Tuesday, February 26, 2013

New Video - Long Tail Cast On Tips

 I love learning and using different cast ons, but the long tail cast on more times than not is my go-to standard.  I know most of you are probably old pros at the long tail cast on.  But when I teach new or returning knitters, and I suggest this cast on, I often see scrunched up faces and deer in the headlight looks.  Comments like these are not uncommon:
  • I tried it and I hate it cause it's too hard, or
  • I couldn't understand the directions in the book, or
  • I know one cast on (usually the backward loop method, which while it does have its uses, is really not a great cast on for new or nervous knitters, but I digress) and that's all I need.
So I developed a method of teaching the long tail cast on that is a little bit fun, and maybe a little bit easier to remember.   The devil is in the hand hold and the stitch tensioning so I try to focus on those two issues in a video (posted on the Plain Ole Knitting Tips Page - see tab at top of page).

 Another thing that I hear a lot or see in the forums, is that the best way to make sure your long tail cast on is loose and stretchy is to cast on over 2 needles.  My own Mom taught me to cast on this way, although I'm not sure she knew why she was doing it, only that it was the way she was taught.   In my experience, casting on over 2 needles just causes the stitches in the first row of your work to be bigger that the stitches on the next row.  While it may be easier to work that first row, it will generally end up being a bit sloppy, and not stretchy.

The secret to a stretchy long tail cast on, is to leave a space between your stitches when you cast them on.  I use the tip of my index finger on my right hand to measure the space so that the stitches end up as even as possible.  Tip number 2 is to make sure that the newly cast on stitch isn't strangling the needle, it should be able to slide on the needle easily.  Think of it as a hug, not a death grip.

I hope the video helps illustrate these points.  I love learning and using different cast ons, but the long tail cast on more times than not is my go-to standard. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Built-In I-Cord - Perfect Edges Everytime

I spend way too much time on the Ravelry forums.  I know I do.  I justify this time sink by telling myself (and Mr. Verdigris Knits) that I am doing "market research."   Through such research, I've determined that one area where knitters are often challenged is creating scarves with nicely finished edges. 

Daily, there is at least one thread about the effects of slipping edge stitches.  The degree in variation of opinions and directions about just this one tiny aspect of knitting is overwhelming.  Too bad, I'm going to put yet another variation out there.

The built-in I-cord edge. 

To me, this is just about perfection on a scarf edge, or any exposed edge for that matter.  And the results are perfect every time.  No need to worry about loose stitches, or the edges being too tight.  It simply works, and it looks like a couture finish.  And that little column of stitches makes the perfect hiding place for yarn tails.  Your tails will never be exposed again. 

Here's the I-cord edge worked on the Stripe it Rich Scarf - a new design that will be published in the near future.  If your project involves color changes every 2 or 4 rows, I-cord edges can completely hide yarn carried up one side of the scarf.  Completely.  Isn't that wonderful.  I won't make another 2-color slip stitch scarf without this edge treatment, EVER. 

And its as easy as adding 3 stitches to each edge of the scarf pattern and work as follows:  Knit the first 3 stitches of every row and slip the last 3 stitches of every row purlwise with yarn in front.  That's it.  Amazingly simple and beautiful. 

If you are changing colors every other row (as is typical for many slipped stitch patterns) just make sure the new color is picked up from underneath the old color and the yarns will be carried up practically invisibly. 

I've posted a video of the technique on the knitting videos tab.  I hope you give it a try and let me know how you've used it.

What if you want a solid color I-cord edge on your 2-color scarf?  I'll cover that in the next post. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Chicken and Waffles Cowl - New Pattern

Since November, I've been working up a cowl pattern based on the Gap's wildly popular two-toned waffle cowlneck.  By reverse engineering from the photos, I was able to recreate the stitch pattern, which not surprisingly, is a variation of a tuck stitch that in turn is a variation on brioche.  I say not surprisingly because a commercially available cowl is going to be made by machine, and many decorative machine knit stitches involve tuck stitches. 
My initial swatches  were ok, but I didn't really love the resulting fabrics; things were a bit droopy after blocking. I was disappointed. Then, I had the chance to inspect the actual cowl and I didn't feel quite so bad.  You see, the actual cowl is worked up flat and seamed. The materials are definitely acrylic because the fabric has been steam blocked and actually pressed beyond an inch of its life.  There is absolutely no "sprong" left to the rib stitch pattern - none, nada, zip.  The knit "waffles" are flat as pancakes.  The irony that  this is called a waffle cowl does not escape me.

