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Some Little Lace Tricks

September 2

I recently found myself away from home for several weeks, hence the dearth of posts here.

When life hands you lemons make a shawl, I say!

Fortunately I was armed with a pattern (more about that in future posts), yarn and stitch markers.

 shawl, lace tips, lifeline

I always put lifelines into my lace knitting, and I’ve never regretted that yet. Although I usually like to use a thin cotton yarn as my lifeline, some on-the-road dental floss was the perfect substitute. If you’ve never used a lifeline, its a thinner yarn in a contrasting color that you thread through the live stitches on your needle. That way, if (in my case WHEN) you drop a stitch, the lifeline will catch it and keep it from running an alarming number of rows. I like to mark the pattern’s chart or text at the point where I put the lifeline in so I know where to resume from if I have to rip all the way back to the lifeline. Another thing I learned the hard way about lifelines…be sure to go around – and not through – stitch markers.

It’s hard to tell in this photo, since they’re hidden inside the curled-up work, but I love to use stitch markers between a given number of repeats. In this case, the pattern repeat was 8 stitches, so I placed a marker every three repeats for a total of 24 stitches between markers. Here’s my philosophy…either I am going to take a little time to count stitches between stitch markers as I go, or I am going to find out at the end of a row (or even further along in my work) that I’m off by a stitch or more and spend a lot of time tracking down the mistake. There may be some superhero knitters out there who do not make errors in their lace, but I am not one of them. Given that I am going to goof, counting between stitch markers every time limits my mistakes to just those stitches between markers. All that counting pays off in peace of mind.

Before I flew out the door for my unexpected trip, I had the presence of mind to toss a pad of Post-It notes into my bag. If you’re new to charts, you may like to use this popular method for keeping track of the row you’re working. By placing the Post-It above the row I’m working, I can see the rows I’ve already worked. It allows me to “read” my work, so I can verify that the yarnovers, decreases or plain stitches are lined up as they’re supposed to be.

 

If you’d like to read more about working charts and other tips, you might like to check out my Tips & Techniques page.

 

Stabilizing Tea Leaves

July 7

If you follow my blog, you’ve read about my experiment to add stability to top-down seamless sweaters (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Here’s how I’m applying my experiment to the Tea Leaves Cardigan, shown here in a photo from the pattern; note the gathered yoke pattern, which is where I’ll hide the shoulder seams:

tea_leaves_macro_low_res_medium

The first step was to cast on partway down into the neck edging pattern, so future picked-up stitches would reinforce the neckline. Then I identified where the fake shoulder seams would go, increased one stitch before and one stitch after each seam, and marked the seam with markers.:

MarkSeams_Sml

I worked the pattern as written, except that I knit between the seam markers on the RS and purled them on the WS.

Here’s the seam in progress:

WS_Seam_Beg_sml

When the seam got to be about 2-1/2″ long I ended it. If you look closely at the top of the seam you can see that I used a ssk and k2tog to decrease away the seam stitches so may stitch count once again matched the pattern:

RS_Seam4_sml

The next step was to use the mattress stitch to sew up the seam. On the WS it looks like this; you can see how it will prevent the shoulders from stretching out:

WS_SeamSewn_sml

I was happy to see that from the RS, the seam is undetectable:

RS_SeamSewn_sml

 

Here’s what the piece looks like now that I’ve worked the yoke and some of the body. There’s no seam in sight, and you’d never know the stitches around the neck had been picked up and worked upward. The neck and shoulder treatments should give me a nice stable sweater that won’t stretch out:

TeaLeavesNeck_First2_sml

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Resources:

Super-pretty stitch markers are made by my friend Laurie. They are great because the don’t catch on the yarn, like some stitch markers do. Plus they are fun and sparkly. She sells them through her Lima Pop Shoppe.

Tea Leaves Cardigan by Melissa LaBarre.

Stabilizing Seamless Sweaters, Part 3: Neck Edging

June 17

If you follow my blog, you’ll remember that I’m on a quest to put stability into the top-down seamless sweaters that I make. Too often, I’ve watched my beautiful sweaters grow droopy around the shoulders and ever-larger in the neck as time goes by.

As you may remember, I’ve been wanting to make the Tea Leaves Cardigan for forever. I’ve been working on a swatch to develop techniques I hope to carry forward into other top-down patterns as well.

