Monday, 30 May 2011

Spindle Spun Singles

Having read Eleanors post about the new spindles ( and they really do spin well, I've been testing one for the last few months) I thought I would share my latest dyeing experiment with you.

Once I had finished spinning on my spindle ( usually more than shown on the photo) I slide the cops off and instead on winding into two two balls to ply I placed them to soak in cold water.

In the meantime make up your dyes, I use easy acid dyes which just need hot water to dissolve the powder, using all the necessary health precautions including ventilation, gloves and mask. Fill half a jam jar with the first colour and half a jar with the second. For the first trial I used blue and yellow.

After soaking for 30 mins or so ( you really want all the yarn to be wet) gently squeeze out any excess water. Place the cop in the jam jar so the dye comes almost half way up and leave to soak for a few mins, then turn the cop upside down and place in the next jam jar.

Remove the cops and let them drain for a few mins then wrap in cling film and steam for 40 mins. IMPORTANT please make sure that you do NOT use your steaming equipment for food preparation. I have clearly marked steamers, cling film etc which are solely for dying use.

Once steamed,leave to go cold then rinse in cold water and leave to dry on an old towel,

skein off whilst slightly damp and finish the drying with a weight hanging from the bottom of the skein.
These singles are good for knitting shawls where any bias will not be noticeable.

Other colour results......using red, grey, blue

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Phew - Here's a bit of news...

This is a bloody long one - I'll tell you that for free! But keep with it because there's some damn exciting stuff here and because I'll give you a pretty picture before we even start!


The first news is that a lovely gentleman called Stephen Sheppard has just exited the shop leaving in his wake 11 of the most beautifully crafted spindles you've ever seen in your life! Stephen is an engineer by trade and since becoming semi-retired from the transport sector has concentrated on his true love: angling supplies (if there's an angler in your life check out his merchandise through the link above, even I want it...). A few months ago a friend of his asked if he could make a spindle for her, he obliged and I guess he got a bit hooked - because what is in my shop right now are top class spinners with a quirky edge and could only have been made by somebody with a passion. I know we crafters all appreciate somebody making things with a passion!

All of the spindles are made from reclaimed woods: at the minute we have a mixture of pine, walnut and oak in stock but as these sell through he'll provide more spindles in whatever woods he can lay his hand on - so watch this space! They each have a series of weights which can be taken away or added as the fancy takes you. It means that as the spindle gets heavier you can take a few weights out to even everything up, or if you want a finer yarn take out all of the weights or a heavier yarn put them all in (some of the newer designs have space for more weights if you want to go mad and we've got some spare ones in the shop for purchase). With the turn of a screw the spindles can become bottom or top whorls. They spin like a dream - I just had to try them. All. And, did I say before that they look damn impressive!?  Have a look here, go on, I'll be waiting for you at the other side...



Price: £20 as an introductory rate (everybody's first spindle is this price), £25 thereafter. The washer weights are £1.50 each or 5 for £6.00.

Come in to try before you buy - they really are stunning!

A week or so ago I promised that I'd have a Knit Pro surprise for you and I do indeed - we now have in stock Knit Pro sock needles! Wahey!!! We've got 2mm and 2.25mm in 10cm and 2.5mm in 20cm (it's difficult getting hold of these little b*ggers so I just asked for those sizes in whatever lengths they have - I was shocked by how short the 10cm are but I've tried a friend's since and they're actually lovely, long enough to hold a sock's worth of stitches but short enough not to get caught in your sleevies - perfect!!!). The Knit Pro needles come in sets of six, either five or four for working with and one or two spare or a cable needle to match your real needles - don't we treat you well?!!? :)

We all know about how beautiful the colours are, and how exciting it is to accessorise your yarn to your needles but have you felt how silky smooth they are!? Yeah, you need to.


Price: 10cm: £5.00, 20cm: £6.00 (if we get the 15cm in, which we will at some point, they'll be £5.50 funnily enough...).


I'm not just a knitter, nutter, crocheter, some-time spinner and weekend sewer - I am now a DIY'er!! I personally think this is the most exciting news - I've made a bloody piece of furniture. Well, not strictly true, I put some hooks in an already made piece of furniture but doing so, for your pleasure and ease of finding needle sizes, made a big bloody hole in my finger (I was going to post a picture but it's a little too gruesome...).

