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Advanced Intarsia Tips

Another blog entry from the NattyKnitter archives, this time from May 2009. I can honestly say that I am the master of most intarsia at this point. Fair Isle…now that’s a different story.

For the last few days, I’ve been working on an intarsia design and on my intarsia skills at the same time. I think I’ve finally cracked it, so here are some tips which might help you to crack that intarsia code too.

Intarsia Work

1. The yarn you’re knitting with needs wrapping together with the different color of yarn *only* if they’re in the same row. It sounds pretty obvious, but when you’re actually knitting, it can seem like a good idea to wrap the yarn around the loose end in the row below. This is not necessary. If you have a full row of one color, just knit right across, no matter what’s happening on the row below.

2. “Leave the Left Leaners”. If the line of the image is leaning left then don’t wrap the new color around the old color, of course when you turn the knitting, the left leaning line becomes a right leaning line. So you are only wrapping the yarn in every other row on a diagonal. This stops the knitting from looking pulled and pinched.

3. Avoid accidental wraps. Sometimes I find myself knowing that the yarn doesn’t need wrapping, but still reaching for the new color from underneath the old yarn. This is especially difficult to avoid when the color change is only needed for one stitch. Under these circumstances, I make a concerted effort to bring the new color over the old one.

and some other tips, reprinted from a previous blog entry

4. Learn how to make center pull bobbins, they are really easy and much more manageable than plastic bobbins or sprung wooden clothespins. Take the ball of yarn in your right hand but hold the end against your left palm with your left thumb. Now do the Vulcan salute or keep your little and ring fingers together and your middle and index fingers together (seriously this does work, just bear with me). Then wrap the yarn from the ball around these fingers in a figure of eight. When you have enough yarn on your fingers to make the bobbin, cut the yarn at the ball and slide the loops off your fingers. Fold the loops against one another and wrap the cut end tightly around the bobbin, tucking it under itself to secure. The end you knit with is the one you were holding with your thumb, it should pull out of the center of the bobbin really easily.

5. Don’t be frightened of knots. Knots are not usually a big part of knitting (ironically). Normally there should be enough tension in your work that you don’t need to knot a new ball onto an old ball, especially as you would only do this at the beginning of the row. However in intarsia, knotting in a new yarn color gives you something to pull against when you’re trying to establish tension.

6. Swallow your pride and admit that you’ll have to do some tension adjustment. I never have to do tension adjustment in ordinary stockinette stitch, but with intarsia you have to expect to be pulling on loose stitches to redistribute the excess yarn throughout the rest of the row.

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Snake Maker – Hints and Tips

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The Snake Maker pattern (previously published in Knit Now magazine) is now available from Ravelry and in the Etsy shop.

The Snake Maker allows the knitter to knit a snake to their own specifications. It includes a tail, head, tongue and left and right coiling sections. These right and left leaning sections can be knitted in different orders to create different kinds of snakes, a coiled snake, a sidewinder snake or even a straight snake, all in the same pattern. Here are some hints and tips to help you get the best results.

A Note on Gauge

When I knit toys I always use needles that are one or two sizes smaller than recommended for the yarn. You don’t have to get the gauge exactly right, but you can check it by holding your garter stitch fabric up to the light. If the gauge is tight enough you should only see pinpricks of light through your knitting.

More About Short Row Shaping

The Snake Maker pattern uses a technique called short row shaping. A short row is made when you turn your knitting before the end of a row. This means that some sections of your work will have more rows than others. The sections with more rows will arch, creating a three-dimensional shape. Each time you turn your knitting before the end of a row you create a loop of yarn under a stitch and a small hole in the fabric. So, when you knit back over a stitch that has a loop under it, you must knit into the loop at the same time as the stitch above it to close the hole. There’s a special blog post about short row shaping, with lots of photos just here.

Short rows in stockinette stitch can be tricky, if you find you have an uneven finish on your Snake, try adjusting the tension of the work before you sew it together.

I-Cord

The tail begins with some I-cord, this is a way to knit 3 stitches in the round on 2 dpns. There are many great tutorials about i-cord on the internet, my favorite two are Knitting Help, for their no-nonsense videos http://www.knittinghelp.com/videos/knitting-tips and PurlBee for her great photography http://www.purlbee.com/i-cord-tutorial/. (Meanwhile I have added i-cord to the list of things I must blog a tutorial for.)

SSSK?

That’s right, as though an SSK were not torture enough, I added another stitch into the mix. Do not be scared of this maneuver!  You only have to do it twice and the snake’s eyes can cover any unsightly stitches when you sew them on later. Remember to slip the first two stitches knitwise and the third one purlwise . If you feel that the stitch is too uneven try purling the resulting stitch through the back loop in the next row.

