Dear Knitter

 an advice column for anyone seeking knitting, crochet or crafting advice.

~ life's problems solved here ~

If you have a question and/or need advice please send me your questions or problems using the contact form on the right hand bottom corner of this site.  Please note: I am not a certified counselor or physiologist, I just give crafting advice. Dear Knitter will be updated weekly, every Wednesday.

Due to size restraints, posts now have to be archived.  I have added tabs per subjects and per month.  Hopefully it will be easy to look up topics and if you missed any posts and it will be easy to keep updated!


June 15, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: How do I know what length circular needle to choose? – LENGTH MATTERS

DEAR LENGTH MATTERS: The general rule for measuring circular needles is tip-to-tip (not the actual cord).  There is always a slight variation to this rule depending if you are using short tips or long tips from an interchangeable needle set.  The typical lengths (tip-to-tip) for circular needles are: 12”/30 cm; 16”/40 cm; 20”/50cm; 24”/60 cm; 32”/80cm; 40”/100 cm; 47”/120 cm; 60”/150cm.

If you are working in the round you must choose a needle/cord length that will fit all your sts without pulling tightly; typically hats are done on no longer than 16”/40 cm – 20”/50 cm.  For smaller st count projects like hats or socks Magic Loop technique can also be used; because this technique requires pulling the cord out between the sts in two places the cord should be no shorter than 32”/80 cm.  If you are not working in the round and working back and forth, the typical length is 24”/40 cm - 32”/80 cm.  I am a “squisher” meaning I like a shorter cord (24”/40 cm is my favorite) no matter if I have 20 sts on my needle or 400 sts.  Many knitters prefer not to squish their sts and knit in fear that their sts will fly off the needle ends and will work on 32”/80 – 60”/150 cm when working on shawls and projects with a lot of sts. Many patterns call for DPN’s while working sleeves or socks.  My trick is to knit the sleeves and cuff/foot of socks on 12”/30 cm.  This allows me to knit more seamless and not have to deal with any laddering between DPN’s that may occur.

Here is a quick project guide for choosing needle length:

  • 12”/30 cm: sleeves; sock cuffs & feet; baby hats.
  • 16”/40 cm: hats; any project in the round with 60 sts or more.
  • 20”/50cm: hats; any project with 50 sts or more.
  • 24”/60 cm: most projects worked flat; any project with 90 sts or more.
  • 32”/80cm: Magic Loop; mainly used for projects working flat.  Large st counts 200 or more.
  • 40”/100 cm: Magic Loop; mainly used for projects working flat.  Large st counts 400 or more.
  • 47”/120 cm: Magic Loop; mainly used for projects working flat.  Large st counts 600 or more.
  • 60”/150cm: mainly used for projects working flat.  Large st counts 6800 or more.

If you are looking to purchase circular needles or cords & tips, you can find them here.


June 08, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: Before starting a knitting pattern I always go to my stash to see if I have the exact yarn I need.  I have a lot of yarn but often times the yarn is too thin for the projects.  Is there a formula to figure out yarn gauge for doubling up strands? – DOUBLE TROUBLE.

DEAR DOUBLE TROUBLE: First of all I have to commend you for taking the dive into your stash to find yarn for your projects! Secondly, yes there is a formula for figuring out doubled yarn!

Multiply the yarn gauge (over 4”/10 cm) by 70% to get the new gauge. Here is an example using a DK weight yarn which is 22 sts per 4”/10 cm:

Holding the strands together your math would look like this: 22 x 70% = 15 st over 4”/10 cm (new gauge).

Holding 4 strands together (example, lace weight) your math would look like this: 32 x 70% = 22.4 (new gauge). Take your new gauge and do the math again: 22.4 x 70% = 15.5 (new gauge)

If you do not like to work in %’s then the math is as follows: 22 x 0.7 = 15 (new gauge)

It is important to consider how the yarn will look doubled. If you hold two strands together that are the same color and/or fiber it will look just like a thicker yarn; once knit up you will not notice the yarn was held double.  If you use two different color yarns together you will get a marled or heathered look.  I would say marled is created when the two yarns have more of a color contrast.  Heathered would be created if the yarns were more similar and had less of a contrast.

Lastly, if the math isn’t working or you want to hold thick, thin or different textures together, the sure way of finding a gauge is to simply make a swatch!


June 01, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: When you design what comes first, the yarn or the idea?  -- CHICKEN OR THE EGG

DEAR CHICKEN OR THE EGG:  It isn’t as simple as to pick one or the other; my design process wavers between the two and intermingles between each other.  Sometimes I get inspired by the yarn, sometimes I have a design in my head and I look for a specific yarn that will be the best match, sometimes it a combination of the two that spark ideas and process.

As you might imagine, I have a lot of yarn in my stash. Being surrounded by my craft, my tools and the yarn inspires me all the time, so in many ways, without even knowing it, the yarn inspires me unintentionally.  Just like if I walk out of my house, the mountains, the ocean, the trees, the plants in my garden, the people I pass all unintentionally inspire me.  This is the mind/brain of a designer, of an artist; a forever busy mess of cluttered ideas and vision. 

Working on my first collection I chose a specific local yarn dyer, SweetGeorgia Yarns, and a color theme. I allowed myself to be unrestricted by the fiber or yarn weight, but to keep the perimeter around the single yarn company and color.  This gave me a bit of a guide to start with and to go back to when I jumped too far from the lines.  For this collection I did not have any preexisting designs in my mind or ideas, I let the yarn inspire me fully.