We got the shelves from Kathleen and Lily's closing down sale (very sad news for Nottingham's craft scene but we wish the girls well). They cost me £2 - two measely pounds!!! But they were a bit wonky and wobbly, so I nailed them into the wall (tool number one) and bought a gimlet (tool number two!) and got to work attaching roughly 50 lovely little hooks. Then I filled it up, then I sat back and basked in the glory that is my own DIY handy-work. You should all pop down to the shop just to see the shelves, notwithstanding the fact that both the Knit Pro's and Stephen's Spindles reside right on top of there...

Anyway, photo:


Also, the lady threw in some fabulous fabric in an American footballer pattern. I made myself a skirt (badly) and it matches my new jumper which is also fabulous! Proper crafty me...

In other news: the Heritage DK is now back in stock fully fully fully. We know you love that stuff but I've been struggling to get hold of it but it's here now and you can buy to start making winter garments (no time like the present ey? Who hasn't started a winter jumper in October and wondered why is isn't ready before Easter?!).

The webshop is sort of ready - it was up for a short time on Tuesday but we had bugs and tried to reinstall but it's all gone a bit Pete Tong. So bear with us on that - it's a major source of stress for us!

Finally, just about half an hour ago the phoneline gave up too - blimey!!! Which means our chip and pin is down too... I went to great lengths to try and get it sorted but I'm having to wait for the BT engineer. Why is it that the problems are never caused by you but you're always the one that has to deal with it? Alright, now I feel like my mother...

So - you can see I've had a lot to say. And I've got more to say tomorrow. I'm off for a quick fag and my first coffee of the day and then I'm doing a job for Louise West the Northern Knitter (she's only been waiting about forever).

Love Eleanor. :)

P.s. I've been trying for about an hour to format this bloody thing - I'm giving up - going to finally have that coffee - I may try again later and in the meantime I hope it doesn't give you a headache...

Monday, 23 May 2011

Best of the Blogs

Before we opened last September, my only exposure to blogging had been limited to occasional insomnia induced wanderings through random blogs and following my friend's blog Girls who wear Glasses. Since Knit Nottingham opened, as part of my role as marketing manager, (a title that is much grander than it sounds!), I have had to climb a steep learning curve in the art of blog writing, which is still a work progress. As part of this process I have tried to put time aside every week to read the blogs of other knitters, crocheters and other crafty folk. My aim was to keep abreast of what was new in the crafting world, to gain inspiration from different sources and get a feel for what works and what doesn't when it comes to writing blogs.

As there is not the space here or enough time for me to wax lyrical about all of them (or enough time for you to read them!), I have selected three of my favourites to share with you.

First up is Susan Crowe's Damn, Knit and Blast it. I actually came across this blog at the start of 2010, when my knitting mojo was missing in action, I googled the phrase to see how other knitters had dealt with this problem and it led me to this post Bloody-Big-Wool.
Susan's sense of humour appealed to me and her honesty about the progress of her project made me feel better about some of my past projects that had not turned out as I hoped or not been finished due to my missing knitting mojo. So in October once the excitement of opening the shop had calmed a little, I got back into following Susan's exploits more regularly when I read her post about Project Knit-Room. This inspired me as I was getting settled into my new home and had plenty of space for my own knit/craft room, one day!

I love that Thug the cat

and Basil the bear got to model finished projects and think the additional knit reports are an ace idea.

The next blog on my favourites list is Yarn Floozies, written by Dotty and Wenat. As I am always looking for inspiration to help me reduce my stash, one trip around the internet brought me to their post Scrap Happy

A fab scarf to use up extra yarn on, I owe a friend of mine a scarf so shall keep this in mind when the time comes. The post Burp had me chuckling. the comment about Shawl Wars caught my interest so had to go to Ravelry and check it out. Got me all fired up to have another crack at a lace shawl, well once I have caught up on my other projects, so drop by next year!

The last of my picks, and Eleanor's personal favourite (which is how I got into reading it) is Yarn Harlot written by the amazing and talented Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. Yarn Harlot has such a great writing style and her humourous take on life always brightens my day. Have a read of the post from the 12th May - Juggling to see what I mean.
I am completely in awe of people like Yarn Harlot who can turn there hand to so many different fibre based crafts! I take my hat off to anyone who can pick up a shaggy piece of fleece and produce a stunning lace shawl, if you don't believe me check out these photos...

