General, Knitting Know How, knitting patterns

Two handed Fair Isle (stranded colourwork) technique

Nicky barfoot presents (2)

Stranding with two hands

I thought it might be helpful to create a post to act as an aide-memoire to you lovely folks who have attended my introduction to fair isle workshops. So here it is.

No right or wrong with knitting, just what’s best for you

Of course there is no right or wrong with knitting. There are many ways of holding the needles and manipulating the yarns. Comfort and tension are always your main measures of success. However, learning to hold the yarns in both hands makes life a lot easier. Less tangle, less puckering and hopefully a smoother tension.

My apologies to left handers as what follows below is a right handed version (mine).

A right handed example

fairisle1
holding the background colour in the RH and contrast in the LH

The first photo shows how to knit from the left hand in the contrast colour (pink). I hold the contrast over my forefinger and use this finger actively to create the desired tension on this yarn. I also use this finger to push down on the RH needle, if needed, to help the catch and pull through of the contrast yarn to complete the knit stitch.

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catching the contrast yarn and pulling it through

The second picture shows how I have taken my right needle over the top of the contrast yarn, hooked under it and pulled it through the stitch on the row below.

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and repeat

The third picture shows a second stitch created in the contrast yarn in the same way.

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back to the background

This final picture shows how I have carried the background yarn across the two contrast stitches I have created, to knit the next stitch from the right hand needle.

It is wise to keep your background yarns consistently in one hand (e.g. right) and the contrast (motif) yarns in the other. This greatly assists with creating a smooth tension and does help stop the yarns tangling.

Practice makes perfect 

If you are new to knitting with two hands I do advise you persevere with this technique. You may find it slow and cumbersome at first as your fingers get used to manipulating the needles and yarns in a different way. However, once you get a few hours of practice in to them you’ll find it becomes much smoother and does speed up.

Remember also if you are new to stranding and the results are not looking terribly even, a good blocking/washing helps the stitches and strands to settle. Also using a wool rich yarn such as a Shetland yarn will make your initial projects look much more pleasing (particularly after washing when they can bloom a little). Smooth, slippy and non stretchy yarns (some acrylics, cottons, merino) are unforgiving and are probably best avoided until you have practiced a bit first.

Some patterns to help you practice your technique

Kitty Beanie

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Kitty Beanie

I have just published the pattern for this playful beanie in my Etsy shop. It is knitted using the stranding technique described above, in the round (no purl stitches to worry about!). More information on the pattern can be found by clicking here.

Hill Head Mitts

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Hill Head Mitts

Inspired by my favourite coastal haunt, these practical mitts are also knitted in the round using stranded colour work. The pattern can be found by clicking here.

Happy stranding folks. Until next time…….

 

 

General, Knitting Know How

Selecting a colour scheme for colour work knitting

Selecting a colour scheme for colour work knitting

Choosing a colour scheme

A subject that comes up regularly in my workshops is how to choose a good colour scheme for fair isle, the double knitting technique and intarsia. I thought it would be helpful to write an article on it. But be warned. This post isn’t about colour, quite the opposite in fact. We are going to set the tone……

Assessing the tone

When faced with the sweet shop effect i.e. shelves full of knitty goodness at the local yarn shop or festival, it is very easy to pick the colours that you think will look great together, only to be confused and a bit disappointed when you’ve swatched them up. The colours appear to have merged in to each other and the motifs in the pattern aren’t standing out. How has that happened?

If you want a colour scheme to “pop” then looking at tonal values can be really helpful.

Tonal values in a yarn selection low res
Looking at tonal values

How do I know if the lovely yarn selection on the left will work in a four colour stranded colour work pattern for example? Without doubt the colours themselves go beautifully together. But how do I make sure that the motifs in my hypothetical chart stand out?

Instinct tells me that the cream is likely the lightest tone. I can hazard a guess at the other three colours but it is easy to get that wrong (in my experience!). The easiest way to confirm the tonal values is to take a photo and turn it into black and white (so easy for smart phones as it is an option in the edit photo function).

My black and white photo shows that I was correct with the cream. The turquoise and the green have very similar values, and the brown is the darkest (but not massively different from the turquoise). If I was to knit with the turquoise and the green in a two colour section of my motif (or the turquoise and the brown for that matter), e.g. a row of hearts on a background say, the hearts would blend in to the background. I may want this subtle effect. But if I wanted those hearts to be visible and pop out of the background I will be very disappointed. The best yarns to achieve this from the selection above would be the cream and the brown as there is the greatest tonal difference between them.

Choosing the tone

A great amount of time and effort is spent by designers swatching colours when designing knitting patterns to get the effect they want. So when you have a pattern in front of you that you have bought from a designer but you want to choose your own colours, a good way of assessing if you are going to get a similar effect, is to turn their photo in to black and white. Armed with the tonal values, you can then photograph your potential yarn selection in black and white and match the tonal values to the original.

