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Crazy for Ewe

Eucalan for Earth Day

Spring is my favorite time of year. I've spent this beautiful day in the shop with the doors flung wide. It's amazing how many folks wander in when the doors are open. This weather means that it's finally time to stow winter woolens. But before you do, please don't forget to wash your sweaters, scarves, and hats carefully before you put them away so there are no tiny holes or dark spots when you pull them out in the fall.

I've written about cleaning and storing sweaters many time before -- it's a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Your hand knit garments are precious, and they deserve to be cleaned and stored with love and care. It's easy to do, when you have the right tools. The right tools are simple - your handy washing machine or sink and lovely Eucalan.

We're celebrating Earth Day tomorrow on The Square, so it's a perfect time to get on my soap box (pardon the pun) about Eucalan. There are so many reasons to love this product! First, it works, and it's super easy to use. Eucalan is a gentle, pH balanced, biodegradable wash never ever tested on animals.  Specially formulated for natural fibers, it also works beautifully on any delicate or handwash items.  The lanolin content helps soften and condition the precious natural fibers in your garments and keeps hand-knits silky and static free. It also provides an invisible natural coating that makes garments better able to repel dirt when you wear them. Less dirt means less washing, which means less water used, which is good for the environment.

Another benefit of Eucalan, for both you and our planet is that Eucalan does not need to be rinsed out, thus saving a load of water. For knitters, skipping the rinse means that we handle our delicate knitted garments less. As we know from our blocking lessons, fibers are at their most vulnerable when they're wet, so we want to handle sopping sweaters as little as possible. Commercial detergents like Woolite foam up briskly (to show you how hard they're working) but you've got to rinse out all those sticky suds. It can take several rinses. With Eucalan, it's a one and done. In your machine, just soak and spin. In the sink just soak and squeeze. Don't you wish everything was this easy to keep clean!

Come by the shop during our Earth Day celebration and pick up a fresh bottle of Eucalan because you and your garments deserve it.

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Spring Cleaning

Soak and Spin


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New video link

I asked my darling daughter, Elizabeth, to help me consolidate all of my Google+ stuff into a single page.  I thought it would be no sweat since she is a software engineer at Google.  Apparently I was wrong, and she had some very choice words to share with me on the Google+ user interface. It was refreshing to hear that my troubles were not due to advanced age and/or lack of tech savviness.   I was most relieved.  Anyway, the downside is that I had to re-upload all the videos I did last week to my new YouTube (EweTube) channel, so if you subscribed to the old channel, you'll want to re-subscribe to the new one here.  

Thanks for reading the blog, watching the videos, and being generally Crazy for Ewe!  I'm Crazy for Ewe too!  

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This is Dave, the wonderfully talented knitter and sound engineer who's been helping me put together some videos for you. The first was our promo for the Stash Class.  Last week he filmed a few technique videos on things like how to cast on or how to make a particular type of increase.  Because Dave is a knitter, he was able to identify and zoom in on the various shots and angles that he thought would best help other knitters.  You can see what we have so far here

Dave also implemented the cool intro with the fun little sheep. He's the greatest.  Yes, he actually knits, bakes awesome peanut butter cookies, and is a terrific dad to his two boys.  And yes, he's totally straight and happily married.  ;)

I'm really proud of the videos we've done, but even the best videos cannot look at your needles and see what you are doing or where you are struggling.  So, while I hope these videos will help while you're home, please know that if you're still not clear on a technique, come by the shop and ask.  You are always welcome here.   

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Measuring lace progress

Question:  Ellen, I am working the Que Sera cardigan, and it is turning out so beautiful! My question is about measuring progress. I know that Lace blocks out much larger. Should I stretch it when measuring? I don't want a sweater that goes to my knees! R, Lori

Hi Lori, That's a great question! Yes, you should absolutely block your lace sweater out when you are measuring progress. When you're knitting lace, it comes off the needles a crumpled little wad of fabric. It's not until it's had a nice little soak will it relax and allow you to open it up to its proper size and structure. With a lace garment, it's not very easy to block your sweater as you go, so what you might want to do is block your gauge swatch. If you didn't do a swatch in pattern, go ahead and work a swatch four horizontal and four vertical repeats. Then block the swatch open and measure it. The measurement of the blocked swatch tells you how long each vertical repeat will be after blocking, so that you can work the number of repeats you need without having to wrangle the whole sweater wringing wet and on the needles onto a blocking board every time you want to measure it.  Here's the swatch from my Que Sera before blocking,
and after

One of the nice things about lace fabric for a garment is that there is a certain amount of play in it. You can block it a little or a lot, depending on how big or how small you need the garment to be. There are limits, of course, to what blocking can do. It's not possible to make something smaller by blocking, and you can only stretch the yarn so much. As always, I recommend that you save yourself time and heartache at the end by doing a decent sized swatch, blocking it, and even washing it as you plan to wash your finished garment. Then you can be sure of having a garment that fits you just the way you like it for years to come.
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The plan - revised

Last night I promised myself that I would make a plan for handling those simultaneous decreases on the lace front of my Kelmscott. It's not hard to do, actually. Trying to keep it all in my head without writing it down is what's hard and overwhelming.




Logically, I know it's the right thing to do, but my intuitive nature sometimes gets in my way. I rankle at detailed instructions tending to prefer the, "let's just get started and see how it goes" approach. Unfortunately, many things just don't lend themselves to that approach-like lace sweaters. So I have to shove myself out of my comfort zone and get specific and precise. It's a stretch, but having done the work of writing out row by row instructions, I am actually more relaxed, calm, and happy.

