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In the latest installment of our Foundations series, we walk you through the fundamentals of reading knitting charts — deciphering chart symbols, determining the direction of reading, working simultaneously from charts and written instructions, and more. Today, we’re sharing our tips and tricks for keeping track while reading charts so you can have a more manageable, stress-free, and enjoyable experience while knitting.

Keeping Track of Rows or Rounds

Charts are read row by row or round by round, much like how you would work a knitted item. However, as you progress from the bottom to the top of the chart, it may become easier to lose track of which row or round you’re working on in between looking at your knitting and looking at your chart! If you’ve printed out your chart, an easy way to help keep your place is to line up a ruler or other straight-edge above the row or round you’re working (shown above), then moving it up as you progress. This way, you know that the row or round directly below your ruler or straight-edge is the one you’re working, while still being able to see how your stitches on that row or round are lining up with the stitches below it.

You can also use highlighter tape or decorative masking tape to keep your place in a chart (shown above). These tapes peel off easily without damaging paper, making them convenient for moving around as you progress through your rows and rounds. They’re also semi-translucent, which is handy because you’ll know that the row or round directly below the line of tape is the one you’re currently working, but you’ll still be able to see through the tape itself and anticipate what will be involved in the upcoming rows or rounds.

If you prefer to work from charts on a computer or other device (as opposed to on paper), you can use the menu bar on your PDF-viewing application (e.g. Preview or Adobe Acrobat) as a straight-edge. Simply scroll up across the pattern PDF until the rows or rounds above the one you’re working are hidden from view. For example, if you’re currently on Row 9 of a 20-row chart, you can scroll up the chart page of the pattern PDF until Rows 10-20 are hidden from view and you can only see Row 9 directly below the grey menu bar (shown above). Then, you can scroll down, revealing the rest of the chart row by row as you progress.

Some PDF-viewing applications also allow you to create a colored line that can be moved around on the page as needed.

Keeping Track of Different Types of Stitches

If you’re working from a chart involving many different types of stitches (e.g. directional cable crosses or twists), it may become difficult to distinguish their symbols from one another on the chart. Moreover, having to continuously refer back to the chart legend may hinder the flow of your work. One good way to easily separate multiple stitch symbols (that may look similar but involve different techniques) from one another is to code them by color. You can assign different colors to different stitch symbols on your chart legend, and then color them on the chart (either with colored pencils, highlighters, or highlighter tapes) according to the color code you’ve established.

For example, in the chart shown above, we assigned the color green to a 2/2 LC-purl and the color pink to a 2/2 RC-purl on the chart legend, and then applied those colors accordingly to the symbols on the chart itself. The contrast in color then quickly and easily shows us that on Round 3, the 2/2 LC-purl is worked before the 2/2 RC-purl.

Keeping Track of Multiple Charts at Once

If you’re working from a pattern involving multiple charts, it may become cumbersome to repeatedly flip through your pattern pages to switch from chart to chart. However, there are a number of ways you can make working from multiple charts more manageable!

If you’re working different charted motifs section by section up the garment (e.g. Byway, which alternates between a Moss & Garter Block Chart and a Cable Block Chart), you may simply rearrange the pages of your pattern such that the charts are closer to the written instructions in which they are mentioned. If you’re working from the pattern on a computer or other device, some PDF-viewing applications like Preview or GoodReader will allow you to move pages around in the document.

If you’re working multiple charted motifs across the same row (e.g. Ondawa, which involves working from a horizontal sequence of different cabled chart motifs on the body), we suggest printing out your charts, trimming the pages, then taping them together in the order that the pattern instructs you to work from them. Don’t forget to print your chart legends, too! Also keep in mind that the direction in which you should read your charts — not necessarily the order in which the charts are mentioned in the written instructions — will determine the order in which you tape them together.

For example, if the written instructions tell you to:

For circular knitting:

Round 1: Work Chart A over next 10 stitches, slip marker, work Chart B over 20 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart C over 30 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart D over 20 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart E over last 10 stitches.

For flat knitting:

Row 1 (RS): Work Chart A over next 10 stitches, slip marker, work Chart B over 20 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart C over 30 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart D over 20 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart E over last 10 stitches.

Row 2 (WS): Work Chart E over next 10 stitches, slip marker, work Chart D over 20 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart C over 30 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart B over 20 stitches to next marker, slip marker, work Chart A over last 10 stitches.

… you may not want to tape your printed charts together as Chart AChart BChart CChart DChart E, even though they are mentioned in the written instructions in that order. Here’s why:

Because charts illustrate the RS of the fabric and RS rows or rounds (flat or circular) are read and worked from Right to Left (←), you should tape your printed charts in that sequence as well, with the first chart (Chart A) starting on the right and the last chart (Chart E) ending on the left: Chart E + Chart D + Chart C + Chart B + Chart A. This way, the direction and flow of your reading won’t be interrupted as you move from chart to chart. If you’re working the charts circularly (i.e. you’re working every round on the RS), they’ll already be arranged in a Right to Left Sequence. If you’re working the charts flat, they’ll already be arranged in a Right to Left sequence for RS rows and a Left to Right sequence for WS rows.

The diagram above shows more clearly how you’ll read from chart to chart on RS rows in both flat and circular knitting (red arrows) and on WS rows in flat knitting (green arrows).

And there you have it — we hope these tips will be a helpful companion to you in your journey to charted knitting territory. Have tips to share from your own chart reading toolbox or have other chart-related questions you’d like us to tackle? Feel free to leave them in the comments or get in touch with us at support@brooklyntweed.com!

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A great variety of knitting patterns are now more available and accessible than ever before, thanks in part to online pattern databases and publishing houses dedicated to knitting patterns — in Brooklyn Tweed’s library alone there are more than 500 patterns. With so many options to choose from, now is a great time to expand your current skill set and venture off into uncharted knitting territory! (Or shall we say, charted knitting territory?)

In Anatomy of a Brooklyn Tweed Pattern, the sixth installment of our Foundations series, we walk you through the information and resources that we provide in our patterns to ensure you have a well-informed and successful knitting experience, whatever the skill level the pattern may be.

Today we offer additional tips to help you build confidence with your craft — and boldly tackle that intricate lace, cabled, or brioche piece, or perhaps even your first seamed or colorwork garment.

(Patterns clockwise from top: Huck, To the Point, Hayward)

Remember that Skill Level ratings are not meant to be restrictive. A knitter who identifies as an advanced knitter may still be stumped by a pattern and one who identifies as a beginner may have few issues following the same pattern — so don’t feel intimidated by a higher skill rating!

In general, our Skill Level rating system is aimed toward giving you at-a-glance information on the types of techniques or construction methods that may be involved in the pattern, rather than being a hard and fast determiner of the types of patterns that you yourself can tackle. In Anatomy of a Brooklyn Tweed Pattern we break down the criteria we follow when assigning Skill Levels to our patterns. We also provide information on the construction of the item and the techniques involved in the pattern (both required and optional), so you know what to expect and can assess how this information meets your skill set long before you cast on.

Gather your resources. The great thing about knowing before casting on what construction methods and techniques are involved in the pattern is that you can prepare yourself by gathering your resources — be they a guide to abbreviations for common knitting terms, instructional videos on how to perform a certain stitch or finishing technique, or notes other knitters have provided about their experience working with the pattern.

Having these resources in one easily accessible place (perhaps as a collection of printed-out material or as bookmarks on your web browser) can be extremely handy when you find yourself stuck on a certain section of the pattern. You can also consult these resources to practice before starting your project.

Feeling well-supported is critical to a successful knitting experience. As such, we always provide in our patterns written instructions for the special techniques involved (whether required or optional) along with a handy list of abbreviations for the knitting terms and stitches used. Our abbreviations “dictionary” also includes written instructions on how to perform the particular stitches they stand for. In this way, you can be sure that your pattern and pattern resources are already assembled in one package.

(Patterns from Left to Right: Grove Mittens, Agnes)

Trust the process (and the instructions). One of the many magical things about knitting is that you’re creating your fabric itself, while also manipulating it to look, fit, or behave a certain way. Inherent to this method of making is a little bit of mystery — even with a schematic, you may not actually see how a piece will be shaped until you’re in the moment of shaping it, or what it will look like in its entirety until you’ve finished it. (Sock knitters, remember what it was like when you first turned a heel.) So, try to place your trust in the process and the pattern instructions. You can rest easy knowing that our tech editors and proofers work tirelessly to make our patterns as clear, concise, and reliable as possible.

Know that it’s OK to substitute techniques. There may be a simpler way to accomplish a specific technique — and these are often provided in our patterns — so don’t be afraid to substitute them to fit your comfort level. Some examples are working a Long-Tail Cast On instead of a Tubular Cast On or binding off normally instead of working a Sloped Bind Off. Some techniques may also have multiple variations. For example, some knitters prefer to work wrapless Short Rows instead of the Wrap and Turn method, or work a Long-Tail Tubular Cast On instead of the standard Tubular Cast On involving waste yarn. Play around, experiment, and practice multiple variations on techniques to find the method that works best for your knitting style.

In a similar vein, you can draw upon techniques you’ve worked in previous projects to evaluate how you can utilize them in a seemingly different application. For example, if you’re a cuff-down sock knitter who often grafts toes with a Kitchener Stitch, you’re all set to work a Tubular Bind Off!

Allow yourself to make mistakes. Many of us may develop a perfectionist streak throughout our knitting careers. While quality and perfection are worthwhile goals to strive for, it is still helpful and kind to allow yourself the room to make — and learn from — mistakes. It’s also helpful to determine what kinds of mistakes you can live with and what you can’t, so you can more judiciously allocate your time and effort.

In the words of Lela Nargi, author of Knitting Memories: Reflections on the Knitter’s Life, “There are no mistakes, only design opportunities.”

(Patterns from Left to Right: Yishu, Freja (To be released with Winter 18)

Practice new techniques on a smaller project. Try starting with something small, like a hat or a cowl. This way, you can practice and experiment in a more manageable way, and without the pressure of more yardage or fit considerations. The bonus is that accessories can be quite versatile and practical additions to your wardrobe rotation.

Ask for help. Don’t forget to ask for help when you need it. Your fellow knitters at your local yarn store, in your knitting group, or on Ravelry will be happy to help you if you get stuck. We also offer online pattern support for all Brooklyn Tweed patterns so always feel free to drop us a note at support@brooklyntweed.com.

Take notes. When trying something new, it’s always helpful to document your process, the issues you encountered, and how you solved them, either in a separate notebook or on the pattern itself (whether on paper or the PDF copy) — we leave plenty of negative space in our patterns for this reason! In this way, you can become a resource for yourself when you take on future projects.

Take a break. If you feel like you’ve been stuck at a certain point in a pattern too long for your liking, feel free to set your project aside for a moment. While we all want to be able to tackle a challenge immediately, it’s important not to overstretch our limits. As such, rest your mind (and hands) every now and again so you’ll have renewed energy and a fresher perspective when you return to your project.

Most importantly, have fun and keep at it. We all start somewhere — and knitting is a life-long learning experience!

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In the second and third installments of our Foundations series, we covered the basics of swatching and seaming to aid you in tackling your knitting projects skillfully and confidently. Today, we’ll show you a quick and easy way to further practice these foundational techniques: by repurposing and seaming swatches to make lavender sachets!

