Saturday, August 26, 2017

Design Series: Raven Rocks Scarf, Part 6 - The Beginning of the End

Let's be cliche; all good things must come to an end. And the beginning of this end is a scale. Why is it that a scale always lets me down?

I think I'll skip the preambles and the rambles and the ambles and just dive into what next steps are in Raven Rocks. I've got a bunch of ideas brewing in my brain for some of the other hundred (hundreds?) skeins of yarn in my studio and I want to get back to me needles.

Since I'm designing this on the fly and on the needles, I thought I need to be a little more scientific about how to know when I should start decreasing. I assumed (uh oh) I know how to do math but nope, and, spoiler alert, I ran out of yarn. But the good thing about me running out of yarn is hopefully now I know how to write the pattern so that you don't run out of yarn.

Where did we leave off? We were knitting the long "plain" no-increase section of the scarf. Probably by now, you've settled into the comfortable rhythm of lace knitting and texture stitches. And I'm coming along to shake it all up. Not really, though, we're just adding in a decrease and every row will be quicker and quicker. But just like before, we need to work some short rows.

The interesting thing that happened when designing the scarf was I discovered that I could put the short rows in basically the same spot of the pattern and so I don't have to re-do the short row chart. I can just say "go back and re-read the short row section and do that" and ta-da! Done.

After you finish the short rows, there are a series of four decrease charts, but only one is worked multiple times. The others are one-off charts just to get from Point A to Point B. All of the symbols are the same as you've been using all along, so that's super handy/fortuitous.

Here they are in the order you should work them:

The first chart begins the decreases and transitions you to the beginning of what you recognize as the row repeat.

The next chart will be repeated a bunch of times, basically until your last time you don't repeat the stitch repeat section marked in red more than once. This will transition you to the final lace chart.

And now just a few more rows of lace:

And finally, the decrease rows for the border so that we get back down to the bind off. Don't be thrown off by the gray wedge of no-stitch stitches now looking like it goes the other way. We explored briefly why the gray wedge flips back and forth to keep the edges "straight" in a previous post.

Congratulations! You've finished knitting. You're SO close to being done. Now you can cast on another one in another color and whiz through. Think of all the people that will love to have a scarf like this!

What's next? Finishing. Yeah, we finished knitting. But now we need to wash and block and dry and weave in ends. This is one of those things that is a little more than magical and I don't hate it. It's not like seaming a sweater, which if I'm honest, even I don't love.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Design Series: Raven Rocks Scarf, Part 5 - Just Keep Knitting

You know how when you go on a long journey, it's really fun at the start but then you hit a long slog in the middle where you can't stop yawning and even new scenery looks boring because oh-my-gosh-why-isn't-it-over-yet and after a long time, you start to realize that you're close to the end and it's all easy again? Well we're at that point in knitting Raven Rocks scarf.

Last year, I drove almost all the way across the USA from my house to Las Vegas (a little more than 2,100 miles!) and while it was all fun, like knitting a scarf, it did get a little boring about Oklahoma. From now on, I'm calling the middle section of any scarf "Oklahoma." You have to push through and then you get to Arizona, which is amazing. 

Don't tell anyone I'm making up metaphors on the fly. My metaphors are terrible. Let's skip the metaphors.

Last time we met, we worked some short rows to go from increasing to just knitting the scarf straight. Hopefully, you were successful with the short rows.

Because I'm designing on the fly, on the needles, and without much planning, I need to know how much I can knit so that I don't have play (fingers crossed) crazy yarn chicken at the end of the scarf when I switch back to decreasing. I tossed the ball of yarn on my very cheap scale and weighed how much yarn it took to get to where I am - 2.11 ounces. Now I know about how much I need to have when I switch back to short rows and decreasing.

If you'll remember back to the last increase rows we worked, we stopped at a weird spot in the pattern--after Row 14, not a full repeat. Then there were two more rows worked across the scarf in the short row section. That means when we start the main chart, we're not going to start on Row 1. Let's instead start on Row 17.

I marked the spot to START the main chart with a light blue border. I totally get it, this feels awkward and wrong and, when I send the pattern off to my tech editor, I'll ask for opinions if this is "wrong", but here's my reasons: After working so many repeats of the increase sections, I'm used to the pattern rows as they were charted. If I change Row 1, then I'm confused again and my brain feels like it needs to relearn the chart. And now the chart looks familiar, just without increases.

