December 23, 2012

The Importance of Dye Lots

This is why you buy enough yarn of the same dye lot (or at least visibly match it when you buy more than one dye lot):


Now, for this project I both knew this was going to happen (you don't buy yarn two years later expecting to match dye lots) and don't really care that it did (it's a couch wrap small blanket that will live in my apartment).  However, I still wasn't expecting the color to be that off.  This isn't just slightly different, this is whole 'nother color of blue different.

In other news, I finished the couch wrap I was making up the pattern for.  Which isn't a wrap.  It's not even a big shawl.  It's as big as the fleece blanket I was trying to replace.  Somewhere, I had a math fail when I calculated how many chains to do.  So when I get around to writing up this pattern, I have to re-do all my calculations so it is a couch wrap.  Since you got two patterns last week, I'm not in a rush now.  Especially since I now get to work on a sweater for myself:


The pattern is the Professoressa Cardigan by Connie Chang Chinchino.  This will replace a store bought work cardigan I always wear (the temperature in my office is not consistent no matter what time of year it is).  It's been my plan to replace it for awhile, or just add some variety, but now it has to be done since the current one has a small hole in the sleeve.  Oye.

I'm using Blue Moon Fiber Arts' Woobu in, believe it or not, the Smoke on the Water colorway (look it up on their site.  It shows a dark purple color.  Mine is gray).  I just started this last week and I'm in love with this yarn already.  By far one of the best yarns I've work with, and hopefully it wears the same way.  Being that I found this yarn randomly at Rhinebeck, it was a good pick.

One point about the yarn though: I'm lucky I read up on it on Ravelry before starting this project.  All the comments were along the lines of 'this yarn rocks but my sweater grew'.  So I did a proper swatch and, yes, it grows and your gauge will change.  I'm using that to my advantage, actually.  Plan for it and you'll be fine.

I know it's pretty late for half the holidays now, but happy holidays everyone! 

December 16, 2012

Reject the X Cowl

The odder cousin to the Twisted X Neck Warmer, this cowl is first worked in the round, and then back and forth to provide a tighter fit around the neck.

It's called Reject the X because when I first blocked it, I though I had ruined it and came up with Twisted X instead.  Obviously, it ended up fine once it dried.

The highlights of this pattern are listed below. To get the actual pattern (pdf), please click here to download it (the pattern's free, don't worry).

Reject the X Cowl


Craft Type

Knitting

Skill Level

Easy+

Finished Size

15” circumference at cowl top when snapped closed, 3.5” tall

Gauge

3.5 stitches and 5 rows = 1” in stockinette stitch with larger needle

Yarn and Yardage

1 skein Cascade Yarns 128 Superwash (Bulky, 128 yards), or ~70 yards of any compatible bulky yarn.

Needles

US 11 (8mm) 16” circular needle

US 10 (6mm), any type

Other Notions

3 snaps sized 1/0 (or around there)

Thread to sew on snaps


Happy knitting!

* * *
If you find any errors in this project, please e-mail CompileYarn[at]gmail[dot]com, or leave a comment  here or on Ravelry.  Copyright (c) CompileYarn(), 2012.


Twisted X Neck Warmer

Need a quick gift?  Cold and need something to warm your neck right now?  This cowl can be made in a day and is sure to delight.

The highlights of this pattern are listed below. To get the actual pattern (pdf), please click here to download it (the pattern's free, don't worry).

Twisted X Neck Warmer

Craft Type

Knitting

Skill Level

Easy+ (only trick here is cabling. Everything else is straightforward)

Finished Size

About 14.5" x 3.5" after steam blocking

Gauge

4.5 stitches and 7 rows = 1" in stockinette stitch

Yarn and Yardage

1 skein Cascade Yarns 128 Superwash (Bulky, 128 yards), or ~70 yards of any compatible bulky yarn.

Needles

US 9 (5.5mm), any type as this is worked flat.

Other Notions

2 buttons sized 7/8" (or somewhere around that)

Button or embroidery thread in a coordinating color to both sew in the buttons and make the buttonhole loops (you'll need the instructions found here to make the buttonhole loops) (note: link fixed if you found it broken before)




Happy knitting!

* * *
If you find any errors in this project, please e-mail CompileYarn[at]gmail[dot]com, or leave a comment  here or on Ravelry.  Copyright (c) CompileYarn(), 2012.

December 13, 2012

Rush Jobs

I hate rushing through projects.

Unfortunately, when one starts socks for Hanukkah less than a month before the holiday starts, it will end up being a rush job.  Well, at least for me.  I'm not the fastest knitter out there, so it takes me about a month to complete a pair of socks.  Especially ribbed socks with cables.

The good news is they did get done, even if it was at 2am last Sunday when I cast off the last toe, and I did have to cut out certain things I was planning to do.  Mainly, I'm very lucky the sock top was stretchy enough even with the provisional long-tail cast.  And that the yarn I used for the cast-on matched the sock.  It let me just weave in the ends and call it a day without having to go back and pick up at the top.

It did leave me with left over yarn, though.  Boo.

Since it was a rush job, I didn't get any pictures of the finished socks before I gave them to my mom.  Hell, hey were still damp from the steam blocking job I did when I handed them over.  I just didn't have any more time before I left the house.

(Speaking of blocking, I did re-block Crazy Cable Blanket.  Though it turns out that my iron at my parents' house also had hard water dust in it...however, it wasn't as bad as mine.  Oh well.  Hopefully it stays blocked this time, but most likely I'll never know.) 

Anyway, you would think I'd be smart and let that be the end of it, but no.  I had to decide to knit something for a gift swap. And not only that, I was designing it as well.

Let me go back to the beginning here.  I suck at buying presents, unless it's certain people in my family who I just get what they like. Despite this, I signed up for a gift swap where the recipient of said gifts didn't know who was giving it to them, I had a price limit, and all I had to go by was a set of answers to four questions. Hoo boy.

When thinking about what to get, I started settling on the idea of knitting something cheap and quick.  I had the favorite color of the recipient, and I had other ways of feeling out what they liked, knitting-wise.  What else was I going to do?  So I did a half-prototype where I took yarn out of my stash, found a pattern (which I had no intention using to make as the gift.  I don't know what I was thinking)...and ended up a day later with something else.  I basically went from this to this:


Yeah...my creative side took over there big time.  I was pretty much going on the fly; deciding what to do by row.  Oye.  The only thing that little exercise that took over when I was supposed to be knitting a pair of socks did was prove that I could knit a bulky yarn, small-sized cowl in a day.  Well, that and it gave me something to hand to my mom the first night of Hanukkah. 

After that, I decided that I was going to take a trip to Purl Soho (which I'd never been to) on a day I took off for unrelated reasons and see if I could find a skein of yarn that worked.  I was then going to find a store in the Fashion District and get buttons (which...holy shit why didn't I figure this out earlier?  The first store I walked into had tons and tons of buttons!  They had the perfect buttons for both cowls!  I need to go to the Fashion District more often).  After I got materials, I was going to sit down, change the pattern a bit on the cowl I did on the fly, and have four days to get it done.  Except that I was still working on the socks 'til Sunday, which left me with two days instead.

