Measure Once…

Today I do not have much, but what I want to talk about is one of the tools I use often. If I may say so myself, I am pretty good at knowing the size of a knitting needle just by looking at it. Most of the time I am right. Sometimes I am not. Those are the times when you want to use your needle gauge. Don’t worry. This gauge is way less hive inducing than the stitch gauge can be, it is downright harmless. And useful at the same time. Also, if your needle size is American and says “8” – do you know the equivalence in mm? The needle gauge will tell you.

I for one have a really (really) hard time to read the printed or engraved numbers on the needles, sometimes they rub off, and when the size is marked on the cables (whoever thought that was a good idea?) I can only guess. Well, no more guessing. Use a needle gauge! (Most of them include a little ruler to measure the other gauge, but maybe I shouldn’t mention that today…)

IMG_9675Just look at the needles in the picture. Most of them seem to be the same size, but surely they are not. Stick’em in the holes to find out!

When using the gauge, the needle should just fit into the according hole. If there’s a gap between needle and gauge, it is not the right size, if only the tip fits in, it isn’t either! Not forcing the needle is especially important if you are using a metal needle gauge and want to measure a wood or bamboo needle. Always insert needle straight, avoid angles.

Happy Knitting, as ever!

- Mona

 

 

Take Good Care Of Your Stash

If you consider yourself a serious knitter, building a stash is unavoidable, really. I cannot explain it. It just so happens. You’ll buy yarn that you won’t use right away – and that is called ‘stash’. Granted, some stashes are larger than others and some contain only left over yarns from projects, but they all have something in common: they need to be stored.

I have yarn that I like to have on display, because I do love looking at it and it inspires me. Then there is the yarn (sweaters’ worth of yarn) that cannot be displayed in a pleasing manner and that needs to be stored or ‘stashed’ away.

Over the years I have tried several methods to store my stash. Sorting it by colours turned out to be a desaster (at least for me) because I was always looking for another colour of that particular yarn and somehow it did not make as much sense to me as I thought it would. So I have settled on sorting my stash by weight. That works well for me. It really depends on your sense of order how to arrange or organize your yarn – I do have a couple of tips, though! Most of these come from my personal experience, a lot is what I choose to do – so remember, if you have different preferences, do it however you like! :-)

Yarn likes to breathe.

Have you ever noticed how loosely yarn is usually wound into a skein? (There are exceptions, I have to admit. I have one skein of Wollmeise Sock yarn that is so tightly wound that I am sure you can knock someone out if you had to!) This is most important for natural fibers like wool, alpaca, any animal fiber that has elasticity, actually. If you do not plan to use the yarn soon, you better leave it in skeins. If your sense of order requires the yarn to be wound, make sure you do not wind it too tightly. If you wind elastic fibers to tightly, they’ll stretch while they wait to be knitted. Now, please do not misunderstand me: this does not hurt the yarn itself, once washed it bounces right back. However, if you knit with yarn that has been stretched during storage, your gauge will change significantly after washing! If it is too tightly wound the yarn flattens out and thins during storage, knitting with that might be quite different from knitting with a properly stored yarn. Cotton, Linen and non-stretchy fibers are – if not excluded – due to their rigid nature not in too much danger of changing a lot.

However, plastic bins for storage are fine.

Yes, I know, I said yarn likes to breathe – but I explained what I meant with that, and apart from winding it too tightly, yarn stored in plastic bins will be just fine. That is what I do. Sometimes I even put the pattern together with the yarn in one of those extra large zip-loc bags. So I won’t forget what I had planned to knit with it. Plastic bins keep the dust out, so do plastic bags.

There is no SPF for yarn.

Remember that when you have yarn in your living room or any other room, come to that. If there are spots in that  room that get hit by the sun, try to avoid putting yarn there. Especially cotton and silk, but wool also if always exposed from the same side to direct sunlight, will fade – even when in a plastic bag. Your yarn will stay pretty if not exposed to direct sun light.

Avoid snags.

Are you a fan of baskets? I am. Very much so. When it comes to storing yarn, you definitely want a basket that is covered in fabric on the inside, or even plastic, if need be. If it is not, there will be snags – and they are not pretty! If there is no fabric cover to be had, make sure there are no pieces sticking out, meaning that the insides of the basket are smooth, otherwise you can damage your yarn.

Make sure you get no unwanted visitors.