Georgia beanie yarn selection tonal values low res
My Georgia Beanie pattern yarn selection and the tonal equivalent. Find the pattern download in my Etsy shop here

Designing your own

If you are designing your own colour work patterns, a great starting place is to choose a light tone, a mid tone and a dark tone. This will ensure that you have a good contrast to make your design lively. Take your camera phone with you to the yarn shop and do a black and white photo of your potential selection before you spend your money, just to be sure.

Enjoying colour

I hope that this post has been helpful and has given you more confidence in your yarn selections for your colour work projects. There is plenty more to colour theory but I’ve given you a good tip here.

As mentioned in previous posts about colour, don’t be put off by the theory. Carry your camera with you so whenever you come across a colour scheme that you like (a visit to the garden centre, the local park, a colourful door against a painted wall) take a picture of it and keep it for reference. Start a Pinterest board or a physical mood board if digital isn’t your thing. If you’d like an example of what I mean have a look at my public Pinterest board on colour inspiration which can be found here.

With the added bonus of black and white also at your fingertips, analyse the tonal values of your images too and see how they impact on the overall effect. Keep in mind that similar tonal values blend and merge producing subtle colour effects. While a big difference in tonal values creates a pop and allows colours to stand out on each other.

I wish you lots of fun with your colour adventures x

 

 

 

General, Knitting Know How

How to read a knitting chart

What are Knitting Charts?

Knitting charts are a diagrammatic representation of a stitch pattern. They are presented on a square grid where each square represents a stitch.  The chart below shows a 24 stitch motif worked over 32 rows.

intarsia heart for web
a knitting chart for a heart motif

How to read a knitting chart for colour work (intarsia, fair isle and double knitting)

If you are working on two needles, using stocking stitch, and starting with right side facing, the first stitch to work is the bottom right hand corner. Right side (knit) rows are worked from right to left. Wrong side (purl) rows are worked from left to right.

If you are working in the round on a circular needle for fair isle, then every round is a right side (knit) and is worked from right to left. You might have discovered for yourself that knitting in the round doesn’t work for intarsia as you end up with the yarn at the wrong side of the motif each round!

Keeping your place on the chart

One of the great things about using charts for your colour work adventures is that it becomes relatively easy to see where you are with the work. What you are creating in front of you in the knitting should match what is in front of you on the chart (obviously some motifs are harder than others to keep track of). Additionally, you can immediately see how the row you are working on now should match up with the stitches you have just worked.

reading a knitting chart
using a magnetic board to keep your place

However, it is easy to go a little cross eyed at times and end up merging rows together. There are a couple of ways to keep track of where you are if you are using a printed version of the pattern:

  • You could put a line through each row as you do it.
  • You could balance a ruler across the row you are about to start working (this is OK if you don’t jog it).
  • Personally I am a big fan of using a magnetic board.

The board shown in the image above is created for cross stitch but has become my must have for working with knitting charts. The best thing about it is that you can even pick it up and move it without worrying about losing your place as the magnetic ruler is strong enough to stay put.

An example row 

Using the diagram above, the ruler shows me that I am about to start row 21. As a right side row I will be working in knit and reading from right to left. I would knit 4 stitches in white, 16 stitches in grey, 4 stitches in white.

A note about the double knitting technique

Some charts used for the double knitting technique show a square for every stitch you are working, one for the stitch from the right side fabric, and one from the wrong side fabric. This is necessary if you are creating a different fabric on each side.

For my patterns where the motif is in two colours and the back fabric shows the inverse of the front, I keep my charts simple so it is easier to read the motif, and they can be used for intarsia as well. The charts show the front facing fabric with each square representing a pair of stitches. So for the example on row 21 above: each of the four stitches in white represents a knit in white for the front fabric, and a purl in grey for the back fabric. For the fifth pair of stitches to the 20th pair of stitches, each square represents a knit in grey for the front fabric and a purl in white for the back fabric. For the 21st to the 24th pairs of stitches, each square once again is worked as a knit in white for the front fabric and a purl in grey for the back fabric. When working back on the wrong side fabric, the inverse of the colours is worked.

It sounds complicated written down but once you get the hang of seeing each square as a pair of stitches you can use any two colour intarsia chart for the double knitting technique without having to rewrite it.

I hope that you have found this tutorial on reading knitting charts helpful. I have talked about colour work knitting but of course charts can be used for any stitch pattern as the principle of each square representing a stitch applies whether it is indicating a colour or a stitch type e.g. knit tbl, yo, etc. If you are not used to working from charts I do suggest that you persevere with them. If you get the hang of using them you might find that you get a better idea of how you are creating the effect (rather than just following the instructions). This is especially useful when you need to put right a mistake or if you want to modify stitch patterns. It also gives you access to patterns that aren’t written in your own language.

Happy Charting!

How to read a knitting chart