I think I know Better than You. And you, too.

Confession time, Yarnies.

They do say it’s good for the soul.

I have a problem. The Yarn Harlot has this problem too (she details it in Free-Range Knitter), so I at least can claim to be in good company. You see, I think I know better than the designer. I come across this pattern. It’s wonderful! It’s georgous! It’s pratically sublime.

But, dear designer, there’s just this one problem. There’s this bit that’s a little niggly, and I’m sure I could fix it just so. Or alternatively, you have me doing a technique I hate. Like seaming. So I’ve decided that I’m just going to fix the pattern a bit, just so I don’t have to do some seams. It’ll take a bit of math, and I understand why you think that it would be better to do the seaming… after all, not every reader you encounter is going to be as smart to modify the pattern like I did, and if you did it in the round you’d have to write at least another page and a half of instruction. And I know you were trying to save the trees/fit into a magazine page limit, so I’ll forgive you.

I’ll just do it in the round.

But oh, I just realized, when I do it in the round this little bit of lace, here, suddenly gets that much more complicated. That’s all right. I’ll just chart it out so that I can do it in the round.

But while I’m at it, why don’t I just add a little bit of a cable/extra picot/pineapple here? I think it would look lovely. But hmmm, then it throws this off balance. That’s all right, I wasn’t too fond of that design feature anyway.

… and so on.

Well, I’m having a bit of that problem with the Josephine Pullover by Annette Petavy. It’s beautiful. Both delicate and wonderful. And I’m managing to modify myself in knots.

Let me first make note, the pattern as written is perfect. Do it as she tells you and you will be fine. In fact, you might even be more than fine. You might even finish it before I do. And I started it in… oh, October 2010.

You see, first I thought that it would look gorgeous in an alpaca instead of the Rowan wool you recommended. After all, it’s discontinued anyway. I figured that the ribbing would make sure it would hang right, and because the panels down at the bottom are lace, it won’t pull on the fabric overly much.  You see, I know that alpaca can sometimes drape different than plain sheep’s wool. And since the Alpaca I was using was lace also, instead of the fingering you recommended, I figured that would be okay. I’d just make the largest size… and a slightly smaller needle, and it would fit (eventually) as I lost weight with weight watchers.  So far, I hadn’t modded too much.

I figured the designer knew best, so instead of trying to do the knitted portion in the round, I actually did it in two pieces and seamed them together.  This is a big deal.  I really don’t like seaming.  But I figured I would follow the pattern anyway.


Okay, since we’re going for a full confession, I did add a selvage edge, because I was planning to crochet them together instead of sewing them. Hey, ever tried sewing with alpaca yarn? (that’s loosely plied?) Not something I would want to do. So I (Mostly) followed the directions for the knitting part. Oh, and I know the directions said to do the front and the back with the crochet before you seam them, but I decided against that also.

Then came the crochet lace part. Oh, my. The designer wanted me to do the front and the back, crochet the front and the back lace patterns, and then seam up crochet. My my, no way am I doing that. I don’t like how it looks. I’ll just do the knitting part, and then I’ll do the crochet part in the round. MMKay? Great.

… Except, I have more hips than the model. And I don’t like how the pattern did the shaping in the lace, so I’m modified how I did increases. And I’m going to add more increases because I have rather gifted hips.

So far so good.

Well, maybe not. You see gentle readers, the pattern wanted me to do the sleeves from the wrist up. And then seam those to the shirt. If you thought I’d be willing to do that for the bottom half of the shirt, I’m definitely not doing that for the sleeves. I decided I was just going to start them at the shoulder and go down.

But now I’m stalled.

What?  But you modified everything else, this should be easy, right?

Stay tuned… and I’ll explain.

So I’m in a Bit of a Quandary…

Learning New Skills

Hello Yarnies,

So this post starts with a story. Occasionally I take care of a sister duo, Sweetness and Light. Sweetness is four, and Light, is around… oh, seventeen months.

2011 February and March 229Sweetness is a rather independent and precocious soul. When learning to walk she would refuse anyone’s help, waving hands away, and shout “SELF! SELF!!!” One day while we were drawing, I looked over to her paper and asked her what she was drawing. I expected something like, “a rock.” Instead I got, “The Lunar Landing Module.”

If you haven’t guessed, her father is an engineer.

Well, since I’ve been taking care of her, occasionally she’ll see me knitting or crocheting. We’ll have a moment when Vivi is playing and she is drawing, and I’ll pull out my knitting or crochet to get a few rows done.

Well, lately she’s been asking me to teach her. You see, at first I taught her finger knitting, but she quickly realized that what she was doing, and what I was doing were two different things. She wanted to knit with sticks.

