Sewing Mitered Corners

Mitered corners look tidy and fancy. Most things we see (tea towels, table cloths, place mats and so on) have quickly finished edges. Many of them are simply a twice-turned (sometimes called “rolled”) hem, or a serged edge that has been turned and stitched. I call this a “serge and turn” if you can still see the serged stitches and a “serge and roll” if you can’t. If you are looking for a way to take a simple project up a notch.

Try making it with a wide hem with mitered corners.

Before I get started, I want to acknowledge that this may end up looking like a whole lot of words. Please take the time to read and then compare to the photos. This process is a wee bit counter-intuitive. I have sincerely tried to be as clear as I know how to be.

First off, you need to plan your project accordingly. I like to allow 1.25 inches for my hem when doing a mitered corner. This gives me a quarter inch to tuck under and one inch of fabric that shows off the miter. So I will add 2.5 inches to my desired finished width and length. For instance, if I want my table runner to be 12″ x 18″ when finished, I would cut out my fabric to measure 14.5″ x 20.5″.

Tips:

Experienced sewers may be able to eyeball a quarter inch edge.

If you can do that, all the power to you! If you don’t think you would be able to do that evenly, or it would take you a long time to do so, I have a couple tips for you: If you have a serger, you can serge around the outside edge of the fabric. This gives you a quarter inch seam allowance that you can easily see and turn under. I encourage you to choose a thread colour that blends in with your fabric. This will hide any imperfections when you tuck the edge under and stitch it in place. If you don’t have a serger, you can run a row of stitching a quarter inch from the edge as a guide for turning your seam allowance. Use a thread colour that looks good with your fabric, that you can see, but that won’t look ugly if it shows a little after you are done. Both of these tips are optional, but they will make doing the corners much easier. There are presser feet that are designed to align a quarter inch from the edge of the fabric. If you don’t have one, they are a handy addition to your tool box.

You will need to mark your fabric in some way.

You will be marking on the right side of the fabric. You can use dressmaker’s chalk, a Pilot Frixion pen or other fabric marking pen.  If using a pen, please, please, PLEASE take the time to test it on your fabric before you use it. Frixion pens react to heat and marks should disappear when you press your project. But, I have had a few times when it didn’t completely disappear. I’m not sure whether it is an issue of fibre content or ink colour that causes this. Some fabric marking pens are water soluble and the ink washes away. I don’t have a lot of personal experience using the water soluble pens; both Dritz and Prym make these. I have many customers who swear by them. I usually use DM chalk or Frixion pens.

Marking the outer turn line:

Measure and mark your turn line 1.25 inches from each of your edges respectively. Do this on the right side of the fabric. You will end up with squares drawn on each corner.

Marking for the mitered corners:

Turn your fabric so you can work on the wrong side now. What you need here, is to mark the corners to prepare for the miters. If you have a grid ruler* use it to mark the 1.25″ lines at the corners; measure from the outer edge the way you did on the last step. Notice on my photograph that I marked the 1.25″ turn line about 2″ further than the corners of the squares. This is important. (*I highly recommend having at least a 4″x4″ grid ruler in your tool box. A 3″x18″ and a 6″x24″ are the other sizes I couldn’t live without. Olfa, Omnigrid and Fiskars all make very good grid rulers.)

Next, mark another set of lines 1 inch in from the lines you just made. Notice that this has created two more squares beside the corner square? These are important.

If you didn’t serge the edge, or stitch a quarter inch guideline, then take the time to mark where that quarter inch edge is now. You will thank me later.

Take a moment to notice what you have created. You should have 4 one inch squares drawn in the corner, with a quarter inch edge at the edge of the fabric. Think of that edge as being separate from your squares.

Now using a ruler (do not eyeball this) draw a line. Start at the point where the square meets the outer line at the edge of the fabric (2.25″ from the corner) through both squares and end at the outer line. You did not mark in the outer quarter inch. This creates a triangle with the corner of the fabric; it should bisect two squares. Your line should go through the point where the four squares meet in the middle. This is very important. This is your stitching line.

