I have noticed a few things about gauge swatches which I find interesting:
It seems like the newer and more inexperienced a knitter/crocheter is, the less they want to make gauge swatches.
Pretty much every “how to” resource you read really stresses the importance of gauge swatches.
And yet, I still hate to do them myself. You should swatch every time. And yet, there are circumstances under which I will just just skip the swatch. Every time I do I take a risk that the finished product won’t be the correct size and that I’ll run out of yarn. However, sometimes choosing not to make a swatch is a calculated risk I’m willing to take. If all three of these criteria are met, I will sometimes skip a gauge swatch:
If I making something that doesn’t have a “fit”: blankets, shawls, curtains, etc.
If the pattern is by an established publisher
If the yarn is made of fibers I’ve worked with before
Items that don’t have to fit
If an item has a size, you need to do a gauge swatch every time. There really isn’t any getting around this. If you don’t, you will probably end up doing a lot more work in the long run than you would have just doing the darn swatch. So, if you are going to put it on someone’s body, swatch.
I have come to find that if I am making something with a pattern by an established publisher – something from a book or a magazine or a really well established designer on Ravelry – I can count on the gauge being pretty reasonable most of the time. There have been exceptions – like a sweater I made once that I had great difficulty even getting the gauge no matter how small of needles I used – but usually established designers seem to have a pretty consistent gauge. On the other hand, the person who has a free pattern up on Ravelry or a web site whom you’ve never heard of before is more likely to have a messed up gauge.
When the fibers are those I’ve worked with before I generally know how they will behave. If its something new or rare to me, I gauge to take out the uncertainty.
When do you skip the gauge swatch? Do you hate to swatch?
A stitch counter & a variety of markers. Note how some of the markers open and some do not.
As I mentioned in my last post, I really enjoy knitting socks. As I know you will, too, I thought I’d share with you the contents of my sock knitting kit. This is something that has evolved over the last year of knitting socks and now it has everything I need to knit socks most of the time.
First off, start with a bag which is made of cloth. I know, you’d think you want a knit or crocheted bag but the needles for socks are so small they will constantly stick out of anything that has holes. So I have a cloth drawstring bag (I got mine from Knit Picks) to hold all my sock materials. It’s big enough to hold 2 balls of sock yarn and 2 pairs of socks, but that’s only about 6″ x 10″ or so.
Obviously your kit then stats with the yarn, pattern and needles for your socks. After you have that, add:
A tape measure
A few colors of sock weight yarn in small amounts. This comes in handy whenever your pattern calls for scrap yarn (like for an afterthought heel).
A small crochet hook. You can use this to help you pick up tiny dropped stitches. I like a C size, personally.
At least one stitch marker. Almost every pair of socks wants you to mark the beginning of the row with a stitch marker. If you have a few (5 or so) you’ll be prepared for most patterns.
A pencil to mark your pattern as needed.
A pair of scissors which won’t stab you. You can do a pair of folding scissors, a pair with a sheath or a pair with rounded tips. Mine are on a cord so I can wear them around my neck.
A row counter of some kind. I have a small one attached to the cord for my folding scissors. You can also use your phone to count stiches, in which case you can skip this.
If you are knitting on DPNs, you may want a holder so that your stitches don’t come off the needles.
That’s it! If you build a kit with all those things, you’ll be prepared for almost any sock making contingency.
Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments what you keep in your sock making kit.
Ever since I knit my first pair of socks, I’ve almost constantly had a pair of socks on my needles. I resisted sock knitting for a really long time, partly because they look hard but mostly because I figured that was a lot of work for something that would only be on my feet and not seen very much. But now that I’ve knit a few pairs, I love to knit socks!
Reasons Socks are Great to Knit
Knitting socks will make you a better knitter! Knitting socks is a great way to learn a variety of intermediate & advanced knitting techniques fairly easily. Sure you could knit a sweater, but that’s a big investment in time AND yarn if it doesn’t turn out well. With socks, you can learn to do short rows, increases, decreases, cables, ribbing, lace knitting… pretty much any technique. And its a lot less investment than a sweater.
They are very portable. I can stick a pair of socks in my purse and take them with me anywhere. Most people I knit with have a small project as their “purse knitting” and socks make a great choice.
They don’t take very long. I can usually finish a pair of socks in a few weeks if I work on them as my main project.
Hand made socks are soooo comfortable.
You can make them exactly like you want them – plain, fancy, lacy, striped, fuzzy, multicolored… whatever makes your perfect sock you can knit for yourself.
They aren’t as hard as they look. And there are TONS of resources online to help you get started.
Please share your sock knitting experiences in the comments. Do you have a favorite yarn? Favorite sock designer? I’d love to hear about it.
My newly finished lace wrap. I also made a hat to match for my Derby Party.
I feel like my knitting skills have advanced an amazing amount since the start of this year. At the end of last year, I made some fingerless gloves for people at a Christmas present and I didn’t even know how to knit in the round or leave a thumb gusset. And now I just finished a beautiful lace shawl – my most challenging project to date.
