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Gaugefy App

February 27

You may remember I’ve been working on the second level of the TKGA Master Hand Knitting Program. I’m learning to be a stickler for gauge (oh dear, I’ve become one of those people). In Level 2, we have to write instructions for our swatches, including gauge.

A tool that I’m finding to be helpful is the Gaugefy app for Apple devices. It’s very easy to calculate gauge, since it lets you enter any measurement for your swatch – you’re not stuck with 4″ x 4″ for example. It then takes the stitches and rows in your swatch and calculates stitches per inch.

app, Gaugefy, gauge

You can then hit the “Create” button to go to a page that allows you to to use your stitches-per-inch calculation in a number of ways. I like using it to get the 4″ gauge to put into the gauge section of my patterns. Or you can you can estimate the measurements that you’ll get using a certain number of repeats. Or go the other way and figure out how many repeats you’ll get in a given measurement.

app, Gaugefy, gauge

This handy app has a free version which I use all the time. For $1.99 you can get a version with even more features. It will store your gauges for you for future reference.  As a designer, this is really handy. I can have at my fingertips the gauges for yarns I use in design work, or gauges for specific stitch patterns.

app, Gaugefy, gauge

Gaugefy seems like such a simple little app, yet is very handy!  You can check it out for free in iTunes and upgrade to the paid (but still really inexpensive) version if you’d like to be able to save the results of your swatches, including yarn and needle size.

Bargello Knits

October 8

For me, one of the best things about knitting is that it provides a never-ending opportunity to learn something new. You might say I ‘m a techniques junkie! Through classes or books, I might learn a new variation on a technique I already use. Other times I’m exposed to a whole new way of thinking and creating.

The latter’s the case with the book Bargello Knits. I first met the author, Patty Nance, at a convention. She was knitting a spectacular creation, full of colors placed in an astonishing way. I could hardly wait for her book to come out so I could learn her inventive “Bargello” way of knitting. And here it is!

knitting book, Bargello Knits

The book’s beginning leads the reader through the genius of Patty’s discovering and refining the Bargello technique. She uses lengths of yarn, carefully cut so colors stack in the desired way. The yarn requirements are quite specific, since placing the colors where you want them is a key element. Patty does a great job of explaining the different color placement on hanks or balls of yarn, and why they’re important to a project’s final outcome.

Patty is a natural teacher. In very clear terms, she guides the reader through the fundamentals of her technique, preparing the knitter for a practice swatch. I easily followed her very clear instructions, from selecting an appropriately-dyed hank (in this case some Lorna’s Laces Sportmate)…

Lorna's Laces Sportmate

…through a little icord test, to a stockinette swatch, to lengths of yarn organized in little baggies, to a final swatch. It’s a testament to Patty’s precise writing style that I was able to pull off the Bargello technique on my first try!

Bargello Swatches

The 28 patterns in Bargello Knits are presented in a way that allows the knitter to build skills. They start with easy hats and scarves, then progress through an adorable skirt, to shawls and lace, and culminate a section of gorgeous sweaters using more advanced techniques.

Now that I’ve added Bargello to my bag of knitting skills, I can try some of the beautiful patterns in the book.

Bargello Knits patterns

Resources:

Patty Nance’s Bargello Knitworks website goes into detail about yarn recommendations

Individual print and digital sales information, and wholesale inquiries, can be found here: Bargello Knits

Published by Cooperative Press

posted under Book Review | 1 Comment »

Cast On, Bind Off: 211 Ways to Begin and End Your Knitting

May 29

CastOn BindOff_8

My latest favorite knitting book is Cap Sease’s Cast On, Bind Off: 211 Ways to Begin and End Your Knitting. It’s brilliant!

