Monday, October 20, 2014

Math For Knitters: Upcoming classes, what do you want to know?

Let's just say... hypothetically... that I was working on a class to be delivered online (no, not video, something slightly different) on Math For Knitters.

So, let's say that you signed up for this class. What questions would you want answered? What math problems do you run into with your knitting?

Things I plan to cover in the first half of this hypothetical class:
  • metric/imperial conversions - and why they matter!
  • yardage and making yarn substitutions
  • "increase evenly across"
  • "decrease evenly across"
  • 'reversing shapings' and 'at the same time' and how to handle them
  • bonus topics: estimating yarn usage, and why sock knitters love a digital scale
And in the second half of the class, I want to cover these sorts of things:
  • gauge and what it's all about and why it matters; how to check it and what to do if you're off
  • gauge adjustments - why and how and when; and when not to
  • what if you can't match gauge for a garment - easy solutions!
  • garment alterations and adjustments
    • body length and shaping
    • sleeve length and shaping
    • more complex adjustments
What else? What numbers issues do you need help with? Let me know in the comments below.

I promise I'll announce the details of these classes as soon as I can.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

True Story

Have you seen this gorgeous piece from Laura's new book?

It's Noro. Lovely.

It's a ball of Noro that Laura bought at Lettuce Knit when she was visiting a three or four years ago.

Laura stayed overnight with us, since we live near the shop.

If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know that Dexter is a mischievous dog. Dexter likes to get into things. Dexter likes to steal things. In particular, Dexter seems to really like yarn.

Laura had gone out for a walk, and left the door to our spare room slightly ajar. And she'd left a ball of yarn on the bed.

You can imagine what happened next, I am sure. We manage to wrestle the Noro away from him, untangle it and wipe off most of the slobber.

When Laura was showing me the photos from the book designs, she asked if I recognized the yarn for this particular scarf... Lesson learned: even a good chewing from a bad dog can't diminish the natural beauty of Noro yarns.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Knockout Knits

Laura Nelkin and I first met when I edited a pattern of hers for Knitty.

If you've been published by a magazine, you'll know that the technical editing process is... rigorous. It's not just about the math of a pattern, but it's also about the style sheet. Each publication has its own way of doing things: standard abbreviations, what's capitalized and not, which brackets and where and how.

And I'm picky. You have to be, to be a technical editor.

I know that some designers find the technical editor's attention to detail rather absurd. (In fact, I remember the first time a pattern of mine was edited... I couldn't believe the stuff that I was being asked about, I couldn't believe that the style of brackets could matter quite so much.)

But as Knitty's lead Tech Editor, I care about these details very much. And I ask a lot of questions. I am sure that some designers find the process challenging. I've been told that I'm tough.

Not Laura, though. Laura is a New Yorker. She's just as tough. And she seemed to appreciate my way of doing things.

Not only did my approach not scare her off, it seemed to have the opposite effect. She asked me to tech edit some of her non-Knitty work.

And last year, she emailed to ask if I could set aside "a chunk" of time in my calendar for her. "How big a chunk?"... "Oh, about book-sized."

I will neither confirm nor deny that I squeed with joy for her. Laura is a deeply gifted designer - she creates truly beautiful and original and interesting lace pieces, jewellery and accessories - and I was over the moon to hear she was working on a book.

And that book, Knockout Knits, has just been released. Full of her trademark gorgeous designs, it's a book of accessories for knitters of all levels. There's some lace, some beads, and lots of texture. There's everyday pieces...

little luxuries

and truly special knits.

The approach of the book is fantastic: it delves deep into some specific stitches and techniques - wrapped stitches, lace and beads - providing tutorials and all the guidance you need to work every project. There are projects for all levels of knitter, all levels of challenge, most using only one or two skeins. She begins at the very beginning, and helps knitters build skills as they go.

And at the end, you've got truly beautiful work to be proud of.

I was honoured and thrilled to work with Laura on it, as her technical editor. And I only made her cry once, apparently...

Monday, October 13, 2014

New (Old) Pattern: Northern Lights Socks

A long time ago, in my early days of sock designing experiments, back when I only had two of the Barbara Walker Books, I fell in love with a cable pattern.

And this sock resulted. It's been languishing in the bottom of my sock drawer for some time, the pattern never really properly published.

