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Tutorial: Wet Blocking A Lace Shawl

In our previous blog post, we shared tips, tricks and tools to successfully knit a lace project (click here if you missed it). On today's post, we'll share how to finish your project with professional results.

There are a few ways that you can finish your project - using steam, spray blocking or wet blocking. Most knitters and crocheters have a personal preference for one or the other, and today we'll focus on wet blocking a shawl project (though our instructions can be used to wet block just about any finished project). You can view a tutorial for spray blocking a lace project here on our blog archive.

First, assemble the supplies you'll need: a small basin or tub, no-rinse wool wash, a few fluffy towels, tape measure and Knitter's Pride Blocking Mats, T-Pins, Wires and Knit Blockers.

Fill the tub or basin with tepid water and a small amount of your wool wash. Gently add your finished project and immerse in the water for about 10-15 minutes.
Carefully remove your project: this is where a no-rinse product comes in handy, because you don't have to risk felting by washing out the soap. Instead, allow the water to drain out as you take care not to wring it. Lay it flat on a dry, fluffy towel and gently roll up to squeeze out excess water. Repeat, using a fresh towel, if necessary.

Most hand wash instructions say "lay flat to dry," but for a project which requires specific dimensions or features a stitch pattern that looks best once it has been blocked in a certain way, this is the most crucial step: your project will take whatever shape you dry it in, so if you toss it on your blocking mats and leave it be, it will dry - wrinkles and all.
Begin with a straight edge; for some shawls, it might be the top, or in the case of this tutorial, the midline. Secure this straight edge with Knit Blockers, using the tape measure to make sure that your shawl has the dimensions listed in the pattern.
From here, begin to secure the borders of the shawl with wires, T-Pins or Knit Blockers. You have a lot of options here, and what you choose to do will depend on the type of project you have made. In this case, we use Knit Blockers to secure the top edges, then show two options for securing the lace border: on the right, blocking wires are threaded through the points of the border and secured with Knit Blockers every so often, and T-pins are used on the lace border as well. On the left, the lace border has been secured using only T-Pins (each one is circled in yellow so that you can spot them a little easier:

Allow to dry, then enjoy wearing your creation!

Winner
Congratulations to patricialonnie, you have won this month's blog giveaway! We will get in touch with you shortly to arrange for the delivery of your Nova Platina Cubics Deluxe interchangeable set.

Be sure to add our blog to your reader for more great tutorials, designer interviews, and giveaways!

The Right Tools For Lace Knitting

Do you like to knit lace patterns? Are you a chart reader or do you prefer row-by-row written instructions to render your arrangements of negative and positive space in yarn? In this post, we’ll show how Knitter’s Pride interchangeable needles and other tools can make your lace knitting project even more enjoyable.


First, some clarification. There is a general consensus in the knitting world that “lace knitting” refers to patterns that employ yarnovers (yo) on one side only, with a rest row (usually purl) between pattern rows. However, “Knitted lace” employs yarnovers on every row, creating open areas with single, untwisted yarn between them. Both are more complex than knit and purl patterns or cable work because the number of stitches on the needle can vary row to row.





Keeping track of where you are in the pattern and keeping the work on your needles in pattern  are challenges for new and veteran lace knitters alike. Executing the pattern correctly can be yet another challenge. Having the right tools can make each of these challenges easier and your knitting more fun.


Choosing the right tips


Both lace knitting and knitted lace involve increasing stitch counts by adding yarnovers to create openwork effects in the finished piece, and then decreasing stitch counts by knitting or purling a number of stitches together. If you are creating nupps or bobbles, there may be as many as five stitches being worked in one maneuver, possibly through the back loop. To manipulate that many stitches, most knitters prefer a sharp tip on their needles with a long taper, the slope between the tip and where the needle’s full diameter is reached. Such a preference usually means that the knitter chooses a metal tip. On the other hand, lace patterning is often knit in luxury fibers like fine merino,  alpaca, silk, cashmere, qiviut or blends of these fibers. They can be much more slippery than a basic wool or wool-blend yarn. To compensate for this, some knitters will want the more “grabby” surface of wood or bamboo on their needles. Knitter’s Pride Karbonz interchangeable needle tips combine both of these desirable qualities. The carbon fiber tips are warm and flexible like wood or bamboo, but their nickel-plated brass tips provide that taper and sharpness for working many stitches at the same time.



