Wednesday, July 31, 2013

You do Know You Can Change the Pattern?

Today's chuckle is brought to you courtesy of a knitter who asked that their name be withheld.  Ms. No Name Knitter recently told me in a very serious tone of voice how much she loves this pattern. She loves the cables and the zigzag between them. Then she moaned, unfortunately she couldn't knit it. I was expecting her to say she felt it was too complex  because of the patterning. I was just about to launch into my speech on taking challenges on in small steps when she surprised me! Her problem is the reverse stocking stitch section really bothers her. It's because she thinks of RSS as the wrong side. I paused for a moment before suggesting she could knit that section as stocking stitch instead, leaving 2 stitches as RSS at the outer cable edge. A look of confusion passed over her face, then she started to laugh. "Duh!"

Ms. No Name Knitter would like to remind everyone "you can change the pattern!"

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tips for Better Button Bands Part 3

When working picked up bands, good pickups are critical to good results when executing bands. It truly is a case of practice makes perfect. This type of band is most often worked in a non-curling, flat fabric. However a very simple reverse stocking stitch band can make an effective edging which rolls towards the wrong side. All of the classic rib stitch patterns make good neckbands due to their natural elasticity. They require few or no decreases to fit well. Virtually any stitch pattern with a mix of knit and purl stitches will lay flat and will be appropriate for use as a band. If using seed or garter, decreases may be necessary to pull the band in around the neckline as it gets smaller.

Instructions in patterns vary in their directions to either “pick up” or to “pick up and knit”. Some instructions intend for the knitter to pickup loops at the edge of the work on a needle and then knit into them to create the new stitches. This method can distort the edges and strain the stitches adjacent to the edges. Some knitters choose to work the pickup in the middle of the V of the edge stitch. This often works best for tight knitters who have very even edge stitches. Most knitters get better results picking up one stitch in from the edge in the same column that would be used for mattress stitch; that is between the first and second stitch. This avoids the loose stitches which sometimes exist at the edge of the knitting. The disadvantage is, there is more of a ridge on the inside of the work when working one stitch in.

If pick up and knit is the preferred method, work with the right side of the garment facing. Insert the needle from front to back, one stitch in from the edge, wrap the working yarn around the needle and draw it to the right side of the work creating a new stitch. Work from right to left. All of the picked up stitches should be worked as knit on this row. To find the correct spot to pick up on horizontal edges, look carefully at the knitting, the little V’s are columns of stitches. Pick up in the center of the V’s. If the pickup is in the center of an upside down V it is in the wrong location. The next pickup is after two legs of a downward V.

It is important to work in a single column or row, when picking up stitches. If a section has looser stitches on the edge, pick up an extra stitch and mark the spot with a safety pin to decrease a stitch on the next row. Generally it is better to pickup an extra stitch and then eliminate it on the subsequent row, rather than to leave visible unevenness along the garment edges.

The usual stitch pickup rate is a stitch for a stitch on horizontals; three stitches for every four rows on vertical edges; one stitch for every cast off step on curves and diagonals. Some diagonals advise a pickup for every row depending on the angle. The closer the angle moves to the horizontal the higher the number of stitches required.

These ratios assume a standard stitch to row gauge ratio and are approximate. Often knitters work towards stitch gauge and completely ignore row gauge while swatching, this can lead to abnormal ratios which will impact band results. The normal ratio is approximately, stitch gauge multiplied by 1.4 for stocking stitch. The ratios can change dramatically with different stitch patterns which is another reason the ratios don’t always work. A too loose row gauge contributes to vertical garment stretch which compounds the problems of band ratios. Row gauge mismatches require changes in the yardage required for a project, which explains the mystery why two knitters getting the same stitch gauge use different amounts of yarn on the same project. Most designers work mathematically so a mismatched row gauge can have a large impact on pattern calculations making the project less than successful.

Some references quote the ratio as five stitches for every seven rows or two stitches for every three rows. Some change the ratio according to the stitch gauge and use the two to three ratio for gauges less than four stitches per inch. The ratios are based on stocking stitch. For garter stitch the ratio is one pickup for every ridge (two rows). On rare occasions, a pattern might change the ratio as the band pickups cross over a different main body stitch pattern.

Many patterns supply very specific numbers for bands; however this depends on the knitters gauge matching exactly the gauge of the designer. Often the knitter is unable to do this or they need to shorten or lengthen the garment for better fit. Patterns which give instructions in the format of stitch to row pickups may be easier to adapt for this reason. 

