Taranis Hat and Mittens

My apologies to my followers for the time in between updates. Things have been quite hectic as we finished up the renovations to the house and then the holidays happened, but I am happy to say that I have completed a few projects during that time.

taranishatOf all the patterns in the Celtic Journey pattern book from Knit Picks, I think I was most excited to do this hat and mittens set. This pattern was the first one in the book I’ve worked with that I have not had to correct, although the Knit Picks website does note a correction for this pattern. The correction seems to be more of a specification that I simply assumed while working than a need to change any stitches.

One thing I did notice that struck me as odd was the construction of the mittens. I’ve always worked mittens with a symmetrical increase for the thumb hole, and I’ve always put the live thumb opening stitches on a scrap piece of yarn separate from the main body. This pattern, however, has you knit a segment of scrap yarn into the main body which you later remove to work the thumb. As a result, the whole mitten comes out a little wide and flat instead of form-fitted. I plan to re-work the pattern in the future for a better thumb fit.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve done this hat three times, and it works up relatively fast. The first time, I worked with Vanna’s Choice worsted in the color linen for both hat and mittens. Both the hat and mittens came out a bit larger than I would have liked, so if you choose this yarn you may want to start with a smaller needle than the pattern calls for. But I’ve done the hat twice more in Caron’s Simply Soft worsted yarn and they came out smaller than the hat done in Vanna’s Choice. This is something I’ve noticed with a lot of projects when I choose to work with Caron Simply Soft, they often come out a bit smaller than they do when working with other yarns. Personally, I like how the hat came out with the Caron yarn better than the Vanna’s Choice. I’ll have to do up a pair of mittens and see how they compare.

But regardless of how big my mittens came out, the cable pattern is still absolutely gorgeous and very fun to work up. I especially like the little puffs worked in the spaces around the cables. These are done by working an increase 5 stitch, then knitting those five stitches together in the next round. I had to accomplish this with the aid of a crochet hook as it is very difficult to get a knitting needle through five stitches at a time. But this simple little stitch adds a nice little embellishment to any project.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As always, happy knitting!

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Update:

I have been waiting for some good snowfall so I could take some photos of the hat and mittens outdoors in the elements. I’m sure my neighbors thought I was crazy with my tripod standing in front of a bush in my yard, but I don’t care! The weather today made the perfect backdrop to showcase this stuff. Enjoy!

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Stornoway Throw

When I first purchased the Celtic Journey pattern book, I knew I was in love with this throw. My brother-in-law recently moved into a nstornoway-throwew apartment and has always been fond of Celtic-inspired things, so I knew this would be the perfect house-warming gift for him and his girlfriend.

This pattern is set up for two different sizes, the small is 24″ by 32″ and the large is 48″ by 64″. For my purposes, the large was the better choice. But this would certainly make a great baby blanket if made in the smaller size, so I must keep that in mind for future projects.

I chose Caron Simply Soft for my yarn as it’s one of my favorite go-to worsted weight yarns. I may have mentioned this in a previous post, but I just adore the way the yarn glides off the needle, and the drape of the finished product always feels luxurious. This time, I chose Autumn Red for the color as it best suited their decor.

One side-note about the Autumn Red: it stained my knittiOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAng needles!
I’ve never had any yarn by Caron (or any yarn period) stain my knitting needles, but this one certainly did. I’m not sure if it was just a bad batch of yarn where they failed to set the dye or if it’s something about this color, but beware if you plan on using this color. It’s a machine wash and dry yarn, so I advised my brother-in-law to wash it separately unless he wanted red dye to get on other things in the wash.

While working with this pattern, I did notice a fair amount of mistakes and general vagueness. It seems to be a running theme with this pattern book, as the Dubline Cardigan also had a couple head-scratchers as well as the Flidais Stole which I have yet to finish and blog about. Fear not, once finished I will share a full account 😉

I don’t want to post any images of the original or altered knitting chart (y’know, copyright laws and whatnot) so I will do my best to describe my alterations as if you have the pattern in front of you.

