Archive for the ‘Tutorials’ Category

Firstly, I want to thank all of you for your encouragement and kind words after completely losing it yesterday. Having had a good night’s sleep the world is much rosier.

Ok, the real content I wish to share- A true story of Knitting Math.

Many of my wonderful readers have expressed wonder at my ability to alter and tweak patterns so easily and effectively. For all knitting math the watchword is proportion.

Proportions are one of the very few things I learned from an inept 8th grade algebra teacher, but they are (I believe) the most useful math skill anyone can possess. If you have never used proportions I’d like to introduce them to you now.

Knitter… this is Proportion. Proportion… this is Knitter.

“Nice to meet you Proportion, what are you and why the heck should I care?”

“Nice to meet you Knitter. I am a simple math operation by which you can find out any information you wish, as long as you know the original proportion. You are not limited to given pattern measurements once you understand me. Watch how useful I am…

“Knitter Peggy wishes to make a Fishtrap Sweater. The base size given is for a 40″ sweater, but she needs a 48” sweater. What should she do? Gauge up and pray? Add stitches and pray? NO! Knitting is math, and math is here to help the knitter!

“So, Knitter Peggy knows that a 40″ sweater knitted with a gauge of 5 spi in stockinette requires 224 sts, and she wants a 48” sweater… all she needs to do is set up her proportion. If 40 = 224 then 48 = ?

“The trick is to cross multiply and divide. So, (48 x 224) divided by 40 = 268.8

A 48″ sweater will require approximately 268 sts.

“Knitter Peggy started the first sleeve/swatch with her percentages derived from her proportions when she noticed the sleeve was looking a little…um…smaller than expected. Silly Knitter Peggy did her proportions correctly but failed to knit a stockinette gauge swatch. Silly Knitter Peggy imagined her stockinette gauge was 5 sts per inch, when it was really 5.5. Now her numbers/assumptions are all wrong!

Proportions to the rescue!!! If 5 spi = 268 then 5.5 spi = ???
cross multiply and divide (5.5 x 268) divided by 5 = 294.8

“Knitter Peggy rounded 294.8 up to 296 for pattern considerations and has been happily knitting away on Fishtrap ever since. The body of her sweater is 48″ around, the small-ish sleeve was salvaged by continuing the increases to the new percentages. Knitter Peggy tweaked both chest measurement and gauge without swatching the patterns or guessing- and with minimal frustration and frogging.”

Thank you Proportion.

I am not suggesting that a swatch is not a valuable tool. It is. A swatch is a great start. Say you knit a swatch and you love the needles, you love the yarn, you love the density of the fabric, but it’s Not the Gauge Listed In the Pattern. You don’t have to change your gauge to fit the pattern. Proportions. Proportions. Proportions. You can change the pattern to fit your gauge, your knitting style, your recipient’s style, and anything else under the sun.

Your knitting is yours. Own it.



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Things you’ll need:

1. Crock-Pot

2. Pint (half-liter) canning jars or something similar that can tolerate lots of heat.

3. Dyes and something to set them with.

4. Some kitchen utensils- turkey baster, wooden spoon, colander/sieve/strainer, large bowl. Safety Note- If you are not using food dyes, say acid or plant based dyes, you will need separate equipment. Once you’ve used your stuff with acid or plant dyes it is no longer food safe. Of course, if you use acid dyes regularly you probably already know this.

5. Wool. I would recommend doing this in about 50-100gm batches, anything more will be too crowded in the jars. And use wool!! (I tried some Lion Cotton yesterday and it didn’t take the dye at all. Suck.)

6. Rags, towels or washclothes you don’t mind getting dyed a bit.

Got it all? Excellent. The principle here is that we’re going to use the jars as individual dyebaths and the Crock-Pot as a double boiler. Place your jars in the Pot and fill everything (jars and Pot) about half-full. One jar for each color stripe. I’m doing 3.

When skeining the wool think about how many colors you’re using and how long you want the stripes to be and make your skein an appropriate length. Or just wind it however you like and be surprised by the results. Use plenty of ties!

When your wool is ready for the dyebath squeeze out the excess water and lay the skein out on a towel. *I wasn’t sure how long it would take for me to take good pictures so for the sake of my carpet, I did this with dry wool.*

Now we’re going to shape the skein. I’m going to be dyeing with three colors so I shaped my skein into a triangle. If you’re doing four, make a square… and so on. Next, bring all the sides to the center so you have 3 (or whatever) distinct sections. No one says the sections have to be equal, make whatever shape suits your fancy!

Then you’re going to pick up the skein, keeping the sections separate between your fingers. Like so….

Carry your wool over to the Crock-Pot and carefully feed each section into it’s own jar (personal dyebaths, remember?) I couldn’t take pictures of this as it’s a two handed operation. But knitters are smart, I’m sure you can figure it out. This is the end result.


Now turn on the Crock-Pot, put a lid on it and go knit until the water is hot.

OK, it’s hot. Next mix up your dyes. The food dyes I use (these) need to be dissolved in hot water so I like to use the turkey baster to suck out the hot water from each personal dyebath, use it to dissolve/mix the dye, and pour it back into the same jar. When adding the dye make sure you give each jar several gentle stirs so the dye gets to all the yarn.


Put the lid back on and let it do it’s thing while you knit some more. In an hour or so the wool will have absorbed all the dye and you’ll have clear water. I still find this amazing. At this point you can add more dye to saturate the colors or overdye with different colors, or be done.

Pull the wool out, wash it, rinse it, roll it up in a towel and let your kids help squish it dry…

woolout.jpgwashed.jpgpict2051.jpg stomp.jpghellper.jpg

That’s it! Now go make some sockies for your most dedicated fans. Happy Knitting!

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I was first inspired to try this after reading in Knitting Workshop that it can be done by hand. Who knew?

I don’t have a swift so I usually put my to-be-wound yarn on the legs of a chair:


Wrap the starting end a few times around the bowl end of a wooden spoon. Or in this case I’m using my son’s wooden sword. This ensures your end is secure and that you’ll have you center to pull from when you’re done.


Go to the other end of your winding implement- sword, spoon, it doesn’t matter as long as you can slid the ball off the end easily. Start wrapping the yarn gently (not tight, not sloppily loose) in a cross-hatch pattern.


For a small-ish amount of yarn I usually make my skein about 2-3 inches tall. A large-ish skein is 4-5 inches tall. So start winding. Always go around at a diagonal, and rotate your work a 1/4 turn every little bit so it gets wound evenly. The main thing to avoid is wrapping around the middle of the skein. You want this to look like a cylinder, not a sphere. And you keep winding and winding…..

As your ball gets larger you can start making several wraps on one diagonal, do several wraps on the opposite diagonal, 1/4 turn and repeat. Having your wraps go just over the tops and bottoms of your skein really helps it hold together and have flat ends. When all the yarn is wound, tuck in your end, slip it off your winding-spoon and……


Ta Da!

If you have a hard time getting the skein off the spoon try to wind more loosely next time. Getting this right does take practice, but if you’re as broke frugal as I am, it’s well worth the time and effort. Best of luck! Happy Skeining!

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