Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Beginner Brioche (Not Bread)

October 15, 2018
Continuing my quest to learn new things (and no, I’ve not finished the crochet cowl), I went to this month’s knitting guild meeting to learn to do the brioche stitch. Coming from a family of foodies and talented bakers, I’d only known about the edible brioche. The knitted version is a deceptively simple-looking, extra squishy stitch that is often knit in two colors. The guild instructor brought a sample of this Beginner Brioche Cowl.
Looks a bit like stockinette stitch — rows of knit stitches in columns of alternating colors. As I said, deceptively simple. Something I learned: counting is different in brioche. Each row is worked twice, and a single stitch plus an accompanying yarn over (which, for some reason, is referred to as its “shawl”) is counted as one stitch. Go figure! We started with one color brioche. I made the mistake of using the dark grey yarn I’d brought. Pro tip: stitches are easier to see in a lighter color. Nonetheless, I was able to work a few rows of real brioche. brioche-guild After everyone had worked a few rows in a single color, we ripped them out and dived in to two-color brioche. The instructions provided were all words — no diagrams or photos – which added to the challenge. I found myself chanting quietly as I worked across each row. The meditative aspect of knitting in action. twocolor-brioche I was pretty pleased with the way the grey knit stitches stood out from the orange purl bumps. But when I turned it over, I could see that I’d done something wrong. See how the grey cuts across the lovely orange column? back-brioche Being a novice briocher (is that a thing?), I couldn’t figure out what exactly I’d done wrong, but I knew that the error extended across a row. Looks like a purl that should’ve been a knit. Maybe. Although I ripped out the second swatch at the end of the meeting, I haven’t given up the possibility of a future brioche project. Maybe the Beginners Brioche Cowl in a couple of beautiful colors of bulky weight yarn. I’m open to all suggestions and recommendations. In the meantime, I’m making good progress with Starshower. I really enjoy the pattern and love the yarn — just hoping that it softens and drapes more once it’s blocked. starshower-cowl
Advertisements

Calling on St. Clare

September 27, 2018
I’m teaching my dear friend Pat how to knit. To be more precise, I’m helping her refresh and expand her knitting skills since she knit a couple projects back in college. To her first lesson, she brought me a small wooden token of St. Clare, who I was surprised to learn is the patron saint of needle workers.
Don’t the colors blend nicely with the Vanilla Latte sock? Pat got the token from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston; it’s taken from one of the many tapestries that hang in the exquisite and eccentric museum, which is also the site of the largest unsolved art heist. If you’re a podcast fan, check out “Last Seen,” a fascinating story about the theft and nearly 30 year search for the missing treasures. According to the inscription on the back, St. Clare, who was also a buddy of St. Francis of Assisi, is also the patron saint of sore eyes.
This dual patronage makes a lot of sense given the strain involved in deciphering stitches, not just for those working without the benefit of electric lights but for those of us who struggle to figure out what to make of the yarn on our needles — or in my case, as I continue my quest to learn crochet, our hooks. Here was my second attempt at the first couple of rounds of the Sandy Cowl (which, for some inexplicable reason, is also called the Eggnog Cowl).
My eyes definitely strained to decipher why each stitch was so tight and looked nothing like the pattern photos. I know hope I’ll be able to “read” the stitches as I get more practice, but I’m definitely not there yet. I ripped out the second attempt and went back to YouTube for some basic instructions and practice with the most basic of beginner stitches, the single crochet. With the token of St. Clare propped on a nearby table, I cast on and began again. I still can’t read the stitches very well, but I can definitely see — without eye strain — that I’m getting the hang of it.
Thanks, Clare.

Something New Every Day

September 20, 2018
Part of what I love about knitting is the opportunity to learn something new — whether it be a new stitch, discovering the magic of blocking,  or figuring out how to make a too-small sweater bigger.  For at least a year, I’ve been saying (mostly to myself) that I want to learn how to crochet. Yesterday, I bit the bullet.
And boy, did it feel fiddly! The chain stitch cast on was a piece of cake, but it took me ages (well, a bunch of minutes) to figure out how to hold the working yarn, stitches, and hook. The experience gave me new appreciation for the challenges of my beginner knitting students. I discovered, pleasantly but not surprisingly, that the process began to feel easier with practice. It’s what I tell novice knitters and turns out, it’s right! I started with a basic square of single crochet using a bit of leftover cotton yarn from my stash.
I can’t yet “read” the stitches very well. Sure, I can see a couple of spots that don’t look right, but I have no idea what went wrong nor how to fix them. That’s going to take some more practice. I felt so delighted with this little accomplishment that I decided I should dive into a pattern. Ha! Lessons learned: don’t try to learn a new skill after 9pm nor after a glass of wine. My next step will be to learn a few more basic stitches like double crochet or half-double crochet (what?!) before attempting an actual project. Any suggestions for a beginner crochet project that doesn’t involve granny squares? Back in the knitting world, I’ve just finished the first Vanilla Latte sock. Yarn is Urth Merino Sock, colorway 2018. The person who’ll receive these for Christmas has bigger feet than I do, so even though I used my foot as a rough gauge, I continued a bit longer before shaping the toe.

