Hot Tip: Bridge the gap

Hot Tip: Bridge the gap

There’s one tiny side-effect of knitting things seamlessly that have appendages — as in, a mitten with a thumb or a top-down sweater with two sleeves. There’s a moment where you set aside those thumb/sleeve stitches on waste yarn, carry on with the hand/body, and then come back to do the appendage. You put those live stitches back onto needles, pick up a few stitches around the top of the thumb or the underarm of the sleeve (pictured above) to complete the circle, and then knit the rest of the appendage. The side effect being that you will inevitably have a little hole at either end of the picked-up stitches. This isn’t a flaw of your knitting or of the pattern — it’s just a fact of life. Patterns will often tell you to simply take the yarn tail from where you reattached yarn at that point, and weave them closed. But there is also a simple way to minimize them, which is to pick up an extra stitch in that spot — in the gap between the live stitches and the picked-up ones — and then knit it together with the adjacent stitch on the next round, so you haven’t thrown off your stitch count.

There’s still a chance you might need to do a little refining with your yarn tail at the end, but the holes will be noticeably minimized.

For the sleeves of the sweater pictured, I have 40 stitches on waste yarn and need to pick up another 10 along the edge of the underarm, starting at the center of the underarm stitches. So I’m picking up 5, then knitting the 40, then picking up another 5. However, to help bridge the gap, I’ll actually pick up 6.
Top photo: You can see the live sleeve stitches that have been hanging out on waste yarn, placed back onto a needle, and to the right is the cast-on edge of the underarm.
Middle photo: I’ve picked up my designated 5 stitches along the underarm edge, but you can see there’s a good 3/4″ between the underarm stitches and the sleeve stitches — that’s your future hole.
Bottom photo: I’ve plunged my needle behind both legs of the stitch right at the corner, halfway between the underarm and sleeve stitches, and picked up one extra stitch, which I’ll knit together with the adjacent sleeve stitch on the next round.

p.s. Like I love to say: A top-down sweater is a giant fingerless mitt with two thumbs instead of one — same process, just more of it. If you can knit a mitt, you can knit a sweater.


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Q for You: What do you do with your unworn FOs?

First off, a little apology: I know I told you the next Fringe and Friends Knitalong announcement was coming this week. Unfortunately, there’s a been a little snafu and change of plans. So I’ll let you know when I’m re-ready to announce!

Q for You: What do you do with your unworn FOs?

One thing we talk about all the time, and that has come up a lot in the #slowfashionoctober discussion, is that we’ve all made things that, for whatever reason, didn’t work out and go unworn. It’s a hard thing to face: all that time and yarn, just sitting the closet. Coming to accept that this happens — learning how to learn from it — is a big part of becoming a maker, I think. As is coming up with a strategy for dealing with it. I have so much admiration for those of you who frog things and reclaim the yarn and give it new life. For me, if it’s a perfectly successful garment that just doesn’t fit or suit me, I’d rather it went to a new home where it will be appreciated. (I have frogged things that hadn’t reached completion, for sure.) The only thing I’ve ever made that I couldn’t imagine giving to anyone else was my very first sweater, so I took it to a thrift store where I hoped some knitter would find it and feel wonderfully righteous and scornful about it! (I sort of hoped it might turn up on IG someday or something.)

There have been several things I’ve given to family and close friends. The one garment I couldn’t accept defeat on, or let go of, for such a long time was my Amanda cardigan up there. No matter what I tried, it just didn’t sit right on me and wasn’t getting worn, but it has so much history! And I’m so proud of the knitting, which is why I didn’t want to frog it. When it finally occurred to me I could use it to raise money to help people, that’s what it took for me to finally let it go — and to feel great about it. And I’ve put some other handknits up for adoption as well.

In every instance above, I love how excited the new owners are to have these garments — the very opposite of knitting something for someone and having them yawn. That said, I would love to someday find out what it feels like to frog a whole sweater. I imagine it’s the same kind of fun as sitting down in the stylist’s chair and saying “Cut it all off!” (One of my favorite experiences.) But it’s all got me wondering about different attitudes and approaches to the problem, so that’s my Q for You today: What do you do with your unworn FOs? And what about your muslins? Which is a whole ’nother ball of wax …


– The Slow Fashion October topic for this next week is: HOW. Let’s talk about your how-to skills and where they stand (from how to knit/sew, to thrifting strategies, to caring for your wardrobe, etc); how you acquired and improve on those skills; how you make time for making your wardrobe (however you go about it) …

– Tomorrow is I Love Yarn Day, so how might you pass those skills along?

– Ash Gremel has announced she’s hosting a clothes swap and has created a shared map so others can add theirs! Will you host one?