Especially enjoy reading about her road trips as I am a big fan of the road trip, never happier than when its just me and Peg (my car) out on the open road.

Picking my three favourites was tough, so many creative people out there in the blog-o-sphere, below are links to some others that I like to follow, what blogs do you our readers enjoy? Drop us a line and tell us about them or if you are a blogger yourself, send us a link.

Knitting to Stay Sane
Blissfully Eccentric
Attic 24
Crochet with Raymond
Woolly Thoughts (this one is not technically a blog but its such a great site I just had to include it).

bye for now

Friday, 20 May 2011

Worldwide Knit in Public Day and the Yarn Crawl

 May is flying by and coming up in June is the annual “Worldwide Knit In Public” day on the 11th June, to mark this occasion Knit Nottingham have got together with three other local yarn shops, Yarn in Beeston, KnitWorking in Gedling and Textile Workshop in Sherwood to organise a "Yarn Crawl".

You might be wondering what the heck a Yarn Crawl is - well, this is how it works, customers will be able to pick up a yarn crawl card from any of the four shops, these will be available from the 28th May onwards. Once you have your card, then you need to collect a "stamp" from each of the four shops, to get a stamp you need to make a purchase. You will be able to collect the stamps between the 28th May and the 11th June. Once you have the four stamps this entitles you to a 10% disount, once at each of the four shops between the 11th June and 11th July. All of the terms and conditions will be on the Knit Nottingham website in the next week or so.

In  addition in the evening Knit Nottingham are hosting a Booze and Stitch event at the Bell Inn in the Market square in Nottingham City Centre, so grab your latest WIP and come join us. We will be there from 6.30pm onwards.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The secret language of knitters and crocheters

Knitting and crochet really can seem like a different language at times. Not only have you got to contend with all the abbreviations in the patterns but there's also the lingo that goes hand in hand with people getting together and forming a cult! The internet has drastically changed how knitters think, feel and communicate and if you've ever spent time on knitting websites, like Ravelry, Knitty and even our website, you'll have come across all kinds of mind-bending abbreviations and cultural slang.

Here's our guide, which is by no means comprehensive, to knitting and crochet abbreviations, some of the most common found in patterns and social knitworking sites:

General Knitting:

K - Knit.
P - Purl.

St(s) - Stitches.
Alt - Alternate.
Beg - Beginning.

Ss – Slip a stitch.
Rem – Remaining.
Rep- Repeat.
St-st – Stocking stitch (also known as stockinette stitch).
Gst – Garter stitch.
Tbl – Through the back of the loop.
Tbs – Through back of the stitch.
Patt - Pattern.
Psso – Pass the slipped stitch over.

Bo – Bind off.
Co – Cast on (or cast off depending on the circumstances).


Dec - Decrease (choose your own). 
K2tog – Knit two stitches together.
SSK - Slip one knit wise, slip one purl wise, knit these two stitch together through the back of loop.
S2togKPsso - Slip two stitches together, knit one, then pass two slipped stitches over.


Inc - Increase.
Kfb – Knit one stitch in the front and then in the back.

Yo – Yarn over.
Yfd/Yfwd – Yarn forward.
Yrn – Yarn round needle (works the same as a yo, in that it makes a hole but is most often used when creating holes between purl and knit stitches rather than knit to knit).
M1 – Make one stitch. Also known as a bar increase. This means you make a stitch between the last stitch and the next, rather than into the next stitch like 'kfb'.

M1l – Make one stitch from the left/front, an increase. From the front, lift loop between the stitches with the left needle and knit into the back of the loop.

M1r - Make one stitch from the right/back, an increase. From the back, lift loop between the stitches with the left needle and knit into the front of the loop.

La-Link - Left-leaning lifted increase: Insert your left needle, from front to back, into the top of the stitch two rows below the stitch just knit. Knit into the back of this stitch

La-Rink - Right-leaning lifted increase: Insert your right needle, from front to back, into the top of the stitch below the first stitch on the left needle. Place this stitch on your left needle, and knit into the back of it.

I particularly like the last video - Cat Bordhi is some kind of genius - and she's got a sense of humour. Love(1)!


Ss - Slip stitch.
Ch - Chain.

Sc – Single crochet.
Dc – Double crochet.
Tr – Treble crochet stitch.
Htr – Half treble crochet stitch.
Dtr – Double treble crochet stitch.

