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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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Stuff about Stuffing (or how to stuff your knitted toys)


Toy knitters know how easy it is for stuffing to go wrong, you may have unevenly stuffed a lumpy llama or your dinosaur looks deflated because you couldn’t get the stuffing into the tail. If you get frustrated with fiberfill, here are some tips to help you get a soft and even finish to your stuffing.

Before You Even Start Knitting!

Check your gauge. When I make toys I always knit with needles that are a few sizes smaller than recommended for the yarn. Smaller needles means a good tight gauge that won’t stretch and look messy when it’s stuffed.

Choose the right stuffing for the job. If you’re knitting something washable,  use a polyester stuffing. Pure wool batting (just like any other kind of pure wool fiber) will shrink and felt when it gets wet which means the toy will lose it’s shape and it’s softness. Alternatively, you may want a fully woolly look, either for a Waldorf toy or to get an organic feel to your knitted holiday decorations, in either of these cases wool batting or Kapok would be a great choice.

I’ve found that if a toy is going to be wet felted, then polyester fiberfill offers great support. The natural fiber knitting will shrink, but the stuffing won’t which helps the toy to retain it’s shape.

Softly Softly

Everyone wants their toys to be soft, but if there’s too much stuffing in the toy it can get quite hard. Here’s how to avoid over stuffing.

Get a small handful of stuffing, hold it lightly and if necessary pull the fibers apart with your fingers before you put it into the toy.

As you get more stuffing into the toy, gently push what is already in there to the edges and put new stuffing into the middle. This will help to keep the stuffing even.

If you feel the stuffing getting lumpy you can always pull it out and start again. Don’t be frightened of do-overs.

Those Hard to Reach Places

Knitted toys often have long thin parts like tails or necks that are hard to reach to the bottom of, use these techniques to help you evenly distribute the stuffing.

The knitting needle is your friend. Push small amounts of stuffing in with the blunt end, then use the sharp end to break up any big clumps.

Stuff before you sew. Sometimes the only way to get the stuffing in the right place is to put it in there before you sew the toy together. The photo at the top of the page shows a ring shape, pre-stuffed and ready to sew. You might also consider stuffing as you sew, so that the stuffing is never far from the opening.

Sometimes a knitted piece is so small it can be stuffed with the Cast On or Bind Off yarn tail. Check to see if this little re-purposing trick will work before reaching for a tiny amount of stuffing.

Knitting is Shatterproof

If you’ve filled a toy with stuffing, sewn it together and it looks a little lopsided, don’t despair. Your knitted toy should be childproof, so it can definitely stand up to you pulling the stuffing around from outside the toy. This is particularly worth remembering after you’ve wet felted a toy, you can pull the stuffing fibers apart without opening any seams.

Do you have any tried or tested stuffing methods? Or a preferred type of stuffing? If you have any stuffing tips of your own, please feel free to share them.

(This post was originally blogged by me in September 2011)

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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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Intarsia – I hardly know her!

Do you remember how I said I could do colour work whilst standing on my head and whistling dixie? It turns out that this is not so true. It doesn’t confuse me but I have terrible tension issues. Here’s a photo of a test swatch I just did. Messy isn’t it?

Messy Jolly Roger Too much rouching and loose stitches and what’s going on behind his nose (hole)?

So I decided to turn to the internet for help and advice. And here’s what I learned.

The Natty Knitter’s Top Tips for Intarsia

1. Learn how to make centre 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.

2. 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. In my newer swatch I’ve been knotting new bobbins onto the yarn from the previous stitch. It gives you something to pull against when you’re trying to establish tension.

3. 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.

There’s a lot more I have to learn, I’m really struggling with the concept of not wrapping together the yarn on the left slanting diagonals, for example. But I already feel as though I’ve made some improvements and the new swatch (although only half done) is looking a lot neater. I’ll show you when it’s finished.

If you’re looking for the Doctor Who Monster Giveaway it’s on the next post down.

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