June 30, 2011

Designer Stitch Markers for Hand Knits

This morning I felt inspired to make some designer stitch markers similar to those you see in fancy yarn boutiques. I pulled out some nylon coated stainless steel beading wire, some gemstone beads (rose quartz, hematite, sunstone), wire cutters (or nail clippers), crimping beads and pliers. Here is the end result:

June 25, 2011

Bridal Lelah: The Swatch

One of my least favorite tasks when starting a project is producing an accurate swatch. Many times I've compared the yard/gram ratio and picked a yarn that matched almost exactly. Since I want consistency in the yarn I chose for my wedding attire, that would not work for this pattern. Besides, it's a recipe pattern which means you knit a swatch and it tells you how to calculate the pattern so it fits you perfectly. No fussing with letter sizes or a schematic.

If your pattern is knit in the round your swatch needs to be knit in the round. If you don't like fussing around with dpns and want a relatively quick swatch that appears to be knitted flat, you can knit your swatch on circular needles. This method is like knitting an i-cord only with a hell of a lot more stitches. When you get to the end of your row you slide your stitches to the other end of the circular knitting and continue knitting with the right side facing you.

Unlike the i-cord, you'll carry yarn across much like a very long float in fair isle color knitting. Don't pull the string too tight or you'll strain your hands with every stitch. Also as you knit, your end stitches will be very distorted so make sure you knit about 10 extra stitches on each end or in this case I did an extra lace repeat on each end.

When your swatch is long enough, tighten the looser end stitches working bottom up with every float then cut the float in the middle so you can lay your swatch flat. I tied the end fringes together to make sure it stayed together. So finally my swatch is done. Here is what it looks like pre-blocking.

Last night, after I washed, blocked and dried it, I measured my gauge in a couple areas to make sure I have an accurate SPI count. I then calculated out the pattern and voila! It's ready to knit. I did my provisional cast on so today I can start fresh with the lace. I'm excited. Happy knitting!

June 18, 2011

Correcting your Tension in Hand Knits

Since I usually knit in the round and rarely purl (if I do it's sporadic, usually in lace), my tension during purl stitches have loosened up over the past year. Some knitters knit looser while other purl looser. The affect can be shown in the following photos. 

The first photo is the affect that uneven knitting has on the right side of stockinette. Some "V" stitches are longer than the row above. On the back side the uneven stitches are even more pronounced with visible rows. I searched google for a solution and answers ranged across the board:

I remember a while back someone online said it would block out but this simply did NOT happen for me. Maybe overtime it would but till then, my knitting would look sloppy. Not what I was looking for.

  • use a different stitch that doesn't highlight your uneven knitting (this can alter your over all gauge)
  • knit in the round and go seamless (not always possible)
  • use two different sized needles; the smaller sized needle for the type you knit looser (essentially a crutch) 
  • figure out which stitch you knit looser and consciously change your tension until your tension change is satisfactory. This is the most timely solution, possibly the most frustrating, and can be the hardest but it isn't a quick fix or avoidance like the others. 
So how do you figure out which is looser, your knit or purl? The method I liked best was on knittsing's blog. Essentially you cast on about 20 or so stitches and knit a swatch with alternating color bands, 4 rows each, carrying the color loosely up the side (I preferred using 6 rows).

When you're done bind off and turn your swatch so the rev St st side is facing you. Stick a needle or pin in the ridge then turn your swatch to the St st side. If it's in an odd row (1,3,5) than your knit stitches are loose. If it's in an even row (2,4,6) than your purl stitches are loose.

After that I'd practice a bit with your new tension without distraction until it becomes second nature. Problem solved. Swatching and figuring out which stitch I made looser took about 15 minutes. Playing with my yarn tension and practicing afterwards took probably another 20 minutes but the tension is sticking and it showed in my work.

After I corrected my tension using this method, the backside lost the visible gaps between rows and the front looked even.

June 14, 2011

Shrug Modified

Gauge: 5 sts per inch
Needle: Set of 5 #6 Dps

Using crochet provisional cast on, cast on 56 sts; 14 sts per needle.
Tip: put a stopper on the beginning of round needle. Whenever you get back to that dpn, you have to move the stopper to the end of the working dpn, which makes it easier not to forget to count that row.

