Friday, December 26, 2008

Kiwi Knitting End of the Year Sale

Now that all your gift knitting is over (it is, isn't it?) you can turn your thoughts to long, cozy winter days of knitting for yourself. And just in time comes the Kiwi Knitting after Holidays sale!

25% off on ALL inventory!
50% off on sale table yarns!

From Dec 26th - 30th the shop is open from 10 am to 6 pm, on the 31st from 10 am to 4 pm. Closed Sunday.

Happy shopping! And I look forward to seeing you again at Knit Dr every Friday morning from 10 til 12 to see what new projects we have all started. I was gifted with some gorgeous hand-dyed sock yarn and the new book, Knitting Socks With Handpainted yarns. Sigh! I can't wait!

But first I have to finish my Mom's gift (today), start and finish my Dad's gift, and knit up the three bags of yarn I gave my husband for Christmas...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Last Minute Gift Ideas For The Knitter Who Has (Almost) Everything

Two days to go before Christmas, Hanukkah is coming to an end before you know it, and you still need the perfect Wow! gift for the knitter in your life?

Or maybe you suspect that your significant other is stumped? If so, leave this page showing on your computer and give them some help!

A while back in the Kiwi newsletter I gave you a list of things that every knitter needs to have in their tool case, which I later revisited here on the blog. But what about the tools that go above and beyond?

So they have all the needles they want, you don't know what yarn or patterns to get them. Here are some ideas for thing that they might not buy for themselves, but will change their knitting life and make their projects easier and more professional. These items are life savers, and once a knitter has them, they will wonder how they ever lived without them.

Yarn Swift and Ball Winder
Every knitter needs one of these set-ups. Every Knitter. I bought mine early in my knitting career thanks to the generosity of our own Marianne, and I couldn't live without them. A yarn swift is that umbrella-like contraption that holds a hank of yarn taut and even while a yarn ball is wound from it. Sure, you can ask to have your yarn wound at the shop. Sure, you can put the hank on the back of a chair and wind a ball from it there. Yes, you can ask an obliging family member to hold the hank for you on two hands while you wind. But trust me, these things are worth their weight in gold. They twirl smoothly while the ball is wound, feeding the yarn to the ball winder with nary and tangle or a burst of frustrated language.

Now pair the yarn swift with the ball winder and you have a match made in heaven. You can get the basic ball winder, which I have, and it will last forever and serve you well. I cannot begin to imagine how many hundreds of balls of yarn I have wound on mine, and it is sill merrily winding yarn balls at my command. Or you can get my dream ball winder, which is the super-duper orbiting one that you have seen Lynn use at the shop. This one will wind a much larger hank of yarn into a ball, and while my regular size one serves perfectly for almost every hank of yarn there have been times when I have needed the big one. If you are buying a new ball winder, my advice is to go for the big one and be done with it.

Blocking Boards
A knitted or crocheted garment is made or broken by the finishing. And finishing includes blocking properly. Blocking makes all the difference between hand-made and home-made. And yes, we have all blocked things on layers of towels spread out on our dining table, or bed or floor until they dry. How much easier to use blocking boards with their gridded surfaces that can be pinned into. Although they are quite big, blocking boards fold away and can be tucked into a closet between uses. The grid makes it easy for you to line up edges and make sure that your project is even and straight as it dries.

Blocking Wires
And to make the blocking package complete - blocking wires. These are a handy set of wires that you use along the edges of your project as you block it, in order to make perfectly smooth and even lines on your edges. Think bottom hems that are no longer wavy, button bands that are straight and precise, pocket tops that don't sag, side edges that are straight. I got a set of these a couple of years ago for my birthday, and I do wonder how I thought I was blocking properly without them.

Anytime you are sewing pieces of your project together, you need pins. Long shanked, large headed pins that are made especially for this purpose. They aren't expensive, pick up a couple of packages of them. Not small safety pins, not dress-maker pins, and not quilting pins, but the pins made by Clover for exactly this purpose - to hold your two pieces of knitted or crocheted fabric together firmly while you sew your seams. If you want your seaming process to go well and loo professional once you are finished, you need to pin your fabric.

