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Monday, 28 August 2017

Book Review - Finishing School, A Master Class for Knitters


Finishing School, A Master Class for Knitters, by Deborah Newton:  New York, NY, Sixth and Spring Books, 2011, 164 pages, ISBN # 978-1-936096-19-0, $29.95.  Reviewed by Donna Estin. 



The best way to prove that professional finishing doesn’t need to be stuffy or boring is to add artistic flair and out-of-the-box creativity to the mundane.  Deborah Newton draws from her background in theatrical costume design to elevate finishing from tasks to art.  Edgings in a contrasting color, silk-lined pockets and zippers that stand out are not only possible but encouraged. 



The Dali Lama once said “learn the rules so you know how to break them.” Deborah Newton’s underlying advice throughout this book echoes this sentiment, with an added message... “in perfect execution.”  She acknowledges traditional guidelines and rules but never reveals them, preferring knitters to experiment through swatches in order to learn to read their own work.  This common sense approach is energizing, especially when color, flair and variety spill from the glossy pages.  Her ability to stimulate creativity in the midst of perfectly executed finishing makes you want to rummage through your sweaters and redo the edges.  



Before opening the book, pull up another chair because Ms. Newton will sit right next to you and talk you through all her tips.  This personable approach is filled with stories of past experiences, good and failed.  You have a trusted friend.  Half of the book is text and half filled with captivating, color photos that make you want to organize your supplies and buy more yarn. 



Finishing requires thought, planning and knowledge of garment function.  Sometimes you need to take a step back and think about the garment from many angles before deciding on a technique.  For knitters who have reached a plateau, the book shows you why your same old techniques may not be the best choices for every garment.  Bullet point tutorials sum up techniques that make quick references.  You’ll learn several ways to seam, when to use each and why.  Her explanation of the best buttonhole ever (compliments of Barbara Walker) is a game changer.  The art of finishing however isn’t limited to your ability to perfectly join a seam.  It encompasses your desire to transform your piece into a professional, runway-worthy garment.  This is where the added pizzazz comes into play.  She strikes a balance between finishing a garment properly and artistically. 



Educational, fashionable, encouraging and fun to read, this book includes over a dozen patterns and the thought process behind many of her Vogue Knitting designs.   Precise knitters will find ways to polish their techniques and bohemian knitters will delight in the creativity.   I loved learning new tricks and being encouraged to try different techniques.  I valued the art of finishing before this journey but came away energized and excited about the possibilities.  And isn’t that the goal of every how-to book?  To educated and elevate the reader’s skills while leaving them energized and excited?  After our long chat I said goodbye to Ms. Newton and ran my hands across the shiny hard cover.  This inspiring book is to be cherished and referred to often.



Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Fiber Patterns is LIVE



I am so incredibly pleased to announce that FiberPatterns.com is LIVE!

This project, aimed at bringing knitters and crocheters together with today's best indie designers, has been in the works for awhile and is finally available for everyone to view!  During the launch I have become acquainted with some incredible designers from around the world and meet new ones every day.  It's a wonderful community full of artistic expression, talent and kindness.  

FiberPatterns.com is an awesome new website is full of unique knitting and crochet patterns designed exclusively by indie designers.  



Knitters and crocheters can find some of the most current designs & click on the pattern for more info.  The site refers shoppers back to the designer’s website or Ravelry where you can get more information on the pattern and purchase/download instantly. 



FiberPatterns.com really lets you connect with the designers with a full bio of each, a way to contact them and links to their own sites to see the full range of their designs.  The site is easy to navigate, has no ads, and fresh, unique designs.  PLUS +++  The best part, is that’s so easy to find what you’re looking for.  If you’ve ever been to a site where you’re searching for women’s cardigans and you find 80,000 patterns which you need to sift through to weed out the dated patterns, you’ll know what I mean.  No 1970’s leaflets here. 



All designers are currently designing.  Each one specializes in a niche within their craft and more designers are being added regularly.  None of the designers work for publishing houses or yarn manufacturers. They are not limited with their designs nor bound by constraints.  They are truly independent and have come up with unique, fun, artistic and beautiful sweaters, blankets, scarves, socks, mittens, hats, children’s garments and so much more. 


The introductory team of designers includes Katherine Lee, Kerry Bullock-Ozkan, Elin Brissman (a brilliant painter as well), Janet Welsh, Catherine Roujansky, Holli Yeoh, Agata MackiewiczSusan Carlson and myself, Donna Estin.  

The common bond between all of us, is Ravelry of course!  Visit us on Ravelry, see our designs and to see what all the excitement is about, visit www.FiberPatterns.com.

Happy Knitting & Crocheting,
Donna

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Are You a Tight Knitter? Loose?

A shopkeeper sitting outside her kitchen shop in Gamla Stan, Stockholm was knitting in the sunshine in December. I complimented her project and she asked if a) I knitted and b) was I an American?  Yes to both.  "The problem with American knitters is they knit too loosely,"  she said.  

