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Knitting Adventures: when gauge is not your friend

I am not a monogamous knitter, or at least not with longer projects. I find that things like sweaters just take too long to knit all in one go and I need to sprinkle in other projects to keep myself interested. I’ve been knitting for fifteen years (ouch, how can I be that old) and by now my gauge has become pretty consistent. However,  I still find that different needle types affect my gauge even if the needles are the same size.

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I am currently knitting this sweater for my husband and I have had so many issues with gauge. The pattern calls for US size 8 (5 mm) needles and I was able to get gauge with the called for needle size with my Knit picks Caspian Interchangeables.

When I finished another project I had on the go I didn’t think anything of using my metal interchangeable tips in US size 8s. And when I got to the second sleeve I used my 16 inch circular size 8s. It didn’t even occur to me that the different needle materials and needle lengths might effect my gauge. It wasn’t until I was sitting on my couch with three pieces of a sweater complete, and all knit at a different gauge that I saw the error of my ways.

Metal needles effect my gauge differently than wooden needles. For some reason I knit at a tighter gauge when I use metal needles and this effect is increased when I use shorter needle tips (ie. my 16 in circs).

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The worst part is that I KNOW you always knit your swatch with the exact yarn and the exact needles you plan to use but I still switched things up. And this is where it’s landed me.

I have three and a half of the four piece sweater complete but two of them really need to be ripped back and re-knit at the proper gauge. Ripping back a project is so disheartening and I haven’t worked on this sweater in forever because I just can’t bring my self to do it. At least it’s an Aran weight sweater and a relatively quick knit.

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Project Spotlight: Walnutz Sockz

My most recent finished object is the Walnutz socks by Sabine F. on Ravelry. This simple lace sock pattern was a joy to knit. I love the way the lace ribbing pattern looks knit up.

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The lace pattern is very intuitive, which made this a great project to take on the go. I always like to have a project that I can take with me for those spare minutes waiting in line or if I finish my lunch early and this pattern definitely hit the bill.

I would classify this pattern as a beginner level sock pattern and is a great choice for someone who wants to try their hand at lace socks. Although, I would not recommend this pattern for someone who has never knit a pair of socks before.

I really like the heel construction on this sock. I had actually never seen a heel constructed this way before but my toe-up sock knitting experience is limited. I was actually a little concerned about the heel. I typically knit the Fish Lips Kiss heel by Sox Therapist. I have pretty narrow heels so the traditional heel flap and gusset just doesn’t fit my foot. But these socks fit great throughout the heel.

All in all, this is a great pattern and I highly recommend it. You can check out my project page here for more information.

Christmas Knitting without the Stress

I think everyone has big dreams of showering their family members with gorgeous hand knit items for Christmas or at least I do. At face value it’s not such a bad idea; I love to knit and my family loves hand knit socks. So hand knit Christmas socks seems like a win for everyone.

Last I checked I had knit 15 pairs of socks this year, in addition to many other non-sock items. So it is not at all unreasonable to think I can knit socks for my entire family before Christmas. But holiday knitting can and is stressful. I am working under a deadline, which is usually not the case and I am knitting almost exclusively for other people, which is also usually not the case. I love knitting things for my family but at the same time knitting is my hobby and I don’t want to stress over it.

I have come up with a few methods to make gift knitting more enjoyable for me without sacrificing quality.

1) Start Early

If you start your Christmas knitting in December you will not finish everything in time and you will be stressed. This year I started knitting Christmas gifts in mid September so I could get everything done without being rushed.

2) Make a Plan

You need to know going into the holiday season what you are going to knit and who it’s for. So I sat down one night and searched Pinterest and Ravelry until I found the perfect patterns for my family members.

3) Be Realistic

I don’t know you, maybe you are a knitting ninja, but I certainly can’t knit my entire family sweaters. It is too time consuming and too expensive for that matter. It is important that you chose realistic items for your Christmas knits. If you’ve never knit a sock before than knitting your whole family a pair of socks is probably not a realistic idea.

4) Have All of Your Supplies Ready to Go

It is impossible to move from one project to the next if you don’t have the necessary tools at your disposal. So order all of the yarn you will need for Christmas in one go if you can. Then when things arrive wind up your yarn and organize it so it is ready to go when you need it.

5) Remember your Family Loves You

Your family loves your regardless of whether you knit their Christmas gifts. So if you just don’t have the time or the energy to knit you family gifts this year that is okay. Just because you are a knitter doesn’t mean that every gift you give has to be hand made. And if you get half way through your Christmas knitting and realize for whatever reason you can’t finish everything that is okay. Your family’s love for you is in no way contingent on their Christmas gifts.

 

What are your tips and tricks for knitting Christmas gifts? Let me know in the comments below!

How I (want to) Use Ravelry Project Pages

Like many knitters, most of the projects I knit are improvised. I love designing my own garments and accessories and its so rewarding to see something in a store and create a copy yourself. My habit of improvising my projects started out as a knitting crutch. When I first started knitting I had no idea how to read a pattern. There were so many abbreviations and terms I did not know. As I became more familiar with knitting I started to decipher some patterns.

I’ve now knit many projects from other people’s patterns and I have to say being able to do a quick internet search and find a pattern that’s already written is a huge time saver. Sure, I still need to knit a swatch but someone else has done all the math for me. Still, sometimes I want to make alterations to someone else’s pattern to customize the fit.

Being able to construct a garment exactly have I want it is part of what I love about knitting but remembering what I did, what I changed, or even my gauge/needle size can be a challenge. This is where Ravelry project pages come in.

