Merry Christmas!

 

Where does the time go?

How can it already be just days before Christmas?

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, my sincere wish is that the remainder of this year is good to you… and that the new year provides you with hope, love and wonderful opportunities.

 

As much as this season is hyped up and coined as the

“season of peace, love and joy”,

for many people it is a deeply challenging time of year.

Getting together with family can be a wonderful thing, and it can also be stressful. Sometimes it can be filled with a mixture of anticipation, joy and conflict. For some people it is a sad reminder of the loved ones that are no longer with them. As the year comes to a close, may you find yourself surrounded by people who sincerely care about you. And if you are one of the many people who struggle at this time of year, know that you are not alone in your struggle. I offer you a heartfelt wish for all the very best.

At Judy’s Designs, we’ll be closed from December 24th to January 2nd so that we can spend some time with family. We look forward to serving you in the New Year.

As a fun little gift, I have made up a Yarn Lovers’ Crossword puzzle. It is a 2 page PDF file, with the puzzle on page 1 and the answers on page 2. No peeking! LOL I hope you enjoy it.

Here is the Crossword! 🙂

All the very best! See you in 2018.

 

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

 

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Sirdar Colour Wheel

Last week I knitted up a project in Sirdar Colour Wheel yarn. The pattern I used is a triangular scarf called “Whoopsie”. I suppose you could call it a shawl, although to me, a shawl is large enough to cover the shoulders and this project is too small to do that comfortably.

Sirdar offers this pattern for free through yarn shops.

There is a lace scarf pattern on the inside of the label as well.

The pattern was easy to follow. As with any pattern, it takes a few repeats to get the feel for it. After about three repeats I was able to carry on without looking at the pattern. It increases by steps of 7 stitches with each pattern repeat to the middle and then decreases back down, 7 stitches per pattern repeat until the triangle is complete.

As simple and easy as the pattern is, the finished product is quite lovely. The one repeating lace row combined with the alternating stocking stitch and garter stitch rows gives it a pretty pattern, without making it complicated. It wears nicely with the bulk of the triangle in the front to fill the V of a coat collar.

Sirdar Colour Wheel is a DK weight yarn.

It is a striping yarn with fairly large sections of each colour. Sections of it are quite subtly gradient, while it still offers pops of colour change as well. It is packaged in 150g cakes. It knits to a gauge of 22 stitches by 28 rows to a 10cm square on 4mm needles. The fibre content is 80% Acrylic, 20% wool. The cakes are very attractive.

There are a number of colourways to choose from. From dark earthy neutrals to bright neons, there is pretty much something for everyone here.

Sirdar has a long history of making beautiful yarns that feel amazing.

Colourwheel is no exception. It was a pleasure to knit. The texture of the yarn made it easy to see the stitches, even in relatively poor light. It felt nice in my hands and was soft to touch.

At first glance the price might seem high. However, remember that this is a 150g ball of yarn. That’s a lot of yarn. When you take that into consideration, the price is very reasonable. I wound up the leftover yarn after I completed the pattern. There was still a little more than 30g remaining. It went a long way.

I thoroughly enjoyed knitting this yarn. I found myself anticipating the colour changes as a way of marking my progress. That made it even more fun for me to knit this project. I took my time and puttered away at it over 5 evenings in front of the television. It makes me want to do another one in a different colourway. 🙂

Happy Knitting!

 

 

Using up Stash Yarns

Sometimes you just want to grab a ball of yarn out of your stash and make up a hat or something else that’s quick. But, hey, don’t you hate it when you get 3/4 done and you realize that the little ball that is left is not going to make it to the end of the pattern? Try using this new trend to make a switch to an unexpected contrast yarn look intentional.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of patterns that use a speckled colourwork pattern as a way to transition from one colour to another without solid stripes. They’re calling this effect “ombre”.

So let’s say you realize that you definitely won’t have enough yarn, but you don’t want to scrap the project. What to do?

Start with choosing your new contrasting yarn:

  • Look for something with as close to the same weight as possible.
  • If you can at least mostly match the fibre content, that would be best.
  • Find a colour that looks good with what you’ve started.
  • I’d check the colours in daylight if at all possible.
  • Do they feel similar? For some projects that may be less important than others.

