Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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Eek! I Ran Out of Yarn! (Or How to Finish a Project with a Coordinating Color)

August 29th, 2011

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Darn that Zontee. I was looking through past blogs for something to send to a customer and I happened on her blog post from last summer about upsizing the Bebop Cardi by using larger yarn. I’ve actually seen her sweater in person and it’s fabulous. I meant to make it back then, but then I sort of forgot about it as other projects took priority. But when I saw the post again, I knew I had to go ahead and chain on.

In the original blog, Zontee notes that she went up to a category 5 yarn and made the small. I’m a little larger than Zontee, so my choices were to either go all the way up to a category 6 yarn, or stick with the category 5 and make a larger size. Since I had two balls of Tweed Stripes in Caribbean handy, I went with the latter option. I did my swatch, found that the large was going to be the size for me and chained on.

The yardage from the two balls of Tweed Stripes should have been plenty, but I remembered that I’d used a bit of it for another project awhile back. Not much, though–just a few yards. That wouldn’t matter, right? (Stop laughing. You know denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.) Sure enough, I ended up about 3 rows short. Grrr. They were three short rows, too!

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I could have just bought another ball of the Tweed Stripes when I got to the office the next day–it wasn’t quite the same as when you run out of a discontinued yarn that you just can’t get more of, or can’t find a matching dye-lot or something like that. Working at a yarn company does have its privileges and sitting on top of a warehouse full of said yarn is one of them. But I wanted to be done with this thing, and I was mad! How dare my yarn betray me like that! I’d show it! Who needs the original yarn when you can just finish up with a coordinating yarn?

So that’s what I did: grabbed a partial ball of Vanna’s Choice that I’d had laying around for a long while and that also happened to coordinate perfectly with one of the colors in the Tweed Stripes. I finished off my three rows and it looked okay, but just okay. What I really needed to do to make it look as if I’d planned this all along was add more of the Vanna’s Choice in another location. It’s a bit of a cliche, but it’s true: if it occurs once, it’s a mistake; if it occurs twice or more, it’s a design feature.

What I decided to do was add a border all the way around the outside edge (meaning the open sides and the bottom, since the color was already at the top of the sweater) and then also around the sleeves. I probably could have also done just a couple of rows of dc at the bottom of the sweater, obviating the need to do the sleeve edges. One more note: Vanna’s Choice is actually a category 4 weight yarn and not a category 5. I know this, but I also know that Vanna’s Choice is at the thicker end of the category 4 spectrum, so I was pretty sure it would work okay with the same hook. It did turn out to be a little tighter in gauge than the rest of the sweater — enough so that I ended up working one fewer round than called for in the pattern. So do definitely keep in mind your gauge and what weight yarn you need to work with to obtain that gauge when you’re choosing a replacement yarn like this.  (Just in case you’re wondering about the “design” I used for the border, it’s just a simple *sc, ch3, sk next sc. rep from * all the way around the sleeves and on both side edges. The bottom edge I just worked a sc in each stitch across.)

I really love the way this one came out–it might be one of my favorite things I’ve ever made. So I guess instead of darning Zontee for leading me down this path, I should be saying, “Thanks, Zontee!”

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Increasing “In Pattern”

August 22nd, 2011

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When you are increasing stitches on a patterned garment, perhaps for a sleeve or some waist shaping, you may encounter the instruction “increase in pattern” or something similar. This is so that you won’t have something like a big weird unmatching section of stockinette at the side of your sweater — if your sleeve is worked in a patterned stitch like seed stitch or a lace pattern, you want the whole thing to be in that pattern, even as it gets wider.

It can be a little confusing when you’re adding stitches to both sides. The end stitches are easy to figure out, but the beginning stitches can seem a little tricky. You really just want to work the new stitches on the next row as if they were always part of the pattern. In seed stitch, for example, your first 5 rows will look like this if you cast on three and increase 1 stitch at each end of every other row:

Row 1: kfb, p1, kfb
Row 2: p1, k1, p1, k1, p1
Row 3: kfb, p1, k1, p1, kfb
Row 4: p1, k1, p1, k1, p1, k1, p1
Row 5: kfb, p1, k1, p1, k1, p1, kfb

And so on. You need to be able to identify the components of your pattern to determine where those new stitches belong. In the above example, the most important thing to remember about seed stitch is that you are working every stitch the opposite of what it appears to be, so if it looks like a knit you purl it and if it looks like a purl you knit it, and they’re alternating in a 1×1 pattern. When increasing in pattern like this I generally find it’s easiest to just look for the first recognizable stitch I can and then count out what I should be at starting the row (e.g., in seed stitch if I see a knit stitch three stitches in, I know I should purl that one, so the one next closest to the tip would be a knit, and the then the first stitch will be a purl). When you get to the end, you’ll just continue in pattern alternating knit and purl and that will work those new end stitches in correctly.

This strategy can be used with pretty much any stitch pattern, no matter how complicated: identify a stitch that you know where it falls in the pattern, then work backwards from there to determine which stitch you’re starting with. You may have to fudge occasionally…let’s say your pattern is something like k3, k2tog, yo, p2. If you’re increasing in single stitches, at some point the “correct” stitch to begin with will be either half of the k2tog or the yo–neither of which is really feasible. When that happens, just knit (or purl if it looks better) the edge stitch and begin using that stitch in pattern again on the next row.

Increasing in pattern doesn’t have to be tough–just take it slow and remember that your goal is to maintain the overall patterning as you work across.

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Working with Grouped Stitches

August 16th, 2011

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Both knit and crochet patterns often feature groups of stitches set apart by parentheses or brackets. When you encounter these groups, there should be an instruction immediately following the parentheses or brackets that will apply to those stitches.

