Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mittens

If you are thinking about learning to use double-pointed needles (dpns), but intimidated by the prospect of socks, consider mittens.

Mittens are very easy to make, and take much less time than socks.  I prefer knitted mittens to store-bought because they are more flexible than the poofy, padded kind and don't snag they way commercial knitted mittens do.  Mittens for children are especially convenient and useful.

Many people first experience dpns when decreasing at the top of a hat, but I don't think that use is a very good preparation for projects made entirely on dpns.  Like so many things in knitting, the easiest way to learn is simply to jump in and try.  Hats are usually knit out of heavier yarns than socks, mittens, or gloves, which means they use larger needles.  Those larger needles are naturally heavier than the needles used for most dpn projects, and that weight is inconvenient.

Really, any needle larger than a US 8 (5mm) will want to slide out of your stitches when you use dpns. Mittens are perfect for getting comfortable with smaller yarns and needles, as well as the accompanying smaller gauge.

As cool weather approaches (not to mention opportunities for gift-giving!), consider making a pair of mittens for yourself or a child you know.

Vests

When I worked in a yarn shop, there was a young mom who came in occasionally to buy yarn and a pattern.  She always made something for her little daughter.  There was one visit that was longer than usual, because we had difficulty finding the pattern she wanted:  a child's vest.

She wanted to make a pullover sweater vest for her little girl to wear to preschool.  The lady explained that she had recently discovered what a practical garment vests are for small children.  In the fall and winter, children need a sweater or some such to keep them warm as they play or work outside, but play and "work" (for a preschooler) are messy propositions.  Children have difficulty rolling up their sleeves effectively, and playing in dirt or doing finger-painting are recipes for messy sleeves.  This lady's practical solution was to have her daughter wear a vest to school.

She had been able to find a couple vests at the store, but such garments are not particularly fashionable, especially for girls.  Naturally, she turned to making a few vests herself--if she could find a pattern.  We did, eventually, find a suitable pattern, and she went home happy.  But the practicality of this customer's thought stuck with me, and I tucked the idea away in my mind for the future.

This fall, I'm making vests for my boys.  I've finished one for DS1, and he loves it.  I'll start one for DS2 in a few days.

In the meantime, if you're looking for something to make for a little person, give a vest a try.  It's practical and easy, and it's a lot faster than making a full sweater.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Recent stitchings

Oh dear, it has been over two months since the last post.  Sometimes life is like that.  But I have been stitching quite a bit lately.  And my most satisfying versatile stitch right now is a basic pattern stitch using single crochet and chain stitches.

As an aside:  Many knitters know that (k1, p1) is a really handy combination:  it makes a good ribbing (that looks like stockinette on both sides and lies flat) if you "knit the knits and purl the purls."  The same combination also makes Seed Stitch, which also lies flat and is a pleasant change from the flatness of stockinette, and looks the same on both sides, where you "knit the purls and purl the knits."

Back to topic:  (sc1, ch1, skip1) is a handy combination.  If you single into the singles and chain over the chains, you end up with what I call Light Single Crochet.  If you single into the chain spaces and chain over the single crochets, you have a Chain One Net Stitch.  Now gauge can vary quite a bit from one crocheter to another because crochet is fairly complex at a basic level.  But for me, this stitch has a fairly square gauge.  That means I can use it to explore some of the ideas that Elizabeth Zimmerman explored with garter stitch (like the Baby Surprise Jacket).  Either way, the fabric is a bit open - you don't want to wear it with nothing underneath (unless you are making a statement, but that is another issue), but it also has a lot of 'give' to it - almost like it stretches.  With a fairly square gauge, it also means I can work it on the diagonal to make a rectangle -- increasing or decreasing one pattern stitch each row.

 This sample shows the ch-1 net stitch on the diagonal, making a nice square, and then edged in plain single crochet, working 1 stitch per row end.


This is the stitch I am using to make a rectangle-based sweater like the ones currently popular being knitted in a 1x1 rib.  Theoretically, it should work.

Explicit details about this stitch:

Ch-1 Net Stitch, on the diagonal:  Ch3, slip st to form a ring.  Ch2, sc in ring, ch1, sc in same space.  Row 2 (Increase row):  Ch2 to turn (you might want to ch1, depending on how firm or loose you want the edge to be.  If you tend to make tight chain stitches, you might prefer to ch2.).  Sc in last sc of pr row.  (ch1, sc in next ch space) across, ending with sc in turning ch from previous row.  Repeat this row for pattern.  When you want to start decreasing, make the Decrease Row like this:  ch1, turn.  Skip 2sc, sc in next ch space.  (ch1, sc in next ch space) across, ending with sc in turning chain space of pr row.

To make a rectangle:  Work increase rows only until the piece is as wide as the short edge of the rectangle along the row ends.  Then alternate between Increase and Decrease rows until the longer row-end side is as long as you want.  Then work only Decrease rows until all stitches are worked off.

So that is my favorite stitch for right now.