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

Designing Socks

Now that we have the basic terms of socks down (and a couple of patterns to start with), let’s talk design.

The best place to start when it comes to designing socks is “where?” No, that’s not an irritating teaching question, I mean where on the sock do you want your design? Does a sock with lots of colorful stripes appeal to you? Some extra fancy colorwork? Or perhaps something simple, with just the toe and heel highlighted? Maybe you’d like to add an applique or some beads?

Make sure that you keep the where in mind as you think through your design. Bead work is fun, but make sure you’re not putting beads on the bottom of the foot will not be nice to walk on. Appliques are super fun, but do you really want to cover them up with your shoe? Make sure as you’re designing that you know how the sock will look not only on the foot, but also in the boot (or shoe, or whatever). If you’re designing socks that are meant to be slippers (or worn only without shoes) you have a little more freedom of design than if you’re designing socks that are meant to be worn with shoes.

Once you have an idea of where, you’ll want to look at how the design will effect the length of the socks.

I had the idea of making some Fibonacci socks, using the number pattern as a guide for the stripes. While I’m not fond of the colors I worked them in, using a mathematical pattern as a guideline works fairly well. I would probably work them backwards (with the small stripes at the toe) next time or use brighter colors like the stripes above–maybe both. That’s part of designing though, sometimes you make something and look at it when you’re done and just get a better or different idea.

Fibonacci sock

Getting back to the point though, the Fibonacci pattern gets into very wide stripes very fast. The wider stripes lend themselves to longer socks so the pattern is easier to see. If these were knee high or thigh high socks, the pattern of ever increasing stripe width might be a little more obvious. Working a pattern like this over baby socks–for example–wouldn’t make much sense.

If you do want to work stripes on baby socks, working them across the foot might be a better idea.

sock-1984451_1920

You may have noticed a theme in this post so far….

I’ve been focusing on stripes because, being honest, they’re one of the easier patterns to design and they are one of the easier patterns to create. They also happen to be EVERYWHERE in sock patterns. Nature can inspire stripes, mathematics can inspire stripes, your kids three (or twelve) favorite colors can inspire stripes. They’re just really easy to deal with.

sock-1878506_1920

They are also NOT the end all be all in socks and neither is colorwork. Take a look back at the Designing with Texture post for a few ideas on what to use to make textured, interesting socks. Maybe try a broken weave with a variegated, or a faux crochet cable in a creamy wool. Maybe work some baubles or purled picture into your socks. For those of you who are a little more advanced, cables can be worked into socks in a variety of ways. For those of you who have already worked mittens (we’ll get there), you might want to consider toe socks.

feet-49032

To help you along, and give you a little food for thought, I’ve made a Pintrest board for socks  to help get you started.

OH!! And don’t forget about your yarn needle! When we get to designing our Christmas Stockings, you may want to add bells or buttons or other notions that can be sewn on with a piece of yarn or thread and a needle.

Have a design you wan to show off? Email me at Nataliesoddities@gmail.com or visit my contact page.

Designing with Texture

We’ve taken a look at how to choose colors for your work, but what if you just want a solid color with a design in it?

The good news is there are TONS of books with THOUSANDS of stitches that you can dig through to get some AMAZING ideas. The bad news is that you still have to be the one to figure out how to make that work for what you’re doing, and sometimes picking from SO many stitches can be overwhelming.

So, what to do?

How about following these easy steps to help you decided which kind of stitch to pick:

First: Are You Knitting or Crocheting?

Knowing which art you’re working with will help you to narrow down the choices. You can’t Astrakhan on knitting needles and you can’t use purl texturing with a crochet hook.

I do have to say about this step, that I have sometimes looked at this and said, “I really want to crochet” then found some REALLY COOL knitting stitch and changed my mind. This is NOT a locked-in-neve-can-change-end-of-the-world choice. It’s a guideline, to help you get started….like the pirates code in Disney movies.

Second: What Are You Making (And Who Are You Making it For)?

This is the step that will really narrow it down. Don’t get me wrong, you can make any stitch into anything, but there are somethings that work

better than others. For example The Astrakhan stitch mentioned above would make a really cool bath rug, but maybe not such a great baby blanket.

il_570xN.1045516201_avkb

 

Not because the stitch CAN’T be usedthat way, but because you have to consider that baby will probably wrap their hands and fingers into the stitching and could easily twist the work around their hand and get stuck. ESPECIALLY when it comes to kids items, please, think safety first.

