Saturday, May 31, 2014

WWKIP: Shenanigans in Waterloo, June 7th

I love the ladies of Shall We Knit (and not just because they feel the way I do about chocolate ice cream). They know how to throw a party.

The last few years Kim and Ron of indigodragonfly and I have been joining them for World Wide Knit in Public Day, in early June. We wear silly costumes, we knit, we raise funds, and generally amuse ourselves our our visitors.

This year's theme is Superheroes.

There will be yarn! There will be vendors with other goodies, including the Body Blessed's lovely skin care products, Erin of Robot A Day, and more indigodragonfly yarns you can shake a stick at, and Marit's rather clever hand-dyed gradient 'Gobstopper' yarns.

There will be a photo booth - superhero-themed, naturally. There will be games. Prizes. And assorted other shenanigans.

As last year, indigodragonfly is auctioning off naming and design rights for a custom colorway. Details here.

And I'll be available for rent. That is, I'll be providing knitting help and consultations for a small fee. (If the past years are anything to go by, I'll likely be wearing a silly outfit.)

Funds raised will go to the Canadian Breast Cancer Support Fund, a group doing important work. Their mission is to support women (and the families of those women) who are going through breast cancer treatment.They provide short-term financial support to help with daily expenses - mortgage, rent, food, utilities, transport, etc. - during treatment and recovery. They also provide educational workshops that promote breast health and raise awareness about the impact of the environmental factors affecting breast cancer.

More details in the Shall We Knit newsletter.

And on the Sunday, I'm teaching a class: Knitter's Toolkit.
This three-hour workshop focuses on  the key skills to take your knitting to the next level. You know how to knit and purl and increase and decrease and even read a pattern - but to really make your knitting great, we talk about all the other skills you need. I'll show you how to confidently diagnose and fix mistakes. I'll actually explain in a helpful way what the big fuss is about gauge. I'll talk about how to join a new ball of yarn; and how to weave in ends. I'll explain the key finishing skills - and why they are so important. I'll demystify blocking. Along the way I'll share some of my favourite tips, tricks and techniques for casting on, for binding off, for increasing and decreasing. Bring your questions!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

On Blocking Socks & Sock Blockers

Great question from a knitter on Twitter last night:

I get asked this fairly regularly.

My answer, in 140 characters or less:

In slightly more than 140 characters: Nope.

But, you ask, what about those sock blocker things they are always trying to sell me?

If so many companies make them, I must need them, right? And the knitters of the olden-times used them, so they must be IMPORTANT. You can find sock blockers at antique shops all the time. Witness this post on a blog about antiques. And a quick search on eBay provides a fair number of different versions, of different vintages.

Still nope.

Here's the thing: sock blockers date back to times when knitters weren't likely to be using superwash wool. That is, they were making socks from wools that would felt with wear and washing. And so blockers were used. They were, in the words of the antiques blogger whose post I linked to above
"the best way of keeping socks and stockings the right size and shape after laundering".
Yup. Size. Blockers were used to help keep the felting process at bay.

So, unless you're knitting socks out of non washable wool, it's a big old nope. Simply not necessary.

Now: if I'm photographing the socks, or sending them off to be photographed, or presenting them as a gift, I will wash them. But even then, I just hang them over a laundry rack or towel rail, once they've been wrung out.

The only time I'll actually stretch them out, on an actual blocker, is if they are made of lace. Lace looks best stretched, and so I like to stretch it before I wear it so they look nice when I put them on.

But honestly: the best sock blockers in the world? Look down. They're at the end of your legs.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Go Your Own Way"

(You might have noticed that many things in my life are named after songs.)

The 2014 issue of Knitscene Accessories has just hit the newsstand, and I'm absolutely thrilled to announce I'm in it. Not only am I in it, but my article is mentioned on the cover, and in the editor's letter.
The article is about converting a sock pattern from one direction to the other. I teach a lot of sock knitting classes, and I edit a lot of sock patterns, and speak to a lot of sock knitters, and I've found that the vast majority of sock knitters have a preferred direction. Some like toe-up, some like top-down. That's all good by me. I don't mind which way you go, as long as you're knitting socks.

What I do hear from knitters is that if they encounter a pattern that is for the "wrong" direction, then they are often discouraged. My article aims to help knitters convert a sock pattern from one direction to another, opening up a whole new range of sock patterns.

I love enabling sock knitters!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Going for Roti, Saturday June 21; Oh yes, also teaching at Spun

I do love a good roti, and there's a terrific little roti shop in a strip-mall in Burlington, Ontario, just west of Toronto. Named D Hot Shoppe, it's unassuming but fantastic. I knew it was going to be good the first time I went, as the line up was both outrageously long, and outrageously diverse:  in that classic Canadian way, people of all cultural origins, suited types, half a soccer team, mums and kids, hard-hatted construction workers, locals and visitors, and yarn shop staff.

