Category Archives: Tutorials

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!

New skills

I love learning new skills. Whenever possible I try to add them into a pattern to force me to perfect them. I’m a big believer in learning as you do – I can’t spend weeks learning a new subject. I find that I learn best if I get the most basic of skills and then dig into a project with tutorials and books at hand. This is what I’ve been doing with Adobe Illustrator. Previously I’ve used Inkscape to create schematics for my patterns but there was some functionality that just couldn’t be done on that platform. So I’ve been trying my best to learn how to use Illustrator through schematics. Marnie has got some amazing tutorials here that were a great starting point. From there I started asking people how they do their schematic and I’m finding that everyone seems to have developed their own slightly different techniques. I also found a book that is not exactly the same as the schematics I do but gave me a few good techniques that I had been lacking. So piece by piece I’m building my illustrator drawing skills.

On the subject of new skills, I’ve just added a new tutorial to the website for a Looped Crochet Bind Off. As a non-crocheter this was not one that I tried myself before but it’s pretty easy to work and gives a nice stretchy decorative edge to shawls. I’m certain that someone with more crochet skill could work it a whole lot faster than me though!

Are there any new skills that you’ve been itching to learn? Maybe a New Year’s Resolution? Tell me what they are!

Upsizing Patterns

Last week I was asked about upsizing a garment and if it could be done. The answer of course is that it can, but how complex the job is going to be depends on the garment.
I thought I’d do a blog post on garment sizing and how you would think about increasing the size of a garment.
To start with you have to decide how many extra inches/cm you want to add. If it’s only a few the job will not be too hard but a significant size change will require a lot of calculation.
I’d also suggest checking your other dimensions. Do you want to add extra width to the neck and shoulders? What about the depth of the armhole?
Here is a very basic sketch of a sleeveless top so you can see the dimensions you’ll need to think about.

So how do you plan the size change?

If the biggest size given was 50″ chest diameter and you want 56″ you will have to add an extra 6″.
I’m going to then assume that you want to add half (3″) of those stitches to the front and half of that to the back. So your back/front width will be 56/2 = 28″.

This takes care of the body width for you, but what happens when you reach the armhole?
Next you need to decide the width of neck and shoulder you want. These numbers don’t change as much as the bust measurement so even if you are adding some width to the biggest size it won’t be very much.
So if the original neck width was 8″ and each shoulder was 3″ you would have the total back shoulder width of 8 + 3 + 3 = 14″
If you wanted to make that 8 1/2″ and 3 1/2″ your back shoulder width would be 15 1/2″.

So at our armhole we will want to decrease from a body width of 28″ to a back shoulder width of 15 1/2″.
Look at the schematic and you can see that this happens at both sides. So we will calculate that decrease: 28-15 1/2 = 12 1/2″. Half of this is: 6 1/4″ which is the armhole decrease inches at each side.
Now that you have all the numbers you convert them all to stitches with your stitch gauge.
If you have 5 stitches for every 1″:
Front/back extra stitches: 3″ x 5 stitches = 15 extra stitches front and back.
Armhole decrease stitches: 6 1/4″ x 5 stitches = 31 stitches decreased at armhole each side.

Next question, how will you decrease those stitches?

I’d suggest examining the pattern. You will see that you will have initial stitches bound off at the bottom of the armhole and then stitches decreases as you work up the armhole. See how many extra stitches you will have to decrease to get the back shoulder width you want and distribute them within the pattern. In other words, if 10 stitches are bound off then perhaps make that 12-14 and then keep decreasing the remainder as in the pattern until you have the width you need.

I bet it’s easy to see my engineering background coming out when I talk about numbers right?!

Ongoing learning

We all like to be an expert; it’s great to be acknowledged for our expertise and knowledge.  It really is an ego boost to feel like the authority on some subject.  But it’s comes at a price.  If you set yourself up as an authority it makes it a whole lot harder to keep learning.  Almost as though you can’t show any chinks in your armour of knowledge.

But it is just not possible to know everything!  Life and learning is an on-going process, constantly evolving.  It is so important to keep your mind open to new ideas and allow yourself to learn, to be humble and accept suggestions.  Ego is a terrible thing; I suspect it actually hides big insecurities in all of us.  It is hard to keep your mind open, to be able to take well-meaning suggestions without flinching.

This of course goes well beyond just my design work right though all of life.  After my fourth child was born and he was having various sleeping problems related to his ears the most common refrain I heard was ‘well you know what you’re doing, you’re an expert at this’.  Total nonsense.  With each child I’m a complete beginner.  I’ve never met them before, I don’t know who they are yet.  The same goes for every new design.  I’ve got a stockpile of background knowledge but every one is started anew, from scratch, and to make it special you’ve got to allow yourself to go back to basics in the hope that you’ll rediscover something amazing.

So here’s to a new year of learning and fresh discoveries for all of us!

Some nifty, new to me, cast ons

Like most knitters I get into a knitting rut.  When I have an idea I want to get started straight away…this means that I rely on well know cast-ons and techniques that I can do by rote without having to research anything.  I’ve shaken things up here a little over the last few weeks.  I’ve decided to tackle areas that either I avoided or tried briefly and bypassed to save time.

