Smarter Lifelines

For me, knitting lace shawls is a lesson in lifelines.  Lifelines are an additional piece of yarn in a contrasting color, that is placed through a row of stitches in case you need to rip back.  It is so hard to rip back in lace without a lifeline, because the yarn overs disappear as you go.  The more lace shawls I knit, the more often I place a lifeline.  This lesson has truly been learned the hard way. I finally tried the lifeline feature that is part of the cord in my Addi lace long tip interchangeable needles.  Now that I’ve done a lifeline this way, I can’t imagine I would ever go back to using a yarn needle for this task.  Some lace interchangeable needles have a small opening in the needle or cord, through which you can place an extra piece of yarn or plain dental floss to use as a lifeline.  This Addi cord has a small opening near the tip that is visible if you fold the cord in half. I thread a contrasting color of yarn on to a yarn needle and pull it through the opening.  Then as you knit your next row, the lifeline yarn gets incorporated into the  row of stitches.  Make sure you pull the contrasting yarn all the way through your row at the end so all your stitches are on the lifeline.   I usually knot the ends of the lifeline so it doesn’t get pulled back through when you work subsequent rows.   No matter how you place your lifeline, it’s important not to include your stitch markers in the lifeline.  The markers will become trapped on the lifeline and cannot move with your knitting.  The markers will not come out until you pull that lifeline.  The solution is to use removable stitch markers, or remove them for the lifeline row, then replace them on the next row.  You can see on my current project that I forgot to remove the central pink stitch marker on one of my lifeline rows. Also, make sure you document which rows contain a lifeline.  It seems like it would be easy to figure out where you are in the pattern when you rip back to a lifeline.  However, I have found that I am sometimes pretty puzzled about which row I should start with after the lifeline.  

Transformed, by Felting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love the process of felting because your work is literally transformed in the washer.  After felting, your piece is smaller in size, thicker and has a tighter weave.  Do you ever wonder what is actually taking place in the washer?

Felting works on animal fibers that have tiny scales.  Wool is the classic fiber used for felting.  When you get the piece wet, the scales open up slightly.  Then, when you apply heat and agitation, the scales irreversibly bind the fibers together.  Superwash wool has been treated to prevent the felting process.  Therefore, if your goal is felting, you want to avoid superwash products.

So how exactly do you felt?

I place my finished object in a lingerie bag.  I put it in the washer with a pair of old jeans.  The jeans add additional agitation to help the felting process.  You can also use a tennis ball for this purpose.  Then I run my washer with hot water and high agitation, checking the item frequently until it has felted  adequately.  I then roll up my item in a towel to collect most of the moisture, then set it out to dry.  For tote bags, I place polyester fiberfill in a plastic grocery bag and place the filled plastic grocery bag inside the tote bag.  Then I set the tote bag out to dry overnight.   I add or remove fiberfill as needed until my tote bag assumes the shape I want.   And Voila! I have a beautiful, sturdy felted piece.

When planning to make a felted piece, you need to think about shrinkage.  A felted gauge swatch is critical.  Most felted pieces will shrink more in height than width.  Also, the looser the texture of your piece, the more mobile the fibers are, and the more felting that will take place.  If you are making a flat piece, you can always knit bigger, and the cut out the final shape after felting.

Once you start felting, you may not be able to stop.  It is such a thrill to see your piece transformed in the felting process.  If you havent’ tried felting, go ahead, give it a try!

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.

Drachenfels Garter Ridges, Simplified

Drachenfels
Drachenfels

I recently started knitting Drachenfels.  This shawl is a simple, yet interesting knit that I am enjoying thoroughly.  When I started the section on the garter stitch ridges, I found the changing colors and the changing rate of increases to be a bit challenging to keep track of.  I created a chart for myself, and thought other knitters working on this project could benefit from this tool.  I have included the chart here.  Please share it with anyone you know that may like to use it.  I am sure I will knit this pattern in other colors in the future.  When I do, I will pull out this chart again to keep me on track.

Drachenfels chart

 

 

Why Mystery KAL?

First Mystery KALWhat is a Mystery knit along (KAL)?  For years I have seen the “spoiler” posts for the mystery KALs on the Ravelry forums and wondered what it all meant.

When you sign up for the mystery KAL, the designer releases the pattern in sections, over a period of time.  You, and a group of other participants are knitting the pattern without knowing what the final object looks like.