I started this back on March 9 and finished it May 1, so it didn’t take all that long to complete. But it was VERY challenging – probably the most difficult thing I’ve made so far. And it was very rewarding as well.
How to block. I used my new blocking wires and kit from Joann for this project and that’s really why it looks so amazing. Before blocking it was a LOT less impressive. I followed all the directions on the blocking wires kit and it came out beautifully!
Stitch markers can be invaluable when your knitting lace. They helped me to stay on track and, more importantly, to realize when I was OFF track. I counted pretty much every stitch of every row on this and that, combined with the stitch markers, helped me to find any mistakes while they were still easy to fix.
The patterns shown here are easy and a great way to get started.
There are a lot of resources out there to get started in Crochet, including a variety of books. But there are lots of free resources, too – especially YouTube vidoes. So I took the time to review several of these videos to find the very best. I looked for easy-to-follow instructions, clear pictures, and all the info you need to get started in one place.
I didn’t find any videos that meet all these criteria and also cover yarn selection, hook selection and give a pattern. So, here’s my suggestion to get started without having to buy any books:
Yarn: Review my post on selecting yarn. I recommend you start with an even, smooth, lighter colored worsted weight yarn. You might want to go to the craft store to pick your first one out so you can feel the yarns and see the exact color. If you are making the dish cloth pattern below, you will want your yarn to be absorbent so select one that has a high amount of cotton in it. Acrylic yarns are cheaper, but they won’t really soak up water. And cotton yarns aren’t going to shrink or otherwise change if exposed to hot water.
Hook: The pattern you select will specify the hook to use, which will also be based on the size of yarn you select. Smaller yarns generally require smaller hooks & vice versa. If you have the funds, you might want to get a kit of inexpensive hooks to start. That gives you several sizes to work with. You probably will end up liking a different style of hook better, but these will work and give you the flexibility to do many different projects without having to buy more hooks. If you don’t have the funds, the patterns I have selected below all don’t have a gauge that matters, so you can buy an H sized hook (probably the most commonly used with worsted weight yarn) and have a minimal investment to start with.
Patterns: Once you have the basic techniques, here are a few great free patterns for a beginner. You do NOT have to use the yarn brand or color suggested in the pattern. You can, but any worsted weight (size 4) yarn will work. You will need a free account on Lion Brand yarns to view these patterns. But, trust me, its well worth your while to sign up for a free account on their site.
I’ve been really busy with knitting lately and haven’t crocheted much at all. I’ve got several projects going at the same time and then some queued up already for later. Here’s my work in progress (WIP).
I’m working on a lace wrap for myself.I know its going to be just beautiful. I love the yarn – it’s a hot pink yarn that has subtle color variations from an orange-ish pink to a purple-ish pink. It’s especially beautiful in the sunlight. The yarn is 50/50 wool and silk and has a beautiful sheen and is very soft. I had a goal to finish it buy the end of May for ConQuest, but now I’m hoping to finish it in time for my Derby Party since it will go beautifully with my Derby Hat. It takes a lot of concentration, but now that I’ve repeated the pattern 17 times (I have to do it 33), I’m starting to get the hang of it enough to work on it during TV watching.
The parts & pieces I’m going to use to make my Derby Hat.
I’m making a Derby Hat. This is a hat I got on sale at Joann’s. It’s a pink and white sun hat and I’m going to add a glittery pink ribbon, some flowers (roses & dogwoods) and some white feathers. I think it will be just “too too” (as my Mom would say).
I decided I should have some socks of my own. I’ve had some yarn around for a while now that is beautifully self-striping in purple and white. I’m really happy with how these socks are turning out. They are my first toe-up socks so I’ll be writing a blog post about them later. I decided to go with a toe-up sock because it would be new but also so I could use up ALL my yarn. The pattern is a heavily modified Rock the STARS socks pattern. This project doesn’t have a deadline so I work on it when I don’t have the ability to concentrate on my knitting completely (like at Nebraska Knit & Crochet Guild night).
I’m working on another half-moon cape in white. This will be a project to sell and I’m very close to finished with it. My deadline is ConQuest.
I have a shawl I’ve been half-heartedly crocheting. It’s a pretty boring pattern and I started it before I started my lace shawl. The lace shawl is going to be so much prettier that I’ve lost all enthusiasm for the project. But I’ll finish it eventually.
Projects in my Queue
New sock yarn from Knit Picks
Socks for a mystery person (as a present). I got this beautiful yarn from Knit Picks. It’s super soft and I can’t wait to work with it.
A vest for one of my very favorite people – my Aunt Myra. It’s going to be a lot of stockinette in a DK yarn so it will probably not going very quickly. But I have until Christmas to finish it.
A new tunic for myself for summer. I’m going to use this pattern from Interweave. I’m either going to make it with the exact same yarn in the same color, or I’m going to save myself $20 and make it in a similar yarn in pink.
I downloaded about 4 other patterns from Interweave yesterday. They were having a sale!! So that will keep me busy for quite some time.
What are you working on right now? Let me know in the comments.
Here is an example. I started a pair of socks & then decided to frog them. The yarn I frogged is on the tube you see next to the ball.
