Saturday, January 19, 2013

Tips and Patterns of Twenty Twelve #1 - Cast-ons

Last year was a big year for me. Lots of big life decisions and lots of crafting! I designed my own patterns for a few different items and had great plans if posting them here but never had the time. This year I will endeavor to write up and post my patterns.

In lieu of posting those patterns right now, but still wanting to get into the habit of posting more regularly, I thought I would share some of the things I learned and patterns I loved in 2012.

I think I would have to thank hat making as the trigger for developing a lot of my knitting skills. It was my unsuccessful search to find a crochet pattern for a hat that I liked that lead me to learn how to knit. Later, it was my quest to find the perfect hat to knit that lead to my discovery of Ravelry. It was also through hat making that I learnt that different techniques and different fibres don't all suit the same projects. Which brings us to to my first tip.

#1 - Not all cast-ons suit all projects
This might sound like a no-brainer to some of you, but I'm a self taught knitter. For years I knew one cast-on method (the knitted cast on) so I used that one cast-on. For everything. Gloves, hats, scarves, swatches; straight knitting or knitting in the round. I didn't really know it made that much of a difference. And the other cast-ons I'd tried seemed difficult or didn't look right to me.

Some of my favourite things to make are hats - they're quick, they're versatile and there are so many different patterns! I also have a bigger than average head. I was constantly having trouble getting the hats I made to fit. In the early days I didn't know that different cast-ons (and different fibres... but more on that in another post) could be more elastic. I would end up fiddling around with the number of cast-on stitches to get something big enough to fit my head, then fiddling around again after a couple of rows to adjust back to the original for the main pattern. But then my hats were ending up all loose around the brim. The rib stitch brim just didn't have that elasticity I saw in everyone else's hats. It took me about half a dozen hats to realise that if I used a stretchier cast on then my hats would fit much better without all of the fiddling around.

I learnt this through trial and error and also through trying to learn new things about knitting. YouTube is a great place to learn how to do new things, because you get to see people in action! Other knitting websites are also good to help you get an idea of what you're looking for before you get to YouTube. I learnt the most about the different types of cast-ons (and cast-off, increases and decreases) from

In the photo below are two hats I made from the same pattern. The pink & grey hat was made first, using the "fudged numbers" and knitted cast-on. The red had was made with a backwards loop cast-on. You can see how the rib stitching on the red hat is more springy, the knit stitches sit out more and the purl stitches recede more. You can also see how the brim pulls in, making it narrower than the body of the hat (even though the brim was knitted with the same number of stitches on the same sized needles). In the pink and grey had, the knit & purl stitches sit more level and the brim doesn't pull in at all, leaving it level with the body. The red hat was made with 100% wool and the other with a wool/soy fibre blend. 

The hats you see above are from the pattern Fern Glade by Megan Marshall. This is the second hat pattern I knitted for myself. And I liked it so much I made another! I absolutely love the lace work and the winding 'vines'. There are only a few rows in the lace pattern so it's easy to remember after a few repeats. One little bit of advice though - place markers between each repeat! The first time I made this hat, as a beginner, I had a bit of trouble keeping track of where I was up to and often I would get to the end of the round and not have enough or have too many stitches to complete the last repeat! It's a lot easier to track down where you went wrong if you've got markers because you'll know at the end of the repeat you messed up, rather than at the end of the round. I'll do another post soon with tips on how to fix some of these mistakes without ripping back your work.

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