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On the Needles in April

On the Needles in April

I did a lot of starting and finishing of smaller projects in March.  I made a total of five crochet mandalas, several of which are going to be on display at Knit Sew Make.  I also crocheted the Artfully Simple Angled Scarf with some yarn I purchased from Leading Men Fiber Arts.  And I finally finished my Vanilla is the New Black socks, which I am pretty pleased with!  I’ve also been working on making Knitted Knockers.  I go to a knitting retreat every April and Knitted Knockers is the chosen charity by the organizers.

I have enough yarn left over from my socks to make a pair of shortie socks, so I started the Rose City Rollers socks as a purse project.  I also needed a new pair of socks to go on my bedside table, so I’ve got a pair of Fidget Socks started as well.  This is a toe up pair, and I have to say, I find starting toe up socks more fiddly than fidgity!  I always feel I have to get eight or ten rounds in before it starts to feel comfortable!

I picked up a project that has been languishing, a creature from Edward’s Crochet Imaginarium.  I started this last year for my daughter, but was finding that it was hurting my hands to work at such a tight gauge.  I switched from my beloved, owned-since-high-school Boye hook to a padded ergonomic one from Knit Picks and things are moving right along.

I continue to make progress on my Wynne shawl and will be ready to bind off after just a dozen or so almost 500 stitch rows!  I’m using a gradient for the blue and I really want to reach the next darker color to edge the shawl before I bind off so I’m adding a few extra rows to the end.

I’m also in the planning and swatching stages for a new shawl design.  This pattern will be in fingering weight with a pattern that will gradually move from simple eyelets into more complicated lacework.  I’m envisioning it as a KAL shawl for new lace knitters or a teaching tool for classes.

Speaking of teaching tools, one thing that came off the virtual needles in the last month was a set of teaching packs.  These are sets of materials designed for busy shop owners and knitting teachers.  They have everything you need to teach a class– a reproducible pattern, class handouts, and teacher notes– all you need to do is make the sample and teach!

 

Crochet Mandalas

Crochet Mandalas

This week I took a break from some of my knitting projects to make a series of crochet mandalas from the book Modern Crochet Mandalas, published by Interweave Press.  These colorful creations use a variety of crochet stitches to create layered designs.  Since each round uses a repeat of stitches to create the pattern for that round, they are very meditative and restful to create.  It’s also been fun creating color combinations for each design.  I purchased eight skeins of coordinating mercerized cotton yarn to use with the book and have been surprised at how different each one appears!

The book itself is not for the beginning crocheter.  Other than the 50+ patterns, there is very little additional material.  Even the stitch glossary in the back is incomplete compared to the stitches that are actually used in the mandalas, so you are better off if you have crochet experience before using this book.  Each pattern is beautifully laid out with a large photo, complete written instructions, and a large charted version of the pattern.  I absolutely love crochet charts for ease in understanding what the written instructions will create and these are easy to read and well done.  My only complaint about the book is that each and every pattern I’ve made has contained at least one error so far.  The error is always in either the written instructions or in the chart, never in both, so if you carefully examine the photos, you can tell which direction was meant by the creator.

For a book aimed at those who are more beginners in crochet, I’d recommend Mandalas to Crochet: 30 Great Patterns by Haafner Linssen.  I purchased this at the same time and it has extensive material on how to form all the stitches needed for the designs in the book as well as some specific tricks and techniques for working in the round and getting a seamless effect.  It gives a lot of suggestions for working with color and creating mandalas with different weights of yarns.  The patterns are overall a little more simple to create than the book I’ve been working from, but still quite beautiful.

If crochet is part of your fiber arts skill set, I recommend giving crochet mandalas a try!

Teaching Tips: Developing Your Mental Library

Teaching Tips: Developing Your Mental Library

One of the key difference between teaching adults and teaching children is that adults come to class with a rich collection of prior experiences.  So when you teach knitting classes with adult learners, you have the opportunity to help the students draw out that prior experience to learn the new skills you are teaching.

