Saturday, December 25, 2010


However you celebrate, my peace, joy and love be yours. Donna

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Crochet Designer, Jill Hanratty

Jill Hanratty is a friend and co-worker. Over the past week, Jill participated in a blog tour for her current booklet published by Annie's Attic "Plus Size Fashions" - crochet designs for us more lusciously proportioned females. Please visit the links below, enjoy the tour, and familiarize yourself with this very lovely lady and talented designer.

I wanna make THIS

Isn't it lovely? Young? Artsy?

For a look through the entire booklet, see here:

The collection of styles in this booklet are definitely geared to the 16 through mid twenties crowd. My daughter is 22. She has two (cloth) jumpers similar to this (one solid, one striped) and they look great on her. It is very versatile, with the ability to dress it up or down, and change the look by the colors worn underneath it, with tights, with jeans, etc.

This project has been a WIM of mine since I first saw the book. The pattern retails for just over $4.00 at your local craft chain, and can be purchased directly from Patons for a smidge cheaper as a pdf download. That's a deal considering how many projects are included in the booklet. With the needed yarn, perhaps this would cost about $40 to make. That's where I had to (temporarily) put on the brakes. Have I mentioned we're on a budget here in the Casa de Carlen?

Since the summer, money has been extremely tight. I'm trying to justifying this purchase since I have been: brown bagging lunch, not bought anything remotely "indulgent" in months, been making dinners largely out of the cupboard and freezer as much as possible, using my stash yarn for any and all recent projects............and... wouldn't this a) make a lovely Xmas gift for my daughter and b) keep me out of trouble? YES, I vote yes.

Print me an ACMoore coupon and come to mama~! I see a shopping trip in my very near future....and, I'll keep ya posted.

12/24/12 - edited to add:  I DID make this.  In a lovely caramel color, and will have to take a photo of my beautiful daughter wearing it and add it to this post!

Learning to knit - 2 sites (and an excellent cast on)

CASTING ON is the most important step in your project. I don't know why some people continue to teach the simple cast on, where the pointer finger is used. This cast on is sloppy, and its main problem (and if you've used it, you know) is the useless string that occurs between stitches as you knit--the more stitches you have, the longer, more annoying, and in the way this string becomes. The reason it is called "THE FINGER" cast on isn't lost on me. Ha. The finger cast on is particularly awful if you are working in the round on circulars or dpns. Ok...point made.

TADA - LONG TAIL CAST ON to the rescue. I tell my students that the long tail cast on - sometimes referred to as the sling shot cast on - might be the most difficult thing they ever learn in knitting. It isn't that its difficult per se, it is just a little bit awkward at first.
This link will take you directly to the pdf download:

however, if you want to roam around the site a little, try this instead:

........and you may want to treat yourself to a little something from the shop. Marge, the proprietor, is a very nice lady. I asked her for permission to use her tutorial in teaching the long tail cast on (her's is the BEST tutorial out there) and she said yes, certainly. Of course, I give her credit for the tutorial, as I should.

While there are many cast on methods, and some patterns will specify a specialty cast on.....long tail never seems to fail.

So, starting at the beginning, now that the cast on is out of the way, Lion Brand (once again) provides an excellent tutorial on its website, here it is:

When you get to the tutorial page, to the bottom left hand is a link to download in pdf all of the instructions, without having to load/watch page by page.

As with its crochet instructions, Lion Brand, when asked, gave me permission to use its tutorial for my knitting students, so long as its copyright is in place. While the cast on directions are to knit the stitches onto the needles, I still prefer the long tail - overall, Lion Brand's directions are quite good!

How to crochet - 2 sites providing good tutorials/directions

Lion Brand yarn's website provides a comprehensive and complete tutorial and here is the link to cut/paste into your browser:

Once on the page, towards the bottom center where it reads "Learn to Crochet: Before you Start" there is a link below to the left where one can download ALL of the directions (rather than view online page after page). This is what I suggest.

I contacted Lion Brand asking permission to reprint and utilize its instructions for teaching, and the response was "ABSOLUTELY, yes" - so long as I left the Lion Brand copyright on the papers -- which is what I do. Another good thing about its site is the variety of patterns for all categories and experience levels - AND - Lion Brand doesn't mind if you plan to sell what you make using their patterns. Over all, good website with lots of useful stuff.

Another good learning site is: This takes you to the instructions base, which are pdf downloads. There, one can even find instructions for left handed crocheters.

Happy learning to you all.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"invisible" knit increase

Well, this being my first blog, I didn't know how hard it would be to get back more often. I feel remiss in my endeavors to bring information to my students that is all in one place. What isn't a surprise, is all of the good and useful information already out there on the net. Two such sites are posted below.

Knit patterns often state which increase to use; and there are several. However, when using a pattern in which the method isn't stated, I have read that most will use make 1 (m1). It isn't because this gives the best result, however, but because the knitter hasn't been exposed to more appropriate methods for the desired result with a particular pattern. That is, when you're new, you tend not to get extensive information that comes with more exposure to different, more varied and/or difficult patterns that necessarily add to your "bag of knitting tricks." Frankly, the pattern writer is equally at fault by assuming the "correct" method for the job will just be known to the knitter. The second choice is knit front/back in the same stitch. I like this, but it leaves such evidence of its usage.

Since increases lean left or right, patterns should be written with the preferred method for each increase and often pair left lean and right lean for a better visual effect. The wrong increase can make your work look sloppy, not like "the picture on with pattern" and can leave you disappointed without even knowing why. Snore, yawn, I'm boring you, right? Okay. For a good list generally, see: and choose accordingly.

NOW LETS GET TO THAT "INVISIBLE" INCREASE. I was recently attempting to make a project that was all about the increase...and the increases I made were so blatant and obvious that I was disappointed. Wanting the increases to be as invisible as possible, searching the net, I found this  tutorial:

I must admit, it is a perfectly benign smooth increase. It doesn't seem to lean either left or right, and in usage it looks, to me, like a fork in the road, as if the stitches magically multiplied with little tell-tale sign at all. I've knitted for years now and never saw this increase anywhere.  While other increase methods are equally purposeful, this is great when you want it to be as inconspicuous as possible. I don't think I'd use it for raglan shaping--there I like a little "seam" and demarcation to show what happened at the shoulders.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

substitutions revisited

Have you ever had a friend ask you for a recipe and then tell you what was made wasn't as good as yours? So you ask....ok, how did YOU make it? The answer: well, I didn't have chicken, so I used turkey. I didn't have onions, so I used scallions. I don't care for mayo, so I used sour cream. Oh, and I like hard boiled egg, so I put that on top. you took my CHICKEN SALAD recipe...and made...turkey, scallion, sour cream and hard boiled egg salad. Well, no wonder that doesn't taste like my recipe cuz it is as different as night and day now. *grin*

Same holds true for substitutions in crocheting and knitting. There's a techie saying "garbage in garbage out" and that applies here as well. Why would anyone want to take the time to make something to have it turn out lacklustre, ill fitting, the wrong size, etc.? Not me...that is unless I'm experimenting and letting the craft take me where it will. However, if I'm putting in the hours and concentration for a hand crafted item that I want to turn out "perfect" or at least "correctly," I am aiming at its best result and "doing my homework" before I make substitutions that may not work.

Of course, you can take a fine thread doily pattern worked with a small hook and substitute sport weight cotton and a larger hook, knowing that the result is going to be LARGER. Instead of a doily you have, perhaps, a table topper. Good. Nice. Fine. You didn't however, use those larger supplies thinking you were going to get the same result as the pattern intended, right? Right! A little research is necessary before intention or necessity.

