Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Every part of the buffalo

I'm a sock knitter. This shouldn't come as a surprise to you.

And I have small feet - also not a surprise.

In the last few months, I've finished a pair of socks in Wollmeise Twin and Mountain Colors Bearfoot. Love both of these yarns very very much, and I loved the socks that resulted from them.

The Mountain Colors yarn I adore because it's a wool, mohair and nylon blend. Wool and nylon for wear; mohair for warmth. I anticipate that this will keep my poor feet very comfy this winter.

When I completed the pair, I weighed the leftovers, as I do, and I discovered that I had a little more than a third of the skein left.... I did a bit of thinking, and realized that I could get a pair of anklets out of the leftovers. Ideal for bed socks for the depths of winter...

so I divided the leftovers into two even balls (digital kitchen scales are very handy for this) and worked a pair of toe-up socks, working the legs until I ran out. I didn't even bother doing ribbing, just a loose cast-off at the top. The tops roll down fetchingly, and they'll keep me nice and warm in bed. I don't know that they'd stay up in my shoes, but that's not what they are for.

I had about a yard leftover total, once all four socks were done.

And as I'd blogged before, I discovered that the skeins of Wollmeise Twin are larger than usual - about 460m per 150gm skein - and that I was going to be able to squeak two pairs out of one skein. Which I did! The first pair top down, my usual, and then I divided the leftovers into two balls, and worked the second pair toe-up, until I ran out of yarn.

(Colorway is Birkenrinde, in case you're wondering.)

And a handful of yards left of this skein - it was clear that my weighing wasn't quite accurate, so to ensure that the two toe-up socks were the same length, I stopped one with a few yards of yarn left.

So: two skeins of fabulous yarn, three pairs of full socks and one pair of bed socks.

I am a happy knitter and my feet will be ready for winter.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Latest FO: The Godzilla Ridge Blanket

It may well be the best thing ever.

Go see, over at Knittyblog!

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Day of Classes at the Needle Emporium

I was the Needle Emporium this past weekend to teach some classes, and I'm pleased to report that a splendid time was had by all!

I taught two of my favourite classes: Entrelac and Finishing.

I love teaching Entrelac because it's a "stretcher" - it causes knitters of all skill levels and experience to stretch their skills. It's a fascinating technique, one that requires you to suspend your disbelief and work some pretty strange maneuvers - 'Whatdya mean I have to turn? I'm nowhere near the end of row!'. It's a great project for a newer knitter to learn some new tricks... I had a student once ask me for a project that would help her practice picking up stitches and increasing and decreasing... Entrelac is definitely it!

And it's a great project for an experienced knitter to challenge herself: it plays with a knitter's understanding of rows, and teaches some uncommon skills - pick up and purl, anyone?

I also enjoy the discussion that results about directional increases and decreases. Such fun!

Playing with the camera, I took a couple of pretty good pictures...

Here's G., a knitter of great skill and experience, pushing herself to learn some new tricks:

And here's L.'s "morning knitting class survival kit":

A good day for all concerned. Thanks to Julie for hosting, and to Beth for the cookies.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Winner of the Koigu and Patterns

The comments were lovely, thank you!

We had some poetry, we had some patriotism, we had some puns.

To keep it fair - and because I just couldn't decide - I used MS Excel's Random Number generating function, which landed on number 23. Number 23 is a comment from a knitter who logged in anonymously and signed in as Peggy.

So, mysterious Peggy: drop me an email at kate at wisehildaknits dot com and we'll get your goodies to you. (If I haven't heard from you by end of day Wednesday, I will draw another number.)

Thanks everyone!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mini contest: Koigu and copies of two one-skein Koigu patterns

I've got a full skein of Koigu leftover from my book projects. (Wound, no label, but a full ball, and that's undeniably Koigu. We think it's color 210.)

It deserves a Koigu-loving home.

I've got two patterns that use a single skein of Koigu - Miss Otis Regrets

and the Open House Slippers

So. Tell me why you need them.

Leave a comment!  Best comment wins a copy of the two patterns and the sad lonely ball of Koigu.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

New Pattern: The Lace 102 Sampler

The original, about
5 x 14 inches.
I teach a lot of lace knitting classes, and in my advanced lace class, we work a smaller sampler project. It's a fun and quick knit, and allows the knitter to experiment with a lot of different lace patterns. It's a small piece - too big to be a bookmark, too small to be a scarf.