Some of us do not have a big space and no generous closet or big shelf to put all of our yarn. This often means that some of the stash is relegated to the basement. To avoid getting visitors we do not want, you can put Lavender sachets in the plastic bins, cedar blocks are good for yarns that are mostly wool – and then I recommend to check every once in a while if everything is in order. (I brought some yarn from Germany when coming to the US and later Canada and learned the hard way that it doesn’t have to be moths that damage the yarn. I do not know what kind of bug it was, but my 100% wool yarn was damaged and not usable anymore.)

Revisit, revise.

Yes, I know. There are some yarns we bought years ago and we would have just such a hard time letting go. Or so we think. When I find a yarn like that, I try to find a project for it that I would really love. If I can’t find one, I usually let it go. It depends on how long it has been sitting in my stash. This is the hard part, I know. But I have also learned long since that letting go can be very liberating, and also, I make space for more, newer stash…

Happy knitting, as ever!

- Mona

Back To School

The days are still hot and summery, however you already can feel the breath of Fall in the morning air. Getting ready to leave for work you might need a light jacket to make up for the lack of warmth until the sun catches up.

I don’t know about you but our family is in the midst of preparations of going back to school – all the supplies are bought and marked with her name (very important, as you might now), and my daughter is very excited to start first grade next Thursday.

Just before the summer is truly over and we go back to the regular schedule – with classes starting up at Espace Tricot soon also, watch out for the new program to arrive soon! – I have a plethora of information for you. This time around not put together by myself, rather a link to a very useful website.

The Craft Yarn Council’s website offers such a multitude of guidelines and standards relating to the needlearts that you are most proabably going to need more than one day to get through all of them. The information about yarn weights is also available in French.

Standards are very useful to unite knitters all over the world – it is good to know that the symbol you see in a pattern chart written in English means exactly the same as the one you found in the German knitting magazine, don’t you think?

Happy Knitting, as ever!

- Mona

I Need To Talk About Yarn

If you think ‘well, that is nothing new’ you’d be right. However, yours truly has been selected to be a member of the Shibui Spark program and we are suffiently encouraged (free yarn, need I say more?) to talk about the yarns we are knitting with. And you know how much I love to talk about yarn!

Incidentally we have received a delivery of Shibui Staccato at the store last week, finally put up on the shelf this week after doing inventory at the weekend. I say incidentally because, you might have already guessed it, that is what I am knitting with – double stranded with Silk Cloud. This mix has elicited a lot of ‘oooohs’ and ‘aaaahs’ when first met at TNNA this year, it was therefore a reason we thought we just had to have the Staccato in the store, just to be able to combine it with the Silk Cloud.

Having said that, the Staccato on its own is a wonderfully soft yarn and lovely to knit with. At a fingering weight I can see a lot of shawls being knit! I have difficulty choosing just one colour, there are so many pretty ones. I am sure you’ll agree wholeheartedly once you’ve seen and touched the yarn. It is made from 70% superwash merino and 30% silk, and silk/wool blends are forever on my favourite list.

Yes, I am fully aware that I am gushing – but it is the truth and nothing but the truth. I even schlepped my knitting to the park in almost 30° C heat. If that is not love, tell me what is!

photoOh, you want to know what I am actually working on? It is the Mix 34 – a textured cowl with an entertaining pattern.

(picture from here)

Apart from the Staccato and Silk Cloud we also have the Pebble (new colours!) and Linen (I am knitting a sweater with that) in store – come check it out, I am sure you won’t regret it!

Happy Knitting, as ever!

- Mona

Those Pesky Sticks

Also called Double Pointed Needles.

As I have mentioned before, and probably more often than you might want to hear, I do love knitting socks on dpns. Love it. Can’t get enough of it.

Having said as much, when I got started I had most certainly the same issues that you have when you get started knitting with five needles at once. Well, you don’t really. You still only knit with two, the other three just hang about. And that is the issue.

The result are often extra yarn overs, weirdly twisted stitches, a hole in your finger…nah, the last one never really happened! I am not saying you cannot poke a hole with dpns, I am just saying I have never encountered my students hurting themselves like that, maybe it is only me who thought it was a good idea to sit down on the couch while not paying attention to the sock on the go and thus ramming a needle in my thigh…(It stuck, I had to pull it out. That was gross. And it hurt.)