I had a student recently come to me with a rug pattern. (You know who you It was vintage. It was ancient. The company had gone out of business years ago, the yarn had not been manufactured in...forever...and PROPER substitutions had to be made for the item to work out .... correctly. My personal first inclination with rugs is to work them in cotton yarn. Of course, wool or acrylic can be used...that is YOUR decision, and is suggested in the pattern you choose to follow. Caron currently makes an acrylic "rug" yarn that it believes rivals acrylic rug yarns from by-gone years ago. I don't have personal experience with Caron's rug yarn (disclaimer) and am not pro or con as to it. The point is, that step 1 is to make that decision: what kind of fiber is appropriate and what is YOUR choice? Step 2 is choosing a similar yarn weight. Step 3 is....getting enough yarn to complete the item. Do your research. How many yards did the original pattern require? Step 4....use the correct hook or needle size. Step 5: Does gauge matter? If it is meant to FIT, it matters and you'll want to work a gauge swatch before beginning your piece.

Pulling all of the above information together will assist in finding the correct substitution for your item. With the proper supplies, luck isn't required...but I wish you luck anyway. :)

Happy crafting, Donna

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Knitted Keyhole Scarf - Lion Brand Free Pattern

Hello folks. Here is a link to a fabulous scarf...although I would go so far as to call it a "scarflette" which has become so popular in the past 2 years.

Below is a photo of the scarf without the pompons. Notice the pointy part at the bottom that slips through the keyhole.  Notice how its wrapped around something other than a neck~!   I had my lovely daughter model it for me, and I snapped a photo with her phone, but upon reviewing it she thought I could have snapped a better one. So, this will have to do for now...haha.

Also below is a link to the pattern.  Enjoy.

So what is a scarflette? It is wrapped around the neck like a traditional scarf, but fastened AT the neck by buttons, loops, slits or keyholes.  As such, it works up quicker than long scarf wrapped around the neck and thrown over the shoulder. Any search engine looking for images of scarflettes will bring you a lot of hits.

Returning to the pattern at hand, this is a freebie at called "Mandy's Delight Scarf" and it is quite the visual delight, isn't it? It begins at the slender end, increasing stitches every other row for a number of rows until 34 stitches have been achieved. Thereafter, it is worked even for 25 inches in garter stitch, then 4 inches in k2, p2 ribbing. The ribbed portion is folded over itself and the cast off end is sewn to the beginning of the ribbing. The tapered end is slipped through the ribbed tube that forms the other end. Simple as that. AND DONCHA LOVE THOSE POMPOMS~!?! Somehow on this scarf, the pompoms look sophisticated. I love the choice of colors used in the prototype. Note, tho, you don't have to add the pompoms and you could substitute a different embellishment, such as buttons or a large silk ribbon bow, etc.

So I was eager to dive in, using yarn I had on hand. Now, I'm not a big fan of Caron's Simply Soft, and I had a single skein in silverish grey for the longest time. CSS has a tendency to split and much like Puff's tissues for sore noses, I can feel the "soft" that was put into it, whatever it is. It also drapes, but this can sometimes cause the stitches to stretch. HOWEVER, for this pattern, it was a perfect substitution for the yarn referenced. Sorry Lion Brand Yarn; I love your products but I didn't have the required yarn on hand (I have put it on my "to buy" list.) Using CSS and the recommended needles size turned this into a successful project. Everyone I've shown it too (unless they are needlessly flattering me) has liked it. For a garter and ribbed item, the sophisticated finished product belies the simplicity of the pattern. I think it is gorgeous, and oh so simple to complete. My only disclaimer would be if you do substitute yarn like I did, be sure to use something soft....the old value added standby, Red Heart Super Saver, won't would be way too stiff.

I would go as far to state that, I think it is a perfect beginner proect when teaching someone how to knit. Any beginner would be awesomely proud to have completed this!

IMPORTANT:   The first stitch of every row is always slipped. Generally, I would have crossed the yarn from front to back in between the slipped stitch and the second stitch...but not so with this pattern. Leave the yarn in the front, slip the stitch, and knit the next one as if the lead yarn were positioned in the back to begin so doing, you're creating a very neat wrapped edge.

So there you have it.   Happy knitting.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Finished: Barbie's top down "Barbara Walker" dress

<-------- There she is. The dress is retro, figure-fitting, and my personal "tip of the hat" to doll knitting history. I'm feeling lucky to have found the pattern at all, 20 years after the magazine was printed~!

(Allow me to make a small disclaimer -- I haven't added the snaps yet; the dress was pinned to photograph quickly).

I previously posted about Barbara Walker's encouragement to take personal license with her pattern by design or by whim. However, I really wanted to use what I thought were the most pertinent, basic, and necessary elements of the pattern, and in doing so, I HAD TO MAKE CHOICES...which I guess translates into changes. Oh, contrary me. So here they are:

1. I eliminated the 2 tone suggestion (accent yarn at neck, sleeve cuffs and waist), opting for pink.

2. I kept short sleeves, as patterned, without designing longer and\or fuller sleeves as further on suggested.

3. I utilized the fabric stitch waist, rather than opting for a looser, less defined fit. (Interesting choice, that fabric stitch--very very tight for a seriously cinched waist). Thus, it looks like lots of dashes = = = = = = across the waist.

4. I slim-fit the skirt, rather than the patterned A-line, by not increasing stitches "evenly spaced" every few rows after the initial increase--I prefer a slim fit for Barbie (when given an option).

5. I eliminated a small bit of short row shaping at the bust above the darts--it looked ridiculous to me, and is made redundant by the bust line dart shaping.

6. Since the neckline and sleeve hems are garter stitch, it made sense to "garter" the hemline.

In sum, to me, the pattern is, at once, both intricate and basic. The darting is perfectly placed; the fit is fabulous. Back plackets (garter stitch) create a substantial strip for snaps, and the raglan sleeve "seams" paired with the back decreases form a "diamond" across the back which is lovely, but didn't photograph well.

Ms. Walker dealt with the side margins by slipping the last stitch in each purl row, yarn forward, which when knitted in the next row creates a neat, almost decorative, finished edge <---a tip I'd forgotten, but will be sure to use again.

While my representation is basic and plain, the raglan shaping and darting--and the short rows if kept--challenge your skills. I like it and view it as a good representation of an old-timey day dress...sorta Barbie meets Donna Reed.

Virtually every knitter, eventually, has the Barbara Walker books recommended as a "must read" - and for good reason. Her books may be found at your local library, and any or all of them are a great addition to your own knitting book shelf. NOTE: They may be too much to absorb when you are a new knitter, but as you progress in the craft, and understand and embrace various techniques, you'll want to revisit "the Treasuries." So, thanks, Ms. Walker.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Barbara Walker top down Barbie dress - progress photo

Hi all. Here is "the dress," now approaching waist shaping. Thus far, worked on 2 dpns through the raglan double increase, then 3 dpns as each sleeve was worked, returning now to 2 dpns as I reach the waist.

Sleeves are worked separately by knitting to a point, attaching fresh yarn, knitting two rows and casting off in knit. Thereafter, a few stitches with a sewing needle seam the sleeves and 3 stitches are picked up at the underarm (with the original yarn, not from the bit of fresh yarn) and left unworked ...knitting across the front to the next sleeve and repeating. The picked up stitches are not worked until the purl row. Next up, subtle dart shaping for the bustline, and there it is, ready for waist shaping.

