Aha! Moments – Reinforcing Thread

4 years ago, I knit little Liam a great hat out of Lang Yarn’s Jawoll sock yarn. It was a fabulous superwash self patterning sock yarn. It made for a great looking hat that I now coin as “the hat that keeps on giving”. Liam wore the hat then and still pulls this great piece over his ears on these frigid winter days.

Liam sporting “the hat”

When I began knitting this piece, over 4 years ago, remember…I knew nothing of Jawoll sock yarn. Just thought it looked nice, felt good, and loved the self patterning look. But when I got the yarn back home and opened up the hank to begin knitting, this bobbin of matching thread was nestled right inside the middle of the skein! It struck me completely odd! I had no idea what it was. I honestly thought it was simply sample thread. Perhaps got stuck in there on accident?! But it struck me oddly enough, that even after 4 years, I still was holding on to this cute little bobbin of thread.

Fast forward 4 years later, to January 2018. I became intrigued with sock construction. I am a sucker for cozy socks and began my quest to knit the perfect pair. Well, with my feet as hard as they are on socks, I began investigating and pondering ways to beef up the construction of a knit sock. My first thought was a way to basically ‘reinforce” those spots that wear the quickest in my socks (heels an soles). I thought I could double up my strands in those areas and just knit with more yarn giving it more stability?

To Google I went. I simply asked how I might be able to reinforce knit socks. You won’t believe what Google found: Jawoll Reinforcement Bobbins. I immediately clicked and saw that cute little bobbin of thread I had found when making Liam’s hat 4 years ago! I began reading, and had the biggest Aha! Moment of my knitting life:

Jawoll sock yarn contains a bobbin of matching thread intended to be used when knitting the heels and toes of your socks. For reinforcement purposes!

!!!!!!! This yarn company is genius! So excited to finally know what that cute bobbin of thread was, all these years later. And can’t wait to knit my next pair of socks with my  matching reinforcement thread.

If you’re wanting to knit a piece that looks great, wears wonderfully for years, can be washed, and looks like you’re a knitting genius – try Jawoll sock yarn colors by Lang Yarns. There’s a fun little surprise hidden in the middle!!!


Figure It Out Friday

Gauge is math. All math. When I began my current WIP (work in progress), my stitch gauge created a few problems. I typically knit a bit tighter; therefore, having more stitches per inch than what the pattern requires (aka a smaller gauge). In order to come closer to the pattern's number of stitches per inch, I often first change my needle size. And so, I went up to the next larger needle size. It worked, but I'm not always lucky first time around! Here are some other things to try when needing to change your stitch gauge:

  1. Change needle size: For more stitches per inch go smaller. For less stitches per inch go bigger!
  2. Change needle type: Some find the material of their needles makes a difference in gauge. You can find needles made of all different materials. Experimenting with different needles may reveal your gauge differs slightly (enough to change your gauge) without changing the needle size!
  3. Change yarn weight: This is not my preference as I typically knit a project with a specific yarn in mind. But if you're working a project and yarn is not the priority, try experimenting with a heavier or lighter yarn when fussing with gauge. Heavier weight yarn will give you less stitches per inch. Lighter weight yarn will give you more stitches per inch.

But what about ROW gauge?!?!? My stitch gauge was spot on but my row gauge was not! I have yet to figure out how exactly I can manipulate just my row gauge without effecting my stitch gauge, and do it in such a way that is consistent from roe to row. I don't think it's possible! I have typically never worried about row gauge as most of my patterns have me knit a specific number of inches rather than a specific number of rows. Not this time! This WIP is a tunic tank top and the body decrease was a specific number of rounds 😦 and so here comes the math…

Now 5 rows might seem like nothing, but had I not altered the pattern slightly, those extra 5 rows would've added nearly an inch to the tunic.So, next time you think a row here or there doesn't matter, think again! Your tunic just might end up a dress 😉

Figure It Out Friday

Gauge. To measure or not to measure? That IS NOT the question! When knitting, gauge is a must. This was not a revelation during my first years of knitting. It took me many projects, many hanks of yarn, many years, before I understood this strange concept and word. But rather than discuss the ins and outs of gauge, how to match gauges, what to do if stitch gauge matches but row gauge is off, etc., let’s talk about the bare minimums of what to do when you don’t give a darn about gauge!

