Simple Knitting Tip: Lifelines

I'm not like Jeanette. Jeanette is sweet and funny and talented (OK, so I'm a little like Jeanette). Jeanette, however, loves to knit lace. While I don't hate it, I'm not quite to the "love" stage. I do it, I am even designing a simple lace wrap, the test-knitting of which is very instructive, and even, dare I say it:  fun.  Now, since I'm not like Jeanette, this pattern will not be on the same level of lace (read: pro) as her lace patterns. This is the kind of thing Jeanette designs: Seabrook on Ravelry.  She designs lace for people like her who are not afraid of lace and/or love it. I design lace for rank amateurs and those who struggle with paying sufficient attention to the project to keep from screwing it up. Like my mother used to say, It takes all kinds.

I'm not like Wilma Rudolph either (whose story is simply amazing) but her quote applies to me:

I ran and ran and ran every day, and I acquired this sense of determination, this sense of spirit that I would never, never give up, no matter what else happened.

When you realize that she overcame the effects of a childhood case of polio to go on to on to be the first American woman to win 3 gold medals in track & field in one Olympic games, that quote takes on a whole new light, doesn't it? While my own struggles with complicated knitting techniques are literally nothing like her struggle to achieve her goals, I am inspired to embrace that part of my character that very stubbornly does not quit. I tell my students all the time, especially the beginners, keep at it. You're bigger than those sticks and that yarn. Don't let them get the better of you. Because really, how sad would it be to give up on mastering a knitting technique with Wilma Rudolph as your role model?

I've had good times with lace knitting and times that weren't so good. There was the lace shrug for my daughter's prom that ended up just being stockinette stitch, for example. There was also that enormous lace blanket that I knit, so I know I'm not beaten.

Perseverance then is the name of the game. Another word for perseverance is "Lifeline." (OK, I may have made that up) If you're going to make anything of yourself as a knitter of lace (or at least conquer the fear or master the technique, as the case may be), you're going to HAVE to run a Lifeline. I know it takes valuable knitting time to do it. Trust me, I understand--some days my knitting time is scarce as hen's teeth (as grandmother used to say) (you're picturing a chicken now, aren't you, trying to remember if they have teeth) (disturbing imagery isn't it?).  Take that extra time now to save yourself the heartache of having to start over from the beginning.

If you don't know how to use a Lifeline, do not knit any lace until you go to KnittingHelp.com and watch this video.

When you put in a Lifeline, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:

  1. Write down the number of the row on which you put your Lifeline.

  2. Use a thread or a yarn that is the same size or smaller than the one with which you are knitting. Try to find something slippery (aka not mohair) because ideally you will thread that yarn through your stitches and never have to use it to save your project. Ideally you will just pull it back out and thread it through again further up on your project. Even if you never use it to prevent chaos, it's got to come back out again sometime.

  3. Make sure you have the correct number of stitches knit on that row (because if you have missed a YO, you will hate yourself).

  4. Don't put the Lifeline through the stitch markers if the stitch markers do not open. Don't ask me how I know this.

  5. Move your Lifeline every few rows. If your Lifeline is on Row 3 and you make a mistake on Row 26, you might need expensive therapy. Totally preventable.

  6. Put a Lifeline on a "rest" row. The project I'm working on now has a row of lace stitches, followed by a row of just knits and purls. This wrong side row is where my Lifeline goes and I run it after having completed this magic row.

  7. Also, lace knitting and lap cats are not always a happy combination.

Persevere. Put in your Lifeline. Conquer lace. You can do this.

Sometimes I use two Lifelines. Don't judge.

—>This post ran previously.

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Knit That Sweater: Finishing Techniques 3 with Sandy Huff

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Knit That Sweater, Part 3

A guest blog series on Finishing Techniques

Part 3 of the series featuring the lovely and gracious designer Sandy Huff, someone I am proud to call my friend (and not just because she might block something for me if I'm nice to her...)

If you missed her other posts, click here for Part 1 or Part 2.


Knit That Sweater--Finishing Techniques, Part 3: Blocking and Buttons and more!


Blocking serves several purposes.  Blocking is used to “set” the stitches so that they relax into each other for a more uniform look.  Blocking is also used to open up a lace pattern. Small alterations in size can also be facilitated through blocking.

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There are many ways to block your pieces but generally, you should consult your ball band laundering instructions to determine which blocking method is best for your yarn fiber(s).  ALWAYS test your preferred blocking method on your swatch. The wrong blocking method could ruin all of your hard work. You can consult Deborah Newton’s book “Finishing School” for a comprehensive understanding of blocking methods.

