Friday, January 29, 2010

Knitting techniques online - where to start?

Need to learn a new cast-on method, find tips on inserting a zipper in your cardigan, or cut your first steek? Trying to alter a sweater pattern or fix a cable mistake? Or maybe you're just learning to knit, and need videos of the basics.

It's never been easier to get knitting help from the Internet. From the earliest days of blogging, knit bloggers posted great tips and photo tutorials. Now that Internet video is accessible to most people, there's a how-to video for any knitting technique you can think of.

It can be a little bewildering to sort through these resources. They are scattered all over the Web; sites with lots of tutorials tend to be poorly organized (if they are organized at all), and some of the videos in particular are not very good. On the Knitfinder how-to page I've collected the very best of these links and organized them for you by topic, all on one page. It's easy to find exactly what you're looking for--just click on a keyword in the alphabetical list on the left, or use Ctrl F to search the page.

Here are a few more good collections of general knitting help for all levels, from beginner to geek-expert. These not only offer good content, but are reasonably organized so you can find what you need.

Launched in 2004, Amy and Sheldon Finlay's site is a collection of short, clear technique videos, all free. A great place to start if you're learning to knit. Advanced techniques such as magic loop, Kitchener stitch, stranded knitting and double knitting are here too. Videos are also collected on a CD available for purchase, and there's a glossary of knitting abbreviations and an online discussion forum.

Knit Picks tutorial collection 
Good basic collection covering most techniques beginning to intermediate knitters will need. Includes videos and a glossary of abbreviations. Fairly well arranged; there's an A-Z index of techniques, so it's pretty easy to find what you need. Knit Picks also has a YouTube channel with more than 100 videos.

Since 2006, this site has published dozens of in-depth, clear, illustrated explanations of knitting techniques and problems. Everything from basic cast-ons to very detailed analysis of short-row uses and techniques. Invaluable and a bit geeky. Lots of unusual problems and issues are covered. Index of posts by topic is here.

Knitty articles
Knitty has published lots of good technique articles over the years. Archived articles are listed here by topic. Theresa Stenersen's column "Techniques with Theresa" has covered most of the basics; here is a list of subjects. For other Knitty articles on specific techniques, see the Knitfinder how-to page.

Drops Design YouTube channel
90+ technique videos without audio, supplemented with written instructions. If you want to see a technique demonstrated without being distracted by talking, these are for you.

and...great knitting teachers on YouTube

Many knitting luminaries are on YouTube, often in Knitting Daily TV segments. Unfortunately, there's no easy way to find them. Try searching for a favorite teacher's name. Two with channels of their own:

Lucy Neatby
has eight great videos on provisional cast-ons, double knitting, bobbles, and "navajo" knitting, among other things. 
Cat Bordhi has 24 videos on sock knitting, moebius knitting, and other techniques. Some real gems among her tips.

Check out the Knitfinder how-tos, and drop me a line if there's a technique you can't find, or you've got a favorite tutorial or video you'd like to see added to the list. I tuck in new links whenever I come across a good one. New today - the "bar none" increase popularized by Meg Swansen, and new color knitting videos from Berroco.

Coming soon: new content for the Knitfinder resource section--look for pages on color knitting and online pattern sources in the next couple of weeks. Also, stay tuned for a new weekly blog feature - the best new patterns available online, from all over the world.

Happy knitting!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A cautionary tale

I'm not very good about swatching (understatement of the year). My last shawl of 2009 was Aestlight from Shetland Trader. Stated pattern gauge is 24 stitches/42 rows to 4" on a 4mm needle - but, and I quote, exact gauge is not crucial. The next time you see that phrase in a pattern, pause and reflect. Did I swatch? No. No fitting issues, why swatch?

I knit Aestlight in Sanguine Gryphon Little Traveller. I had one 560-yard skein, bought at Sock Summit last summer, in a beautiful green that reminds me of oxidized copper. No color name or number on the label. Aestlight is written for two sizes, and the larger requires 550 yards of yarn. You can see where this is going, right?

