Friday, January 19, 2007

"Join" In the Fun

I received this question a little while back-

Ali, Can I ask you a knitting question? I'm knitting a felted hat, and using circular needles for the first time. And I'm a little confused by the instructions. They say to:Cast on 48 stitches. Join, being careful not to twist stitches. Place marker for the beginning of round. Knit 10 rounds. (etc)But I'm stuck at the join part. What does it mean, "join"?Can you help? ~Stacy

This is a common question, one I've had to answer for more than one newbie knitting friend already. It begs an explanation.

When going through some of my books to find a pefectly worded description of just what 'joining' is I first turned to my Debbie Bliss book aptly entitled "How to Knit". I learned a lot from this book- the lessons are all very helpful and the illustrations are done quite well. I did not, however, learn how to 'join' from this book. Why not? It isn't in there.
Page 73 has the lesson on "Working in the Round"- it has a very understandable explanation of the phrase 'being careful not to twist stitches'- probably the most important part of working in the round. The book states "At this stage it is vital to check that the cast-on edge is not twisted before you join the stitches into a ring. If twisted you will end up with a permanently twisted piece of material." You'll know if you do that wrong...
The next paragraph in the book begins with "The first stitch that you work in the first round is the beginning of the round." (This is not rocket science, I know...) Hmmm, no mention of the notorious "join", hmmm... I checked the pattern she uses to practice knitting in the round- a simple child's hat found on page 85. After "Mark the end of cast on row to denote end of rounds." comes "Work 12 rounds..." No mention of "join." Why?
Well, maybe because the Brittish don't need to make a relatively simple task seem daunting. Joining comes naturally- you join the end to the beginning, thus creating the round. It's not really a separate step.
When using circular needles, as in the hat question above, you "hold the needle tip with the last cast-on stitch in your right hand and the tip with the first cast-on stitch in your left hand. Knit the first cast-on stitch, pulling the yarn tight to avoid a gap." (Vogue Knitting Quick Reference- my favorite 'carry in your bag' knitting 'how-to' book...)
If using double-pointed needles "Place a stitch marker after the last cast-on stitch. With free needle, knit the first cast-on stitch, pulling the yarn tightly."
So, basically, when you bring your stitches around to form your circle (the round, again, not rocket science...) when you then knit into the first stitch you have just "joined". Nothing to it.

I think what is confusing is the way it's written in many patterns as though it is an actual separate step- it's not really, separate, that is.

You can find a very helpful video of the joining process and the accompanying knitting in the round at I hope this helps!
Happy knitting,

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Maybe Next Year...

Right now my thermometer says 0.0 degrees. It's cold outside, bitter cold. My fire is dying down and I'm out of wood in the house. Time to turn up the furnace, because I'm not going out back for more wood! My husband isn't home right now, or I'd send him. My oldest son isn't awake right now, or I'd send him.
And where is my sister during this horribly typical Minnesota winter weekend? Sunny San Diego... for TNNA's Winter Trade Show. I know it's a lot of work for them, but I'm sure it's a lot of fun too. I can't wait to hear all the new yarn buzz when she gets back! I'm pretty excited, because the sweater I just finished knitting on Tuesday is going to be modeled in this year's fashion show. Yay! It was much fun to design and fairly quick to knit up- I've knit 2 now for Blue Sky Alpacas and will soon be starting one for myself. Imagine that, actually knitting something for myself soon! Yay!
I will post pics as soon as the pattern is released. My sister has a fun legwarmer pattern this season and our mom got in on the action too! She's got a cute little felted purse pattern coming out. How fun is that? We've got this whole family-knitting-design-thing going on...
I have about a million ideas for baby and toddler sweater designs... it's hard to slow down enough to pick just one to work on. So I won't... work on any right now... not tonight anyway. Tonight I'm just working on organizing my stash! And finishing another shrug...

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

How I Support My Habit

I'll try to pick up where I left off...

Soon after my first taste of real yarn (real fibers!) I knew there was no going back. But the harsh reality is that real yarns cost real money- something a homeschooling mother of 6 never seems to have any extra of.
A solution to my problem presented itself through my sister, who had gotten a job at this yarn company I admit I hadn't heard of. While chatting with my sister-in-law (the one who got me wanting to learn to knit in the first place) and mentioning that my sister now works for a yarn company... which one? Some cute little (I had no idea how big they actually were!) Minnesota-based company called Blue Sky Alpacas... she gasped, then ooohed, then reminisced about how she first fell in live with their yarns in this great yarn shop in New York... Manhatten, I think... I'm assuming she means Purl Soho.
Well, my sister mentioned that her boss had said she couldn't wait for her to learn to knit well so she could start designing for them. What?!?! Regular people can just design for yarn companies?!?! Who knew? And well, I had an idea for a knitted version of a little kimono jacket pattern (for sewing) that I thought was pretty cute. I drew up a sketch, pitched the idea, and Linda (owner of Blue Sky Alpacas) gave me some yarn to get knitting! Before I got very far on that project she had another idea to pitch to me- the Fitted Tank.

Thus began my knitting design 'career'. Between selling designs and knitting samples for trunk shows I've been able to make a little money. And I'm hoping to expand on that more in this new year...

Readers here will, I'm sure, be able to detect a bit of a bias towards Blue Sky Alpacas, it can't be helped! They're very, very, good to me! But really, I do love their yarns! Their cottons are simply my favorite. The worsted is a seriously close second- it feels so good! And the 100% alpaca of the sport weight is so soft... and the royal, oh the royal- it's luxurious!
I know there are some other good yarns out there. Unfortunately, I live in a rural area many miles from the nearest yarn shop. So... I don't get out to try very many others... I will be making an effort to broaden my horizons a wee bit this year, but for now I've got at least a half-dozen projects on the needles, and all in various Blue Sky yarns- I can honestly say that I haven't knit with a yarn from Blue Sky yet that I haven't liked.
I'll have pictures of projects soon!
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