Learn to use your Martha Stewart Crafts™ Knit & Weave Loom Kit to make a basic rubber band bracelet.
Click here to get the written instructions for this project.
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Gauge is very important in all but the simplest designs. The gauge at which you work determines the finished size of the piece and the firmness of the fabric. If your gauge is off your afghan may barely cover a doll, or your slippers may fit the Jolly Green Giant quite comfortably. On the other hand, if your gauge is accurate but the yarn inappropriate for the gauge your sweater may be so firm you can’t lower your arms or so “holey” you could only wear it at home with the curtains drawn.
Gauge is the measure of the number of stitches and rows worked to yield a piece of fabric of a specific size. Gauge is usually given in terms of the numbers of stitches and rows worked to yield a piece of fabric that is 4 x 4 in. (10 x 10 cm) square.
If the size or drape of a finished project is important (and most of the time size and drape are important) take the time to check your gauge. To check your gauge, begin by using the size hook or needles listed. If more than one size of hook or needles is listed, the gauge statement should indicate which of the sizes is intended. Work a piece of fabric (known as a swatch) in the indicated pattern stitch that is at least 4 x 4 in. (10 x 10 cm) square or at least the size specified in the gauge statement, whichever is larger. Lay the piece flat without stretching or bunching it, place a ruler on the piece and count the number of stitches and number of rows over 4 in. (10 cm). Compare these numbers with the numbers in the gauge statement. If the number of stitches in 4 in. (10 cm) of your swatch is less than the number of stitches indicated by the gauge statement, you need to make another swatch using a smaller hook or needles. If the number of stitches in 4 in. (10 cm) of your swatch is more than the number of stitches indicated by the gauge statement, you need to try again using a larger hook or needles. Continue to make swatches using a larger or smaller hook or needles as needed until you achieve the gauge.
The sizes of the hooks or needles listed in a pattern indicate the size used by the designer to achieve the listed gauge and to complete the item shown. Gauge is the number of stitches and rows worked in a piece fabric of a certain size. The hook or needle size helps determine the gauge and the gauge determines the size and drape of the fabric. Different knitters and crocheters, even when they use the exact same size hook, yarn, and pattern stitch, will often create fabric of different gauge. Accordingly, you may need to use different size hooks or needles to achieve the same results as the designer. Begin with the listed size, but check your results and be willing and prepared to change to a different size (see Gauge section below for more details).
Hooks and needles of different types may also be indicated. Knitting needles come in straights of different lengths, circulars of different lengths, and double-pointed. Crochet hooks can be standard, Tunisian, or double-ended. Be sure that you have (or are willing to acquire) the skill needed to use specific hooks and needles, especially double pointed knitting needles or Tunisian or double-ended crochet hooks.
The hook and needle sizes listed may or may not be the same as the recommended size listed on the yarn ball band. The recommended size listed on a ball band is a size needed for a fabric of average drape (or firmness) made from the most basic of pattern stitches (single crochet or Stockinette st). A specific project is likely to warrant a different drape and the use of pattern stitches other than the basics, thus needing a different size hook or needles.
Crochet and knit patterns list a specific yarn and the number of balls of yarn needed. Using the specified yarn is the best way to achieve the intended results. If you would like slightly different results (e.g., different fiber content due to a sensitivity) or the specified yarn is not available, you may wish to substitute a different yarn. There are at least three things to consider when selecting a substitute yarn: 1) Weight, 2) Quantity, and 3) Drape. Yarns can be grouped into different weight categories, as described on the Craft Yarn Council web-site.
For best results, when a substitution must be made, select a yarn of the same weight and with similar fiber content. Yarn comes in balls of different weights and lengths. When determining how many balls of a substitute yarn will be needed, compare the total yardage. For example, if there are 120 yards in each ball of the specified yarn and 4 balls are needed, 4 x 120 yards = 480 total yards are needed.