This section explains some of the popular knitting slang that you might come across on Ravelry, Knitty, Craftster or indeed our site!

WIP – Work in progress.
KIP – Knit  in Public.
SIP - Sping in public.
CAL – Crochet Along.
KAL – Knit Along.
Frog – To rip back a piece of knitting or crochet, undoing it completely (so called because you 'rip it, rip it').
Tink - To undo knitted stitches by reversing the knitting motion, effectively un-knitting the stitch. Used when fixing an error on the same row you are knitting. ('tink' is knit spelled backwards).
SEX – Stash Enhancement eXcercise (in other words buying yarn!).
SABLE - Stash Acquistion Beyond Life Expectancy... yeah I know that feeling...
OH – Other half.
DH – Dear husband/Damn husband - depending on the circumstances...
RAVATAR – The picture or image someone uses for their Ravelry ID.

It's certainly not a definitive list but I hope you find it usefu! Happy knitting and crocheting.

Love from,

Friday, 13 May 2011

Worldwide Knit in Public day 2011

May is flying by and coming up in June is the annual Worldwide Knit In Public day on the 11th June, to mark this occasion Knit Nottingham have got together with three other local yarn shops, Yarn in Beeston, KnitWorking in Gedling and Textile Workshop in Sherwood to organise a "Yarn Crawl"!
You might be wondering what the heck a Yarn Crawl is - well, this is how it works: customers will be able to pick up a yarn crawl card from any of the four shops, these will be available from the 28th May onwards. Once you have your card, then you need to collect a stamp from each of the four shops, to get a stamp you need to make a purchase. You will be able to collect the stamps between the 28th May and the 11th June. Once you have the four stamps this entitles you to a 10% discount, once at each of the four shops between the 11th June and 11th July.
We're really excited about this! We admire these other shops so much – each has its own feel and stocks complimentary yarns to ours – no overlap here. We do know that our workhorse yarns aren't always appropriate, few people want a wedding shawl made out of DK acrylic for example and equally, why would you knit a newborn's jumper out of Noro!? Brilliant! We can all share the space, knowledge and inspiration and Nottingham becomes a crafting hub. It's all about shopping local and shopping independent and we know you support those ideals.
In addition on the evening of the 11th June, Knit Nottingham are hosting a Booze and Stitch event at the Bell Inn in the Market square in Nottingham City Centre, so grab your latest WIP and come join us. We will be there from 6.30pm onwards.

Here are all the addresses for the four shops to make it easier for you to find us all.
Knit Nottingham, 91 Mansfield Road, Nottingham, NG1 3FN
KnitWorking, 5 Main Road, Gedling, Nottingham, NG4 3HQ
Textile Workshop, 678, Mansfield Road, Nottingham, NG5 2GE
Yarn, 53-55 Chilwell Road, Beeston, Nottingham, NG9 1EN

Look forward to seeing you there
Love from
Eleanor, Liese and Sue

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Grief Knitting.

I've got some sad news to share - yesterday, after 17 years living a full and happy life, we put my lovely cat Sunshine to sleep.

I know not everybody will understand what it's like to lose a pet, a member of my family. It's particularly difficult because it wasn't fast. He's been off-colour since around November last year, losing weight dramatically for the last month and finally lost the ability to walk yesterday which led us to make the decision to take him to the vets. She didn't do a full examination but it looks like it was cancer and even she said he'd 'given up the fight'. Yeah, I'm pretty devastated right now.

It's well documented that creating helps you move through grief so after the crying and reminiscing and the dinner we had in his honour (really odd/hard to eat a takeaway without the furball nonchalantly rubbing past your feet, just to remind you he's here and, if it wasn't too much trouble, he'd quite like a chicken ball all to himself), I started a new project. A crochet tunic using the bamboo cotton in dusky blue.

It hasn't gone well. Apparently you can't read patterns through teary eyes and I used the wrong hook, wrong by about four sizes. So that's destined for the frog pond.

I've tried again today, a shop sample of a new brooch kit in a lovely grass green that, had he been a customer, I would have pleaded with him to buy - pefect with his ginger tones. Seems to be going well, I think I've made a mistake but it's not too bad and I'd like to finish something today, just for the sense of achievement and finality.