These sachets are a delight to make for a number of reasons. First, they hit the sweet spot for both process knitters and project knitters — they’re truly approachable and suitable for practice because of their size and they make lovely, sweet-smelling finished objects that you can keep in a knitting bag or use in your knitwear care routine.

Second, they can be a great way to keep inspiration around you at all times. Perhaps you have a swatch for a visually-appealing intricate colorwork motif, or for a tactile-pleasing textured stitch pattern, or even for a simple stockinette fabric in a memorable yarn. Zip them up into a sachet that you can take with you for moments when you need a boost of creativity, or use to decorate your living or work space. (This project was inspired by the many development swatches we have strewn about the Brooklyn Tweed office!)

Third, they also make charming holiday gifts, either on their own or as a companion to another handknit.

What you’ll need

1) Two swatches of the same size

You can repurpose swatches that you already have or knit up two squares following our instructions in Swatching 101. Alternatively, you can use or knit up one large swatch that you can then fold in half to create your sachet (this method leaves fewer edges to seam).

2) A darning or tapestry needle

3) A few yards of firmly-spun seaming yarn in a matching color and of equal or lighter weight than your swatch yarn

4) Locking stitch markers or coilless safety pins

5) A sharp pair of thread/yarn snips

6) Loose lavender (cedar chips or shavings work well, too)

7) Fiberfill for stuffing (you can use wool roving or polyfill)

Zip it up!

Stack your two swatches with wrong sides facing each other, then seam the bottom and the two sides following our instructions in Seaming 101.  You can play around by mixing and matching the swatches that you choose! We made the sachet pictured above using two swatches for Galloway, with one side using the main colorwork motif and the other side using the lice motif on the body of the cardigan.

Once the bottom and sides are seamed, stuff your sachet with fiberfill and a couple scoops of loose lavender using the top opening. You can sandwich your loose lavender in between the fiberfill to prevent them from coming out of your fabric or bunching at the bottom of the sachet. Finally, seam the top closed. To hide the end of your seaming yarn, snip it leaving a tail of a few inches, then bury the darning needle in the sachet from a corner while scrunching the sachet. Push the needle back out, snip the end, then let the tail retract back inside as you coax the sachet into its original shape.

Alternatively, you can fold one large swatch in half; the fold will eliminate one seam. You can then seam two more sides before stuffing and seaming the sachet closed. You can also play with swatches knit in the round. We made the sachet below with a colorwork “tube” swatch by simply seaming the bottom, stuffing the pouch, then finishing off the top.

The rectangular shape makes this particular sachet work well as an eye pillow or as a wrist rest, so you can experiment with sizing too! For example, if you enjoy knitting large swatches, you can certainly repurpose them into a luxurious lavender-stuffed cushion.

However you choose to customize your sachets, we hope you’ll delight in the opportunity to practice foundational techniques on a small but gratifying project!

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Slow fashion encourages the careful consideration of what we bring into our closets, the deep satisfaction of making or owning garments of quality, and extending the life of what we have already loved to pieces. It offers the opportunity to creatively express yourself which is at the heart of making itself.

In Part I of this series, you heard members of the Brooklyn Tweed team talk about their personal thoughts on the subject. Expanding upon those ideas, we compiled the following practical tips for anyone who is interested in slow fashion and is curious about how or where to begin.

Identify your personal style: Having a clear idea of what types of clothing you want to wear, including its fiber content and color palette, will help you identify your personal style and inform your choices on what to knit and how to assemble your wardrobe. Taking time to identify your personal style will make it easier to build a long-lasting wardrobe and avoid impulse purchases that won’t get much wear.

Create a vision for your wardrobe as a whole: Perhaps the most powerful way to take control of your wardrobe is to think of it holistically. When you plan your wardrobe as a whole, you can intentionally decide what your next project will be based on what type of garment will complement your existing, or ideal, wardrobe. Building a wardrobe with your personal style in mind will also help ensure you’re making garments that will flatter your body and inspire you to wear them with confidence.

To help plan your wardrobe, take the gauge swatches from sweaters and accessories you’ve made with you while shopping to help select yarn or fabrics in colors or prints that will coordinate across those knit garments. (If you’re new to swatching, read our Swatching 101 post here.) If you are shopping for ready-to-wear, look for pieces you can expect to wear a minimum of 30, 40, or even 50 times. (Raise your hand if you’ve joined the KonMari bandwagon!) By being intentional about what we bring into our homes, whether ready-made clothing or what’s being cast onto our needles, we can simultaneously eliminate waste and ensure we will find both joy and usefulness in what we create and wear.

Make “capsule” items you’ll wear for years to come: When pondering what to knit next, consider functional, classic garments that never go out of style. Think Aran cabling, Gansey pullovers, shawl-collar cardigans, and accessories such as watchcaps and go-with-anything cowls and scarves. When knitting or sewing wardrobe staples, make the most of your time and resources by creating items of clothing that you know will see years of use.

Consider the source of your materials: Take time to know the origins of your fiber. By working with sustainable materials, you can ensure you are supporting the environment as well as the people who work to bring the fiber to your hands. Wool sorted by breed — aka breed-specific wool — provides farmers with a higher wage than fibers that are sold to be jumbled together across breeds, and preserves the breeding stock of sheep that will continue to provide fiber for years to come.

Reclaim yarn from sweaters you already have: Your next project need not require the purchase of new yarn. Sweaters that you either already have in your closet or find secondhand offer the opportunity to give fibers another life. Perhaps you have wool languishing away in a UFO at the bottom of your knitting basket that you can unravel, wash, and recast as another garment that will give you greater joy while knitting and wearing. If you have a handknit sweater that doesn’t fit quite right or that no longer suits your style, but you can’t bear to part with it, reclaim the yarn for a new project.  