If you’re making something for a child or infant, look for stitches that don’t have a ton of holes  or stitches with regular, structured holes (like crocodile stitch) that are less likely for the child to get snagged on or caught in. The older the child, the less this is an issue, so keep in mind how old and able the child is that you’re making the item for. When in doubt, solid stitching is best.

round-3-grannyIf you’re making clothing of any kind, be aware of areas that you want to be covered.  It’s all well and good to make that “super simple shells dress” to wear to a summer function but if you end up with your ta-ta’s showing through the shells it’s not going to be a good thing. The same thing goes for shorts or pants or anything really. I know there was a bit of a fad going around to have granny square shorts for guys, and gentlemen, I am going to tell you now: if you want to make and wear something like that you will probably want to either put something on underneath or stitch in a modesty panel. EVERYONE can see through the holes.

Now, as a form of disclaimer, I will say that I am a very modest person when it comes to being covered. If you aren’t, take to heart what I’ve said so you have it in mind when working for others, but stitch what makes you happy and comfortable.

Italic Nesting basket 9.5 inch bath towels1

The last thing I’ll address here is “housewares.” Blankets (for adults or common areas), rugs, towels, baskets, anything you’ll use around the house for all comers. All of these things (along with things like purses, headbands, wrist/leg warmers etc) are really very cool because they’re sort of anything goes. Still be aware of the place they will be used (I have cats and you can’t put ANYTHING ruffly in their space or it WILL get ruined) and who will be using it (mom might like that 70’s granny stitch, but husband might prefer a more masculine pinwheel or basket weave). Other than that, just remember what Ms. Frizzle said “take chances, make mistakes, and GET MESSY!”

Third: How does it fit into your design?

Since we know what we’re stitching and how we’re stitching it, all that’s left is how to USE that stitch in the pattern we’re making. Crocodile stitch may be REALLY cool, but if you’re trying to make a skirt or shirt for work or nice occasions, it may not REALLY be the best choice (not that it CAN’T work, just be mindful of your dress code/situation).

pink-dressThink about these things when choosing a stitch for your design:

  • Where do I think this item will be used most?
  • Is this item going to be used for a specific occasion or is it multipurpose?
  • Will the stitch I want to use cover what needs to be covered (see the second step for more on this one)?
  • Will the stitch I use snag or catch? Is it safe for my purpose (see the first step for more on this one)?
  • Is this stitch appropriate for the person who will be wearing/using this item?
  • Is this stitch worth the time/effort needed to make my item?

 

Thinking about these things in advance won’t stop ALL disasters, but will certainly help to guide you as you go through the designing process. It will be REALLY helpful if you are able to draw out your pattern on paper or on a digital program to see what the stitch might look like in your pattern. Even if that means just making some curly lines or cross hatching marks to indicate changes, it may help you to see what “too much” or “not enough” looks like.

Designing With Color

Now that we know what color work is, how do we know what colors will go well together?

Well, there are a LOT of ways really. For those of you who have a good feel for color already, head down to the yarn shop and see what strikes your fancy. Even those of you who may need some help in this area should go and take a look. Sometimes just seeing certain yarns in certain colors helps to decide what direction you want to go or help to provide you with some inspiration.

For those of you who are less confident in this area, head on down to your local design store, art supply store, or big box home improvement store. We’re going to need somethings.

Don’t feel like you have to design using just one tool either, you can you one, two, or all three of these together to help you find what works best for you.

Color Wheel

Some of you might remember color wheels from art class or grade school. They’re those turnable rounds of color that help you to match up primary, secondary, tertiary, and complimentary colors.  They usually look like this:

91qq4iol7bl-_sl1500_

The color directly opposite is the complimentary color. For example, looking at this wheel, if you were to take yellow green and look for the opposing color, you would get red-violet. Knowing that simple trick is wonderful for all kinds of crafts because it is an at a glance way to find coordinating and contrasting colors. To learn more about color coordination and how to pick a color scheme, I suggest checking out this home design blog from decorlove.com They take you through more of the basics than I will be able to cover here.

A color wheel can be purchased at any art supply store, some home decor stores, during school supply season almost anywhere, and most online retailers. They aren’t terribly expensive and if you have kids not yet in school or just starting school, they’re a great way to teach the kids about colors too!

This tool is best for color beginners or those of you who may struggle identifying or separating colors. As you are designing your work, use this as a starting point to pick out which basic colors you want to work with. When you go looking for yarn, maybe take it with you to help match shades as you pick out what weight, material and amounts of yarn you’ll need.

Paint Sample Cards

Paint sample cards are the small cards found in the interior paint section of your local mega-mart or big box home improvement store. They can also, of course, be found at paint specialty stores–but those can be a little harder to find. They look like this:

dsc_0301

And come in more colors that you will probably EVER need. The BEST part about these is you can usually take two or three with you for FREE.

I would recommend these for people who are a little more comfortable with color, but not yet wanting to “wing it.” They give you almost endless possibilities (which can be a bit overwhelming for beginners and those who are indecisive) and also give you something to match against when looking for yarn.

