2-Fisted, 2-Color, Stranded Knitting

Here you go . . . a real, whole, 4-part tutorial on stranded knitting, of which Fair Isle is only one flavor.  I’m especially tickled because it’s the biggest project I’ve done in my new studio, it fulfills a reward for the Kickstarter campaign that helped build the studio, and it helps prepare a VIP client for the exact sweater she wants to design when she gets here next month. Enjoy!

PART 1: An Introduction to Stranded Knitting
You’ll be able to recognize it, see multiple examples, and understand how the term Stranded Knitting is related to Fair Isle Knitting.

PART 2:  2-Fisted, 2-Color Stranded Knitting, the Knit Side
You’ll learn to do a speed swatch, how to do simple stranding and how to trap the strands or floats on the wrong side to make a dense, textured fabric.

PART 3: 2-Fisted, 2-Color Stranded Knitting, the Purl Side
You’ll learn how to do simple stranding and how to trap the strands or floats on the wrong side when purling.

PART 4: Stranded Knitting, Kaffe Fassett’s Persian Poppy Design
Here I focus on one beloved motif. I learned a lot and I hope you will too. There’s a 12 second black gap starting just before minute 8 . . . breathe through it . . . in a zen way.  YouTube and I haven’t been able to fix it yet, and maybe never.

So what are YOUR experiences with stranded color knitting? Triumphs? Goofs? “Mistakes”? Too afraid to try it? Why? You realize by now, of course, that when we are learning new skills that every project is a triumph, right? Even the ones with “mistakes.”

 

Beyond Ice Cream Cones and Fireworks

Several days ago my son handed me his favorite sweater.  There was a hole. He knows to pay attention to such things as soon as they appear but this was near his elbow, he’s a very active fellow, and he didn’t notice it until it had grown . . . well, you see.

(BIG) Hole in JC's Sweater
(BIG) Hole in JC’s Sweater

I didn’t make the sweater though it was hand knit. A stranger from whom he bought a tractor gave it to him a few years ago because he happened to have it in his car and he thought it would fit my son.

So yesterday, with the late afternoon sun streaming in the studio window (a person needs good light for such projects), I started poking at it.   Fixing something like this is simply solving a series of small problems . . . asking “Ok, what should I do now?” over and over.

And after an hour or maybe two, it looked like this:

The hole is fixed!
The hole is fixed!

Notice that there is no purple pattern where there used to be one. I figured no one was going to stop her or his white horse to see if it was there.

It’s not perfect. The sweater is sun-faded in many places, but it’s his favorite. Last winter I cut off its raggedy, stretched cuffs and knitted new ones. It will get more holes and I will fix them until it’s too threadbare to hold together. Because this is what we do in my family. We fix old things that can still have a useful life.

Other than that, I’m pretty much in a flurry of class preparation for the upcoming cruise. These are 5 new classes I’m teaching. I’m enjoying the process . . . and figuring out how I might share them with all of you who weren’t able to join us. But that’s in the future. There’s this other set of raggedy, stretched cuffs to replace . . .

JC's cuff replacement
JC’s cuff replacement

And this sweater I did make.

Cast-Ons and Bind-Offs Roundup

Remember when I told you that you didn’t need 100s of cast-ons and bind-offs? You can pretty much get by with a handful or two.  Let’s count up the beginnings we’ve seen so far:

1) The Long-Tail Cast-On (knitted and purled versions, a great all-around workhorse)
2) The Lace Cast-On (loose, stretchy edge)
3) The Tubular Cast-On (very tidy, it wraps around the edge)
4) The Cable Cast-On (the second one I ever learned and important)
5) The Provisional Cast-On

And the Bind-offs:
1) The Long-Tail Bind-Off
2) A Stretchy Decrease Bind-Off and A Stretchy Passover Bind-Off  (JSSBO)
3) The Tubular Bind-Off
4) The Sloped Bind-Off (one of my favorites)

Finally we look at two sort of odd-ball skills that have to do with beginnings:
1) The Garter Stitch Tab Cast-On (a clever and popular way to start triangular shawls).