Start Small: Slow fashion, and the idea of making your own clothing, may seem overwhelming at first but it need not feel insurmountable. By following some or all of the steps above, we can each engage with the movement in ways that work for us as individuals, all the while adding enjoyment to our lives. There’s no need to knit or sew your entire wardrobe or go to great expense in order to participate in slow fashion. Start small by wearing one thing you have made every day. Accessories can be key here — a good, classic hat or scarf can carry you through the seasons. If you enjoy the process of making, you can slowly add to your handknit wardrobe one piece at a time and simultaneously express your creativity each and every day.

Join a community of crafters to learn and share knowledge about hand making clothing. Share your knowledge with one another through knitting groups or meet-ups designed to encourage learning more about your craft and making clothing. Local yarn stores, fabric stores, and crafting guilds are great sources for such gatherings. There are also robust communities online where you can connect with people with similar interests, such as Ravelry for knitters.

In closing, always keep in mind that the slow fashion movement comes from the desire to take control over how we clothe our bodies and is a non-judgmental process that originates with the individual, not from external forces. Just as the slow food movement taught us to take time to savor both the process and the product, slow fashion offers us makers the opportunity to thoughtfully consider how we wish to express ourselves through our creations. By being mindful about the materials we work with as well as the products we create, we can have a literal hand in how we both move through and impact our world day by day.

Thank you for joining us this month in our series focused on slow fashion. From hearing thoughts about slow fashion from members of the BT team to reading about how we incorporate slow fashion principles into our business to learning some tips about how to bring slow fashion aspects into your own daily practice, we hope you have found some nuggets of inspiration in these recent posts focused on the process and product of making.

We invite you to share with us below your own thoughts and comments about the slow fashion movement. We look forward to hearing what you have to say!

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The Scandinavian-inspired Galloway cardigan is the perfect blank canvas for knitters wanting to explore “painting with yarn.” Stranded garments that use four colors, like this one, offer a staggering range of possibilities for how your finished sweater looks; the colorway shown in our photos is just one of hundreds of ways you could interpret the design.

When Jared was creating this garment, he tested many color combinations and came up with a total of eight color combinations to get your gears turning. We’re also providing some resources about hue and value to help you make informed color decisions for your own project.

Understanding Color

Generally speaking, the goal of selecting a color palette for colorwork knitting is to ensure the pattern will be easily discernible in the finished fabric, and not muddied or lost among neighboring colors.

Both the hue and value of a color are essential considerations in determining how successful your chosen colorway will be. Simply put, value refers to a color’s relative degree of lightness or darkness (picture a greyscale) and hue is the noticeable attribute of a color (redness, greenness, etc.)

If these terms or concepts are new to you, check out an in-depth explanation about hue and value in Jared’s post about color theory.

Color Values in the Shelter Palette

Above we’ve shown the Shelter palette broken down into three value categories: dark, medium, and light.

In the Galloway pattern, four colors are used to knit the cardigan. Selecting the background color first (C1 in Galloway) will allow you to make better decisions about the rest of your palette, so we recommend you start there.

Selecting colors from all three categories (light, medium, and dark) is always the best approach to stranded colorwork, especially with smaller motifs. When yarns from all three categories are represented, the pattern will have visual “pop.” Alternatively, if multiple colors of very similar values are used, pattern motifs will be difficult to discern.

To give you a sense of the different values used in our samples, we’ve written them down for you here. Use the value categories, corresponding colorways, and the samples listed below as a guide to mix and match your own combinations.

As you can see, some of the mid-values may be used as darks because their hue is so strong/bright that they will hold their own against dark neutrals. With color, everything depends on relative combinations — meaning rules can often be broken — but using the dark/medium/light value approach is a great starting point for color planning, especially if these concepts are new for you.

Compare Colors on Our Website

 

Our yarn product pages feature a useful “Compare Colors” feature aimed to help knitters in color selection. On the Shelter yarn page, select the Compare Colors button just above the color selection box. Once open you can select the colors in the palette and reorganize or remove them to view colors side-by-side.

Additional Color Palette Inspiration

The Grettir pullover also requires four colors of Shelter to knit. For additional color palette inspiration on a similar-style project to Galloway, check out the Grettir projects knit with Shelter on Ravelry.

Speed Swatching for Circular Knitting

Once you’ve made a decision about a final colorway using the above information, it’s time to swatch and test your choices! In knitting, there is simply no substitution for knitting a swatch to see how the finished fabric will appear, and this has never been more true with colorwork. Even experienced colorwork knitters sometimes are surprised by their results with a given color combination after swatching, and it’s always better to be surprised — whether positively or otherwise — on a swatch than on your finished garment!

The Galloway pattern includes instructions on how to speed swatch in the round for colorwork patterns. After swatching, you may find that you need to swap the position of two or more of your colors to achieve a more visually interesting fabric, or even replace one or more of your initial choices to finesse a fabric that needs a touch more contrast.

(And even if you’re using one of our pre-selected color palettes, speed swatching is still important in order to ensure you’re getting gauge!)

We’re Here to Help

Although the Galloway pattern is considered advanced, the required techniques are described at length in the pattern and we’re always here to help. You can reach us on Ravelry in the Brooklyn Tweed Fan Club group or email our pattern support specialist directly at support@brooklyntweed.com. Perhaps you’ll challenge yourself to knit this eye-catching colorwork cardigan during the BT Fall 17 KAL. If so, we’ll be right there with you every step of the way.

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Sometimes questions don’t arise until a project is well underway. Today we’ve selected a few different queries that have come up for folks during the course of their lace knitting journey. Our hope is that today’s final Q&A post answers will be helpful no matter where you’re at in your own lace project.