Not deterred and with a cable pattern I came up with Friday night,  I calculated how many stitches I needed to cast on and started in the car on the way to a relative's house.  I promptly screwed up on said math and had to re-start during the same ride.  No matter; at said relative's house, I was able to get half-way through the cowl while watching the Jets game (yeah, yeah, I know, 'Jets suck' and all of that.  Still a fan, though).  Got close to done on the way back to my apartment, and finished the knitting Sunday night (and managed to write the pattern down, even though I wasn't 100% happy with the design.  Not bad, but not amazing). 

'Yes!' I thought, 'I'll just block it, sew on the buttons Monday night, and it'll be done by Tuesday!'

Except one little thing I didn't do. I never saved and blocked the swatches I had done Friday night...no time and needed the yarn, you see.  So when I wet the yarn, I wasn't expecting it to go all limp and crappy-looking like it did.  It looked horrible.  You could see through the thing, that's how loose the stitches were.  Where I had joined in the initial round looked like it was going to come apart any second.  It had no structure at all.  There was no way I could give that away.

Now, I'm thinking: 'Crap, I screwed.  I have to knit another one!'  So I did.  Except I changed several things, including the cable (which I again designed partly on the fly).  I knit on the subway, on my lunch break, at home Monday night.  At 10pm, I was done (and had documented it as well).  I steamed blocked it this time, created the buttonhole loops and sewed on the buttons , and got this:


Its a small cowl.  A neck warmer, if you will.  But I like it,  and I had my gift and enough notes to write up a new pattern (though said pattern isn't done yet because I managed to get a cold yesterday and didn't feel like it.  I'll do it this weekend).

Oh, and the recipient?  Loved it.  I guess I can get it right sometimes.

As for the crappy cowl...well, that has a happy ending as well.  See, Tuesday night I looked at it again after it had dried a bit and it was now just fine.  It was a tad looser than I planned, but it was not too floppy or crappy looking anymore. So I sewed some snaps in it to shut it (as I didn't have buttons anymore) and here it is:


Another usable cowl.  Which I'll never use, so I have to figure out who to pawn it off on.  This pattern will also be written up and posted this weekend.  I figured that maybe someone else would like it more than I do.

Not bad for series of rush jobs.  I still don't like to do things this way, though.

November 29, 2012

I Spoke Too Soon

I hate when the stupidly unexpected happens, especially when you think you're done with something and...nope!  You screwed up and now have to fix it!

You see, while I was up at my parent's house for Thanksgiving, I decided to test wash Crazy Cable Blanket.  You know, to make sure it wasn't going to fall apart or anything.  That, and it needed to be washed.

Well, the good news is that it came out of the washer and drier intact.  The bad thing is doing so unblocked the damn thing.  This is acrylic/nylon yarn.  The blocking job I did should have been permanent (and, yes, you CAN block acrylic yarn, you just have to steam block instead of wet block the item.  Oh, and unlike wool, once you block acrylic, it's always blocked.  Which, given that I tend to use acrylic when I need something that can be washed and dried, is nice).

So, this means two things: either the nylon is keeping me from doing the acrylic perma-block, or the whole pillowcase trick I used became my iron has hard water dust all in it (which I rather not get all over my knitting) didn't really block it.  Having done a bit of research after the fact, it seems that it's the latter.  I'm guessing that I was supposed to use the steam setting of the iron with the wet pillowcase  because the pillowcase isn't supposed to generate the steam.  Or I didn't iron it until the pillowcase was dry enough.  Or both.  Probably both.

Of course, I left Crazy Cable Blanket up at my parent's house as planned, which means I have to wait until I go up there again to use their non-hard-water-damaged iron to steam block it again.  This also means it will be done right before I give it to my brother....so if it doesn't stick this time, I failed.

At least the other Hanukkah present I'm making is moving:



...for now, that is.

November 20, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all the Americans out there!  Since I'll be busy for the holiday, I won't be keeping up my current posting rate (ha, my best yet, though there's no way I'm doing this long term).

To everyone else, have a good rest of the week. 

November 19, 2012

Crazy Cable Blanket Debrief (With a Bonus Border Pattern)

So, I finished Crazy Cable Blanket:

Yet I cannot make my bed well, or pick up the shoes I haven't worn in months.
It's all done.  Border, blocked, everything.  I can't believe I managed to finish it.  The label I sewed on it says it all:

I ordered them from KnitPicks, but other retailers may have these labels in stock as well
Anyway, since this took about a year and a month of my life (though if I had worked on it consistently, it would have been more around eight months), I figured I go into detailed 'debrief' of the pattern for anyone who's crazy enough to make one.

The Pattern
The pattern I used for the blanket itself was Alice Starmore's St. Ciaran (missing accents; sorry) from the reprinted version of the book Aran Knitting (it may be in the original as well.  I don't know and I can't vouch for that version).  Like all of Alice Starmore's cable work, it is interesting, creative, intricate, and absolutely crazy.  What made this more fascinating is the idea of having cables form Celtic patterns, which involves learning how to make the cable appear like it's making a bend when in fact that's where you started or ended the cable.  As I love cables, and I like Celtic designs, I loved this.  Hell, I bought Aran Knitting because I saw this pattern knitted up in a KnitPicks catalog.

However, the Celtic cabling is also what made the pattern challenging.  Now, honestly, the pattern and the charts that go with it are flawless.  I had no problem learning how to read the chart, setting it up, and following it.  I did have some issues the whole 'start and finish the cable in the middle of it' step in the beginning, though.  The first couple of times I screwed up and had to re-start the blanket.  But after that, all my mistakes were more due to my momentary lapses in paying attention more than anything (can you blame me? Knitting solid cables 200+ stitches across gets a bit tedious, no matter how much you like the pattern).

The other interesting thing about this pattern is that it's actually supposed to be a shawl.  However, it's a really big shawl...what most of us would call a small blanket.

For anyone who wants to attempt the pattern, the advice I'd give to you is:
  1. Use a 60" circular needle.  Use a good quality one as well; you will put stress on the joins between the cord and needle with this pattern and you don't want them popping mid blanket.  However, you will not get far with straight needles unless you are so against circulars you insist on using them.  Your sanity and wrists will thank me later.
  2.  I know it's a blanket, but for the love of the knitting goddess, SWATCH FIRST.  If you're too lazy to swatch one of the charts (which is recommended to learn how to do the cable from nothing trick before you start the blanket and then have to re-start it), at least swatch in stockinette.  Alice Starmore's patterns are notorious for tight gauge (I think I saw someone call it 'bullet-proof'; it's not too much of an exaggeration).  You may have an issue with it and have to go up a needle size or two, depending on the yarn used.
  3. While I used an acrylic/nylon blend successfully, I would still recommend going will some sort of wool, wool blend, or some other flexible, springy yarn for this blanket.  You will enjoy knitting it more with a yarn that doesn't mind going through some gymnastics, because that's all this pattern is.  You may find a different fiber that will work, but tread carefully.  If you need machine washable like I did, you may have to compromise on ease-of-knitting a bit, however you must triple-check that your chosen yarn won't send you to the wrist doctor for pain either (Ravelry reviews of other knitters having done cables with said yarn are a godsend for this).  This is also why you need to swatch, hopefully before you commit yourself to buying all the skeins.
  4. On the other hand, the yardage you will get by calculating it out of the pattern is a bit more than you need, unless you're knitting more loosely or putting the fringe on.  I used a little under 2100 yards on the blanket itself as written (minus the fringe), but bought 2730 yards based on the pattern.  With my border, I used about 2520 yards.
  5. Put stitch markers where each chart ends/begins.  They don't really get in the way and they help you see where all the charts are.
  6. Have separate row counters for each chart, along with one representing the whole blanket. You can use an app for this if you don't want five string-on counters on your needle cord.  The benefit of the app is that most of them will switch all the counters with one button push.  The downside is that you need your phone/tablet around and not dead whenever you knit.
  7. It may be easier if you photocopy the charts so you're not flipping back and forth in the book. I insist on it if you're using a library copy or someone else's copy of Aran Knitting. I didn't do this, and  I broke the spine of my book and the pattern pages de-attached. I had to duct tape them back in. Twice.
  8. Don't try to memorize the charts.  You may get the A chart down pat all right, as it's just a six-stitch braid (and it's the most common chart in the blanket), but you will make more mistakes than anything if you try to memorize the other three charts.  They are too long and complicated.  Save yourself some hair-ripping and just stick with reading the charts.

