Fan the Flames Knitalong—Week 3: Time for the Perfect Finish: Binding Off, Fastening Off & Blocking

By Patty Lyons

I’m so glad we had this time together — just to have a laugh or sing a song … anyone, anyone? OK, for those of you not old enough to remember The Carol Burnett Show, that’s my way of saying it’s time for our KAL to come to a close!

We’ve covered a lot of ground! Last week, we learned how to fix mistakes, but there are still three important steps left: binding off, fastening off and blocking.

Just as we needed a special cast-on to travel around the path of our lace, we also need a special bind-off. There are many bind-offs that will give you a bit more room, but here’s one of my favorites.

Once we bind off, we need to finish off in a special way for an in-the-round project. First let’s talk about the last stitch. I’m not a fan of stringing your yarn tail through the last stitch, because that actually creates an extra stitch. It sticks out like a little lump. When I’m down to my last stitch of a bind off, here’s what you do:

Cut your yarn,

Cut your yarn,

Lift up on your needle, pulling the last stitch up until the cut yarn comes out.

Lift up on your needle, pulling the last stitch up until the cut yarn comes out.

Here, you can see that the final bound-off stitches are higher than the beginning of your round. That’s because when you work in the round, you are really working in spirals (think of a slinky), so we have to smooth down the gap.

Here, you can see that the final bound-off stitches are higher than the beginning of your round. That’s because when you work in the round, you are really working in spirals (think of a slinky), so we have to smooth down the gap.

Start by putting the yarn tail on a tapestry needle and pulling it through the base of the braid of the first bound-off stitch. You’ve now created 1/2 a stitch.

Start by putting the yarn tail on a tapestry needle and pulling it through the base of the braid of the first bound-off stitch. You’ve now created 1/2 a stitch.

Finish off the stitch by inserting the needle into the last bound-off stitch.

Finish off the stitch by inserting the needle into the last bound-off stitch.

Ta-da! Your newly created “stitch” closes the gap between the first bound-off stitch and the last bound-off stitch.

Ta-da! Your newly created “stitch” closes the gap between the first bound-off stitch and the last bound-off stitch.

Now you can weave in the end on the wrong side of the cowl by going in and out of the purl bumps.

Now you can weave in the end on the wrong side of the cowl by going in and out of the purl bumps.

Now that your little beauty is finished, it’s time to really finish. And that’s where blocking comes in!

The nice thing about blocking is that you can control the shaping.

The nice thing about blocking is that you can control the shaping.

On this cowl I decided I wanted the base to be blocked a bit wider so it would drape down over my shoulders, so I’ve pinned out the base to be wider. Here I am spraying the whole piece with water.  I’ll gently tap that water in and allow it to dry completely. Once one side is dry, I can flip it over and do the same thing on the other side.

Blocking also helps you finish off the shaping of the lace. Here you can see the points of the flame stitches pulled up and pinned.

Blocking also helps you finish off the shaping of the lace. Here you can see the points of the flame stitches pulled up and pinned.

Once it’s totally dry, you can remove the pins and the shape will hold! Isn’t wool an amazing thing!

Once it’s totally dry, you can remove the pins and the shape will hold! Isn’t wool an amazing thing!

Here’s my Zara version of the cowl blocked so the sides remained straight up and down.

Here’s the Tahki Zara version of the cowl blocked so the sides remained straight up and down.

You decide!

At the end of the day it’s ALL your decision. I hope this knitalong has demonstrated just how many decisions we knitters are free to make. The pattern is just our jumping-off point, but every step of the way, from our yarn choice, our needle choice, our cast-on method, how we create our stitches, our bind-off, blocking … it’s all up to us! And really, isn’t that great?

Happy knitting and embrace the knitter’s decisions. It’s what makes our knitting OURS!

Patty

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Fan the Flames Knitalong—Week 2: Making Mistakes & Having Fun Fixing Them!

By Patty Lyons

I hope things are going swimmingly for all of you in Cowl Land, and I don’t want to jinx anyone but … I wanted to spend this week talking about one of my favorite topics — mistakes. If you want a quick review of what we covered last week, click here.

We all make mistakes; but somehow, when we make them in lace, they are a little bit more annoying.

Many knitters would say the goal is to avoid making them at all, but I say — what fun would that be! If we never made a mistake, we would never have the wonderfully smug satisfaction of fixing them.

