dear knitter: march 2016

March 30, 2016

DEAR KNITTER: I am on the last few rows of finishing a baby blanket. What is the best way to weave in the ends. Also I have some joins that need to be dealt with in the middle of the blanket when I started a new skein. Thank you. –WEAVING IN ENDS

DEAR WEAVING IN ENDS: Finishing is one of the most important steps, other than blocking to making a blanket, accessory or garment look professional. All knit or crochet projects has at least one or two maybe multiple ends to weave in. Here are some tips:

    1)  While knitting think about the best place to hide ends when switching/adding yarn skeins. Typically, I would not switch in the middle of the row; either the ends or right after a border sequence is the best place. I would rather waste some yarn to start a new ball on an end then have to weave in mid row/round.

        • If you are not sure you have enough yarn to make it across a row/round, fold the yarn you have left in half and make a slip knot: If you make it past the slip knot on the next row/round you won’t have enough for one more round; if you are close to the knot but did not past it, you will have enough for one more round.
        • Typically, the amount of yarn needed to complete a row/round is 3 times the length of the row/round.
        • When working in the round, I tend to switch/add my yarn on the side if it is a garment and on the center back if it is a hat or cowl
        • If your yarn is thin enough (I would not recommend this technique for chunky or bulky yarn): work your old end in with the new yarn end for the first row/round and on the second row/round work the tail of the new yarn with the working yarn; essentially you will be working with two strands at the same time for the tail lengths - no more than 3.”

        2)  Spit & Splice: This is a great technique, especially if you have to join yarn in the center of a row/round.

          • Untwist two plies of the new yarn and two plies of the tail end about 2” – 3” long each (You can break one of the plies from each end if you want a less bulky join)
          • Lay the two ends with split plies overlapping end to end in your hand and spit on them (use water or tea if you don’t like the traditional method of spit)
          • Rub your hands together with the yarn in between. The motion of the yarn spinning between your hands combined with the spit should felt and “re-spin” the fibers together creating a secure bond.

          3)  When weaving in ends at the end of a project I always use a sharp point tapestry needle. I choose a sharp point over a blunt point so I can split the fibers as I weave in. For a bulky or sometimes a chunky yarn, if I can, I split the plies in half and weave in the two split ends separately; the result is a bit less bulky. You don’t need to weave in more than an inch space length and no more than three passes. If you have ever had to take out work after weaving in ends, you will understand how secure weaving in ends can be!

            4)  Duplicate stitch: weave in the ends following the stitch pattern.

              Lastly, my final tips:

              • It is important to consider the fiber content when choosing the right method for weaving in ends. For instance, Spit & Splice will not work for acrylic yarn, nor for 100% cottons or linens. Spit & Splice works because the fibers are latching onto each other and felting somewhat.
              • Natural fibers that are hairy will need less weaving in than a smooth fiber like cotton, linen, hemp, etc.
              • When weaving in always work on the wrong side of your work, continually checking the good side to make sure you are being as seamless as possible.
              • When weaving your tapestry needle through the fibers, before passing through, check the good side of the fabric; where you see your tapestry needle peeking through, you will see your yarn.
              • If you are working on a project with a lot of ends to weave in (multiple color changes), my advice is to weave in as you go. There is nothing worse than finishing a project and having to weave in a gazillion ends!!
              • If you are working on a project where there is seaming involved (like a granny square blanket or a sweater), keep your ends long, you can use them to sew up the seams in the end!


              March 23, 2016

              DEAR KNITTER: I got a bad review on one of my patterns I designed, how do I mentally recover from that? – HEARTACHE

              DEAR HEARTACHE: Failure is part of being an entrepreneur; when you are the boss/creator/controller there is no buffer between you and your work, product or service.  Failure can sting a bit.  Personally it makes my heart race a little when I know I have let my customer or client down in some way; however, that excelled heart rate, that bite in the ass is usually a good thing…yes, you read that right, a GOOD thing.  Of course you cannot base your business off bad reviews, or failures.  You cannot sustain a business if you keep failing.  But, you can learn from these hiccups, improve and often find new inspiration, new paths, new positive outcomes from failures.   

