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: