Seven Things ~ Increasing in Ribbing

Do you have a good method for spacing increases evenly in ribbing? In my early years of knitting I would just eyeball it and place the increases randomly not thinking it really made a difference just as long as they were not all jumbled together. Now I know that a smoother transition can be made from ribbing to another stitch pattern if they are placed properly. This was a skill addressed (and evaluated) in Level 1 of the Master Hand Knitting Program.

In Margaret Fisher’s book, Seven Things That Make or Break a Sweater, some options are given showing how you can place those increases ‘evenly spaced.’ Thankfully, the goal is to have approximately the same number of stitches between the increases and it is not to have the exact stitches.


There are a number of different ways knitters calculate the spacing of their increases and if you talk to your knitting buddies about it chances are they will each differ in how they do it. The important thing, and the thing that will break your sweater instead of making it is that you HIDE the increases in the ribbing.


The bar increase is barely visible when it is worked into a knit stitch which is followed by a purl stitch. You work a bar increase by knitting into the front and back of a stitch. The bar increase produces a little bump that looks like a purl stitch so when you work it into a knit-stitch-followed-by-a-purl-stitch it blends right in with that purl stitch. But if you don’t? Well, it looks like a misplaced purl stitch disrupting your ribbing and you know what that means, don’t you? Are you going to MAKE it or are you going to BREAK it?

Have I mentioned yet that I think this is a very informative book and one worth adding to your library? I really like working this little project sweater to cement the ‘seven things’ in my head.




Seven Things – Cast On Edges

I continue to wait for my submitted Master Hand Knitting binder to arrive in my mailbox. Six weeks have passed and the review committee is still scrutinizing my work. To try and get my mind off the wait I continue to attack with vengeance those unfinished knitting projects that have fallen by the wayside. It is nice to have some of those lingering projects finished but I also find myself wanting to review some of the techniques I researched in the Level 1 course to get them cemented in my head.

The Level 2 requirements include 4 book reviews. I have tentatively selected my four and one of them is called Seven Things that can “Make or Break’ a Sweater. A quick glance through the book convinced me to go ahead and start with this one even though I may be several months away from graduating to Master Level Two. There is a project sweater, a baby cardigan, in the book that offers an opportunity to practice the ‘seven things’ covered in the book. Many of the ‘seven things’ were learned in MHK Level 1 and a few of them will be researched and knit into the MHK Level 2 swatches. Perfect!

The first of the seven things that make or break a sweater is the cast-on edge. There is a smooth side of the cast on and there is a bumpy side and whichever side you choose is completely a decision of personal preference but you must make sure that all public sides of your sweater have the same side showing. If you don’t, it is enough to BREAK that sweater instead of MAKING it!


Smooth Side of Cast On


Bumpy Side of Cast On

Now the book goes into a lot more detail than I have given here. It tells you what side of the cast on some knitters prefer with different stitch patterns. It tells you how to go about getting the cast on side that you prefer onto the public side of your knitting. And, it has pictures of swatches so that you can decide for yourself without playing around with knitting swatches beforehand, although I personally think that is one more reason to knit a gauge swatch!



Finishing Rosemarkie – Part Two

Because I used pure 100% Shetland Wool when I knit Rosemarkie I could have simply cut my steeks open, trimmed them and left them as is. The fleece of Shetland sheep has a propensity to felt and over time the surface hairs become entangled with each other so much so that it is reluctant to rip. I have left my other fair isles in this DO NOTHING state basically because I was lazy and so done with the project by the time I got to this point that I was ready to declare it finished and set it aside. But this time, with Rosemarkie, I decided to finish my steeks off properly! By doing this I was surprised with how nicely the seams flattened out so, in future fair isles, I will scrap the Do Nothing approach.


In my last post about Rosemarkie I demonstrated how a knitted steek is trimmed to a two-stitch width. Here I will show you the next step, folding the steek back and hand-stitching it into place. In hindsight, I should have used a finer yarn than I used to knit the vest with so that some of the bulk would have been reduced.  Oh well, now I know!


To stitch the trimmed steek in place I cut the yarn in 18″ lengths so that they would not fray, threaded the length into a darning needle and secured it at the beginning of the steek. I used a ‘cross-stitch’ method of inserting the needle through the strands of the garment on the wrong side going at a diagonal all the way up and then ‘crossing’ that diagonal to make an ‘x’ all the way down. It looks kind of messy in the photo but it sure makes for a neat finish.  I discovered this steek stiching was rather relaxing!


