Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stitchy Tutorial: How to Wind Yarn

Winding yarn is so fun and satisfying.  I used to rely on my yarn shop to do it for me, and finally got some tools to do it myself when I ordered some yarn online and didn't have that luxury.

The umbrella swift and ball winder makes makes beautiful yarn "cakes" or you can always wind it by hand using the just the swift too.  Here I'm winding some lovely sock yarn below, let's begin...

A ball winder and a swift are amazing tools to have of your knitting and crochet arsenal...they are able to transform this skein...

to this perfect little yarn cake, making it easy to pull yarn from its center.

Got both of these at Knit Picks by the way...

Lets get started...

First you'll need to set up your equipment. You'll need a table with a sturdy edge for both clamps. If you desire, place a piece of fabric in between to protect your surface (my table doesn't mind). My particular model ball winder turns to the right, so I placed the ball winder on the right and the swift on the left about a foot or so apart. Be sure to get these nice and tight onto your surface, no wiggling allowed!

Gently unwrap your skein all the way so it makes a large ring,

Using the knob on the side to raise and lower the umbrella and the wooden screw to tighten, place the on the swift. I like to put it on the partially open umbrella, then open it up all the way so that the yarn rests comfortably, not too tight, but not so loose that it is saggy. Be sure there are no twists in the yarn either.

Some people like to snip the yarn before placing it on the swift, I like to snip it after it is already on the swift.

When snipping, it is important to know that all yarn comes bundled/tied differently, so be careful with this step and just snip the ties holding it together, not the yarn itself. Sometimes, you can even just untie it not even have to snip it.  The yarn shown here is a different color from the ties...

Now, if you don't have a ball winder, you can skip the next part and wind it into a ball with you hand, or if you have a ball winder, keep reading!

Ball winders are really handy because they save time and make a neat little “cake” of yarn with a handy pull string in the middle, thus eliminating a ball rolling around.

If you model has a swing out arm, be sure to do so and take one end of the yarn and feed it through the metal ring on the arm, then place it across the two notches on top of the center cylinder.

This ball winder indicates the direction (to the right) and as I said earlier, I therefore placed it on the right.

Begin gently turning the knob on the ball winder, going at a pace that it neither too fast nor too slow...you will be able to determine your pace as you begin to wind. Both the swift and winder will both be turning as you turn the knob.

Important tip: Sometimes you will have to gently guide the yarn from the swift to the ball winder so it does not get caught on the swift's "spokes."

Keep going until all of the yarn from the swift is on the ball winder.  Almost done...

When you are finished, carefully pull the center piece from when you began before lifting it off, otherwise it may get lost in the center (I speak from experience here!) Use both hands and gently slip the yarn cake from the ball winder.

All finished!

The nice thing about using an umbrella swift and ball winder to wind your yarn is that you can either pull from the center or the outside. Also, if you need to double up and hold two strands of yarn together for a knitting or crochet project, you have both ends in one place. Some local yarn shops will wind your yarn when you purchase from their store, but I love to do it myself.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

From the Knitting Stitch Library...How to Make Cables

Before I learned how to make a cable in my knitting, the idea totally terrified me!  It looked so complicated and I was sure it was for only those with tons of knitting experience...not the case!  Quite simply, making a cable in your knitting is just a matter of changing the order in which you knit the stitches.  That's all.  This photo tutorial will guide you through the process of making a very basic cable so that you may add them to your hand knits too!  After you learn the basics, you will be able to then move on to more intricate and advanced cable work.

In order to make the cable, you will need a cable needle...here are some I have (metal and plastic), straight ones are also available, the bent ones are helpful for beginners.  My favorite are Clover brand (the pink and white).  Knit Picks also makes gorgeous wooden ones...on my wish list!

Basic cable making involves knitting to where your cable is in the pattern, placing the indicated number of stitches on the cable needle, then holding them either in the front or back of the work.  You then knit the next group of stitches, then the stitches on the cable needle.

*Important to Know: Holding stitches to the back creates a right crossing cable (as shown in our example) and holding the stitches to the front creates a left crossing cable.

For the cable shown in this tutorial, we are going to do a Cable Back Six or CB6 for short.  Your pattern will tell you the specific cable needed for your piece.  First, knit to where the cable is in the row,

Then, using your cable needle, carefully slip three stitches onto your cable needle,

Move the stitches on the cable needle to the back of the work.

Then, knit the next three stitches on your left needle,

Then the stitches on your cable needle,

Then resume with the remainder of the row.

There you have it!  Simple to knit cables with dramatic beautiful results...another added benefit of cables are the extra warmth they create with the double thickness of fabric.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Stitchy Tutorial: How to Make Your Own French Knitter

Yesterday, I showed you how to use a French Knitter:

Here's how to make one using only a toilet paper tube, craft sticks, and tape (packing or masking).

This is a great project for kids too, it is actually two activities in one, the making of the spool (kids would like decorating it too with stickers) and the knitting part.  Plus a large spool is fun and easy for little hands.

