1: Add Length
How to do it:
2: Add Width
How to do it:
3: Add More Buttons
How to do it:
4: Add a Feature
How to do it:
- A lace/cable/fancy pattern motif, maybe a panel down the front of a pullover.
- An intarsia design, like a star or a love heart on a child’s top.
- Some beading. See here and here for two ways to add beads to your knitting.
5: Expand on an Existing Feature
How to do it:
I started a new project recently. It’s a pair of socks for my best friend from primary school. The first Christmas after I learned to knit, I made her a red lace scarf, the next year a red lace beanie, the next year red lace gloves, so this year for Christmas I’m making her red lace socks. Because I wanted to get the sizing right, I did a proper tension/gauge swatch, and I thought I’d share how I test my tension, and discuss a couple of other methods I’ve tried. To aid your understanding, please enjoy my very high quality MS Paint diagrams.
What is Tension/Gauge?
Tension (called “gauge” in the USA, and maybe Canada) refers to the amount of stitches and rows you can knit in a given area, on a given weight of yarn with a given needle size and stitch. For example, consider and 8 ply acrylic yarn, knit in stocking (stockinette) stitch on 4mm needles. Your average knitter will knit about 22 stitches and 28 rows in a 10cm X 10cm (4in X 4in) square. Of course, averages are statistical calculations, so don’t necessarily represent any real person’s tension. And as hand-knitters, our tension may well change day to day, row to row, or even stitch to stitch (hopefully it’s not too uneven though). This is why it’s important to check your tension.
I don’t always check my tension before starting a project, but I do believe that they’re important if you’re going to do something where accurate sizing is important.
Tension for Knitting Patterns
At the start of knitting patterns, the designer will almost always include a section for tension or gauge. These things usually look something like this:
Tension: 34 sts/48 rows = 10cm X 10cm in stocking stitch
Tension guides on knitting patterns usually quote expected numbers for a 10cm square, but sometimes will quote for a 1 inch (2.5cm) square. Similarly, tension guides usually give you expected tension for stocking stitch. However, some patterns, especially those with featured stitch patterns, like lace, will give you tension for that stitch pattern.
So, What is a Tension Swatch, then?
A tension swatch is a square that you knit in the recommended needle size and the yarn you are planning to use, to see if your knitting produces the same tension as those recommended. If you find that your swatch has more stitches and rows per 10cm square, your finished object will turn out too small. You’ll need to go up a needle size and knit another swatch to see if those needles are better. Conversely, if your swatch has fewer stitches and rows per square, your finished object will turn out too big, and you’ll need to go for a smaller needle size.
Great. So how do you do a tension swatch?
The Method I use: 15cm X 15cm (6in X 6in) Square
When I first learned to knit, I borrowed this book from my local library. It contained information for how to do a tension swatch. I’ve tried other methods, but I still turn to the method described in this book for my “Gold standard” of tension. So this is how I do it.
- Plan a 15cm X 15cm swatch (not 10cm). Why? You’re not bound to get an accurate count of your stitches and rows since edge stitches often curl round the edges, and I don’t know if it’s just me, but my selvedge stitch are looser than the others. Also, if your tension turns out to be tighter than that given by the pattern, your square will be smaller than 10cm squared and you won’t know how far off you are.
To calculate what is a 15cm square, multiply the stitches and rows from the pattern’s tension guide by 1.5. So, if your pattern says that 20sts X 30 rows makes 10cm squared, you would cast on 30sts and work in stocking stitch for 45 rows. If your tension is dead on the guide, your square will be a 15cm square.
- Once you have done this swatch, it will be curly, as stocking stitch is. Since you’re bothering to do a tension swatch, you’re probably planning on bothering to block or steam your finished project. Therefore, you need to block or steam your swatch. You might also want to beat up the swatch a little too, to imitate everyday wear and tear, since knitted objects may stretch over time. I will usually block swatches properly, washing briefly in warm water and laundry liquid, then rinsing in warm water. However for this pattern, I couldn’t be bothered going to those lengths, so instead I thoroughly washed the swatch in warm water and squeezed it out. See my diagram for how I did it:
- The garter stitch border method: I read once that because stocking stitch curls, it’s a good idea to knit a border of garter stitch around the stocking stitch bit that you will count your tension from. I’ve tried this. I don’t recommend it. I did a garter stitch bordered swatch, blocked it and counted, and was really surprised that my tension was much looser than the guide, when it is usually pretty much spot on, if not a little bit tight. So, I did another swatch with no stocking stitch and my tension was back to normal. Conclusion: By starting off with a few garter stitch rows, garter stitch being a looser stitch than stocking stitch, you’ve established a looser tension. If you want to try it, here is a picture:
- The half-arsed method: I do this pretty often. You start knitting a swatch then can’t be bothered finishing, or you don’t want to break the yarn. So, you cast off, not pulling the yarn the whole way through the last cast off stitch (so you can unravel it later) and count your stitches and rows from the portion of swatch you’ve done (you can figure out the per-inch tension if you don’t have a 10cm portion). Not as accurate as doing a proper and blocked/steamed swatch, but it does give you an idea.
I save my tension swatches and am planning to turn them into a blanket when I have enough. I have some half-arsed ones that I might also put in the blanket, I haven’t decided yet.
- My stitch tension is ok but my row tension is wrong! Help!
- Yeah, this happens to me. Here’s a little trick: If your pattern is something which is knit sideways, then you should pay more attention to your row count over your stitch count. For other patterns, those knit top down or bottom up, stitch count is important. This is especially true for garments. If your row count is ridiculously different from the tension guide, you might want to consider adapting the pattern itself.