Q: I’m not ready to knit from a chart quite yet, but I want to knit a garment that only has charted instructions. Is there a way to write out the charted instructions?

A: Once you learn how to read a chart, you can translate the chart into written instructions. The example chart below is written for a piece that is knit flat (there is a right side and a wrong side of the fabric). We’ve described how to read a chart here, but the important things to remember are that charts are read from the bottom row, up and from Right to Left on the odd numbered rows (RS of fabric) and Left to Right on the even numbered rows (WS of fabric). If you are working on a chart in the round, all rows are read from Right to Left.

Each box in a chart accounts for 1 stitch. If there is a stretch of the same kind of stitch/symbol (i.e. 3 knit stitches in a row) you’d want to write them as one step. For example: Knit 3 (K3) versus writing out each individual stitch (Knit 1, Knit 1, Knit 1). This will make your knitting much faster as you won’t have to read instructions for each individual stitch. When knitting lace, you will complete increases and decreases in the same row to create the decorative pattern but maintain the same stitch count. (One benefit of reading charts is that you can see how stitches align vertically row over row, which makes it easier to catch a misplaced decrease or yarn over.)

To translate the chart below, review the Legend to familiarize yourself with the symbols and start with Row 1.

 

These written instructions correspond to the chart above:

Row 1: YO, K3, SSK, K4, P1.
Row 2: K1, P9
Row 3: K2, YO, K3, SSK, K2, P1
Row 4: K1, P9
Row 5: K4, YO, K3, SSK, P1
Row 6: K1, P9

 

Q: In addition to picking up stitches at a regular interval between ridges, are there any tricks for making sure you pickup stitches evenly along a long row of knit edging, such as with Bridgewater?

A: A technique that makes it easier to ensure your stitches have been picked up evenly and that you have the correct amount of stitches when you’re done is to measure the length of the piece and place stitch markers at even intervals along the fabrics edge. The interval will depend on how many stitches you have to pickup. Generally, it’s a good idea to place a marker every 1-2 inches. Divide the total number of stitches you need to pickup by the number of sections you’ve created. When you start to pickup the stitches, do so at a rate that will allow you to pickup that number by the time you reach the next stitch marker.

Q: Is there a difference between nupps and bobbles?

A: There is! Nupps are an Estonian technique that forms a small bump in the knitted fabric which is made by knitting into the same stitch repeatedly with yarnovers between each knit. Five- or seven-stitch nupps are usual; you could go higher, but bear in mind that on the subsequent row the nupp is closed by purling all of those stitches together. (The trick is to make those knits and yarnovers very loose, really pulling the right needle tip back from the fabric.) There’s more than one way to make a bobble, and they can be stockinette or garter based, but most methods have you knit into the front and back of the same stitch several times to create four or five stitches out of one. Then you turn and work multiple rows back and forth on only the bobble stitches to create a little pouch of fabric before binding off the extra stitches to return to your original stitch count and carry on knitting the row.

Nupps sometimes need to be coaxed to the right side of the fabric and give a subtler effect than bobbles – especially as they’re traditionally worked as a decorative element for cobweb-weight lace shawls.

 

Q: Is there a way to even out my decreases?

A: Typically tension will have the biggest effect on how the decrease lays on the finished fabric. After completing the decrease, insert your needle into the next stitch and gently pull the working yarn to tighten the decrease.  If you are experiencing this issue with a left leaning decrease, following our instructions for a modified SSK might help. To do so, Slip 1 stitch knitwise from L to R needle, replace stitch on L needle in new orientation then knit 2 stitches together through the back loops. Practicing the decreases on a swatch may also help you find the correct amount of tension before working on your garment. Also, keep in mind that knitting by hand can produce some imperfections and that’s quite alright — in fact, it’s part of the process and joy of making things by hand.

 

Q: How do you continue to pick up edge stitches if your blocking wire isn’t long enough?

A: Simply start picking up stitches with a new wire and you’ll be good to go! We recommend leaving at least a few inches of space on either end of your blocking wire in case you need to stretch out the fabric further while laying it out on the blocking mat. When pinning your wires to the blocking surface, be sure to place 1 or 2 pins at the point where two wires cross to keep them firmly in place.

 

Q: What type of surface should I block on? Where can I get the blocking board that BT uses?

A: Sadly the blocking boards that we use seem to no longer be in production, but there are many good alternatives available. The most frequently used product are called blocking mats. They are pieces of foam cut in a jigsaw formation that can be connected to accommodate the shape of your project. If the piece is very large, you can use your mattress or a clean carpeted floor. We’ve also heard of people using ironing boards for smaller projects.

If you knit a lot of hap, or pi shawls and like to build your own tools, you might consider making a stretching frame. These frames were traditionally used for blocking Shetland hap shawls. Kate Davies provides excellent instructions on how to make one at home on her blog.

 

Q: How do I weave in my ends invisibly in lace?

A: It’s best to leave long tails and weave in your ends after you have blocked your final piece. The best practice for lace is to weave in an end following the pattern as closely as you can on the wrong side of the fabric. Be sure to check your work on the right side frequently to make sure the yarn isn’t showing through the fabric. After the ends have been weaved in, gently stretch the fabric to ensure the woven in strand has the same tension as the knitted piece, and then cut the tail as close to the work as possible.

 

Q: I completed my first lace shawl and am feeling really confident, what’s a good second lace project?

A: After you have mastered the basics of lace knitting, you’ll have plenty of pattern choices available to you. Patterns that utilize multiple charts, or a larger repeat of a single chart, are a good option for a second lace pattern. We recommend Girasole, Quill and Ravine for your next project. You can also find our catalog of lace projects with an Intermediate skill level here.

