Knitting 101: The Christmas Stocking

Alright knitters, time to get into the Holiday spirit! Grab some hot cocoa, put on the tv fire place (I live it Texas y’all, it’s ALWAYS too warm for a real fire), and bake some sugar cookies. We’re finally ready to start our Christmas project!

Now, if you read the design post, you saw that the original knitting project looked like this:

knit design

Pretty cool right? Well, pretty cool if you have a very small set of needles and a lot of time. The snowflake pattern wasn’t working out with the size needles and yarn I wanted to use for this–and I really did want this to be a quick, easy project for anyone to be able to pick up–so I scrapped that idea in favor of something less intricate and a lot easier to knit.

Before we start with that though, make a gauge swatch. Yeah, I know, everyone’s LEAST favorite step. But especially if you want different measurements for your sock, you’ll need to know your gauge.

Now that you know your gauge, you can decide how big to make your stocking. Do you want a “standard” size sock? Something long and skinny? Maybe a miniature version for the office? Whatever you decide, you can use the patterns for Top Down Socks or Toe Up Socks as a guide for this whole project.

If you just want to follow along, I’ll be working top down with worsted weight yarn and US size 8 (5.0 mm) needles. If you haven’t familiarized yourself with stranded (aka Fair Isle) knitting and how to carry yarn up for stripes, you may want to take a look at my posts before you get started.

Ok, you have your gauge (17sts x 19 rows = 4″ x 4″) and you know how long and wide you want to make your stocking (~7″ across the top, ~10.5″ leg, ~7″ foot) so, now what?

Grab your needles and cast on of course! I cast on 52 which was actually turned out to be kind of a pain as I got into this. You see half of 52 is 29 and 29 is a prime number. Prime numbers don’t like to break into smaller parts evenly, so when I got to redesigning the pattern it wound up a little uneven, but that’s a story for a design post, so I’ll leave it for there.

When you get to the pattern at the end of these posts, you’ll see that it calls for 4 or 5 DPNs, I’m going to be completely honest here: I couldn’t find my 4th double pointed needle, so I am using circular needles to make mine.  The truth is that so long as you are able to comfortably join the circle, even one sock can be done with short circular needles.

How exactly do you DO that? Basically the same way that you cast on for two, except you are only casting on one. Cast on your stitches, find center, and work half at a time. There is a bit of a trick to it when you’re working with stranded knitting though.

Tension is HUGE in stranded knitting (as we’ll see farther down), so to help with that, the best way to handle a circular cast on is actually to cast on all your stitches in a line like you would for a straight needle:

cast on one circ

Then find the one quarter to one third mark on either side. Leave somewhere between a quarter and a third of the stitches on one needle, about one third to a half on the wire, and the other quarter to third on the other needle to work like so:

quarters

You can see in the photo that the cast on looks a little stretched here, if it does NOT tighten up and look more even once you’ve knit one round then you need to adjust your tension and try again.

Once you’re happy with your cast on, knit a few rounds to make your top. If you prefer a straighter top rather than the roll down style I’ve gone with here, either block the work when you’re done or knit a round, purl a round and then knit the rest. The purl round will help to tack the top straight without having to block the work. I kind of like how the roll came out though, take a look:

rolling top

To achieve that effect, I knit 2 rounds of red, one white, one green, one white, and two red, carrying the colors along as I went.

Once the top is finished, we can begin the charts.

The what?

The charts. Using a chart to guide your colorwork is sort of a short hand that many times is easier to follow than, “with white knit one, with red knit two, with white knit two, with red knit two, with white knit two, with red, knit three…” you get the idea.

When you’re reading a chart, the numbers across the top indicate the stitch and the numbers along the side indicate the row. Just look at the color in the square that matches the stitch your working. For my stocking, I have written the chart for half the stocking, so just go back to stitch one when you’ve finished the first half and start over.

Before we start with Chart A, knit one round with white. I’m knitting one round of white between each chart to help give some space. Keep that in mind as we go along so your charts don’t get too mashed together. Here’s Chart A:

Chart A

A fun little note, when you turn this thing inside out, you’ll have an inverse color scheme in the strands if you’ve carried your yarn right (keep this is the inside, so you’re looking at it backwards too):

inverse

Now, I warned you about keeping good tension through the stranded portion of this pattern right? See in that picture above how the work is starting to look a little bit like a corset?

corset-1330777_1920

That’s a tension issue. If you let it go too long, it will start to REALLY look like a corset

bad tension

Especially if you’re working with DPNs, you’ll need to watch your tension when you change needles. If you’re working with circular needles, there is a trick you can use to help you get the tension right.

Mark the beginning/end of your round and as you work, continue to shuffle your stitches around, so that no matter where you’re at in the pattern, you always have the strand for the color you’re changing to on the working needle. So if you need to switch to red, the last red stitch you worked is still on the working needle. That way every time you need to pull a float across to become a working strand, you have the needle to measure against and help to keep a constant tension.

Once Chart A is done, work another round of white (spacer remember?). Then work Chart B:

Chart B

Looking at Chart B, you may be saying “wait, how do I work three colors?” Don’t worry, it’s really easy. Let’s take a look at switching colors with three strands.