In Part 1 of this series, I explained how I placed the cast-on edge a few rows down into the rows of garter in the beginning of the pattern. In Part 2 I showed how I added seams to the shoulders. Now in Part 3, I’ll explain how I finished the neck. (I’m using a contrasting color just to show you how I put this together – it’ll all be one color when I make the sweater.)

Fortunately, the beautiful Tea Leaves Cardigan pattern starts with several rows of garter stitch at the top, making it easy to hide a cast-on edge and subsequent picked up stitches into a knit row between two purl rows.

tea_leaves_macro_low_res_medium

 

In 5 rows of garter, I used what would have been a right-side knit row (row 4) for my cast on edge (see the Part 1 post for details). Here you can see that I picked up stitches just above the garter row of purls (which is the last row – row 5 – of garter called for in the pattern). I learned (the hard way, of course) to be careful where I pick up the stitches. Because I’m adding rows from the bottom up, I need to pick up stitches into the right-side-up “V”s in the row below the cast on. Otherwise, the orientation of the added garter rows is wrong.

PickUp_Sts21

 

 

Picked_Up_Sts1

 

This means I can pick up stitches and then add the garter rows 1-3 back in, working it as I would a bottom-up sweater. By doing this, I have a super-stable neck that will not stretch out and that will support the weight of the sweater’s back. The result is nearly identical to what the sweater would look like if knitted from the top down as written, starting with 5 rows of garter:

 

 NeckEdging3

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Putting it all together

Here’s the game plan for my Tea Leaves Cardigan, then. The back of my swatch shows the modifications I’ll make to add stability to this top-down seamless sweater. First, I’ll work my cast on several rows lower than what the pattern calls for. Then to prevent the shoulders from stretching, I’ll insert seams along the shoulders. And finally, after the seams are done, I’ll add picked-up stitches to lend stability to the neck. Perhaps you’ll be inspired to try this on your next top-down seamless project yourself!

Back31

Ok…I’m off to start my Tea Leaves Cardigan now. I’ve been gazing longingly at my beautiful Tosh Vintage yarn, and can hardly wait to cast on!

Stabilizing Seamless Top-Down Sweaters, Part 2: Adding Shoulder Seams

June 11

In my first post about adding stability to a seamless top-down sweater, I described how I strengthened the neckline by casting on a couple of rows into the pattern, then picking up stitches and finishing the neckline as you would a typical seamed sweater. The picked up stitches prevent the neckline from stretching out.

Now that the neckline piece of the stability puzzle is solved, what about the shoulders? Without a seam to hold them in place, they tend to stretch out, making them look droopier the more times they’re worn. The challenge was to figure out how to incorporate a seam into a top-down seamless construction. I experimented with a swatch and came up with a technique that I think will work for the next sweater I’m going to make, the Tea Leaves Cardigan. I’ll add “seam” stitches right into the work, then seam them up using the mattress stitch.

The most difficult part of the whole experiment was figuring out where the seam should go. On the typical seamed sweater, half the stitches are allocated for the sweater’s front and half for the back. I couldn’t just divide the cast on stitches by two, since the Tea Leaves sweater has a button band which had to be taken into consideration. From the swatch I made on the smaller needles used for the button band, I know that the button band will be about 1″ wide. That translates to about 5 stitches. The size I’m going to make calls for casting on 96 stitches. Adding the 1″ (5 stitch equivalent) to the cast on, I get a 101 stitch equivalent, which I’ll round to 100 so it’s divisible by two. If this were a pieced pullover sweater, there would be 50 stitches in the back piece and 50 stitches in the front piece. But this being a cardi, I’ll leave out the button band stitch equivalent.  Going back to the cast on instructions, I’ll take the 96 cast on stitches and subtract the 50 stitches which will be allocated for the sweater’s back. This leaves 96-50 = 46 stitches for the front. Since this is a cardigan I’ll need to divide that 46 stitches by 2, leaving 23 stitches for each front.

