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On and Off the Needles for September

On and Off the Needles for September

This last month’s report will be a little slim as I’ve been working on some secret projects to be revealed in 2019.  However, I do have one new pattern release!  The Simple Colorwork Mitts are now available on my Ravelry store.  These mitts are a great way to use leftover worsted weight yarn and they come in three sizes with three patterns for the palm.  If you are a reader of my blog, you can get the pattern for 50% off using the code BLOGREADER at checkout!  Enjoy!

I’ve also been spending quite a bit of time working at my sock machine this month.  I’ve made several pairs of socks for my daughter (she picked the yarn from my stash and also worked on some preemie hats and a pattern for a wine bottle cozy.  I’m starting to make socks to give away or sell for the holiday season.  I also made a whole string of fingerless mitts that now need to be finished and have the thumbs hand knit.

I put in a few rows on my Star Wars Scarf, my Japanese Poncho/Cardigan, and my Spanish Bay is just a few woven ends in from being done!

Gauge on a CSM

Gauge on a CSM

A while back, I really got into using the ribber on my CSM and I looked at all the factors that affected how the ribber worked.  One thing I did was reduce the amount of weight I was using on my socks and suddenly my socks were coming out in unexpected sizes.  It got me thinking about all the factors that affect gauge when making a sock.  Gauge included both stitch gauge and row/round gauge.  Stitch gauge determines how big around the sock is and is usually measured in stitches per inch/cm.  Row gauge (sometimes identified as round gauge) determines how long the sock will be and is usually measure in the number of rounds per inch/cm.   Although there are various charts on the internet that claim to list the number of stitches and rows you will need to make a give sized sock on a given cylinder, the only way to really know your gauge is to do a swatch yourself and measure.

Here are all the thing that will affect your gauge:

Cylinder size: All the cylinders for a given sock machine are the same diameter and circumference (different brands of machines will have different diameter cylinders).  The difference is in how far apart the slots are cut for the needles.   Fewer needles mean the needles are spaced farther apart.  More needles will mean they are spaced closer together.  The yarn will run a shorter distance from needle to needle when the needles are closer together and a longer distance when they are further apart creating smaller or larger stitches respectively.

Number of needles used in the cylinder: For mock rib or for patterns worked every other needle, removing needles creates short strands of yarn in the space where the needle is missing.  These aren’t as long as the path going around a needle, but they are longer than the usual path between side by side needles.  Removing needles for mock rib or other patterns will tend to tighten the stitch gauge but may lengthen the row/round gauge.

Two sock yarn samples on different cylinders with different cam nut settings every 30-40 rounds.

Tension as set on the cam nut: The position of the cam nut determines how far down the needle pulls the yarn as it creates a stitch and makes the stitches “tighter” or “looser,” affecting both stitch and row/round gauge.  The cam nut is the main thing we usually think about when adjusting gauge, but it works in tandem with all the other factors listed here.

Using the ribber:  Knit and purl stitches tend to draw in when combined, giving a tighter stitch gauge when measured in a relaxed state.  Ribbing does stretch, though, and a stretched ribbed fabric will have the same gauge as a plain knit fabric if all the conditions of making it are otherwise the same.

Amount of weight hanging on the sock: The amount of weight hanging on the sock will affect how large stitches become.  Less weight means less pull and less yarn in each stitch.  More weight means more yarn can be pulled into each stitch.

Heel spring use:  The heel spring puts drag on the yarn, meaning that less yarn can get to each stitch because it’s being pulled taut.  That means both stitch and row gauge are generally tighter with the heel spring on.

Yarn used:  All fingering weight yarns are not exactly the same.  They will be of slightly different diameters which can fill the space between stitches and affect both stitch and row gauge.  The amount of nylon in the yarn, the twist or springiness of the yarn, and if you add a thread of lycra to the yarn will all affect the size of the stitches.  In addition, different colors of the same yarn may produce slightly different gauges because the dye in the yarn takes up space and can make one color “plumper” than another.

Method for winding yarn: Yarn coming off a ball will have slightly more tension on it than yarn coming off a cone.  Whatever method you use to prepare your yarn will add or subtract tension, changing your gauge.

