In the northeast of North America, after a very warm fall and year-end, winter has finally hit with a vengeance. It’s messed me up terribly. We didn’t experience that slow slide into colder weather that we typically do in November and December: early this month we had about a week of transition and then boom it’s well below freezing and there’s snow on the ground.
This mean that there wasn’t the usual slow wardrobe transition, when you progressively dig through the strata of winter gear in the closest. Just two weeks ago, I was wearing a light coat and a single layer of mittens and no hat! Now it’s the full-length down coat, hats, big cowls and double-layer mittens.
I don’t know whether you do the same thing, but I enjoy the usual slow transition into a winter as a time to assess my winter accessories. I get them out from their moth-proof plastic bags, and see how they look. Still fresh, or a little tired? Any spots of wear and tear I didn’t notice in my rush to put them away last spring? Do I still like them? The slow transition gives me time to mend, rework, or outright replace ones I’m tired of.
Back when I was editing patterns for our winter issue, it was definitely not mitten weather. Being of cold hands and currently obsessed with brioche knitting, I absolutely adored the Kastanienfeuer mittens. The brioche fabric is ideal for mittens: lush and full and insulating and soft and warm. I remember thinking to myself that they’d be an excellent candidate for this year’s mittens. And then it just never went cold, so they slipped my mind.
Then last week, it got cold. Needless to say, I’m tossing my stash for yarn for these mittens.
The Winter issue features a new design from one our favourite hat designers, Woolly Wormhead.
Bimtral is classic Woolly: flattering and easy to wear, and all sorts of fun to knit.
It’s worked sideways – not just for fun, but to address the properties of the yarn that Woolly chose. The yarn is a wonderful blend of camel and silk, which is soft but not wildly stretchy. So Woolly turned the hat 90 degrees, substituting sideways garter for the usual lower-edge ribbing. But because it’s worked sideways, it requires a graft to finish. But this graft is not your usual – it’s grafted in a very particular manner to create a purl ridge.
Since grafting can be a bit tricky at the best of times, Woolly has written a tutorial on her blog, here. It turns out that the specific technique required for this hat is actually the easiest of all of the “speciality” grafts – even easier than the standard version, in fact!
(Funny story: You can’t tell in these pictures, but the boots I was wearing had just developed a hole, and needed replacing. Shortly after we took these pictures, I got myself a new pair, and the first thing I did was make sure they still worked with socks. Because priorities.)
I’m not going to bang on about how you’ve probably got a lot of variegated sock yarn in your stash that needs using up, and how this is a great way to use up and tame a busy variegated yarn. And I’m not going to talk about how longer sock legs can take a long time to knit and that this design solves that problem, too. But there is one element of the design I do want to talk about… the pattern stitch I used on the leg.
For months, other designers were raving the wonderfulness of the book Sequence Knitting. After Laura Nelkin basically told me that she wouldn’t be friends with me any more unless I got a copy, I went ahead and ordered it. When it arrived, I flipped through it, expecting my socks to be knocked off immediately.
And I have to make a confession: based on that first cursory pass through the book, I didn’t get it. I thought I was missing something. I could see that it’s beautifully photographed, the layout is gorgeous and very usable, and it’s clearly well-written, but I didn’t get why everyone was raving about it. They’re just knit and purl stitch patterns, I was thinking… what’s the big deal?
But one night I sat up in bed, and I read it. I started right at the introduction, and actually read through the book. This is a book that needs to be read. There is a fantastically clever and wonderful and amazing concept behind the book and the pattern stitches, and it needs a little reading and thinking. But I read. And then I thought. And now I’m obsessed.
Sidekick is my first design to be inspired by Sequence Knitting, and I’m quite sure it’s not the last. This particular stitch is a three or four-stitch repeat (depending on how you’re looking at it), and it creates a wonderful, squishy, stretchy – and most importantly – reversible fabric. Ideal for a long, fold-over boot sock leg, in fact.
Your gift knitting is done, isn’t it? Nearly? (One year I finished knitting the hat I was giving my mother in the car on the way to her place Christmas morning…. I let her try it on and then took it back to weave in the ends and block it.) If so, it’s time to be selfish! And just in time for the cold weather, perhaps a pair of quick-knit boot socks?
SpaceCadet, the dyers of the lovely yarn I used for this design, is hosting a KAL, starting December 26th. There are prizes! I will be popping in to answer questions, provide guidance and generally admire the colour combos that you’ll choose! More info on the KAL in the Ravelry group. They’re also offering kits of the yarn, too….
