Showing posts with label technical tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label technical tips. Show all posts

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Portuguese Knitting

Most knitters in Western society are familiar with the two most common styles of knitting: English style, in which the yarn is kept at proper tension using the right hand; and Continental, in which the yarn is kept in play using the left hand. A number of knitters employ both, switching to either hand as the other tires, or using both hands when working with two different colours. But there is another common method you may not know about called Portuguese knitting.

Portuguese knitting, also known as Turkish Knitting, Incan Knitting, Andean Knitting and "around the neck knitting", originated among Arabic knitters. The technique gradually spread north from Africa and the Middle East to the Mediterranean, the Balkans (especially Bulgaria and Greece), the Iberian Peninsula and eventually came to South America via Spanish and Portuguese colonization. Knitters in these countries sometimes use hooked knitting needles but it's not necessary to do so as the Portuguese style of knitting is often practiced with the standard knitting needle.

When using the Portuguese knitting technique, the yarn in play is wrapped around the right hand, and then strung around the knitter's neck or through a pin fastened to the knitter's shirt or sweater, before continuing to the piece being knitted. It's a smooth, easy, fast technique involving only a flick of the left thumb to wrap the yarn around the needle for the next stitch, and it could be of great help to those who can no longer knit English or Continental style due to injuries to their hands. In the video above Andrea Wong demonstrates knitting and purling in the Portuguese knitting style.

Andrea Wong says in the above video that she uses knitting pins (such as the one above) "for comfort" rather than running the yarn around her neck, and she uses more than one pin if working in different colours. But I would be concerned about the holes it would create in my clothes.

There are also Portuguese knitting pendants available, which look like a better idea to me. These pendants can be strung on a cord and worn as a necklace, such as the one above, which is from Knitting Boutique.

Another option is to use a magnetic pin that can be fastened to your clothing (the magnet goes on the underside of the fabric) without risking any damage to the garment. This magnetic pin is from Etsy vendor Flighty Fleurs.

There are some very pretty knitting pins and pendants available on the net that could almost pass for jewelry, such as the pins above, which were made by Etsy vendor Lazy Cat Fibers, but if you just want to try out the technique before investing in some beautiful pins or pendants, you can always begin by simply stringing the yarn around your neck. If that irritates your neck, try making your own pin by fastening a bent paper clip to a safety pin, or making a Portuguese knitting pendant necklace by slipping a bent paper clip onto a cord.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Mod Style

A reader of KNDD (this site's mouthful of a name really cries out for a handy abbreviation, so when another reader used this one on the site's Facebook page last month I decided to go with it) recently emailed me commenting that I tend to advise readers to "fix dropped shoulders" in my reviews and asking if I could point her to some instructions on how to do that. I couldn't find any such tutorial in a very quick Google search, and it occurred to me that since I am so given to blithely suggesting modifications to knitting patterns, some of the less experienced knitters out there might appreciate some advice on how they're done. So here are some tips on my two most commonly suggested mods: raising dropped shoulders, and adding waist shaping.

Standard fitting shoulders are almost always the best choice in sweater design. I don't know why so many designers go with a dropped shoulder, with the sleeve and shoulder meeting halfway down the arm. My best guess is that they use it because it's easy to design and easy to knit, but it's so terribly unflattering on most women, and tends to look sloppy even on men and children. Children and men can get away with it, but then children's clothing looks best in a loose fit, and men like looking like quarterbackers. Waist shaping is another mod that makes a lot of difference in how a women's sweater flatters her. I won't go so far as to say it's always advisable for every sweater and every figure, but a little waist definition does seem to be a good idea for most women's sweaters.

Here's a picture of a 1980s era Fair Isle pullover that has a dropped shoulder and does not have waist shaping. And it's a beautiful piece of work, but I can't help mentally reshaping it. Wouldn't it look so much more flattering and polished if the shoulder seams were at the shoulder, if the body was less generously wide and the waist curved in a little, and it weren't belling out over the ribbing at the hipline? Fortunately we at least don't usually see that extra bulk above the ribbing these days.

Now let's look at the nuts and bolts of how a sweater is shaped. The two diagrams on the left are how the Fair Isle sweater shown above might look in diagram, and the two diagrams on the right are for a sweater with the standard fit shoulder and waist shaping I recommend for most women's sweaters. (That is, if the diagrams were the scratchings of a hen that had just walked through ink. Excuse the crudeness of the diagrams. I don't have any software for creating design diagrams and probably wouldn't know how to use it if I did, so I just did them by hand and scanned them in. Believe it or not, this is actually the best of about ten attempts.)

