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News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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4 Ways to Combine Different Yarns in One Project

June 23rd, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

Some designs, such as the ribbing of a sweater or the brim of a hat, may use a different yarn than the rest of the project. This creates a unique look, much different than if just one yarn had been used for the entire piece – like the Snow and Sunsets Afghan (right) crocheted in Amazing® and Fishermen’s Wool®.

But you can also combine two or even three or more yarns throughout, ultimately creating an entirely new yarn!

One word of caution: be sure to note the care instructions of each yarn. Be sure to care for the project using the instructions of the most delicate yarn.

1. Using Novelty Yarn

You can even combine a novelty eyelash yarn with wool in a felted project; I’ve designed many purses and hats combining yarns in this way. I would suggest you felt a swatch first though to ensure the novelty yarn doesn’t end up with loose loops when felted.

2. Create a Tweed Pattern

Contrasting plain colors create a tweed effect.

3. Muting Colors

Adding a brightly colored yarn can enliven a muted color or adding a more subdued yarn can tone down a color you find too bright.

4. Adding Texture

You can also combine different fibers or types of yarn. Adding a metallic yarn will jazz up a plain yarn. If a yarn is too fuzzy for your taste, adding a plain strand will mitigate the fuzz.

Lastly, Experiment

Swatch and experiment with yarn you have in your stash. You may find that you can use up that yarn that you haven’t known what to do with by combining it with another yarn. The yarns don’t need to be in the same weight category.

Not sure how to get started? Here are a few examples of patterns that combine different yarns:

Marmalade Kimono Knit Team Colors Scarf Fabulous Furry Scarf Multi Strand Top
This cute knit Marmalade Kimono for children is a great example of combining two solid contrasting yarns for a tweed effect. The crochet Team Colors Scarf illustrates the same concept. The knit Fabulous Furry Scarf shows off combining the eyelash yarn Fun Fur with Hometown USA®. This pattern illustrates just how different colors can look when combined with others.

For a refresher on working with multiple strands, see my previous article.

Related links: 

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How to Knit a Horizontal or Vertical Buttonhole

June 16th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

Buttonholes are commonly used in cardigans but you may also find the need to make one for purses, shawls, or scarves.

Many patterns will have an instruction to make a basic buttonhole by working a yarn over and then knitting the next 2 stitches together. This buttonhole is functional but it’s not very stable and it can look a little sloppy. Moreover, the size of the buttonhole is totally dependent on the weight of the yarn and the needle size. The thinner the yarn and the smaller the needle, the tinier buttonhole will be.

So what if you want to create an extra large button?

Vertical Buttonhole

90738adaA vertical buttonhole can be made any length. It can be used in many situations when you would usually work a horizontal buttonhole. If you are working a 6 stitch buttonhole band on a cardigan however, it’s not practical to use this type of buttonhole.

  1. Work across the row to where you want to place the buttonhole.
  2. Drop the yarn, add a second ball and continue across the row.
  3. On the next row, work across until you come to the other ball of yarn, pick it up and complete the row.
  4. Continue until the buttonhole is the length you wish.
  5. Work all the stitches across the next row with one ball of yarn only and this will close the gap.

Horizontal Buttonhole

l10124aThis horizontal buttonhole can be made any size you wish. You’ll need to count your stitches and carefully determine the placement as this buttonhole requires 1 extra stitch…a 3 stitch buttonhole requires 4 stitches total to knit it.

  1. Work to the point where you want the buttonhole.
  2. With yarn in front, slip the next stitch purlwise.
  3. Place the yarn in back and leave it there.
  4. Slip the next stitch purlwise and pass the first slipped stitch over it.
  5. Continue to bind off in this way for the required number of stitches (if you want a 3 stitch buttonhole, do this 3 times total).
  6. Slip the last stitch you bound off back to the left needle and turn. Place the yarn at the back of the work.
  7. Using the Knit Cast-On or the Cable Cast-On, cast on the number of stitches you bound off plus 1. Turn.
  8. With yarn in back, slip the first stitch from the right to the left needle and knit these 2 stitches together.

With a little practice, you’ll master buttonholes in no time!

Try a baby sweater (like the Fresh Melon Sideways Cardigan shown above right) or an accessory pattern like our Embroidered Hood for practice, then graduate to an adult project (like the Modern Raglan Cardigan shown above left)

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How to Increase in a Row or in the Round

June 9th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

As you work on shaping a project, a pattern may ask you to increase or decrease a specific number of stitches evenly across a row or round. But it won’t tell you how often to do this…just to do it evenly.
Increase
You don’t want the increases or decrease bunched up together at one point because it would make your piece lopsided. To avoid this, you want them spaced as evenly as possible across the row or round.

