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Archive for September, 2011


Wisteria Shawl Collar Pullover Knit-Along: Gauge Swatch and Casting On!

September 28th, 2011

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Hello and welcome back to the Wisteria KAL! Hopefully you’ve had time to get your yarn and needles together because it’s time to dive into the the pattern with the all-important gauge swatch. Determining your gauge is crucial for getting on the road to a successful finished sweater. When you take to time to find the needle size that gives you the gauge of the pattern, you will be on your way to a sweater that actually turns out the size you want it to be!

The gauge of this pattern is 17 stitches over 4 inches (4.25 sts/in) and 24 rows over 4 inches (6 rows/in). To make a gauge swatch for this project, I recommend casting on at least 25 stitches and working for at least 30 rows so you have a nice large swatch to measure over. After I bind off my swatch, I measure both the stitch and row gauge by lining up a rule at the edge of one stitch and counting how many stitches fill 4 inches (see photos below). Make a note of these numbers, then wash and block your swatch. This is important as many yarns change slightly after washing, either shrinking slightly or very often “blooming” and getting a bit looser, so if you ever plan to get your finished sweater wet, wash your swatch! To do so, I soak my swatch in a sink of water for 10 minutes, gently squeeze out the excess water, then lay it out flat to dry. If you are using a cotton yarn for this pullover, you may want to spray block your swatch instead by laying it flat and wetting with a spray bottle. Once dry, re-measure your swatch as shown:
Stitch gaugeRow gauge
Before blocking, using a size 8 needle with Amazing (in Constellation) I had 18 stitches and 25 rows over 4″ x 4″, but after blocking I (magically!) had the exact pattern gauge of 17 stitches and 24 rows! It is not always possible to get both the stitch and row gauge on one needle size, so use the needle size that gives you the correct stitch gauge, but make sure to make a note of your row gauge with that needle size because that will become important when we get to the sleeves. If your first swatch does not result in the correct gauge, make another! If you have more than 17 stitches, your gauge is too tight so try a larger needle; if you have less than 17 stitches, your gauge is too loose so try a smaller needle. You can see more about gauge here.

Once you have determined the needle you need to use to get gauge, let’s talk about the pattern itself. Some of you have been posing questions about knitting in the round and the use of circular needles, so let’s start there. As far as choosing what type of needle to use, straight needles are perfectly fine for this project as all pieces are knit flat, but you also have the option of using a circular needle to better accommodate the number of stitches for each piece. Since I do a lot of my knitting on the subway in very cramped quarters, I tend to knit most things on circular needles to avoid jabbing the people next to me! My preference is for 29-32″ circulars, but for this pattern anywhere from 24″ and up will hold the number of stitches just fine. Just because you are using a circular needle does not mean you are knitting in the round. Instead, treat them just as you do your straight needles by turning your work at the end of each row and working back.

Some of you, however, have asked about converting this pattern to work it in the round, so let me talk about some pros and cons. I know many people dislike the seaming involved in making a sweater in pieces, and I understand the feeling. Often times, however, when a pattern is written in pieces instead of in the round there is a reason: seams provided structure to a sweater so it is less likely to stretch out of shape. This is great to keep in mind for any sweater but especially in this case where the pullover already has a relaxed fit. Although I love knitting in the round as well, I’ve learned from doing other sweaters that sewing seams isn’t that bad and can actually be a very rewarding finishing step. A later post will cover all of the different seaming techniques you’ll need to finish this garment beautifully.

Another important consideration if you still want to work this sweater in the round is to keep in mind what type of yarn you are using: self-striping or a solid color. When working a sweater in the round, you will eventually have to transition to working flat after dividing for the neckline and armholes. If using the recommended yarn, Amazing, the stripes will be much thinner when working the round and will then become much wider when you start working back and forth in rows, which may not be a look you want your sweater to have.

If you are using a solid yarn this is not a concern, so feel free to work as you wish keeping the stretch factor in mind. To convert to in-the-round, you generally want to take the cast on number for the back plus the cast on for the front, subtract 4 (2 stitches each side allowed for seaming) and cast on that many stitches. Adjust this number as needed to make it divisible by 4 so that the 2×2 ribbing still works out. Please keep in mind if you choose to work in the round that I will be working my sweater in pieces and the upcoming posts will focus on pieced construction.

