Ultimate Beginners Guide to Knitting

I recently taught my friend Jenn how to knit, and it got me thinking about when I started to knit.  It was just over 3 years ago that I began my first knitting project.  I searched the web trying to figure out everything I needed to know.  Went to one site for one thing, another for something else.  Long story short, it was way too time consuming and frustrating to figure out what I needed to know to begin knitting.

So! I decided it would be a great idea to explain everything it is you need to know (and not know right away) to start your first knitting project!  This will probably be my longest post yet, but very thorough by covering every essential detail and most likely answering every question you’ll have.  PLEASE ask me if you have a question unanswered in this post.

** If I “*” a sentence, I will elaborate more as you read.

To begin:
Find a simple pattern ( preferably something flat like a scarf) that uses thicker yarn, or uses at least size 6 needles.
There are all different size needles and yarn, which I will explain later.*  The best way to not go crazy in the yarn store is to know what you’re looking for.

Ravelry.com is a great site that has any pattern you could possible want.  Sign up for free and do an advanced search to find a pattern. You can customize your search  to what you’re looking for (needle size  used etc.) or, if using another site or pattern book, the pattern will tell you what you need to get started. So look at the needle/yarn size to make sure it’s what you’re looking for.

I strongly recommend thicker needles and yarn because it is easier to see your stitches.  As a new knitter, you’re going to what to see what you’re doing so you can figure out how your stitches link together.

Buying materials:
Needles come in three basic forms : circular, straight or double pointed.

Circular needles are for making larger things such as a blanket or a sweater. Or tubular things like hats.  When knitting with CN you are knitting in the round, which means it is continuous and do not have to change the needles to different hands when you finish a row. I will talk about knitting in the round in another post.

Circular needles are two tapered needles joined together by a strong plastic cable.  They come in various lengths ranging from 12″ to (about) 47″.

These are my personal favorite because anything you can do with straight needles, you can do with these.  It’s silly to buy straight needles and CN of the same size. Trust me, it makes sense.

Straight Needles generally are 10-16inches in length, and are limited in use.  They are mostly used for scarves or small flat things.

Double Pointed Needles are used for making small tubular things such as gloves, socks or hats.  They are slightly different to use than the previous two types because it involves 4 or 5 needles instead of 2.
They are great if you want to make certain things, but not ideal for traveling because the stitches can easily slide off.  They do sell stitch stoppers, but I don’t trust them.

Needle sizes range from US 4- US35 with about 15 different sizes.  The smaller the number, the smaller the needle.

YARN! YARN! YARN!  There is a plethora of yarn out there from different colors, to fibers and textures and weights.

So, you’re at the yarn store and you have your needles picked out, and now it’s time for the hard part: choosing yarn! Which one? How much? WHAT COLOR?!  But, you have you’re pattern and needles picked out, so your selection is limited.

Buy a pretty basket to put your stash, it will grow quickly, and you’re going to want easy access. But…

**** DON’T OPEN YOUR YARN UNTIL YOU HAVE READ THIS! ****

There are 2 very important things to do before you rip open your yarn, then get it all tangled up.
1. SAVE THE LABEL! This is sooo important especially as a beginner because it has all its information on it.  It tells you, what needle size to use, care instructions, lot number* and gauge*.  Buy a box (mine are in a single-bottle wine box) and tape or tie a piece of the yarn to the label.  This is helpful when, you have some left over from a past project and you want to use it again, or you want to buy more of the same yarn. 

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2. ROLL THE YARN INTO A BALL. The general image of yarn is a ball that cats like to play with.  But yarn is not sold that way.  There is no one way it is packaged, but it should always be wound into a ball or it WILL get tangled.

HOW TO WIND YOUR YARN
Generic yarn that you buy at a big name Craft Store will usually be in a log shape, fancily wound with the yarn making a zigzag pattern. The end of the yarn (visible or easily found) should NOT be touched.  Instead, go into the center of the “log” and pull out the mess on yarn.  In here, you will find the other end.  With this, you can beginning winding it by wrapping in around your fingers a few times, then fold it into a ball.  Continue wrapping the yarn in different directions until you run out of yarn.

Other yarns bought at a specialty store  are not at complex.  You simple find an end and start winding.  Some stores may have a yarn winding station that you can use once you’ve purchased your yarn.

LET’S KNIT!

Ok. Actually. Before you can start knitting, you need to cast on your stitches.  It is the hardest part, but once you get the hang of it it’s very rhythmic and relaxing.

There are 2 basic ways to CO: single or double.  I am only going to teach you double (or long-tail) CO because it looks nicer and it has more give.