Some of your students’ prior experiences will be with the fiber arts.  They may have crocheted, or embroidered, or sewed, and each of these crafts has related experiences.  For instance, crocheters usually tension the yarn with their left hand, so in beginning knitting classes, I will show crocheters how to knit Continental style rather than English style as it is usually easier for them.  Weaving in ends may make more sense if it can be related to embroidery.

Other times, prior experience is related to other fields that can be applied to knitting.  For instance, students who have experience writing computer code may find it helpful for me to show how reading a pattern is similar to reading code.

I also find that some students find more benefit to visual cues in diagrams, others find it easier to repeat a rhyme or catchphrase, and still others will learn best from mirroring my hands in motion.  These preferences are often based on prior experience or work related skills.  Because of this, I try to have at least three different ways to explain any skill in that I teach in a knitting class.  Some of these I’ve developed by listening to how one student will explain a task to another student.  Others have been gathered from watching other teachers and from reading a variety of books.  A few have been created on the fly when no other explanation seems to work for a student and I’ve had to invent a new way to explain a task.

To help me know what might work best for a given class, I always take some time for introductions and find out what related skills students may already have.  If I have a large class and don’t have time for individual introductions, I use a quick verbal survey and hand raising to get an idea of student experiences and prior knowledge.

Having a mental library of different ways to explain a skill will help all your students to be successful.  Note that your mental library may include tricks and techniques that would not be useful at all to you as a learner, but they may be useful to one of your students.  Becoming a successful teacher is in part developing the ability to teach those who learn in different ways.

 

Joining Yarn

Joining Yarn

This is just a quick little post for a useful link I found.

I just finished a project that required ten 50 gram skeins of yarn, which meant I had a lot of joins to make (nine, actually).  I found this very clear and complete list of different ways to join the yarn.  My favorites tend to be “Overlap and Knit Double,” the “Russian Join,” and “Just Knit with It.”  For the last, I will weave in the ends later and have gotten pretty good at evening up the tension in a tightly knit garment.

What’s your favorite join?

 

On the Needles in March

On the Needles in March

Well, it looks like I didn’t get much done in February, because I spend most of my knitting time working on a project that’s under wraps and one that is very public!

It’s not exactly “on the needles,” but the public project is the launch of Knit Sew Make, and new community and learning studio I’m starting with two other fiber artist friends.  We found a location on the west side of Santa Cruz, and we launched an Indiegogo campaign to help us with start up costs.  We’ve got all kinds of classes scheduled and we are excited to create a place for fiber artists in Santa Cruz.

I’ve passed the heel on my second Vanilla is the New Black sock and am on my way to the toe.

My Wynne Shawl and Featherweight Cardigan have been languishing, but I did finish my brioche scarf from my class with J C Briar in time to show it to her when I went to Stitches West last weekend.

That’s it for what’s on my needles this first week of March!

 

Stitches West 2018

Stitches West 2018

Here in the Bay Area, Stitches West is THE go-to event for knitters.  Hundreds of classes and vendors over a four day weekend means non-stop knitting and crocheting fun!  This year I was there a bit on Friday to shop and then took classes Saturday and Sunday.  In between, I got to say hello to many friends!

My Saturday class was called Think Proportional…for Garment Design with Susan Lazear.  This was a 6 hour class that started with looking at our own measurements and examining what they told us about our own proportions then moving on to analyzing how garments fit proportionately and how we could apply the same proportions of a garment to our own work.  I’ve taken other classes about using measurements, but Susan’s emphasis on proportions really made me think differently about my design work!  Susan was a great teacher and really tailored the talk to our needs.

In between the two halves of the class, I got to meet the Knitmore Girls, my all time favorite podcasters!

