Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Tutorial: Picking up Stitches

The Baby Boatneck calls for picking up stitches and then knitting the sleeves down from the shoulder. Since picking up from garter stitch is a bit trickier than picking up from stockinette, here is a little tutorial on three different ways to do it.

Before I get into the tutorial, let me begin with a description of what exactly it is that you are trying to do. You want to pick up stitches in a straight line perpendicular to the rows that you were knitting on the body of the sweater. This means that you will want to pick a column of stitches and pick up and knit from the same part of the stitch in every stitch in that row.

I like picking up one of the bumps in between the stitches. Take a look at your knitting and see how garter stitch has "top" bumps and "bottom" bumps. It does not matter which you chose so long as you stay consistent.

Here is one way to find the "in between" bumps. Run a needle through the top bump of a column of stitches:

See how the needle runs through the same part of each stitch in the column? Now comes the tricky part since we are working at the edge of the knitted fabric, where garter stitch can get a little odd looking. (Of course, you could always work a stitch or so in from the edge to make this easier but I try to avoid that since the seams get quite bulky) Find the bump immediately next to the first bump (the one with the needle in it) towards the edge of the garment. If your first bump was a "top" bump the then one next to it will be a "bottom" bump and vice versa. Run a second needle through this column of bumps.

You will see how that loop can look different depending on the tension of the row but if you start by finding a recognizable column of bumps, you can always find the edge loop/bump by moving one bump towards the edge from your starting point.

One other tip before we get started: count out how many stitches you will need to pick up (for garter it is one stitch per one row; stockinette will vary according to the relationship between your stitch and row gauges but that is for another time) and mark the end points. I like paper clips. They are cheap, colorful, and you never feel bad when you inevitably lose one.

Now onto the actual tutorial.
Option #1: Sliding in a knitting needle and knitting right off it.
That is about all there is to it. Find the column of stitches in which you want to pick up and knit for the sleeve and then slide a knitting needle into the stitches of the column. Make sure that you have the same number of stitches on either side of the shoulder (if you need to pick up 44 stitches, you would have 22 on the front and 22 on the back).

See how all of the pick-up loops are in the same column. This makes for a neat and clean edge of the sleeve and shoulder.

Here you can see stitches for an entire sleeve ready to go. We have not knit anything yet, just picked up stitches in preparation for it. You can also see the paperclips marking the sides of the sleeve.

Now just go ahead and knit across that row of stitches.

That was not too bad now, was it? Ready for option number 2?

Option #2: using a crochet hook to pick up and knit
This method is very much like the first: pick a column of stitches to follow and stick with it. Now, instead of running a knitting needle through the bumps and then knitting across them, you will insert a crochet hook into the bump and draw the working yarn back out.

Take a crochet hook the same size as your knitting needle or a bit smaller and insert it through the bump as if to knit. Go ahead and tug with your left hand (the one holding the knitted piece) if you need to in order to get the crochet hook in there.

Have your working yarn ready to attach - as if you were just starting another ball - with a tail off to the side to weave in later (you can knit it in on your next knit row). With the yarn and crochet hook in your right hand, catch the yarn in the hook and draw it through the bump and onto the body of the crochet hook.

Once you have a number of these loops, go ahead and transfer them off the crochet hook and onto a knitting needle.

Repeat until you have picked up all of the sleeve stitches.

The end result of option 2 is a bit different from that of option 1: now you have "knit" across the row and your working yarn is waiting for you to work a wrong-side row back across the sleeve to start the pattern.

Option #3: Picking up and knitting all in one motion
I like this the best because it is the most efficient use of time. However, there is often quite a bit more manhandling of the fabric involved and can be somewhat tricky if you are not quite sure in which bump you are picking up.

Like with option 2, stick your knitting needle into the appropriate bump as if to knit.

Now, with your working yarn at the ready, wrap the yarn around the needle just like you were knitting (which, in fact, you are). Here comes the tough part. You need to get that loop around the needle out from under the bump and squarely onto the right hand needle as a full-fledged knit stitch. The trick: firmly grasp the knitted fabric with your left hand and give it a tug down and to your left (not too hard) just enough to open up that bump/loop and let you slip the right hand needle out. This is just like knitting except that your left hand has to do the work of the left needle in giving you a clear loop through which to work.

See the tug:

At the end you have a knit stitch without having to move it from one needle (or crochet hook to the other).

None of these options is any better or worse than any other. One might work better for a particular type of yarn, etc. Just pick whichever one feels most comfortable. And remember - if something doesn't work, just frog it. After all, it is not as if you have to worry about undoing an entire sweater accidentally, at worst it is just a few stitches.