From my original notes on the design...
These socks were inspired by the winter night sky in the prairies. The cables swoop across the socks like the Northern Lights swoop across the sky, and the yarn colour perfectly captures a cold, sparkling twilight. The Figure 8 Cable was inspired by my first sun dog sighting – a fascinating column of flares in the sky.

Shortly after we moved to Canada, we spent a short time living in Saskatchewan, over a winter. What they say about the sky there is totally true: it really does go on forever, the colors are amazing, and unbelievable things happen. I spent a lot of time looking up. I saw sunshine so bright it hurt and blinding blues like I'd never experienced before. We watched a tornado build and form and cross the city. We were mesmerized by the magic of the Northern Lights. And we saw a sun-dog: a vertical light flares, often like rainbows, caused by the sun reflecting off the ice crystals in the air. The sky has its own personality, in the prairies. The sky is a character in your daily life.

Now I live in downtown Toronto; I don't get to see the sky that often -- too many buildings in the way. So I look at my socks instead.

With some keen support from Keri and the excellent photography of Gillian Martin, I've got my act together. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that more than five years later, the yarn I used is still available: Shelridge Farms Ultra Soft Touch Heather. I love this yarn: it's a substantial fingering weight, with a nice wooly hand, and  a touch of nylon for strength. The colorway, Opal, screamed winter sky to me.

The cable is juicy but not too challenging. As is usual, the pattern is written to be worked on DPNs, Magic Loop or 2 Circulars, as you prefer. Two women's sizes, foot length entirely adjustable. The cable patterns are charted.

Available from Ravelry.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Visit to Burlington, Roti Lunch, a Couple of Classes

Saturday October 18th I'm visiting the lovely shop Spun Fibre Arts in Burlington, Ontario.

There are two classes on the schedule: a three-hour mitten bootcamp. Suitable for even the newest knitters, this classes teaches everything you know to make mittens for your entire family. Experience knitting in the round not required.  Winter is coming, you know...

Mittens are also great for the upcoming gift-giving season...

Speaking of gift-giving, the second class is my Knitting with Wire workshop: design and make your own one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces. Suitable for knitters of all levels - even if you only learned to knit last week - this hands-on workshop allows you to play with some new techniques and materials.

I hope to see you there!

Naturally, I will also be having a roti lunch, which is an important part of my trips to Spun.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Did you contact me about not being able to post a comment on my blog?

I can't, for the life of me, find your contact info. Please get in touch? kate at wise hilda knits dot com.

Thank you!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sock Book Giveaway winner

Comment number 47 is from Jennifer in Ohio! Congratulations!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Excellent new sock book: Lara Neel's Sock Architecture

Last year, I was asked to do a technical consult with Lara Neel on her sock book manuscript. I was off on a trip to tape my Craftsy class, so I printed out the draft, found my favourite manuscript-reviewing pen, and packed it into my carry-on luggage.

Now, without bragging, I do think I know a bit about sock knitting. I've been knitting socks for twenty years; I've read a lot of sock knitting books, and I've edited a fair number of sock patterns and books. And it was clear, by the time I got to the third page, that Lara knew a lot more about it than I did!

The book is a fantastic exploration of heel and toe constructions, both top down and toe up. She dives deep into the construction details and the fit for each, providing not only examples of how to use them, but also the math that allows you to adapt them for your own designs.

If you're not feeling mathematically inclined, Lara's designed a range of patterns that use these constructions. There's socks plain and fancy, for all sorts of fits and sock-knitting tastes. Many of the designs have two versions: one toe-up, one top-down. You might just find a new favourite go-to sock pattern....

Along the way, Lara shares an awful lot of wisdom and tips on sock knitting, construction and fit. I love the way she thinks: she understands that sock fit is about more than foot length, or indeed foot circumference, and she approaches each construction as a template that you can apply to your socks, and your own feet.

And the illustrations are generous, detailed, and very helpful. This step-by-step breakdown of the Afterthought Gusset heel construction is worth the price of the book, in my opinion...

Lara is kindly giving away a copy of the book to my readers... to win, leave a comment on this post before Saturday September 27th midnight EST, making sure I know how to get in touch with you. Leave your Ravelry name, or an email address, or some other way to find you.