Special patterning:  Cables, Fair Isle patterning, and slipped stitches will all change the gauge of a sock.  Cables tend to affect stitch gauge more and slipped stitches will change row gauge more.

Resting and washing:  The gauge you measure when a sock is fresh off the machine will not be the same as the gauge after the same sock has rested and been washed.  When the yarn has been under tension, it is much more stretched.  In addition, some yarns will “bloom” after being washed, which also affects gauge.  For a true gauge check, the sock should at the very least rest until it has relaxed to it’s “normal” state and should usually be washed to determine how washing changes the yarn.

Knit fabric is stretchy, so there is some range in which a sock will fit comfortably.  For consistent results in gauge and sock width and length, all the above conditions should be the same from one sock to the next.

Teaching Tips: The Beginner’s Mindset

Teaching Tips: The Beginner’s Mindset

Here’s a great way to become a better teacher: sign up for a class to learn something completely new that is outside of your previous experience.

If you are teaching knitting, you probably have been a knitter for a while and may have forgotten what it was like to learn to knit for the first time.  One of the biggest mistakes we can make as teachers is to assume the knowledge we have about our subject is “obvious” and skip over important explanations and steps in our teaching.

So go take a class outside your comfort zone.  Experience being a beginner taking a class from a subject matter expert.  Notice what the instructor makes easier by adding details for the novice and/or notice where the instructor makes assumptions about what you should know that you don’t know.  Where does the instructor go too quickly for the novice?  When does the instructor ask questions to assess student understanding and how do they tailor their instruction due to the responses?

Then the next time you teach a class to beginners or you teach an unusual technique, put yourself in the place of the beginners.  Think about what assumptions you are making about your learners and how you can confirm those assumptions are correct and what you can do if they are not.  What knitting moves need slowed down so the novice can follow them?  What details might you need to mention that the novice might not know?

Every time you teach a class, remember to put yourself in that beginner’s mindset.  Your students will thank you!  If you are using my teaching packs, you’ll find a list of common points of confusion for each lesson and how to handle it!

Reading Japanese Knitting Patterns

Reading Japanese Knitting Patterns

After getting the really great Japanese Knitting Patterns book, I’ve decided I wanted to explore some other Japanese pattern books.  I signed up for a class at Stitches West in February but that’s a long way off!

So first I visited Kinokuniya, the Japanese bookstore in San Jose.  I’ve browsed Japanese knitting books there in the past, but perhaps because it is summer, they didn’t have much of a selection this time.  Then I remembered that I had heard about an Etsy shop that carries all kinds of Japanese craft books and magazines.  I searched through literally hundreds of books and magazines and narrowed it down to six that I ordered.

The books and magazines have arrived and now I’m puzzling through the construction details for a few favorite patterns.  I thought I’d share the resources that I’ve been using to help me.

In addition to the front material in Japanese Knitting Patterns, Twig and Horn have a great post on how to read Japanese knitting patterns.  One of the most important things it explains is how to read the decrease information for armholes and necklines.

I also found a Japanese/English dictionary full of knit specific terms that has been useful.

Ravelry has a Japanese Knitting and Crochet group that is also very helpful.

If you have used Japanese knitting patterns, I’d love to hear your favorite resources!

On and Off the Needles in August

On and Off the Needles in August

It feels like I had a slow knitting month but I finished one major project.  My On a Whim CustomFit pullover is finished!  I modified the pattern slightly to have longer ribbing at the cuffs and hem.  It’s way to warm for this sweater right now, but I look forward to wearing it this winter.

I started two new sweaters.  Spanish Bay is another CustomFit sweater.  I worked the ribbing by hand and did the stockinette portions on my LK-150 flatbed knitting machine.  The pieces are assembled and I’m adding the lace border now.  I’m doing a fun trick for the lace.  The first three odd rows are yo, k2tog and the next three odd rows are ssk, yo.  It’s over 200 stitches so that over 100 ssks to work.  On the even (wrong side row) before the first yo, ssk row, I wrapped my yarn for the purls in the opposite direction.  That changed my stitch mount so that all the stitches are “pre-slipped” on the right side so I just have to work them through the back loops.  It was a bit of a trick to purl the “wrong” way for my usual knitting style, but it’s making things go much quicker on the right side rows.