Let’s get something straight right up front. I don’t mind “no stitch” symbols, at least when they’re used appropriately. I get that sometimes they’re needed in grid-based charts to show where the stitch count changes.
But, the charts for Cameo Flower have a lot of “no stitch” symbols, don’t they? So many “no stitch” symbols, in fact, that they make it a little hard to see what’s going on in the pattern. Take the Filigree chart, for example.
Although the designer placed these “no stitch” symbols to help the knitter see how the pattern lines up, they create other questions: for example, where, exactly, does the stitch count change? And should the double decreases on row 9 really be directional sssk and k3tog decreases, considering that all the other double decreases in the chart are centered CDD decreases?
Instead of tripping over “no stitch” symbols, let’s try examining the pattern as a stitch map.
With column guides enabled, the motifs pop into view. Smooth lines of k2tog lean to the right, and lines of ssk lean left, joining together to create peaks. The directional double decreases of row 9 blend perfectly with existing decrease lines, and the centered double decreases on rows 13 and 15 cap off little trios of stitches. I especially like being able to see how everything comes together in the center of the stitch pattern.
Such lovely symmetry! A conventional chart with “no stitch” symbols does obscure this.
Seeing this symmetry, seeing how the decrease lines come together, is super useful to me as I’m knitting: if I don’t see the correct stitches being joined by a decrease, I know I’ve goofed and it’s time to tink back. But the point is that I’ve caught the goof early, when tinking back is still a reasonable option. And that’s part of why I love stitch maps. By getting rid of the grid and “no stitch” symbols, they make it easier to see what’s supposed to happen in a lace pattern. And being able to see the target makes it easier to hit, right?
Hello! This is Kate with her Technical Editor Hat on! The topic of blocking came up a few times when I was editing the patterns for this most recent issue, and I thought it was worth discussing…
The word “block” tends to send knitters into a bit of a tizzy. (It did me, for years. I’m not ashamed to admit it.) It seems so complicated, with all these pieces of equipment like mats and wires and pins and buckets and towels and special washes and goodness knows what else.
The word “block” is actually a very general term: think of it like “cook”. When you “cook” dinner, sometimes you use the oven, sometimes you use the stove-top, sometimes you use the barbecue, sometimes you use the slow-cooker, sometimes you use the microwave – heck, sometimes you don’t even use any equipment at all, you just take some bread and lay slices of meat or cheese or beautiful garden-fresh tomatoes on it.
How you cook depends on the ingredients and the recipe; how you block depends on the yarn and the project.
The good news is that for the vast majority of types of yarns and projects, there is a very simple answer: wash. That’s right, just wash whatever it is. Of course, you’ll want to pay attention to the washing instructions for the yarn: if it’s wool that’s inclined to felt, hand-wash; if it’s a cotton, or a man-made fiber, or a wool that’s treated to be safe in the washing machine (i.e. “Superwash”), then you can throw it in the machine.
(And if you’re worried about washing wool, remember that sheep get rained on. Washing wool does not ruin it. Quite the opposite: wool LOVES water. Wool NEEDS water. What felts wool is not water, it’s the agitation; it’s rapid temperature changes — i.e. pouring very hot water into cold — or the sort of agitation that a top-loading washing machine creates.)
Washing a knit piece is actually rather miraculous: it evens out your stitches, it smooths the fabric, and tidies up your edges, it makes your fabric lie flatter, it opens up the lacework, it brings your cables into shape, it relaxes your colorwork. It beautifies!
But it’s also necessary: it gets the dog hair and coffee stains out, it gets rid of any unfixed overdye (I had blue feet once for a couple of days because I wore a pair of socks made of hand-dyed yarn that hadn’t properly been fixed, and the dye bled onto my feet), it removes any moisturizer than you might have applied to your hands before you started knitting. It removes any sizing that might have been applied to the yarn at the mill, any dust that might have gathered on it from the yarn shop.
And washing the pieces is super-important before you sew up. It makes it easier to sew because pieces lie flatter and edges curl less. But even more than that, a proper washing brings the fabric to its final shape and size. Just as when sewing with woven fabrics, you prewash to preshrink before cutting so that your seams aren’t puckery, you want to prewash your knit pieces before you sew them up so that the seams are tidy and neat. After all, if you sew up and then the pieces stretch out with a first wash, then you’re going to have lumpy and funny-looking seams.