Create a plan of attack:

  • You’ll want to have an idea of how many rounds you can still get out of colour #1.
  • You’ll be carrying colour #1 for those rows, even when you have switched predominantly to colour #2.
  • Decide how many rows you want to work the transition over.
  • Find a pattern that has a transition chart already worked out… or…
  • Map something out on some graph paper if you feel comfortable doing so.
  • The more random the pattern of speckles, the better it looks.

Make it happen:

– Attach your second colour and start your random-ish speckly transition pattern.

Once you’re all done, no one will ever know that you hadn’t planned it all along!

Here are a couple links to patterns on Ravelry that show the effect I mean. I encourage you to do a search on ombre patterns to see what else comes up. Now, a lot of ombre patterns actually have you work with two strands of yarn at a time, and then you switch out one of the strands with a different colour for a while, and then switch one out a little later on and so on, to get a cool, very gradual stripey effect. That’s not the type I’m referring to. You’ll want to look at the ones that start out with a few contrasting speckles and then shift so that the contrasting colour takes over from the main colour. 🙂

  1. Speckled Hat
  2. Quick Ombre Hat
  3. Pandamonium

Happy Knitting!

 

Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

Projects: Keeping Track

I love being challenged to become a better knitter; it’s exciting and incredibly satisfying. One side effect of knitting challenging patterns is that suddenly it really matters that I am able to keep track of where I am in the pattern I’m working.

My life is very full and busy. This means that I often only knit for short amounts of time. I’ll sneak in 20 minutes here, an hour there, sometimes all I’ll manage is 10 minutes. Often I don’t finish a full pattern repeat, and occasionally I don’t even manage to complete the row or round I start. Some evenings I’m so exhausted by the time I sit down that I simply don’t have the energy to even work on a “vanilla” project. This means that it can be several days from when I left that mid-row project. And when I do pick it up, I don’t want to spend a lot of time trying to figure out what I did before I set it down.

These factors wreak havoc on my ability to keep track of where I am in a pattern. I have come up with a few useful tricks that help me to be know where I left off the last time I worked on my project.

1. Staying Organized

Sometimes the pattern requires that you have your “toolbox” handy.

  • Stitch markers,
  • measuring device,
  • pencil for marking up the pattern,
  • crochet hook for beading,
  • stitch holders
  • or cable needles

all may need to be close at hand for when you need them. I have a small clear zippered pouch that I use to keep all those little tools together. It’s small enough that I can easily tuck it in with my knitting when I need to be mobile. Keeping projects contained in their own project bag really helps too. The “toolbox” can easily be picked up and popped in with whatever project I want to work on.

2. Digital Pattern Management

These days, it’s very common to purchase patterns online to download as PDF files. As an avid Ravelry user, I make sure that I keep my digital patterns (whenever possible) in my Ravelry library. It means that I have access to them on my mobile devices as well as on my computer. I also make a point to download and save them onto my computer. Otherwise, heaven help me if I lose my print out.

I use a free app called “Knit Companion”. This app allows you to open up PDF files and save them as knitting projects. Once you have saved them, you can use the row markers and counters to help keep track of where you are. I really like this app. It’s easy to learn and great when you are on the go. The downside of this is that if you are trying to use it on your phone, the screen is so small that following large charts just isn’t practical. It’s not so bad on a tablet, mind you. If you only need to keep track of a small chart, it’s very handy (especially if you are traveling) because you are pretty certain to take your phone with you where you go.

I also use a free Android row-counter app called “Bee Counter”. You can set up a project and have multiple count sections. Each section allows you to make notes. When I am designing, I like to use this app along with some graph paper to keep track of any pattern work I’m doing.

3. Managing Paper Patterns

When I buy a book or a leaflet pattern, I like to photocopy the pages I need for my project so that I can scribble on them without ruining my original copy.  I have a pattern holder that fits letter size pages and keeps them in place with magnets. Whatever patterns I’m using go into the pattern holder. The only downside to this is that when I’m moving from place to place to knit, it can be a little cumbersome. The long magnets allow me to identify where I am in the pattern, or on a chart. Of course, when my cat comes along he makes it his mission to move my magnets just enough to make my place unclear.

