Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Stitch markers and what you can use them for

Many of my blog posts come from conversations with other knitters. I was surprised to hear someone say they rarely use markers, which got me thinking about all the ways I do. I use a variety of types of markers for various purposes and I use different colours to track different things going on in a project.

  1. I use a bright colour marker as the first marker on the RS of the work and a dull colour as the last marker. this way I know immediately when I pick up my work if I am on a RS or WS row.
  2. To mark the beginning of a round.
  3. To mark pattern repeats in lace, cables or in colour work.
  4. When casting on large numbers of stitches I put a marker after a set number of stitches, then I recount immediately to ensure that section is correct. The final number can then be confirmed for example by counting 8 sections of 25 stitches is 200 stitches in total.
  5. To track the locations of increases or decreases. I also use locking markers on top of the work after working the shaping so I can be sure I did the correct total number.
  6. A locking marker can be used as a stitch holder for a dropped stitch until I work back to that place in the row ready to pick it back up.
  7. A locking marker can also be used as a stitch marker for a split stitch until I work back to that place in the row ready to drop the stitch column down and pick it back up.
  8. A split ring marker can be placed on the needle to remind me I need to pick up a dropped yarnover.
  9. I sometimes tie the yarn tail to a marker after I cast on to avoid working the next row with the tail instead of the working yarn. 
  10. To mark buttonhole placements. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Converting Knitting Patterns to Crochet, is it Possible?

I've been asked if it's possible to convert knitting patterns to crochet on occasion. Often it's a question coming from someone who wants to buy one of my patterns and make the conversion. Oddly, I've had two emails in the last two weeks asking this question about specific patterns. I've had to respond that since I don't crochet, I don't feel comfortable or competent answering this question. After I responded to this morning's query I thought it might be interesting to see what the Internet thinks. 

I started with Ravelry and found this thread right away by searching on convert knit to crochet in all forums. The answers were pretty much what I expected, one poster pointed out that the fabric created would be very different. Another suggested some patterns which looked similar to what the original poster was looking for. 

The Original:

The suggestion:

I did find this website which has some basic directions. When I read through, the person converting is basically redesigning the item using the original item as a pattern template. It does advise looking for a similar fabric type and to know the yarn required will increase. There was also a reference to a book on the topic.

When I clicked over to Amazon, it also suggested two more books on the same topic. Have any of you ever done this?

Friday, January 13, 2017

An Interview with...Joleen Kraft

Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry. I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the knitting world.

You can find Joleen here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration? 
Inspiration is all around me - nature, architecture, vintage clothing, traditional motif books. If I’m stuck for/on an idea, letting go is usually the best approach for me. Something will catch my eye or I’ll see something in the world and, all of sudden, things click into place. 

What is your favourite knitting technique? 
I’m really enjoying cabling again and am working on a new sweater that has a large cabled piece in front.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs? 

I don’t often look at other designer’s work. I do think it’s important to knit other people’s designs from time to time as a way of learning new techniques and seeing items from a different perspective. I don’t do this as often as I would like since I’m usually too busy working on my own designs, but it’s something I’m hoping to do more of in the coming year.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters? 

Is there a controversy? As a knitter if I came across something in a pattern I didn't know how to do, I would go online and do my research to figure out how to do it. I suppose I just assume that other knitters are doing the same. When I worked in my LYS, we would often have people come in and ask for help with a detail in a pattern or whatnot, so I did see people trying to challenge themselves. I imagine you hear about the same controversy for most crafts and skills; you’ll always have the dabblers that want the quick and easy projects, but the hardcore knitters are the ones who’ll stick with the craft and challenge themselves to become experts. You can design patterns for people anywhere on this spectrum and still find an audience. Maybe it just comes down to your own personal expectations; is it important that people learn complicated techniques? I can see an argument for both sides. Doing complicated tasks is certainly good for our brains and creates new pathways; so perhaps it’s a question of how can we encourage people to challenge themselves?

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself? 

I am a one-woman knitting machine! At the moment, I do it all myself, though it’d be lovely to have testers in the future and it is something I have been thinking about.

Did you do a formal business plan?  
No. Designing has been growing organically for me. It wasn't something I really formally set out to do.

Do you have a mentor? 

I wish!

Do you have a business model that you have emulated? 


Do you use a tech editor? 

