Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Some ideas just make you say "WOW"

Sometimes you come across something something which opens your knitting mind in directions never considered before. I have been accumulating these WOW's for some time, and want to share them with you:

Many, perhaps most knitters already know about Ravelry, the knitting community website. Yet, if conversations with random knitters in airports and waiting rooms are any indication, Ravelry remains unknown to a surprising number. So, if you don't yet know, Ravelry is a black hole into which you will fall with your knitting, never to emerge. Need 3 ways to bind off at 3 AM? A new way of keeping track of your stash and needles? Are you seeking just more ball of a discontinued yarn? Ravelry is all that, and more. The brainstorm of Jessica Forbes and Casey Forbes who administer and run the site with grace and humor, Ravelry is a game-changer: what has up to now been essentially lone pursuit is now a social one and knitting information previously restricted by area, custom or expertise is now in the public domain, archived and searchable by all. Sign up HERE. PS:  As Angie points out in the comments, Ravelry is a site for crocheters, too. (Not to mention that spinners seem to have gotten in on the act when no one was looking!)

Use every inch of that
expensive, fancy yarn sock
Ravelry is great because of the neat people you "meet" and the great tips they post. Here is an example of a really splendid tip from an expert knitter on Ravelry, who goes by the Raverly-name of "Potteryfreak." Potteryfreak (real name Cheri) posted as follows:

You could do something wonderfully cool to make sure you get the maximum bang for your [expensive sock yarn] buck, if you are making a plain sock: Start with a ribbed cuff in contrasting yarn. Switch to your main yarn and knit one long sock-leg tube until you run out of yarn, then end it with a second cuff out of your contrasting yarn. Measure it and insert two lifelines a row or two apart at the center of your tube. Snip one stitch and unravel the row so that now you will have two equal-length tubes of sock. With your contrasting yarn, make your toes down from the live stitches on your lifelines and your afterthought heels in the appropriate spot.

Cheri was careful to note that the idea was not original with her, and that she wished she could remember where she'd read it so as to give credit where is is due. A great tip nonetheless, and thanks Cheri, for permission to re-print your post. (PS: Cheri has an online shop here.)

"Cable reassignment surgery"
The problem: the Boye interchangeable needles have many excellent qualities, but flexible cables are not among them. The solution: as a result of a brainstorm, Fleegle got her old Boye needlemaster tips drilled out by a gunsmith to accept the far more flexible Knitpicks cables. Fleegle is a brilliant genius. Read more about it HERE.

Addendum, November 24, 2010:  Here is another "wow" way to make cables for a Boye interchangeable needle set.  This new method is ALL do-it-yourself!!

Home made yarn swifts
Two low-cost home-made yarn swifts that will have you slapping your head--wonderful Rube Goldberg devices of the first order. Webecca is a brilliant genius. Click HERE and HERE.

Three charting sites
Shut down your spreadsheet, put down your graph paper, retire your pencil. Instead, check out these three free charting sites
1. Chart-a-rama: Into the "form" box, you type a pattern written in standard knitting shorthand, formatted according to some easy-to-understand rules. Click "make the chart," and Chart-a-rama will automatically generate a perfectly-formatted knitting chart. This would be very handy if you prefer to work from charts, but only have a older-type knitting pattern written out in knitting shorthand instructions.
2. Knitting Chart maker by Jacquie: If you prefer to type in your chart symbols directly, this site has loads of symbols and is easy-to-use.
3. Microrevolt's Knitpro application makes a color chart directly from an image. Want to knit your dog's face onto the back of a sweater? Knit a message on your socks? Knit giant flowers onto your afghan? This app will create the chart for you, and it's pre-set at the correct knitting ratio of stitches to rows.

Needle gauge
I use a micrometer to size needles. It is accurate but delicate, so it never leaves the house. My needle gauges are allowed out of the house, but are flimsy and are now bent and banged up from their adventures. To the rescue came Agres, another Ravelry member, who noted in a post that "drill gauges are cheap and tough." A trip to a local hardware store confirmed that: for a few bucks, I landed a sturdy metal drill gauge with the sizes actually engraved into the metal, so they'll never rub off. With a conversion chart, or two my drill gauge sizes all. Perfect for road trips.

