knitting using a
     stitch pattern. Work the bind off row in the same stitch pattern that you were knitting, binding off the knit stitches knitwise and purl stitches purlwise.  Even if the directions don't specifically tell you to bind off in pattern, you should do so, this is a small detail but adds a professional touch. 
  • Decrease Or Increase Evenly
    Sometimes a pattern will tell you where to decrease or increase across a row; other times it will only tell you the number of stitches to decrease or increase and to do so evenly.  This just means to space your increases or decreases across your row instead of placing them close together.  If they're spaced too close together, it can cause
     your knitting to pucker and flare. 
  • Keeping To Pattern (Or Work as Established, Or Maintain Pattern)
    If you knitting a
     stitch pattern, you'll just follow the instruction for each row as long as you keep working over the same number of stitches. If there is shaping involved, like on a sleeve or neckline, you will need to pay attention to how the increases or decreases affect the stitch pattern.
  • Multiple Of Stitches
    A stitch multiple is the number of stitches you need to have for one complete repeat of a stitch pattern. A multiple of 5 stitches means you should cast on any number of stitches that is divisible by 5. A multiple of 6 + 1 means you should cast on any number of stitches that is divisible by 6 plus 1 extra stitch.  The extra stitches are sometimes border stitches, or necessary to balance the stitch pattern within the overall design.  Knowing the multiple of the stitch pattern you are working with is very helpful, especially if you are modifying the size of the project you are working on.
  • Reverse Shaping
    Almost all cardigan patterns will give you complete instructions for knitting one front and then tell you to work the other front to correspond reversing all shaping. It's cruel, I know, but we can persevere.  Basically, what you are doing is mirror imaging the shaping instructions.  Graph paper is very helpful when you're working this out. 
  • Selvedge
    You will also see this word spelled selvage. All flat knitting has a selvedge on each side. It only means the first and last stitches. If it's something that will be seamed, these are the stitches that will be used to seam the piece together.  Your selvedge stitches can be decorative if they are not going to be incorporated into a seam.  
  • With Right Side Facing
    This means to have the outside, or public side of the fabric facing YOU.  Often this direction is given when you are about to pick up stitches along an edge but you may see it at other times too. 
  • Work Even
    You'll often see this term following a sequence where you just completed increasing or decreasing.  It just means that you will continue working over the next section without any more increasing or decreasing.  

And we also have these terms that were originally used by knitters on the internet, but now have become common knitting language:
Crochet-A-Long. See KAL
Finished Object.
Frog, Frogging
To undo knitting to go back to correct a mistake by removing the needles and ripping the stitches out. From the sound a frog makes - ribbit ribbit sounds like rip it, rip it. See tink.
Frog pond
To remove the needles and undo knitting all the way. To recycle the wool from a half knitted project to use in a different project. eg: I've sent the sock that didn't fit to the frog pond and I'm going to make a scarf from the wool.
Have A Lovely Fantasy Project. I've No Time.
Knit-A-Long. See CAL
Local Yarn Store.
On The Needles. A current knitting project.
Second Sock Syndrome. After having finished one sock it becomes dificult to go on and finish the second one to make a pair.
Tink, Tinking
To undo knitting to go back to correct a mistake stitch by stitch. Tink is knit spelt backwards. See frog.
UnFinished Object
Work In Progress

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mixing It Up Some More ... Easy Knit, Purl Combinations

So when you've gotten to the point that you can easily recognize a knit stitch or purl stitch, then its time to try some more knit purl combinations.  There are thousands of stitch patterns to try out and going through pattern stitch collections will provide plenty of inspiration.

Barbara Walkers collection of stitch dictionaries are a great resource when you want to start practicing different stitch patterns.

If you are very visual, you might want to take a look at:

Here you will find lots of colorful pictures of the different stitch patterns in this dictionary and a pretty good explanation of chart reading.

If you are eager to try a simple knit, purl stitch combination, here is an easy basket weave baby blanket pattern for you to start with:

Finished Measurements:
Approximately 24 ½ x 27 ½

  600 yards worsted weight yarn
  One 29 “ long size 8 circular needle 
  Stitch Markers
  Row counter
Note:  You will be working flat, the circular needle is used to accommodate the larger number of stitches

In basket weave pattern, using size 8 needles:
19 stitches and 32 rows = 4”

Pattern Stitches:

Seed Stitch (multiple of 2)

Row 1:  (RS) *k1, p1; rep from * to end.
Row 2:  knit the purl sts and purl the knit sts.

