Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Some Optional Decorations For Your Project

I decided to add a little bit of embellishment to a couple of my panels. I'm going to show you an easy one. Skip it if you're not comfortable with it yet. If you're feeling adventurous, though, I think you'll like this. I crocheted on some vertical stripes. This can look really cool on a scarf, or on a knit skirt. It's a bit stiff for a sweater, though.

First, get a crochet hook that's compatible with your needle size. Lion Brand has a handy chart here. I used a size 6 needle, which means a G hook.

Make a slip knot around your crochet hook, just like you do around your needle when casting on.


Hook with a slip knot.
Now, insert the hook into the bottom stitch of your purl ridge. The stitches will look like a little ladder, you want to go under the bottom rung of the ladder.


Hook into the purl ridge.
Wrap the yarn around the hook, and pull it up, through the purl stitch, and through the slip knot.


Yarn through the slip knot, leaving the knot behind, stuck in the purl ridge.
Next, slip the hook through the next rung of the ladder, wrap the yarn, and pull it up through the purl stitch, and the loop of yarn on the needle. This is a crochet chain stitch, and is the first thing you'll learn in crocheting, but we're making it attached to our knitting, turning a ribbed pattern into a striped pattern. Is that cool or what?

A stripe in progress.
When you get to the end, thread your working yarn onto your yarn needle, draw it up into the loop on your hook, and then use it to "tack" the loop down by threading it to the back of your work. You can weave in your ends by wrapping it around the contrast yarn loops on the back side of the work. This is pretty secure on its own, and won't require much to hold it together.



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

You Need A Ravelry Account!

Have you heard of Ravelry?

Ravelry is a social network for knitters, crocheters, spinners, weavers, and all other fiber crafts type people. But it is also so much more.

Rav has my absolute favorite pattern library on the entire World Wide Web. Need a pattern for a hat? Sure, you can use any old search engine and look up "hat knitting pattern." Or you can go to Rav, and hit up the pattern search to narrow it down by your gauge, amount and type of yarn and needles you have on hand, size, techniques, and more, and see photos from Ravelers who have made that exact pattern, and even see their project notes, reviews, and corrections. And there are thousands of patterns listed, from all kinds of sources, designers, and bloggers. Most of them are free, but be prepared to pay a few dollars for a very special pattern.

Having trouble with a technique? There is a wealth of forums on Rav where experienced crafters will help you get it just right. Or visit forums for any specialty, or just ones that are fun to follow. (Bubbo's Pants is hilarious.)

You can even keep track of your yarn stash, needle and hook inventory, knitting books you own, and favorite patterns. So, it's an organization tool, as well. I know you have like two skeins of yarn and one pair of needles right now, but start when your stash is small, or you'll end up spending all day cataloging yarns somewhere down the line.

No, I don't work for Rav or anything. I just seriously love that site, and I think you will, too. I'm called emmster on there. Friend me, we'll have a good time.

Lesson 8: Blocking and Weaving in Ends.

Block Party!

So, you have four rectangles of knitting. But they're probably curled, a bit uneven, and have those tails of yarn hanging off of them. That's not pretty, is it?

Not pretty knitting.

Mind you, my lovely assistants, Tim and Burton, still love it.

Cats love knits.

So, how do we fix it? With a little trick called blocking. If you're using acrylic yarn, it will only minimally block. Because plastic is pretty much set into the shape it was made in. But you can very, very gently steam it, and stretch it a bit, to make it lie better.

If you went with wool or cotton, though, you can wet block. And you'll be amazed! You'll need a towel, and either a piece of foam floor mat, a firm bed, or another piece of furniture you can stick pins into. An ironing board works great for small pieces like this. I have mine on a piece of foam flooring. Don't spend big on a blocking board.

The first thing you'll do is get your pieces wet. You can wet them in a sink with a bit of wool wash, or hair conditioner, or just plain water, (always cold! Don't wash your hand knits in hot water.) or you can spray them with a spray bottle right on your blocking area. I like a quart size bottle with about a tablespoon of white vinegar and a couple of drops of vanilla extract. The vinegar takes out any smells your yarn might have picked up in your bag, or even in the store, and the vanilla leaves it smelling sweet. Get those pieces good and wet. If you sink soaked them, don't wring them out, just squeeze. If you're spraying, spritz and pat until they're saturated. The pieces will get really loose and stretchy. That's what we want! Now, shape them into nice, even squares. It's fine to eyeball this. No need to go for rulers and protractors. Stick a couple of pins into any spots that aren't coming out right with just your hands. You should have something like this:


Blocking blocks!
Now just leave it alone until it's dry, take the pins out, and you have pretty knitting.

But, you still have those tails. You can choose whether to weave them in before or after blocking. Everyone has their preferences. Depending on the piece, sometimes I do it first, sometimes second. They both work. Get out your little tapestry needle, and thread your yarn tail through it.