It occurred to me the other day while I was writing notes in Ravelry for a project I had test knit that I am not using my project pages to the fullest. Sure, it’s nice to have a picture log of everything I’ve knit but if I’m not including things like gauge, needle size, the yarn I used or the alterations I’ve made the project is not repeatable. Maybe repeating a project is not important to you but if you’re designing a pattern then knowing how you constructed the original garment is pretty important.

Also, other people’s project pages are a great resource for picking out patterns, figuring out tricky or unclear bits of the patterns, or making alterations. Just yesterday I was trying to decipher some pattern directions and I was able to find several other people who had the same question. One especially helpful knitter detailed her solution in her project notes. While I’m sure I would have figured it out it was nice to have someone’s notes to reference.

So in the past couple days I’ve stepped up my notes on my Ravelry project pages so that my notebook is more than a collection of pretty pictures. I can go back and look at my notes and see what worked and what did not. It’s something I really want to keep up with  but Ravelry has always been something I’ve had a hard time committing to. I hope you found this post helpful and will look at your Ravelry project pages as a potential resource.

 

 

Why I hate Addi Turbos

As I am typing this post I can hear my mother’s voice  warning, ‘hate is a strong word Myra.’ And she is right, while I have strong negative feelings about addi turbos, I don’t hate them, I strongly dislike them.  On top of being more expensive than other well liked brands such as Hiya-Hiya and ChiaoGoo, Addi Turbos just aren’t that nice. I have four reason why Addi’s just don’t stack up.

Why I Hate Addi Turbos

  1. The Dull Tips
  2. The Kinky Cord
  3. The Sticky Needles
  4. The Weird Sizing

So first off, the tips of Addi’s normal turbo line are super dull. They are let your baby play with them dull. (In case you missed it that was a joke! Letting you baby play with knitting needle is not a good idea. The cord could be a hazard and you should only let your baby play with age appropriate toys) The dull tips make it difficult to insert your needle without spiting the yarn and any sort of cabling or lace patter would be darn near impossible with these needles.

I really like to glide easily from stitch to stitch and with my addis every stitch is a struggle. I just don’t want my knitting to be a power play.

While the dull tip issue might not be a problem with some of Addi’s other lines like their Sock Rockets the next three problems do carry over to their Sock Rocket line. I cannot speak to some of Addi’s other needle types, like the lace needles because I haven’t used them.

The cord is super kinky, and not in a good way. It seems like all my addis came with kinked cords. The kink in the cords make the needles unruly and make it difficult to knit in magic loop. One of my favorite things about my ChiaoGoos is that I never have to worry about the cord getting a kink in it.

And on top of the dull tips and the kinky cord the needles are sticky!!!! It’s just gross. It feels like your knitting with a sticky note, which is just not the knitting experience I desire. The stickiness dose lessen over time but so far it has not completely gone away. Plus, the sticky feeling stays on my hands even after I my knitting down.

My final issue with the Addi needles is the sizing. For their smaller needles Addi does something funny. The call their 2.5o mm needle US size 1 and they call their 3.00 mm needles US size 2. The problem with this is that those sizes are not correct! A US size 1 is 2.25 mm and a 2.50mm is a US 1.5. If you think I making a mountain out of a mole hill, try knitting half a sock on a 2.25 mm and the other half on a 2.50 mm.

All in all, Addis just don’t stack up to the other brands available.

 

How I do Yoke Shaping

There are very few things more disappointing than finishing a sweater only to find out it doesn’t fit. I knit my first sweater almost a year ago and I have learned a lot of things about sweater shaping since.

That first sweater is in the bottom drawer of my desk at work and only sees the light of day when the air conditioning gets so bad I start to wonder if my office was magically transported to the arctic. In all honesty the sweater isn’t that bad. There are really only two things that I really don’t like: the yoke shaping and the collar.

Me in the sweater we don't talk about.
Me in the sweater we don’t talk about.

The problem with the yoke is that I followed a basic sweater pattern instead of my own sense. I knit the sweater from the bottom up and the pattern had me do all of the decrease rounds at the very end, in the last two inches of the yoke. So from where I joined the sleeves to about two inches before the neck hole I was just knitting plain rounds. The problem with this method of sweater shaping is that most people aren’t shaped this way. When I finally put my sweater on I had all this extra fabric in the upper arms/ chest region that just gets bunched up.

Now when I knit a sweater I spread my decrease rows out over the entire yoke. I usually stagger my decreases so that closest to the neck I decrease every other round and the farther from the neck the more plain rounds I add between decrease rounds. At the bottom of the yoke where the body and arms meet I usually knit about an inch of plain rounds, without decreasing, just so that the wearer’s arms have plenty of room to move.

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When I made this gray sweater for my mom I knew I wanted to the yoke to be ten inches deep. I split my yoke shaping into three inch sections, with an inch of plain knitting at the bottom of the yoke. I knit this sweater from the top down so my shaping rows were increase rows rather than decrease rows. So for the first three inches, the section closest to the collar, I increased every row, for the second three inches I knit two plain rounds in between each increase row. For the last three inches I worked three plain rounds in between each increase round.

The result is a more sloped shaped yoke, which for me at least, is closer to the actual shape of my body. I have been a lot happier with yokes shaped this way. Of course this shaping method is specific to raglan sweaters and sweaters made form worsted weight yarn. With different yarn weights the total number of increased or decreased stitches is going to change and so is yoke depth. Regardless I always spread out my yoke shaping so that the shaping takes place over all of the yoke rows and not just a few rows closets to the collar.