Stiffening Your Adornaments!

I promised you all a blog post with details about how to block and stiffening your Adornament Stars; Stello, Stellita and Astellar.  All three of these patterns are knit with mercerized perle cotton and need to be blocked and stiffened so they hang beautifully. Since a photo is worth a thousand words just look at the difference blocking makes:
 Basically, lace looks like crap until you block it!

I’ve played with many options for stiffening your ornament so it hangs beautifully! I discovered these while reading about how to stiffen crochet ornaments. I found the sugar wasn’t great for longevity (ants and pets love it!), and the cornstarch technique got a little "goopy" with the beads.

The best technique I found was to pour a bit of stiffening agent like Aleene’s Stiffen Quick or Fabric Stiffener into a container and soak your ornament.
Then squeeze it out a bit and stretch it out with pins on a pin-able surface covered with a piece of plastic wrap.
You’ll be able to find many stiffeners in your local craft store in the fabric glue aisle.  Make sure you purchase one that dries clear. The Fabric Stiffener creates a much stiffer fabric than the Stiffen Quick BUT your beads and yarn color will be dulled a bit.
Some of the products I saw suggest microwaving to dry them faster… DO NOT do this is if you used beads as many beads have metal in them!

Another technique that worked is to wet and block your ornament on a pin-able surface and then, once it is dry, repin it out on a piece of plastic wrap  and spray it with a stiffening agent. This technique sometimes requires a second spray to achieve the stiffness you’ll want.

A word of caution: The pattern states that you should weave in ends but DO NOT trim until after blocking... this is why:
WHOOPS! I trimmed my end before blocking and it "wormed" it's way out when I stretched it!
I was able to fix it... but it was scary! Just wait until you are done blocking to trim them!


Knitting For Munich!

I’m sure all of you have heard about the worldwide Refugee problem as millions are fleeing Syria and seeking asylum worldwide. One of my Ravelry group members, Andrea (aka Lakshmi07) is a doctor outside of Munich who works in a public health office. Needless to say she has been inundated at work, and I asked her how we could possibly help out!

One of Andrea's concerns is that the winter months are coming and many of these refugees are not properly prepared for the cold. So, I am hoping some of you can take a little time out from your knitting projects and make them some warm items. They don’t need to be fancy, but they do need to be functional and bright!

Andrea has offered to be a “hub” for us to help get the woolens to those in need. Since she is on the front line of this situation and dealing with it daily, I feel sure that our items will be appreciated and used. In her town alone they are expecting 1,000 refugees and many of them will be living in tents….
Some hats I made for a Craftsy project ready to send onto Germany in the first shipment!
When you have finished items please e-mail knittingformunich@nelkindesigns.com with a list of what you are sending and the country you are shipping from.

We will e-mail you the address to send your box to (we have shipping “hubs” in the US LauraNelkin, Canada HillJS, and Germany Lakshmi07. Please don’t include anything other than your labeled knitted items.

The first shipment will go out from the US and Canada on October 20th.
The second shipment will depart mid-November. (I will post here when that date is set)
After that we will reassess the need for more.

Include a Welcome Note
Most of these refugees are alone and far away from their families and all of them are lonely and scared. What they need most of all is a helping hand and some human warmth.
Please attach a tag with a small note of friendship and welcome, such as:
Welcome to the western world, believe in yourself and you can make it!
Or anything empathetic and encouraging that gives them the feeling they are a valuable person, not a burden or unwanted on this planet.

Do we want them to be washable?
Yes, please! We expect the items to be worn daily for many months straight

What sizes are needed?
Two-thirds of the refugees are young men between 20 and 30, but they don’t have the big US-body constitution, they are rather slim and skinny.
There are a few families with kids and also pregnant woman, so basically any size is fine, but mostly items for men.
Color wise we think happy bright colors would be great, or at least light colors for those men, like white and beige and light gray, they have enough darkness in their lives!

What items would be useful?
Hats, mittens, scarves, cowls… anything warm and bright!

What pattern(s) should I use?
I have a few patterns that would be great for this project and many are free… but you do not need to use one of my patterns! Any simple hat/mitten pattern will do!
Ann Budd’s The Knitter’s Handy Book of Patterns is a great resource for simple/functional charity knitting in a wide range of sizes and gauges (I LOVE this book!)

We've been sharing favorite charity knitting patterns in the Knitting for Munich thread on Ravelry!

Please ask questions… I can “flesh” out this FAQ as we answer them!
Thanks for helping and knit with Love!


Short Row Knits: A GiveAway and Interview with Carol Feller

It's Friday.. which means it is time for a giveaway! I was asked to be a stop on Carol Feller's Blog Tour for her new book Short Row Knits and of course I said yes! I ADORE Carol, and wanted you all to get to know her a bit better. Short Row knits is a book for learning... with stunning projects! So, if you have been wanting to learn more about short rows, it is a must-have for your knitting library.
L: Walk me through the process that you went through to design this book. What was the first thing you did? Next? Did you have this idea for a long time?
Carol: I had been thinking about doing another knit book with a publisher a couple of years ago. I self-publish smaller pattern books myself but this time I wanted to do something bigger. I envisioned a book that combined a technique workshop with patterns. If a knitter invests in a knitting book I wanted it to be one that they would refer to for years to come, even after they had knit the patterns. I had been tossing different ideas around and it was the editor at Potter Craft that suggested short rows. This actually make perfect sense, I had already done a free mini short row class on Craftsy and almost every pattern I write uses short rows in some way! From here I started thinking about what information was missing about short rows; there are lots of different techniques out there, how do you decide which one to use? How can you control the slope of your knitting with short rows? What happens when you don’t have stockinette stitch? You don’t see short rows detailed in reverse stockinette stitch, ribbing or even lace very often. But we knit with all these stitches!

So the book was designed to answer these questions, with patterns that knitters really wanted to knit. From here I put the basic structure of the book together, dividing it into 3 sections. First the technique section with patterns to practice on. The next section is all about creating shapes; sloping shawls, short row heels and the crown of hats. The final section is all about garments and how to use short rows to shape different parts of the garment body. As the tutorials developed the patterns grew up around them. The initial work was finished by last summer; written, knit and technically edited. Then over the summer we did all the photography, a few of the knits needed a few tries! Then from last September on the publisher was working on layout and illustrations. The photos of the technical swatches needed to be redone, which was a steep learning curve for us! And here we are in September 2015 with an actual finished book :-)

L: So, exactly how many different ways are there to short row? I know you go over this in the book, but can you give a short synopsis here?
Carol: I show 4 different methods in to book, the traditional wrap & turn (plus my variation for improving it), Japanese, yarnover and German. There are of course other ways of working short rows but the basic idea of how they work remains the same.

With wrap & turn, when you turn your work you wrap the yarn around the next stitch. This wrapped yarn is later used to close the gap. Traditionally you just work the stitch and the wrap together, when I work it I dismantle it and put the wrap behind to ensure that it is hidden.

Japanese short rows use holder for that yarn loop. This holder can be a stitch marker, safety pin or even a strip of waste yarn. I even detail in the book how you can use a single strip of yarn to hold several closely spaced short rows. When you join a Japanese short row the method you use is exactly the same as for the wrap & turn method.

The third method shown is the yarnover method. As before you use a loop of yarn when you turn to join the short row. The only difference is that you use a yarn over (effectively holding the yarn loop on the needle) to join the short row gap.

The final method is German short rows. This one is interesting as it doesn’t use a yarn loop but instead turns the work and then effectively pulls the stitch from the row below up. This reduces the visibility of the gap between the different rows. This method is very useful when your work is viewed from both sides.

Other variations of short rows that I’ve seen use other ways of pulling up the row below to join the gap, once you know what you’re trying to achieve I’d suggest knitters experiment to see what they can create!
Diamante from Short Row Knits
L: I realize I am assuming everyone knows what short rows are... will you briefly explain for any knitters who aren't familiar with them?
Carol: Short rows at their most basic are just rows you don’t knit to the end; you knit to the point you want to turn, turn your work and then work in the other direction. What changes with each method is HOW you join that turn. This is where knitters often get confused; everyone claims to have the best method! I think it’s most important to understand what you’re trying to do then you can pick the best method to use in different situations.
L: What is your favorite design in the book?
Carol: That’s like asking who your favorite kid is :-)! I do however know what one’s I’d most like to wear; Riyito and Jiminez . I’m currently very in to loose, oversized, flowing sweaters so these two would fit right into my wardrobe!
L: Did any design really challenge you? I bet there is a good story in there somewhere....
Carol: Well it’s not really much of a story but my quest for well-fitted short row sock heel took a bit of time! I loved the idea of short row heels in socks, the basics seemed so simple. However every time I’ve tried to knit a short row heel pattern I ran into a problem – I can’t fit it over my heel! I’ve got a very high instep and without a gusset a hand knit sock really doesn’t fit. This meant that I did an awful lot of sock experimenting. It resulted in two sock patterns; Arenal a ribbed cable sock that is knit from the toe up and Claro a plain vanilla cuff down sock.

L: The photos in your books are stunning... and they all have a very similar style. I always know when a photo is of one of your designs as your look is iconic. Tell us more about your photographer? (Hint: Does he also cook dinner?)
Carol: Well occasional dinner! It is indeed my husband, Joseph, who does my photography. As I’ve been learning to design he’s been learning to photograph, he is primarily a university professor and photography is something he does in his free time. He’s got a great eye and is very good at getting models to relax (the kids particularly like him!).

L: How long have you been knitting? Do you have any other craft you do on the side?
Carol: I learned to knit as a small child, I don’t remember actually learning! When I was in primary school I knit a lot for my dolls and a few garments for myself but once I hit my teens I stopped. It was after my fourth son was born that I picked up needles again. I was very quickly obsessed and within a few months I was designing.

At the moment time is my most precious commodity, there’s never enough of it! Certain things have been getting easier as the boys get older but from 2 until 5 or 6 every day I’m driving them around in circles to activities. We live in the country so there are no school buses, which means I spend far too much time on the road. I long to devote time to learn sewing but I just don’t have the hours or mental bandwidth to do that at the moment. It’s on my bucket list though!

L: If a knitter walked up to asking for your advice and you only had a few minutes to give ‘em your best tip, what would it be?
Carol: Have fun and don’t be afraid of mistakes! Experimenting and pushing your own boundaries are so important. Don’t get too hung up on getting things perfect as it makes it harder to try new things.

L: Ok... totally off topic... you got a PUPPY? He's adorable! Tell us more?
Carol: Well you see I though I had too much spare time on my hands so obviously I needed a puppy! We’ve got a wonderful older dog (he’s almost 11) that needed some company and when the local adoption agency tweeted a photo of Lizzie I completely fell in love. She’s super cute, bitey and doesn’t like to sleep very much at night but we just adore her!
Lizzie and Kenny snoozing together!
Next stop on Carol's Short Row Knits blog tour is with Miss Babs on the 28th of September. 

Time for a giveaway... 

Potter Craft has generously donated  a copy of Short Row Knits to giveaway to one of you!  Have you worked short rows before? Were you successful? Just leave a comment below by 12pm (EST) on Sept 29th, don't forget to leave a way to get in touch with you! I randomly choose a winner next week and announce them in next week's Friday giveaway post!

Last week's winners... 
Congrats to SleekyMom and BadJeanne!!! Get in touch to claim your yarn for Phi For YOU!!!!


Adornaments: A Beaded Ornament Collection!

Introducing Adornaments... my first foray into beaded ornaments! SO FUN!
I originally conceived the idea to design a line of knit ornaments two years ago... and have been working on Adornaments in earnest since late last winter. It's a great departure from knit jewelry; a small beaded accessory that is perfect for quick gift knitting!