I know it'll pass - this isn't losing one of my parents - but he was the sweetest cat I've known. Not really a cuddler but very soft and ever-willing to offer up his belly for a rub. I had a horrid thought as he passed that I couldn't think of any good times we'd shared. But that's not true. As I was crocheting I realised that when he was little, he'd bite by nose and his bottom teeth were set just the right width apart to get one in each nostril. Once he'd got in that position, nothing short of a kitty treat would dislodge him. That's a nice memory. Or the fact that he gave kisses - nose to nose. Or the fact that he didn't bother with wool, or indeed projects knitted solely for him, but lay something down on the floor or table and will him not to get a hold of it and yeah - you guessed it - he'd be on there. He really had a thing for my crochet blanket:

Him in his happier, fatter, 'yeah it's my blanket, what you got to say about it?!' days.

He was a scruff bag with a gnarled up face and a manky eye from too much fighting. He was also an idiot cat who would not learn from his mistakes. And, he really didn't care for fibre arts. But he was lovely, soft, cuddly and loving. He'll be missed. 


Love Eleanor.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Please Excuse Me...

For saying I'd meet you here and then standing you up! Life has all of a sudden become very busy; I've got a very sick cat on my hands (not looking good...), tax to sort, commissions to knit, Creative Nottingham blogs to write, and of course you lovely customers to serve (we're a bit busier now the hot, hot, hot weather has dissipated and the bank holidays of finally over). So, they're my excuses, unforgiveable I'm sure but let's just get on with it now. :)

So, we now know, using two different methods no less, how to work out how much to decrease if you end up working to a different tension. Probably worth pointing out that you can also use those methods to work out how to increase i.e. back up to a full bust width or on the arms. What we didn't get round to doing was working out where to place them in terms of rows. Funnily enough, this is very similar to the stitch workings out we did. Let's have a look:

So, this is the point when indie and commercial patterns part company. Ever tried a Ysolda Teague pattern? You'll find that she, and indie designers like her, give you a map of how the pattern should fit.

This arm map comes from the delightful Arisaig pattern available for free on Here, you've got all the information you need to know how long you've got to increase on your sleeve. For the smallest size, she gives you 17.75 inches in which to increase. Using her gauge from this pattern (11 rows per inch) we can work out that we have roughly 195 rows in which to increase. (17.75 multiplied by 11).

You can see at the bottom that there's a short space with no shaping which is nice because it means you can get some lovely even numbers to work with.

We'll stick with the example we worked out last time, so as not to cause too much confusion but armhole shaping is often more severe than this (in that it happens much quicker) so bear with it. We need to increase 2 stitches, 10 times, we can knit a certain amount straight until we reach a point where we're increasing. Let's do some maths.

So, when we think about it, what we're really trying to work out is nine nicely spaced sections, we'll:


Knit a bit,


Knit a bit,


Etc. etc, until our last


We'll have increased ten times altogether and there should be nine 'knit a bits' in between them. Make sense?

So, what we need, if we're increasing ten times, is a number that is nicely divisible by nine. What I mean by nicely divisible is an even number really. It's always nice to increase on a right side row, mainly because this is often knitted (as opposed to purl) but also because that's mostly what we're used to doing in standard knitting patterns, no need to fix what isn't broke (although, if you can't find a number that's 'nicely divisible' don't feel discouraged, increasing on a wrong side row isn't hard or wrong). Anyway, it's nice to increase on a right side row, and an even number means that you're 'knit a bits' will be odd numbers which is quite usual.

Back to the example:

We have to increase 10 times over 195 rows so we need to find a nice number that our nine sections can be.

195 / 9 = 21.67. No good, as knitters we can't deal with decimal points and 21 is an odd number to keep in your head. Let's try again.

180 / 9 = 20. Ahhh, that feels a bit better, no? Increasing every 20th row would be easy to remember and it's 'nicely divisible'. What it does mean is that we'd knit 14 rows before we increase (the difference between 195 and 180 minus the purl back row we'd have to do after our last increase to get us into a position to start casting off for the armhole shaping. .

That's fairly easy isn't it?

Now, working with a commercial pattern is very different. You don't get a lovely picture, the best you get is a table telling you how long the arms will be (to be fair, if you have that, that's great because it's more or less the information that Ysolda gives us).

