Best Project Bag Ever

My friend gave me the best knitting project bag I have ever used.  The truly unique feature of this bag is the plastic window that allows me to see which project is in the bag without opening it.  I never have just a single knitting project going at one time.  Sometimes I lose track of which project is in each bag.  This bag eliminates this problem.  The craftsmanship of the bag is excellent.  I love the zipper with pulls at each end at the top of the bag.  The bottom of the bag is constructed so that the bag remains upright even when empty.  There is also a detachable wristlet strap to make it easier to carry when travelling and an internal pocket to hold your notions.  This bag is sold at my friends Etsy shop.  She makes all the bags herself.  She designed this bag for another knitter friend who used to carry her projects around in transparent plastic bags.  These bags are available for sale at her Etsy shop at www.etsy/shop/

Tips for Working with Stranded Colorwork Charts

As you can see, I’m making a second Latvian Christmas stocking.  This time, I’m trying to keep the color work pattern consistent around the heel  of the stocking.  I thought I would share some simple tips for working with stranded color work charts.  The tips are very basic, but make a world of difference in the ease of your knitting.

Tip # 1: Place stitch markers after every repeat of the pattern.  In this stocking, the stitch markers change from time to time.  Some pattern repeats consist of 12 stitches, others consist of 6 or 8 stitches.  I move the stitch markers as needed when the number of stitches per repeat changes.  The stitch markers allow you to easily recheck your work and figure out where you are in the pattern at all times.

Tip # 2 Cover the line on the chart ABOVE the row you are working.  When I first started using charts. I would cover the rows already worked and leave my current row and the rows above uncovered.  It makes more sense to cover the rows above the one you are working.  By viewing the rows already worked, you can check your work as you knit your current row and see the evolving pattern.  It is much easier to spot errors and correct them immediately when you are viewing your current row as part of the developing pattern.

Tip # 3: Knit the charted pattern from right to left, bottom to top.  Since stranded knitting is almost always knit in the round, each row on the charted pattern will be read in the same direction, from right to left.  Charts for flat knitting are different in that the odd rows are usually knitted right to left, and the even rows are knitted left to right.  Charts are generally read from bottom to top (the same direction as your knitting) and row numbers are usually indicated on the side of the chart.

Tip # 4: Have fun!!  There are few things in knitting that I find more rewarding then working stranded rows involving only 2 colors per row and watching a beautiful pattern emerge.


Lessons in tension

I learned a lesson on tension from my latest project, this Latvian Christmas Stocking.  This stocking called for size 2 double point needles.  Since I am more comfortable with a circular needle, I started with a size 2, 12 inch circular needle.  I knew eventually I would need to change to double point needles as I decreased stitches in the lower stocking.  I made sure my circular and double points were the same size, material and brand to avoid any size differences.   Despite this forethought, the bottom of the stocking turned out too small for the top.  This picture was taken after blocking, so the size discrepancy isn’t as obvious.  However, you can still see where I changed to the double points just below the second row of large red flowers.  My children, who are always brutally honest about my knitting, immediately asked if the foot of the stocking wasn’t too small.  I started to wonder, “Why did this happen?”

The answer is in the tension.

The very reason I wanted to use a circular needle is because I am more comfortable with circular needles than with double points.  In my knitting (and many other things in life too) more comfortable=less tension, or looser tension.  When I changed to the double points, even though the needles were exactly the same size, the knitting seemed more difficult to me and my tension became tighter.  This tighter tension resulted in the lower stocking and foot, being disproportionately small compared to the upper stocking.

This stocking was slated to be my last knitting project before Christmas.  However, I am now determined to make another stocking with more even tension.  The solution to my problem is to use double pointed needles for the whole project.  I will let you know how it turns out.

What is Superwash Wool?

Superwash wool is one of my favorite yarns to use for gifts, especially for babies.  I love all the properties of wool but I worry about damage to my hand knit items during washing.   Super wash wool is more resistant to damage during washing.  What makes superwash wool so special?

Wool fibers have scales.  With extremes in temperature and/or agitation, the scales bind the fibers together, resulting in felted wool.  Sometimes this effect is desired, but many times it is not.  The process of creating superwash yarn removes the scales with chemicals, or coats them with resin to prevent the scales from binding fibers together during washing.  Inactiviation of these scales also results in the stretching sometimes seen when washing superwash items.  The scales on the wool fibers that can cause felting, also help the final piece return to normal shape after wetting.  Some superwash fibers do better when put in the dryer after washing.  These fibers need the dryer heat to return  the piece to its prewashed size.  It’s best to check the yarn ball band for specific recommendations for your yarn.  It is also best to make and block a gauge swatch when superwash wool.  Since superwash wools tend to stretch during blocking/washing, you want to account for that stretch in your final knitted item.  If your superwash fiber was created with resin, regular detergent can wash the resin away resulting in a felted wool piece.  It is difficult to discover which process was used to create a specific superwash product.  Therefore, it’s best to avoid regular detergent and use a wool wash in the washing machine even with superwash wool.  I tend to still wash my superwash items by hand.  However, I feel confident giving items made from superwash wool as gifts, knowing they won’t be ruined if they are run through the washing machine.

Gauge Adjustments

I usually knit to a gauge that is similar to most of the patterns I have knit.  Seldom, when using the recommended yarn weight, have I had to change more than a needle size.  Recently, I knit  patterns by 2 different designers in which my gauge was way off.  For each of these patterns I went up 3 needle sizes from the recommended needle size in the pattern.  That process started me thinking about the effects on your final fabric and yardage requirement when making such a significant change in needle size.  There are 3 main points to consider when adjusting needle size to get gauge.

  1. Changing the needle size will change the appearance of your knitted fabric.  A larger needle size results in larger stitches with more open space in the stitches.  The resulting fabric will be less dense and more airy.  If the recommended needle is too small to get gauge, but you don’t like the more open appearance of the fabric with a larger needle, you may need to undertake the more complicated process of using the smaller needle and adding additional stitches to make up for the difference in gauge.  This process can be simple for a cowl or a blanket, but becomes more complicated for a piece knit in parts (like a sweater).
  2. Changing the needle size may impact your yardage requirement.  If you go up in needle size, you may need less yardage.  That’s because the fabric will be less dense.  More importantly, if you go down in needle size, you may need more yardage.  Make sure to account for yardage adjustments when changing needle sizes.
  3. Sometimes gauge doesn’t matter.  If you are making a baby blanket, and the exact size of the finished blanket is not critical, it may not be necessary to knit to a specific gauge.  Some patterns will actually note that gauge is not important, but final yardage requirement may need to be adjusted to attain the stated size of the finished piece if your gauge is off.