Monday, June 29, 2015

Life Lessons that Knitting Teaches Us

Knitting is still trying to teach me...

Life is a journey not a destination, rushing to the end ruins the enjoyment of the process.

Good quality makes for better results. Cheap is not usually better.

Garter stitch has a place in every experienced knitters world

What is fun for me isn't always for someone else. 

Knitters search out challenge if they aren't overwhelmed by stress in other areas of their lives. 

I learn more from my mistakes than I do from my successes.

It always takes longer to knit than I think it will.

See patience.

Check Carefully
I make a lot of math mistakes when I'm not paying attention.

Be Humble
Novice knitters always teach me new things with their questions and fresh approach.

Friday, June 26, 2015

An Interview with...Nancy Eiseman

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 Nancy here on Ravelry. 

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in many different ways. I’ve gotten ideas for knits from looking at beautiful pottery, architecture, furniture, textiles, and of course fashion. I love decorative arts and especially enjoy historic costume exhibits at museums. I also like to see what is new in fashion. I am always watching and observing trends in fashion, and in the design world in general. 

What is your favourite knitting technique? 
I like a lot of knitting techniques, so that is a difficult question to answer, but I adore garter stitch.

How did you determine your size range? 
I write all my patterns in 6 sizes from XS to XXXL.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs? 
I love to look at other designers work. Really exciting design inspires me to be more creative myself - that is a good influence.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself? 
I knit my own samples and also have test knitters who are all terrific and generously volunteer to test my patterns and give me feedback. I like to have 6 to 8 test knitters for a pattern. Ideally at least one test in each size.

Did you do a formal business plan? 
No – I started designing knits for myself and publishing patterns sort of grew organically.

Do you have a mentor? 
Not exactly, but I have met some very kind and encouraging women along the way.

Do you use a tech editor? 
Yes – I recently started working with a tech editor. She is wonderful! I have learned a lot from her and I think my pattern writing is getting better because of her help. I love how clean and concise she makes my patterns. I wish I had worked with a tech editor from the start, but going forward, all my pattern will be tech edited as well as test knit.

How do you maintain your life/work balance? 
I have a full time job outside of knitting design. Knitting is my weekend and evening work, so my life/work is probably not quite balanced. Even so, I enjoy my job as well as my knitting work.

How do you deal with criticism? 
If the criticism is intended to help me, I appreciate it. I am always learning and I want to know if I can do something better.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself? 
I have a job and career outside of knitting, so I have not tried to use knitting as a way to support myself. If I did not work full time, I would have more time for knitting design, and could pick up the pace at which I publish and perhaps earn more from knitting. Still, I am not sure if I could support myself as a knit designer.

What’s next for you? 
I will be introducing several fun new patterns this Fall and Winter. I also plan to have a website up and running this Fall.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Finishing, How or Why?

I've noticed that in the enthusiastic rush to working on a project that knitters often get focused on the how of a project before considering the why of some choices that will make their choices more successful. When developing a skill set that will serve you throughout all future projects it often helps to slow down. 

Many knitters who have inspired me have shared the advice "begin with the end in mind" or that "good finishing starts at the beginning of a project". The first quote is from my mother and the second is from Deborah Newton.

Deborah's book is a wonderful resource if you are trying to increase your skills. I ran an interview with her here in 2012.

Monday, June 22, 2015

How to use Length and Weight Ratios when Substituting Yarn

Yarn substitution is becoming more common as the Internet impacts pattern purchasing through digital downloads. Yarn companies are developing new yarns and the indie dyers and hand spinners are adding new yarn sources as well. It's becoming more common for knitters to be unable to find the exact yarn used in the pattern in their LYS (if they even go to one as many buy yarn online as well). 

