Abundance

Life with Fiber and Fiber Arts

Will Seam for Love January 31, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hannah Cuviello @ 1:58 pm

You’d think that I would have learned by now to avoid phrases like “will post very, very soon”, which inevitably turn me into a liar.  Well, I will console myself that “rather soon” is good enough.

For anyone who did not read my last post, we at Abundant Yarn are conducting a Square Drive. A what? A fun way for all you yarn crafters out there to contribute to the warmth and comfort of a child in need without having to commit to knitting/crocheting an entire afghan. You don’t even have to sew any squares together. All the afghans we put together will be donated to Project Linus, a non-profit organization that donates handmade blankets to children in crisis situations. This is one of our very favorite knitting-for-good activities, and we would love for you to play along!

The Squares (guidelines):

  1. Squares can be either 12″ or 7″; we will hopefully be making many blankets!
  2. Squares should be machine washable (superwash wool or acrylic blend- please make note of which you used so we can keep like fibers together).
  3. Squares should not be too lacy, so little fingers don’t get caught.
  4. You do not have to weave in your ends! Leave a 15-25″ end and we will use it for seaming.
  5. All squares should be made with love!

Inspiration and Ideas

Not sure where to go from here? Well, we have ideas!

12″ Squares:

We are huge fans of the Great American Afghan series from XRX publishing.

Each book contains about 25 unique and interesting squares to knit, ranging in difficulty from basic stockinette with a few embellishments to off-the-wall constructions with complex cables. My mother, especially has a fondness for these. She has just finished her third and is starting another (more on that at some as yet unspecified time).

12" Squares from The Great American Aran Afghan

One of the best parts is that, by the time you are totally sick of one pattern, you’re done!

7″ Squares:

This size square is the perfect medium for playing around with new stitch patterns and interesting textures or using up left-over yarn. Pull out your stitch dictionaries and go exploring!

These squares are the perfect stuff-in-your-purse/bag-and-whip-out-while-waiting-in-line size project.

7" Squares in Knit and Crochet

Just think how many of these you could get done while watching a single movie. And talk about instant gratification!

Where to send them:

You can send the squares to us at-

Abundant Yarn Online

PO Box 8093

Spokane, Wa 99203

Once we have an afghan or two put together, we will be setting up a page on our website where we can recognize all our wonderful square makers (“blanketeers”, as the Project Linus folks call them). We will post pictures of the finished afghans with the first name and city/state of the knitter or crocheter. If you would prefer us not to, please let us know.

Thank you all in advance. I just can’t wait to get seaming!

 

Sew Its Seams January 23, 2011

Filed under: Garter Stitch Seams,how to,knitting theory,Seaming — Hannah Cuviello @ 6:35 pm

(Snicker, snicker)

I love the New Year; it’s so full of opportunities to do all the things I didn’t do last year. I’m also a huge proponent of New Year’s Resolutions Lists…mostly because I would be lost without lists. I don’t know if you have noticed this about me…but I’m a little scatter brained. Not in a bad way! Usually, actually, in a very amusing way. A putting the remote control in the freezer kind of way. A leaving my keys in the door kind of way. Without lists, I would be completely lost and would, consequently never get anything done. Never. Ever.

I especially love the satisfying feeling of checking something off my list. It’s so encouraging. That is why my New Year’s Resolution List will never contain something like, “Eat healthier” or “Keep the house clean.”  How do I check that off? I won’t know I’ve done it until January of next year. I will have lost my list by then anyway.   My New Year’s resolutions list usually contains small, manageable tasks that I just didn’t get around to last year. It’s more of a New Year’s To-Do list, really. So far, this year’s list contains:

Write Tunisian Crochet Blog (check!)

Rephotograph Cascade 220 superwash (check!)

Write Seaming Blog (check!)

Write the rest of the Ways of Knitting posts … (no check yet)

Take down Christmas Tree (almost check!)

Make Afghan

Start Charity Knitting Project

Plus a few other choice tasks, all easily manageable if I can just remember about them long enough to get them done.

Today’s post has to do with three of the above Resolution Tasks, namely, “Make Afghan” and “Write Seaming post” and “Start Charity Knitting Project”.  You see, I am quite fond of Afghans…especially in January.  I am particularly fond of afghans that are knit in many small, manageable squares (each square is a check mark on my To-Do list!).  I am even more pleased when each square is different and interesting in its own way. For this reason, I am drawn to XRX’s Series of Great American Afghan books (including Great American Afghan, Great American Aran Afghan, and Great North American Afghan).

We have several of these afghans in my house and are getting started on a brand new Great North American Afghan (colors as yet undecided).

Now, I can imagine what some of you out there are thinking. You like the idea of an afghan where each square provides new, engaging designs and techniques, but you just aren’t into sewing together all those squares. I know how you feel. I used to be firmly in the “I’m a knitter, not a sewer” camp and was determined to knit only top-down or otherwise seamless garments. Then I sat down and learned how to do it right…and you know what? It turns out that it is supremely satisfying to produce a beautifully seamed piece of knitting. It’s just as satisfying as checking a whole slew of things off a list.