What these will NOT do is show you complimentary colors or explain the primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. You’re on your own for that part. Luckily google can help you with most of that. If you DO need help with complimentary colors, I would have to direct you back to the color wheel.

Again, this is a good place to start before you buying yarn. Pick out a few and take them with you to match shades as you pick out your weight and material for your yarn.

Design Books

wallpaper-sample-books

A design book is–much light the name–a book full of designs! Usually you’ll find them where wall paper or custom furniture is sold. If you are lucky enough to have a home design store nearby they have shelves of design books that contain coordinated pallets with fabrics, flooring, paint, and other things all matched together. Some libraries have these as well.

The idea behind using a book like this rather than using just the color wheel (which looks only at broad color categories) or paint samples (which look at specific solid colors) is that these will give you multicolored, coordinated patterns to draw inspiration from. You’ll be able to see how colors match up together and maybe even find some surprises that you wouldn’t have thought worked well.

I love to go through these to see what’s new in the world of color design as well as to find new and interesting geometric or abstract patterns to work with. They can be a little overwhelming for beginners, just make sure as you’re looking that you focus is on the COLORS, not on trying to incorporate the patterns into your work.

This is a good place for those of you who are already familiar with colors and just want some inspiration. The downside to these is that usually you won’t be able to take a sample with you. You will probably be able to take a picture with your phone or camera if you thought to bring it.

Online Resources

If you don’t have time to head out (I COMPLETELY understand), there are also some great resources online. As convenient as just looking online is, I am unable to recommend this as a first option.  The color resources that you view online will only be as good as your computer (or device) screen. For MOST things this isn’t an issue, and the screen quality has gone WAY up in recent days, but when you’re looking at the difference between colors called Lemon and Lemonade, in person is REALLY the way to go.

So, having finished with the disclaimer, here are a few online resources to help you out:

Here are a couple of color wheels for you. More can be found on this Google search.

Paint sample cards are a little harder to find online, but there are some REALLY cool color visualizers from paint manufacturers that let you look at colors together in a room. Here’s a list of those:

MOBILE APPS

Behr ColorSmart

Sherwin Williams ColorSnap

DESKTOP

Behr ColorSmart (pick a color to get started then click preview on the right)

Benjamin Moore Color a Room

Sherwin Williams ColorSnap

Color pallets and design boards like these can be found ALL over the internet. I find that Pintrest really is the “it” place (I just dated myself I think ^_^;;) to find a good variety of these. Just for you, I put together a design board so you guys would have a few of these to start from and some terms to look for.

You might notice in these boards that a lot of them have stencils, photos, and even plants! While you’re designing your own creations, it may help to put a board like this together to help you get all your ideas into one place. Then you can pare down any extras and you’ll have just what you need.

I need a…(Part 2)

Last week, we found two patterns that we’re going to use to design something new. I’m working on combining a skirt and a sweater to make a dress (that’s still not going to be finished in time for this post, sorry). But how exactly do we DO that? The sweater goes up to a 42 inch bust and the skirt goes to a 24 inch waist!

I think it would be fairly obvious that we’re going to have to add a few stitches to get to two to line up.We will also need to pay attention to the gauge on the two patterns. The skirt is written for two types of yarn, using different needles to obtain a gauge of 20 sts=10cm (4in) or 22 sts =10cm (4in). The sweater pattern is using MUCH bigger needles, so you need to align the two gauges so they  match up with what you want. In this case, the bigger needles work to our advantage because the skirt is so much smaller. JUST having bigger needles may not do the trick though, let’s pull out our calculator again.

calculator

Remember that guy? I told you we would need it at some point. This time, we’re going to look at the pattern repeats for the skirt and calculate out exactly how many EXTRA repeats we will need to line up with the amount of stitches that are already on our circular needles. If the math doesn’t work out to an even number, you may have to add or lose a stitch or two. Don’t get too wound up in the math, or you’ll drive yourself crazy trying to make it perfect.

The next thing you’ll need to do is grab that drawing back out and get your measurements (if you need to re-do them, that’s ok too). Decide how long you want the skirt to be and add it into your drawing. I am fairly tall and like a bit of a longer skirt, so I’m going to make mine about 30 inches long (remember I’m measuring from the waist too so it may sound really long, but it’s not exactly). This skirt has a little ruffle, so I’ll do about 3 inches for that and the skirt should hit me about mid calf (which I like).

pink-dress

Before we move on, I’m going to sketch out the dress on a model to see what it will look like. For those of us who are not skilled at drawing the human body, it may be helpful to grab a paper doll printable  you like and print out the doll to sketch on. I like this one, so that’s what I’m working with. At this point in the sketch, color isn’t too important, just pick something in the general range that you’re looking at.