Some knitters, I’m certain, can go (and have gone) their entire knitting life never concerning themselves with gauge.  How? Well, if you’re prone to knitting the infamous dish cloths, or baby blankets, or infinity scarves and cowls, size doesn’t really matter. A scarf can’t be too long, right? Just wrap it around your neck an extra time and voila! A dish cloth just needs to fit inside your sink. And a baby blanket, or baby afghan, or baby king-sized coverlet…it’s not like you’re going to be wearing it!

So many times I’ve had people come to me with a pattern and the yarn they plan to knit with and I immediately ask what their gauge is with said yarn. I get the deer in headlights look accompanied by no response. Uhhhhhhhh. Most recently, it was a pattern calling for worsted weight yarn, but the knitter had this great chunky bulky yarn they were hoping to use.  First suggestion (if you’re not wanting to fuss with gauge): be certain to use the same weight yarn as indicated by the pattern. This won’t guarantee your gauge will be an exact match, but you will be a heck of a lot closer to the suggested gauge than if trying to use, say, a bulky weight yarn. Here’s the reason: chunkier yarn is exactly that, chunkier, bigger, thicker. And if you use a chunkier yarn, so too will your individual stitch stitch size be. And if each individual stitch is larger, you will end up with a larger gauge, or a smaller number of stitches per inch of your knitted fabric. Meaning; if you were to take your ruler and place a stitch at the edge of your ruler and counted the number of stitches along a 4 inch line, you will have a lesser number of stitches in that 4 inch sample than the person using a lighter weighted yarn. Less stitches per inch means a larger gauge. More stitches per inch means a smaller gauge. We’ll use this information next week when talking about how to change your gauge accordingly. In the meantime, make sure you know where to find a yarn’s weight. Most commercial, large name fibers, have the weight printed right on the label. It’s usually a white number in a black square. Image result for yarn weight

Second suggestion (if you’re not wanting to fuss with gauge): use the same size needles as indicated by the pattern. Again, this won’t gaurantee your gauges will be an exact match. But for obvious reasons, your chances of being darn close are good.  Why? Say you’re using worsted weighted yarn, as the pattern indicates, but the pattern says to use US 7. The closest you have is US 10. Now, the larger the needle number, the larger the circumference of the needle. And the larger the needle, the larger your stitches wil be. But not only that, if using the same weighted yarn on a larger needle, your stitches will not only be larger, but the overall structure of the worked fabric (once knitted) will naturally be much looser and stretchier. Likewise, if you’re using a smaller needle size than indicated, the stitch size will be smaller and tighter. Instead of a nice slouchy fall hat, you now have a tight fitting beanie with no stretch.

Third suggestion (if you’re not wanting to fuss with gauge): just knit scarves!

Happy Friday. Happy Knitting!

Figure It Out Friday

The yarn over stitch for English knitters

Today is a continuation from last week’s thoughts on the series of stitches: [yo, sl1, k1, psso].  The confusion comes for those of us who are English Knitters (hold our working yarn in our right hand). This simple stitch wracks our brains! Time to break it down. The essence of a yarn over stitch is to add a stitch between two already established stitches. If you think of the mechanic of this stitch, and the fact that you are adding a stitch, SOME of the confusion surrounding this stitch can be eliminated.

The yarn over stitch is abbreviated as yo. It functions differently depending upon the stitch prior to and following the yarn over. Here are four variations:

  • Yarn Over (between 2 knit stitches): abbreviated as [k1, yo, k1] When you get to the point where it says yo, bring your yarn to the front and then proceed with the following knit stitch KEEPING YOUR WORKING YARN IN THE FRONT. This series of stitches, I feel, would be better abbreviated for English knitters as [k1, k1wyif].
  • Yarn Over (between 2 purl stitches): abbreviated as [p1, yo, p1] When you get to the point where it says yo, your working yarn will already be at the front because you just purled a stitch. Next, take your working yarn (which is in the front), wrap it over and around your right needle and back to the front again (counter-clockwise wrap). Proceed with your next purl stitch. In this case, I think of the yarn over as a wrapping of the yarn over and around the needle.
  • Yarn Over (between a knit stitch and a purl stitch): abbreviated as [k1, yo, p1] When you get to the point were it says yo, you  need to bring your working yarn to the front, and then wrap it again around the needle in counter-clockwise motion ending with the working yarn in front again. Proceed with the purl stitch.
  • Yarn Over (between a purl stitch and a knit stitch): abbreviated as [p1, yo, k1] When you get to the point where it says yo, your working yarn will be in the front of your work because of the purled stitch you just made. Keeping your working yarn in the front, simply just knit the next stitch. I feel that this series of stitches would be better abbreviated as [p1, k1wyif].

