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Aran Questions

Q: Would you advise knitting arans in the round?

A: I was asked about the advisability of knitting Fulmar in the round. Yes, you could adapt the pattern to do that. But I wouldn't. The front of the smallest size of Fulmar is 236 stitches. Double that and you've got almost 500 stitches. More for the larger sizes. And heavy cabling. That's a heckuva big piece of knitting to haul around on your circular needle, especially when you get near the top.

Another reason why I prefer to knit arans in pieces is that the sewn seam adds stability to the finished piece. Even knitted in a fine gauge wool, this is a heavy sweater.

And the last reason is that having wrong side rows helps you keep track of the pattern. On the wrong side rows of arans, you generally just work straight across, knitting the knit stitches and purling the purl stitches. If you're always on the right side, which you are in the round, you have to remember more carefully where the non-patterning rows are.

Q. What would you suggest for a first Aran pattern?

A.  Alice Starmore's Na Craga which is in her Aran Knitting book.

DPN/Sock Questions

Q. How do I keep the "line" that forms between my dpn's when knitting in the round on dpns ?"

Okay . . . um . . . don't hate me, but . . . um . . . I never get a line that forms between dpns.

But I do know what you mean -- that line of loose stitches that makes it obvious that you were knitting on dpns, right?

I can tell you this -- I do consciously tighten up on the first stitch on each dpn when knitting socks. I've also heard that using 5 instead of 4 dpns helps alleviate the problem -- I always use 5 dpns.

From the comments:

It's easy to avoid that "ladder"...You just have to knit a few of the stitches of the new needle to the old needle....
For example, you have 64 stitches, 16 per needle. You knit 17 stitches putting them all in the same needle (the first one of the second needle will then go on the first needle). Then you take your spare needle, and knit 16 stitches (or 17 if you like) and so on. That way, you never change needles in the same place, and you don't have a loose joint on top of another, forming that sort of ladder...

Posted by:
Noemie on April 18, 2003 05:37 AM
Easy ladder solution : wash knitting ,whilst damp yank it about vertically and horizontally. Don't be afraid to be vigorous !Then pat & block to shape.As EZ said ''Time is a great evener''.

Posted by: Emma
on April 18, 2003 05:42 AM
Another easy solution (easiest for me):

When you've knitted the stitches off one needle (and I also use 5 dpns), take the new empty needle, place it above the just-worked needle, and form a tent with the empty needle and the about-to-be-worked needle with the just-worked needle pointing through the front. In other words, instead of starting to knit with your empty needle underneath the just-worked needle, start to knit with it above. I hope that makes sense..it's so much easier to show than to explain. :)

Posted by:
Cheryl on April 18, 2003 09:43 AM
i've always been told to make sure you pull the second stitch really tight on the next needle. i assume it's because pulling tight on the first one won't last if you're too loose on the next or something? anyway, i usually knit about the first 2 or 3 really tight (like i stop between each stitch and make sure it's very firm around the needle) and i haven't had a laddering problem. in fact, i think i have more ladders w/ the two circs method than with double pointeds because it's lot harder to get tight on two circs because you can't really keep the needles perpendicular to each other as easily when you get to the joins

Posted by:
Carolyn on April 18, 2003 09:44 AM
I find the "knitting a few stitches onto the next needle" method works well for me. But every now and then one might choose to not do that (Lucy Neatby's "Fiesta Feet" socks come to mind). In that case, I've found that wrapping the yarn around the needle in the "wrong" direction on the last 2 stitches of needle 1 and the first 2 stitches on needle 2 helps. If you generally wrap counter-clockwise, try wrapping the other way. Uses less yarn and seems to close up that ladder nicely.


Color Knitting Questions

Q:  Do you strand or float? or Do you weave or float? When you are knitting with more than one color, how do you enusre that the different strands of color don't get tangled?

A:  My colors never get tangled because I float and never strand (weave). I used to weave. But no longer. Now I float, always. Even for long stretches, like ten stitches. As long as I make sure I've got my stitches spread out well on the needle while I knit, I have no problem with tension. I find that weaving sometimes shows on the right side. At least it does when I do it. When working with shetland wool, floats adhere to the back side of
the work with no problem, so you don't have a bunch of messy loops like you might think.

Q:  What is the difference between floating and stranding (or weaving)?

A:  Floating is carrying the unused color behind your work (or in front if purling) until needing it to knit again, whether it be one stitch or many.

Stranding is similar, but in this case, if you have more than stitches of the same color in a row to knit, at about the fifth stitch you would "catch" the unused yarn in your knit stitch so the float portion would be 5 stitches (or wherever you catch it). I believe this concept is used commonly in Norwegian knitting, for instance Dale of Norway sweaters, since they may have large color blocks. (Note: this answer was taken from the comments section.)