So, now that we have our sketch and know our measurements,  let’s look at the first instruction for the skirt, which is the cast on portion. Since I already have stitches on circular needles for the sweater at this point, I am going to use those stitches rather than casting on any stitches. However, this pattern calls for a provisional cast on (something I’ll cover in the Knitting 101 blog once we get to more advanced skills) so we need to take a close look to see WHY.

In this case, the provisional cast on is being used to create a space for an elastic waist band which is something that I don’t need to worry about because the sweater will be attached at the top to keep the skirt on. That means I can move on to the next instruction.Which will be the section labeled “Skirt” since I don’t need the waistband at all.

Remember, this pattern is written for two different gauges and neither one of them is the one I am using, so I need to pay attention to how many repeats of pattern I am using as well as how many inches I need to add as I go. Luckily the first thing to do is to continue in stockinette stitch for several rows, which I can do regardless of gauge. What I will need to do is to figure out exactly how many rows I should go before starting my increase row.

Unfortunately, she doesn’t list how many rows for her gauge to be square, so we’ll have to figure that part out on our own. The best way to handle this will be to grab a set of 4.5mm (US 7) needles and some worsted weight yarn and make a gauge swatch to match the pattern’s gauge where 20 stitches = 10 cm (4 inches). That will tell you how many rows is four inches and from there you can be on your merry way. By my count, it was about 22 rows to make 4 inches, but don’t take my word for it, you should be doing your own gauge swatch!

Now assuming I’m right, that means 14 rounds should be about 2.5 inches. We are already working with more stitches and a bigger gauge, so I’m going to leave the increase rounds about 2.5 inches apart, whatever that works out to be in rounds. The wonderful thing about A-line skirts is that they are basically circle skirts, so you want them to increase evenly. If the skirt starts to ripple or fold up on itself, you’ll know that you need more space between increases and if it looks too tight or too straight, you’ll need less space between increases. Just play with it until you like how it’s coming out.

When you DO get to the increase round, remember that it may not work out perfectly in pattern. If you’re short a stitch, you can make one. If you’ve got one too many, you can decrease. If you end up with WAY too many or too few, you’ll need to either, increase or decrease evenly around OR just leave a few extra stitches at the end of the round and catch it up when it works out to be the right number. NOTE: This will not work for CREATING a pattern to share with others, but it works for making one item.

Once I have the length I want on the skirt, I’ll be able to move on to the ruffle at the bottom. Working this portion will work almost exactly the same as working the skirt. I’ll follow the first three rounds of the ruffle and then knit about 3 inches (per our gauge). Then I’ll work the next line and another inch or so of stockinette stitch to finish it up.

It’s simple enough right? So get out there and start seeing what YOU can combine! Have fun!

I need a……(Part 1)

I think just about everyone who has ever picked up a creative art has gotten to a point where they need to do something or want to make something and just CANNOT find a pattern for it. So what do you do when you can’t find that perfect pattern?

Well, if you’re name is Stephen West or Doris Chan, you just sit down with a sketch pad, but if you’re a little newer at this than she is, try combining two patterns to make something new!

Almost always, there are two patterns in the world you can stitch together if you are clever enough to find them and can read them well enough to know where to start, stop, and adjust. I’m not going to tell you this is easy (I’m going to tell you it’s hard actually), but I AM going to tell you that it will save you time in the long game and be worth the effort when you’re done. And BONUS, once you’ve done this a few times, you’ll be old hat and it won’t be hard anymore!

So…where do we start?

The first thing you’ll need to do is decide if you’re knitting or crocheting. Then you can start with allfreeknitting.com or if you prefer allfreecrochet.com or anywhere you can find some free patterns to practice with (grabbing your favorite pattern book off the shelf works too!). I have a sweater pattern that I LOVE, but I want to make it into a dress. Being a bit on the heavy side myself (never mind the pregnant part! Just a few more weeks!!), I prefer an A-line (think poodle skirt) or Empire waist (think ancient Greece) on my dresses. So I’ll be looking for a skirt or dress that I can attach to my sweater.

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The sweater I want to use is a pattern called Alexandra Ballerina top out of a book called Fitted Knits 25 Designs for the Fashionable Knitter by Stefanie Japel that you can buy on Amazon if you’re interested. She shows it in a gorgeous pink variegated yarn from Lion Brand (color 271).

 

 

 

Since I know what the top will be, I will just have to find a skirt that I like to go with it. All free knitting didn’t have anything for me, so I did a Google search to find something that would work for me. I found four that I think might work:

(if you would like to view these patterns, there are the links: 1. Spring Belle 2. Skirt 1507-08 3. Twirly Girl Skirt 4. Hip in Hemp) Unfortunately the finished product will NOT be ready in time for this post, so we’ll have to go with design pictures today.