If they don't give you measurements or pictures, we'll have to do the working out ourselves. I'm going to use a bog standard King Cole jumper pattern for our example this time and work again, on the arm (though King Cole, to their credit always give you the measurements you need to not have to do this...).

So, cast on 43 stitches and work in rib for 6 rows, swap to stocking stitch work 20 rows plain and increase into the next row every following fifth row until there are 81 stitches.

The bold stuff is the info we'll need to work this out.

So, first and foremost, the information staring you in the face is that you need to work 6 and 20 rows fairly plain so you've got an initial count of 26 rows to work. Then we need to work out how many rows will be knitted in the process of increasing.

We know that we need to get from 43 to 81. So, 81 - 43 = 38, and they're paired increases so we'll increase 19 times.

They've told us to increase on the next row, so add that row to the count (26 + 1 = 27) and take that increase off the total increases (19 - 1 = 18). So we're now doing, 18 sets of 5 rows (18 multiplied by 5 = 90) so that's 90 rows over the period of increasing. so 90 plus 27 = 117. So, you've got 117 rows worth of space to do you increasing.

Their row gauge is 7.5 rows per inch. We divide 117 by 7.5 to work out how many inches this correlates to and the answer is 15.6 (blimey! I've checked the measurement table, and it bloody works!!!!).

So, we've got 15.6 inches to increase however many times you've worked out you need to, and then it's back to the Ysolda example because from hereonin we've already been through.

Clear as mud?

I think one day I'll come back and put this all into one post, perhaps with a few equations to simplify it but hopefully you've got an idea that actually, it's just plain maths, broken up dead simply and worked through slowly. Anybody can do this!

Now, I'm off to have a lie down...

See you soon!! :)

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Moving On With Gauge...

So, we've talked about how to read gauge, how to use that to your advantage, why it's important that you match with a designer's gauge or why it's important that you can do the basic maths to work out what size you'll actually be making. We're going to carry on with that train of thought and talk about how to adjust length but first I'm going to add a little bit about stitch gauge which I thought would be too much to add yesterday...

Let's take our example from yesterday:

Designer's Gauge = 5.5 stitches per inch.

Designer asks you to cast on 128 stitches.

We know that there's a small amount added for seam allowance, there really isn't a universal standard for this in knitting as there is in sewing but I tend to assume it's a stitch either side. So the designer actually wants you to cast on 126 stitches worth of material.

From this we can gleen, even if we don't for some reason know what size we're working to, that the designer wants us to cast on 23 inches worth of stitches. We work this out thus:

126 divided by 5.5 = (roughly) 23.

Now, that's all very well but what if you're working to a gauge of 6.5 as you were yesterday and you don't want to change the size or work to a different size?

What you need to do is work out how much to cast on for your gauge! And that's dead simple:

23 multiplied by 6.5 = 149 (and a half...).

Plus seam allowance, so you'd cast on 151.

Often, as you'll know, there's more to the shaping of a jumper than just 'cast on and knit straight' - if the designer is worth their salt they'll have added some waist shaping. They'll say something like 'work one inch, decrease at each end of every 6th row until you have X number of stitches, work one inch, increase at each end of every 6th row until you have X number of stitches'. There's a few different ways to work out how you want to do this if you're not working to the standard gauge.

1). The most time consuming:

Find the amount of stitches that you have to decrease to and do the same working out as you did for the cast on. So, the designer asks us to decrease to 112.

We know there's a seam allowance so we take off two stitches = 110.

Then we need to work out the width that designer now wants us to be so 110 divided by 5.5 = 20.

So the designer wants us to decrease down to 20 inches.

At our gauge of 6.5, this means that we must have 130 stitches (plus two for seam allowance) = 132.

We've already cast on 151 - it'll be a bit awkward to decrease an odd number of stitches, so let's say we'll decrease down to 131 (it's lucky that knitwear is so forgiving in terms of stretch!). So we need to get from 151 to 131 which means we need to decrease by 20 stitches. The decreases are paired because we do this at the end of every decreasen row which means that we need to decrease two stitches ten times.


The next step is to work with the row gauge to work out where to place the decreases but we'll carry that on in another blog.

2). The least time consuming

Percentages - argh! - takes a bit of time to get comfortable with but it means you'll only really have to do working out once in a garment and everything else is just a couple of clicks (or whirs of the internal brain cogs if you're that way inclined) away.

