Irina Shaar sat down and we chatted about all things knitting in Episode 22 of her Fiberchats. If you haven't met Irina yet, she is a kind, gentle and wonderful knitter that enjoys bringing people together in the knitting industry. As her circle of knitting friends widens, the world of knitting becomes smaller. Her reach extends all over the globe and she closes the gap between knitters.
I was so nervous to tell you the truth! I'm much more comfortable knitting and designing in the quiet of my home with my dogs by my side, than I am coming on camera and talking. Speaking of dogs, I apologize in advance for the barking mid way through! I honestly thought they were downstairs with my husband until, in the middle of talking on air, I heard barking from under the table. So sorry!
To get in on our little chat about knitting, travel, becoming a master knitter, designs and so much more, click on the link below. To subscribe to Fiberchats (there are 21 episodes before me and LOTS more coming), please click here.
The Art of Fair Isle Knitting, by Ann Feitelson: Loveland, CO, Interweave Press, 1993, 183 pages, ISBN 1-883010-20-9, $34.95. Reviewed by Donna Estin.
I love knitting books that share history and techniques. Knitting books can be timeless and there is so much to learn and admire from books of any decade. When I purchased The Art of Fair Isle Knitting I hadn't thought much about the economics of the island of Fair Isle. But for the islanders at the early 1900's, having a marketable product that the mass population links exclusively to you was the key to financial stability. While no one knows the thought process behind the first Fair Isle design, Ann Feitelson begins her book with a historical journey examining the coalition of home based hand knitters and merchants who created a unique product that allowed Fair Isle and the rest of the Shetland Islands to flourish economically.
This book is divided into thirds; history, technique and patterns. The history is crucial for understanding the importance of a simple, repeating design, (i.e. speed + quantity = money). Appreciation of the coordinated efforts of a group of islanders that raised sheep, created a style, hand knitted garments, promoted their product and created a sustainable economy for decades gives depth to the art of Fair Isle. It leads you to knit with more knowledge and a deeper grasp of the art form you are continuing. You must understand a tradition wholly, in order to carry it on, otherwise it becomes diluted, cheapened and forgotten.
Enlightened by the history, the author leads you by the hand into the science of selecting colors with the goal of teaching you to design your own Fair Isle sweater. For the color-challenged knitter, this book gives sample color palettes in appealing combinations. And if the comprehensive color shading, technique and design are just too much to absorb the first time around, the rest of the book provides over twenty patterns ready to knit.
I thought I knew Fair Isle, but this book illuminated all that I didn’t know and challenged some of my preconceived notions. The book trained my eye to look upon a sweater and see not a random collection of colors, but a well-thought out scheme of complimentary colors shaded from light to dark with opposing contrasts between background and pattern. And what I thought had been originally designed to look artful, delicate and complex, was really designed to be simple, easy to memorize and knittable at great speeds to ensure commercial success.
Some of the looks are dated but in all fairness, many patterns are thirty years old. For me, the return to varied, undyed wools and neutral colors is the most appealing. Like a tide coming in and out, the popularity of this design has moved in and out of fashion. But like the weather, it is constant and always with us. I have a new appreciation for Fair Isle and a much deeper understanding. This book deserves to be read twice and holds answers to the how and whys of Fair Isle knitting that would benefit knitters embarking on this style.
Linen is my all time favorite fiber for warm weather. I love the way it feels against the skin and how I never get warm when wearing it. It takes dye uniquely so colors look interesting with a faded/sheen look to it. It's a strong fiber that lasts for decades. It's machine washable and you can put it in the dryer. It gets softer over time....... but here's the thing. It's not soft on day one.
When you open a hank of linen (or flax), it may feel stiff. When you start knitting, it can be rough on your hands. If you have sensitive skin, by the time you're finished a garment, your hands have had a workout. I'm a huge fan of knitting linen with small needles and taking on a looser than normal tension, and this helps, but the feel of the actual linen moving through your fingers isn't the best.
The good news is that you can soften your linen yarn easily before casting on. It will delay your knitting by a day, until the yarn dries, but the amount of time and energy on your part is minimal.
1. Fill a basin with tepid water.
2. Add 1 part baking soda with 2 parts white vinegar. I've used 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of vinegar.