The first thing I noticed was the knitting chart for the main body of the blanket. It shows blocks of moss stitch set against a stockinette stitch background. A simple idea that adds some interesting texture to the body of the blanket. But the number of stitches between each block of moss stitch didn’t quite add up and working it up exactly how the pattern shows made them look oddly crammed rather than evenly spread. The obsessive-compulsive in me just had to change it. I moved one block to the left by one stitch and left the other in its original place, making the blocks evenly spaced on both sides. It’s important to note that I did not change the total number of stitches across in a row, these are important to keep track of when working up the border.

The second thing I noticed was that the materials list wound up coming up a bit short. You will actually need more than just a circular knitting needle size 8 and your cable needle. Once the body is finished, you will need to pick up stitches along all four sides of the body to begin OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAworking the border. Up until that point, the circular needle is all you need. But once you begin working the border, you’ll realize you need at least one straight needle size 8 to work with your circular needle, and the other end of the circular needle will not be used. I recommend using a circular needle set that allows you to change the needles on the cord instead of a fixed circular needle, as the stitches tend to fall off the other end while you’re working the border. I switched out the end I wasn’t using with the biggest size needle in the set to keep the stitches from falling off. It was also very useful in picking up the edge stitches as I was able to switch to a much smaller needle, making it infinitely easier to pick up the stitches.

 

Now to address the border cable chart itself: this one was a doozy. And don’t bother with the “corrections” posted on the Knit Picks website, they would have you changing cabled knits into purls and creating a whole other mess. Do this instead. I noticed when I got to row 13 that something didn’t look quite right with rows 9 and 11. In the celtic knotwork, the cables should be coming smoothly together to eventually criss-cross and then smoothly separate again for the longer 0 shape, then it repeats. But with the way it had you do the cables, rows 9 and 11 had a weird S bend to them. So I took the outermost cables from row 9 and moved them up to row 11. I did the same on the opposite end of the chart, moving the outermost cables from row 45 to row 43. This will smooth out the way the cables first come together and separate before and after each knotted section.

In the knotted section itself, I likewise had to make some adjustments. Rows 19, 27, and 35 are the rows where the “corners” of the knots are, so the cables must turn sharply inward to go back to center and cross each other again. The original pattern would have you do so with stitches 10, 11, and 12 and 25, 26 and 27. But doing so will cause one of the purls from each side to be cabled forward, and that just isn’t right. I had to move each of those stitches toward the center by one stitch, making it a cable with stitches 11, 12 and 13 and 24, 25 and 26 instead.

Also, the directions for each of those corner cables are as follows: 2/1 RC, put last st on CN behind work, put 2 sts back from right to left needle, K the st from CN, K2 and 2/1 LC, put last 2 sts on a CN in front of work, put 1 st back from right needle to left wyib, K the 2 sts from CN, K1. Essentially for the first one you move two stitches from the left to the right needle, put the third stitch on a cable needle in back of the work, move the first two stitches back to the left needle, and proceed to knit the stitches from the cable needle and then the left needle.

Well, after doing these instructions a couple of times, I got to thinking, “aren’t I just doing a regular cable-3?” and it turns out that yes, yes I was. For some reason the pattern is written to have you cross the stitches prior to stitching them by moving them around from the left and right needles, creating a bunch of unnecessary steps. If you simply hold the stitches you’re cabling in front or behind the work and work them like a normal cable, it will look just the same as if you do the extra steps. Save yourself the time and replace the special corner instructions with a regular cable-3 front or back as appropriate to the work.