Repeat row 2 for seed stitch pattern.

Basket Weave (multiple of 8 + 2)

Row 1:  (WS) Purl.
Row 2:  k2, *p6, k2; rep from * to end.
Row 3:  p2, *k6, p2; rep from * to end.
Row 4:  Repeat row 2.
Row 5:  (WS) Purl.
Row 6:  p4, *k2, p6; rep from * to end.
Row 7:  k4, *p2, k6; rep from * to end.
Row 8:  Repeat row 6.

Repeat rows 1-8 for basket weave pattern.

k = knit     p = purl     rep = repeat     sts = stitches     WS = wrong side     RS = right side    


Bottom Border:
Cast on 116 sts.  Do NOT join, work back and forth on circular needle in seed stitch for 2”.

Blanket Body:
(WS) Work in seed stitch across 9 sts, place marker, work row 1 of basket weave pattern over next 98 sts, place marker, work in seed stitch across last 9 sts.  Keeping first 9 sts and last 9 sts in seed stitch pattern, repeat rows 1 – 8 of basket weave pattern over center 98 sts until piece measures 25 ½” from the beginning, finishing with row 5 of basket weave pattern.  Do NOT bind off.

Top Border:
(RS) Work in seed stitch across all sts, removing markers.  Continue in seed stitch until top border measures 2”.  Bind off in pattern.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

One Stitch - Two Stitch, Or, I can't tell what's what!

After you've learned to knit and purl the next step is to combine these stitches within the same row.  One of the most common stitch patterns combing knit and purl stitches is ribbing.  I my classes, the point of making fabric in a ribbing pattern is to learn to see the stitches.  When you are first starting out, seeing which are the knits and which are the purls can be confusing.  Also, when you are making ribbing, you're often told to knit the knits and purl the purls.  This is so you don't have to think about what comes next in the stitch pattern, just see what is on your needles - if its a knit, knit it, if its a purl, purl it.

This image of knit 1, purl 1 ribbing shows how the knit stitches resemble a letter V and are sitting vertically at the base of the needle, while the purl stitches look like a bar, or dash lying horizontally across the base of  the needle.

Notice the loose stitch at the beginning of the row ... it is a purl stitch.  Watch out for that guy, he often tries to roll over the top of the needle and pretends to be two stitches.  If you don't see the stitches you could easily fall for this and unknowingly add extra stitches you don't want.

Being able to see the stitches is critical when it comes to recognizing when things aren't going right and also to finishing your knits.  Seeing which are the knits and purls is really helpful when you are weaving in your ends and when you are seaming.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pretty Edges, Pretty Easy

I covered several variations of the chain selvedge in a previous post.  You can read it here:  Wonky Edges.

I'd like to offer a few options for decorative selvedges.  Try them out and see how you well you like them.

1.  Garter Stitch Selvedge:  (version 1)  knit the first and last stitch of every row.
2.  Garter Stitch Selvedge:  (version 2)  Right side:  Purl the first stitch and knit the last stitch.  Wrong side:  Knit the first stitch and purl the last stitch.

3.  Double Garter Stitch Selvedge:  Knit the first two and last two stitches of every row.

4.  Penultimate Garter Stitch Selvedge:  Right side:  Purl the first stitch, knit the second stitch, work to the last two stitches, knit the next to the last stitch, purl the last stitch.  Wrong side:  Knit the first two and last two stitches.

5.  Penultimate Chain Stitch Selvedge:  Right side:  slip the first stitch as if to knit, purl the next stitch, work to the last two stitches, purl the next to the last stitch, knit the last stitch.  Wrong side:  slip the first stitch as if to purl, knit the next stitch, work to the last two stitches, knit the next to the last stitch, purl the last stitch.

6.  Seed Stitch Selvedge:  Knit the first stitch, purl the second stitch, work to the last two stitches, purl the next to the last stitch, knit the last stitch.  Repeat every row.

There are probably many more variations for decorative edges, you can even make up some of your own!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hey, why do the edges of my knitting look all wonky?!

Sometimes you'll notice that the edges of your knitting will look wobbly and wonky.  Not neat and even.  What to do to make sure your edges stay even, well, work a selvedge.

There are several selvedge edges but the most common are the chain selvedges.  These are the four variations:

1.  slip the first stitch of as if to knit on the right side rows, slip the first stitch as if to purl on the wrong side rows.

2.  slip the first stitch and last stitch as if to knit on right side rows, purl the first and last stitch on wrong side rows.