The Border
The border isn't part of the pattern.  I made it up on the fly.  The blanket just looked unfinished to me without one, and I had extra yarn anyway.  However, the thought of picking up stitches along it and knitting a border...no.  Just no.  So I crocheted it instead.  I love being bi-craftal.

For anyone who wants to go the extra mile of crazy, the border pattern is below:

Start in a stitch or two in front of a corner of the blanket.  It doesn't really matter which corner, but I started on the end of the blanket.

Use a US G/6 (4.25mm) or whatever is slightly smaller than the knitting needle size you're using (Go with the G if you're knitting with an US 7 (4.5mm)). Always end the round by slip stitching (sl st) into the top chain to end the round.  sc = single crochet, dc = double crochet, FPdc = front post double crochet, i = # of side you're on, loc = stitch you're at (the location).  This is a quick and dirty pattern, be warned.  The chart will be added later, as it will take more time to make (though it will be much clearer than my written instructions for many people, I think.  I said it was a bonus).
Round 1:  for(i=0; i < 4; i++){sl st to loc == corner st.  3 sl st.} sl st to loc = 0
Round 2:  Ch 3. for(i=0; i < 4; i++){dc to loc == corner st. 3 dc.} dc to loc = 0
Round 3: Ch 2.  for(i=0; i < 4; i++){sc to loc == corner st. 3 sc } sc to loc = 0
Round 4: Ch 2. for(i=0; i < 4; i++){while(loc != corner st ){sc. FPdc into below dc.} if(loc == corner st){sc, FPdc into corner dc stitch, sc.}}. do{sc. FPdc into below dc.}while(loc != 0)
Round 5-8:  Round 3
Round 9: Round 2
Round 10:  Round 4
Round11: Round 3
I can't tell you how many stitches I did on each side, because I was lazy and didn't count (and therefore had too many stitches and had to decrease. Then I had to learn how to property decrease in crochet, because I realized I've never had to decrease in a way that didn't involve just skipping the stitch.  The result was that I learned that decreasing in crochet is just a two stitch cluster, but I still had a few too many stitches on the ends).  I will tell you that you need to slip stitch into every knit stitch on the sides of the blanket, but you'll need to only do a percentage of them on the ends.

The Yarn
The yarn...what can I say? I used Berroco Comfort in color 9763 (it's a navy blue color, despite some of the photos I took). I knew everything about it from the reviews I read, and I pretty much had the same experience, minus one.  The good is that it's cushy and provides enough stitch definition for cables.  It's also machine washable and dryable, which is good for a blanket for a 13-year-old.  I haven't run it in the washer machine yet, but it's been in the dryer and it came out fine.  The steam blocking job I did created a bit of fuzzy, but that's because I wasn't being careful (it does say not to iron the yarn and while I was using a pillowcase between the iron and the blanket (wet pillowcase = steam without the steam setting), I was pressing too hard and had the iron up too hot).

The bad is that it does have a tendency to split into tiny threads, especially on the sharp tips of the metal needles I prefer.  I'm pretty used to this by now, as I can split yarns that almost never split when using said needles, but it's a bit of an issue with this yarn in particular. Also, you don't have the desired flexibility with the yarn that you may want with such a cabling job.  Sliding the stitches and twisting them are a bit tougher than one may like or expect with a good flexible yarn like wool.

The one thing I do disagree with from a review I read was that I found it easier to crochet with than to knit with.  Since the crochet hook was blunt, and my knitting needles were sharp, I had less of an issue with splitting when crocheting with it. It still split, don't get me wrong, but not as badly.  But maybe my experience is tainted with the fact that I was crocheting simpler stitches than I was knitting, so it just tolerated the less demanding stitchery better.

Conclusion
This was one of the most trying projects I've worked on, and there were many times I dropped it like a hot potato and let it cool for a couple of months. It got tedious some days, and I can't believe I spent so much time on it.

The next one I do is for me. In a nice wool.  I keep staring at it; I love the cables and I want one now.  Or maybe I'll adopt the cables in St. Brigid into a shawl like I wanted to do before I do another Crazy Cable Blanket.  Or actually get around to making Eala Bhan, which is the other pattern I bought this book for.

Don't worry, it won't happen any time soon.  I have enough yarn for other projects already that it'll be awhile before I get around to buying yarn for another one of these....

November 18, 2012

Guides for Self-Taught Knitters: All the Different Ways to Knit and Where to Learn Them

There are many books and webpages out there that let one teach themselves to knit.  If your book or website sucked, it would have just showed you how to knit.  That is, the author showed you one way to knit because that's how you do it, right?

Wrong.  There are multiple styles of knitting, and all are valid ways of producing knit and purl stitches.  A good self-teaching book will cover this, as all that matters is using the style that's most comfortable to you, and it's better to learn that style up front.  However, every self-taught knitter...hell, every knitter...should at least be familiar with the different styles of knitting.

Why, you may ask? Because knowing the different styles lets you:
  • Find the best method for you.  This may be the one you learned from the book you bought or your grandmother.  But you may find that you're more conformable or faster with a style you had no clue about before.
  • Use the best method for the situation.  For example, stranded color knitting is easier if you can knit using both of the most popular styles.
  • Understand some pattern assumptions that arise based on the knitter's own way of knitting.
  • Help or, ever better, demonstrate any method to a newbie (because your preferred way may not be someone else's).
  • Impress your knitting friends with your knowledge.  They may even think you're a better knitter than you are! (this is a double edged sword, so tread lightly).
So, lets get down to it.  One disclaimer, there may be other ways that I don't know about, so don't be offended if I don't mention some of the more obscure styles.  However, do let me know about them!

Oh, and this is an overview, not a teaching guide.  Use the links located in the 'So You Want to Learn It?' sub-section of each style to find good written and video instructions.


English Style
Also known as American style, this is the style you most likely learned from your crappy book you bought or that random website you found.  Very common in the Western world and in learn-to-knit guides for some reason.

What It Is
Either letting the yarn hang down or holding it in the right hand, the knitter produces stitches by using the right hand to wrap the yarn around the right needle.

The Positives
  • It's one of the styles you need to know for easy stranded knitting.
  • If you're a righty non-yarn-crafter, you may find this style easier to learn (as most of the action is done by your right hand).
  • It's pretty straightforward, and there's lots of instructions on it if it isn't.
The Negatives
  • It's easy to twist your stitches.  Just forget which way the yarn wraps around the needle.
  • It takes more movement to produce your stitches, so not the fastest method out there.
So You Want to Learn It?

