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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Episode 9: Needle Snobbery

This past Sunday, Hurricane Irene (my middle name, by the way), made her appearance causing widespread power outages. What perfect time to get some knitting done, right?

In this podcast episode:
1) We discuss finishing techniques that make a difference.
2) Methods to combat biasing fabric.
3) Making your interchangeable needle tips work for you.

I like to multitask. So when the power went out last Sunday during the hurricane, I picked up my book and kept on working on my current knitting project: an upcoming design using soon-to-be-released DungarEase, a spring yarn in a soft cotton/acrylic easycare blend. Usually, if I mix knitting and reading, I stick to basic stockinette stitch. But this particular project features an eyelet basketweave stitch pattern, one that requires me to either watch what I am doing (which I can't do if I'm reading), or count my stitches as I go. So, although it was challenging, I managed to count and read at the same time. They say you should keep your mind active to keep sharp. Now, there's a knitter's exercise for the noggin!

The swatch above shows how I inserted eyelets within the pattern, and how the ribs turn into mini lace cables. Below is the sweater in progress (back and left front). The pattern and yarn will be available in December. Cute, isn't it?
You can see the button band already added to the left front. Just couldn't help myself. I had to work it out of sequence (although, really, is there a knitting law that says in what sequence to knit sweater pieces?). Since I often design as I go, I like to see NOW how things will look in the end. Even after knitting for umpteen years, I am still refining my skills: I now pick up over one whole stitch instead of over half a stitch (which I've always done up to now). It really makes a neater finish. Old dog, new trick.

In the following swatch, each section shows a new version/progression of a burgeoning idea. The swatch, changing from right to left, is explained in the podcast. Note how the lace sections at the top are biasing. After experimenting, we found a way to counteract this: Row 1: * K2 tog, yo. Row 2: Purl. Row 3: * Yo, ssk. Alternating both the slant of the decrease and the position of the yo did the trick. Another lesson to be retained for future designs, and solving pesky biasing.
Joyce mentioned a designer who integrates biasing yarns in her beautiful knitwear: Kathryn Alexander. Check out her site. I love her use of color, and how she utilizes the 3-dimensional yarns as design elements.

I find that using steam helps in slapping a biasing fabric back into place, so to speak. You can't use steam on acrylic (it will kill it dead or turn it into plastic—not a good look for knitwear), but you can use it on natural fibers. I place a wet dish towel over the knitted piece, and apply a hot iron in a "lift and press" motion. You want to hear that baby hiss!

Check out the little t-shirt below—another upcoming design for spring 2012. The yarn used is Pediwick (66% bamboo/34% nylon) which was introduced last year as a sock yarn (392 yards per 100-gr ball). With a little experimentation I discovered that this yarn can also be knitted on a size 7 needles at a gauge of 6.5 sts per inch. Knit at that gauge, this yarn drapes beautifully. A bit of slinky-ness. Me like it!

Back in the mid-80's I co-wrote "Sweaters by Hand" (from Interweave Press) featuring a collection of designs for handspun yarns. My friend Rachael Emmons, spinner extraordinaire, spun the yarns and I designed the projects. A fun and educational process. I had never spun yarn before and I got to learn at that time.
One of the interesting things when you design with a yarn that never existed before is discovering it's best gauge. And depending on the project, there could be more than one answer. By experimenting, you may find that some yarns in your stash can create a variety of fabric weights.

So next time you find yourself in a hurricane, with extra knitting time on your hands, grab yarn and assorted needle sizes, and start experimenting :-)

The tip of the week (instead of an actual mini lesson) is this: when using circular needles with interchangeable tips, use the correct size tip on your right-hand needle (the working needle) and a smaller tip on the left-hand needle. Your stitches will slide smoothly into position ready to be knitted, and there will be no more fighting to get them over the point where the cord attaches to the needle.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Episode 8: Moth be Gone!

Yes, I know, can we be any slower to record and blog? And no, I will not, again, make excuses. All I will say is that we love to podcast, and as with many things in life, you can't always get to do what you love.

In this podcast episode:
1) our mini lesson is about moth repelling/preventing tips
2) sneak preview of a new yarn: DungarEase
3) should we shorten the blog and podcast more often? You can weigh in...

As the weather starts to change with the end of summer, Joyce and I discuss taking out our fall sweaters and what methods we used to protect them from moth damage. This spurs me to go on a hunt on the net to find more information about homemade moth repellents. This actually is the mini lesson we discuss on the podcast. Note that we recorded this section outside on a windy day, so you hear a bit of ambient noise (car alarm, for example) and air blowing on the microphone (lesson learn there).

Here are some online sites with more info:
How To Get Rid of Moths With Natural Repellents
Non-Toxic Moth Ball Alternatives
How to Make Your Own Sweet-Smelling Moth Repellent Using an Orange

You can find cedar paper on Amazon.
We share our frustration at not having local access to good button sources. Finding buttons in our neck of the woods is difficult, and online sources don't exactly fit the bill when you want instant gratification. Are you lucky enough to have a great button store in your area, or an online source that shows colors very accurately and provide speedy service to us, "I want it now" people? Feel like sharing that info? Post a comment, or email us at

Here's a preview of one of our upcoming new spring yarns, DungarEase (60% cotton/40% acrylic). This child's pattern, shown in size 1 sans buttons (don't get me started), will be offered in sizes 1, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10.
I know that finding patterns for the tween sizes is difficult, so for this basic, I made sure to cover lots of sizes. The yarn comes in 12 "denimy" colors and will be available in December through local yarn shops. Can I say, again, how I LOVE this yarn? I can't wait to get it in the stores for you guys to feel and enjoy. Soft, soft, and oh, so soft. :-)

And as promised, we've uploaded a free pattern on our website, the Stained Glass Cardigan.
As I was designing on the fly (no swatches for me, so sirree Bob) I made the stitches travel after the corrugated ribbing was done and found myself creating a stained glass window type stitch that really worked well to showcase the colors of Geologee. Sometimes you take short cuts, and you get lucky.

One of the reasons (among others) that the podcast doesn't get done more often is because of this blog. As you can see, I am looooonnnng winded. So, getting the entire dog and pony show together is a many-hour process. Which explains why it doesn't happen more often. So, at least 2 listeners have told us to shorten the blog, and broadcast more often. I know. 2 people (and we love them both). Does that mean it is the opinion of the "masses" of people listening to us? Do you want to weigh in on this? You can either post here to let us know, or on Ravelry.

So this is as far as I am going as a wordsmith today. The podcast, of course, contains way more info so please take a listen to get the full effect of our conjoined knitting banter.