Q:  When doing fair isles or multiple color sweaters, do you weave in all the yarn ends as you go or weave them in after you're done?

A:  I don't weave, I knot!

Q:  I am ready to learn two-color knitting.  I'd like to do something simple first.  What is a good first two-color project and where are good instructions how to do it?

A: Ah, sucking yet another victim into two-color knitting (insert evil laughter here)! 

If you want to get your feet wet in two-color knitting, you might want to start with a two-color Norwegian design. That way you can get accustomed to two-color knitting but not have a lot of different colors to deal with. Start small, like with a hat. Dale of Norway has lots of hat designs in their pattern books, and I know that Bea Ellis has a bunch of really great hat kits on her site. And I'm sure there are a bunch of other places you can get small two-color projects too.

If you want to dive right in to fairisle, check out Sweaters From Camp, which is available from Schoolhouse Press. Lot's of great designs in there, and good instructions too.

Q. "When you write that you are working the sleeve from the top down, was that your own choice? All the instructions I have tell me to knit sleeves from the bottom up on 3 double pointed needles. I just finished a two-color baby sweater and the sleeves were not so pretty -- they turned out bumpy because of the increases and had 3 "lines" going up the sleeves where one needle ended and the next began (if that makes sense). It was a Norwegian sweater and had a facing at the end of the sleeve."

A. Traditionally, fair isles have sleeves that are made by picking up stitches around the steeked armhole and knitting in the round down to the cuff, decreasing as you go.

Dale of Norway sweaters have sleeves that are knitted in the round from the cuff up, increasing as you go. You then sew them into the armhole and sew the self-facing over the cut edge of the steek on the inside.

On a baby sweater, you normally can't knit the sleeves with a circular needle because the circumference of the sleeve is too small for the smallest length of circular needle. But you could knit it using two circulars, or by doing the trick of pulling out the loop of the cable of the circular needle while you work. What's that technique called? The Magic Loop?

Could you alter a sleeve up pattern to be knitted from the top down? Sure you could, and pretty easily, reversing the shaping. But there are a couple of things to remember. Dale steeks are simple two lines of machine stitching around the area where the armhole will be, then cut open. I'd be hesitant to pick up stitches around such a narrow steek. If you want to pick up stitches and knit down from the armhole, you might want to cast on extra stitches for a wider steek.

You also want to pay close attention to your row gauge before you change direction on a sleeve. Your instructions may tell you "increase 2 stitches every 4th round until you have 60 stitches, then work straight until the sleeve measures 8 inches." You need to know approximately how many inches of straight knitting is at the top of the sleeve after the last increase so that when you knit from the top down, you can knit "x" number of inches before starting your decreases, and end up with a sleeve of the proper length.

Make sense?

Q:  What is the standard needle size and gauge for traditional fair isles?

A:  In my admittedly limited experience, fair isles are knitted on size 3.0mm or 3.25mm needles with a gauge of 7 or 8 stitches to the inch using shetland jumperweight wool.

Q. How many stitches do you use for a steek?

A. 10 -- 1 edge stitch, 8 steek stitches, 1 edge stitch.

Q:  What’s easier for a beginner to learn, Intarsia or Fair Isle? And is the somewhere that shows how to do them? 

A: In my not-so-humble opinion, Fair Isle is much easier than intarsia. But then, that might because I have very rarely met an intarsia design that I liked.

If you want to get your feet wet in two-color knitting, you might want to start with a two-color Norwegian design. That way you can get accustomed to two-color knitting but not have a lot of different colors to deal with. Start small, like with a hat. Dale of Norway has lots of hat designs in their pattern books, and I know that Bea Ellis has a bunch of really great hat kits on her site. And I'm sure there are a bunch of other places you can get small two-color projects too.

Q. How do you hold yarns for fair isle knitting?

A. Some discussion of this in yesterday's comments. And requests for photos of how I hold my yarn.

I'd rather not, because I don't really think my method is a good one for anyone to emulate. Yes, I hold both colors in my left hand and throw with my left hand. And I consistently do the background color on top and the foreground color on the bottom. But sometimes I thrown the bottom color with my middle finger and sometimes I drop both colors and pick them up. I'm the poster child for how not to hold your colors. But it does seem to work for me, my tension is fine, and doesn't slow me down, so there you have it.

My colors never get tangled because I float -- never strand.

Blocking Questions

Q. Do you use a wooly board for your sweaters or just wash and lay flat somewhere?

A. I've probably never covered my blocking procedures because I don't really block.

Dale of Norway sweaters get a light once-over with a steam iron before I stitch the steeks, and again after I sew in the sleeves. Fair isles get the same treatment, though I steam the steek areas a bit more to encourage the fibers to felt before I cut them.