That’s all. Here’s a picture of a beetle:
Another spinning-related post here: it’s a DIY on how to make a 45 degree angle Lazy Kate! For quite a while now, since I learned of their existence in The Intentional Spinner, I have wanted a Lazy Kate on which bobbins of yarn slant at a 45 degree angle. This makes the yarn come off smoothly and prevents the bobbins over-spinning. For non-initiated readers, here are some definitions so you can follow what I’m talking about.
Lazy Kate: A Lazy Kate (love the name) is a wooden stand that you put bobbins of yarn on so that they will unwind as you ply the yarns together.
Bobbin: A bobbin is the thing that newly-spun yarn is wound around on a spinning wheel. It is essentially a large wooden spool, and you can think of the yarn is the thread.
I went crazy with online buying recently and on the same day that I bought my Craftsy course from the last post, I bought three bobbins online. I previously only owned three bobbins, so the most plys I could spin were 2-ply, or 3-ply if I use Navajo plying. My wheel is an Ashford Traditional single-drive wheel, so I bought the Ashford standard bobbins, from the eBay seller ropes546, who is excellent and even sent with my bobbins a copy of a spinning magazine called The Wheel. I bought unstained ones as they’d be about $5 more expensive each if I were going to buy them lacquered. So, I thought, I’m going to have to buy stain and/or varnish for these bobbins anyway, so I may as well make my own 45 degree angle Lazy Kate and use up the whole pot (actually, I used barely any of the pot).
As I am so nice, I’ve decided to give you a little step-by-step tutorial on how to make a 45 Degree angle Lazy Kate like mine.
How to Make Your Lazy Kate
You will Need
Materials (and approximate cost):
- Wooden door plaque about 30cm long, 8-10cm high and at least 1cm thick….$3
- 90cm length of dowel, 0.6cm in diameter…$2
- Wood stain. I used Intergrain NaturalStain in Merbau and I bought a sample pot…$10
- Two wooden craft letter “V”s about 5cm high (I searched high and low for suitable 45 degree angled triangles of wood. I wasn’t going to faff around with a saw trying to cut a piece of wood at an angle. I ended up finding these “V”s at Cheap as Chips and when I held two together I found that they made a 90 degree angle and therefore individually were 45 degrees. Bingo. They are made of kind of pulped up wood, like super-duper-thick-and-dense cardboard, making them easy to sand down. The plaque is made of similar material)…$2
|A picture of some of the supplies you will need. Dog is optional.|
- Sandpaper (I like a sheet rather than a block so you can tear it up to do the fiddly bits.)
- Power drill
- 0.6cm/quarter-inch-ish drill bit (I’ll tell you a secret: I knew my dowel was 0.6cm across so I was looking for a drill bit (that I already owned) that was equal to or slightly larger than this size. The best I could find was 7/32 of an inch. “That’s nearly 0.6cm,” I said to myself, little realising that 7/32 of an inch is slightly less than, not slightly more than, 0.6cm. Doiiiii. I ended up finding a screwdriver that was exactly 0.6cm across and expanding my already-drilled holes by forcing the screwdriver through them. It worked well, as the dowels fitted in very snugly and didn’t need to be glued in. Not gluing them in will make them easier to replace).
- Strong adhesive. I used Parfix Fast Grip (in a much smaller tube than the pot shown). I used the wet adhesive instructions rather than the contact adhesive instructions. Liquid Nails would also work.
- Paint brush to apply the wood stain
- Newspaper for the messy work
- Small flat piece of rigid plastic to stir wood stain.
What to Do
- Mark off three 20cm lengths on your dowel. Save the rest in case you need to replace a dowel later on.
- Cut these three lengths from the dowel. Sand down the ends. I sanded one end round and one end flat. See Fig 1.
Fig 1. How I sanded my dowels (two rounded and one flat end)
- Take the wooden plaque. Sand off any rough bits. Measure and mark a line running along the middle of the plaque along its length. See Fig 2.
- Mark three points evenly spaced along this line. These will be where you will drill holes for the dowels. My plaque was about 30cm long. I put the two end holes about 4cm from the edges and the middle one equally distanced between these two. See Fig 3.
Fig 2. Centre line running the length of the plaque
- Taking your power drill (with correctly-sized drill bit), drill holes in each of these three marks. Sand off any rough bits. Erase pencil marks.
- Insert dowels into holes. Have the flat end of each dowel flush with the back of the plaque, with the rounded end sticking out. Because my holes were the exact same size as the dowels, I did not need to glue them in. This will also make it easier to replace them if need be. If your holes are slightly larger than your dowels, you may need to use your strong adhesive to secure the dowels in place. Sand off the back of the plaque where the dowels poke out to make it smooth.
Fig 3. Close-up of mark for drill holes
- Saw outer serifs off letter “V”s. Sand them down so that the serif stubs are flush with the rest of the outside of the “V”.
- Turn plaque over so you are looking at the back of it. Mark two lines on either side of the plaque. This is where the “V”s will be placed. It doesn’t matter too much how far apart they are, just as long as they are parallel and when attached make the Lazy Kate stand sturdily and at a 45-degree angle. You figure it out. See Fig 4.
Fig 4. Placement of letter “V”s
- Glue letter “V”s to Lazy Kate along these points with heavy-duty adhesive. As well as putting glue on the surfaces touching each other, I ran a line of glue down the sides of each “V” once it was stuck on, to reinforce them. Erase pencil marks. Allow to dry.
- Stain Lazy Kate according to instructions. Allow to dry. Enjoy. See Figs 5. and 6.
So there it is, my tutorial for a 45 degree angle Lazy Kate. I hope you enjoy making yours as much as I did mine.
|Fig 6. Lazy Kate with two of my new bobbins on it|
|Fig 5. Completed Lazy Kate|