To begin your CO you will need to make a slip knot, with a long tail that will accommodate for the stitches you will make with it.  You also want some extra at the end to weave in later on.*  Depending on your project and needle size, you will need more or less.  Some knitters do not like this method of CO because there is no true way to measure how much you need.  But it’s better to have enough, because if you don’t have enough, you need to take your stitches off and do it all over again with a longer tail.  I would multiply the width of the project by 2 or 3 depending on the size of your needles/yarn, then add extra for the tail.

So… to make a slip knot, wrap the yarn around two fingers twice.

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Spread your fingers and bring the tail through your fingers and make a loop.

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Finally, take both needles, put it through the loop and tighten it around the needles. Make sure that your end-tail is in the front and yarn tail is in the back.  This will make your CO (first row) purl row.*

Now that you have your slip knot, we are ready to CO!

With your needles in your right hand, take your index finger and thumb and bring them between the two strings.

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Still in the original position, gather the two strings in the ring and pinky fingers.  Then turn your hand outward toward the left.  Raise your middle finger so there are 3 strings forming the letter ‘Z’.  You will be using these 3 strings to form your stitches.

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Keeping your left hand in this position, bring your needles under 1, over 2 under 3

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Then grab 3 with your needles and bring it through 1 (skipping over 2). When you bring your needles back through, there will be a new stitch on you needles.

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Once you’ve brought your needles up through 1, release you thumb and pickup 1. With your thumb pull 1 to tighten the stitch.  Then bring your thumb back to the left with 1 still against it.  Your ‘Z’ formation should go back in place.

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Repeat this until you’ve reached your desired amount of stitches.  NOTE: The slip knot you made in the beginning will be taken off when you start knitting, so DO NOT count it as a stitch.

When you’re finished it will look like this. (Knit side)
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The back will look like this. (Purl side)
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NOW WE CAN START KNITTING!!!!
There are many, many different stitches that create beautiful knitwear.  But they are all done with 2 simple techniques: the KNIT and the PURL.  Together,  when the knits are knitted and the purls are purled, they create a stockinette stitch.

This is the stockinette stitch showing the KNIT side.  This is the front of the work.
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This is the PURL side of the stockinette stitch. This is the back.
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You will eventually understand how it works and what it is you are actually doing.  You will see that when you knit a row, and turn it to start the next row, the back of the knit row looks like a purl!

If every row was knitted, or every row was purled, you will get a garter stitch.IMG_0172

There are also two different styles of knitting : continental (left-handed) or english (right-handed). This simply refers to which hand you hold the yarn in.  I am teaching english because that is how I knit, but I will teach continental in another post.

To begin:

Remove one needle from the CO stitches, so you are left with 1 needle holding all your stitches, and 1 empty and free.

Take the first stitch on the LN and pull it off.  This is the slip knot you made in the beginning that is not a proper stitch.

Hold the needle with the stitches in your left hand and the empty one in your right hand.

When you did the CO, the end tail was in the front and the yarn tail in the back. Now that you turned your  work over to start the next row, we will start with a PURL row.

Purl= yarn tail in front
Knit= yarn tail in back

HOW TO PURL
From right to left, insert the RN (right needle) through the first stitch and to the front.
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Wrap your tail counter-clockwise (from right to left) around your right needle.
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Holding your tail tight, push your RN back though the center of the stitch (the same way you entered).
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Take the stitch on the LN that you have been working with and push it off the needle.
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Repeat this until the end of the row.

When you are finished with your row, all of your stitches will be on the RN.  Flip the RN to your left hand to start your next row.  You should see the ‘v’ pattern forming on this side. This means you use the knit stitch.
To begin the knit stitch make sure your yarn tail is in the back.

HOW TO KNIT
From left to right, place the RN (from the front of the stitch) through the middle of the first stitch and to the back.

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Wrap the needle with the tail counter-clockwise.

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Holding the tail taut, push the needle back through the way in came.

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Lift the RN up, and push the stitch off the LN.

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Repeat the knit stitch until the end of the row.

You will notice your stockinette stitch forming.  It is a beautiful stitch, however you may notice your project begin to curl.  This happens and it cannot be flattened.  To help it from curling there is often ribbing for the first few rows.  Ribbing is made by making a pattern of knits and purls in the same row. Ex.: 2 knits, 2 purls.

Are you thinking to your self “How do I get my front tail for purling to the back for knitting?”  Ah, yes. well it is very simple.  When you are finished with a purl stitch, for example, and ready for a knit, just bring the tail in BETWEEN the RN and LN to the back.  Make sure you do not cross the tail OVER the needle.  This with create another “stitch”.  Sort of a phantom stitch that doesn’t belong there.  If you are feeling ambitious and curious TRY IT!

