Throughout this season, we’re reposting some of our favorite columns by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, previously featured in our Weekly Stitch newsletter.
Every knitter and crocheter has heard of it. Most ignore it. The smart ones know better. What is it? Gauge, of course.
You’ll see gauge (also sometimes referred to as tension) mentioned in your pattern and on the yarn label. Assuming you are knitting with the same yarn as the pattern used, the gauge on the label may or may not be the same.
The gauge on the label is only a suggestion…a starting point for the gauge of the yarn the manufacturer felt was best. You’ll see a needle size noted too; this is also just a suggestion. All yarn works to a variety of gauges with various needles sizes; in fact, some yarn labels will give you a range of suggested gauges and needle sizes.
If the pattern gauge is different than the label, this is gauge you need to achieve. Ignore the label. Remember, the gauge and needle size of a pattern is only the gauge that particular designer achieved with that size needle. Your mileage may vary. This is why you need to check your gauge before beginning to knit the project. If you fail to do this, you may end up very disappointed at the outcome.
Don’t believe it’s important? Let’s say you are knitting a sweater and the back should measure 20″ across. The gauge in your pattern is 16 sts = 4″, in other words 4 sts = 1″, so the number of sts you’ll work over will be 80 (20 x 4). Suppose you are getting 3.75 sts to the inch instead of 4. Your piece will measure 21.4” (80 divided by 3.75). If you were knitting at 4.25 sts to the inch instead of 4, your piece would measure 18.8″ instead of 20. So, as the math shows you that even a quarter of a stitch in your gauge indeed makes a huge difference! The more stitches you are working over, the larger this difference will be.
Technical editor and yarncrafting expert Kj Hay joins us for several articles on starting your project right. Join us this week for a 3-part series on crochet, and join us next week for a 2-part series on knitting.
“The beginning is the most important part of the work.” – Plato
When you crochet you begin with a foundation. The foundation may be a chain, a foundation stitch, a ring, or a separate object (e.g. a curtain ring, another piece of fabric).
Videos, illustrations and written instructions for some foundation methods are available in the Lion Brand Learning Center.
Working a number of chain stitches and then working stitches of the first row or round into the chains is the most common foundation method. It can be used for beginning flat, circular or tubular pieces. So, why are there so many alternatives to foundation chains?
Author, knitting teacher, and erstwhile crochet-along/knit-along host Heather Lodinsky joins us for an article on cables.
This season, style sections of newspapers and magazines are once again telling us that cables are a hot trend in fashion, showing up in all sorts of knitwear for women, men and children. In knitting, there are those trends that appear again and again, such as lace, fair-isle knitting and cables. It is safe to say that if you have never tried to knit a cable before…now is a great time to learn!
Cables in knitting look much more difficult than they really are. I remember as a girl, looking at a cardigan my mother had knit with cables. I was positive that she must have cut her knitting, and then twisted it to form the “ropes” in her knitting. Well, I had half of the technique right, as cables are made by twisting or moving your stitches as you knit, but no cutting of those stitches is necessary.
In addition to the knitting needles you need to knit your project, you will also want to find the right cable needle for your project. Cable needles come in various shapes and sizes, but the one thing that they all have in common is that they have two points like a double-pointed needle. Some knitters do use a double-point needles as a cable needle, but there is a very good reason why cable needles are shaped the way they are. Some cable needles are shaped as hooks, or simply have a bend in the middle of the needle. But both work the same with the stitches being “moved” held on the bent part of the needle.
Frequently cable needles come in a package with 2 or 3 sizes. It is best to use a cable needle close to the size of the needle you are using to knit your project. If a needle is too thin, the stitches may slide off as you are working your cable. Alternately, if the cable needle is too thick, then your stitches will be stretched as you try to slip them on. Choosing the right size cable needle will make your cable knitting a fun and rewarding experience.
When you’re making a sweater for yourself or someone else, it’s important to take a few things into consideration. You’ll want to make sure to select a shape that suits you (or the recipient), the right size, and you’ll want to make sure that you’ve got gauge. Here are a couple of articles from LionBrand.com and the Lion Brand Notebook that will help you on your way:
Pattern pictured: Fisherman Sweater & Hat
Alpaca yarns have been gaining in popularity quite quickly over the past few years, and it’s no wonder: alpaca yarn is strong, soft, and warm. But how is it different from other fibers? Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked alpaca questions.
How are alpaca yarns so soft?
Every piece of hair is made up of a series of scales. Animal fiber yarns that are soft tend to have very small, short scales. On average, alpaca fibers have shorter scales than sheep.
I can’t wear wool. Can I still use alpaca?
Give it a try! Alpaca yarns do not contain lanolin, an oil that sheep produce to protect their fleece. That means that people with wool or lanolin sensitivities can still wear alpaca. Baby alpaca is especially great for people with sensitive skin.
Does alpaca yarn felt?
Unless the yarn is superwash, alpaca will felt. Because the scales are small, alpaca yarns will take a little bit longer to felt than traditional wool. However, the results are just as beautiful.
How do alpaca yarns drape?
100% alpaca has a beautiful drape, so it creates gorgeous shawls and accessories.
How stretchy is alpaca?
