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!