Tag Archives: fall 2012

Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Blocking

We’re on our final blog post of the Sweater KAL series: blocking and finishing! Many knitters don’t bother blocking small projects and when they tackle a larger project they aren’t quite sure how to go about blocking. Once I started knitting sweaters and shawls (both things that really require blocking), blocking FOs (finished objects) became second nature and now I block 99% of my knitting as soon as it’s off the needles.

You can weave in your ends either before or after blocking. Some people think that it’s better to weave them in before blocking so that you aren’t messing too much with the fabric after you’ve carefully blocked your project. Other knitters say that it’s better to wait until after blocking because if you weave in the ends before blocking you won’t be able to stretch and manipulate the fabric as well. When it comes to sweaters, I haven’t found that it matters too much since you (hopefully!) won’t want to stretch it too much and there shouldn’t be overly aggressive blocking (unless it’s to open up a lace pattern). Weaving in all those ends can be a bit tedious, so some folks like to weave them in as they go. That way the only tail you have left at the end is from your bind off!

Find some wool wash:

We carry Soak at Stash…I have a large bottle like the one pictured and it’s lasted me about 8 months so far and I’ll probably get a whole year out of it. I wash a lot of handknits and use Soak for my handspun yarn as well.

You’ll want to use something gentle and ideally something that doesn’t require rinsing. I know Woolite sounds like something you should use to wash your wool handknits, but it’s a bit too harsh. You can also use a shampoo formulated for normal hair, but this requires rinsing. Personally, I like to stick to something that’s specifically for handknits and that I don’t have to worry about rinsing.

Figure out where the best place to wash your sweater is. I almost always use my top-loading washing machine. But you can also use a large mixing bowl, your sink, bathtub, or anything that will hold enough water to submerge your sweater.

Fill your container of choice with a squirt of wool wash (check bottle for specific amounts) and enough lukewarm water to fully submerge your sweater. I don’t usually measure my wool wash….but most of them instruct you to use 1 tsp per gallon of water.

Place your sweater in the water and gently push down on it so that it becomes fully submerged. If you’ve knit your sweater using wool yarn, it will want to repel the water so it needs a little encouragement to become fully submerged. Make sure you don’t agitate or rub the garment as these things could cause felting.

Walk away and leave your sweater soaking for at least 20 minutes. Don’t worry if you forget about it and 20 minutes turns into 5 hours. Not a big deal!

Carefully remove your sweater from the water, making sure that you support the entire sweater as you lift it out. It will be quite heavy, and you don’t want any pieces of the sweater to stretch under the weight of all that water!

Squeeze (don’t wring!) the excess water out. 

There are a couple of ways to get even more water out of your garment, which makes drying time faster and makes blocking a bit easier. You can roll up your sweater in several dry towels and press down on it to soak up the extra water. If you are blocking a small item such as a hat or socks, you can use a salad spinner to spin out the excess water! My personal favorite is the spin cycle on the washing machine. After I soak my sweaters (or any other knitted object or handspun yarn!), I empty the water out of the washing machine, put my sweater back in the now empty machine, and turn on the spin cycle. Only use the spin cycle for 10 seconds. I’ve tried both this and the towel method, and I think the spin cycle is far more effective. It really decreases drying time and I’ve found that there is less chance of your sweater stretching because it isn’t as weighed down with water.

Carefully carry your sweater to the place where it’s going to be blocked. If you have a mixing bowl or colander, put your sweater in there to carry it from point A to B. It’s easier to keep it all contained that way and you won’t have one part of your sweater hanging down and stretching as you walk across the house.

Lay your sweater flat to dry. You can use blocking boards, an empty bed with a towel on it, or a towel on the floor. I use large foam mats that snap together, but for sweater blocking you really don’t need anything fancy.

Block to desired measurements. I try not to fiddle with my wet sweaters too much, but I do measure across the bust to make sure that it’s close to my desired measurements. I also make sure the arms are the same length, and I often pin the cuffs just to make sure the sleeves stay the same length. If you’re knitting a cardigan make sure that each side is the same width and length.

Wait ages for it to dry. Handknit wool sweaters take forever and a day to dry. Especially in the Pacific NW during the winter. Try and be patient and wait for it to be COMPLETELY dry before doing too much with it. If the back seems really wet still, flip it over carefully.

Weave in your ends if you haven’t already! There are many different ways you can weave in your ends and I came across this fantastic post that discusses many techniques and has great pictures.

Wear your sweater proudly! 

We obviously didn’t cover everything that could possibly come up during your sweater knitting process, but I hope I’ve provided you all with some good basics to get your started!

