Sunday, August 26, 2012

Rethinking How To Do Gauge!

It's been a few weeks since I've done my blog and it certainly wasn't intentional. As usual the craziness of my day to day life got out of hand and alas, it kept me from both my knitting and my blog.....

My classes at StevenBe's have been a huge hit and I seem to be spending more and more time there. That's not a bad thing but I will need to exercise a great deal of self control when all the fall yarns finally arrive. As you all know by now, my yarn stash is already bursting at the seams and the last thing I need is more. That being said, it's never stopped me before.

As I mentioned before, my classes have been going great but one in particular seems to be especially popular. The class I'm referring to is gauge.

We've all heard it before that gauge is the single most important part of knitting. Yet this is the one step that most knitters continue to ignore time and time again. I think one reason for this is that many knitters don't really understand how to do a gauge swatch and more importantly, fail to translate the information it provides into their actual knitting project.

Another reason knitters may forego the gauge swatch is that they feel the end result proves to be inaccurate. In other words, the garment does not fit even though the gauge swatch said it would.

In my many years of teaching, I have found that making the standard size gauge swatch is inadequate in determining what ones' true gauge is. This is because a knitter tends to "behave themselves" when knitting a 4 x 4 inch gauge swatch. What I mean by that is the knitter wants to get done and on with their intended project so they are extra careful and try to knit to the specified gauge the pattern is calling for. I call this "best behavior knitting".

To avoid falling into this trap, knitters should always make a swatch that is at least 6 x 6 inches. Some experts feel that a proper gauge swatch should be no less than 20% of the widest circumference of a garment. Why? Because the larger the sample means the knitter is more likely to fall into their natural rhythm.

The other pitfall that I see on a regular basis are knitters who don't block their swatches before taking measurements. Fibers change when they are blocked, sometimes significantly. Look at the samples below and you'll see what I mean. All of these samples were knit with the same amount of stitches and rows on the same size needle. Notice how much wider and relaxed the processed swatches are. Can you imagine how much impact this would have your finished sweater? Even if you choose to dry clean your sweaters rather than wash, the fibers will eventually break down.

Hopefully this helps those knitters that have had problems with gauge in the past. If you still have questions, get in touch with me and I'll be happy to help.

Finally, I want to share my beautiful hanging basket that is in it's absolute glory this year. So much so that I've decided to bring it indoors this fall and attempt to keep it alive until spring. It's a Wandering Jew and I would welcome any care tips my readers might want to share.

That is a rap on my knitting adventures and as always, I wish you well with yours!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fall Fiber Frenzy at StevenBe's!

Hello to all my knitting friends. It's been one of those crazy, busy weeks which is why I'm a day late writing my blog. Oh well, as the saying goes, better late than never. I have a lot of things to cover so I'll get right to the point.

With the days growing shorter, I thought my readers would be interested in some of the fall yarns that are popping up at StevenBe's. Like my title says, it really is a fiber frenzy there with every color, weight and texture you can imagine. There are tons of patterns to support the yarns as well. I couldn't help but notice the many fiber blends available. This is so important for washability and wearability and I like the fact that we no longer have to go from 100% cotton to 100% wool. The new blends make it possible for knitters to create garments that can easily take you from one season to the next.

One example of this is Habu silk (or wool) and stainless steel - that's right, stainless steel. It can be knit alone, doubled, tripled or carried with another fiber....totally up to you! If you look at the picture below, you'll see the vibrant color ways available.

Another thing I've notice is that we are getting away from the drab. Remember when you could only wear light colors in the spring and summer and dark colors in fall and winter? That isn't the case anymore. We're seeing bright and beautiful colors year round. Just look at some of the fabulous colors shown below!

Shawls of all shapes and sizes is another trend that I'm seeing. They've been popular for sometime but nothing like this. I think one reason is that there are so many shawl patterns out there that offer versatility. Like StevenBe's Ponchini, the shawls can be worn several ways. Of course, cowls continue to be a big hit as well.

Lace, cables and textured patterns continue to be strong. The wristers shown below from Blue Sky Alpaca features a gentle lace pattern reminiscent of another place in time. Even the pattern book reminds me of something one would see in the late 1940's and 1950's.

Finally, lots and lots of bags. After all, a knitter can never have too many knitting bags, right?

Honestly, my pictures don't do the yarns and accessories justice. Stop by and give them a hug and a squeeze and you'll see what I mean.

And last but not least, my neighbor and dear friend, Lisa has a beautiful garden. She has carefully timed her plantings so that there is never a time when a new and unique bloom is not gracing her landscape.
What she showed me the other day was nothing short of breathtaking. You see, after 3 years of waiting patiently, her glorious perennial Hibiscus made their debut. That's not to say in the past they didn't  bloom but it was this year for the first time that they shared their incredible flower. I believe her hummingbirds thought they had died and gone straight to heaven when their beaks met up with the mammoth blooms. Enjoy.

That's all I have for now. I'm once again off to more knitting adventures.....good luck with yours!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Starting to think about Fall!

Where is summer going? It's so hard to believe that August is already here and school will be starting soon. I mentioned that very thing to my knitting girls the other day and they were quick to point out that they didn't need or want any reminders on that subject.

Fall is my favorite time of year. The colors are spectacular and I love the smell of the crisp night air.  Of course, the transition between crisp and down right freezing often comes to quickly for my liking but that's life in Minnesota. It is after all, the theater of seasons, I just don't always care for the fourth act.

The Fall is also the beginning of the sweater season and for knitters, it's another excuse to visit your favorite yarn shop to see and feel all the new wools that are being introduced. The other day when I met with Jeremy at StevenBe's, he told me that I won't be disappointed when I see all the fabulous fibers that will soon be filling their shelves. No doubt I will be there to give them all a softness test!

Speaking of softness, I want to share with all of you the mitten I designed for a class that I'll be teaching at StevenBe's beginning September 19th. I used Cascade "Cloud"and Prism "Plume"for my creation.  I think it turned out pretty neat, don't you?

I also want to share photos I had taken last Saturday at my Beyond the Basics Shawlette class. My students were very proud (as they should be) of their beautiful creations and I was equally proud of them.

One other thing I would like to share is a link for a charity that needs our help. We all know that there are numerous charities out there but this one in particular caught my eye. It's for Joey Bags! Apparently several wombats and kangaroos are being killed by cars on Australian highways and although the mother's don't survive, their joey's usually do. The shelters are now being over run with orphaned joeys and that's where we come in.....Knitting pouch bags for joeys. It's perfect because most of us have so much extra wool from past projects and what better way to put it to good use. Anyway, here is the link if you're interested in contributing - CHARITY CRAFTS PLACE: JOEY BAGS.

I'm off to more knitting adventures. As always, I wish you well with your knitting adventures. I'll be back next week.