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If you are doing this for the first time, I recommend that you just mark one corner to begin with. Once you have sewn it and you understand what it is you have to do, then mark the other three. That way, if you misunderstood the instructions on the first one, you don’t have to undo anything before you can proceed.

Creating the Mitre:

Fold your fabric at the corner with right sides together. You are creating a triangle here. You will be able to see your corner markings. Be careful to align all the edges accurately. You may find it helpful to pin the edges in place so they don’t shift while you are working. Line your work up so that the quarter inch edge is toward the back of the presser foot. Align the needle and presser foot with your stitching line. Your needle should be placed at the point where the stitching line meets the quarter inch seam allowance. DO NOT SEW OVER THE SEAM ALLOWANCE.

Secure the stitching by back tacking (sew forward and back a couple times) and stitch to the end of the stitching line. Secure the stitching again.

Trim the extra fabric away. Looking at the raw edge that you just trimmed, one end is the original edge of the fabric, the other is where the fabric was folded. Clip the fold from the edge to the stitching line.

Turn the corner right side out. Don’t press it yet because that would erase your markings. Use your finger or a point turner (another tool I couldn’t live without) arrange the seam allowance open. In other words, you want there to be seam allowance laying on both sides of the seam you created, inside the corner.

Once you have all four corners mitered, carefully line them up with the markings so they lay nice and flat. Press the corners. I recommend that you now press along the turn line all the way around the project. Take your time with this so that you get a nice smooth edge. If you chose a loose fabric, you should probably pin that edge in place at this point. Now you can easily turn that quarter inch edge under and top stitch as close to the edge as you can manage.

Ta-Dah! You just made a mitered table mat. Congratulations!

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Reflecting on Tour-de-Sock

Tour-de-Sock is coming to a close for 2017.

What an experience it was for me. For anyone unfamiliar, TDS is a sock knitting competition and fundraiser. Money raised by the competition is donated to Doctors without Borders.

The competition is made up of 5 stages. (This year there was a warm up round as well). In each stage a sock pattern is made available at a specific time (announced in advance) for all the competitors to access. Racers from all over the world then download the sock pattern and following strict guidelines knit each pattern respectively. Photos of the completed pair of socks are then submitted. The photos must clearly show the front and back and size of the socks and both socks. This way moderators can inspect them to be sure that everyone followed the instructions and did the work expected to qualify for that stage of the competition and to make it fair to everyone.

My friend and fellow sock knitter invited me to join her team.

I’m so glad she did!

The anticipation was fantastic. I really wasn’t sure what to expect. With each stage of the competition there was tremendous excitement leading up to the pattern drop. The discussion boards were busy with chatter as the competitors tried to guess what the next round would bring. We were given advance notice of what materials we would need for the next round. Many people were traveling while in the competition so they would have to be sure they brought what they would need along.

I’m glad that I wasn’t traveling.

As each pattern dropped, I generally found that I didn’t actually want to use the yarn I had originally picked out based on the specs provided. I really needed to see the pattern first.

I discovered that Finns are incredibly fast knitters!

Round after round, the early finishers were “Finnishers”. In some rounds the first socks were already posted in less than 24 hours from when the pattern dropped. I realized right away that there was no way I was going to be able to out-knit them. I wanted to push myself and see what I could do though. I really hoped I could manage to finish at least one pair in the top 100 finishers. All things considered. I think I did pretty well. There were around 1700 competitors.

  • In stage 1 I finished at #180;
  • stage 2 at #105;
  • stage 3 at #205;
  • stage 4 at #172 and
  • stage 5 at #74 (HURRAH).

After starting on stage 6, which employed a jacquard colour stranding technique and 4 colours of yarn, it took me a little more than 10 hours to knit just one cuff. I was not in love with the pattern. I decided to throw in the towel on that round. Besides just thinking about the number of hours it would take, I had a lot of new sewing work come in the store and I really needed to put my full attention back on work.