There are 5 ornament patterns total in Adornaments, 3 in The Stars (Stellita, Stello and Astellar) and 2 in The Lights (Ilumina and Espira). The Stars are knit in cotton and worked from the center out with beads. They are stiffened when finished (blog post coming next week) to help them keep their shape. The Lights are knit in fingering weight wool with beads and then stuffed.
The patterns are available two different ways... you can buy the Adornaments e-book which contains both The Stars and The Lights patterns for $12, OR you can purchase kits for The Stars and/or The Lights ($19/each) which contain a download code for that pattern along with all the materials you need. The patterns include links to video tutorials to help you learn the tricksy bits in the designs.
The Stars kit contains mercerized perle cotton, Size 8/0 and 6/0 glass seed beads,dental floss threader, super floss, 2 hooks for hanging, a PDF pattern download code and include enough materials to make either 1 Stello and 1 Stellita, or 1 Astellar and 1 Stellita, or 3 Stellitas. The Stars kit comes in 5 colors; Royal, Icicle, Poinsettia, Glacier, and Holly.
The Lights kit contains a “Gumball” from Knitted Wit; Size 6/0 glass seed beads, dental floss threader (for stringing beads), Super floss (for placing beads), 2 hooks for hanging, a PDF pattern download code and include enough materials to make either 1 Ilumina and 1 Espira, or 2 Ilumina, or 2 Espira. The Lights kit comes in 5 colors; Royal, Icicle, Poinsettia, Aqua, and Holly.

Kits are available from your LYS (just ask them to order some!) or my Etsy store... the e-book is up on Ravelry!

It's time to start playing with beads and make some lovely little gifts! These are GREAT present toppers, and making a strand of 6 Stellitas would make the most beautiful garland! I'm working on that next!


Sign Up for MClub 2016 and a Phi For You Giveaway!

Have you heard about The M Club? I think it is my favorite project of the year!  I have a great time dreaming up skills to teach/finding unique yarns/and designing unexpected pieces! In 2015 we covered a ton of techniques, from placing beads, to mitered shaping, to uneven lace, gauge (a few times), multiple types of cast-ons, beaded yarnovers, traveling rib, brioche with beads (gasp), reversible cables, and a few more skills I can't share yet!
Clockwise: Mouette Scarflette, Phi for You, Meta Mystery KAL, and Migra Mitts
We are just wrapping up 2015's club with Circo Mystery KAL... the first clue released on Tuesday and everyone is happily knitting along!
One of this year's successes was Phi for You... a simple top-down Half-Pi Crescent shaped shawl with an increasing feather and fan inspired lace edging that is highlighted with placed beads.  This pattern is extra special as the yarn was designed and dyed SPECIFICALLY for it by CaterpillarGreen Yarns using the golden ratio to fit the stripes into the shawl's stitch count perfectly. You can read more about the first kit and working with Cat on this project here... it was truly AMAZING!

Since Phi For You was designed just for The M Club, the yarn and pattern aren't available until February 2016! I have gotten a TON of inquiries to see if I have any extra kits I can sell from both current M Club members and others who have seen it.  Unfortunately I only have two skeins left... so I decided to have a Phi for You kit giveaway to celebrate the end of 2015's club and the signups for next year : )! Seems only fair, right?

All you have to do to win one of these two kits is leave a comment below letting me know what you would like to learn should you join in on  2016's club! Don't forget to leave a way to get in touch with you. (Comments open until 9/22 at 5pm EST) And a clarification... this giveaway is for everyone!  You don't need to be part of the M Club (past, present or future) to enter!!!

I'll randomly choose two winners when I get back from this weekend's teaching trip to Knitter's Day Out in Harrisville, PA and Knitter's Edge in Bethlehem, PA on Tuesday Sept 22nd. I'll have my full kit line in the Flying Fibers Booth (#23) at KDO... I'm even bringing some brand new kits too! I'll also be signing books in their booth on Saturday during lunch time (12:45-1:15).