Several students requested that I turn the pattern into a scarf... and so I did.

In addition to being a beautiful and fun knitting project, this sampler is designed to be a learning tool for lace knitters, as an option for those who want to expand their lace skills but can’t make it to one of my classes in person.

It features a variety of lace stitch patterns, all challenging in different ways, to allow you to experiment and learn some new techniques.
A proper scarf!
I’ve used some all-over patterns, and some single lace motifs worked on a plain background; I’ve used some lace with a stocking stitch ground (that is, with purl WS), some with a garter stitch ground (with knit WS); there are patterns worked on one side only, and patterns worked on both sides. There are patterns with variable numbers of stitches, and a pattern that featured delayed decreases. I’ve used some tricky and unusual stitches like s2kpo and p2tog tbl. And there are the often-feared Estonian nupps.

The sampler ends with an applied edging. Although this project is best tackled by a knitter with lace experience, everything is explained in sufficient detail that even an adventurous newer knitter could take it on.

Click to see the detail.

All pattern stitches are charted. (Some but not all have written instructions, also.) If you need a tutorial in chart reading, see this post on this blog.

Each individual pattern section includes detailed instructions and tips and tricks for handling the particular challenge of that pattern.

Using a single skein of sock yarn, it's a great way to grow your skills as a lace knitter, and have some fun along the way. The pattern has been thoroughly tested by both seasoned and newer lace knitters.

Available for $7.50 on Patternfish and Ravelry.

All the stitch patterns....

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Leftie Knitting

Met a new student last night - the lovely N., who is a natural left-handed knitter. By that, I mean that she learned to knit left handed. She knits as a precise mirror of what I do. It's fabulous elegant and somewhat weird to watch her.

She came to my class with a friend, J., who is also left-handed. J. knits as I do, in the traditional right-handed manner. This caused some laughter and puzzlement in the class. Mostly the laughing was at me, as I tried to demo the M1R and M1L in the left-handed manner. I'm pretty clumsy with my left hand, so although I got the job done, it was neither fast nor elegant.

There are a few options for teaching knitting to the left-handed.

There's the "damn the torpedoes" method: teach 'em to knit the "normal" way - right handed, English. This is how my left-handed Mum knits.

Continental - yarn in left hand,
but needles still right-hand dominant.
There's the "a nod in your general direction" method: the usual needle orientation, but Continental-style, with yarn in left hand.

And then there's the "doing what comes naturally" method: mirror-image knitting.

Each is equally good; of course, there are some pros and cons. The "damn the torpedoes" method works best for a knitter who is reasonably strong with both hands, as you're still requiring precision movements from the non-dominant hand. The "nod in your general direction" method is a good mid-point, as it relies less on the right hand, and more control is with the dominant left hand.

Image excerpted from Trauermei tutorial.
For some lefties, however, knitting right handed just feels wrong. It feels unnatural. For those knitters, learning "true" left handed knitting is the best option. It's less common, and there are fewer resources, but I do like these two tutorials created by Trauermei:
Part 1 - casting on.
Part 2 - the knit stitch.

There is a downside to this method, however, which is why it's less common (other than the absurdity of watching a rightie trying to teach it): the stitches are oriented the other way on the needle so that decreases lean the other way. A leftie's k2tog leans left rather than right; a leftie's ssk leans right rather than left. For many purposes, this isn't too much of a problem, but when it comes to lace it's a critical difference... So although there's a gain in ease of execution, there's a loss in terms of ease of chart reading... decreases have to be switched.

Each method has something to offer, and as with so many things in life, there isn't a single "right" answer. If you're left-handed, it's definitely worth trying all three.

Are you left-handed? What do you do?

Kristi has written more on this topic for Knitty, and she lists some other resources.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

On M1 and KFB, On Repeats & Clarity

Had an email this week from a knitter working one of the patterns, in my book, the Slouchy Hat.

She asked about the increasing.... she said that my pattern wasn't working out.

She was starting with 68 sts, and the instruction is as follows:

(K2, m1) around. 102 sts.

Our knitter reported that it just wasn't working. She reported that she was ending up with 90 stitches, and she'd tried it more than once.