I think about her often.  Whenever I notice someone's seed stitch pitted with holes, or a floppy, drapey sweater that doesn't hold it's shape, I remember her words.  I too prefer the look and feel of a densely knit garment that behaves.  

When "tightening up" your knitting, the tendency is for knitters to knit tighter.  Tug the yarn after each stitch, scrunch the stitches across the needles, and hope that you can insert the needle tip into the next stitch without breaking something.

But after spending much time studying this "knitting too tightly" or "knitting too loosely" problem, I've discovered something.  And I'll share it with you.

How you knit affects your hands, arms, fingers, and the ease or difficulty of the process of knitting.  It rarely affects the finished product.  Why?  Because knitters are clever!  Knitters adapt their tools to accommodate their knitting style.  If you're a loose knitter you get in the habit of going down 1, 2 3 or more needle sizes before even beginning your swatch.  If you knit tightly, a solid worsted yarn on a size 7 needle can turn into a swatch yielding 6 1/2 sts per inch instead of the ball band recommended 5 sts/1".   If you're knitting tightly, and you're getting 6 1/2 sts instead of 5 sts / 1", you don't change the way you knit, you go up a needle size, and up another size, while still knitting tightly.  If you're a tight knitter it is possible to knit a perfectly tensioned fabric on a size larger needle and a loose knitter can create the same exact fabric on a much smaller needle.  So if the finished garment is the same, why should it matter?

It matters because tight knitters can experience pain in their fingers, hands, arms, shoulders, neck as they tense their muscles.  It's harder to work decreases and increases when the yarn is too tight.  Cables are near impossible.  And don't get me started on attempting the Cable Cast On with yarn wrapped so tightly around the needle it is suffocating.  But when tight knitters loosen up, they discover uneven tension, rowing out and gauge troubles.  This is NOT because they are knitting too loosely, but because some stitches are loose and some are tight.  It is the inconsistency in their knitting that is to blame.  

The trick is to maintain even tension regardless of how you knit.  Change your needle size!  Tight knitters can go down 2-3 needle sizes and try to knit on the loose side.  Loose knitters go up.  This will feel weird.  You might feel like the yarn is flowing through your fingers without you being in control.  Be mindful of your tension and keep your purl stitches the same tension as your knit.  Don't tug so hard after each stitch.  Keep practicing and you'll be amazed at how your knitting evens out as your body relaxes.   

Adopt an easy style of knitting that allows you to enjoy the process without fatigue, and at the same time produce a neat garment.  By being aware of both process and finished product, you can achieve both.  

   *  Find a style that feels good
   *  Experiment with needle sizes
   *  Swatch, block, test gauges
   *  Choose your yarn carefully.  100% wool is wonderfully elastic and hold it's shape well.


In the end, the problem isn't that we're knitting too tightly or too loosely, it's that the finished garment wasn't knit to produce a well-behaved garment.  Just like soft yarns aren't always better, floppy garments aren't going to be loved year after year.   A garment can be knitted with a loose touch, on a much smaller needle to produce a tighter gauge and a firmer fabric.  THIS! is what the shopkeeper in Gamla Stan was referring to.  Holding a piece of dense knitting, with no holes and a firm feel, that stays put around the neck, doesn't slip off the shoulders and doesn't sag, without ladders to the left of the cables, messy ribbing, and uneven eyelets, is a wonderful piece of knitted fabric to behold.  This piece of properly knitted fabric, will last for years. So go ahead and RELAX, just make sure your finished product doesn't look as easy-going as you are when you're knitting.  






Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Celtic Earth Handbag

Celebrate Summer.  Celebrate the Earth with a natural handbag.  Upcycle and bring new life to fibers. Made of strong, recycled fibers, this favorite handbag features Celtic symbols paired with knotted eyelet lace. 
Designed for everyday use, it is large enough to hold today’s gadgets with a handy strap for hands-free mobility. It opens easily and quickly, and shuts with I-Cord to tie for extra security. It features a sturdy Garter Stitch bottom for stability.
Instructions are charted & written out, for knitter’s preference.
This handbag is a favorite for those who avoid the use of leather.

For pattern info, please visit:  www.DonnaEstinDesigns.com

Follow on Facebook too - it's fun to have Yarn & Knitting stuff in your newsfeed! 




Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Provisional Cast On

Anytime anyone goes to the trouble to make a GREAT technique seem super easy, I jump on the chance to promote them.  And this week I want to let you all in on a secret.  Christine shows just how easy you can do a Provisional Cast On.  This is used with scrap yarn when you want to keep live stitches that will be rejoined later in the project.  Use this when you want to knit in both directions, from CO edge upwards and from CO down.  Work the back of a sweater then go back and add a border.  Or when you're working a hem, you can fold at the foldline and use the decrease stitch to hem and knit at the same time. Or for socks.  Or for so many things.  So, here it is!