Oh yes, yarn shop. In the same strip mall at this roti shop is Spun Fibre Arts. The room is great, the staff is lovely, and the selection is wonderful. I love suburban shops - they have so much more space for yarn than my usual downtown haunts! (In addition, the unofficial mascot of Spun is miniature Dachshund, Shopsy, who is pure comedy on four short legs.)

It's not far west of Toronto, and I'm heading out there to teach Saturday June 21st. There's two classes scheduled, Pattern Reading and Soxpertise.

Pattern Reading
2 hours - 10am-noon
For knitters who are less confident with pattern instructions - learn how to read and fully understand patterns. We'll teach you how to understand garment sizing, and choose the right size to make. We will demystify the schematic, and commonly used abbreviations and conventions. We’ll also talk about how to choose and substitute yarns, and how to check gauge. And last but not least, we'll and address common problem areas like "reversing shapings" and "AT THE SAME TIME".

3 hours - 1-4 pm
For knitters with some sock experience, this interactive and lively workshop focuses on answering all of those frequently asked questions about sock knitting. We tackle topics such as: what’s the deal about toe-up vs. top down: how are they different? should you try both? is one better or easier than the other? Magic Loop/DPNs/2 Circulars: why and how? How to properly measure for, size and fit a sock – including tips on custom-fitting for ‘unusual’ feet – and review different types of heel shapings and how they affect fit and construction. We’ll address the tricky bits like how to avoid holes at the top of your heel, how to get a tidy gusset pick up, and special cast-ons and cast offs. I’ll talk about yarns and fibers and fabrics, and how to ensure that your hand-knit socks last as long as possible. I’ll provide facts and opinions on the surprisingly thorny topics of toe shapings and gussets. I’ll talk about the method and pros and cons of working two-at-once vs. one-at-a-time, and share tips for avoiding the dreaded second-sock syndrome. Bring your socks, your feet, your questions, concerns and issues.

To register, call the shop at 905-681-7786 or visit the Spun website here.

(If you're coming for the afternoon class, note that I will have breath mints with me. The curry is hot and strong.)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

YES YOU CAN. On fixing a twist.

Technical note:  I understand the videos below don't work if you're using an iPad to view this page. You'll need to be on another type of computer. Limitation of Blogger and how it posts videos. Sorry!

I read a blog post this morning about working in the round. It was written to be an introduction to working on circular needles, and an encouragement for those who are struggling with it.

I love working in the round myself. Less purling! Faster! Hats! Socks! Cowls!

Although it's overall helpful, the writer says something that I fundamentally disagree with: that a twisted round is unfixable. This is a common belief: that if you join with a twist, it's a catastrophic, unfixable mistake.

Quite the opposite. It's entirely fixable. And so easy to fix that I've actually stopped checking for the twist before I join. Frankly, if I'm casting on many stitches onto a long circular, or coping with the porcupine that is a set of DPNs, I focus my energy on holding the needles in a way that's comfortable, and getting a good join.

Once I've worked my first round, I then check for a twist and fix it.

A round with a twist: no need for panic.
Yes, that's right. I fix the twist.

There is a 'but', and it's a reasonably big one: you can only fix the twist in the first round. After that, it's set. But that's ok - just get into the habit of checking for a twist after the first round is complete, and you're good.

Cast on, join your round as normal, and work all the way around.

Once you hit the start of the round, lie the work down and check for a twist.

If it isn't twisted, move on smugly.

If there is, just fix it! The video below shows you how.  In words: fix it by swinging the point of one of the needles through the middle of the round.

What you're actually doing is transferring the twist to the cast on edge. This is why you can't do it later on in your work, as the twist will be visible in the fabric. But a twist in the cast-on edge isn't visible.

Yes, this also works on a circular needle or magic loop. It's a slightly different way of looking at it, but what you're doing is just moving the twist along the needle until you hit the tip, and then "run" the twist off.

And then, either way, move on smugly.

You're welcome. ;-)

Working, working, working...

Too busy working to write much on the blog.

My writing time at the moment is being focused on a rather larger project: my next book!

Stay tuned for more details, but consider this the formal announcement that my Custom Fit Socks book is in the works.

Publication date of next summer - we will all have to be patient - but it's coming. And I think you'll like it!

My focus is on teaching you how to measure and assess your feet for proper sock fit, and then customizing a sock to fit exactly how you need it. There will be mathematical solutions and math-free solutions. There will be tables and formulas so you can design your own sock patterns - top-down and toe-up! - for any foot and any yarn, and I'll talk about how to customize my formulas and other patterns for special fit needs. There will also be some patterns.