For all those “ounce of prevention” folks out there, we will start by talking about how to avoid mistakes. The most important thing we can do in all of our knitting is to be visually responding to what’s on our needles. That means, instead of just charging ahead, stitch after stitch, row after row, we want to always be looking to see how our pattern is stacking up. One really helpful tool to assist you in this is stitch markers!

Save yourself frustration and rely on stitch markers.

As I mentioned last week’s post, stitch markers are so helpful! I used a unique color for the end of round, and then orange markers for the end of the fan chart, and green markers for each 14-stitch repeat of the flame chart.

These markers help in two ways:

  1. If I’m supposed to be using 18 stitches for the fan chart and I hit the marker and I don’t have enough stitches, I know I made a mistake in a previous row (probably forgot a yarn over). That means I can fix it NOW (don’t worry, we’ll get to that) instead of going on row after row and making even more mistakes.
  2. It also helps me put on the breaks when I’m doing a chart like the flame chart, which has a repeat. If I’m doing two repeats of the 14-stitch flame chart, then the markers help me remember to go back and do another repeat.

The other helpful tool I love to use with lace is the lifeline!

A lifeline is a smooth thin piece of yarn — or thread, or even dental floss — that you string through your stitches on a non lace row. In the case of our fan and flame charts, that would be row 1 of the fan (that would line up with row 1, 5, 9 or 13 of the flame). The idea of a lifeline is to have something to rip down to in case of tragedy. Stitches in lace often do not stay straight. Because of this, it can be hard to insert a needle into the stitches once they are made.

In the photo above, you can see that the lifeline is a few rows down and no longer going in a straight line, because it has moved with the lace. If I made a mistake, I could pull my knitting off the needle and rip down to that lifeline, and then just insert my knitting needle into the stitches held on the line.

To put in your lifeline, you can finish knitting row 1 of the fan (row 1, 5, 9 or 13 of the flame), then put some smooth waste yarn on a tapestry needle and start pulling it through the stitches.

Then just pull the smooth yarn through the stitches, and put the needle through the next few, until you have gone all the way around.

When you knit across the next row, just be careful to not knit into the lifeline. Just ignore it and work only the stitch on your needle. Once you’ve knit 4 or 8 perfect rounds, you can pull out the lifeline and use the same thread again to put in a new lifeline. Weirdly, I never make a mistake when I use a lifeline. I think it’s like having an umbrella with you means it’s not going to rain. (or washing your car means it WILL!)

With all those precautions, sometimes mistakes still happen. You might have a lifeline 7 rows down, but you make a tiny mistake in one place and you know you can fix it easily without ripping out all those rounds.

Now, I want to show you easy fixes for two of the most common mistakes- forgetting a yarn over and unkitting, or “tinking.”  These are fun to make on purpose so you can practice fixing them.

The first one has happened to EVERY lace knitter — forgetting a yarn over.

Sometimes there’s an area that just doesn’t look right and you want to “tink” (unknit) back a bit to fix it, but un-knitting increases and decreases can sometimes create a bigger mess than we’re trying to fix. Here’s a little “tink tutorial” I hope you’ll find helpful.

Well, now that we’ve explored every possible way to get out of our knitting jam, it should be smooth sailing from now on.

Next week, it’s time to finish off our beauties with a special bind-off, fastening off for a smooth in-the-round connection, and (of course) blocking.

See you next week!

Patty

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Swatching Part Two — Chart Reading: Flat vs In The Round

By Patty Lyons

I’m so excited to see how many of you are jumping in and starting to swatch.  I’ve had some excellent questions regarding swatching flat vs in the round.

Although I do swatch stockinette in the round (using the speed swatch method I wrote about in Creative Knitting last fall and featured here in the editor’s blog, I find that my gauge for lace is the same flat and in the round, so for this project I swatched flat.

One of the great things about this pattern, is it is NOT gauge specific. If you read this post you’ll see how the puzzle pieces work. Don’t stress too much about gauge, but swatch until you get a fabric you like!

For those of you that would like to swatch in the round, you can use the speed swatch method here.

If you want to work the swatch flat then read every odd numbered row (WS rows) from left to right, and ever even number rows (RS rows) from right to left.

Here’s how the Flame chart would look flat:

Flame Chart - Flat back and forth version.

Flame Chart – Flat back and forth version.