I decided to delve in, and discover the Mystery KAL for myself.  I started my first mystery KAL 2 weeks ago.  In fact, I started my first knit-along of any kind 2 weeks ago.  I started the J Fleckenstein’s Summer 2016 mystery KAL which promised an easy shawl pattern.  In the process of participating in this KAL, I have learned a few things about myself and discovered some benefits and drawbacks to the mystery KAL experience which I have shared below.

Benefits

  • Each week has a knitting goal.  I do well with a knitting goal.  A new “clue” ie, the next step in the pattern is released periodically.  The first week, I knit like crazy to make sure I had clue 1 completed before the release of clue 2.  I completed clue 2 in just 2 days so I was sure it would be done well in advance of clue 3.   Having a specific knitting goal in mind, really motivates me to complete each clue on time
  • I love the mystery aspect.   I have always loved a good mystery starting with Nancy Drew in my younger years.  I guess I still really love a great mystery or surprise and wait with anticipation for the next clue to be revealed on Fridays.  I also anticipate the mystery of what the final shawl will look like.
  • I like knitting with a community.  I really enjoy exploring the other knitters’ project pages.   I also enjoy browsing questions in the forum for this project.  For me, the community is the main reason to participate in a KAL.
  • I received the pattern for free.  If I wanted the pattern now, I would have to pay a small fee.

Drawbacks

  • Yarn choice is difficult.  I’m hesitant to buy expensive yarn when I don’t know what the final product will look like. It is also more difficult for me to decide on the best yarn for the project when I don’t have a visual image of the finished project.  The KAL called for 2 skeins of fingering weight yarn.  The designer for this pattern has gorgeous yarn for sale that is suggested yarn for the pattern.  However, I did not feel comfortable spending more than $60 on a knit I wasn’t sure I would like.
  • The knitting can be uninteresting.  The shawl for this KAL has been almost entirely in garter stitch.  This pattern has been easy, as promised, but so far I’ve been waiting for a more challenging or interesting section of the pattern.
  • It can be difficult to trouble shoot the pattern directions when you don’t know what the final product will look like.  When I knit, I constantly compare my knitting to the pattern photograph to ensure that I’m interpreting the directions correctly.  There is no pattern photograph to use for this purpose in a mystery KAL.

Overall, I am enjoying the mystery KAL experience and will probably do another one after I complete my current project.  Or perhaps I’ll try a classic knit along where I still get the advantage of knitting with a community but have the advantage of knowing what the final product should look like.

I would love to hear about your experiences with any mystery KALs that you have done.  .

 

Easy German Short Rows

Today I’m going to show you how to do a German short row.  I’ve always been intimidated to learn this short row technique because I found wrap and turn to be somewhat difficult.  I always had the impression that this short row technique would be even more challenging.  However, I started my first mystery knit along this week and was forced to learn this technique, which was part of the knit along.  Once I learned how to do it, I wished I had learned this technique long ago.  For me, the German short row technique is a lot more intuitive then the wrap and turn.  Let me show you how to do it, and it might become your favorite too.

On this piece, I’ve knit up to 2 stitches left in the row.  The second to last stitch is where I’m doing the short row.  I’m actually going to go ahead and knit that stitch like normal.  Then, I’m going to turn the work.  The yarn has to be forward in the German short row technique.  Then I’m going to slip this stitch that I just knit, purlwise.  And then the technique is as simple as pulling this yarn up and over the needle.  Now you can see these 2 legs.  That’s how you know you’ve done it correctly.  Then I’m going to knit the rest of the row.  I’m doing this in garter stitch.  I’ll show you once I get back to the “double-legged” stitch on the other side.  I’m going to knit that stitch like a “knit 2 together”  with both legs knit into a single stitch.  The double leg stitch will become hidden and look like purl bump.  This technique is an excellent choice for garter stitch.  I’ll knit to the end of the row and back, until I get to the “double-legged stitch” and then I’ll show you what that looks like.

So now I’ve knit back to the place where I did the German short row, and you can see this stitch has the 2 legs that I pulled up and over the needle when I did the short row.  Now, I’m just going to knit into those 2 as if it was a knit 2 together, so the 2 behave like 1 stitch.  That’s all there is to the technique.  When I turn the work over, you can see that short row is really hidden on the back of the work.