Finishing Tips

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I’m prepping for the final Building Blocks clue on Friday.  I think this shawl is going to be very wearable!  I want it done ASAP so I’m weaving my ends today!

I think finishing is an exceptionally important part of the knitting process.  I don’t sweat the small stuff…unless it’s a finishing detail.  Sloppy work at the end can ruin a gorgeous piece of knitwear.  I’ll stay off my soap box but really, a well finished garment is a beautiful thing.

With that in mind, I’ve added a new tool to my finishing arsenal…Needle Felting!  I’ll explain that bit later.  First, the steps leading up to it…

Weave your ends in.  I use several different techniques, in several different scenarios.  That’s a whole topic unto itself.  I duplicate stitch when it can but it doesn’t always work out.  This is Knitter’s Choice, use which ever end weaving method you prefer!

Cutting Your Yarn

Tip 1:  Always cut your yarn at an angle. 

This trick helps keep the end of your yarn in place.  I hate ends that pop out where they don’t belong.  A tapered end helps minimize that!

Think of it like cutting flowers.  Cut at an angle to increase your surface area.  With flowers it allows more water to be absorbed.  They stay fresher, longer.

With yarn, more surfaced area means there is more yarn to be pulled out from under the stitch holding it down (the last stitch it was woven through.)  So those naughty little ends are more likely to stay where you put them when cut at an angle.

That said:  If you are very literal, my photos do not show the actual spot I cut.  This brings us to…

Tip 2:  Leave a Tiny Tail.

Here’s my tail before I cut, the yellow line highlights where I will cut.  It’s an angle, following the twist of the yarn.  I always try to go with the grain. That gives you a lovely tapered end.  If you go against the grain, think of the way a pom-pom pops open when you cut it…that’s what you get.  It defeats the purpose of tapering the end because the whole thing goes cattywampus.

So, we’re cutting at an angle, going with the grain.

Placement of the cut is the next thing…leave a little bit of tail when you cut.  Notice how my cut is not right up against the stitch.  I’m leaving a little nub of an end.

The idea here is when the fabric shifts and moves, your end will move with the fabric but not pop out of place, inevitably landing on the public side of your fabric.

Seriousleeieieiey, that makes me crazy.

Now, final step…

Tip 3:  Needle Felting

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If you aren’t familiar with needle felting, that needle is super sharp and it’s got barbs along the edge.  You stab the fibers and the barbs blend the fibers, causing their natural scales to cling and stick together.  More stabbing means more blending of fibers, gradually shrinking the whole thing down into a tight bit of felt.

I’ve used needle felting to make little critters, flowers for hats, decorative embellishment type stuff.  I don’t see any reason it can’t be a functional part of my finishing process though.  Since I’ve started doing this, my ends stay put.  It doesn’t take many stabs–10-12 on each side.

Each side is an important detail.  Start with the wrong side of your fabric first.  As you stab, you’re carrying fibers through your fabric to the front.  You’ve gotta flip it over and stab those fibers back to the wrong side.

Done!  Here’s what the back looks like…

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You may notice a little fuzziness.  Things are muddled, some of the stitch definition is lost.  It’s the back…who cares?  That end is staying put.  It is never showing it’s ugly head on the right side of my shawl.  That’s all I care about.

I will caution you to stab with restraint.  10 Stabs, 15 MAX!  There is a point where you will start to see stitch distortion on the right side.  It probably won’t get noticed.  It’s a minor thing but we’re scrutinizing details today.  Don’t over stab.

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Here’s my right side, no sign of foul play, no ends, no over stabbing, just a beautiful edge waiting to be picked up for an epic Clue 4!!   I’m looking forward to Building Blocks Clue 4!  I have a feeling Stephen’s got a big finish planned!!  I’m kind of excited for an instruction that says pick up 768 stitches!  LOL!

I will certainly keep you posted!

Mother’s Day FO

Now that Mother’s day has passed, I can share one of my secret knitting projects!

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Mom likes hats with big flowers.  No flower has ever been big enough.  She asks for big flowers all the time.  When she gave me a pattern she printed from the internet with a note ‘LOVE THIS HAT’, I knew it was time to tackle the big flower again.

One of the issues with big flowers is the weight.  They get heavy, droopy and as a result, unattractive.  To avoid that, I went with Louisa Harding’s Kimono Angora for this hat.  Angora is light as feather!  No droop here!

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Of course, I didn’t actually like the pattern Mom found so this is a creation of my own, just using the pictures from that pattern as inspiration.  The flower couldn’t be any easier though!  Cast on the same number of stitches as the hat.  Knit in the round for 2″, work one round of K2Tog all around.  Cut the yarn and thread the tail through the live stitches, cinch it up!  Voila!  Instant flower!

