Designer Choices, and YOU!

Here is a little something for you to think about, a little mindfulness prompt about designer choices, and you.

Some people are confident enough to use patterns as “recipes” and don’t always do what they are told to do. Other people hold onto the pattern for all they are worth and hate going off script.

There are strengths and weaknesses to both ways of doing things. But sometimes a pattern can make your life more difficult than it has to be for no good reason.

Knit In the Front and Back

Here is an example.

Whenever a pattern says to “increase 1 at edge” or “decrease the end of the next two rows” or something similar – be mindful!  Take a second and think about what you plan to do with this piece.  You do have choices, no matter what the pattern might say, so take a moment to think about it.

Let’s say I am making a sweater, and I am working on the sleeves.  The pattern tells me “knit in the front and back of the first stitch at each end of every alternate row 5 times.”  So I knit in the font and the back of the first stitch and then again in the last stitch of the right side row.  Then I work a wrong side row, and then repeat my increase row.  Can you see it?

This is what will happen: the edge of my sleeve will have little “bump-outs” every time I have worked an increase row. This will make my life rather difficult when I come to sew my sleeve edges together. If I sew it together right along the edge it will be bumpy and uneven.  If I sew it together a stitch from the edge it will be straight and even, but I will have a very thick seam.  This will make the sleeve feel bulky and ugly as well as making the sleeve a bit smaller in circumference.  Not optimal.

More than one option

Here is another choice.

Instead of knitting in the front and back of the first and last stitch one could choose to knit in the front and back of the SECOND stitch and the NEXT TO LAST stitch.

How does this make a difference?

Instead of a sharp bump-out on the increase rows there is a minor bump out (which I can make even less if I do my increase on the third stitch) which makes the seam smoother.  It also gives me a nice clean edge stitch (that hasn’t been messed with) to sew the edges together. Thus making my seam straighter, thinner and not bulky inside.

Additionally,  if I were knitting this, I would wonder if “knit in the front and back” was the most efficient way to increase.

If you do that type of increase you will have a purl bump for each “knit in back” part of the increase.  If you are working in seed stitch or a pattern of some kind this might not matter.  However if you are working in stockinette that will really show up. I would probably make a stitch instead.

If I used “make a stitch” instead of “knit in the front and the back” then you will still see it, especially since it will be a bit away from the edge, but it will be smooth and regular, and will not stand out at all.

So why did the pattern author choose to do it that way?

Sometimes, there is a reason for why the designer make a specific choice in a pattern. A professional pattern designer has a lot of tricks up their sleeve, and lots of options – and I think most of the time we can trust them to know what they are doing.

But sometimes I think designers get lazy.  They are looking at the big picture and tiny little choices get overlooked.

More often though the problem comes from that fact that we are living in a Ravelry and Pattern Fish world.  Which means that sometimes we end up with patterns from not-so-professional designers.

It’s not uncommon for patterns you get on-line to be unedited and untried by anyone other than the designer.  To be honest that is how my patterns happen.  I write them as I knit the project, usually so I can remember what I have done for ME, not for anyone else.

If I like what turns out I write the pattern out, then follow the pattern to knit the item again, just to make sure it works the way I say it does.  I rarely have people knit my patterns before I distribute them. Unfortunately, I don’t make enough money to hire a professional pattern editor.

But just because a pattern is super edited and slickly designed doesn’t always get you the right choices.  Sometimes there are just better ways to get to the same end.

A little mindfulness on your part can save you time and energy in the long run.


It’s up to you

Going off script in a pattern is not for everyone.  But being mindful is something that every knitter should cultivate.  Where and how you place increases or decreases is something that any knitter can take charge of and own.  If you aren’t sure it’s a good idea ask a knitting friend.  Or just try it for a bit and then see what you think.  No one ever died from having to unravel five rows of knitting, that I know of.

Be mindful and then be adventurous, you might really like where it takes you!!


