Lace Knitting – Top 6 Tips #knittingtips

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Looky here, a gift – all the way from Alaska! Only a true knitter would go all the way to “The Last Frontier” and find a yarn shop…Behold, the newly crowned wilderness knitter, my mother-in-law. So, fresh from the land of grizzly bears and dog sledging, comes my latest challenge. Lace knitting.

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Many, many abandoned projects have languished in its wake, but this time I AM GOING TO FACE MY CHALLENGE. I shall knit these mitts, if it kills me! So, a change in approach is called for. Rather than dive straight in, needles first, wailing and thrashing when it all goes wrong, I am going to take a more ‘cerebral’ approach. I am going to consult a book. Not just any old book either – The Stitch ‘n Bitch Superstar Knitting book beyond the basics. Ironically, the chapter in Debbie Stoller’s book is titled “Lace, the final frontier”, which considering my challenge has come all the way from the “Last Frontier” I am going to take this as a sign from the knitting gods.

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So like a knitting detective, Poirot if you will, these are the clues I have gleaned so far…

  1. The holes in lace knitting, completed with cunning YO (yarn over) manoeuvre, are allowed. They do not spell disaster, as they would with other knitting. They do however create an extra stitch, which can be left if you’re making an ever-increasing shawl shape, or can be counteracted with various ‘knit two together’ variations. So far, so good.
  2. Pick your yarn carefully. The thinnest yarn is lace weight, but in theory any weight yarn can be used. Avoid the very hairy yarns, such as eyelash yarn, or yarn that has bobbles on it or changes size, as nobody will see your beautiful lace pattern. That just won’t do. Also, for maximum compliments, stick with one colour (rather than variegate) yarn, in order to see the pattern clearly.
  3. When picking needles, avoid slippery ones where the fiddly work might slide off in some devastating disaster of lost work and gnashing teeth. Also, those less-than-smooth circular needles should be banished to the knit box to avoid delicate lace work snagging…nobody wants their YO to KO.
  4. Lace charts look a bit like some sort of ancient Egyptian treasure map, but a few clues and they aren’t too bad. Read from the bottom row up, and hunt for the number 1. If the number 1 is on the left-hand-side then you’ll be starting work on the WS (wrong side) of your knitting and following the chart from left to right. If you discover the number 1 is on the right-hand-side, then you’ll be working on the RS (right side) of your knitting and reading the chart from right to left. Got that?
  5. Finally, remember that charts DON’T INCLUDE EVERY ROW! The numbers next to the row should give you a clue – if they jump from 1 to 3 to 5, then the pattern only corresponds to the lace pattern. Every other row is worked plain – for example the back of the work is plain purl (unless in the round, where it would be knitted).
  6. Get yourself some Post-it notes to keep your place…oh and one more thing, go and Google ‘knitting lifelines’. LouBug swears by dental floss, but you can just use opposite coloured yarn. This will mean, if you make a mistake, just ripping your work back to a safe place, rather than high kicking your work over the fence and screaming into a pillow.

KnitWit

 

A Small Matter of Casting On #knitting

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Oh dear, I might have gone a little nuts. Even Cat is face-palming at the horror. I have now accidentally cast on all my spare row counters (even I am not sure how many I have) and I also broke the rules and solved the problem of running out of knit pro 3mm tips by buying more. Basically a large casting off bomb went off last week and I am still dazed and confused as to what happened.

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It all started off innocently enough. Knit-knit-knitting at my log cabin blanket. Cro-cro-crocheting at my big red granny. And generally picking at other projects. Then I started strolling though some yarn books and accidentally started another Calmer cardi (to join the purple and green one). Lovely shade of pale teal and will look lovely with a wavy border, reliable yarn and the self-designed pattern for the body already a proven success (it will even be made with the same needles). Logically it does make sense to make a start on an autumn weight cardi now so that it is going to be ready in time. So far, so reasonable.

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The pair of socks was also an accident, I wanted a simple pattern but also some lace, and I have been meaning to use the yarn for a while. Just ignore the other four pairs shall we. Between them they cover plain, lace, colour work and simple rib. The moody grey/teal is nice with the mock cables though!

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As previously mentioned I have been chain knitting shawls recently and looking through my brand new Sock yarn Shawls II book it would have been rude not to try one. The first book has already proven to be a firm favourite and I will admit to a loud squeak when I spotted number two in the Amazon pre-order list of temptations. The second book builds on the first and has a good mix of classic triangle shawls and long and skinny sideways ones. It has also included larger two skein shawls (some in contrasting colours, some in the same), which are based on 70g balls.