AND . . .
2) How to Reinforce a Cast-On edge. This filled a request from a viewer who had used a non sturdy cast-on and was worried about it. It’s a handy thing to know.

And that, gentle knitters, is a summary of the starts and ends of knitting that I have covered with video so far. There are many more to explore if you like that sort of thing, but this collection gives you  a good, basic tool set. What’s YOUR favorite go-to cast-on or bind-off and why?

A Couple More Handy Cast-Ons

We’re getting toward the end (pun intended) of our exploration of cast-ons and bind-offs you really should know about. Here are two.

THE CABLE CAST-ON

The Cable Cast-On is like the Lace Cast-On in that they both are knitted on, but what different characters they are! The Cable Cast-On is durable and rope-like, not at all stretchy, and you can use it to add stitches in the middle of a piece of knitting. It’s the second one I ever learned and Lena (my Ma) would consider it an essential tool for your knitting bag.

THE PROVISIONAL CAST-ON

The Provisional Cast-On is just a holder for live stitches until you can get back to them and join them to other (usually live) stitches.  This allows you to do things like knit a lace scarf with a fancy finishing edge in separate halves, from the middle toward the ends, and then join them.  That way the scarf is symmetrical, the ends identical. There are a number of ways to hold these stitches provisionally, but I like this method because it’s “sturdy” compared to some other techniques.

Any thoughts you want to share? I always like that.

Elegant Ends: The Tubular Cast-on and Bind-Off

Here are a matching cast-on and bind-off that are worth knowing. They are easy enough to execute and they give an elegant edge to your ribbing. I highly recommend that you try them sometime soon. Like do a swatch. This week sometime. Consider it playing with yarn. And you do love to play with yarn, don’t you? So go ahead and do it. With abandon. With curiosity. With no ulterior motive other than enjoyment. It’s very freeing.

The Tubular Cast-On

The Tubular Bind-Off

Loose at Both Ends

I have a book entitled Cast on, Bind Off: 211 Ways to Begin and End Your Knitting. It’s a fun book. I haven’t consulted it much. Most, if not all of the information in it I have in other books that I’ve been consulting for years, but it’s nice to have it all in one place. And I like the illustrations and photos.

BUT if I had been handed this book when I first started knitting (which would not have happened since I learned from Ma’s hands, but stick with me here) I would have run screaming away from the needles and yarn (even though I loved yarn even as a child). I would have been overwhelmed. I just wanted to get some loops on the needles and then make more loops.

If you have the time and inclination, I encourage you to play with bunches of cast-ons and bind-offs just because it’s fun. But if you just want to be secure in knowing that you only need a handful of them to tackle any knitting project with confidence, you’re in the right place. You already have the Long-Tail Cast-On well in hand. Today we take on Loose Ends.

Continue reading “Loose at Both Ends”

Edges in Knitting, a Closer Look

In my 500+ days as the “Tuesday Troubleshooter” at my beloved local yarn shop, I saw a lot o’ problems, and easily 90% of them centered on two topics:
1) How can I make this sweater so that it fits me instead of being big enough to be a boat cover, or instead of fitting my 6-year-old niece?
2) How do I make my knitting  look more “professional”? My seams look like they were sewn by a drunken chimpanzee.

To solve Problem 1, start with Sweater 101: How to Plan Sweaters that Fit…and Organize Your Knitting Life at the Same Time.

To solve Problem 2, start with this video overview. If you read my last post, Cheryl’s Unified Theory of Finishing in Two Parts, you know I’m moderately obsessed (moderate obsession? Is that an oxymoron?) with the edges of your knitting. Prepare them with the thought and respect that they deserve and you will have more professional-looking pieces.

 

 

 

VIP FAQs

About this VIP day of yours, Cheryl . . .

WHAT ARE THE DATES AND TIMES?
You and I talk on the phone and set a date that fits both of our calendars. The morning session is 9-12. Lunch is 12-1:00 (with me of course) and the afternoon session is 1:00-4:00. That’s flexible if our lunch runs a bit long or you need extra help at the end.