KnittingHelp.com has series of videos on their site (second listed, page is for knit stitch but purl is in the menu).  They also have the purl video on YouTube. And now they even have the styles named right (when I first found the site, they had English and Continental swapped).

I like TECHKnitter for not only good instructions, but also explanations on why it works.  Link goes to knit stitch, see top for purl.

For Dummies isn't a bad series, and they have their knitting guides online (link also to knit stitch).

Searching YouTube always helps (so you can figure out how exactly you like to hold the yarn and so forth).


Continental Style
Also known as German style or Left Handed Knitting (not to be confused with backwards knitting), this is the other common method in the Western world.

What It Is
Holding the yarn in your left hand, you use your right needle to 'pick', or grab the working yarn through the stitch on the left hand needle.

The Positives
  • It's the other style you need for stranded knitting.
  • It's also straightforward and common enough to find good instructions.
  • Once you get use to it, it's fast.  There's less movement involved in this style.
  • If you're a right-handed crocheter, this style will most likely be the easiest to learn (as you hold the yarn in the same hand, keep tension in a similar manner, and move the right needle similar to a crochet hook). 
  • May be easier for left-handed people, as you control tension using the left hand.
The Negatives
  • If you've already been taught English style, it may be hard to learn.
  • There's a bigger difference between the knit and purl stitch, and purling is trickier in this method.
  • If you're an extreme righty, holding tension in your left hand may be tricky. 
So You Want to Learn it?

The For Dummies guide, TECHKnitter, and KnittingHelp.com's YouTube video series also have guides for this style.  KnittingHelp also has all their videos on their site (first listed). All links go to the knit stitch like before.

Personally, I purl using my thumb to pull down the yarn, though I can't find where I learned to do that (and I don't think it's the best way, just the way that I fell into).  I find that the continental style of purling has the most variation, so you may need to do some hunting to find the best way for you.

Another awesome way to purl when you use this style is called Norwegian Purling.  Very helpful for ribbing, as you don't need to switch your yarn from the back to the front.

Also, most these guides will tell you to wrap the yarn around your pinky for tension. This video shows an alternate way of holding the yarn (start at time stamp 0:50). While I also don't have the link from where I learned this, this is how I hold the yarn:


I find that searching for 'speed knitting continental' on YouTube may net you some good videos if you're learning this way to knit faster.


Combination Style
Eastern styles meets western styles to produce a more uncommon but interesting way to knit.

What It Is
The knitter deliberately twists their stitches so that the live loops face the opposite way, allowing the knitter to insert the needle in the front for both the knit and purl stitches (Doing this un-twists the stitch, therefore still ending up with the correct knit and purl stitch in the fabric).

The Positives
  • Knit and purl stitches can come out more even.
  • Style can be merged with either English or Continental (that is, you can hold the yarn in either hand).  This is because both of those styles are Western styles, and this is a merger between western and eastern.
The Negatives
  • Some pattern re-interpretation is needed, as decreases slant the opposite way when done in this style.
  • Nowhere near as common as English and Continental style, so getting help may be a challenge.
So You Want to Learn it?

A slightly better description can be found on this style's Wikipedia page

One of the best known people who use this technique is Annie Modesitt.  That link goes to her comprehensive online guides on this style.

I first found out about this style when reading Grumperina's blog.  That link goes to her set of how-to videos on this style.

KnittingHelp also has a video on YouTube for the knit stitch in this method and its also on their site (third listed).


Backwards (Mirror) Knitting
This isn't really a style, but instead a method of knitting by swapping the actions for each hand in one of the above styles.  To really confuse you, this is also sometimes called Left-Handed Knitting.

What It Is
Backwards knitting is where you use your preferred style to work left to right instead of right to left. In all the styles above, no matter what hand you hold the yarn in, you use your right needle to pull the yarn through a loop on your left needle, which produces the new live stitch on the right needle.  When you mirror knit, you instead use the left needle to pull the yarn through a stitch on the right needle, producing the new stitch on the left needle.

The Positives
  • May be the easiest way to knit for someone who's left-handed (hence why it's sometimes called left-handed knitting).
  • You can avoid purling when flat knitting by knitting the purl rows this way. Also helpful when knitting a pattern that involves constantly going back and forth for short distances (for example, entrelac).
The Negatives
  • If you mirror knit exclusively, you will have to re-interpret any pattern you use, as almost all patterns assume right to left knitting. This can be very confusing and a source of errors.  This is also why it's recommended that those who are left-handed try to learn one of the styles above first (that, and knitting  really does utilize both hands in manipulating the stitches, so non-mirrored knitting isn't strongly 'right-handed' in the first place. However, you are still using your right hand to wrap/pick the yarn, which may trouble some left-handed people.  All I can say is choose your negative).
So You Want to Learn It?

KnittingHelp suggests to hold a mirror up to their video to learn how to do it backwards (see last section), though I'm including this to more laugh at it (Really? How are you going to hold up a mirror and knit with the video?).

This video on YouTube shows how to do this English style.

This video, on the other hand, shows it in Continental style.

Conclusion
The styles above are all the ones I know about as of now.  I'll add to this post if I find other styles in my knitting travels.  And yes, I know I'm missing Eastern knitting styles...but as I'm in the western world,  I still need to learn about those myself.

November 4, 2012

Blame Sandy

Another quick post saying that due to external influences I won't be posting until things get back to normal. Just as I was getting my posting rate up too, oye. 

If you are the maybe two people who actually read this blog, you'll know I'm in the NYC area.  If you're in North America and haven't been living off the grid in the middle of nowhere, you've heard about Hurricane Sandy and what happened with that thing. Having said that, I'm fine.  Actually, I got very lucky.  It didn't even knock out the power in my immediate vicinity.  It was freaky, however, hearing the winds whip around that night.  I went out to get stuff a couple of days later and passed by a tree that had crushed someone's car and landed on cable lines.  I just spent three days navigating Manhattan with a flashlight to get to work. But I'm fine. A lot of people here aren't, which sucks.

The aftermath of this is sucking up my time (I can't complain; I'm helping get things back to normal, but it is tiring), so no posting.  Sorry.  Will be back soon, hopefully.

October 28, 2012

This Hank is Too Big

This hank:


is too big for my swift.  Of course it is.  Standards?  What standards?  The yarn world has standards?

That was before I tried to wind it anyway.  Now that hank is this:


That yarn barf is courtesy of attempting to wind the hank with it hanging off a door knob.  Don't do this.  It doesn't work.  Now, my first solution was to use the middle peg of the swift to also hold the hank.  This ended up kind of working, very very slowly.  Because the hank is bent weird by the middle peg, every time you hit that part of the hank you have to stop and lift the strand off of the peg.  So I got impatient and tried the door knob.

Maybe I could console myself with the fact that if the yarn hank had been the right size, I could have ended up with this:


Why do I have such bad luck winding yarn?  I've done it successfully, I swear.

October 27, 2012

The (Late) Rhinebeck Debrief

I know it's already been a week since the NYS Sheep and Wool Festival.  I also know that I got home Tuesday morning instead of Monday afternoon, had to do all my chores for that weekend on Tuesday (including laundry), and felt crappy with allergies all week because that's just my luck.  I also had my usually weekly stuff and then I went and saw Epica play yesterday (which was awesome, but meant I didn't get home till 3 in the morning).

Anyway, I had a blast at Rhinebeck. I'll start from the beginning.