The waist shaping is achieved with a tighter stitch. I'll be posting about that after the fact. I have to admit, even tho I'm on the 3rd attempt at this little pink dress, I'm really having a lot of fun making it. I've missed knitting~!

The view is of the front. While I professed that I intended to stick to the pattern as much as possible, I had to eliminate the short row shaping above the bust darts. Once the sleeves are sewn, there is no ripping back past them. In my first attempt, I misread the pattern. I did save the piece, and I learned from it. In the second attempt, I seriously disliked the short row shaping. If I can muster up a visual for you, it looked like Madonna's pointy cones, and also it was as if the bust area had "a face" .... clearly, I could see 2 eyes at the boobies and a nose under and between them. Considering the darts for bust shaping below, the short rows are redundant and unnecessary.

Dress number far, I love ya.

Later folks. Donna

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Gone Fishin' or "Don't bother me; I'm knitting" or "Currently on the needles...a top down dress for Barbie"

So much crocheting lately, I've been feeling the NEED to knit. Of course, I want something that will work up quick for that "instant gratification," which usually means doll knitting; specifically, Barbie knitting.

I searched my pattern stash for a vintage magazine bought on Ebay a few years back, because it was listed as having Barbara Walker Barbie patterns inside. (Like I could even resist that--the idea of owning this was heavenly.) The magazine includes a disappointingly short interview of Ms Walker, pictures 5 variations of (what is supposed to be) the same dress, and the accompanying pattern, singular, for said dress(es), which is more of an outline. Ms. Walker basically states that her instructions are intentionally suggestions, and your results will differ by your choice of needle size, yarn, stitch tension, the mood you're in, and the cycle of the moon. Okay, okay...ya know I exaggerated about that last bit, however, I don't really know how to feel (yet) about a pattern that affords its user so much leeway. Do I like it-do I not--not sure yet. Ms. Walker encourages you to change it "as you go," suggesting the use of circular needles and having the doll nearby to try it on and make changes as needed on the spot.

This pattern could be a beginner's nightmare...which is probably why I put it away and merely relished the fact that I owned the magazine. Now, I am ready for this challenge. I don't know exactly how it is going to turn out until it is finished. It is ambitious, including double increases, raglan shaping, and short rows, and is "miniature." With the small scale, however, there is only a little to rip back if necessary (as opposed to something "people sized"), and you start again :).

Decision 1. Make no individual decisions\changes. By eliminating changing it at whim, I hope to end up with a basic prototype BarbWalker Dress 1.01. From that vantage point, I can see what might "ask for tweaking" if there is ever a BWD1.02.

Decision 2. Stick with one color, Bernat Sox, probably pink. A good idea, methinks.

Decision 3. Straight dpns, size 2, no "fittings as I go." Decision 4. Knee length hemline.

I hope to post some pictures as it progresses, and I'm getting ready to post Part 2 on Knitting for Fashion Dolls soon.

Yarny hugs to all, D

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Book Review (Yes, now I fancy myself a critic) LOL

When I was new to crochet, I bought myself a LOT of patterns. I bought patterns before I even knew how to work many of the stitches and techniques, knowing full well that they were beyond my skillset. Years after, I discovered Ebay and had an absolute field day purchasing vintage patterns for potholders, doilies and kitschy stuff that quite frankly I'll never have enough time to make--but I absolutely LOVE my (large) pattern collection. I think it might even be fair to say that I love my pattern collection more than I love the actual crocheting...did ya ever feel that way too? I can get lost in those patterns and they really hold a fascination for me.

Anyhow, when I was a new, young crocheter, I didn't know a lot...and 33 years later, I'm happy that I know a bit more...and I'm still eager to learn. What really thrills me tho, is teaching people to crochet (or knit)...and reaching that moment when they find themselves "getting it" that really inspires me to get out the information that, at least to me, seems important to the processes. To that end, I recently acquired the above-pictured book and added it to my small "how to" crochet collection.

Super Finishing Techniques for Crocheters, by Betty Barnden, first edition August, 2009 can be purchased roughly for $15.00 if you get a deal - while the list price is $22.99 USA and $29.50 Can. The book begins with a quick top ten suggestions to getting yourself "ready, set, go" on the way to finishing an item. Thereafter, it offers a solid bit of information on hooks, accessories, notions, etc. needed for the craft, and follows that with yarn stats. Thus far, great information for beginners. I didn't expect to find this information therein.

With those bits behind her, the author gets deeper into the real meat of the matter, covering construction, shaping, assembling, sizing, seaming, collars, buttonholes, edging, zippers, blocking and pressing, etc. -- pretty much everything you'd expect in a book of this title. Where Betty Barnden goes even further is in covering crochet techniques. She touches on filet crochet, crocheting in zigzags, combining yarns, color charts, weaving, adding beads and decorative fringes and flowers and the like. The illustrations are really good too, and the instructions are complete. This book also offers up a few fun patterns and illustrates basic crochet technique in the last few sections.

The information contained in this book goes way beyond what the title implies. In my opinion, this book is both fun to read and informative. I highly recommend it to any beginner since it contains both basic and advanced information. I cannot say that it is a "must have" for a seasoned crocheter, however, if you don't possess any "how to" books, this one is a good start, and if your "how to" collection is meager, this is a good addition. I'm glad I added it to my resources.

Out of a possible rating of 5 hooks, I give this book: 4 and one half hooks. Impressive!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

coming up.......

I know, I know, my blog is missing colorful bits and pieces. I need to spruce it up a bit. Some pictures will be coming soon, along with some patterns. Stay tuned. Yarny hugs, D

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Seaming Crochet - Five Methods

Either sewn or crocheted, each seaming technique posesses its own special qualities. Corresponding yarn and a blunt darning needle are used for the sewing methods; a crochet hook is used for the others.

1) Single Crochet. This is a decorative seam on items with two pieces (front and back), like a pillow or tote bag, etc. It is sometimes used to stitch together afghans motifs where the ridge-like stitching is intended show.

To work a single crochet seam on a pillow or tote, place the wrong sides (what becomes the inside) together and use single crochet all around the edges. Simple as that.

When working single crochet to put stich afghan squares or strips together, butt the pieces together with right sides (fronts) facing. Stitch away.

2) Slip stitch. Less decorative than single crochet edging, this is also intended to show on the finished project. Again, it is useful for items with a distinct front/back and afghan motifs and works exceptionally well when attaching a pocket or pouch. To join items, work much the same as single crochet (above). Use the same yarn and you get texture; use contrasting yarn and you get texture and a pop of color. For adding a pocket, after placing it in the spot desired, slip stitch around it and through the 2 pieces to be joined.

3) Mattress stitch. Leaving only a small ridge on the wrong side of the work, this method is almost invisible and best used in garment seaming. Since it is worked with the front (right) sides of the work facing you, seams butted together, you can actually see how the seaming progresses. To work mattress stitch, place the project pieces, edges together, front sides facing you. Thus, there is a right piece and a left piece, fronts facing, edge to edge. With a darning needle and corresponding yarn, secure the yarn at the edge where you begin. With the needle pointing up, pick up the first stitch, leaving yarn loose; go to the opposite piece and pick up the corresponding row. Continue in this fashion and after three to four stitches, tighten the yarn so it "disappears, but not so tight that it causes your seam to pucker. Basically, you're creating a stitched zig-zag and cinching it tight after a few stitches.