Now I can figure out where to place the shoulder seams. I’ll work 23 front stitches, insert two stitches that will act as a seam, work 50 back stitches, insert 2 more stitches for the other shoulder seam, then finish with 23 stitches for the other side of the front. As for the length of my seam, I know that from my own neck to the point of my shoulder is about 4.5″. I see from the pattern’s photo that the neck is rather wide. So I’m going to estimate that seam should be about 2.5″-3″ in length. I can also look at the photo and see that there’s a garter area between the pattern’s stitch motif, so it might be good to end the seam just before the final stitch motif (in this case, some ruching).

tea_leaves_macro_low_res_medium

Whew – with the math part out of the way, I can start the knitting. At this point, I only  have the cast on stitches on my needle (and in my first post I describe that the cast on is a few rows into the garter neck trim, so I can go back and pick up stitches later for added neck stability). I know I want to increase stitches by 2 for each seam, but I do not want to put the increases adjacent to each other or they’ll distort the fabric. I knit 22 stitches of the first front side, then increase 1 stitch using a M1. I place a marker for the seam. I knit 2 seam stitches and place a second seam marker. I increase again, then knit 48 of the back stitches. I work another increase (which brings the back stitch count back up to 50), then place a seam marker. I knit two seam stitches, then place another marker. I work another M1, and finish with the last 22 stitches of the second front. From here out, I’ll knit the seam stitches (between the markers) on the RS and purl them on the WS. When the seam is long enough, I use decreases to end the seam and get the stitch count back to normal.

Here’s how my swatch looks, with Step 1) add sts, Step 2) maintain seam sts for length of seam, Step 3) use decreases to get rid of seam sts prior to using mattress stitch to seam the seam sts:Seaming

 

 

Once the seam is long enough, I use the mattress stitch from the front of the work to seam the two seam stitches together. I weave under the bars between the seam stitches and the pattern’s regular knitting. (If I were seaming pieces instead, this would be the equivalent of weaving under the bars between the selvedge and the next stitch in.) Here’s what the seam looks like from the back when I’m done:

seam back

I used a different color yarn to illustrate the seaming on this swatch – for the sweater of course I’ll use the same color yarn as the rest of the sweater. Another detail is that I did not use the usual figure 8 at the bottom of the seam since I will be picking up neck stitches along that edge.  I’m pleased with this seam, since I can’t see it from the front side at all, yet it will add all the stability I want to the shoulder.

In Part 3 of this series, I’ll show you the last step for adding stability to the seamless top-down sweater: finishing the neck edge.

 

 

Stabilizing Seamless Top-Down Sweaters, Part 1: Casting On

June 3

I love knitting seamless top-down sweaters. But I don’t always love the way they wear over time. With no seams to support the neck and shoulders, they have a tendency to stretch and look droopy. Some people crochet an edging around the neck to add stability. There is also a way to crochet a chain along the inside of the shoulder, which can help.

I’ve had a different sort of experiment rattling around in my brain for a while now, and am finally getting the chance to put it into practice. I want to add a firm neckline and shoulder seams to my next top-down seamless sweater. The little bit of fiddling I’ll need to do will be worth it in the end, when the neck and shoulders of my sweater look good, wear after wear. No more sagging, I hope!

I hope that by following my blog posts about the process, you’ll get an idea of how to customize your favorite top-down seamless sweaters too. You’ll just need to adapt my technique for your particular pattern. So, let’s get started…

I’ve wanted to knit the beautiful Tea Leaves Cardigan for the longest time. This is not to imply that this particular pattern would sag or stretch – it’s just the right one for me to try my stability experiment on. The ruched stitch pattern on the yoke is fairly straight-forward, with no interruptions (like horizontal cables) to worry about, so adding shoulder seams should be no problem. Here’s a photo from the pattern:

tea_leaves_portrait_low_res_medium

 

Based on the pattern, I originally tried a swatch where I made little versions of a back and two fronts, then seamed them together. It dawned on me that while this worked great in a solid color, it would be a mess in the hand-dyed Madelinetosh I’ll be using; the colors would work up differently in each section.  That means I had to figure out how to build in shoulder seams that allow the yarn’s colors to flow along with as little interruption as possible.

Ultimately, I settled on a three-step process to add the stability I want. First, I cast on the neck several rows down in the pattern’s neck edging; second, I added two stitches at each shoulder which allowed me to create seams; third, I picked up stitches along my cast on and added the pattern’s neck edging back in. I’ll address each of these steps in separate blog posts, since the instructions are detailed.