I cast on for the larger size with a 4mm needle and knitted merrily. About the time I began the sideways lace edging, I began to worry a bit about running out of yarn. At the halfway point of the edging, I realized I might be a gram or two short (thanks to my trusty gram scale). But I hoped for the best, and kept knitting anyway. What else was I going to do? Because of the way the shawl is constructed, I would have had to rip 50% of my work in order to switch back to a smaller size.

This is what I get for being cocky:

My finished shawl measures 68" wide instead of 52", and it's also 2" longer than the pattern dimension. My gauge was 16 stitches/4" instead of 24. I ran out of yarn with 11 edging rows to go. No hope of getting more, with no color name or number - so I headed for the yarn cupboard and pulled out half a dozen bits of green yarn in the right weight. Believe it or not, what you see above was the least jarring alternative.

I do love the finished product. Perfect size, nice drape at this gauge, and the color is gorgeous. No one has remarked on that funny-looking tail yet. I figure I'll just wear the shawl to Stitches West in February and wander around trying to find a better match.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

10 Shawls in 2010?

I'm not one for knitting goals or resolutions (or resolutions in general, for that matter), but when I came across the 10 Shawls in 2010 group on Ravelry, I joined right away. Why not? I love shawls. I knit them anyway. One cannot own too many of them, in my opinion. There are already more than 150 shawl patterns in my Ravelry favorites. Last but not least, I wouldn't have to buy a single ball of yarn.

OK, so which 10 shall it be? Usually I decide what to knit on a whim, no long-term planning involved. So thinking about projects I'd like to knit as a group instead of one at a time is interesting. Why not try some different kinds of shawls, and avoid getting stuck in a rut? Minimum two that are all about color, not lace. One stranded colorwork shawl, and one that features texture. I notice I'm not as interested in fancy lacework as I used to be. Minimum one Estonian-style, one Faroese, and one Icelandic-style. A hap shawl would be nice too. I want to knit at least one from my own handspun, and one that's my own design. Oh, and one in hemp or linen.

Then it occurred to me to count up how many projects I actually knitted in 2009. Let's see: 2.9 shawls; 1 sweater; 1 mini-shawl; 1.9 pairs of socks; 1 cowl. Hmmm. Time to revise expectations - the ten shawls are more like a five-year plan.

Oh well, here's my preliminary pattern list anyway. Because lists are fun - imagiknitting galore! (Most of these links take you to Ravelry.) Click away!

Colorful shawls
Stephen West's Daybreak. Stripes, and a great semi-circular shape.

A stranded colorwork shawl like Pinnneguri's steeked Thistle, but with a different chart. Something like Christel Seyfarth's Bird shawl, or Kaffe Fassett poppies? In Shetland wool.

Ulmus from Through the Loops. Slip-stitch stripes plus a lacy border - color, texture, and lace all in one shawl.

Lacy shawls
Two by Ann Hanson: Artichaut from Twist Collective (this would be beautiful in the white hemp I have in stash) and Trevi

Miralda's Triangular shawl from Nancy Bush's Knitted Lace of Estonia.

Cobweb stole by Michele Rose Orne. Really like the unusual lace patterning in this one.

Myrtle leaf stole and Handsome Triangle from Victorian Lace Today. Myrtle leaf would be nice in hemp or linen; Handsome Triangle in silk.

Clothilde, by Kristen Hanley Cardozo

Echo Flower by Jenny Johnson Johnen, in pretty Estonian motifs

Litla Hyrna Huldu Simple Icelandic shawl with a pretty border. I've got a lot of unspun Icelandic in stash.

That's a lot of laciness after all.

Simple shawls
Ysolda Teague's Damson

Mara and Hannah Breetz's Storm Cloud Shawlette would both be great for my inexpert handspun.

Like hundreds of other knitters, I love Citron from Knitty, by Hilary Smith Callis.

Theory shawlette by Jennifer Lang - nice pattern for DK-weight yarn.

Shawls with texture
Gossamer Square from Elise Duvekot's Knit One Below. Unusual technique, two colors of Kidsilk Haze - interesting texture plus subtle colorplay.

Lily Chin's Reversible cabled rib shawl

That's eighteen right there, and there isn't a hap shawl, a Faroese, or one of my own design on the list. And I can't even cast on for  number one yet - first I have to knit an overdue Ice Queen, and I really should finish my Girasole. Wish me luck, I'm going to need it.