Okay, I said, fine by me. I really didn’t expect it to go anywhere. It’s the rare four year old that has the hand-eye coordination, never-mind the concentration to learn to knit.

So I taught her. She practiced for a few minutes, got tired of it, and decided to make up her own knitting. Which basically meant that she made a big tangle of the yarn.

That was fine. I only gave her a little yarn. (yes, I’ve been through this before. Children will use all of any resource you give them. That’s why my mother only kept three band-aids in the box, and the rest somewhere else. Otherwise, we’d want ALL the band-aids for our dolls) I really didn’t expect her to even sit through the whole lesson.

Well, a week passed, and I was knitting again. She asked to help. I put her hands on the needles and just let her watch as I worked.

Another week passed, and again Sweetness asked to learn. It had been a rough day, and I might have responded a little harshly. I said it wasn’t fair to me to teach her if she wasn’t willing to practice. She said she would.

I taught her, at first, her just placing the needles and me wrapping the yarn. And then, at her insistence, I taught her how to wrap the yarn so she could do it herself. And now? She’s still working on it. It’s slow, and she only does three or four stitches, but when you’re that young? That’s quite a feat.

My point is, when you learn a new skill, things can often look rocky. Take my Kitchener stitch. For the longest time, every time I needed to do it I had to look it up. When I do it now, I always accidentally purl the first few stitches, and then have to undo it and correct it again. But one day in the future I will whip out something that needs to be Kitchenered, and I will remember it, right away.

And it will be a beautiful day.

The other lesson: indoctrinate children to knitting/crochet early. It can keep them occupied and quiet for a full five minutes.

Gauge, and Shaping

Dear Yarnies,

So you have this great pattern. You’ve got the perfect yarn for it, and your gauge is spot on. You stitch it, either in crochet or knitting, exactly as it says. And yet, it doesn’t fit the way you want it to when you’re done. You look at the model and you realize that well, she’s a bit more endowed than you in the bust, and a bit less gifted in the hips. It occurs to you that MIGHT be the reason why the darn thing rides up in the hips and bags around your armpits.

Well, I’m here to tell you something.

That can be avoided. Remember how I was talking to you about Gauge? Well, your gauge can really help you when working on that sweater.

You see, your gauge tells you how many stitches you get per inch. Think of it as a ratio. (I know, we’re getting back to some math from long ago, but bear with me). Say you get 10 stitches in an inch. You have a sweater pattern that has you knitting 30 inches around your bust, so you should have 300 stitches around your bust. But your waist is only 25 inches around. that means going from your bust to your waist you have to somehow decrease to 250 stitches.

You could do those decreases gradually, or you could do them all at once. (Most people choose to do them gradually, or it would cause ripples in your knitting. But if you want ripples, do those decreases all at once.)

Then, your hips are 35 inches around. So from your waist to your hips you need to increase 100 stitches.

In it’s most simple form, that is what shaping is. Now, you can get complicated by then figuring out that in between your bust and your waist you have 5inches, and you need to decrease 50 stitches. So you can figure that each inch your decreasing 10 stitches. You get 5 rows to the inch, so each row your decreasing by 2 stitches.

Do the same type of math for your waist to your hips.

The same thing would work for crochet.

So, Yarnies, make your gauge work for you, so you can have stunning pieces of work to show me!

Until later,

So, let’s talk about Gauge

Dearest Yarnies,

As you all probably know, I started off as a crochet-person (I always find that crocheter looks a little odd to me, but there’s not a better way of writing it, I suppose). I came to knitting when I crochet a pair of socks, and wore them to death. I was much disappointed when I tried to darn then, because most of the ways to darn socks are for knitting. I resolved then and there that I was going to knit my next pair of socks, so that I could darn then when they wore out.

Yes, I know. Crazy reason to start knitting, but then, there you go.

It was around this time that I began to realize that knitting, and crochet seem to involve a more math than I was willing to admit. Now I embrace it, but as an English major, I found this offensive to my creative soul.

And so, I rejected one of the most valuable tools in a crafter’s arsenal.

The Gauge Swatch.

Now, for those of you who do knot not know what a Gague Swatch, it’s a small piece of knitting or crochet that you make before you make the big project. The advantage is this: you can figure out what needle you need to pair with the yarn (to get a tighter or looser fabric). You can also find out how many stitches you get per inch, which is a very important piece of information to know.

Your gauge works like this:

Thicker yarn with a larger needle = less stitches to the inch
Thinner yarn with a smaller needle = more stitches to the inch

Typically, on a ball band, there will be a recommended needle size that goes with the yarn, and the ball band on the yarn will tell you how many stitches you will get, approximately, if you use that yarn with the needle they recommend.