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The yarn doesn’t photo well, but it is basically a pale mushroom grey with a sparkle thread running through it. And it will look awesome next to my big white dress (dum dum di dum), or alternatively on exotic location for the honeymoon. The yarn was bought from Olympia a few years ago (it was apparently dyed to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee) and I have been saving it for something worthy. And people, this pattern is gorgeous! Luckily I have 150g of it, so I should be able to make one long enough to wear as a proper shawl (opposed to the triangle forward style) and I might dip into my bead collection when I cast off to give it a bit of extra bling.

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I also accidentally cast on this blue shawl (I was comparing book 1 and 2 and fell in love with it) which basically means I am now making both cover photo shawls. I absolutely love this Tardis blue yarn (and had to put my foot down when Mr LouBug tried to claim it for socks). I need to come up with a suitable Dr Who name for it, (perhaps River’s Song, or Timey Wimey). I regret nothing on this one and I am impatiently getting to the lace section, to the point where I will start it 12 rows early (to allow an extra repeat). Wearing my Blue Yonder shawl, I have found that the large triangle does make it bunch up a bit under the chin, lace tends to sit better (as seen on my Purple Happenstance) so there are practical as well as impatient reasons behind this.

Blimey, I had better get knitting.

LouBug

 

 

Going Knit Large

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The sun is out, the flowers are blooming and nature is definitely choosing to strut its stuff. Ok, so maybe we have also had torrential rain, and ok, the snail population is having its share of the new flowers, but it is still a good time to make and play. Knitting in hot weather is always a tricky one, as working on winter things always feels like you are jinxing the sunshine. With the length of time needed on bigger projects it is smart to knit while the sun is shining, so that things are ready for when it doesn’t.

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As ever I have been flitting between projects like a dizzy kitten, I have even returned to nibble at some of the winter colour-work projects (too fiddley to keep my brain focused!). After pretty much trying at everything in the WIP box, I have settled on working on some of the bigger projects. Admittedly it is because four blanket sized projects do rather swamp my storage, but it is nice to work on large things after a few week of small shawls and socks. So this blog is going to be dedicated to the joy of big projects.

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Yes, I know I am usually about the joy of socks and wisp like shawls (practically made from kitten’s tears) but there is also something very satisfying about a project that you know will take months and the best part of a kilogram of yarn to complete. It is like the difference between hopping on a bus to the next town and planning a four-day road trip. Or the difference between an ice lolly and a full on Knickerbocker glory. It can be nice to knit/crochet a project of an evening that has absolutely no expectation that it will be finished or require anything more than a few more rows added to it. Oddly, I find this type of continuation project perfect for summer knitting (which is why I seem to end up making blankets in the height of summer) as it doesn’t require much brain power or attention. It also helps that the four blankets (which actually surprised me, I certainly never planned to have four on the go – it sort of just happened) have very different personalities.

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The eldest, a log cabin blanket. Started (I think) at the end of summer after falling in love with the look from my (then) new Maison Dixie knitting book. Being on a pre-Ally Pally yarn diet, I was delighted to find the perfect combination and amount of yarn already deep in the stash. It is starting to get a touch large now and I have already up-graded to my 150cm cord (lucky I have a cable connector because I am going to need it to join both long cords before the end). I am currently working on the seventh stripe out. Looking at the remaining yarn (and factoring in that each stripe out is about one inch longer than the previous stripe) I think I will just make it to the originally planned 10 stripes.

A potential issue looming, is that I didn’t consider that the blue stripes use more yarn (because they are all two inches longer than the same row purple ones – which soon stacks up). It will have to be a carefully measured-out final row, or risk frogging back three meter long (20 row) stripes. One thought I had, was to switch the purple and blue around on the last stripe to create a frame effect (and hopefully balance out this difference in the remaining yarn). Or perhaps stripe the last row and alternate between the purple and blue. Whatever way I jump, I am definitely going to end with a dark purple stripe (the same as the centre) to create a good border. The plan was to pick up all of the edge stitches and see how many rows I can get in the purple (I doubt I will manage a full 20) and cast off with the light blue accent yarn. Big blankets can suffer visually if they just seem to stop, and even a simple crochet border in a contrast colour can really lift it (as I found out on my Granny’s Garden blanket). However, I strongly suspect that I have a long while to think on this!