Turns out the commercially available version is as flat and lifeless as my swatch.  So I set about developing my own variation  rather than just duplicate the commercially available one.  And the result is the Chicken and Waffles Cowl.

So named because side one has the waffle look, and side two has the look of bird feet (at least to me).  My version is worked up in the round (no seaming) using a bulky weight and a worsted weight yarn in contrasting colors.  I used one skein of Patons Classic Wool Roving (and I used just about the whole skein) in Dark Grey as the main color, and less than one skein of Patons Classic Wool (worsted weight) in Lemongrass for the contrast color.  The finished dimensions are about 15" high and 40" around, blocked lightly.

Side 1

Side 2

The Chicken and Waffles Cowl pattern  is available for immediate pdf download for $3 US.  I hope you give it a try, and let me know how you like it.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Wishing All A Restful Holiday

Can you spot the beagle?

My parents brought their little dog to visit us and our house full of people in the throws of holiday preparation.  Within a few hours she had disappeared.  We all stopped everything to search for her, fearing that she had somehow managed to sneak out of the house.  Finally, she was spotted in a nest made in the middle of my yarn stash - I could so totally relate!
I am sure many of you, like me, are in the throws of last minute holiday creativity - be it knitting, crocheting, sewing, decorating, or food preparation - these last few days can be full of stress.  Here's a gentle reminder to take a moment and find some quiet space if you need to just catch your breath.

Wishing all a joyous and restful holiday season and thanking you for all the support this past year.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Riveted Cowl - What to do with 1 Skein Malabrigo Rasta

Malabrigo Rasta is my kryptonite.   The amazing colors, the super bulky roving construction, the luxurious softness....I don't know what attracts me most, but like a moth to a flame I am usually powerless to resist purchasing a skein when I visit any LYS. 

But there's the rub.  One skein of Rasta contains about 90 yards.  And due to the lovey variation in the colorways (which is one of the main attractions), I haven't had much luck in combining skeins in a project.  Plus, did I mention SUPER BULKY?   A bit tricky to work into garments.
But Rasta is perfect for cold weather accessories - like the Riveted Cowl.  The pattern is available for  instand download - Just $2 US

Riveted is a quick, wonderfully textured, and oh so warm cowl that uses just 1 skein of a super bulky yarn, like Malabrigo Rasta.  The cowl is worked flat using a provisional cast on.  The ends are grafted together with a half twist, resulting in a neck-hugging, moebius shape.  
Measurements: approximately 6” (15cm) wide with 28” (71 cm) circumference

1, 150 g skein Malabrigo Rasta (90 yds/82 m).  Example worked in color 863 Zarzamora.
US size 11 (8.0mm) needles, or size to achieve gauge
Yarn needle to graft sts together and weave in ends 

Gauge:  12 sts and 18 rows = 4” (10cm) in pattern stitch     

I hope you consider giving this pattern and this wonderful yarn a try.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Chicken and Waffles Stitch

There is a commercially available, machine made cowl (I think from the Gap) that has been making the rounds on the Ravelry forums under the heading "WHAT STITCH IS THIS?"  

Took one look and knew it was a tucked brioche variation - and I couldn't resist swatching right away to duplicate the look. 
Here's my version of the stitch - I call it Chicken and Waffles  - one side looks like a waffle stitch (bulky yarn) and the other side looks like chicken tracks (to me anyway). 

My version is a variation of brioche rib using a fingering weight sock yarn and a bulky yarn.    It's fun and fast once you get the technique done and the resulting ribbed fabric is really cozy yet sporty.