On Sunday I took a class called Slick Set-in Sleeves with J C Briar.  In that class we practiced making a top down no seams set in sleeve on a child’s cardigan sample and then learned how to adapt the same concept to other top down and bottom up garments that are written for sewn sleeves.  She also gave us some hints for applying the technique to our own garment design.  As with all of J C’s classes, this one was really well organized and informational.

I also attended the Student Banquet and Style Show on Saturday night where I took to the catwalk and showed off my Seacliff Beach Poncho!  It was a fun event with lots of inspiring knitted and crocheted garments.  You can see the photos of all the garments from the show on Facebook.  I also won a prize for participating!  Thank you, Stitches West!

With the help of a friend, I picked out some yarn from Stunning String Studio to make another Custom Fit sweater and a couple of skeins of sock yarn from Leading Man Fiber Arts and Seven Sisters Arts.  My younger daughter has already claimed one of them.

 

 

I had a great time and look forward to next year!

 

 

Teaching Tips: Clarifying Your Goals

Teaching Tips: Clarifying Your Goals

When I begin to develop a new knitting class (or any class, for that matter), I always start with thinking about what exact skills I want students to be able to accomplish when they leave the class.  For instance, when I teach my Knitting 101 class in which students make a simple mug rug, my goals are for students to be able to:

  • Identify basic pattern information.
  • Cast on and bind off.
  • Make knit and purl stitches.
  • Move between knit and purl stitches in a single row.
  • Identify some of the mistakes in their work.

I have a particular way of thinking about how to write those skill statements.  I always start off with a verb that I can mentally assess as I work through the class.  Something that I can actually see happening– identify, make, move between, cast on, etc.  I use verbs that describe what my students can do by the end of the class, not what I’m doing.  And I try to be specific about what I’m expecting, for instance “in a single row” or “some of the mistakes.”

Once I’m clear on what the students need to accomplish, then I plan how I can help them be able to do those things.  For instance, in Knitting 101, my first goal is for students to be able to identify the parts of a pattern before they even start knitting because after they take this class, they are likely to look for a pattern to make that’s more exciting than a mug rug.  So after I’ve explained the basic information found at the front of a pattern, I give each student a different pattern to look at, and ask them to find the materials, gauge, key, etc.

I find that if I put my attention on what the students should be doing during class, that my classes are more active and that they tend to be more focused.  Next time you are planning a class, start with thinking about what specific skills or knowledge you want the students to leave with and use those to plan what demos to use, what stories to tell, and what exercises students should complete.

Addi FlexiFlips Review

Addi FlexiFlips Review

Two of three needles in before beginning a round.

In November at Vogue Knitting Live in Seattle, I came across a new DPN style by Addi called FlexiFlips.  These are similar to the Neko Strickespiel curved DPNs that I reviewed early last year in that there are only three needles in a set.  The difference is that instead of being in a fixed angled shape, the FlexiFlips have a short cord between two metal needles.  This means they can go from straight to a tight angle and back as needed.  They are pretty spendy– around $24 from most retailers for a single set of three needles– so I purchased a single set of size 1 needles for hand knitting socks.

I’m about half way through making my second sock with the needles and I can say that I will definitely use them again for another pair.  Their flexibility gives them a distinct advantage over the Neko needles.  I am having little to no problems with laddering and the flexible shape of the needles makes them easier to adjust as you work.  Like the Magic Loop method, these needles only require two changes in a round, rather than the three or four you’d have with regular DPNs.  Unlike Magic Loop, you won’t need to manage a long cable and these are very easy to tuck into a purse or pocket.  You may have to adjust the directions to you pattern a bit if it’s not needle agnostic, but if you are used to doing this for Magic Loop already, it shouldn’t be a problem.  Patterns that are designed for Magic Loop can easily be completed with the FlexiFlips.

Beginning the round with the third needle.

