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Teaching Tips: Building in Practice

Teaching Tips: Building in Practice

Some of my Teaching Packs build in practice before students begin the actual project.  For instance, in the Learn to Knit Lace pack, the teacher notes instruct the teacher to have students cast on a swatch and practice the yarn over and the different types of decreases in a swatch before they cast on the actual headband pattern.

Why build in practice on a swatch first?  Well, in this case, making left-leaning and double decreases requires some stitch manipulation that will be new to many students.  By starting with a swatch, students only have to worry about one thing– making the stitch properly.  They don’t have to worry about following the chart or written directions.  They don’t have to worry about getting the right tension.  They only have to worry about manipulating the stitches correctly.

When possible, teachers should look for ways to build in practice on new skills in isolation before applying them to a more complicated project.  When it’s not possible, remind students that it’s just knitting, and if something doesn’t work, we can always pull out the yarn and start again.

Friendship Knitting

Friendship Knitting

This month, my friend Jahna and I got to meet up in San Francisco.  We were wearing the sweaters we made as a friendship knit along.  This was the third project that we’ve done together as a knit along.

The first was the BFF Cowl, which is a completely great friendship project.  You each make two short scarves in different yarn and then you exchange one of them so that you have one that you knit in one color and one your friend knit in another color.  Then you graft the ends together so that they form two interconnected rings.

The second project was a Cheveron Blanket.  Being as they are big and bulky, we’ve never gotten our blankets together.

The sweaters are our most recent project.  For this one, we both picked a sweater from CustomFit, and we picked out yarn from the same indie dyer, but Jahna did hers in a worsted weight yarn and with a longer length and I knit mine in sport weight and a shorter length.  Jahna did some cool color blending on hers as well.

We haven’t decided on our next project, but we are considering a double knit Star Wars scarf!

Looking for some ideas for friendship knitting projects?  One book that we have looked at is Knit the Sky by Lea Redmond.  This book is choke full of interesting possible projects, with a few that are specific to friendship knitting.

 

Crochet Water Balloons for Summer

Crochet Water Balloons for Summer

A few weeks ago a friend sent me a link to an article about crocheted water balloons.  The idea was to make a balloon shape out of Bernet Blanket yarn and then soak them in a bucket to throw instead of a traditional water balloon.  The yarn is very absorbent so they soak up a lot of water and make a pretty satisfying splat!

Advantages: reusable, machine washable, don’t leave bits of plastic all over your yarn for birds and wild animals to get, easy to “fill,” fast to make.

Disadvantages: don’t make quite the same explosive splash as a traditional water balloon and they are made of synthetic yarn so you haven’t gotten totally away from the plastic problem.

All the patterns I found online worked in rounds with a chain up instead of working in a spiral, and of course I felt many weren’t quite round enough or had enough of a balloon looking top.  Many patterns called for a magic loop start, which I think is hard in this yarn because it is so grippy.  So in the end, I designed my own pattern!

If you are local to Santa Cruz, CA, I’ll be teaching a class on how to make these at Knit Sew Make.    If not, or if you are already comfortable with crochet, here’s the pattern so you can make your own!

Materials Needed:

  • Size 9mm crochet hook (US size M)
  • Bernet Blanket Yarn (or other super bulky chenille style yarn)
  • Removable Stitch Marker

Note: Balloons are worked in a continuous spiral.  To keep track of where the rounds begin, place a removable stitch marker in the first stitch of the round and move it up after each round is completed.

Small Balloon

Round 1: Ch 2, 6 sc in second ch from the hook, do not join. (6 sts)

Round 2:  2 sc in each st around (12 sts)

Rounds 3-4: Sc 12.

Round 5: [Sc 4, sc 2 tog) twice. (10 sts)

Round 6: [Sc 3, sc 2 tog] twice. (8 sts)

Round 7: Sc 2 tog four times. (4 sts)

Round 8: Sc 4.

Round 9: [Sc 1, 2 sc in next st] twice, join to beginning of round with slip stitch. (6 sc).

Fasten off.  Use a piece of yarn to tie the neck of the balloon and push all ends to the inside of the balloon.

 

Large Balloon

Round 1: Ch 2, 8 sc in second ch from the hook, do not join. (8 sts)

Round 2: [Sc 1, 2 sc in next sc] four times. (12 sts)

Round 3: [Sc 2, 2 sc in the next sc] four times. (16 sts)

Round 4-7: Sc 16.

Round 8: Sc 2 tog eight times.  (8 sts)

Round 9: Sc 8.

Round 10: Sc 2 tog four times.  (4 sts)

Round 11: Sc 4.

Round 12: 2 sc in each stitch around, join to beginning of round with slip stitch. (8 sts)

Fasten off.  Use a piece of yarn to tie the neck of the balloon and push all ends to the inside of the balloon.

On the Needles in May

On the Needles in May

April was a month of finishing!  I completed my Wynne Shawl and the creature from Edward’s Imaginarium for my daughter.  The hair on the creature took as long as doing the arms and legs combined!  I also made two pairs of socks on my circular sock machine for a school raffle.

I continue to slowly move along on my Featherweight Cardigan.  I find that I don’t pick this up as often as I should because I’m working it on the knitting belt and the extra step of putting on the knitting belt somehow keeps it from being easy to pick up.  I’ve considered putting it on regular needles, but I’m afraid my gauge will change and also that I’ll never get good at the knitting belt technique if I bail now!  I probably need to pick a time of day to work on it and stick to a schedule.

Yarn for On a Whim sweater

I’ve also got a new sweater swatched and ready to go.  I’ll be making the On a Whim Custom Fit sweater by Amy Herzog in a fingering weight yarn I got from Expression Fiber Arts.  As you can see from the wound yarn, I’ll need to alternate skeins throughout!

I’m making steady progress on my new shawl design.  This will be more of a shawlette, but since it’s also meant to be a pattern to learn to knit lace, I think that’s going to be fine!  I’m really loving the yarn I’m working with and can’t wait to see the final results!

A friend pointed me to the idea of crocheted water balloons, so I’ve also been playing with some super bulky yarn and spinning up my own pattern for these great toys.  They don’t fill with water, but the Bernet Blanket yarn becomes really saturated so they make a very satisfying splat when they hit something (or someone).  And no scraps of balloon to hurt the animals.  And endlessly reusable!  Look for my version of the pattern in an upcoming blog post!

Prototypes for my crocheted water balloon pattern.

 

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!

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!

 

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.