As you start by casting on for the pullover, one final consideration to make is how long you want the body to be. As written, you work for 14 inches to the underarms, but this length is easily adjusted. The pattern does not have waist shaping, so you are free to make the body as long as you wish – this is why this is such a great unisex pattern! If you are following instructions for the similar Newcastle Pullover, the body for that version is already written as 17 inches to the armholes, 3 inches longer than the Wisteria. I suggest measuring a sweater you like the fit of, this time for length, to figure out how long you want to make the body of your sweater. Make a note of this length (I like writing all over my copy of patterns!) because if you make a change it will come into play when we work the front in a couple of weeks.

For now, figure out your gauge and then feel free to get going on the back of your sweater! It starts with three inches of a 2×2 rib (knit 2, purl 2) followed by your desired length to the armholes of stockinette stitch (knit one row, purl one row). Next week I’ll talk more about the back of your sweater and how to shape the armholes. Enjoy and see you next week!


Have Fun with Felting in Fall

September 27th, 2011

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Saturday is the first day of October–I can’t believe it! You know what that means: the temperatures will be dropping and we won’t be too far away from winter (quietly sobs).  With the cooler weather approaching, now is a good time to get started on some of those felted projects! For those of you who may be wondering, felting is a technique used with non-superwash wool to make the yarn fibers shrink and lock together.  To get your knit or crochet piece to felt, you need soap, hot water and a bit of yarn agitation.  Check out our Felt FAQ for more specific instructions.  I’ve created a roundup of Lion Brand yarns that oughta do the job for your felted piece.

Lion Brand Alpine Wool Alpine Wool

This soft, wool roving yarn is ideal for warm garments and accessories. Featuring an autumn/winter palette, this yarn works up so quickly, and it felts beautifully for gorgeous projects from purses to slippers.

Fishermen's Wool Fishermen’s Wool

Our classic Fishermen’s Wool is made of undyed pure virgin wool with natural lanolin oil. Soft, warm, and naturally water resistant, it’s ideal for ski-wear and fisherman sweaters, hats, scarves, and more. Fishermen’s Wool also felts beautifully for dense slippers, strong bags, and textural home decor projects. Plus its generous size and natural shades make it perfect for dyeing!

100% Organic Wool LB Collection 100% Organic Wool

Part of our line of affordable, luxury fibers, this classic worsted-weight Organic Wool is perfect for sweaters, felted projects, and winter accessories. Available in 6 classic colors. It is 100% organically produced wool and dyed with low impact dyes, certified according to Global Organic Textile Standards by the Institute of Marketecology.

*The LB Collection is exclusively available through LionBrand.com, the Lion Design catalog, and the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in New York City

LB Collection 100% Pure Wool LB Collection 100% Pure Wool

Part of our line of affordable, luxury fibers, this 100% undyed wool roving yarn, is spun in the USA, from fiber from American-raised sheep. This natural yarn with great texture is perfect for hand-dyeing, as well as felting. 

*The LB Collection is exclusively available through LionBrand.com, the Lion Design catalog, and the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in New York City

Martha Stewart Crafts Lion Brand Roving Wool

Soft, natural roving wool works up fast for warm, cozy sweaters, long scarves, and colorful hats. It’s also great for felting projects.

Martha Stewart Crafts Lion Brand Yarn Merino Martha Stewart Crafts Lion Brand Merino

Soft and luxurious, pure Merino wool is the knitter and crocheter’s choice for fine garments and accessories. Stitch patterns for sweaters, shawls, gloves, and hats work up beautifully in this worsted-weight, hand-washable yarn.  Since it isn’t a superwash, this too, works well for felting.

Have you felted before? If so, what are some of your favorite items to felt?


Where Was I Again? How to Figure Out Where You Left Off

September 26th, 2011

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Back when I first became capital-K Knitter and really started interacting with other Knitters, online and in person, I would quietly giggle behind my hand at those who bemoaned their stacks of UFOs (Unfinished Objects) and WIPs (Works In Progress). I only had one project going at a time, and I was sure I would never be one of those poor souls who just couldn’t manage to start what they finished before moving on to the next project.

