Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Knitter Monday Suggestions?

I've received some great feedback about New Knitter Mondays. Please feel free to pop me a comment if you would like to suggest an upcoming topic.

Monday, August 25, 2008

New Knitter Monday 8/25: Yarn Weights

You find a yarn you love and you want to find a project to knit or crochet OR you find a pattern you love and you need to find the yarn to use. What is the first thing to do? Check the yarn weight and gauge requirements. 

The weight of yarn refers to how thick or thin the yarn is and how many stitches would fit into an inch when knitted/crocheted. The categories are

* Fingering (0): The thinnest of yarns; 8 1/4 to 10 stitches in an inch on a size 000-1 needle; perfect for lace projects.
* Sock (1): 6 3/4 to 8 stitches in an inch on a size 1 to 3 needle; guess what? Perfect for socks! Also good for some lace shawls.
* Sport/Baby (2): 5 3/4 to 6 1/2 stitches in an inch on a size 3 to 5 needle; you got it--baby
* DK (3): 5 1/4 to 6 stitches in an inch on a size 5 to 7 needle; great for shawls and sweaters--used a lot in baby items too. 
* Worsted (4): 4 to 5 stitches in an inch on a size 7 to 9 needle; the most common weight of yarn; great for sweaters and afghans.
* Chunky (5): 3 to 3 3/4 stitches in an inch on a size 9 to 11 needle; great for quick projects
* Bulky (6): 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 stitches in an inch on a size 11+ needle; also great for quick projects, but VERY warm

When you find a pattern you will see a Gauge section that says something like: 16 stitches over 4 inches in St st. To figure out the correct weight of yarn, divide 16/4 and you get 4 stitches in an inch. This is a Worsted weight yarn. Now you know what to look for in the store. (Keep in mind that you must make a swatch to figure out what needle size allows you to get the gauge, but the first step is the right weight of yarn.)

My current favorite yarns in these weights are...

* Fingering/Laceweight: Zephyr
* Sock: Koigu
* DK: Mermaid
* Worsted: Dreamweaver and Karabella Aurora 8
* Bulky/Chunky: Baby Alpaca Grande

What are you favorite yarns? Still find weights a mystery? Post a comment and I'll do my best to address it. 

Bonus tip: If you double any of the weights, they equal the next higher weight. This can come in handy if you want a chunky yarn as most stores don't stock as many chunky options and they are more expensive per yard. You can double a Worsted yarn.

For all you crocheters out there, you can find the crochet breakdown at www.yarnstandards.com/weight.html.

Monday, August 18, 2008

New Knitter Monday 8/18: Blocking

People hate to block. I'm not really sure why, but it is true. I used to as well. Then, I discovered the difference that blocking can make in your knitting, and in the pleasure of enjoying the garment. Blocking helps your stitches blossom to their full effect AND it usually softens the yarn.

Blocking: The act of wetting your garment and shaping it to dry in the shape and dimensions you desire.

Here are the most common questions I get about blocking (and the answers):

Q: Why do I need to block.
A: Blocking allows your stitches to blossom. They come alive. Blocking also evens out your knitting. Do you have a row that looks a little different where you folded it in your bag--blocking will fix that. The most important reason to block is that you can block your garment to the finished dimension you desire (within so many inches up and down).

Q: Do I have to block every time I wash it?
A: If you want it to fit and have the correct shape, yes. Is this somewhat of a pain, yes. Will it smell like wet wool, yes if it is wool. However, if you purchase a nice piece of furniture, you dust it and take care of it, right? Isn't your hard work worth attention? Giving a non-machine washable garment as a gift, include an index card with care instructions. (Not a bad idea to do this even for the machine-washable items since a lot of those cannot be put into the dryer or shouldn't be washed with towels/etc. As a matter of fact, the reason a lot of machine washable yarns say to lay flat to dry is to prevent stretching and so that you can BLOCK!)

Q: What detergent should I use?
A: I've heard all kinds of suggestions. I could only offer my own opinion and that would be Eucalan, which you can typically find at your local yarn shops.

Q: How do you block?
A: Let me use a sweater made of wool as an example. First, I fill my sink with water (not hot water unless you want to felt it). I add in the instructed amount of Eucalan (see label on the bottle). Place the garment in the sink and let it sit for 10-20 minutes to really soak in the water. Drain the water (notice with Eucalan that you do NOT rinse it out). Roll the sweater in a towel to soak up a large portion of the water. Lay out the sweater on your blocking area. I have a blocking board that has a measurement grid printed on it. I highly recommend it, but it isn't necessary. You can lay out some towels and put your garment on the towels to dry. Pin out the garment to the measurements you want. (If using the no blocking board method, measure the size out with a tape measure.) Do pin the item so that it holds the shape while drying. I use T pins (shown below). I typically put a fan on the garment to help it dry faster. I usually let it dry on the top side and then flip it over to dry the other side.