Surprisingly stretchy bind off
Last, but not least, here is a link to a new sort of  bind off--Jeny's surprisingly stretchy bind off. The raves are flying for this one! Try it yourself and see what you think.

Thanks to all these great knitters who've illuminated the community of knitters with their generous sharing of time, talent and ideas.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Working in too-short ends: a classic dressmaker's trick, handy for knitters

Is there a knitter anywhere who has not had to work in a too-short end? The fix often smells faintly of desperation such as a dot of glue, or spells a lot of hard work, such as undoing the knitting to lengthen the end. Here is a classic dressmaking technique which may save the day next time you're faced with an end too short to work in by conventional means.

In illustration 1, there are two ends waiting to be worked in: one green and one pink. The green end is long enough to work in by the ordinary "skimming in" method, so first we'll see how that works. Then we'll look at the variation on this method which is a clever dressmaker's trick to work in the very short pink end.

Illustration 2 shows threading the green end through the eye of the needle.

Illustration 3: Pierce the needle through one or two plies of each underlying stitch, as shown.

Illustration 4: Draw the needle up all the way, which draws the end through the piercings you have made. Once the yarn is all drawn through, remove the needle from the yarn end by working the end out of the needle's eye. This leaves the yarn "skimmed in" to the back of the work. (For more information about the skimming-in method, click here.)

With the too-short end, this simple technique will not work, because the end to be worked in is shorter than the sewing needle. So, as shown in Illustration 5, if the yarn cannot be brought to the needle, the needle must be brought to the yarn. This is done by using the unthreaded needle to pierce through one or two plies of several stitches, as shown.

Illustration 6: Stop the needle when the eye is just opposite the too-short end. Without moving the needle, use some form of sewing ingenuity or employ some tiny tools such as a tiny crochet hook, or a needle-threading hook, or a wire threader for hand sewing to draw the too-short end through the eye of the needle.

Once the needle is threaded, draw up the needle, and keep drawing it up. As the needle travels through the fabric, the too-short end be drawn out of the eye, and will come off in the fabric.In other words, the needle will come out naked, but along the way, the too-short end will have been worked in to its fullest possible length, and illustration 7 shows the finished result.

One final note and two final links: The sort of needle to use for this job is a sharp pointed needle, and this is because you want to pierce through the underlying yarn. For more info about the two different types of sewing needles, click here. And, just in case you missed the link above for more information about the "skimming in" technique, click here.

You have been reading TECHknitting on: "working in short ends in knitting"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Matching your cast-on to your bind-off

Knitters often ask about making the cast-on edge match the bound off edge. ("Bind off" is also sometimes called "cast off," the two terms are interchangeable.) Making matching edges is especially important for knitting with lots of long edges, where the edges are close together: this scarf, for example.

Although this blog has touched on this issue in other posts, today's post puts it all together in one place: a TECHknitting round-up of how to match cast-on and bind-off. At the bottom of each method are the links to the illustrated how-to's.

Method 1: Provisional cast on
Do a provisional cast on. Knit your garment. Bind off using any method you like. Go back to the beginning of the work and remove the provisional cast on. Now, bind off the live stitches using the same bind off method you used at the garment end. The two ends HAVE to match because they were done exactly the same way.
  • LINKS--
COWYAK provisional cast on
Crochet hook chain method of provisional cast-on
Method 2: Rolled stockinette edges
Cast on, using any method you like. Knit at least 5, and perhaps as many as 10 rows in plain stockinette. This makes a rolled edge to your garment. Start the garment according to the patten such that the stockinette roll rolls to the outside of the garment. At the end of the garment, knit the same number of rows of stockinette--again arranging matters so that the stockinette roll is to the outside. Bind off using any method you like. The stockinette rolls at the beginning and the end of the garment will hide the casting on and the binding off--the garment edges will therefore match: even though the cast on does not necessarily look like the bind off, no one will ever see them.
  • LINKS--
Rolled edges (scroll to bottom of post for gallery)

Method 3: chained (cable) cast on matches stitch-over-stitch bind off
The chained cast on (also called the cable cast on) looks a good deal like an ordinary stitch-over-stitch bind off. If you use the cable chain cast on and the stitch-over-stitch cast off, you will have two edges which match closely.
  • LINKS--
Chain cast-on, also known as "cable cast-on" or "knitting on"
Chain bind off

Method 4--tubular cast-on, tubular cast-off
A tubular cast on exactly matches a tubular cast off. So good is the match that they are, literally, indistinguishable, even for the person who knit them

  • LINKS--
Tubular cast-on
Tubular bind-off
Method 5: Hemming
When an item is hemmed at both the cast-on and the bind-off, the edges look identical because they are identical.