4. Keeping Track of Pattern Repeats

Since my dear fluffy friend, Ricasso, insists on playing with my pattern holder, I have found it very important to add one more fail-safe to my system of keeping track. When I come to a section that requires repeats, I draw little charts in the margins of my patterns next to the relative instruction. Let’s say that I’m increasing for a thumb gusset on a pair of mittens and I have to do one increase row and 2 knit rows repeated a total of 5 times. I would make up a little chart that has 3 columns and 5 rows. At the top, I would put “I” for increase above the first column and a “K”  for knit above each of the other two columns. As I complete each round, I then put a check mark in the appropriate box so I know where I am. Until that round is complete, it doesn’t get checked. So if I stop mid-round, I can look at my little chart and I know just where I am. If I’m working a chart and it needs to be repeated multiple times, I will usually put a small check mark to the right of the row on the chart once I complete it. As I begin the chart again, I add check marks accordingly next to the previous ones. When I’m working a very complicated pattern I keep track of it on the paper pattern and in Bee Count and/or Knit Companion as well. Even with all of this, I still occasionally mess up the pattern. But usually this works well for me.

Being able to read the actual knitting is very important as well, but that is  a whole other blog post.

Happy Knitting

 

No More Painfully Tight Cuffs!

Ribbed cuffs are nice and stretchy. They snug up around your shins or your wrists and give a perfect fit. Unfortunately, that lovely stretch can be undermined by the type of cast on you use. If you are new to making socks, mittens, leg warmers or gauntlets and you are finding that the cast on of your cuffs tend to bind on the leg or arm, I have a couple easy tips for you. I am assuming that you are knitting “cuff down”.

Because socks, mittens and related garments have a relatively small circumference,

it makes a big difference how you cast them on.

The traditional long tail cast on tends to give a strong stable foundation for your knitting. For many things this is excellent. On larger garments like toques (hats or beanies) or on sweaters there are usually enough stitches that using this method works well. It stabilizes the edge and helps to keep it from stretching out. Putting the garment on and off is not an issue for the most part, because the size of the opening is not restrictive.

We want our socks and mittens to fit snugly around our legs and arms. I don’t know about you, but slouchy socks drive me bananas, and loose mittens fall off me. We usually incorporate a folded cuff or a ribbed cuff that allows the foot or hand to easily fit through, while still allowing it to hug the wrist or shin. That long tail cast on, (and other traditional cast ons) with its lovely sturdy structure works against the need to maximize the stretch of the ribbing.

The Twisted German Cast On puts an extra twist into each stitch you cast on. It takes a wee bit of practice until you get used to it. I found that I had to refer to a video for the first three or four projects I used it on before I could remember it consistently.

Be aware that just using the Twisted German may not be enough.

If you are knitting for someone who has large calves or feet, forearms or hands this may still bind. There is one extra step that I suggest. When you cast on, take the time to either cast on over two needles of the size you’ll be using for your main project, or use a needle that is double the girth of the size you’ll use for the main project. When I say your main project, here’s what I mean. Often, patterns recommend using a smaller gauge needle to knit ribbing. This insures that the ribbing will have a nice “grab-ability” (also called negative ease) and will keep from stretching out. Then, once the ribbing is knit, the pattern will have you switch to a larger needle for the project. So what I’m recommending is that you use a needle that is double the larger size to cast on your Twisted German. Then switch to your ribbing size needle to knit.

When you first start you may think, “What? Judy, you are completely loopy! this is a loosey goosey mess!” Trust me on this. It’s only for the cast on. The person who normally struggles to squeeze their foot past the cast on; or gets nasty lines pressed into their calf from a rigid cast on will thank you.

If the recipient of your knitted masterpiece has average calves and forearms, then use double the ribbing needles’ size rather than double the project needles’ size.

The only thing about doing this method that you’ll want to be aware of is that when you start knitting the first row of ribbing, it’s really important that you knit those stitches as you normally would. Keep the tension nice and firm (without being overly tight). Focus on the right hand needle for the first row you knit and take time to keep the knitting very even and consistent. You may find a tendency to want to compensate for the looseness of the cast on by knitting that first row either tighter or looser than you normally would. Resist the urge. Once you get a few rows into the ribbing you will notice that the edge will tend to look a bit wobbly. That’s okay. Once the recipient wears them, that will give a nice soft edge that will allow their hands or feet to easily pass through, and won’t dig into their body. The ribbing will do the job of holding up the sock or keeping the mitten in place.