Stuffing

Stuff your snake as you sew up the seam in the body. This will give you a chance to get the stuffing even without trying to stuff around the coils. There’s a popular blog entry about stuffing just here, which may also help.

Mattress Stitch

The snake’s body is sewn together with mattress stitch. This is an often used seaming technique for the sides of stockinette stitch and another one that Knitting Help explains really well.

If you have any more questions about this pattern, please contact me through the blog, Etsy shop or Ravelry.

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Hug Monster – Hints and Tips

 

Princess Hug Monster – Knitted in DK

 

The Hug Monster pattern is finally finished and is available in the Natty Knits etsy shop and from Natty-Knits on Ravelry.

A Note on Gauge

When knitting toys I always use needles that are a mm size smaller than that recommended for the yarn. You don’t have to get the gauge exactly right but at least knit up some garter stitch using smaller than usual needles, until you get a fabric that you can only see pinpricks of light through.

More About Closing the Holes

The Hug Monster pattern uses a technique called Short Row Shaping. This involves turning the knitting around before you’ve knitted to the end of the row, so making the knitted fabric 3 dimensional. However, when you turn the knitting, you leave a small hole. There’s a special blog post on how to close the holes and get a smoother finish just here.

Right Side and Wrong Side

All knitted fabric has a “right” side and a “wrong” side, even garter stitch, which looks pretty much the same on both sides. When you start the first row of your knitting the right side of the work is facing you. Take a note of where your cast on tail is (it will be on the right if you use “double cast on” or the left if you use “single cast” on or “cable cast on”). That cast on tail will then tell you which is the right side. Obviously the right side should go on the outside.

M1, M1L and M1R

M1 is a method of increasing which doesn’t show any sign of the increase on the right side of the fabric. It’s important to use this increase (even though you need to some fiddly moves) so that your Monster’s hands come out smoothly.

There is a left leaning M1 (called a M1L) and a right leaning M1 (called a M1R). If the direction of the M1 is not specified in the pattern it is assumed you are being asked to knit a M1L

Firstly here’s what the experts say about the M1:

http://www.knittinghelp.com/videos/increases This excellent video resource shows how to do the M1 increase. Click on the “Knitting Increases” Link under “Videos” and scroll down to  the videos for M1L and M1R

http://wikiknitting.com/wiki/Make_One has useful step by step photos

Here’s my description of how to make a M1L increase.

Make one stitch by picking up the bar between stitches on the left needle from front to back then knitting through the back loop

And the M1R increase

Make one stitch by picking up the bar between stitches on the left needle from back to front then knitting through the front loop

How to Pick Up sts at the Edge of Garter Stitch

Picking up stitches along a garter stitch edge is not often done, so I’ll explain it here. Just as with any stitch pick up the needle is pushed through one of the holes in the knitting, then the yarn is looped around the needle and pulled back through the hole. The hole in the garter stitch fabric is not the first one from the edge, but the second one, as seen in the photo below.

blog2

How to Cast On 1 st Over a Gap

You’ll need this when making the thumbs on the monster hands.


Hold the yarn in your left hand as shown above. Take the needle in your right hand. Put the tip of the right needle under and then up and above the front strand between your thumb and middle finger, then pull the yarn to tighten.

This is called the Backward Loop Cast On or sometimes Single Cast On and it is little more than just making loops.

My top tip would be to practice this cast on method a little first so that it feels fluid and comfortable and then attempt it mid row.

Stuffing

Stuffing a large toy can be quite a challenge, especially when that toy is a big round ball. Believe me the human eye is very good at spotting when something is not quite round. Take your time over the stuffing, use small handfuls of fiberfill and start by stuffing the hands. When you stuff the body start from the middle and push the stuffing evenly towards the sides. When you have finished stuffing the monster should feel firm with no areas that collapse in when you touch them.

Sewing the Bottom Seam

The following way is an excellent method for sewing the top and bottom of garter stitch knitting, it leaves a nicely hidden seam. The basic method involves weaving the yarn in and out so that it goes directly over the existing stitches in the knitting. Here’s a diagram:

Sewing Top and Bottom of Garter Stitch
Sewing Top and Bottom of Garter Stitch

The important thing to remember when using this method is not to pull the yarn tight as this will just make a nasty mess. It’s a delicately balanced operation, but simple with practice.

Ideas for decoration

All you need is some felt and some imagination

Hug monsters can have hair, an eye patch, a dodgy mustache, buttons, a bow tie, a hat, a ray gun, a football helmet…I’ve even been asked to make one with two sets of eyes (one on the front, one on the back). The only limit is your imagination. This blog post might give you some ideas too:

https://nattyknitter.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/hug-monster-alter-egos/

Just buy some felt and go nuts.