Comments are closed... I'll be posting winners on this Friday's giveaway post (9/25)!


Video Tutorial: Crochet Cast On

Today clue #1 of Circo Mystery KAL releases... and the first thing you have to do is a crochet cast on and I made a video for you!

I also use this cast on in The Novus Collection, and many of the patterns in Knockout Knits use it, so I am happy to add it to my video tutorial arsenal!

The crochet cast on can be used as a regular cast on if you work it with your working yarn... just remember that it isn't super elastic. This cast on matches a traditional bind off the best. It is also a great provisional cast on if you work it with scrap yarn which is how it is used in Circo!

If you are using this cast on provisionally then make a few extra chain stitches off the needle when you are done and tie a knot or two in the end of the yarn. Then you'll know which end to rip out from!

I also absolutely love Lucy Neatby's video on this technique... it's how I learned how to work it, so if this doesn't make sense, or you want more clarification, please do go watch it!

Novus Collection: Choosing Your Size!

Next in the Novus Blog Series it is time to discuss how sizing works in the Novus Collection to help you decide what size to cast on for your body! The nice thing about the sweaters in Novus is that they are supposed to have a loose fit, so you have a bit of flexibility when choosing your size. Both Hot Flash and Las Cruces are designed with 2 inches of ease. What does this mean? The sweaters are designed to be 2 inches bigger than your actual bust size so that they hang loosely on your body.
What size should  I make?
Go look at the schematic for the pattern you are making and find your bust measurement on the first row (To Fit). That will most likely be the size you will make. Many of you might find that your bust size falls in between the bust measurements given which means you need to make a decision! How do you want your sweater to fit? Do you like your sweaters to be a bit more fitted, or loose? That might help you decide. You can also look at the Hip measurement (last row). If you are pear shaped you'll want to make sure that that measurement works for that part of your body as well.

Schematic for Hot Flash (the measurements on Las Cruces are slightly different)
Note: The difference between A and I is that A is is the sleeve width flat, and I is the sleeve circumference (i.e. it includes the side panel).

What if you want the bust measurements of the Medium but you are vertically challenged and need the length of a small?
The sweaters in Novus are worked side to side so the rows determine the width and the sts determine the length. (read more about the construction here)  It is totally possible to knit the length of a small, and the bust of a medium!

What you will do is work the sleeve for the Medium, and at Row 1 of the Set Up for Body cast on the stitches for the small size at each end of the sleeve. These stitches determine the length of the sweater! Then you will continue as established but makes sure you work the repeats of the pattern for the Medium. Those repeats determine the width of the sweater. Then you will mirror this on the Left Side… it might sounds confusing but it is surprisingly simple.

 A few case studies:
Here is Carol's STUNNING Hot Flash:

Carol's bust is smaller than her hips so she went with a larger size. Usually she is a 1x, but since she likes her sweaters roomy she opted for the 2x.
To quote Carol: "I was glad I went with the larger size because my yarn did not have much give and didn’t block out as large as the 2x. Make sure you do your gauge swatch to see how it will block out, I did and knew I should be good going with the 2x. I am very happy with the size of my Hot Flash, it fits great."

And Kelly's GORGEOUS Hot Flash:

Kelly chose to make her Hot Flash in an XS as she is quite petite and didn't want to swim in her sweater!
To quote Kelly:
"If you are debating size to make, I think you need to decide if you want a generous loose fit or something more closely fitted to your body. I made the size XS and I am normally S to M. But I am quite happy with the snugger fit. I did make my sweater in a wool blend which doesn’t stretch and grow as much as linen or cotton. You will notice the more oversized look of the other test knitters sweaters."

 And Suzie's VIBRANT Hot Flash:

Suzie debated hard about her Hot Flash sizing... she knew she fit the Medium in her bust size but needed the length of the large. I helped her understand how easy it was to adjust the pattern and look at how well it fits her!

