Saturday, July 30, 2011

Knitting Lessons

This fall I tried to sign up for an applique class but it was full.  So, I signed up for a knitting class instead.  The class was 10 weeks long.  There were very few instructions in the course description.  It didn't tell me anything to bring to class but it did state that the class was for beginners through experienced knitters!  Curious...  A few weeks after paying for the knitting class, I got a call from the sewing shop - someone had dropped out of the applique class and I got a spot.  YIKES!  Now I had two classes simultaneously.  I decided to take them both.  I'm glad I did but it was a little overwhelming to learn and practice so many new skills with a very busy spring calendar and two of my kids graduating at the end of the classes - one from high school and one from college.

I had no idea what we'd be making in the knit class so in the off-chance that we could make anything we wanted, I started poking around a bit on Ravelry for some ideas of what I could make.  One thing I was looking for was an easy pattern.  Another thing I wanted was a portable project.  I didn't want a big huge item that was very complicated and couldn't be ported around the house.  I wanted something that used average yarn - nothing pricey.  Basically I wanted a practice project that would be useful when complete yet still could teach me a variety of skills but that I wouldn't feel guilty messing up on or wasting some really awesome expensive yarn with.

I headed off to the first class with some yarn, a few sizes of needles a pair of scissors and a couple of FREE patterns I'd found on ravelry.

I was the first one to arrive at class.  I asked the teacher what we would be making and she said, "Oh anything you want." Thank goodness I'd done a little homework and brought along some supplies.  I showed her my array of patterns and she helped me to select the one that would work best for my needs.  I decided to begin with an afghan - done in squares and stitched together at the end.

I went with this pattern.  You have to be logged in to the Lion Brand site to make the link work.  The pattern is called Lion Brand Morris and Park Blanket.

Image of Morris Park Blanket

But of course as I do with everything, I changed it up a bit.  The original pattern uses three colors of Lion Brand Wool Ease yarn.  I'm using Loops & Threads Impeccable worsted weight acrylic yarn.  I've chosen 3 colors (aqua, clay and rouge).

The Lion Brand pattern uses three different stitch patterns in its squares.  I wanted to learn to knit more than 3 patterns but I wanted them all to be simple knit/purl patterns with 8 or fewer row repeats - since I was afraid I'd lose track of what row I was on.  The pattern comes with a grid to show how to layout the different colored and pattern squares.  I re-numbered my grid to accommodate my additional patterns.

I'm knitting it on 8" bamboo needles.

Here are the 6 block patterns I'm making and the details and instructions for making them:

Pattern 1 - Aqua Yarn (10 each):  This block is garter stitch.  Cast on 32 stitches, knit every row until the square measures 9 inches in length.  My blocks aren't 9 inches wide so they are more like rectangles but that doesn't really matter for my pattern.  Here is a sample of Pattern 1.

I basically learned to cast on and knit at the first class.  I picked it up easily, but I have a tendency to make mistakes.  My first few blocks had a few holes and mis-stitches.  They are far from perfect, but I patched up the holes with a darning needle and decided to use them anyway.  After all, this is my FIRST project, it doesn't have to be perfect.

Between the first and second class I discovered knitting tutorials on YouTube - YAY!  I learned a better way to cast on, I learned to bind off in garter stitch and I learned to purl by watching videos.

Pattern 2 - Aqua Yarn (7 each): Purl Ladder stitch.  Cast on 34 (or multiple of 4 + 2).  Row 1 and Row 2: Knit  Row 3: P2, K2, P2  Row 4: K2, P2, K2  Row 5 and Row 6: Knit, Row 7: K2, P2, K2  Row 8:  P2, K2, P2.  Here is my first Pearl Ladder square (awful and loaded with mistakes, I'll probably take it out and do it over). 

Here is my second Pearl Ladder square - much better. 

I use a row counter on the end of my needle to keep track of where I am in the 8 row repeat.  This is a handy tool!

Pattern 3 - Clay Yarn (9 each):  Moss Stitch.  Cast on 37 (or multiple of 2 + 1).  Row 1: K1, *P1, K1 repeat from * across row. Rows 2 and 3:  P1, *K1, P1 repeat from * across row.   Row 4: same as Row 1.  When I was making this stitch, I really learned how to look at my knits and purls and tell how they looked.  I realized I could look at the pattern and tell what I was supposed to do next rather than having to keep track of the rows with a counting tool.  Pattern 3 looks like this.  It's one of my favorite patterns.  I like the way it looks like little diamonds.

Pattern 4 - Clay Yarn (7 each):  Basketweave Stitch.  Cast on 36.  For first 6 rows: K6, P6.  For next six rows: P6, K6.  Repeat first 6 rows followed by next 6 rows over and over until the square reaches 9 inches.

Pattern 5:  Seed Stitch.  I like the pebbly feel of this stitch.  Cast on 33 stitches (or any uneven number).  K1, *P1 K1, repeat from * across to end of row.  Repeat this row over and over.  Really easy stitch - I can even do this while watching TV!  Seed Stitch sample is below.

Pattern 6 - Rouge Yarn (7 each):  Ladder Stitch.  Cast on 35 (or multiple of 2 + 1).  Rows 1 - 4:  Knit  Row 5: K1 P1  Row 6: K1, *K1 P1, repeat from * and end with last two stitches of this row being knit.  The ladder stitch looks like this.  I made some mistakes on the first one, but not SO many that I'll take it out.

Garter Stitch, Moss Stitch and Seed Stitch came right from the original pattern.  The other three stitches I found from different stitch websites.  Interestingly, I learned that the names of stitches and the patterns to make them don't always go by an industry standard.  I found Seed Stitch samples and Moss Stitch samples that were the exact same stitch with different names.

My goal in selecting patterns was to make sure my patterns gave me practice and weren't too hard that they made me crazy while simultaneously learning applique.  I also wanted the patterns to look as much the same on both sides as I could so that my afghan doesn't have an obvious back and front. 

The pattern doesn't give any instructions for sewing the squares together and I haven't explored exactly how I'll join them.  My teacher kept telling me she loves mattress stitch for joining but when she showed me the mattress stitch, I didn't think I liked it for an afghan.  It has an obvious joining bump or seam on one side and will make my afghan have a very noticeable front and back.  I will search the Internet for joining stitches to see if I can find one that allows the afghan to look the same on both sides and doesn't create a seam.  If you have suggestions, I'd love to explore them.

I've also thought about making a crocheted border to go around the entire outside of the afghan but I'm not too sure as of yet - feel free to voice in an opinion!  I'll continue to post updates about this project as I progress.  To date - 17 squares!  Total needed - 49.


Julie said...

I am thinking I am overdue to make an afghan. I am for a crocheted border.

Jeannie said...

Love the ladder stitch! I'm going to use it for scarves for soldiers project (with the donated and kind of ugly yarn) so the scarf will be interesting. I also will try the stitch on a cotton dishcloth.

Waaaay back in the day when I made all those granny afghans for Christmas presents, I know I crocheted all the squares together. Surely there's a you-tube demo on how to do that. I agree. I don't like that mattress stitch to put everything together.

OK... hope I get to post this comment. Here goes...

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