  • LINKS--
Sewing hems shut
Knitting hems shut

Have you got a match-matchy method you like?


Monday, September 21, 2009

Knitting from the center: "Belly buttons" and the umbilical waste cord method

includes 6 illustrations. click any illustration to enlarge
Why another method for center-started knitting?
Knitters complain that starting from the middle is fiddly, that their needles fall out, that tension is difficult to maintain. Yes, this is all true.

Nevertheless, there are lots of good reasons to start projects from the center. A center-started hat can be tried to check the length as you go. The concentric rings of lace in a center-started shawl are beautiful.

Until now, the two main ways of starting from the center have been
In today's post, we have a third method:
  • umbilical cords/belly buttons
Umbilical cords are simple--no needles will fall out--yet the end result is identical in looks and structure to the lovely, yet fiddly, disappearing loop.

Belly buttons start with an "umbilical cord" of waste yarn which is later removed. The cord gives you something to hang onto, making knitting easier. Once removed, you get a neat little rosette of stitches--the "belly button." All the beauty points of disappearing loop but far easier.

How to
To make the umilical cord, you have two choices. Either you can follow the waste-tube method shown here. (Follow steps 1-8) or, an even easier way to start the little tube with I-cord from a mill. Same idea, only the I-cord mill makes the umbilical cord.

Once you have the umbilical cord made by whatever method, divide the loops evenly onto two dpn's. If you made the umbilical cord yourself, you will have the right number of stitches for your starting round of garment yarn. If you are using I-cord from a mill (4 sts) then cut that yarn long, and follow the below instructions to knit increases into the first few rounds of the I cord, using the I-cord yarn. Once your umbilical cord has been increased to the correct number of stitches, you switch to the garment yarn.

With the stitches divided onto 2 dpn's, and holding the tube flat (both dpn's held in the L hand, but only knitting off the front one), knit a row--in garment yarn if you made your own umbilical cord--in umbilical cord yarn if you did not. Flip the dpn's over and knit another row. One round knit.

Illustration A, below, shows the umbilical cord which already has one round (ie: a front and a back row) of garment yarn attached.

The second round of garment yarn as an increase round, and this is shown in illustration B. The increase stitches are colored darker--in real life, of course, they'd be the same color as the other stitches. Illustrated here is a backwards loop increase, but really, any sort of an increase could be put into this second round.

Many center-started flat objects feature an alternating two-round plan: First, a plain round, where there are no increases, then this is followed by a second round, an "increase round" where the increasing takes place. This is the plan we are following here. Illustration A shows the plain (non-increase) round, while illustration B shows the increase round. Center started non-flat objects (hats, mittens) use the same idea, but put more plain rounds between the increase rounds.

Illustration C shows flat knitting increases repeated several more times: increase rounds alternating with plain rounds. If you're working with I cord from a mill, once you have the correct number of stitches increased, you switch to the garment yarn.

After only a few rounds, there will be lots of stitches, ready to pop off the dpn's. Rearrange your work either by the magic loop method onto a long circular needle, or add another dpn or two, so that you are knitting with 4 or 5 dpn's.

You might choose to remove your umbilical cord and create the belly button now. To do this, you catch the free loops of the garment yarn on a blunt-tipped (tapestry) needle which you have previously threaded with the tail of the garment yarn, as shown. Illustration C shows all the umbilical cord stitches removed at once, but this is only to show how the loops are to be gathered--don't try this at home! Instead, remove the umbilical stitches one at a time, catching each freed belly button loop as it pops loose. (Take a look at illustrations 9a and 9b in the previous post for examples)

It's easier to flip the work over so the belly button is up and the needles are down: gives a better view of what you're doing.

After the tapestry needle has been passed though all the live garment stitches, the needle is again passed through the first stitch-loop (and only the first stitch-loop) to prevent a gap from forming. The yarn is then drawn up s-l-o-w-l-y to prevent knotting, until all the stitches are snugged up into a center rosette of stitches. This makes the belly button. Alternatively, you can make an attractive little hole in the middle of your work by not pulling the yarn up all the way when you snug up (photo below).