3. Swirl the water until all is mixed. The baking soda dissolves quickly.
4. Open the hank of yarn but leave the ties in place. Lay the yarn on top of the water and let it be.
5. Once the yarn has sunk to the bottom of the sink, you know the fibers are saturated.
6. Drain the water and hang the yarn to dry overnight.
My latest article dives deep into Twisted Stitches (intentional ones). It explores how to form them properly and tips to making the finished fabric look its best. When I served on the review committee for the Knitting Guild Association, I reviewed so many submissions from knitters who had beautiful tension in all of their swatches until the Bavarian or Austrian Twisted Stitch swatch. Then everything seemed to foul up. This article explains what can go wrong and why, and provides suggestions for how to avoid some of the problems that can occur. You can find the article in Interweave Knits Summer 2021 magazine or you can read it online by clicking below.
Learn one easy way to avoid bi-colored purl bumps that form on purl stitches when changing from one color to another!
You can apply this technique to any pattern, whether the pattern instructs you to or not. Once you "see" the bi-colored purl bumps, and how distracting they are, you'll start to see them everywhere. This is one of the easiest and most rewarding fixes in knitting.
When changing to the new color, knit every stitch on the first, right-side row in the new color. If you're working in k2p2 ribbing, you'll knit each stitch. Just do this once, on the right-side row. Then resume your pattern on the next row. When you flip your work and begin working on the wrong-side row, you'll resume the k2p2 ribbing pattern that you had already established. The line of color will be clean and well defined, with all of the bi-colored purl bumps on the wrong side. The k2p2 ribbing will not be affected. I hope you LOVE this simple trick.
My background is in sales and marketing and I have spent years working with companies and organizations large and small to develop their marketing strategies and implement campaigns. This course, by far, has been the most exciting marketing project I've worked on! It takes the fundamentals of a professional marketing program and tailors it for knitting professionals.
It is a powerhouse of knowledge designed to increase sales for your knitting business. By the end of the course, you will have developed your brand, formed a marketing strategy, and created a unique Brand Guide, Marketing Tracking, Campaign Development sheet and comprehensive Marketing Plan for the next year.
There are two modules to the course. Each module walks you step-by-step through the lessons and exercises. You will complete exercises, answer questions, and create a Marketing Plan from a provided template. All course materials will be sent via email and Module 2 will be emailed upon completion of Module 1.
The course is available to members of The Knitting Guild Association, (but if you're not a member, you can join online for only $25/year.
If you're thinking of working in this wonderful knitting industry, I hope you will take the course and launch your next career! For more information and to enroll, please visit TKGA.org/education/marketing-course.
Knitting patterns often tell us to pick up stitches but never tell us how. If you pick up a stitch in the right place, at the right interval, your knitting will look polished and professionally finished, but a poor pick up can cause uneven additions that don’t fit well with the main body of knitting.
Stitches are picked up along an edge of knitting when you want to knit a supplemental piece to the body. This is done for neckbands, cardigan front bands, edges of a rectangular shawl, and armholes as examples.
Our goal when picking up stitches is to have each piece of fabric lie flat. The main body should not become distorted by the addition. And the addition should not be wavy or stretched. They both should lie flat and look as one piece of fabric. What to look for as you’re inserting your needle and picking up a stitch:
There are 3 edges that you can pick up stitches. Horizontal, Vertical and Diagonal.
On horizontal edges, avoid inserting your needle in between stitches, resulting in the dreaded 11’s. This pulls stitches together and creates a line of 11’s across the edge of your fabric.
The correct way to pick up stitches on a horizontal edge, is to insert your needle into the center of the stitch, or the center of the V. For the first stitch, this column of first stitches will always be wobbly looking. Insert needle into the center, just below the bind off edge. If you mistakenly go into the row below, you’ll end up with a thick seam which can be visible on narrowly trimmed necklines and unnecessarily thick. So you want to go through the stitch that lies just under the BO edge.
You can see in the picture below how the stitches from the main section of knitting run continuously and uninterrupted into the new section.
On vertical edges, like with cardigan bands or edges of a rectangular shawl, you are moving up the piece vertically, instead from side to side horizontally. With vertical edges, insert the needle tip between the first stitch (selvedge stitch) and second stitch, picking up the whole selvedge stitch (both strands). This places the first column of stitches to the wrong side of the pick ups as if it were a seam. The second column of stitches now becomes the first column of stitches that you see.
