Friday, February 25, 2011

Combination Knitting

A couple of weeks ago I posted about Continental Knitting. I've had some great feedback about the Norwegian purl - happy to have helped out some knitters with a new skill.

I've been doing a lot of colourwork recently, and I love the speed I can get by stranding colours with two hands.

When I wrote that post, I mentioned Combination Knitting. I should explain myself, I figure.

It's pretty clear that Norwegian or not, the purl stitch can be cumbersome in Continental knitting.

Some knitters approach it another way - they just wrap the purl stitch the "easy" way.

This results in stitches that are oriented the "wrong" way on your needle. Normally, the right leg of the stitch is at the front of the needle. The result of an "incorrect" purl wrap is that the left leg of the stitch is at the front of the needle. You can see this on the following right side row...

If, on the following row, you were to knit this normally - through the front loop - the resulting stitch would be twisted. Twisted stitches are generally undesirable, as they look different, and they tend to tighten up your knitting. (There are times that twisted stitches are used for effect - often in a twisted ribbing, which is tidy and tight and has a terrific corded look.)

How to compensate for mis-oriented stitches? Knit them through the back loop!

Seriously! It's that easy!

That's Combination Knitting.

Now - some caveats. It's most appropriate for stocking stitch worked flat. For garter stitch, or stocking stitch in the round, you're only knitting, therefore only wrapping the usual way, so the stitches end up oriented the usual way and so you will need to work them the usual way.

In addition, when working Combination style, because your stitches are oriented the other way on the knit side, you need to compensate in your decreases: for a "normal" Western knitter, k2tog leans to the right, for a Combination knitter, k2tog leans to the left. In many situations this doesn't matter, but in applications like lace, it can make an unholy mess.

A skilled combination knitter knows that when there's a k2tog in the pattern, you need to work an ssk, and when there's an ssk called for, you need to work a k2tog.

The name refers to the fact that it's a combination of the standard Western way of knitting - the method that most Western Europeans and North Americans learn, and the Eastern Method, common in Far Eastern Europe and the Near/Middle East.

The goddess of Combination Knitting is Annie Modesitt. Learn more at her website.

When worked with the yarn in your left hand, Continental style, the Combination Method is screamingly fast. Annie tells a terrific story about a yarn shop owner accusing her of lying because of the speed with which she finished her first sweater project.

In fact, Ms. Modesitt offers a free online class in the technique - more info here.

Give it a go - you may surprise yourself!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Spring Creativ Festival: Talks

Are you planning on attending the Spring Creativ Festival in Toronto, running April 15th & 16th?

I'm there on the Friday, giving three free 45 minute knitting talks.

Yarn Knowledge
Mystified by all these terms - double knitting, worsted, aran? Unsure whether fingering is a potato or a yarn? Wondering why you should care about whether a yarn is superwash or not? This session will explain yarn terminology, help you understand yarn substitution and gauge, and make you a more confident yarn shopper and knitter.

Cast Ons & Cast Offs Improve your knitting and expand your knowledge by trying and adding some new cast-ons and cast-offs to your repertoire. See which cast-on is best for different types of projects. Plus, Kate shares tips to help you achieve that elusive loose cast-off.

Fibre Care You’ve spent a lot of time knitting or crocheting your garment, now let’s make sure it stays beautiful forever. Discover how to properly wash and store your finished items, whether wool, cotton or a man-made fibre. Kate Atherley will explain all those strange symbols on the yarn labels, share tips for moth-proofing and show you how proper fibre care can improve the look of the finished items. Samples for everyone courtesy of my good friends at Soak.

That's right - I'm free with admission! And with goodies for all! If you're there, come by and say hello.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Baby Clark with all his Knits

Congrats to E., a student of mine, whose son Clark was born recently. Over the second half of last year, E. attended my project classes, quietly knitting up a storm for the baby-on-the-way.

The bonnet is my Heirloom Bonnet With Ears.
The gorgeous hippo comes from the book Itty-Bitty Toys. This is a seriously great book - all the patterns are adorable, and knitting toys is a great skill-builder for adventurous knitters. There's working in the round, increasing, decreasing and various assembly techniques - all in small, quick-knit, supremely cute projects.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Sock Drawer Project

It's no secret that a) it's cold where I live, b) my feet get cold very easily, and c) I love knitting socks.

A couple of weeks ago I finished a pair of socks made with Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine.
I've been wearing them as often as possible - hand-washing them at night rather than waiting for the weekly darks load - to test how they wear.