4) Backstitch. Sturdy and popular for seaming together garments, this stitch leaves a bulkier seam than mattress stitch, but is very strong for sleeves, shoulders and underarms. With right sides together, with darning needle and correspondening yarn, secure yarn at the edge of one piece before piercing both pieces. Push the needle through both pieces at once, working across from right to left. Come up through both pieces at point A, make a stitch backwards and come up at point beyond where you made the first stitch. Imagine each stitch as a half inch segment in which the needle first pierces both pieces from back to front at point A, then pierces the pieces from front to back a quarter inch distance to the right, then pierces the pieces again from back to front half inch, repeatedly. Pull the stitches tightly to hide them, but not so tight that the seam puckers.

5) Whip stitch. With darning needle and corresponding yarn, hold two pieces together and insert the needle from back to front, continuing around and around (think of the stripes on a candy cane). This method is simple, and very good for seaming together afghan motifs. Worked on motifs through the back loops only with "wrong" sides facing, the stitching is almost invisible when the same color yarn is used, making the front of the project look as if the front loops of the stitches have become one. This is a basic, sturdy stitch. It can also be used for garment seaming where a "rustic" look is desired, but is rarely recommended for garments. I personally like this method for seaming me crazy.

If you would like to practice seaming, make a few squares of the same size. Seam them together using the various methods. It is a practice piece; it doesn't have to "be" anything.

As always, look to the internet for photo or video tutorials.

Adding Color to Crochet, hints, tips, tricks

Since we crochet back and forth naturally, the easiest way to add color to a project is with horizontal stripes. Adding a new color via striping (introducing new yarn) is done by dropping the yarn in use at the end of a row, and adding the new color at the start of the following row. This can be accomplished by:

a) fastening off the first color and pulling up a loop of the next color in the first stitch, or

b) working the last stitch almost to completion, then pulling up the last loop with the new color to be used (regardless if working sc, dc, trc, etc.).

The above is the simplest way to "pop up" your color palate and should not be too intimidating for a beginner.

Of course, the question of "to knot or not" comes up. So here is my answer. DO WHAT SUITS YOU, and I won't judge you. If you are comfortable weaving cut yarn tails into their own colors, do so. If you prefer to knot 2 tails together before weaving into their own colors, do so. Now I know some will cringe at the idea of tying knots...but here is the thing: sometimes yarn is knotted inside a skein, right from the it happens. Secondly, a well hidden knot is nobody's business - :) Lastly, if a knot brings a bit of comfort to a crafter that their gift won't come undone in the wash...I say do it. Tie a knot. Matter of fact, some people make a piece that is all knots...scraps tied together and crafted into...whatever, and the knots are a featured part of the piece. Whatever gets made from that mystery ball of knotted yarn is certainly UNIQUE~!

WHEN TO NOT TIE A KNOT: Ah, you knew this was coming, didn't is when:

There are other ways to add color, such as blocks of color, vertical stripes, or as in a charted design, by carrying, weaving or crossing the yarn. For these color techniques, the use of separate skeins or bobbins simultaneously may be necessary, depending on how many colors are in use. For some colorwork, checkerboard for instance, the yarn may be woven into the piece by carrying it across the stitches of one color block and crocheting over it....then dropping the color in use and picking up the color that has just been woven over, etc. Crocheting over a “not in use” color is similar to hiding yarn tails at the beginning of a row. Literally, you crochet right over the yarn to be carried to the next space, and it disappears into the stitches. This could cause a problem, however, if the yarns in use are terribly opposite to each those instance, you may be able to see the yarn carried is doesn't bother you; then it isn't a becomes the nature of the piece. :)

An alternate method, carrying the yarn from section to section along the "wrong" side of a project, may be used for items where only the front of the piece (for instance, a chair cover or wall hanging) will be seen. In carrying yarn across the backside, if it spans more than 4 stitches, the yarn should be caught into the stitches being worked every 5 stitches or so. To to this, at intervals of 5 stitches, catch the stranded yarn with your hook and work over it, that is, crochet over it with that one stitch, then strand it again for 5 more stitches, etc. and so on. The reason for this is that since it is one-sided, you don't want the bulkiness that working over each stand will bring, and also perhaps it is a very dark color in contrast to the main yarn, and you would not want that to show through to the front. (For knitters, this is quite similar to fair isle/stranding technique.)

Lastly, if the design is suitable to the need for various bobbins, with lots of color blocking through the design, each color should be worked to its necessary point, then dropped and said yarn crossed with the next color needed, and so on. How this is done is simple. Drop the bobbin containing the current yarn and bring the next color yarn bobbin up and under to the right of the bobbin dropped, which twists the 2 yarns, then proceed with the next stitch, pulling it a little bit tighter than usual. Proceed throughout the piece this way at each color change.

We make many decisions based on the project itself. This is no different crocheting with color. The design will indicate which method is best.


Basically, color changes without cutting yarn are made by working the LAST loop of the last stitch of one color with the next color.

If you are tying knots at the end, make them as inconspicuous as possible and weave each tail into its own color.

When using bobbins, it is important to keep them untangled. Seriously.

When carrying yarn, don't carry it across too many stitches; remember to catch it every 4 to 5 stitches.

VERY IMPORTANT: Carry the yarn loosely across the back so that it doesn't cause your item to pucker...but not so loose that your beginning and ending stitches are obviously loose.

Yarn tails throughout a spectularly colored piece should always be woven into a yarn row of the same color.

When using the crossed yarn method, use the necessary amount of bobbins for each separate section of color. It is worth the time, trust me.

Sometimes, even when using the carrying method, it may be best to utilize separate bobbins for different sections of the same color to avoid carrying yarn across wide expanses.

The above is my experience and opinion. If anyone has something to add, your comments, tips or tricks are most welcome and invited. Again, look to the internet for videos and\or tutorials.

Friday, July 16, 2010

plug for someone I don't even know :)

Well, here ya go. How about taking a visit to and while it reads "socks" in the name, there are a lot of adorable hats there to be found. The pumpkin one is particularly noteworthy, works up quick, and looks peachy on a little boy or girl. I worked one of those up, as did several of my students, and gave it as a gift to a one year old I know, and it was stretchy enough to fit him. From what his mom and grandma tell me, he has a lot of fun taking it off and putting it back on. Here is the url to the pumpkin hat in particular:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Knitting for Fashion Dolls - A Beginner's Primer

When I was a little girl, I used to cut off the ankle part of my old socks and slip them onto my Barbie doll. I think that was a universal thing that ladies of my generation did, and oh, what a happy time it was - especially if the sock contained some lace at the top. Sometimes, I'd cut out little armholes too and have more than a "tube" dress. What fun it was "making" simple doll clothes that way.

Fast forward: when my daughter played with her dolls, I took up crocheting outfits for her Barbies. The patterns you can find are exquisite~! Turning my attention to re-learning how to knit, and recalling those happy doll memories of my childhood, I knew that "sock type" tube garments could provide an entire doll wardrobe. I took measurements, made notes and started simple. After a few basic garments, I taught myself different shaping techniques, cabling, raglan sleeve shaping, etc., thereby increasing and expanding my knitting knowledge overall, even tho the results were in "doll size" scale. All of these new skills carried over into my "regular size" knitting--a win-win situation.

