Sunday, February 25, 2007

An Afghan Sampler 102

In my January newsletter, I touched upon various ways of readying yourself
to begin an afghan project.

Once you have selected a pattern --you can then select your yarn and needles.

Needles, of course, come in many different sizes, from very small (size 0 or1) up to
very large (size 18 or 19). Needles also vary in type as well.

Most knitters, or newbies, are familiar with straight knitting needles. These are
usually 14" in length and come in a wood finish or aluminum. Straight needles are
easy to knit with, but there is one little drawback; if you are knitting something
with more than 75 stitches it becomes increasingly difficult to fit more stitches
onto your needle. The longer your knitting becomes, the heavier and bulkier your
project will get.

Sometimes this is not a problem, and sometimes it is. So, what to do?

Well, don't panic, for one. With a little practice, knitting with circular
needles, will become just like second nature to you. Here are a variety of
tips to remember when using circular needles:

* Once you have cast on the number of stitches that are required, go back and
straighten out the entire row, so all the stitches look uniform and not twisted.

* If working a "closed" end, you want to join the yarn at the first stitch to make
a closed "circle." Place a marker at the first stitch, so you know where you began.

* To work an "open" end, cast on an even number of stitches, and slip half of
those stitches onto a second needle. Fold your work, holding the needles parallel; one in front of the other.
Using a third needle, slip one stitch first from the front needle and then from the back needle until they are all on one needle. Then knit to your desired length. To bind off divide the stitches onto two needles, and bind off alternating the two needles.

* For a stockinette stitch, when using circular needles, just knit every row. (Use this technique when knitting using a closed end.)

* For a garter stitch, knit one round, then purl the next round, then knit, then purl, and so on.

* For flat work using a circular needle,
knit as with straight needles; when you come to the end of your stitches, turn your work, and purl the next row, and so on. Continue working back and forth, just as with straight needles. (Use this technique with an open end.)

* Knitting from the first stitch to the last stitch of one "row" is called a "round" in circular knitting. When you come to the marker, just slip it onto the right needle, and continue to the second round. Just keep knitting round and round, without turning your work.

* Keep pushing your work along as you knit. This is especially important when
knitting with circular needles.

* Circular needles are available in different lengths from 11-inches to 47-inches. They come in various sizes, too.

* As you continue knitting "in the round" your knitting will start looking more and more like a garment. The first row or two will be the most awkward to work; once you get beyond those, your work will get easier.

So, there you have it! Just knowing a few circular needle tips can make all the difference when it comes to making your next big knitting project!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

An Afghan Sampler 101

To be knitting.

That, is one of the things which I cherish most. And it has such a long history, too.
Known today as typically a woman's craft, knitting was originally done by men, shepherds, to be exact, way back when. Even in literature, there are knitters scattered around; the most famous has to be Madame DeFarge in Dicken's 'A Tale of Two Cities'.

Most knitters begin with simpler pieces, such as a scarf, or one-color vest. Usually, they keep to a few well-liked patterns, or stitch types, and seldom venture very far from these.
In this mid-winter time, what with Christmas behind us, and much snow and ice around us, my favorite project of all, comes to mind.

Whether you have a real fireplace, or just one playing on your TV, (ala Channel 11, all you New York people know what I mean), nothing goes with your hot chocolate or steaming tea, and that good book, like an afghan. Lap blanket, bed throw, any way you say it, afghans make rooms come alive with personality. Yours.

Of course, you can never have enough good afghans around. Eventually they all begin to get 'old', or become the dog's favorite blanket, or the cat's place to perch, so you can always use a new afghan!
Before beginning an afghan project, there are considerations that you need to decide on.
Just what kind of an afghan or you going to knit?

Will you use block patterns or knit in the round?
How about yarn color and amount?
Do you need to learn new stitches or ways of advancing what youalready know about your knitting?

Other thoughts aside, these fundamental questions should be answered before going forward with a larger project such as knitting an afghan.
You know, afghan patterns are all over the place. Not just on theWeb, either. Pick up a knitting magazine or book, and ideas will start to fly at you. How cute this one is, or oh, I just love this color, I think I'll knit this one.

A few good pointers when considering knitting an afghan are:

A. Decide on a pattern. Simple, right? Wrong! Be sure to check out the "skill level" listed with each pattern; if it says advanced, and you are still a newbie, don't attempt it! They really mean what they say, and you will soon find yourself lost in knitting terms and instructions you never knew existed.

B. Will you use regular needles or circular ones? I find either/or is fine by me. Some of you have never used circular; they take some getting used to, but hold a large number of stitches. So,if you are planning a pattern that calls for anything over, say, 75 stitches, use a circular needle.
There are ways of knitting with circular needles; such as working a 'closed' end, or working an 'open' end. In future newsletters, I will go into detail about circular knitting.

C. Which yarn will you use? That's a biggie! Usually with afghans, I find that the emphasis is on the pattern stitch(es), and by utilizing color, you can turn out a masterpiece with some of the more traditional yarns. I don't recommend the fun furs, or eyelash yarns for afghans, nor should you use super-bulky either. Unless you don't mind stiff fingers all the next day!

D. What about joining yarns? How does that go again? Incorporating lots of different colors, or just three or four, means knowing the correct way of joining yarns, so as not to make your work look amateurish.

So, you see, deciding on knitting an afghan, requires someplanning ahead. Next time, we will pick out needles and yarn, and choose some pretty patterns to get us going! In the meantime, finish up those post-holiday projects now. Afghans take some time,but, when they're done, they are beautiful!


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