First, of course you have three strands you’re working with. In this case white, red and green:

3 strands

I’m changing from green to white in this picture, so the big thing to pay attention to is what happens with the red. Tuck the white strand behind the red like so:

cross white.png

Then wrap it across both the red and the green:

wrap white

That will force the red and green strands to stay close to the work and keep them from flopping around.

There’s one more thing that I want to address before we hit Chart C. In my post on stranded knitting, I very clearly say

“The tick with stranded colorwork is that you can only go so far with it. Carrying the yarn two to four stitches works fine, but anymore than that and you have to start worry about loose strands and potentially backing the work”

And I know you all can count, so you can see that I skip TWELVE stitches on the first row of the chart….

Yes, I just contradicted myself, but for good reason. I wanted to show you all what I was talking about with crossing more than four:

long float.png

That red line I’m holding up is the float between the red stitches on the first round of chart B. That line is a good tension (by my judgement), but you can see how a toe could easily get caught on it if it were an everyday wear sock. Being as this is a stocking and I like the pattern, I’m going to leave it that way on mine. I want you all to play with your tension here. See what you can do and how far you are comfortable stretching your floats.

If you don’t like the long string, just add to the top of the green dots and you’ll have something that looks a bit more like Christmas lights than polka dots. You’ll want to do the same for Chart C if you decide to go that route.

The last thing before we finish up the leg. If you’ve finished Chart B, your yarn might look like this:

tangled mess

Now would be a good time to untangle your skeins before moving on to another round of white and Chart C:

Chart C

Another round of white then Chart B, a round of white, Chart C, a round of white, and B one more time. You can actually keep repeating that pattern over and over until you’re happy with the length. Remember to keep untangling your yarn. It is NO fun to pick the knots out of this business and you can crunch your yarn (especially acrylic) and it won’t want to go back. Once you’re happy with the length, you’re done!

leg finished

When you’re ready, move on to the heel, which I’ll cover in the next post.

 

Crochet 101: The “Ugly” Christmas Stocking

Roll up your sleeves and put on your Dean Martin, Straight No Chaser, or Trans-Siberian Orchestra, we’re launching into our Christmas project!

For those of you who missed the last post on design, yes, it’s July. It is also the perfect time to start all your Christmas (or other winter holiday) projects so that you’re not rushing to finish at the end of the year.

In the design post, I posted this as the basic design for the project:

crochet design

If you don’t like that or would like to do something else, then please do! I’ll be following this as a basic pattern and showing you what I do for it. We’ll be reviewing colorwork (both in pattern and stripes) and learning about edging and appliques on this project.

The VERY first thing we’ll do though is take a look back at the posts on toe up socks and top down socks to guide us through making the basic form of our stocking. You’ll want to measure out before hand how big (or small) you want your stocking to be so that you don’t end up with a really skinny, tiny stocking (unless that’s what you actually wanted to make). A lot of times, taking a large piece of paper and drawing what you want your stocking to look like or measuring an existing stocking helps (if you don’t have a stocking hanging check the craft store and measure what they have).

Once you know how you’re going to make your stocking and what the measurements are, we’re ready to start looking at the pattern. I’m going to work my stocking top down this time, starting with the red and green tree portion. This is the part where we get to pull out the colorwork technique we learned a few posts ago. Take a minute and go back to that post if you need to review on how to get cleaner looking colors.

We’ll also need to have the tree pattern. Since I’m not planning on writing out every single line BEFORE I get started, I’m going to work off a chart. We’ve sort of dealt with charts before when we talked about pixel art in Designing Colorwork. Color charts look like this:

blank-tree

Usually the rows are numbered up one side and the stitches are numbered across the top or bottom. This is only one type of chart used in crochet, but we’ll get to the other kind another time. For this sock, I’ll be using a chart similar to the chart above to work the tree into my stocking. For those of you who want to follow along, here it is:

Chart

I know that I am going to be making about a 7 inch square stocking (the top will be seven inches wide, the leg will be 7 inches tall, and the foot will be seven inches long–it seemed like a good number at the time). I also know that I am going to be making my stocking top down (hence starting with the tree). I have my chart ready, so there’s only ONE more thing to look at before we REALLY get going.

I my post on top down socks, I have you work the cuff in the round. The reason we do that is to avoid having a seam running up the leg of the sock. In this case, we’ll be working the cuff in rows, back and forth and joining as we go (sc across, join, turn, repeat). Because no one is going to wear this sock (who am I kidding, my three year old will have this on in no time), I am not concerned about the seem and it will in face help us when we get to the heel portion in the next post.

Since I know all of that, and I’ve already gotten my gauge from my gauge swatch. If you haven’t made a gauge swatch, make one. I did. All the cool kids do. See:

gauge swatch

I know how many stitches to chain to make 14 inches (7 inches across and it’s round). In my case it’s 52 (hence the 26 stitch tree up above). Make sure you check you gauge if you’re following along or this could get messy. If you’re not following along, you can just use a tape measure to check the length of your chain. You’ll want it to be twice the width of the desired top of your sock.

measure.png

For those of you who went back an read my post on top down socks again you’ll notice that I did NOT make my gauge swatch in the round. I made a square rather than a round because we’ll be working back an forth, NOT in a spiral around.