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Next up (age wise) is the Dolly Mix Mitre blanket. This is only about 3 months old, and had a really big kick of action over Easter. Based on a gift baby blanket I once made, it is chugging along with the only purpose purchased yarn being the black background colour. Everything else has been stash bustingly-tastic! The only hold up to it powering through, is that I need to generate more scrap! I have been careful to keep some colours back (mainly to prevent puddles of similar colours) but I think I will have to wait a finger curling amount of time before I can return back to it. Unless I crack and raid the 25g DK stand at my LYS. Which won’t happen. Nope not a chance…..

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As previously mentioned ,I could legitimately get some of this scrap from my kit blanket (Attic24 ripple blanket), but each row is officially as wide as I am tall. Once you factor in the ripple stitch, it is a lot of crochet per row. I haven’t had a head of steam on this yet, but I am picking at it and trusting that it will reach a natural tipping point and get going. It doesn’t help that I need much more attention on crochet than knitting (plain knitting can now be done without looking!). It doesn’t help that it still looks like a strip of ribbon (which makes it flop about while working) and it doesn’t help that I know that I have done a mere 3 stripes out of 84. What does help is that the picture of the finished item looks fantastic and I really want one! I think I will have to deploy standard tricks like one row an evening (or even as much as I can finish during one episode of The Big Bang Theory) to edge it along. Things should pick up as it starts to take shape and look gorgeous, but all I can see at the moment when I look at it is 81 stripes (so 162 rows) with 213 stitches per row. Bleugh!

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And then there is the new kid on the block. My gift yarn busting Giant Granny Square. This is getting done (mainly because I find granny squares relatively easy and quick), and I am getting a bit done by the sea of red. Annoyingly, I am so used to predicting yarn amounts for knitting that I spectacularly messed up my estimating (grey stripe was planned to be six rows and failed to complete three) so my clever plan to use up some long-standing stash yarn has now been vastly simplified.

Just so you know, crochet eats yarn like a man-versus-food challenge.

LouBug

 

 

 

Yarn Gone Bad

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I have always said that there is no such thing as bad yarn, just bad project matches. Unfortunately, that makes it hard to get rid of ugly yarns, but it has (on occasion) paid off with deep-sea stash dives unearthing unlikely (but perfect) yarns. My best success story is a pale pink cotton yarn that made a hideous crochet spiral scarf (I now realise that the pattern called for 4ply mohair, not DK cotton). It could have doubled as a pot scrubber and sat around my neck like a dead tentacle. This went on to be frogged and sent back into the stash (to think about what it had done) and eventually went on to make my favourite hearts and diamond shrug, which has now been washed to tatty and still worn. Good yarn. Bad pattern. Lesson learned.

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In a break from shawls (because I have started to chain knit them) and in an effort to tidy up the yarn pile, I decided to cast on a quick stash busting granny square blanket. So, time to tie on a safety line and delve deep in the stash. And sure enough, deep in the lower strata I found a bag of semi-forgotten yarn in just about the right quantity.

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This yarn is ok, but it was a gift from another knitter and in the balance of things not something I would have bought for myself. The colour is fine but I am all about the texture and it feels like old cotton wool/candy floss with an odd “crackle” feel to it. Yep, it is 80s acrylic at its finest, and with a slight mock-mohair halo. But never one to look gift yarn in the mouth, I accepted it but it quickly sunk deep into the stash with barely a ripple (a bit like the car/swamp moment in Psycho).

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Near it (perhaps for emotional support) was an equally texture-hideous yarn. Bought because I really cannot resist sparkly yarn that was 50% off and then (as the yarn fumes receded) slightly regretted it as I couldn’t imagine having it near my face and hair in the originally planned scarf. Static nightmare. Together, however, and in a blanket I spot a win.

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So the plan is to use the four different sparkle yarns to break up the wide stripes of the red. Time will tell if there is enough yarn for a full bed blanket but I can always do something clever on the boarder to make it wider.

LouBug

 

 

 

 

And In With The New…Knitting

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During Easter I took the time to give the stash a bit of an airing and (predictably) now cast on a pile of things. I have even bagged up some Christmas sock knits (yes, I do know it is May). I had the slightly embarrassing conversation with Mummy KnitBug where I revealed the full extent of where the stash went (which is basically like admitting to how much you weigh, although it is possible that I might actually weight less than the stash – what a frightening thought….). The conversation started with asking what colour she wanted, which she said could be anything I could spare from the stash. This then led me to admit that she could pretty much name any colour and I would have it (for example I have a few different shades of purple) and yes, I did in fact have the requested bright pink/blue.

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Dolly Mix has progressed well, and has got the planned 6×6 (36) squares completed; to cover a double bed I think I need about 12×12 (144) squares but I knew before I started that there wasn’t going to be enough to do this in one hit. The point of the blanket is to use up scrap DK (from projects, free magazine yarn or from knit kits that don’t catch my eye) and not buy more yarn! So (as planned) I am now going to rest it until the summer to give me time to generate more scrap DK acrylic.

