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Irreverant Discourse and Q&A with Bonne Marie Burns of

What I like best about this time of year is the idea of promise. The promise of spring. The promise of sun. The promise that SOON you'll be wiggling your piggies bare naked in the breeze. The promise that you'll be throwing all caution to the wind and maybe having to reach for a nice little sweater to wrap yourself away from the promise of chill, because it still lingers just around the corner.

The light gets brighter and our clothes follow the sun. Dark colors give way and we crave COLOR. Now is the perfect time to make the transition from cool to warm and get your needles flying!

If you've never knit with cotton or the wonderful new blends all over the yarn landscape, take a chance and try something new!

If you're still stuck in a lingering winter, chances are your projects are languishing as well and your cabin fever is at an all time high! Not even the promise of anything is moving you to finish OR start anything at all.

SlumpBuster #1: Tired of the seed stitch cardigan you thought would be a breeze? Put it down! Take a little break and make a fun, little project. A small purse or eyelash yarn scarf can put you back on track and revive those creative juices.

SlumpBuster #2: Learn something new! I recently learned how to knit socks after resisting for almost two years. Not only was it intriguing, it had that small-project magic from SB#1 and was totally fun! Here's something you can pick up, knit a few rows, and recharge for those other more demanding projects. Since socks take relatively little amounts of yarn, you can dare to be more colorful and bold.

SlumpBuster #3: Yarn has no expiration date! If your project is really getting you down and you don't have a deadline for it, put it away for a while. Maybe even marinate it until next year if it's getting too hot to knit. Putting some distance between you and your creation might revive your interest at a later date. My all-time personal best is 12 years to finish a project. I even hid it up at my mother's house, forgot about it, and then finished it when I suddenly found it years later. Yes, it was intarsia...

From Marc K: Am I the only man knitting out here or are there others? Some discussions make me feel like a total freak. My wife tells me not to worry and knit her more lace.

La Bonne: Heck no, you're not the only man who knits.

I'm sure you know the first commercial knitters were guild knitters in Mesopotamia and Egypt who made garments for royalty and the wealthy. It is thought that traders and sailors spread the craft around the world. Men knit; women spun. I have a couple of good books about this. It wasn't until knitting became more mechanized that men went on to make their living doing other crafts.

There seems to be a renewed interest in knitting by both sexes. We have guys in our knitting group [although one crochets] who are wonderfully talented. Get out of here with the freak thing - I'm an Urban Geek Knitter and I say fly your flag high!!!

In my opinion, you have an intelligent and peaceful mind to follow your path. Any other guys out there want to chat it up?

From Christine L: I just recently started knitting and I have been able to pick up most
things either in books or resources from the internet [i.e. casting on/off, increasing and decreasing stitches, etc.] but I am stumped as to how to "pick up # of stitches and knit" since I am knitting a sweater that requires that step to knit the collar onto neckline.  So far my search for decent illustrations on how to pick up and knit has resulted in pictures that don't explain very much.

La Bonne: The very best way to learn how to do this [and many other thrilling techniques] is to find another knitter who would be willing to show you *hands on* how to do this.

If this is not an option, here's how I like to do it. Usually, you use a needle two sizes smaller than the needles you used for the body of your sweater [or whatever your instructions call for].

I take a crochet hook, attach the ball of yarn to the wrong side of the sweater at a shoulder seam for a pullover or the right front for a cardigan, then turn the piece so the right side is facing me. I use the hook to pull the first loop through very close to the beginning of the shoulder seam or front edge.

I transfer this loop to the knitting needle and pull it snug. Then I put the hook under an edge stitch or through a stitch depending on where I am on the edge shaping, pull a loop through with the hook and put it on the knitting needle. For worsted weight wool that has a gauge of 6 rows per inch, I pick up 5 stitches for every 6 rows or stitches. That means you pick up 5sts, and then skip a loop/stitch.

For more bulky yarn, I pick up in a ratio of 4 stitches for every 5 rows. Thinner yarn, I pick up 6 stitches for every 7.

You want the collar to ease into the knitted piece without bunching or gathering and be a smooth transition. You also want to have the proper number of stitches to work the pattern the instructions call for. For example, if you are making 2x2 rib [K2, P2] you will want to have a total number of stitches that is divisible by 4 [2+2=4]. This is called a pattern repeat and varies according to the direction. This information is usually supplied and will be written as "over blah-blah number of stitches". If it isn't, count the number of stitches in the pattern design you are working and make sure you have the correct number of stitches to work complete pattern repeats.

This sounds more complicated than it is. If you have access to a library, have them help you find Vogue Knitting: the Ultimate Knitting Book. It has a great section with color pictures on this topic that is very helpful. It is well worth it to save your money and get a used copy if you can. I use mine almost every day!

From Carol S: I made my husband a vest with some great Berroco Wensleydale Longwool. It looks fine but the fit is, well, not so good. It is decidedly wider than he is. If I resew the side seams to make it narrower, won't I end up with a lumpy bit of extra fabric stuck in there? Can I [dare I say it] steek it and then trim off the extra? Or will the whole thing unravel if I try this?

La Bonne: If you have access to a sewing machine, you can stitch a seam, stitch another seam within one-eighth of an inch of the first seam, and trim the excess then zigzag the cut edge with a tight stitch setting. Be sure to measure twice, pin, then baste the seam-line and sew the seam very slowly with matching thread. Take extra care at the armhole edges and bottom edges so everything matches up evenly.

Most commercial sweaters are cut and sewn with sergers which *bind* the cut edge. Wool fibers tend to grab onto each other so you have very little unravelling. I've even done this on a cotton sweater which I've since washed and dried in the dryer countless times.

Good luck, Carol! Let us know how this turns out!

Next Issue: Short Row Shaping for Shapely Forms!

© 2003 Bonne Marie Burns