Friday, January 29, 2010

New Design; Justifying a Noro Obsession: Silk Garden Entrelac Hat

It's no secret I love Noro yarns. And I'm always looking for good ways to use them. And I think one of the best ways of all might be Entrelac... the lengths of colour seem perfect for this technique. I've got a scarf pattern.

And now I have a hat pattern. For sale on Patternfish and Ravelry.

Uses barely any yarn - just 1 or 2 balls, depending on the size you knit.

It's not difficult, this Entrelac thing - you just need to be confident with decreasing and picking up stitches. And I know you're confident with picking up stitches because you read my blog post of a couple of weeks ago. Right?

I can guarantee that you'll get more attention knitting Entrelac in public than anything else you might have ever worked on. You get the usual glances from non-knitters, but the usual nods from knitters turn into admiring, amazed stares.

And the funny thing about Entrelac is that it's actually easier in the round than flat. Really!

Go on, you know you want to try it...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sometimes you just have to say goodbye...

To the knitting, that is. I was making excellent progress over the weekend with my mohair puffy vest thingy...

and I knew I was approaching the length I wanted to the armhole. So I slipped all the stitches to a longer circular needle and tried it on.


I was significantly larger than I had planned. There was an extra 4 inches circumference at the bust - and that just wasn't the look I was aiming for.

So I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and pulled the thing off the needles.

This takes courage.

I coach students on this all the time... if you're going to hate the result, if it's not going to fit, if it's not going to be what you want - ultimately, if you're never going to wear it - then it's not worth finishing. You should have the courage of your convictions to start over again.

But that doesn't mean it's easy or fun.

There's a secondary lesson here - it's always a good idea to check your progress as you're going. Measure the piece once in a while to make sure it's actually the size (and indeed shape) it's supposed to be. If I'd checked earlier, I could have saved myself some time.

Still, I'd rather have spent the extra time to get the garment I want.

So with fewer stitches, I'm making faster progress, and am well on my way to completing this thing.

(Add to list of things that make for difficult and boring photography: black mohair knitting projects in progress.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Old Yarn, Old Needles

I've been working on a bunch of assignment knitting - most of it not yet ready for publication on the blog...

Because I am a sucker for punishment, two of those projects are colourwork. Now, it's not that I don't like colourwork, it's just that it's the sort of knitting that tries my patience - it's slow and careful work, and I am so damn critical of my own technique that I keep undoing perfectly good sections to make them "better". The results are great, but the journey is slow.

And of course, because my knitting plate is full, I inexplicably felt the urge to cast on for a new project.

Something easy-peasy, auto-pilot-appropriate, and fun.

A couple of months ago, I was chatting with a knitter about our stashes. (Comparing stash sizes is a perfectly healthy thing to do, really.) In particular, we were talking about the strange and absurd things hiding in the corners. I confessed to her that I have a soft spot for what I call "big tacky 1980s mohair".

You know, this sort of thing:

(The lime green thing I used as a background is a story for another day.)

So she appeared a few days later with a bag full for me. "Take my mohair - please."

So I did.

It was a load of tremendous black and emerald green mohair, which she'd apparently acquired in a moment of madness at the Textile Museum yardage sale, and had regretted ever since. And it's exactly the sort of thing I love. It's been sitting on my desk since I brought it home, daring me to knit it.

And last weekend inspiration hit. I'm working a sleeveless pullover thing, with a deep v neck and a hood. (Given that I really don't have time to knit anything else right now, I decided to sacrifice the sleeves.) It's loosely inspired by something I saw a kid wearing on the streetcar the other day, a hooded puffy pullover-style vest. ( I think it might also need a kangaroo pocket, but I'll decide that when I get there.)

I'm only allowed to work on it when I really can't work on anything else - when the light isn't good enough, or I have to pay attention to something else. The body is in the round to make it as quick and easy as possible, so even thought it's in black, it's plain sailing so far. Knit knit knit knit knit knit knit.... And I'm having much fun.

(If you've been paying attention to my previous rants, you'll know that I'm not always a fan of things worked in the round - they can be heavy and saggy - but in this case, mohair is so light there is no risk of stretch or sag.)

After swatching, I realized I need an odd needle size, a 5.5mm. (Precisely the one they specified on the ball band, interestingly enough, although why they give a needle size but not a gauge, I don't know...


Anyway, I dug around in the cupboard and came out with a needle I haven't used in years - an old Susan Bates aluminum circular. I was thinking I'd just use that to start the project, and then when I got back to a shop I'd pick up an nice slick Addi. But I've kept going on the Susan Bates - it's rocketing along. The needle is just slippery enough, and I have to say the point is a fair bit sharper than the equivalent size Addi Turbo - which you need for a fuzzy sticky yarn like mohair.

So yes, vintage yarn on vintage needles - and I'm loving it!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Counting Rows in Cables

Had a great time in KW on Tuesday - the gang was very welcoming, and there was some good discussion.

I'd taken a few of my samples and patterns, and I heard a knitter comment that she'd made a shawl that looked a bit like the one on the table... and then she realized that it was the one on the table she'd made. She'd bought my pattern online, and hadn't realized I was the designer.

I love to see other knitters working and enjoying my designs.

One of the tips I shared in my presentation was how to count rows in a cable...

