Casting on the smart way!

We’re declaring today the first day of summer! It’s Cast On Day for our Summer ’15 Knit-A-Long, and we’ve even got the weather cooperating. So following on from our stitch markers technique post on Tuesday, we’ve got a nifty trick for managing the cast on for Chicane.

The first part of the pattern involves casting on 173 stitches, and then placing markers to divide the row into the lace pattern repeats. So we thought: why not use markers right from the start? It’ll make it easier to make sure there’s the right number of stitches, and then you’re all ready for the lace a few rows down the road.

We’re going to use two different sets of markers to mark different things. First of all, there’ll be two markers to separate out the edge stitches from the lace section, one at each end. We’re using little loops of contrasting coloured yarn for all our markers here, and these two are beige.

There’s two stitches in the edge portion, so we cast on two stitches, then place our first beige marker.

Looking ahead a few rows, the lace will be worked in twelve-stitch sections, and marking each section makes keeping track much easier. So we’ll need a number of markers in another colour, and we’re using purple here. We cast on twelve stitches after the beige marker, and pop on a purple one…

…cast on another twelve stitches, add another purple marker, and so on, right to the end of the cast on.

The last lace repeat has thirteen stitches in it, and right after that comes the second beige edge marker. Cast on the last two stitches, and we’re away to the races!

The very handy thing about casting on with markers like this is that the counting is really easy: twelve-stitch sections between each pair of markers except for that thirteen-stitch stretch at the end, and then all you have to count is the number of sections.

And then we’re off! Why not head on over to the Chicane KAL thread in our Ravelry group for inspiration? It’s going to be a great summer!

Stitch markers are magic!

At the counter, we get asked a lot about how to use stitch markers, so we thought it would be a good idea to do a couple of posts on them. What’s more, Chicane, the chosen pattern for our summer Knit-a-Along, makes clever use of them, so this post counts as a bit of a warm up for that.

Stitch markers come in a variety of types – our online shop has a good selection, though a simple loop of contrasting yarn will work nicely too. They all share one thing: they sit placidly on your needle and tell you where you are in your row or your round. When you know where you are, the whole process becomes more relaxing and enjoyable. What’s not to love about that?

When you’re ready to place a marker, work to the place you want to mark, and choose a marker.

Then just pop it onto your right hand needle (patterns usually call this “place marker” or PM for short)…

…where it’ll just sit there, minding its own business.

Then just work your next stitch, as if the marker weren’t there at all.

When you look back in a few stitches’ time, this is what you’ll see. The marker’s right where you placed it, and the rest of the knitting just goes on around it.

When you come back to where the marker, on the next row or the next round, this is what you see:

Once you’ve worked the stitch right before, you’ll have the marker sitting there on the left hand needle.

Simply slip it from the left hand needle to the right hand (this is what patterns mean by “slip marker” or SM), and continue to work as normal.

Stitch markers mean less counting and less worrying about where you are in the pattern, as well as making it much easier to find mistakes, and that’s why we love them. What’s more, there’s other wily tricks for using them, which will make your Chicane flow more smoothly, so we’ll be talking about more marker magic in the next couple of weeks!

Join us for our Summer KAL!

Chicane KAL

We’ve had some bright, fresh days of late and the stretch in evening is bringing thoughts of sweeping away cobwebs and starting new things! So we figured it’s time for a new Knit-a-Long, and that we should go all out and aim for a light and breezy summer garment in anticipation of the long lazy days of summer to come… We can dream anyway, right?

We went on the hunt for the perfect summer pattern, something lightweight and stylish, fun to knit and versatile to wear – and we think “Chicane” fits the bill. Knit in Juniper Moon Zooey, a perfect blend of cotton and linen, Chicane will take you from the beach to the park, from casual coffee to nights out with friends. Choose bold shades or go nautical, make a statement or remain coolly neutral… there’s something here for everyone.

How the KAL works:

  • You will receive 10% off the yarn with the code SKAL15 until start date of 10 April.
  • Specific techniques will be covered by tutorials on this blog, potential modifcations will be discussed and general support (both technical and moral!) will be offered all along the way.
  • We will be scheduling knitting assistance sessions at the shop for any specific technique challenges that come up and we’re always happy to lend a hand during quieter times in store.
  • Virtually round-the-clock help will be on hand via the dedicated thread in our TIK Ravelry group.
  • Everyone who has finished their garment by Sunday 7th of June will be entered in to a prize draw to win another project’s worth of yarn!
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    Would you like join us? Or do you have any questions? Post a comment below or over on Ravelry and we’ll get back to you asap.

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    Materials Required

    Note: The same quantity of yarn is specified in the pattern for all sizes. If you don’t use all 4 balls then we will be happy to exchange or refund the extra yarn.

    For one solid colour

    4 x Juniper Moon Zooey (10% off with the discount code SKAL15)

    For contrast edged version

    4 x Juniper Moon Zooey in Main Colour and 1 x Juniper Moon Zooey in Contrast Colour

    Needles and Notions

    4.5mm 80cm Circular Needle
    4mm 80cm Circular Needle
    Stitch Markers
    Waste Yarn
    Measuring Tape
    Tapestry Needle

    Easy beads!