Let's talk about waist shaping first, since it's the easiest thing to do. These directions will work on a most women's sweaters that don't already have waist shaping. The aim is to have a bit of gentle, subtle shaping rather than a fitted waist, but while you'll barely notice the difference in how the sweater feels when worn, I think you'll find that it makes a distinct difference in how it looks.

If the pattern you wish to make has no waist shaping in the directions, begin knitting the back or front of your sweater as your pattern directs, and continue until the piece measures 3" or 7.5cm from the beginning. On the next row, knit one stitch, knit two stitches together, knit to the last three stitches, then knit two stitches together and knit one stitch. If your sweater pattern requires you to purl this row or these stitches, use purl stitches to decrease, or you might like to move the decrease stitches over by a stitch or two. Experiment a little with different ways of decreasing and the position of the decreases, and work your decreases in whatever method best blends into your pattern and looks the least obtrusive.

For a sweater in DK yarn, repeat this decline row once every 1"/2.5cm three times more. At this point the sweater piece should be approximately 6"/15.25cm long and its width will have been decreased by about 1"/2.5cm on each side of the sweater. For a sweater knitted in a finer or heavier weight yarn than DK, you'll need to work the decreases either more or less often in order to taper the sweater in by that 1"/2.5cm within that second 3"/7.5cm of knitting. Do the math as to how many stitches you need to decrease 1"/7.5cm on each side, and how many rows apart they should be in order to get them done by the time your knitting measures a total of 6"/15.25cm or a little more from the beginning.

Once all these decreases have been worked, knit even until your back or front piece measures 8"/20cm from the beginning. Then begin to widen the sweater again by working an increase row: knit one, increase one in the next stitch, knit to the last two stitches, increase one stitch in the second last stitch, knit one. Work this increase row as many times as you worked the decrease row and with the same number of rows spaced between them until you've reached your original number of stitches. Add this waist shaping to both front and back pieces in exactly the same manner so that they will match.

Now let's talk about fixing dropped shoulders. Dropped shoulder styles generally have no decreases at the armhole, as in the case of the diagram on the left above. You'll need to add these armhole decreases to the back and front of your sweater to make the sweater the right width at the shoulders. I suggest that you refer to diagrams and instructions from another knitting pattern that does have shaped armholes and use them as your guide. I have one particular all-time favourite sweater pattern that's just the right shaping for me (I've made it twice as is because it's so very flattering) and I usually refer to its diagrams whenever I want to reshape a sweater. Alternatively, if you have an existing sweater that fits just right at the shoulders, measure the width of the sweater at the shoulders and calculate the number of stitches you'll need to decrease from the width through the body of the sweater you are making to get that ideal shoulder width.

Once the back and front are taken care of, you'll then need to adjust the sleeves to fit. As you can see from the two sleeve diagrams above, there's a big difference in how they're shaped. You will need to be make the sleeves longer than your original pattern says in order to compensate for the fact that the shoulder will no longer extend down the arm, and you will also want to shape the cap of the sleeve to fit the shaped armhole. If you used another sweater pattern's diagrams as your guide for the armhole decreases and shoulder width, then you should also use that pattern's sleeve diagram and measurements to get the right specifications for your sweater's sleeve length and cap shaping. If you took your measurements from a finished sweater, measure that sweater's sleeve and shape your project's sleeve in the same way.

While you're doing all this reshaping, you'll also have to watch out for any colourwork or stitchwork that you're displacing/removing and make sure that the patterning still lines up the way it should. Some elaborately patterned sweaters, such as picture knits, may not lend themselves to reshaping because you'll have to cut out a crucial part of the picture, but usually you'll find a way to do it.

I hope these tips are of use. I found this post difficult to write because although I wanted to give very clear instructions as to how to shape a waist and fix a dropped shoulder, there are so many possible variables in yarn weight and sweater sizes that it seemed to me that more specific instructions would be of very limited use, and might even lead some knitters astray. Making your own mods always means that you must wing it a little. Make your calculations based on the stitch gauge for your particular project, the measurements of the wearer, and the measurements of the desired garment in order to figure out just how your waist, armholes and sleeves should be shaped.

Happy modifying, and may your project fit and flatter when you're done tinkering.