I’ve recently had two reasons to put the book to the test. I was making socks with K2P2 ribbing on the leg, and wanted an attractive, stretchy cast-on. I have lots of reference books that include sections about casting on, but I’d have to dig through a lot of techniques just to find the one with the qualities I was looking for. This is where Cast On, Bind Off really shines. Right in the beginning of the book, Sease provides grids which show the purpose of the various techniques. In the case of my sock, all I had to do was look under the column called “Purpose” in the grid for cast-ons to find the section called “Elastic”; it lists seventeen cast-ons that will produce an elastic edge. Further down was the section labeled “Socks”, which was even more specific. Flipping to the section of the book for sock cast-ons (yes, there’s a whole section devoted to socks!), I found the perfect technique – the “Rolled-Edge Cast On for K2, P2 Rib”.

The next situation I needed to use the book for was binding off my Color Affection shawl. Before looking at the Cast On book – and kind of ignoring some warnings from Ravelry users – I figured I could just go up a needle size or two and bind off in the usual manner. Big mistake. The bind-off was too tight, and I had to take the whole thing out. Aarg! What I really needed was an elastic bind-off that would be neither too tight nor too loose for the shawl’s curved edge. Voila! Cast On‘s fabulous tables in the front of the book list a whole slew of bind-offs which can be used for elastic edges. I tried one or two, and settled on the “Suspended Bind Off Variation.”

Not only does this book provide an incredible array of techniques, it’s just so intelligently laid out! In addition to tables which organize cast-ons and bind-offs by purpose (elastic, firm, lace, etc), there’s a table which shows which cast-ons to pair with which bind-offs to create matching edges. Those of you who regularly read my blog or scarf book can just imagine how happy this grid makes me! I love for the beginnings and endings of my projects to mirror each other.

That Cap Sease has been knitting since childhood may explain the variety of cast-ons and bind-offs she’s gathered for this book. Her experience as a teacher shines through in the concise yet thorough instructions for each technique. The illustrations are thorough and very helpful. I would highly recommend this book to any knitter who wants to go beyond the basics and use cast-ons and bind-offs to exercise more control over the appearance and usefulness of the projects they knit.

Keep looking here for a special giveaway of this book. The winner will receive a copy personalized and signed by Cap Sease! (A hint – the giveaway will commence on a practically unheard-of day of celebration in June…anybody care to venture a guess?)

 

Entrelac Online: Part 2 (or, Who Knew It Could Be This Easy?)

August 27

Gwen Bortner, entrelac, infinity neck cowl

When I last posted about Gwen Bortner’s online Entrelac Knitting class , I was just getting to know my way around Craftsy. Now I’ve had a chance to dig in and actually start taking the class.

Gwen’s wonderful in-person teaching style translates well into her videos. She’s really upbeat, and she anticipates things that may prove challenging for the student.  Her class uses three projects to teach entrelac; a neck warmer introduces the student to basic entrelac technique, next a scarf and then a cape build on those skills with more complex patterns.

Working on the first project, the Infinity Neck Warmer, I learned how to make the triangles and blocks that form an entrelac pattern. Gwen’s directions were so clear, and presented in such an organized manner, that I had no problems at all. One of the super-cool things about Craftsy classes is that you can post a question to the teacher, attaching a photo of your work. For forever, my ssk’s have been wonky as heck. Every other tier of entrelac blocks uses ssk’s, and true to form, my ssk columns of stitches were all crooked. I posted a photo of my crazily-tilting stitches, and Gwen wrote back to me right away with a suggestion for how to fix it.

The only thing I found the teeniest confusing in the class so far was the way the downloaded homework assignments are presented. If you take the class, be sure to start with the right pattern – go by the name on the pattern, rather than the number in the corner or the order they’re presented in the list of homework downloads. (The first pattern pdf has a “2” in the corner, while the second project is labelled “1”, which I found confusing).

Gwen’s lessons are filled with helpful tips. Who would have guessed I’d be learning how to knit in both directions as part of this class? It makes working all those squares faster. I’d always been interested in learning this technique, but  felt intimidated. Having it as part of the class was like getting a bonus class-within-a-class. And typical Gwen – her instructions are clear and she anticipates where things might prove to be challenging. (She warns that at a certain point your brain will stop, and she was right on – my brain stopped!) The video was so good, I only had to watch it once and was able to apply it. (I’m glad I have it to go back to when I need a refresher, though!)