Today, we are going to talk about seaming. Specifically, we are going to look at the kind of seaming that would be involved were you to make one of the above mentioned afghans…Garter Stitch seaming.

Very cleverly, the publishers of the American Afghan books required all the designers to give their squares tidy garter stitch borders, simplifying the seaming process tremendously. That said, there are still three different kinds of garter stitch seams you will encounter, should you knit these afghans.

1. Seaming up the edges of Garter rows (this one is easy!).

2. Seaming along bound off or cast on edges of Garter.

3. A mix; seaming a bound off edge to the edges of rows.

Let’s start with what is often considered the easiest of the three.Garter stitch, you may have noticed, is made up of ridges of alternating knit and purl rows (this describes the finished look, not necessarily how you come by it). Along the edges, you will notice handy little bumps, which correspond to the purl row ridges.

Each edge bump actually consists of two interlocking bumps; a lower bump and an upper bump.

When seaming Garter edges, you will insert the weaving needle through the lower bumps on one side of the seam and the upper bumps on the other side, alternately.

Go back and forth from one side to the other, until you have something like this:

When seaming, I will usually make several passes before pulling the thread tight and closing the seam. I find it easier to get into the bumps when the seam is still loose. Also, I love pulling the seam tight with a satisfying zip. Just be careful not to wait too long or it will become rather difficult.

Normally, of course, you would sew the seam with yarn that matched one of your squares.

Wasn’t that easy?

Number two takes a little bit more scrutiny of the knitting, but is, I think, still not too bad.

Just under the bound off edge of your square, you will see the little V’s of your stitches (they’re right above the upper bumps). To seam this edge, insert the needle behind both legs of one of those V’s.

On the other side of the seam, you will find much the same thing.

Do you see the little legs? They are right above the bump from the cast off (a cast on edge will look rather similar and be treated the same way).Insert your needle under the legs of a stitch on the bottom square, then under the legs of a stitch on the top square. Go back to the bottom square and move on to the next stitch.

If you can do these, sewing seams that include both edges will be just as easy. On the side with ridge bumps, insert your needle under the bumps (in this case, I actually go under both the top and bottom bump); on the cast off side, go under the legs of the V’s.

Alternate between the two edges as before and pull tight.

Sometimes you will have squares that aren’t exactly the same size a their neighbors. In this event, you can skip a stitch now and then on the side that is longer (I’m afraid I was not feeling quite thorough enough to take pictures of that for you. I’m sorry.)

So…are those afghans feeling a little more approachable now? Do you feel inspired?

Perhaps you would enjoy the experience of knitting these fun and enlightening squares, but  feel a little “no-thank-you” about seaming, let me offer an alternative.  We at Abundant Yarn are big fans of a program called Project Linus. This wonderful organization collects handmade blankets and afghans and distributes them to children who are ill, traumatized or otherwise in need. Should you feel like you would like to knit some squares, but don’t want to seam them, send them to us. We will be happy to sew them together for you. Then we will send them to Project Linus.

Actually, I will be writing (very, very soon) another post, completely dedicated to our upcoming official afghan square drive, with all the details you could possible want. Until then, I leave you with the tools to finish any garter stitch afghans you may happen to have lying around.

Happy Seaming!

 

 

 

Why I Love Tunisian Crochet… January 2, 2011

Filed under: designs,how to — Hannah Cuviello @ 3:12 pm

“Why, I love Tunisian Crochet!”

Those of you who receive my newsletters may recall a promise I made several weeks back regarding blog posts about Tunisian Crochet, to the effect that there would be some very soon. Clearly, I lied. But better late than never, right? We can call this the first installment in my “actually write all the blog posts I’ve promised to various people” resolution.

Today’s thesis: Tunisian Crochet is awesome! Really.

Now some of you may have pretty fixed ideas about the uses of Tunisian (or Afghan) crochet. True, Tunisian crochet is frequently associated with stiff, itchy, acrylic afghans your Grandma made in the 60’s and 70’s.

(Note: this lovely afghan was actually crocheted in solid white. All the colorwork is embroidered!) I will never make this afghan because I don’t hate myself am not very skilled at embroidery. That said, some of my favorite afghans are actually Tunisian crochet.

But it can really be so much more! Tunisian crochet is a fast, simple way to play with mixing colors and textures. It creates a fabric with structure, perfect for outer wear with a tailored look. With the right gauge, though, it can still have a graceful drape.

For example, I have recently designed the Aspenglow Jacket for Interweave Crochet (“Toot, toot” goes my own horn).

I only mention it because today I am going to go over the basics of the Tunisian crochet stitch as well as the color changing and cabling techniques that are used in this cardigan. There will be a little review for those who subscribe to our newsletter.

Let’s start with the basics. You will need a crochet hook and some yarn. Today’s featured yarn is Imperial Stock Ranch Lopi. You can use an afghan hook if you want, but if you are just following along at home to get a feel for it, you can use a regular hook with a smooth, consistent body shape. Once you have decided that you absolutely love Tunisian Crochet, you can invest in some special hooks:

I particularly like these hooks with long cables; I find them easier to manipulate and, were I to make an afghan, I could more easily fit all the stitches.