Here is a video that I really like that demonstrates the Twisted German Cast On:

 

Happy knitting!

Money Saving Tips: Buying Serger Thread

So you bought a serger? Congratulations! And now you’re standing in front of the beautiful, colourful display of serger cones of thread, taking in the glory of it all. And then you see the price. And you do the math. And you wonder whether you’re going to have to choose between eating and setting up your serger

Fear not! I have some money saving tips for you today.

There is no question that setting up a serger is expensive. Most people purchase 4-thread sergers (although there are 3 thread models too). That’s 4 cones of each colour. Now if you have the money to get 4 cones of every colour, all the power to you. Most people don’t. Yes the cones of thread last for a really long time, so you don’t have to buy them over and over like with sewing machine thread. But you do have to use 3 to 4 cones at all times.

There is a certain amount of thread you’re going to have to buy. You can’t run a typical serger with less than 3 cones. And if you have a 4 thread serger, running it on 3 cones is just silly. That extra needle makes a huge difference to the integrity of your seams; like an insurance policy. Besides, even if you sometimes only run 3 threads, you bought a 4 thread serger for a reason and you’ll want the option of using all 4.

So here’s the thing. The needle that sits to the far left above your work is the really important one. That’s the one whose stitches will reveal themselves (ever so slightly) when there’s a little stress pulling on the seam of the garment. That’s the one that needs to have a colour that will blend well with your fabric. The others are tucked away in the seam allowance. The right needle thread and the upper and lower looper can be a neutral colour.

But what neutral colours should I use?

I suggest that over time, you invest in four different neutrals. I wouldn’t buy them all at once; buy them as you need them. Understand that even though you will be using them for 3 of the needles/loopers along with other colours, you also want to be able to use them for all 4 (3 if you have a 3 thread serger) when they happen to be the right colour for your project. So invest in 4 (3) cones of each of the following.

Black:

you definitely need to have a full set of black cones. Yes, that’s 4 (3) cones of black thread. You can use black for all those dark colours like navy blue, dark brown, deep green, violet and so on; and of course you can use it for black.

White or raw-white:

either of these will do. This is another must have. When sewing light colours you can use a white or off-white in the right needle and the loopers. Again, you want a full set of these. If you buy what’s called a “raw white” which is not quite ivory and not quite white it will blend in nicely with all the pastel colours as well as whites and ivories.

For a lot of sewing, you can get away with just having black and raw-white for your right needle and your loopers. But if you sew a lot of mid range colours then there are two other neutrals that are worth investing in.

A warm medium neutral:

You will want taupe (yes I know that taupe is for grandmas). The thing about a good taupe is that it will blend with so many warm colours that you’ll be surprised. All your browns, greens and in-betweens will work with a nice warm taupe.

A cool medium neutral:

for this one, you want a medium gray. Now trust me there are so many grays it’s crazy. You want a gray that leans into blue. This will be your neutral for all your medium blue and purple options as well as, you guessed it… grays.

These four neutrals will cover a lot of ground for you.

They’ll work with a lot of different fabric colours on their own. When you choose to work with a fabric that has a strong and very obvious colour, buy one spool that colour on its own. You can often get away with using a normal spool of thread for these. I know the sales person told you not to use anything but serger cones. I regularly use 3 different industrial serger-style sewing machines and when I’m doing a job that requires a very specific colour that I don’t own on a cone, I will use a 100m spool of sewing thread instead of investing in a cone. The only thing that will sometimes happen with these is that as the thread gets down toward the end, the spool will hop around unless you have it in a little mesh thread bag. If your serger didn’t come equipped with these, you can buy these at a sewing shop. They may have to special order them. It’s not something that most places would normally stock.

Once you have your four neutrals, you will likely discover that there are particular colours you really want to have on hand. Any colours that you know you will use regularly will be worth investing in. Just get one cone and use 3 cones of the closest neutral colour. Obviously, you can get a full set of any colours that you want, I’m suggesting this as a cost efficient method to avoid having to do so. 🙂

As you use your serger with the neutals on 3 (2) “needles”, bear in mind that the loopers use a lot more thread than the needles do. Some people like to use the same cones for the loopers all the time so that they don’t run out of all the same colour at the same time. That way when they need to replace them, they don’t have to replace them all at once.