Monday, 21 October 2013

You Bet Your Buttons You Can Make Buttons

If you've ever had trouble finding just the right buttons to finish off your knitting projects, you might consider making your own buttons. There are several basic methods for making your own buttons and you can embellish the basic button in any way you like and create the perfect button to finish off your item in less time than it might take to scour all the button stores where you live and then the internet button resources.

One button-making method involves making buttons from polymer clay. This tutorial explains how to make the buttons above.

Polymer clay buttons can be painted in any style you like. This tutorial explains how to make these buttons.

I don't have a tutorial for these hand-painted buttons as the original post seems to be down, but I'm including them for inspiration.

A second method for making buttons involves using shrink plastic. The blogger who made these buttons has posted a tutorial on how to make them.

Method number three involves cutting wooden buttons from a tree branch. The resulting wooden buttons can be painted.

A fourth button-making method is to make fabric-covered buttons with a kit that should be available at any fabric store and the fabric of your choice. Alternatively, you can make a little knitted or crocheted circle and use that as the fabric with which to cover your button.

Fabric buttons can also be embroidered.

Fabric buttons can also be beaded, either lightly or to the point of being completely covered in tiny beads. You can find a tutorial on how to make beaded buttons here.

Lastly, one can crochet buttons, though I find this the least attractive method of any I have listed as the buttons tend to look crude. But if you're interested in this method, Crochet Today has a thorough post on all the possible crochet button methods with links to tutorials. The most successful crocheted buttons I have seen were crocheted with thread with a very small size hook.

And thinking back to the time I had this past spring finding just the right teddy bear buttons for my grandniece's teddy bear dress, I totally wish I'd thought of researching and writing this post a long time ago.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

How to Speed Knit

Here's a Knit Picks-created video that explains how you can increase your knitting speed by learning from the example of Miriam Tegels, the Guinness World Record holder for the most stitches accomplished in a minute (118, if you're interested in knowing).

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Tiddly Tiddly Pom Pom

If you'd like to learn to make these floral pom poms, the blogger at Mr. Printables can tell you how. The technique can also be used to create pom poms with other visual themes. Mr. Printable writes that he's going to try "animal faces, polka dots, stripes, [and] little globes" next.

Monday, 24 June 2013

How to Change the Gauge of a Pattern

Adriene of Adriene's Couch has created this video which carefully explains how to reconfigure the stitch gauge on a knitting project when you're using a substitute yarn from the one recommended.

For my part, I almost always use substitute yarns, and rather than make a swatch (because I've, um, never made a swatch in my life), I just use the gauge and needle size provided on the skein band. Those "official" gauges have never let me down, though of course since it's taken over stockinette stitch it won't apply if the pattern is all cables or otherwise very textured. In those cases, though, I just make sure I buy the right weight of yarn. And I begin the project by knitting a sleeve. Since it's so small, it's not that big a deal to rip it out a cuff if it should turn out my gauge is off.

I also always make photocopies of my patterns to make them less cumbersome and to save my books and magazines the wear and tear. Those 8.5 x 11" sheets of paper, folded in four, are easily tucked into a shoulder bag or workbasket, and it won't matter if they get lost or torn or get something spilled on them. Another advantage of photocopies is that I can scribble notes and diagrams freely on them. I have all that nice blank space on the back of the sheet if I run out of room in the margins.

At any rate, I hope you find Adriene's video useful. Her cute dog makes a special guest appearance.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Stretching: Bad for Stockinette Stitch; Good for a Knitter's Hands

Years ago in an issue of Vogue Knitting, I began to read an article on knitting repetitive stress injuries that opened by reporting the story of a woman who was making a complicated sweater for her husband's Christmas present. Knitting long hours to meet a tight deadline made her hands hurt, but she really wanted to get finished on time, so she persisted until it was done. Thereby doing such damage to her hands that she had to take disability leave from work (and from her knitting and her housework and pretty much anything else she usually did, such as turning a doorknob to open a door) for something like four months. I couldn't bring myself to read the rest of the article, even though I knew I should, but soothed my terror as well as my hands by resolving in future not to work through knitting pain. If your hands hurt from knitting, it's time to take a break.

Once you've put the knitting aside, there are massage techniques to help ease the pain. Liat Gat of Knit Freedom has worked with her sister, a certified massage therapist, to produce an excellent post on self-massage techniques and stretches for knitters, complete with illustrative photos. They're easy to do and they feel terrific.

Coming up: Look for my review of the Twist Collective Spring 2013 issue tomorrow morning!