Friday, April 29, 2016

Update 2: Tips for Knitting Drops Design Patterns

Drops Design 169-20 Erica Singlet

I haven't made a lot of progress on my lace tank that I'm knitting as part of the Very Shannon Tops, Tanks, and Tees KAL.  I've been sick and have a lot of excuses.  What I can say is that Drops Design knitting patterns can be a bit of a challenge to American knitters if you're not used to them.

I've knit a few Drops Designs in the past.  Drops Designs are wonderful because they release A LOT of FREE patterns, but they're written in the European style which is not what most American knitters are used to.

European patterns tend to write the whole pattern as one paragraph, with no breaks between steps, and only include the necessary information to follow the pattern.  These patterns often rely on charts instead of written instructions.  American patterns tend to be broken down into sequential steps, with line breaks in between.  This makes them easier to follow and to keep track of where you are in the pattern.

Regardless, I've never had a problem with any of the Drops Design patterns and I thought I would lay out some tips for knitting from them:

1.  Make sure you choose to view the pattern in US English.  The first time I tried to follow a Drops pattern, it was set on British English, which I thought would probably be the same.  It's not.

2.  Setting the pattern language to US English should include the measurements in inches in addition to centimeters, but the size diagram will probably still be just in cms.  Take a moment to do the math and change this to inches (unless you're comfortable working in cms).  Write down the measurements in inches on your diagram for quick reference.

3.  Read through the ENTIRE pattern before beginning.  This is just a good rule of thumb to always follow (one I have trouble with myself), but is especially true with Drops patterns.  For instance:  with the Erica Singlet, the pattern lays out the order which to follow all the charts up the front of this top, THEN tells you, in paragraph 3, that you should have started the side decreases back during the second chart.

4.  Copy and paste the pattern into Word to break it down and rearrange it as you need it.  This is, I think, the best way to manage these patterns.  In Word, you can insert line breaks between steps as it makes sense to you.  You can rearrange the directions to move important instructions to the top of your pattern.  And, if necessary, you can enlarge any charts to make them easier to read.

If you are not able to copy and paste the chart, then use a highlighter to mark where each new step begins.  You can even use different colors to indicate a stitch change, an increase row, or other directions.

I hope these tips helps so that you aren't frightened off from trying one of these great Drops Designs!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Update 1: Swatch Knitting - I Knew This Was Going to be a Problem

It's always fun to start a new knitting project with a "doh!" moment.  As I mentioned before, I've just started Very Shannon's Tops Tees, and Tanks KAL for 2016.  I am knitting this Drops tank and I planned to use I Love This Cotton yarn from Hobby Lobby.

Like every good knitter, I began by diligently knitting a gauge swatch.  I thought I was being economical with both time and money by using some I Love This Cotton that I had leftover from a previous project to knit my swatch.  I didn't have enough of this yarn in my stash to knit my tank, so I would have to buy more, but I thought I would use my stash to see if this yarn would work for my project.

Now this yarn in my stash was at least 3 to 4 years old, and as I knitted my swatch I did think "I wonder if the manufacturer has changed the size and gauge of this yarn over the past few years?  Maybe I shouldn't be making my gauge swatch with old yarn that I'm not actually going to use for this project?"  But...  I continued to knit.  And I happily got gauge with my old cotton yarn.

And I'm sure you can guess where this is going - I then went back to Hobby Lobby to buy some new I Love This Cotton yarn in a beautiful deep forest green color to knit my tank.  But (surprise, surprise) when I began my tank with this new yarn, I was waaay off gauge and bottom hem of my tank was 4 inches wider than the pattern called for.  Ugh.  I only had myself to blame.

So, without stopping for a good cry, I moved on to Plan B.  I ordered some Cotlin yarn from Knit Picks in a similar green color.  My yarn arrived on Friday and I dug in to knit another gauge swatch.  I soaked and blocked my swatch and I'm happy with my new yarn and needle choice.

Moral of the story - Don't be cheap and stupid like me.  Always knit your swatch in the exact yarn you plan to use for your project.  In the end, it WILL save you more time and money! 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Tops, Tees, & Tanks Knit-a-long: Summer Lace Top

169-20 Erica Singlet by Drops Design

It's time once again for Very Shannon's Tops, Tees, & Tanks Knit-a-long, or TTTKAL.  #TTTKAL #TTTKAL16

I was going to pass on this year's KAL until I came across this grouping of lace tops by Drops. All of these are free knitting patterns.

170-18 All Smiles by Drops Design

 The first top I came across was All Smiles.  I really love the summery design of this lace top and the square placket on the front, but I knew this boxy shape would not look good on me.  I was beginning to consider trying to modify this top to be more shapely, when I came across this other pattern:

169-19 Erica Top by Drops Design

This is 169-19 Erica Top by Drops, the short-sleeves version of the tank at the top of this page.  This Erica Top is pretty similar to the All Smiles top but is more fitted.  I like the lace design on All Smiles more, but I think the shape of the Erica Top or tank will look much better on me.

So I've decided to knit one of the Ericas for this KAL.  I'm using "I Love This Cotton!" yarn from Hobby Lobby in a dark forest green.  I knew I wanted to use 100% cotton for this summer knit and the Hobby Lobby brand is a nice economical choice.  I'm a tad off gauge for this pattern, so I'm moving up a size to compensate.

I don't plan to do any modifications... yet.  I still haven't decided between the tank or the short-sleeved top.  I think this would look best with a little lace cap sleeve, so I might just add an eyelet extension for a small sleeve.  Updates and more notes to come!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Free Knitting Pattern: Celebrate National Public Library Month with this Little Knitted Yarn Ball Bookmark

I love my local library and April is National Public Library month in the United States.  To celebrate, I created this little knitted yarn ball bookmark to use with my favorite books!