              Dealing with a bad review on a pattern you designed: the first step is to evaluate the review.  Remember, you cannot appeal to everyone; is this review just based on personal taste? Is there something in the review that you can take from and improve?  If there is not enough information in a criticism (like: “this pattern sucks”) I will always follow up asking for elaboration.  If the reviewer cannot elaborate from “this pattern sucks” then it is pretty hard to improve on that other than looking deeper to see if other people have made similar comments.  If these comments are becoming a pattern, it is time to relook at your patterns with a critical eye to see if you can spot areas to improve.  If you get a bad review with reasons why, this is a great opportunity directly take the criticisms and improve in areas specified. 

              You are not your pattern: I understand that putting yourself/your work out there can be scary; but, it is important to realize that even though you created/designed your patterns and they are a reflection of who you are and your design esthetic, these patterns are not you.  The reviews are not about you as a person; rather, they are about your work.  It is imperative to create the work you feel best represents you as a designer and through the reviews you can hone in your skills to create even better work.  More importantly it is how you deal with the customer/reviewer and how you move forward and learn.

              Customer service is key! I like to design patterns that appeal to all skill levels; I have patterns that are super simple and I have more challenging ones.  No matter the level, I always get pattern questions about certain techniques or clarification requests or help with visualizing; where one person reads my patterns with ease, another might be confused.  The fascinating thing about knitting and pattern reading is no one knits the same and everyone learns differently; some people are Visual learners, others are Auditory or Read-Write learners, some are Kinesthetic learners.  As designers we cannot write patterns that always gear to one way of learning or another.  We can, however, certainly try: include written instruction and charts when applicable; we can write patterns as clearly and unassuming as we can; we can keep them clutter free and direct. But no matter how great your pattern is written there will always be questions.  These questions are not criticism.  It is important to answer the questions quickly and to the best of your ability.  You can also use these questions as a way of improving your patterns; if you keep getting the same questions, perhaps add additional information or clarification on your pattern; make a written, photo, video tutorial on the technique. 

              Free or paid patterns: whether your pattern is free or paid, the quality and customer service/pattern help should be the same.  I often hear designers complaining about having to help customers whom acquired their patterns for free! What?  No matter how you offer your patterns, this is your work, your reputation and the service and care should be exactly the same.

              Testing your patterns: As I talked about before, getting your patterns test knit on Ravelry’s Free Pattern Tester’s Group is a great way to get criticism when YOU want it and are prepared for it.  Keep in mind, the test knitters love to give their opinions and that is essentially what you want them to do! 

              How do you recover from a bad review? You read reviews in a way where you don’t need to recover.  Distance yourself from them and do not take it personally.  Use that sunken feeling as a jumping stone for improvement and bettering your designs/products and/or service! 


              March 16, 2016

              DEAR KNITTER: I usually have partial skeins of yarn leftover from my projects; I can’t bear to throw them out. Should I bother keeping them?  If so, what is a good way to organize them so they don’t become a tangled mess and what can I use these ends for? – ODDS & ENDS

              DEAR ODDS & ENDS: Although, it is always better to have too much yarn left over rather than running out mid project, it does pose an interesting predicament: do I have enough leftover to save? Is it nice enough to save? Do I like the color? What will I make with it?  I typically save most of my ends that are 1 yard/0.90 meters or longer. Here are some ideas:

              • SMALL AMOUNTS: If you make a lot of dolls or animals, small bits are great for the details like faces, hair, bows, etc. If you are making projects like Tiny Owl Knits Beekeepers Quilt and are embellishing them with Duplicate Stitch small bits are handy. If you like the idea of having yarn to mend projects you have made, smaller bits are perfect! The best way to organize these smaller bits is to consider keeping them balled up in Tupperware, or a cardboard or tin box; separate from the bigger yarn leftovers. Another idea: cut out pieces of cardboard about 2.5”/6.25 cm x 7”/17.75cm and wrap the yarn around on the cards.

              wrapped yarn

              Or use a hole punch and create holes to tie the yarn through. 

              yarn organizer

              It can be useful to label cardboard beside the yarn with the yarn details for future reference.