And my TWO Hot Flash(es) (cause I girl can't have just one!)

The sweater on the left is the one I made first in Siidegarte Siide-Buschper in a Small and the version on the right is knit in Wollmeise DK in an XS.
I love my original Hot Flash but you can see it is quite long and loose on me... it really only works with pants and tighter shirts so you can see my waistline. Whenever I tried it on with looser clothing I looked like a dumpling....
So, I decided to make an XS in a yarn that had a little less drape to so it would sit on my body a bit more... and now I can wear it with a dress! (Note: not every dress in my closet works with it, this one has a waistline and is a bit fitted!)

You can see MANY more Hot Flash and Las Cruces Sweaters on their Ravelry pages... take a look at how everyone's sweaters are fitting and what size they made. That will probably really help you decide which sweater is right for you!

This concludes the Novus Collection Blog Series! I will certainly add to it if questions come up!  I can't wait to see your sweaters come off the your needles!


Novus Collection: Working Gauge

Next up in my blog series dedicated to the Novus Collection is a treatise on gauge! I have a detailed blog post about working gauge in my patterns, but Las Cruces and Hot Flash are unique and I wanted to make sure I have covered a few extra things!
First up, I want to reiterate this note on gauge taken from the pattern:
Gauge- Correct row gauge is essential for this design, as it determines the width of the body. Because of this, you will need to count rows as you knit, instead of knitting to measurements. The pieces will look too small as you knit them, but will block out to the correct measurements. It is very important that you work a large gauge swatch in the pattern stitch and block it before knitting the sweater.

Next, I want to explain WHY this is:
The sweaters in Novus are knit side to side. You start at the sleeve cuff and work inwards. This means that row gauge determines with width of your sweater and stitch gauge your length. (You can read more about the construction here).

Working Gauge for the Sweaters in the Novus Collection, step by step:
  1. Cast on for a sleeve in the size you are making. Use the needle size called for. If you know you knit loosely, then go down a needle size. If you knit tightly, go up!
  2. Begin to knit the sleeve as outlined in the pattern. Work at least 3 repeats of the stitch pattern. Place all your sts on scrap yarn!
  3. Soak your swatch in warm water for 5 minutes, if not longer. You can use a little wool wash if you want, but it’s not necessary.
  4. Take your swatch out of it’s bath and squeeze out all the water in a towel.
  5. Lay out your swatch flat. I use my ironing board for this as things dry quickly on it and the surface can get wet. Smooth out the swatch, but  DO NOT pin it, you want to be blocking this swatch EXACTLY as you will block your sweater. If you are working with a yarn that doesn't have alot of memory (like alpaca, silk, linen, or cotton) then you might want to "hang" your swatch off of the edge of your ironing board and put a bit of weight on the ends. (I used my wonder clips for this.) What this does is simulate the weight of your finished sweater giving you a bit more of an accurate gauge. Hanging the swatch will cause your stitch gauge to pull in and your row gauge to stretch out. Stitch and row gauge are linked, you can't shift one without changing the other!

  6. Let dry completely. (Important!)
  7. Measure your stitch and row gauge. You want to do this over multiple inches, making sure you keep away from the edges to get an accurate stitch count. Re-read the above note! How is your row gauge?
  8. What is awesome about this? If you are "on" with your stitch gauge you can  put your stitches back onto the needles and keep knitting your sweater. If you aren't then you'll need to cast on another sleeve on a different size needle, but you'll already be familiar with the pattern, so it will go faster, right?
  9. PLEASE DON'T SKIP DOING A GAUGE SWATCH.... your sweater might not fit the way you want it to, and that would BE SAD! : (!
The next post in this series is going to be about sizing... and that will be a fun discussion, with photos! Above is a second Hot Flash I almost have finished in Wollmeise DK, I'm trying to get that done so I can show it to you as part of my sizing post! Only 16 more repeats of the second side seam panel to go....

So, have any questions? Ask away! I am happy to help!