July 24, 2011

Scary Socks

I know many beginners who get stuck on knitting a gazillion scarves or blankets simply because they don't believe the have what it takes to complete other projects that appear substantially more complicated. The problem with these 'safe' and simple projects is that there are only so much you need and can give away but more importantly knitting confidence is built by challenging yourself a little more each time. Many sock phase out their commercial socks in favor of persomally made ones. Just think of all the techniques you'd need to master to do a variety of different pairs!

How should I pick my first pattern?

For your first sock, find a plain (stockinette stitch or garter stitch) pattern with sport or worsted weight yarn like this cuff down pattern "Socks 101" by Larissa Brown or this "Simple Toe Up Anklets" by Rachel Calado (the only thing I'd change for beginners is that I'd use a set of double pointed needles -- dpns -- instead). Either pattern will knit up quick and give you the basic construction techniques to build the confidence to work on more complex sock patterns. After you complete your first plain pair (or two pairs --- one of each technique), most other sock patterns will then just add different stitch patterns which depend on your experience level.

Toe Up or Cuff Down? --- Does it matter?

In a nutshell, no. There are two methods for constructing your own socks that basically depend on which end you start at, cuff down or toe up. Neither method is more complicated but typically knitters will have a clear preferance because of the techniques involved that can be initially scary and very different for the aspiring sock knitter. Top down socks you'll have to deal with Kitchener stitch, picking up stitches and gussets where as toe up you'll probably deal with short rows and basic increases/decreases. Youtube is the best for visual learning but also check out techknitter's blog --- she's great for preventing/correcting issues and multiple variations.

Either direction you work the sock, you'll be knitting in the round with double pointed needles (dpns) or circular needles (magic loop method uses one circular needle or you can use two circular needles). I recommend starting with dpns. Frequently knitters use two circular needles to knit two socks at the same time. Although this method may seem slow, your socks are garenteed to match row for row. Less known, dpns can actually be used to knit two socks at a time, one inside the other and this looks really cool (check out my youtube links to see what that looks like and how to do other techniques).

Where do I go from here?
When you feel ready after completing your first pair of plain socks, I highly recommend looking into the following designers/books. As with any other pattern, make sure you have all the errata before you start. Some patterns will not have errata printed but you'll find it in project notes of other completed projects on Ravelry -- just sort the patterns by helpful notes first. Also you might also find pattern modications or color schemes you haven't thought of but prefer.

  • Cookie A wrote a couple of amazing books (Sock Innovation and recently published, Knit. Sock. Love.) and some of the designs are stellar if you're comfortable or want to be comfortable with lace and cables. I love her explanations on construction and inspiration.
  • The Joy of Socks is one of my favorite sock books. It's a collection from mulitple designers and the patterns use a multitued of different techniques garenteed to build your knitting skills.
  • The free eZine Knitty has some great ones as well: Here are a few:

July 23, 2011

Book Review: The Essential Stitch Collection

The Essential Stitch Collection: A Creative Guide to the 300 Stitches Every Knitter Really Needs to Know by Lesley Stanfield and Melody Griffiths

There are many stitch guides on the market but this one really sets itself apart from the rest not just in design but the variety of techniques in the visually pleasing stitch patterns available. Here is a list of the features I loved:

  • Each chapter has a gallery of images of all the stitches found in that chapter. It's great for comparing what's available to get the best possible pattern for your project.
  • The stitches are not so similar like other stitch guides; you'll see how to achieve different affects so you can produce your own variations. I love their chapter of unusual stitch patterns and celtic knot patterns in the stranded/intarsia section.
  • There is a good basic section on how to include the patterns in your own designs including how to deal with shaping.
  • There is a pull out flap at the end of the book with a list of abbreviations you'll see in the chart keys. Speaking of chart keys, there is a sharred key on the bottom of each left page for each different symbol used on the two facing pages (which sometimes spills into the right page depending on how many symbols are used). This is great for beginners or even the advance knitter who might forget the abbreviations of less used techniques. 
I would have liked to see borders but one of the authors has already written a book on borders and trimmings. Check it out, I'm giving it 5 of 5 stars easy.

July 19, 2011

A Magical Fairwell

This week marks the end of one of the most popular movie series of all time, Harry Potter. To celebrate the finale, many fiber enthusiasts are showing their love for the series by coming up with some truly amazing patterns, some with really innovated techniques. Even if you are a casual knitter, check out these patterns and challenge yourself to make something different and fun.