A yarn’s bounce or stretch is determined by its scales. Since the scales are so short and smooth, they don’t lock together. That means 100% alpaca yarns will have a tendency to stretch, and they won’t shrink back into place like some wools will. This is a fantastic advantage when knitting or crocheting lace, as the stitches will really open up.
How are there so many undyed shades of alpaca?
Believe it or not, there are actually 22 natural colors of alpaca, ranging from neutrals like white and brown to rich golden oranges and silvery blues.
How warm is alpaca?
Super warm! Although it’s very light, alpaca is incredibly warm, even when wet. In fact, it’s my go-to yarn for winter knits because I know that it’ll keep me cozy. It also has great moisture wicking properties.
So now that you know a little more about alpaca, why not give it a try? Our LB Collection Baby Alpaca comes in beautiful undyed shades, and our Martha Stewart Crafts Alpaca Blend combines alpaca with wool and acrylic for an easy care yarn.
Have more alpaca questions? Be sure to ask in the comments!
As the cooler temperatures begin to set in, many of you are probably starting to knit or crochet with fibers that have insulating properties for warmth; a common fiber to knit with during this time of year is wool. Sheep’s fleece is the most popular type of wool fiber because it’s pretty widely available and versatile. Below, I’ve rounded up a few different wool selections with explanations about their unique qualities, so you can determine which wool might be suitable for your upcoming winter projects.
(image courtesy of Petr Kratochvil)
|Fishermen’s Wool is 100% undyed, virgin wool with natural lanolin oil. Lanolin oil is a waxy natural substance found in sheep fleece that acts as a water repellent, which makes Fishermen’s Wool ideal for accessories or garments for skiiers and fishermen. Wool can absorb up to about 30% of its weight in moisture, while still allowing you to feel warm and dry. Since wool takes dye easily, a skein in Natural or Oatmeal would be nice for experimenting with creating your own hand dyed yarns. If you’re more interested in learning about dyeing, and appropriate dyes for your yarn, take a look at this previous blog post by Jess, Choose the Right Dye for Your Fiber.
We also love Fishermen’s Wool in it’s natural state to knit up beautiful cables and traditional Aran sweaters, which were worn by Fishermen working off the cost of Ireland in the Aran Islands. Click here for a few Aran sweater patterns.
Have you ever knit stripes in the round only to find that they look a little lopsided? It’s not just you. The nature of circular knitting causes stripes to jog, which means that they don’t line up. The good news is there’s a technique for knitting stripes in the round that straightens up your stripes. Best of all, jogless stripes are just as easy to knit as regular stripes, so they don’t slow down your knitting at all! Are you ready to take your stripes to the next level?
This time of year it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and anxiety of starting a new school year. Recently it’s become popular to introduce teens and children to yarncrafts as they head back to school; it’s been seen that crafting has numerous benefits that can help all ages during times of stress. Plus, taking a little time to relax can be helpful for kids and adults, particularly when you take some time to enjoy a hobby you love together.
Crafting is something you can do by yourself to relax. Knitting or crocheting a few rows between classes or on the morning bus can lend a sense of value to these hurry-up-and-wait portions of the day. It’s a great way to decompress at the end of a long day, and can help clear your mind as you work.
Yarncrafting can help you connect with other people. Lots of activities for young people seem to be designed to be done alone; but crafting, particularly yarncrafting, can be a great way to spend a little face-time with friends or family. Lots of schools are developing crafting clubs, and crafting with a group of peers can introduce students to new friends.
We’ve all been there: you’re happily working through your pattern, then you reach for your stitch holder and realize that you don’t have one in your bag. Never fear! There are plenty of everyday desk and office supplies that you can use for a quick fix. Here are some common households items and how they can be used in crafting.
Paperclip: This is one of the most versatile tools you can have! It makes an excellent stitch marker as is, or you can unbend it to create a cable needle or double-pointed needle. Drop a stitch in your knitting? No problem! Just unbend the paperclip except for one end to create an emergency crochet hook.
Binder clip: Need to keep project pieces together for seaming but don’t have any pins handy? Binder clips will keep your project together as you’re seaming.
Rubber band: Snip into small pieces to create custom-sized stitch markers. For a stitch holder, just cut one end, then thread the band through your stitches. Tie the ends together to secure your holder. (You can also use extra yarn or string for these!)
American dollar bill: If you’re trying to measure your work and forgot your tape measure, reach for your wallet! American currency is 6.14 inches long, so you can easily use a bill to estimate measurements. (You can also use a standard piece of printer paper to estimate; the normal size is 8.5 inches by 11 inches!)
Do you have any other ideas on how to turn common household items into emergency yarncrafting supplies? Share your ideas in the comments!
Finishing work is usually saved for the end of the project, but it doesn’t have to be! There are plenty of easy ways that you can speed things up. Here are my favorite ways to add new colors or change skeins without weaving in ends.
The Russian Join: This is a fantastic way to add a new skein of yarn to your work without weaving in any ends. It creates a steady, secure join, so it’s great for most yarns.
The Felted Join: Working with wool or another feltable yarn? Try the felted join! This technique locks your two yarns together, creating a solid join without a darning needle.
Crochet over your ends: Why use a darning needle when you can use your hook? This quick strategy allows you to keep crocheting as you tuck your yarn ends into place.
Do you have a time-saving tip? Be sure to share it in the comments below!