This post provides a jumping-off point into doll knitting and is meant to assist beginners (expert knitters may find some value here as well). This post covers basic tube garments, and incorporates suggestions to "transform" the basics. (Part 2, coming soon, will cover advanced techniques.) In addition to providing a simple mix & match fashion doll wardrobe, it introduces one to knitting in small scale. So, if you still appreciate your childhood dolls... are a doll collector... have a daughter or granddaughter who loves her dollies--and you haven't yet tried crafting yarn garments for those dollies--I promise you it is very gratifying since the items work up quickly. Also, there is no need to be intimidated about it - you've already got the knitting skills--we are merely shrinking the tools; and while "going smaller" may feel awkward at first, it certainly becomes more comfortable with practice.
Yarn weights used are baby, fingering, sock, thread and occasionally, mohair, sport, or when bulkiness is desired a light worsted. Needles range from U.S. size 0000 to 3. Notions can include beads; beads as buttons; small snaps, hook & eye (waist/back); in-scale buttons; ribbons (belting, shoulder straps, lacing); fine elastic (waistbands); small buttons as brooches, sequins, gems, lace, appliqu├ęs, embroidery and novelty yarn such as eyelash for a funky collar or hemline.

The 11 ½ inch fashion doll (like Mattel's BarbieTM)* has these measurements: Bust 6" Waist 3.75" Hip 5" Shoulder to Shoulder 2.5" *However, these techniques/patterns can translate to any doll once you have its measurements.


Knitting for Fashion Dolls, the Basics Primer
Skills required: casting on/off, knit, purl
Suggested supplies for the patterns below: U.S. needles size 2, straight or 2 dpns for flat knitting (can use size 3 also) and at least 2 skeins (different colors) sock yarn (universal weight no. 2)

PROJECTS (the BASICS): "Starter" doll garments, tube-like items, stretch for good fit, are easily constructed, work up quickly and provide a foundation to build on. They can be embellished and adorned, modified with increases, decreases and specialty stitches to create varied looks (see Transform the Basics below). Doll garments are either worked flat on straight needles and seamed up the back, or seamlessly in rounds on 4 dpns**. They should be slipped onto the doll feet up, cast on stitches first, as this is more elastic than the cast off, allowing them to slip over the widest parts, yet fit appropriately elsewhere. The cast off, even if preceded by ribbing, is generally done in knitting or purling for a tighter fit at waist, thighs or around legs.
**A set of dpns is a useful addition to your knitting supplies in any event. Also note, knitting in the round may change the gauge causing the item to be a smidge tighter.

BASIC ITEMS TO BE WORKED UP WITH SOCK YARN AND NO. 2 NEEDLES. Basic patterns are written to be worked flat, back and forth - to work in the round on dpns, deduct 2 stitches from the cast on.

TOP: Cast on 32 stitches. Rows 1 - 2 k/1 p/1 ribbing. Rows 3 - 18 stockinette. Rows 19 - 20, k1, p1. Cast off in knitting; leave a 5 inch tail. Use tail to sew back seam with backstitching or whip stitching.

DRESS: Snug at bust/hips, relaxed at waist--follow directions for Top and work in stockinette for 6 ½ inches (or more depending on length you desire). Rib (or not) the last 2 rows. Cast off in knitting; leave a 7 inch tail; use tail to sew back seam.

SKIRT: Cast on 24 stitches. "Elasticize" waist with 4 rows of k1/p1 ribbing. Work in stockinette thereafter for at least 3 ½ inches (longer if you prefer). Cast off in knit; leave 5 inch tail to use for seaming up back. Note: skirt will be form fitting.

OH SO SHORTY-SHORTS: Cast on 30 stitches; k1/p1 ribbing for 4 rows. Work in stockinette for 1 3/4 inches. Cast off in knitting; use 6 inch tail to sew rear seam; carry tail through to take up a few stitches at the crotch. Thread fine elastic or a ribbon through waist for a cinch-tie.

PANTS: 38 stitches; k/1 p/1 ribbing for 4 rows. Stockinette to crotch (1.75 inches), then, work to center (19th stitch), drop yarn, join separate yarn bobbin and work to end. Continue to work yarn from skein and bobbin simultaneously on same needles with 19 stitches each - these are the legs of the pants and by working each at the same time on the same needles with separate yarn bobbins, there is no question that they are exactly equal. This is a great tip! Cast off at desired length leaving long tail for seaming. FINISHING: With stockinette side facing you, fold piece over both left-hand and right-hand sides so inside leg seams are in the middle and pants are inside out. Starting at the bottom of one leg, sew inside seam to the crotch and down the other leg in a continuous "U". Next, sew rear seam. Thread elastic or ribbon as a draw-string through waist. NOTE: While this is the easiest pattern, the fit isn't divine. More complex patterns are available for purchase or free on the internet that will produce a fabulous looking/fitting pair of pants.

SIMPLE WINTER HAT I: Barbie's hair volume varies from doll to doll. Generally, cast on 25 stitches unless it is very full, then cast on 30 instead. k1/p1 ribbing for 5 rows, then stockinette for at least 1 1/2 inches. Do not cast off. Cut a 6 inch tail, thread tail through darning needle and thread darning needle through stitches on the knitting needle, transferring them to the tail. Cinch tightly, close top of hat, secure with a sewn stitch. Continue seaming with remainder of tail. Add puff or braid to the top. Hats are as versatile as your imagination. Thumb-less "Mittens" can be made the same way using less stitches, of course. Pair hats with long narrow "rectangle" scarves!

SIMPLE WINTER HAT II: Cast on 14 stitches, leaving a 6 inch tail. Work flat back and forth in ribbing, stockinette or garter stitch until a 3 1/2 inch rectangle is created. Cast off leaving a 6 inch tail on the opposite side of the cast on tail. Use each tail threaded through a darning needle, and sew up the seam on each side. Add a pompon or tassle to the points on each side of the top of the hat

SHRUG: This easy-to-create piece is an effective and impressive looking "sleeved" garment. Make a rectangle at least 5 inches long X 2 1/2 inches wide in stockinette or garter stitch. Fold together lengthwise, whipstitch each side from end towards center about 1.5 inches, leaving the center unstitched, to create "arms".

"MINK" STOLE: With a fuzzy acrylic/mohair blend (worsted weight is good here) make a rectangle. It should be at least 2 inches wide and long enough for the ends to meet each other when wrapped around the doll's shoulders. Finish on a row where the cast off tail is not on the same side as the cast on tail, ensuring you have a tail on both right and left sides of the rectangle. Using the tails on each side, run a darning needle through the tails, weave in and out through each of the ends, and cinch tightly, weave in the tail (cut excess). Fasten with snap or hook & eye (you may also simply sew it shut and slip it over her head). Can be adorned with a specialty button that looks like jewelry.

SHAWL/EVENING WRAP: Knit a rectangle at least 6 inches long (or longer) by 1 to 1 ½ inches wide in garter, garter/stockinette combo, or a lace stitch. Perfect when paired with a tube dress.

PURSES: work a rectangle or square in garter stitch, fold, sew up sides and fold top flap over; fasten with a button; add ribbon or a stitch marker, etc. as a handle. Use straw or nylon cord to make a larger beach bag. Make 2 squares, sew together, add straps as a backpack. Embellish with notions.



At waistline, you can do any of the following: 1) Switch needles to two sizes smaller at the waist for 5 rows, return to size begun with, work to hemline. 2) Decrease 4 stitches evenly spaced, work 4 rows even, increase 4 stitches evenly spaced, work even to hemline. 3) Switch to two size smaller needles, work in k1/p1 ribbing 4 rows, return to original needles and work in stockinette to hemline. 4) Make a series of yarnovers for one row at the waist to thread a ribbon, sash or belt through. 5) For a full-skirted dress, work basic tube to waist, increase every stitch around for 1 row, then continue in stockinette to hemline.