If you wish to substitute a yarn that comes in balls of 110 yards each, you will need 480 / 110 = 4.63 balls, or 5 balls, of the substitute yarn. Different yarns look and behave a bit differently when knit or crocheted even when the exact same pattern stitch is used. A substitute yarn may yield firmer or looser fabric than the specified yarn. Make a swatch in the project pattern stitch, study the drape of the resulting fabric, and decide if the drape is acceptable.
Working in the yarn industry, I constantly learn from the experts that I meet on the job. One of my favorite tips is from designer Sally Melville. (I’ve interviewed her twice for our podcast, YarnCraft—check out the first and second episodes featuring Sally).
How often have you looked at a pattern and thought, “That’s definitely not my color”? Sally pointed out that sometimes the color choice deters us from a project that we would otherwise like!
However, she said, it’s easier to picture the garment in other colors when it’s in black and white. Therefore, she recommended that you copy the photo in black and white (if you have access to a photo-copier) or, if you’re more high tech, you desaturate/grayscale the photo on your computer.
It’s great for solid designs, as well as multicolor designs (you can better picture them in a solid or in different color combinations). Use colored pencils or markers (or paint tools on your computer) to start shading in with colors that appeal to you!
What a great and easy tip!
[Pattern pictured: Knit Lush Collared Blue Cardi]
It is important to know whether a throw will barely cover your lap or could easily cover a compact car. It is even more important to know whether a sweater will actually fit you. Most patterns include Size and/or Finished Measurement sections to indicate the expected dimensions of the finished piece.
Sizes are specified in very general terms, such as S (small), 1X (extra large), and 0-6 months. Finished measurements are more specific and should be carefully considered. A garment could have an oversized, relaxed, standard, tight, or very tight fit. An oversized garment has a finished chest measurement 6 or more inches larger than the actual chest measurement of the wearer. For a relaxed fit, the finished chest measurement is 4 to 6 inches larger. For a standard fit, the finished chest measurement is 2 to 4 inches larger, for a tight fit the finished chest measurement is 0-2 inches larger, and for a very tight fit the finished chest measurement can be the same or less than the actual chest measurement.
The designer of a garment intends a certain fit and indicates this through the combination of size and finished measurements. The actual chest measurement for a S (small) woman is 32-34 in. and for a M (medium) woman is 36-38 in. If a designer specifies size S (small) and the finished chest measurement is 40 in., because the finished measurement is 6 in. or more larger than the actual chest measurement, the intended fit is oversized. On the other hand, if a designer specifies size M (medium) and the finished chest measurement is 40 in., the intended fit is standard.
The provisional cast on is, as the name implies, a temporary cast on row. It is done with waste yarn so that you can take it out later and have “live” stitches in your working yarn. Waste yarn should generally be a contrast-color yarn (so that it’s easy to locate) and in a smooth, non-grippy fiber (to make it easier to rip out later). This technique is used in projects like infinity scarves because you can join the ends of your work so that it looks seamless. This invisible seaming (known as grafting) is achieved by doing a kitchener stitch with the live stitches that you will pick up from your cast on row. The provisional cast on is also used when you’ll be picking up the stitches in order to work the piece in the other direction (seen sometimes in patterns that feature lace designs, for example). Only use this cast on if directed by your pattern or if you’ll be grafting or picking up the stitches.
There are a few different ways to do a provisional cast on but we are going to do the version that utilizes a crochet hook. Let’s walk through how you work this technique…
1. With a crochet hook make five chain stitches with your waste yarn.
2. With your left had hold your chain stitches and a knitting needle. Bring the yarn behind the knitting needle and wrap it around the index finger of your left hand (the way you would if you were doing continental knitting). Your crochet hook should still be in the last loop of your chain stitches.
3. Reach your crochet hook over your knitting needle to grab the yarn.
4. Pull the yarn through your loop. This is essentially the same motion you were making when doing the chain stitches.
5. Move your yarn behind the knitting needle again. Repeats steps 3 and 4 until you’ve made the desired amount of stitches.
6. Make five more chain stitches. Cut the yarn, tie a knot at the end, and pull the knot through the last chain stitch. This is now your cast-on row. From here you will attach your working yarn and knit as you normally would.