3.  slip the first stitch as if to knit and the last stitch as if to purl on the right side rows, knit the first stitch and purl the last stitch on wrong side rows.

4.  knit the first stitch and slip the last stitch as if to purl on every row.

To slip a stitch as if to knit insert the right needle into the first stitch as if you were going to knit it keeping the working yarn to the back of the work and slide the stitch from the left needle to the right needle without actually knitting it. This is also described as slipping a stitch knitwise. 

To slip a stitch as if to purl insert the right needle into the first stitch as if you were going to purl it keeping the working yarn to the front of the work and slide the stitch from the left needle to the right needle without actually purling it.  This is also described as slipping a stitch purlwise.

My favorite chain selvedge is version 4 because I don't have to remember if I am on a right or wrong side row and it produces a very even chain along both edges of the knitting.  Plus, it looks very pretty on garter stitch fabric.  Try each one for yourself and see which one you like best.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I Chose My Yarn, Now How Much Do I Buy!!

Choosing your materials and tools when you're just starting out with a craft like knitting can be confusing even daunting.  Seriously.  First there is the dizzying selection of infinite colors, then there is fiber content, then whether or not you prefer a traditional smooth yarn or a novelty yarn. Once you choose your yarn, then the proper tools must also be chosen.  Straight needles, or circulars, how about double points?  Metal, wood, plastic or some other material that that suites your  yarn choice and your preference.  Ok, so you've cleared these hurdles, now to consider what to make with this stuff!

Well, if you're just starting out, you might be considering a making up a shape such as a rectangle, square or triangle, all of which of course can be cleverly used as is or combined to serve as scarves, hats, shawls, pillows, bags, cosies, cowls, or anything else your creativity dictates can be fashioned from these basic shapes.

This is my favorite path to set new knitters on ... don't be afraid to let your creativity run wild, you don't really need a set pattern to make basic shapes, and who is to tell you what those shapes can be used for, except for you and your creative eye.  Inspiring!

I digress, so back to the point:  how much of this stuff do I buy to make what I want and not run out or have gads left over?  The answer .... To the Swatch, with a detour to Mathtopia - Go!

The Swatch, simply is a sample of the fabric you want to make with the yarn and needles you want to use.

Mathtopia?  Gauge ... YOUR gauge, or how many stitches to the inch are you knitting with your chosen yarn and needles AND how many rows to the inch you are knitting with said yarn and needles.

What to do with this bit of information, what to do indeed ....

Let's suppose you want to knit yourself a scarf, say in a lovely worsted weight merino wool that makes your heart go bumpity-bump, and you want this scarf to be, oh, 8 inches wide and say, 54 inches long.

Ok the next part involves a mind bending tour through Mathtopia ... don't ask me how or why the following works, just trust me, it does.  Here is the formula:

First, figure out your surface area, in this case (length x width =  area)  54 x 8 = 432

Second, divide your surface area by the yardage in the ball (lets say our merino has 110 yards per ball) so, 432 ÷ 110 = 3.927.  What does this mean?  We need 3.927 balls of our lovely merino.  Since we can't buy fractions of a ball we will round up to 4 balls of yarn.

Since you have to be on pretty good terms with math in order to feel comfortable in Mathtopia, and everyone knows numbers and me don't get on too well, I'm happy to announce that some dear folks over the years have come up with standard estimates for various knitted articles and here they are:

Keep in mind these are estimates and you may need to add more yarn.  Cardigans, add 100 extra yards. For turtleneck and cowls, add 200 extra yards.  Oversize sweaters add about 25%, all-over pattern stitches add 33 % more yardage. Sweaters with more than one color also require more yarn.  Add 30% to amounts for crochet.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Preventing Pain and Strain While Knitting

Once you get into knitting, it might seem like you never want to do anything else and find yourself knitting for hours on end.  What we love can hurt us.  Yep, it can happen.  Fortunately, just as with any physical activity, a little stretching can help a lot.  Here are some exercises from the makers of Handeze Gloves. I do these and they're really helpful.  Stretch before you start knitting, take a break while you're knitting and stretch again.  When you put your knitting away, guess what, stretch again.  You'll be glad you did.

Hand Massage: With the thumb of the left hand, massage the palm of the right hand.  At the same time, wrap the fingers of the left hand round the outside of the right hand and massage. Massage for one minute. Repeat with opposite hand. 

 Clench and Fan: Clench your hand into a tight fist and hold for five seconds. Release smoothly, extending the thumb and fingers into a fully stretched position and hold for five seconds. Repeat five times for each hand.