You might have something like:

(sc, ch 3, sc) in next ch-5 sp

All this means is that in the next ch-5 sp you are going to work a sc, then ch3, and then in the same space, make another sc.

Or, you might have instead:

(k2, p2) x5

This indicates that you are to repeat all of the stitches in the parentheses, in order, five times. Written out this would be k2, p2, k2, p2, k2, p2, k2, p2, k2, p2.

There is no difference between parentheses and brackets. Generally you will see brackets inside parentheses, which just means that you have a group within the group — so for instance you might be working the bracketed group of stitches into a single stitch as you are here, while at the same time repeating the entire sequence of stitches in parentheses:

(k2tog, [k1, yo, k1] into next stitch, k2tog, p2) x3

Again, you are to work all of the instructions in the parentheses 3 times, and in this case part of that grouped repeat will be a double increase created by working a k1, a yo, and another k1 all in the same stitch.

You can even have multiples grouped inside other multiples:

(sc, ch1, sc, [sk2, ch3, sc] x 3, ch1) x2

Here you are working everything in the parentheses twice, and that grouped repeat includes working everything in the brackets three times. I’ll write this one out for you, because it can get confusing:

sc, ch1, sc, sk2, ch3, sc, sk2, ch3, sc, sk2, ch3, sc, ch1, sc, ch1, sc, sk2, ch3, sc, sk2, ch3, sc, sk2, ch3, sc, ch1

I think you can see why we use the shorthand of grouping stitches — trying to follow along those long lines of instruction without getting lost or accidentally repeating a stitch can be very difficult! Shortening these instructions down helps to clarify them both as you read and as you interpret the structure of the pattern.

If you’re getting confused by a grouping or aren’t sure how the stitches are going to add up, go ahead and write it out! This is another one of those conventions in knit and crochet patterns that gets easier to interpret on the fly with practice, so don’t feel like you’re alone if you’re not getting it right away. And don’t forget: stitch markers are your friend. Having grouped stitches like this makes it easy to tell where a stitch marker might be handy — put one between each group, using different colors for the internal groupings if you want to mark those as well. Then if you do run into a problem you can very quickly isolate it, fix it, and get on with your project.

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More Tips for Working with Charts

August 9th, 2011

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Now that you’ve gotten comfortable with the basics of reading charts, here are a few more tips to make it even easier:

  • If your chart is fairly simple, put each row of the chart on a separate notecard. You can then move the completed row to the back of the deck, and the next one will be right there ready for you work on. I find this the easiest way to keep track of where I am on a pattern, and it allows me to put a project down without worrying overmuch about whether I’ve tracked my rows properly.
  • For larger or more complicated charts, use pattern magnets to move up the chart as you go. Again, this is a great way to keep track of where you are and where you’ve been.
  • Combine to conquer. Sometimes you’ll have multiple charts to keep track of, with different row counts; try putting them all together in a single chart that will begin and end on the same row (for instance, if you have one pattern with a six-row repeat and another with a four-row repeat, you can combine them into a single 12-row chart). You can do this either by making multiple copies of your charts and taping them together, or just transposing them onto a separate sheet of graph paper.
  • Spell it out. Even after you’re comfortable working with charts, you may find it useful to either transpose them into written instructions or refer to existing written instructions if the pattern has them. Occasionally, there will be something in a charted instruction that just seems odd. By writing it out (or cross-checking with providing written instructions) you can usually resolve the issue and continue working from the chart.

With these tips in your bag of tricks, you should be ready to tackle even the most complicated lace and cable patterns!

Using & Reading Knit & Crochet Charts

August 2nd, 2011

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Remember when you first learned to knit or crochet? Every abbreviation felt new and confusing, but as you got used to them, they became familiar and easy to understand. Looking at knitting & crochet charts for the first time can inspire that same initial feeling of confusion and consternation, and it may seem easier just to skip charted patterns all together, but I’ll tell you a secret: once you learn to read charts, complicated patterns get exponentially easier.

The really magical thing about charts–and this is true whether you’re knitting or crocheting and for both cables and lace–is that they are actually a pretty good representation of what your final piece is going to look like. And that’s one of the keys to reading charts as well…remember that it’s a representation of the finished piece. What this means is that if you see a symbol for a yarn over (for example) in chart row 9, you will be making the yarn over as you work that row. What you see on the charted row is what you should see when you have finished that row.

Charts come with legends, just like maps, to tell you what all the little symbols will mean. Fortunately, a lot of the more common ones are pretty standardized, and even those that aren’t are generally a reasonably accurate depiction of the stitch(es) they represent. For instance, here’s a simple lace chart:

Do you see how a yarn over is represented by a big round circle, while skps–which are left-leaning decreases–are represented by a line that leans to the left and k2togs–which are right-leaning decreases–are represented by a line that leans to the right? This is what I mean when I say the chart will reflect what’s happening in your finished project. For example, where you see that line of circles going up the chart, you will see a line of circles going up your knitting.

Crocheters, what you’ll see is a lot of ovals and lines. The ovals represent chains, while the lines will have a varying number of slashes across them to represent taller stitches:

The key to reading charts is to go from bottom to top, just as when you’re making your project. Right side rows will be read right to left (again, just like working across the actual project), while wrong side rows will be worked left to right because you’re essentially looking at a picture of the back of those rows. Note that some charts will only consist of right side rows, usually if all the wrong side rows are worked the same way.

The fastest and easiest way I found to learn to read charts is to transcribe them. This will help you transition from working with the written instructions you’re used to while at the same time teaching your brain which symbols mean what. Before you know it, you’ll be able to look at a chart and know just what your finished project will look like and how to get it there!