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Eureka Page Launch

Do you ever get those moments when you realise something so basic, or so important, that you spend the next hour/day/week/month asking yourself why you hadn’t realised it before?

Me too.

I’ve created a new page – my Eureka Moments, where I share these ‘light bulb’ moments.  If it wasn’t obvious to me, maybe it wasn’t obvious to you either.

My first entry is about blocking a tension swatch.  Simple, No?  Where have I ever seen the instruction to block a tension swatch?  Nowhere.  Was I just supposed to know this – clearly I was – but it took me years to work it out.

Here’s the full story:

Block your Swatch

This sounds basic, No?  I can’t tell you how many years it was before I realised that I needed to block my tension swatch before measuring it.  I must have made hundreds of things before I worked this one out.  It never says it anywhere, and in the days when I was definitely a follower of patterns, I did what the pattern told me to do.  Patterns told me to block the garment, but not the swatch, so that’s what I did.

I used to wonder why things used to get bigger after a while, especially after washing.  I put it down to the yarn, or the pattern being a bit on the big side.  Note it was never anything I had done – or not done – as in this case.

Does it make much difference?  Well, YES.  Look at these examples of before and after swatches.

Here’s a couple of crochet squares before blocking – look ok, don’t they:

Granny Squars: Pre-blocking

The same squares during blocking – hmmm, looking a bit stretched out, maybe the hook was too big:

Granny Squares blocking

And here they are afterwards – stitch formation is still a bit too open:

Granny Squares after Blocking

The stitches are too loose, it’s not a good-looking square, I need to change down to a smaller hook and try again.

The other crucial thing to be learnt from blocking a test swatch is the final measurement, in comparison to the original measurement.

Before blocking, these squares measured 20cm x 11cm.  After blocking they were 22cm x 12cm.  Now we can all see that that’s not too important if I was making a blanket, but what if I was making a cardigan, or anything else that actually has to fit? Something made out of these crochet squares that appeared to measure 100cm before blocking, would measure 110 cm afterwards, that’s a whopping 4 inches in old money, and very likely to be far to big to be worn.

I know some people are reluctant to spend time making tension squares – I used to be just the same way.  When I start a new project now, I put aside the first evening (because that’s when I do my knitting/crochet) as a kind of preparatory evening.  It’s when I do my swatching, blocking and measuring, and I don’t expect to start the actual project on that evening – if I do, that’s a bonus.  Going in to a new project with this mind-set made the transition into swatch-blocking much more pleasant for me.

And guess what? Garments fit me now, even after I’ve washed them.

February’s Hall of Fame

This month I’ve chosen:

Photo: Aiko1122

Photo: Aiko1122

 

Aiko1122′s Primrose Path Socks

 

Look at the way she has managed to colour-match the socks – truly praiseworthy.

A neat job, and a good-looking pair of socks.

I like ‘em!

Lewis Sweater is Out There

Image

My new design – Lewis – a man’s sweater, has just been released on Ravelry – I kind of like it!

Lewis: Back!

 

Ever wondered about Combined Knitting?

This article first appeared in Yarnwise issue #63

 

East meets West for knitting with different twist

By Jane Howorth

 

Combined knitting, or combination knitting, as it’s sometimes called, has been around for a while; probably the earliest reference to it is in a knitting book from 1938*, but it’s only in recent years that it’s grown in popularity.  It gets its name because it combines the knit row of continental-style knitting with the purl row of eastern-style knitting.  Once mastered, this technique is faster than traditional, English-style knitting.  Another advantage is that it creates a dense fabric with a very even tension; so even, in fact that it’s sometimes compared to machine knitting.

Combined knitting uses a different technique to English knitting because there is no need to ‘throw’ the yarn around the right needle tip with the right index finger, which saves time as well as wear and tear on the joints and ligaments. Instead, the yarn is held in the left hand, and the right needle is used to ‘hook’ the yarn through the working stitch.  The yarn takes the same path around the needle in both knit and purl stitches, which means that the same amount of yarn is used to form every stitch, resulting in the lovely even tension that can be achieved using this method.