Teaching how to knit socks on dpns has taught me a lot, also. The most important fact – and the one I am sharing today – is that the order of the needles, meaning which one is on top and which is below, is very important. In fact, it is so important that your enjoyment of knitting with dpns depends on it.

Hence this post. So let’s get to it.

If you have ever tried to knit in the round with dpns you are sure to have experienced the frustration that goes on while working on the first few rounds. All the needles seem to be in the way, the knitted fabric does not look like anything and the sticks, well the sticks seem to stick out all over and are in every which way in your way. Yeah, I feel you.

Being a Continental knitter I have figured out a system that works for me – and not surprisingly this system is going to work for you also – if you do the opposite of what I do, because most of you carry the yarn English style, meaning with your right hand.

What I am going to tell you is probably going to sound a bit confusing – once your sit down and you are doing, or actually trying it, all will become clear. (Isn’t that often the truth?)

The trick is to keep the needles in the ‘correct’ order, in this case deciding which needle is ‘under’ and which is ‘over’.

To make it easier for you to understand what I am talking about, I have put my just started sock on four different colored needles. 

IMG_9653Please pay attention to how the needles are arranged: The orange needle lies on top of the pink one where you start to knit, meaning once you start knitting the pink one will be below the orange one and hence out of the way and the chance of getting your yarn tangled around it practically non-existent. (I do the opposite. If it was me knitting, I would hold the orange needle below the pink.)

IMG_9652

When knitting, it looks like this:

(Sorry for the weird angle, it is hard to photograph this!)

IMG_9656

The most important thing is that the orange working needle in the right hand is above (here rather: behind) the pink one.

As long as you pay attention to that order, knitting with dpns will be much easier than expected, and most probably improved if you were doing it differently.

I know. Small change, big difference.

Happy knitting, as ever!

- Mona

Playing Favourites

We have a lot of nice yarn at the store (d’uh) – however, if you ask me about my favourite yarns at this time (it keeps changing, due to season, novelty, personal obsession…) I have an easy top three to offer:

1. Quince Sparrow – 100% organic linen in great colors in a fingering weight

I knit a sweater and the Harpswell Apron by Pam Allen with it and Lisa also knit a sweater and designed the cute little bag you probably saw on Melissa’s last post. We also have a shawl knit up and I am currently trolling ravelry to find something else to knit with Sparrow – I just adore it!

2. Habu Tsumugi Silk – 100% raw silk in a light fingering, almost lace weight, knit up either double stranded or single

Well, yes, my Ombre Tank design is of course on the top of that particular yarn list, then there is Paulina, our version features Tsumugi combined with Habu Silk Stainless Steel, and the Age of Brass and Steam. Not to forget Insouciant by Julie Hoover – a timeless tee for many occasions.

3. HiKoo CoBaSi – a fingering weight yarn in a mix of Cotton, Bamboo, Silk and Elasthan, to give it bounce.

Any pattern you find knit up in a finer gauge works well with this yarn – it is soft, summery and easy to knit with. I am working on a little something for my daughter and am impressed with the texture and softness of the fabric. I do not have a picture, but to feel the texture come to the store and feel up some socks!

What are your favourites for summer? ‘Cause as Melissa said, not knitting in summer just doesn’t make any sense…

Happy Knitting, as ever!

- Mona

 

One Rule To Follow

If you asked me, I would answer that there are no ‘rules’ in knitting. You can do (knit) whatever you want and do it any style you like.

However, there are rules around the knitting that I highly recommend to follow. Especially the one I am going to talk about today.

I don’t do Math well. Really, ask me about calculus of probabilities, graphs with x, y and z thingies going on, anything more complicated than the multiplication table, and my eyes glaze over. Then again, there is one rule I can handle, one that gets used every day of my knitting life, one I cannot do without:

The Rule Of Three.

That’s my kind of math.

Here I pick up where I left off last week. Remember the scale? So you just found out that you have 67 grams left over, and your new pattern asks for 250 yds of yarn. If you have the information from the label how many yards are in 100 grams of yarn, you totally can figure that out!

100 grams = 400 yds

67 grams = x

Ok, you say, but how do I get x? Here is where you have to remember your school days, and how to use the Rule Of Three:

67 times 400 divided by 100 = 268, which is x, meaning you just figured out that you have enough yarn.

Check here to make it real easy.

Rule Of Three – useful in oh, so many ways.

Happy knitting, as ever!

- Mona

 

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