Though our Summer of Lace KAL will soon be coming to an end, we continue to welcome questions about lace knitting at any time, feel free to also share with us what you’ve learned here in the comments. And don’t forget to share your projects with us on Ravelry and Instagram with #BrooklynTweedKAL and #BTLaceKAL17!

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Blocking lace is one of the most transformative processes in knitting, one that surprises and delights us every time. After you’ve faithfully created a pool of open — and perhaps unruly — stitches in your favorite yarn, the moment you pull a crisply blocked sheet of wool off the board is satisfying for the soul. You may wish to call for an audience when you do the unpinning!

Today we outline our preferred lace-blocking process in hopes of helping you make the most of your knitting time and cross the finish line with a stunning piece of lace.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1.) Rust-proof T-pins (the rust-proof part is important, as the pins will be exposed to moisture during the drying process and rust stains would be permanently visible on your finished shawl).

2.) A set of stainless steel blocking wires. Wires come in a variety of weights: some are thin and flexible — perfect along shorter curved edges — while others are a bit more sturdy and work well along the straightaways of a scarf or stole.

3.) Rinseless wool wash or delicate dish detergent (optional, but recommended for best results).

If it’s your first time practicing these blocking techniques, we recommend trying them out on a swatch. It’s important to always block your swatch in the same manner you’ll block your finished project in order to ensure an accurate finished gauge.

Please note that our directions are specific to blocking pure wool. If you are knitting with a different fiber, please consult the manufacturer’s directions for proper handling.

First, wash your item

Our worsted-spun and woolen-spun wool yarns are dyed using different processes, so their care instructions vary slightly. Never place any wool item under running water as this motion may felt or full the wool.

For Arbor and Vale, our worsted-spun yarns dyed in the skein, fill a sink or basin with cool water and submerge the fabric, gently squeezing out any air bubbles so that the piece can remain under water without being held there.* Soak work for 10 minutes, allowing fabric to become completely saturated.

For our woolen-spun yarns that are dyed in the fleece, ShelterLoft and Quarry, submerge finished fabrics in warm water.* Gently squeeze the fabric to release air bubbles and soak fabric for 30 minutes or until well saturated.

*You may add a small amount of delicate dish soap or rinseless wool wash to the soaking water if you wish; if not rinseless, you will need to submerge the piece in clean water once or twice to remove the soap from your fabric.

Remove the lace from the sink or basin and squeeze out excess water from your work, taking care not to twist or wring fabric. Roll your fabric between clean, dry towels with light pressure to further remove moisture.

Shape and secure the lace

Find a location to block your lace item where it won’t be disturbed while it dries. Cover a clean area of carpet or mattress with a bedsheet, or pin into a fabric-covered board or matrix of foam tiles created especially for blocking. Cork wall boards can also keep the lace up and out of the way as it dries — plan on a second set of hands to help pin the item to a vertical surface.

Gently spread the damp item out into a rough approximation of the desired shape — square, rectangle, or triangle — by hand. Carefully run your blocking wires through the stitches at a short and regular interval along the edge. Be tender as you go; remember that wool is at its most vulnerable when wet. As you work, refer to the pattern’s schematic and measure from the center of the work if working on a symmetrical piece. If you are sizing up or down, keep the proportions in scale to the original. By practicing on a swatch, you can determine the best place to insert your wires to avoid unsightly gaps in the finished piece. In our example below, we skimmed the blocking wires through the right leg of each stitch in the row worked before the bind off to create the most even and straight finished edge.

Once you have inserted your blocking wires, place pins along the inside of each one at consistent intervals while stretching your item to the desired dimensions. It is helpful to insert each pin into the blocking surface at an angle — this will prevent the lace from popping off as it dries. When stretching and pinning your fabric to shape, use a tape measure to verify overall symmetry and finished dimensions of the project. Because wool will often spring back slightly from the blocked dimensions after unpinning, you may wish to block your finished shawl 5–10% larger than the listed finished dimensions to account for slight shrinkage after unpinning.

Alternatively, if you haven’t yet invested in blocking wires, you can run a thread through the the lace edging and hook the drawn thread over the pins. However, on an edge designed to be straight, do not simply pin without wires as this will create visible points at each pin.

For circular shawls, blocking wires are not suitable. Instead use pins along the outer perimeter, starting by blocking the four “compass points” (north, south, east, and west), then placing four additional pins, one each halfway between the four compass points. Continue in this manner, inserting pins at regularly spaced intervals around the shawl perimeter, to ensure symmetry in your final dimensions.

For a pointed or scalloped edging, use one pin per each point for a decorative effect as shown above.

A word to the wise

Fight the urge to overblock. Blocked wool has a memory and overblocking can permanently strain the wool fibers. If your unblocked gauge is significantly smaller than recommended, do not try to make that up in the blocking but rather block to an appropriate drape for the chosen yarn.

Let the lace dry completely before unpinning. Weave in ends after the item is completely dry. Over the next 24 hours you may find that your garment relaxes a bit, which is normal (see our tip above about blocking slightly larger than your target finished dimensions). Store your new treasure neatly folded to preserve the crispness of the blocked fabric (unless you are proudly wearing it, of course!). When properly stored and cared for, wool lace will hold a crisp blocking for months to come.

Feel free to share your questions or additional tips below in the comments. Happy lace blocking!

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Lace knitting has a rich tradition in many cultures worldwide. Place-specific histories, techniques and garments are especially present in Shetland and Estonian knitting. While there has been much written about lace knitting, there are a few books in particular that come to the forefront when we are looking for lace knitting inspiration. Many of the stitches found in these books are heirlooms which have been used for generations and are rare to find in print. We’d like to introduce you to a few of our favorite lace knitting books here.

