Friday, December 14, 2012

12 Lessons from the Yellow Table.

I heard an interesting bit on the latest Yarniacs podcast about "knitting lessons learned in 2012". It got me thinking about my knitting classes, and the lessons we've learned this year.

And then dear friend and former student Martha gave me this.
yes, there are even Starbucks mugs on the table!
That, my good readers, is how blog posts are born!

1. Any tools that help you get your knitting right are OK - in fact highly encouraged - to use. A few of my favorite tools include row counters (I still use the old fashioned kind that sits on my needle or on my knitting), locking stitch markers (for example to remember where you started waist shaping),  regular markers to keep your lace or cables or other patterned stitches on track, highlight tape to keep up with a chart, and a colored pen (see number 7 below).

2. If you're knitting with hand-dyed yarn, alternate skeins. Always. Hand-dyed yarns include everything from Madelinetosh, Malabrigo, Swan's Island, and quite a few others. Yes, it can be a pain, but it's the only way to ensure you don't end up with noticeable color differences in your finished project.

3. If you're knitting something that needs to fit, swatch! You should also swatch if you're worried about having enough yarn to finish the project. And if you're knitting with fibers that aren't super wash, you should wet-block that swatch to see what it will really look like. Most yarns change when they get wet and the only way to tell how your yarn will behave wet is to try it!

4. Substitute yarns based on the fiber content and gauge of the suggested yarn, not the pattern. We're seeing a lot of newer patterns knit at a very loose gauge (for example, a fingering weight yarn like Madelinetosh Light knit at a DK or sport-weight gauge) - if you substitute based on the pattern gauge, you won't get the same drape and "look". Ravelry's yarn database is a great tool to lookup the suggested yarn.

5. If you buy yarn before you're ready to knit the project, put a copy of the pattern into the bag or enter the project into Ravelry. It only seems like you couldn't possibly forget what you intended to  knit with that yarn!

6. If you're knitting from a pattern that was published in a book or a magazine or a stand-alone leaflet, be sure to check for errata before you start. You can google the pattern name and "errata" or you can look up the pattern on Ravelry. Typically, patterns that you purchase through Ravelry (that are delivered as pdf downloads to print) are corrected as the designer discovers issues and errata isn't a problem.

7. Make notes. I start each project with a fresh copy of the pattern (it is ok to copy a pattern for personal use) so I can write all over it. I make notes about row counts (for example, that I worked 12 rows of ribbing on the first sleeve so I can make the second sleeve match it), about where I am - this is especially important if I set the project aside for even a few days, and about modifications I make. When I finish the project, I file these notes for future reference.

8. When you make a copy of the pattern, be sure you get it all - top, bottom, left, right.

9. Read the pattern all the way through before you start. Keep reading as you go. Most of my ripping comes from not following the pattern because I didn't read it!

10. Finishing is a very important step to having a project that looks great. It's often overlooked because hey, the knitting is done. But really, weaving in ends, seaming, sewing on buttons, and blocking are key to fit and wearability. (and if you can't bear to do this step, we have a wonderful finisher, Betty Bahl - just ask the shop staff and we'll get you in touch with her).

11. If you don't like the project while you're knitting it, you probably won't like it any better once it's done. Cut your losses. Rip and move on. (really, it's ok).

12. Know your limits. Are you knitting a complicated lace pattern? maybe you shouldn't work on that while you're chatting with your friends or after a long hard day of work. This is one of the reasons I have multiple projects going at one time. There is always something social, something portable, something challenging (and something that goes with wine!).

What lessons have you learned this year? We'd love to hear!
the "real" yellow table... in action during my most recent class


  1. the miniature is SO awesome. lessons for me-swatching essential, knowing when to rip out, good tools, project bag for each individual project keeps the knitting bag much more tidy.

    1. That's a great idea about the project bags! (and we have some pretty ones at the shop)