The Class
After crashing at one of my sister's apartments and going to a brewpub with a really good pumpkin beer on Friday, I drove up to Rhinebeck early Saturday morning so I could be at the fairgrounds in time for my class.  I, of course, misjudged traffic so my first plan of grabbing breakfast and dropping my stuff off at my other sister's apartment failed. I was lucky one of the food vendors was serving food before the fair technically opened and that the workshop area had free coffee. Of course I found this out during the class, so I spent the first part of the class in a pre-coffee daze.  It could have been worse.

I signed up for the Introduction to Sweater Design workshop by Donna Kay.  Before I took the class, I didn't know the instructor or what exactly we would cover.  The class ended up being more of a lecture, but it was funny and enjoyable.  We covered tips and things to keep in mind when designing...how to swatch to figure out if the yarn you have works with your idea, how to use different types of graph paper to make sure your calculations work and everything's proportional (this would have helped tremendously for the baby sweater.  Also, I never knew knitter's graph paper existed), touched upon originality and copyright in patterns, and other many random tips to keep in mind (like don't shove every idea you have into one sweater.   I kind of knew this, but I'm also guilty of doing it). Many of the things mentioned were also conveniently given on a handout, so I didn't have to remember everything (yay reference materials).   What we didn't get to was actually doing anything with the yarn and other materials we brought.  It was obviously meant to be a longer course, yet we only had four hours and the written material covered the whole time frame.

Overall, I think I was expecting more, but I'm not disappointed that I took this class. It was enjoyable, and it did give you a method of getting from idea to complete design, which was something I needed to hear, as I'm lacking a good method right now.

The Fair
Last year, I went on Sunday only.  Because of this, it was shocking to see how crowded this event got on Saturday.  When scoping out vendors the rest of the first day (first with some friends and later with my mother), it was hard to even stop and look at stuff.  I wasn't as shocked at the crowds as my mother, though, who had 1) never been and 2) was under the impression that the Sheep and Wool Festival was simply a local fair.  I informed her that it was a big event in the yarn crafting world and people come from all over...hell, that's how I learned about it.  My local sister simply said (after the fact):  'Duchess County doesn't do small events'.

*Side Note*
The New York State Sheep and Wool Festival and Breed Ewe Sale is the official name of this event:

Sorry for the slightly blurry picture; I took this through my windshield when stuck in traffic

I think most yarn crafter attendees know this, but for some reason in our world it's called Rhinebeck.  This works fine if the context it's used in is 'major yarn crafter events'.  Calling the event Rhinebeck to the locals, however,  gets you inquisitive or odd looks, as Rhinebeck is the town where the fairgrounds are located, and the town is a tourist trap in its own right (a nice one, but it is).  Also, the fairgrounds are known locally better as the site of the Duchess County Fair, which is (I think) the biggest county fair in New York.  Therefore, calling it Rhinebeck really doesn't make sense at all (though since it's in use and it's shorter by far than the proper name, I'll still use it.  In the right context of course).  Do I get my local cred back now?
*End Side Note*

I spent most of Saturday scoping out some vendors and got some yarn.  I also helped my mom pick out nice alpaca yarn to crochet a shawl.  We also checked out the sheep, for which I got lots of pictures of because I remembered to bring my camera:




After having dinner with the family and crashing at the local sister's apartment (who lives ten minutes away; I'm so lucky), I went back to the fair on Sunday with both my sisters.  We found the alpacas and llamas (which my mom and I missed), though my camera decided to die on me as soon as I tried taking pictures of them (and I had just replaced the batteries!  Stupid me must have used bad batteries).  I bought more yarn than I've ever bought at one time because it was my birthday, I had extra money, I have tons of projects I want to do, and 'oo, pretty sock yarn...I like knitting socks!'.  I'll put that in it's own section though.

Also, I'm pretty sure I passed the Yarn Harlot in one of the vendor buildings, though she was going the opposite way and it was a little too crowded to do a good double take (or do that sneaky picture thing with my cell phone...I forget what it's called...Kinnering, maybe?).  That, and my sisters, not being in the yarn crafting world as I am, hadn't noticed and kept going, and I was trying to not lose them.  I tried slowing them down by telling them 'hey, I think we just passed someone famous in the knitting world', but they didn't care.  They were already putting up with my lingering at vendors to buy all the yarn, so I dropped it.

I also showed off my socks (which I wore on Sunday) to the vendor who's yarn I knit them from.  She liked them.

The Yarn
I'm surprised I fit all of this into my suitcase and a shopping bag:


The unfortunate consequence of this is I now have more stash than the Tupperware container can hold, even after taking out all the yarn associated with projects I'm working on.  I had to go buy another small container to shove under my futon to hold the rest of it, and a storage ottoman to hold my tools.

For one, I found a vendor selling that same damn wool I had the equal number of similar colors issue with...and it was half off.  Me, not wanting to deal with the whole two equal colors thing, bought four more skeins of black


I would have bought the charcoal color, but they didn't have it (because no one does, it seems).  Now, I'm not sure if I'm going to go with my original plan of knitting the basic sweater I have a pattern for, or still make up my own pattern.  I'll see.

I also bought enough yarn for two sweaters:



The gray skeins (its a cool smoky gray...picture doesn't do the color justice) are the first thing I acquired after the black wool. They will be a work cardigan (and unless I completely misjudged the yarn, they will be this cardigan).  The blue...well, I was looking for DK weight yarn but found this worsted weight in the perfect shade of blue, while their DK weight was slightly lighter.  So I said 'screw it, I have worsted weight sweater patterns', and bought it.  That blue wool is one of the softest I've ever felt (the woman standing behind me in line thought so too, and asked me if I was just going to curl up with it because she was tempted to do that).  It will be a nice sweater, though I have yet to decide exactly what pattern.

I also bought tons of sock yarn, because all I needed was more sock yarn:



I tried to not buy it all in blue and blue-black shades.  There's one thing I do (and it's at its worst at Rhinebeck) is that the yarn I'll be drawn to at first will inevitably be royal blue or blue dark variegated yarn  (It's worse if its cashmere.  I don't know how I know it's cashmere until I read the label, but I will inevitably find the cashmere yarn first.  Then I find the price and run away).  So I bought gray and dark purple as well.

The light blue one is alpaca and silk sock yarn, and you can guess by the last paragraph that it's not for me.  I'm not giving up on the hat pattern, but I decided that it'd be better if I set my sights a little lower and make my mom socks for Hanukkah instead.  The funny thing about this is that when I showed her all the sock yarn, she first went to the gray ones (which are rather soft wool; they're my favorite by feel) and cooed over that one.  The surprising thing to me is that she did it because she liked the color.  But it was all good when I pointed out that the light blue was alpaca.  She conceded that she would love alpaca socks, though she would only wear them in the house (we'll see how long that lasts.  She wears the $130 sweater I made her to shovel snow.  I bet you she'll wear them to shovel snow in as well). I'll have to remember to buy that gray sock yarn for her next year for real socks, though.

On the other hand, one of my sisters convince my other sister and me to try drop spindling:


That started when we found cheap small balls of angora roving.  The 'other sister' is a bunny lover, so we were scoping out angora vendors to see angora rabbits.  One of these vendors didn't have rabbits, but they had royal blue angora roving for $6.00.  What did I say about me and the jewel tone blues?  Once I pointed it out as 'pretty, but I can't spin so screw it' the conversation went from bunnies to 'you should try to drop spindle, I can teach you!  It's easy!'

