Thursday, October 20, 2016

Monogamous knitting?

I used to have lots of projects on the go at any one time but these days I'm much more monogamous. Or if not completely monogamous, I'm focusing on two or three projects at a time. For the last few weeks my two main projects have been a lace garment in purple cashmere and a shawl in Lang (on the left below).


I was desperate to finish the purple cashmere garment by last weekend as the girls were both home for the weekend and I was planning to get one of them to model for me. Unfortunately I failed and finished on Monday. Last week, except for some swatching for new designs and sewing up and doing all the finishing details on a new sweater design, I only worked on the cashmere garment when I was at home. Had I been more monogamous in the weeks prior to last week, I may have reached my goal of finishing this by last weekend. I get easily bored so I like to have variety in my current projects. I tend to have an easy project and a more complex project on the go as well as a pair of socks for portable knitting.

Anyway, the cashmere garment is done. It's a big thing and I ended up with more than 1000 stitches. Now I need to find another solution re having it photographed. I may even model it myself as I won't see the girls till late in November. I did knit this sample for myself. I will have a smaller version knitted up to use as my official sample for shows. The pattern will include two sizes.

I completely ignored my Lang shawl last week and I've been excited about getting back to it. I'm nearly halfway through and I'm looking forward to finishing it so I can wear it. It's going to be so cozy and warm.

It's starting to get quite chilly here and my hands are always cold. I love wearing fingerless gloves in the autumn and winter. I had a lovely pair last winter but I lost them. So I decided I needed a new pair and I thought I may as well design a new pattern. I cast on yesterday and finished the first glove in the evening (except for the thumb which I need to add later). Last night I cast on for the second one and I've nearly finished that one now. Hopefully I can finish the pair tonight so I can wear them when I travel to my Norwegian Selbu Mittens workshop at Spin A Yarn tomorrow. The pattern will be out in November/December.

I do have an idea for another pair too. I'd like a longer pair and I'm thinking I may cast on for it this weekend.

Earlier this year, I treated myself to a bright yellow Field Bag which is made by the Fringe Supply Co exclusively for La Bien Aimee & L'Oisive The. The Fringe Supply Co sell these bags in several more neutral colours but I was thinking it would be perfect in a bright pink. So a few weeks ago when I saw that they'd made a pink Field Bag exclusively for The Plucky Knitter, I immediately ordered one.  My cashmere garment has been living in it lately. I love that I can keep it on the floor by my knitting chair and the ball of yarn stays in the bag as I knit (rather than roll around on the floor) and there's plenty of room for my knitting, yarn and any notions I need for the project.

I'm increasingly getting into pink as witnessed by this photo I took a few weeks ago. I was wearing a pink dress, pink shoes, pink poncho (Portofino) and using my pink Field Bag and there was some pink in the cheerful flowers Simon got me for our anniversary a few weeks ago.

Are you a monogamous knitter? Or do you like to have several projects on the go? Tell me in the comments!

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Additions to Stitch Fest South West

It's just over two weeks to Stitch Fest in Totnes, Devon. I blogged about the event recently. I'm not having a stall at this event but I am teaching three workshops.

My Professional Finishing Techniques class on Saturday is sold out but (at the time of writing this) both my Sunday classes have spaces. 

We decided to add a Continental Knitting with Norwegian Purl on the Sunday afternoon after the Cream Tea Talk got cancelled. I love teaching Continental Knitting so I'm quite happy with that. If you'd like to learn this increasingly popular way of knitting, then join me. If the class sells out or if you can't make it, do keep an eye on my workshop page as this is a class I teach regularly.

On Sunday morning, I'm teaching Lace Knitting which is perfect for anyone who would love to learn lace knitting and join the ever popular lace shawl knitting trend. In this class you'll learn how to read lace charts, work the yarn overs and decreases used in lace knitting, add beads using the crochet hook method and more. You'll be confident enough to tackle lace shawls and simple lace garments after this class.

Will I see you at Stitch Fest? I'm looking forward to browsing the stalls on Saturday morning. Don't miss out, book now!

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Monday Mini Tip - No Stitch & Varying Stitch Counts

In today's Mini Tip I'm going to talk about balancing lace patterns, 'no stitch' areas in lace patterns and varying stitch counts as these are all linked. 