Thumb Stretch: With the left hand, gently pull the thumb of the right hand away from the thumb and down toward the forearm. Hold for five seconds. You should feel the stretch in the base of the thumb, palm side. Repeat for the left thumb. Five repetitions, alternate thumbs.

Wrist Stretch: Hold the right hand in front of the body, palm facing out, fingertips up, fingers together. With the left hand, grasp the right hand's outstretched fingers and gently pull the fingers back toward the body. Hold for five seconds. You should feel the stretch in   the wrist area. Repeat for the left wrist. Five repetitions, alternative wrists.

Wrist Circles: With hands in front of the body and elbows held at a comfortable angle, gently rotate the wrists. Five repetitions in each direction. Good work! Now you're ready to knit in comfort!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Knit and Purl and that's it?!

One of the comments I hear most often in class is that learning to knit is hard.  My response is always that knitting is easy, learning to knit, not so much.  Why?  Well for one it's a new skill that requires focus and the conscious use of both your right and left brain.  Now we use both halves of our brains all the time execute common tasks like walking, driving, writing and so on, but we are not always aware of all the minute steps involved in each of these activities because we've mastered them.  Knitting is the same, with practice, you will master the movements and then knitting will be very much like all the other stuff your right and left brain have mastered so it will become very easy.

Not only will it be easy, but, there are only two stitches.  The knit stitch and the purl stitch.  Everything else in knitting is a combination or variation of those two stitches.  Cables, lace, fair isle, intarsia, entrelac, and everything else in knitting is just a combination of knits and purls or variations of knits and purls.  Think about this for a second.  If that is all there is, then once you've mastered making knit stitches and purl stitches then you can do any kind of knitting you can imagine, there really is no limit!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Guide to Translating Yarn Labels

A couple of weeks back, one of the main topics in class was reading a yarn label.  Here is a rundown of  the discussion.

It doesn’t matter how your yarn is packaged, it could be in a neat little ball, a pull-skein, or in a hank. It will come with a label that gives you valuable information about the yarn.

Yarn labels will include most, if not all, of the following information:

Article number: This is a code that the manufacturer uses to keep track of different products, but it isn't always listed a yarn label.

Brand name: This is the name of the yarn. In the case of this example, "Satin."

Care instructions: Most labels will use the international care symbols.  For this label:
 Machine Wash, Cold

 Do Not Bleach

 Tumble Dry, Normal, Low Heat

Do Not Iron

Do Not Dryclean

Color name and number: A particular yarn color is given a name or a number (or sometimes both). Here we have color #04111, “Denim Mist Heather.”

Company name and logo: The manufacturer's name and logo will be prominently displayed on the label. This is not the name of the Yarn! The manufacturer of this yarn is Bernat.

Dye lot number: The lot number indicates that all the yarns that have the same number were dyed in the same the batch. Make sure sure to purchase yarn from the same dye lot so it will all be the same shade.  Some yarns do not have a lot number, ususually 100% acrylic, as in the case of our example here.

Gauge: The suggested gauge, or number of stitches that fit in 4 inches, is also given on the label. In our example the knitting gauge is 18 stitches = 4 inches, and 24 rows = 4 inches. Usually there will be a recommended hook size for crochet, but not typically a crochet gauge, which is very different from knitting.  In our example the recommended hook size is USH/8.

Manufacturer's address: Sometimes the yarn manufacturer's address is provided, which can be helpful if you want more of their yarn and are having a hard time finding it.  Also, it is becoming common to list the manufacturer's web site where you will commonly find more information about the yarn, other yarns offered by the manufacturer and even free patterns using their yarns. 

Ply: Some yarn labels will provide ply information, such as 2 ply, 4 ply, or 12 ply, which means the number of strands that are twisted together to create the yarn. This does not refer to the thickness of the yarn, you can have a thin yarn with many plies.

Weight: The physical weight of the ball or skein of yarn will be listed. This may be in grams or ounces or both.

Yardage: The length of the yarn will be given in yards and/or meters. Don't buy by weight only. Different types of yarn, even at the same thickness, contain different yards per gram or ounce. 

Fiber content: Our example is “100% acrylic”, but you may see  "100% merino wool" or blends such as "85% wook, 20% acrylic."

Yarn-weight symbol: Many yarn companies are beginning to include this symbol, as are some patterns. In our label it is:

The yarn weight symbol is designed to standardize the yarn industry and is helpful when substituting yarns.  Keep in mind, though, that yarn weight is not the only factor you should consider when substituting yarns