Yeah, two things about that.  One, it's not that easy.  Two, my sister was talking herself up, and when she said she could drop spindle, it meant she owned one and had spun some 'yarn'. I tried after we left the fair with a little bit of the roving and I got nothing but messed up roving. Oye. I'm still going to try to learn, but I need to set some time aside and research it.  I know it can be done; someone in my knitting group had caved to the drop spindles everywhere at Rhinebeck herself, and had already learned enough in the three days between these two events to make nicer thread than my sister had.

Conclusion
All in all, it was fun, and I would do it all again. Hopefully I'll have most of this yarn compiled into projects by then!

It's a good excuse to see the beauty of a Hudson Valley fall anyway.  It's amazing how much you miss in the city.

This is in Ulster County, not Duchess, but the same lovely tree colors


October 18, 2012

Procrastinating and Creating

For once, I should be doing other things such as packing and maybe trying to get some rows of Crazy Cable Blanket done, but instead I'm writing a blog post and making little pumpkin breads:

(I actually don't care for cooking, but I like fresh food and saving money)
But anyway, this weekend my ass is going to be upstate, a trip for which I even took a few days off from work for (yay limited vacation time). I've stopped packing because I'm trying to convince myself that, no, I don't need to bring my whole knitting needle set because I have enough projects going that I don't need to start anything from the yarn I plan to buy at Rhinebeck before I get back home.  I'm also trying to pack for four days in a small suitcase while leaving enough room for more stuff.  Over packing (which I always do, unfortunately) is one thing.  Trying to lug an over packed suitcase on the subway and a bus is a completely different story.  My trip involves at least six staircases, crowded subways, a long distance style bus, and a long hill, and yes, you count when you're lugging bags.

I probably don't need all my projects with me either, but they're going.  Crazy Cable Blanket (of which I have 30 rows left) is going.  The spatterdashers (halfway through the second one!) are going.  Those  Log Cabin squares I make when I can't do anything else are going.  That blue crochet thing from the last post is going:


That will be my fourth posted pattern, and I swear it, because I have the pattern written down already and I'm following it.  It's a long time coming; I haven't tried making my own pattern since the baby sweater, and haven't posted one since the baby hat I did.  I'd admit, for awhile I just wasn't feeling it.  I didn't want to deal with the creative process, and I had enough projects going I didn't need to.  After really gearing up at the beginning of the year I fell flat.  I think I was hoping to get going with the design thing, but got overwhelmed with life, then said screw it and forgot about it for awhile.

Reciently, though, something clicked. It started when I went on a yarn crawl and ended up with this yarn:


I bought the blue-green yarn with the idea of making my mom's Hanukkah present out of it.  It's alpaca, of course, and the plan was another hat.  But I wasn't sure if I would find a good pattern for it.  Then an idea hit me. I knew exactly what that hat's going to look like, and I sat down and charted out the cable I wanted and drew sketches:


Now, I haven't tested the design yet in yarn, nor written the pattern (I need to figure out how I'm doing the top still, and if I want to do a contrasting brim), but I figured after I get done with the Halloween stuff I'd get down to that.  I may need extensive modification, who knows.

Then I realized that the other yarn, which I bought thinking I had three skeins of it in my stash already, was the wrong color.



Oops.  I called the yarn store I bought the three black skeins from and asked if they had any of the charcoal color I actually have in my stash. No such luck; they didn't have it.  Now I'm stuck with three skeins of charcoal and three skeins of black yarn, which killed my first idea of what I was going to do with that yarn.

Then I realized I needed yarn for that class I'm taking at Rhinebeck.  Ok then, I'll try to come up with my first sweater pattern using that yarn.  Which may or may not happen, but that yarn's what I'm bringing to class.

I did sketch out some ideas of sweaters, though.  I'm not sure how far along this class wants you, but they mentioned bringing fashion pictures.  I don't really have any inspirational pictures right now, so I just sketched, and I'm hoping to wear the jacket I want to mimic in a cardigan pattern at some point (since, you know, it's already got a hole in it).

Finally, after setting out all these knitting projects, and knitting stuff like worsted weight yarn on size 0 needles, I decided I really needed a easy, bulky, crochet project. I also decided I needed a wrap because it was cold outside and the heat wasn't on yet in my apartment (because I was totally going to get it done before the landlord got around to turning the heat on.  Didn't happen; the heat kicked in a week ago).

Luckily I have tons of Loops & Threads Charisma in my stash that really needs to stop living there.  Out comes the big crochet hook, and I started crocheting a wrap.  Then I frogged it.  Then I crocheted a square.  Then I frogged it.  Then I searched Ravelry in vein and got sick of all the repetitive crochet blanket patterns. Then I found this stitch in a crochet stitch dictionary and thought, hm, that looks interesting.  So I charted out a repeat from memory (which meant it's different than the actual stitch dictionary version), figured out the arrangement I wanted, actually figured out my gauge for it, calculated the number of chains to do to start, and went at it.  I'm actually shocked it's coming out as nicely as it is in this yarn.  I was thinking that my pattern idea may be more suited for a worsted weight, or maybe even a sport weight, but I was doing bulky first because stash.  You'll see.  When I'm done with the bulky version, I'll post the pattern.  Then maybe I'll figure out a worsted weight one (though I would have to buy yarn for that one, oye).

But I really need to pack now.  It's amazing what you do when you have something else that needs to get done.

October 13, 2012

First Socks and Too Many Other Projects

I broke my two project rule ages ago, and it's starting to bite me in the ass.

Let's see, I have multiple projects I'm trying to make for my Halloween costume (I originally was thinking of going as Ada Lovelace from this comic, but I decided just to do a generic Victorian/Steampunk thing because I didn't feel like explaining myself all night.  Yes, I'm a geek).  The first was fine, it was a crocheted top hat that took a weekend to make.  However, I then decided to make these spatterdashers (since I own no Victorian style boots), and oh boy.  Size 0 needles and worsted weight yarn.  My hands have never protested so much at a project.



I've just gotten one done, but I still have to do the other.  Not counting buttons (which I don't own yet).

It wasn't helped by the fact that I did 8 extra rows by being completely oblivious as to what row I was on, which resulted in two extra decreases.  In order to hack a fix for that, I first did two increases on the last two rows instead of one, and then made the side bands bigger.  There were a lot of other minor mistakes, but it's for a costume.  I don't care.

I also decided that I really should knit some of the yarn I bought at Rhinebeck last year before Rhinebeck this year, which resulted in this:


My first socks.  Actually, I ended up making three socks, because I messed up on the left (first) sock, but didn't realize it until I blocked it:



I know I was off a stitch on the cable pattern, but I have no clue how I ended up with a bigger ankle part.  Anyway, since I had tons of yarn left, I decided that I wanted to make another left sock so I had two great socks.



The only two things I would do differently is drop down a needle size and make them a little bit longer, because they're slightly tight lenghtwise (I made the right one based on how many repeats I did on the first left one, which was of course, bigger, though I didn't realize that then). But maybe that's because I'm so used to wearing big socks.  Hopefully they stretch a bit.