Row 1 (WS): P5, (k2, p1, k2, p8), (p1, k2) x 2, p5.
Row 2 (RS): K3, k2tog, p2, yo, k tbl, yo, p2, (ssk, k5, k2tog, p2, yo, k tbl, yo, p2), ssk, k3.
Row 3: P4, (k2, p1, p tbl, p1, k2, p7), k2, p1, p tbl, p1, k2, p4.
Row 4: K2, k2tog, p2, k1, yo, k tbl, yo, k1, p2, (ssk, k3, k2tog, p2, k1, yo, k tbl, yo, k1, p2), ssk, k2.
Row 5: P3, (k2, p2, p tbl, p2, k2, p5), k2, p2, p tbl, p2, k2, p3.
Row 6: K1, k2tog, p2, k2, yo, k tbl, yo, k2, p2, (ssk, k1, k2tog, p2, k2, yo, k tbl, yo, k2, p2), ssk, k1.
Row 7: P2, (k2, p3, p tbl, p3, k2, p3), k2, p3, p tbl, p3, k2, p2.
Row 8: K2tog, p2, k3, yo, k tbl, yo, k3, p2, (sl2, k1, p2sso, p2, k3, yo, k tbl, yo, k3, p2), ssk.
Row 9: P1, (k2, p9, k2, p1), k2, p9, k2, p1.
Row 10: K1, m1, p2, ssk, k5, k2tog, p2, (yo, k tbl, yo, p2, ssk, k5, k2tog, p2), m1, k1.
Row 11: P2, (k2, p7, k2, p1, p tbl, p1), k2, p7, k2, p2.
Row 12: K2, m1, p2, ssk, k3, k2tog, p2, (k1, yo, k tbl, yo, k1, p2, ssk, k3, k2tog, p2), m1, k2.
Row 13: P3, (k2, p5, k2, p2, p tbl, p2), k2, p5, k2, p3.
Row 14: K3, m1, p2, ssk, k1, k2tog, p2, (k2, yo, k tbl, yo, k2, p2, ssk, k1, k2tog, p2), m1, k3.
Row 15: P4, ((k2, p3) x 2, p tbl, p3), k2, p3, k2, p4.
Row 16: K4, m1, p2, sl2, k1, p2sso, p2, (k3, yo, k tbl, yo, k3, p2, sl2, k1, p2sso, p2), m1, k4.

Here’s how the Fan chart would look flat:

Fan Chart - Flat back and forth version.

Fan Chart – Flat back and forth version.

Row 1 (WS): Purl.
Row 2 (RS): K2tog x 3, (k1, yo) x 6, k2tog x 3.
Row 3: Knit.
Row 4: Knit.

Happy Knitting!

Patty

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Fan the Flames Knitalong—Week 1: Swatching, Chart Reading & Making Friends With Your Knitting Pattern

By Patty Lyons

Welcome to the Fan the Flames Knitalong!

Today we want to get started off right, which means swatching and design, but before we get started, grab a copy of Fan the Flames Cowl HERE for a limited time only. However, if you purchase Patty’s Annie’s Video Class, Circular Knitting Essentials, on sale November 2014, this pattern is part of the download materials provided with the class.

Now, you might be thinking, “Design? I thought we were following a pattern!” We are, but it’s a modular pattern, which means you have lots of options!

Fan the Flames Cowl, designed by Patty Lyons.

Fan the Flames Cowl, designed by Patty Lyons, Creative Knitting, Winter 2014

Swatching & Design

Fan the Flames was designed like the pieces of a puzzle; you can swatch one fan chart and one flame chart in the yarn you like — no need to try to match my gauge! Then you can measure the length and width of each puzzle piece and see what you like.

For example, in Tahki Mesa the cowl has a fan stitch that measures 4 inches wide.

A single repeat of the flame stitch measures 6 inches wide.

A single repeat of the flame stitch measures 6 inches wide.

NOTE:  Look at the at the chart, you’ll see one repeat is a total of 29 stitches (14 stitches for one repeat plus 15 balancing stitches. Visually, one repeat of this chart gives you two flames). Two repeats would have 43 stitches (28 for 2 repeats plus 15 balancing stitches. Visually two repeats of this chart gives you three flames.)

So, if we used two repeats of the flame stitch on each side, and one repeat of the fan stitch we’ll get:

9 inches (2 repeats of flame) + 4 inches (1 repeat of fan) + 9inches + 4inches = 26 inches wide.

They are both 3 1/4 inches tall, so if we repeated the whole pattern three times we’d get a cowl that is 9 3/4 inches high x 26 inches in circumference. You can create your cowl as skinny, wide, tall or short as you like.

Let’s look at one more example:

The swatch below has a fan stitch that measures 3 inches wide.

A single repeat of the flame stitch measures 5 inches wide.