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Only problem now…Mom wants one in every color!

FO Friday, In Which I Turn Into My Mother

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I’m making lots of knitting progress…The Friday FO trend continues! The yarn was the motivator here, hand spun and hand dyed by a friend!  Upon further inspection, I seem to have stuck to the original plan?!?  A top down hat with a dark i-cord bind off!

I went top down to use up every inch of the yarn and to avoid doing a real swatch with math.  I just worked increases on alternating rows until the top of the hat looked big enough. I added a few purl ridges and spirals to the body for visual interest.  And then, I went all the way with the i-cord…provisional cast on for first 3 stitches, then grafting them to the last 3 stitches for a seamless finish! I usually take the lazy way out but this practically fell off the needles on its own, it was worth a tiny bit of effort for the one little detail!

And then I turned into my Mother.  It happens to everyone on occasion.  I’ve learned to just go with it until the feeling passes.  In this case, it wasn’t going to pass until I made a flower for my hat.  I’ve made a lot of different flowers over the years (most of them for Mom, she likes flowers. a lot.)  This one is just about the easiest!  You cast on, work one row that’s mostly binding off and then cinch your remaining stitches into a cute little flower! Done!

You can customize this flower in several different ways cast on more stitches to make it larger, cast off longer segments to make the petals longer or even cast off in shorter segments to increase the number of petals!

Here’s what I did:

Cast on 45 stitches. I used the long tail, it’s a good one because it has enough structure.  Knitting On would be a bit floppy and weird.

Knit the first stitch, then bind off the next 7 stitches, this leaves one stitch on each side of the bound off segment.  Knit another stitch, then bind off the next 7 stitches. You now have 4 stitches on the needle.

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Continue down the row in this fashion, at the end, cut yourself a tail, pull it through the remaining live stitches, give it a cinch and you’ve got yourself a groovy little flower!

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Of course, if one tiny little flower is cute, then two is even better!  I have a feeling Mom approves!

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Orange You Glad…

IMG_1910…I am!  

The orange stripe is knit and ready for welting! Along with the rainbow, the welts are the key design feature. What is a welt? I’m glad you asked!  In knitting, it can refer to two different techniques that both put 3d texture into your fabric.  The first method is simply knitting several rounds and then purling several rounds, resulting in a sort of horizontal ribbing.  The Welted Cowl by Jane Richmond is an example of this technique.  It creates a soft, flexible, stretchy fabric, exactly what you’d expect from ribbing.

The second welting technique, the one I’m using, physically pinches the fabric together and secures it. IMG_1911

This style of welt is more firm, it does not flex, it retains it’s structure (within the parameters of your yarn, obviously I’m still talking about wool, not a concrete block!).  It’s a true 3d fabric, rather than a fabric that may not lay quite flat.  I was introduced to this technique by Stephen West’s Batad.  If you check the sidebar, you’ll see I added an Instagram widget, new features all the time!  Yay! There’s a shot of me and my purple Batad.  It’s just about my favorite knit ever.  It’s a wardrobe staple for me, perfect layering piece for San Francisco weather!  I think everyone should have one!  That’s the what and the why of the welt, now…

How is this pinched welt made? 

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The first step is to create the fabric that will be pinched.  In this case, I am knitting six rounds of each color and joining the first round of color to the round of live stitches on the needle.  With the left needle, I am reaching behind my live stitches and picking up the orange bump at the bottom of the column, six rounds down.  I then knit this bump together with the first live stitch on the needle.  Your first column of stitches is now folded and secured!  Repeat the process for each stitch in the row, being careful to match up the live stitch with the proper bump below!

Connecting the top and bottom of the same column is the key to a polished welt.  Otherwise you end up with a lumpy, puckered welt…like this…

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You can see the red welt is laying smooth and even, while the orange welt is looking a bit cattywampus.  I would politely suggest that’s a “design feature” you want to avoid.

Now for the fine print:

One note about the ‘bump’ I’m picking up….technically speaking, it’s not the purl bump but rather the running thread between two stitches (aka the horizontal bar you’d pick up to M1).  I do this because it’s the easiest to see, the color change highlights it well.  Being easy to see means I’m always getting the next bump in the row, so while I do have a small half stitch jog, I’m still getting nice straight columns which is what I want.  The half stitch jog just means that when I get to my last stitch, I have no bump to pick up.  This happens because there is no running thread when I first join a new yarn.  I’m okay with one stitch not being secured.  I like to live on the edge.   I’m just mentioning it for the perfectionists.  You could actually match the purl bump to the live stitch, have a 1:1 stitch count and completely, totally straight columns.  It would take me 3x longer so I take the shortcut.  I’ve been daring The Knitting Police to come get me…maybe this will finally be the time!