I knew immediately what she'd done. It would be cheeky of me to suggest that she go and read the Shaping Chapter of the book, but this is one of the topics that this chapter addresses.

I replied to the knitter's email, and asked if perhaps she'd used KFB. Yup, that was it!

Here's the thing: a KFB is not the same thing as M1, and they are absolutely NOT interchangeable.

They are both increases, yes, but differ in a key way KFB takes one stitch and makes it into two, and M1 makes a stitch from nothing. (If I'm feeling cute, I refer to M1 - "make one" - as "magic one", as in "conjure a stich out of nothing".)

This matters, because using a kfb uses up one stitch of the round, and my pattern assumes you don't.

(I highly recommend you spend some time on the increases page of knittinghelp.com, and watch the video for my favourite M1 method here.)

So in this case, it works as follows:

(K2, m1) puts a new stitch between every pair of stitches - adding 34 to the

existing 68, to get the 102 required.

(k2, kfb) makes 90 stitches. Each group of (k2, kfb) takes 3 stitches and makes it into 4, meaning you work as follows:(k2, k2b) 22 times (getting you across 66 of the 68 stitches), and then presumably our knitter would have just worked k2 at the end of the row. 68 + 22 = 90.

Obviously, our knitter knew that something was up when her stitch count was off, and I'm glad she got in touch.

(This is also why it's always good to give a stitch count in a pattern after any increases or decreases, of course.)

But there was another, perhaps less obvious clue that something was amiss...

For me, when I say to work some kind of repeat around a round or across a row, e.g. (k2, m1), or (k2, p2), or (ssk, yo, k3, yo, k2tog) or whatever, I expect that you will come to the end of a repeat at the end of the row/round.

It's a given to me that if you aren't at end of a repeat at the end of the row/round, then that's a sign that something isn't right. In this case, there weren't enough stitches left to work another full repeat of the pattern stitch the way the knitter was doing it, and so that should have been a red flag.

Now that didn't occur to our knitter because, frustratingly, it's not a standard pattern writing convention. I make sure all my patterns, and the patterns I edit adhere to this, but it's not nearly common enough.

This is one of those details that some feel is perhaps a little too.. shall we say... anal-retentive... but I figure it's easy enough to do, and can only help the knitter.

Ok, so let's say I did want to do it the way the knitter had tried... I would have written it as follows:
[K2, kfb] to last 2 sts, k2.

Simple, and clear, no?

Yes, it does take a bit more thought and work, but I figure it's worth it. After all, the clearer my patterns, the higher the chance of the success the knitter has. And the more successful the knitter, the more likely they will be to buy my second book...

UPDATE: Two excellent reader comments.

1) Yes, the kfb would look different than the M1 - M1 is intended to be reasonably invisible, and kfb leaves a distinct bump in a stocking stitch fabric.

2) Another commenter suggests that a knitter could use kfb instead of the M1, "as long as he or she is paying attention" - change [k2, m1] to [k1, kfb]. This is true - you'd get the required number of stitches, absolutely - but as above the kfb does look different. Plus it does indeed require "paying attention" - which is not necessarily what a knitter wants (or is prepared to do).

In summary, I only recommend using kfb when the designer specifically calls for it.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

A knitter's worst nightmare?

Mauricio, my favourite waiter at my favourite restaurant told me an excellent story today.

He saw me knitting and said that I reminded him of his Nonna, his beloved grandmother.

Mauricio is the eldest child in his family, and for four years enjoyed being the only child. Midway through his fourth year, his parents proudly announced that a baby was on the way, and that Mauricio was to be a big brother.

His Nonna, an avid knitter, was thrilled, and did what so many expectant grandmothers do: picked up her needles to start making a blanket for the new arrival.

Mauricio wasn't quite so happy. As is the case for many first children, he wasn't at all sure what this was going to mean for him. He was upset.

How did he choose to express his unhappiness? He would sneak into his grandmother's room and undo her knitting...

Every day, she would make some progress on the project, and the next day, little Mauricio would undo it. Apparently, it became, in the eyes of a small boy, a rather excellent game of hide and seek: where did Nonna put the knitting today?

I can only imagine the mess a four-year-old would make...

And I can also imagine that a wise and loving grandmother would nod, smile, hug the boy - and then find a very high shelf to put the project on.