Now the other thing that happened is I realized that the cable-4 sections that come right after the corners would need to be changed since I changed what stitches it was all happening on. So for rows 21, 29, and 37, the outermost cable-4 sections should become a cable-3, and the cable-4’s in between those cables remain as cable-4’s. I know you must be thinking “But Niki, won’t that make the cables not line up and bend weird? I dunno about this”. Trust me, though, it looks just dandy. The cables are turning so sharply and crossing each other so often in such a small space that the difference by making a couple cable-4’s into cable-3’s won’t be noticed at all.

The cable chart for the corners of the border is worked similarly to the straight sections, except that you decrease as you go until only a few stitches are OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAbeing worked and the border angles up and out, then steadily increase stitches so the corner wraps smoothly around the corner of the body. The pattern contains the same mistakes as the straight section, so change stitches accordingly. However, when you get to row 71, the cable-4 on the left will remain a cable-4 and not be changed to a cable-3. This is because you will not be doing the left corner on row 19. In fact, there are no left corners at all on the corner chart. It took a little bit of playing around to figure out how to make the cables from row 19 line up with those in row 71, but I got it.

Tl;Dr Too long; Didn’t read: The pattern contains some pretty hefty goofs, and I was overly-descriptive in how to fix it for those of you who might be frustrated and ready to throw the whole project out the window. Don’t do that. Take a deep breath and work through the pattern with the fixes as I’ve detailed them here. It helps if you grab some graph paper and draw it out on your own, or highlight the sections that need fixing directly in the pattern book itself.

Unfortunately, I neglected to take a finished-product photo of this one. I was just so relieved when I got it finished that I wanted to give it to my brother-in-law and his girlfriend right away. It is now in its new forever-home to be (hopefully) enjoyed for years to come. If I can get him to take a photo of it, I’ll be sure to update my post, so check back if you’re curious.

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As always, happy stitching.

The Purl Stitch

If you’ve already learned to Cast On and make The Knit Stitch, the next step is to learn the Purl stitch. Knits and Purls are the foundation of knitting and no project can be completed without them. As you work with both, you’ll notice that knits look like purls on the back and purls look like knits on the back. This uniformity allows the knitter to create solid sections of knits or purls as needed. Typically, the knit side is the “right” side or the side that faces outward when the project is finished. But sometimes, as with the green blanket featured at the top of my blog, the purl side is the right side with the image standing out in knits to present a finished face. Either way, you need to know how to do both stitches to do anything.

Hold the yarn to the front of the work. Insert your right-hand needle into the stitch from the right side of the stitch.

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Right-hand needle entering right side of stitch

This time, unlike with the knit stitch, the right-hand needle will remain in front of the left-hand needle.

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Yarn over right-hand needle

Yarn over and push the loop back through the stitch.

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Loop is pushed back through stitch

Slip the stitch off the left-hand needle.

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Slip stitch off left-hand needle

Rinse and repeat.

Continue purling in this manner across the row.

When you work one row of knits and work the next row as purls, you will create a block of material with all knits on the front and purls on the back. This is called a stockinette stitch, and it is a common stitch in knitting. Some patterns may have sections of cable with sections of stockinette in between, so instead of detailing how many stitches to do it may simply say continue in stockinette stitch for those sections. Sometimes it’s abbreviated to St st. I plan to also post a glossary of common knitting abbreviations and what they mean, so check back if you’re having trouble deciphering a pattern.

That’s about it for the foundations of knitting. Practice casting on, knitting and purling until you get the hang of it. You can make practice blocks in stockinette stitch, or switch up the stitches you’re working with to create different textures. Check back for guides on simple beginner projects like a ribbed scarf and simple mittens. These types of projects are great for practicing your stitches and creating lasting items that are lovely to have around for the cold winter months.

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Happy stitching!

The Knit Stitch

If you’re new to knitting, or even just looking for a refresher because it’s been a while, you’ve come to the right place. Every project is built one stitch at a time, and the knit stitch is essential to any knitting project. But first things first, you have to cast on. If you don’t know how to do this, please see my other tutorial post, Cast On, and then come back here to learn the knit stitch. If you’ve already got your beginning stitches cast onto your needle, this is a great place to start. So without further ado, let’s knit!