Don’t forget that even though the Tour de Fleece doesn’t start until July we are starting to warm up NOW! If you are a spinner,  consider joining us (it’s free!) and learn about how much FUN we have!!

First Stitch Syndrome

Have your heard of First Stitch Syndrome?

It’s a dreadful affliction that sometimes affects new knitters!

Symptoms include: fear of being an inferior knitter, disliking what you have knit, sighing and feeling inept, and very often ripping out perfectly good pieces of knitting.

And all because the edge of their knitting looks sloppy

The good news is that there is a VERY SIMPLE CURE!

I am going to share it with you today, and hopefully you can help me spread it and we can end the terrible affliction of First Stitch Syndrome.

The Symptom

The problem is that when you knit flat (not in the round) you have an edge to your knitting, and therefore, an edge stitch.

This edge stitch often ends up being larger than it’s next door neighbor. This results in a whole line of big, sloppy stitches.  Sloppy edge stitches make sewing up a chore because you have big holes and it just looks MESSY.

The really frustrating thing for some new knitters is that they can see the problem – and they have a solution!

At the next edge they knit the first stitch and they pull, and pull and pull so the stitch is SOOOO tight there is no WAY it can end up sloppy, but four or five stitches in they look back and there it is – sloppy again!

But knowing that they DID pull it tight they do it again on the next edge, and on the next and end up frustrated and depressed and exclaiming things like “I just can’t get it right” or ” I will never learn to knit correctly!”  There is often gnashing of teeth  and can sometimes even be wailing!

The Problem

First Stitch Syndrome is a devilishly annoying.  Let’s break the problem down.

You want the first stitch you knit in the row to be the same size as the others, so you pull really tight on that stitch to “tame” it, and FORCE it to be tight.  In effect you are asking the stitch to be SMALLER than it wants to be, smaller in fact that the needle size you are using.

But unfortunately as soon as you go onto the second stitch the first stitch relaxes and before you know it you have a stitch that is slouching in the corner like a angst filled teenager.

It doesn’t matter how hard you pull on that yarn as you make the stitch, it always relaxes as you move on.

This doesn’t happen very often with other stitches, it’s only edge one that causes so much trouble.

The problem is that the edge stitches are only supported on ONE SIDE.  All the other stitches in your row have stitches on BOTH sides, so they are supported and sustained and keep their shape.

But it’s the very nature of an edge stitch to be ON THE EDGE. So what’s a poor knitter to do?

The Solution

There is a cure to First Stitch Syndrome. Think about these things first.


Pulling, yanking, forcing or otherwise getting violent with your yarn will do nothing to solve the problem and much to raise your blood pressure. So the first step to a cure is to relax. Let go of your frustration, it is only adding to the problem.

Think TAUT

When you knit the size of your stitches is determined by your needle. Not by you, not by your muscle strength, but by the needle.  Every stitch should be the same size because the NEEDLE makes that decision.  A good knitter develops a habit of not knitting too loosely or too tightly, but so that each stitch fits snug and taut (not sloppy or tight) around the needle.

Hopefully you have already developed this habit with the “inner” stitches, so now let’s make sure your edge stitches work the same way.


This is important: Your edge stitches are not alone. They DO have stitches on either side of them.  They have the second stitch, obviously. But they also have the last stitch of the last row. It’s sitting below the edge stitch, you just finished it! And you know what? You thought you were done with it and have cavalierly just abandoned it to it’s fate and moved onto the next row. Big mistake.

You need to have both the last stitch of the last row, and the first stitch of this row in alignment. Then they are both supported on both sides, and they won’t go all loosey-goosey on you.

  1. Knit the fist stitch in the row as usual – do not go crazy trying to pull it tight, let the needle with do the work. Relax.
  2. Put your needle into the next stitch (the second stitch in the row), wind your yarn around the needle AS IF to make the stitch, but pause.
  3. Pull the yarn TAUT (don’t make the stitch yet), not tight.
  4. Watch your yarn as you slowly pull it taut, make sure that it is pulling from the LAST stitch of the last row, THROUGH the first stitch so that they are BOTH the right size.
  5. Let that size be determined by your needle, not by your frustration.
  6. When the previous two stitches are in ALIGNMENT, complete the second stitch.