This knitted bookmark is available as a FREE pattern on my Hubpages.  This project is easy and uses basic knitting stitches along with some simple sewing and craft supplies.

I hope you enjoy this pattern along with a good book!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Update 2 and Reveal: Knitted Cable Tee Turned Vest

It seems like forever, but I think its only been a month that I've been knitting and modifying this cable tee by Gayle BunnIn my last update, I said I might turn this tee into a vest.  Well, obviously, I did and I'm very happy with it.  

This change was easy to do, but would have been even easier if I had known from the beginning that is what I would do.  Here are all of my notes, some which I've posted before:

1.  My gauge in this Berroco Vintage was way off so I did my own calculations for my cast on and decreases.  My gauge was 5.5 sts per inch, so I cast on 186 sts to knit this top in the round.

2.  I did 10 sets of decreases (4 decs each time - 2 front side, 2 back side) to bring the chest size down, then did 1 increase round for shaping.

3.  I followed the hem directions and cable chart from the pattern.  I omitted the ribbing on the back since I didn't like how it looked.

4.  Followed the chart directions to row 31 or until my vest was 15 inches long, then bound off for the underarms.  Bound off 4 sts on each side of my markers (left and right) for a total of 8 bound off sts for each underarm.  Then knit the front and back separately.

5.  On the front, I continued to follow the cable chart.  To complete my underarm shaping, I bound off 1 st on each side of my knitting for the next 6 rows (3 bound off sts per each underarm on the front side).  Once my stitches were bound off for the underarms, I continued to knit straight, following the cable chart.

6.  Followed chart through row 56, then bound off center stitches as indicated in pattern.  On the next 12 rows, I bound off 1 st per side of the neck to shape the neckline.  When done, this left me with 16 stitches on each shoulder.

7.  I knit these shoulder straps straight until my armholes were 8 inches deep, then held my stitches and began working on the back.

8.  Working the back, I bound off the underarms in the same pattern as the front - I bound off 1 st on each side of my knitting for the next 6 rows (3 bound off sts per each underarm).

9.  Then I knit straight until my back side was about 1 inch shorter than my front.  Next, I bound off the center stitches, leaving me with 18 stitches per shoulder.

10.  For the next 4 rows, I bound off 1 st per side to shape the back of the neck (2 sts per each side for a total of 4 sts).  This left my with 16 sts on each shoulder.  Then I knit straight for 3 more rows.

11.  I joined the front and back of my shoulders together with a three needle bind off, then blocked my vest.

12.  When dry, I picked up stitches around the neck and armholes and knit 4 rounds, then bound off to create a rolled neckline.  I could have also done a garter st border instead.  Either would have been fine.  I'm happy with the rolled neck.

A couple of last thoughts:

1.  Gayle Bunn's chart for this pattern is real well written and easy to follow.  I expected to find some small mistake in it, but didn't.  It's excellent.  But I would recommend color-coding the cable symbols on the chart to keep them straight.

2.  This top knit in this Berroco Vintage would definitely be too heavy and hot (for me) to wear as a tee.  I'm glad I changed it into a vest.  I think I'll get a lot of wear from it.

3.  If I had known from the beginning that I was going to make this pattern into a vest, I would have made the bottom band wider by knitting more garter rows.  As it is, the hem turns up and I had to iron it to make it lie flat.  Small issue but I thought I'd mention it.

4.  If I were to knit this again, and had the yarn to do it, I'd repeat the cable pattern on the back too.  It's so pretty and would definitely make an eye-catching detail.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Two Free Knitting Patterns for Spring: Confetti Fringe Pillow and Cup Cozy

I'm excited to share my latest free knitting patterns, available on my Hubpages!  These colorful accessories, my Confetti Fringe Pillow Cover and Cup Cozy, will add cheer and a bit of fun to any room or occasion. Great for stash-busting, both patterns are included on my Hubpages.

First, the Confetti Fringe Pillow:  This colorful pillow cover features a playful fringe that holds the side seams of this pillow together, resulting in little finishing at the end. Designed for a 16 inch by 16 inch pillow insert, this pattern can be resized easily.  Great for stash-busting!!

And the Confetti Cup Cozy:  This pattern uses the same fringe design, but is a small and quick project.  This cup cozy would make a great gift idea or stocking stuffer at the holidays!

I hope you like these new patterns!  I've had a lot of fun designing and knitting them :)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Free Arm Knitting Pattern: Huge Easter Bunny

bunny arm knitting pattern & photo by Anne Weil
When I was about 5 years old, I had an operation on my leg.  When I woke up from the surgery in the hospital, my parents presented me with this rather large stuffed lamb.  This stuffed animal was about 18 inches long (more than half the size of me), and had a head that was about 12 inches in diameter.  I loved that stuffed lamb and still have it at my parent's house.

I tell this story for no reason, other than this huge knit bunny reminds me of my old stuffed lamb.

bunny arm knitting pattern & photo by Anne Weil

How adorable is this?  I haven't gotten into the arm knitting craze, but this bunny pattern has almost made me a convert.  This arm knitting pattern by Anne Weil is available on the Sweet Paul website for FREE.  It looks like this bunny can be knit in two sizes.  The free pattern for both sizes can be downloaded from the website, or you can buy a kit from the site too.

Anne Weil also has a book about arm and finger knitting, Knitting Without Needles - A Stylish Introduction to Finger and Arm Knitting.  I haven't seen this book yet, but it sounds interesting. 

Have you tried arm or finger knitting?  Tell me about it!