In lace patterns yarn over, yarn forward, yarn over the needles and yarn around the needle are all increases. I will call them all yarn overs from now on (read this Mini Tip if these terms are confusing). When you work a yarn over, you increase a stitch. Unless you're increasing your total stitch count, you need to work a decrease to keep the stitch count the same. 

Decreases are often placed next to or close to the yarn over it 'belongs to'. But sometimes the decrease can be placed several stitches away from the corresponding yarn over, or even on a different row. In cases like this, a 'no stitch' symbol is usually inserted into the chart as a place holder (I talk about 'no stitch' symbols in this Mini Tip about reading charts). 

In the lace pattern above I cast on 32 stitches and worked the pattern repeat (inside the red box in the chart below) three times, but if you look at row 1 of the chart (or written instructions below), you'll see that once you've worked row 1, you'll have 35 stitches. Many knitters will look at the cast on number and then at row 1 and assume that you'll need 35 stitches before you knit row 1 (11 stitches per pattern rep x3 =33 + 2 = 35 stitches). But a chart shows you what the row will look like after you've worked it. If you cast on 35 stitches, row 1 won't work.

If you look at the pattern repeat (inside read border on the chart or inside [ ] in the written instructions, you'll notice that on row 1 there are two yarn overs and one decrease. This means that for each 10 stitch pattern repeat, you will increase two stitches and decrease one stitch. On row 2, there's a decrease which means you'll decrease the second stitch you increased in row 1. As a result once you finish row 1, you have 11 stitches in each pattern repeat, and after row 2, you'll have 10 stitches in each pattern repeat. That stitch you loose on row 2, needs to be shown in the chart somewhere so we put a 'no stitch' symbol (a grey square in my charts) as a stitch holder. This is a lot less confusing in the written instructions for the chart as the written instructions just tell you which stitch you'll be working and ignores 'no stitch' stitches. Compare the written instructions with the chart below.

Chart - Written Instructions:
Row 1 (RS): P1, [p1, yo, k tbl, yo, ssk, k5, p1] to last st, p1.
Row 2 (WS): K1, [k1, p4, p2tog tbl, p3, k1] to last st, k2.
Row 3: P1, [p1, yo, k tbl, yo, k2, ssk, k3, p1] to last st, p1.
Row 4: K1, [k1, p2, p2tog tbl, p5, k1] to last st, k2.
Row 5: P1, [p1, k tbl, yo, k4, ssk, k1, yo, p1] to last st, p1.
Row 6: K1, [k1, p1, p2tog tbl, p6, k1] to last st, k2.
Row 7: K1, [k1, p1, k5, k2tog, yo, k tbl, yo, p1] to last st, p1.
Row 8: P2, [p3, p2tog, p4, k1] to last st, k2.
Row 9: K1, [k1, p1, k3, k2tog, k2, yo, k tbl, yo, p1] to last st, p1.
Row 10: P2, [p5, p2tog, p2, k1] to last st, k2.
Row 11: K1, [k1, p1, k2, k2tog, k4, yo, k tbl, p1] to last st, p1.
Row 12: P2, [p6, p2tog, p1, k1] to last st, k2.

In lace patterns where the stitch count in the pattern repeat varies from row to row, I usually make a note of it to draw knitters attention to it. So for the lace pattern above I would put a note in the pattern to say: Stitch count increases on right side rows (by 1 stitch per pattern repeat) and returns to normal on every wrong side row. You will then know that if you cast on 32 stitches and count your stitches after row 1, you will have more stitches. 

Above is a shawl I'm working on at the moment. And below is the chart and written instructions for the lace pattern (the chart key is the same as for the first example). You can see that in this chart there are lots of grey stitches and it all looks a bit confusing. Each pattern repeat is 19 stitches and I have four stitches extra. So if I work the pattern repeat twice, I will cast on 42 stitches. On row 1, I work two yarn overs and two decreases so the stitch count stays the same. But I've still got grey squares on row 1. In this lace pattern, the grey squares are to allow for different stitch counts on various rows and also to show how the stitches line up against those in the rows below and above. 