Fibers and fabrics can change pretty radically with washing: a superwash wool, especially one that is knit loosely, tends to stretch out, linen and hemps soften, silk blooms and relaxes; garter stitch will relax vertically, ribbing relaxes horizontally.
What this means, of course, is that when you’re knitting it, your fabric might not look the way the finished project will… I remember when I was just starting to seriously knit as an adult, I couldn’t figure out why the knitting on my needles never looked as good at the knitting people in my LYS were wearing: I just assumed (like everyone does) that it was because I was a rubbish knitter: nope, not true. It’s just that I hadn’t washed the pieces yet. When I’m working on something, it’s crumpled and uneven and untidy and scrunched up and often pretty awful-looking. But once I wash it, it looks much nicer! (You don’t think that the lovely Electricity hat looked that smooth and neat on the needles, did you? There is absolutely no chance in the world it did. That hat’s been washed and steamed. And Cameo Flower was absolutely a crumpled mess when it was being knitted.)
It also means that your fabric on your needles might not be sized the way the finished project will be, either… if you’re working a piece of lace, you know this instinctively, it’s smaller on your needles than when done. (Which, by the way, means that you need to measure your swatch after it’s been washed the way you intend to wash the finished project; listed gauges are always blocked gauges.)
Now, there are some projects for which you need to do more than wash: and this where the mats and wires and pins and all that goodness come in. Lace needs to be stretched to open up all the lovely yarnover holes: to do that, we get the piece good and wet – I soak it in lukewarm water for a good twenty minutes, roll it in a towel to wring it out, and stretch it out, pin it and let it dry in its stretched state. A yarn that has elasticity and a memory (wool, silk, other animal fibers), will “remember” that stretched position when it’s dry and be gorgeous. And colorwork often needs an additional steaming to tidy up any bumpy areas.
But true confession: the only projects I pin out this way are lace shawls. I don’t bother pinning garment pieces (gasp!) because I’m not going to pin them out every time I wash the thing, so I don’t want to set a precedent I’m not going to keep up with.
There are some yarns that need some treatment in addition to washing. Man-made fibers, for example, don’t stretch or change shape or relax with washing, so we apply steam to those to smooth, even out, open up those fabrics. But I still always wash: after all, I’ve still been eating chips and sharing the couch with the dog and spilling coffee, no matter what yarn I’m using.
There are times when a pattern might suggest specifically not to stretch or manipulate something too much: the designer of the Attention Span hat, for example, suggests being careful not to squish or flatten the lovely texture of the Entrelac. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have a wash: after all, it’s a winter hat, chances are it’s going to get snowed or rained on at some point!
And a garment is going to need a wash at some point, is it not? Indeed, I can’t think of anything you will knit that won’t need to be washed at some point. Most things will be worn many many more times after washing than before, yes? So knit with that in mind: make it look good after washing! More the point: let the washing make it look good! Seriously, if you’ve not been happy with how your pieces look when they’re done, try giving them a wash: I guarantee you’ll see a difference.
We’ve heard this so many times since launching Knitty in 2002: “Please pass on my thanks to (insert Tech Editor’s name here) for her work on my pattern. It’s so much better than when I submitted it, and I’ve learned a lot from the process.”
Backing up, let’s talk a bit about who our designers are. We do have a few established designers, and some that design for a living. But we also have a variety of people of all levels of experience who have designed something great and send it to us to see if we’ll publish it. Our Tech Editors are women (so far — we haven’t had a male Tech Editor yet) with superior skills in math who also understand handknitting and garment creation in a way that the average knitter might never achieve. They’ve gone out of their way to learn how to convey the creation of some 3D object in words alone so clearly that anyone with an appropriate skill level can reproduce it. It’s really a form of technical writing. And it’s a hard craft to master.
Some, usually most, of our Designers embrace the feedback that they get from their Tech Editors. They answer the Editor’s questions promptly and very often learn from those questions themselves. (“What didn’t I convey clearly enough, so that the Editor had to ask about it? How could I have written this better?”) Some, thankfully not many, don’t make the Tech Editor’s job easier. They fight. They’re sure their way was the right way. They feel that the questions being asked by the Editor are challenges to their skill level. Which is kind of silly. Because just as designing is not my primary skill, I would expect lots of Designers to be not much of a Magazine Editor. It’s okay to be really good at designing, and to allow the Tech Editor to be really good at their job. When Designers and Tech Editors work in harmony, all that results is a much better pattern.