So, starting with the example which we've been over multiple times. We know that the designer wants us to cast on 128 and we know that we need to cast on 151. What we want to work out is how those two figures are related to eachother in terms of what percentage 151 is of 128.

We work that out thus:

(Our cast on divided by the designer's cast on) multiplied by 100.

(151 / 128) times 100 = (roughly) 118.

So, we know that 151 is 118% of 128 and that's pretty much a magic number to take us through the whole of a pattern whenever they give us a number of stitches to cast on or decrease or increase to.

So, we know that the designer here wants us to decrease to 112 stitches for the waist shaping.

We take that number, divide it by 100 to get one percent and times it by 118 to get 118 percent.

112 / 100 = 1.12

1.12 times 118 = (roughly) 132.

So decrease from 151 to 131 (rounding down because knitting is stretchy and we know we want an even number so that we can do paired decreases). From here-on-in you're using the same calculations as before because even I can do that in my head!!!


The great thing about the percentage system is that you do the difficult calculation once and once only, after that it's dead easy and it can be used on any stitch count that the pattern throws up. Designer wants you to cast on 46 for the sleeves? Excellent - that means we cast on 54 (worked that out in less than 30 seconds).

It's worth knowing both ways of working it out though, so that one can be used to check the other. So often in knitting we do something without really thinking and it ends up a hot mess - just taking the time to check and recheck leads to less tears in the end (I really should take my own advice...).

Of course, all of this working out doesn't really help us place where any increases or decreases are going to go - that'll come tomorrow - but we're somewhere near ey?

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

When does 46 = 39?

So, we know how to count stitches and rows and we know that when you're substituting a yarn it's important to use the basic information on yarn weights to compare your chosen yarn with the one suggested in the pattern. This informtion becomes more and more important as the internet takes over how we choose patterns - Americans have some funny ideas on yarn weights... Well, not that funny but they do have sport and worsted weights which don't really figure in the UK's traditional yarn weights.

In fact, the internet has a lot to answer for in terms of gauge. Without the internet I would have never known about continental knitting (the one where you work with your left hand rather than right like I talked about in this blog post). Using a different method of knitting changes your tension like nobody's business - often using continental as opposed to English style gives a knitter a looser tension (I've heard a few of you complain that you can't reach gauge on American patterns without significantly increasing needle size which I suspect is because most English knitters tend to knit English style - but I haven't done any scientific testing on that...). Anyway, here's a photo to show you the difference that it can make:

Not a great photo but you can definitely see the difference between the first section of rib and the second. In the first I had been knitting English style completely, dropping each colour as I was working the other. In the second section I'd been using two-handed fairisle with the grey yarn in my left hand and the purple in my right. This is the second in a pair of mittens for my bestest friend (for Christmas last year...) and I'm in two minds whether to rip and redo, the first mitts have perfect tension in the ribbed section and this is obviously  bit of a mess, but it would be the fourth time I've ripped the bloody thing and really, when we're in May and I have three other Chistmas presents still to knit... Well, you get the idea. Anyway, there's a good example of changed tensions.

So - where were we?

Right, so imagine you've chosen your substituted yarn (or indeed the yarn that the pattern calls for) and you've got it home and you know that the yarn that you have and the yarn that the pattern calls for is an aran weight and you've got the right needles and the designer is English and you're English and you're not stressed so you've got every right to cast on straight away - right? Wrong! Sorry. Now we're talking tension squares...

Like I said before, tension squares are all about seeing whether you and the designer are on the same page. When you're writing a pattern, the cast on amounts don't just come out of the air - the designer finds the measurement that the stitches need to cover (plus or minus the amount of ease they've specified) and multiplies that amount by the gauge that they're using. So:

The gauge is 5.5 stitches per inch (roughly DK, let's not worry abut rows for now).

We're knitting a jumper, in pieces as opposed to in the round, for a woman with a fourty inch chest. The designer has chosen a comfortable two inches of positive ease and (they aren't an idiot so) they realise that most women's bums (in the UK at least) are bigger than their busts so the welt, which falls around the hip somewhere, needs to measure 46 inches.

We divide 46 inches by two (we're knitting this in pieces remember) = 23 inches.

So we multiply 23 by 5.5 which the calculator tells me is 126.5 stitches. Obviously we can knit half a stitch but we do also need a bit of allowance for sewing together so the designer tells us to cast on 128 stitches.