Knit 4 rounds ending the last round 1 st before marker, m1r, k1.
Next Round: k1, m1L. [58]
Repeat last 5 rounds 6 more times. [70]

Knit 6 rounds ending the last round 1 st before marker, m1r, k1.
Next Round: k1, m1L. [72]
Repeat last 7 rounds 2 more times. [76]

Knit 7 rounds.

Switch to rows and continue St st until about 25" across. Check out my blog entry on tension.

Knit 7 rounds.

First round: k to 1 st before marker, ssk, k1.
Next Round: k1, k2tog knit to marker. [74]
Knit 5 rounds.
Repeat last 7 rounds 2 more times. [70]

First round: k to 1 st before marker, ssk, k1.
Next round: k1, k2tog knit to marker. [68]
Knit 3 rounds.
Repeat last 5 rounds 6 more times. [56]

Key: [ ] K   [~] P   [O] YO

Work rows 1-9 of lace chart. Repeat rows 5-9 until cuff is desired length (approximatively 4"). Cast off in picot bind off.

Remove provisional cast on on other arm and work rows 1-9 of lace chart. Repeat rows 5-9 until cuff is desired length (approximately 4"). Cast off in picot bind off.

Weave in ends; block as desired.

Yes to the Dress!

Rather than going for a traditional dress, I'm knitting a skirt and a top. I found a pattern a while back called Intolerable Cruelty that I absolutely love. Although it is nice enough for a wedding I prefer the traditional floor length where you can't see your shoes. I started knitting it on the first this month but I approached my knee length, I needed to figure out how I wanted my skirt to end. I needed inspiration and I needed it fast. So back track a bit, and my dad surprised me with a Groupon a couple weeks ago for my favorite local yarn store. Art of Yarn has so many different books and patterns that my local bookstores just don't carry --- tons of potential. As I was flipping through Annie Modesitt's book, Romantic Hand Knits the pages... there it was. A floor length white skirt called Now Voyager that I couldn't see the model's toes. Perfect! So here is my list of modifications:

  • Because of the yarn I choose and my gauge, I knit the pattern using the 1X instructions.
  • Instead of reverse stockinette stitch for the pack panel, I just knit through the back loop.
  • In the last decrease row of the shaping, rather than decrease by four stitches, I decreased by two stitches. This gave me a stitch count of 252 which allowed me to start at band 3 of the Now Voyager pattern. Beware: I made the mistake of starting on band 2 forgetting that 252 is the stitch count after completing the increases for band 2.
  • I don't like the slip stitch rectangular detail on the skirt so to make it plain stockinette like the top of the skirt, I just knit where it said to slip the stitch. 
I currently am working on band 7. Since each band has a different amount of rows, I don't know how many more I will have to knit. I'm also not sure I'm a fan of the picot hem on the bottom so I might be looking for a neat crochet edging detail when I get there with the left over crochet cotton I have from my necklace. I've tried it on and I'm loving it so far. I can see myself wearing this skirt over and although I may dye it a different color after the wedding.

The only errata for Now Voyager is the gauge information wasn't provided. If you like her other patterns make sure you check for errata because although there are a lot of nice patterns to knit, there are lots of mistakes in her book and lots of knitters found her personal jargon confusing at times. Anytime you start a new pattern you should be checking two things: for any errata or designer notes not included in the pattern and Ravelry finished projects for that particular pattern -- especially for modifications you might like or notes others have voted helpful. It can save you a lot of time and heartache. Often I find there are some knitters who have done a better job at making their piece fit better than the official models.

Bottom line: I merged these patterns because I like the simplicity in stitch work; I can knit this skirt relatively quick with two kidlets under 2.5 years before the big day. Also, rather than emphasize stitch detail, I emphasized shaping. The ribbon corset on the back is the quick but more importantly, beautiful detail I was hoping for. Most lace skirt patterns I found were shapeless or too complicated. Since the bottom part of my shirt is lace, I didn't want to over do the lace and look like an over sized doily. I wanted to be consistent in the yarn I am using for both pieces and the patterns I chose allow that.