Anyway, we are not done yet!  We still need to finish our project by casting-off.

Casting off is almost exactly like knitting or purling. So, don’t sweat!

It does not matter whether you end on a purl row or knit row.  For the sake of those of you who are ending on a different row than what I will explain, I will use the word “stitch” in place of knit or purl.

So, stitch 2 stitches.
Then take the first stitch you made and lift it up, over the 2nd  stitch and off the needle completely.
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Stitch one more stitch, so you have 2 stitches on your RN. Again lift it over and off your RN.
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Repeat until the end.
For the last stitch, cut the yarn tail and pull it through the loop.

YOU DID IT!

All you need to do now is weave the ends in with a blunt needle.

Ok now.  So this is a lot of information and I can keep on going.  There are a few more floating thoughts I’d like to get down, but not sure how to sew them into the other thoughts.  So bare with me for just a few more minutes.

I mentioned earlier the gauge, which also appears on almost all labels.  This is an ESTIMATE of how many stitches per inch in a square.  So, for the label above, for this yarn I would use US9 needles and end up with 16 stitches per 4 inches and 22 rows per 4 inches.  HOWEVER, every knitter knits differently.  You should always knit a square and measure your stitches before starting a project.  Especially if it is something that requires accuracy for size.

Lot number refers to the color of the yarn.  Yarn is made in batches, and the dyeing process may vary, so if you buy the same color yarn from the same company with a different lot #, they may be slightly different.

Also, just putting it out there,  pom-poms are made separately and have nothing to do with knitting.  I say this because I was helping Maddy pick out a hat pattern and she liked some hats, but didn’t like the pom-pom.  So she looked for other ones.  But I explained to her that they are made at the end and attached.

As a beginner, absolutely focus on doing it right.  But if you want to try and get comfortable right away, this is how I hold my tail:
The yarn around my finger stays close to the needles (no more than an inch away), and I control the tension with my pinky and ring finger.

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And lastly, I want to mention counting rows.  With scarves and beginner projects, it ‘s not of much concern. You should be getting to know the technique and get in the groove first.  But it’s an easy thing to do, so why not get ahead, right?  If you’re looking at the stockinette stitch, pick a column, and count  each ‘v’ and include the stitch on the needle.

THAT’S IT!  If you’re looking at garter, it’s easier.  If you stretch it a bit, you can see the knits in between the purls, so you can count each purl row by 2.

OK. OK. OK. OK.  I think that is all for now.  I must go check on my clotted cream!!! (Which I am making for my tea party today!)

How To: Be Productive

This post may be hypocritical considering I have not posted in quite sometime, but I came across this article and hopefully things will change now that I know the secret.
Aside from 4 classes with reading homework and art making, I am interning 18 hours a week for credit for school.  I have absolutely no complaints except for the fact that I don’t have enough time in a day to get everything I want to get done, done.
I could go on and on about the time I don’t have to post or anything else I want to do because, let’s be honest, school comes first, so I will get to the point.
The internship I’m doing is part of school so each week I need to check in and answer questions or tell about my week. This week I was asked to read the article 7 Things Highly Productive People Do and respond to it.   I’m totally on point with some of the tips, and others, not so much.  Now that I know what to do, hopefully I will be more productive as will you.

xxxG

how to chiffonade

Are you having difficulty cutting basil, or spinach?  It can be a bit tricky but with the chiffonade method there is no need to worry. Chiffonade is a technique for cutting leafy greens into thin strips.  In 3 easy step cut your greens into beautiful and delicious ribbon.

Step 1- Wash the leaves and cut off the stems
Step 2- Stack the leaves

Step 3- Tightly roll of the stack and cut into desired width.

Isn’t that easy?!  Have fun :)
xxxG

Tea Party Time

Today I hosted my 2nd annual tea party!

Ever since I was a little girl, my mother has ALWAYS had a cup of tea in her hand.  Everyone always talked about their mom getting a morning cup of coffee, but mine had a cup of tea, and I thought she was special for that.  That’s why I drink tea now, I much prefer it to coffee anyway.  As I’ve grown older, I have found I enjoy hosting and entertaining guests.  Tea parties seemed like a good idea to me, so last winter I planned a tea party for my friends.  I got rave reviews, so I decided to make it a yearly tradition.

There are many traditions, etiquettes and particular ways about a tea party. One of the most misunderstood facts about tea party etiquette is that one should lift their pinky when sipping one’s tea.  NOT TRUE!  I don’t follow many of the traditions because I don’t expect my guests to know them, but this one I do.