Double Pointed Needles
Yes, you heard me. One set each of short double pointed needles in several sizes. Although I no longer knit in the round using dpns, I am always grateful that early in my knitting life I bought a set of these in each and every size. When I start a new project - especially anything with cables, I toss a matching size set into my knitting bag for emergencies. I use them for cable needles, and I also use them to fix mistakes. Suddenly spot that eight rows back you crossed that cable in the wrong direction? And you don't want to frog back all those eight rows either, do you? No problem. Ladder back just the offending stitches, and reknit them up on your dpns. Put the fixed sts back onto your regular needles, and you are good to go.

Needle and hook organizers.
If I never see another knitter whip out a large zip-lock bag containing tangles of circular needles in a massive disarray of sizes and lengths, it will be too soon. Do you have a size 7, I ask? I don't know, they reply. Does this look like a 7? Maybe this one is. Needle organizers are a very valuable investment for not a lot of money. It would meant that you know what you have and what you don't, and can get to it quickly and easily. It would mean that you are ready for anything. It would mean longer life for your no-longer-battered needles. And it will give you a little moment of beauty when you take one of these lovely things out of your knitting bag.

Sticky Notes
Get a couple of small pads of sticky notes and put them in your knitting bag. They are invaluable for marking pages in pattern books, for taking quick notes, for marking your spot in your pattern or chart when you put your knitting down. Worth their weight in gold.

Waste Yarn
I carry two small balls of waste yarn in my knitting bag - both white - in DK or worsted weight, and in fingering weight. Any time your pattern asks you to put your sts onto holders, you really want waste yarn instead. Thread your needle with a length of yarn, slip it through all the sts and slip them off the needles. Use it for emergency markers. Use it for provisional cast-ons. Waste yarn can be tossed out when it gets ragged from reuse.

I hope you are all enjoying this holiday season and that this gives you some ideas for gift giving - even to yourself! and if all else fails, a gift certificate to Kiwi Knitting Co is the gift that is perfect in every size!

Best wishes-

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Recalculating a Pattern

Happy Hanukkah! I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays and may all your projects be finished!

I ran into a small problem this week with a last-minute project, and I thought I could share some words of wisdom with all of you.

My husband, who never ever wants me to give him gifts, was finally, with much arm-twisting, persuaded to let me knit something for him. His request? A felted vest. I searched through some patterns and came across the Felted Vest pattern in Bev Galeska's wonderful book, Felted Knits. Just one problem. With only a week to go before the big gift-giving day, I realized that I really, really didn't want to spend hours and hours each day knitting nine miles of stockinette stitch, only to felt it later.

Now don't get me wrong - I love knitting. I love knitting gifts for my husband. I love felting. But to spend so much time knitting something the size of a long winter nightgown and then shrink it to the proper size would take a whole lot of knitting time. Time that I could spend doing really interesting knitting, like cables and lace and other fascinating things.

Not a problem though, because I have a basic knitting machine for just such an emergency. I like to do a lot of felted projects, and I have been playing with the knitting machine exclusively for this very purpose. My first job, then, in changing the pattern from hand-knitting to machine knitting was to knit up a swatch on my machine at the tension settings that I know from experience will give me a fabric that felts easily and well, and then measure the gauge of that un-felted swatch. The pattern calls for a gauge of 14 sts/4 inches and 21 rows/4 inches in an un-felted swatch. And my machine, wide open, only gives a gauge of 15 sts/4 inches and 21 rows/4 inches. That is as big as it gets, the machine won't make stitches any larger than that.

My husband piped up and asked the question that perhaps some of you are asking as well: It's only one stitch difference. What's the problem? Ah, but it's one stitch over four inches. Multiply that tiny little stitch by the total size of the unfelted vest, and you've got a project that doesn't fit when it's finished. At the stitch count that the pattern calls for, and knitting at my gauge, the vest would end up significantly smaller than intended.