My second sweater is a poncho/cardigan combo from Japanese Knitting (Pattern F).  The yarn I’m using for this is Knit Picks Swish DK, which I think should be called “Squish” because it is sooo soft and squishy.  I’m just getting started on this and it is my new endless stockinette pattern for social knitting.

I played a bit with working a lace pattern on my CSM and made a little cozy for a mason jar.  I have to play with this a bit more and see if this would be a good use for leftover yarn from making socks.

In knitting I can’t show yet, I spent quite a bit of time working on swatches and samples for third party submissions.  More info on that if/when they are accepted!

My Fidget Socks continue to move along.  I’m ready for the heel in the second sock.  No progress on the Star Wars Double Knit Scarf, but I will get back to it soon!  I knit a few rounds on my Rose City Rollers while at a doctor’s appointment.

I have a new pattern out called the Seetang Cowl.  I didn’t knit on it this month, but my lovely test knitters made all kinds of beautiful variations you can check out!

New Pattern Release: Seetang Cowl

New Pattern Release: Seetang Cowl

I’m so excited to announce a new pattern release!  The Seetang Cowl is a cozy and richly-textured cowl that uses a semi-solid and variegated yarn to create undulating textured stripes in a slipped stitch pattern.  Only one yarn is used per round in this rhythmic, easy-to-knit pattern and both written and charted instructions are provided.

I loved seeing all the variations my test knitters created!  They will be adding their projects over the next few days so you can see everything from subtle to bold color variations for this pattern!  Most test knitters completed this project in just a couple of days, so you know it will make a great last minute gift.

If you are a blog reader, please use the code SUMMER in Ravelry to receive 20% off this pattern through the end of July 2018.

I look forward to seeing your finished cowls!

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.

The Personal Side of Knitting

The Personal Side of Knitting


Today I wanted to post a bit about my personal life and how knitting has fit into it.  I’m currently at the age where my body is changing from motherhood to crone-hood– in other words, I’m going through menopause.  A stereotypical view of menopause (or perimenopause as it’s more correctly called) is that it’s a time where women get hot flashes, have irregular periods, and suffer from empty nest syndrome.  Although these things are true (except the empty nest– many of us started our families later and I still have three teens at home), there are some symptoms that we fail to hear about in the popular media that are much more challenging than hot flashes.  Things like depression.  Memory loss.  Brain fog.  For a Type A person like me, who prides herself on getting things done and lots of them, these things are much more daunting than having to throw the covers off several times a night.

For the last year or two, I’ve solved this problem by taking a lot of estrogen to replace what my body isn’t making.  I kept asking my doctor to up the dose until I felt like myself again.  At the same time, I started using more checklists, more reminders, more alarms, more routines, and more notes to myself to remind myself of what I might forget later.  Now, as I approach the age where I have to balance my risk of heart attack or stroke with my day to day health, I’m weaning off the estrogen again.  And I’m having “flat” days, days where I don’t feel particularly… well, I don’t feel much of anything.  I have trouble making a plan for the day sometimes.  I have trouble following through to the next step.

This is where knitting comes in.  I have several bags or baskets of knitting around the house.  A sock by my bed.  A stockinette sweater by the front door.  A garter blanket by the couch.  I’ve made myself detailed step by step lists of how to make several kinds of sock on my sock machine.  So even when I’m feeling flat and unable to face even sorting and folding laundry, I can pick up a knitting project and make a few rows or rounds.  These projects grow, even when I’m feeling stagnant.  The softness of the yarn and the feel of the needles soothes me and awakens my spirit at least a tiny bit.  It helps me keep a wee chink of light open against the gray.

Knitting has also kept me connected to other women of all ages.  It was my knitting group who encouraged me to go to the doctor to get that added estrogen in the first place.  My knitting group has sympathized and empathized and reassured me that this is not me alone.  Their constancy, their wisdom, and their kindness have helped to keep me afloat as I’ve navigated this challenging time in my life.

I wanted to write about this because the mood and memory effects of menopause aren’t commonly talked about, and I think many of us struggle alone.  As I’ve been working through this process, I’ve realized that as uncomfortable as it is, I need to talk about it.  Getting through will be worth more if I can know that I helped someone know they aren’t the only one.  My knitting helped me discover that.