Summer Savor

September 3, 2018

Although our children are technically no longer school-age, the calendar still “resets” on Labor Day. Kevin and Michael are back at college, having finished their first week of classes and after journeying 300 and 1,500 miles respectively.

As usual, I’m filled with conflicting emotions of hope — a new year, a clean slate — and loss — loved ones leaving (literally and figuratively) and moments not savored. So on this quiet morning, I’m taking a few minutes (who am I kidding? this always takes longer than I expect!) to capture some special moments from the summer. No commentary, just memories.

Natharbor4

monadnock-selfie

AroostKrdpals

MHDcabaret

Agh-MAH-colby

MODmudfun

GHbeach

GHbeach2

heart-rock

No photos of knitting, but you know it’s always there, keeping me company, teaching me valuable lessons, and helping to keep me balanced.

 

 

 

 

 

Intro to Entrelac

June 10, 2017

Over the past couple of months, my knitting focus has been on the public art, yarn bomb project at a nearby lake. While great in length (about 23 feet/7 meters in total, I think), it wasn’t particularly interesting knitting. I didn’t have an idea for my next project, but I was looking forward to it — whatever it was!

By good fortune, I spent a couple of hours with a dear friend who asked for my help in rescuing her project, a cozy entrelac throw for a granddaughter who will be heading off to college in the fall. In advance of my “house call,” I watched a couple of entrelac videos and fell in love with the geometry and construction.

As soon as I got home from our wonderful visit — I ripped and tinked while Barbara wove in ends (entrelac has lots of ends) — I found the Woven Sky Throw pattern and ordered four skeins of Universal Yarn, two each of English Garden and Silver Blush.

universal-yarn

I cast on pretty much immediately after the yarn arrived, just before Memorial Day Weekend. The ferry rides between Nantucket and the Cape provided perfect knitting time — accompanied by a tasty Whale’s Tail to start the summer off right. (Let’s not dwell on the cold, rainy start to summer that we’ve had here in Massachusetts, where it was 49F/9C for a couple of days last week.)

entrelac-ferry

I took advantage of a dishwasher dilemma to knit a few rows. Thanks to a wonky latch, the dishwasher door wouldn’t stay closed, so I pulled up a chair and applied some foot pressure. Voila! Clean dishes and another tier of entrelac triangles.

entrelac-ntkt

Yes, I recognize that this did not actually fix the dishwasher dilemma, but I’m OK with the short term solution. Besides, there was no way I’d get an appliance repair person to make a house call on the holiday weekend. Maybe the house elves will repair it before we visit again….

What’s on your needles these days?

 

 

Girls Who Knit

December 9, 2016

For the past few weeks, I’ve been spending Monday afternoons teaching knitting to eight girls at a local after-school program. It’s the most high-energy 90 minutes of my week!

As always when I teach new knitters, a first lesson is to spot and then fix mistakes. Mistakes are inevitable, and if you can’t fix them, you’re more likely to give up. Although only a couple of the girls have tried knitting before, each of the 7 fourth graders and one fifth grader is on her way to becoming a Fearless Knitter.

They’ve started with a cotton dishcloth, casting on (knitted cast-on) about 33 stitches, and working a few inches in garter stitch.

I like seeing how each of them holds the needles and yarn, developing her own technique and muscle memory for the craft.

With each stitch, they’re becoming more competent and more confident.

“When I woke up this morning, I dreaded going to school, but then I remembered that we’d be knitting this afternoon. That gave me energy to make it through the whole school day!” A bit dramatic perhaps, but a sentiment that many knitters — including me — share.

 

Knitting Mistake as Memory Marker

November 5, 2016

I’ve written before about the inevitability of mistakes in knitting and about the many mistakes I’ve made in a variety of projects. Learning to fix mistakes is one of the key steps in becoming a Fearless Knitter.

I believe that every knitter has a different approach to mistakes, which can vary given the project, mood, or phase of the moon. Some are just fine with ripping back inches to fix a single dropped stitch. By “just fine” I don’t mean they’re happy with said ripping back, but they prefer the ripping and re-knitting to leaving the error. Other knitters prefer to think of the error as a personal “design element,” something that makes their particular project unique.

After a weekend visiting two dear sister-friends, Fearless Knitter Marcia discovered a few errant stitches in a square of her Great American Aran Afghan. Can you see it here?

aran-afghan-square-front

Hardly noticeable amidst the reverse stockinette stitch. It’s easier to see the knits (that should have been purls) on the reverse side.

aran-afghan-square-back

Now, perhaps a complex knitting project was not the ideal take-along for a girls’ weekend together since lots of conversation, cooking, and wine were on the menu. But that’s beside the point.

