Happy Stitches

Keep your stitches smiling!

Domino Baby Blanket June 25, 2017

Filed under: Pattern highlight,Patterns,Sale — happystitches @ 09:51
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Lucy’s Domino Baby Blanket

 

Have you checked out this week’s sale pattern? Lucy’s Domino Baby Blanket is a straightforward project, resulting in a practical gift with serious heirloom pretensions, suitable for treasures of all ages, newborn to sage.

Perfect carry-around knitting, this blanket may be worked from a single yarn, several yarns or from small quantities of many colours of similar weight yarns. It looks ten times as much work as it is, making it one of those high-yield-of-elegance-per-unit-effort projects. This versatile pattern can be knit using any yarn weight.

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The Domino Baby Blanket pattern is half-price ($4.50 CAD) until June 28!

 

The Fiesta Family – Flying Swallows Stitch May 7, 2015

Fiesta Vest  Photo by Pauline Rook

Fiesta Vest
Photo by Pauline Rook

I’m always interested to see which garments in my traveling trunk show catch people’s attention. This trip it was particularly the Fiesta Vest. I was teaching buttonholes and bands, thus had the vest with me. I ended up explaining this stitch many times!

So here it is for you too.

This was the stitch I developed first for my Fiesta Feet Socks (which are on sale this week).

As I enjoyed it so much, I then went on to use it in the Fiesta Mittens and Fiesta Stocking patterns.

Do take time to read the comments as various aspects of this stitch are discussed.

Do not attempt to work this stitch flat, unless you enjoy WS row decreases and cutting your yarn frequently!

Worked in the round with a steek, you’ll have much more fun.

 

A Little Excursion into Fox Paws April 26, 2015

Fox Paws designed by Xandy Peters

Fox Paws designed by Xandy Peters

Fox Paws is a crazily unique design by Xandy Peters. I’ve long regarded knitting a creation from another designer as an excursion into their brain. It’s often an interesting journey. In this case, it resembled an extremely enjoyable potholing or spelunking trip.

My first acquaintance with Fox Paws was whilst on my way to speak to the Snohomish Guild in Washington. My kindly and thoughtful drivers factored in time to stop at a beautiful yarn store, Serial Knitters, should the traffic gods be with us. They were. The Fox Paws wrap displayed in the window stopped my in my tracks before I even entered. It was the most striking, beautiful and un-knitting-like piece of knitting I have ever seen.

It was extraordinary. I began to hear a little of its story: about the store knitalong and the fact that the Yarn Harlot had knit one fairly recently.

After Madrona, I headed east for some housebound winter hibernation and resolved to give this design a whirl. I don’t usually have much time for recreational knitting, it takes away from my available time to work on the designs I have brewing. I purchased Xandy’s pattern on Ravelry anyway (I sometimes just buy a pattern as a vote of support for the designer despite knowing I may never knit it. I file it under Retirement Projects).  At this point, I had been happily chugging away at my Blossom blanket for the last six months, and the rounds were a merry 1400+ sts in Kauni. Although I love Kauni, it is not the most satin soft of yarns. My hands were craving a bit of variety, and some indulgence with Cat’s Pajamas was very alluring. Done deal. I was curious.

I paused to read Steph’s blog post.  Her  knitting adventures always make for great reading, and she had dropped a few cryptic remarks about vows of silence and the k5togs(among others!) when I saw her at Madrona . A long road trip loomed, the perfect time for some recreational knitting. I would leaven the Blossom with the Fox Paws. Yarns were packed, always a last minute grab and go for me. I leapt in blind.

The first mistake I made was that I changed colour straight after casting on (reading error on my part), but I actually like it and copied it for the bind off. At first, I kept losing my place in the row (this is not a design to allow your attention to even momentarily wander) and this work is not easy to unknit or count. I quickly learned not to embark on a row unless I could go the whole way. Fortunately, the Trans Canada Highway across New Brunswick is singularly unexciting.  I was fine unless my driver had the temerity to try to engage me in conversation. I did find it a bit tricky to read the multi-line rows, it took total concentration to keep track of where I was and how many times I had repeated an action. This would have been a great time to make an audio pattern. (Speak the row out at knitting speed and record it on your phone. Play it back through your ear bud as you knit: no need to take your eyes off the work).

