Category Archives: Tutorials

Top Down Raglan Construction

Dovestone Knits
In August 2015 I released the book, Dovestone Hills, that coincided with the release of baa ram ewe’s Dovestone DK yarn. Up until now these patterns have only been available as part of the book but over the coming weeks I’ll be releasing the individual patterns one at a time!
Until the 14th of February if you use code HAPPYDOVES you’ll get 15% off any of the Dovestone individual patterns or off the digital book.
As an extra special bonus from baa ram ewe you’ll also get a discount code for 10% off their Dovestone DK yarn for the same time period. That code will be available when you purchase the patterns or digital book.

So watch out for all the patterns, there will be a new one added ever couple of days!

(And the code works for all of them…..)

Top Down Raglan Construction
This seemed a perfect opportunity to talk a bit about different types of seamless construction as there are 4 different seamless methods used in Dovestone Hills. The first that I want to talk about is top down seamless raglan. This was traditionally the most common method of top down knitting as it’s very easy to knit. It doesn’t always create perfect results but with a little bit of knowledge you can easily adjust patterns to suit your body and taste.

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Caelius is the sweater in Dovestone Hills that uses this shoulder construction method. It starts with a cowl neck, uses short rows to shape the back of the neck and then uses raglan increases on either side of a decorative seam. This decorative seam continues down into the a-line body and forms the focus of interest for the sweater.

Top Down Raglan Techniques

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A ‘raglan’ is a shoulder construction where the sleeves come all the way up to the neck. For a raglan to fit correctly you would typically increase/decrease on each side of the body (and at the front and back) and on each side of the sleeve on every right side row or every other round if working in the round. This gives you 8 increases (or decreases).
If you are knitting from the top down the raglan seams are all increases but if you were knitting bottom up the will be decreases.

Increase Types
When you are creating your raglan seam you can use any type of increase that you wish. The most basic would be a kfb (knit into the front and back of the stitch), for a bit more refinement you could have a mirrored M1R and M1L and if you were working on a lace cardigan you might opt to use a yo (yarnover) increase as it would fit with the lace.

Adrift uses kfb increases

Vivido used M1L and M1R increases.

You can change the way increases look also by adjusting the number of knit stitches between them. This creates a wider or narrower ‘seam’ along the raglan.
While it looks like Caelius uses yarnovers as the increases it’s actually got a centered decrease with yarnover and then the increases are outside this. The reason for this is so that the pattern can be continued down the body when you no longer need raglan increases.

Rate of Increase
In a traditional raglan you start with neck size you want, increase the body and sleeves every second row or round until you get close to the body stitches you want. The final stitches are then cast-on across the underarm. For some body shapes this works just fine BUT on the smaller and larger end of the spectrum you can have problems. Most body shapes don’t increase the size of their upper arms as fast as the bust size increases. This means that for larger bust sizes using traditional construction the sleeves will be too large.
To correct this I write my patterns with two rates of increases. You start with full raglan increases and then move on to alternating body only rows with full raglan increases so that everything fits right at the bottom of the yoke. If you do a few calculations you can adjust for yourself in the same way to fit a pattern exactly to your body shape.

Short Row Back of Neck

If you work your raglan straight down from the neck you will have the front of the neck the same height as the back. However generally a neckline is more comfortable to wear if the front is a little lower than the back. You can do this by adding short rows across the back of the neck. If you’ve got pattern work near the neck you can even put those short rows lower down the back as well.

Underarm Cast-on

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When you are finished the raglan yoke increases you still need to join the body together. You do this by knitting to the sleeve, using a tapestry needle threaded with waste yarn and slipping all of the sleeve stitches on to the thread (tie it together so you don’t loose the stitches!!)
Now you need to join the underarm. To do this neatly you cast-on the underarm stitches and then join up the back of your body and work on to the other side. Typically patterns suggest a Backwards Loop Cast-On. This is because you can keep working in the same direction with that type of cast-on. However it doesn’t really give the most stable underarm area. I prefer to turn to the wrong side of the work and using a Cable Cast-On which is lovely and firm.