WHERE DOES IT TAKE PLACE?
In the area of Port Townsend/ Marrowstone Island on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, USA. The exact venue depends on
1) your preferences (in a small Victorian Seaport, in an old farmhouse library in a vibrant, working agricultural valley, or on a bucolic island)
2) your needs (can you climb 2 flights of stairs built in the 1800s?) and
3) what’s available for the date we choose.

WHAT DOES IT COST?
$750 for one or two people spread over 3 payments.
~$250 due when we book your date on the calendar.
~$250 due 3 weeks before our event.
~$250 due on the day we get together.

HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU SCHEDULE FOR ONE DAY?
Just you alone, or you and your chosen companion. You are the Very Important Person and you get my focused attention on your needs and questions. More than 2 people, especially if they don’t know one another, and it begins to feel like a “class” rather than private VIP tutoring.

I’M TRAVELING A REALLY LONG WAY. IS THERE ANY WAY I CAN SCHEDULE A SECOND DAY WITH YOU FOR ANOTHER SUBJECT?
Probably yes. Let’s talk about it. Start by sending me an email.

I’VE USED YOUR SWEATER 101 FOR YEARS AND AM COMFORTABLE MAKING SWEATERS WITH IT. CAN I SCHEDULE A VIP SESSION WITH YOU WHERE WE WORK ON MY WORST KNITTING PROBLEMS AND ABANDONED PROJECTS?
Yes. Let’s talk about it. Start by sending me an email.

DO YOU EVER DO VIP SESSIONS IN OTHER PLACES?
Once in a while. If you happen to live close to family or friends whom I like to visit around the country, that could happen. Send me an email and let’s see if it’s possible.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I HAVE TO CANCEL?
All VIP sales are final. However, if something comes up and you can’t make it on your original date you can reschedule for a later date for up to 2 years from the date of the original event. There may be an additional fee when you reschedule if I was not able to recover my deposit for our venue on your original date.

OR you can give or sell your scheduled session to someone else. It is entirely transferable.

ANY OTHER QUESTIONS? PUT THEM IN THE COMMENTS BELOW or SEND ME AN EMAIL AND I’LL ADD THEM TO THIS LIST. THANKS!!!

Cheryl’s Unified Theory of Finishing in Two Parts

Part 1: The Interior
The interior of a piece of knitting pretty much takes care of itself until you need to block it. Your blocking method is based on the fiber content, the pattern stitches used, and your intentions for the end product. You want that lush and fluffy brioche cowl to stay lofty so you gently pat its damp self into shape. However, that holey, misshapen, lace lump needs to be stretched flat with merciless pinning, an experience from which it will emerge as an elegant shawl.

Part 2: The Edges
Ah . . . but the edges. There’s where the serious finishing happens. There are basically 3 things to do with edges in knitting, whether they’re straight or curved (you are beyond making stair-steps, right?) They are:

  1. IT (the edge) will be sewn into a seam.
  2. You will pick up and knit something new along IT (the edge).
  3. You will do nothing to IT (the edge). IT will be on display to all the world forevermore.

And that, my lovely knitters, is why finishing begins the minute you pick up the needles . . . because when you cast on, you’re making an edge. And that edge might make you cry later. Real tears. Like the time Joan made a beautifully textured, intricate, pink cotton drop-shoulder sweater for her husband. They were headed to Palm Springs for several weeks in the winter, this was during the 80s, and he was a very handsome and bold man, so the pink was perfect . . . except. Except . . . when he put on the sweater after weeks of Joan’s work, the bottom, cast-on edge practically cut him in two.

Joan was a very skilled knitter but, as a dedicated wool and alpaca woman, had never worked with cotton before. Somehow she misjudged and made her long-tail cast-on way too tight.

We were able to fix it, of course, with scissors, some patience, a tapestry needle, and new length of yarn, but let it be a cautionary tale to you.

I hereby offer you Sweater Finishing 101, a complete video class to help you with every sweater you will ever make. I suggest watching the whole class all the way through one time to get the “flow.” You don’t have to remember how to do all the skills. You just need to know that they exist and when the time comes, you can refer back to the video series for specific skills like directional decreases or increases and you’ll know where to put them.

Pay attention to the edges and your knitting life will be easier. I guarantee it.