If you have any questions or comments which are not covered either in the pattern or here, please contact me through the NattyKnits Etsy shop and I’ll do my best to help you.

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Pattern Instructions Survey Results

And the winner is…

3. Make a note about how to pick up the loops, at the start of the pattern, with reference to photos.

with 77% of you saying that you would like the instructions at the start of the pattern 23% of you wanting the instructions in the pattern and no-one thought the instructions on the blog were a good idea.

So I’ve changed all the short row patterns for sale to now include this note at the beginning:

NOTE: This pattern is knitted with Short Row Shaping, each “yarn forward and turn work” creates a loop of yarn under the stitch. When knitting back over a stitch with a loop under it, the loop must be knitted into, at the same time as the stitch above it. Please see photos 1 and 2 for how this looks, or there’s a full explanation of how to do this in this blog post: https://nattyknitter.wordpress.com/2009/07/25/advanced-short-row-shaping-how-to-close-the-holes/

And here are photo 1 and photo 2:

Thank you so much to everyone who voted. It was very enlightening for me.

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Short Row Shaping in Stockinette Stitch

demo1

I’ve already shared some short row shaping hints and tips with you, but those have always been for garter stitch fabric. It’s also possible to do short row shaping in stockinette stitch, although the results can be more uneven as you can see in the above photo and unless you are a knitter with tension like steel, you’ll need to do some adjustments.

Wrapping the Stitch

In order to turn your knitting mid row, you will need to wrap the stitch you are turning on, so that there isn’t just a big hole in your work. In stockinette stitch, the wrap goes like this:

(In a knit row) slip 1 purlwise, yarn forward, turn the work, slip 1 purlwise, yarn forward and purl

(in a purl row) slip 1 purlwise, yarn backward, turn the work, slip 1 purlwise, yarn back and knit

demo2

As you can see from this photo, that basically means that you are wrapping the yarn all around a stitch and you’ve transferred it from the left needle to the right and back again in order to do this.

Picking Up the Loops

When you knit back across a stitch you have previously turned the work on, you will need to pick up the loop made by wrapping the yarn around the stitch. Unlike with garter stitch short row shaping, where this stage is optional, stockinette stitch needs these loops picking up so that you don’t end up with little bars across your stockinette stitch vs.

These loops look different and need to be treated slightly differently in a knit or a purl row.

In a knit row, the looped around stitch will look like this:

demo3

You can see the little bar very clearly, you will need to knit into the loop and also the stitch above it at the same time, like this:

demo4

In a purl row the looped around stitch is less clear, you may have to rely on the look of the stitch, just as you get to it, it will look like this:

demo5

You will need to purl into the loop and the stitch at the same time, which will look like this:

demo6

And that’s all you need to know to make short rows in stockinette stitch.

Just a quick word of warning, the short row shaping patterns I’ve made available will only work in garter stitch. Stockinette stitch and garter stitch have completely different sized stitches plus the different methods of wrapping mean that the stitch counts will be wrong. That being said I am working on some stockinette stitch short row shaping patterns, they should be ready early next year.

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When to Fair Isle and When to Intarsia

 

fairislefinal

Fair Isle

 

 

intarsiafinal

Intarsia

 

Fair Isle and Intarsia are both techniques for knitting in more than one colour. But that’s where their similarities end.

I’ve recently been working on some colourwork designs and I thought I’d share a few tips for distinguishing which technique should be used for which type of design.

Use Fair Isle if…

The design repeats and runs along only a few rows (eg a line of Christmas trees around a hat or a celtic design around a sweater sleeve). Because Fair Isle allows you to carry the yarn along the row until it is needed, so you don’t have to rejoin a new piece of yarn every 10 stitches, which would leave a really uneven gauge with no room to adjust the tension by pulling through to neighbouring stitches in the row.

There would be a huge number of loose ends in a small space There is just no way that that 20 loose ends can be woven in neatly in a 2 inch square space.

The design calls for only a few stitches in a different colour (eg classic Fair Isle designs, like snowflakes or intricate patterns). Intarsia needs some space in which to weave in the yarn ends behind the colour of yarn used. You can’t hide two yarn ends behind a single stitch.

Use Intarsia if…

There are large blocks of colour (eg my skull and crossbones cushion cover design). There are some people who can carry the unused colour yarn behind the work, twisting every few stitches for 30/40 stitches and not have any effect show in the finished gauge. These people are brilliant and I doff my cap to them. However, most people and certainly beginners will struggle to keep the tension even enough over such a large area. This would mean that all your stitches in one colour will be one gauge and all your stitches in the other colour will be a different gauge.

You’re making anything for kids. Intarsia doesn’t leave any loops of yarn that can get stuck around small fingers.

You need to have stretch in the finished item. Intarsia work stretches just like ordinary knitting, Fair Isle does not.