So start this chart on Row 17, then continue repeating the entire chart until your scarf is as long as you want the middle section, or until, when you weigh your yarn, you have the a little more than what you used in in the increase sections. But - and don't forget - you'll need to finish the main chart at Row 14 again. And this is marked by a light green border.

I'll let you in on a happy little accident that I stumbled on while working out the decrease chart: you've already done the next step once. It's short rows! But that's for next time.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Design Series: Raven Rocks Scarf, Part 4 - Really Short Rows

A blue lifeline and short rows
I've been working with a tech editor for a new pattern that will be published in a magazine (a big magazine! I'm so excited!) and wow, there were a LOT of red marks. Ouch. That's difficult for someone like me who always tries to hard to be perfect. Each red mark is a reminder that I'm still so new to designing, but also that I'm human and make mistakes. That's a good thing to be reminded of.

And then I was reviewing what I've posted for Raven Rocks scarf pattern so far and, wow, I think I need a tech editor for even my blog posts. I also need a better way to organize the pattern as I work on it than sequential posts. I'm going to get confused and I'm only on part four. If I'm confused, you're probably confused, too.

So to fix a little omission from the last post, please work the 2nd lace increase chart twice, then rows 1 - 14 once more.

And now we can get started on the transition to just knitting the pattern without increasing. If we just stop increasing, the border won't block out nicely and evenly. I need to "bend" the border so that it will now go vertical instead of on an angle. We can achieve this through short rows. 

Short rows have been very popular in a lot of different patterns in the past few years, mostly for wedges of colors or patterns -- I'm thinking of Exploration Station or Color Affection shawls. I used short rows in Glady Creek Shawl and there are more short rows in my Venable Shawl that's currently in testing.

I have a long history with short rows and for a lot of years of knitting, I avoided them. There were wraps and turns and picking up wraps and more wraps and double wraps and picking up from the right side and picking up from the wrong side and I never really got the hang of it. I mostly used short rows in socks and just didn't like them. But one day, a knitter friend was working on a sweater, I think, and she was explaining German short rows. I checked it out and -- bam! -- hooked. I found them to be so easy that I don't even have to think about it anymore.

I'm not even going to try to explain how to work German short rows or write a tutorial. I learned from a great post at La Maison Rililie Designs' blog and it's the link I include in any pattern I write that has short rows. It's the kind of technique that involves a very short learning curve and then you'll never have to refer to the instructions again. It's just that intuitive.

For Raven Rocks scarf, we're going to use short rows only in the border section. Because we don't have to "bend" the border at a 90-degree angle, the short rows are extended by more than one stitch each time. We're also going to continue to work in pattern, so even though you're probably used to the border stitch pattern by now, you might need to refer to the chart more closely.

So again we have a border to show where the marker is and another border for the main repeat. Row 1 and Row 24 of the short row pattern go all the way across the scarf, including the lace section. These two rows are the next two rows in the lace pattern -- remember, we stopped the lace pattern mid-repeat.

You'll also notice a lot of "grey no stitch" stitches. That's because we're working short rows; Row 2 has only 3 stitches including the beginning yarn over. These rows go so fast!

You can also see that the short row stitch, the one where you do this "weird" pull-the-stitch-up-and-over movement, is marked by the sideways U. Don't forget to treat both "legs" of this weird stitch as one when you get to it on the next row. I've been known to use another symbol in the pattern to so the knitter can see where it's happening, like the chart below:

Both of these charts will work, the second one just adds a stitch that tells the knitter "hey, here's where the stitch I'm working into looks a little different and I need to be aware of that." I'm not sure which one knitters prefer. I should probably find out. Maybe I should ask knitters and then I'd know for future reference.

Okay, so I don't forget, you'll only work this chart once. That makes the short rows! Super easy and quick to do. If you've added extra repeats to your border stitches, this chart may not work perfectly and you might run into some problems. (This is where pattern design starts getting more complicated.) I do have a sneaking suspicion that, since the short rows are 24 rows long, and the border pattern repeat is 8 rows long, and 24 is evenly divisible by 8, you could continue the short rows until you reach the marker for no matter how wide your border pattern is, as long as you knit the full 8-row border increase repeat. Add a lifeline before you knit the short rows so you can rip back easily if needed.

Knitting is so cool.

Next time, we'll get back on track and switch to "boring" knitting.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Design Series: Raven Rocks Scarf, Part 3 - Even More Increases

Raven Rocks Scarf, in progress
Sort of blocking on my ironing board just for the picture
I think everyone gives in to some vanity searching every once in a while, or maybe more than once in a while, but why not? We live so much of our lives, for better or worse, digitally and online. It doesn't hurt to see what's out there attached to our names. So if you're ever working with any of my patterns, please don't hesitate to tag me (@RodeoKnits everywhere) or use #rodeoknits and eventually I'll find you!

Now let's move on to something more fun than googling myself. More increases.

We're still working Raven Rocks Scarf. Maybe you're already finished the border increases--it was only 44 rows--and now you're ready to start adding lace to your pattern. This is definitely where it gets more interesting for a designer.

Making increases in a knit/purl stitch pattern is one thing, adding them for lace patterns is another. But, I mean, not really that much different. You just have one or two more things to think about.

When you increase in a knit/purl stitch pattern, all you need to do is work the row following the increase like it should be worked as if there were no increases and you've always had that many stitches. It's fairly simple with a little backwards engineering. When you increase in a lace pattern, remember these two things:

  • For every yarn over/increase, there is a decrease.
  • For every decrease, there is a yarn over/increase.
There are times this isn't true, such as if you're working a lace pattern where the number of stitches varies from row to row. But I'm working with a stitch pattern that maintains an even multiple of 6 + 7 in every row, so I followed these steps:
  1. Chart multiple stitch and row repeats to make a large "swatch"
  2. Enter "no stitch" stitches to create the increase edges.
  3. Add in increase stitches, whether yarn over or make one or whatever.
  4. Adjust lace pattern to have matched increases/decreases.
  5. Swatch.
  6. Smile when it all works.
Since we're already into the pattern, first the charts and then I'll talk about them:

So this first chart sets up the lace pattern so that we can get into a repeat. It's the very beginning of the lace and there isn't too much going on. This chart will be worked once, but there are multiple things going on.

Look at the border section first; it's separated from the rest of the chart by a blue border, which shows where a marker would be placed. This helps when your knitting gets wider and you're used to knitting the border so you know when you switch patterns. The border section also has a purple box, which shows the border stitch repeat. No matter how wide/narrow your border section is, as long as the border increase chart was worked in full repeats, this chart will work.

And now we have even more fun things happening.

This second chart continues the lace increases. You can knit this chart as many times as you'd like, with the following instructions: Work Rows 1 -24 a number of times, then work Rows 1 through 14. This is marked by the green line, which shows where to stop knitting from this chart so that you can continue on to the next step in the pattern for Raven Rocks Scarf.

Want a hint for what's next? Short rows! Who's excited?!

Monday, August 7, 2017

New Pattern Alert: Ticking Stripes Blanket

Copyright © 2017 Sixth&Spring Books
I interrupt our Raven Rocks Scarf design series with a quick announcement. So exciting!

I have a pattern included in a new addition to the 60 Quick Knit series. This collection of patterns is 60 More Quick Baby Blankets (preorder on Amazon) and will be released at the beginning of October 2017. I've seen pictures of some of the other patterns and I don't think you'll be disappointed in the variety of patterns included.

My pattern is called Ticking Stripes and calls for 3 hanks each of two colors of Cascade Yarns 128 Superwash. It's so squishy! I loved working with the yarn and have already knit the pattern again as a gift for my cousin and his wife. (I hope Baby Jack likes the blanket!)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Design Series: Raven Rocks Scarf, Part 2a - Why Does That Chart Go the Wrong Way

It's Sunday so that means office hours at Starbucks (#notsponsored) and I try to write more blog posts. I like having this structure of writing on Sunday afternoons even if I feel like a pretentious prat with a laptop at a coffee shop like I'm writing the next Great American Novel.

Also, by the way, it's a venti vanilla sweet cream cold brew and cheese danish kind of day.

In the last post I released the first chart for the beginning of Raven Rocks Scarf. You may have noticed that I'm not posting any written instructions, just charts. I greatly prefer charts to written instructions because the chart helps me visualize what the finished stitch pattern and project should look like.


Look at these two pictures side by side:

The sketch (left) shows the scarf growing to the left. The chart (right) shows the scarf growing to the right. It looks like I'm wrong; the chart doesn't match the finished project. And sure, a little bit. But what the chart shows is the left edge is "straight", just like the left edge of the sketch. The chart shows the increases are at the right border, just like the right edge of the sketch.

But another way to look at this is the chart keeps the stitch pattern as it will look when it's knitted, with the stitches lined up and showing the correct pattern. If I rearranged the chart so it grows to the left, it would look like the chart to the left.

No, it's not the worse but, as you can see from the red box, the stitches are no longer aligned and, in my experience, this will make it so much harder to knit by sight. You will be forced to follow the chart exactly and won't learn the stitch pattern as quickly.