First, let me note that typically the first stitch is slipped and not knitted when working back and forth in rows. Sometimes this stitch can stretch out and look sloppy, but a simple fix to that is to simply tighten the stitch as you continue to knit. You’ll know what I’m talking about later as you get into it. For now, just move that first stitch over to the right-hand needle and then knit the second stitch.

Hold the yarn to the back of the work. Insert your needle into the stitch from the left side of the stitch, moving the needle front to back.

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Right-hand needle going into the left side of the stitch

It will look a little funny at first, but trust me, this is correct. Your right-hand needle should move behind the left-hand needle and the stitch should look sort of twisted.

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Right-hand needle is behind the left-hand needle

Now you wrap the yarn around the right-hand needle to be pulled through the stitch on the left-hand needle. This is called yarn over.

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Yarn over the right-hand needle

Now pull that loop up through the stitch, bringing the right-hand needle back to the front of the work.

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Loop pulled through stitch onto right-hand needle.

Slip the stitch off the left-hand needle. The new stitch on the right-hand needle is holding it now.

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Slip stitch off left-hand needle

Rinse and repeat.

And that’s basically it! Keep knitting in this fashion across the row. If you make a mistake, such as  entering the stitch from the wrong direction, it will twist your stitch the other way. See my post Dagnabbit for instructions on how to take out stitches.

Always remember that practice makes perfect, so keep at it. Your first few shots at knitting are likely to result in uneven stitches or stitches that are too tight or too loose. This is all part of the learning curve, and eventually you’ll get your stitches to the right tension to easily work with. Don’t sweat it, just keep practicing your stitches to get them nice and even.

Next up is your other essential stitch, The Purl Stitch.

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Happy stitching!

Dubline Cardigan

My grandmother recently commissioned me to make a sweater for my mother. My mother has been getting nostalgic lately and mentioned a sweater gram had made for her when she was a little girl and how she loved that sweater. So gram decided to dig out the pattern for the sweater to see if I could convert it for an adult size and surprise my mother with it.

Unfortunately, the pattern was in sort of a poncho style that we all agreed would look pretty terrible on an adult. I’m also not great at converting patterns and I didn’t want to push my luck.

So, we decided to pick out a different pattern.52022220 I recently purchased the knitting pattern book Celtic Journey from Knit Picks and it has a ton of beautiful sweater patterns in it. We settled on the Dubline Cardigan for this project because it seemed cozy and has a cute hood. But boy was the pattern complicated!

Let me begin by saying I’ve only attempted one sweater before, and I still haven’t finished it. This was my first time actually completing a sweater, and while it was frustrating (see my post titled Dagnabbit) I was able to complete it successfully. I’m upset at myself that there are a couple of little mistakes in the bottom of the sweater that I didn’t notice until I was done, but I did not want to take apart the whole thing. Thankfully, they’re the small sort of mistake that nobody but myself will notice.

The pattern calls for using Knit Picks Swish Worsted yarn, which I truly would have loved to try but you have to order it. Swish is 100% Superwash Merino Wool, and I’ve been dying to work with a washable wool for some time now. But we were too excited to get the pattern underway, and the selection of wool yarns available locally just wasn’t cutting it. So we settled on a worsted acrylic yarn by Lion Brand.

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We wanted to do a lighter color than the one shown in the picture, but we also didn’t want a variegated yarn because we felt it would detract from the intricate cable patterns.

The Lion Brand Heartland acrylic in the color Grand Canyon had just the right amount of variation so it wasn’t entirely a solid color, but the variation was subtle enough so as not to detract from the cables. It’s also a very soft yarn and was just wonderful to work with. The fact that it’s machine wash and dry makes the garment easy to care for, too.