After finishing the steeks I pulled out my new steamer and steamed the backside of the vest. This was the first time I used a steamer instead of my iron on the steam setting and I really loved the results. I broke some cardinal rules though, one being to lay a damp cloth over the top of the knitted fabric to protect it. I started out doing that and then tossed it aside and tried placing the steamer plate directly on an inconspicuous spot and giving it a burst of steam.  The stitches evened out so beautifully that I continued on down that perilous route. I may pay a price for that though. In my enthusiasm of watching the magic happen I forgot to lengthen the vest and now it is short and wide, a teensy too short for my long torso.


I have a plan but I’m not sure if it will work. I’ve heard that once fair isle is blocked it is forever blocked and I’m hoping this will be an exception.  I’m going to wet soak the vest in some Eucalen and see if the stitches will relax enough to reshape. Then I will assemble my Wooly board, put the vest on it and see if it can be lengthened and dried.

20130307-113904.jpgIn this state it reminds me of the Teapot rhyme we used to sing in childhood, “I’m a little teapot, short and stout….”  So, here is my Rosemarke, short and stout.  It can be worn in said state and will look just fine but would look all the better an inch or two longer.

Grafted Bind Off for Portulaca Neckband

After an early breakfast of tiny spinach quiches, I have bundled up as usual with a shawl against the cold and settled into my comfy chair to get caught up with a week’s worth of readings. My log home is empty and quiet. No loved ones around to get caught up with, no sweet grand babe laughing and squealing in delight, only the sound of the dishwasher doing its early morning work.


We are back from visiting our daughter, son-in-law and extraordinary granddaughter and sharing in the joy of celebrating her first birthday. It is another brilliant day in Colorado, cloudless and with no breath of wind. All outside is petrified by frost and I’m almost certain, should I venture out in snow boots, that my footsteps would crunch against the snow covered ground. I feel as isolated as a mountain man and miss my far-removed family but am also happy to be back home.


Carol Feller, Craftsy instructor, explained an interesting bind off for the Portulaca neckband, one I have never heard of but one I will employ from now on when I have a ribbed neckband. Just as the Alternate Cable Cast On blended right into the ribbing around the bottom of the sweater, this bind off blends right in to the 1 x 1 neckband ribbing.


The first step was to divide all the stitches onto two circular needles with the knit stitches on the front needle and the purl stitches on the back needle. I decided I wanted two contrasting needle colors to help with the process. I then threaded a long tail onto a tapestry needle and, after anchoring the first two stitches, worked a Kitchener stitch across the stitches. Simply stated, you are grafting the stitches on the front needle to the stitches on the back needle just like you finish a sock toe.


On my first run through I made a fatal mistake – my yarn on the tapestry needle was not long enough. I measured it the suggested 3x the width of the neck which would have worked. However, I tired of pulling long stretches of yarn through the stitches and it looked like I could do with less yarn so I took care of it. Afterall, Ms. Feller had said that if you run out of yarn you could simply split splice – which I did – but it was my mistake. Pulling the spliced yarn through the stitches was a nightmare. Now it could have been done with lots of patience but the muttering under my breatch caused me to loose track in my mantra, ‘Knit Off, Purl On – Purl Off, Knit On.” I got hopelessly off a stitch and no amount of backtracking could fix it. I finally pulled out the whole neckline bind off and started over. Second time through, I didn’t mind all that extra yarn yardage pulling through the stitches.


I really like this bind off. There is no ridge across the top of the neckline and you didn’t have to mess with knitting the neckline double and then folding it over. The way it is bound off just blends right in imitating the stitches in the rows below.

Neckline Done!  The buttonbands are next.

Finishing Rosemarkie – Part One


Seriously now? Has it really taken me TWO years to get this vest finished? Shame on me! It is time to cross that finish line and today is the day to start the sprint.


This morning I darned all the loose ends on the front and armhole bands using my new favorite weaving tool. I bought this tool at my local craft store in the knitting section.  They come in packs of two and in two differing sizes, mine are the small ones.


I have nothing but praise for this little tool. Its flexibility and ease in threading make darning all the easier.  Anything that can make a tedious task go faster is a good thing in my book!


After my ends were neatly woven in I trimmed all steeks to a 2 stitch width. Now I’m not one to fear cutting or trimming steeks as some do because I have another handy tool that I have shared before with you.