Honestly, for someone who doesn't care for socks (I'm the person who takes off their socks right after their shoes.  I either leave my shoes on or go barefoot.  I don't like walking around in socks), I really got into knitting them.  It's almost the perfect project to tote around; I can pick it up on the subway, during lunch at work, anytime.  Once I figured out the pattern (which is called Tea Time, and I had to pretty much interpret it since it's a obvious translation and there's information missing and I was Magic Looping while the instructions presume you're using DPNs), it was easy, but still required some thought.

I'm also still in love with this yarn.  Bought it for $21, but damn, worth it.  I'm almost afraid to wear these socks.

On the other hand, all that knitting has gotten me wanting to crochet again:


More on that at another time.

Oh, and yes, I'm still working on Crazy Cable Blanket.  Have 50 rows to go now.

Yarn crafts has started taking over my life.  Oh well.

October 7, 2012

The Dilemma of Classes

If any of you went to VogueKnitting Live New York last year, you probably received an email stating that you could pre-register a couple of weeks ago (turns out, you can only pre-register for the crazy expensive all-inclusive packages, so the rest of us are stuck waiting).  Ok, cool, I thought.  Now I won't sign up last minute...hm, class list; maybe I should take a class this time...

As I was looking down the list of classes, I noticed a lot of them are of the vein 'learn a this technique' or 'learn more ways to cast-on and off'.  Which is all fun and good...except I could find you instructions for ten different ways of casting on in ten minutes just sitting here at my computer.  I could even find a couple of videos for some of them if written instructions aren't your thing.  What's the point, then, of spending around $50-$60 to learn something I could just Google, or even spend at most $25-$30 for a book that has that has ten times more information that I can refer to indefinitely?

Now, I do get that there are people out there that need or want the physical presence of the instructor and the interactive instruction to learn something in knitting and crocheting, no matter how simple.  The point of this post isn't to behoove them, or make fun of the fact that the classes exist. No.  My dilemma, as an active self-teacher, is at what point is taking the class worth it?  At what point is what is being taught too complicated to detail on a web site, show on a YouTube video, or follow from a book?  What wisdom can only be found by paying $60 for a class?

It's not an easy question, though I have some notion of the answer.  You see, a couple of months ago I decided to make a mini-vacation out of Rhinebeck, partly as a gift to myself for last July (see, I *can* sign up for these things before the last minute). Since I earned overtime for that month, money wasn't so much of a concern.  So, the first thing I did was decide to take a class.  Unlike VogueKnitting Live, however, I looked through the class list for Rhinebeck once and immediately found what I wanted to take.  I'm going to be learning how to design a sweater.

Of course, I've already technically designed a sweater.  Two, if you count this disaster.  So why that class?  Because I haven't been successful in actually getting a pattern down, and I'm hoping that learning some techniques for designing will help me knock out my half-assed design-on-the-fly methodology that isn't working as well as I'd like.  Also, unlike cast on techniques or how to do stranded color-work, learning design and pattern-writing isn't a concrete, step-by-step process.   There's no 'do x, then y', so it doesn't lend itself to online tutorials, nor does it benefit designers to over-think themselves and explain it for free.  Sure, there's books out there.  I own a couple and have more in my (private) Amazon wish list. But what I've done obviously isn't enough.

So, is my self-teaching limit at the point of designing from scratch?  No, I don't think so; there's more books I can read, and I could benefit from a good stitch dictionary right now at least.  But it is the point where self-teaching becomes experimental and frustrating; where there's no straight how-to and over-researching is paralyzing so I do too little of it, ending up stuck.  It makes me realize how little I know of this craft.  So, when money isn't an object and I'm treating myself, it makes some sense to take the class.  Who knows, it may help, and hopefully it's fun.

But that brings me back to VogueKnitting.  Can I justify even taking a class on design when I have to justify spending the money?  Can I justify any of them?  That's my dilemma, and at this point that depends what I end up using from any class I rationalize myself into taking.

Knowing me, I'll end up signing up for something anyway.  It's not like I needed to attend a lecture either, but I've been to one of those already (it was more due to the pricing structure and wanting to get the hell out of my apartment that time).  I have into November 27th to decide before it costs more.

September 8, 2012

Learn to Knit Instruction Review: Craft Yarn Council's Learning Center

So, what's a web-savvy person going to do when they wish to learn how to knit or crochet?  Search for instructions on the web, of course!  So, my first set of guides are going to be focused on the result of googling for basic instructional guides on how to knit and how to crochet.

To start, I googled 'learn to knit', and got the below site as the first result (no wonder, as one of it's URLs is 'learntoknit.com').  Though the site covers both knitting and crocheting, since I started with learning to knit, this review will focus on the knitting guide first.

The Guide
Name: Craft Yarn Council's Learning Center
URL: http://www.craftyarncouncil.com/learn-home.html, though both www.learntoknit.com and www.learntocrochet.com resolve to the same page as well.
Contains: Guides on learning how to knit and crochet (along with some generic information about both). For the purposes of this review, we're staying in the Learn section of the site.  They have other instructional pages as well.

Summary
If you want to learn to knit well, run far, far away from this site.  The Craft Yarn Council's instructions for learning to knit breaks almost every rule for a good guide, including having incorrect information.  

Detailed Review
I can't say I've heard of this organization before, but the page you start on makes them seem like a good site to learn from.  If you're really curious, you can click on their About link in the top menu bar and see that they're an organization representing different yarn crafting companies (and the companies are listed). Hm, they sure have the resources to put together a good guide, right?

Which makes me kind of confused as to why their knitting guides aren't good at all, at least content-wise.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Since the first page is just a generic 'welcome to our guide' page, we can go over to the left hand menu list and click 'Getting Started'.  Even though that's the second link, I don't  care so much about 'Knit vs. Crochet', I want to learn to knit.

Doing that gets you to this page.  It's pretty basic and lacking in much detail, but I guess it's good enough for what it is.  It covers the very basics of  yarn weight, crochet hooks, and knitting needles...pretty good information to keep in mind, though it would be better if they mentioned how to match the needle size to the yarn weight.

From here, we can either click a link on the new left-hand menu, which lists all the guides for knitting and crochet.  I'm not 100% thrilled with the mixing of the two crafts, but it's not horrible navigation.  Also, they conveniently give you a link to both the 'Basic Knit Instructions' and 'Basic Crochet Instructions' on the top of this page, for which the first link takes you to the first link on the left hand side.

The title of this page is 'Learn Knit Stitch (Garter Stitch)'.  Which would be fine if they meant that they're going to teach the user the knit stitch in order to produce something in garter stitch.  But that's not the case.  The first sentence on this page states:
"The basic knit instructions below will show you how to cast on and to make a knit stitch, also known as garter stitch."
Um, no.  The knit stitch is not 'also known as the garter stitch'.  Knitting every row on a flat piece of work produces garter stitch.  But so does alternating rows of knitting and purling in the round. It the set of knit and sometimes purl stitches that make garter stitch.  Incorrect information on the first instructional page; not a good sign.

They then state that they're going to use an afghan square pattern to teach you how to cast-on and do the knit stitch.  First, why is the cast-on instructions on the knit stitch page?  It doesn't make navigating for reference easy at all.  As for learning in the framework of a project, I have mixed feelings about this.  On one hand, it is nice to try to get something good out of your first efforts.  On the other hand, trying to have brand-new knitters make something as the first thing they do is a set up for failure to teach and learn, unless the learner can take from the instructions that maybe the first couple of squares they'll do will be practice, and he/she will know to go on after they get a good square.  Also, this doesn't teach towards flexibility in skill.  Not the worst set-up, though.