The first of these was toe up socks.  I know it’s not a very unique construction technique but I avoided it like the plague.  I had two reasons for this, the first was my inability to master Judy’s magic cast on from photos and the other was my dislike of the gusset less short row heel.

My desire to master toe up this time came about because I wanted to knit some long thick boot socks for one of the boys.  I wanted to make the leg as long as possible and the only way I could really do that and not run out of yarn was working toe up.  So I decided to tackle the problem head on.  The first problem I had was with the basic construction technique.  The idea of a short row heel was great, looks lovely but both me and my son have high arches.  A sock without a gusset just doesn’t work!  Trying to pull it over the heel is quite frankly a nightmare.  So I started my search on ravrelry for a basic toe up sock with a gusset.  I landed on this pattern which fitted the bill.  It’s a super easy pattern to follow, however I wonder if there is a seamless way to finish the heel without having to pick up stitches at the back of the heel?  I think I’ll have to mull that construction over for a while, there may be some odd sock construction patterns in my future!

My other problem was of course my inability to master Judy’s Magic Cast On first time around from photos.  I decided to tackle the cast on from a different angle, in motion, and searched you tube for some videos.  This one was great and after watching it through a couple of times I had it down perfectly.  It’s such a simple variation on the invisible cast on (using the tail of yarn instead of waste yarn or a needle) but the result is so beautiful I just want to use it on everything!  There are so many possibilities that I can’t wait to use it again.

Here’s a little look at those plain vanilla toe up thick boot socks I made for the boy….

The second cast on I worked with this month was the bellybutton cast on.  I was using this for a center out shawl.  Previously when I’ve designed center out shawls me (and other knitters) have struggled for the first few rounds until there is enough stitches to easily work the little circle.  There always has to be a better way of doing things so I again started searching.  The concept for this cast on is so simple that it’s one of those ‘why didn’t I think of that myself’ moments!

One of the easiest ways of knitting a small circumference easily is with an I-cord.  You just use one needle and pull the stitches tightly to close the loop.  This cast on uses this basic principle.  All you do is work a small I-cord with waste yarn, then change to your working yarn and dpns (or magic loop) and you can start knitting your shawl or whatever you’re working in the round.  Then when you’re finished you remove the I-cord, draw the tail through the live stitches and pull it tight – just like the top of a hat.  You end up with a lovely tidy center to your shawl that is super easy to construct.

So today’s blog post is all about finding better solutions to your knitting – if something isn’t working for you find a new way to do it!

My Craftsy Classes are Live!

I’m really happy to be able to tell you that my two craftsy classes are now live!

The first class is Celtic Cables and it will work you through how to work cables and read cable charts.  In addition to this you’ll get the exclusive Portulaca Cardigan that was designed just for this class.  The class is set up like a full cardigan knit along (KAL) working you first through measuring yourself and choosing the perfect size.  Then helping you decide if there are any small adjustments you’d need to make for your body size.  From there we’ll work through every step of the cardigan, swatching, casting on, working the body, sleeves and then joining it all together for the yoke.

If you’ve never incorporated cables in garment knitting this is a great introduction or perhaps this is your first cardigan?  The class is nicely set up for helping knitters along – you watch the video and then you can ask me and your fellow knitter questions.  You can also jump in and help other knitters out if you’ve got answers or suggestions for them.  All projects that knitters are working on can be linked to the class so you can see what other knitters are doing in the class as well.

The second class is actually a free class on Short Rows.  As many of you probably know already I’m fairly fond of short rows.  There are many, many ways of working short rows and in this class I talk about a few different ways of working them.  But more importantly I talk about how to break a short row down so you can see exactly how it works and what you’re trying to do with it.  This can make a lot more sense of short rows!  The final two classes cover different things you can do with short rows.  We look at shoulder slopes and set in sleeves using short rows as well as creating short row bust shaping.  Now do be aware that as this is a free class I won’t have any interaction in the class.  You can still talk with other knitters in the comments though and discuss how you’re using short rows in your projects.

Ravi Short Rows in Garter Stitch

I’m putting together a quick blog post for all my Ravi Knitters out there.

There are a lot of questions about how to work the short rows.
Any method you want to use that you get the desired results is just fine.
If you use w&t method you can either pick the wraps up to work with the stitch or it is also possible to leave the wraps where they are.  In garter stitch they are somewhat hidden by the purl bump on the RS of the work.
When I was working the yoke I was happiest personally with the Japanese short rows.  The tutorial shown here in my blog is for st st and we are working in garter so it will work a little differently.
I’m putting up a series of photos below showing how I worked the Japanese short rows in garter and how I picked them up.
If you change the way you work the short rows as you are creating the yoke that works fine, I actually did that with the cardigan so that they got neater as I worked!

Japanese Short Rows In Garter Stitch, worked on the WS

There are two different methods of working this both of which give nice results.  In the method shown in photographs below I’ve described how you work it if your ‘pin’ is hanging to the RS of your work.  Below I’ve also given a written description of how to hid the wrap if your pin hangs on the WS of the work.