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In every round I learned a new skill.

I ended up with 6 completed pairs of socks. The patterns I knitted were not necessarily patterns I would have ever chosen to knit. Yet I thoroughly enjoyed making them. I discovered that I love doing stranded colourwork. Well, I love knitting with 2 colours. Using 4 colours (stage 6) was just a bit more awkward than I wanted to navigate. I fell in love with some designers that I didn’t know about before. I really pushed myself and I feel proud of what I accomplished.

I can only imagine the huge amount of work involved in administrating a competition like TDS. My hat’s off to all the people who poured their free time, their passion, their skills and their talents into making TDS happen. My life is richer for participating.

I can hardly wait for it to start next year; sign me up!

Sock Surgery

Normally, hand knitted socks last a very long time. That having been said, some people are harder on their socks than others.

Toes and heels can wear out.

Sometimes you catch them on something and it’s just sharp enough that you end up with a hole. But you don’t have to throw them out. If you catch it right away it’s a quick fix… but if you leave it then you may need to do some sock surgery.

My step-son was home for the summer and a week before he was scheduled to head back to University, I noticed that he was wearing a pair of socks I knit him but there were big holes in them. After making a mental note to buy him a pedicure tool kit for Christmas, I pulled out my leftover yarns to find what I needed to perform surgery on his socks. As I repaired them I took photos and thought I would share with you what I did. I only took photos of one pair, though.

I did a toe replacement and a leg portion replacement on them.

There are other ways to do these repairs. I could have darned them. I am not crazy about how the darned portion of a sock feels on my foot. I could have done a spot reconstruction. That’s fiddly and I wasn’t feeling like I had patience enough to do that. I don’t do it often enough to not have to really think about it. I wasn’t interested in making my head hurt over it. I figured it would be more pleasant to use the method that I am going to show you today.

On the leg of the sock:

I picked up all the stitches around the entire sock above and below the damage. Always pick up the right leg of the knit stitch as you go. Because it’s the leg, it didn’t really matter where I started my row.

 

I counted the number of rows that would be removed in the process and wrote that information down so I wouldn’t forget.

I cut away the damaged fabric in between, making sure that I didn’t cut too close to the stitches on the needles.

 

Next I unraveled the unwanted yarn to expose the live stitches on my needles. As I did this I was able to see a couple spots where I accidentally grabbed a stitch from a row above or below. So I really took my time on unraveling the last row so I wouldn’t accidentally drop stitches. I had an extra dpn on hand so I could make sure that the stitches were all picked up correctly as I went.

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I used a Russian Join (see below) to join my ball of yarn.

I knitted one less row than what I needed and then lined up the needles with each other and joined the two pieces using Kitchener Stitch. (This created the last row.)

The Russian Join:

Thread one yarn end onto a needle that is fine enough for your yarn (see the photo). I like using a sharp needle for this but you may prefer something blunt. Lay the yarn you want to join it to across your working yarn. Thread the needle between the plies of the yarn that the needle is threaded on just past where you laid the other yarn across. You should be creating a loop around the other yarn.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.

 

Pull the needle through so the loop snugs up around your other piece of yarn. You’ll need to decide whether you’ve gone through enough that it will hold once it is knitted into the work. Adjust accordingly and then clip off the excess yarn. Be careful that you are cutting off the tail and NOT the working yarn! That would be annoying.

Thread the other piece of yarn you are joining onto the needle. Thread it through itself  just past where the other join was made: like you did with the first end.

Trim the excess yarn. You just completed a Russian Join. Congratulations!

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On the toe of the Sock:

I picked up the stitches all around the sock just below where the damage was.

I counted the rows and made a note of the decrease pattern. (If you followed a pattern, you could pull out the pattern to check how the toe was decreased; I made this sock up without using a pattern.) I wrote the information down so I wouldn’t forget.