The first quandary – Step One - is how to add stability to the neckline. Even though it isn’t a very firm cast-on, I’ll use the long tail method in anticipation of picking up stitches later. (Later in Step 3, I’ll be using picked-up stitches around the neck to add firmness to the neckline.) I need to work the cast-on into the neck edging in a way that stays true to the pattern, so it needs to start several rows down, then be finished as if it were a bottom-up sweater. Another way to look at it is this: Imagine a bottom-up construction; the neck is bound off and then the neck edging is added. In place of the bound off row is my cast on. It starts within the neck edging, like a bind-off would, and is then worked upward to finish the neck edging. I whipped up a little swatch that I hope will give an idea of how I planned the neck:

GarterSwatch3

Fortunately the Tea Leaves Cardigan starts with several rows of garter stitch, so it’s easy to figure out where to place the cast-on. By placing the cast-on a few rows down into the garter edging on a knit row, it blends in beautifully. I can later come back and add the rest of the garter, just as I would on a bottom-up cardigan where the edging is added after the bind off. In this case, rows 1-5 are garter in the pattern, so I’m counting the cast on as row 4 (a right-side knit row). I’ll be able to add the three missing rows of garter back in later, by picking up neck edge stitches, so it will look exactly the same as the pattern.

The garter neck edging is an easy one to work the cast-on into. I’m sure I’ll have to work new swatches for other stitch patterns in order to work out the best placement for the cast-on/picked up stitches/neck edging.

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Resources:

For an excellent discussion on the value of seams, check out Sandi Rosner’s article in Twist Collective: “In Praise of Seams

Tea Leaves Cardigan pattern by Melissa LaBarre

Madelinetosh Tosh Vintage yarn

 

 

TKGA Meets the Real World

April 17

You may remember I’ve been working on completing Level 2 of the TKGA Master Hand Knitting Program. It is a detailed and challenging program! Before I started the program I didn’t understand the real-world application of it. Yes, I wanted to learn how to become a better knitter. But I didn’t realize tAll Postshat each level’s notebook becomes a valuable part of my reference library.

Here’s an example of how helpful it is for me to have my Level 2 notebook full of swatches and instructions. I’m making the Forest Weave top designed by Yumiko Alexander. It’s worked sideways, and the sides are bound-off edges. One of the swatches in the seaming section of Level 2 is a horizontal-to-horizontal seam like this.  I’m able to look at my swatch and instructions from my notebook to easily remind myself how work this kind of seam. Very handy!

Knitting and seaming

 Wish me luck. I’m re-submitted the swatches and text I had to re-do on Monday. Let’s hope I pass this time!

Reversible Scarves: Stefanie Moebius

May 10

Just the right weight for springtime - I made a version of my Stefanie Moebius pattern from Knit Picks’ Wool of the Andes Sport. I used Woodland Heather and Sapphire Heather. I adore sport-weight yarn, which added to this project’s fun factor. I previously made one from Lorna’s Laces, and high on my to-do list is to make one from Tosh Sport too. All these companies have such great colors to choose from!

If you’d like to make one of these yourself, the pattern is from my book Reversible Scarves: Curing the Wrong Side Blues. There are directions for the tricky-but-fun Moebius cast-on that Cat Bordhi teaches. One of the elements I like about this design is the contrasting edging; it emphasizes the intriguing Moebius shape.

scarf, mobius, reversible

scarf, Moebius, reversible

 

Resources:

Reversible Scarves: Curing the Wrong Side Blues

Cat Bordhi’s Moebius Cast-On video

Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Sport

Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sport

Madelinetosh Tosh Sport

 

New Video – Binding Off in Pattern

March 28

I love casting on and binding off in pattern. Especially with ribbing, it can lend a nice subtle edge. I find this technique so useful, I’ve made a new video to match the previous one about casting on in pattern.

If you don’t already, I encourage you to subscribe to my YouTube channel. No surprise here, it’s called the AudKnits channel. I hope you find the videos helpful!

Starting Ishbel

March 13

I’m finally getting the chance to start a pattern I’ve been wanting to try for the longest time. Ishbel is a beautiful shawl design by Ysolda Teague. I’m making the smaller version, out of Swans Island fingering weight yarn.

