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.

Think RELAX

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.

Think ALIGNMENT

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.

Ahhhhhhh.

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!!

Socks with Long-tail Cast On

Let me tell you one of my favorite stories, one that only a knitter will truly appreciate, about socks with Long-tail Cast on.

Once up on a time, in  yarn store far, far away, my Mum and I were browsing the shelves and inhaling the fumes. You know, as you do.  This was not long after I had finally convinced my mother that knitting with a needle smaller than a size 7 US was not going to kill her, and her subsequent addiction to sock knitting.

It was also a week after I had had spend HOURS doing researching on sock cast ons. I was tired of my sock tops being too tight.  I had found an article (no link, this was YEARS ago, back when we used books  and I have NO idea where, sorry!) that said that hands down the best method to cast on for a sock was the Old Norwegian Method. Which I then learned and fell in love with!  I didn’t see my Mum as often back then so I had yet to share this revelation with her.

Favorite Cast On

Socks with Long-tail Cast OnSo there we were ogling yarn and Mum suddenly asks me, totally out of the blue  “What is your favorite cast on for socks?” Her question had been in a normal tone of voice, but it was a small shop,  a nice lady behind the counter and maybe three or four other patrons, and so everyone heard it.

You have to admit that that is a fairly sensible question. There are LOTS of ways to cast on, and some are better than others for socks.  It was a great question.

I have no idea what sort of an answer she expected, but my casual response “Oh, my favorite cast on for socks is the Old Norwegian.” Just about knocked her down.  We stared at each other in numb amazement – me that she would ask me that question so randomly (she had never asked my opinion on technique before to be sure) and she that I would answer with a cast on she had never heard of.

We both looked a bit stunned and then we guffawed!  Just about rolled in the isles. You know when something is terribly funny, but you can’t define why? Yes, that.

Of course, then we had to stop laughing as we had a little in-shop mini-lesson as I taught everyone in the shop this “new” cast on called Old Norwegian.

I should probably say here that while I do sometimes knit toe up, my preferred direction is top down, so cast on method is CRUCIAL!

New Socks

Socks with Long-tail Cast OnI thought of this story the other day when I was casting on a pair of socks at Knit Night at my LYS. (Local Yarn Store) Anyway, after I had cast on and was starting to knit someone gently touched my shoulder.  “Oh dear, you have started knitting with yarn end, not the skein.” She was quite surprised when I told her that was on purpose.  She was very interested in why, and I thought you might be too.

SHOPPING!

When I was in Baltimore recently I did some yarn shopping. Well, I tried.  Of the five shops I found on Google before I left, and only two of them were viable. One had shut down, and two were “by appointment only.” Not conducive to a good yarn crawl!, for sure!

Lovely Yarns is inside Baltimore (in Hampden) and that was were I got the sock yarn.  The color is called Blue Jay, it was from a local dyer and I am really in love with knitting with it.

Cloverhill (just outside the city, in Cantonsville) was even better!  At Cloverhill I was so comfortable I sat and knit for a while and then bought THREE braids of fiber to take home and spin!!

Long Tail Cast Ons

One of the problems with Long Tail cast ons is that one often finds that they have either not enough of a tail to cast on the number they need, or too much of a long tail left over at the end.  I know that there are methods to figure out exactly how much you need (1/2 an inch for every stitch you cast on) but honestly, that’s too much like hard work. I generally cast on about 60 stitches for a sock and so I usually measure out about a yard and a half for my tail.  (If you do the math, that’s too long)

And, big surprise, it’s always more than I need. I am OK with that.  I would much rather have more than I need than less than I need. What I am NOT OK with is wasting that extra yarn.  I am a bit of a miser when it comes to most things, and anything more than 6 inches is a waste in my book.

But here is what I do – rather than cut off that end I USE it.  Here is my process.

Start right

Normally if I used a non-long-tail cast on I don’t worry about the join.  When I sew my end in I will be able to massage the jog at the join. I can make it invisible when I sew in the end.  But as you will see, I do not have an end at the edge of my sock. I must do something else to make sure the join is solid. (There is a yarn end to sew in, it just won’t be on the edge.

To make my join more solid I cast on an extra stitch.  If the pattern calls for 60, I cast on 61.  Then when I get to the end of first round of ribbing I knit together the first and the last stitches that I cast on.  This reduces or eliminates the “jog” in the join.

Knit with the end

The is one other thing I do.  When I finish casting on I work my first round with my yarn end.

When you are a new knitter they say “Make sure you don’t use your yarn end!”  And that is absolutely correct.  However, I am rather fond of breaking the odd rule now and then, and I am NOT fond of wasting yarn.

I start ribbing with the yarn end.

If I get a whole round done with the yarn end then I continue knitting with  it.  However I knit the first stitch of the second round with both yarns.  One stitch with both the yarn end and the skein yarn together  will not be noticeable.  Then continue working with just the yarn end.  This is so that the skein yarn “keeps up” with the yarn end.

Eventually I will run out of yarn end.  And by “run out” I mean I will only have 6 or 7 inches left.  Then I stop. Slip my stitches around on the needle as necessary and restart that round with my skein yarn.

Wait, What?

Yes, I just stop in the middle of the round, slip my stitches so I am back to the beginning of the round, and start with the skein yarn as if nothing had happened.

I know what you are thinking.  First, you are thinking “you can’t just stop in the middle of the round!” and in fact, yes you can.  The ribbing for your sock is anywhere from 1.5 inches to 4 inches long depending on the pattern.  You are knitting with sock weight yarn – so pretty small yarn – and I promise you it won’t be enough to make your socks “lopsided.”

I have been doing this for years.  Frugal I cal it. Cheap others call it.  And now that I am on the cusp of knitting socks with my own handspun, you can be absolutely certain sure I will continue to be frugal with yarn when I knit socks.

This not only eliminates yarn waste, it also eliminates the slight bump on the edge where you weave in your yarn.  You still have a slight bump, of course. But it’s further down the ribbing and not right on the edge. This makes it harder to see and impossible to feel when you wear the socks. Or when you grab the opening to put them on.

Is this a bit unnecessary? Absolutely.  It’s just my inner OCD kicking in, and totally not something that will work for everyone.  But it works for me, and now you have the option to find out if it works for you!  Have fun! KNIT SOCKS!!!!

 

 

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