Monday, April 11, 2016

Knitting: Some history about me and knitting

The reason I dye is so I have fun yarns to knit with, so I thought maybe I should write a post here or there about knitting....crazy concept, huh?

Since I know some people are coming to this blog for the dyeing info, and may  not be interested in the knitting info, I will make sure to start my knitting related posts with the "Knitting:" text, so they can skip these if they want.

Growing up (and up until about a month ago), I would have told you "I knit backwards...." I learned to knit by watching my grandmother and basically doing a mirror image of what she did.  I never really had any problems with knitting that way until I started knitting mitts and socks.  Then all of a sudden, I was running into a problem.

For some reason, any time I knit on DPNs, everything I knit was coming out inside out. Not the end of the world, if you know what you are doing and can adapt the pattern to that, but being new to socks and mitts, I could not do that. So I put the DPNs a way for a long time and stuck to scarves, and to a cable knit trench coat that my grandfather bought me the yarn for about 15 years ago. I did managed to get the back panel done, and it is beautiful...but the front was not going to fit me.  At least my grandfather got to see the back of it before he passed away.
The back of my trench coat, made with wool from the woollen mill my grandmother always bought her yarn from.

Not knowing much about patterns or how to adapt them, the back of the trench coat went into my hope chest. I really should dig that and the yarn back out, now that I have some idea of what I am doing. Maybe I can finally finish it.  Although I did just look at it again, and there is a hole in it :(

I am going to need to figure out how to fix that...darning was never my thing.
The hole at the edge of one of my cables :(

At one point, back around 1999 or 2000, I decided that I wanted to knit this cute little crop top cable knit sweater for my then sister-in-law. She was just a tiny thing, so I could make the smallest size. It actually turned out quite nicely, although I think I made the shoulders too wide for her.  At that point, I had decided I would knit bigger items, and amassed a huge collection of sweater patterns. But, the sweater took a long time to knit, and I just didn't want to put that level of commitment into everything I was going to knit, so I knit scarves. Really long, thick, comfy scarves.

The revival of the Dawn of the Socks
Skip forward to around 2008 or so, and I decided I really wanted to knit socks and mittens. My grandmother used to knit socks for all of us at Christmas time, and I wanted to bring back some of that tradition. I bought some sock yarn with a pattern on the inside and set out to try to make socks. I made one sock, inside out, with loads of holes around the heel. Turned the sock inside out, got frustrated, threw it in the giant Rubbermaid tote with the yarn, and ignored it for quite a while. I went back to knitting scarves.

In 2011, we had just moved into our new house and I was going through our many totes when I found that one lonely sock... Sitting in the tote, surrounded by the rest of the yarn I had purchased. I can't remember if I ever actually knit the second sock... I should go find the tote and see what happened... see if it is still lonesome...if it is, I may frog it and turn it into the beautiful sock it should be.

Looking at that sock I knew I needed to conquer socks. But I knit inside out and backwards, so how was I going to do that?  Enter,  the internet... It finally occurred to me that I could probably look up videos and tutorials on how to knit socks, and that might help me.  The first video I found on knitting was one of the videos by Knitting Tips By Judy.  I don't even remember what video I watched, but she knew what she was talking about, and she had a Facebook page. I found her Facebook page and posted a message to her, asking her if she knew why I knit inside out, and how I could fix it. She told me I was knitting on the inside of the back needle instead of the outside of the front needle.

Huh? I was more confused than when I asked, but I took the time to find some videos of DPN knitting and finally figured it out.  I knit with my stitches on 3 DPNs. If you lay them out in their triangle formation, with one needle flat right in front of you, and the others on the sides, forming a pyramid, I was knitting on the left side needle, instead of knitting on the needle that was right in front of me. Took a little bit of time to retrain myself, but I finally figured it out, and was ready to venture into the world of socks again.  This time, armed with YouTube videos.

I read through some patterns and tutorials, but was feeling a little intimidated by heels, so back to You Tube I went. I found this great step by step tutorial by Dorett Conway I watched it a few times, then felt confident enough to pick up my yarn and needles and start knitting.

Now, one thing I wasn't thinking about at the time was gauge. I randomly grabbed whatever DPNs were close to me (I think they were US size 5), a couple of balls of worsted weight yarn, and a pattern meant for US size 2 needles and a fingering weight yarn. Not being able to do anything the easy way, I had decided that I was going to do the heel and toe in a different colour.  I proceeded to knit my sock. The result?
My giant sock
A sock that was way too big to be a sock (although my cousin tried it on and wants a pair to wear as slippers), but that let me get a really good look at the anatomy of a sock.  Other than a kind of gaping hole at the edge of the heel flap, probably from where I changed the yarn, it didn't turn out too bad.