              • BIG AMOUNTS: Any yarn that is bigger than about 25 yards/23 meters in length I consider as “big amounts.” If you knit a lot, these can certain rack up quickly.  When my stash of odds & ends grew bigger than a bin, I quickly realized that I needed to get organized.  When they were all together I was constantly re-balling them, untangling them and I never knew what colors or yarn weights I had.  Organizing them allowed for quick and easy access; anytime I needed a color, scrap yarn for stitch holders or for Provisional Cast On, or I wanted to create something or follow a pattern that called for odds a& ends, they were at arm’s length and ready to work with.   To organize, I purchased 14 clear plastic shoe box bins from Home Depot for about $0.97 each. You can start with as many or as little bins as you need; I started with 14, but added about 4 more as my colors/weights/bits grew.  I labeled each bin by color (grey, dark grey, blue). For the colors with the most odds & ends, I separated those again by yarn weight (chunky cream & fine cream). For the colors I had the least amounts of I put them together in shared bins (red & yellow; purple & navy).  How you choose to label your bins and organize your bits is entirely up to you.  If you prefer to sort them by weight, by fiber, by yarn brand name then by all means go nuts!

              Home Depot Bins

              Now that you have organized your odds & ends, it is time to use them! There are some really great projects out there specifically designed to use them up.  If you feel like designing or just knitting/crocheting freely then I would say Cast On and have fun with stripes, fringe, and circles.  Play around with color and texture; don’t be afraid to mix weights and fibers!

              Here are some great projects for odds & ends (other than the projects I mentioned above):

              Penguono by Stephen West

              Stephen West Penguono 

              Heartfelt Rings by Tiny Owl Knits


              Leftovers Cowl by Wendy D. Johnson

              Leftovers Cowl 

              Tiny Alpaca by Anna Hrachovec

              Tiny Alpaca


              March 09, 2016

              DEAR KNITTER: I rarely block. Don't get the concept. If it's a washable item, aren't we back to Square One? UNCONVINCED BLOCKER.

              DEAR UNCONVINCED BLOCKER: Blocking, in most cases is an essential part of finishing a garment or an accessory; it is definitely a necessity for any lace.  It sets and evens out the stitches and seams; it opens up the lace stitches and transforms your knitting from amateur to professional in almost an instant (minus drying time if you wet block).

              There are two types of blocking: wet blocking and steam blocking. I use both methods equally and for different reasons.  I also sometimes combine both methods.

              • WET BLOCKING: is the best method for blocking lace and shaping sweaters/accessories to measurements. For lace it opens up the stitches revealing the lace patterns and stitches in the most spectacular way. For sweaters, it is a great way to set your stitches and block to specific measurements before seaming a sweater together.  To wet block, simply fill the sink, tub, bin, basin with tepid (lukewarm, cool) water and about a cap full of a wool wash (I use Eucalan or Soak which is a NO RINSE cleanser and a conditioner).  Once the sink is full and bubbly from the wool wash, fully submerge your work until it is totally saturated in the water.  Leave soaking for at least 15 minutes or more.  After soaking time, unplug the sink, tub or basin and let the water fully drain.  With products like Eucalan or Soak you will not need to rinse! DO NOT wring (twist) your work; a wet garment can stretch out of shape easily.  Gently squeeze out the water and place garment or accessory flat on a big towel and roll it up like a burrito.  You can delicately step on it or just let it sit for 5 -10 minutes to further remove any excess water.  The wetter the piece the more you can block.  Sometimes, for lace blocking, keeping the shawl fully saturated will allow you to open up the lace stitches more and block to a bigger size.  I rarely keep my fabric fully saturated; the drying time is often too long.  The next step is to lay your garment or accessory flat on blocking boards to dry.  If you are blocking lace or any piece that requires shaping (the pattern will often show a schematic with measurements to follow) you will need to use blocking wires.  The wires are fed into the edges of the work and held by T-pins.  This is essential when stretching fabric; the wires keep the edges from forming scallops from where the T-pins are placed and keep the edges straight.  Once the wires are in, and then let the piece fully dry.  If there is no shaping involved, just simply place your garment or accessory neatly on the blocking boards and let it dry flat.
              • STEAM BLOCKING: This is a great method of blocking, there is no drying time and it is a quick process. I do not use this method for lace or for sweaters where I have to block each piece to measurements before seaming.  I use this method a lot on sweaters where there is minimal shaping needed and a lot on accessories (again, where there is minimal shaping required).  You will need a good iron that has a steam function.  Place the finished garment on blocking boards; you can use blocking wires and T-pins just like in the wet blocking if you need to hold piece in shape.  Set your iron to hot and set to steam.  The key to Steam Blocking is NOT to touch the iron to the actual knitted piece!  You will essentially be hovering the iron, blasting steam into the fibers.  Once you blast one side with steam, let cool.  Turnover and repeat on the other side: again blasting it with steam and then letting it cool.
              • COMBO {WET & STEAM}: You can combine the two methods. I often combine when there are multiple steps to finishing, often seen in sweaters: wet block each piece to measurement (fronts, back & sleeves); then sew the side seams, arms and set in armholes; then knit the neck collar and front bands; then steam block the seams and additional knitted portions.  TIP: make a spray bottle filled with a solution of water and a small amount of Eucalan or Soak; this is good if you want the benefits of the conditioning product when Steam Blocking.

