Repeat

The set I’ve been working on offers a good opportunity for a little instructional aside.  You know how variegated yarn sometimes acts very differently from one project to the next?  I’ve got a lovely little demonstration of why.

You may recall I’m worried about running short of yarn on this project. So because I’m going to be using every inch of the yarn I have, I’m trying to be reasonably clever.  Once the cowl got to be just long enough, I put it aside on an extra needle and moved on to the hat.  The plan was to make the hat, make the mitts, then come back to the cowl and add as much length as I can with whatever yarn I have left.

You’ve seen the finished hat, and you saw how I made a band of the textured stitch, wrapped it around my head, picked up stitches, and started working up to make the top of the hat.  The band of textured stitches is narrower on the hat than on the cowl, and as I started knitting it, I noticed something interesting.  Let’s take a look (it’s snowy outside, hence the background being all blown out, this is an instructional shot not a glamor shot, so please bear with me).

repeatSo over on the right, we’ve got the cowl.  Look how the colors stack up in a lovely progression of orderly stripes that reach half way across the fabric.  The colors cycle in order right up the length of the piece.  Now, in the middle, we’ve got the band for the hat. (Plus a few rows of stockinette being all super curly there on the right side of the hat band.  They are the start of that ‘pick up stitches along one side bit,’ and are knit with another strand of yarn.  Just ignore them here.)  Look at how the colors stack up on this one.  Instead of making stripes, they make big solid masses of color that cycle very slowly along the length of the piece.  And over on the far left is the skein of yarn, just so you can see how the colors cycle on it.

So what’s going on?  It all has to do with the relationship between how much yarn it takes to do a row of knitting and how much yarn it takes to get through the colors on the loop of yarn.  Let’s start with the yarn.  Look at the top of the loop, right where it changes color from peach to light green.  If you follow around the loop you’ll see light green, dark green, brown, peach, and then back to light green.

On the hat band, a pair of rows (one right-side and one wrong-side) used about an inch less yarn than it takes to go through the yarn’s color progression.  So every time I worked a pair of rows, the color changes crept a bit (just about one stitch) farther across the piece.  On the cowl, a pair of rows (again, one right-side and one wrong-side) used about one and a half times as much yarn as it takes to get through the yarn’s color progression.  That led to the tidy stripes you see there.

Both effects are lovely, but if you don’t understand why they’re happening, it can be a bit perplexing.  But once you do understand it, you can use it to your advantage.  If I wanted to change how one of the pieces was cycling, I could either add or subtract stitches.  That would change the relationship between how much yarn it takes to do a pair of rows and how much yarn it takes to get through all the colors.  Just something as simple as adding an extra edging stitch on each side would make a big difference.  The cowl is 8 stitches wider than the hatband, and you see how much of a difference that makes.

For me, that sort of obsessive fiddling leads to insanity, but I do feel better knowing I could do it if I really really wanted to.

Why Yes, I am Rather Exacting

I explained last time how I deeply truly love flared cuffs.  They fit beautifully, make my hands look all pretty and girly, and are ridiculously convenient.  The only thing they have against them is that they can be tricky to block.  But no more, I have found the solution.

Graph paper and shampoo bottles.  No really.  Hear me out.  The problem with blocking cuffs like this is getting the flare nice and distinct and even.  To do that, you need a way to make it bigger than the part on your wrist, and you need keep the points uniformly spaced.  You can do that by laying it flat and pinning it out, but I find that leaves a crease along the fold lines.  Popping it over a shampoo bottle (or liquor bottle or a vase or whatever else you have on hand) to keep it standing up and then pinning out the points works beautifully.

The trick is in how you pull out the points.  You could eyeball it, or you could get some custom graph paper (it’s free) and use that to space everything just so.  You simply set the paper to have as many spokes as your project has points and pin away.  It’s unreasonably satisfying.  It works especially well if you’re dealing with 7 points on 9 or some other number that’s harder to just fudge.  I’ve done it several times now and it works beautifully.  See, isn’t that tidy?  And no crease from being folded while it dried.

A Piece of Scrap Yarn

You know that line in a lot of my mitt patterns? The one that says ‘set thumb stitches aside on a spare needle or piece of scrap yarn?’  Yeah, I’d really sort of suggest you take the piece of spare yarn option.  I know that means you have to dig out a bit of extra yarn (hint, don’t use the yarn you’re knitting with, use a nice thick one of a different color) and a needle, and sometimes that’s too much of a pain, but if you can, it’s the best choice.

 

Why?  Two reasons.  First, when you try on the mitt, the bit of spare yarn will curve and bend around your hand (your hand being played here by the lovely Rosamund).  Second, when you start working over just the hand stitches again, the scrap yarn will let the fabric on either side of the thumb stitches smush up closer to each other than a stiff, straight spare needle will.  That will help you have a tidier transition to the rest of the hand (which in turn makes it easier to pick up extra thumb stitches later).  It’s totally the better option!

This post brought to you my my feeling that, if I was going to bother finding a darning needle and doing it right, I might as well tell you guys about it too.

 

Snag

From time to time, even the nicest yarn has little slubs and snags.  This is, at most, an irritation.  It’s much less of a problem than knots.  Knots mean you’ve got extra ends to weave in and they can mean breaks in the color progression.  Slubs often just mean a quick twist to fix.  But since I’ve heard of folks cutting out slubs, I thought I’d show you how I fix them.  This is pretty basic, but I know the last several folks I mentioned it to were gobsmacked that you could fix these things, so…I thought I’d share.

 

This is what I mean by a slub.  See how there’s a bit of fluff sticking out from the strand of the yarn?  It’s kind of ugly, and it would wear poorly if you left it there and just knit it as it is, but it’s easy to fix.

Just pinch the yarn on either side of the slub (an inch or two out) and untwist the plies of the yarn.  You don’t need a clamp, I’ve just used it to hold the yarn open while I take the picture.  All you need is your fingers.  Twist until the plies are loose from each other.  Give the whole thing a gentle tug or two.

Now twist the yarn back together.  Give it another gentle tug.  Most of the time, the slub just sort of disappears.  If it doesn’t, just do the whole thing again once or twice but over a longer stretch of yarn.  It may not be totally perfect, but it will be much less noticeable and won’t show when it’s knit up.

Isn’t that better than cutting it out?  No yarn wasted, no ends to weave in, no tools needed.