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.

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!