Now go on about your business, worry free.

The second stitch will hold the tautness of the first stitch (which is holding the tautness of the last stitch) and you can move on with confidence.


Now, doesn’t that feel better?

Practice that a few times, and then make it a part of your knitting repertoire so that you never have to worry about sloppy first stitches again…ever!


Don’t forget that even though the Tour de Fleece doesn’t start until July we are starting to warm up NOW! If you are a spinner,  consider joining us (it’s free!) and learn about how much FUN we have!!

Fibers of Mass Destruction

So, imagine you were wandering through a fiber festival touching the fibers, sniffing the sheep, loving the shawl pins, the drop spindles and the yarn bowls and suddenly- out of the mist of yarn fumes you saw this:

Wouldn’t you want to buy it? I mean, based on the name alone I was hooked!!

“Ruthlessly blended” and “Handle with extreme care.” I was hooting!

Then I saw the names of the fiber colors – and my heart skipped a beat.  How incredibly clever and fun, and…dangerous?

How on earth can you make sheep’s fiber – one of the softest, warmest, and least harmful things in the world sound DANGEROUS? One super fun way to do that is to give them names like this:


And it was packaged so you couldn’t touch it.  As if even a touch with an inquisitive finger might mean a visit to a plastic shrouded hospital room with grave men and women in bright yellow plague suits shuffling around tutting…


Mummy for the win!

But, of course, there WAS some fiber on display that you could touch and it was the softest, sweetest Corriedale with accompanying fiber buddies – and I was pulling out my wallet…

When Mummy WON it in the raffle!

This has happened before.  It is true that I get to spin the best fibers because she wins it, or (shuffling feet and looking slightly sheepish) someone cleverly gives it to her for Christmas…

So, the Fibers of Mass Destruction came home with us.

I must admit I rather gloated over it for a few weeks, but as Tour de Fleece 2017 started to loom on my spinning horizon I began to contemplate…how did I want to spin it.

Mum said she wanted a scarf, but she isn’t really into super thin lace, she likes a scarf that is long and stout enough to really keep her warm, so a DK-sport weight would work best.  We knew that  7 ounces would never be enough, and after some discussion we decided to get some of the gray.  The gray is pure Corriedale and it shows up in each of the mixes.  We decided that I would spin the colors as one ply and the gray as the second ply.

The very friendly Ken at Homestead Hobbyist helped us order what we needed.

We need a plan!

It wasn’t until the gray actually arrived, right in the middle of the tour, that I decided that our spinning/plying plan was never going to work.

Weaving has taught me more about colors than I used to know, and it was clear that the light gray would dilute the color, rather than make it pop, so the plan was revised.

I spun the seven little fiber of destruction samples into little 150 yard long skeins (approximately).  See the transformation below!

I am so in love with these little beauties!

How could we use tiny balls of yarn to create serious pops of color?  We really didn’t want tiny blips of color, we wanted them to really sing.

We could do stripes of the color, but we really wanted them to stand out, and for the knit to be fun…then we had a brainwave – DIAGONAL! If we did the scarf on the diagonal, and worked the gray in simple garter, and the colors in a fun lace…And with that all our worries went away, we knew exactly what to do!

Mission Accomplished!

And here it is.








We are quite pleased with it.  Mummy’s idea of the idiot cord around the edge really pulled the whole thing together.  I really think it looks lovely on her.  (Yes, it’s true,  I promised not to use the picture of your face, Mum.  But honestly, you are so adorable I couldn’t help it!)

So it’s done, and so cheerful and very soft and warm. And just in time! Baby, it’s cold out there!


Don’t forget that even though the Tour de Fleece doesn’t start until July we are starting to warm up NOW! If you are a spinner,  consider joining us (it’s free!) and learn about how much FUN we have!!


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