Specifically, how to figure out how many rows you've worked since you've turned the cable.


If you're working flat, start by figuring out what row is facing. If the cable is facing, that means you've worked at least one WS row after you turned it, so you've worked an odd number of rows. That's a start.

And to be absolutely precise - whether working flat or round - use a spare needle:

Insert the needle in the "hole" that's created by the crossing over of the cable. And just count up the rows from that! Don't count the one that the red needle is under, and don't count the row that's actually active on the needles - just count the rows in between.


See? Easy!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On Picking Up Gusset Stitches: Avoiding a Hole

This is a sock knitting question that comes up fairly often, most recently in a Twitter exchange.

How to avoid the hole at the top of the gusset when picking up stitches?

(This applies only to a sock with a heel flap - the rules are different for a short-row heel. I'll cover short-row heel holes at another time, if you're interested...)

When you're at the top of the heel flap, have run out of edge stitches, and need one more stitch, many knitters have been tempted by the siren song of that lovely little bar that hangs out between the heel flap and the held stitches of the instep.

This one:


Picking up this one causes a hole.

Other knitters just stop at that point, and give up on the extra stitch. That doesn't help either, as it can leave a bit of a gap between the instep and heel flap.

Instead, keep going in the direction you were going...

That is, keep going up in the same 'column' you've been picking the stitches up in, in a straight line...

Yes, you're up into the leg of the sock, above the divide for instep and heel flap, but this is a good thing.

First of all, it keeps the gusset pickup in a tidy straight line.

And it handily eliminates both risk of hole and gap. No hole because you're picking up a fully formed stitch, and no gap because you're actually going to cover up the divide. And going that extra stitch makes for a better fitting sock, with a bit more fabric to fit comfortably around the heel.

No, it doesn't create any significant extra bulk.

As to coming back down the other side? Before I start picking up, I count up to figure out where I need to start. And I start up in the leg a bit, to match the first side.

And final tip - on the following round, I work the picked up-stitches through the back loop. It tightens and closes them up a bit, and makes the whole thing a bit neater.

Off to K/W Today

With a 12MB PowerPoint file and a bag full of knitted goodies. Can't wait to meet everyone there!

Am taking an interesting combo of bus and train - lots of excellent knitting time.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Reader Mail & Comments on Edges

Thanks for all the great comments on the last post. Hilda would be pleased!

A knitter I was chatting to yesterday commented that her grandmother used exactly the same technique, but she had also forgotten it until recently. I'm wondering how such a clever thing got lost between generations. What's interesting to me is that my Mum didn't think it was particularly noteworthy - but then you wouldn't, if it was something you'd been doing all along.

Anyone else been doing this all along?

Kirsten comments about the "slip the first stitch of every row" technique. Yup, it's terrific way to create a tidy edge - but it's only useful if you're not going to be seaming that edge. Slipping the first row of every stitch makes seaming more difficult - and a bit messier, IMHO. But for a scarf, or a baby surprise jacket, or blanket, or what-have-you - it makes a lovely edge.

Compare the two on the swatch... slipped on the right vs. not on the left. See - lovely!

The most important thing, however, is to be consistent about it. If you forget on a single row, it borks the whole thing up. A stitch marker at the edges can be helpful with this.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Knitting Tip from Hilda

The original wise Hilda, the knitter after whom this blog is named, was my Mum's Mum.

She was a tremendous knitter and crocheter - and played a mean hand of bridge, too.

She taught me to knit as a girl. (We didn't get very far with crochet. All I could do was crochet absurdly long chains. I remember a purple one in particular. I'm honestly surprised I didn't trip anyone over with it, or accidentally throttle the cat.)

Of course, she also taught Mum.

Mum's been working on a sweater for me - a sort of contract knitting job. I sew up the sweaters she knits for herself and for gifts, and so in exchange she's doing the knitting on a cardigan for me.

I was watching Mum knit the other day, and noticed something interesting. I stopped her, and asked her what she was doing. I'm a little sheepish I had never noticed it before, it's a brilliant thing.... My Knitting Hero, the original wise Hilda told Mum to work the last stitch of every row through the back loop. As I say in my classes (usually when discussing swatching), no matter how good a knitter you are, your edge stitches are always a bit wonky. Working them through the back loop tightens up them up so nicely, and significantly reduces the wonkiness. So simple and so wonderful!

(The two Hildas on a snowy day in Niagara Falls, circa mid-1980s.)

Thanks Hilda! Still learning from you after all these years...

Friday, January 01, 2010

Starting As I Mean To Continue: Talking about Knitting

The 2010 knitting year starts with a bang for me - two big speaking engagements coming up very soon.

Tuesday January 12th, I'm honoured to be the inaugural guest speaker for the Kitchener Waterloo Knitter's Guild's Year of Lace, on the topic of "Finding your place in your lace". You can be sure I'll spend a least a couple of minutes explaining why you need to swatch... I can turn anything into a justification to swatch - try me!

And the weekend of February 6 & 7th I'm teaching at Toronto's Downtown Knit Collective Winter Workshops. I had a terrific time teaching there last year, and I'm thrilled to be participating again. I have a full slate of classes - math for knitters/basic alterations, designing custom-fit socks, the perennially popular entrelac, and advanced alterations.

If you're there, say hello!