Techniques - Provisional Cast On

For more amazing instructional videos by the best of the best, visit www.DonnaEstinDesigns.com

Monday, 22 May 2017

Nor'easter Pullover

Knitting an heirloom sweater takes time, but when knitted with natural fibers, can last decades.  It's something to truly be proud of and a classic like thisnever goes out of style.

This traditional Aran sweater is made with 100% natural wool and features a combination of cable patterns. Twisted stitches are incorporated in to a rib cable. A large diamond cable pattern centers the garments. Moss Stitch is used on the sides so armhole shaping doesn’t cut into cabling. Cabled collar adds to the neckline and bobbles accentuate the hem and cuffs.  Garment is worked flat from the bottom up and is charted.

Skill Level: Experienced

Finished Measurements:
Chest at underarm 40 (44, 48, 52)”/102 (112, 122, 132) cm
Length 26 (26.5, 27, 28)”/66 (67.5, 68.5, 71.5) cm


Materials:
Cascade Yarn CASCADE 220 (100 g, 220yds, 100% Peruvian Highland Wool): 8 (9, 10, 11) skeins # 8010 Natural
Size 6 (4mm) circular 16” (40cm) needles
Size 6 (4mm) needles
Size 7 (4.5mm) needles or size needed to obtain gauge
Cable Needle
Stitch Markers
Tapestry Needle


Gauge: 24 sts & 33 rows - 4”/10cm over Moss St using larger needles.

To download PDF or for more pattern info, click here

www.DonnaEstinDesigns.com

Friday, 12 May 2017

Why You Should LOVE SEAMS

All this chatter about seamless knitting leaves me feeling a need to defend the humble seam.  I know, I know, you either knit or you sew but not both.  Knitters generally don't like to sew.  A cast on or bind off with a tapestry needle leaves many knitters shaking their heads NO.  We all know how to Kitchener, but how many knitters say, YIPPEE, I get to Kitchener!

Frankly, knitters go out of their way to avoid sewing.  So when a flat piece can be worked in the round, it is.  When working a baby cardigan, many knitters cast on the left front, place a marker, cast on the back, place another marker and cast on the right front, all to avoid stitching a seam.

But there are benefits to seams!  They provide stability, keep the garment in place and give it a nice shape.  A pullover knitted in the round can take on a barrel shape around the middle, which is not the look we want.  A seamed sweater tends to hang flatter, giving a more flattering look. 

One of the most important areas to seam is the neckline.  So many of us place the back and front neck stitches on a holder instead of binding them off, then pick them up again when working the collar.  Why go through the trouble of binding off 40 stitches if you need 40 sts back on the needle to continue knitting.  The reason... is that it provides stability. 

A seam holds the garment place.  It keeps the neckline the width it's supposed to be.  Stitches that continue from the back into the neckline are stretchy and will expand outward.  A nice, high turtleneck will quickly slip down into a crew neck that runs down into your collar bone.  If a sweater stretches down your shoulder and takes on a shape of it's own, it is most likely due to the absence of a sturdy, seam.  The few minutes that you save by putting the stitches on the holder will cause disappointment later when the garment is worn.  To keep your sweater squarely on your shoulders, with your lovely collar in place, bind off the front and back entirely.  Sew the shoulder seams in place, then pick up your stitches and work the neck. 

Next is the shoulder.  This join can take on a lot of stress with heavy garments made from cotton or longer tunic length sweaters and dresses.  Heavily cabled sweaters also add weight which tests the shoulder seams.  This is where you'll likely need extra reinforcement to keep the garment from stretching out too much.  Heavy fronts and backs that are joined with the 3-needle bind off will often exhibit stitches that are stretched out of shape and add extra length at this junction.  When dealing with a heavier fabric, it's best to bind off the shoulder stitches then seam them together.  For fine fabrics, and lightweight, cropped garments, or children's sweaters, the 3-needle bind off works just fine. 

Seams done properly look neat, finished and professional.  They enhance the garments and give it a polished look.  They are also wonderfully slimming on skirts.  A solid piece of skirt fabric has little to distract the eye.  Two or more pieces seamed together break up the width, create slimming panels. Seams can be turned inside out and worked with a different color yarn to create a whimsical, accent especially fun on children's sweaters. 

There are many seaming methods to chose from depending on your needs.  The versatile Mattress Stitch allows the benefit of working with the Right Side of the fabric facing you, so you can match up color work, patterns, and cables. It is virtually invisible and can be used to join many different types of stitches.  If you learn only one seaming method, learn the Mattress Stitch.  The backstitch is fast. The crochet method is easier on the hands/arms and doesn't require the same length of yarn to constantly move in and out of the fabric, which is good for yarns that pull apart easily like Icelandic yarns.  Whichever seaming method you chose, do consider the function of the particular seam.  If you don't want a bulky ridge, you might want to pass on the crochet method. 


When you bind off that last stitch, think of the knitting phase finished, and the fun "finishing" phase is next.  Put the work down for the night, wait until the next morning when you're fresh and have new light streaming in the windows, and embrace the finishing technique of seaming.  You'll thank yourself later with garments that just wear better.