Most of these recommended books contain a substantial section of stitch motifs. Stitch dictionaries such as these are filled with charted stitch patterns, which can be used for inspiration while designing your own patterns or to substitute a motif in an existing design. If you’d like to replace a motif in a pattern, simply find a stitch that has the same repeat count, or modify the stitch count, as needed.

The Haapsalu Shawl: A Knitted Lace Tradition from Estonia (2009) by Siiri Reimann and Aime Edasi details the history of Estonian lace knitting in great detail. In this book you will learn how these lace knittings traditions have been passed down from generation to generation as well as the techniques used to master this type of knitting. We find particularly helpful the schematic information about how the Haapsalu shawls and scarves are constructed. Using this construction information, along with the accompanying examples of stitches, you can design a project that’s all your own.

Omas Strickgeheimnisse (in English, Grandma’s Knitting Secrets) (2008) by Erika Eichenseer, Erika Grill, and Betta Krön is a German stitch dictionary bursting with inspiration and information. The beautiful charts, which follow the tradition of German knitting and feature 200 stitch patterns, make this book worth every penny!

We hold a special place in our hearts for Shetland knitting traditions, and Brooklyn Tweed has published many Shetland-inspired patterns over the years. The hap shawls Shetland is known for provide warmth, comfort, and a fascinating history. Love Darg Shetland Shawls Centenary 1910-2010 (2010) and  Shetland Hap Shawls: Then and Now (2006), both published by Heirloom Knitting and written by Sharon Miller, are two of the best resources we’ve found that share the interesting story of lace knitting in Shetland.

That said, if we had to choose just one book about Shetland lace knitting to recommend, it would be Heirloom Knitting: A Shetland Lace Knitter’s Pattern and Workbook (2002), also by Sharon Miller. The breadth of information in this book is astounding. Miller systematically breaks down all of the steps to knit Shetland lace and provides practical assistance in the book’s “Knitting Advice” sections. Regardless of your interest in actually knitting traditional Shetland lace, for its breadth of topic and as an historical resource, we recommend this book for any knitter’s library.

With the plethora of resources available, we encourage you to learn more about the art of knitting lace. As you read, what have you found to be particularly fascinating about the history of knitting lace?

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It’s been great fun seeing everyone’s KAL progress so far! We are excited to answer some common questions that have been asked about lace knitting. There will be another lace knitting Q&A blog post on August 4th, so be sure to keep your questions coming in the Ravelry Forum and in the comments section of our blog.

Q: Which part of my lace pattern should I swatch?
A: Some patterns don’t include gauge recommendations for a charted portion of a lace project. This is usually because lace can be very fluid and can stretch quite a bit when blocked, making gauge neither precise nor necessary for the success of a project. That said, making a swatch before casting on is a good opportunity to become familiar with the lace motifs in your chosen pattern before you have to keep track of them over (potentially) hundreds of stitches. We recommend knitting a few repeats from each chart, or, if not a pattern repeat, choosing a portion of the chart that you feel the least comfortable knitting. To determine how many stitches you should cast on for your swatch, check the gauge (if listed) and cast on more than the recommended stitches over 4″ that is a multiple of the stitch pattern repeat, plus a few extra on the sides for a stabilizing border. If gauge is not listed, cast on an approximate number of stitches that will allow you to work the pattern repeat (or your selected portion of the chart) enough times to yield a swatch of approximately 4″ in width, plus extra stitches for the stabilizing side borders. After knitting a few border stitches, you could then work directly from the repeated section of the lace chart, ending your row with additional border stitches.

Q: Is it possible to increase or decrease the size of a lace project? Can I just repeat the charts?
A: Yes, it is possible to change the finished size of a lace project, and there are a couple of ways to do it based on the shape and charts used within the pattern you’re working from. If the pattern is a rectangle, like Wool Leaves or Umaro, you can simply add or subtract repeats based on the number of stitches in the chart repeat. Patterns that are crescent-shaped, circular or triangular, for example, can be easily changed by adjusting gauge. You can do this either by using a different needle size or using a different weight of yarn. Be sure to knit a swatch to ensure you like the new fabric and to calculate the new yardage requirements you’ll need to finish your project!

Q: Will my lace project be the same size if I substitute laceweight yarn for fingering weight yarn?
A: Lace patterns, particularly those with a lot of openwork, are very adaptable during the blocking process so substituting yarn can produce a fabric that is similar in size to the original. Knitting a gauge swatch in the different weight of yarn is the best way to ensure the possibility of a close match in finished size.

Do note, however, that the finished fabric will look different if the yarn weight is adjusted. Laceweight fabric will be airier and less substantial than the same shawl worked in fingering weight yarn on needles of the same size, and fingering weight fabric will likely have less drape.

Q: Is there a way to keep track of where I’m at in a row without having to count so much?
A: You can use stitch markers to mark the beginning and end of repeats in most patterns. To account for the increase and decreases in a lace pattern, however, it may be the case that the stitch marker needs to be either adjusted every round or you’ll just need to remember that there may be an additional stitch in the repeat before or after the set stitch marker.

Learning how to read your knitting can also be very helpful when it comes to keeping track of where you’re at while knitting lace. An easy way to do it is to locate reference points in your knitting. For example, when looking at your chart try matching the YOs in the previous row in relation to where you are placing YOs in your current row of knitting.

Q: Are chart symbols the same for every pattern?
Designers use many different programs and their own systems to create charts, and they may have different preferences for symbols that are more or less detailed in representing exactly what’s happening to the stitches. Carefully reading the key for your chart is critical. Make sure to refer to the specific chart legend in your pattern to ensure that you’re performing the correct techniques for the given symbols.