When I was a yarn store employee we often used the standard of stocking stitch gauge for yarn substitution. Gauge can work well, especially when you know the named weight of a yarn, for example worsted. More recently it seems that ball bands are getting vaguer rather than more precise. I now find DK yarns listed with gauges of 20 to 24 stitches to 4 inches. In the past DK was normally labelled as 22 stitches.  This stretches the possible weight from sport to worsted if you are using the Craft council weight system. Add to this the variety of fibres being produced in DK weight and the impact each has on the end result. Spinning techniques have their own unique qualities that may change the performance of individual yarns. Suggested needle size has also become a range instead of a single needle size. I think these changes are good as experienced knitters know we don't all knit in the same way and get the same results, however it makes thing more difficult for the novices.

I now have added another comparison factor I use for yarn substitution. I do a yardage/metre to ounces/grams ratio calculation. Just divide the length by the weight. The resulting ratio will allow you to more closely match yarns especially if you have the same fibre content information and ply information. As an aside, have you noticed the imperial and metric systems are getting crossed with yardages quoted by grams?

All yarns below are all DK 100% wool plied yarns. The ratios are the yards divided by the grams. The type of wool fibre used for each could vary, unless the label tells us we don't know the source breed. One is superwash and the gauges listed are not all the same.

GGH Wollywasch: Ratio 2.5, 22.0 sts = 4 inches
Rowan Pure Wool DK: Ratio 2.84, 22.0 sts = 4 inches 
4 Seasons Pure Wool Printed 8 Ply: Ratio 1.74,
22.0 sts = 4 inches
Drops Karisma Classic: Ratio 2.4, 21.0 sts = 4 inches or Drops Karisma Superwash; Ratio 2.18, 20 - 22.0 sts = 4 inches

I'd think carefully and do a large swatch if I wanted to substitute 4 Seasons for Karisma Classic. If I went from from Woolywasch to Drops Karisma Classic I'd be much less concerned.

Friday, June 19, 2015

An Interview with...Lea Stern
Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry. This weeks interview is very different. Lea isn't publishing patterns regularly she just has two. One is very special, it's a pattern that all proceeds are being donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

You can find Lea here on Ravelry. You can purchase the pattern here. Here's a news article which includes a short video about Lea, Krystyna and the sweater.

Please tell us about the trip to the museum which inspired this project.
I was invited in 2003 to a preview of the Hidden Children exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum along with a colleague of mine, who was himself a hidden child and his story was featured in this exhibit along with many others. I saw the sweater on display and read a brief explanation of its history and was amazed that it had survived. I felt immediately that to keep this story and the sweater itself alive, I needed to produce a pattern for it that would be available worldwide.

Were the museum curators supportive when you first approached them with the project?
Unfortunately my dear husband and just been diagnosed with cancer and despite significant efforts and after a very difficult course, he died in 2004 and while it was always on my mind the sweater project had to go on the back burner for a while. My job as a full time anesthesiologist was all consuming and I had very little time for anything other than work and caring for my home. About 6 months before my 60th birthday and after I had taken a less demanding job, I realized that I had better start on this project. In 2012 I began sending a proposal to the curator explaining my project concept. I don't think they were accustomed to this type of request and as the sweater is quite fragile, they did not immediately agree to my request. After approximately 2 years of conversation with them via email, I was allowed to spend the afternoon at the museum with the sweater, Suzy Snyder the curator for the original exhibit and Cynthia Hughes, the head of textiles.

How did you go about the technical process of creating a copy of the original garment?
I took extensive notes, measurements and photos at the museum. I was allowed to handle the sweater to determine gauge and construction. Then at home I used the information I had collected to begin swatching. Since I've been knitting for approximately 58 years, I've knitted enough sweaters and read enough patterns to be able to knit and write a pattern simultaneously. I have designed sweaters, socks, hats, and other accessories, so this was not my first attempt at writing a pattern. In the past, these designs have been for myself and friends, though I do have one other pattern available on Ravelry called Sundance mitts.

Did you recognize the stitch pattern or did you have to recreate it?