Of course, it wasn’t too long before I discovered that I need lots of quiet to work on complicated lace and cables, so I decided to allow myself one simple project and one more complicated one. That’s reasonable, right? Of course, I was commuting by bus at the time and sometimes a project would just get too big to be easily transportable, so I decided I could start additional projects to commute with while finishing up the big ones at home.

Talk about your slippery slope…I now have “exceptions” to my “single project” rule for gifts, seasonal appropriateness, craft (now that I am also a capital-C Crocheter), soft yarn, pattern lust…you name it, I can make an exception for it. I currently have seven WIPs…just in the basket under my desk at work. That’s not including the two projects in my knitting bag or the socks I always carry in my purse, or the other socks I always have in my car, “just in case”. Let’s not even talk about what I’ve got stacked up at home.

The only real problem with this is that I often put down projects “just while I cast this on” or “until I get this super-quick gift made” and they end up languishing for weeks or months…and since I didn’t intend to put the thing down for more than a day or two, I haven’t marked the pattern. Or worse, I’ve misplaced the pattern…which is where I’ve marked the size I’m making.

This is exactly what happened to me with the Saturday Morning Hoodie Knit-Along (project pictured above). I cast on with the best intentions and then got distracted by who-knows-what and stopped at a point fairly far along on the back. I went to pick it up the other day because I really want to have it to wear around the office when the temperature drops, and discovered that I have both no idea what point I’m at in the pattern and no idea what size I’m making. Fortunately, I can just print out another copy of the pattern, but if it were a pre-printed pattern I’d’ve made a copy to work from originally, both in case of this very situation and also so I could write notes on it and circle sizing information without marking up my original.

What size was I making?
So now that I’ve got my new copy of the pattern, the first thing I need to figure out is what size I’m making. The easiest and most accurate way to do that is to just count your stitches. You want to count fairly close to your cast-on row, and check the pattern to see if there are any increases/decreases before where you’re counting so you can take that into account. In this case, there are no increases or decreases until after the ribbing, so I just counted right across the ribbing and came up with 54. That corresponds to the 44″ size, which does seem like the size I’d have chosen. Next step, circle all of the numbers corresponding to that size, just as I did the first time around.

Where am I in the pattern?
Now I need to figure out where I am in the pattern–what my next steps should be as I begin working on it again. According to the pattern, after the ribbing (which I can see I’m way past) I am to work in stockinette stitch until my piece is 16″ from the beginning. So I’m just going to measure and see where I am. (This process gets a little more complicated if you’re working on something with a more complicated stitch pattern, because you need to figure out not only where in the project you are, but where in the stitch pattern. I recommend tackling the two problems separately, handling the stitch pattern part first as that may well give you clues about where in the project you are).

I’m at 14″, so I have another couple of inches of straight knitting to go before I need to start my raglan shaping, so it looks like I’m in pretty good shape on this one. Yay!

What if I can’t tell where I am?
I have, on occasion, been unable to figure out where I am in either the pattern or the project…when that happens, really the only thing you can do is find a point further back that you can identify and rip back to there. And try to remember next time to mark where you are in the pattern…even if you’re only planning on setting it down for a day.


How to Choose the Perfect Hat Project

September 25th, 2011

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Heart Hat to Knit or CrochetWith all the available patterns for hats, it can be difficult to decide which one is right for you. Do you want a simple beanie or brimmed hat? Or would you prefer a soft tam, elegant cloche or make-a-statement beret? Use these tips and you’re sure to pick an excellent hat that’s perfect for you.

  • Hairstyles matter when it comes to picking the perfect hat. Snug fitting beanies flatter hair that lies close to the head, while berets and tams have a little more space for curly styles. Do you love to wear your hair in a particular way? Pick a hat design that compliments your style, and you’ll love wearing it all season long.
  • Use colors that compliment you. Color is a great way to experiment with hat styles. Outlandish hats can be much more wearable when coordinated in the colors of your wardrobe, and simpler patterns come to life in bright, bold hues.  Many people select a yarn color that brings out the color of their eyes or hair. You could also try matching your hat to a coat or accessory, or selecting a contrasting color for a bold look.
  • Little details make a big difference. Some hats have complex stitch patterns that create detail in the fabric, but simpler patterns don’t have to result in simple hats.  Adding buttons, pom-poms or appliques are great methods for making any hat more your own style. The Hat with Heart Earflaps (pictured above) is a great example of how an applique design turns a simple hat into a treasure.