First decide if you want yours to have four or six sticks, I made the one shown with six sticks.  If you want four, tape the first two across from each other, and the last two on either side of that.  For six, tape them around making them of equal distance apart.  I left about an inch or so of stick sticking up from the top.  If that is too high for you, try a half inch.

Finished!  Now you are ready to start making cords with your own handmade French Knitter!

Here's a free knitting pattern using the cords:

© Jennifer Dickerson 2012

Thursday, February 23, 2012

From the Stitch Library...How to Use a French Knitter

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I got this cute little guy for a gift recently and had to share...Here is a fun tutorial you can use to make your own i-cords—before learning how to use one of these, I was only using DPNs, so I am now proud to say I have another interesting knitting skill in my pocket!

OK, let's begin...I will be demonstrating on Lion Brand's knitting spool. As a side note, I learned recently that these little guys have a plethora of names: French Knitter, Knitting Spool or Knitting Nancy. You can easily get one at a local yarn shop, craft store, fabric store, amazon.com, etc. I also saw some gorgeous antiquey ones on ebay...might be fun to hunt for one too at your local antique shop.

Most spools come with a small stick, if you don't have one, you can use a narrow DPN, experiment with the size until you find one that works best with your spool. The stick mine came with is made of plastic and a had a little too much flex in it for me...I chose to use a bamboo US7 DPN instead, but definitely choose the size you feel most comfortable handling.

Here we go...

Pull a strand of yarn through the hole of the spool from the top until a short end comes through the bottom of the spool.

Hold the French Knitter top with thumb facing, yarn is held and runs over the top of your index finger. The middle and ring fingers hold both yarn and base of French Knitter.

Hold the needle/DPN as you would hold your knitting needle.

To cast on, wind the yarn around the pins counterclockwise as shown...take care not to do this too tightly or it will extremely difficult and/or impossible to complete the first round.

First round: Wind yarn around the OUTSIDE of the pins this time in the same counterclockwise direction,

Using the needle/DPN in your right hand, lift the loop over each pin head and over the yarn wound around the outside of the four pins, working in a counter clockwise direction.

Here is the needle going in:

Here is the needle lifting the stitch over the pin:

Continue working in this counterclockwise manner until cord reaches desired length.  From time to time, give the strand of yarn a gentle little tug at the bottom to keep things from bunching up:

As you continue to add rounds, the cord will start to emerge from the bottom of the spool like this:

When you are ready to cast-off, you can do one of two things: you can cast off as you would when knitting by using your needle and moving each loop to the next pin as shown here in this sequence:
Working in the same direction, lift the first loop over to the next pin,
Lift the bottom loop over the pin, 

Move loop over to the next pin and lift bottom loop over the pin,
Continue working in this manner until only one loop remains on the pin.
Then carefully slip it off of the pin and fasten off.
Or, you can simply cut a tail and thread it through each loop and pull tightly and fasten off, similarly to finishing off the top of a hat in the round.

There you have it! Try experimenting with different kinds of yarns for interesting and beautiful effects!

Here is a simple pattern to use your new skill!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

From the Stitch Library...How to Make A Pom Pom

How To Make A Pom Pom
By Jennifer Dickerson

This is one of the easiest ways to make a pom pom.  This tutorial is so super simple and requires minimal tools, no special gadgets required!  Pom poms are so cute added to your knitting and crochet projects and add a bit of whimsy.  Use them on hats, throw pillows, make a garland out of them or put them on the ends of a scarf!

To make a pom pom, all you need is yarn of your choice, a pair of sharp scissors, and a ruler (optional):

Begin by cutting a length of yarn about 12 inches long (exact measurement not necessary, just make sure it's not too short--better to be too long than too short),

Holding the yarn like so in your fingers,

Begin winding it around two fingers for a smaller pom pom...

and around three fingers for a larger pom pom.  If you want a larger one, go up to four fingers, just be sure as you go up in size to wrap more yarn around, to keep it from looking too loose.

Once you get a full bundle of yarn in your hand (I would this about 100 times), slip the the length of yarn you cut through your bundle without removing it from your hand and tie off very tightly and securely.  You will end up with something that looks like this:

Cut all of the loops of the pom pom until it looks like this:

Note: this pom pom is a bit looser, if a denser pom pom is what you desire, simple wind more yarn around your hand before tying off.  Now for my favorite part!  Give your pom pom a "haircut" and snip until ends are uniform.  For this pom pom I cut it back a bit more to make it looks fuller.  The more you snip back, the fuller/denser the pom pom will be too.

There you have it...very simple.  You can now leave the tails on the pom poms if you want to tie them to something, as shown here:

Or you can snip the tails if you'd like to glue them to something, as shown here.

I experimented with some different yarns to make these, try several for yourself too!  I used baby yarn for the yellow one and it was particularly interesting because it turned out to be extremely fuzzy, almost like a cotton ball.  These are so fun!  
© Jennifer Dickerson 2012

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