For the fastest speed on the leg and foot of a sock, I like using a very small eight or nine inch circular because there’s no needle changes at all, but the small circulars have very short needle lengths and they can fatigue my hands more quickly than DPNs.  The FlexiFlips have a longer needle length overall so they are easier on my hands and I don’t have to carry an extra set of DPN’s for heel flaps or toes as I do with the small circular.

My one criticism of the FlexiFlips are the needle tips.  They have the design of one blunt needle and one sharper point.  Each time you have worked all the stitches off a needle you have to consciously think about how the empty needle goes back into your right hand so that the preferred tip is ready to use.  I prefer pointier tips in general, and especially can’t think why I would want a blunt tip in a needles sized for sock knitting.  Sadly, when working back and forth for short rows, that means one tip is going to be blunt and the other sharp if you’ve be orienting the needles the same way each time.  Either that, or you have to slip the stitches so that you have the pointy tip going in the right direction for both needles as you do your short rows or think ahead during the last round before the short rows.  Many patterned stitches use both needle tips to manipulate the yarn, and again, I find having to always have the left hand tip be my non-preferred style to be a nuisance.  If I could get a set with sharp tips on both ends of the needles, I’d be a much happier knitter!

Blunt tip, left, and pointy tip, right.

Overall, I’d recommend these needles.  They combine the ease of the Magic Loop method with the compact feel of a small circular or DPNs.  If you do a lot of complex patterning on socks, they might not be the best choice because of the tips, and they won’t work for larger circumferences like that of an adult hat.   They are comfortable to use and work well for socks or close fitting sleeves.

On the Needles in February

On the Needles in February

Friday afternoon, I sat down on the couch and realized that I was surrounded by knitting bags!  Here’s what’s on the needles in this first week of February.

Last month, I started working on the CustomFit version of the Featherweight Cardigan.  I’m using Knit Picks Alpaca Cloud Lace yarn and I’m using this project to learn to knit on a knitting belt!  I’ve got about five inches of the back completed and I’m getting faster.  My goal is to be able to walk and knit using the knitting belt, but so far, I can just meander between the kitchen and the living room.

Last year at Stitches West, I took JC Briar’s class on Beginning Brioche.  The handout included a chart for us to practice our increases and decreases and shortly after the class I got some Malabrigo Rios in Black and Jupiter and started the chart as a scarf.  As Stitches West is coming up again at the end of the month and I have another class with JC (this time it’s Slick Set In Sleeves), I thought I’d try to finish it before the show.

I’m continuing to make progress on my Wynne Shawl by Sarah Jordan.  I started this as part of the Indie Designer GAL on Ravelry, but realized after Christmas I couldn’t finish it by the deadline and that its long rows of garter were so great as a knitting group project.  I bring this with me to my Saturday knitting group and to guild meetings and it will get done eventually.

I’m working on the second sock of a pair from the pattern Vanilla is the New Black by Anneh Fletcher.  It has an unusual heel construction and I’ve been using the p

attern to try out the Addi Flexi Flip needles I got at Vogue Knitting Live in Seattle.  I really like the pattern and it makes a nice heel that’s good for a high arch, but is easier than working a heel flap and gusset.  The needles are similar to working with Magic Loop and a bit easier than three or four DPNs.

 

Finally, I’m working on a secret knitting design that should be complete in the next few months or so.  More details on that when it comes out!

On the CSM, I’ve completed a few more pairs of socks and made a hat from a double layer of laceweight yarn.  You can find the details of how I did that on my Ravelry project page.

 

Test Knitters Needed

Test Knitters Needed

 

I’m looking for test knitters for a new stole. Worn as a scarf or stole, Sinine is a lightweight, lacy garment to add grace and sophistication to your wardrobe. Beads, bobbles, and fringe accent this fully reversible rectangular garment. The pattern is adjustable in both length and width, and can be worked with or without beads.

The test knit runs through February 22, 2018.  If you are interested, you’ll need to be a Ravelry member.  You can find full details of the test knit here on my Ravelry group.