I then started paying a bit more attention to the needle sizes and yarn weights that were suggested, and have since worked out what works best for my style of knitting. I tend to use a US size 2, 2.75mm needle for women's socks, and a 3.00mm for mens.

I also have a couple of go to stitch patterns that I use, including one that will fit from a women's size 6 to a men's size 9, just by altering the number of rows and the size of the needle.  Recently I discovered Hermione's Everyday Socks, and have adapted them a bit to use the heel and toe I am used to using.  I love how it is such an easy pattern, but adds such a nice touch to pair of socks.
My self striping socks using the stitch pattern from Hermione's Everyday Socks

While working on learning these new sock skills, I listened to a podcast from a lady who had knit 200 pairs of socks in her life, and all of a sudden, I had a goal. Never mind that I waited until I was almost 40 to set this particular goal.... I had a goal none the less.  Not counting the jumbo sock above, or any other pair I may have attempted before I started to get serious about socks, if I have catalogued and tagged them properly in Ravelry, I am currently at 50 pairs, with sock one one pair 51 on the needles right now. Wow... I am 1/4 of the way there!

Knitting socks came really easy to me...for some reason, I was able to turn a heel and pick up the Kitchener Stitch quite quickly, but I had serious issues with mittens at first. Thumbs intimidated me...plain and simple... I didn't like the afterthought thumb because I didn't like the way it fit, and I was having a heck of a time with the gusset thumb.... finally one day I just sat myself down and told myself to suck it up and figure it out. I needed mittens, and I had a great pink and black yarn I wanted to use to make myself mittens.
Mittens for me!  This pattern actually has a left and a right mitten, although the pattern was not very intuitive.
I did wind up using the afterthought thumb for a few pairs of mittens that I found that used Seed Stitch, because I could not figure out how to add a gusset to them and not screw up the seed stitch.
Seed Stitch mittens with afterthought thumb
I don't have very many pairs of mittens at this point... probably less than a dozen. I may do more, but socks are more of my obsession at this point.  It is good to know I am able to do the mittens if I want/need to.  And someday, if I can ever find a picture of the yarn my grandmother used, I will make mittens for my whole generation, as a throwback to what we got as kids.  That was why I started all this in the first place, but, unfortunately, no one has any of the mittens and I can't find the yarn anywhere. I know it was a base of orange with brown, yellow and white in it, but none of the ones I can find are quite the same, and I can't remember the proportions of the yarn, or else I would just dye it myself and make the mittens.  I may just dye my own version of it one of these days, and start a new tradition.

My Style of Knitting
One other thing I recently learned was that there is a name for the way I wrap my yarn. I know I am a thrower (I hold the working yarn in my right hand), but I always just said I wrap my yarn backwards. I wrap my yarn over the top of the needle, then around to the back.
Wrapping my yarn
This is opposite from every video and tutorial I have read on how to make a stitch, so I just told people I knit backwards.  Thanks to the Ravelry group Combination Knitters, I now know that I don't knit backwards... I am an Eastern knitter... Eastern knitters wrap their yarn that way.

But, of course, I still have to be unique.  When you wrap your yarn this way, you are supposed to knit into the back of the stitch, because that is where the leading leg of the stitch is when you wrap the Eastern way.  I knit into the front of the stitch, like you would do if you wrapped your yarn the Western way. The result is that I twist my stitches. So I am an Eastern Crossed Knitter.

Most of the time, I have no problems with this.  I have to pay a bit more attention to some patterns, especially if I am doing lacework, which I rarely do, and there are lots of great people out there willing to help me. I have been watching a couple of classes from Craftsy on Combination Knitting, including one by Patty Lyons called Improve Your Knitting: Alternative Methods & Styles. This class is really helping me understand the anatomy of my stitches and how to work with them, even if she does say not to twist them, and that is what I always do :)

Part of the reason I have gone into this little history of how I knit is to help set things up for my next blog post. I have recently become obsessed with Mosaic knitting, one sock pattern in particular, and due to my knitting style, I have a love/hate relationship with it.  More on that in my next post... Knitting: Mosaic Madness.


  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed my Craftsy class. Don't ever let anyone tell you your knitting is wrong!

    That hole ain't no thing! Discover miraculous fixes on and off the needle in my Interweave class: Advanced Knitting Fixes. Use promocode: PATTYLYONS15 to get 15% off.

    1. Thanks Patty! Both for the comment and for the discount code :)