In stockinette, the most invisible weave-in is duplicate stitch. Basically, you follow the yarn as it sits, making the tail duplicate a row of knitting. Bring the needle up through the bottom of a stitch, follow the loop through the stitch above it, and then down the bottom loop the same way. Like so: 

Notice the top loop of the stitch right below the needle.

And now the bottom loop of the same row right above the needle.

On garter, it's even easier. Just thread your needle right up the back through the bumps. Easy:

Super easy.


You don't have to weave the whole tail. A couple of inches is plenty. Cut off the rest, leaving about 1/4 inch. All done! Admire your pretty knitting for a few minutes, and then let's move on to finishing our piece! 

Lesson 7: More Knit and Purl Patterns, and Stripes!

Once you've learned to knit and purl, you can follow patterns like this:

Row 1: Knit
Row 2: Knit
Row 3: Knit
Row 4: Purl

Which produces a fabric that looks like this: 

Ridges!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Lesson 6: Knit and Purl Patterns.

The combination of stitches that you repeat in your knitting is called a stitch pattern. With your ability to make knit and purl stitches, there are now a lot of stitch patterns open to you. When reading pattern instructions, K means knit a stitch, and P means purl a stitch. (These may be capitalized or not, depending on the author. But they mean the same thing.)
 Let's start with ribbing. Cast on the same number of stitches you used for your first rectangle. Now, we'll divide that number for the ribbing. I cast on 30, and decided on a k4 p1 rib. If you want your piece symmetrical, start with half the number of k stitches. So, my first row goes like this.
k2, p1, *K4 p1* until 2 stitches remain, k2. (The asterisks indicate that you should repeat the stitches between them.) So, let's see what that looks like:

This is the back. But you can see the ribbing better this way.
Nearly there! Yes, this is the front.
And we will keep doing that, until we have another square. Then, we'll switch to another stitch pattern. Your rib can be k3, p1, or k2, p1, as well. Whatever looks nice to you, and works with the number of stitches you cast on.
The next pattern is called seed stitch. This one goes *k1, p1* to end, turn, *p1, K1* to end, on an even number of stitches. On an odd number of stitches, row 2 will also be *k1, p1* to end. This makes a pretty, bumpy little stitch, that looks a bit like this:


 
Seed Stitch! Yay!
I bet you guessed already that we're making another square. Yep. So many squares. Use your first two-square piece to guide you on the length. These are going to be sewn together to make the front of your pillow. When you get to the last row and bind off in seed stitch or ribbing, make sure to maintain the pattern as you work the last row and loop the stitches over each other. It makes for a neater edge. 

Now you have a total of four squares, and you have the front of your project. We're almost halfway done! The next lesson will teach you a couple of more simple knit and purl patterns, as well as a little bit of color work. So, if you don't have a second color of yarn yet, go pick one up. It's preferable that you choose the same brand and style as you have been using, so you can be sure that the weight and fiber content are the same. That will make blocking easier.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Lesson 5: Binding Off

Do you have a rectangle that looks something like this? 


Good! Now, you're ready to bind off. This is how we end a piece of knitting. In some patterns, you may also see this called "casting off." The process is very simple. You will make two stitches of a new row, and just pass the first stitch over the second. Make another stitch, and pass the previous stitch over the new one. Keep going until you reach the end, and pass the working yarn right through the last stitch.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Lesson 4: The Purl Stitch

Now that you've been practicing your knit stitch, you should have a square of knitting, something like this:


Now you're ready to learn the purl stitch. The purl stitch is essentially the reverse of the knit stitch. Instead of holding the yarn at the back and pulling the loop through the left stitch toward you, you'll hold the yarn in front of your work and pull the working yarn through the loop away from you. Here's a video, so you can see it in action:





(I think I'm starting to get better at videos. You can hear me breathing in this one, and for that I apologize. I rigged up a harness to hold my real camera on my chest, instead of sitting my laptop backward and using the built in web cam. Better video, worse sound. But I'm getting valuable practice!)

Now you have your first two rows of your second stitch pattern. This is called stockinette stitch, and is going to be one of your most used stitch patterns. Knit a row when the smooth side is facing you, and purl a row when the bumpy side is facing you. It's that simple. As you work, you will find your stockinette knitting curls up on you. That's okay. It's normal for it to do that, because all the "weight" of the stitches is on the back side of the fabric. You can even use that tendency to add design elements like rolled hems and cuffs. For now, just let it do its thing.

Keep going with your stockinette pattern until you have a square of stockinette on top of your square of garter stitch. It will take you fewer rows than you knitted in garter to get a square. Make your last row a purl row, and we will be ready to move on to the next lesson, where we will be learning how to take our knitting off of the needles without unraveling it all, which is a pretty handy thing to know, don't you think? Then we'll look at some fun things you can do with combining knit and purl stitches to make interesting textures. Remember to stay relaxed and enjoy your knitting. And if you're following along, feel free to ask questions, or just show off your first square!