It’s happened to most knitters & crocheters: you start on a pattern and part way through you realize you did something wrong or you don’t like the pattern. So you have to frog your work. But when you do so, you end up with a big tangled mess that is a pain to work with until you get back to the ball of yarn you were working with. Well, here’s how you can keep that yarn from tangling up while you rework it.
As you frog your work, wrap the yarn around a smooth tube. I used the my Sock Knitting Needle Holders from KnitPicks.com for this example, but a used toilet paper tube or a travel toothbrush holder would work as well. You just want something tubular in shape and smooth in texture. Start wrapping at one end of the tube and just keep wrapping moving gradually toward the other end. Its okay if your yarn overlaps itself, but for best results, you don’t want it to go back and forth on the tube much.
Now start working again from the tube. One end of the tube will probably raise off the surface, which is ideal. Your yarn will come off smoothly and without knots and, if more comes off the ball on accident after you start, you can just wind it around the other end (being careful not to cover any of the yarn already on the tube). When all the yarn on the tube is used, start working from the ball as normal.
See the white thread woven through this piece? That's my life line made of dental floss.
Do you know what lifelines are? I didn’t either until a friend at the knitting guild clued me in. I thought they were a brilliant idea and worth a post.
Lifelines are a way to save your game, so to speak. When you are working with a complicated pattern or difficult yarn – especially lace knitting – it can be difficult to recover from errors. Heck, sometimes its hard to even see them. You just know that your count didn’t work out right or it doesn’t look quite right. That’s where lifelines can be a life saver!
How to Make a Lifeline
Using dental floss weave it across your entire work at a point where you know the pattern is correct. You don’t have to use dental floss, but its cheap and easy, fine enough not to get in your way, and it adds minty freshness to your work. Use lifelines multiple points throughout your work – especially if you are working with lace. For the shawl I’m working on, I am doing a lifeline before each pattern repeat. Then, if at any point you need to unravel and get back to a point where you know the work is correct, you can without worrying about any stitches getting lost and without worrying about whether you’ve unraveled to the spot you think you did.
Since I started using lifelines on my very first real lace knit project, I’ve used them 3 times. Wow am I glad I learned about this handy tip! So I thought I’d pass it on.
Do you have any life saving knitting techniques? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
The wrap I was wearing my first night at the Nebraska Knit & Crochet Guild.
For 24 years, I was a solitary crochet & knitter. Not only was I always working alone, but I didn’t even know very many other crafters. My mom knits a bit, but mostly I knew people who WANTED to knit or crochet but never did get around to it. now I can tell you, I had no idea what I was missing.
When I moved from Kentucky to Omaha in July, I was looking for ways to meet people in my new city. This is tough to do. So I went out to Meetup.com and did a search for groups in Omaha to see what I could find. I found the Nebraska Knit & Crochet Guild. It took me a few months to get around to going to my first meeting. Partly I was busy unpacking, but mostly I was nervous. I’m a pretty strong introvert (although not shy about talking to people) and I’ve never found making friends to be easy. I made a million excuses about how I didn’t have time, might not have anything in common with the group, etc. But when I eventually did go, it was like coming home.
I walked in the door wearing a crocheted wrap I had recently finished. I saw some women sitting around knitting and asked if I was in the right place. The people in the group were so nice and they made me feel right at home. They complimented me on the wrap, which is something anyone might do, but what made the experience great was that they also asked me all about it – what kind of yarn had I used, where was the pattern from, who designed it, etc. They admired the stitches and the color choices. And I, of course, did the same for all their handmade items. And I realized at that moment that they were filling a hole I hadn’t even realized was in my life: someone to really appreciate the handcrafted items I had put so many hours and so much effort into making! Wow! That really was invaluable in a way that someone who’s never made something from scratch can probably appreciate.
Since that day, I have found many other reasons to be part of a crafting group and I wanted to share them with you.
5 Reasons to Find a Crafting Group Today
We share each others’ triumphs and joys in crafting.Crafters can appreciate the work of other crafters in a way that non-crafters never could. They GET how much work you put into the project, how cool the pattern is, and how awesome (and probably expensive) that yarn you selected is.
We share resources. When I get a new book, I bring it by so others can check it out and see if they might want to buy it (and they do the same). We each have our own tools and are happy to share where we found them, where is the best place to buy yarn, etc.
We share knowledge. When I made my Nebraska Winter Hat & ScarfI wasn’t really happy with how the scarf edge was coming out. But one of the ladies in the group showed me how to slip the first stitch on the scarf of every row. Wow did that look better – thanks Karen! When I made my poncho and it turned out to be a bit too big, they suggested a draw string. If I have a crafting problem, there is always someone there who has a solution.
We have become great friends. Conversation is easy when you 1) have at least one topic in common you can always fall back on and 2) have something to do with your hands. Why do you think so many friends meet over meals? If there was a lull in the conversation, we just all concentrate on our projects for a while. It takes so much of the pressure off of talking to strangers.
We have lots of fun!
If you aren’t part of a crafting group today, I encourage you to join one. Use meetup to find one in your area or start one yourself. And let me know if the comments what your experience with crafting in a group has been like.