When you have the length you want, join your chain and TURN. Work two rows (or about half an inch) of single crochets. Don’t forget to join the rows and TURN the work. You’ll start seeing the seam right away, but it really won’t be that big of a deal. Once that’s done, we can start on the colorwork. (If you don’t want to work the half inch, don’t. it’s purely for aesthetic reasons that I have it there).

Now you can begin your chart. If you’re following mine, start at the top and work the next 20 rows, joining the round and turning at the end of each round. You’ll be making one tree on each side of your stocking, so you may want to make two balls out of your green to make the work a little easier (I did), but you can also just carry the green around with you. When you’re finished with your chart, work two more rounds of just red (sc around, join, turn).

Why is it so important to work in rows this time? I don’t want that seam! Can’t I just work in the round?

Alright Mr. George Bailey, let’s take you down that lovely path of what if…..

When you have the length you want, join your chain and work two rows (or half an inch) of single crochet in a spiral. For those of you unfamiliar with working in a spiral, when you get around to the first single crochet in the round, just keep working on top of it. Don’t worry about joining or chaining or anything, just keep workin’. Once that’s done, we can start on the colorwork. (If you don’t want to work the half inch, don’t. it’s purely for aesthetic reasons that I have it there).

Now you can begin your chart. If you’re following mine, start at the top and work the next 20 rows, working the round in a spiral. You’ll be making one tree on each side of your stocking, so you may want to make two balls out of your green to make the work a little easier (I did), but you can also just carry the green around with you.

If you chose to work with two balls of green, you’ll notice as you work around that the green is on the wrong end of the work for you to pick it up when you come around. Don’t worry. This is called a float and you’ll see it in Fair Isle knitting as well (should you choose to take up Fair Isle knitting).

To get the float back to the right side of things, lay it under the working yarn and then use it like you would normally.

As you’re working with the float, watch your tension VERY closely. Pull the line too tight or leave it hanging too loose and you’ll be able to see it on the front of the work. Note: I adjusted the color on the ‘too loose’ picture to–hopefully–help you see the puffy stitches that are too loose. The red I’m working with doesn’t like the camera very much.

When you’re finished with your chart, work two more rounds of just red (sc around, in a spiral like before) and you’ll have the finished leg! You’re ready to move on to the heel and the next post!

tilted

Now that this little adventure is over, let’s all have a hug, ring a bell for Clarence, and have a look at the REAL finished work.

straight finish

Comparing the two, I’m sure you can see that the first one is tilted. That’s not just a trick of the photo, it REALLY does lean like that. Working in a spiral shifts the work by one stitch every time you go around. You’ll have the same issue if you join your work, but don’t turn it. Because you’re continuing around rather than turning, the natural lean of the stitching will start to show through. Working back and forth allows the lean to move left and right as you work, pulling the work straight.

It’s not right or wrong to have your work one way or the other, but you need to be aware of what will happen before you choose so that you get the outcome you’re after. Whichever way you choose to work your colorwork, you are now ready to move on to the heel and the next post for sure!

 

 

Happy Christmas!

Ok, so it’s July. Just Trust me, if you don’t start NOW it is very likely that your idea to make socks for everyone in the family as Christmas (or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or Ramadan or whatever you choose to celebrate) presents is NOT going to be done on time (or at least not without much chaos and many late nights). The Holiday season is hectic enough by itself without adding craft deadlines.

In order to avoid that craziness, let’s get started on our holiday project. You should have enough time to design and create your stocking before December rolls around and if you’re particularly happy with it and particularly quick, you may even have time to do enough for the whole family!

The first step–of course– is going to be designing your stocking. There are several directions you can take your stocking. The “Ugly” Christmas sweater trend has been popular for a few years now, but you may want something a little more traditional. If you haven’t popped on Pintrest already, take a look at my boards for ideas, follow those links to take a look or hop on and do a search (Set a timer! I end up on Pintrest for WAY too long sometimes).

Once you have a general idea of what you want to do, grab out your graph paper and pencil (or a digital version if you’d rather) and get sketching. You may want a simple colorwork pattern that you can work into your sock like this:

let-it-snow

Or you may be interested in something a little more complicated like these I found on Pintrest:

9d685f7a14bcf13986979c403fd569ae

I’ll be working on both a knit and crochet stocking for our coming tutorials. Since I just covered fair isle knitting, I think for my knit sock I’ll be doing something with that. Just something fun and simple to get started with. Maybe like this:

knit design

With something fun for the top. Maybe some of the bauble yarn from my post on “fun yarns” or maybe some faux feather yarn. I promise, it’s a LOT easier than it seems to be once you have the hand of fair isle knitting.

For the crochet sock, I think we’ll go a little more in the “ugly” direction may something like this:

crochet design

We’ll get a chance with this design to look at appliques and how they work. Appliques are pieces that are added on after the work is finished. You crochet (or knit) the pieces and then sew them onto the main work just like you would with any other fabric.

Whatever way you choose to work, remember that you are only designing for one sock (they don’t have to match!) and that you are designing in the ROUND. As you work your designs, make sure that they are repeating designs that will line up nicely in a circle. Notice in the Pintrest photo above that each stripe of the pattern are geometrically arranged to match up seamlessly.