I did not recognize the stitch pattern though it is a very simple pattern of knit and purl stitches. To make things easier for myself, I looked in every book of stitch patterns I could find, including all of Barbara Walkers books and I was never able to find this particular combination of knits and purls. I had to assume that it was something Krystyna Chiger's grandmother had just made up or seen somewhere and liked. Suffice it to say, I had to recreate the stitch pattern. Fortunately, my close up photos of the sweater were quite useful!

The sweater has an interesting edging are there any other special details?

This is really a very simple crocheted edging that was fairly easy to replicate exactly as it had been done by close examination of the original. The ties in the original sweater were simply three stands of the same yarn firmly braided, though in the pattern I have mentioned other options for the ties. To be historically accurate, this is the type of tie I have used in the reproductions.

Tell us about choosing a yarn for the replica.
I initially thought this would be quite easy as I have access to some tremendous hand dyers. However after some thought, I realized that while they may be able to more accurate reproduce the colour of the sweater as it is now, it is extremely faded and as such, we will never really know its original colour. I also came to realize that specifically hand dyed yarn would be hard to get a hold of if people wanted to knit the sweater in the same yarn I had used. Since the sweater was made in about 1939-1940 in Poland, I knew from my studies of historical knitting, that we would need a wool that was 100% wool and not a blend. I also knew that a luxury yarn would not have been readily available and it was clearly not what this sweater was knitted of. Lastly, the fact that the sweater had survived 75 years and been subjected to horrific environmental conditions, I knew that it had to have been 100% wool. From there, I am quite familiar with all the major yarn companies in North America and abroad and knew that Quince & Co. had a 100% wool, sourced here in the U.S. that was the right weight (fingering) and had a fabulous colour palette, particularly in the green range.

You presented the copy to the original owner, Dr. Keren (Krystyna Chiger), that must have been very exciting and sad at the same time. Please tell the readers about that day.

I went from my home in Washington, D.C.  to New York Long Island to meet  Dr. Keren and to tell her about the process of recreating her sweater and show her the work I had done to get to the finished product. Her husband, Mr Marion Keren was very interested in the work since he is a mechanical and civil engineer and enjoyed the process of "reverse engineering" a sweater!
I brought her photos of the journey, showed her all my notes and swatches and gave her a finished copy of the sweater pattern. I brought about 5 of the test knitted sweaters and let her choose the one that seemed to remind her of her original sweater most closely. The museum curators had told me that it had been difficult for her to give up her sweater but she had graciously donated it to the museum. I was delighted that she chose the sweater that my best friend Julia Grossman had knitted! When she held it up she said, "Now I have my sweater back!"
It was a very emotional moment and I felt that even if the project went no further, I would have at least accomplished the goal of reproducing the pattern and delivering it to her. Krystyna has written a book about her experience called "The Girl in the Green Sweater".  She autographed my copy and presented me with a Polish language edition of it as well. Her book was also made into a Polish film called "In Darkness" by the famous director Agnieszka Holland that was nominated for an academy award.

What does this sweater represent to you?
This sweater means triumph over prejudice and intolerance. It represents a grandmothers love for her granddaughter and the devotion the granddaughter felt in return. I am a physician and I have been fortunate to have lived a wonderful life in the United States largely protected against the type of injustice that is has too often pervaded the world. I had a brilliant mother raised in northern England who taught me so many types of needlework but in particular knitting, and I feel honoured to have been able to use these skills to do this project.

Is there anything else about this project that you would like to share with the readers?

I would want to ask them to tell this story of Krystyna Chiger and her family and of the brave catholic sewer workers who helped them survive. Knit this sweater and tell generation after generation what happens when intolerance is allowed to fester unchecked. Tell the young girls what the sweater they are wearing represents and why it is so important to never forget. Our world has been very troubled throughout the years and it is my hope that small things like this sweater will somehow make a difference.

Add caption

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Zippers - More Tips and Resources Part 3

Zippers come in multiple lengths and materials. They can be fixed at bottom, separate at bottom and operate in two directions.

A finishing edge is recommended for the knitting before installing a zipper. A row of single crochet can be applied after knitting is completed or a selvedge of garter stitch can be worked at the same time as the knitting.