When you pick up the stitches on the toe, be sure that you look carefully at where the decreases are done. Make sure that the first stitch you pick up is the beginning of the row. This way you can do your decreases the way you normally would when originally knitting a sock. If you pick up from the wrong spot it could create a wobble in the force… I mean a wobble in your sock. You don’t want that. You would feel it when you wear them.

I trimmed away the damaged portion of the toe and frogged away the extra rows beyond the needle. Take your time with this step.

I re-knitted the toe to match the other sock. (It looks a little bit crooked because I didn’t take the time to block it.)

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I didn’t take photos of the other socks I repaired. I replaced the toes on them. I couldn’t find the leftover yarn from this pair, so I chose leftover yarn in  a solid colour that matched them.

Because of that, I replaced both toes so they would match.

The only thing I did differently was that I put both socks onto two circular needles so that I could knit them in tandem. The nice thing about this was that I was able to do the same step on each sock and didn’t have to worry about matching a toe that was already done.

Oh and another thing.

The pair that I don’t have photos of was made up in Diamond Select Footsie yarn. When I first did them up they felt just a little bit coarse. Since then my step-son has washed them and dried them relentlessly in the washer and drier many, many, many and many more times. They didn’t shrink. They did not pill but they got ever so slightly fuzzy. Best of all, they became super soft and cuddly.  🙂

That was new information to me.

It makes me a lot more excited about promoting that particular yarn. Those socks are now like loving mama hugs for his feet. How cool is that?

Well I hope that this information is useful and easy to understand.

Happy Knitting!

Mosaics aren’t just for patios

Until recently I thought mosaics were just patterns created out of little bits of tile on patio floors or on the walls of really old buildings. You know, like the Mesopotamians did? We’re now on stage 4 of the Tour-de-Sock sock knitting competition and this round’s pattern introduced me to knitting in Mosaic technique. I’m always up for trying something new.

This was definitely new to me.

The pattern is called Mosaic Marbles and is designed by Kirsten Hall. Her directions were easy to follow. If you are curious to see what else Kirsten has designed, here is a link to a search I did on her name in Ravelry.

She’s got some bold and colourful designs. Gorgeous!

Her on Ravelry

Mosaic knitting is a method of doing stranded colourwork. Unlike Fair Isle, you knit with only one colour at a time, alternating “row” by “row”. The colourwork is charted. What makes it different is that along one side of the chart is a column in which the colour for that “row” is indicated. You knit across with that colour and slip the stitches of the contrasting colour (according to the chart). So you are not carrying both colours at once. This pattern requires that you do two rounds (1 row) in one colour and then switch to the other and do two rounds of that one. Again, you follow the chart and knit the second colour stitches and slip the first colour stitches twice around.

Here is a video about Mosaic Knitting. Suzanne Bryan is showing it on a flat piece of knitting. It’s actually easier to do in the round because you don’t have to worry about purling.

There were a couple things that I had to work out. One  was how to deal with the yarn so I wouldn’t get it tangled. I found that if I just took a moment when turning my work to the next needle, I could see where to move the yarn so that I could keep the two colours from winding around each other.

The pattern is kind of stripey. Anyone who has knitted stripes (in the round) before knows that typically you get a jog in the stripes along the column of stitches where you joined the work in the round. There was a very cool little tip included in the pattern to keep that from happening. It took me a bit to catch on, but I have the hang of it now.

I’m very excited about this.

I’m sure generations of knitters have known about this forever but it’s new to me. So, I’m going to share it because it’s cool and helpful.

  1. As you come to the end of the round with one colour, you knit the first stitch of the next round with the colour that just finished. Yes, it’s counter-intuitive. But wait, there’s more.
  2. You put it back onto the left needle.
  3. Go ahead and start knitting with the next colour as you normally would.
  4. When you come back around again, you need to snug up the yarn on that sneaky little tricky stitch. At first, I was just pulling on my working yarn, and didn’t realize that it actually takes a fairly good strong tug to tighten that transition stitch. My first sock (up until I figured it out that is) has a very laddery side; I’m going to just leave it that way. I suppose I could get all fussy and carefully pull the extra yarn into the surrounding stitches, but meh, it really doesn’t bother me that much.