After blocking your buttons and any special details can be added.

When sewing on buttons, use the yarn that was used for the body of the garment.  If the yarn is too thick for sewing buttons then separate the plies. If the plied yarn is not strong enough then twist it together with a matching thread.  Create a little space between the button and knitted fabric by wrapping the yarn around several times. To prevent droopy buttons follow this handy tip:  sandwich your knitted fabric between two buttons.  You’ll have the visible button on top of the fabric and another button hidden underneath making the button more stable.

Finally, finish your piece with special finishings like embroidery, duplicate stitch, cross-stitch, crochet chain, pom-poms, tassels, fringe, braids, or i-cord.  Be creative and make your garment a one-of-a-kind.

Now you are on your way to finishing your garments with a professional and polished look.

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Sandy Huff is a knit and crochet designer from the Atlanta, GA area. Her designs have been featured in Creative Knitting, Interweave Crochet and more.

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Knit That Sweater: Finishing Techniques 2 with Sandy Huff

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The second in a series written by my friend, designer Sandy Huff. Catch part 1 HERE


Knit That Sweater: Finishing Techniques, Vol. 2: SEAMING


Now you have finished the knitting.  You are ready to do the “finishing”. Follow these helpful tips to produce a garment you will be proud to wear.

When it comes to seaming side seams, how do you know that your seams will be even?  My solution to that is to knit the front and back pieces simultaneously using two separate balls of yarn.  There will not be any guesswork as to whether or not your edges are the same length. Do the same with your sleeves and you will have sleeves that are exactly the same length.

Always do seaming with the right side facing you so that you will be able to see how it looks as you go.  

The order in which seaming should occur is:

  1. Shoulders ( the foundation of the garment)

  2. Side seams

  3. Sleeve seams

  4. Work neckline and front edges (usually done as picked up stitches)

  5. Attach buttons, zippers, etc.

  6. Sew in sleeves.  This step is last because adding them earlier will make the garment too heavy and awkward to work with.

 

My least favorite seaming task is the shoulders.  Patterns typically guide you in the direction of a shoulder edge that ladders and is very difficult to seam.  There are several other options for finishing your shoulder seams.

 

A sloped bind off will give you a curved edge rather than a ladder.  On the last row before the BO, sl last st purlwise. On the BO row (sl one purlwise) twice, pass the second stitch over the first to BO the first stitch.  BO the remaining stitches as usual. Continue in this manner until you finish all your BO rows.

You may also use short rows to shape the shoulder in order to finish with live stitches when you can use the kitchener stitch or a 3-needle bind off for a seamless finish.  Knit across the first BO row rather than binding off. On the next row, stop to within the number of stitches you were to BO on the first BO row. Turn your work. Knit the remaining stitches and repeat until you finish all of the BO stitch numbers.  You will be left with live stitches in which to do your kitchener or 3-needle BO.

For vertical seams such as side seams and armhole edges leave a long enough tail when casting on the body or when binding off in order to use the tail for seaming. Use the mattress stitch for Stockinette stitch and reverse stockinette stitch.  

When sewing in in the sleeves, first mark the middle of the top of the sleeve cap where it will match up with the shoulder seam.  Begin seaming at the lower armhole where it meets the side seams and sew up towards the shoulder until your marker is even with the top of the shoulder easing the fit as you go.

When picking up stitches, if you’ve already added edge stitches, use these stitches for a flawless seam.  Work into the backs of stitches to prevent holes if you need to. A pattern will tell you how many stitches to pick up but that may not happen in your knitting.  If you pick up too may just decrease on the first row of knitting. When picking up stitches on a vertical edge the loose rule is to pick up 2 stitches for every 3 rows. On ribbing, pick up at every row or 5 stitches to every 6 rows. Decrease evenly a few stitches on the last row before the BO to prevent flaring.

Next time--Part 3: Blocking and Buttons and more

Sandy Huff is a designer, knitter, crocheter and all-around awesome person. You can find her patterns  here on Ravelry , including some gorgeous brand new ones!

Sandy Huff is a designer, knitter, crocheter and all-around awesome person. You can find her patterns here on Ravelry, including some gorgeous brand new ones!

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How-to Video Tutorial: Slip, Knit, PSSO

I made this video for a student to show the proper way to work the Slip, Knit, PSSO (Pass Slipped Stitch Over) decrease. This left-leaning decrease is useful for knitting hats, socks, lace and much more.

Here's how it works: 

1. Slip the stitch from the left needle to the right needle without working it.

2. Knit the next stitch.

3. Pass the slipped stitch over the stitch you just knit. Ta-da! A left-leaning decrease!

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