Examples
I’ve designed an awful lot of top down raglan sweaters and cardigans. You can find them on here.
Dusty Road and Santa Rosa Plum are both from last summer and I’m still in love with them both :-)

Santa Rosa Plum

Santa Rosa Plum

Dusty Road

Dusty Road

Do you have a favourite?

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Stepping up your Cables

If you can knit basic cables there’s nothing to stop you from stepping your cables up to the next level. The basic cable building blocks are either cables that cross knit with knit stitches and cables that cross knit with purl stitches. You can find tutorials for all of these here.

With those basics you can knit any type of cable now! There are however a few things that can trip you up with new cables. The first thing to watch out for is how many stitches cross over in each direction. Shown here are 2 cables that use 6 stitches. However the cables are not identical.

This cable shows 3 knit stitches crossing over 3 knit stitches.

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This cable shows 2 knit stitches crossing over 4 knit stitches.

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By learning how to read cable charts you can make yourself a fluent cable chart reader. If you are able to get all of your information from the chart it means that you can really speed up your cable knitting as you don’t have to keep referring back to the written directions.

By mastering cable charts you can really start to understand them. Complex cable patterns are almost always going to be shown in chart format as it much more visually accessible and a more compact way of giving information. For simple or intermediate patterns you can also have written directions but as they get more complex written directions can become very unmanageable. As a designer it’s much more difficult to check written directions for accuracy.

So how do you read charts?

  1. Look at the stitches under the cable.4
  • Are they knit or purl?
  • How many stitches are there?

2. Look at the cable stitches.23

  • How many stitches that are shown for each side of the cable?
  • Are they knit or purl?
  • Which way does the cable cross?

3. Look at the stitches after the cable.actual-4

  • Are they knit or purl? Did any change from knit to purl or the other way around?
  • Did any decrease?

If you can answer these questions then you can knit any cable without a key for the chart! All of the information you need is directly there on the chart, if a stitch changes from knit to purl it has to happen in the chart (or else it’s a mistake!). If there are less stitches after the cable it means that a stitch was decreased behind the cable. This is why I love charts – what you see is what you get, there is no hiding, the stitches have to make sense!

TIps

Sometimes knitters have difficulty reading charts due to the symbols used or the size of the chart. Make it as easy as possible for yourself; highlight the symbols to make it easier, blow the chart up to a larger size. If necessary you can even redraw the chart!

Track your chart by using Knit Companion electronically or use a magnetic board if you’re doing it on paper. Mark off each row as you work so you can’t lose your place.

Do you want to try out your new found cable skills? I’ve put a cable bundle together on ravlery with 25% off for until the end of the day (Irish time) on the 20th by using the code CABLES for any pattern in the bundle. Have fun with your cables!

Any other tips?  Just add them here!

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Working with Cables

Cables can intimidate a lot of knitters; they look complex and seem difficult. There are huge variations in cable patterns but to start with learning how to do some basic cable stitches can open up a world of new patterns. One of the reasons I love cables so much is the texture they create. The stitches are moving across the surface of the work so it changes it from flat to three-dimensional.

Sheephaven from IYC 2016

Sheephaven from IYC 2016

I still remember the first cable I ever did, I was astonished at how straightforward it was! I had built cables up in my mind as a huge milestone and difficult skill to master! I was working on a basic stockinette stitch baby sweater and I just added one single four stitch cable to the front. It wasn’t complex but it was enough to allow me to jump in and it opened up the world of cables for me!

So what is a cable?

At it’s most basic cables are just stitches crossed over each other. You do this by moving some stitches to an extra needle (the cable needle) and holding them to the front or back of the work. Then you knit (or purl) the next few stitches, and go back to work the stitches that you had held. These cables can be worked over any number of stitches, either crossing an even or uneven number of stitches.