This process is called Wet Blocking. You can also Steam Block, which involves putting a towel on each side of the garment and using a steamer to wet the garment. Then put it on the blocking area to dry, just like the Wet Blocking. When you Steam Block, don't agitate the garment by ironing back and forth--you could end up felting it.

DO be careful with more delicate fibers like a silk.

One final note: Do unto the swatch as you will your finished garment. What does this mean? Knit your swatch before knitting your garment. Measure it for gauge THEN block your swatch and measure the gauge. I've found that most knitters will show a difference. If you want your sweater to fit, you need to adjust your needle size to the required gauge on your swatch AFTER you have blocked it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

That Room...and a BIG SALE!!!!

Hello to all of you in Internet land. Today I'm feeling a lot better than yesterday. I had to cancel a class, which I absolutely hate to do. However, I had such a bad allergy attack that my eyes watered all day long. It was terrible. My eyes were little slivers. Ugh.

Anyway, today PK and I are working on the items for our Garage SALE!!!!! If you live in the area, come on by:

Friday 8/22 from 8-3
Saturday 8/23 from 8-12
2215 Pheasant Run
Westfield (behind Sanders Glen in the Pheasant Run housing edition)
We will have furniture, tons of games, clothing, and tons more!!!!!

When we bought our house, I told Patrick that his den was his and I wouldn't impose my organizational-nut behavior on him. True to form, the most I've ever done is run the vacuum in there every so often. That and, unfortunately, it became our catch-all room. Until today, I had no idea how much so. We have decided to clean it out, paint the walls, and get him a nice chair and shelves. Not too much of an investment, but good grief will it make a difference. Right now he is in the process of figuring out where to fit all those brewing bottles into the closet!

I'll post pictures when the new room is ready. Spread the word about the yard sale if you know someone who is looking for some good finds. Items are priced to sell.

Example items for sale:
* PC games
* PS2 games
* Clothing
* Kitchen table and chairs
* Rocking chair and footstool
* Wooden shelves (perfect for a garage)
* Entertainment center
* Highchair
* Books
* Craft items
* Record player and records
* Loads of other things too!!!!!!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Happy Birthday to You

Today (8/15) is Ms. Tonia's birthday for those of you who know her. Happy Birthday, Tonia!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wool & Company

This weekend I visited a shop in Geneva, Illinois named Wool & Company. It was a great little store with a comfortable and inviting atmosphere. I have to admit that I was totally checking it out for my dream store I hope to open some day. I loved that they carried so many items that were tied to knitting, but not needles and yarn. For example, little sheep soap, key chains, beautiful bags, fun jewelry, etc. I also liked their selection of bag making items (D rings, O rings, handles, purse feet, etc). I have four felted bags planned for the fall/winter knitting and I just completed two others. It is amazing how hard it can be to find these items in a brick and mortar store versus online. I also really liked their displays. They used bookcases and older pieces of furniture that had a lot of character. It really distinguishes the store from others. They had a WIDE selection of yarns and were well organized. The staff was friendly too.

Sadly, I didn't get to see the rest of the town and shops because I spent my hour and a half in this one store while my family zipped through the other shops. I had no idea I'd been in there that long! Sign of a good store. If you are in the area, I recommend taking the drive to this store. It wasn't far from Schaumburg (site of Stitches Midwest this month).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Oh, Baby!

We just got back from visiting my sister-in-law and her husband this weekend. We are all excited to welcome a new little one to our family in February. Here is a fun little picture of the happy couple putting the wedding ring gender test in action. It said the baby is a girl. We'll see in a few months how accurate it is. In the meantime, I'll keep knitting in green, yellow, and cream.

Okay, I just realized how funny this picture is. I think Ben, the dog, might be making a statement. : )

Monday, August 11, 2008

New Knitter Monday 8/11: Tinking

What is Tinking, you ask? Tink spelled backward is Knit. When we tink, we are taking out our knitting. Thus, the actions are in reverse. Think of it this way...

1. Insert needle
2. Wrap yarn around right needle
3. Pull yarn through
4. Drop back stitch off the left needle

1. Insert needle into the stitch below the one on your needle (be careful not to go down an extra row)
2. Unwrap the yarn
3. Arrange the working yarn so that it isn't laying over the needles
4. Drop the stitch of the right needle

Here are some pictures to help you with the steps. NOTE: When you are trying to figure out what spot to put the left needle into, pull up on the working yarn and down on the work. The little hole will open up that is immediately below the stitch that is sitting on your needle. (Still, uncertain? Look to see where the feet of the stitch on your needle is coming out. That is the correct spot.) You should also note that in these photos, I am taking out a purl stitch.