Strange how that works, isn't it.

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Merrily we Swirl Along

The SwirlAlong in Leonardtown was quite lively.  Connie and Jeannie both cast on and were able to join in the round.  Sigrid swatched, and Shelly got ready to swatch.  Althea brought in two swatches she had worked so that she could decide which needle size was right for her project.  She had worked one on size 6 needles, and the other on size 4

Here are the two swatches right off the needles.  The swatch on the left was done on size 6 needles; the one on the right, size 4.

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Unblocked swatches

You may be at this exact spot with your Swirl.  It would be tempting to simply measure the gauge here, but it would only give you a piece of the picture.  So much of a Swirl depends on the blocking, and your taste in fabric.  Sandra McIver gives details on this point in her blog here.  Following Sandra's lead, I got out the blocking board and we pinned the two swatches into 8x8 squares.  First the swatch from size 6 needles.

As we pinned this swatch, it needed no stretching to get to 8 inches across.  In fact, I felt as if I needed to smoosh it into its 8" boundary a bit, even with stretching the length to 8 inches.  All pinned out, it looks nice, but really just a tad droopy.

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Swatch done on size 6 needles

The size 4 needle swatch needed a little coaxing to reach 8" in width, but it wasn't a fight.  Same with getting it to 8" in length.  Pinned out, it showed the structure of the alternating merino and Kidsilk Haze welts.

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Swatch done on size 4 needles

Blocked side by side

Blocked side by side

Althea and I discussed the possibility of doing another swatch on size 5 needles but she decided that she was going with the size 4 needles.  I think that's a good decision, and here's why:

  • Althea really liked the look of the fabric at that gauge
  • Her fabric already has plenty of drape and will benefit from a slightly tighter gauge overall
  • The fabric lends itself to hard blocking if necessary
  • Althea is petite, and the coat could end up too long if it stretched out, which is more likely in a loosely knit fabric.

I had to rip out my swatch Friday as I had not been paying attention and had done the wrong number of rows in my welts.  Alas...

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Reading your Knitting

What does it mean to be able to read your knitting, and why is it important?  Reading your knitting is the ability to look at a piece of knitted fabric and determine exactly what happened on the needles to produce that fabric.  This is an important skill for lots of reasons.  How many times have you been in the middle of a project, put it down, and then wondered where in the devil you were in the pattern?  Have you ever been watching a movie and forgotten to advance your row counter and wondered how many rows you’d worked since that last decrease?   Then there’s all that looking at what you’ve done, knowing you’ve made a mistake, and wondering what it was you did and how to fix it.  Honestly, how can you fix a mistake if you don’t even know what you’ve done wrong! 

Maybe you never make mistakes and you never stop without writing down exactly where you are in the pattern.  Good for you.  But let’s say you changed your pattern slightly on the back to better fit you.  Of course, you meticulously wrote down every change you made so that you’d know just what to do on the front.  But what if you're knitting one afternoon, and your knitting BFF spills her coffeeonto your paper and destroys your notes.  How will you ever figure out what you did?  Well, if you knew how to read your knitting, you’d know exactly what you did on the back and could easily duplicate it. 

In our Reading your Knitting class, you'll learn how to look at your knitting and see and understand what you have done – right or wrong.  If you can see what you’ve done correctly, then you can easily repeat it for the other side of your jacket, the second sleeve, or the next time you make that garment.  If you have made a mistake, it’s essential that you be able to identify exactly what the problem is before you can correct it! 

This class will help you answer these and many other questions we all have when we look at our knitting:

1.    How many rows have I knitted
2.    Am I supposed to knit or purl this next stitch/row
3.    How many increases/decreases did I do?
4.    Where did I make my increase/decrease?
5.    What kind of increase/decrease did I use here?
6.    How many rows are there between my increases/decreases?
7.    Why is there a hole in my knitting? – Is that a dropped stitch?
8.    Why does this stitch look so long and loose?
9.    Why are these stitches twisted?
10.   How many stitches have I bound off?
11.   and my favorite - This looks really wonky – what did I do?

When you’ve completed this class, you will truly understand your knitted fabric, and you will be able to answer all of those questions listed above.  Additionally, you’ll be able to un-knit correctly stitch by stitch or rip back several rows and still getting your stitches safely back on the needle.

Saturday, February 2nd in La Plata and Sunday, February 10th in Leonardtown 12-3.  Call the shop to register.  

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Chrysanthemum Cowl and fabric notes

As I was finishing the second sample of the Chrysanthemum Cowl I noticed that there might be some confusion about how it looks on the needles and what happens when you bind off. 

With all knitting, especially in the round, needle's circumference limits how much the fabric can stretch, so the fabric will grow substantially when you bind off - assuming you don't bind off too tightly! 

Here is the blue Chrysanthemum Cowl just prior to binding off.  It looks like it might be the size of just a generous turtleneck, doesn't it? 

Then after it's bound off, the fabric can expand into a much larger circumference with terrific drape.  Notice also that the width of the fabric has decreased.  On the needles, it was about 6 inches wide.  Off the needles, it's around 5 or 5 1/2 inches, depending on how much you stretch it in length. 

This length to width stretch aspect is really important to remember when you measure anything you're knitting - from a gauge swatch to a garment in progress.  We'll take a deeper look at what this means for you and your knitting later this week. 

Until then, enjoy your knitting your one-skein Chrysanthemum Cowl!

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