To start, turn your work to the side with the vertical edge lying horizontally at the top. Insert needle into the first hole above the CO edge and pull through a loop, between the first and second stitch. Go into the next hole, under both legs of the stitch. Each stitch has two legs and you’re picking up both. If you go through just the outer leg you’ll end up with an extra column of half stitches which you don’t want. If you go trough just the inner edge your selvedge won’t be as stable and can pull out of shape. Unless the pattern specifically tells you to do this, for various reasons, go under the whole stitch.
For diagonal edges, you’ll insert the needle in one of the two methods we’ve already gone over. The method you choose depends on how your diagonal edge was created. If it was made by using decreases to create the curve, pick up stitches as for vertical edges. Decreases are when a pattern tells you for example to work to 3 sts before the neck opening, k2tog, k1. Or to k1, ssk, knit to end. No stitches are bound off. You’re just decreasing one stitch at a time.
With diagonal edges that were bound off to create the curve, you’ll pick up stitches as for horizontal. This would be when pattern tells you to BO 3 sts at the beg of the next 2 rows, BO 2 sts at the beg of the next 2 rows, BO 1 st at the beg of the next 2 rows. This creates a diagonal line that resembles stair steps.
When moving from one step up to the next, avoid the hole or space between the two. Take your needle into the center of the next stitch and up a row. It seems like a big jump. If you go into the hole you’ll just make it bigger. Go to the next stitch and follow it up and insert needle into the top, just under the BO edge. You’ll see it forms an even diagonal and the stair steps have disappeared. It looks like an even slant with each new stitch continuing from the old stitch.
Now that we know how and where to insert the needle, we need to figure out how many stitches to pick up and how often. If we pick up too many stitches, our addition will flare out; too few and the band draws in.
For a horizontal edge, pick up one stitch for every bound off stitch. This allows you to stack another row of stitches on top of what you’ve already knit your column of stitches will run continuously across the line of pick ups.
Figuring how many stitches to pick up along a vertical edge is a little trickier. This is because in most stitch patterns, the number of stitches per inch is less than the number of rows per inch. We figure out exactly how many stitches by calculating pickup ratio using the ROW gauge of the body and the STITCH gauge of the edging.
I’m going to show you three different ways to figure the ratio. Pick your favorite. Some work better than others depending on your gauge numbers so it's good to know different ways to calculate.
Option 1 (Totals): Count your rows. Figure out how many stitches to pick up. A pattern usually tells you this but I recommend doing it yourself since this is your knitting. The only way you’ll get the same results as the pattern is if you’re knitting with the exact stitch gauge, exact row gauge and to the exact length as the pattern. To figure it out yourself, multiply the stitch gauge of the addition by the distance.
Rows - stitches = difference. Example: we count 105 rows in a 15" band. Our stitch gauge is 6 sts to 1" so 15"x6 sts = 90 sts. 105 rows - 90 stitches= 15 extra rows. We need to skip 15 rows during our pick ups. To find the exact ratio, divide larger # (105) by # of rows to skip (15) and we find out that we need to skip every 7th row 15 times. Pick up one stitch for one row 6 times, skip the 7th row, then pick up one stitch for one row another 6 times, skip the next row, and so on.
Option 2 (Gauge over 4"):
Option 3 (Gauge over 1"):
In all three options, whether you’re working with your total number of rows and total number of stitches, or working with gauge over 1” or gauge over 4”, you’re doing the same thing. You’re figuring out how to space the lower number of stitches for your addition across a larger number of rows on your main body of knitting. It’s up to you which method you choose, but the end result is the same.
Diagonal pick ups are calculated the same was as Vertical pick ups. Curved edges, like necklines, are usually a combination of all three. A neckline is usually formed by binding off the center stitches, then decreasing or binding off 1 stitch at a time to create a gradual slant, then working straight for an inch or so.
When picking up stitches, a ridge will form on the opposite side. If you want your ridge to appear on the wrong side, pick up stitches with the right side facing. If you are picking up stitches around a neck that will be visible (fold-over collar that exposes the area around the neck), you’ll want to pick up stitches with the wrong side facing so the ridge appears on right side of fabric and is hidden when collar is folded over.
Thank you for visiting DonnaEstinDesigns.com and have fun picking up stitches on your next project.
