Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Scarf for Spring: Sekku Herringbone

I have a mild obsession with the Noro yarns -I love the way they combine colour. A successful Noro design keeps the stitchwork simple and lets the colours show off. This classic and simple lace pattern causes the rows to scallop, making lovely wavy stripes.

This scarf uses one ball of Noro's Sekku laceweight, a rather lovely blend of wool, cotton and silk. It's got a cool cotton-y hand, but the wool and silk make it warm and ensure it handles a lace pattern stitch well.

This is a terrific project to try out lace - only one pattern row, with a straightforward 12-stitch repeat. And I've written the pattern with lots of extra detail to help out newer knitters.

Don't be afraid of the fineness of the yarn and needles - this is really no more work than a pair of socks, and much easier to show off.

It would also work very well with one skein of the new Kirimeiki laceweight or any of the Noro sock yarns - Kureyon, Silk Garden or Taiyo. For those yarns, use a 3mm needle for the knitting and a 4mm needle for casting off.

The finished Sekku scarf is approximately 28 cm/11 inches wide x 127 cm/50 inches long after blocking. A thicker yarn would provide a bigger scarf, of course.

Buy the pattern now on Patternfish and Ravelry.

Thanks to Natalie for the excellent photography!

Monday, January 24, 2011

More Upcoming Classes: Fair Isle Workshop for KW Guild

I'm on the road again in February, off to Kitchener to teach at the Kitchener Waterloo Guild's February workshop.

I'm teaching a full day class, February 26th, "The Fair Isle Bootcamp".

This class will teach you everything you need to know to be a confident Fair Isle knitter. Through practice swatches, you’ll master reading the patterns and charts, and working with multiple colours - both one-handed and two-handed methods, both in-the-round and flat. In the second half of the class, you’ll be provided with the motifs and pattern to create your own pair of custom fingerless mitts. Upon registration, students will be provided with a materials list for swatching; a materials kit to make the fingerless mitts will be supplied at the class and is included in the cost of registration.

To give a taste of what we'll be working on, my Fair Isle sampler mitten is in the photo at left.

Registration is only open to Guild members until February 1st, but you can enquire about availability and get on the list by emailing KWKGworkshops at gmail dot com, attention Lynne Sosnowski.

More info here and in the newsletter here.

The event is being held at the Laurentian Centre Zehr’s store, 750 Ottawa Street South (Ottawa at Alpine), Kitchener, 9:30am to 3:30pm and the cost to register is $75 for members/$90 for non-members.

Upcoming Classes: DKC Winter Workshop

I'm again honoured to be teaching at the DKC Winter Workshops, being held February 5th and 6th at Metro Hall in Toronto.

I'm teaching the following classes:

Cables 101 - suitable for newer knitters who are looking to tackle cables. I cover both written and charted instructions.
Cabling without a Cable Needle - speed up your cable knitting and expand your skills. Suitable for knitters who have a little experience with cable knitting.
Lace 101 - suitable for newer knitters who are looking to tackle lace. I cover both written and charted instructions, and share tips for making lace knitting easier and more fun.
Next Steps in Lace Knitting - for knitters who have worked one or two lace patterns, I provide more insight into addressing mistakes, discuss more complex patterns like two-sided lace, and focus on building your confidence and your skills.
Design Your Own Custom-Fit Socks - Toe up, or top-down, design a sock that fits you precisely! We'll talk about special fits like wider or narrow ankles; odd feet and knee socks.
Crochet for Knitters - Crochet is an excellent skill to have for a knitter - pick up dropped stitches, create decorative and functional edgings, and work very fast seams. Suitable for all levels of knitters who don't know how to crochet.

Full schedule and registration information here.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Expanding My Own Skills; Giving Yourself Permission to Be Awful

The Harlot posted recently about the process of learning, and how we forget that we have to be bad at something before we can get good at it.

I see this all the time in my knitting classes; as adults we expect, I think, that we'll be proficient at everything right from the get-go. I see knitters get frustrated with themselves because they don't get something straight away; I see knitters angry with their work because it doesn't look like the work on my needles, or the samples in the shop.

It's easy to be patient with my students, because I know it's going to get better. I explain, first of all, that everything looks better if you give it a wash (it does! really! next time you knit two of something - socks, mittens, sleeves - wash one and not the other and compare). And I explain that everyone's first efforts were fairly dreadful.

I really wish I'd kept my earliest attempts at knitting, to show off in my classes. They'd be great for comedy value, but also to reassure knitters that they're doing very well!

There was that purple cotton cardigan... oh dear... And those first socks, those red worsted weight socks. And I can remember so very clearly asking the very patient woman at my then-LYS how on earth you were supposed to know what size the hat was going to be when it was done.