1. Inserting the needle:

2. Unwrap the yarn:

3/4. Arrange the yarn and drop the stitch off the right needle:

The other common tink question is when to tink and when not to tink. Here are my thoughts:

* Tink when you just need to get back a few stitches to a few rows to fix a problem.
* If you need to go back a LONG way to fix one stitch, evaluate if you can ladder to the error stitch. (Laddering will be covered in a later New Knitter Monday post, but in short it means that you get to the column in which your stitch is in and take out only the stitches in that row.)
* Tink if you are a new knitter and need to practice fixing mistakes.
* Tink if you feel like it. :)
* Tink if you are using a silk or slick yarn that does not allow for any pulling out of needles to rip out work.

Questions about tinking? Post a comment and I'll try to address. Happy Knitting!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Recently Completed Projects from June 2008

Earlier this summer, I finished this wrap knitted with a hand painted one skein yarn I found at the Fleece Fair in Greencastle. The pattern is from a knitting magazine that I have since misplaced (sorry). It is a purl two together/yarn over pattern to create the almost honeycomb look in the main body. The one end section is called a purse stitch.

I also completed a simple pair of variegated socks in June.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Alpaca and Silk Wrap from Mac and Me

I have dubbed this shawl, while knitting it, the Never Ending Shawl. It is huge, but gorgeous. The long body is simply Knit One, Purl One ribbing but the large needles and silky yarn create this unusual and fluffy look. The lace sections are LONG. I finally gave in (on the very last row of the entire shawl) and counted how many stitches I had in the lace repeat--over 650! I am very happy I finished it because it is so comfy and pretty. I think it will be worn year round.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sweet Marmalade

Several years ago at Stitches Midwest I purchased a kit to make the Marmalade sweater (designer: Maureen Mason-Jamieson; yarn kit: Sheldrige Farms). The main color in the sweater is yellow, which I never wear, but I feel in love with the pattern and kit. Every few months I would think about knitting it, but the yellow against my skin always kept me from doing it. Well...on Friday night it hit me. Over dye it red! So I got all my gear together and cooked it in the crock pot.

Here is the original yellow...a nice yellow, but not my color. I am leaving in the paler yellow, just not this bright yellow.

Here is the new red...I used Scarlet from Ashford (an acid dye). I was pleased with how it turned out. There is a little variegation, but just a touch.

And, here is my swatch...

Now, it is a bit hard to envision it from just the sleeve, but I think it will turn out well. I am making the larger size to have plenty of body room (realistically, I'll probably wear it as an inside jacket), but the arms for the large were going to be huge on me. I'm going to use the sizing for the small/medium arms for the cuff and try to get up the right # at the top to match the large body. I'm also going to leave out a band on the sleeves to shorten the sleeve. (I made a slight change in using the lighter color at the bottom band too because it looked nicer against the red.) I'm very excited about the project. So excited that I've changed up my Olympic knitting and this is going to be it (in addition to sewing pennies on my Penny Bag each day).

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Feather & Fan Top

Tonia is an Internet pattern guru. If it is a great pattern living in Internetland, Tonia will find it. One fabulous find recently was the Liesl from ysolda.com. I decided to dye worsted weight yarn red in the dye workshop specifically for this project. Because we dip dyed the yarn, each skein (unintentionally) came out a shade lighter. I used the darkest skein at the top and then used the lighter ones later in the sweater.

It was such a fast knit and I love the color and fit. This is one project that shows the beauty of the swatch and blocking. I did a swatch and blocked it. I found that the swatch blocked out a LOT because of the lace nature. When I finished knitting the top, my 46" chest sweater was scrunched up to be around a 39" sweater. I blocked it and voila! My new unique top. And the buttons, purchased at Stitches & Scones, were a perfect match. It is such a great pattern, but I do recommend using markers to set off your feather and fan repeat to keep mistakes to a minimum.

Monday, August 4, 2008

New Knitter Mondays

I have been teaching a lot of new knitters who are just discovering the wonderful world of yarn and knitting. As a lot of you are using the blog as a reference source when working on projects, I decided to launch New Knitter Mondays. Starting on Monday 8/11 I will post a tip, trick, or how-to about knitting that beginners can use. For example...

  • Blocking
  • Tinking (taking out your knitting to fix a mistake)
  • Holes in knitting (how do they happen and how do I fix them)
  • Knitting two stitches together (one style of decrease)
  • Understanding yarn weights
  • Reading a yarn ball label
If there are things that you would like to see posted, please leave me a comment.

For ease of use, there will be a link to all New Knitter Monday posts along the right-hand side of the blog. I hope you find these useful.