Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Leftover Sock Yarn Blanket Update

A while ago I blogged about a project idea: the Leftover Sock Yarn Blanket.

The idea is to create a crochet blanket out of my sock yarn leftovers. I started in August with a tiny square leftover from my most recent socks, in Colinette Jitterbug:

In October it had grown a little, and I'd added in yarn leftover from a pair of socks in my book, Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock in Autumn Flame

I've been working on it on and off, adding in bits and pieces from the leftovers bucket over the past few months.

The other day I decided to give it a quick block to see how it was looking.... 

and it's now over 30 inches square.  There's some Koigu in there and Socks that Rock, and some of the last Vanderrock yarns, and two different Zauberballs.  Up next: I've got a bright orange.

The neat thing about crochet is that you've only got one live stitch, and so with the simple clip of a stitch marker, it's secure and can be used as a blanket.  

I'm keeping a bag of sock yarn leftovers with the crochet hook.  My plan is that this blanket will live on the sofa, and every time I feel like a bit of crochet, or after I've finished a pair of socks, I can dip into my bag of leftovers and add a round a two.  

I just have to figure out how to make sure the dog doesn't eat the marker... 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

On Learning: Continental or English?

No too long ago, I found myself teaching a learn-to-knit class with a large group. I'm an English-style knitter myself (that is, yarn in right hand, like so), and that's the way I've always taught beginners.

But I've been teaching classes on Continental knitting (yarn in left hand, like so) of late, and it's been making me think.

After all, learning to knit English style (that is, yarn in right hand) is actually pretty tricky, and not very efficient.  I mean, you're holding both a needle AND yarn in your right hand, as below...

which is all well and good, until you have to wrap the yarn.

Beginner knitters tend to drop the yarn between stitches, and even knitters who have managed to figure out how to hang onto the yarn with their right hand (as in the pic above) struggle with the wrap.  Most of them end up having to try to hold both needles in their left hand as they pick up the yarn and wrap it around the right needle.

And it's neither elegant nor particularly easy.... check out what I'm doing with my left thumb:

So for this group of beginners, I decided to go Continental.  With the Continental knit stitch... that is, with yarn in left hand.

Using this method, you can keep a firm grip on the right needle as you "pick" the yarn and wrap it around the needle.

Little did my poor students know that I was conducting an experiment on them... I want to see if an average
collection of novices found it any easier to learn Continental than English.

After a fair bit of practice with a continental knit, once I had a sense they were comfortable, I suggested to some of the students that they might want to try wrapping the yarn with the right hand instead. I presented it casually, as an option for students who were more comfortable working with their right hands.

Of 7 in the class who tried both, 5 ended up keeping the yarn in the left hand, and 2 ended up with it in the right. Not scientific, by any means, but I though this was an interesting result that confirmed my suspicions.

The key, of course, is to ensure that no matter what students end up doing, that they are wrapping the yarn the correct way. And, perhaps more to the point, to help knitters understand that where and how they hold the yarn is a minor choice in how they knit, and it doesn't affect in the least the finished product or the instructions.

Any other teachers of beginner knitting classes tried the same thing? Which way do you prefer to teach newbies?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

On Being Naive

"Naive" has a number of connotations...

having or showing unaffected simplicity of nature or absence of artificiality; having or marked by a simple, unaffectedly direct style reflecting little or no formal training or technique.

I'm absolutely thrilled to announce that I have a design and an article in the Spring2012 issue of Interweave's Sockupied e-magazine.


It's a cabled sock design, with a feature I call my "naive" gusset.

Back when I was living in New York, I was working on my first pair of toe-up socks. Socks being ideal plane knitting, I took the project with me on a flight to Seattle.  It's a long way from New York to Seattle, and I had the centre seat in the back row of Coach. And then women on either side of  me were definitely not knitters. Which meant that when I took off my shoes and socks to try on my WIP, I got some very funny looks.

And then when I realized the sock didn't fit as written, and started frogging it, I got even funnier looks.  The original blog post about this is here... 

The issue was that I've got a high-ish arch, and a straight up non-gusseted short-row heel just doesn't fit me.  If the sock fits snugly in the leg and the foot - which I like! negative ease is good! - then it won't fit around the arch and my heel.