(This hat, BTW. It turned out to be the perfect size.)

I've been expanding my own skills of late, challenging myself to learn techniques outside my comfort level. And as is always the way, we are hardest on ourselves. When ripping out the swatch for the fourth time, cursing loud enough to wake the dog, I realized that maybe I shouldn't be so hard on myself... and that maybe I should take a lesson from myself.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Continental Knitting; the Norwegian Purl

I taught a couple of classes on Continental knitting this past weekend in New Hamburg. Now, some may question my qualifications to knit such a classes, since by default I knit English-style - that is, with my yarn in my right hand. I learnt that way, when I was very young, and I find that although it might not be the fastest method, it's very comfortable for me.

But that doesn't mean I don't use and enjoy the Continental method when it suits me. I'm all about having options!

Continental knitting has you hold your yarn in your left hand, like so:

English-style knitters, like me, usually find the Continental knit stitch easy to manage - it's easy to work, and the benefits are immediate and obvious.

Because the working yarn is stretched behind your needles, it's pretty easy to "pick" the stitch. Like so:

Just put the right-hand needle into the stitch, and swing the tip of the needle over top of the working yarn to the right, and bring the working yarn back through the stitch. Easy!

It's much more efficient in movement, since you're not moving the yarn at all, and barely moving the needles.

I like to use the continental knit when I'm working a piece entirely in garter stitch, or when my hands are tired.

My gauge is quite different between the English and Continental methods, however, so I have to be consistent about which method I'm using in a project. This is true for many knitters - continental knitting is often looser than English knitter.

I must confess, however, that although I could (and would) do it, until recently I'd never really been fluid with the Continental purl.

No matter what method they learn, it seems that a lot of newer knitters dislike purling - they find it cumbersome and sort of unnatural. (They're not wrong; there is a theory among knitting historians that knitting in the round was invented first, and then the purl was a later adaptation to make it work flat.) A purl seems fiddly in English knitting, but downright unpleasant in Continental knitting. It's the pesky wrap.

What you save in movement in a Continental knit seems to get spent in the purl, trying to man-handle the yarn over the needle point and make it stay still while you move the needles.

There are a couple of common ways of wrapping the yarn for the Continental purl.

With your index (or middle) finger:

Or with your thumb (less "traditional", but I find this easier - I can pivot my thumb and let my fingers worry about holding the needles):

These work well, but don't feel elegant to me.

And then there's the Norwegian purl. I did some experimenting with it and reading about it before I taught the New Hamburg class, and I think it's changed my life.

In essence, instead of moving the yarn to work the purl, you move the needle. It's much closer to the method you use for the Continental knit stitch, in fact.

It goes like this...

Leave the yarn at the back (Yes, pause to think about that. No moving the yarn at all. Imagine how easy ribbing could be!) and put the needle into the stitch as normal for purling (that is, from back to front)...

And, leaving the yarn in place, move the tip of the right hand needle around the working yarn (as you do for a knit; think on that, too - makes it very easy and familiar)....

Then once the yarn is wrapped around the needle like this:

push the wrapped needle back through the stitch (from front back through to the back), like this:

For some knitters, it's a world-changer. I know it was for me. If you've been struggling with a Continental purl, try it.

Some knitters do still find it easier if you bring the yarn to the front, but still use the same basic technique.

You can read more about it, and see more pictures here and here on the blog of Knitty's Teresa.

Play with it and see how it works for you. Let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A Return to Shall We Knit: Two Socks, and Continental Knitting

I'm off to Shall We Knit again this coming weekend, Jan 8 & 9, for two new classes. (It looks like the weather will be ok, but we have scheduled a snow date, just in cast Mother Nature decides to have some fun with us.)

Two Socks at the Same Time. The Normal Way, on Magic Loop. Like this:

And Continental Knitting. Speed up your knitting by learning a new technique!

Details here.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Looking forward to 2011

Here and at the KnittyBlog, I've written some thoughts about 2010.

(You do read the KnittyBlog, don't you? You should. I write there at least once a week.)

But what of 2011? Things I'm looking forward to in this new year...
  • my name in a number of publications (and on the front cover of one of them, I hope)
  • experimenting with more colourwork
  • teaching further afield (Starting with Shall We Knit again next week! Yay! Two-socks at once on magic loop, and continental knitting, if you're wondering.)
  • spinning
  • knitting with wire
  • more crochet; I started a crochet shawl about 6 months ago, and I really would like to finish the damn thing
And my number one hope for 2011 is....
  • teaching the dog to stop playing with my yarn.