Now say that like many of us, you see a pattern you love and there is a wonderful yarn at Kiwi that you have been just dying to use - but it doesn't quite fit. Or you are looking for a pattern to help you use up something that has been gathering dust in your stash. And your substitute yarn knits up at a different gauge than the yarn that the pattern calls for.

Or maybe you have the specified yarn, but you don't like the look of the fabric at the proper gauge. The swatch might feel too loose and open to you, or so tight that you could use it to scrub pots and pans. What do you do? Give up and move on to another project?

No. You recalculate your pattern, taking into account the gauge you are going to be using. The process is very, very simple, but it does contain several steps. Follow these simple steps and you are on your way to a successful project.

First of all, we know that gauge x size = stitch count. The number of stitches you get to the inch, times the size you want the project to be when finished, tells you how many stitches you need to cast on.

It wouldn't be appropriate for me to talk about the actual stitch count in the pattern that I used, so I am fudging that part a bit in my explanation, but all the rules are the same - no matter what the original gauge is, what your gauge is, or what the stitch count is.

1. Knit your gauge swatch and determine your new gauge.. Measure your stitch gauge and your row gauge. Write them down. Block your swatch. Measure the stitch gauge and row gauge again after blocking. Write them down. Why do I tell you to measure gauge before and after blocking? Your post-blocking gauge will guide you in getting the proper finished results. Your pre-blocking gauge provides you with a guideline to maintain as you are knitting, to ensure that you are staying on gauge and will get the results that you want. Because I am felting the finished project, that point is moot in my example, but it sure the heck won't be moot in your non-felted project. Take the time to take both before and after measurements and be a happier knitter.

My gauge = 15 sts/4 in. 21 rows/4 in.
Let's break that down into inches by dividing by four- 3.75 sts/in.

2. Find the pattern's original gauge requirement.
Original pattern (OP) gauge = 14 sts/4 in, or 3.5 sts/in. 21 rows/4 in.

My row gauge and the OP row gauge are the same, so we can ignore them, nothing needs to change there.

3. How many inches is the finished size of the OP?
In my example we will pretend that the original pattern for a 40-inch finished size is asking me to cast on 140 sts. If we do the math, we know that 140 sts divided by 3.5 sts/in = 40 inches. Or, 3.5/140=40.

4. Substitute your new gauge.40 inches x 3.75 sts/in = 150 sts to cast on.

This means that I have to cast on 150 stitches at my new gauge of 3.75sts/in in order to get a 40" chest measurement in my final garment.

Still with me? Good.

Okay, you cast on 150 stitches and knit up to where the armhole shaping starts. Now the original pattern asks you to bind off 9 stitches at the beginning of the next row. Divide nine stitches by the original gauge of 3.5sts/in and that is 2.57 inches to cast off in the OP. Let's multiply that 2.57 in. by my new gauge of 3.75sts/in, and I know that I have to cast off 9.64 sts in order to get the same decrease depth. Let's just call that 10 stitches and be done with it.

Next the pattern asks me to cast off 1 st at the armhole edge, every other row 6 times. That adds up, of course, to 6 more sts decreased. 3.5/6 = 1.71 inches. In order for me to achieve the closest equivalent, I then multiply that OP 1.71 inches by my 3.75sts/in and know that I have to cast off 6.42 sts. That can't happen, so I'll stick with 6 sts to cast off.

And so on. When the original pattern tells you to do something - bind off, cast on, whatever - for 'A' number of sts, divide 'A' by the OP sts/in in order to get the most basic unit. Next multiply the result of that by your new sts/in, and round the new result up or down accordingly. You'll get your desired fabric and size using your new gauge, and you'll be happy with the results.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Provisional Cast-on, Part Two

Well, I don't know about you, but that was a much longer pause than I had planned on. My camera, which I assume is to take pictures and videos when and as I demand, does not hold the same supposition.

So, as previously planned, go fetch yarn, plus waste yarn, and appropriately-sized needles. And watch...

Holding the two yarns together and leaving a 6-8" tail, tie the two yarns into a slip knot. Do not use an over-hand knot as it will be harder to take your knot apart later.