These seamless geometric patterns are often created using vectors (in which a series of mathematical statements dictates the placement of color and lines in the design). Vectors often look like wall paper and can range from the highly intricate to the extremely simple. One look on Google images can give you a broad sample of what I’m talking about.

These patterns can also be created by using simple fractals (“…infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales.”) to create a stripe or section of the work. I’m very specifically calling out SIMPLE fractals here because as cool as patterns like this are:

fractal-63166

they don’t led themselves to knitting and crochet quite so well as something like this would:

601a0952622ae38dbb0c77edf7245ca0

I’m not saying you CAN’T use that first one, just that you are going to need more patience than I have.

You can also create a simple repeating pattern using white space to separate your work so that the round wraps into a blank space. If this is your first go a designing in the round, this is really the best way to have the smoothest success. You can take something like this:

colorful-tree

and, taking out the brown side boarder, create a round of 60 stitches to accommodate two of these trees. You may want to design something slightly smaller in order to get more into the round you’re working. Keep in mind too, depending on the gauge you’re using, you will have more or less stitches to work with. And that you’re not making this stocking to fit a foot. There’s not really a problem if it’s too big or too small.

So what’s the take away?

We already know that when we’re designing you need to know how you’re working (knitting or crochet?), what you’re working with (hook/needle size, yarn weight, gauge). For this project you also know the first part of what you’re making (stockings). So, your job (after reading this post that is) from there is to grab your graph paper and pencil and figure out the second part of what you’re making (pattern).

Keep in mind that you’re designing a round pattern that needs to hook together in a seamless way. Have fun with it and (as long as you really are starting straight away) you’ll have plenty of time to play with the design before you need to REALLY get to work.

Knitting 101: A Bit More “Fancy”

When it comes to knitting colorwork, it’s really easy to look at something like this:

20160918_120225

and say “This is gonna be awesome!” as we attempt to start our own version. Y’all may remember that phrase as the beginning to all of my MOST irritating and difficult projects (in fact, that very project started with that phrase). But once you get into it, you find ends everywhere and wrapped stitches that shouldn’t be and colors out of order. So the big question:

How in the world do you change colors in knitting without making a huge mess!?

We got the chance in a previous post to go over how to knit colored stripes. Wrapping the yarn up the side of the work as you go helps to keep things neat and tidy without trouble.

Now it’s time to figure out how to knit with colors switching in the middle of the row. Probably the EASIEST way to do that is called stranded or “fair isle” knitting in which you carry one strand of yarn behind the work making sort of a woven pattern behind the work. It looks something like this:

fair isle back

The front of that work is pretty fun looking though:

fair isle front

To get this to work, you have to worry about two things really. First, always make sure you’re using the right color to stitch with. That’s pretty easy for most patterns because you’re only working with two colors at a time and it is fairly obvious if you mess up. You have to really watch it if you’re using more than two colors.

Second, you have to keep an eye on your “floater” (yeah, kind of a weird name). The floater is the line that you’re carrying behind the work:

The floater needs to keep a smooth tension and keep tucked in (so you don’t have any long, loose strands on the back). Keeping smooth tension isn’t terribly hard if you are comfortable with your working tension already. The floating strand should be held behind with the same tension as your working tension. Resist the urge to pull it really tight. Pulling the float tight will not change that the back is woven together and will make the front of your work look or feel stretched too tight.

To help keep the floater tucked and looking neat, the working strand will always lay down and have the next color pulled around it when changing colors. What does that mean? Well, take a look:

floaters

If you are fairly dexterous, you can hold both strands in one hand and switch back and forth. Hold the active color between your thumb and forefinger (mostly like normal) and the second color between your middle and ring finger. As you work the stitching, have the two strands trade places as you change colors.

hold yarn

 

If you’re not able to do that, don’t worry too much. It will come with practice and in the meantime there is nothing wrong with dropping one color to pick up the next color. I have to do that when I purl still.

The tick with stranded colorwork is that you can only go so far with it. Carrying the yarn two to four stitches works fine, but anymore than that and you have to start worry about loose strands and potentially backing the work (which doesn’t really work well for things like mittens or socks). Most patterns you’ll find that call for fair isle work only use two colors or work in stripes where colors can be completely cut before beginning the next section.

If you DO choose to work with three or more colors, watch out for where and how you carry the third strand. Assuming that you’re not able to change colors every stitch for what you’re working on, you’ll need to lay the third color under the floater as well for the ENTIRE work. If you don’t carry the third color all the way with you, you’ll end up with a changing thickness across the work and it will feel a little weird. To do that, just hold the third color with the second color as shown above and when you change colors, lay the new color over the working yarn AND the third color.

One final thing before I go for now: just like all colorwork, take a break from time to time and untwist your yarn. Something like this:

twisted colorwork

will happen fairly often and I don’t think you want to deal with the big mess that results from leaving that hanging around.

Crochet 101: More on Colorwork

So we’ve talked about how to change colors without cutting ends and how to design a colorwork pattern, how could there be any MORE to it?

Well, unless you’re perpetually stuck in the land of stripes, you’re going to want to change colors in the middle of your work at some point. When THAT happens, this tends to happen as well:

before

See how the two colors sort of “bleed” into each other? Not very neat looking is it? So how can we AVOID that?

Easy! Stop following the instructions so closely.

*gasp* craft blasphemy!