    Adding beads to knitting makes for really beautiful finished objects. For instance, just look at WittyKnitty’s wedding shawl above. There’s two distinct ways of doing it – prethreading the beads onto the yarn before you start, as our Party Lace Scarf does, or adding them to individual stitches as you work.

    The second technique means you can dive straight into the knitting. One way of doing it involves a teeny-tiny crochet hook, one both small enough to fit through the bead and large enough to hook the yarn. There’s no doubt this can be fiddly, and there’s always a certain number of beads in a packet with a hole just too small for the hook. So we’re terribly happy to report that there’s another way to bead your stitches, and we’ve got a tutorial for you!

    There’s a type of dental floss on the market called Super Floss. It was previously available in North America only, but now it’s in Ireland too, costing just a couple of euro. Its special feature is that it comes precut into 30cm lengths, and both ends are handily stiffened.

    When you have your strand of floss (and our small packet contains fifty strands), start by threading on one bead. In the picture below, you can see how the stiffened end helps. The floss essentially becomes its own beading needle.

    Tie a quick knot around this first bead with one end of the floss so the beads can’t fall off. From now on, we’ll call this end the knotted end, and the other end the free end. Thread on some more beads from the free end. You don’t have to thread a lot at a time – you can always add some more as you go. Then knit across your row until you reach the stitch you want to place a bead on. You can see the beads waiting their turn in the background of this picture.

    Take up the strand of beaded floss and move the last bead that you threaded – the furthest one from the knotted end – up towards the free end, close to the knitting.

    Poke the free end of the floss through the stitch. The stiffening makes this easy.

    With the bead close to the knitting, take up the free end of the floss…

    …and pass it back up through your bead in the other direction.

    Now you can slip the stitch off the needle (the floss is holding it so it can’t drop)…

    …and move the bead down from the floss onto the stitch.

    Pop the stitch back up onto the left hand needle and pull the floss out gently.

    Then you just work the stitch as usual, and the bead stays firmly put.

    And that’s it. We find it far handier than the crochet hook method, with less risk of catching only part of the yarn and less wastage of beads.

    Dental floss. It’s not just for teeth!

    Secure

    We’ve been talking a lot about pompoms recently, and one question keeps coming up: what’s the best way of attaching one securely to a hat? Well, we had an intriguing suggestion tweeted at us recently, so we resolved to try it out.

    It’s very simple, and that picture shows it in practice. Instead of just sewing the pompom to the hat fabric, sew it to a button on the wrong side of the hat. The button, nestling into the top of the hat, distributes the pulling of the pompom and makes it much less likely to come loose. You’ll find our tutorial on sewing on buttons at this link.

    So yes, it works!

    Colourwork that pops!

    Our last post on colourwork technique was about choosing colours that work together well. Choosing the orange and dark grey in the little swatch above gives a fabric with good contrast: the small diamond motifs pop out pleasingly.

    But what’s happened here? This is the same yarn, the same needles and the same knitter – in fact, it’s the other side of the same swatch. But the little diamond motifs look smaller and in places nearly hidden inside the grey fabric. This is yarn dominance: you want the contrast to sing out, not shrink into the background. The difference between the two pictures is simply how the yarn was held.

    If you want your contrast yarn to be dominant, make sure it’s the one that is held beneath the background colour. When you’re feeding a colour from each hand, that means simply holding the contrast in your left hand. If you’re holding both in one hand, then you’ll need to watch which colour is the lower one. And that’s it.

    If you want to see this in action, then cast on a small swatch like ours and experiment. The difference will surprise you.

    Value added

    That’s part of a Snawheid. It’s a Kate Davies design, so of course the pattern is gorgeous, but this hat here? It’s just a bit…meh. It’s made with Navia Duo, which is lovely yarn and ideal for the job, and the stranded colourwork is very nicely done. Meh. Mustard and grey is a classic combination. Whatever: meh.

    But this unfortunate hat is a perfect excuse for learning a little about how colour works. One of the things that distinguish colours is how far from white and black they are. It’s called colour value. And if we’re presented with two things of different colours and they have the same value, our brain notices and mutters “They’re the same!” And in this case, the knitter’s brain adds “That’s a boring hat!”

    Happily, there’s a really easy way to avoid this which saves you time and money, and we were reminded of it by bioniclaura this week.

    If you convert a colour picture to greyscale, you can see the values very clearly. So we did this with the picture at the top of the post, and here’s the result:

    The stranded colourwork vanishes completely. That’s why this hat is uninteresting. Your brain notices that there’s no value difference.

    Of course, it would have been good (and would have saved time!) to check this before starting. Well, here’s a picture of the two balls of Navia:

    Converted to greyscale, that image looks like this, and you can tell it’s not going to end well:

    Any digital camera will have a “monochrome” or a “black and white” setting, and so do most cameraphones – if you don’t know where to find this, a quick look in your manual will help. Click over to that setting when you’re choosing your yarn for colourwork and then snap a picture of your options. If they look like a good pairing when you subtract the colour, then you’re on the right path, regardless of the type of colourwork you’re planning.