Being stuck on a flight without internet or reference books, I improvised.  I worked some decreases before the heel turn to add a gusset to the foot, and then, after I turned the heel (on the usual number of stitches), I decreased the stitches away. Naive, absolutely.  But it worked brilliantly, and I love how these socks fit.  And I love how they enable a knitter with an arch to take an otherwise great but gusset-less toe-up sock design, and make 'em fit.

This is all outlined in the new Spring 2012 issue of Sockupied, along with a pattern for a cabled sock (slightly asymmetrical, as is my way).

Take a look! Let me know what you think!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Winter Has Returned: Need to Finish that Second Sock ASAP

Remember that skein of Qiviut sock yarn?

Qiviut is 8 times warmer than sheep's wool. And it's now 8 times colder than it was when I bought the yarn.

Well, ok, that second bit might not be scientifically accurate, but it certainly feels that way.

I've been working on these socks on and off for a couple of months, but the winter has been so mild this year that I haven't really felt pressured to finishing the project. Last weekend, however, winter arrived in full force and I'm now entirely focused on getting the second one done.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book Preview

I know, I know. I've been talking about the book a lot recently.

I'm very pleased to announce that we have made a free preview available online.

And if this works, embedded here...

Beyond Knit & Purl -- Kate Atherley

It's a few select pages, the table of contents, and some of the project photos.  I hope it gives you a sense of why I'm proud of it, and why people I respect an awful lot are saying nice things about it...

And perhaps if you like it, you might wish to buy it.. ?

The coffee cup cozy in the picture is the Mini Project for the cables chapter.  It's a quick and easy way to try out a cable for the first time... an evening's worth of knitting, not a huge investment of time, and a great confidence builder.  And it's useful! I do recommend you knit it in a yarn that matches how you take your coffee.  Mine is a very dark shade of espresso brown...

All the sections - Shaping, In the Round, Socks, Cables, Lace and Colorwork have these Mini Projects.  And three other projects, too, to allow you to expand your skills.

(Once again, awesomely fab pic thanks to Caro Sheridan. She even brought the coffee cup with her from Boston when she flew up to Toronto to do the photography.)

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Beyond Knit & Purl

I'm very proud to announce that my book is complete and ready.

"Beyond Knit and Purl" is the book that takes knitters from being confident with their needles to being confident about patterns...  it went to print on Tuesday, coincidentally my birthday.

It's available for purchase NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW from Cooperative Press.

Digital only - fulfilled immediately, $16.95. Digital and physical copy, $26.95 plus shipping.

Shops around the Toronto area will be carrying it, and stay tuned for news on other places to buy it!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Wonder of Blocking

I've said this before: always block before you sew up.

Like this:

Blocking helps with a number of things: the pieces lie flatter, which makes seaming easier. It takes care of any shrinking or stretching that might take place, so that you don't end up with puckery seams.  (You prewash fabric before you sew it up, don't you?  Same deal with knitted fabric.)  It also makes the fabric smoother and more even, and therefore prettier - even more to be proud of.

And it helps in other ways...

I was waffling on what size to knit when I started this cardigan, and didn't have access to a sample to try on. I cast on for the XS, being a little sort of person. It sat for a while, and last October, at Rhinebeck, I got a chance to try someone's on.... it fit perfectly, and then naturally, the wearer broke the news to me that it was the size larger than I was knitting.

This is where blocking really becomes miraculous: there's about an inch and a half difference between  the XS and the S, and I was easily able to stretch the pieces to the dimensions of the S.  (It helps that the yarn I chose might be slightly heavier than called for in the pattern.)

Yes, those with keen eyes may recognize this as the legendary Must Have Cardigan.  I am a sucker for a good cabled sweater, and this one is an excellent example of the form. 

I am working it in Galway, which at various times in history has claimed to be an aran, but in my experience has always been a worsted.  The swatch was, after washing, somewhere in between... 

I cast on for it years ago - around the time Steph was knitting hers - and it's been resting in my stash with only part of the back complete.  I picked it up again this fall, after seeing the one at Rhinebeck, and I've been quietly working on it, between design projects.  Just today I finished up the fronts, so that all the body pieces are done. To break up the finishing work some (consider this your bonus tip! for the day), I've finished up the body pieces and will sew the shoulders and work the button- and buttonhole bands now, before working the sleeves.  This will give me a chance to assess how long I want the sleeves to be, as I'll be able to put the body on, figure out where the sleeves will hit my shoulders and measure down from there.  Clever, eh?