Throughout the growth of the first repeat, I found myself marveling at Xandy’s creativity and cunning (also wondering what mind-altering concoction she must have been ingesting at the time). This is a superbly clever design. There is an excellent logic to the design: the vertical stacks of stitches that make the fingers and the stalks have a pleasing consistency along the same row. It really helps if you are familiar with the k1-O-k1 increase before you begin (one of my favourite increases). The clumps of extra stitches do feel a little awkward on the needle, and the frequent slipping of two stitches back to the left-hand takes a little practice (you will get plenty). The joining method, which is heralded by the k5tog, is dependable and easy to remember once you have done a couple. The pattern is made additionally challenging because the pattern action rows (believe me this is James Bond kind of knitting action) take place on WS rows. This makes it harder to keep your bearings.

This is NOT take it to the guild evening kind of knitting.

In fact, peaceful music without lyrics is about all I could handle.  I limited myself to one pattern row per knitting session, and there were times when that was enough! Fox Paws is quite challenging but might well change the way you think about knitting stitches. I can only imagine the considerable work it took to design and write this pattern, Xandy has done a great job, hats off to her!

Cat's Pajamas Solids

The  Cat’s Pajamas colours that I used were: Lime, Hot Pink, Mango, Turquoise and Damson

If I were to make another Fox Paws, I would:

#1 Use wood or bamboo needles with lace tips: Addi lace or Hiya Hiya sharps.

#2 Once I have chosen the colours and designated them A – E, I would take the time to colour code the table of colours to save confusion.

#3 Practice the k1-O-k1 increase and the k5tog decrease. This decrease isn’t too bad if you slide all 5 stitches onto the taper of the left needle before attempting to stuff the second needle into them. Lace needles would help a lot.

#4 Develop a personal shorthand diagram for each pattern row.  I’d reduce the stacks of stitches to an annotation of stack 3 or stack 2 and reduce the joining method to  dec+2 or dec+3. This is not something the designer could or should do for you. It’s about how you picture it. In my mind this would be a combination of diagram and text.

#5  Read the knitting. Pay attention to the stacking of the double decreases (at the junction between repeats), if they don’t line up vertically every alternate row, something has gone wrong.  The k1-O-k1 increase at the top of the fingers should be  over the central stitch. It’s hard to fudge the numbers if they are off and this pattern is NOT easy to un-knit.

#6 Keep the stitches nearer the tips of the needles than usual.

#7 And lastly, I would NOT rely on stitch counting – it’s very hard to do and there are an awful lot of them on some rows!

All in all, this design is well worth the effort, and the results are just fabulous!

Happy Stitches!

Air Conditioned Mittens from A Little Book of BIG Holes for Hand-knitters!

Air Conditioned Mittens from A Little Book of BIG Holes for Hand-knitters!

As a side note: our Flash Sale on Bundles has been extended until Thursday!  Bundles are collections of patterns and other digital products which will be stored in your Notebook upon purchase.  Take a look, you might find something to inspire you!

 

Dare to compare: What technique is right for you? March 25, 2015

A pair of matching Paradoxical mittens.

A pair of matching Paradoxical mittens.

Here’s a Knitting Hint: Dare to compare! When you are debating with yourself about the very best way to hold your yarns or knit up stitches, the most suitable decrease or buttonhole, or any of the other myriad of choices we face as engaged knitters, take a little time to play. Try the various methods open to you. Practice them in close proximity so you can directly compare the results.

Private side comparison of Paradoxical mittens swatch

Private side comparison of two Paradoxical mittens.

Paradoxical Mittens: swatch

Public side comparison of the same two Paradoxical mittens: note the difference in colour dominance

Making a small swatch, looking at it, ripping it out and then redoing it another way won’t give you the necessary comparison. It is not a truly useful experiment.

The pictures above demonstrate an extreme example of colour or stitch dominance, shown using my Paradoxical Mittens pattern. The samples show identical mittens – but one was worked with the dark yarn as the contrast (held in left hand), while the other was worked with the yarns held the other way.  What incredibly different results!   Either one would look fine on its own, but they don’t work as a pair. As you see, the difference is not evident unless we compare them side by side. (By the way, there is no need to work a whole experimental mitten, a modest swatch will usually do nicely!)