So you’ll need to do some simple math in order to determine how often to increase or decrease so they are spread out evenly.

Getting Started

  • You should know the number of stitches you currently have. The pattern will indicate how many stitches you need to increase or decrease.

    Example: Let’s say you have 100 stitches and the pattern calls for 10 increases. Dividing 100 by 10 equals 10, so you would increase once every 10th stitch.

  • If you’re knitting in rows, you’ll need to add one to the number of stitches you are to increase. Otherwise, in the above example of 100 stitches and 10 increases, the first increase would occur on the 10th stitch and the last increase would occur on the 100th stitch (10, 20, 30, 40, etc.).

    Example: Suppose you have 110 stitches and you’re to increase 10 stitches. Adding 1 to 10 equals 11. Dividing 110 by 11 equals 10, so you would increase one stitch every 10th stitch.

  • Whether knitting in the round or back and forth, the numbers don’t always work out exactly even, and you will get a fraction instead.

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6 Helpful Tips For Knitting in the Round

June 2nd, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

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Knitting in the round can seem daunting, but with a bit of practice, it’s no more difficult than knitting on straight needles. Here are some tips that I hope will make it a bit easier!

1. Circulars and Length

The appropriate circular needle length is the same size or slightly shorter than the circumference of the piece you are knitting. If it’s too short you’ll have trouble keeping all the stitches on the needle; if it’s too long, the fabric will be stretched too taut (this is why you need to switch to double points when decreasing the crown of a hat).

2. A Neater Join

For some people, the usual way of knitting the first stitch of the round can be loose and therefore sloppy. You can tighten it up with the tail when weaving in the end later.

A better way to join it the round can be to cast on one extra stitch. Slip this stitch to the left (the first needle if casting on to double points); this is the beginning of the round and next to the first stitch you cast on. Then knit the two stitches together.

Still better, slip the first stitch you cast on to the right, next to the last cast on stitch. Pass the last cast on stitch (which is now the second stitch on the right) over the slipped stitch, give the yarn a tug and begin your round.

3. Which Double-Pointed Needles to Buy

Aluminum needles can be slippery and your stitches will always want to slide off. Try bamboo or plastic.

Double points come in different lengths. Longer ones can be a bit more awkward but for larger number of stitches, you’ll need them so your stitches don’t fall off.

They come in sets of 4 or 5. If you have the option, always buy 5; then you’ll have it if you need it (and if one disappears you’ll have a spare!).

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5 Ways to Knit Increases

May 26th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

An increase adds stitches and creates shaping as a general rule. Lace patterns will use increases to balance decreases and you usually end the row with the same number of stitches you started with.

Many times, the pattern will tell you which specific increase to use; this is especially true with lace patterns. If the pattern tells you to simply increase, use the default increase: knit in the front and back of the same stitch (usually abbreviated kfb).

When working an increase in shaping, such as making sleeves wider, work them at least one stitch in from the edge. This makes seaming much easier.

Let’s take a look at some various ways to increase (click on any highlighted text to see diagrams:

1. Knit in the Front and Back (kfb)

As mentioned earlier, this is the default increase. It’s sometimes called a bar increase as it leaves a noticeable “bar” of yarn from the original stitch as it’s manipulated twice. It does not distort and it’s a perfectly fine increase except for the bar. If you don’t look closely, it will not be noticed.

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How to Choose the Right Needles and Hooks For You

May 19th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

HooksKnitting needles and crochet hooks are as varied as the crafters who utilize them. There is no right or wrong when you select a one. Needles and hooks have specific attributes based on the material they are made from and the manufacturers specifications. Only you can decide what type of needle or hook you like best and you may find that, depending upon the yarn you are using, you’ll reach for a different type than you used for your last project.

If you can afford it, buy several different types so that you can experiment and find your favorite.

Not All the Same

Some needles have very blunt tips while others have sharper tips. Some hooks have rounded heads and others have pointier heads. The shank (the smaller part of the needle or hook prior to where the sized portion begins) varies in length. You may never find these factors of much importance, or you may find it’s the difference between a tool that allows you to work swiftly and one that just seems to hang you up.

