Happy Stitches

Keep your stitches smiling!

Seamless Knitting – the fly in the ointment (and how to swat it). April 16, 2015

Pinstripe Mitten

Pinstripe Mitten

Very few knitters love finishing and assembling garments – I admit, it’s not my favourite stage either, but the satisfaction of a beautiful seam can go a long way to compensating.

Even if you are studiously avoiding finishing, and decide to knit the top of a raglan sweater all in one, there is still the under-arm seam that  needs to be joined. The underarm is a perfect place to get-away-with-it. This is a great place to have a cobbled together seam, very few people will check it. However, deep down, you will probably feel that you are letting down your otherwise impeccable knitting.

Fear not: here’s a method using waste yarn flaps that will help you to join and finish the underarm beautifully!

And now, how to gather and neaten the holes on either side of the grafted join.

The idea of using a waste yarn flap in place of cast on stitches can be used in a number of different situations such as mitten thumbs. A double waste yarn flap method was used for making the double thumb on the Pinstripe Mittens.

Let me of any other applications you come up with!

BTW Our half-price pattern of the week is the Cloud Scarf and Stole. This is an easy to finish design with integral side edgings.

Cloud Stole in Mango Celestial Merino knit by Susan Hannah

Cloud Stole in Mango Celestial Merino knit by Susan Hannah

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Born to be knit! (Tips for seaming up with knitting yarn.) April 2, 2015

Grafting stitches head to head

Grafting stitches head to head

Knitting yarn has very limited outlook on life.  There are certain high points in its existence: the first of which is to bewitch a passing knitter with its qualities of colour, luster and feel. It will cleverly seduce you, persuading you that life apart from this particular skein of yarn would be an unbearably bleak existence.  So you make the acquisition and take the treasured skein home. This is, indeed, a great day.

Take ME home....

Take ME home….

Once home, the skein settles in, possibly with a few soft companions. Life is good.

Now the waiting game begins: restiveness amongst the yarn buddies begins to occur. Whose turn will it be next? A certain amount of surreptitious fiber shuffling may occur under the cover of darkness to facilitate optimal positioning to the top of the stash pile. Ah, patience is required.

The great day dawns, the skein of yarn is lifted from the pack and taken to the swift for winding into a center-pull ball. Hallelujah!!! All’s well with the world. Or, less fortunately, the skein is wound into a cannonball style presentation. The yarn feels a painfully stressed by this turn of events, but consoles itself that it will be knit soon.

Knitting proceeds, and the yarn perceives itself more on an individual stitch by stitch basis rather than collectively as a skein. The mid-row stitches are ecstatic! The end of row stitches rather less so, but it’s better than being stuck in a cupboard. As the project progresses, the remaining yarn begins to worry: is it not going to be required? Will it end up with a life sentence in a drawer, with slim parole options? Or, horror of horrors, will it be the bit that is used for sewing up?

No wonder it is anxious! Sewing with yarn spun for knitting can be painful for both the sewer and the yarn. Most knitting yarn is woolen spun (as opposed to worsted spun), which, for the sake of brevity, means it is much less suited to being dragged in and out of a hole. It has more little fiber ends near the surface of the yarn and so can become draggly and weaken quite quickly. Then there is the knitter’s tendency to use huge, long lengths of yarn to sew with (in order to avoid a couple of additional yarn tails).  Sadly, the longer the yarn, the more times it has to be hauled through the fabric before it is used and the more the plies tend to untwist. From the knitter’s perspective, too, it takes just as long to haul through yards of yarn, to periodically re-twist the decomposing yarn, and every so often undo a tangle or knot in the sewing yarn as it takes to use two shorter (happier) lengths of yarn.

  • Tips for sewing-up with yarn: Use only modest lengths of yarn: up to 24 inches, or thereabouts. (As an experiment, next time cut your usual length of yarn and measure it!)
  • Leave yarn tails unfastened and dangling outside the work until you are happy with your seam. This way, if you don’t like a section, it may be pulled out easily.
  • If the yarn becomes un-plied as you sew, twist the needle periodically to retwist the plies.
  • Use the working yarn for grafting and visible seams, but consider using a finer, similarly coloured yarn for mattress stitch seams. I’d suggest using a similar fiber type as the original yarn. If you have any supplies of crewel wool (it’s worsted yarn spun in a million shades), they can be useful for sewing up wool garments.
  • Remember that the pinnacle of life experience for a piece of yarn is for a little loop to be gently drawn up through another welcoming loop of yarn. So knit on, my friends!Omo mix log gullsFor more advice on finishing (and rescues), from before you cast on to the last tail to be darned, read my book Cool Knitters Finish in Style. It’s still available in paper and also in digital format.
  • Cool Knitters Finish in Style cover

    Cool Knitters Finish in Style cover

 

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?

 

 
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