So you can see that cables don’t have to begin as a complex, difficult skill. This is something you can work up to as you begin to understand how they work. Cables begin increasing in complexity when you introduce purl as well as knit stitches. This is because your cables can now start travelling across your work as well as just being in a straight line vertically. From there you can also start using cable crosses to ‘hide’ a change from a knit to a purl stitch so that you can create stitch patterns that appear and disappear within the cable panel.

Here are a few examples of all of these different types:

  1. Basic vertical cable that repeats the same cable cross in a vertical line.

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    Cable from ‘Killybegs’ in Contemporary Irish Knits.

  2. A travelling cable that allows the knit stitches to cross over the purl background so that the cables ‘travel’.

    Cable from 'Ardara' in Contemporary Irish Knits.

    Cable from ‘Ardara’ in Contemporary Irish Knits.

  3. A more complex type of cable where you have stitches changing between knit and purl behind the cable cross.img_4362

In the first of my cable tutorials I’m introducing a basic 2 by 2 knit cable crossed to the right and the left. I’ve explained how you work it in the video and the text describes what that particular cable would look like when drawn in a chart.

Santa Rosa Plum KAL progress

We’re moving right along on ravelry with the Santa Rosa Plum KAL. Many knitters are now finished the yoke (which was clue 1) and moving on to clue 2, the body.

So this is what the yoke looks like – most of it is worked in the first gradient colour, with the change coming close to the bottom of the yoke. Raglan increases are worked at both sides of the lace panels. In the pattern tip page I gave a chart that showed how the increases are distributed. For some sizes the sleeve increases slow down near the bottom of the yoke and for other sizes the full raglan increases slow down. When you see it on a full chart you can very easily make adjustments for your size. You can even add increases easily at just the front to accommodate extra bust shaping.

Now that knitters are finished with that clue the body is next:

The underarm area uses cast-on stitches to join the front and back. Traditionally a Backwards Cast-On is used. However I prefer a Cable Cast-On as it helps to reduce the gapping in the underarm. Using this cast on requires one extra step – you need to turn to the WS to work it and then turn back to the RS to continue the work. This is because you need your working yarn on the left needle to create it.

We’re having lots of fun calculating yarn amounts to use all colours of our gradient yarn. Everyone is pulling out the weighing scales to figure out their yarn usage to make sure they finish each colour in the correct place :-)

The integrated I-cord edging and single row buttonhole are getting lots of love – it makes a really tidy combination. In the next few weeks I’m going to add a tutorial on this buttonhole as it’s my favourite method.

The wonderful Blue Moon Fiber Arts is offering a prize of 2 skeins of her Single Silky Targhee.

Keep on knitting you great knitters – clue 3 coming out July 16th with the grand prize picked on the 1st of August!

Ribbon Tool Edging

Last Spring I had a shawl, Ribbon Tool Shawl, published in the spring issue of Interweave Knits. It’s not a very complex knit but starting the edging has got some knitters into problems so I thought I’d put a quick photo tutorial together to help them out.

First you finish the body of the shawl and break the yarn – in the swatch I’m working on that’s the little strip of garter stitch sitting on the table! Now for the edging with a double pointed needle you cast on the correct number of stitches and work the wrong-side set-up row. This is what’s pictured here.
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Now in the pattern you work row 1 of the edging. This is what catches knitters out. You begin by working a Chain 6. The chain 6 is knitting the same stitch 6 times to form a ‘chain’ of knitted stitches similar to a crocheted chain.
Begin by knitting the first stitch and slipping it back to the left needle.
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Now you knit this stitch 5 more times (slipping it back after each time you knit it).
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When you are finished you will have a chain of stitches that looks like this, with the final stitch on your right needle.