Before we can REALLY get started with the design drawings though we’ll have to take some measurements. Either the measurements of yourself or the person you are making the garment for. If you’re making any kind of garment you’ll need to know exactly where to stop for EACH section you’re working on and exactly how big to make the garment. If I just follow the pattern for that Twirly Girl Skirt, there is NO WAY I will EVER fit into it! If you need help with how to measure, there are some great online resources that can help you through tailor measurements for men and women. Whoever you’re measuring, you’ll need a flexible tape measure which are readily available at most stores (even the grocery store, check the laundry aisle).

tape-measure

I know that I will not make the sweater full length, because I want to stop at the waist (since all the skirts I found and liked were A-line this time). Now, one of the things I LOVE about Stefanie’s books is that she includes pictures of the garment with the bust and waist measured as well as the full height of the garment you’re working with. As a designer trying to combine two patterns, this shows me where to stop! That takes some of the hard work out of it for me. So here’s my start:

bodice

I don’t have any sleeves on the design picture because I will not be altering the sleeves at all. So what you’re looking at above is just the bodice of the dress.

Now I’m going to look at a few factors. Do I want the dress to be one color or multiple colors? Do I want the Cable to continue down the skirt? To I need a defining waist pattern or texture? Am I working in the round?

SO MANY QUESTIONS!!!

Don’t worry though, a lot of them are going to be personal preference. You get to decide most of those. The first REALLY important one is “Am I working in the round?” That is the question that determines whether you bind off the sweater and sew the skirt on or whether you just keep going and move right into the skirt pattern. The sweater pattern I am using IS worked in the round, so now I have to see what my skirt options are.

Having looked at all four patterns, I can immediately rule out Skirt 1507-08 for this project because it is worked from the bottom up. It’s not impossible to flip that pattern around, but it’s more work than I want to do for a skirt that is only “ok” on my scale of  “bleh” to “this is gonna be awesome.” Upon looking at more pictures of the Hip in Hemp skirt, it’s a little straighter than I want for this dress, so I’m going to rule that one out too. The Spring Belle skirt is cute, but also quite plain, so I think that I’ll be trying to work with the Twirly Girl skirt. So now we have it, this top with that skirt and we can finally pull them together:

How in the world are we going to take a pattern that is designed for up to a 42 inch bust and match it with a skirt that is designed for up to a 24 inch waist? Becoming Barbie is not the answer.

Remember all those measurements I had you take? We’ll need them next week, so DON’T LOSE THEM.

 

 

 

Designing Colorwork

Every now and then I see something or read something and come up with an idea. I promptly turn to my husband and say “This is gonna be AWESOME!”

That’s usually the doom of my next project. Oh, it is awesome alright. Mr. Grinch’s sweater started off with that phrase and look how it turned out (well, pardon the lighting):

mrgrinch

The problem with my “This is gonna be AWESOME” projects is that they are usually very complicated and something I have never done before. In the case of Mr. Grinch, I had never knitted a sweater. Never mind adding lights and stripes and bells and appliques. The GOOD thing about these projects is that I usually learn a TON and they are worth the frustration and effort that go into them.

What does this have to do with designing colorwork? Well, you’re probably going to start with “This is gonna be AWESOME” and feel horribly frustrated along the way. JUST DON’T GIVE UP! You’ll learn a ton and you’ll get an awesome work when you’re finished.

When designing colorwork, there are several ways to go about it. Some of them (like stripes) are easier than others, but you’ll have to pick the way that is most comfortable for you. Today I’m going to go over three ways to design colorwork and they all involve our grid, so pull that out. Oh, and I’m completely making up the method names on this one, so you may not find any more about them.

The Pixel Art Method

First off, what is a pixel? Well, a pixel is a phone by….wait, no. A pixel is actually “a minute area of illumination on a display screen, one of many from which an image is composed.” (citation link). In a picture like this one (which you may recognize):

colorful-tree

each box outlined in black would be considered a pixel. If it helps you to think of them as little squares instead, that works too.

Designing color work using the Pixel Art Method kind of works two ways. If you’re following me on Pintrest, you’ve probably already seen my Pixel Art Board and any of those can be fairly easily translated into a knitting or crochet pattern by making a straight one to one piece. Meaning that each pixel on the drawing would equal one single crochet or knit/purl stitch. Pixel art is fairly easy to find online and if you’re creative, you can whip up something like this:

let-it-snow

and lay your grid over it to turn it into a work. Just remember that you’ll need to match the grid size to the smallest pixel on there so that the rest works out (you can’t exactly make half a stitch).