Maybe more for some than others, but let me reassure you, this will NOT ruin your work. This isn’t like baking where if you use all white sugar when they tell you to use half brown and half white sugar you end up with CD’s instead of cookies (yeah seriously white sugar only= VERY flat cookies). It’s ok to fudge a little when it comes to your yarn. Not TOO much or someone is going to notice, but every now and then won’t hurt anything. Especially when it comes to working colors in the middle of the stitching.

When you’re working in stripes, you finish row one and pick up the new color for row two. To change in the middle is very similar, except before you finish your stitch, you’ll use the new color to complete the stitch BEFORE the pattern calls for you to change colors.

Let me show you.

My pattern (ok, it’s an imaginary pattern) says “with color A, sc 7. Change to color B, sc 1. Change to color A sc 7.”

I’ve finished 6 stitches here and I’m almost ready to change to a new color, but only for a few stitches. This is the last stitch before the pattern tells me to change colors (stitch 7 in color A):

set up

I haven’t yet finished the stitch in that picture because rather than using color A to finish that stitch, I’m going to pick up color B and use that to do the last yarn over and pull through.

add black

See how the loop on the hook is now the color I need to change to? That lets me start straight in on the next color.

black stitch

When I’m ready to switch back I follow the same process, picking up color A this time to complete the last stitch before the pattern says to switch. Keep that up back and forth (or round and round if you’re working rounds) and  you’ll have nice, clean colorwork.

This technique works for as many colors as you have to work with, but what happens when you have to add a NEW color in the middle of the row rather than adding it at the beginning of a row?

Well, it’s the same basic concept as what I demonstrated above. For those of you who are VERY confident in your tension, you don’t even need a slip stitch really, just pick up the new color as though it were already a part of the work.

For those of you who are a little less confident or a little newer to crochet, make your slip knot like normal, but slide it onto the hook in the middle of the stitch you want to finish, like this:

That slip stitch becomes the active loop (the one on the hook) and you’re ready to move on with your colors.

If everything here seems straight forward enough, then you should be ready to try out the new Nesting Baskets Pattern in the shop! Happy Crocheting!

after

 

 

All Those “Fun” Yarns

Ruffle yarn, lace yarn, feather yarn, pom pom yarn, Christmas lights AS yarn, glitter yarn, and every other yarn you can think of!

Walk into the national chain craft stores these days and you’ll find a HUGE variety of yarns that are NOT your mamma’s acrylic yarn. But what on EARTH do you do with these things? How do they work? and WHO THOUGHT GLITTER WAS A GOOD IDEA?

—It was me. I thought glitter was a good idea. It wasn’t. It never is. I’ll be finding glitter until I’m 110. NOTE: adding glitter to the dye for acrylic yarn works, with mixed results, but is EXTREMELY messy and not advised.—

Glitter aside, there are some seriously cool things that you can do with these yarns if you have the time and patience to learn how to work with them. The best part? They ALL work for knitting AND crochet (never mind what the labels may say). So, let’s get to know these yarns and some of the really cool things you can do with them.

First (and probably most common at this point) are the ruffle yarns. If you haven’t seen them, they look like this:

ruffle yarn

They’re about as wide as a thick shoelace to start with and open up to reveal a wide mesh. Originally, these yarns were used almost solely for scarves:

ruffle scarf

Now that they’ve been around for a while though, people have gotten REALLY creative. Making shawls, bags, skirts, and more, and not always sticking to the prescribed use of the yarn

Another relatively common yarn is the pom-pom yarn. It had a thin string running between fluffy baubles, like this:

bauble yarn

When I first saw this yarn I thought “What in the world am I going to do with this?” It had come in a bargain bag with a couple of other things that I thought were interesting. I happened to have a red and a green skein, so I thought Christmas something or other, but never really came back to it until I started thinking about the Christmas stocking project that will be coming up on the blog here.

I thought it would be a fun edging piece for the top of the stocking. But I KNOW there’s more to to with it than that…

Of course there’s the standard scarf (EVERYTHING can be made into a scarf), and anything that can be a scarf can also be a blanket, but I wanted to find something more creative. I stumbled across this site that shares a creative, “Alien Pillow” pattern for this pom pom yarn, and I think so far that is the most creative use of the yarn I have seen. I’ll be sharing more about this yarn as we work our Christmas stockings, like I said above, I think I’m going to use it for an edging or cuff on my stockings.

Ribbon yarn is a fun yarn that I don’t see as often in the store, but I do see a LOT of cool projects calling for this yarn. There are actually a couple of kinds of ribbon yarn. One kind looks like the ribbon you might add to a dress or tie in your hair. The other kind looks like a cross between the ruffle yarn and a ribbon. The two I have pictured here are less common forms of ribbon yarns:

lace yarn.png

They are still fun to work with and have their own uses when it comes to patterns. Of course, scarves are one of the most common patterns for any kind of yarn, but taking a look on Ravelry or this site I found on Google you can see there there is everything from shawls to bags to hats that can be made using ribbon yarn.

See a running theme yet? Yarn is yarn is yarn. You can pretty much use all these yarns for anything and any pattern that you have as long as you know how to work with them. Sometimes you need to be a little more creative, gauge a little bigger (or smaller), or think a little harder when you’re working with the “fun” yarns, but really you just need to be adventurous enough to go for it!