And if you can't wait, buy the book here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Vogue Knitting Live NYC, January 16-18 2015.

My favourite city in the world, doing my favourite thing in the world, in the month of my birthday. Perfect.

I'm teaching a range of socky classes...
  • DPNs, Magic Loop and 2 Circs: Working in the Round bootcamp
  • Going My Way: Work Socks the Way You want
  • Heels and Toes
  • Introduction to Sock Pattern Design
  • Toe Up Socks 101
  • Socks for Absolute Beginners
Come, join me! Students will get bonus marks for bringing me a black and white cookie as a birthday present... ;-)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Free Pattern: The Sick Day Shawl

It's that time of year: colds and flu bugs are starting to go around. The air is full of sneezing and sniffling and coughing.

I caught an early cold last week, and spent a day as the doctor ordered: on the sofa, with several pots of tea and a big box of Kleenex. I planned to luxuriate in some relaxing knitting and TV.

The TV decision was easy: I'm partway through watching MI-5 (a.k.a. Spooks) on Netflix. This is a 10-season English program feature attractive spies and ridiculous international adventures. Perfect.

The bigger question was what knitting? I've been working on a bunch of design projects of late, and I knew I wasn't in the mood to for anything complicated. But equally, with a full day stretching out ahead of me, I also knew I'd have time to really dig into a project. Plain socks seemed too dull.

Ever since I completed Rosetta Tharpe, I've been noodling on the idea of a Half-Pi shawl - a semi-circular shawl using the same basic construction. I'd got the math partially worked out, and so before the decongestant properly kicked in, I did a bit of number crunching and planning. And then I went diving in the stash.

(Because going yarn shopping while contagious with a cold seems impolite.)

I found a couple of skeins of Briggs and Little Regal. This is a great Canadian yarn, a classic heavy worsted, with a decent yardage (250yds per skein) and a nice crisp, wooly hand.

And so the Sick Day Shawl was born. By the end of the first day, I had a full skein knitted up. (Seriously, I did nothing else that day. We had leftovers for dinner, and I didn't have any urgent work obligations.)

Even with just that single skein, I got a good sized shawl...

Over the next couple of days, I spent a bit more time, and dug into the second skein.

And by Friday night, I had converted about 450yds of an abandoned heavy worsted from the bottom of my stash into the Sick Day Shawl.

Ideal for that day at home in front of the TV. Ideal for knitting when you're not up for much of a challenge, but not totally discombobulated with medication. No special yarn requirements: use whatever you've got in the stash. 450yds of anything in the worsted-y aran-y sort of category (a 4 or a 5, if you go that way). Two skeins of Cascade 220. (Who doesn't have 2 skeins of Cascade 220 kicking around?) A skein of Cascade Eco would be great. Double-strand some sock yarn! Do you have a bunch of handspun that needs using up? Use whatever needles you have on hand.

The design is entirely forgiving of messed-up stitch counts. Got the wrong number? Fix it on the following row. And it's flexible, too, for how far you go. Got more time and yarn? Just keep working to make it bigger. Feeling better? Stop sooner.

It's good for you, too: the knitting is interesting enough that you'll stay put on the sofa, resting as you're supposed to.

And next time you're feeling under the weather, you've got something warm and comfy to snuggle with.

Free pattern on Ravelry here. Thanks to Gillian Martin for the outstanding photos.

Pattern will be free until the end of September, but after that I'll be charging for it - I've got to replenish my Kleenex supplies.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

The Teaching Season Begins

I'm a year-round knitter, but it's true that the majority of events and teaching take place in the fall and winter.

And boy, I'm going to be busy. Can't wait.

Maybe I'm going to be teaching at an event near you? Take a look at my schedule - just to your left!

And remember, if you can't come and take one of my classes in person, I have online classes, too:
Learn to Knit
Magic Socks
Fixing Mistakes
Gapless Gussets
Sizing and Fit

Look a little further down on the left for links.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

On Holding of Hands and Not

This question on Twitter raised my blood pressure a bit today. Mostly in the good way... ;-).

This "debate" comes up reasonably often. The crux of it is this: Older patterns used to be more terse (concise?), and newer ones give more detail. Are we enabling knitters to be lazy/not encouraging thinking for themselves/hampering learning/etc. by giving that extra detail?