Unfortunately it is difficult to see how well the pickup ratio is working while the knitting is still on the needle. Pushing the live stitches to the center of a circular needle’s cord or using waste yarn as a holder, will give a better sense of the end result. A light steam blocking will also help to assess any problems early on.

Often band problems are created by the use of these ratios in garments not constructed with stocking stitch and which have different row gauges. Another cause of problems is the ratios are then used with a band knit on a smaller size needle which may have a different ratio. This also varies from knitter to knitter in the amount of gauge change between the needle size used for the body and the smaller needle used for the bands.

As a secondary check, do a band swatch and use the gauge from it to calculate the stitches required by measuring the length of the garment edges. Decreasing a few stitches in the band across the back neck often improves fit significantly as the pickups on the garment edges are for a longer measurement than the measurement at the edge of the band. The number of stitches to decrease is about one inch worth in total.

Patterns suggest pickups are to be knit with the needle size the bands will be worked with. Completing the pickup and knit instruction with a smaller size needle and then changing to the band needle can improve the results by making the first row of stitches smaller and tidier in appearance. Choose a needle size a minimum of one size down from the size required for the band.

There are alternative methods, pickups can be made from left to right using a crochet hook to pull the working yarn through placing each stitch onto the needle. The advantage here is the first row to be knit is a right side row.

The choice of cast off on the band edge will be important to the final results. Cast off in pattern or try casting off on both right and wrong sides to compare finishes.

Parts 1, 2, 4 and 5 are here.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 4

Part 5

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Monday, July 22, 2013

Tips For Better Button Bands Part 2

The Schematic

Knitted in bands are created by working a series of stitches at the edge, of the garment in a different stitch pattern, than the rest of the garment. This type of edging is common, as it is simple to execute. It also has the advantage of being worked as a continuation of the bottom border. 

Its main drawback can be the differing gauge between the main stitch pattern and the edge stitch pattern. In garter stitch, it often creates a longer front edge that hangs down below the hem of the rest of the garment. Often this problem does not show up on a swatch due to its small size but shows up on the garment once gravity begins to act on the fabric. 

The Sweater

To compensate, work a slip stitch edge, short rows or use a short set of smaller size double pointed needles just for the border stitches. 

A slipped edge stitch is easy to do, slip the first stitch of every row purl wise. It creates an edge that looks like a chain. It reduces the edge stitches by 50% which can be too much for tight knitters and can draw the edges up to be too short instead of too long. 

Short rows are the most complicated solution which requires the most planning and tracking to execute. I don't normally recommend this solution due to its complexity.

To execute the last fix, short wooden or bamboo needles work particularly well as they don’t slip out of the work as easily. An alternative method is to work with a set of interchangeable circulars, swapping the needle tips for the edge only. A third method uses two circular needles, one short and one long. Using different types or different colours of needles means they are less likely to be mixed up. Three needles are required for seamless garments.

Swatching will help determine the best solution for the project. As always, an individual knitter's technique and yarn choice has an impact in determining the best possible solution.

Parts 1, 3, 4 and 5 are here.

Part 1

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Friday, July 19, 2013

An Interview with... Caroline Steinford

Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world.

You can find Caroline here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

I was going to say "everywhere," but that's not really helpful, is it? Usually, I'll ask myself what's missing from my own wardrobe at the moment, and then I'll design it. For instance, when all my hand-knitted socks start getting holes in them, it's time to design some new ones. When it gets cold out, that means it's hat time. I figure if I need it, others might, too. As for specific designs, the inspiration comes from many places.

Classic movies: "Peter Lorre, the Mysterious" and the "Darrieux Capelet" were fashioned  after costume silhouettes, while "Delysia Double-Knit Scarf" and "Miss Pettigrew" were inspired by a pair of earrings and some wrought iron seen in a film. My first design, "Fairly Kate", was based on a hat I saw on TV and liked.

Archaeology: I like incorporating motifs from other cultures, particularly ancient ones. (See Princesa de los Andes, Inca Glory, and Kichwa Love Song.)

Music: I've done a few with lace or colorwork harps, and other designs have music-related names.  

Stitch patterns: Less often, a stitch pattern will catch my eye and I'll design a piece around it. Japanese stitch patterns especially can cause me to get obsessive, as this past winter when variations of one pattern found its way into two shawls, two cowls, a scarf, and a collar.

