22. februar 2014

Thoughts on knitting

These are a few of the projects I have tested new techniques on. Some WIP's, some FO's.

So. It has been a while. Just like me, in other words. I've knit a bit, sewn a bit, made some jewelry. And thought a lot about knitting. Knitting as it turns out, is a vastly more sophisticated craft than I imagined, with incredible variation and an endless number of techniques. With the Internet as the superhighway to increasing ones knowledge, learning is just a matter of curiosity (I'm curious!), interest (I have other hobbies too...) and time (there is never enough) to apply new skills in knitting projects.

A recent look at my projects on Ravelry got me pondering on my new knitting skills. I've learnt so much these two last years since I started knitting for real (meaning anything else than thick warm winter socks).

Looking at those first things I knitted - a baby blanket, my daughter's first jacket, pants and hat, the first dresses, several shorties, a lace scarf - while writing this it dawns on me that I am an adventurous knitter, even if it doesn't feel like that when I'm skipping projects that feels too complicated or that I just plain failed at . And I realize just how much I've learnt, in two short years. 

So I am making a list. Be warned, it is long.

Here goes:
  • Cables. A lot easier than it looks for a non-knitter. I actually laughed out loud when my sister-in-law showed me how to do it.
  • Yarn-overs. I promise, I didn't know about them.
  • Tweaking patterns. I did it with the baby jacket, which was the second thing I knitted for my daughter. I make modifications on almost everything I knit. I hate it when I want to modify something and can't find out how, despite excessive googling.
  • Pattern vocabulary in English. What a vast resource of patterns! And easy too! Which leads me to...
  • Ravelry. Wow.
  • Youtube and Pinterest. OK of course I knew about Youtube, but I had no idea there were knit related content there. How silly of me. Pinterest too - I had an account, but didn't use it until I realized I could keep track of cute stuff I would like to knit there. And then I discovered it too was already filled with knit related stuff for me to add. Isn't Internet great?
  • Lace. Slow but sweet. It taught me several interesting decreases. And that blocking is a good thing.
  • Magic loop! I love it, and only wish I learned it sooner. Goodbye second anything syndrome. I use it for arms, legs, mittens, fingerless gloves...anything with two. I haven't tried socks yet, but they too will be magic looped! Promise!
  • Jogless stripes, and that I could use the same trick for decorative rows of garter stitch. Used on this sweater. First I learned how Techknitter does it, and then I heard about another way as well (I know of two more ways, but I haven't tried them). I use both methods, depending on the project. I have half a mind on testing if there is any difference, but I'm lazy. It must be tested on a project, no way am I knitting a swatch just for that. Which brings me to...
  • Swatching. The necessary evil with unknown yarn, a different needle size, or items where size actually matters. I am no fan, but it helped learning how to knit a swatch in the round that is flat. Yup. I tried it last week, and the swatch's gauge is actually the same as on the longies I'm knitting -  usually I knit stockinette looser when I knit in the round than when I knit flat.
  • Short rows. German short rows in particular. Before I learnt German short rows, I used the shadow wrap, a huge improvement on the unsightly wrap-and-turn. But German short rows outperforms every other method I've tried. Perhaps Japanese short rows are infinitesimally better, but I'm too lazy to bother. Note: The shadow wrap looks good on both sides. 
No seam, smooth graft.
  • Kitchener stitch. I have never cast off stitches under arms just to pick them up again, or to seam them. Grafting live stitches together - no seam, only smooth knit fabric. Fast too, once you get into the rhythm. 
I prefer knitting to mending...
  • Better bands and cuffs (the series). Particularly keeping the edge stitches away from the garment edge, or just sturdier cast-ons or bind-offs, like the Icelandic b.o above. Three sweaters and dresses that I've knitted for my daughter have frayed edges, and I'm not a big fan of mending, so most of my newer projects have more robust edges. I am lazy. Heh.
And with Icelandic bind-off.
  • Stranded knitting. I found Elizabeth Zimmermann's tip working well for me - I knit the dominant colour with my left hand, and the pattern colour with my right hand, throwing style. If I knit with three colours, I have two on my left index finger, and the third on my right fingers. The pattern shows much better on the topmost part of the yoke on this sweater, that was when I decided to try the Zimmermann way.
The front of a baby dress. Not pretty.
  • How to prevent weak spots in the knitwear (edges, corners, vertical openings) by reinforcing while knitting. Techknitter has done several posts on this. (I also found out how to employ her tricks from her "binding off in the middle of fabric" posts to reinforce the edges of a cast on in the middle of a fabric. Sweet.) The first baby dresses I knit have pulled apart, leaving long exposed strands between stitches - not very attractive. I can't stress enough how these small tricks have improved the quality of my finished items. 
  • Double knitting. I have this dragon motif I would love to double knit on a scarf, but I needed to practice first, so I double knitted an elastic casing on a pair of longies - worked like a dream, and made them look super pro - like something bought from a store. (And I mean that in a good way.)
  • Purling Russian style. So much faster! It leaves the stitches leaning the other way, but on rib that is a good thing - I can knit with the thread behind the needle all the time. Win! And the stitches use less yarn than ordinary purl stitches, leaving a very good looking rib. Double win! When knitting flat in stockinette, the knit row and the purl row use the same amount of yarn. Triple win!
  • A prettier garter stitch edge. Slip the last stitch on the row with yarn held in front, and you create a chain edge instead of bumps. Here is another cute edge that prevents stretcing.
  • Invisible join when knitting in the round. I unvented one way of casting off without a gap myself, the rest I learnt here. (My way is the same as method 2, only without the needle. I knit the last stitch, but pull the thread up so I start at picture 2b.) And then I found out how to avoid the cast-on gap too. There are more ways of doing this, and I have not tried all of them, but so far I prefer the first method linked.
I have to stop here, or I'll never finish. Enjoy!
Oh, and if there is a conclusion to make here, it is that Google is my very best knitting tool. Without the Internet, I would still be a n00b

Have you discovered any new tricks lately?

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