A single repeat of the flame stitch measures 5 inches wide.

 

Flame swatch in Tahki Zara.

Flame swatch in Tahki Zara. Visit Annie’s for the full selection of available Tahki Yarns.

If we used two repeats of the flame stitch on each side, and two repeats of the fan stitch we’ll get:

7 1/2 inches (2 repeats of flame) + 6 inches (1 repeat of fan) + 7 1/2 inches + 6 inches = 27 inches wide.

They are both 2 3/4 inches tall, so if we repeated the whole pattern four times we’d get a cowl that is 9 inches high x 27 inches in circumference.

By now hopefully you’re itching to get swatching. Just remember to lightly spray each piece with water and pin out to desired look and let dry. Since you’re not necessarily trying to match my gauge, just use the needles that create the look you like and open up the lace in blocking as much as YOU like. Isn’t it nice to be the boss!

Here are mine on the blocking board once I’ve removed the pins -- nice and flat and easy to measure.

Here are mine on the blocking board once I’ve removed the pins — nice and flat and easy to measure.

Chart Reading

If you’re new to chart reading, it’s not a scary as you think. Since this pattern includes the words and the chart, you can use one to check yourself to see how your chart-reading skills are coming along.

There are three things I want you to know about chart reading:

  1. The chart is a visual representation of the RS of the work. That’s a fancy way of saying the chart is really a picture of your knitting. Notice how the symbol for a yarn over is a circle, and the symbol for a k2tog (a single right-slanting dec) is a line that slants to the right.
  2. Since you are working in the round, each round of the chart is read right to left.
  3. In a chart, the red bracket is a pattern repeat. It’s the same as an * in the instructions text. In the case of the flame chart, the stitches outside the bracket are the “balancing stitches.”

If you were to work two repeats of the flame stitch, you would start with the stitches outside the bracket. Then, you would work the stitches in the red bracket, repeat those 14 stitches (two repeats) and then end the section with the stitches. You can see that in this case two repeats of the flame chart will create three flames.

Casting On

It’s time for a little myth busting. Have you ever heard “To create an elastic edge, cast on loosely, or cast on using a larger needle”? Hooey. That will just create big or sloppy stitches in your first row. What makes an elastic edge is the spacing between the stitches.

Watch the video above where I demonstrate my favorite elastic cast-on for lace.

Stitch Markers

Stitch markers are sooooo helpful. I would suggest using a unique color for the end of round, and then using other markers as indicated in the pattern to separate the fan and the flame, but you also might want to use another color within the flame section to mark the 14-stitch repeat. It kind of stops you and reminds you, “Hey, don’t finish the section — you have to go back and repeat those 14 stitches.”

Creating the Lace

If you are new to lace knitting, you can check Annie’s StitchGuide.com. From here you can find instructions for all the stitches noted in the pattern.

If you are an experienced lace knitter, I want to address a couple of things that might have always bugged you — perfectly matching yarn overs (yo) and slip, slip, knit (ssk).

Well, that was quite a bit to get you started. Don’t worry if you run into any problems while you work, because guess what Week Two is about? You guessed it — fixing mistakes in lace. If you do get in a jam, just set your work aside and I’ll meet you back here next week.

Happy cowling!

Patty

Just joining the knitalong? Check out this post to get started! 

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The Editor Wants to Know- Scarves or Sweaters?

With the fall season upon us, and depending on how you look at things, it’s that time again to either time to make a tried and true scarf, or pull out the big guns and create your annual sweater project. Which one is it for you? One or the other, or both?

Are you a forever scarf/accessory maker, or do you love making sweaters and can't get enough? 

Are you a forever scarf/accessory maker, or do you love making sweaters and can’t get enough?

On today’s edition of The Editor Wants to know, my question to you is:

Are you a sweater fanatic, or does the idea of creating a garment make you want to run away screaming?

Above the Clouds Scarf Knit Pattern

Above the Clouds Scarf Knit Pattern on Annie’s. Made with Andean Mist, from Berroco.

If you’ve yet to venture into the realm of making your first sweater, is there a reason? Is there something you struggle with that keeps you feeling stuck?

Nijo Top Knit Pattern on Annie's, made with Berroco Folio.

Nijo Top Knit Pattern on Annie’s, made with Berroco Folio. I’m making this now and I’m loving it! It’s a great foray into your first sweater project, and you also get a taste for openwork.

I can’t wait to hear from you! Please comment on this post, or take it to the Creative Knitting Facebook page! 

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