Using a lifeline


The combinations of yarnovers and decreases in your knitted piece make correcting errors more difficult than just frogging back. If your pattern is lace knitting, taking it back to the “plain” row and checking your stitch count is often a good solution. If everything works out in terms of stitch counts, and both your horizontal and vertical pattern repeats are accurate, now is the time to run a lifeline through your work. In knitting, a “lifeline” is a thread that holds an entirely correct row of stitches. If the knitter should make subsequent errors in the piece, s/he can frog it back to the lifeline row, get it back on the needles and begin knitting again. A lifeline row at the end of every correct vertical repeat of a pattern is especially helpful in knitted lace since it has no “plain” rows to offer a visual guidepost to the knitter.
Make sure that your lifeline is a smooth fiber of different material and color than the yarn with which you are knitting. Believe it or not, dental floss is a good choice because it is sturdy and slick and most yarns will not cling to it. You can thread it through a darning needles and then run it through every stitch in your project currently on the cord of your interchangeable needles. Use the tightening holes in the ferrule of your tips to temporarily anchor your lifeline at either end.  You can stair-step lifelines through your project as it progresses. When you complete another vertical repeat of your pattern, run your next lifeline and remove the one from lower down in the project. It’s kind of fun, too, because a lifeline is a visual reminder that you actually are getting this project knit. You can finish anything 12 rows at a time.


Charts or Written Instructions?


A lot of knitters have firm opinions about what format they prefer to follow when knitting lace patterns. Some like line-by-line instructions that specify the actions to be performed on every stitch in a row. If they are well-written and don’t use confusing multiple sets of brackets and parentheses to indicate pattern repeats, written instructions can be fine. Other knitters, however, find that a charted pattern allows them to better visualize what the knitting should look like; it’s a more organic representation of how the stitches are being manipulated. In either case, keeping track of where you are in your pattern is essential to your success. If you are using a printed pattern, a holder like Knitter’s Pride Magma can help you follow where you are. The bar magnets can keep you focused on the right line of instructions in either a charted or written pattern, and you can prop it up at an easel-like angle to be able to monitor your pattern and your knitting at the same time.



Stitch markers are your friends


The last bit of advice we have for successful lace knitting is the liberal use of stitch markers. Using them to separate each repeat of a stitch pattern that appears multiple times across the width of a scarf is one of the easiest things a knitter can do to make lace success more likely. If you are working a project that has different lace patterns in different sections, you can color-code your knitting with different markers to keep yourself visually cued about which pattern you’re executing in any particular area. Between your stitch markers and your lifelines, you have created a gridwork that maps your knitting as you work on it.


The way stitch markers are used in lace knitting varies from how they are used in garment knitting. Rather than reminding the knitter where shaping needs to happen, markers in lace knitting are delineating stitch manipulations that are repeated to create patterns. Lace is often knit from very fine (laceweight) yarns in luxury fibers. It’s important that your stitch markers are close to your needle diameter; you don’t want stitches to be able to slip under or over your markers and mess up your stitch count. They should also be a material that slips easily along your chosen needles and a different color from the yarn in your project. Multiple colors can help with demarcating distinct stitch patterns within a larger project.
Lace knitting is a rewarding way to stretch your skills as a knitter. If you approach it with the right tools and a sense of adventure, learning to create beautiful patterns out of yarn satisfies the artistic impulse that lies within even the most practical knitter. Just as beautiful yarns give us a chance to play with color like a painter, knitting lace gives us a chance to play with negative and positive space like we are sculptors. Are you ready to give it a try?

Giveaway

Leave a comment on this blog post telling us your favorite Knitter's Pride tool for lace projects for your chance to win a Nova Cubics Platina interchangeable needle set! Be sure to also include your Ravelry ID or email address so that we can contact you if you win. We will announce the winner on our next blog post on Friday, July 22. Good luck! 

Winner + Designer Spotlight: Staci Perry of Very Pink Knits

First off, we'd like to congratulate Mariaeb, our winner for this month's blog giveaway. We'll be in touch shortly to arrange for the delivery of your prize, a Nova Platina Deluxe Interchangeable Set.

Knitter's Pride has joined forces with Staci Perry of VeryPink.com to bring you monthly project-based tutorials featuring fabulous free patterns and Knitter's Pride products! Earlier this month, Staci released a new free pattern called Color My Cowl, and along with it, a free tutorial which features our Nova Platina needles and demonstrates how to master fair isle techniques to knit her new design. We got a chance to interview Staci to learn more about knitting, her design process, and the early days of Very Pink Knits. Enjoy!


When did you learn to knit? Crochet?
I was five or six years old when I learned to crochet, and I learned to knit shortly after that. My Great-Great Aunt Ida taught me, it's kind of a normal thing for Scandinavian and Scandinavian-American families to teach kids fiber arts at a young age. I knit and designed stuff ALL THE TIME growing up, then stopped through college, then started up again, and haven't stopped since. It's crazy to think that I've been knitting for over 40 years.