What I really have an issue with here is the instructions for what you need.  Do they think they'd get useable squares out of a pattern that tells the learning knitter to get whatever worsted weight yarn they feel like and a pair of US8 needles?  This would have been the perfect place to introduce the concept of gauge and different types of fibers.  You could even tell the learner not to worry about it until they wanted to make a good square even.  But whatever.  The learner has the materials, now what?

Let's learn to cast-on!  To do so, let's learn a version of the Knitted Cast-On without telling you it's a version of the Knitted Cast-On.  It's the only cast-on ever, until you need a different one.  Strike two.

Of course, after only teaching the only way to cast on is teaching the only way to do the knit stitch.  Just like the instructions (which aren't bad) for the 'cast-on' used English style, they're teaching English style knit stitch (which, again, the instructions themselves aren't bad).  Without even stating that it's a style.  Why does it seem like all the guides teach English style as 'the' knitting style?  I don't get it.

So the learner gets done with their first row of knitting.  Yay.  Now here comes this lovely gem:
"Now measure your work. It should be about 7" wide. If it is too wide, start over and cast on fewer stitches; if it is too narrow, start over and cast on more stitches."
What?  No!  You NEVER measure a piece of knitting that's that close to the needle unless you're only looking for a rough estimate of width.  Your measurement WILL be wrong because having the stitches on the needle spaces them out differently than in the fabric alone. Who's bright idea was it to put this line in here?  Also, telling someone who just knit their first row to make sure it's the proper width and rip it out and guess how many more or less stitches to put on to get the right width is really, really bad thing to do.  How are they supposed to guess how many more or less stitches to put on?  If you were worried about the width, maybe you should have talked about gauge and had the leaner practice on a swatch, huh?  That way, they would know how many to cast-on in the first place and they would have some practice with knitting already.  But no, they just now have a frustrated leaner constantly ripping out their work because they're too busy guessing things. Hell, you don't ask a experienced knitter to do that if you don't have to.

So anyway, we get past that, knit the square, and get to the binding off instructions (which also aren't knit instructions, but if the cast-on's here, might as well through in the bind-off as well). The instructions are straightforward and detail the most common bind-off.  Unlike cast-on's and knit stitches, I don't really expect guides to cover alternate bind-offs, because they're pretty situation specific, and 9 times out of 10 you'll only need the standard bind-off (I don't even know if it has an actual name).  Acknowledgement of other bind-offs would be nice, but hey, they couldn't even cover any other standard cast-on so that's to be expected.

It also would be nice if there was a link on the bottom of the page that went to the purl page, but nope, got to scroll up to the left-hand menu bar to get there.

The funny thing here is that on this page, they acknowledge that garter stitch is the product of knit stitches instead of the knit stitch itself (by comparing purling every row to it, which, of course, is another way to get garter stitch).  The actual instructions here are simple and, other than maybe numbering the actual steps, is perfectly good.  Other than the fact that, again, they only show English style but call it 'how to purl', but that was to be expected at this point.

The last three pages in this guide cover increases, decreases, and the yarn over.  Unlike the rest of this guide, they're actually decent.  Both the increase and decrease guide covers two different ways of doing so, and even state that there are many other ways, but here are two of them.  The instructions are pretty clear (which is about the only consistently good thing about this guide), and they even mention the idea of the increases/decreases slanting one way or the other. The only issue I see is that on the increase page, the left-hand menu bar disappears, so I have to go back to the last page to get to another page in the guide.

In conclusion, I don't recommend this guide.  Despite no issue with the descriptions of the steps themselves, the guide itself, and especially the knit stitch page, is set up to confuse at best, and frustrate at worse.  There are factual errors and oversimplifications, and a couple of basic topics are not covered (like gauge and matching needle size to yarn size).  It may have some use for a quick 'how do I decrease again' type question, but that kind of information can be found in many places, most likely easier to find than this site.

Learn to X Instruction Review: The Contents of a Good Instructional Guide

Before I start my commencement of posting reviews of knitting and crochet instructional guides, I first want to establish what I look for in such a guide.  After all, it wouldn't be fair to rag on a site I found, or a book used, without stating why I find it so bad.

So, without further ado, I present what a good knitting and/or crochet instructional guide should be.  A good guide:

1) Is clearly written and well organized.

Obviously, one person's opinion of 'clearly written' and 'well organized' will be different than someone else's.  However, truly horrible organization, out-of-order presentation, and incomprehensible  instructions should be pretty obvious as things you don't want your guide to be. A good guide doesn't take the learner forever to find basic information,  gives instructions in simple and concise language (and/or pictures when necessary), and is presented in an order that let's the student build on previous knowledge.

2)  Will at least name the style they are teaching, if not actually presenting the learner with more than one way of doing something.  

I get it, guide writers don't want to confuse people and have a writing deadline.  But I say by just telling people 'this is how you cast on, this is how you knit, this is how you crochet', guide writers are actually doing the learners a disservice.  First off, maybe the person reading the guide will hate the way you're teaching them, but would be more suited for an alternate method.  For example, maybe they're current crocheters learning how to knit, and would be more comfortable knitting Continental style instead of the English style.  If you start by reading some of these guides, you won't have a clue what I just meant by that last sentence, and that's bad. Learners like this, when attempting to use a guide that only presents one way, are more likely to get frustrated and give up.  They can't learn! they'll say, not realizing that there's more than one way to do it.

The other downside with this format is that while the learners may be fine with the one presented method in the beginning, they then may run into issues when they decide to branch out past the stockinette or garter stitch square. What if you need a different cast-on, or another way to start a crochet circle? Someone who was taught 'this is how you do x' is going to be confused when they run into a problem better served by a different method. Someone who at least was informed, if not shown, a different way will be more likely to look for and use the better way.

All in all, I think it's better for a guide to show at least two methods of doing something.  It gives the learner a choice and lets them feel out what is best for them.  If the guide doesn't show more than one method, at least it should tell the learner they're learning, say,  the knitted cast-on, and that this is only one of many ways of doing it.

3) Will present all the basic techniques needed to knit or crochet almost anything

Yes, us more experienced knitters know the beginner's going to be knitting a scarf, and gauge isn't crucial.  This doesn't excuse the guide writer of skipping any mention of gauge, even if it's after teaching the student how to knit a square.  A good guide will teach concepts like gauge from the start, as it'll save heartache when the beginner decides to move on.

4) All the information is correct.

This should be a given. No sympathy for incorrect statements.

Also related: If you teach to a pattern or provide beginner's patterns, make sure they don't have any mistakes in them. A intermediate crocheter like me will realize quickly that there's a mistake.  The beginner's just going to keep following your instructions blindly and will most likely blame the bad result on their inexperience. Mistakes in patterns is another topic, but just make double sure that a teaching pattern is correct.


I think this is the basis of a good learning guide for beginners.  For learning guides for more intermediate skills, I'll say that 1, 2, and 4 are all still relevant, though 2 a little less so (after all, for some of the more advanced techniques there is only one way to do it.  Also, at this point, if you're looking up more advanced techniques, you're going to know to search for another method if you don't like the one you found).  Intermediate guides tend to focus on one technique, and that's fine.  It doesn't excuse unclear explanations, bad websites, not naming the technique (unless you made it up, then say that), and in-factual information.  Now, onto the reviews!

PS: I apologize for the previous post that was here; I click the wrong button and accidentally published my draft.