In illustration C, we made the belly button after knitting only a few rounds in garment yarn. This is a good idea, especially the first few times you do this trick--if you mess up, you haven't lost much work and it's painless to start again.To get a better picture of the process, however, illustration D shows what the belly button would look like if you postponed surgery until some way into the project.

Because the cord is taking up quite a bit of room, the fabric is humped up into a kind of a cone in the center. Never fear--when the umbilical cord is removed, the fabric will lay far flatter.

Illustration E shows the umbilical cord removed but the belly button in this picture has not been snugged completely: there's a little open-work circle in the middle--very pretty for lace.

Illustration F, below, shows the same fabric with the belly button snugged up all the way.

To prevent a knot, don't work in the tail by winding it around and around through the stitches of the belly button itself. Packing the belly button with yarn this way makes it a hard knot, an "outie." Of course, in lace, there really is nowhere else to hide the tail, but in anything heavier, find another place for the tail--click here for info on weaving in, here for skimming.)

The umbilical cord here shows 8 stitches cast on with an increase of 8 stitches every second round. This is the default formula for a flat circle. However, umbilical cord works for any number of stitches cast on and any rate of increase. Match the number of umbilical cord stitches to the number of stitches you are supposed to cast on for your pattern, and away you go.

ADDENDUM: Due to not googling before chosing this name, it turns out that Rosemarie Buchanan, the inventive author of "Two sticks and some string!" has a prior claim to this name for this technique. I urge you to have a look--Rosemarie's umbilical cords are made a bit differently, using a flat-knit umbilical cord, then going to 4 dpn's right away, and her method is worth knowing, too.  Click here for a direct link to Rosemarie's post on this matter.

You have been reading TECHknitting on "the umbilical cord waste yarn method for center-started garments, or 'how to make knitted belly buttons.'"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Starting glove fingers, straps, belts and other tiny knitted tubes, with an aside on fruit flies

At ChezTECH it is harvest season and there are paper bags of tomatoes and zucchini and cucumbers standing all over the kitchen floor. Knitting at this time of year has its own distractions, chief among which at this point are fruit flies. So, before any knitting could happen today, the fruit flies HAD to go. Here's how it happened: All the overripe tomatoes were rounded up and put in the outside compost. Then, one last overripe tomato was put into the garbage and the lid left open. One hour later the trash was swarming. The last step was quickly closing the trash, taking it outside and letting the little pests fly away. Success!

Now that the fruit flies have returned to their natural habitat, we resume with our regular knitting content.

Starting glove fingers, straps, belts cords and other tiny knitted tubes often makes knitters crazy. And once you DO get them started, these tiny tubes aren't all that easy to knit, either. But from now on, these troubles will be behind you.

Today we'll look at a neat trick to start tiny tubes and, once started, to knit them with good tension and no needle trouble. This method depends on two tricks: First, a waste yarn cast-on, and second, double pointed needles (dpn's) used in a bit of a tricky way--only 3 needles are used rather than the usual 4 or 5, with the result that the tubes are knitted flat and the needles don't fall out.

Step 1: Using waste yarn (illustrated in green) and a dpn of the size you will use to knit the tube, cast on the desired number of stitches, in illustration 1, below, eight stitches were cast on. The illustration shows a back loop cast on, but you can use any cast on you like: the waste yarn will be completely removed, so the cast on makes absolutely no difference.

Step 2
: Slide the stitches to the other end of the needle

Step 3
: Using the same technique as for I-cord, draw the running yarn to the right tip of the needle. Using a second double pointed needle, knit another row or two with the waste yarn. (click here for a tutorial on I-cord)

Step 4: After you've knitted several rows in this I-cord fashion, then on the next row, knit only HALF the stitches.

Step 5: In illustration 5, below, half the stitches have been knit off the yellow needle onto the purple needle. The next step is to FOLD the purple needle BEHIND the yellow needle, as illustrated by the fish-tailed arrow.

Step 6: Using a third (red) dpn, knit the stitches off the front (yellow) needle. The back (purple) needle will be acting as a holder--you won't need to hold onto it as you knit with the yellow needle and the red needle, because the loops of knitting which are around that back purple needle will hold that needle in the work, and this is especially true if you use a "grabby" dpn, such as one made of bamboo.