Arans are never even in the same room as my steam iron.

Needle Questions

Q: What kind of needles do you like to use?

A: Circular needles, Addi turbos preferably.

Q. How did you acquire your needles (by project, or did you buy a set or two?), and which ones do you use most frequently? If you use circs, what length are they - 29"?

A. Good question!

When I first learned how to knit, as a tiny tot, I used my mother's needles. All 14" straight needles. When I was maybe 14 or 15 years old, my mother bought me my own needles. We were a military family, and one day when she was shopping at the PX, she saw they had just gotten in knitting needles, so she bought me four or five pairs (and they were all 14" straights, aluminum, and made by Boye, I believe). I used these needles for years, augmenting them when I made something that required a size I didn't have.

It was well into the 80s before I started using circular needles for everything, then I bought Susan Bates circs as I needed them. Eventually I replaced all those with Addi Turbo circs, little by little. I used to ask for Addi Turbos for Christmas from my mom. I know have sizes 0 through 11 in varying lengths -- 12", 16", 24", 32", 40". Not all sizes in all lengths, but pretty darn close.

For sweaters in pieces, like arans, I use a 24" length. For sweaters in the round, like fair isles, I used a 32" length. I bought some 40" length needles for shawls.

Then I discovered wooden needles, which I prefer for fair isles. So I've got birch, bamboo, rosewood, and ebony circulars in various sizes and lengths.

Then of course there are dpns . . .

Q: What are your dream sock needles?

A: My "dream" sock needles would be ebony dpns in size 2.0mm, 5.5" inches long.

General Questions

Q. What do you do with all the leftovers from your fair isle and dale

A. And Geane responded:

I know what I do with my FI leftovers! Label them with the name of the sweater knit and put them away for when your friends need a ball or two!!

Geane's absolutely correct! She's sent me shetland wool from her leftovers stash. So has Veronique is Switzerland.

I do the same thing -- hang onto extras for future reference. I sent my leftover Gedifra Wellness fro Smooch to Geane, who had bought the same color. And I always hang onto extra shetland and Dale of Norway -- never know when I or one of my friends might need a bit.

Leftovers make great catnip mice, and leftover sock yarn makes baby or child socks.

Q. Would you please send me a photocopy of the pattern for that great sweater
you're knitting?

A. I don't think so. (Followed by link to a good copyright site, such as
http://www.girlfromauntie.com/copyright/index-guide.asp or

Q. What needles/yarn are you using to knit XXX project?

A. On the sidebar of my site is a section called "My Current WIPs". There I post the "vital statitsics" of my current projects. For finished projects, visit the Gallery (http://wendyknits.net/wendy/knitting.htm).

Q. Where did you get the box that's holding my yarn?

A. It's an "accessory box," ordered from Home Storage USA. It's made from canvas and is just right for storing 25 gram balls of shetland wool. I arrange them in the same order they are listed on the chart color key -- makes it a lot easier to find the right color.

Q. What is your favorite sweater to wear?

A.  A Gansey from a Debbie Bliss book which is out of print.

Q: Are you a picker or a thrower?

I'm a thrower! A left-handed, continental-style, thrower.

Q: Which knitting magazines do you recommend?

A: Ah, knitting magazines! A thorny subject for me. Be forewarned -- all of this is my personal opinion!

Knitters -- avoid it like the plague! It has gone from being a great magazine in its early years to the current appalling mass of mediocre patterns. At best.
Interweave Knits -- used to be great, but has deteriorated in quality. I'll reserve judgment about it until after the new editor has taken over.
Vogue Knitting -- I haven't subscribed in years because there was never anything I wanted to knit in it. I bought a copy of the Summer issue (I think) this year and found some items of mild interest, so I'll probably look at the Autumn issue to see if I want to buy it.

Q:  What kind of camera do you use and what techniques do you use for editing?

A:  The camera I use is a Kodak DC4800 (yeah, I finally looked at it and got the correct model number off it). It's a 3.1 megapixel digital camera, but the model was discontinued last year.I always take my photos at maximum resolution -- 3.1 megapixels. And I scale them down. I use Paintshop Pro for photo editing. I crop the photo, scale it down to no more than 400 pixels wide, and then do any editing necessary. Sometimes I lighten the photo, sometimes I sharpen it, sometimes both.And whenever possible I photograph without a flash. The best way is in natural light, but barring that, I try to get a photo in good overhead light.  And sometimes I'm more successful than other times

Lucy Questions

Q:  What does Lucy like to eat for dinner?

A:   Fancy Feast

Q:  What is Lucy's favorite toy?

A:   Rolled up tissue paper or paper napkins (preferably catnip scented!)