Uneven tension from traditional English-style 'thrown' stitches (yarn in right hand) Copyright Jane Howorth

Uneven tension from traditional English-style ‘thrown’ stitches (yarn in right hand)
Copyright Jane Howorth

Compare these pictures: the one above shows the uneven tension, called ‘rowing out’ that is often a feature of stocking stitch worked using the English method.

The picture below shows the even tension that can be achieved using the combined method.

Knitted using the Combined method - look how much more even the stitches are! Copyright Jane Howorth

Knitted using the Combined method – look how much more even the stitches are!
Copyright Jane Howorth

Given all its advantages, it’s worth taking a little time to experiment with this technique.  This step by step guide will show you how.

Getting started – holding the yarn

If you are not already familiar with the Continental method, take a moment to learn how to hold the yarn in your left hand.

Method of wrapping yarn in left hand Copyright Jane Howorth

Method of wrapping yarn in left hand
Copyright Jane Howorth

 

To hold the yarn using this method, take it over the little finger, under the next two fingers and twice around the index finger.  There are, of course, other ways to hold the yarn in the left hand, for example, the yarn can just be wrapped as shown around the index finger, and the turn over the little finger is omitted, so experiment until you find a way that suits you.

Knit stitches

To form a knit stich, keep the yarn to the back of the work, then insert the right needle, from right to left, through the back loop of the next stitch on the left needle.  This stitch has to be opened enough to allow you to ‘hook’ the yarn through with the needle, so don’t be afraid to stretch this stitch wide to the right.

The first stage of forming a knit stitch Copyright Jane Howorth

The first stage of forming a knit stitch
Copyright Jane Howorth

 

The index finger of your left hand will be close to the left needle and there will be a little bit of tension on the yarn; some knitters hold their index finger next to the needle, parallel with it, while others like to hold their finger out, above the left needle – try it different ways until you find the one that works for you.

Pulling the loop through to form the stitch Copyright Jane Howorth

Pulling the loop through to form the stitch
Copyright Jane Howorth

Now the right needle goes behind the yarn from right to left and hooks the yarn forwards.  The yarn is then drawn through the stitch on the left needle to form a new stitch.  You will probably find that you rotate your right wrist to achieve this movement.  Pull the old stitch from the left needle as the new stitch is formed.

Purl stitches

The first stage of the purl stitch Jane Howorth

The first stage of the purl stitch
Jane Howorth

To form a purl stitch, bring the yarn to the front of the work then insert the right-hand needle, from right to left, through the front loop of the next stitch on the left needle.

One purl stitch made and about to leave the left needle Copyright Jane Howorth

One purl stitch made and about to leave the left needle
Copyright Jane Howorth

 

Bring the yarn under and then behind the right needle, hook the yarn backwards through the stitch with the right needle, to form the new stitch.  Again, you will find that the stitch has to be opened wider than is usual in English knitting to achieve this.

Comparing Combined and English Knitting

As you practice this style of knitting, you will notice that the stitches sit on the needle with the left leg, or side, of each stitch at the front of the needle, and the right leg at the back; this is opposite to the way stitches sit in English knitting, and can seem a little strange at first.  This change in the way the stitches sit sometimes requires us to make adjustments as we knit.  For example, k2tog worked in combined knitting (through the back loop) will produce a left-leaning decrease and ssk worked through the front loop will produce a right-leaning decrease.  This is again opposite to the English style, where k2tog leans to the right, and ssk leans to the left.  Knowing this, you should substitute ssk for k2tog, and vice versa, where you see these instructions in a pattern, in order to make decreases which lean the way the designer intended.

Using Combined Knitting

This style of knitting can be used to power through large areas of stocking stitch, as well as any project that combines knit and purl stitches, including rib.  It’s best avoided on lace stitch projects, however, because the way the stitches sit on the needle causes difficulties in some decrease and increase methods, such as kfbf.

Combined knitting is a useful technique to add to your knitting knowledge; after a little practise you could give it a try on a stocking stitch project to see the difference it could make to your knitting.