Once you have knit the remaining stitches off the front yellow needle, flip the work and continue in the same manner, using a third needle to work the stitches off the front needle, while allowing the back needle to act as a holder for the other half of the stitches.

Step 7: After working an additional few rows (each row is 1/2 a round), you will see that the loopy mess of the original I-cord-type rows are at the bottom of the work, and that the tension is improving. Work as many rows as you feel you need to to get the tension under control, and the work firmly settled. Of course, as you become more experienced in this trick, you will need fewer and fewer rounds of waste yarn, but for a first attempt, 6 or 8 or even 10 rounds are not too many.

Step 8
: Now it is time to switch from waste yarn to garment yarn. To accomplish this, you simply drop the waste yarn and start knitting in garment yarn.

Two quick tips about this process: First, yes, there be big loop and some loose messy stitches right where the two yarns change, but these are easily tamed when the time comes for removing the waste yarn. If it bothers you, you can LOOSELY knot the two yarns together, remembering to unknot them before you perform step 9. Second, leave enough of a tail of the newly attached garment yarn to finish the work off--preview step 9 for details.

Once the waste yarn has been dropped and the garment yarn started, you simply knit the garment yarn in the same manner as for step 7. Again, as shown in illustration 8, below, you are knitting a flat tube, half a round at a time, using dpn's.

* * *
(Pssst--have you come from the post on belly buttons? If so, you can return quickly by clicking here)
* * *

Step 9: After you have worked at least a few rounds in garment yarn, you can remove the waste yarn, or you can choose to wait until the end of the project to remove the waste yarn. To remove the waste yarn, the easiest way is to pick it out, stitch by stitch, from the garment end--there is a loose end right where the waste yarn ends. Alternatively, you can simply cut the waste yarn tube with a scissors, making sure to leave 2 rounds intact, and then pick out these last two rounds carefully.

How you treat the newly revealed loops of the garment stitches as each pops loose of the waste yarn depends on how you want the end of your tiny tube to look.

If you simply want to snug the end of the tube up into a tiny rosette of stitches, then follow illustration 9a, below. A blunt-tipped (tapestry) needle has been threaded with the tail of the garment yarn (and this is why you were clever and left the tail somewhat long back in step 8). As each stitch-loop of garment yarn (blue) pops loose of the waste yarn (green) it is caught onto the sewing needle. After each garment stitch-loop has been caught as per the illustration, the needle is passed through the first stitch-loop (and only the first stitch-loop) again to prevent a gap from forming. The yarn is then drawn up s-l-o-w-l-y (this prevents knotting) until all the stitches are snugged up into a center rosette of stitches and the tube is thus closed.

If, however, you want to keep the stitch-loops of garment yarn live, the follow illustration 9b, below. As each stitch-loop of garment yarn pops loose of the waste yarn, it is caught on a double-pointed needle.

An example of where a dpn pick-up might be appropriate is when you might want to Kitchener stitch the end of glove fingers together--the Kitchener stitch makes a smoother, flatter finger-end than the little knot you'd get with the drawn rosette of stitches resulting from step 9a.

Another example of where a dpn pick-up might be appropriate is when you want a square end to a belt or strap you might make by this method.To get a square end, you'd cast OFF these live stitches, and this is why you left a long tail when you attached the garment yarn back in step 8. One thing to remember is that when you work DOWN from a cast on edge, you have one less stitch than you were expecting (click here for an explanation) so you either have to fudge OR cast on an extra stitch at the outset to avoid this problem.

A couple of final notes:
1. If you making glove fingers, consider making the very ends of the fingertips on a needle one size smaller than for the rest of the glove finger/glove body. This will make for a better fit and denser material right where you need it--on your COLD fingertips.

2. Use waste yarn of the same weight as, or thinner than, the garment yarn. If you use thicker yarn, your first row of garment stitches will be larger than the others, and that will make it difficult to have a nice finished product.

The very next post about "belly buttons" expand on this trick. It shows how to use a tiny tube of waste yarn as the start for a center-out item, such as a hat or a center-started blanket--click here to go to that post.

Have fun with this--TK
You have been reading TECHknitting on: knitting tiny tubes: glove fingers, straps and belts.