Of course, in the real world, knitters very rarely restrict themselves to one technique. Within one design, you may use predominantly Intarsia technique, but switch to Fair Isle for some fiddly part of the design. The trick then is to remember which yarn is coming over and which is coming under and what happens if your Fair Isle is left leaning? But that’s a more complex discussion for another time.

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Knit Chick Raven – Hints and Tips

finished ravenThe knitting pattern for the Knit Chick – Raven is now available in the NattyKnits Etsy shop. The Knit Chick Raven pattern is designed for an intermediate level knitter, but these hints and tips could be helpful for an ambitious beginner. I’ve used some photos from coloured knit chicks to illustrate this, just because it’s much easier to see detail when the yarn isn’t black!

How to Close the Holes

Knit Chicks are made using a technique called Short Row Shaping. This involves turning the knitting around before you’ve knitted to the end of the row, so making the knitted fabric 3 dimensional. However, when you turn the knitting, you leave a small hole.  There’s a special blog post on how to close the holes and get a smoother finish just here

Right Side and Wrong Side

All knitted fabric has a “right” side and a “wrong” side, even garter stitch, which looks pretty much the same on both sides. When you start the first row of your knitting the right side of the work is facing you. Take a note of where your cast on tail is (it will be on the right if you use “double cast on” or the left if you use “single cast” on or “cable cast on”). That cast on tail will then tell you which is the right side. Obviously the right side should go on the outside.

It’s good to get the right side facing outwards for the knit chick’s body, but even more important to not get hung up on it when sewing together the tail. When you make the 3 needle bind off for the tail you will actually have the wrong side of the first half and the right side of the second half facing inwards. It’s much easier to think of this as “the second half is closest to you”.

Sewing the back seam

The following way is an excellent method for sewing the top and bottom of garter stitch knitting, it leaves a nicely hidden seam. The basic method involves weaving the yarn in and out so that it goes directly over the existing stitches in the knitting. Here’s a diagram:

Sewing Top and Bottom of Garter Stitch
Sewing Top and Bottom of Garter Stitch

The important thing to remember when using this method is not to pull the yarn tight as this will just make a nasty mess. It’s a delicately balanced operation, but simple with practice.

French Knots for Eyes

If you’re thinking of making a Knit Chick for a younger child you may want to consider using embroidered French Knots for the eyes instead of felt which may get chewed off and will shrink slightly when washed. I’ve only just learned how to do this myself, but here is the website I learned it from.

http://www.purlbee.com/embroidery-tutorial/2007/2/12/french-knot.html

Equally if you’re making the knit chick for an adult, you could use shiny black buttons.

The 3 Needle Bind Off

The 3 Needle Bind Off is a great way of making a secure and neat seam, it works very well as a seaming method for the shoulders for sweaters. Although it is bulky and creates a ridge, this ridge is actually part of the design on a Knit Chick’s tail. It’s very simple to master.

Take the two needles with stitches on them and hold them next to one another in your left hand, knit together two stitches, one from each needle and then when you have two stitches on the right hand needle cast off as you would normally by leapfrogging the first stitch over the second.

Here’s a really clear video tutorial from knittinghelp.com, scroll down to the bottom for the video of the 3 needle bind off

http://www.knittinghelp.com/videos/casting-off

Sewing on the Tail

When you’ve finished the tail there will be four yarn ends hanging from the bottom of it, two in the middle and one on either side. Weave in the end on one side and one of the middle ones then use the remaining side one to sew along the bottom of the tail and the central one to sew up the back seam of the body and half of the centre seam of the tail. The tail looks best when the ridge made by the 3 needle bind off is facing outwards at the back, like this:

Tail seen from underneath
Tail seen from underneath

Positioning the Beak

This is an easy one, there are seven sections to the knit chick’s body, find the middle section by counting in four sections from either side. There should be 4 small indentations in a square about 2/3 of the way up the body.

Beak Position

The beak should go in the middle of this square, with the seam on the beak centered and facing down.

Sewing the Seam on the Beak

The beak is very small and sewing that seam may look a little daunting, just remember that it may take a few tries to get it evenly sewn. Use Mattress Stitch, the standard method for joining two pieces of stockinette stitch fabric. This website has some fantastic clear photos to help you with this. Although, as you will only be sewing a 6 row long beak you won’t need to block it first.

http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEspring04/mattress.html

Sewing the Beak on to the Body

The beak can be sewn on to the body by oversewing the knitted stitches at the bottom of the beak so that the sewn stitches are not obvious. The two photos below show this.

sewing-beak-on11sewingbeakon22

If you have any questions or comments which are not covered either in the pattern or here, please contact me through the NattyKnits Etsy shop and I’ll do my best to help you.

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