There aren’t any special rules or places that you can or can’t use a yarn. Use what you like, and like Ms. Frizzle says:

magic-school-bus

Getting Back to Work

Hey all!

There’s been a LOT going on in the last few weeks, so I thought I would pause and share some of the home life that’s happened as well as give you all a look forward at some of the things to come for the shop and the blog!

For those of you who missed it, we got some new neighbors at my house:

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And we’ve had some really cool weather (in so many senses of that word):

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Oh, and then there’s that little thing that happened a few weeks ago:

Baby.png

We’re so happy to have our second son here and the whole family is settling in very well. We were lucky enough to have my parents and my in-laws here back to back to help with the baby and with our three year old. They were such wonderful help, I wish I could keep them all here forever!

It’s been a few weeks now and I’m ready to get back to work on a few things. For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you may remember this basket:

Italic Nesting basket 9.5 inch bath towels1.png

It is the smallest in a series of nesting baskets (baskets that stack inside of each other), and the basis for a pattern that you should be seeing in the shop in June. The pattern will include instructions for this same design for three different sizes and for making an Italic version (pictured above) and a straight version.

I’ll be doing another blog on crochet colorwork very soon to help with some pointers on how to keep your colorwork designs looking sharp in a couple of weeks. Keep an eye out so you get some time to practice before the pattern goes on sale!

We’ll be starting our Christmas Stockings soon and in preparation for that I’ll be doing a little intro on some “fun” yarns that you might find at your local craft store and how to work with them. Pull out your drawing pads and graph paper and get some ideas jotted down for what you would like to have on your sock this December. Christmas in July has never been more serious–or more literal, I think.

The other piece I have in the works is a pattern bundle set for both knitting and crochet. Since we’re all past the beginner stage, I think a set of beginner patterns is in order for all of you who have made it this far! Some will be familiar (like our dishcloth from the Crochet 101 and Knitting 101 tutorials) and some will be new. Keep an eye on the shop over the summer and into the fall for these fun items!

I’ll be sticking to one blog post a week for a little while. I haven’t found a ton of time for working on this between kids and home life (if you’ve read my last couple you may have noticed they’re a little scattered), and I want to continue to give you all my best work if I can.

I think that’s about it for now. As always, I love to hear from you all. If there is something you would like to see or learn, please let me know.

P.S.

Shortly after I finished writing this, I dropped my cell phone (which also serves as my camera–bet you hadn’t guessed that huh?) and shattered the camera glass on it. The face is fine and a replacement is on the way, but you may get a post or two with old, repeat, or borrowed photos until the new one is up and running.

Knitting 101: Toe Up Socks

It’s time for our final sock lesson, knitting toe up socks!

Alright, Alright, I know I said I wasn’t going to cover how to knit toe up socks, but I felt like it would be wrong to skip COMPLETELY over it. Especially when such a good change to highlight double pointed needles is involved. For those of you who don’t remember, there is a WONDERFUL toe up tutorial called Silver’s Sock Class that will take care of how to use circular needles to knit two at a time.

As in the previous lesson, I won’t be using sizes for this pattern, I’ll just be looking at measurements so make sure you do a gauge swatch before we start. I will also include the short version at the bottom of this post for those of you who just need the quick instructions. As for the sock I’m actually making here, I’ll note in parentheses how many stitches and such I’m using so you can follow along for practice if you’d like.

For my sock I am using:

 

you will need

 

1 Skein Worsted weight (4) yarn any brand, fiber, and color (about 275 yards)

4 size US-5 (3.75 mm) Double Pointed Needles–DPNs (or 1 circular needle)

Split ring markers, locking stitch markers, OR safety pins (at LEAST 1)

A measuring tape

OPTIONAL: Medium stitch holder(s)

OPTIONAL: Knitting Gauge

 

Toe Up Socks

In the last post, I wrote that I was quite pregnant while making the top down socks. Due to the magic of the internet (and advanced scheduling) I am no longer pregnant and have an almost six week old son. This time, I am NOT dealing with swollen ankles or feet, so I’ll be able to use more accurate measurements. If, however, you are still having troubles, here’s that link to the Craft Yarn Council’s foot size chart.

Now, obviously, we’re not going to start with an ankle measurement this time, we’re going to start with the toe. More specifically, we’re going to start with the measurement across the tips of your toe. Basically, we need to see how wide to make your sock. Once we have that (and of course after you’ve completed your gauge swatch to know how many stitches per inch you need), we’ll need to cast on.

For those of you who like a very nice, fancy cast on, I suggest you take a look at Judy’s Magic Cast-On by Judy Becker (does anyone know why everything is “magic” this or that? No, really. I want to know….). It’s a little complicated, but it makes a REALLY nice toe cast on. For those of you who don’t mind a little bit of a funky toe or a more square cast on (great for quick starts or practice) I’m going to show you what I do.