I love it when at workshops the cry goes up: “My goodness, you are right!”  It’s not that I’m on a power trip, wanting everyone to do things my way, but I do like knitters to explore their options and come to their own conclusions.  If it happens to be the same one I reached, that’s cool, but it doesn’t have to be.  Different techniques work differently for different people.  Occasionally, there is no ‘right’ answer — only the one best suited to you, your yarn and your knitting circumstances.  Experimenting with the options available to you is fun and educational: that’s why I included the small “Challenge Swatches” at the end of each chapter in my Cool Knitters Finish in Style book, inviting you to try a variety of methods and draw your own conclusions. Be curious: play with your stitches, make them smile!

Paradoxical Mittens

Paradoxical Mittens: feeling right at home on Big Tancook Island!

The Paradoxical Mittens are on sale for half-price this week only!  Before you begin your project, try working with the dark yarn as the contrast in one swatch and the light yarn as contrast in another.  See the difference?

 

The Storm Mountain DK Hat March 19, 2015

Storm Mountain DK Hat

The Storm Mountain Hat features built-in insulating air spaces!

Nova Scotians are digging out after yet another massive storm, with some parts of the province having received upwards of 50cm of snow.  Add to that the 70km/hr winds, and most of us  are now tunneling through drifts much taller than ourselves!

Sometimes the best solution to life’s little problems is to sit back, pull out some yarn and needles, and start a new knitting project. With that in mind, and as a small consolation to our Nova Scotian friends, we’ve decided to offer the aptly named Storm Mountain DK Hat for only $3.50 (half-price) this week!

This warm double-layer hat has built-in insulating air spaces between the layers. The hat uses two yarns: the inner yarn is the only one that touches the head and occasionally appears on the public side of the hat. The exterior colour only ever appears on the outside of the hat. The air spaces are created by working more rounds on the exterior fabric than on the interior layer.
We added a bonus to the updated pattern a few months ago, which features an alternate top I like to call the Space Cadet option!

The Space Cadet Topper option will work for any size Storm Mountain Hat you choose to knit: here it is on a baby-siazed version, knit with my Cat's Pajamas Yarn

The Space Cadet Topper option will work for any size Storm Mountain Hat you choose to knit: here it is on a baby-siazed version, knit with my Cat’s Pajamas Yarn

Wishing you Happy Stormy Stitches!

 

Binding Off – Fast and Loose! February 25, 2015

Filed under: Knitting tips and hints,Pattern highlight,Youtube,Youtube Videos — happystitches @ 08:54
The Zen Mountain Scarf with super long picots

The Zen Mountain Scarf with super long picots

I’ve always disliked the usual process of binding off. The tedious action of grabbing the first stitch by the scruff of its neck and hauling it over the second stitch is unpleasant for all concerned. So I set to playing, and came up with a method I called: Modified Conventional Bind-Off. It’s structurally identical to a regular bind-off, but faster (with a little practice) and looser. You both knit the next stitch and bind off the outer one in one single knitting-like movement. It is a matter of training the left-hand needle to take a more active role.

I developed this method of binding off years back and have been teaching it ever since. Many knitters have made a complete conversion to this method. (Bonus: No more too-tight neck bind-offs.) The only time I revert to the conventional method is for three-needle bind-off.  However, caution is advised: The discovery of this way of using the needles led me to suffer from a major outbreak of picots, and this may also happen to you! Picots are decorative cast-on/bind-off extensions which may be used on a cast-on or a bound-off edge, mid-row or at the sides of your work. Picots, which hitherto had been a pain, now became fun. The first product of this picot-mania was my Sea Lettuce Scarf pattern, which has become a perennial favourite. It also led to the delightful Loopy Edging used on my Almost Saintly Socks, and for the super-long picots on the Zen Mountain Scarf.

Loopy Edging on the Almost Saintly Socks

Loopy Edging on the Almost Saintly Socks

 

 

On a Knit Row _ K1, * slip the tip of the left-hand needle purlwise into the new stitch and, pointing it towards the back of the work, keep the needle in this position whilst you put the tip of right-hand needle knitwise (as usual) into the next stitch to be worked. (This will feel awkward at first.) The right-hand needle should stick out at the back BETWEEN the second and first stitches, thus forcing the two stitches to form an X on the needle. Throw the yarn as for a normal knit stitch, bring the loop through both stitches in turn (between the legs of the X at the front of the needle). Drop the old stitches from the left-hand needle. Repeat from *.