I took photos so you can see how much you actually have to tug that yarn and also, to show how nicely the stripes line up when you get it right. I’m very happy with the result.

I’m loving this pattern and this technique. It’s actually pretty quick to do. Every other row is a repeat of the charted row you just did, so you are only really reading the chart half the time. It’s actually easy. But the result is dramatic. The pattern also has a star toe. I had never done this before. If you hate doing Kitchener Stitch to graft toes, you might quite like this method. And there you have it! I’m off to finish the second sock now.

Happy Knitting!

Cable Adventures

I love knitting cables. Not so much because of actually doing the cables but because I love the way they look. The designer of my most recent sock knitting project (Indecisions by Adrienne Fong: Stage 3 of Tour-de-Sock 2017) encouraged knitters to try cabling without cable needles. My first response to this was: “What is this madness of which you speak?!”

As a Yarn Shop owner it truly behooves me to take any opportunity I can to expand my skill and knowledge base. It means I’m better equipped to assist my customers when they have questions. So, I perused You Tube and watched a bunch of videos. I tried out the common method and found it exceedingly frustrating. Bear in mind that this was Stage 3 of the competition. I got sick just before the pattern dropped and was unable to get my real work finished in time. So I started late. Add to that I started with a yarn that was not plied and was struggling to cable with that. After putting about 8 hours in I gave up on that yarn. Sigh. I’m very happy with the resulting socks. I used Cascade Heritage Sock yarn in ivory.

But I have to admit that I did give up on this whole idea of not using a cable needle for this project and just went back to using my 160 degree cable needle.

I actually found it faster than wrestling with free-wheeling live stitches in fine yarn.

I found a couple videos that offered a way to cable (without a cable needle) that promised that I wouldn’t have to have live stitches off my needle to do it. Well that got my attention. I suspect that this is something that you really need to practice though. The cables I was doing were 3 over 3 stitches and when I tried this method, I just found it a struggle to transfer the stitches to the left needle after I had reordered them onto the right. I have to be honest. What with being sick, I really didn’t give it as good of a try as I normally would have. Perhaps my tension is too tight for it. I can see how twists or 2 over 2 cables would work very well with this method. I do plan to practice it and see if I can make it work for me… probably not for the competition socks though.

I am sharing some videos here to represent the different methods of cabling without a cable needle. The first one shows the common method that requires live stitches off the needle and the two that follow show the non-freewheeling-live-stitches method. Hmmm somehow I don’t think that name will stick. LOL  As always, if you find the videos helpful, please show some love and gratitude to the folks who created them.

Here is the common method:

I love this next lady’s videos. I got such a kick out of her candidness. I am subscribing to her channel. These next two videos are hers and show her cool method.

 

Happy knitting!

Like a Boss!

I’m exhausted today. Why? Because I put my life and work on hold since 10:00 am on Tuesday to make a pair of socks. I finished at 12:40 today (Friday).

What on earth did I do that for?

Because I entered the Tour-de-Sock knitting competition. Am I nuts? Maybe. But I finished them and they look fantastic! I checked with the organizers and they said I can share photos with you. Today I finished stage 2: Like a Boss!

Priha

So this competition — a fundraiser for Doctors without Borders — all started with a warm up pattern. The pattern is called Priha, designed by Tiina Kuu. These were my first attempt at stranded colourwork (other than an abandoned sweater from decades ago).

What a fantastic opportunity for me to learn something new.

I asked my friends for advice and watched a bunch of You Tube videos. I usually knit socks two at a time but with this being a new technique to me, I did them one at a time. The tension was inconsistent between the two socks and now that I tried wearing them, I think I’ll frog the second one and re-knit it to match the tension on the the first one.