Best of Hand Knits
If you haven't seen some of the work by Steve Plummer of Wooly Thoughts, you're missing out. At first glance head on, it looks like an ordinary striped blanket but then as you continue passing by, it catches the corner of your eye and an amazing photo realistic image appears as if by magic. The technique is surprisingly simple. Strategically placed purls on plain stockinette striped fabric create this effect. He has five Harry Potter designs among others, you just have to check them out. Prices for his patterns vary but his website has free tutorials for designing your own which is very cool

Although I haven't seen any images or looked deeply into it, it appears Terry Bradford has tried converting a couple of Steve's Harry Potter patterns into crochet. It might be worth looking into if you strongly prefer crochet.

Best of Crochet

Todd Paschall founded a technique called crochet by numbers. These pieces are gorgeous and photo realistic at any angle. I has done portraits in crochet of several famous people and since added several stunning nature scenes. There is a great article in Crochet Today about him and how it began. What does this have to do with Harry Potter? One of his fans, Lee Mac (totallee) who is also a fan of Harry Potter figured out her own method for generating these amazing patterns (unfortunately both have kept details of their designing methods a secret). All of her patterns are free and she does offer her own technique tips in addition to the tutorials on Todd's site along with many stunning gallery images. She also has a Ravelry group dedicated to this method.

Megan McDuffee has her own method and wrote how to crochet your very own photo realistic Harry Potter blanket (or whoever else you wish to snuggle up in). Details can be found in her pattern page for her. Harry Potter Blanket

A Few Smaller Projects with Great Appeal
Here are a few smaller projects I found on Ravelry that I absolutely love (*Free PDF or Website):
If you're looking to make something but are willing to 

July 16, 2011

Bridal Lelah Modifications

After trying it on I decided a straight tube top isn't flattering for my body type so I changed to my liking. Here is a list of the mods:

Provisional cast on and bound it off with a picot bind off for extra stretch.

No elastic in the hem, no ribbon in eyelets (I was considering a monk cord but it ended up looking like country embroidery with purple yarn --- not good for a wedding)

Bust darts (12 short rows total; six stitches out from the beginning of round and halfway marker then every 3 stitch)

1 cm hem up on the very top sewn with no fold line.

Sweetheart or light v-shaped bust by using a gather. In the very middle of the bust, I threaded up every 5th row between one column of stitches and back down the other side of that column of stitches. When I tried it on, I adjusted gather by removing both bottom stitches and tied the yarn inside to the desired gathered tension. I'm very happy I did short row shaping because this after thought gather caused the front to ride up a bit.

I added straps that cross in the back based on the bra I'm wearing for the wedding (the back of the bra straps actually are detachable). When I hemmed the top, I skipped the stitches where the strap would be by sewing into the purl bumps and continued along. The are 10 sts wide in St st (the first of the 10 is slipped every row for a neater edge).

I did add a short tube for my strap to fit in so the straps would always cover my bra (see right). To knit the tube I added 2 sts and joined in the round. When I switched back to rows, I decreased two stitches. While hemming, I reserved 5 sts in the back which ended up being too thin overall for the back because of the bra clips. I kept the straps the same 10 sts across till the very end where I did a row of k2tog across, purled a row then grafted them together. I used techknitter's kitchener stitch with knitting needles for the grafting. If you haven't tried it, it works great especially if you don't have a tapestry needle handy.

July 06, 2011

H is for Hospital

9:50a It's a beautiful sunny morning by Okanagan lake with a comfortable breeze and a babbling fountain. Unfortunately I'm not here with my boys having an ice cream. Instead also in the background are buses changing and lively conversations. H is the letter on my transfer today as I wait to transfer to my next bus that will take me to the hospital to check out my kidneys. I've had issues with them since last September.

10:25a I'm now in the waiting room.I thought with all the waiting I'd be doing that I'd be getting so much more done but knitting in public is like wearing a sign saying, "Talk to me! I'm approachable." People are genuinely interested in what I'm working on and the conversations that spring off of that seem to go in any direction. It's not common for people to knit their own wedding dress.

4:45p I'm now home with a clean bill of health -- no follow up necessary.

I'm excited because I'm very close to finishing my Bridal Lelah top -- I can't wait! Also, I was reading the current issue Vogue Knitting and I found out there is a new HBO series called "The Knitting Circle" starring Kathrine Heigl. I looked for a pilot date but so far I haven't found anything. There is also a movie due to release in 2013 called "The Friday Night Knitting Club." Julia Roberts is supposed to be involved but it wasn't specified if she is producing or acting. I think it's right up her alley and knitting could use some more great publicity.