Tool Bar

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Episode 6: Of Balls and Skeins

Spring has sprung. And in Maine, that is a big deal. I love seasons. I lived in Florida for 3 years once, and I missed the change of seasons. And in these northern parts, the end of winter is always most welcome.

In this podcast episode:
1) those darn pattern editing woes
2) a ball, a skein or a hank: do you know?
3) the mini lesson gives you tips on mixing and matching patterns for new design possibilities

Did I mention spring has officially arrived? So on the morning of our recording, we sat outside at the picnic table basking in the sun like a couple of seals. Well...not really...but we did record outside and we captured both the sounds of birds chirping (quaint), and sounds of a big 18-wheeler truck backing up to our door for a large yarn delivery—not so quaint but still exciting 'cause that's another thing that gets our heart racing: YARN. Ah well, it's a job, and someone's got to do it, even though this environment makes some of us salivate a bit too much (suction, please!).

One thing Knit One, Crochet Too is renowned for is our vast collection of patterns. Each season we put out around 25 new designs, offered in individual leaflets with sizes ranging from XS to 3XL. And once in a while, some of these come back to bite us where the sun don't shine...I mean, we find a mistake that totally eluded us through the editing process. Here is a typical conversation in the office: "Just got an email from a knitter saying our math is wrong on pattern (insert number)." "Oh, yeah, and is it?" "Yes, it's wrong." "What? How the heck did that happen??" "I have no idea. We've looked at it 3 ways from Sunday." "I know!! Darn it all to &^*%$$ (fill in the blank)." Very, very, very frustrating.... But we still want to know if you find something kaflooey so we can fix it.
So what is a knitter to do if you can't get a hold of us in a timely manner (over the weekend) and are stuck on one of our patterns, or if you'd really like someone to show you how to do something in the flesh? This is when you'd want to connect with other knitters for that much needed help, or just to share. A good place is through The Knitting Guild of America (TKGA). Their site lists guilds in most states. A quick Google search yielded a few links to other places to check out, including Knitting Meetup Groups, and Stitch 'n Bitch (this site lists groups worldwide). I'm not sure how up to date the listings are (I often find lots of obsolete info on the web) but it's worth checking out just to see what knitting friend (or fiend) is out there in your neck of the woods.

We caught up with our current knitting projects (are we REALLY ever caught up?) and Joyce said how she enjoyed working with Babyboo in a summer top she just finished. It's our bamboo/nylon blend, in a dk weight, and it knits to a super soft fabric. Plus it comes in many colors (not just baby colors as the name may imply). We have quite a few patterns that use this yarn for both babies and grown ups. By far the most popular this season is the Athena Tank, pattern 1740.
I am working with Meadow Silk (wool/silk blend in a worsted weight), one of our new intros for the fall, that finally landed in our office last week. We have 6 projects to make by June 9, and we are scrambling to get those done in time. I've been cramming and I finally perfected a method to work cables without a cable needle -- really too lazy to bother getting my behind off the couch to get an extra needle... Isn't there a saying that goes "laziness is the mother of inventions"? No? Well, there should be... Video to come in next blog installment. Until then, just call me Smoking Needles...

In answer to a question posed to us by farmgirlnow on Ravelry, we talked about balls, skeins and hanks. What is what, and why is what...? What?? We give our take on the difference between a ball and a skein (not 100% consensus there, so please post COMMENTS below and let us know what you think), but we did agree that a hank is a continuous large loop of yarn that needs to be wound into a ball before using. Then we explained why some yarn comes to you on hanks, and others on skeins/balls. Reasons ranging from how slippery the yarn is and how the chosen put up will try to prevent it from totally falling apart while being fondled in the shops, to selling in hanks to further convey the earthiness of a fiber or give it a more artisan feel. It's often a combination of both common sense and marketing. The samples below, from left to right, are: Paint Box, 2nd Time Cotton and Babyboo.

The mini lesson is about mixing and matching elements from patterns you already own. Add sleeves from one design to a sleeveless one from a different pattern in the same gauge to get just the look you want. Another tool (a blast from the past) is one of the books I wrote back in the '80s, The Knitter's Design Sourcebook. A collection of 127 charted motifs, plus a boatload of blank patterns in many gauges, sizes and neck/sleeve styles. All you have to do is insert whatever motifs in whatever configuration you want. Thousands of possibilities...and the book is out of print. BUT I am sure there are copies circulating on the web or through used book vendors, and even at your local library.

An example of an all-purpose pattern that is a good addition to your knitting library is pattern 1398, the On The Go Top. It gives directions for sizes 32" to 56", plus 3 sleeve choices (sleeveless, short and long), and is worked at 5 sts per inch. This sample is worked in Ty-Dy, 100% cotton. Use it as a blank canvas to add lace, cables, or colorwork. The sky is the limit.
And somehow, the lesson drifted briefly in the realm of gauge (as it often does) and how it's super important to work a swatch every time you begin using a new yarn, or a new pattern stitch. But if you are so disciplined that you actually can make a swatch without starting your project right away, and you want to stay organized and keep track of that darn little swatch and all the yarn info, check out our Swatch Pockets:Lastly, in a total fit of masochism (it's late and I'm tired, I am still fighting off a nasty cold, or perhaps I have finally cracked), here is the photo of me from the back cover of the aforementioned book, circa mid-80s, in all my hair-raising glory (plus it looks like I was dressed ready to work at an ice cream parlor...just in case this knitwear designing thing didn't work out). There are only two good things I can say about this photo: I was young and I was thin.
Now, please pick yourself off the floor from laughing too hard. And don't feel bad about that. I asked for it.



  1. Just discovered your podcast and your lovely patterns. You were asking on the podcast where the English term,'the upper crust' comes from. Well, we were watching a history programme on BBC the other day and everdently the phrase dates back to when bread was not allowed to be cooked by anyone but the landowners. Lower classes would have prepared the bread. It would then have been baked in a clome oven (see Wickipedia for more details), the bread would habe been baked on the oven bottom, which caused the bottom to be rather black! When divided between the upper and lower classes, the lower classes would have had the less good bottom of the loaf, but the upper classes got the 'upper crust'. When I saw this, I thought of you and thought you would be interested.
    You can still buy high tea over here. The special ones can be bought at The Pump Rooms in Bath, there is also a tea shop and museum oat London Bridge where it is sold (our daughters paid for DH and I to go there for our anniversary). The tea is usually served in a pretty pot, with matching milk jug and sugar bowl (when I was little, we had lump sugar in the bowl and tongs to lift the sugar with), cups and saucers, NOT mugs! The cakes and sandwiches come to the talble on a cake stand, usually with more than one tier. There are usually daity sandwiches without crusts,with fillings such as cucumber, salmon pate, micro thin cheese, or egg and cress. Other savouries might include English muffins and crumpets. The cakes might include French Fancies, slices from larger cakes; such as coffee and walnut, or victoria sponge and scones with strawberry jam, topped with clotted cream. All very yummy!
    Caroline from South West England

  2. Hello Caroline, I know you posted a while ago, but hadn't had a chance to tell you thanks for the very interesting info on the upper crust! Now, to find out about a "stiff upper lip"...