Q: How important is gauge for something like a lace shawl?
A: Unlike garments, lace shawls aren’t fitted so matching the exact gauge listed in the pattern isn’t necessary for the success of your project. Typically the gauge listed for lace is more of a suggestion versus other types of garments. If you want your finished piece to match the dimensions listed in a schematic, then knitting a swatch and blocking it is the best way to know if you will reach the target size and shape.

If you’re new to lace shawl knitting, it would be safe to err on the side of swatching to ensure that you will enjoy the fabric you’re about to create. Once you’re more comfortable with knitting lace shawls, you might find that getting exact gauge is of less importance to you.

Q: I need to join a new ball of yarn in the middle of my lace pattern, how can I do this without making an obvious knot?
A: If you find yourself needing to join your new ball of yarn in the middle of a row, felt splicing works great for 100% wool yarns. The Russian Join technique, a staff favorite, is another way to join yarn without making a knot and allows a clean edge for the picking up of stitches for the next section of the piece. If you have enough yarn to finish your row, you could also join the new ball of yarn at the beginning of the next row and weave in the loose ends after blocking. 

Q: How do you work a yarnover at the beginning of a row?
A: If your first stitch is a knit stitch, simply bring the working yarn to the front, as if to purl. When you knit the first stitch, the yarn will have traveled over the needle and formed a yarnover. If your first stitch is a purl stitch, begin with the yarn in back, as if to knit. This technique is used in patterns such as Brora and Rock Island and allows a clean edge for the picking up of stitches for the addition of a border.

We hope you’ve found this Q&A segment helpful! Please keep sharing your projects with us using #BTLaceKAL17 and #BrooklynTweedKAL. You can read more about the BT Lace KAL here.

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Once you’re feeling confident about your pattern choice, the fun begins: it’s time to gather your supplies and cast on a swatch!

Yarn 

Most regions of the world with strong lace-knitting traditions used a two-ply yarn for lace pieces because this balanced structure is the most receptive to opening up with blocking to reveal the openwork patterns. Brooklyn Tweed’s Shelter, Loft, Vale, and Plains are all constructed on this principle. The worsted preparation of Vale and Plains lends extra strength to the yarn so it can better withstand a stiff blocking, and the smooth alignment of the fibers gives crisp definition to the stitches. Woolen-spun lace has a more rustic look and is perfect for projects with a cozy farmstead feel. We love Loft for Shetland-style haps in particular.

Needles

Most knitters find they prefer needles with sharper tips for knitting lace; it’s easier to insert such a needle tip through multiple stitches during complex decrease maneuvers. Many also like a bit of extra traction to help control their tension — wood or coated metal needles will grip the stitches more than slick aluminum. This isn’t to say you can’t knit lace on your usual needles with perfect success, but if you find yourself struggling to draw a loop through a k3tog or to keep your yarnovers consistent in size, trying a lace-specific needle may give you the extra control you need.

 

Extra Notions

When you’re establishing a lace pattern and can’t yet see the motifs taking shape, it can be helpful to place stitch markers at strategic points. Marking off every repetition of a large chart, or every few repetitions of a small one, can make it much easier to find a missed increase or decrease if your stitch count is off at the end of a long row. (If working in the round, don’t forget to use a visually distinctive marker at the beginning-of-round so you know when it’s time to progress to the next row of your chart.) Some lace knitters also like to use lifelines. A lifeline is a thin strand of non-sticky yarn, string, dental floss, or any other material you’ll easily be able to pull out later. It runs through all of the stitches in a single row so that you can rip back to that point without having to recapture hundreds of loose stitches in lace patterning. Some lace needles come with a little hole in the base of the needle above the cord so you can tie your lifeline through the hole and drag it through the stitches as you work. If your needle isn’t made this way, simply thread the lifeline on a darning needle and run it through the stitches while they hang on the needle cord. Whether and when to use lifelines is entirely a matter of personal preference and confidence. You can place one at regular intervals just to be safe; you can place one at a change in motifs when you’re sure the work is correct but feel anxious about the next section, or you can never use one at all and simply trust to your own skill and savvy.

Swatching & Blocking

Your pattern may call for multiple swatches in different fabrics, so give yourself plenty of time for the swatching phase. Counting stitches within a lace motif can be difficult. If your pattern reads, “25 stitches x 36 rows = 4” in lace pattern,” you can make your job easier by placing locking stitch markers on either side of 25 stitches and at the bottom and top of 36 rows while you’re working, then use these points to make your measurements when the swatch is finished. Proper blocking is essential for lace. Your work may look dishearteningly like a heap of ramen noodles when it’s fresh off the needles, but a good stretching will open up the motifs to reveal the beautiful design you’ve created.  Deciding how much to stretch your fabric is a matter of balancing your preferences, the designer’s intentions, and what the yarn is communicating about its needs. Using your stitch markers as a guide, you can judge whether to apply a little more or less tension. If the fabric is fighting back and you still can’t stretch your markers to 4” apart, you may need to try a new swatch on a larger needle. If you’re at 4” without stretching enough to really flatten out the fabric and open up the eyelets, you’ll need a smaller needle — or a sense of peace about having a shawl that’s larger than planned.

Most knitters use either T-pins or blocking wires to stretch their lace. Pins are perfect for designs with toothed edges, but will leave points where you don’t want them along a straight edge.  Blocking wires can be woven through the fabric all along the edge and then secured with pins to put the stitches under even tension everywhere, forming a perfectly even perimeter around your shawl. We’ll post a tutorial on our preferred blocking practices later in the KAL, but your swatch is a good place to get a feel for what you’ll be doing to the final piece.

Are you ready to cast on? We are! Only 5 more days until the KAL begins…

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