Browsed by
Month: July 2018

Teaching Tips: Recommending the Next Project

Teaching Tips: Recommending the Next Project

When you teach a knitting class, students often ask what pattern they should work on next.  Your answer should depend on the student’s goals.

If the student wants to practice the skills they have learned in the class they just finished, then suggest a pattern that has mostly or completely the same skills.  Prior to teaching a class, check the shop samples for patterns with similar skills you can recommend and/or make a short list of patterns from Ravelry that you can suggest.

If the student is working to increase skills with each project, then you should suggest a pattern with one or two new techniques.  That way the student can both practice the previous skills (important for retention) and try something new!  Again, look at shop samples for possibilities and also your shop’s class list for appropriate next step classes.  If you are using my Teacher Packs, the lessons can be taught in the order they are presented for a smooth progression of added skills.  Make sure students know where they can get help if they are working independently.

Of course, there will always be the knitter who after taking one or two classes, jumps in with both needles into a complex knitting pattern.  The best way to support these students is to help them step by step through each section of the pattern.  Don’t discourage them, we all learn differently, but give them the resources they need if they get stuck.  Think of these students as the type who loved taking four week summer courses that covered a semester’s work in college rather than pace it out over 16 weeks of a normal term.  These students will benefit from private lessons or from drop in troubleshooting classes.

Counting Your Stitches

Counting Your Stitches

There are a lot of tools out there for counting your stitches on a gauge swatch.  Here are three that I like and use regularly.

My good ol’ Susan Bates ruler:  Gauge rulers like this come in many variations, but the all involve an L-shaped hole in some kind of rigid material.  Lay it over your swatch, line up the L to a horizontal and vertical line of stitches and count away. Double the number you get to find your gauge over 4″ (10 cm).

The Gauge Grabber: These are designed to be one time use and may even be intended to keep on your swatch permanently, but I tend to use them several times until the sticky stops sticking.  What I like about these is that it’s a bit easier to count partial stitches than the opaque tools like my Susan Bates ruler above, because you can see the partial stitch on either side of the dividing line, making it easier to tell if that partial stitch is a 1/2 stitch or closer to a 1/4 stitch.  I also like that once they are stuck to the swatch, the stitches underneath don’t shift or move about, so they help keep me honest and make it harder to just give that little tug to make the gauge work out.

The Akerworks Swatch Gauge:  To use this ruler, you need to have a good sized swatch– ideally about 6″ (15 cm) square, really.  Gripping feet on four sides of the ruler keep your swatch from moving while you count.  And the semi-translucent plastic helps you judge the actual size of those partial stitches.  It has the widest counting space of the tools I’ve talked about, and the more inches you count, the more accurate your numbers will be.  4″ (10 cm) is the standard used in most patterns, so you can make a direct comparison to what’s written in your pattern.

No matter what ruler I use, I often count my stitches in several places on the swatch, just to see if there is any variation (and if there is, I go with the average).  On smaller projects, or ones where I’m familiar with the yarn, or ones where gauge won’t make a difference in wearability, I might just cast on and check gauge as I go because it’s not much work to frog a small project and a shawl that’s an inch or two larger or smaller won’t bother me.  If I’m making something where fit counts, it’s a new yarn, and/or it has more than a skein of yarn involved, I make a good sized gauge swatch worked flat or in the round as the pattern will be worked and I play with needle sizes till I get what I want.

On the Needles in July

On the Needles in July

In June I got a new set of needles– 150 to be exact– in the form of an LK-150 mid gauge knitting machine.  About 17 years ago I acquired a 1960’s era standard gauge Brother knitting machine in a silent auction where I was the only bidder.  I played around with it for a bit and made the parts to a drop shoulder baby sweater that was only recently completed.  I’ve become a big fan of Amy Herzog’s Custom Fit program and recently stumbled across a post from someone doing a lot of the work on a knitting machine and finishing by hand.  It seemed like a brilliant way to work through a lot of stockinette in a short amount of time.  Just by chance, someone was selling an LK-150 in my area on Craigslist.  It’s a much newer machine that can work with yarns from fingering to worsted.  (The Brother is best for yarns lace to fingering.)  I completed two projects on it in June:

 

First, I finished my Featherweight Cardigan.  Although it’s laceweight yarn, it was started on US 6 needles, so it worked best with the LK-150.  It took me about five days to complete with the help of the knitting machine.  I made and washed a swatch to match my hand knit gauge, hung and finished the back I’d been working on, knit the ribbing for the fronts and sleeves by hand, then hung and knit them up.  The final two days of the five were spent knitting the wide ribbed collar and buttonbands.  I am very pleased with the results and am now able to wear this lightweight sweater as a morning layer.

Second, I played with a variety of methods for working Fair Isle on the LK-150 using this resource.  I used the Christmas Stocking pattern from Faye Kennington and re-engineered it a bit to be made top down on the knitting machine with a hand knit heel and toe.  That little stocking took me five days as well as I had to frog a lot of mistakes (the birds got knit upside down the first time, for instance).  But by the end, I felt pretty confident I could work Fair Isle on the machine.

My hand knitting has been making a lot of progress despite my distraction with my new toy!

My yarn arrived and I finished my new shawl design.  My hat is off to Anzula for their quality control on their colorways.  I was prepared to blend in the new skein as it would be from a different dye lot, but the match was so good, I didn’t actually need to do that.  Here’s a sneak peek.  It will be up for test knitting soon in my Ravelry GroupSign up to be a test knitter if you’d like to hear about this opportunity.

I also made a lot of progress on my On a Whim pullover.  I’ll continue to work it by hand.  I’ve finished the body of the sweater and am working the sleeve cap decreases on the first sleeve.  One sleeve to go and it will be ready to sew together!

My first Fidget sock is complete and the toe is started on the second sock.

I also started a new knit along project with my friend in Kansas.  We are making the Star Wars Double Knit Scarf.  This one requires a lot of concentration.  I think it will be on the needles for a while.

Finally, I spent a lot of time swatching for some possible third party submissions.  I love swatching, to tell the truth.  My swatches are fairly large but much smaller than a garment and I love having that canvas to explore ideas.