Buss, Katharina. Big Book of Knitting. New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Co., 2001.
Hemmons Hiatt, June. The Principles of Knitting. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1988.
Newton, Deborah. Finishing School, Master Class for Knitters. New York, NY: Sixth & Spring Books, 2011.
Paden, Shirley. Knitwear Design Workshop. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, LLC, 2009.
I love this time of year! Designers are showcasing their Pre-Fall and Fall 2021 designs on the runways worldwide and we're getting a full fledged look at the knitwear design elements and trends that will be making their way from runway to knitting needles. Cross-over trends from woven garment to knitwear are easy to spot if you watch enough shows so look for these on my Pinterest board too.
I've put together a Pinterest board for 2021 Sweater Trends! Follow this board and please check back often - I'm adding new photos constantly as the runway shows are released.
Drum Roll Please - Here are the latest trends in knitwear fashion that you can expect to see weave their way into knitting patterns in the next year or so:
Hoods & Snoods
Hooded pullovers, cardigans, hood/scarf combinations known in the knitting world as snoods. Expect to see more of these ranging from thin and form-fitting, to oversized and chunky. Ribbed, plain, colorwork; you'll see it all this fall. Wouldn't this be a fun all-in-one alternative from knitting a hat and scarf?
This trend is running strong and there's no limit in the color palettes or placements of colors. Pastels, brights, and darks are showing up in basic blocks and skinny panels - all of it works. Colorblocking with other patterns is also making a showing (think ribbing and cables).
We love stripes! The recurring theme of stripes, skinny or wide, seems to go hand-in-hand with colorblocking. Colorblock sweaters will dedicate a surprise section of skinny stripes to make it unique. Look for amazing color combinations in the striped sweaters and accessories to give you ideas for your next project.
Extra Long and Extra Bulky Sleeves
From balloon sleeves, to chunky cabled sleeves, you'll see more and patterns where the sleeve grabs all of the attention. Extra long flared sleeves, tapered, or super wide sleeves all compete for drama this year.
1x1 Ribbing, all over ribbing, brioche ribbing, and any type of knitting that gives that sleek, contemporary look of lines is all over the runways this year. Combing ribbing with colorblocks are so trendy too! (Watch out that the knitting patterns are written correctly to prevent the bi-colored purl bumps that occur when changing colors in ribbing.)
What do you like? What would you knit? What would you skip? What are you excited about? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
When a pattern says to "BO in pattern" what exactly does it mean? Many knitters are interpreting "bind off in pattern" to mean that you work the stitches as they appear. This creates an odd looking last row especially in patterns like Seed stitch.
If a pattern tells you to "bind off in pattern", it's telling you to essentially work the bind off row in the same manner as you would work the next row in the pattern. If you're working the below chart and you've just finished Round 2, and the pattern tells you to BO all sts in pattern, you'll actually work Round 1 again during the bind off. If you forget for a moment that you're binding off, just work the next round or row in sequence, that you would normally work if you weren't binding off. The only difference is that after you work one stitch, you're lifting the first stitch over the second and off the needle so that one stitch is bound off.
The Alternating Cable Cast On alternates between casting on a knit stitch then a purl stitch. This is a great one when you're working the one-row buttonhole in Seed stitch which allows the Seed pattern to be maintained above the buttonhole. A video and step-by-step written directions are provided for your convenience. I hope you enjoy trying this one. It's no more difficult than the standard Cable Cast On and it blends in with knit/purl patterns so well.
Yf: bring yarn forward
Step 1. Yf, slip 1 st p-wise, yb. *Slip next st and pass 1st st over it. Rep from * three more times. 4 sts have been bound off. Return last st to left needle. Turn.
Step 2. Yf, insert right needle between 1st and 2nd sts on left needle from back to front, wrap yarn around needle as if to purl, and pull through the loop, then set it on the left needle.
Step 3. Yb, insert needle from front to back between 1st and 2nd sts on left needle, wrap yarn around needle as if to knit and pull through loop, then set it on the left needle. Rep Steps 2-3 once then rep Step 2 once more. (5 sts cast on).
Step 4. Turn, slip first st on left needle to right needle & pass last cast on st over it and off needle. Tug yarn and continue working chart as est.
Hello! I'm Donna. I enjoy designing artistic knitwear that is comfortable. I specialize in sweaters with a contemporary silhouette.