What is that green garter stitch at the top of the post? My Baby Surprise Jacket. It turns out that I have the attention span of a gnat and could only remember to work shaping on one end of the row for the last few garter ridges and I am going to have to frog a bit. I just do not have the heart to do it tonight.


Well, I finished my birthday knitting the night before and thus avoided having to finish sewing seams on the drive over. The socks were a big hit.

The darling husband took this picture while I was distracted by the birthday girl and he tells me that the recipient of the socks actually posed his feet unasked! Now that is appreciation.

Speaking of the birthday girl, here she is:

More of the birthday girl and her sweater - this time playing with the darling husband:

Some squinting into the sun:

One last bit of fun before we had to take off:

Happy Birthday N and D!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Urban Acrobatics

I did something amazing this morning. I cast on for a new sock. In magic loop. On the el. Yes, balancing bags and the various accouterments that I need to start the work week, I managed to start a sock on the train. Happily my fellow passengers did not seem too alarmed as I dug out yarn and a 40" size 1 circular needle from the bottomless pit of my tote bag and proceeded to cast on grey sock number two. I managed three rows of ribbing before I made it downtown. Now I have a brand new way to clock my commute.

Do I have a picture of my accomplishments? No.

However, I did manage to ignore my various gift-knitting obligations this weekend (not to worry, the sock is a gift) and cast on a new little lovely:

Here we have a Baby Surprise Jacket (ravelry link) in Dream in Color Classy in color Spring Tickle. The yarn is machine washable and has a beautiful soft hand. It is pretty in the skein and absolutely stunning knit up. I think the garter stitch shows the subtle color variations incredibly well. The picture does not do it justice.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


12 days of spinning progress.

Then (April 1):

Now (April 13):

Those WooLee Winder bobbins sure take a long time to fill.

Friday, April 11, 2008

A Tale of Two Socks

This little lovely has been tailing along in my bag all week:

My husband would love to be able to say that it was slated for him but alas, it is not. For, you see, a dear friend of mine has a bit of a problem that I am hoping this sock will cure.

What problem, you ask? She is an extremely talented knitter whose husband has yet to develop an appreciation for hand-knit goods. I know. I will wait while you pick yourself up from the floor and settle once more in your chair. This poor knitter must deal with a mate whose only requests in a sweater are that it be dark and nondescript. Dark grey or dark blue, if you please, although black would do in a pinch. No cables, no texture, no nothing. Oh the horror.

And this is where I come in. A few weeks ago while I was knitting my way through a vacation, I decided that I needed a new project: convincing this man to learn to love hand-knits. Taking a cue from my own husband, who happens to love hand-knits very much, I decided that socks would be the way to go. Once you have worn a pair of hand-knit socks, store-bought ones will ever seem inferior and second-rate. Plus, I could use a simple (to put it mildly) pattern in a lovely deep charcoal heather yarn that was machine-washable to boot (Trekking Pro Natura). Add in an eye of the partridge heel flap for extra cushioning and durability and hopefully I will have provided a step along the way towards a deep and abiding love for hand-knit garments.

Meanwhile, my husband must make do with this:

Waiting patiently for me to graft the toe, we have the Trekking sock from a few posts ago. What my husband really wants is a fair isle sweater. Something along the lines of this one, which I designed and knit up a few years ago as a Christmas present for my father.

I know that self-striping yarn is a poor substitute for intricately wrought stranded knitting but it will have to do for now. I have been mulling over various pattern ideas and nothing has clicked yet. In the meantime, I continue to work on the socks as a bit of a peace offering (and to distract him from the promise of a fair isle at some as-yet-to-be-defined future date).

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


I got a little treat in the mail late last week: a WooLee winder. I have been dreaming about this nifty little device for well over a year (I saw it on a blog somewhere and instantly wanted one). Then last year I got to try one at Maryland Sheep & Wool and fell in love. Yeah, my husband appreciated that one.

So a few weeks back I was navajo-plying up some BFL singles and getting really annoyed at having to stop every minute or two to move the yarn along the hooks of the flyer. Later that day I turned to my husband and asked the fateful question:

me: What do you think of using part of our tax rebate/refund/thing that is coming in May to get a WooLee winder?

him: Well, I was really hoping that we could be contrary about this whole refund thing; I'd rather put it into the savings account.

me: Oh.

him: Why don't you just buy it now?

me: But I was all prepared for delayed gratification. I was ready for it. I'm just not ready to go ahead and buy the WooLee winder now.

him: Don't be silly, just get it now and you'll enjoy spinning so much more.

I love my husband.

Spinning_040108, originally uploaded by tinksandfrogs.

And yes, I do enjoy my spinning so much more now. This week I have been sitting down at the wheel for 10 minutes before heading out the door to catch the train in the mornings and it is wonderful. 10 minutes and each and every second is spent spinning.