dear knitter: january 2016

January 27, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: I work for a crappy company and I am thinking of quitting my job. But I'm also worried about how this move will affect my yarn budget. What do I do? – NO MORE CASHMERE?

DEAR NO MORE CASHMERE? We all make sacrifices in our day-to-day and what keeps you sane in your crappy job is probably the fact that you knit with cashmere! I kid, while cashmere is beautiful to work with, it’s really just the fact that you knit and craft with yarn that is keeping you sane; that being said, everyone has a breaking point. Whether it a forced quit or you decide to quit, insecurities of the unknown are looming and you are most likely taking a serious look at your expenses (yarn included).   My favorite line, for those who feel like their yarn budget is too high, or they feel particularly guilty about a ‘too’ big or luxurious yarn purchase is: “yarn is cheaper than therapy….” (In most cases)…. My advice for you is this:

  1. ORGANIZE: before you make a new/realistic budget for you and your family, take apart your yarn stash (I know you have one). Organize it, go through all your yarns and re-fall in love with the yarn you already have! Go on ravelry, start saving projects or dream up designs that will work for the yarn you have. Making a budget with the secure knowledge that you have hours of potential knitting time now nicely organized will make, making a “yarn budget” easier.
  2. BE SPECIFIC: It is one thing to make a budget, there is another sticking to it. If you see yarn that you absolutely love, before you make the purchase think of exactly what you will make with it (subject to change). Try not to purchase yarn (for a while) that you just “have to have” but have no idea what you will make with it. Avoiding these rash purchases will prevent over or under yardage buying and buyer’s remorse.
  3. TAKE A PHOTO & WALK AWAY: This is a great practice for anything. If you see something (yarn in particular) that you LOVE…take a photo of it & walk away…like, leave the shop or get off the website. Wait 24 hours, think about what you will make, revisit the yarn photo and you will know if the purchase is a must or a bust.
  4. THRIFT STORE YARN: often times thrift stores are a great place to find yarn treasures. If there are only crappy single balls for sale then look at the ready-made sweaters for texture and color. If you see a sweater you love: buy it, wash it, unravel it, re-ball it & knit with it!
  5. YES TO CASHMERE: we must not forget the healing properties of knitting, crochet & crafting. To me, I find great joy in the feel of luxurious (namely cashmere) and other quality fibers. Knitting would not be as enjoyable if I used a crunchy acrylic. It is so important to maintain your quality knitting experience, whatever that is for you. Purchase less; find the sales and discounts to keep your yarn quality the same.
  6. TEMPORARY: lastly, change is hard, scary and uncertain. Sometimes taking the jump to find a new job or work place is worth the uncomfortable leap. We are at work the majority of our days, and it is important to be happy there! Your situation is temporary; when one door closes another door opens. Keep those needles click’itty-clacking during this stressful time!


January 20, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: What is the best advice to substitute yarn in patterns? –YARN SUBSTITUTER

DEAR YARN SUBSTITUTER: It can be hard to always get the yarns the designers intended for their patterns and there can be many reasons why substituting is necessary: LYS doesn’t carry the yarn; the yarn is discontinued; you might have sensitivity to the fibers; you are looking for a cheaper or more luxurious swap. Here are some helpful tips on making the process a bit easier:

  1. FIBER: The first thing I look up is what the original yarn was made of; I look at the fiber. Was it 100% wool (less drape, holds shape, good memory, can be felted)? Was it cotton, linen or hemp (stiff, less drape, cool in the summer, less memory, stretches out if shape)? Was it an alpaca (heavy fiber, hot, lots of drape, sheds, not much memory)? Was it a bamboo (slinky, lots of drape, not much memory)? Was it acrylic (crunchy, hard to block, can’t be felted)? Different fibers act in different ways. When designing a garment, accessory or home décor, most designers take into account all of these things: how the fiber wears; how it drapes; how the fibers feel: soft, stiff, scratchy; are the fibers feltable? When substituting, I look at either using the same fiber or something close to it. If I make the decision to change the fiber completely, understanding the characteristics of the fibers helps enormously.
  2. GAUGE: Look at the original ball band on the yarn (search the yarn on Ravelry if the ball band isn’t accessible). The gauge info is typically written out or shown as a small grid. Looking at needle size is also a helpful indicator of gauge. It should say numbers like: 20 or 22 or 18 per inch or over 4”(10 cm). These numbers indicate the gauge of the yarn. I have added a standard yarn gauge guide here in the knitting 911 section. Substitute yarn that matches what the original yarn ball band says. Please note: sometimes the pattern has a different gauge than the ball band. I never follow the pattern for gauge when choosing my alternative yarn; I always use the original yarn ball band as a guide. I do this because the designer’s gauge could be different from the yarn or they could have intentionally changed the gauge in the pattern using a larger or smaller knitting needle size.
  3. QUANTITY: Look at the ball band for yardage or meters. I NEVER go by weight because different fibers weight different. You really want to make sure you get the right yardage or meters, nothing is worse than running out of yarn before the project is finished! Here is the formula: (original yards/meters per ball) x (number of balls needed) = (total yards/meters) / (new ball of yarn yards/meters) = (total number of balls needed of new yarn). Example: 100 yards x 5 balls = 500 yards / 50 yards of new ball = 10 balls of new yarn.
  4. DOUBLING YARN: If you want to double the yarn (hold two strands together) here is the math for that: gauge of yarn x 70% = doubled yarn gauge. Example: 18st (worsted) gauge x 70 % = 12-13 st gauge (chunky).