My tea parties are small gatherings, so I break out my mom’s china and set the table for my guests.

I serve traditional items such as scones, tea sandwiches and, of course, tea.

I make raspberry scones and a few plain, served with clotted cream.  This year, unfortunately, I couldn’t find any so I use a quick, easy and delicious alternative: sour cream and sugar.

The most traditional tea sandwich is cucumber and cream cheese.  Many people are turned off by it, but it’s delicious, trust me, I had to make more for my guests earlier today.  There were four sandwiches on my menu today:
1. Cucumber and cream cheese with scallions
2. Hummus with red bell peppers
3. Peanut butter and jelly
4. Turkey and tomato with mayo
All sandwiches were served on 7 grain bread, with the crust cut off and cut into triangles.
When making your own tea sandwiches, get creative, but also keep it simple.  Don’t put too much, or too many layers.

This is my cup of english breakfast tea.  I thought I wouldn’t have enough tea cups for everyone, so I used one I got for Christmas from my sister.
Serving tea can be tricky at a tea party.  It is suggested to brew a whole pot of one type of tea, then boil a pot of water if someone would like a different kind.
I find it easier to boil a kettle of water and have my guests choose their own bag of tea.
        
Sam enjoying her tea!                       When we finished, we played poker


Hajera, Jenna, me, Sam, Kristina and Christine.  A toast to a successful tea party!

I hope you enjoyed this post and begin to plan your own tea party!  Let me know if you have any questions about hosting your own tea party, and please share details of your party.

xxx G

Ice Cube Innovation

New York has amazing tap water, so my ice cubes are nice and clean, but that ‘freezer’ taste still gets into my water when the ice melts.  But i found an easy and tasty way to change that!  I just add lemon juice, raspberries, or other fruit into the ice cube try before freezing it.

Other fruits I recommend:
cucumber
grapefruit
orange
strawberries
kiwi

Try it out and let me know what combinations you come up with!

xxx G

How to soften brown sugar

Have you ever wanted to bake some chocolate cookies at 2am, then realize that your brown sugar is hard and unusable?  It has happened to me, and I almost broke the hearts of friends who were waiting for them. But then I figured there is probably a way to fix the situation, and there is.
The reason why the sugar hardens is because it loses its moisture, so you have to put it back in.  There are two easy methods that I will explain below

Microwave method:
place a bowl of water in the microwave next to a bowl or plate of brown sugar. first microwave it for 1 minute, then at 30 second intervals until it is soft

Stove top method:
boil a pot of water and hold the sugar over the pot so it absorbs the steam.

When your sugar begins to soften, crumble it with your fingers and pack it into your measuring cup.

So, no more running to the store when you have your oven pre-heating!

xxG

How to slip-cast

As I mentioned in my earlier post, How to make a cavity mold, I had tons of slip, so I made house bottles.  Slip casting is a way to replicate an object in ceramic. It is also great for small scale production and editioning.  There are two ways that something can be casted, either solid or hollow. Here are the detailed instructions for hollow slip casting. Directions for solid slip casting are briefly described at the end.  And here, below, are my houses waiting to be glazed!

(the ones in the front row are still drying)

Supplies:
slip
container
water or slip dope
spoon, or something to mix with
rubber bands
clay shaping tools 
sponge
blow dryer (optional)

step 1- make sure the inside of your two-piece cavity mold is clean, fit the two pieces together and close it tight with rubber bands.

step 2 – mix your slip to remove any clumps.  add water or slip dope to thin your slip so that it is the consistency of half-and-half or heavy cream.

step 3a- pour the slip into the mold. after a few seconds the slip may sink a bit, so add some more.

step 3b- the plaster of your mold will begin to absorb the moisture from the slip, and a wall will start to form (pictured above).  when you have achieved your desired width(at least, pour the slip back into the container for later use.  for my object I waited about 8 minutes(depending on the size of the object you are casting and the thickness of your slip, you may need to add or subtract to your wait time.)

step 4- wait at least 2 hours to let your slip dry.  the longer you wait, the better your object with come out.  if you don’t want to wait, you can dry it with a blow dryer.  and again, if your object is larger than mine, wait longer.

step 5- gently pry the mold apart.  BEFORE removing the object, slice off the excess slip at the top of the object, to easily get an even lip.

step 6- trim the object with trimming tools and/or smooth with a sponge.  let dry and underglaze, or bisque fire your objects.

directions for solid slip casting

follow directions above, but skip step 3b.  simply fill the mold and let dry.  but note that smaller objects, like mine, are ideal for this method because if your object is too large or thick, it will explode in the kiln.

THANKS AGAIN TO ALEX MAC

xxx G