I was so excited to get started on this project, I turned to my stash for the yarn. My stash pretty much consists of one ball of everything, since I had a lot of yarn samples left over from my book. So I grabbed the only stuff I had enough of – a solid Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran  and a gently striped Classic Shades by Universal Yarns. I think it turned out to be a serendipitous combination.

Gwen Bortner, Knitting Entrelac, entrelac, infinity neck warmer

 Normally, I love to block my projects. For this one, I chose not to block it, so it would keep its textural quality.

knitting, entrelac, Craftsy, Gwen Bortner, cowl

 

Bottom line? If you’ve had any curiosity at all about learning entrelac, I highly recommend Gwen’s Entrelac Knitting class. It was fun to learn and much easier than I thought! I look forward to continuing the next two phases of the class – the textured scarf and eventually the cape.

 

 

Entrelac Online: Part 1 (or, Craftsty – My New Best Friend)

July 23

When I heard that Gwen Bortner now teaches her Entrelac Knitting course online, I was excited to check it out. You may remember I took a fantastic workshop from her in Cambria a few months ago. Gwen clearly loves to teach and her sense of humor make her classes fun. Her book Entree to Entrelac helped transform entrelac from esoteric to wildly popular.

Since this is the first online class I’ve taken, I’m going to write a series of posts for this topic, sharing with you some of the super-smart features of Craftsy as I discover them for myself through taking Gwen’s online class.

I’ve always been curious about entrelac; I’ve oohed and ahhhed over everybody else’s’ entrelac projects. But it scares me –  I’ve sat with many a  knitter trying to tackle entrelac on her own, and it usually involves swearing and ripping. Along comes Gwen’s class on Craftsy. If anyone can teach me entrelac, it’s bound to be Gwen. But could an online class be as informative and fun as her real-life classes?

I’ve only recently discovered the world of Craftsy. One thing I love is that they post sample videos so you get a sense ahead of time whether you want to take the class. When I think about the money I’ve spent on travelling to knitting events, and then paying for classes, I realize that the cost of $39.99 is very reasonable. The process for joining Craftsy and signing up for class is super easy.

What’s really cool about the online course is that, unlike when I get behind in a real-time class, I can go back any time to any of the video segments to refresh my memory or review a tricky technique. Once I buy a Craftsy course, it is mine to keep forever.

I was worried that without actually being in the same room as Gwen, I’d be unable to ask questions or get help when I got stuck in my knitting. There’s an area right next to the video for posting questions, which Gwen responds to. While there isn’t the instant gratification of an immediate answer, there is the advantage that I can see everyone’s questions and answers,  which add up to a broader range than would be asked in a typical class. That means I get to learn even more. I can even attach a photo of my knitting if I get stuck and need to show Gwen where I went wrong. That’s comforting!

When I take a real-time class, I scribble all kinds of notes as the teacher explains things. I can do the same thing with a note-taking section under the video window; I love that I can pause the video while I type, meaning I won’t miss a word.

The projects and instructions for the course start off with the basics of entrelac, and then build skills from there. Now that I’ve learned the ropes with the Craftsy format, and have sorted out the downloaded instructions, I’m off to dig through my stash for some project yarn. In the next post, we’ll get into the nuts and bolts of the class.

California Revival Knits

July 9

One of the best things about writing my book has been getting to know the work of other authors. I first met Stephannie Tallent at a knitting event. She was knitting an absolutely stunning sweater, which I walked up to admire. As fate would have it, she too was working on a book for Cooperative Press, and the sweater was one of the patterns in it. Here’s the finished Wrought Iron Cardi from Stephannie’s book California Revivial Knits:

California Revival Knits, Stephannie Tallent, knitting book, Wrought Iron Cardi

Stephannie’s book came about from her interest in architectural details from the California Revival period. Not only are her patterns gorgeous, but the photos that illustrate her story are absolutely stunning. Photographer Kathy Cadigan created images for this book that beautifully show architectural elements that influenced Stephannie’s designs. There is a gorgeous sequence that shows how the the traditional tiles are crafted. I just love the way the book ties together the story that led to this collection with the designs themselves.