On row 2, I work two decreases but no increases (yarn overs). I therefore finish row 2 with two stitches less per pattern repeat - 38 stitches. On row 3, I work two decreases but four yarn overs. I have two stitches in hand from row 2, so that means that after row 3 my stitch count is back to normal - 42 stitches. On row 4, I decrease two stitches per pattern repeat so I have two stitches less again. On row 5, I work two decreases plus eight yarn overs. I have two decreases in hand from row 4 plus two decreases from row 5 which makes it a total of four stitches but I've increased eight. So after row 5, I have four stitches extra per pattern repeat, ie a total of 50 stitches. On rows 6 and 7, I decrease two stitches per pattern repeat per row. Those four stitches I've decreased per pattern repeat on these two rows, make up for the four extra yarn overs I worked on row 5. So now my stitch count is back to normal.

Chart  - Written Instructions:
Row 1 (RS): K2, (k1, k2tog, k6, yo, k1, yo, k6, ssk, k1) to last 2 sts, k2.
Row 2 (WS): P2, (p1, p2tog tbl, p13, p2tog, p1) to last 2 sts, p2.
Row 3: K2, (k1, k2tog, k4, yo, k tbl, yo, k1, yo, k tbl, yo, k4, ssk, k1) to last 2 sts, k2.
Row 4: Repeat row 2.
Row 5: K2, (k1, k2tog, k2, (yo, k1 tbl, yo, k1) three times, yo, k tbl, yo, k2, ssk, k1) to last 2 sts, k2.
Row 6: P2, (p1, p2tog tbl, p17, p2tog, p1) to last 2 sts, p2.
Row 7: K2, (k1, k2tog, (k tbl, k1) seven times, k tbl, ssk, k1) to last 2 sts, k2.
Row 8: P to end.
Row 9: K to end.
Row 10: P, k22.
Row 11: K2, ((k2tog, yo) nine times, k1) to last 2 sts, k2.
Row 12: K to end.
Row 13: K to end.

Row 14: P to end.

Does that all make sense? Don't worry if it doesn't yet, the more experience you get in lace patterns, the more these things will make sense. All you need to worry about when knitting a pattern like this is to knit the stitches shown in the chart and ignore the 'no stitch' stitches. Also, be careful when checking your stitch counts. Do check the chart to see if there are the same number of decreases and yarn overs in each pattern repeat on each row.

So why can't we just put the decreases and yarn overs on the same row and save ourselves a lot of trouble. The placement of decreases and increases in conjunction with each other is what makes the lace pattern look like it does. So by putting the decreases on the same row as the yarn overs, the lace pattern would look completely different.

Please ask any questions you have in the comments below. You can see all the previous Monday Mini Tips and other tutorials on my Tutorials page.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Wool Week

There's a discount for you at the end of the post.

Autumn has definitely arrived here in Cornwall. Although we've had some beautiful sunny days, the temperatures have dropped a lot. I do miss summer already, but I'm enjoying being able to wear my shawls and scarves again. I knit a lot of shawls and I do try to wear as many of them as I can. Do you wear what you knit? 

A couple of weeks ago the shawl choice of the day was St Aubin's Bay because it matched my t-shirt and cardigan. It's also a really nice shawl to wear as a scarf. By the way, I'm teaching St Aubin's Bay as a project workshop at La Mercerie, Wales, in November. If you're interested in joining me, contact the shop for full details and to book.

A couple of days ago, I wore my Portofino poncho when I walked the dog. I did wear a rather colourful pair of handwarmers as well. You can just about spot a glimps of them in the bottom right hand corner. They didn't quite match my poncho but my hands were cold so I didn't care.

Yesterday, I wore my Carlyon Bay in the morning when I ran errands in town and went to the knitting group. And in the afternoon I changed to Capri which is a large shawl but I bunched it up around my neck to keep warm. There was a particularly chilly wind yesterday.

This week is Woolweek in the UK, and to celebrate I'm offering 3 for 2 on all my patterns. All you need to do is to choose 3 patterns from my Ravelry Pattern Shop (you don't need to be a member to purchase) and add the code: woolweek and the cheapest pattern will be free. The discount ends on Sunday 16 October.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Block Printing

Last week I went on a block printing workshop. I've never done any form of printing before and I'm not very artistic and by that I mean that I'm really rubbish at drawing. The workshop was taught by Gill Cairns who runs textile printing workshops in the Tavistock area.

We started out by sketching out our ideas on paper. This is where I was having problems because I can't draw. I decided to try to draw some simple shawls shapes. I drew four shapes to start with.