Have you all picked your sweater patterns yet? The official cast-on for the KAL is next Wednesday September 19th! Pop into our Fall KAL thread in the Stash Ravery group and let us know what sweater pattern you’ve chosen! Please don’t hesitate to ask if you have questions or need advice! We’re happy to help.

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL: Swatching

Most knitters have strong opinions on today’s subject: Swatching. They love it, they hate it, some always swatch, some never.

I think you’d find that most knitters fall into one of three categories:

1) The Serial Swatchers: these folks swatch for every project they knit no matter how large or small. They probably have a whole basket full of pretty swatches at home.

2) The “It Depends on the Project” Swatchers: these are knitters who swatch for certain projects, but not others. I definitely fall into this category. I ALWAYS swatch for sweaters, but rarely for small accessory projects (this has, of course, come back to bite me in the you know what on more than one occasion. ahem).

3) The Non-Swatchers: the category of knitters who NEVER swatch. For anything. Some people like to throw caution to the wind and just take their chances.

For sweater knitting, my personal rule is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS (did I say always?) swatch. Presumably, you’re investing a large amount of time and money into a hand knit sweater and you want it to fit. Sure, there are other things you’re going to want to consider and choose to ensure you get the right fit, but gauge is the first step.

I’m going to take you through the process I use when swatching. It’s not the only way, but it’s what works for me!

Look at your pattern. Somewhere on the first page or two there will be a section that gives the materials, gauge and suggested needle size(s). Read the gauge CAREFULLY. Is the gauge in stockinette stitch? Is it in some other stitch pattern? You’ll want to knit your swatch in whatever stitch the pattern specifies. For example, if you’re knitting the Rocky Coast Cardigan you’ll want to swatch in the cable pattern.

Choose how you’re going to knit your swatch. Is the sweater mostly knit in the round or is it knit flat? If the pattern is knit in the round, you should swatch in the round. Unless you’re 100% sure that your gauge is the same flat as it is in the round, it’s really essential that you swatch in the round.

Let’s take a minute and talk about swatching in the round.

The swatch on the left was knit “flat” (stay with me here, I’ll explain in a second) and the one on the right was knit as a small circumference using magic loop. The problem with the one on the right is that it’s really too small around to effectively measure gauge over 4 inches. You could just make it larger, but you’d use a LOT more yarn in order to make it a full 8 or 9 inches around and it would take longer. So…there’s a trick you can use to swatch in the round, but have it be a flat swatch! First: Using a circular needle (preferably the one you’re going to use for your sweater) cast-on enough stitches for 5″ or so (so, if your gauge is 20 sts/4inches, CO at least 25 sts). Knit to the end of the first row. When you reach the end, slide your knitting to the other end of the circular needle…do not turn your work. Your working yarn will now be at the wrong end (the left). Pull a length of yarn behind your knitting (leave enough so your swatch will sit flat) and knit another row. Continue in this manner until your swatch measures 5″ tall!

Choose the needles you’re most likely to use for your sweater. Many knitters achieve different gauge on different types of needles. If you’re planning on knitting with bamboo, swatch with bamboo. If you’re going to use your Addi interchangeables, swatch with those.

Are you a tight knitter or loose knitter? If you’re typically a tight knitter, you may want to swatch with a size up from what the pattern suggests. Loose knitter? Start with a size down. The needle recommendation in the pattern is just that. A recommendation. Try not to get caught up in using the same needle size as the designer.

Cast on for your swatch! Like I mentioned above, make sure you cast-on some extra stitches so that you have about 5 inches of fabric (or even more, if you’d like) to work with. You want to be able to comfortably measure your gauge without using the stitches on the edges. I also like to do a garter stitch border on my stockinette swatches (do 3 or 4 rows of garter stitch at the top and bottom as well as 3 stitches of garter stitch on each side) so that they lay flat, which makes it easier to measure your gauge. So, if your pattern gauge is 20 sts over 4 inches, cast on 30. You’ll have a few extra for measuring ease and 6 stitches for a garter stitch edge (3 on each side).

Continue your swatch for at least 5 inches. Bind off.

Measure your gauge. I like to measure my gauge before and after blocking so that you know what to expect when you’re actually working on your sweater.  Use a ruler, stitch counting frame (we have these at the shop!), tape measure or other gauge measuring tool. Count the number of stitches you have over 4 inches as well as the number of rows. Write these numbers down.

Each little “V” represents ONE stitch. For row gauge, flip your measuring device 90 degrees so it runs parallel to one row of stitches.

Think about how you’re going to wash your finished garment? Will you soak it and lay it flat to dry? Is it machine washable? Will you be putting it in the dryer?