California Revival Knits, fair isle, Stephannie Tallent

I love the variety of patterns in California Revival Knits. There are small projects and large, cables and lace, and beautiful colorwork. Here you can see how a traditional peacock motif influenced mitts and a cowl design.  Beautiful beads and buttons add another technique to the mix, as well as lending sparkle and elegance.

 I’ve been itching to make the Peacock Mitts since I first laid eyes on them. In the meantime, I’m going to make the Wrought Mitts, with their beautiful wrought-iron inspired cables, for the Ravellenic Games (the Ravelympics having been renamed due to the ridiculous heavy-handedness of the US Olympic Committee). I’ll post more about that as the Opening Ceremonies draw near.

And guess what? Cooperative Press had given me a copy of this fantastic book to give away to one of you, Dear Readership! Look for the California Revival Knits giveaway in the next few weeks.

 

To order California Revival Knits for yourself, here’s the link to the ordering page.

Published by Cooperative Press

Photography by Kathy Cadigan

Stephannie Tallent’s website is Sunset Cat

posted under Book Review | 3 Comments »

Craftsy

July 3

Like a bystander being swept up into the mob surging into a free Black Eyed Peas concert, I’m suddenly surrounded by everything Craftsy. I’m just now discovering what all the excitement’s about.

Craftsy bills itself as “the fastest-growing online crafting community on the web.” It offers online classes, workshops, patterns from indie designers, and an area for sharing photos of finished projects. It includes all manner of crafts, from cake decorating to weaving. My focus is knitting, of course.

I can’t wait to try out some of the online classes. First, I’ll try Gwen Bortner’s Entrelac Knitting. I’ve taken a couple of classes from Gwen, and thoroughly enjoyed them. And I’ve always wanted to learn entrelac, in a curious-but-intimidated kind of way. So it’s a perfect fit.

I was delighted to see that Caro Sheridan, the ace photographer who worked on my book, offers a class. It’s called Shoot It! A Product Photography Primer. Caro is an absolute genius, and her talent and fun personality make this a class I’d love to take too.

I was lucky enough to win a free class of my choice during a TNNA event. I can take any class I want. How fun is that?! I have my eye on subjects ranging from short rows to lace shawl design. Or socks. Or cables. Or….

I’m having a blast getting caught up in the Craftsy phenomenon; now I know what all my crafty friends are talking about!

posted under Reviews | No Comments »

Skeletons on the Zahara Review

January 21

This is the first time I’ve mentioned a non-knitting book on my website. I recently read a book that was so compelling, I simply must break with tradition.

Cover Skeletons on the Zahara

The book is Skeletons on the Zahara, by Dean King. It’s the riveting true story of American sailors who were shipwrecked off the west coast of Africa in 1815. The good news was they made it safely to shore. The bad news was that they were taken as slaves by desert nomads. The captured sailors’ trials and tribulations are beyond my ability to comprehend – they were starved, beaten and sold to other cruel masters.  Literally, they were walking skeletons by the time their ordeal came to an end.

I loved Dean King’s writing style – his narrative is gripping without being hyped-up dramatic. He weaves amazing facts and bits of history into the story. For example, did you know that not so long ago (about 5500 to 2500 B.C.) the Sahara was quite fertile? It had all kinds of wildlife, including hippopotamuses living in lush rivers. It’s hard to believe, looking at it now.  Another thing I found fascinating is that camels originated in North America (!).

If you want to read an amazing account of courage, tenacity and survival, check out Skeletons on the Zahara.

posted under Book Review | 1 Comment »

Book Review: Ethnic Knitting

April 22

Abraham Lincoln once wrote, “I’m sorry I wrote such a long letter. I did not have the time to write a short one.” The book review that follows is long, but I couldn’t seem to pare it down any further without skipping some of  the book’s great qualities.