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Now you knit the next stitch so you will have 2 stitches on your right needle.
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Now you lift the second stitch over the first, this will effective ‘close’ the chain loop that will be at the edge of your shawl.
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Once this chain loop is complete work the remainder of Row 1 of the edging as written until you reach the final stitch. This is where you will join the body of the shawl with the edging. You want to knit this last edging stitch with the first stitch of the body.
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As they are still on 2 needles you can either knit them together with the 2 needles or transfer the stitch from the dpn to the shawl body needle.
From this point you can also use just the circular needles for the remainder of the shawl if it is easier for you.
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Spritz Stripes double yo

I’ve had a few questions about the ‘double yo’ in the Spritz Stripes pattern. In this sweater you’re knitting a lace pattern in the round. At the end of round 4 you have a yarnover and then at the beginning of round 5 there is another yarnover. I’ve done a little photo tutorial on how I managed this. It does produce a slightly larger hole every 6 rounds at this position but it’s not excessive.

step 1Here’s the 1st step. You’re at the end of rnd 4, you’ve worked a p2tog and the next stitch is yo. So just leave the yarn in front and this will create the yarnover automatically.

step 2Here’s the next step. You slip over your start of round marker and get set to begin round 5. This round starts with a yarnover. So what you want to do is bring your yarn over the needle (this finishes the yo for you at the end of rnd 4) and wrap it around the needle once to get ready to work a knit stitch (yarn at the back of the work).

step 3The second stitch to be worked on round 5 is k2tog, so this is what it’s going to look like. A yarnover at the very end of rnd 4, the marker, a yo at the start of rnd 5 and then k2tog.

When you reach this double yarnover at the end of round 5 be careful to work them both separately so you don’t lose a stitch at either the start or end of the round.

Short Row magic

For anyone who has been following my work you probably know that I really, really love short rows. Many of my designs use short rows, I’ve written multiple tutorials on short rows, taught a Craftsy class on short rows as well as many in-person classes.

penrose tile 1

Why do I love them?

I’ve often asked myself this, and I think it’s because they are so versatile. You can take a flat bit of knitting and without changing your stitch count you can create curves, slopes and even three-dimensionality shapes. Short rows are everything that’s good about knitting, you can make your knitting your own custom designed to fit you.

It would appear that my love for short rows doesn’t show any sign of subsiding any time soon. While the basics of short rows are not very complex there is so much to learn beyond the basics. I regularly learn and/or figure out new ways of creating them, new shaping ideas and new designs that can use them.

small back detailIn a few months I’ll be teaching a short row class for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. While I’ve taught this class before I’ve been learning so many new short row methods and uses that I’m creating a very new class. The basics are still there but I’m adding in lots that is new; creating shapes with different short row steps, German short rows, short row shawl curves and sock heels.

If you can’t make it to Edinburgh this spring I’ll have a few short row surprises coming for you as well. You will however have to wait a few months to find out….I wish I was able to spill the beans on these new projects but I’ll just have to be patient :-)

Teaching & Tutorials

I very much enjoy teaching, but I need to be careful not to overdo it. For me, somewhat on the introvert end of the scale, it’s important to get out of my own head. However I try not to schedule more than one event a month. I’m usually thinking about it for a few days before the event (so less sleep), have great fun while I’m doing the class and then crash for a few days afterwards until I get my rhythm back. Plus of course juggling the lives of 4 children when I change my schedule is no small task!

I think it’s fun and exhausting for me as I throw a lot of myself into the class. I don’t just want to teach knitters a step-by-step technique, I’m much more interested in them understanding how it works. For instance when doing grafting, I don’t just want to teach a series of steps to work in basic 2×2 ribbing. Instead I break it down into sections that are reproducing each step of your knitted stitch. That way every knitter in that class can walk out being able to transfer their knowledge to absolutely ANY type of grafted rib. When I teach cable charts I don’t just show how to work the exact cable shown in the chart. I break it down explaining how the chart is constructed so even if the legend is missing the knitter can easily interpolate the chart themselves.