    Here’s a couple of examples. Here’s a likely-looking pair of yarns, both Malabrigo Rastita:

    Changed to greyscale in the camera, this is the result, and it really does look promising, doesn’t it?

    And ta da! here’s the finished product, a glorious Epistropheid hat!

    Given the black and white treatment, you can see why this works so well – the colour values are deliciously distinct. Happy brain, happy knitter!

    If you’re interested in reading more about colour theory in knitting, Knitty magazine has an excellent article here. Thanks again to Laura for inspiring this post!

    By the way, this Epistropheid is now sporting a fake fur pompom from the new stock that we promised you last week, and Jacqui can’t be persuaded to take it off!

    Pop on a pompom!

    If we had our way, there’d be pompoms on pretty much everything! There’s two of them, adding extra dotiness to our Candy Floss Baby Booties (ahhhh!)

    We put a jaunty one on our Thistle hat, of course. Pompoms like this are great for using up the remainder of a ball of wool, too, and they even have a practical purpose: if it’s snowing, the bobbing around of the pompom stops snow settling on top of your head!

    Pompoms are terrifically easy to make. You can use circles cut out of cardboard (Vogue Knitting has a great photo tutorial at this link). An even easier, and more robust, option is a pompom maker like our Clover ones – you can see how they work on Clover’s video here.

    Looking for a quick way to make teenytiny pompoms like the Candy Floss ones? Well, the incredibly clever Eskimimi’s got this covered over on her blog: hint! there’s cutlery involved!

    But pompoms don’t have to be made out of yarn, either. Jen’s Epistropheid – the very one we featured in Tuesday’s colourwork post – just wouldn’t be the same without its great big funfur pompom! We have these in stock in red and white at the moment, but there’s a big delivery due in the next couple of days with lots and lots more!

    Finally, if you find yourself needing to make a lot of pompoms in a hurry, here’s a video we found just for you! Garlands of pompons filling the house? Why not?

    We’d love to hear what you’re putting pompoms on – let us know in the comments below!

    Where’s the last stitch?

    A lot of new crocheters report to us that their projects suffer from mysterious narrowing. Though they don’t intend to reduce stitches, the intended square or rectangle turns into a triangle. It an be quite puzzling.

    The reason is almost always caused by not working into the very last stitch of the row. That stitch isn’t always easy to spot, but happily we’ve got the perfect fix. All you need is a couple of ordinary hair clips, like the ones in the picture above.

    It’s a very simple trick. Just make the first stitch of your new row and pause for a moment to pop a hair clip into the loop on top of it. It’ll sit there and mind its own business until you come back to it at the end of the following row.

    When you get to the end of that following row, you’ll find the last stitch easily, because the clip is holding it for you.

    All you have to do is work the last stitch, take out the hair clip, and then, after turning the work around and making your turning chain, you’ll insert it into the top of the first stitch you make on the next row.

    Tada! That’s all there is to making perfect even rows. Of course, you can use a locking stitch marker if you like, but hair clips do the job just as well.

    And if you’re looking for more expert knitting and crochet help, then why not check out our upcoming classes? We’ve got the November and December schedule up for booking right now, so click on over to see how we can help!

    Casting off in pattern

    If a pattern features rib at a cuff or a welt, chances are it’s to give elasticity and snugness. It would be a pity to take away some of that stretchiness when you cast off, so a very common instruction is to “cast off in pattern”.

    We get asked a lot at the counter what that phrase means, so here’s the details. It follows on very nicely from our last technique post on working stitches as they appear, too, because it really just combines that trick with a straightforward cast off.

    Just as with a standard cast off, you start by working two stitches. The first two stitches in our row are bumps, so they get purled.

    Again just as with a standard cast off, you cast off the first stitch by leapfrogging it over the second one, and the picture shows that happening.

    At this point, you’ve purled your stitches and then cast them off. Looking at the next stitch, it needs to be knitted in order to keep the rib pattern:

    So the next step is to move the yarn to the back of the work between the needles (because you’re going from purl to knit) and knit the next stitch:

    Then pass the previous stitch over the one you’ve just knitted:

    And that’s it! If a stitch needs to be knitted to keep the rib sequence, then knit it, and if it needs to be purled, purl it, and leapfrog the older stitch over the newer in the usual way as you cast off.

    And finally, a couple of pictures to show the effect. The righthand portion of the stitches in our sample was cast off in pattern, and the lefthand section was cast off by knitting only without purling. It’s very easy to see where the change was made – the knitted edge has nothing to do with the rib below it and splays out, but the cast-off-in-pattern section ripples pleasingly with the rib.

    It’s when the cast off is stretched (as it will be when you wear the garment) that the difference is really noticeable. The cast-off-in-pattern section stretches as much as the ribbing below it, avoiding that uncomfortable overtight edge.

    So the welt of your topdown cardigan can be as supple as the work above it. It’ll wear better too, because the edge isn’t strained. No more top-down hats with forehead-hurting edges, either!