 

*Mary Thomas (1938) Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book Hodder and Stoughton Ltd., London, UK.  Republished (1972) Dover Publications Inc., Mineola, N.Y., USA.

 

 

 

Hall of Fame Launch

Check out the new Hall of Fame page where I am posting photos of my designs that have been knitted/crocheted by someone else.  I am always so thrilled when anyone makes one of my patterns.

Here’s the photo for January:

Copyright: Dindiknits

A Muffler for Mr Woodhouse from Jane Austen Knits

Only one photo so far, but keep checking back, as I’ll put a new photo up each month or so.

Line Dancers Bag Pattern Published: Knit Now Issue 30

Just a line (ha ha – geddit – line) about my newly published pattern in Knit Now Issue 30; my Line Dancers Bag:

laptop bag and Phone Cosy

Laptop Bag and Phone Cosy

I am a convert to felted bags; I never realised how useful they are, and I like the whole felting process as well – a bit of a mystery outcome always – what is it going to look like when it comes out of the machine?  Like most people in the UK, I have a front loading washing machine, so the knitted piece is in there for the duration, and that’s always a bit of a leap into the unknown.  I felted these items twice before I was satisfied with the look and dimensions.

I am a convert to felted bags; I never realised how useful they are, and I like the whole felting process as well – it’s a bit of a mystery outcome always – what is it going to look like when it comes out of the machine?  Like most people in the UK, I have a front loading washing machine, so the knitted piece is in there for the duration, and that’s always a bit of a leap into the unknown.  I felted these items twice before I was satisfied with the look and dimensions.

The thing to remember is that you are in control of the felting process, even if it doesn’t feel like that.  A short, hot wash, and a little bit of soap is all that’s needed.  If you are very worried about how things will turn out, try felting your swatch first.  Measure it before you wash it, and again afterwards, so that you can work out how much your finished bag will alter in size.

If you are very dubious about using the machine, you can always try felting by hand – or foot!  Run a shallow bath of hot water – not too hot for your skin – squirt in some liquid soap, get in and make like you are treading grapes.  Hold on to something to be sure not to slip.  you’ll see the felting process happening under your feet.  Remember that the piece will get larger before it gets smaller; this happens because the wool fibres relax before the friction and heat cause them to shrink and felt.  Just carry on until you are happy with the finished item, then give it a rinse, spin it in the washing machine or roll it in a towel, then leave it to dry naturally.

The other thing that’s good about felted bags is that any little unevenness in tension is lost in the felting process.  That makes this bag an especially good one to try is you are new to stranded knitting.

The Jamieson and Smith 2 ply Jumper Weight is a great yarn for felting; it produces and thick, bouncy and sturdy fabric.

The bag shouldn’t stretch when it’s used to carry a laptop around in, because the handle is reinforced with running stitches before felting.  The top edge is also reinforced with running stitches too, to stop it stretching when felted.

DSC00463

The eagle-eyed amongst you will also notice a little mobile phone cosy too; there is the male dancer on one side, and the female dancer on the other side.  this takes just one ball of each colour of yarn, but you do need to remember to hold three ends of yarn together whilst knitting.

The pattern of the dancing figures, and the little leaf border is an old pattern that comes from the Faroe Islands.  I love being able to keep these old patterns alive by using them in new ways.

Super Stash Bust

Few things are likely to give me such a good feeling as removing a bag of yarn from my stash and using it in fruitful and virtuous ways.

This latest stash bust concerns Rowan Country yarn – discontinued since something like 2007, you can guess that I have had this for a while now.

Stash bust - Rowan Country!

 

The blue was previously knitted up as Branwen but that was a sweater that sure didn’t suit me.  Undone, its been hiding in a plastic bag for a few years, but now it is being repurposed (repurposed – I love that word) as a man’s sweater of my own cunning design.  The yarn is so thick, there sure is a considerable hole in the stash once it is gone – much better than using up a couple of old balls of sock yarn.  This is what I call a stash bust with style.

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