When using fluffier yarn, allow more of zipper teeth to show so fibres don't get caught in zipper.

When measuring garment for length of zipper required, complete all finishing first for accuracy.

Choose thread as close as possible to colour of yarn. Choose a darker rather than a lighter colour when choosing between two close colour matches. If a colour match is not available choose a grey thread comparable in lightness or darkness to yarn colour. The squint test will help in choosing between several shades of thread.

Work on a large flat surface, not in the air, when pinning. Do not let knitted fabric hang over edge of working surface.

Install the zipper before sewing project together.

Look for zippers with cotton tapes as opposed to synthetic ones whenever possible.

Hand sewing will show on inside of garment, garments which include zippers should avoid edges which fall open or be finished with a facing.

Zipper Vocabulary Terms

The zipper chain is the continuous segment formed when a zipper is closed.

The chain size refers to a specific gauge of chain, which describes size of zipper teeth.

The teeth make up the chain.

The slider is the device that moves up and down chain to open or close zipper.

Sliders are available in locking and non-locking versions.

The pull tab is what is used to move slider.

The tape is the fabric part of zipper.

The tape ends are the fabric part of zipper, that extend beyond teeth, at top and bottom of chain.

The top and bottom stoppers are affixed to ends of a zipper, to prevent further movement of slider.

The heat seal patch is the laminated material fused to bottom end of a separating zipper, used to stop tape from fraying and prevent wear. 

Online Zippers Available at:

Online Zipper Tutorials

Advanced no sew techniques:

Monday, June 15, 2015

How to Install A Zipper in a Garment Part Two

After blocking and finishing garment pieces, carefully join the two sections together at top and bottom. I use a length of scrap yarn to tie them together leaving a little gap between each segment for zipper teeth. Experts vary on whether teeth should be left visible or not and to the distance between knitting and teeth. The fuzzier the yarn, the more likely it is to get caught in the teeth. Smooth yarns can be sewn close to the teeth. In the photo samples I've used colour contrast and close up photos so you can see the details.

Carefully align top and bottom edges of knitting. With zipper closed and right side of garment facing, pin zipper in place behind work. Insert straight pins perpendicular to zipper teeth on right side of project. Use contrasting thread to baste in zipper with a long running stitch about ¼ of an inch away from edge of knitting.  As you baste pull the tab down, out of your way to ensure stitches at top are not distorted. 

This is my basting thread.

Test the zippers ability to move freely without eating the yarn, after pinning the zipper in place by opening and closing zipper several times. I have seen a variation where the two pieces are sewn together closely with a basting thread first. I don't recommend this method because of the fuzz factor. 

Remove pins and check to make sure zipper lays flat. Check alignment of garment at top and bottom before moving on to permanent stitching. Make any adjustments necessary. Avoid stretching or puckering of the knitting. Work from right side of garment using matching thread and use a back stitch to secure edge of knitting to tape of zipper, one stitch in from  the edge of the knitting. Maintain the alignment of back stitches along column of edge stitches. Start as close to bottom of tape as possible. 

Separating zippers have a finish on tape at bottom to stop fraying. Sewing needles cannot pierce this finish. Whip stitch zipper tape on outer edge to garment on wrong side. Fold extra tape above teeth under at top between tape and garment tacking it into position. Remove all basting threads. 

Finish by steaming area with an iron, without touching iron to work. Pat knitting flat and leave it to cool before moving it. Many references reverse order of sewing edges of tape, which I find makes it more difficult to correct if any puckering is encountered. 

Zipper facings are an option if inside edge of zipper will show when garment is unzipped. Hand knit facings can be knit separately and sewn into place or consider using grosgrain ribbon to cover zipper tape. However, most knitters dislike the way a zipper changes the drape of knitted fabric, adding a second layer of knitting as a facing will make finished work both thicker and stiffer. Consider this treatment for knitting techniques which result in less fluid fabrics such as mosaic or modular knitting.