The other way to do this method is to take a picture like one of these:

and lay your grid over it, adjusting curves where necessary. Since you’re dealing with a square grid, you will have to fudge the curves a little. My general rule is that if the color takes up half the square or more, then it counts for color. I did up the rocket scene for you and it looks like this in grid form:

rocket-grid

You would may still want to add some thicker lines to mark it out for stitching, but this gives you a good start and hopefully the general idea for how to make a picture work.

Notice I stick to simple pictures with only a few colors. You COULD try out something like these:

which are very beautiful and complex, but have a lot of colors and a curves, and you would come out with either a HUGE work or with a work that was very disappointing. There’s only so much that can be done when you’re dealing with squares and knitting and crochet have their own limitations. Not to mention the limited yarn colors in this world.

Now, what you could do more easily with something like the boat picture there is use variegated colors and texture to make a similar scene.

The Natural Inspiration Method

If you’ve ever been walking around outside and see something that inspires you, you’re well on your way to starting this method. The idea is to draw inspiration from your environment. Your environment might be a busy office or workplace; a calm out door place or park; or even just your house with wild animals of all shapes and sizes (mine has two cats and a three year old with one on the way). Any of these places is a good place to draw inspiration from. Whatever you consider “your” environment.

For me, with a baby on the way, it has been easiest to draw inspiration from the coming boy. He’s already inspired a baby blanket for the shop (the crochet pattern is up too, if you want to make one!) and given me countless ideas for nappy covers, hats, shoes, and toys. Of course I haven’t had time to get ALL of those finished, so if you’re anything like me, it might be best to keep a journal of all your ideas so you can come back to them later.

This method really relies on quick sketches and KNOWING your craft. If you love design, but are new to crochet and knitting you may struggle with the practical application of this method. JUST DON’T GIVE UP! It will take time and trial and error, but when you get through it, the final product will be something you can be proud of.

Once you have your idea, sketch it out. Like I said, having a new son on the way has given me tons of ideas for him and for brother, so here’s one of mine:

eeyore-nappy-cover-and-hat

Notice the INCREDIBLE amount of detail and the VAST use of color (I’m being terribly sarcastic here). The point is that your drawing doesn’t have to be the best thing that ever happened as long as it makes sense to you. For this method, you don’t need a grid as much, but it can help with planning out pieces. In this case I know that the insides of the ears are pink and the rest is grey, so planning the ears on a grid might be helpful. If you are a great artist and want to plan out a tapestry style blanket this way, using a grid may help you plot out where you want certain pieces to go.

When you get to the practical portion of this method (the actual pattern writing part) it may be helpful to go to a free patterns site for your chosen art and look up other patterns that are similar to what you want to do if you need help. I’ve never actually made a nappy cover, so before I try to put this one together, I’ll try to find a plain nappy cover that I can use as a base pattern and adjust it as I need to for sizing. I HAVE made stick on tails before, so I’ll just “wing it” for that part. Let your experience guide you and don’t be afraid to get help from friends, neighbors, or the internet.

Remember to take LOTS of notes as you’re putting you work together so you can write a cohesive pattern when you’re finished and try to make good friends with other knitters/crocheters so they can help you test out your new pattern.

The Freestyle Method

The idea behind this method is to almost literally make it up as you go. Like Abuela in the kitchen, there’s no recipe to guide, just skill and creativity.

For those of you who enjoy this, some beautiful works can be created. For those of you who don’t, no worries. Not everyone has that kind of creativity and your creativity may lie elsewhere. I am one who is able to do this, but ask me to make the wires behind the computer look good and I can’t. My husband on the other hand can take a bread tie and some tape and make wires disappear (not literally, I don’t actually know HOW he does it). Each of us was gifted with a certain kind of creativity. You just have to look at from a certain point of view.

Getting down to the actual work, the best way to start this method is to try out  a stitch or style of work that interests you.

If you’re a beginner, you may want to make a granny square blanket or scarf with your leftover yarn like this:

1420820086994_1483979528770

using black when you tie it together can create a nice contrast, but if you have a bunch of the same colors (different shades of green for example) tying them together with an opposing shade (purple) or a complimenting shade (brown) can be nice as well. It all depends on what you want out of the project.

If you’re to an intermediate level, taking on something like basket weave stitches might make an interesting throw. Adding in a contrasting color to your basket weave can make for an interesting effect as well. Colored checks or stripes are another good way to test out a new stitch.

For more advanced  level, try taking a stitch that is usually done flat and making it in the round. How would you make a sock out of that stitch for example. When I created the Mermaid Tail Blanket, I hadn’t ever seen Crocodile stitch, but I figured it out and put it in the round and came up with this:

mermaid-tail-blanket

The Freestyle Method definitely gives you the most freedom of all the methods, but it also requires the most effort and skill. Don’t be afraid of it, but don’t worry if your work doesn’t work out either. This method is VERY rewarding because you learn so much and you gain so much experience, but it’s not necessarily very fast and does take a LOT of patience.