Wash your swatch. I usually just soak mine with a little bit of wool wash and room temperature water for 20 minutes in a mixing bowl. You can use your sink or whatever you have handy. If you’re going to machine wash your finished sweater, toss that swatch in the washing machine. Squeeze the water out of your swatch…you can take up the excess water with a towel if it’s really dripping.

Dry your swatch. If you’ll be laying your sweater flat to dry, do the same with your swatch. I usually pin the corners very lightly just to help it keep it’s shape and prevent it from rolling. Machine drying your sweater? Throw that swatch in the dryer.

Next Wednesday we’ll talk about measuring your gauge on your finished swatch and what to do if it doesn’t match the pattern gauge!

Before I go….a couple more swatching tips and tricks:

  • If you want to swatch with more than one size needle, go ahead and do it all on one swatch! Put a garter stitch ridge when you switch needle sizes. (see photo above).
  • Want to swatch with multiple needles but don’t want to lose track of what size needle you used? Make eyelet holes that correspond to your needle size. For example, if you’re using a US size 6, make 6 eyelets by doing [YO (yarn-over) K2TOG (knit 2 together)] 6 times:

  • Use Ravelry to keep track of what needle size and brand of needles you’re using to swatch. That way if you swatch and then move onto another project for a while, you can go look up exactly what you used when you come back to start the sweater.

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Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting: Hannah Fettig Sweater KAL

It’s time to start thinking about our next Knit-A-Long, and what says Fall better than a cozy wool sweater?! Instead of choosing one pattern to knit, we’ve decided to highlight designer Hannah Fettig (aka Knitbot). Hannah Fettig is known for her classic sweater designs that are knit in one piece (no seaming!), which is ideal for first-time and veteran sweater knitters alike.

All photos from Hannah Fettig’s pattern pages on ravlery

This KAL is going to have some extra goodies including a series of blog posts with advice on everything sweater knitting! Beginning August 20th, we’ll have 2 blog posts per week to guide you through the sweater knitting process. Be on the lookout for the following blog posts:

  • Choosing a Pattern and Yarn
  • Swatching
  • Deciphering Your Swatch and Choosing a Sweater Size
  • Tips for Knitting a Sweater with Hand-dyed Yarn
  • Making Adjustments on the Fly
  • Tips and Tricks for Sleeves
  • Seaming – hardly any of Hannah Fettig’s patterns require seaming, but we’ll discuss it anyway!
  • Blocking

Think of these blog posts as a free knitting class on making a well-fitting sweater that you love.

A little leery of making your first sweater? Fear not, Hannah’s patterns are easy to follow and there’s surely something for everyone in her collection of patterns. The Stash Enhancers will be happy to help you pick a pattern that will match your skill level. There are even several pint-sized versions of her designs, most notably the Coastal Kids patterns, for the little ones in your life.

The Fall in Love with Sweater Knitting KAL will run from Wednesday September 19th-Wednesday December 12th to give you plenty of time to complete your sweater! The entire blog post series will be finished the week before the kick-off, so you’ll have the resources you need to cast-on right away!

KAL participants will receive 15% off yarn purchased for the knit-a-long between August 22nd and September 19th! Stop on in, browse through the Hannah Fettig patterns, and choose some gorgeous yarn to inspire your fall knitting!

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New for Fall: The Fibre Company

We are thrilled to welcome The Fibre Company to the Stash family.  Distributed by Kelbourne Woolens, this yarn is the beautiful result of the efforts of Kate Gagnon Osborn + Courtney Kelley.  You may know them from their individual knitwear designs and book collaboration, Vintage Modern Knits.

About the yarn:

Focusing on interesting blends of natural fibers, the unique yarns are all carefully developed to achieve the perfect combination of softness and structure. The beautiful, saturated and sophisticated colors in the lines are all kettle dyed to create a subtle variation in tone and color.

We are bringing in 4 sumptuous yarns for fall, and hooray!  3 of them are already in the shop and ready to be knit up into something warm and soft.

Canopy Fingering

50% baby alpaca + 30% merino + 20% viscose bamboo

Acadia DK

60% merino + 20% baby alpaca + 20% silk

Road to China Worsted

65% baby alpaca + 15% silk + 10% camel + 10% cashmere

Tundra Bulky *coming soon!*

60% baby alpaca, 30% merino wool + 10% silk

Arctic Circle Cowl in Tundra
photo from http://www.kelbournewoolens.com/blog


All of these yarns are next-to-skin soft and would be excellent choices for accessories and sweaters alike.  We have paired each yarn with a range of beautiful patterns to inspire you. You simply must stop into the shop to touch and nuzzle these yarns for yourself!

 

Leave a comment and tell us: which of these yarns are you dreaming of stitching up this fall?

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