Work in garter stitch on the WS of the work to the position of the first short row.

Work to position you want the short row, place pin around yarn which will hang on the RS of the work

Turn work to the RS, slip 1 st from left needle to right needle, bring your working yarn to the back of the work and you can see your pin hanging in front of your right needle.

Finish working to the end of the RS row. For this pattern you will repeat this several times until you have 5 safety pins across your knitting. At this point you will work a complete WS row picking up all the wraps.
When you reach the first wrap you need to pick up on the WS row it will look like this.

WS of work when you reach the gap created by the short row. You can see that your pin is behind the right hand needle on the RS of the work.

Pull the pin up so that it sits on the left hand needle and remove the pin from around the yarn.

Knit this loop with the next stitch on your needle.

You will now continue knitting until you reach the next wrap you need to pick up.

This is how the 'double stitch' created by the wrap looks on the RS of the work.

Note: To actually see this you’ll have to turn your work as you’re working on the WS!

Alternative method which hangs the pin on the WS.

1. Knit on the WS to your ‘gap’.

2. Turn your work the the RS, sl 1 st from left needle to the right needle, bring your working yarn to the correct position at the back (WS) of your work and then place the pin on your yarn.  This will place your pin on the WS rather than the RS of your work.

3. Continue to work your short rows until all are completed.

4. Working on the full WS row where you have to pick up wraps work to the position of the first gap, your pin will be under the right needle on the WS of your work (which is the side closest to you).

5. Slip 1 st p-wise from left needle to right needle.

6. Pull pin with wrap to sit wrap on the left needle and remove the pin (this will be pulled up on the WS of the work).

7. Sl stitch back again from the right needle to the left.

8. Knit the wrap and stitch together.

This will give you a similar result and will again ensure that you only have the ‘double stitch’ showing on the RS of the work and not any extra loops of yarn.

My Craftsy Trip to Denver

Last week I was travelling. I hinted a little about it but I didn’t want to say too much about it before I went. Now that the work has been done I get to tell you a little about my amazing week!
I was in Denver for the week recording not one but TWO classes with Craftsy. I’m still pinching myself that this is really happening; the last few days have almost felt like an out of body experience :)
I’ll tell you a little bit about my travels, plus I think I’ve fallen for Denver in a big way!
This is the view from my hotel window; I was staying right in downtown Denver.

My first day was to myself so I got to wander around a little, and found myself some cowboys in the park….

At the other side of the park the Denver Art Museum had the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective which I spend a few hours wandering around.  Apart for getting to see all the clothes first hand I think my favourite part of it was just watching YSL sketching.  He had such fluidity and he was talking about the fact that he doesn’t start with an idea in his head, he just waits for the idea to appear on the paper as he was drawing.  From there he only worked on live models to see the movement and drape of the clothing so he could make changes.

After my initial play/adjustment day it was down to work.  When you’re not used to having hair and make-up done every day it’s quite a treat to start the morning being pampered!  I then also got a chance to peek on the set.  I sent a big box of knits and yarn over before me so all the mannequins were pre dressed with my garments.

As you can see the set up that craftsy have for their recording is pretty amazing.  Multiple cameras, lights everywhere and some fantastic dedicated staff.  I was pretty blown away (and terrified!!).  It took a day or two for me to settle into the recording routine.  Even though I’ve taught many classes doing it on camera is a whole different ball game!  By the time we finished the two classes I was really happy with how they  turned out and more relaxed about the whole process.  The platform that Craftsy use is a really great way of teaching online.  They use streaming video so even with poor broadband coverage you can watch it without trouble (like in our useless broadband area).  The videos are easy to mark for your own notes and you can comment/post photos/ talk with the instructor throughout the class.  Talking with knitters and helping them through patterns is very enjoyable for me so this set-up seems ideal.

So now to tell you a little about the classes.  The first class I designed a brand new cardigan for, it’s got many cables, waist shaping and is of course seamless.  In the class I run through how to measure yourself, how to work cables and read cables charts and each step of the cardigan is knit through.  So if you’ve been nervous about tackling your first big project (or cables) it might be a good class for you!  I’ll post a few photos of the cardigan in the next few days.

The second class is a free class on one of my favourite subjects; short rows.  I talk through several different methods of creating them and then show some different ways of using them (including a bust shaping worksheet).

So lots of knitting to come for you all!  I think the classes will be up in the next few weeks but I’ll post to let you know when exactly they’ll be up.

It was an amazing opportunity to work with craftsy, everyone I worked with was just superb and I am dying to see how the classes turn out (although cringe at the thought of seeing myself on film!).

To finish the week off with a bang I got to have a book signing on Friday night at Fancy Tiger Crafts.  I got to meet tons of great knitters over the course of the evening and really got to finish my week in style.  If you’re ever in Denver I’d highly recommend making a stop here, it’s an amazing shop with the loveliest shop owners :)

I couldn’t help taking this one last shot – in the airport they have signs for Tornado shelters….