It'll also be harder to recognize mistakes and fix errors. You can't tell by looking at this chart if a purl stitch should fall above the knit stitch or not and that can make your knitting much less fun.

So I suggest you use the chart in the last post for knitting Raven Rocks Scarf.

And another caveat: this is the chart I used for my sample of Raven Rocks Scarf. If you want to knit the border wider or narrower, I've charted a condensed version of the chart, which I may substitute for the full chart in the finished pattern. The instructions would read something like "Work Beginning Border Chart Rows 1 - 20 once, then Rows 13 - 20 three more times."

If you want the border wider/narrower, work more/fewer repeats of Rows 13 - 20, but always all rows of the repeat so that it flows neatly into the next chart.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Design Series: Raven Rocks Scarf, Part 2 - Let's Get Started

If you're knitting along with me while I draft, design and edit the Raven Rocks Scarf, you've already picked out your yarn and maybe swatched the stitch patterns to settle on a needle size you like.

Wait. Did I even talk about swatching? Probably not because I didn't swatch for this project. I picked out two stitch patterns I'd already used and knew I like. I picked out a needle size knowing that it would be large enough to work with lace but not so large that the garter textured pattern would get lost.

But I'll let you take some time to swatch. In the last post, there are two charts for stitch patterns. Grab your needles and your yarn and let's do it.

For the Bricks pattern, cast on a multiple of 4 stitches -- 4, 8, 12, 16, etc. You get the idea. You want enough stitches that you can really see the pattern, so I'd recommend at least 32 stitches. Then work the pattern according to the chart. I suggest you work the chart at least 4 times to get a really good idea of the fabric.

For the Arched Lace pattern, cast on a multiple of 6 + 7. This is a bit more complicated multiple because the pattern makes allowances for extra decreases on the edges. So how do you cast on a multiple of 6 + 7? First, cast on a multiple of the first number listed: 6 -- 6, 12, 18, etc. And then cast on 7 more stitches. So 6 + 7, 12 + 7, 18 + 7, etc. I suggest at least 31 stitches (24 + 7), but with lace you may want more. I also suggest you work the chart at least 3 times. It's a longer repeat so you'll see the fabric you get with few repeats of the chart.

Ready to move on? Great!

A couple more decisions:

  • What are my edges going to look like?
  • Where do the increases go to make a triangle?

What are my edges going to look like?

I picked out two different edges for Raven Rocks Scarf. On the long straight edge, I decided to go with an i-cord. I'll work the i-cord at the same time as the scarf. This type of edge has its own challenges and benefits.

To work the i-cord at the same time as the scarf, three edge stitches will be slipped on every wrong side row and knitted on every right side row. This means that the three-stitch edge will be shorter than the rest of the scarf by half. It's only being knitted every other row. But knitted fabric is stretchy and flexible and I find that I like the firm, but finished, edge created by the i-cord. I also find that the i-cord edge helps the scarf almost curve toward the i-cord and so around my neck.

On the opposite edge, I'm going to work a decorative yarn-over/decrease edge. I'm not sure there's a fancy word for it. But for this type of edge, every right side row is just worked in pattern. The wrong side row begins with yarn over and then k2tog (knit two together). The k2tog balances the yarn over and doesn't cause increases while the yarn over makes a loopy decorative edge. It's especially beautiful on a lace pattern that will be blocked out severely.

Where do the increases go to make a triangle?

This turned out to be way more complicated than it should be. Increasing and decreasing in knitted fabric can be a fickle and cruel thing and it's very interesting how just moving your increases really makes your knitting "move" in one way or another.

Now, too long into the design process, I sketch out the pattern on paper so I know where the stitch patterns go.

I know I want the i-cord edge to be "straight", so my first draft of the pattern put the increases in the yarn over/decrease edge. I loved this because I could, in the increases, just yarn over without decreasing, and then add the decreases when I was ready for the pattern to go "straight." This looked fantastic and worked beautifully until.... always until... until I added the lace pattern. Then it doesn't work anymore because I have to also increase the lace section. and that moves the increases and changes the shape and everything falls to pieces.

Rip it out. Re-sketch. Move the increases. Re-swatch. Success!

I still want the i-cord edge to be "straight," which means the increases in the lace section need to be at the boundary of the arched lace and bricks stitch patterns. If I put the increases for the bricks section at the same spot, when I switch from increasing the bricks pattern to increasing the lace pattern, everything will work!

So here you go: the chart for the beginning of Raven Rocks Scarf.