Ishbel, Ysolda Teague, shawl, Swans Island, charts, how to knit

Every so often I get inquiries about how to work lace and/or charts. As a reminder, you can find an excellent (if I do say so myself) blurb in the Tips & Techniques section of my web site about how to work with charts. I like to use Post-It Notes to keep track of my place on a chart, but Ishbel’s chart is too wide. Highlighter tape comes to the rescue! I know some people like to put the tape right over the line they’re working on, but I’m so set in my ways, I put it just above the line just like I do when using the sticky notes.

Next comes the use of markers. Here’s my philosophy – either I can use markers, counting stitches as I go and fixing mistakes early on, or I can skip them, make mistakes way back in the work, then have to rip back to fix them when eventually I find my count is off, and be grumpy for an extended period of time. No thanks! I put markers every three repeats in Ishbel, giving me a manageable number of stitches to count. The pattern makes it so I have to shift the markers frequently, but that’s a small price to pay for peace of mind. The coffee bean marker tells me, “Wake up – you’re coming to the center section!” The center is worked differently than the repeats.

Another anxiety reliever is the life line. That’s the contrasting color you can see in the photo. I’ve already had to rip back to the life line, and was very glad it was there! I’ll move it up at the end of the section I’m working on, so it’ll be ready to save the day again if needed.

If you’re new to lace and charts, or just needed a refresher, I hope you found this helpful!

Moebius Madness

September 6

When I signed up for Cat Bordhi‘s Moebius workshop, I had only the vaguest idea of what a Moebius actually is. Wikipedia describes it as “a surface with only one side.” In knitting, I knew of it from intriguing shawls, scarves and cowls that look like strips with a twist in the middle.

The picture below shows the surpise supplies that greeted us in the workshop. No, the apple is not a lilliputian variety – I just put in in the photos for scale to show that  the ball of yarn is really, really huge!

Moebius, Cat Bordhi, ShiBui, Addi

I couldn’t understand, why the giant yarn? Turns out the big yarn and big needles are just right for learning the special Moebius  Cast-On. It also helps when creating a new design – it means fewer stitches to rip out when the unexpected happens. See the variegated yarn in the center of the work? That, oddly enough, is the cast on that Cat so brilliantly teaches. Yes, the knitting starts in the center and works outward! This is just the beginning of where the design process is turned on its head.

 

Moebius, desigining

Wikipedia says, “If an ant were to crawl along the length of this strip, it would return to its starting point having traversed every part of the strip …without ever crossing an edge.”

Here’s the strip I made to start conceptualizing how to create a pattern for the Moebius shape. Not only does it start in the center, but also patterns that slant one way in the beginning slant the other way when they come around the second half of the knitting.

If this sounds like gobbledy-gook, I can highly recommend Cat’s workshops. She also has a terrific YouTube video  called “Intro to Moebius Knitting.”

My Moebius design will soon appear in… well, the Really Big Project that I can’t talk about yet.

ShiBui provided the lovely Highland Wool Alpaca yarn for Cat’s students, and the fabulous Addi Turbo needle came from Skacel.

Braided Cable Video

October 13

With the popularity of the AudKnits Braided Cable Hat pattern, it seems like a good time to remind everyone there’s a “how to” video on the AudKnits YouTube channel showing how to work the cable. For those new to knitting cables, this video can be your introduction to using a cable needle. Or maybe you’d just like to brush up on the technique. Either way, it’ll make knitting the Braided Cable Hat a snap!

Knit Picks Pattern

April 8

I’m excited and grateful to be part of Knit Pick’s Independent Designer Program! The Knit Picks version of my Smock Top Sweater uses their beautiful Merino Style yarn. I’m crazy for the Kenai color seen here:

 

I have a Japanese Maple that leafs out red in the spring. Doesn’t it look like fall?

I appreciate Knit Pick’s including me in their Independent Designers Program. You can read more about it and see other patterns here.

Many thanks to Susan Claudino for doing an awesome job knitting the sample for the Knit Picks Smock Top Sweater! She’s a talented knitter, and you can admire her work on her NoKnitSherlock Ravelry page.

For anybody who’d like a refresher on how to knit smocking, I’ll remind you I’ve posted a YouTube video that demonstrates the technique.

 

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