– And we’re here for you at Fringe Supply Co. with freshly restocked Bento Bag shelves (all colors and sizes) and so much more!

Have an amazing weekend, and thank you for reading—


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New Favorites: Ol’ softies

New Favorites: Softies

I’m not sure what’s gotten into me — maybe it’s part of my fall fantasizing, or maybe it’s because I think the whole world needs a warm hug — but I’m having a moment of lust over fuzzy-soft, allover-texture sweaters:

TOP: Kogle by Julie Hoover is a worsted-weight sweater covered in small-scale mock cables

BOTTOM: Marylin by Martin Storey is from a 2013 Rowan publication and would take some work to track down (nevermind knit!) but I’m so smitten with those fine-gauge hazy cables


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Books lately

Books lately

I know I normally let books stack up for six months or a year before I tell you about them, but there are two new releases that are too good to let sit!

Above is Slow Knitting: A journey from sheep to skein to stitch by Hannah Thiessen, who defines “slow knitting” as “a conscientious choice to respect our materials and the people who make them, but also to respect ourselves and time we devote to the hobby we adore.” Hannah asked me two years ago if I’d be willing to write a little essay for this book, and I was inspired by the way she framed the question she wanted me to answer. I think it’s been about a year and a half since I actually wrote it, and I’m happy that it’s finally out in the world, because it’s my favorite thing I’ve written about what handmade clothes mean to me. But that’s just one page of the meaty book Hannah has put together! It’s broken down into five chapters: Source carefully, Produce thoughtfully, Think environmentally, Experiment fearlessly and Explore openly. Each chapter expounds on what that means, and each includes two patterns plus the stories of the yarns used. The 10 patterns are designed by Pam Allen, Veronik Avery, Julia Farwell-Clay, Carol Feller, Meghan Ferdandes, Norah Gaughan, Bristol Ivy, Kirsten Kapur, Michele Wang and Jennifer Wood. And it’s a gorgeously designed hardcover with lush photos by Katie Meek. I look forward to reading it!

Books lately

Also, my friend Andrea Rangel’s second book just hit the shelves and it’s a doozy. Alterknit Stitch Dictionary contains 200 punchy, graphic colorwork motifs, along with guidance on how to use them in projects and/or designs, followed by a handful of fun patterns by Andrea. It’s given me itch to do some colorwork, quick!


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Understanding Knitting

How to read your knitting: knits and purls

Friday night I realized I had nothing to knit. It was late; I was tired. It had been an extremely stressful week (both for me, workwise, and on a global scale) and I needed yarn in my hands, but I had bound off the body of my cardigan and it was awaiting blocking. And the only other thing in progress was the purple top-down tutorial sweater, which was at the point where I needed to put the second sleeve back onto needles, pick up underarm stitches, and consult the markers I had left in the first sleeve to see how I had spaced the decreases. None of which sounded appealing right at that moment. I just wanted to sit down and knit. So I cast on another Bob hat.

As I sat there k2-ing and p2-ing just as naturally as breathing in and out, I realized this weekend marked six years since I learned to knit, and I thought (as I often do) about what it was like in those first months, when I didn’t know my knits from my purls.

I knew how to KNIT: with yarn in back, insert my right needle into the first loop on my left needle from front to back, wrap the yarn around it and pull that new loop through, dropping the previous one off the left needle.

And I knew how to PURL: with yarn in front, insert my right needle into the first loop on my left needle from back to front, wrap the yarn around it and pull that new loop through, dropping the previous one off the left needle.

It took me awhile to grasp that all I was doing in either case was pulling a loop through a loop, and that the only difference between a “knit” and “purl” was whether the new loop poked its head through the previous one from the back or the front. Or more to the point: was the top of the previous loop (what’s referred to as “the purl bump”) wrapped around the back (knit) or front (purl) of the new one.

In the months before I got that, all I could do was chant to myself whatever the pattern said to do and hope I didn’t get interrupted or lose my place. If that happened in the middle of a row, I would have no idea what I’d last done. I didn’t know how to read my work. And since I also didn’t know how to fix anything, anytime I lost my place or made a mistake, the only thing I could do was rip the whole thing out and start again. It’s a wonder I stuck with it!

Learning to identify a knit from a purl was so minor, so simple, and so entirely game-changing. I could not only see if I had purled where I was supposed to knit, but I could also understand that fixing it just meant popping it off the needle, tugging the loop out of the one below it, and pulling it back through from the other side. (And at the same time, I learned that the right leg of the stitch sits in front of the needle, as seen in my fancy drawing up there — which meant I also now knew how to take work off the needle and put it back on correctly. No more needless frogging!) More than that, though, being able to actually see my knitting meant I no longer had to keep anything in my head. Whatever I needed to know was right there on the needles in front of my face — all I had to do was look at it.