Now that you’ve invested in these cones of thread, you may also want to consider purchasing a cone thread holder to go with your sewing machine. It’s a heavy base with a guide that allows you to use your serger cones with any sewing machine. They are relatively inexpensive and allow you to avoid having to buy the same colour of thread in both formats.

And there you have it! Happy serging!

 

Technique for Perfect Binding

The holiday season is approaching. Those of us that make gifts for friends and family are always looking for things to make that are relatively quick, simple and cost effective. Using bias binding to finish place mats, “mug-rugs”, table runners or other sewn items can make the process much quicker. If you have struggled to get really nice corners on these projects, fear not! Today I’ll walk you through an easy method to do just that.

Double fold bias binding is a continuous strip of fabric, cut on the bias (diagonal to the grain of the woven fabric), folded and pressed so that the seam allowance is already worked out for you.Double fold bias binding tape is available in many colours. You can easily coordinate it with most fabrics. I have yet to meet a sewing shop that did not sell bias tape, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding it. Because it is cut on the bias, it easily navigates around curved edges, too.

bias tape makerIf you are making something with only straight sides, you don’t actually need your binding to be cut on the bias. You can make your own binding using the same fabric as your project. You can cut the strips across the grain of your fabric to accommodate the width of binding you want to use. There is a tool called a “bias tape maker” that allows you to fold and press your own binding easily. They are available in a number of different sizes.

For all those rectangular projects that you might want to bind like place mats, mug rugs, table runners, quilts, blankets or wall hangings you can use either straight or bias binding. I threw something together just so I could have photographs of the demonstration. In hindsight, the colour was probably not the best choice to show up. Hopefully you can see it alright.

Measure the perimeter of the outside edge of your project and be sure that you purchase (or make) enough binding to accommodate that measurement plus a little more, just in case. You need minimally enough to allow for attaching it together. Binding is inexpensive so don’t cheap out and end up short.

Begin by opening up the folded binding and aligning the edge with the edge of your project, right sides together.

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Leave a tail of at around 3 inches before you begin your seam. Back tack at the beginning of your stitching and sew in the ditch of the fold closest to your fabric edge. Before you get to the end, measure the width of the seam allowance. Measure from the end in the same distance as the seam allowance (it’s likely to be 1/4″). Put a dot there. Stitch to the dot and leave the needle down in the fabric.

Lift your presser foot and turn the work 45 degrees so that your presser foot is facing directly toward the corner. Stitch to the corner. Remove the work from the machine and clip your threads.

Pull the binding back against that little corner that you just sewed. Then fold the binding tape to align with the top and side. Carefully align your needle at the edge of where the corner of that little seam sits. You will be lined up in the ditch next to where that dot was facing down the next side of the project. Back tack and continue to sew.

Repeat these steps until all the corners are done. Stop stitching just after the last corner and allow a few inches to where you will have to join this end of the binding to your starting edge of the binding.

Make sure that the beginning edge of the binding is cut square. Lay it flat and mark a line 1/4″ from the edge.

Lay the other end of the bias over the top. Trace the line onto this layer of bias. This is your stitching line. Make sure that you cut past the line (the binding must be longer than where this line is marked). This is very important!

With right sides together, stitch the ends together. Clip the corners to reduce bulk. Align the binding to the edge of the fabric and finish stitching the section.

Turn the work and arrange the binding so it wraps around the edge and lays flat. You can see the stitching line on the fabric. What you want to really pay attention to here is that the binding is just barely covering that stitching. Now align your row of top-stitching so that it will sit just a little further onto the binding than the original line of stitching. I suggest testing out with a long stitch before you do it “for real”. The idea is that you want your top-stitching to land up going through both layers of binding. So when you do your test, stitch a few inches and then look at the underside to make sure that your stitches are not landing on the fabric beside the binding. Adjust the alignment of your top-stitching accordingly and away you go.

wonder clipThere is a product called “Wonder Clips” that you can use to hold the binding in place. The edge of the clip can be aligned so that the binding is positioned perfectly front and back. Some people love these. I find them bulky and cumbersome, personally. I do a lot of top-stitching, though. If you don’t, then the clips might be just the thing to help you match up the edges.

When you get to a corner, fold the bulk in the opposite direction of what you did on the opposite side. This will give a neater finish.

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Continue in this way until you have made your way around the whole project. And there you have it. YAY!