Every now and then, I'll even find inspiration in my own designs. While working on one design, I'll start wondering how I can tweak it, and one design snowballs into a whole group. Usually, the knitter will know what inspired a design, because it will be reflected either in the name or in the introductory text accompanying the pattern.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I like working with lightweight yarns because (A) they're flattering on the body and (B) you get more yardage to the skein. Beyond that, I like to be challenged. I like lace, cables, twisted stitches, and stranded colorwork. Beading is fun, too, but I prefer adding them with a crochet hook while work is in progress. That way I don't risk making a counting error during pre-stringing. Math is not my favorite thing. Probably my least favorite technique is intarsia, and I've never tried steeking.

Even with the detail work, I still try to make my patterns as user-friendly as possible. Even the complicated ones usually aren't as hard as they may look.

How did you determine your size range?
I usually try to make adult garments for XS-5XL (30"- 62" / 76-157 cm). One of my earlier sweater patterns went up to 2X, and I had knitters say they wished it came in larger sizes. Since I self-publish, I thought, why not? Everyone deserves to have hand knits they can feel great in.

That said, I usually design around my shape. I'm short, curvy, and three-dimensional. It's discouraging to me when a design doesn't take that into account. If a garment looks great on a hanger but not on a human body, what's the point in making it? So I almost always include waist shaping with a note that it can be omitted if desired.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Absolutely I look at other designers' work! I love to see others' creativity and inspiration. I buy heaps of pattern books and magazines, too, and also the occasional individual pattern when it really impresses me.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
As a self-publishing knitter, it's not something I've ever had to deal with. I've never liked classifying as Easy / Intermediate / Advanced, either; what's easy for one may be advanced for another. I try to include on a pattern what skills are required to knit it. There are excellent tutorials and videos available online for most skills. I have at times included tutorials in a pattern for techniques like applied I-cord, adding beads, or working directly from silk hankies. I do try to include both charted and written directions for lace, since there's no one correct way, and most knitters have a strong preference for one or the other. In my own work, I almost always work from charts, while my mom (who taught me to knit) only likes written instructions. Being an indie publisher means I have the flexibility to include both.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
Speed-knitting is my superpower. I do it all myself - writing, testing, editing, diagrams, formatting. Before I began officially designing, I worked in technical publishing, and that has carried over into my patterns. Apparently, I'm a control freak like that. :) The one exception so far has been for an upcoming yarn-company design. While I made the prototype, they provided a sample knitter to make the official piece. Since it was a complex pattern with lots of twisted stitches, I really appreciated that I didn't have to knit a second one.

Did you do a formal business plan?
No. I do treat designing as a business rather than a hobby, and I keep good business records. Other than that, I work on a pattern, and when it's done, the next one begins.

Do you have a mentor?
Not a formal one. The Designers' Forum on Ravelry has always been very helpful. It's nice to have virtual co-workers to bounce ideas and questions off of, and everyone is very generous with sharing their knowledge.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
My design business wouldn't exist without the Internet. To date, I haven't done hard-copy publishing at all. Sites like Ravelry, Patternfish, and Kollabora make it easy for knitters and crocheters to find exactly what they're looking for. For keeping in touch with customers, I like Twitter and Pinterest. I do have a blog which has ended up being mainly a place to have a central pattern list and information, as well as the occasional post about knitting, books, or baking.

Do you use a tech editor?
Designs that have been published through yarn companies have been tech edited through those companies. I edit self-published designs myself.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Life first, knitting afterwards. One nice thing about having designing as a secondary business is that when things come up, new designs can be put on hold for awhile, while previous designs remain available. Alternately, knitting is portable - if I'm traveling and can take a computer and yarn, I can still continue to design.

How do you deal with criticism?
I've been fortunate so far that most comments have been good. Criticism is never pleasant, but I try to learn from it and move on.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I don't, yet. I've only been designing officially for a little over 2 years, and it's still a supplementary income stream. But it does pay for the yarn and knitting books, which I'd be buying anyway. That's a definite plus.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Like anything else, you want to count the cost and think it through before jumping in. But yarn-based work can be done on a large or small scale, so you can always start small and build from there.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The One Fashion Mistake Most Women Make

The one fashion mistake most women make - they dress the part of their body that they don't like! 

Just think about it. The focus is on what you are trying to hide, disguise or camouflage. Is that really what you should be paying attention to? It sets you up to feel bad about yourself. Most style guides are written this way. It makes sense from a design perspective but it ignores the emotional content that most women add to the categories. 

Read this interesting article to discover just how wrong your self image may be.