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One potential source of yarn is the now started crochet kit by Attic24 bought at last year’s Ally Pally. I usually resist kits, as in my heart I know that I can do it cheaper (or in a better colour, material or with massive design changes) but I would have bought the finished blanket (if available) as it is such a perfect balance of colours. For once I “want that one” and have no planned changes. I am still very much at the starting blocks, but given that projects can languish for years, a six month wait is practically a rush starter. I am considerably slower on crochet that knitting, so it might be done for winter (2015? 2017? 2049?). Hopefully I will speed up as I go and chew through all 84 rows (with 213 stitches per row) nice and quickly.

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Last (but not least) I have now flown through the blue yonder shawl. This is from the very lovely 4ply that KnitWit bought me at Christmas (which is incredibly soft) and I chose “Timpani” from Sock Yarn Shawls. This starts off with a plain section, which should show off the subtle blue/lavender purple colour wash and then ends with an interlocking rectangle lace trim. Things got a bit interesting when I completed the original number of repeats, popped in a little lifeline and then attempted to squeak in another pattern repeat before the trim. For those that heard the howl of frustration, I didn’t! but my trusty life-line meant that it was annoying and not soul destroying.

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As a top tip, I have used dental floss for my life-line; not as random as it sounds! The hive mind of Ravelry rates it for life-line as it is slightly waxed (making it easy to remove), stronger than sewing thread (so less likely to snap) and easy to stash in your notions case. However, the minty fresh aroma is definitely a little odd with the lavender scent generated by the anti-moth herb bag.   Let us hope the smell fades over time!

LouBug

 

 

 

 

Spring Knitting Clear Up

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More catching up from Easter – I have definitely been busy this Easter! I have finished (and I have started) a hefty chunk of things and I am definitely feeling a bit smug. Ok, some of the planned things didn’t happen (paging the log cabin blanket) but all in all a good haul.

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First up, the mighty green cardi. This has been resting in the WIP box due to uncertainty over the trim, but on closer inspection I decided that the trim was a go-to-launch and then finished-it-off. The lace is called “Vandyke lace” and it is reasonably reversible (the difference is only really noticeable on close inspection). It is close to the original plan of a leafy style lace, but without the mirroring/reversible problems that I found.

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The buttons are actually coconut shell (from John Lewis) and I like the way the cream-brown sets off the green. I still have some more Rowan Calmer (but in bright teal) so I might make a third one to the same base recipe, but perhaps I will do a wavy theme trim this time. I will definitely keep my eye out at this year’s Ally Pally to see if there is anymore (perhaps in grey/silver or navy blue?) as there is nothing as nice as good yarn on a discount. Each cardi has about 3-4 balls left over, so a striped bonus one is also going to be in the offing!

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I have also dusted off a lace-weight shawl (as I seem to be all about the shawls this month). Made from baby camel and silk “Eat to the Beat” by “I knit or dye” it is really soft and has a fantastic sheen to it. At an eye watering 100g to 800m it is literally sewing thread weight and I have already had a little frog/argument about tension. Yep, I had to pull back the first two repeats TWICE to get a sensible tension (it was too open and the pattern looked wrong), but third time is the charm and I have moved past the fatal second repeat, stretched it out and everything seems to be on-track.

But definitely a no TV, this is a quiet pattern!

LouBug

Australian Yarn Bombing

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I have been away, but I have brought gifts! Behold: A photo of my first ever yarn bombing spot. This was taken whilst strolling along one balmy evening along the Sunshine Coast in Australia. Yes, I’m showing off – I’ve been all the way to Australia with two small children and survived to tell the tale. Medal please!

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The trouble with planning such a big trip (oh yes, boo hoo me!), is that it requires huge amounts of time and effort to plan, and then to recover from. Plus bringing two pointy sticks on board aircraft appears to be frowned upon. These are my slacker excuses as to why I have neglected this poor blog for approximately the last 400 years (yes, it really has been that long).

Anyway, as a brief interlude between knitting projects – a holiday slide show:

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Australian Prime Minister – Best holiday spot. Ever!

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I can assure you that this kangaroo was alive – it was just VERY lazy

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Koala – Also very lazy!

Okay – enough holiday snaps. To ease me into life in the northern hemisphere once again, I have dug out my striped blanket. Really nice to knit (knit, knit, knit), and it should be completed in about the year 2020.

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KnitWit

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