For example, you might see in an older pattern an instruction like:
Decrease 1 st each end of every foll alt row 10 times, then every 4th row 12 times.
There's nothing wrong with the first formulation, but it requires a fair bit of knowledge on the pattern of the knitter. What decrease to use, where to place them, and to be comfortable keeping track of the various rows, including knowing what we mean by "foll alt row".

A more "modern" pattern would be more likely to spell it out, e.g.
Next row, decrease (RS): K1, ssk, k to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1. 2 sts decreased.
Follow row (WS): Purl.
Repeat the last 2 rows 9 more times.
Work a decrease row followed by three even rows.
Repeat the last four rows 11 more times.
Both are equally correct, but they are very different.

I tend to tell designers that if they aren't certain a knitter will do it the way they want, or if it matters what decrease is used and where it's placed, then it's better to spell it out.

In my experience, it's mostly designers asking the question. I can see where they are coming from: it's much easier to write a pattern in that concise/terse way, absolutely. And as a designer, you've likely got the skill level to be comfortable with the concise version so you might not understand the need for the more explicit version.

But we're not all designers. We're not all experienced knitters. And we don't all innately know how to read and follow patterns. The traditional, concise pattern format isn't very friendly to newer knitters. Why not give knitters a bit of a helping hand?

I liked this answer to the question:
My answer to Rohn was in two tweets, since I had so much to say:
I've discussed this with Donna Druchunas on a couple of occasions, and she's very much a fan of the more concise style. Her position is that hand-holding can get ridiculous... that it shouldn't get to the point where every pattern is its own tutorial, and every pattern has to explain everything right from casting on. I agree with her on that point! But I do feel that there's room to help - to provide a helping hand for those who are just getting started, or who want it.

My answer is that we should be using some sort of skill level/techniques required/experience level required indicator in the pattern, and use that as a guide to how we write our patterns. If you want to write in the concise way, just tell people up front that you're expecting pattern reading experience! And if you to target your pattern to less experienced knitters, write in a more explicit manner, and then market it as such. Knitters will thank you.

After all, we all need a helping hand at first - let's offer that help to those who want it.

UPDATE: Angela (of the tweet above) has written a terrific blog post on this topic, from the end-user's perspective. Read it.


I wonder if this question wasn't prompted by this tweet of mine, from a little earlier...
This was in response to a great conversation I was having with a designer about how to represent some instructions in her patterns... I asked a question about why she chose to give gauge information over 1 inch, rather than four. Her reply was, in essence, "well, I assume most knitters know you have to check it over more than just one inch".

For her patterns, which are mostly aimed at more experienced knitters, this is probably ok. But my reply to her was simple: consider the experience level of your target knitter. (Although there's a separate discussion here to be had about going with commonly-used form. My biggest issue with specifying gauge over anything other than 4 inches, which is what most patterns and yarns do, is that it can be misread or confuse. If there's a commonly-used form, I like to use it. Makes it easier on everyone, IMHO.)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

By Popular Request: Heirloom Baby Bonnet in Multiple Sizes

Back in 2010, I received a rather charming design commission: to create a pattern from a well-loved baby bonnet.

I did it, sized to match the original bonnet, which was about a 3-month size.

Since then, I've received many requests to grade the pattern to multiple sizes... and this summer, I've finally had a chance to do it. It now has five sizes: 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year and 2 years. If you've already purchased the pattern through Ravelry or Patternfish, you'll receive the new version automatically.

If you bought a physical copy, email me at kate at wisehildaknits dot com.

And if you had been holding off buying it because it didn't have the size you need: now's the time! Ravelry & Patternfish.

I've got a baby shower to attend next weekend: I think I know what I'll be making...

(Thanks to Keri W. for the pictures of her lovely J, who is now somewhat more grown-up, but remains just as cute.)

Perhaps the next chance I get I'll grade this up to adult sizes... I've heard they are forecasting a bad winter... this might be just the thing I need.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Teaching Schedule for Fall/Winter

Most Tuesdays and Thursdays you can find me at Lettuce Knit.
Most Wednesdays and Saturdays (and the odd Sunday) you can find me at The Purple Purl.