Looking at the thumb side of your hand, hold the yarn in your left hand with the waste yarn coming off of your index finger, and the working yarn under your thumb. and controlling the tension of these two yarns by holding them into your palm with your other fingers, just as you do for a long-tail cast-on. Hold the slip knot in your right hand, and your needle in your right hand, pointing towards your left hand. The two yarns should form a triangle between the knot in your right hand, and the upper waste yarn and lower working yarn held in your left hand.

Begin the cast on by
1 - putting your needle in between the two yarns, from front to back. Bring the needle under the working yarn from behind, and catch the working yarn with your needle to form the first stitch.
2- Bring the needle up and over the top of the waste yarn towards the back, and down behind both yarns. Bring the needle under the working yarn to the front, and catch the working yarn with the needle to form the second stitch, pulling this stitch behind the waste yarn, over the top of the waste yarn, and back to the front.

Repeat those two motions until you have the required number of cast-on stitches. Cut the waste yarn from its ball, leaving a 6" tail so that it doesn't unravel from the knitting. Proceed to knit as usual.

If you look carefully at the cast-on stitches and the waste yarn on your needle,before you start knitting, you will see that they are exactly the same as the Italian Tubular cast on. That, too, could be worked with waste yarn in the same manner as this provisional cast-on, but working the first two rows by knitting the knits and slipping the purls wyif, before launching into the K1, P1 rib as previously described.

With the provisional cast-on, when it is time to go back to the cast-on edge and begin knitting in the opposite direction, simply thread a needle 1-2 sizes smaller than you used to cast on with through the stitches where they are held on the waste yarn. Untie the slip knot from the cast-on, and remove the waste yarn from the stitches. Using the correct sized needle for your pattern, knit off of the smaller needle and proceed with your pattern.

And so goes the second of our three identical cast-ons...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Provisional Cast-on

Way back in mid-October, I promised to show you videos of three different cast-ons - that are all the exact same thing . Each of these cast-ons is used for a completely different purpose: the first, the Italian Tubular Cast-on, is used when starting a K1,P1 rib to give a nice, stretchy tubular cast-on. The second, which I will show you today, is one of several methods you can use to do a provisional cast-on.

What, you may well wonder, is a provisional cast-on used for? A provisional cast-on is used when you know that you will later want to go back to your cast-on edge, and have live stitches with which to begin working seamlessly in the opposite direction. Note that these stitches worked on the second half of your piece are then one-half stitch off sideways to the original knitting. Some examples of when I have used a provisional cast-on:

1. When working on a lace shawl that is knitted from the center out - work the provisional cast-on, knit one half of the shawl beginning at the center and working towards one side edge. The go back to the provisional cast-on, put live sts back onto the needle, and then knit a mirror image of the knitting just done on the other half. When finished with the shawl, there is no grafting to do to join the two halves of the shawl together.

2. On a fair isle vest that was knitted from the center back around to the fronts in two separate pieces, and then was meant to be seamed in the center back. Instead, I used a provisional cast-on, knitted one half of the vest, and repeated for the opposite side. I finished by grafting the two halves together in the back with Kitchener stitch. In retrospect, I would now instead knit the second half of the vest right off of the provisional cast-on for the first half.

3. On a toe-up sock that begins with a cast-on of half the total sock stitches at the base of the toe, under the foot. A short row toe is knitted that works from the cast-on, up over the end of the toe, and then to the base of the toes on the top of the sock foot. Here, the provisional cast-on stitches are then joined to the live stitches so that you are working in the round, and the rest of the sock is worked from there.

So a provisional cast-on or two is a handy technique to have under your belt, to pull out when called for in a pattern; and also to use as a substitute, as I did with my vest, when the occasion calls for it.

Now then, do me a favor, and for review go back and watch the first part of the Italian Tubular Cast-on video from the previous blog post. Then grab some yarn, some contrasting waste yarn, and needles in a size that is appropriate for your yarn. I'll meet you back here.