 

Colorwork

So, what exactly IS Colorwork? Colorwork is a fairly generic term for any work (either knit or crochet) that has more than one color in it. Yeah, everything from basic two color works like this:

1429240751353-930_1483979528728

to more complicated works like this one:

20160918_120225

Even patchwork pieces or “scraps” pieces like these are considered colorwork:

Any time you are working either knitting or crochet and you change colors, you have a piece that can be called colorwork. Don’t get confused though, there are some pieces that employ color like these:

All of those are worked with variegated yarns (or multicolor yarns). In those cases, the yarn does the color changing for you and it’s not considered colorwork.

Colorwork is a LOT easier to design than it is to actually make, but there are still a few rules of thumb to follow when designing a colorwork piece.

Knit or Crochet?

When you’re designing, you need to know if you’re going to be designing for knit or crochet or both. When it comes to color work, I strongly advise designing for only one or the other unless you are either very experienced with both knit and crochet or planning to keep your colorwork VERY simple. Things don’t always translate well from one to the other and it’s difficult enough without throwing color and pattern in there–especially when it comes to ANYTHING round (i.e. eyes, polka dots, noses, logos, etc…)

Crochet is DEFINITELY easier to put color into because working with only one loop at a time lends itself well to changing yarns. If you are unsure about which to design for, or this is your first go of designing colorwork, I would suggest trying it in crochet first. If you’re a knitter and want to give colorwork a go, don’t be afraid. You will need a little more patience, but there are several different techniques you can use that may make changing yarns easier. (We’ll go through those in a Knitting 101 post, so keep an eye out).

K.I.S.S

Yup, everyone’s favorite acronym. Keep It Simple Sweetie.

As cool as that pattern with 47 colors using nine shades of orange looks, make sure that you aren’t spending $3oo in materials for colors you’ll use less than six inches of once. There’s also the issue of being able to find the yarn at your local store. When working a big colorwork project, sometimes it is best to go the the store FIRST (no, you won’t buy anything this time) or check out their website to see what colors they DO have and in what styles. If you can get every color you want, but some of it is worsted and some of it is sock yarn and some of it is super bulky, you won’t have the consistency in the piece you may want. Checking first to see what colors are available to you in what weights will help to keep your work doable when you’re done designing it. Another good way to start your color work is to take a look in your stash and see what you have on hand that you need to get rid of (if you’re anything like me, you have just a couple lying around ^_~) and work your design based on those.

Now, there is a way around the problem of what is available. Buy all the yarn you will need in white and dye it yourself. I’ll put up a blog post about dying your own yarn in a couple of weeks so you can see how that is done. Dyeing your yarn is time consuming, but if you know about how much you will need, it will save you some money on materials. The real trick with dyeing your yarn is to keep it feeling soft and not crunchy. If you go this route, do a couple of practice runs to find your favorite method before you do your final dyeing for your project.

Will Variegated do the Trick?

Sometimes when I think I like something in stripes or in a pattern, I really just want those colors in a variegated yarn. If you find yourself switching colors every three stitches, as yourself “is this what I want or should I use a variegated yarn?” A lot of times  you can find the colors you’re looking for in a variegated at your local  yarn shop, mega mart, or online. If you can’t, it is possible to dye your own variegated yarn. Keep an eye out for that yarn dyeing blog in a couple weeks to see how!

Again, there are a couple methods to this, so before you come up with the final, take some scrap yarn or an extra skein to see how it comes out and which is easier for you.

 

 

 

Beyond the Basics

Alright, how many of you designers are going “SERIOUSLY!?” after last weeks post?

Yeah, me too.

The basics of design really are THAT simple. Most of it will rely on your creativity and what you can dream up. But there are some more tips in this post that can get you started and as this blog goes on, we’ll get into other projects that are more complicated like copying a favorite picture or logo (DO NOT SELL WORK THAT HAS LOGOS OR COPYRIGHTED CHARACTERS ON IT).  For today, we start a little simpler, and pick up from where we left off.

You should have your grid set and ready to go, looking something like this: guage-lines

Today I’m working digitally, so I’ve re-created the grid digitally to look like this:
blank-grid-sm

This grid may seem a little small, but you can always make yours bigger if needed. Like I mentioned above, we’ll go into the details of re-creating things in another entry, but if you are looking for some simple inspiration, I would suggest googling “Pixel Art” or looking it up on Pinterest (I put a board together to get you started).

Since the Holiday Season is upon us, I thought it might be fun to do a tree for my design. I really do encourage you to get out there and find something of your own, but I know that when you’re learning, creativity does not always come easy.