For this pattern, you first work your sleeves to the desired length. I subtracted a few inches from the sleeve length because my mom is less than 5′ tall and has short limbs. One of her biggest issues buying clothes is that the petite section is still a bit long on her, especially sweater sleeves. For some reason, petite size sweaters never seem to have shorter sleeves. Once you work the sleeves you’ll slip the live stitches onto a stitch holder to be worked in later.

The body of the sweater is worked as one piece, so you will need to keep track of two different knitting charts as you go. Each front panel is a different chart, as the cables are going in the opposite direction. It was a bit tough to get the hang of at first since I don’t do a lot of chart knitting, but I found that once I’d gotten a system down I enjoy chart knitting more than written instructions knitting. Once you learn what your symbols mean, you can easily tell where you are at a glance, and the chart is built to look like what the cables look like when you do them.

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This is my mistake, don’t do this. Decrease into the cables, not next to them.

 

For my first crack at this, I decided to forego using stitch markers and try to keep track mentally. Don’t do this. Use the stitch markers. It’s much easier to think of the garment as different sections when you use them. I don’t own stitch markers, so I just tied off little segments of scrap yarn and slipped those over my needles. You’ll find that as you improvise different solutions in knitting, you don’t really need all the fancy supplies that are available out there. As long as you have your regular straight or circular needles and a few sizes of double-points, you can make do.

One of my bigger mistakes while working this pattern (pictured above) was not following the directions verbatim. It never specified that when you decrease around the sleeve that you’ll be decreasing directly into some of your beautiful cables. I felt like that couldn’t be right so I decreased alongside my cables only to realize later that not all of the cables continue to go up over the hood. Hence the inspiration for Dagnabbit. If you make the same mistake, you’ll realize that you’re making your sleeve opening too small to fit an arm through and you’ll have to go back. Don’t make assumptions when working this pattern, just do exactly what it says.

Another mistake I ran into concerning the sleeves with this pattern was the sleeve placement. While working this pattern it has you set up your different sections with stitch markers (front left, front right and back). It tells you to bind off a certain number of stitches before and after the marker (removing the marker as you go). I did this, I did not count my remaining stitches, and I continued to merrily decrease away around my sleeves only to realize rows later that I had a different number of stitches for both of my front panels. I figured out how I did this so you don’t have to make the same mistake.

When binding off stitches, typically you knit two stitches and then pass the first knitted stitch over the last knitted stitch and off the needle. Knit one more and pass the last stitch over. Rinse and repeat. But when you’re doing this in the middle of a knitted row to make a hole, you need to make sure you’re not binding off stitches you’re going to continue to work with. What I did is I worked to the number of stitches in front of the marker, then instead of knitting two stitches to begin binding off, I knitted just one and passed one of the stitches from the front panel over it. I did this at both markers, which shifted each sleeve opening backward by one stitch, causing each front panel to have a different number of stitches.

Had I bothered to pause and count the number of stitches for each of my three sections, I would have caught the mistake right away. And perhaps if I’d left it nobody would notice the mistake too badly. But I’m a perfectionist and I just couldn’t leave it. I had to go back and take the sleeves off entirely, put them back on their stitch holders, and fix the openings. Very, very frustrating.

Thankfully, those were the only two glaring mistakes I had to go back and correct. Occasionally I got a cable going the wrong way, but that happens just about any time you’re cable knitting. I finally completed the project and was about to sew up the hood.

Now the hood I did a little differently than it called for in the pattern. The pattern will have you decrease some stitches and then increase again to create a little more support and keep the garment on your shoulders. Once you’re done increasing, the hood is worked straight up until it reaches a specific length and you either bind it off and sew it or you can graft it. But I noticed that in the pictures there was a point on the back of the hood that I didn’t care for. So I decided that when I got to my top few rows I’d decrease some stitches in the back to reduce the point a bit.

The hood still has a little bit of a point, but it’s much less than the original in the pattern. I only decreased a total of 4 stitches over 2 rows to get this effect. For a more rounded hood, decrease more stitches over more rows.