I imagine that most of you (even you knitters!) have made a crocheted chain at least once. If not, there are numerous resources out there. Your chain has a distinct front and back to it. On the front, you see a row of interlocking V’s with top leg and a bottom leg. On the back, you see rows of bumps. Now, this is largely a matter of personal preference, but when I insert my hook into the chain, I usually go into the back bump. It is pretty easy to see and I end up with a nice, neat row of V’s along the bottom of my work.

If you are following along, insert the hook into the bump of the first chain stitch, yarn over and pull the hook back through. See below.

Leaving the new loop on the hook, repeat for each chain bump across. You should end up with a hook full of loops. This is the first half of your foundation row (vocab word).

To begin the second half of the foundation row, chain one (YO, pull through one loop), then yarn over and pull through the next two loops on the hook (step 2 above). Repeat Step 2 only until there is only one loop on the hook. Your foundation row is now complete. Good job!

From now on, each row will consist of two parts, an over and a back. This first part of each row (the over) is called the Forward Pass (FwdP).

You may notice that one of the most visually prominent parts of each stitch is a vertical strand of yarn. Begin the FwdP by inserting the hook behind the vertical strand (shown above). Yarn over and pull back through. This is your first Tunisian Simple Stitch (Tss). Repeat this process for every vertical strand across.

The second part of the row is the Return Pass (RetP). This is exactly the same as the second part of the foundation row; Chain one then yarn over, pull through two the rest of the way across.

If you keep at it long enough, you will have something like this:

Three rows of Tunisian Simple Stitch

So there we have the basics. You can now make a giant Tunisian Crochet afghan.

And if you would like to stripe your afghan?

On the row before you start you new color, work your RetP until you have two loops left on the hook.

Execute your last “Yarn Over, pull through two” using the new color.

I imagine that you can take it from here, but just for good measure, complete the FwdP with the new color.

If you would like single row stripes, RetP until there are two loops left on the hook, change back to your first color as before.

This approach gives you nice, neat stripes. Myself, I prefer to mix it up a little.

One of my favorite things about Tunisian Crochet is the woven-looking texture you get from the opposing vertical and horizontal lines. By adjusting where we do our color changes, we can get rows where the horizontal and vertical lines are in opposite colors. To begin, work the FwdP with one color (Color A). When you get to the end, make your chain one with your other color (Color B).

Work your RetP and the FwdP of the next row with Color B.

After a few rows, you’ll start to get the feel of how the colors blend and merge.

I think it’s pretty nifty. The Aspenglow Jacket (above) uses a variegated color of Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Worsted against semi-solid for a sort of random, speckled effect.

At this point, to be honest, you have almost all the skills you need to make this jacket. The missing piece is creating the surface texture. For this, we combine our fancy new Tunisian Crochet technique with some tried and true crochet stitches. Specifically, we will be using a Double Crochet (dc), which you may have met before, or rather a Front Post Double Crochet (fpdc), which is really very similar.

Begin with an initial Yarn Over, as you would for a dc (note: I am using primarily American terminology; Canadian and European crocheters may call it something different).

Once you have complete steps 1 through 3, you will have the beginning a faux cable. At this point, however, it won’t really look like much. Complete the row as instructed and perform the RetP (changing colors, if you want). On the next row, work until you come to the dc from the row below.

Yarn over as before, but instead of inserting your hook into the vertical strand, insert it behind the body of the dc. Yarn over and draw up a loop.

Complete the stitch as before. This is a front post double crochet.

What we have done here is stack two double crochets right on top of each other. If you were to repeat this every third stitch or so, you would get an interesting ribbed effect. This is not what we want here, though. We want something that looks like cables. To get this, we have to create movement in our textured stitches. If you have been following along, go ahead and finish off the FwdP and RetP. On the next row, work the FwdP up to the Fpdc from the row below.  Next, Tss (that’s just the regular old stitch you’ve been doing) in the vertical strand above the fpdc from the previous row. Skip the next stitch (vertical strand) and then Fpdc around fpdc from the previous row (which is now behind you). This requires a bit of a backward reach. The effect is that the new fpdc is at a slant.

Continuing in this manner will yield a line of fpdc’s that cross your Tunisian crochet fabric on a diagonal (or in whatever direction you choose to send them).

To slant your stitches the other way, work Tss up to one stitch before the Fpdc from the previous row, skip the next Tss and Fpdc around the Fpdc from the previous row, then Tss in the top of the Fpdc from the previous row. Sorry, no picture here.

Well, is that enough for now? Have I given you something to think about? Come February (because I have a few projects in the works at the moment), I will be doing a knitalong for the Aspenglow Jacket. I will spend the month in between now and then trying to decide if I want to use Lorna’s Shepherd worsted (like I did before) or Cascade 220 Paints. It’s going to be a tough call. It may in fact take the whole month to decide. Hopefully you will hear something from me in the interim. Until then, Happy New Year! May your resolution lists be short and easily fulfilled!