The yarn is a terrific blend - 50% wool, 30% nylon to keep them hardwearing - and this is the important bit - 20% alpaca for warmth. And holy cow, they are indeed very warm. And they're wearing well, too. The yarn has "fuzzed up" a little, but I don't mind.

Because of my cold feet, I layer socks. Between November and March I wear two pairs of socks every day - a thin store-bought pair of black wool socks under a (typically brightly coloured) hand-knit pair. The inner socks are a fine ribbed sock, very much like a men's dress sock, that I found at Simon's in Montreal some years ago. They're absolutely brilliant, and over a few business trips I bought myself 12 pairs. After 8 or 10 years, a couple have gone missing, and the rest are starting to wear out. I put a call into a friend in Montreal, but he wasn't able to find them for me.

(And yes, this means that I buy my winter shoes in a size larger than my summer shoes.)

I was starting to worry about what my sock layering strategy would be... but then I finished this pair. It hadn't occurred to me that I could knit the inner-layer socks, because I wasn't sure I could make them fine enough to fit under another pair. But this yarn is my answer!

The Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine is indeed quite fine - finer than most other sock yarns I've worked with. I knitted these socks snug (knowing that they'd be very stretchy because of the alpaca content), and they have turned out to be the ideal inner layering sock.

So now I have cooked up a plan.

I'm going to buy up a whole ton of this yarn and knit myself a whole new set of layering socks. Once I've finished up the two brightly coloured pairs currently on my needles, it's nothing but plain black socks for a while. By the time next winter rolls around, I should be ready.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Found! The Mary Maxim Pattern Book

I've blogged here a couple of times about vintage Mary Maxim sweater patterns. I've been lucky enough to receive copies of original Mary Maxim patterns in collections of old patterns I've been given.

Mary Maxim sweaters are also known as curling sweaters. They are designs based on, inspired by the traditional "Cowichan" sweaters of the Pacific Northwest, big bulky knitted jackets with motifs on the back. Classic motifs include wildlife, hockey players, tractors, that sort of thing. They were hugely popular as both knitting projects and fashion items in the 1950s and 1960s.

There must be a magic combination of Google words that brings people to my site, because at least once a month I get an email asking where to find patterns, or if I'd be willing to sell one of the ones I have.

Not willing to sell one, sorry - but I have a better solution.

Mary Maxim, has recently published a pattern book with a selection of their designs, including the very first one.

If you're looking for a "curling sweater" pattern, this is the book you need.

You can order it here.

Monday, February 07, 2011

What a Great Weekend: New Knitting Friends

I had a terrific time at the DKC Winter Workshops this past weekend. I met some great new knitters and friends - and caught up with some old friends, too.

There's Debbie, who apparently used to crochet in a past life. I teach a class called Crochet For Knitters. It's about teaching knitters how a crochet hook can make their lives better - for picking up stitches, for quick seams, for decorative edgings, for lie-flat edgings, for lengthening sleeves that were inadvertently knitted too short (yes, I'm looking at you, M.). I don't fuss about style, and we don't worry about reading the patterns, it's sort of the crafter's equivalent of a conversational Italian course - just enough to be able to find your way around, but not so much that you're worrying about correct verb forms. Knitters are often clumsy at first with a crochet hook - god knows I was - but Debbie was some sort of savant. Her friends and I just watched her swoop the hook ever-so-elegantly, like she'd done it before.

I met a real live natural Norwegian Purler - that is, someone who was taught that way and didn't know there was any other way. Her name is Sue, and she learnt to knit in Denmark. I think I startled her when I realized how she was knitting and rushed over to watch. I had to reassure her that what she was doing was actually very cool. She said that she had noticed that no-one else did it the same way in North America. I told her that she should be proud of her method, and should offer to teach it to anyone who remarks upon her knitting. So - look out for a lovely lady called Sue who purls Norwegian style - she may well teach you!

And there's Liz who took my "Lace 102" class so she could tackle a Shetland lace pattern from Heirloom Knitting. Specifically, a multi-pattern, multi-bordered cob-web weight Shetland lace shawl that can be worked as either a triangle or square. The triangle requires 6 x 25gm of 1 ply lace weight. 25gm of this yarn has 350m of yarn. I got out my calculator (since being good at math is not nearly the same thing as being good at arithmetic), and worked it out: that's 2100m of yarn. Cobweight weight yarn. FOR THE HALF SIZE VERSION.

The full size version takes twice that.

Liz has the right attitude - she's set herself a 5 year goal. I plan to take her out for a drink when it's done.