Thicker yarn with a smaller needle = less stitches to the inch and a tighter fabric (socks or washcloths)
Thinner yarn with a larger needle = more stitches to the inch and a looser fabric (lace or a drapey fabric)

Now, other things can influence the quality of your fabric (like what the yarn is made of or the stitches you are working), but these are good guidelines to keep in mind.

Later we will be talking about Gauge, and how it relates to shaping your project. We’ll also talk about the great information you can learn from your swatch.

Tension in Knitting, Crochet and Life…

So life right now has been a bit of a balancing act for me. I’m working at The Yarn Spot, babysitting, and trying to figure out if I can really make a career out of being my multi-directional self. I feel like I swing between too much and too little. I get tense and uptight worrying that I’m not going to make things work, then I relax and let things roll and don’t quite motivate the way I should.

It’s kind of like knitting or crochet… too much tension and your fabric will be too tight (I even saw one sweater where the person couldn’t get their head through the hole), too loose, and the fabric has no form, flopping down over your head like a three-times-too-big hat.

How the heck do you find a balance?

Well, I can’t really tell you how to go about it with life. I’m making some discoveries about myself, and others, and I’ll share those thoughts with you, but I’ve got it far from right. On the other hand, I can share with you my thoughts about knitting. You see, today we had a customer come in. She had switched from throwing (where you feed the yarn out of your right hand) to continental (or picking, where you feed the yarn out of the left hand, kind of like crochet). Her tension was all wonky, and she couldn’t get a consistent gauge. She was an experienced knitter, but this new method of knitting, while faster in the end, was not working for her right now.

We tried a few methods of wrapping the yarn around her fingers to try and get more friction. I showed her my way where I weave the yarn through my fingers and then loop it over my pinkie, and then I showed her the way another one of the employees in the store does it, where she wraps it around her thumb. In the end, the customer did neither way, but combined the two to get her tension where she wanted it.

I guess that’s what I’m trying to do with my life right now. Combine my passions… for children, for books, for yarn, for writing, for designing patterns, for crafting all into one seamless whole.

*grins* We’ll see how it goes.


In other news, I’m going with the Boyfriend to New Haven this weekend to visit with friends. Not sure what’s going to happen, but I’ll try and take some good pictures to show you! We’ll be taking the train, so the Boyfriend will be pleased.

When I get back, I’m planning to put together a tutorial on holding the yarn when knitting continental, and different ways to modify it for loose or tight knitters.

I’ll keep you updated, Yarnies, for when I get back.

New Classes for this Fall

Fall is upon us, and with all this cool weather coming it’s the perfect time to get back into knitting or crochet. If you live in the Metro DC area, come check out these great new classes at The Yarn Spot. In the next upcoming days I’ll give you some sneak peaks at the different projects we’ll be working on!

Crochet with Jennifer Beginning Crochet IA great introduction to Crochet!
Chain, single crochet, double crochet and more. Learn how to make a coaster and a small purse.
Date: Wednesday, Oct. 13 & 20
Time: 6:30-8 PM
Cost: $60
RSVP by: Monday, Oct. 11
Class Size: 3-8 people
Register NOW!
Beginning Crochet IIWhere we expand our skills.
Expand your skills with basic lacework, different needle sizes and basic finishing techniques. Make some lovely lacework jewelry and a narrow headband.
Date: Wednesday, Nov. 10 & 17
Time: 6:30-8 PM
Cost: $60
RSVP by: Monday, Nov. 8
Class Size: 3-8 people
Register NOW!

Intermediate Crochet I
A great way to expand our skills! Must know how to single crochet, double crochet, chain and slip stitch. Learn how to Fillet Crochet and learn Foundation Crochet. Make a project bag to hold your current designs!
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 1 & 8
Time: 6:30-8 PM
Cost: $60
RSVP by: Monday, Nov. 29
Class Size: 3-8 people
Register NOW!

Intermediate Crochet II
Must know how to single crochet, double crochet, chain and slip stitch. Learn how to make Picots, Bobbles, and crochet to the front and back. Make a pillow sham to show off your skills!
Date: Wednesday, Dec. 15 & 22
Time: 6:30-8 PM
Cost: $60
RSVP by: Monday, Dec 13
Class Size: 3-8 people
Register NOW!

Toe Up Socks with Jennifer
Date: Tuesday, Nov. 2, 9, & 16
Time: 6:30-8 PM
Cost: $90
RSVP by: Sunday, Nov 31
Class Size: 3-6 people
Register NOW!

So this probably isn’t the best time to start blogging again.

So I’ve decided to start blogging the day before I go on a weekend trip to the boyfriend’s family farm… probably not the best time to start blogging, but it needed to be done.

In the upcoming weeks I’ll be talking about the projects I’m working on, the classes I’ll be teaching, and the things going on in my life. Nothing terribly out of the ordinary, but it’ll be exciting, I promise you!