Tip: If you find your yarn to be “splitty” with a hook or needles that have sharper tips, try tools with more blunt tips.

NeedlesThese tools are made in a wide variety of materials. You’ll find them available in plastic, aluminum, bamboo, rosewood, ebony, and much more. When selecting the tools for a project, you should consider three factors based on materials: weight, temperature, and how slippery they are.

Weight

Plastic and bamboo is lighter while aluminum is heavier. This is more of a factor in knitting than crocheting because you have two needles you are using and they are longer than hooks. You might prefer aluminum overall, and if you are knitting something light such as booties, the weight of the needles will probably be of little or no consequence. However, with a larger project, you may choose to use a different set of needles.

Temperature

Bamboo and wood remain at a fairly constant temperature. They will not feel cold to the touch on a cold winter night. Aluminum conducts heat and cold so they might feel hot if you are knitting in the sun or cold if it’s cool wherever you may be knitting.

Slippery vs. Non-Slip

Yarns can vary in terms of how “sticky” or “slippery” they are. You may find your slippery yarn sliding right off aluminum needles, which tend to be quite slick. Bamboo, which has more grip, would be a better choice here. On the other hand, if you are knitting with a yarn that tends to stick, you might want to use a more slippery needle. Tip: If your needles or hook is too sticky and you don’t have others to select from, rub some wax paper over it and the yarn will glide much easier.

Other Types of Needles and Hooks

In addition to the above, circular needles and some Tunisian hooks (also called Afghan hooks) may pose yet another factor to consider. The joins, where the needles or hook meet the cable, are different depending upon the brand. Some may catch the yarn while others are much smoother. Some swivel, making the tool more flexible.

Tip: To straighten the cables, put them in hot water for a minute. The kinks will come out of the cable.

Editor’s Note: If you’re finding that you’re having trouble achieving the gauge in a pattern and you’re between hook or needle sizes, try a hook/needles made of a different material, as the “stickiness” or “slipperiness” may affect how tightly or loosely you knit or crochet. Remember, an accurate gauge is the key to getting an accurately sized garment!

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5 Steps To Designing Your Own Scarf

May 12th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

Although there are many lovely scarf patterns available, a scarf is relatively simple to design, and it’s a great way to venture into your very first custom design. By understanding a five simple concepts, you’ll be able to design and knit or crochet beautiful scarves on your own.

While most basic crochet fabrics are relatively flat, many knitters venture into their own scarf pattern by simply working in stockinette stitch, and then they see it rolls and have knit what amounts to a big tube. Stockinette rolls. You can’t stop it. It’s the nature of the fabric that is produced when you knit one row and purl the next. What you can do is work the first and last 3 or 4 rows in garter stitch or seed stitch as well as the first and last 3 or 4 stitches in each row. This will usually keep a stockinette scarf from rolling.

Seasonless Scarf Knit Rainbow Ridge Scarf Angora Lace Scarf
Crochet
Seasonless Scarf
Knit
Rainbow Ridge Scarf
Knit
Angora Lace Scarf

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How to Attach and Make a Fringe Trim for Any Project

May 5th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

Fringe can be added to just about any project: afghans, scarves, shawls, even the bottom of a sweater.

There are countless variations. It can be long or short. You can add just a few strands or a thick bundle. Fringe sections can be spaced close together or far apart. Use the same yarn you used in the project or a contrasting color; you can use an entirely different yarn as well. Or you can combine different yarns within the same section. Strands can be even or you can make them differing lengths, either within the same fringe section or alternating sections. Experiment and have fun!

Here are some examples of projects using fringe:

Croak Skull Illusion Scarf Loom Knit Fringed Poncho Knit Cabled and Fringed Hat
Knit
Croak Skull Illusion Scarf
Loom
Knit Fringe Poncho
Knit
Cabled and Fringe Hat

Some yarn frays quickly at the end when it’s cut; some people like how this looks and others don’t. Eventually all fringe will fray at the ends with wear to some degree. If you would like to minimize this, you can either knot the ends of your fringe or apply a fabric glue or seam sealer, such as Fray Check (a liquid seam sealer used in sewing). Keep in mind that while this will minimize fraying, there will be this glue-like substance on the ends.

