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