B. NOT-SO-BASIC: 1) Introduce two or more colors for all-over striping. 2) Variegated or self-striping sock yarn produces overall spectacular color. 3) For texture, work entirely in k1, p1 ribbing. 4) Similarly, work entirely in garter stitch. 5) For a fancier dress, work basic tube to the waist, then work in a lace pattern to the hemline, or work a series of yarnovers. 6) Use an allover pattern from top to bottom (like mini mock cable ribbing). 7) Plan a center cable down the front as a striking focal point. 8) Work garter stitch from side to side in a wide rectangle shape, rotate it and seam it up the back for vertical lines. 9) Use garter stitches at the bottom, top, or both for fun texture. 10) Fashion shoulder straps from ribbon. 11) Crochet straps at the shoulders. 12) Sash it at the waist with ribbon or a crochet belt. 13) Sew lace to the hem or bustline. 14) Use novelty yarn at hem or bustline. 15) Do not sew up the waist of skirts or pants and instead close with a snap. 16) Make a "wrap" skirt with a rectangle. 17) Sew 2 squares together for a shirt, skirt or dress. 18) Do decorate your doll garments and have fun!

NOTE: TO COMPLIMENT THE ABOVE AND BUILD SKILLS, PART 2 will include some, if not all, of the following techniques: raglan sleeve shaping (sweater), defined waist shaping (skirts and pants), picking up stitches (adding sleeves), yarn over buttonholes (sweater), and working with a set of DPNs (cocktail dress).


Saturday, July 3, 2010

crocheting - a thought or 2 on adapting flat back and forth crochet to in the round

I found what I thought to be a lovely wrap pattern in bulky yarn. I made it per the instructions, and the patterning of it was very pretty, but the drape of it (how the border of the "neckline" fell at the bottom-side of it) was disappointing. So, I showed it to a co-worker\friend of mine who is a fabulous crocheter and has designs published - and she agreed it was worked up properly, but noted that the pattern picture was shown basically from the back view, and where the "hang" in front was visible, it looked a little askew. . . and probably that was why the picture was taken from the back since from front it hung "a little wonky" as I would say. The wrap as written repeats a pattern of what could be called "motifs" or "medallions" for lack of a better description (I'll be sure to post a link to the original pattern is a link to it: and I did like like the visual effect of those repeats. As such, I decided to deconstruct the wrap and turn it into a poncho. This seems, for me, easier done in knitting when adapting flat to round and merely eliminating the seaming stitches - but I tried to do this, and I accomplished it. I used 5 repeats and created a poncho with 2 repeats in back, 1 in front and one at each arm. I'm sure I did it correctly, but the translation from straight back and forth crocheting to in the round crocheting lost a little something. I consulted with my friend again and she agreed that working it entirely in the round (with a distinct front and back - or "right" side and "wrong" side) would be responsible for a different drape as opposed to having turned the piece and gone from side to side after each round. Also in looking at it as I completed it in the round, I think it could benefit from at least 1 less chain in certain rows, so that is another "fix" I may implement. On the other hand, I may frog it and make something else (or take it to the yard and set it on fire if it continues to urk me). Either way, it is pretty, and some of my students were looking forward to making it when I put the tweaked pattern together in its final form.........perhaps I'll wait for inspiration. At the moment, other than making this little bloggette, I've been painting the walls and trim in our lovely little home...and my brain and body are oh so very tired.

So, if anyone is reading this post at all, if you've experienced turning side to side crochet into in the round crochet, I'd love to hear from you and how that worked out and if you've got any special "tweaking" tips you would like to share.

Thanks, Donna

Sunday, June 27, 2010

DPNs: Adapting a flat item to DPNS, Part 2 of 2


Supplies: Four U.S. size 8, 9 or 10 dpns, worsted weight yarn any color, darning needle

PROJECT: Let's adapt a fairly simple hat knitted flat on 2 straight needles (pattern below) to knitting in the round on dpns. As the straight knitted hat has to be seamed up the back, 70 stitches are cast on, with 2 stitches allowing for the sewn seam. Since we will not be seaming the item, we need to eliminate 2 stitches. Therefore, instead of casting on 70 stitches, we'll cast on 68 either all onto one dpn and transfer them to 3 dpns evenly (approx. 22 stitches per dpn), or spread evenly over 3 dpns with a direct cast on. If you are uncomfortable with the initial join, cast on 69 and stitch the first 2 together as directed above in No. 3.

Because this hat is stretchy, worked in 3K, 1P ribbing, whether or not you want it tighter or looser on your head will determine which size needles you use. Since this is a very stretchy pattern, a little bit tighter or looser gauge isn't going to drastically change the fit.

Round 1: k3, p1
Subsequent rounds: repeat round 1
At 7 inches, begin decreasing as follows:
Round 1: k2 together, around
Round 2: k2together, around
Round 3: cut yarn leaving a 5 inch tail. Thread a darning needle and slip it through all stitches on the dpns, pull the yarn tight and make 2 stitches to keep the top of the hat shut. Add a pompon to the top if desired.

Note the differences between knitting the project as above on dpns, and as below on straight needles.
Consider what other projects that are written for straight needles could be adapted to knitting on dpns


STRETCHY RIBBED CAP (for average-sized adult head)
Supplies: (less than) 1 skein worsted weight acrylic yarn, your brand/color choice
Needles: U.S. size 8, 9 or 10
Alternately, may be worked on circular needles if desired
Gauge: since this hat is very stretchy, any of the 3 sized needles will work and not change the overall fit too dramatically.

Cast on 70 stitches
Row 1: K3, P1, repeat across, ending in K2.
Row 2: P2, *k1, P3*, repeat across from *to*.
Repeat rows 1 - 2 and work as established in rib pattern until piece measures 7 inches long. At 7 inches, decrease as follows:
Row 1: k2tog across. Row 2: Purl across.
Row 3-5: Repeat rows 1 & 2, ending in a decrease row. DO NOT CAST OFF.

Leaving a 12 inch tail, cut yarn. Thread the tail through a darning needle. Slip the darning needle through the stitches on the knitting needle as you remove the knitting needle. Pull the tail tightly and secure the tightened opening with a whipstitch. Using the remaining length of tail, continue down the back of the hat and whipstitch the seams together until finished. Weave the tail in one direction, then the other to secure. Cut tail.
Notes: Hat may be made with scraps in various colors. The ribbing pattern can be altered as you wish. It can be embellished with a tassel or pompon at the top, or knitted flowers/shapes or buttons may be sewn on. Knitting it 9 to 10 inches long instead of 7 before decreasing, creates a brimmed edge that can be turned up.

DPNs; Double Pointed Needles - Lesson: Knitting in the Round, Part 1 of 2

Knitting in the round with Double Pointed Needles (dpns) PART 1 of 2

Supplies: 4 dpns, U.S. size 8, 9 or 10, worsted weight yarn
Prior knowledge necessary: casting on/off, knitting, purling

Dpns are just that--knitting needles with a point at each end as opposed to needles with a point at one end and a stopper at the other. DPNs are sold in sets of 4 or 5.

The stitches are evenly spread across 3 dpns, while the 4th dpn is used to work each stitch around (or 4 dpns while using the 5th to work the stitches).