When I teach classes I have discovered that learning can go both ways. During classes I’ve seen new methods of knitting, learned new techniques and I get to see patterns and written instructions from the other side. If I only sat at home writing patterns I’d be writing them as I want patterns to be written, explaining everything the way I understand. So in short teaching classes helps me write better pattern instructions and keeps me expanding my own knitting knowledge.

Over the last year or two there have been more and more knitting tours coming to Ireland. Originally it was just Tourism Ireland and Jean Moss but in the last few months I’ve taught a tour from Belgium, several more from the USA/Canada and there are 4 more upcoming over the next few months including one from Norway. While not everyone is going to do a knitting tour of Ireland I also travel a little for teaching. The next trip I’ll be making is to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March. I love Edinburgh very much, so it is a good spot for a weekend trip! The classes aren’t up for sale yet but you can view all the details here. On Saturday 14th I’ll be teaching Seamless Knits: Beyond the Raglan and on Sunday 15th I’m teaching Short Rows: Beyond the Basics.

If you want to find out what upcoming classes I’m teaching keep a look out on my class page here.

Picking up stitches

Last month when I was teaching several classes I had many knitters ask me about picking up stitches. This is very relevant for the style of knitting I do, frequently I will pick up stitches from the edge of the knitting rather than seam. I find that once you perfect picking up stitches it can be an easier way to join knitting than seaming – and very importantly it can easily be redone several times until you get the stitch distribution you want.
If you want to watch me picking up stitches while I talk you can take a look here.

To start with you need to decide where you’re going to pick the stitches up from. You can take the ‘loop’ right at the edge or my preference is to go a full stitch in and knit ‘through’ the knitting. I find this gives the cleanest line when you pick up stitches; you are moving back from the looser edge stitch to a more stable column of stitches. This does however give you a more noticeable ‘seam’ on the inside so keep this in mind for your knitting.
Once you have decided where you’re going to pick your stitches up from the next step is to decide how many you will pick up. If it is a cast on or bound off edge this is easy, pick up one stitch for each stitch in your knitting – a 1:1 ratio. However what happens if you’re working along the edge of your knitting? You are picking up stitches along rows and 1 stitch is NOT equal to one row. The exact ratio will in fact depend on your own gauge. If you are working stockinette along stockinette edge then you may be picking up around 3 stitches for every 4 rows (a gauge of 18 stitches and 24 rows gives you this ratio 18/24 = 3/4 so 3 stitches every 4 rows).
So how do you know if you’ve got the ratio right? If you begin knitting a few rows and it is splaying out then you know you have too many stitches and you’ll have to rip back and either pick up again or alternatively decrease in the first row. If your knitting is pulling inwards as you work then you have too few stitches and you’ll have to go and increase or pick up more stitches.
If you’re working with a pattern that specifies an exact number of stitches to be picked up then you can divide the knitting into sections with safety pins and make sure you pick up the correct number of stitches within each section as evenly as possible.
Alternatively you can do as Ann Kingstone does, she picks up one stitch for every row and then decreases to the number of stitches she wants in the next row.

Knitting Styles

Recently I was asked about my knitting style by someone who wanted a tutorial on it. It’s actually something I don’t think about too much, I learned to knit with my yarn in my right hand and until a few years ago I didn’t know there was even other ways of knitting! This knitting style is sometimes known as ‘throwing’ or ‘English style’.

Now I’m not sure if my knitting actually fits the ‘throwing’ style as I never take my right hand off the needle. I lift my right index finger only and my working fabric sits on my right thumb to balance it. I keep my stitches very close to the tip of the needles also to increase speed. This knitting style developed organically for me over the years. I wanted to reduce the number of motions to make knitting more comfortable and also to increase the speed. Often Continental knitters (with yarn in left hand) claim that their knitting style is much faster, but for me personally I never got to grips with yarn tensioning in my left hand and I hate doing the purl stitch!