Here’s a quick video illustrating each of the above yarn over combinations. Hope this clarifies some confusion with such a bugger of a stitch. Happy Friday! Happy knitting!

Figure It Out Friday

After many hours deciphering endless knitting abbreviations; trying to make sense of what exactly I needed to accomplish with my needles and yarn, a revelation enlightened me: I’m not alone! I often feel that knitters everywhere know how to do every stitch possible and I’m the only one left in the dark. And furthermore, just because I figured out an abbreviation once, doesn’t mean I remember what to do when I stumble upon that same cryptic code once again. And so, today, I begin the first of many “Figure It Out Friday’s”. This will be a place where I share my knitting confusions and revelations. Hopefully clarifying the roadblocks I stumble upon in my everyday knitting.

Today’s tutorial is a clarification for English Knitters. I’ve stumbled upon the following series of stitches in lace work: (Yo sl1 k1 psso) This was extremely confusing for me, as I naturally wanted to do the first instruction in the series first! I was forever trying to yarn over at the beginning of this series. What I didn’t realize at the time is that this series of stitches is carried out differently depending upon whether you are an English knitter or a Continental Knitter (threat topic for another Friday).  And rather than write out the instructions, take a peek at today’s video. Hopefully this sheds some insightful light! Follow this link to view today’s Figure It Out Friday tutorial of yo sl1 k1 psso. Hope you got it figured out! Happy Friday! Happy Knitting!

Irish Eyes Are Smiling…

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling – performed by The Irish Tenors

I’ve never read the lyrics for When Irish Eyes Are Smiling until today, and feel like I’ve been cheated of something my whole life! How has this song not been a forever favorite? Reading the lyrics reaffirms that I love all things Irish:

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, sure ’tis like a morn in spring.
In the lilt of Irish laughter, you can hear the angels sing.
When Irish hearts are happy, all the world seems bright and gay,
And When Irish Eyes Are Smiling, sure, they steal your heart away.
There’s a tear in your eye and I’m wondering why,
For it never should be there at all.
With such power in your smile, sure a stone you’d beguile,
So there’s never a teardrop should fall,
When your sweet lilting laughter’s like some fairy song
And your eyes twinkle bright as can be.
You should laugh all the while and all other times smile,
And now smile a smile for me.
For your smile is a part of the love in your heart,
And it makes even sunshine more bright.
Like the linnet’s sweet song, crooning all the day long.
Comes your laughter so tender and bright.
For the springtime of youth is the sweetest of all,
There is ne’er a real care or regret.
And while springtime is ours, throughout all of youth’s hours,
Let us smile each chance we get.

I joke on St. Patrick’s Day that I’m a total Irish-WannaBe. Things like, “kiss me, I’m the only one NOT IRISH in my family” or “I love an Irishman”.

It’s true, I love all things Irish. I enjoy good Irish beers. I make a mean reuben always paired with a mint shake. I watch Irish dancing, and feel that clogging was probably my former life’s work. I swoon at the sound of an Irish brogue. And Irish melodies melt my soul. And yet, I’m not Irish. Good thing I married an Irishman, though; to pass on these lovely traditions to my own children is a delight.

I spent the morning perusing green and orange patterns on Ravely. I don’t remember the last time I simply sat down on Ravelry and just looked. Usually, I go to ravelry looking for something specific and don’t have the luxury of just looking. What a treat this morning was! So many beautiful creations. So many fun things to knit. My inventive juices wished I had hundreds of people knitting for me, as the visions of new creations flooded my mind! Instead, I happily skimmed pages and pages of patterns, and watched as green and orange jumped out at me. Here’s what I found:

Red_red_wine_2_small2 Rob Roy by Thea Colman. I was not surprised one iota to find that Thea had designed this great hat. I’m not certain I’ve seen one design by her that isn’t beautiful. The spiced orange decorated with the contrasting poof is brilliant. Great color combination. The slouch is ideal in my book, and I’m a sucker for wider brims. It’s perfection in my book.