Marcia’s general practice is to fix mistakes, tearing back or tinking as needed. However, this time she decided to leave those four stitches. “Every time I see them, I’ll be reminded of that fun weekend,” she declared. Mistake as memory. I love it.

aran-afghan-squares

Lessons Learned on Re-Sizing a Sweater

September 30, 2015

There are lots of online tips for making a too-big sweater smaller. But as I discovered when I had the opposite problem — a too-small sweater that needed enlarging — there wasn’t a lot of help. With a fair bit of in-person, online, and book research, I was able to figure out how to make Michael’s special sweater large enough to fit his 17-year-old body. I learned a few things along the way, about myself and about knitting.

  • I’m not afraid to rip back and try again, especially when making something complicated and very time-consuming. A lot of time and effort went into this sweater even before I discovered that it didn’t fit. I’ve knit plenty of finished items that didn’t turn out right and were abandoned to a drawer or thrift store somewhere. This time, I decided to invest the time and energy into remedying the situation.
  • Making a sweater longer is pretty straightforward: Rip or cut back the ribbing. Pick up the stitches (I used a lifeline for this bit), and knit!
  • Knitting in the opposite direction changes the orientation of the stitches. If you look carefully, you can see that the white “specks” point up or down, depending on whether they’re in the original body of the sweater or in the added two inches.
    stitches point in different directions when knitting in opposite directions
  • Gussets are pretty nifty inventions. I needed to add about 4 inches to the circumference of the sweater, so I made two two-inch gussets — rectangular from the ribbing to the underarm and then tapered over about 4 inches into the arm sleeve.
    gusset stitched into the side of a knit sweater to make it larger
  • I appreciate attention to detail but not enough to make the gussets fit the sweater pattern.
  • Wrapping a knitted gift is a wonderful thing!
    finished stranded knit sweater in gift boxI’m delighted to report that the sweater fits — at least, that’s what Michael has told me! He’ll allow a photo “session” once the weather gets cooler. Of course, I’ll share.

 

***** SPECIAL WELCOME TO READERS WHO FOUND ME VIA WEBS Yarn Store (one of my favorite places)! If you like this post, please scroll back up the page & subscribe. You’ll get an email each time I publish (once or twice a week) or connect on Twitter. Leave a comment if you’re a blogger, and I’ll follow you back!

Making a Too-Small Sweater Bigger

September 5, 2015

As I’ve mentioned previously, the sweater that I knit for Michael is finished but not done. What I really mean is, it’s too small. This may have something to do with his increase in size from when I started the sweater. At the beginning of the year, he was on the high school wrestling team and was pretty lean — for a six-foot tall 16-year old. But after wrestling season, he started lifting weights and training in anticipation of football and, well, he got larger — much larger — as in 35 pounds heavier (“increased muscle mass” is his phrase).

We both managed not to get too upset (well, mostly) when he barely squeezed into the finished sweater sometime around the end of May, an event I did not photograph. We agreed that it’s beautiful, but there’s no way he could wear it. Here it is blocking before sleeves.

front of nordic sweater blocking on bed

Kevin, who’s older but smaller than Michael, volunteered to take the sweater, assuring both of us that it would fit him just fine. How very generous! But I resolved to figure out how to fix it.

I consulted other knitters, looked through several knitting books, and searched online for “how to make a enlarge a sweater” and “my sweater is too small.” I settled on the following strategy:

  • take apart side seams
  • remove lower ribbing,  add 2″ to the front and back, and knit the ribbing (This involved using “lifelines,” a technique I’ve found very handy!)
  • knit two 2″ gussets to sew into the side seams, thereby adding 4″ to the circumference of the sweater (well, minus maybe 1/2″ total of seaming). The gussets are rectangles up to the underarm and then tapered to a point over about 4-5″. I hadn’t reached the tapering in this photo.

two rectangular knitted  gussets for enlarging a sweater

I’ll have to open the underarm sleeve seam for a bit and add the tapered part of the gussets there.

I really, really hope this works. Wish me luck!

 

Knitting Wirelessly

March 26, 2015

At the risk of sounding like a dinosaur (and no, I don’t know what a dinosaur sounds like), I’d just like to say how awesome it is to have the Internet as a tool in my knitting teaching and learning tool kit.

In a recent knitting class, Rachel was learning how to make a provisional cast-on for Knit Picks’ Chromatic Circle Cowl, a luscious piece that’s knit “lengthwise.” After I explained the point of a provisional cast-on — to be able to create a seamless circle so that the subtle color changes would “flow” — we found an online video tutorial. Rachel watched, followed along (with the occasional curses and snide comments) and paused, as long as needed to complete the cast-on.

Watching_video

The next week, Kathy decided her next project would be a Pineapple Tea Cozy (not a typo). Before she bought the yarn, I recommended she try the pattern by knitting a swatch with some spare yarn. The pattern looked simple enough, but as my mother says, “anything’s easy if you know how.” And we didn’t know how to decipher the instructions in this pattern.

Using Kathy’s phone and my laptop, we looked through Ravelry projects, searching for notes and tips. Then we searched for videos — “how to knit pineapple stitch” and the like — all to no avail. Then Kathy typed the instructions, “k4tog, p4tog,” into her search engine and discovered that the stitch is also called the “anemone stitch.” That was the breakthrough we needed. One click on a video, and she was on her way.

Anemone_Stitch

%d bloggers like this: