Thursday, July 31, 2014

Special Summer Treat! Discounts on two of my online classes

You may (or may not) be aware that I have three online knitting classes available through Annie's...

One is a quickie skill-builder Cast Ons and Bind Offs lesson.

There are two longer classes:

Learn to Knit
Intended for absolute beginners, this class begins with the very basics, such as how to hold the knitting needles and yarn, and progresses you through all the basic stitches, casting on, binding off and easy increasing and decreasing. Step-by-step, you'll build skill upon skill to learn how to confidently knit any beginner-level pattern. The class includes 8 fun and easy starter projects.

Know anyone who wants to learn to knit? This is for them? It's also a great refresher, and with this special time-limited $5 off discount code EZHLKNT, the class is less than $20. How can you go wrong?

Magic 2-in-1 Socks

Double knitting is an important skill for the enthusiastic knitter to add to her skill set. In this class I explain and demonstrate this amazing technique step-by-step in which you knit two socks at the same time on the same set of needles, one inside the other. The best part of this class is that sock knitters will never suffer that dreaded "Second Sock Syndrome" again! Suitable for sock knitters with experience, this is a simplified version of the legendary War & Peace method.

With the discount code EZHMS, it's less than $20. Go on, you know you want to...

Note: The discount codes are valid from today until August 10th.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How the Sausage Gets Made: Behind the Scenes at a Sock Photoshoot

Big thanks to Gillian who stopped off on her trip to the airport Monday morning to drink coffee with me, and take some photos.

We had two items to photograph - the Rosetta Tharpe shawl (to be published soon! stay tuned!), and a pair of socks. Because this neighbourhood has a lot of varied architecture and some pretty great graffiti, we were having fun taking photos outside.

But midway through the shawl shoot, it started raining, so we dashed over to Cafe Unwind, our favourite local coffee shop, for refreshments. The observant Gillian noticed that the light in a corner of the shop was good, and there was a nice little stool that we could use as a prop.

So we got clever.

I perched on a bar stool, by the window (coffee in hand, naturally),

Gillian stuffed herself under the bar,

and Dexter just stood there.

Anna, the coffee shop owner, watched in amusement and amazement.

Can't wait to see the finished shots! Knowing Gillian, they'll be amazing, and you wouldn't have even know we were hiding from the rain in a coffee shop if I hadn't told you...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

By Special Request: The Worsted/DK version of the Baby Socks

Free pattern! Baby socks! At 22 sts/4 inches, on 4mm needles or so.

Same deal - newborn/6 month/9-12 month sizes. (The last size is a range because there can be big variation already in foot size, even at that age.)

Easy-peasy! I promise! The pattern is written to be worked on DPNs, magic loop or two circulars, as you prefer, and it's entirely sock-beginner friendly.

Plus adorable.

Seriously. Could they get much cuter? This is the middle size on a 7 month old.

Photo courtesy Jesie Ostermiller.

Photo courtesy test-knitter SJP Jayne.

Thanks much to my test knitters/photographers Sarah Fay, Cheryl M., Jessie O. and SJPKnits Jayne. Very grateful to all test knitters, every one of them, for every project. Next time I see you in person, I will cheerfully buy you a coffee and a cookie.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pattern Loves/Hates: On Blocking & Washing & All That Jazz

A million thanks to all commenters who have provided responses to my what do/don't you love in knitting pattern question?  Some excellent, excellent points, and I'll be discussing them - and likely quoting them -- liberally in the upcoming book.

Over the next little while, I might be writing about some of the points raised in the comments. One came in last night that I really wanted to talk about.

In particular...
Finally, large, rectangular things (afghans, blankets, scarves, stoles, table runners, etc.) should NOT need to be blocked! (They also should not recommend a yarn that needs to be hand-washed and/or laid flat to dry!)
This comment is useful and interesting for a couple of reasons. Designers tend to have easy access to lots of beautiful, luxurious yarns. And - being completely honest here - we're often not paying full retail price for those yarns. So we choose wonderful, wonderful yarns.

And these yarns are often delicate. Requiring handwash.

But it's good to be reminded that not everyone can - or wants - to buy these yarns. For a lot of knitters, easy-care is paramount. For a lot of knitters, yarns should be machine-washable and dryable.

But on the point about blocking... this is a common misconception that's worth dispelling. Unless you're talking about a lace fabric, a wash is sufficient to block your pieces.

Yes, a wash.

Indeed, I never declare a project finished until it’s been washed and dried. It’s essential if you’re going to be doing any seaming. If pieces are going to stretch or shrink that needs to happen before you sew up so the seams don’t pucker.

But even if it’s not going to be seamed, washing a piece makes it look so much better. The stitches even out and the surface gets smoother. The yarns bloom - a silk-based yarn gets shinier and prettier. A wool yarn softens and fluff up. A linen yarn loses the 'crunch'. Your cables will tidy up and pop, your ribbing become more even, your stockinette get smoother.

And chances are, the yarn you worked with is pretty dirty – as it moves from the mill to packaging to shipping and to the yarn shop, yarns gathers machine oils from the spinning, dust from the mill air, other fibre strands and fluff from the yarn shop, and lint from whatever else it’s been stored with.

And of course, as you knit it, it might gather coffee stains, pet hair, cookie crumbs. In short, after a good wash, you knitting just looks better. Try it next time you knit two of something – socks, mitts, sleeves. Wash one and compare it against the other. You’ll be very pleasantly surprised.

In fact, this is what blocking is. For most things, when a pattern says to block, all that needs to happen is to wash it. The only type of knitting that needs special blocking treatment is lace; lace requires stretching to open up the stitchwork and make it look its best. (This is when you might need to worry about mats and wires and pins and all that jazz. Otherwise, nope.)

Washing is absolutely the best way to block. Neither pressing nor steam blocking can be fully guaranteed to take care of whatever stretching or shrinking is going to happen; and pressing can flatten out your knitting – for example, pressing an aran sweater squishes up all that lovely cabling.

Wash it according to the washing instructions on the ball band for the yarn – handwash or machine wash. I tend to air dry most things, even if they are dryer-safe – it saves energy and wear-and-tear on the garment. If you’re air-drying, find somewhere you can lay the items flat, if possible. For small items, drape them over a towel rail. Or over a laundry rack.

But, equally, if the yarn you're using is machine dryable, go for it.

No matter how you do it, the important thing is that you do do it.

Just wash it.

Want to know more? Try my Craftsy class!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Patterns: What Do You Love? What Don't You Love?

I'm a glutton for punishment. Or it could just be that I have a lot to say.

I teach a lot of classes, and two of my favourite are Pattern Reading and Pattern Writing. Clarity of knitting patterns is very important to me. I have lots to say about it.

A knitter's experience working with patterns can be make-or-break: a badly written pattern can put a knitter off a particular type of project - that's a loss for the knitter. A badly written pattern can put a knitter off the work of a given designer - that's a loss for the designer. And a really badly written pattern can put a someone off knitting entirely - that's a loss for us all.

I don't want to lose any knitters. Knitters buy yarns and books and patterns and classes, and keep the industry going. We want as many of them as we can get.

I don't want knitters to stop knitting socks, and speaking more selfishly, I don't want knitters to stop buying my patterns and books.

It is important to me that patterns are good and clear and helpful and well-written and easy to work from.

So I'm writing a book for knit designers, providing guidance on how to write patterns.

I want to make sure that I'm speaking for the knitters. Tell me what you want to tell designers about how to write patterns.

What do you love to see in patterns? What's important to you? What do you look for when choosing a pattern?

And what drives you insane? What do you find difficult or unfriendly or unpleasant? (Don't worry - I've already written about how much you all dislike "reversing shapings".)

Talk to me! You can comment here, or email me at kate at wisehildaknits dot com. I'm all ears! 

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Baby Sock Pattern: Free!

A couple of weeks ago, a knitter from Australia emailed asking for help with a baby sock pattern. It wasn't my pattern, but she'd knitted my training sock, and she thought I might be able to help.

I took a look at the  pattern she'd been trying to use, and let's just say that the instructions left a little to be desired. They're the sort of instructions that would work well if you were an experienced sock knitter, but the knitter in question wasn't.

So to help her out, I decided to write my own baby sock pattern. Several friends are expecting late this summer/early this fall (yes, that is a good way to keep warm during an ice storm...), and I was planning to make gifts anyway. I rummaged in the stash for something fun and non-gender specific, and found a fun green Koigu. And churned out some socks in record time. Baby socks are fast knitting!

In my usual way, I've written the pattern to be friendly to newer sock knitters, and I've also written it so that you can work on DPNs, magic loop or two circulars. There are three sizes: itty-bitty newborn, a 6 month size, and a 9-12 month-ish size.

Although I don't have a baby handy to model them, I can confidently say that the 6 month size is a little small on the dog...

Download the pattern for free, from Ravelry.