Keep these tips in mind, and at the end of your project you’ll have created something beautiful that you’ll want to wear again and again. To see all the hat patterns available for free from LionBrand.com, click here.

How have you chosen your favorite hat patterns in the past? Do you have a special tip or trick to share? Leave us a comment to let us know.


Announcing our Fall Knit-Along Featuring the Wisteria Shawl Collar Pullover!

September 21st, 2011

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Wisteria Shawl Collar Pullover KAL BadgeEach season we host a knit- or crochet-along, a virtual event in which yarncrafters come together here online to work on one pattern together, share their experiences, and to learn together. There’s no need to sign up; simply follow along with the blog posts at your own pace as you knit your sweater.

We asked you to vote on what knit garment you’d like to make, and you picked our Wisteria Shawl Collar Pullover!

My name is Kendra and I’ll be your knit-along (KAL) host! I work at the Lion Brand Yarn Studio, Lion Brand’s unique retail and education center in New York City, where I am a crochet and knitting instructor. Click here to learn more about me. Each week I’ll have a post here about my progress through the sweater full of information I’ve found helpful and hope you will as well. This is meant to be an interactive process so please ask questions here and in our Ravelry group so I – and the other knitters involved – can help! I can’t wait to work through this project with you!

To get this knit-along going, this week is about gathering your materials so that we can jump right in next week. This pullover is made in our Amazing yarn, a beautiful wool-acrylic blend that makes smooth transitions from one color to the next resulting in a beautiful finished product with minimal effort from you! The fiber blend makes for a sweater that will be really warm but still machine washable, which is great when it comes to a wardrobe staple! This version of the sweater is knit in the Wildflowers colorway, but we’ve also made similar versions in Ruby Amazing, Martha Stewart Crafts Extra Soft Wool Blend, and Wool-Ease (pictured below). These solid versions make fantastic unisex garments!

Amazing - RubyMSC Extra Soft Wool Blend - Gray PearlWool-Ease - Avocado

Martha Stewart Crafts Extra Soft Wool Blend and Wool-Ease are both great yarn substitutions for this pattern because they’re soft, easy-care wool-acrylic blends. Vanna’s Choice is also easy-care and comes in a fantastic color palette. For a warmer weather alternative, you could also use Cotton-Ease.

As with any yarn substitution, you’ll also need to figure out how many skeins of the yarn of your choice the pattern will require. Here are the number of balls for our other recommended yarns:

Size S M L 1X 2X
Amazing 8 9 10 10 11
Wool-Ease 6 7 8 8 9
Vanna’s Choice 7 8 9 9 10
MSC Extra Soft Wool Blend 7 8 9 10 11
Cotton-Ease 6 7 8 8 8
Approx. yardage 1200 1350 1450 1500 1650

As an aside, if you plan to make the pullover longer, I would recommend you purchase an extra ball or two to make sure you have enough yarn. It never hurts to have extra (think matching hat!), but it’s such a bummer to run out of yarn near the end of a project!

This unisex pullover (guys, you can pick a solid color or a more masculine color of Amazing like Cobblestone) has a slightly relaxed fit, so a little positive ease (i.e., more inches around than your bust size) is okay. I think of this sweater as fitting similarly to a comfy sweatshirt, so you may want to choose a size accordingly. When choosing a size, sometimes it helps to find a sweater (or sweatshirt) that you like the fit of and measure this garment to help you choose a size.

Starting next week I’ll be posting my progress through the pullover, starting with the all important gauge swatch! In the following weeks we’ll work through the back, then the front of the sweater, followed by the sleeves and then the collar and finishing work to give you a beautiful pullover just in time for cold weather. So pick up your yarn and needles and come back next week for information regarding gauge and getting going with this wonderful sweater!

Please introduce yourself below–let us know who you are, where you’re from, and who you’re making this sweater for!

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