              If you are unsure of which method to use, I highly recommend doing a SWATCH TEST. Knit two squares in pattern and wet block one and steam block the other.  You will notice different fibers & stitches benefit differently from each blocking technique. 

              Lastly, to address your question about blocking once and then having to block AGAIN or EVERYTIME after washing the answer is: yes, you will have to re block every time you get your garment/accessory wet, but it is worth it. Personally, I never machine wash my knitted pieces even if I use a superwash yarn.  I feel like I spent so much time creating this garment or accessory it deserves hand washing.  Therefore I would essentially “Wet Block” again to wash.  I might lay flat to dry opposed to using the wires and T-pins (unless it was a lace shawl), and I might steam into shape once dry.  I think it is worth taking the extra steps to make your creativity shine!


              March 02, 2016

              DEAR KNITTER: when I first caught the knitting bug, I bought A LOT of yarn. But I wasn’t buying yarn for specific projects, just ones I’d see in my LYS that caught my eye. Consequently, I have one or two skeins of a lot of beautiful yarns, but have no idea what to make with them. What’s the best way to find patterns to make with yarn you already have? — SEARCHING FOR PROJECTS

              DEAR SEARCHING FOR PROJECTS: I can totally relate…I think a lot of people can totally relate! As knitters and crafters, it is absolutely normal to collect tools, supplies and yarns for your craft. To be drawn to yarns and to surround yourself with yarn that inspires you is going to be a natural thing you do. That being said, it is always satisfying knitting and crafting with your stash; using up what you have to make room for more new and exciting yarn! The best and easiest place I start, when looking for patterns to go with the yarn I stashed, is Ravelry. There are two great ways to tackle your search for finding projects to go with certain yarn weights and specific yardage.

              • 1)  On Ravelry: at the top menu, search by “YARN.” Search for the specific yarn you have either by yarn name or by company, I searched “TOSH DK.”

              If you click the yarn name, you will be lead to all the info about that yarn. If you click to the right of the image, you will be lead to all the projects people have made.

              Once you click on the projects you can do a further search by project type like sweaters, cowls, headbands, hats, mitts, kids, etc. You can also read other peoples project notes to get info on patterns and yardage used

              • 2)  On Ravelry: at the top menu search by “PATTERNS.” Under PATTERNS, I searched “COWLS.” If you have only a small amount of yarn like one or two skeins, search for smaller projects like: cowls, shawls, hats, headbands, mittens, fingerless gloves, baby sweater…etc. If you have more than three or four skeins, search bigger projects like: sweaters, capes, shawls, legwarmers, shrug, vest…etc.

              Once you are in the “COWLS” category, or whatever you chose to search for, take advantage of the side searches; they are amazing! You can choose what type of project, knitting or crochet, if it has an image, by yardage, by yarn weight, by needle size, by technique, etc.

              Once I find a project I like, I always add it to my queue.

              Everyone has their own preference, I prefer queuing it up because it allows me to add my yarn I am thinking of using to it any notes I may have along with who I am knitting it for. I also like the convenience of all my favorite patterns in one place ready to “start project” and keep track of my progress in my PROJECTS in my NOTEBOOK section.

              By the sounds of it, your days of purchasing yarn ‘just because’ without purpose are far from in between, but let’s be honest, we all have our weaknesses! I always think, half of being a knitter, is collecting yarn; for me, it is part of the process. Perhaps these days I tend to make my purchases more meaningful, but there are always those stray beautiful treasures that sneak in or I change my mind and need to find a new purpose for the yarn I thought had a plan. Ravelry is the first place I always go to for pattern inspiration, it is a great reference and I have no doubts that you will be able to find the perfect pattern to go with your beautiful stashed yarn!