This is another item on my wish list.

How do you maintain your life/work balance? 

Ha! What’s that? When you enjoy something so much, it ceases to become work and can kind of take over your life (and your house)! However, I would be fooling myself to think that knitting always equals non-work time. I do think it’s healthy to take some time off from knitting — not only for the sake of my wrists, but also to let those creative depths replenish themselves.

How do you deal with criticism? 

With kindness.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?  

I’m not quite there yet, but I’m getting there! I have been able to substantially decrease the time I spend in my other work roles.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting? 

It’s often said, but I think there’s truth in it: Design pieces that you love.

What’s next for you?

Soon I’ll be the knitting herbalist! I’m almost through my training in herbalism, so I am and will be directing much energy there, but I can’t see ever give up knitting and design.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Social Knitting Inspiration Part 3

I finished the green and ivory stash buster project from this post. 

It made for easy knitting during the Christmas holidays, always a good idea between the cycle of cooking, cleaning, entertaining and staying out late to socialize. It turned out like this: 

I used a combination of garter stitch and 2 x 2 rib. I double stranded the yarns in several combinations and then knit one row of each combo over a 3 row sequence. I also added short rows in the garter section so the bottom is wider. After I added the fringe I weighed the left overs and I had about 40 grams. Mission accomplished on my stash down.

Then I needed something else easy to work on. Of course I had forgotten about the blue project. (Next step, put getting organized on the New Year resolution list.) I started and finished this:

I'd been wanting to try out this construction method for a while and had written out the basic instructions in a notebook I keep for that purpose. (Fortunately, I could find the notebook.) You are only seeing half the shawl because I couldn't fit it in the photo when it was open. Both sides end in that spiral end and it's folded at the centre.

It's all in fingering weight yarns and does that curling thing on the edges when you let them hang free. It happens because there are so many increases made in a very small area. 

After that one, I started swatching for another stash down project. So far I like that one so much it could become a pattern so you may see it sometime in the future. Now I have to go find the bag with the blue and green yarns and put it somewhere accessible so it will be ready when I get back to it. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Blogger Gobbeldy Goop

Hey there! a reader just notified me there's a weird garbled posting on Superwash yarns in Feedly as well as my actual post. Oddly, at the same time I was fighting with Blogger because it kept changing my font and it was doing weird things with some photos. I logged out and went back in and things seem to be better. If you see the garbled post please ignore it. Thanks 


What you Need to Know about Superwash Wool

Some knitters love it others hate it. Superwash wool is a wool yarn which has been altered so that it will not felt when it is washed in a machine. Wool in its natural state has scales on its surface which can only be seen under a microscope. Felting occurs when these scales catch on one another during washing or with abrasion and moisture. 

I'm of the opinion that Superwash is neither good or bad. It's more important to understand it and then decide on a project by project basis if it makes sense for you to use it.

This description comes from Biotechlearn:

"On the outside of the wool fibre is a protective layer of scales called cuticle cells. They overlap like tiles on a roof. The exposed edges of the cells face away from the root end so there’s more friction when you rub the fibre in one direction than the other. This helps wool expel dirt and gives it the ability to felt. Wool felts when fibres are aligned in opposite directions and they become entangled. The scales have a waxy coating chemically bound to the surface. This stops water penetrating the fibre but allows absorption of water vapour. This makes wool water-repellent and resistant to water-based stains."

The Superwash process prevents the scales from binding in one of two ways. Either the fibre is given an acid bath that dissolves the scales or the yarn is coated with a polymer or resin which smooths over the scales and prevents felting. Labels never identify which method was used however, you might be able to feel the difference as you become more familiar with these yarns as the polymer-coated yarn are often described as feeling  slicker than the acid bath version.

Now for some of the negatives. You should know that high heat during washing or drying can damage a Superwash coating. This could eventually lead to felting which is exactly what you are trying to avoid. I recommend tepid to warm water washing on the gentle cycle using a good wool wash product, a short time in the dryer and to finish with flat drying. I have a dryer rack for my machine and I now use it for all of my Superwash projects. This isn't the one I have but it gives you the idea. It sits in the dryer in a way that allows the tumbler to move while it remains stationary.