I use the brioche terminology developed by Nancy Marchant in her book, Knitting Brioche.  See below for the non-standard definition - let me know if something isn't clear.  Worked flat, using US size 9 needles

Cast on odd number of sts in fingering weight (fw).   This includes 2 edge sts kept in garter.
Set up Row (fw) - p1, (k1, p1) to end
Row 1 (bulky) - k1, (sl1yof, k1) to last st, k1
Row 2,(bulky) - k1 (sl1+yof, p1) to last st, k1
Row 3 (fw) - k1, (brp+1, sl1yof) to last st, k1

Row 4 (fw) - k1, (k1, brp1) to last st, k1
Rep rows 1-4

I think I will go down a needle size or 2 next time.
Sl1yof - slip 1 st purlwise, take working yarn over the right needle and back to the front.
Sl1+yof - slip 1 st purlwise and the yarn over wrap from the previous row, take working yarn over the right needle and back to the front.
Brp - brioche purl - purl together the slipped st and the yarn over wrap from the previous row.
Brp+1  - purl the slipped st and the 2 yarn over wraps from the previous row.
I will be developing a cowl pattern for this that is worked in the round.  Here's the inspiration cowl that got me started.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Skyfall - Complimentary Brioche Lace Scarf Pattern

Earlier this year I splurged on one skein of Artyarns Mohair Splash - a magical, blue tonal blend of silk, mohair, silver Murano glass seed beads, and tiny sequins.   Usually I can resist the temptation to acquire only one skein of a delicious yarn when I have no plan of how I'm going to use said precious fiber, but this time, my will power failed me (like you've never been there?).

As beautiful as this yarn is, finding an appropriate use for just one skein does pose a few challenges.  First, one skein yields 165 yards of fingering weight yarn. Consider that most adult scarfs use about 400 yards of worsted weight and you can see the dilemma.  Second, the beads and sequins are arranged in small sections about 2-3 yards apart, so I had to be mindful to make sure the beaded sections would pool in a pleasing arrangement.

I swatched different versions of brioche patterns in sock weight yarn and large needles, and I worked up a combination that I thought would be perfect for this yarn.   Yes, brioche stitches are notorious for using up a lot of yarn, but when worked on larger than normal needles, a lacy, open fabric, with greater horizontal spread results.  Fewer stitches per inch means quicker knitting and maximizing yardage.

I have named this scarf  Skyfall.  The .pdf version of the pattern can be found over on the right hand side of the blog in the complimentary patterns section.

I hope you consider working up a scarf in some beautiful Artyarns fiber - the knitting and wearing experience is worth every penny.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Key To The Mint Design - what to do?

A new combo mosaic and brioche stitch pattern.  I'm calling this one "Key to The Mint"

I have worked it up in a cowl, using DK weight cascade wool (black) and my reclaimed sweater fingering weight, that I dyed with food coloring.  I love the color combination. 

I know these combo brioche and mosaic patterns work fine for cowls and scarves, but I'm wondering, would you wear other types of finished objects worked up in these designs?  For example, can you see this pattern worked up in a sock, maybe with a plain striped heel?  How about a vest, a cape, or a shawl?

I'd love some feedback on how you would consider wearing these stitch patterns.  Anyone who provides a comment will get a complementary copy of the finished pattern that results. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Loose Diamonds - New Pattern

Looking to knit up a unique, reversible baby blanket pattern?  Here's another design using the combined mosaic and brioche technique - Loose Diamonds Blanket.

Available on Ravelry as an instant download for $5 (click on link above). 
The "32" x 32" version uses about 600 yards of yarn.  I worked up the test knit in less than a week. 
Let me know what you think.   

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monument Avenue Scarf - New Release

Monument Avenue Scarf pattern released today.  Just $3 US 

Another design resulting from combining slip stitch mosaics and the brioche stitch.  While the scarf appears to be worked using a 2-color stranded method, only 1 color is used at a time.  The result creates a reversible, luxuriously squishy scarf that has two distinct yet equally attractive sides.  One side looks more like a traditional stockinette mosaic, but the fabric lays flat and does not roll as traditional stockinette must. The other side reveals a surprising textured effect, as shown in the photo below.  This unisex scarf is very warm, yet lightweight and comfortable to wear.  The pattern works well when combining a neutral color with a variegated with long color changes, or using 2 contrasting solids. 

Such a fun knit -  I think my next version might be in black and white; or maybe grey and camel.  I'd love to see your color combinations.

And as always, if you have any questions or need any help with the pattern, I'm available to help.  Just let me know.