January 12, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: The holidays just ended and I worked so hard to hand knit gifts for my friends and family. Although some recipients seemed to appreciate the hand knits, sadly a few didn’t seem to appreciate them at all! What should I do? -- UNDER APPRECIATED

DEAR UNDER APPRECIATED: A word of advice, never knit Holiday gifts….and by that I do NOT mean never make handmade/knit gifts…let me explain. Putting such pressure on yourself to get knitted or any handmade gift complete for the Holidays, when let’s be honest you started December first…, is going to stress you out no matter what. Rather, give away your beautiful knits that you enjoyed knitting all year round; the blow of under appreciation might not feel so harsh when you didn’t stress or race to finish. If making gifts is your thing, then I would start collecting information on each family member and friend. Keeping a detailed file or notebook collecting information on what each individual likes would be helpful to insure your gifts are appropriate. Info to collect could include: favorite colors; magazine inspiration cutouts; swatches; comments they said about your knits “oooo I love that scarf you made….” It could also include details about what type of garments/accessories they like: do they wear scarves? Hats? Gloves? Are they sensitive to certain fibers? Do they have a preference to machine washing vs hand washing? All these things can help you choose projects/gifts that the receiver will appreciate more. Sadly, even after meticulous note taking or even taking requests, receivers still might not appreciate or really understand the time, the work and cost of handmade gifts. Unless you are a crafter, it is hard to really grasp the idea that yes, I could have purchased a $29.99 sweater from the store in under an hour, however I chose to spend 40 hours making a scarf that cost me $100 in yarn…. Lastly, I keep a mental note, those who don’t love receiving my beautiful hand knits rarely see another one.


January 11, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: I struggle to follow patterns, or I should say I'll piece together bits and pieces from 2 or 3 different patterns (number of cast on stitches, needle size & yarn weight from one pattern, fancy stitch from another pattern, shaping & size from another pattern), and then basically just wing it and hope for the best. Sometimes it turns out, sometimes it doesn't. Any advice on how to piece together patterns in more structured and planned way? -- FREE SPIRIT

DEAR FREE SPIRIT: First of all I have to commend you for being a free spirit knitter. I love that you “just wing it” at times and take chances. In a sense you are designing; being inspired by a shape, shaping, stitches and bringing them together creating a “new” look! Here are a few tips you might consider when mix and matching for a higher turnout rate:

  1. SWATCH: If you follow me on twitter, FB or Instagram you will notice I am not the world’s greatest swatcher, I sometimes take chances too and just dive in, but the chances of knits not working out become higher. In your case, especially if you are using multiple patterns with different stitches and yarn weights, swatching will be your friend. Swatch using the main needles you are going to use with the yarn and all the stitches required.
  2. MATCH YOUR DECREASES: If you follow a body on one sweater and sleeves from another, make sure your underarm BO sts and decreases are at the same rate and style for the sleeve and body of the sweater underarm.
  3. MAKE NOTES: If this is your style of knitting, printing out a working copy of all the patterns you are using for the one garment and making notes on what you modified, what parts you used, what you like, what you don’t like, the swatching gauge etc…will help, not only for this garment but for future garments.


January 04, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: Have you guys ever kept knitting a project even though you know something looks wrong and you're sure you've made mistakes but you just don't give a sh*t anymore and keep going?! -- BEYOND FRUSTRATED

DEAR BEYOND FRUSTRATED: We've all been there for sure and can totally sympathize with you.  Here are three choices you can choose to do:
1) TINK (knit backwards) or FROG (rip it, rip it, rip it).  If the mistake(s) bother you now, they'll bother you later.  Tinking and Frogging is the sure choice for perfection. 
If you look at it and realize you are the only one who will notice, or you simply make the decision that you are OK with how it looks, or if you are just SO ready to finish, then keep going without going back.
3) Sometimes mistakes are wonderful gifts.  What is known as a 'mistake' can become a new technique or stitch or look.  If you have made the 'error' throughout the piece, and it looks cooler or intentional, or 'normal,' then own it.  Rather than Tinking or Frogging, keep going continuing with the 'mistake' stitch.  Just be sure to make notes, if you need to make multiples and want to be consistent it is important to jot down what you did.

There is a long history of the importance of mistakes.  Depending on the culture, tribe or beliefs, artists and rug makers often added errors to honor 'The Creator' as being only perfect or some believe the errors acted either as gateways to let 'The Great Spirit' in or as a path to let evil out.  You can read an interesting blog about some of the customs here.


January 02, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: I want to make Arrows & Sparrows Cowl,  but as a long scarf (I'm tall). How many balls of Extra should I buy? -- MODIFYING KNITS

DEAR MODIFYING KNITS: If you wanted to make Arrows & Sparrows as a scarf (great idea!) I would get an extra ball each of colors A & C (the larger color block stripes).  As is, blocked the "scarf" would be about 52"  The rule of thumb, for the perfect scarf/shawl length to double around your neck, is the scarf should be as tall as you or as long as your arm span (which is your height).  Example:  I am 5'10" so my perfect shawl/scarf length is 70"


January 01, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: I have completed the body of the Feathering Shawl #1 (with lace edging) and am now ready to do the edging. I am having trouble understanding the pattern from here. Can you please advise? -- BORDER TROUBLE

DEAR BORDER TROUBLE: You're so close and this last lace boarder can be confusing!  For the lace edging you will just be working on the 7 st, 4 row lace edging pattern and 1 st from the lace body every other row.  You will not be working all the way to the end of the 293 sts each row rather, the 293 sts will be worked one at a time on rows 2 & 4 only with an SSK.