First, take two DPNs and set them a little apart from each other like so:

caston1

Notice I already have the yarn attached to the needle. If you haven’t already done that, get it attached and get ready for our normal cast on technique. Use the back needle (the one that’s empty in the photo above) for your first cast on:

caston2

The slip knot we started with counts as one, so now you have two done. Wasn’t that easy? Now, use our normal cast on method with the front needle (the one that has the slip knot on it). Then the back again, then the front, and you get the idea. After a few, it will look like this:

caston3

Now, because we were all very good and made gauge swatches before starting this sock (Seriously, make the gauge swatch), we can finish casting on our stitches.  Measure across the tips of your toes to see how wide your toes are and subtract half an inch. Whatever that measurement comes out to is the amount of stitches you’ll need to cast on (40 for me). So, cast on a few and then check your measurements. When you’re ready to measure, slide your cast on stitches to match your gauge (I’m not joking you need the swatch this time).

We’re ready to start our first toe round, but it doesn’t look very round yet does it? Don’t worry. It’ll round out as we work. The first thing to do is place a marker at the beginning of the round. Then, knit across both the needles the same way you would if your were working a round.

Now take a little break, flip the work over, and I’ll show you what I was talking about with the funky toe cast on:

funky toe

See how the stitches on both sides stand at attention? Here’s a better look:

funky toe2

The toe lays VERY flat. This cast on is also really great for making anything square (think blocks for baby). The other fun thing about this cast on is that if you flip it inside out, that sharp edge basically disappears. So if you’re wanting a purl sock (or if you start with purls rather than knits and flip the work) you’ll still get that nice round toe.

Anyway, enough of that side bar, back to knitting!

Well, almost. We still need to measure the length for our toe. Pull you’re measuring tape out and measure the length of your big toe. Then we can go on to round two.

For round two, knit the front and back of the first stitch in the round (check out my More Increases and Decreases post for help with that if you need it) and knit across needle 1. Knit the front and back of the first stitch on needle 2, then knit across that needle to complete the round. You may want to place a maker before the second KFB to help you remember to increase.

Marker or not, repeat those two rounds (knitting then increasing) until you have reached your toe length measurement.  When you get there, you should have something that looks like this:

toe

Now comes the easy part: the foot.

Measure your foot from the tip of your toe to the beginning of your heel. It may help to imagine your heel as a circle right about the top of that circle is where you’ll want to stop. For most adults, this will leave about 2.5 inches of heel left over.

Slide the stitches evenly onto three of the four double pointed needles (looks a little more round at least right?) and use the fourth to work. For those of you who have knit before and/or are wondering why I’m using four DPNs instead of five here, I couldn’t find the fifth one.

Yeah, really. I see no issue with using three rather than four in every case I’ve come across so far. The needles commonly come in sets of four, and I don’t want to pay more for needles that I don’t need. And this time, I HAVE five, but I honestly have no idea where the fifth one went, so….there’s that.

When it comes right down to it, as long as the amount of needles is working for you, you can use as many or as few as you like. I’ll show you the way that is easiest for me, but if you would rather use five or two or whatever, do that.

Moving right along then (I’m a bit side tracked today aren’t I?), you should have something that looks like this:

on DPNs

We still need that marker at the beginning of the round (and if you’d like, at the halfway mark), but from here, just knit around until you have reached your mark.

foot

Now we get to start the heel. Today I’m going to teach you what is probably the EASIEST heel I’ve ever done. We’ll start by knitting across half the stitches on the foot — to your marker if you placed a half way marker (20 sts). Now, measurements being what they are, you may have an odd number of stitches, and be wondering what to do? Generally speaking, having an even number of stitches for your heel will be better, so round either up or down to have an even number of worked stitches.

Place the rest of the stitches onto a stitch holder or just leave them unworked on your other DPNs. If you have point protectors, now might be a good time to pull them out. What’s a point protector? This:

point-protectors

They keep your work from slipping off your DPNs and are very helpful in these cases.

Now that the extra foot stitches are safe, purl across your heel stitches to the last stitch and wrap the stitch. To wrap the stitch, lay the working yarn between the needles, across your work:

wrap1

Slip the stitch (knit wise for knit stitches and purlwise for purl stitches) to the working needle:

wrap2

Lay the yarn around the side of the slipped stitch and slip the now wrapped stitch back to the other needle:

wrap3

Pick up the working yarn and work to the end of the row. Wrap the last stitch and make your way back and wrap the last stitch, leaving the stitch your wrapped last time unworked.

Before we get too excited about this step, we need to know HOW MANY stitches to wrap right? We’ve knit half the stitches on the foot. Two thirds of those stitches will be wrapped. One third of THOSE stitches need to be on either side of the needle (leaving half in the middle).

harry's opinion

Alright, Harry…you’ve got a point…. let’s try that again. On your needles, you have a number of stitches (I have 20). Divide that number by 3 (6.33 for me). If you have an even number, awesome. If you do NOT have an even number round up to the nearest whole number (7 for me).

That number (the “nearest whole number” in my case–7) is the number of stitches that you will have wrapped on EITHER side of your work (in my case, 7 wrapped stitches on the left, 6 worked stitches in the center, and 7 wrapped stitches on the right). Whatever happens, you MUST have the same amount of wrapped stitches on BOTH sides of your worked stitches. These will be picked up in the next step to create the “corner” that is the heel of your sock and you don’t want THAT to be uneven.

By the time you’re ready to pick up stitches, you should have something that looks like this:

wrapped stitches

Ok, half the heel done. Now we move onto the picking up part.