Now I did warn you earlier that my drawings aren’t going to be the best (if you didn’t get the warning, now you know), which is part of the reason I’ve gone digital today. A simple tree is easy enough to make, just make stacking layers of two rows and shave one off each side as you go up. Then add a stump. It comes out something like this:

blank-tree

Keep in mind as you look at these drawings, the brown boarder is not space we will be working. It is only there to help keep the whites from blending on the page.

Crocheters, there are a couple ways to go about a pattern like this. One would be to use colors and use single crochets for every stitch, switching colors as indicated by the grid. Another would be to do fillet crochet following the grid and leaving the green spaces as the mesh. Or you could do a bobble stitch or something similarly textured to differentiate a same color.

Knitters, there are also a couple ways to go about a pattern like this. You could knit the white and purl the green (RS), use a lace stitch to leave the green as the mesh portion and stockinette the white (or just knit the white), or you could use a textured stitch like seed stitch for the green and stockinette the white. You could also go into color work on this one, but knitting color isn’t quite as simple as crocheting color, so if you have never done color work, make sure you have a good tutorial first.

For those of you who are brave or already do color work, you could get fancy and do something like this instead:

colorful-tree

For a colorful pattern like this one, just follow what the color chart says (again, ignoring the lighter brown outline and guidelines) and make sure not to tangle your strings. I highly recommend these bins or something similar to help keep yarns separate. You can run the strand through the holes and it works like a yarn bowl to keep organized without spending the 60+ dollars for an ACTUAL yarn bowl.

Hopefully now you’ve gotten a start and your first place to find inspiration for your dishcloth masterpiece. As we go on, the pictures get more complicated, and we’ll start actually writing out the instructions for the patterns that we’ve created. For now, focus on getting something on paper that you’re happy with.

The Fun Part

I told you in my last post we would be moving on to the fun part and indeed we are!!

For this lesson, you’ll need every tool at your command. Pens, pencils, paper, rulers, ideas, and a stress ball wouldn’t hurt either….You may also want to find a quite space to complete this part. I know there is a noisy two year old in my house who is not always helpful when it comes to being both mathematically technical and creative (as some of this design will call for).

Now that we’ve gathered everything together, let’s start getting it all on paper. Before we do the fancy stuff, you may want to set up a working area like this:

working-area

The numbers running up the side and across the bottom allow me to see how many grid squares I’m working with so I can do some math easier. Knowing that I want this dishcloth to be 12 inches by 12 inches makes it easy enough to designate 2 by 2 grid squares as being one inch. If you’re going digital, here’s a grid you can work with, hopefully that saves you the time of having to make one yourself.

grid-blank

If you’re not familiar with the concept of scale, please take some time to read about it here. It may be something that you remember from Geometry class, but if you’re like me, that was a while ago and you may not remember it. Or if you’re like me in a different way, you barely passed geometry and need the refresher anyway. The short version for those of you who just need a quick glance is this: In real life the item measures an inch, on paper the item measures 1/2 an inch.

So, what’s the best way to start, now that we have our scale and grid set up? Well, we know that we’re making a standard 12×12 inch dishcloth, so let’s make a square.

square

That was easy enough, now I’m going to to add in a gauge line as well to make sure I don’t go too  nuts with my pattern. My gauge swatch should be 4×4 inches, so I marked my grid out every 4 inches. This is not a required step, but I find it helpful.

guage-lines

The rest is up to you. Knitters, you know from our gauge that 18 sts x 24 rows will be 4 inches and Crocheters, you know that 13sc x 14 rows will be 4 inches. Use that knowledge to your advantage and if this is your first design, don’t go too crazy with it. You don’t need to have a ton of color or fancy  stitching, just put something together that seems fun to you.

AHHH!! what do you mean no more instructions!? Ok, ok, here are a few ideas to get you started (also, bookmark this page. It’s basically amazing.):

Crochet Ideas:

Try out Crocodile Stitch

Row 1 sc Row2 dc repeat

Bobbles are always fun, how about the Aligned Puff Stitch (or do this every other row)

For the trendy, adventurous types, how about Broomstick Stitch ( Careful beginners, this is an intermediate-advance stitch. Also: I recommend a tongue depressor for this stitch)

Knit Ideas:

Try out Moss Stitch

Ribbing (k1, p1 on RS p1,k1 WS)

Broken Ribbing (k1,p1 on RS k1,p1 WS)

If you’d like to try some color work, how about Vertical Stripes

Perhaps you like lace, try the German Honeycomb (careful beginners, this is an intermediate stitch)

Now that you have ALL these Ideas, HOP TO! Use your favorite stitch or try out a new one to fill in your square. If you’re ready to move on to something more advanced, check out the next lesson Adding Color for Knit or Adding Color for Crochet