Ethnic Knitting Exploration: Lithuania, Iceland, and Ireland ek2_front-cover-rule

I love sweaters that incorporate ethnic designs, so I was pleased to read “Ethnic Knitting Exploration: Lithuania, Iceland, and Ireland”. The author, Donna Druchunas, walks you through all the steps and techniques required to design sweaters, and some smaller practice projects, with an ethnic flair. She clearly explains how to use color and texture stitch patterns from Lithuania, Iceland and Ireland in your designs.

Right from the introduction, I liked Druchunas’s approach. In a concise yet friendly manner she explains why she uses certain sweater styles, rather than others. This means you’ll end up with a sweater that is flattering rather than too boxy.

She goes on to cover some knitting basics: how to determine your sweater’s size, and how to knit in the round, including the two circular needles and the magic loop methods. This chapter makes a good primer for the beginning knitter and a nice reference for those with more experience. I’ve knitted sweaters before using short rows to shape the shoulders. But I learned something new in her description of short-row shaping for a sweater back. That said, I wished for more information on how to know whether to use this technique prior to starting the design process. Druchunas says that some body types like this adjustment, but I’d like to know what types those are.

I love the book’s format. The chapters on Lithuania, Iceland and Ireland include interesting facts about the origins of knitting in each region. Druchunas presents a variety stitch patterns from each – color ones from Lithuania and Iceland, and textures and cables for the Irish Aran tradition. Then there is a practice project and sweater project. Every project includes wonderful step-by-step instructions. You fill in the blanks on the worksheets and end up with your own design, customized for the fit and stitch patterns you’ve chosen.

I wanted to test out the book’s methodology. I chose the Fingerless Gloves project from the chapter on Lithuania. From making a gauge swatch to adjusting the stitch pattern to knitting the gloves, I found it very easy to make my own customized gloves. All I had to do was fill in the blanks on the worksheets. Each worksheet lays the foundation to make an entire pattern – painlessly.

fingerless-gloves-2

The project was so logically presented, my confidence is boosted for making a sweater next. The only hard part will be choosing from among all the lovely stitch patterns!

If you’re interested in buying “Ethnic Knitting Exploration: Lithuania, Iceland, and Ireland”, you can find it here on Amazon. Donna Druchunas’s  web site, Sheep To Shawl, describes the other books she’s written.

fingerless-gloves-and-book

Fingerless Gloves

April 18

I’ve been looking forward to finishing the Fingerless Gloves from the book I’ll be reviewing in a few days. I had a great time knitting them, in part because the author has a really neat way of guiding you through the design process. Here’s my creation, based on the project guidelines in the book.

fingerless-gloves-2

I made the ribbing extra long to keep my wrists warm as I take photos. I also crocheted a little border around the thumbholes to give them a bit of extra support.

These will be living in my camera bag so they’ll be at hand when I go out on cool mornings to shoot wildlife (we’re talking pictures) and flowers.

fingerless-gloves-3

I used odds and ends from my stash. The yarn smorgasbord includes Knit Picks Merino Style and Swish DK, Mission Falls 136 Merino Superwash, and a smidge of Rowan’s RYC Cashsoft DK.

fingerless-gloves-1

[Many thanks to hubby Steve who once again patiently played the part of knitwear photographer for the shot of me in my gloves!]

Fingerless Mitts Swatch

April 8

Remember that picture of the yarns as seen through the Teleidoscope? You don’t?? Ok, to refresh your memory here it is:

teleidoscope-5a-colors

Here are how the colors came together in the actual swatch:

swatch1

The swatch is my launching point for making fingerless gloves from a book I’ll be reviewing later in the month.  The book walks the knitter through all aspects of planning and designing her own projects. Now that I have a color combination that I like and gauge from my swatch, I’ll follow the author’s simple worksheets to create fingerless gloves just the way I want them.  I can hardly wait to get started!

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