Work across your short row and work the first slipped stitch (this is the only one that won’t need the k2tog part that’s coming up) then turn. Work across the row again and when you get to the slipped stitch this time, you’ll be looking at something like this:

k2tog wrap

We’re going to pick up the wrap yarn (from the stitch we wrapped earlier) and knit two together with that and the wrapped stitch on the needle (you may also need to pick up the first stitch in the previous row and k3tog to prevent holes here depending on your tension).

k2tog wrap2

Continue working back and forth, picking up wrapped stitches like this until you have no more wrapped stitches left and your work looks something like this:

heel done

It may look like the heel is folded over itself and your foot will never fit in there. Honestly, I thought I had put the heel on backward when I was making mine. Don’t worry though, there has NOT been a mistake this time. The cuff will take this funky looking heel and straighten it out to more sock like proportions. That does mean though, we’re ready to start the cuff! Almost done now.

Depending on how many stitches you had on your heel, you will either knit across the first needle or just keep working in the round. See my little pink marker in the picture? That’s the beginning of my round, so I’m just gonna jump right into the “corner” of the sock where we’ll knit three together.

k3tog wrap

Using the unworked foot stitch, a worked foot stitch from the same round, and the wrap portion of our first wrap stitch (just like before) knit three together to turn across the round. Knit across needle 2 and do the same thing in the other corner. Move your marker into the k2tog stitch to mark the beginning of the cuff and evenly distribute your stitches onto three DPNs.

corner done

Now, one last sidebar before we finish up the cuff (and the post really). When it comes to keeping holes out of your socks, we enter another “do what works for you” area. If you need to knit three together instead of 2, do it. If you need to knit 5 together then do it. Maybe you don’t need to do anything at all. Whatever works for you and is comfortable for your foot is the right way.

Oh, and don’t get too frustrated if you have a hole no matter WHAT you do. Socks and mittens are very straight forward, but not easy. They both take practice and time to get right and get rid of all the holes.

Right then, back to work.

To finish up the cuff, knit around for one inch (measure from the marker we just moved) and then start your favorite kind of ribbing. I’m using a 2×2 rib for mine, but you can use a 1×1 or whatever suits you. If you DO choose a 2×2 rib be aware that you may need to fudge the first row a little to make it work (I have 40 stitches on my needles and that left me with knits back to back, so I had to decrease by 2 to get the pattern to work right).

When you’re happy with the cuff length, bind off loosely. If you need to, get a larger needle (1-2 sizes bigger than you’re using) for binding off. The larger needle will keep the stitches looser. Tuck all your tails in and you’re done!

Repeat that business (or see the short version below) for sock number 2 and you’re all done! Congrats on you new pair of socks!

The Short Version

Materials:

 

  • 1 Skein Worsted weight (4) yarn any brand, fiber, and color (about 275 yards)
  • 4 size US-5 (3.75 mm) Double Pointed Needles–DPNs (or 1 circular needle)
  • Split ring markers, locking stitch markers, OR safety pins (at LEAST 2)
  • A measuring tape
  • OPTIONAL: Medium stitch holder(s)
  • OPTIONAL: Knitting Gauge

 

Gauge:

5 sts x 5 rows =1 in x 1 in

**GAUGE NOTE: Because this pattern is using measurements rather that stitches, it doesn’t matter what weight yarn you use or what size needles you use as long as you are matching the measurements. I have listed here what I am using for this project.

Take Measurements:

  1. Across top of toes
  2. Big Toe Length from tip to joint
  3. From your big toe joint to the start of your heel
  4. Heel height from bottom of foot to base of Achilles tendon or just below the Medial Malleolus (the bone that sticks out on the outside of some ankles)
  5. Desired cuff length

TOE

Using two DPNs and either the cast-on above, Judy’s Magic Cast-On or similar, cast on the length of measurement 1 MINUS .5 inch. Place a marker to indicate beginning of round.

Round 1:  Knit around

Round 2: Place marker, KFB, k across needle 1, place marker, KFB, k across needle 2

For older child and adult socks:

Repeat round 1 and 2 until measurement 2 is reached.

For younger child and infant socks:

Repeat round 2 until measurement 2 is reached.

FOOT

Slide stitches evenly across three needles

Round 1: K around

Repeat round 1 until measurement 3 is reached.

HEEL

Short Row 1: K across half the FOOT stitches and slide remaining stitches onto a stitch holder or leave on DPNs unworked.

Short Row 2: P across to last stitch, wrap last stitch and turn.

Short Row 3: K across to last stitch, wrap last stitch and turn.

Repeat Short Row 2 and 3 until 1/3 the number of short row 1 stitches are wrapped, ensuring that left and right sides of short rows have same number of wrapped stitches. Ending row will depend on number of stitches.

Short Row 4: Knitting knits and Purling purls, work across row. With 1 wrapped stitch and wrap yarn, work 2 together.

Repeat Short Row 4 until all stitches are picked up.

CUFF

Round 1: k around, working k3tog with working stitch, worked stitch, and wrap at corners of work. Place markers in K3tog st at beg of round.

Return stitches to 3 DPNs

Round 2: k around.

Repeat round 2 for 1 inch.

Round 3: k2, p2 around.

Repeat round 3 until measurement 5 is reached.