Perfect! If you're getting gauge that is. Now, say we're knitting tight and get a gauge of 6.5 stitches to the inch, how does that work out?

128 divided by 6.5 = something like 19.5 inches.

19.5 times 2 = 39.

So, if we knit this, with a gauge of 6.5 we're going to get a jumper that measures 39 inches around as opposed to 46. Mega difference ey?

Of course, you can use this to your advantage - if you want a jumper that measure 39 inches around and you get gauge at 6.5 then brilliant! I often tell people that come into the shop that if they want to use a different yarn weight they can often just use a different size instruction (keeping an eye on row gauge and length etc). In fact, I used this exact technique on this baby jumper:


I did it by accident of course, forgot to change to needle size from a 3.75mm to a 4mm (silly knitter...), but it reduced the chest size by a good couple of inches which means that rather than fitting a 0-3 month like the pattern suggests it would fit a very much grown preemie - without me having to think about it at all! I'm calling this a win!

Okay, this was only meant to be a two post series but I reckon that's enough brain addling for today, so pop back tomorrow and we'll talk some more!


Eleanor. :)

Monday, 2 May 2011

Gauge and other follies....

Oh dear. Gauge is a funny one isn't it? So many people can't get their head around it and I'll admit it outfoxes me on occasion (making myself sound like some sort of oracle – I'm not...). But let's have a chat and see what we can do ey?
Gauge – aka tension – basically means the amount of stitches or rows to a section in knitting (or indeed crochet but let's leave that to another time, it's a whole 'nother rant...). So, at the top of every pattern there'll be a little bit that says 'tension square' or 'gauge' and they'll tell you how many stitches and rows you should be getting per four inches or ten centimetres. At this point, all you knitters, dutifully pull out the needles and get knitting a tension square to check that you and the designer are at one in tension terms. Right? Yeah – I know how you feel... But here's why it's important:

That's my new jumper (lovely isn't it!?). The first picture is the the arm and the last is of the body (and I've added one of the whole thing so you can see it in context). Ignoring the two row stripes at the top of the body picture, can you see how distorted the arm stripes are?

Now I'll admit, the reason that the arm is so stretched out is less to do with my tension and more to do with the fact that I apparently can't set up a row of 2by2 rib whilst playing a game and had to decrease stitches because the 2by2by3by-whatever-I-fancied etc. wasn't working for me. So, after having counted my gauge, worked out the stitch count, cast on beautifully and knitted the first row I ended up with about six stitches less than I should have had and there is the result. Possibly I should have ripped it out but it's not cutting off circulation and it is a great example of how a few stitches really can make a difference. We'll talk more about the importance of tiny amounts of stitches in tomorrow's blog - really, it's like nano-science only I can understand it...

So, look at this bit of knitting (beautifully crafted by the lovely Jazz). Can you see the individual stitches?


Each 'v' is a stitch. That means that each 'v' represents both a row and a stitch. Have a look at this photo – knowing that each stitch is a 'v' can you count how many stitches and rows there are in an inch?


You get 3.5 stitches and 6 rows per inch?

Just to check we're all up to speed (or I'll come down on you like a tonne of bricks!!!! Oh, how I've love to be a primary school teacher...), here's a couple of photo's with a ruler in place and dots on each row or stitch depending on which photo you're looking at.

ditos dots ditos inchv's plus dots inches

So that's how you count the things but what does it all mean?
Well, roughly, each yarn weight i.e. DK, aran, chunky has it's own stitch count. The fact that we got 3.5 stitches per inch in our example means that we were measuring a chunky weight yarn. Click here to find a little chart giving you the information for the most popular yarn weights. Don't forget that this is only a guide, using a bigger or smaller needle than suggested, or your method of knitting, or whether you're stressed or happy etc will have a major effect.

If then, we can remember all of the different gauges in our heads, when we're looking at patterns in a shop we will know which yarn weights we're looking for and therefore which yarns can be substituted (which is great in a shop like ours where you might be looking for a cheap alternative to a Rowan yarn say...). Don't feel anxious though, to be honest I don't remember the yarn gauges in my head, I tend to check on a yarn that I know to be DK or aran or whatever and see what the ball band says – if you're in a wool shop you should always be able to get some information.

Right, that's enough for today, come back tomorrow and we'll talk some more.
Love Eleanor. :)