Here’s how to make and attach fringe:

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Working with Multiple Strands of Yarn

April 28th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

There are so many different patterns that call for working with two, three, or even four strands held together (our Spring 2014 Knit-Along pattern, the Spring Lace Shawl, calls for four). Why do designers like working with multiple strands? There are quite a few reasons. Different colors held together and worked together as one can create a tweedy color effect. Two different yarns together may create a unique texture. Other times, the multiple strands will make for one extremely bulky yarn which enables an afghan to be worked up very quickly. Here are a few examples:

Marmalade Kimono Crochet Mother of the Bride Crochet 5/12 Hour Throw
Knit Marmalade Kimono: Two colors held together for a tweedy look. Crochet Mother of the Bride Shawl: Two different yarns held together for a combined texture. Crochet 5 1/2 Hour Throw: Several strands held together for a fast finish project.

If you’ve never knit or crocheted with multiple strands, don’t worry: just pretend you are working with a single strand; each stitch is made as if you were holding one strand of yarn. That’s really all there is to it.

Once you get started, you may find the strands twist together. People have come up with all kinds of ideas to try to prevent this from happening. You can section off a shoebox, putting one skein in each section, and make holes in the top to feed the yarn through. There’s even a gizmo specifically made for this purpose that you may see in stores. While these organizers will keep your balls from getting tangled into each other, they will not keep the strands of yarn from twisting as you knit or crochet them. This is in part due to how you wrap the yarn around your fingers as you feed it through as you work each stitch. I wrap it several times and every wrap twists it. Don’t worry if this happens though; it makes no difference if the strands are twisted around each other or not. The stitches will look the same regardless.

Here is the one word of caution however: it’s easy for the strands to get so tangled that loose loops start to form. Just take care that you don’t have any of these loops lurking as you work each stitch. If those loops are becoming a frequent problem, try running your fingers through and down the strands toward the skeins to eliminate some of them. If you are still having the problem, hold the strands of yarn and dangle the work itself, letting it spin to untwist the strands. I’ve found this a much easier solution than dangling the individual skeins.

Enjoy your next multiple strand project!

Want to learn more about creating colors by using multiple strands of yarn? Click here to read our popular blog post about the topic. 

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How to Make a Repeating Stitch Into a Scarf or Afghan

April 21st, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

You have a throw pattern with a beautiful stitch pattern, but you’d like to make it wider or narrower. Or perhaps you’d like to make it into a scarf. Maybe the converse is true…you’d like to change a scarf into a throw.

It’s not as difficult as it may seem, even if you are a beginner!

There are two vital concepts that must be understood to accomplish this.

Calculating the Repeating Pattern

The first is the stitch multiple, or the number of stitches needed for one repeat of the stitch pattern. A multiple of 5 stitches means you can cast on any number of stitches that is divisible by 5 such as 25, 30, etc. A multiple of 6 + 1 means you need to cast on any number of stitches that is divisible by 6 plus 1 extra stitch; examples include 25, 37, etc.

Sometimes the pattern will tell you the multiple of stitches used which makes it much easier to make adjustments. If the information is not included, you will need to determine this yourself. You do this simply by adding up how many stitches are used.

Here’s a stitch pattern called Twin Rib:

Row 1: *k3, p3; rep from *
Row 2: *k1, p1; rep from *

Leaves of Grass Stitch
 Leaves of Grass Stitch

Row 1 uses 6 stitches (3 + 3) while Row 2 uses 2 stitches (1 + 1). The pattern is a multiple of 6 because that is the larger number and you need 6 stitches for Row 1 to work correctly. Since 6 is evenly divisible by 2, the 2 stitches in Row 2 are more frequently repeated.

Calculating Your Desired Gauge.

Crochet Cable Stitch The second concept is gauge. You might hate working a gauge swatch, but it really is important. Work your swatch in the stitch pattern. Measure how many stitches you get over 4 inches. Now divide by 4 to determine stitches per inch.

The “magic formula” is stitches per inch x desired width=number of stitches to cast on.Keep in mind that given a certain set of parameters, the exact width you wish to make your project may not be possible without making further adjustments to, for example, your gauge by switching either yarn or needle size.

Let’s say your gauge is 5 stitches per inch, you are using a stitch pattern that is a multiple of 12 and you wish to make a throw 33″ wide. 5 (sts per inch) x 33 (desired width)=165, so you would cast on 165 stitches. However, 165 is not evenly divisible by 12, so that won’t work for your stitch multiple of 12. You’ll need to choose the number closest to 165 evenly divisible by 12, which is 168.

Crochet Cable Stitch

Armed with that bit of knowledge, you can now easily adjust any throw or scarf pattern you have, even if it’s not written at the size you really wanted!

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