I would encourage any designer to not choose one or the other but to accept any inspiration that may come from within, outward and/or from the yarn. When studying other designers, the biggest lesson I have learnt is no two designers design the same.  To allow yourself the peace of not judging your own design style and to be confident in your design grace is sometimes a struggle; be open to the possibilities, creativity and all inspiration is magic!


May 25, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: I feel like everyone has their own unique way of knitting and crocheting; are there any standards or guide lines for these crafts? -- FOLLOWING THE RULES

DEAR FOLLOWING THE RULES: I think it is so fascinating that no two knitters knit alike; we all have our own stance: the way of holding the needles/hook and yarn. One knitter might knit Continental, another might knit English, and some might knit in ways we have never seen before.  Some might knit fast and some might knit slowly.  Some might tuck their needle under their arm, some like circulars, and some like straight.  Some wrap their yarn between their fingers, some let the yarn hang, and others clip it to a pin on their chest.  Conclusion: because we all stitch so individually  our tension is all different, and I don’t know about you but depending on my mood or what is happening in my life or where I am knitting, my tension fluctuates a bit. 

If you are a knitter and follow other people’s patterns your style can be whatever you want. Knitting/crocheting swatches before starting each project is always recommended because each designers tension/style can never be standardized.  What can be standardized is the language and sizing in which the designers use in their patterns. 

If you are a designer, I highly recommend that you follow the yarn council standards. There is everything you need on that site from garment, sock, and accessory sizing to knitting and crochet abbreviations, to yarn size conversions to skill criteria.  Of course, I do recommend jumping out of the box, inventing new stitches and ways of knitting/crocheting; however, adding unfamiliar abbreviations to your patterns notes is a must.  The Crafty Jackalope pretty much uses the standardized abbreviations; we have a running list of the stitch abbreviations we use the most.  Also, for your reference we have a list of the yarn weight conversions here.  And, we have the knitting needle conversions here as well. 


May 18, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: I am knitting a pattern from a reputable knitting magazine and I seem to be stuck. I don’t know if it the pattern or me.  Do you have any ideas how I can move forward with this pattern? – IS IT YOU OR IS IT ME?

DEAR IS IT YOU OR IS IT ME: I know you might be ready to break up with this pattern but there are a few resources you might consider before you cut your ties…or your yarn. As much as we love to trust patterns it is always good practice to check for errata’s before you begin…. If you are unfamiliar with the term ERRATA, it simply means an error in printing or writing; a list of corrections.  Often when publishers or designers fix a mistake on a pattern they will post an errata for the section they changed on their website or on Ravelry.  Searching before is not always possible; in your case, I would suggest logging onto Ravelry (if you are not a member I strongly propose you join).  On Ravelry people post their works in progress and finished projects often with photos and comments; in the pattern section you can search for the specific pattern you are working on and then look at all the projects associated with that pattern.  Read the notes: if everyone is posting how fabulous and easy the pattern is, then you know the problem is you.  If people post about having difficulties/complications then you know the pattern is the problem.  Sometimes on Ravelry there is a link to an erratum on the pattern details page. 

Once you figure it out, if it’s you or the pattern, take the steps to get help. If it’s you and you don’t have a knitter friend to call upon, I suggest going to your LYS and ask for help or set up a lesson. If it was the pattern, getting the errata often is a sure way to get back on track!  Typically there is always contact information on patterns purchased from independent designers.  Contacting the publisher directly is also a great way to get some help or clarification on directions.  Sending messages through Ravelry is another good way to get in touch with the designers to ask questions.

Here at the Crafty Jackalope we always take extra care to insure our patterns have no errors but alas, we are human and mistakes occasionally happen. You can go to our errata page for reference.  All patterns come with the lasted updated versions; if you purchased any of our patterns from TCJ website or through Ravelry updated versions are always sent to you.


May 11, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: When do I quit my job to follow my passion and become a knitwear designer? –READY TO QUIT

DEAR READY TO QUIT: There is never a right answer for this and there are many factors to weigh in before you make the leap. Although every one’s journey will be different, for me it took about five years of honing my craft before I made the official jump from part time employee to full time self-employed.  Looking back perhaps I could have quit earlier and put 100% into designing/teaching/website and I probably could have made it work; but, I had a great gig at a local yarn shop and I was still learning.  After leaving the yarn shop to get back into the tailoring fashion design world, where I thought I should be, I truly realized knitwear was my passion.  It was there where I fully realized, in order to get to the next level in my knitwear business, I needed to quit my day job and put 100% into The Crafty Jackalope. 

If I look back at my work history pattern I will see entrepreneurial trials sandwiched between jobs. I remember always having the feeling, when working for other people, that I could be the owner/founder of a company:  I work so hard for someone else, I put in 110% in everyday, why can’t I do that for myself? Why am I not doing that for myself?

It was never an issue following my heart to quit my day job; it was always the logistics and the reality of the risk. Starting a business, running it and financially fueling so it can grow is not cheap; it takes a lot of work, time commitment and money.  I probably spend ten to twelve hours per day during the week working on the business and my weekends are always partially spent working as well.  The great thing about knitting/crochet is that you can do it practically everywhere; downside, you are always working!  It is definitely a balancing act between family life, friends, health and business but the journey I love and the work I am passionate about. 

It is such a personal decision for anyone considering quitting their day job to start a business. I think you will know when the timing is right, when you are willing to take the leap.  You must be prepared for failures along the way, and turn the failures into lessons.  Some failures you cannot bounce back from, but all failures open doors to new paths and to change.  And lastly, consider everything not just your heart when making the decision and always follow your instincts and gut.