Technical editor and yarncrafting expert Kj Hay joins us for a series on understanding the different elements of patterns.
Knit and crochet patterns provide a wealth of information. At first, understanding written instructions can be as intimidating as learning a foreign language or deciphering a secret code. Over the next several weeks, we’ll discuss different elements of written patterns. Hopefully, the following explanations and tips will help you overcome any pattern reading fears you have.
Patterns typically specify a skill level needed to comfortably complete the project. Because of the wide variety of stitches, techniques, and constructions used in knit and crochet patterns, an appropriate skill level is very difficult to determine. Accordingly, it is best not to rely to heavily on the indicated skill level. Instead, scan through the instructions to help determine if you have the skills needed or are willing to acquire them while working on the project.
Expert tip: When scanning the pattern to determine if the skill level is appropriate for you, pay attention to any special stitches or techniques used, the quality of the yarn used (novelty yarns can be a little trickier to work with than smooth yarns), the tools used (smaller hooks and needles, and double pointed needles can be trickier to work with than larger hooks and needles, and straight needles), and the language used (e.g., AT THE SAME TIME, reverse shaping, and as established).
Not sure what the terms mean? On LionBrand.com, the abbreviations at the bottom of the pattern are live links that take you to an explanation of the term in the Learning Center.
For more articles by Kj, click here.
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.
Last week, I wrote about pattern terms and concepts people often find confusing. This week, I am covering a couple more concepts that you will often encounter.
Parentheses, brackets, asterisks, and phrases are commonly found in patterns; they are intended to make it easier to follow, and they also decrease the chances of a typographical error in a pattern. Here’s some help on deciphering what you are being asked to do.
You will find parentheses or () used in two ways:
The first is to indicate you are to repeat everything in parentheses the given number of times. For example:
(k2tog, yo) twice
What it means is that you should work k2tog, yo two times or k2tog, yo, k2tog, yo.
The second way they are used is to show a grouping or sequence of stitches that are related to each other in some way. You might see (2 dc, ch 3, 2 dc) in next ch-1 sp. The pattern is telling you that everything in the parentheses is all worked into the next ch-1 space.
Brackets or  indicate either to repeat something or a sequence of stitches, just as parentheses do; however, a bracket is needed when a set of instructions within the brackets are already in parentheses. Occasionally, you will brackets used instead of parentheses.
In this example, brackets are being used to indicate you are repeating instructions:
[k2, (yo, k2tog) 3 times] twice
The above means that you would repeat everything in the brackets twice while making sure you also repeat yo, k2tog 3 times in the order written.
You, our readers, asked for it and we’re happy to oblige! Designer and teacher Heather Lodinsky joins us for a new article on understanding the fundamentals of your knitting.
Knowing exactly where you are in a knitting project requires knowing where you have been. “Reading” your stitches by identifying a knit versus a purl stitch is helpful in showing you where you are in a stitch pattern. In the last article I wrote, I showed how to identify the stitches already worked to know where you are in your knitting.
Sometimes no matter how hard I try, I can easily lose track of which row I am working in a pattern. Life happens—the phone rings, we get talking or we just have to leave our knitting for some reason. Then I come back to my knitting and…what row was I working? There are various tools out there to help us keep track of our rows. Row counters exist that either attach to your needle, or need to be clicked and there are even “counting boards” where pegs are moved to show what row we are working. Even the simple “hash mark” on a piece of paper works well, but there is still that human element of just plain forgetting to mark the paper, move the peg or click the counter to the next number. As a knitting teacher, one of the most common questions I am asked is: “What row am I on?”
A skill as important as identifying your stitches is the ability to count your rows without a “counter”. The best way to count stitches is by first identifying a stitch and then being able to count stitches up and down, which will tell us how many rows we have done and what row we need to work next.
Lets’s first look at stockinette stitch – which, when we are working a flat piece, is knitted on the right side of the fabric and purled on the wrong side. First, we have to be able to identify a “knit” stitch. Look closely at the right side of stockinette stitch and see that a knit stitch looks like a “V”. This is what we are looking for in order to help us count our rows.