003_small2 Three Color Cashmere Cowl by Joji Locatelli. Again, not a surprise to find that this was again designed by Joji. I knit a great hat by her a few years ago and loved everything about it. This cowl jumped out at me due to the color and stitch combinations. It’s really a brilliant piece – something I like to call knitting ADD. Really, so often I get “bored” with larger knit projects, because it’s often the same stitch pattern over and over again. Which is great for mindless knitting, and not having to be married to a pattern for what seems like an eternity. This seems ideal to me. Just when you might be getting bored of the color or stitch, she switches it up. And the end result is a great piece full of texture and color. The green may not be exactly what I’d call Kelly Green, but it caught this IrishByProxyGirl’s eye!

Rossbeg_small2 Rossbeg by Carol Feller. This just melts my heart.  A great Irish Cable sweater for a lil’ swee pea. Beautiful color, interesting movement of cables, looks like a top-down one piece (easy knit). Love the choice for closures. I’d love this in a big-girl size!

 Leighton by Alison Green. Socks seem to be popping up all over my radar. I haven’t knit socks in, well since I knit this exact pair (these were my first sample knit for Berroco). Sometimes they took on a blue tinge, other times they were defintiely green. But again, a great accessory to show off delicate and intricate Irish Cablework. They scream to be paired with a great skirt.

 Finally, The Fisherman Stocking by Mary Thomas b1934. This is a pattern I found over 10 years ago and began knitting for our family Christmas stockings. It’s an heirloom pattern and a pleasure to knit.

Can’t wait to continue creating…Éirinn go Brách!


Look At This Stuff…

” look at this stuff, isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete?” –  Part Of Your World, The Little Mermaid

The Little Mermaid is an interesting phenomenon – a Disney animated movie that stole my heart as a young 10 year old; singing Part of Your World over and over and over again as my fingers followed along on the ivories (literally – my parents had an old up-right piano given to them with original ivory keys!).  After 27 years, the piano hopefully found a home with another eager 10 year old,  but the book remains with me! The binding completely wasted away, but the pages found a new home in a folder among other very much loved music. Who knew years would pass and I would once again be captured by this same tale, this time; however, adapted by a composer that tugs at my Czech heart-strings: Dvorak. Dvorak wrote Rusalka around 1900, with it’s first public performance in 1901. My most favorite aria comes from this opera: Rusalka’s song to the moon. I haven’t had the joy of singing this over and over again at my piano, but perhaps someday I’ll find a time to do a recital performance of this piece. Bucket list.

And speaking of mermainds…knit mermaid tail blankets have popped up all over the internet. My girls somehow caught glimpse of one, and of course it found it’s way to their 2016 Christmas list. The yarn purchased months ago, and I’m just now starting to create something that will hopefully resemble a mermaid tail. I scoured images online, hoping to find something I could simply whip up and make from pattern, but nothing passed approval. Disappointing in one sense, but encouraging to know that I will hopefully introduce something new and unique to this exploding blanket phenomenon. I hoped for a quick-knit project, and although not exactly shaping up to be such, the stitch pattern is turning out better than anticipated! Slightly accidental?

Which leads me to construction techniques…I like to “plan”, draw out the project, calculating most likely steps while always leaving room for adaptations along the way. This project does not follow the norm. It is very much fly-by-my-seat. Knit along the way. Cross my fingers it turns out. It is a total experimental knit. Right now, I have no idea what’s going to happen at the tail, but I’ll worry about that when the time comes.

I just finished a fall preview piece for Berroco, and I always enjoy  knitting for them, as it’s a great opportunity to learn other’s design techniques, how pieces can be assembled and created. I’m intrigued… are you fly-by-your-seat, or calculate-to-the-last-stitch? Perhaps a combination of both? This is definitely a fly-by-my-seat, and much to my surprise, I’m OK with that! As proven with my AlexaRae mittens, uncertainties, and miscalculations often create beauty. I’m thinking this create-by-intuition technique, coupled with good knitting knowledge, is breaking down my “safe knitting walls” and expanding my knitting horizons. It’s totally neat.