September 18-21, Bayview Wildwood Resort, Ontario

October 4-5, Vancouver B.C.
Knit City 2014
Classes are Custom Fit Socks, Pattern Writing, Finishing and the Pi Shawl.

October 18th, Burlington Ontario
Spun Fibre Arts: classes TBA.

November 15 & 16, Waterloo Ontario

December 13, Port Credit, Ontario
Linda's Craftique: classes TBA.

January 16-18, New York, NY
Vogue Knitting Live: classes TBA.

April 16-19, 2015: Loveland, CO
Interweave Yarn Fest: classes TBA.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Introducing: Rosetta Tharpe

I'd like to introduce to you to Rosetta Tharpe.

Ms. Tharpe is not well known, but those who do know her call her the Godmother of Rock & Roll. Born in 1915, she was a gospel performer of great sophistication and skill, but also had rather a way with a guitar.

You can read more about her here.

This shawl is like Ms. Tharpe – classic in origin and inspiration, drawing on simple elements, but coming together in way that’s both elegant and bad-ass at the same time.

It’s based on the Pi shaping: starts at the center with nine stitches, with an increase round to double the stitch count every so often. The edging stitch pattern is flexible: work until you’ve run out of yarn, or the shawl is the size you want, or you just can’t take it anymore and want to wear the thing.

The project requires only basic lace knitting skills, and being worked in the round, there’s none (well, ok, very little) of that pesky purling. The only tricky bit is the start: you begin with a small round, but that’s over quickly.

I used indigodragonfly's amazing Uber MerGoat Sport merino/cashmere/nylon blend for any easy-care, weighty piece that knits up faster (and more spectacularly) than laceweight; and the weight of the yarn gives wonderful drape to the piece. The colorway is "Cumberbacchanal. Of course.

The pattern is available on Ravelry now, and as of Saturday, Kim will be making kits available starting 11am, Saturday August 16th. Order here! There will be two choices of yarn - the Uber MerGoat Sport, if you've got a bit of money saved up, and a more budget-friendly option, SuperBaa DK.

We'll also be hosting a Knit-Along in Kim's Ravelry group.

Never made a Pi shawl? This pattern is a great place to start.

Wear Ms. Tharpe folded over your shoulders like a triangle,

...or fully open for more drama and coverage. The fabric is weighty enough and the piece big enough that it stays very nicely in place.

A million thanks to Gillian Martin for her amazing photography.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Fair Isle Workshop at WEBS

A couple of weeks ago I made a trip on a tiny plane (seriously tiny... 18 seats)...

Tiny plane is tiny.
to Northhampton Massachusetts, to WEBS.

WEBS is a crafter's mecca. It's a giant warehouse-sized yarn shop. They cater to knitters and crocheters and weavers and spinners and they have everything. They cater to projects - and pocketbooks - large and small.

It's about 2 1/2 hours west of Boston, about three hours north of NYC, and absolutely a destination.

And I nearly fell off my chair when they emailed me out of the blue to ask me to go and teach. It turns out that they like my first book - a lot! they recommend it in many of their classes! -  and they wanted to meet me in person.

Of course I went.

Readers, I was so overwhelmed that I utterly failed you on the photos front. I took precisely one photo of the shop, and it's terrible.

Terrible photo is terrible.
However, it should give you a sense of the size of the place. That's just ONE CORNER of the main shop. There's an even larger warehousey area in the back, with sale yarns and all sorts of goodies.

I taught three classes - including my favourite Finishing - and had a fantastic time. The students were smart and fun and engaged and wonderful people.

But I think I had the most fun in the Fair Isle workshop... a full day, all about Fair Isle design and technique, which provides students the tools, skills and techniques to design their own Fair Isle sampler mitts.

I give a little bit of history.

We practice techniques.

And then we play with patterns.

Student Eileen F. designed and finished this one, in record time:

I also had a lovely time in Northampton. I made some new friends, and enjoyed all sorts of foodie fun in a pretty New England college town.

These guys know their stuff.

Delicious, although sadly the promised "Kate the Great" Russian Imperial Stout was unavailable.

And it's close enough to NYC to be able to find these... 
Thanks to Amy & the rest of the WEBS team for taking such good care of me!

I'm looking forward to a possible return visit, next year... Stay tuned...

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.