I have in my possession some bandage scissors that nurses use when they are trimming away bandages. They are super sharp and can slice with ease through wool. They also have a blunt protective lower blade to insure that the slicing doesn’t go too far, if you know what I mean.


My steeks are neatly trimmed and are waiting for the next finishing step.  They will be cross stitched into position. That sounds like a good weekend project!

A Month of Fridays – Portulaca and Magic Looping

Up early this morning with the new puppy and caught the sun rising off a frosted deck. One benefit of having a puppy around is starting my day a little earlier. I never thought I would say that but there, I just did. At nine weeks he is sleeping through the night which I am thankful for but when he is ready to get up he is really ready.

Puppies? What can I say? They are a lot of work!  This one has one terrific ‘assistant-mom ‘ who is willing to let her stay in her home for a while instead of his owner’s home, my daughter’s apartment. Dear daughter’s crazy-long nursing hours are not exactly the best schedule for a young pup so I’m helping her out. She does, of course, run the risk that he just may have to live with me forever. Who can resist falling in love with a golden retriever?

I have spent considerable time this week working on my Portulaca cardigan. I’ve finished the body all the way up to where the raglan sleeves will be joined and I just started the first sleeve. Having recently learned the Magic Loop method of knitting in the round I’m using it to knit the sleeves.

I am really glad that I finally took the time to learn this method because I have a smooth circle with no loose stitches which is something that happens between double point needle changes.

Magic Loop is a method using a very long circular needle, instead of double point needles, to knit small circumferences in the round.  It is best to use a circular needle with a thin, flexible cable that is approximately three to four times the circumference of the knitting.  My Signature Needles are PERFECT for this technique with their amazing cable cords!

You might have noticed my archaic method of keeping track of increases on my sleeve. Are you surprised that a gadget girl would not be using one of her fancy-pants gadgets to keep track? Knit Companion is still my favorite and I did use it for the body of the sweater. Although it is capable of keeping track of those increases I still find I can just ‘see’ the placement of those better using my little grid along the side and ticking off the rows as I work them. Before I even start I go in and put a little circle in the box where the increases are to be. If my arm looks like it is going to be too long then I can just erase those circles and adjust there at the end.

I plan to watch a movie today and work on the sleeve. If I’m really, really lucky I might catch two movies but with a puppy…..well….it is highly unlikely.

Happy Knitting!

Pickers and Throwers

Are you a ‘picker’?  Are you a ‘thrower’?  Curious minds (mine) want to know!

The knitting method and the knitter’s preference determine how a knitter holds the yarn and needles. I’ve watched ‘pickers’ knit and I’ve watched ‘throwers’ knit and both methods provide good control over the yarn with an even flow of working yarn and consistent gauge.

The American/English style knitters, affectionately called ‘throwers’ hold the working yarn in their right hand and ‘throw’ it around the working needle. The Continental/German style knitters, affectionately called ‘pickers’ hold the working yarn threaded around the left hand. They are called ‘pickers’ because they pick that yarn through the first stitch on the resting needle.

Some say the ‘pickers’ are much faster knitters because there is less movement. I have timed myself knitting both ways and don’t see a noticeable difference in speed. I do wonder if the ‘pickers’ have fewer knitting injuries because the repetition has a smaller range of motion.

There is great beauty in watching a knitter’s hands at work. I enjoyed taking these photographs and seeing, in particular, how each knitter anchored her yarn. Most anchored it around their pinkies. All felt that they had found what worked best for them saying there was no right or wrong way.

I’m curious to see which method is more popular. If you are a knitter, will you please take a moment for the poll telling me which method you use?

Bohus Stickning

When I am a more accomplished knitter, I want to do some Bohus Stickning (“Knitting”).  I dream of this.  Something stirs within me when I see a Bohus Sweater and I tell myself, “I am going make one of those someday!”

This beautiful style of knitting provided work for the wives of unemployed Swedish stonecutters and farmers during the depression. A woman named Emma Jacobsson founded a knitting cooperative in 1939 and called it Bohus Knitting.  They started with plain socks and gloves but soon moved on to beautiful sweaters.  She was a brilliant designer.

As you know, I am no stranger to stranded colorwork patterns but the technique employed by the Bohus knitters really intimidates me.  The Fair Isle patterns I have knit only have two colors on each individual row.  Bohus knitting employs a minimun of three to four colors in a single row.  A MINIMUM?  Some designs may contain as many as seven colors on a single row.