The best Designers are ones who learn from the collaboration. And we’re lucky to have had many of those grace our pages.
I was lucky enough to be interviewed for the official Patreon Podcast, and the result is below! The Knitty part starts about 21 minutes in. There’s stuff about how we started, how we work, how Patreon is affecting our future (hint: for the better). Enjoy!
The weather is getting chilly here in Toronto, and I’m starting to think about warmer clothes. I don’t know about you, but I go through this funny transitional stage in my wardrobe: I need warming layers, but I’m not yet ready to put my favourite t-shirts away; I’m not willing to move to full pullovers and winter clothes. A cuddly wrap-style cardigan is just the thing for this time of year: it doesn’t feel heavy, but provides a bit of warmth as the days get shorter. I can wear it over those favourite t-shirts, to help me gradually make the emotional and sartorial transition between seasons. It’s also great for this time of year when the days are still bright and warm, but the evenings are noticeably colder.
Emma Welford’s Cirriform cardi is an excellent example of the sort of thing I love: it’s cuddly and wrappy and light and lacy and lovely. It will look great over end-of-summer outfits, and make you warm without feeling heavy or wintery.
The designer writes about the cardigan on her blog. She provides some guidance on working the pattern, on choosing a size, and on choosing a yarn. The yarn was sadly discontinued after Emma completed her sample, but it was such a lovely design that we wanted to publish it anyway. She offers up some helpful information so that you get something that provides exactly the cuddly and warming effect you’re looking for.
Tanya Seaman, designer of the beautiful and very clever Serendipia shawl pattern, tells us about her inspiration and design process….
I’m honored to have Knitty select Serendipia, one of my latest designs, for its Deep Fall 2015 edition! It’s my first magazine-published pattern! I am pretty excited about this design, and especially pleased to have my hard work recognized in this way. The elements of this design have been in the works for a couple of years.
Up until a few years ago, I had been knitting up some pretty basic sample pieces with Done Roving Yarns’ vibrant space-dyed yarns when the owner, Paula Farrar, asked me if I’d ever knit lace. I hadn’t, but I was curious – and I was up for a challenge. I fell in love with lace almost immediately, and it’s mostly what I knit nowadays. Because of my association with Done Roving, though, I was seeing all of these beautiful color combinations and wondering how I – now a lace enthusiast and not a sock-maker – was going to use them to great effect. And I don’t mean, just use them as if they were solid-colored, but make the most of what they are, to highlight their beauty. I looked around at what others were doing but didn’t see anything to grab on to. So I did my usual and made up something.
I love stripes, and I especially love bending them in some way. So, I was also interested in exploring a bent-stripe pattern, and used stitch-maps.com to see what it might look like. I had entered about half of the pattern and by accident hit the “Go for it” button, which generated a visual representation of my stitch pattern. It duplicated the pattern vertically, and – wow, this was an incredible look.
¡Serendipia, por cierto! [Serendipity, for sure!]
At some point my desire to bend stripes and use self-striping yarn merged into this new design. It took some patience and time to turn this into a knittable piece that would lie flat, as in reality, the peaks and valleys are much steeper than in this image. The first swatches show the colors pooling and striping, and for Serendipia I decided to focus on the striping version. (If you like pooling, please check out my Infinite Pools pattern, just published on Ravelry.)
To keep the stripes and color patterning flowing uninterrupted, I worked out how to put the decreases on the back side of the fabric. I created a video (another fun first!) to help knitters replicate this stitch.
To showcase to best effect the many specialty hand-dyed (and even machine-dyed) yarns, this pattern is intended to be customized. To make this easy, I created an interactive Excel file that spits out the customized pattern and charts.
One hesitates to choose favourites in an issue, but I must confess I do think I have one for our latest issue…
These are great.
I love a good fingerless mitten, and I love a good cable, and Resonator wins in both categories! I adore the seamless transitions between the ribbing and the cable pattern – a lovely detail which makes all the difference. 18
As she hints in the post, one of the changes I demanded, demandingly, is more than one size. Sizing is one of the things that’s important to us at Knitty – even amongst the editorial team, there are many shapes and sizes, and we like to be as inclusive with sizing as possible. Even for something like mittens, we like to be able to appeal to as many knitters (and wearers) as possible.
Cynthia has kindly provided some additional charts, for the thumb gusset. You can download them from her blog.