The pattern allows for the option of binding off and sewing or grafting the hood, as I mentioned earlier. But I felt that binding off and sewing would detract from the lovely band of cables that continues to go up over the hood and it would create an odd seam. So I opted to graft the hood top. Grafting essentially creates another row of knits or purls (or both) that finishes off two rows of live stitches. I will post a grafting tutorial at a future date. I grafted this hood from the point to the front.

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As you can see, the cables are going in opposite directions and the middle where the grafted stitches are is not cabled. If the cables were going in the same direction, I would have attempted to continue the cabling seamlessly over the top of the hood. As it stands, though, the cables go in opposite directions so there really wasn’t a way to continue the cables. For this pattern, it is more important for the cables to go in opposite directions so the two front panels have symmetry than for the top of the hood to be flawless. I also think it’s important to try to graft the stitches so that the hood lies flat and does not have a seam. If you’ve never tried grafting before, give it a shot, it really does finish this project in a way a seam can’t.

Once all that is done you have only to sew up your sleeves and you’re done!

Honestly, had I not made so many errors in the sleeves to start with, this would have taken half the time it wound up taking. But now I know, so any future sweaters should come along much easier. So without further ado, here’s my finished product!

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Happy stitching!

Cast On

When learning a new craft, it’s easy to want to rush through the basic steps and dive right into that first major project. You think to yourself I see so many people do this it can’t be that difficult, can it? Then you hang yourself up on simple details, get frustrated, and throw your tangled ball of yarn and needles in the corner and forget about it for a month.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlways get the hang of the basics before diving in. Practice makes perfect. Beethoven didn’t start right out with creating Fur Elise, he had to learn the basics of music first. And the first step to any knitting project is casting on your stitches. Well, what in the world does that even mean? Casting on means getting all your beginning stitches onto the needle, and there are actually a few methods of doing so. Try them all and see which one works best for you.

The Easy WayI know what you’re thinking. Oh, this is the easy way, so why should I read any of the other ways, I’ll just always use this one! Well in the words of Admiral Ackbar: it’s a trap! Don’t fall into it. This method is one I reserve only for times I need to add more stitches in the middle of a project, such as mittens. (I’ll post a mitten tutorial at a future date). While the method is definitely easy, it can create uneven stitches and be difficult to get started with if you base your entire project off of it. Still, it is a necessary method to know when doing certain projects, so here it is:

Make a slip knot and place it on your needle – this is how every casting on method begins.

Take the longer strand of yarn (the tail gets ignored) and twist it into a loop.

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Place the new loop on the needle and pull tight. Try to resist the temptation to pull it too tight as that will cause your stitches to be very difficult to work with.

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Repeat until you have enough stitches on your needle.

Easy, right? Why wouldn’t you just do that all the time? Well, I’ve found that when you begin a project using this method, the stitches stretch out when you insert your needle into them trying to do your first row and it takes longer and makes you frustrated. That’s why I reserve this method for times when I need to add stitches in the middle of the project.

 

The two-needle wayI must make a confession, here. I’ve never actually used this method. In fact, I didn’t even know about it until I cracked open the “learn to knit” instructions page on one of my pattern books. I’ve always used the way my grandmother taught me, so this is a weird and wild thing for me to discover. Unlike the easy way and the way my grandma taught me, this cast on method goes onto the left-hand needle instead of the right and you make use of both needles. Here’s the play-by-play:

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Make a slip knot and place it on your needle (this time to the left!).

Insert the right-hand needle into the left side of the stitch going front to back and wrap the yarn over the right-hand needle.

*Going from the left side of the stitch with the needle is referred to as “as if to knit”

**Wrapping the yarn around the needle is referred to as “yarn over”

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Pull up a loop through stitch and place the new loop on the left-hand needle.

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Insert right-hand needle between the last two stitches.

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Yarn over and pull up a loop.

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Place the new loop on the left-hand needle.

Repeat the process of pulling loops up between the stitches and placing them on the left-hand needle until you have the desired number of stitches.

Easy enough, but I’m not sure how easy they are to work with once you get them all on the needle. I only cast on a few stitches for the purpose of this tutorial, and I didn’t much care for the way they seemed cramped on the needle. But if you try this out and work your first row and love it, then by all means keep doing it.

 

The way my grandma taught meThis is my tried-and-true method for casting on stitches, as I mentioned earlier. This method is a bit different in that you will be carrying the tail throughout the process, so you have to start with a looooooong tail. The length of the beginning tail will be determined by how many stitches you need and what size needle you’re using.

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Make a slip knot and place it on your needle. Make sure you have a nice loooooooong tail.

Hold the needle in your right hand, and wrap the yarn over your left hand like so:

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Make sure the tail is over your thumb and the longer strand (coming from  your ball) is over your index finger. Spread your thumb and forefinger apart, and trap the yarn ends in your other fingers.

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It looks and feels funny at first, but I promise when you get the hang of it, it’s quite fun. It looks a little like cat’s cradle when you have the proper grasp on the yarn.

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Take the needle and move it up under the front yarn coming off your thumb (this is your tail).

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Keeping the tail over the needle, move the needle back and over the front of the yarn on your index finger. Be sure to steer clear of the back strand of yarn coming off the index finger.

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Grab that section of yarn you just went over and pull it toward you through the gap.

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Now you essentially have a loop wrapped around your thumb, you want that loop on your needle. Remove your thumb from the loop and press down on the tail under the loop with your thumb.

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As you press down with your thumb, the tail will slip back around your thumb as it was in the original starting position. This is a good thing.

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Pull tight (but not too tight!)

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Tilt your left hand back again so it looks like the starting position. Repeat these steps until you have enough starting stitches on your needle.

Now I know that that was a lot of detailed pictures and it feels really complicated. But seriously, give it a try. A good try. Once you get the hang of it, your needle will be flying under and over your strands of yarn and your left thumb will be smoothly circling in and out of the loops, pressing down to tighten and returning to the original position as if on its own. I’ve done this so often that I can cast on without even looking or thinking about it, merrily counting the stitches as I binge on Netflix. I pause now and again to double-check my count. I find this method to be super fun and it really does feel like you’re doing cat’s cradle.

I know some of you may wonder how do I know how long to make my tail?! And the answer is trial and error. Especially when casting on for a large blanket, it’s tough to say what length to start with and there really isn’t a set formula. I usually wind up with a super-long tail even when I’m done casting on all my stitches, and when this happens I just trim it to a reasonable length. Sometimes you’ll run out before you’re done casting on and have to start over again, moving your slip knot further up the yarn. It can be frustrating but stick with it because it really is a great foundation for your project because it keeps those beginning stitches from stretching out. And no, you won’t run out of yarn by using this method. I typically wind up with a good bit of leftovers once my project is done and I always use this method.

 

And that’s it! You’ve just learned three methods of casting on your stitches to start your project! Now you can graduate to learning your knit and purl stitches. I promise it’s not that hard. Try starting some sample squares using each of these cast-on methods to see which one you like to work with the best. My preferences aside, there is no right or wrong way to do it. Basically, as long as you get the right number of stitches on your needle, you’re doing a good job.

Pat yourself on the back and grab another cup of coffee, you’re well on your way to becoming another knit-tastic individual.

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Happy Stitching!

Charting Woes

 

I said in an earlier post that I would attempt to create a knitting chart forOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA the leg warmers I designed. Attempt being the operative word, there. So far I’ve had trouble finding decent free or at least inexpensive software to use for this task, and the options are limited.

Chart Minder is a free web app you sign up with an email address and password and can easily create knitting charts. Your charts are stored online so you can access them from any computer. While the web app is pretty straight-forward, I find it lacking in options.

I like my cable charts to indicate at a glance how many stitches need to be placed onto the cable needle and how many total stitches you will be cabling. This is typically done by stretching the symbol across the appropriate number of stitches. Unfortunately, Chart Minder does not have this function. It simply has the left and right portions for the cables, and it is up to the user to determine how many stitches are cabled.

Another issue I find with this web app is a lack of a key or legend. You have your stitch palette you pick your stitches from which is viewable on your own patterns. But when browsing through other public patterns others have created, there’s no telling what they want you to do. It simply assumes that all the symbols are universal and does not allow for any variations.

Yet another issue (and this may seem small) is that you cannot select a section of stitches and make them all one stitch at once. For example, to add purl stitches I had to click each individual box as a purl. It’s almost as tedious as doing the actual knitting but not nearly as fun.

Stitch Fiddle is similar to Chart Minder in that it is a web app you sign up for via email address and password. This one has the added benefits of incorporating a legend so you can actually read someone else’s published pattern and is also able to select a group of stitches to make it all the same stitch at one click. But other than those two benefits, it has all the other shortcomings as Chart Minder.

Knitting Chartmaker on ticksyknitter seems to also be a web app, but one I didn’t bother to sign up with. It appears it is geared toward colored stockinette charts and that’s about all I could find browsing the published charts.

Stitch Mastery is a downloadable software for PC, Mac or Linux. I downloaded the demo version and I have to say it is pretty much what I was looking for. It offers symbols that actually cover the total number of stitches you’re cabling with, visual design features, auto-detect of repeat sections, conversion to written instructions plus much more. It can be found here.

However, the full version must be activated by purchasing the activation key for £60 (about $86.67 by current conversion rates). The demo version only allows a chart of 12 by 12 stitches, which was enough to fool around with and know I like it but not nearly enough to really get creating with it. And I just don’t want to spend that much on good software. In today’s technological age where nearly any app or program can be found in a free version, I’ve gotten quite spoiled. Since I don’t often create patterns, I can’t justify the cost.

EnvisioKnit is similar to Stitch Mastery in that it is a complete downloadable program to design knitting patterns. It seems to have a comprehensive inventory of knitting stitches as well as a draw design function and does pretty much the same things as Stitch Mastery. I didn’t bother to download the demo, though, as the full version is $99. If you’re interested, it can be found here.

Intwined is yet another downloadable software, although a bit more affordable. At $44 it seems like a nice compromise between the free web apps and the expensive downloads. It has the cool feature of being able to add stitches to the stitch library but doesn’t seem to be as aesthetically pleasing. It still exports the charts and written instructions, but I wasn’t able to get hands-on with it as it doesn’t seem to have a demo. If interested, info can be found here.

KnitBird looks lovely and seems to offer most of the same standard features as other downloads. Export charts as images, insert text, upload images to convert to a chart, draw stitches etc.. But at €59 ($67.12 at current conversion rates) it’s on the pricier end of stitch design software. It also has complicated install instructions that most users would find daunting. I am tech savvy enough to pull it off, but I am also notoriously lazy. If interested, it can be found here.

There are, of course, many other free web apps and paid downloads to fool around with. I simply do not have the time or energy to try them all (again, notoriously lazy). I’ve also seen a few blogs about using Microsoft Excel to create patterns, but I dislike the necessity of downloading knitting fonts. I would much prefer a downloadable software specifically designed to create knitting patterns for around $20. I do this so infrequently I can’t really justify spending too much, and I’m already pretty good at creating written instructions so a program that will do it for me automatically is not necessary. Why pay for more bells and whistles than you’ll actually use?

I hope this has been informative if not particularly useful since I still haven’t settled on a program. I need to mull this information over a bit more before deciding, and will update accordingly. Follow my blog for all things knitting and updates on current projects!

Happy Stitching!