Bohus sweaters are also textural in that they often add purl stitches to the stranded row.  Sounds complicated, doesn’t it?  Speaking of purls pearls, here is someone you might recognize in the Bohus sweater that she knit.  Why, is it The Yarn Harlot?  Stephanie Pearl-McPhee?  Yes, it is!

The very accomplished Rainey sisters also knit their own Bohus sweaters, seen here and here.  Absolutely gorgeous!

Patterns for authentic Bohus sweaters can be obtained from Sweden’s Bohuslan Museum.  If I’ve whet your appetite then click their link to go Bohus sightseeing in Sweden.

I guess I will have to finish the Master Knitting course offered by the TKGA before I tackle my own Wild Apples Pullover.  I’m currently re-knitting the swatches for Level One because I procrastinated and a revision was made to the course.  I’ll tell you more about the course on another day.  By the time I pass Level Three I think I will have enough confidence to tackle a Bohus Sweater.

Rosemarkie – A Cable Cast On

When beginning a fair isle garment I have found that the most suitable method for casting on is the cable-edge cast-on.  This technique produces a firm, elastic edge and best of all, you don’t have to figure out how much yarn you need for the cast on.  Have you ever spent a length of time casting on using the long tail method and run out of yarn before you got all those stitches cast on?  I have.  No worries with the cable edge cast-on!

Just in case you are drawing a blank, the cable cast on is done by inserting the right hand needle between two stitches on the left hand needle and pulling a loop through.  The loop is then put on the left hand needle as a new stitch.

Cable Cast On

After casting on the number of stitches needed with the cable cast on I come face to face with the words that inevitably make my heart sink, the words that cause dread, the words that elevate my blood pressure and increase my pulse rate.  Of course I’m speaking in jest but, nonetheless, I approach this part of the pattern with extreme seriousness.  The pattern instructions I’m speaking of?

“Place a marker at the beginning of the round and making sure cast on edge is not twisted, join and begin working in the round.”

Trust me, you DO NOT want to twist those stitches, especially when you have 308 stitches on your circular needles!  I’ve been there more than once and, unfortunately,  I usually don’t figure it out until after I’ve knit a few rounds.  I have paid the price of making this mistake so many times that I enforces my own safeguards to prevent it.

Working on a flat padded surface, I very carefully untwist and straighten the stitches pinning periodically to the surface.  This insures they don’t twist up on me when I’m not looking.  It is a tedious process but well worth it to me!

Next Rosemarkie progress report – a corrugated rib and a fair isle swatch.

Tantallon – A Fair Isle Beanie

When Tantallon was revealed on Needled, I knew I would be rummaging through my Alice Starmore stash to make a similar beanie.  My fingers have been longing to play with color schemes and knit a bit of fair isle and Tantallon was a likely candidate to do so.


KNIT with Hebridean stash yarn.  RESIST the overwhelming urge to place an order with Virtual Yarns purchasing the exact colors that Kate Davies used!

Incidentally, whenever I purchase a skein of Hebridean 2-ply I take the attached card, punch a hole on both ends, thread a few strands of the yarn onto it and put it on a keyring.  The color name is printed on the back of the card.

The colors I chose are pleasing to my eye and will work nicely with my favorite winter walking jacket.

Fulmar ~ Erica ~ Shearwater ~ Golden Plover ~ Machair

~ and~

Dale of Norway Heilo Natural

I modified the pattern by decreasing the number of pattern stitches from 200 to 170.  If I had knit the pattern as specified,  the beanie would have been enormous on my head.  My gauge was the one specified in the pattern so I’m perplexed as to why so many stitches were called for.  Actually, even my smaller size could use a bit of felting in the dryer to make it a wee bit snugger.


WEAVING in those dreaded ends that accompany frequent color changes is an arduous task.  The ‘smart’ knitter would do this as she knit instead of waiting until the beanie is complete as I have done.  If truth be told, I’m more anxious to see those colors changing and don’t take the time to weave in those tails as I progress.  Consequently, it took the better half of a morning to get these woven in.

I rolled the beanie in a towel to soak up excess moisture after its thirty minute Eucalen soak.  Then, I tossed in the dryer in hope of slight shrinkage.

I like the little i-cord loop on the top of the hat.

Tantallon is looking fuzzy as she dries but it will look better after it is completely dry.

I hope to get some outdoor shots soon but, when I do, I’m expecting Tantallon to look similar to this last photo, a slouchy beanie.