We then had to draw our sketches on to a piece of foam. Because it was only 1/2 day class, I decided to use only two shapes. So I chose a crescent shape and an asymmetrical triangle. I tried to draw a design on them but in hindsight, that may have been a mistake.

Once our 'stamps' were ready we got to mix our paint and start printing. I printed my shawl shapes using a gradient colour scheme. Once I'd finished I wasn't 100% happy. I thought it looked like a fiver year old had made it. I had a bit of time to spare so I quickly cut out two circles and randomly stamped those between my shawls. I'm happier with the end result although there were definitely mistakes. 

I learnt a lot and I will definitely do things differently in the future. I also learnt a lot from seeing what other people made. Next time I will make my shapes bigger and print fewer on the bag. We printed on a tote bag and I do quite like it. It's bright and colourful.

It was fun seeing the other bags and I particularly liked Sandy's bag. I love the star shapes and the fact that she didn't cover the whole bag.

I don't really have time for any new creative hobbies but I really enjoyed this, so this morning I popped in to a local craft shop and got a few supplies. I'm hoping I'll have time to play a bit later in the week. I've got some plain project bags that I fancy decorating.

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Monday, October 10, 2016

Monday Mini Tip: Unpicking stitches & rows

In today's Mini Tip Tutorial I'm going to show you how to unpick several rows of stitches quickly. Many knitters are frightened of unpicking stitches, especially if they need to unpick several rows. If having to unpick involves lace stitches it's even more scary.

Getting used to unpicking stitches is something that only comes with practice. I recommend knitting a small square, then practice unpicking it. Start with stocking stitch then try other stitch patterns.

In the video below I show you how to unpick a row of stocking stitch stitch by stitch and then I show you how to unpick several rows quickly. I'll also show you how to unpick a row of lace knitting, including decreases and how to unpick several rows quickly.

You can also watch the video by clicking on this link.

The easiest way to unpick is to put a lifeline in and rip back to the lifeline but sometimes we don't think we need a lifeline or we forget to put one in. If you've not heard of lines, take a look at my tutorial.

Please ask any questions you have in the comments below. You can see all the previous Monday Mini Tips and other tutorials on my Tutorials page.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Stitch Fest South West

Down here in the South West of England I often here knitters wishing we had some knitting festivals down here. Well, the ladies at Social Fabric have granted our wishes and are putting on Stitch Fest South West in November. The show will be held on 5 and 6 November 2016 in Totnes, Devon. Totnes is a lovely town with a selection of excellent independent shops and the town is easily reached by car or train.

There will be lots of stalls and workshops. I won't be having a stall at this show but I will be teaching two workshops and I'll be doing a talk while we all enjoy a Cream Tea.

On Saturday afternoon, I'll be teaching a half day Professional Finishing Techniques for knitters. In this class, which is suitable for all knitters, you'll learn how to sew up your garments using mattress stitch, pick up stitches for neck bands and button bands, how to shape shoulders using short rows and three needle cast off and how to set in sleeves. In other words, everything you need to know to finish your garments in style. If you only every do one class, this is the one you should do!

On Sunday morning, I'm teaching Beginners Lace Knitting which is the perfect class if you are tempted by all the beautiful lace shawls and garments that are so popular now.  Even if you have done a little bit of very basic lace knitting, you will learn a lot. You'll learn how to read lace charts, how to work yarn overs and decreases, how to add beads using the crochet hook method and how to shape within a lace pattern. After this class you'll be able to knit one of my lace shawls with ease.

On Sunday I'm very excited to be hosing a Cream Tea session. You'll be enjoying a Cream Tea while I talk about my design work and inspiration. You can also ask me questions. I love Cream Teas so I'm very excited about this!

Erika Knight will be at the show too and will be hosting a Cream Tea Session on Saturday and teaching a class. There's lots of other classes on various topics such as hand-dyeing yarn, crochet, spinning, felting and of course, knitting. You can see all the classes here.

The line up of vendors looks very exciting. Several stall holders I wanted to see at Yarndale last month but didn't have time to see are going to be there. And best of all, because I'm not having a stall, I can do a bit of yarn shopping myself. I'll be making the most of Saturday morning when I'm not teaching.

Book your ticket and classes now!

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