Judy Priha Warm up sock.jpg

Fins

Stage 1 was a really fun pattern designed by Sarah Bordelon called “Fins”. It’s just so whimsical. It was a great design to start the competition with. The pattern is blocks of fins (you decide whether they are sharks or dolphins) alternating with blocks of waves. Each row has the fins going in the opposite direction. The actual fin and wave pattern was pretty easy to do. You end up with this curvy, wavy, swirly effect. The structure was unusual. It was the first time I ever heard of an “afterthought leg”. You definitely had to just follow the instructions and trust that they would work out. They did and I adore these socks. I especially love the fins trim along the top of the cuff.

Definitely 10 out of 10 for whimsy!

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Kanteletar

Today I completed stage 2. The pattern is called Kanteletar and the designer is Tiina Kuu.

This was a very challenging pattern.

I had to learn some new skills in order to complete it. There was a provisional cast on and a doubled cuff. I had never done a Latvian braid before. That was cool but awkward to do. I think I would have to do a lot of them to make the process feel comfortable. The heel is amazing. This design is so incredibly comfortable. When I read the instructions I was thinking WTF? But it is by far the most comfortable heel I have ever knitted. I’ve purposely tried a lot of different sock patterns just  to try various heel techniques. This was definitely new to me.

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I had a little trouble with reading the colour chart. For some reason I kept reversing two of the yarns. So I did a whole section of colourwork and realized I had used the wrong colours. I pulled it all apart and reworked it. I lost a solid 4 hours doing that. Oh well. I still finished in a respectable amount of time considering the difficulty of the pattern. It’s definitely an advanced level. But so beautiful! (I already had a family member ask me to make them a pair for their birthday). By the time I finished I was finally feeling comfortable with how I need to hold the yarn to do the colourwork.

I was knitting almost as fast with two colours as I do with one. Almost.

I am so glad that my friend convinced me to sign up for this competition. I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t be up to the challenge but so far so good. It’s been really fun learning new techniques and trying patterns that I probably would have never chosen under normal circumstances. And I have 3 pairs of socks that I didn’t have before… and there are still 4 stages to go.

The next pattern drops on August 4th.

In the meantime, I’ve got company coming this weekend and I need to bake some cakes. YUM! See you next week.

Summer Hair Band #2 [Pattern Updated]

Between a huge workload of sewing in my store and my participation in Tour-de-Sock (an international sock knitting competition) it has taken a lot to complete this project. I actually designed another one in a Fair Isle inspired pattern but as cute as it is, it isn’t a summer hair band. This is a columned lace pattern and SURPRISE, it incorporates a horizontal buttonhole and beads this time.

Over the last two weeks I presented a number of videos covering many variations of the buttonhole. In today’s project we use a horizontal buttonhole. If you didn’t watch the video selection from 2 weeks ago I would encourage you to do so. Feel free to incorporate what you like from those methods into this work. Today I will include a video to show how to add beads to this project. It’s actually really easy. You will need #6 beads (this means six beads lined up side by side measure an inch) You can use #5 beads if you happen to have them. I think that #8 would be a bit too fine but you could always try if you have some on hand. I wouldn’t go any bigger than a #5 though… unless you like the look of it.

Watch the video before you do it.

For this project you will either use a fine crochet hook (it has to fit through the hole in the bead) or the “Superfloss” method. I recommend the Superfloss method if you will be going to the beach (or anywhere actually) to knit, or if you have kids or cats around you when you knit.

I used leftover Malabrigo Sock yarn for this project, but any sock weight yarn will do. A fine cotton yarn (like a #10 crochet cotton) could work as well. Because you will measure it to fit your head the gauge isn’t critical on this one.

The stitches of this hairband will tend to pull together to create a dense looking fabric. However if you take the time to block it, you will get a pretty ladder-like lace pattern on either side of what looks like a braid (even though no cabling is required).

Here’s the pattern!

I hope you enjoy this pattern. Happy knitting!