On a Purl Row _ P1, ** slip the tip of the left-hand needle purlwise into the new stitch and angle it towards the back, slip the tip of the right-hand needle purlwise into the next st to be worked, p2tog.  Repeat from **.

It is very easy to misinterpret these directions and get a different result: the underlined phrase above is where this most commonly occurs. Instead of projecting the needle between the two stitches at the back, the knitter, consumed by the goal of binding off, goes further and pulls the second stitch out through the first one, to the side of the work and then knits it. This produces a beautiful edge, ideal for a finished edge not intended to be seamed (especially when worked in a contrasting colour). However, is it structurally different: it is a suspended bind-off which is hard to unravel and difficult to seam over.

BTW: The reason that a regular bind-off is usually too tight when worked with the same needle size as the project is that you are linking stitches on their sides (the bound off chain) across the width of the same number of stitches. Stitches are wider than they are tall. Ergo, the edge becomes tight.

The reason that this method is looser is that, as you swing your right-hand needle around into the second stitch, it elongates the stitch held on both needles. How much the stitch is stretched is up to you; the depth of the insertion of the needle tips and how far you crank it around are for you to control.

It is very likely that this method exists out there by some other name, as it’s too logical not to have been discovered before. I have recently heard it referred to as the Latvian Bind-off but haven’t yet found a video to confirm this. There are several similar methods but none that I have found yet that exactly replicate the structure of a regular chain bind-off.

Please send me links about similar bind-off methods if you find any.

To make this bind-off your own, practice it everyday for a week! It doesn’t have to be a whole project: just cast on 10 sts and then bind them off again. You are in knit-training!

 

Long-Tail Cast On Revisited January 26, 2015

Air Conditioned Mittens from A Little Book of BIG Holes for Hand-knitters!

Air Conditioned Mittens from A Little Book of BIG Holes for Hand-knitters!

I love Long-tail cast-on! It’s so versatile and very easy to control. I opted for showing Knitted cast-on for my Brand New Knitter DVD as it includes so many elements that are repeated in an actual knit stitch and it will form stitches no matter how randomly they are made. But as soon as the basics are established and the knitter is comfortable with stitches, it will be time to explore the Long-tail method. This method is, in essence, a series of stitches (made with the ball yarn) knitted through a series of loops (made with the tail yarn).

It is otherwise known as Continental cast-on – but the name “Long-tail” reminds the knitter that a long tail of yarn is needed. I’m all in favor of helpful names!

In this video I demonstrate Long-tail cast-on and explore some of its many attributes!

I  demonstrate this cast-on by using two colours to differentiate the functions of the tail and ball yarns. It’s important to understand the role of the two yarns. If you use your tail yarn to make the twists around the feet of the new stitches, it can be unpicked or cut away at a later time as a form of provisional edge (not the most convenient one, but it will work).

Estimating the tail length is often cited as a problem with this method.  I recommend 4 times the width of the edge, which is usually perfect. You don’t want to have to economize on tail yarn length because you are running out, else your edge will wind up too tight. The tail yarn controls the spacing between the stitches (and YOU control the tail yarn).

Fear of tangles in the tail yarn sometimes leads knitters to economize on the length, too. No problem dealing with that: If you wind the tail into a butterfly, it keeps it tidy and allows it to turn and release the twists that tend to un-ply, and hence weaken, your tail yarn.

Long-tail calls for a little finesse from the knitter in balancing the tension between the two yarns. There is no reason why the new stitches should ever be tight. There is no need for a larger size needle to be used, either, as this only leads to baggy stitches and won’t affect the width of your edge.  You are in control of the tension and of the spacing of the stitches.

You’re the boss.

If you enjoy my You Tube videos – please tell your friends and sign up for my channel lucyknit

The Air Conditioned mittens pictured above in Abstract Fibers yarn, used Long-tail cast-on before the “holey” edge. This pattern is available in my ebook A Little Book of BIG Holes for Hand-knitters!

 

 
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