What I’ve learned in six years is that, mentally, it’s not far at all from k2/p2 to this fisherman pattern, and I will write that post soon, so think of this as the introduction for it. And going into next year, I’d like to write more about the fundamental building blocks of knitting, as well as pulling out some of the tips and techniques that are buried within past series and long posts. (Like this one!) But for today, in honor of six years of picking things up from others and passing them along, I want to point to the collection of posts I did awhile back that are collected on the Beginning to Knit page — a grab bag of how-to’s and pattern suggestions for anyone working to build their knitting skills. We all need knitting in our lives these days, right? The more successful and less stressful the better.


The yarn pictured is Cashmere Merino Bloom in Helix, sent to me by Purl Soho last year


Bento Bags in recycled grey or pink

Happy Friday, friends! #slowfashionoctober is off to such a strong start that I’m struggling to keep up with all the introductions! Which is awesome, and I look forward to catching up over the weekend. On that subject, first up for today is next week’s topic, which is: WHAT. As in: What are you doing differently than you have in the past; what shape does “slow fashion” take in your closet; what are the items in your closet (0r your stash or your project bag) that you feel the strongest about … and why?

And with that, an extremely meaty Elsewhere:

– Knitter, programmer and DIY community member Kelsey Leftwich has been working on a wardrobe-planning iPhone app for the past year or more, and it’s now available in the App Store: it’s called Capsule Wardrobe and it’s on sale this month in honor of Slotober— huge congrats, Kelsey! I haven’t downloaded it yet, but if you beat me to it, please report back!

– Great advice from Heather on how to boost your sewing (or knitting) confidence: Just make it already!

– Charity knitting drives to consider: Knit Big for Little Lungs and multiple Warm Up America! intiatives

– Have you heard? Squam lives on!

– Incredibly beautiful NYT piece about Mexican weavers and natural dyes (thx, Holly)

– I’m Fascinated by Solidwool

– One of many alarming notes in this bit of guidance for companies manufacturing in Asia: “… figures compiled in 2013 found that there was more than one factory fire per week in Bangladesh.”  (thx, Angela)

What do synthetic fibers and shellfish have to do with each other? “Outdoor gear manufacturer Patagonia found that the average synthetic jacket releases 1.7 grams of microfibers per load of laundry. Each load may generate hundreds of thousands of fibers, which can slip through filters on washing machines and wastewater treatment plants and eventually make their way into ocean waters.” (thx, Dania)

– How come no one ever told me you can make a rug out of finger-knitted chains?

– Ella Gordon’s vest from the Cowichan-style Knitalong is now a pattern!

Free yoke inspiration

I would knit with Alan Cumming (thx, DG)

These vintage sweaters

This beautiful little story from Katrina

Stunning socks

New smock pattern alert

Carina’s lace shawl tattoo is the coolest (thx, Tunet)

Top 100 Knitting Blogs — what are your favorites?

Sweetness overload

– And why didn’t I think of that?

IN SHOP NEWS: There are two new colors of Bento Bags available! Pictured up top, the fabric is a 100% recycled hemp/organic cotton blend with a lovely slubby tweediness to it, and it’s available in grey or pink (aka light red). Conscientiously made in California.

AND IN OTHER NEWS: I’m SUPER excited for next week because I finally get to reveal the details of the next Fringe and Friends Knitalong! So have a great weekend, and I’ll see you back here next week—



New Favorites: House socks

New Favorites: House socks

Thoughts of my upcoming Rhinebeck trip have me dreaming of house socks — as is normal anyway for this time of year — for two reasons. One, I’m a little preoccupied with flannel pajama pants and thick socks for wearing around our rental house, which in my imagination is apparently quite drafty. And two, I need a small-scale project to take with me. I’m envisioning myself standing in the long unmoving lines — waiting for a falafel or an autograph — knitting out of the giant pocket of one of my beloved smocks. (I don’t even know what I’m wearing yet, but this is the persistent image in my head!) If it’s a sock I’m working on in that moment, I obviously haven’t made them in time for lounging around le chalet, and really my plan is to be starting a Cline sleeve by then. But regardless of any of that, I am sorely tempted by Andrea Mowry’s lightly textured Marluks (bottom left) while craving the cables of Irina Dmitrieva’s Hot Chocolate Socks (bottom right) and yet actually very close to casting on Purl Soho’s old-school Seamed Socks (free pattern) up top. Minus the fiddliness and plus the trip-worthiness, I can imagine actually completing a pair. The yarn is even sitting quietly in my stash …


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