Why dpns? Rather than knitting an item flat and sewing it up:
1) the project is seamless, knitted in rounds, not rows; no seaming\sewing needed
2) for stockinette stitch, purling is eliminated since item is not turned at each row
3) tension is more even since item is not turned
4) works up quicker since item is not turned
5) works great on tube shaped items, such as hats, gloves, socks, caddies, stuffed toys, doll
clothing, leg warmers, gauntlets
6) many patterns can be adapted to working with dpns, and by doing so, eliminating the
need to sew seams and, thus, also saving time

Potential issues, and fixes, for working with dpns:

1) Use the longtail cast on (will be taught if needed). This keeps the stitches tightly together. While the simpler finger wrap is an easy cast on, it creates a distracting long strand between each stitch, which we want to avoid.

2) Juggling several needles at a time is awkward initially. As with all knitting, it becomes comfortable with practice.

3) Gauge may be different (slightly smaller) since it is worked in one direction. Adjust needle size to achieve proper gauge for the project.

4) Stitches slipping off the ends of the dpns. Keep the stitches spread evenly between all dpns. When putting the work down, either use stoppers or push the stitches to the center of each dpn.

5) BIG TIME TIP: The join at the first 2 stitches can gap. To eliminate this at the initial join, cast on 1 extra stitch and slip the first 2 joining stitches one over the other. Alternatively, cast on 1 extra stitch and slip the first and last stitch together onto one needle, then knit them together. Either method creates one decrease, leaving the correct number of cast on stitches intact, and no gap.

6) Strands, called ladders, or gaps between stitches can occur at stitches where the dpns meet. Pull tightly at the joins between dpns--more snuggly than you do for other stitches. You may also wish to adjust the stitches every so often.for example, with 30 stitches on 3 needles, 10/10/10, instead work 11 stitches onto a needle, then 11 onto the next, etc. Thereafter, work 9, then, 9 more, etc. This moves the joins around, making them less noticeable. Again, practice will remedy most initial problems encountered.

7) Markers are useful for knitting in the round to mark the end/beginning of each round.

For practice, cast on 30 stitches, 10 per needle, and begin. It may be easier to cast all 30 stitches onto 1 dpn, then transfer 10 to a 2nd and 10 to a 3rd. Note: cast on 1 extra and work 2 stitches together at the initial join.

The 4th dpn is called the free needle.

Be careful not to twist your stitches, or else your project will be a mobius and not a tube.

The dpns are now naturally forming a triangle. Using the free needle, knit the stitches on the first needle as you normally would and when you knit the last stitch, pull your yarn tightly to prevent gaps.

Now, you have a free needle again. Knit the next 10 stitches as previously, pulling tightly with the last stitch. Again, you have a free needle--knit the last 10 stitches.

You have just completed one round. You could place a marker here if needed for your project.

Since there is no turning the work with dpns, to create stockinette stitch we simply continue knitting, and have eliminated the need to purl. This doesn't mean that we'll never purl with dpns; we would if a pattern required it. Since this doesn't, let's continue knitting around and around until our tube measures an inch or two.

Cast off in knitting, leaving a tail for whip stitching the end closed (if desired).

Supplies: Four U.S. size 8, 9 or 10 dpns, worsted weight yarn any color, darning needle

PROJECT: Let's adapt a hat knitted flat on 2 straight needles (pattern below) to knitting in the round on dpns. As the straight knitted hat has to be seamed up the back, 70 stitches are cast on, with 2 stitches allowing for the sewn seam. Since we will not be seaming the item, we need to eliminate 2 stitches. Therefore, instead of casting on 70 stitches, we'll cast on 68 either all onto one dpn and transfer them to 3 dpns evenly (approx. 22 stitches per dpn), or spread evenly over 3 dpns with a direct cast on. If you are uncomfortable with the initial join, cast on 69 and stitch the first 2 together as directed above in No. 3.

Because this hat is stretchy, worked in 3K, 1P ribbing, whether or not you want it tighter or looser on your head will determine which size needles you use. Since this is a very stretchy pattern, a little bit tighter or looser gauge isn't going to drastically change the fit.

Round 1: k3, p1
Subsequent rounds: repeat round 1
At 7 inches, begin decreasing as follows:
Round 1: k2 together, around
Round 2: k2together, around
Round 3: cut yarn leaving a 5 inch tail. Thread a darning needle and slip it through all stitches on the dpns, pull the yarn tight and make 2 stitches to keep the top of the hat shut. Add a pompon to the top if desired.

Note the differences between knitting the project as above on dpns, and as below on straight needles.
Consider what other projects that are written for straight needles could be adapted to knitting on dpns


STRETCHY RIBBED CAP (for average-sized adult head)
Supplies: (less than) 1 skein worsted weight acrylic yarn, your brand/color choice
Needles: U.S. size 8, 9 or 10
Alternately, may be worked on circular needles if desired
Gauge: since this hat is very stretchy, any of the 3 sized needles will work and not change the overall fit too dramatically.

Cast on 70 stitches
Row 1: K3, P1, repeat across, ending in K2.
Row 2: P2, *k1, P3*, repeat across from *to*.
Repeat rows 1 - 2 and work as established in rib pattern until piece measures 7 inches long. At 7 inches, decrease as follows:
Row 1: k2tog across. Row 2: Purl across.
Row 3-5: Repeat rows 1 & 2, ending in a decrease row. DO NOT CAST OFF.

Leaving a 12 inch tail, cut yarn. Thread the tail through a darning needle. Slip the darning needle through the stitches on the knitting needle as you remove the knitting needle. Pull the tail tightly and secure the tightened opening with a whipstitch. Using the remaining length of tail, continue down the back of the hat and whipstitch the seams together until finished. Weave the tail in one direction, then the other to secure. Cut tail.
Notes: Hat may be made with scraps in various colors. The ribbing pattern can be altered as you wish. It can be embellished with a tassel or pompon at the top, or knitted flowers/shapes or buttons may be sewn on. Knitting it 9 to 10 inches long instead of 7 before decreasing, creates a brimmed edge that can be turned up.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Shopping for Knitting Supplies - A Guide for the New Knitter

See post immediately prior to this one (information for new knitters). Everything contained therein will give you a greater understanding of the process before and as you learn how to put it all together. It is a great source of answers to Frequently Asked Questions. Trust me...I had many questions -- which is why I compiled the information for myself, and to share.

The supplies you need to begin are a set of needles, yarn, some paper and a pen (to take any notes you feel necessary).

I suggest worsted weight yarn (gotta love it, so multi-purpose) and one pair of size 7 or 8 needles, 12 inches long, single point. (More about needles below.) With these supplies you can easily learn how to knit, and even make a scarf (with acrylic or wool or specialty yarn) or potholders (cotton yarn).

The fundamentals of knitting are casting on, the knit stitch, the purl stitch, alternating the 2 stitches to create stockinette stitch, and casting off. These are the doorway to more involved stitches and projects. However, your first items are going to be practice swatches, and your first project will most likely be a scarf.


1) Available in 3 styles: single point, double point and circular (more on circular below).

2) Range in thickness\diameter in sizes from 0000 to 50.

3) Range in length in inches as 7, 10, 12 and 14.

4) Available in different materials: Aluminum, plastic, wood, steel, bamboo and old vintage needles can be found in a material called Bakelite and also resin (check Ebay for the last two).