Also, it is important to know that because the scales of the yarn cannot bind together, Superwash yarns will stretch a little more than non Superwash yarns. This makes proper swatching even more critical to your end results. I've had knitters tell me about their difficulties with Superwash and the one issue I've been able to identify is that they hand wash instead of machine wash and then don't always take the time to roll the knitting into a towel and squeeze out as much moisture as possible before handling the work. I often need a second towel when I hand instead of machine wash this yarn. Superwash definitely sucks up more water than untreated wool.

The benefits to be considered are that for knits meant to be gifted, it might make more sense to choose an machine washable yarn. I like to include the ball band washing instructions for the recipient. Keep in mind that non-knitters are often afraid of wool because of the shrinking and simply don't want to hand wash clothing. Some assume that wool is itchy and Superwash is less likely to be itchy since the scales have been treated and smoothed out. Another benefit is that Superwash yarns (especially the polymer-coated ones) create a slightly more dense fabric with more drape and a little more shine. Depending on your project or your garment preferences they may create a project which you might be happier with.

Friday, January 6, 2017

An Interview with...Vanessa Ewing

Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry. I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the knitting world.

You can find Vanessa here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration? 

I find inspiration in many avenues in my life. I think this is what helps me produce the amount of patterns needed for Plymouth's numerous yarns. Color inspiration can be found in nature, since nature makes the most beautiful color combinations. I also find inspiration in other art mediums, like sewing. Having a strong design background in garment construction helps me work through and solve knitting design challenges.

What is your favourite knitting technique? 

My favorite knitting technique would be working in the round. I love seams, probably more than the the average knitter, since seaming add structure and body to a garment. However, working in the round is just fun and easy for TV knitting!

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs? 

It is impossible to not look at other designers' work. In fact, I think if you deny yourself that you are shutting off a large part of the world around you. It is important to look at everything and anything that fascinates your eye; whether that be art, food, culture, puppies, etc. Then, let those ideas and images marinate within.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?

I'm not sure I've seen this controversy. I feel there is always room for simple, basic design. Even the most seasoned knitter will want a pattern like this from time to time. However, there has to be a challenge design out there that just grasps the imagination and desire to create. It is truly an art to write out a hand knitting pattern for the public to follow. It is ever-evolving, and should be approached in a thoughtful way.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself? 

Oh my gosh, this is a great question. I have new sample knitters as well knitters who have been with me since the beginning of my journey at Plymouth Yarn Company. I have, at the moment, 22. They are all special to me, and each has their own unique skills.

How do you balance your role as design director at Plymouth Yarn Company with own design work? 

Currently, I am just designing for Plymouth Yarn Company. I haven't had much time to design for my own collections since I took on the Design Director role in 2014. I produce about 100 designs a season, with two seasons a year. I feel satisfied and challenged by the amount of yarns PYC imports. I do wish to submit more designs in books and magazines in the's just a time issue!

Do you have a business model that you have emulated? 

At first I would say no, but I actually do. You could kind of say it was ingrained in me since I was about 6. I grew up at my mother's yarn shop, Fiber Arts Yarn Shop in Cape May, NJ, which she has owned since the mid 1980s. I am able to apply practical knowledge about best-selling products along with how to market new yarns in an effective way. My mother and I had a lot of fun developing promotions and programs to excite our customers. We started in 2003 a "Learn to Knit" program at the shore, which was great for vacationers who didn't know what to do on rainy days or wanted something relaxing to do on the beach. Every day we had a fee class for anyone who wanted to learn. I would say we have taught thousands to knit from this. I designed the pattern line, which was my first real foray into writing patterns.

Do you use a tech editor? 

Occasionally, especially for crochet. Though I can crochet, I do not consider myself an expert on crochet patterns yet.

How do you maintain your life/work balance? 

It is hard, but I love to work. It is important to take time off and zone out. I dabble in yoga a bit. I would say nothing refreshes me like a nice cup of tea.

How do you deal with criticism? 

In college, I learned to separate myself from my work. You have to, or else you won't be able to grow and succeed. This was one of the most important things to learn, and I am thankful for it everyday.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself? 

My career at Plymouth, since 2009, is a blessing and I am so thankful for the team work we have there.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?

I would say that you have to find that special voice inside yourself that makes your designs different from the rest. There are so many designers out there, but there is room for you. You have to believe it. 

What’s next for you? 

That is a great question. :) I am not sure but I am open to wherever the wind takes me.