I love to talk to knitters online and, of course, have my students here locally. I'm beginning to find that some things I take for granted are sources of fear for other knitters. Therefore, I will try to shed some light on some of the common problems I've encountered.
BLOCKING: It's simple enough, but some folks just don't know how, so don't do it. I haven't written about it, so I'll share it here. My favorite way is what I call "the wet towel treatment." You can lay your project, completed or a piece at a time, on a dry towel, or get a sweater dryer. I prefer the latter because then I don't need plastic to protect my floor! Park your project on "whatever," wet a big bath towel with hot water and wring it out good (don't worry that it's hot 'cause it'll cool real fast!), open it up, spread it over your project. Let it sit for an hour or so till the water has worked its way into the garment. Now pull it off most of the garment and start working with project to shape it as you want. As you've shaped it, put the towel back on, a section at a time. Let it sit overnight, then take it off and let the project dry, or, if you have a particularly obnoxious project that does not want to reshape, let the towel and project dry together. If you've used a sweater dryer, this will go faster. Topics
ADDING ELASTIC TO COTTON: "It won't hold its shape!" so I've been told. Well, there is a nice little trick I use to compensate, because I like wearing cotton in the summer. Actually, what loses its shape is the ribbing. Cotton does not have the elasticity of wool. However, you can put "elasticity" into it by using--elastic. First of all, I always do tube hems (French hems) because they are just plain beautiful (very sturdy, too). They are explained in my book, Essential Techniques. Tube hems are a great place to hide elastic, any color (like standard white), that is heavy enough to not break. After garment is completed and put together, I pull a length of 1/8" white elastic through my tube hems with a tapestry needle, adjust the circumference, snip, hand sew ends together. If you check out the photos of my free pattern, which is done with cotton, elastic is pulled through neck and bottom ribbing. If you check the photo of my Norwegian socks, I have pulled elastic through the top of the socks so they will stay up. In each case, the elastic is white 1/8" stuff. You will not find it, however, and it is not stitched to the wrong side--it is pulled through the tube hems. Been doing this for years. It hasn't failed me yet! Topics
MACHINE WASH WOOL: Hey, this works better than hand washing, provided you do it right. I've done it enough times to know it is perfectly safe. First of all realize that wool doesn't like hot water only--it doesn't like cold water either. Wool cannot tolerate extremes. Therefore, you must not use the cold water rinse. You must wash and rinse your wool garments (and other fine washables) in lukewarm water. My washer is ancient and has a knob dial for setting. I can bypass a portion of a wash cycle with the knob. When I wash wool, I very carefully fill the drum with lukewarm water and I use pure soap (Ivory these days). When the temp is perfect (feels like nothing to the touch), I put in the stuff and let it just soak for awhile. Before the water gets too cool, I run gentle cycle for a very short time, let the water drain, spin, then I bypass the rinse cycle's fill section and go back to the beginning of any cycle to again fill with lukewarm water. When full, I dial to rinse and let it agitate and spin out. Spinning won't hurt your woolens. In fact, it's great because it gets a lot of water out of them so they are easier to handle and dry faster. When you pluck them out of washer, be sure to support them completely, or they will grow. Lay them flat to dry, on a towel or sweater dryer. The cotton stuff you can hang on the line, though. Be sure to use the same color rules as for regular washing! Topics
DESIGNING/ALTERATIONS: It's amazing what you encounter when you are an instructor. I frequently am approached by people who have purchased a yarn and pattern, only to discover that the pattern is so poorly presented that the project cannot be completed. Well, believe it or not, this problem is easily solved, though it might require either some ripping or some mathematical checking of a pattern before starting. To check a pattern for accuracy of measurements, begin by taking a garment you own and love (fits you well) and measure all the key elements: neck opening, width under arms, width of sleeve at widest point, shoulder, length of sleeve from top to cuff, depth of sleeve inset. These plus some others are your key measurements for getting something to fit right. Now determine the correct stitch count for each horizontal measurement by multiplying the number of inches by the stitches/inch horizontal gauge. Check these against the stitch counts in your pattern. A stitch or 2 difference will not be disastrous. More than that, consider adjusting. As for vertical measurements, just knit till you've achieved the proper length. If you match your "creations" to something you own that fits you well, you will always be assured a great fit. I have more information, plus a drawing illustrating key measurements, and mathematical formulas for calculating stitch counts accurately in my publication Essential Techniques. And by the way, it's simple to design a garment by working a gauge swatch of your stitch choice, and then using these same measurements, multiplied by gauge, to determine the counts for the key elements of your garment. Topics
NORWEGIAN SWEATER CONSTRUCTION: The photo on left (above) is a Norwegian sweater in progress. For the front and neck openings, "checkerboard" and "wrapped" steeks are used, respectively, to bridge the openings. The wrapped steeks have been sewn off and cut in order to open the neck properly for the photo; the checkerboard steeks are still uncut.
The photo on right shows the finished neck; the steeks have all been cut open and then buried under facings.
In my opinion, this is the most reasonable way to work a multicolor stranded garment in the round. For complete instructions on this technique, please see my publication Essential Techniques. Topics
*JOGLESS ROUNDS: It really is possible to eliminate those ugly jogs, but the techniques vary depending upon what you're dealing with. If you're working stripes or connected motifs, do this on the new color row: Work all the way around in new color. Remove your stitch marker. Knit-in-stitch-below at the first stitch of just-completed round. Replace your marker, because you've just moved the beginning stitch by doing this trick.
If you're working motifs, begin the round between a set of motifs. This means you'll be shifting the starts of your rounds to the left or right to accomplish this. Just make certain that the start travels between a set of motifs, not through one of them. Also, watch your stitch count in this section. Depending on whether you've shifted to right or left, you'll probably have to increase or decrease one stitch to keep the spacing uniform.
If your pattern requires some sort of speckling, decrease one stitch at the end of row 1 of your speckles, if necessary, so the stitches continue to alternate properly. You'll see it when you get there, and know what to do. Alternately, you can increase instead, but be sure to use an invisible increase.
*Knitter's Magazine, No. 45, XRX, Inc., U.S.A., 1996, p. 33.
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