Note: The items you choose to make, and any written pattern you choose to follow, will state what size needles to use and what type\weight yarn. Be mindful in the future of what you'll be making when you do your supply shopping.

If you do any Ebay or garage sale shopping for odd lots of used needles, you may find that while a certain number is stated on the tip, for example purposes #5, it may actually vary from other #5 needles that you have depending on it being American-made or United Kingdom-made. If there is any confusion, however, you can use a needle gauge - a plastic or aluminum card with holes in it through which you poke the needle to check its size. That way, you'll always be certain.

ABOUT CIRCULAR NEEDLES. These are used to work in the round, as are double pointed needles, instead of back and forth on straight needles (although one could use circular needles for back and forth knitting if it is convenient). What makes circular needles different is that they are 2 needles, one at each end, connected by a cord in the middle. Most circular needles currently available as "brand new" have the cord being made out of nylon or plastic. Vintage circulars have the cord being made out of coiled aluminum or coiled steel. When buying circular needles, be mindful of the size of the actual needle (its thickness\diameter) AND the length of the cord.

Friday, June 25, 2010

EVERYTHING a new knitter should know

1. Knitting consists of 2 stitches: Knit, Purl. Everything else is a combination of both.

(A) Repeated rows of knit stitch produce GARTER stitch. It looks the same on the front side as it does on the back side.

(B) Repeated rows of purl stitch produce GARTER stitch. (Same as above, imagine that.)

(C) Knit one row, Purl one row, produces STOCKINETTE stitch, which on the front side looks like small "v"s and on the back side looks like...GARTER stitch. (Shocking, I know.)

(D) Combinations of Knit & Purl stitches produce numerous other stitches and patterns. The most common combinations being:

(i) Ribbing (Knit 1, Purl 1, knit the knits and purl the purls) or knit 3, purl 3 - any combination of either.

(ii) Seed, Moss or Rice stitch (K 1, P1, then Purl the Ks and Knit the Ps).

(iii) The aforementioned stockinette.

Various sources on the net illustrate these, and more, techniques and stitches. Check your local library or go browsing at book stores.

2. Methods of knitting vary*** They are:

A) English B) Continental C. Combined/Combination

English method is preferred for learning and recommended by the Craft Yarn Council of America (CYCOA). English knitting, for the new knitter, creates a better tensioned piece with less irregularities than Continental or Combined. VERY IMPORTANT: The most frustrating part for the beginner knitter is irregular tension when alternating rows of knit and purl stitch (stockinette). It is easy to get discouraged by this...but I promise you..practice makes perfect.

3. CASTING ON: Long-tail cast on -- see

3A. Getting down to learning. First, learn the knit stitch (see below)--practice it for several rows (garter). Thereafter, learn the purl stitch (see below)--practice it for several rows (garter). Finally, learn stockinette and practice it. Stockinette will be the most challenging as far as appearances go. You will want to get your knitting tension to the point where, in stockinette, it does NOT look "ribby" on the back\wrong side. The front will look like a series of Vs, where the back will look like garter stitch - it is the backside that will show you whether or not your stitch tension needs improvement.

4. KNIT stitch. Right hand needle enters the stitch on the left hand needle, from left to right and front to back. Yarn goes behind right hand needle and around to the front, counter clockwise. Pulling the yarn down between the needles, you will feel a slight "click" as the yarn goes into place. "Catch" that yarn with the tip of the right hand needle, pulling it towards you through and under the stitch on the left hand needle, which "transfers" it to the right hand needle. Pull the completed stitch off left hand needle completely--the knit stitch is now on the right hand needle. This should be the first stitch that you practice, row after row, until you are comfortable with the motions/technique.

5. PURL stitch. Right hand needle enters the stitch on the left hand needle, from right to left and back to front. Yarn goes behind the right hand needle and around to the front counter clockwise. Catch the yarn on the right hand needle, pulling it under the stitch on the left hand needle and to the right. The stitch is transferred to the right hand needle. Pull the finished stitch off the left hand needle completely -- the purl stitch is now on the right hand needle.
NOTE: Yarn direction around needle counterclockwise is the same for knit stitch and purl stitch, always, in English and Continental style.

6. STOCKINETTE: Knit stitch and Purl stitch together. SEE 2 C and 2 D above.

7. SHAPING: Decreasing and Increasing. Numerous techniques exist. Generally you never increase more than 1 stitch at a time, but a pattern may call for a 3 stitch decrease instead of 2. Patterns usually specify which increase/decrease technique is preferred for that particular item.

A. Decreasing. The simplest decrease is to work two stitches together, decreasing by 1 stitch (K2tog or P2tog) which slants to the right.

Another popular decrease is SLIP 1, KNIT 1, PASS OVER (SKP or SKPSSO) which slants to the left. Insert the needle into the stitch as if to knit it, but without knitting it, slip it over to the right hand needle, then knit the next stitch, then pass the slipped stitch over the one you just knitted, and the decrease is complete. This is usually used in combination with knitting two stitches together at one end of the row to decrease, then SKP at the other end, since each will leave a unique mark on your finished piece.

B. Increasing. The simplest way to increase is called MAKE ONE. This is done by inserting the left hand needle through the yarn that is horizontal between two stitches, lifting it, and knitting it. (see below)
(i) Make One Right Slant: In Knit stitch, insert the left needle from back to front into the strand between the stitches. Knit through the front loop, inserting right needle from left to right/front to back to twist the stitch, then knit it. In Purl stitch, insert left needle from back to front into the strand and purl through the front loop.

(ii) Make One Left Slant: In Knit stitch, insert left needle from front to back into strand and knit through back loop to twist it. In Purl stitch, insert left needle from front to back into strand and purl through the back loop.

BAR INCREASE: Knit the stitch completely but do not pull it off the left hand needle. Reinsert the left hand needle into the BACK of the same stitch, knit it and transfer both stitches to the right hand needle. For these and more see: and

SPECIALTY INCREASE: Yarn Over (YO) or Yarn Forward (YF). This leaves a hole in the work. It is used for buttonholes and lace patterns, or decoration. It is most often worked on the knit side, often paired with a decrease to keep the stitch count consistent. Bring the yarn from the back of the work to the front between the needles. Insert the right needle into the next stitch knitwise, wrap the yarn around the needle clockwise and complete the stitch. For this and more see: and

Some illustrated techniques can be found here: - go to that site and hover over and click the stitch you require help with.

9. CASTING OFF: Knit (or purl) the first and second stitches. Insert the left hand needle into the FIRST stitch on the right hand needle and lift it over the second stitch. You have casted off 1 stitch. Repeat process of knitting a stitch, then lifting the prior stitch over that, until you have completed the bind off to the last stitch. Slip the last stitch off the needle, cut your yarn, and pull the yarn tightly through the last stitch tightly. The above are the basics. You should continue learning through books, patterns and websites.

***While it is a good idea to learn at least both English and Continental, it isn't necessary. Some people will be more comfortable with one style over the other--that is a matter of personal choice. Crocheter's may ultimately prefer Continental method since it is similar in motion to crochet. Combined method is a different story altogether -- often, a pattern will not work in combined method as written, and there needs to be a remedy. A fabulous site for combined knitting (which I suggest you look into after you feel accomplished in English method) is

NOTE: While this post is not "copyrighted" it is comprised of my personal thoughts and experience when I was a new knitter, and in my teaching knitting and what I believed was pertinent to know. You may print it out for your own use, or post an url to it, but please do not copy and paste it to your own blog or website. Thank you.