VeryPink Knits was one of the first knitting-related channels we know of from the early days of YouTube. How did you get started, and what has changed in the years since your channel launched?
When I started making videos, I was teaching knitting classes here in Austin at a yarn shop. My idea was to make videos so that the students in my classes would have a video to reference after they took a class with me. The first videos I released started getting views from all over the place, not just my knitting class students, and that was my motivation to make videos for a wider audience. My mission and format is mostly unchanged since the early days - I still teach knitting in short technique videos and longer tutorials. But the years I spent building up my audience now allows me to work with sponsors and other designers, which gives a lot of new flavor to what I present in my videos. I'm also WAY more comfortable on camera than I was seven years ago!
Free Pattern: Color my Cowl
What was the design process like for the Color My Cowl pattern which launched earlier this month?
That's a good question - you're making me think! It started with the idea for a fair isle tutorial, because I've had a lot of requests for one recently. My first objective was to make it an easy introduction to fair isle, but also a pretty pattern that looks impressive when it's finished, and a very "wearable" item. I use Excel when I design colorwork...I change the cell shape to squares, and start coloring. I finished a rough idea for the color pattern, then I started knitting. I always put needles to yarn very early in a design, because I will inevitably change and add things once I see how a design is actually looking as it's knit up. Sure enough, I ended up trashing half of my first color design once I saw it spelled out in stitches. I made some changes, then started to plan out colors for the samples that I would eventually show in the video. While I was doing this in Excel, I thought, "This would be fun to do with colored pencils". And that's how I got the idea to turn the cowl stitch pattern into a coloring page for knitters.

I often get questions about what software I use to design. I keep it pretty simple! Like I said above, I use Excel for charting colorwork. I also use Excel for charting stitch patterns like lace and cables. Oh, and I use Excel (as an actual spreadsheet) when I'm grading patterns into different sizes. The only other software I use is Google Docs. I take notes for each design using Documents, and the notes page eventually becomes the final version of the pattern that I turn into a PDF. I like using Google Docs because all of my docs are available to me across all of my devices.


What is your absolute favorite Knitter's Pride product, the one you would HAVE to have if you were stranded on a desert island?
Love it! That's tough, because my favorite Knitter's Pride product changes from week to week. But my two all-time favorites have to be Platina and Platina Cubics needles. Right now, if I was being shipped off to a desert island, I'd grab my Platina 16" interchangeable set, because that's what I'm using now on a couple of designs. And if I could, I'd jam my Knit Blockers into my suitcase while no one was watching so I could have those, too.




Many knitters might be intimidated by Fair Isle knitting. How would you convince someone to give it a try?
Hopefully, I'd be able to convince them to give it a try by having them watch the video tutorial! I think people look at different styles of knitting, like lace or fair isle or cables, and they think NO WAY. That kind of knitting is for other people, people who are better at knitting than I am. But after I show them how it's done, and they see that it's still just the simple knit stitch they know and love, they get excited to give it a try. I hope people have come to know me as the knitting teacher they can trust to give them projects that they can actually do, and enjoy, and finish. So, I'll work on convincing someone to give new techniques (like fair isle) a try by showing them how it's done, giving them a simple pattern to give it a go, and asking them to trust me, they can do this!

A Colorful Summer: Fair Isle Inspiration (& Giveaway!)

Ravelry is filled with colorful projects featuring eye-catching motifs and pleasing patterns. The color work technique is commonly referred to as "Fair Isle" or sometimes called "stranded colorwork." Though the results look complex, Fair Isle can actually be mastered by any adventurous knitter! Staci Perry of VeryPink.com shows the step-by-step process of mastering Fair Isle techniques in her new tutorial video featuring Knitter's Pride needles and her new free pattern, Color my Cowl:


Once you have mastered the techniques above, it's time to put them to the test! We've collected some of our favorite trending patterns on Ravelry to inspire you to give Fair Isle knitting a try this summer. Click the links below to view more pattern information!
Color My Cowl by Staci Perry
Wildflowers Cap by Mary Jane Mucklestone
Crofthoose Yoke by Ella Gordon
Ambiguous by Michelle Hunter

KARREE by Susanne Reese

Giveaway
This month, we're giving 1 lucky blog reader the chance to win a Nova Cubics Platina Deluxe interchangeable set! To enter, leave a comment on this blog post telling us what Fair Isle project you most recently completed or are looking forward to casting on!

We will randomly select a comment as our lucky winner to announce here on our blog on Friday, June 25. Good luck!

Winners + Spring KAL Recap

Our Spring KAL with Angela Tong has drawn to a close, and it's time to announce our prize winners! But before we do that, we'd like to share all of the amazing projects which our fans completed in our Ravelry group as part of this KAL.

First, we saw 12 completed Hishigata hats in a parade of beautiful colors!


Since our KAL included any pattern from Angela Tong's Ravelry pattern store, we saw some other inspiring projects for spring, too. Four participants knit the lovely Kouyou Shawl:


And three more adventurous knitters shared their projects which included a few Shizuku scarves and a Tekstur hat to round out the mix:


Angela also shared an informative tutorial showing how she swatches for in-the-round projects using a clever time-saving trick - click here to check it out! Also, if you missed our previous blog post about Charitable organizations accepting handmade donations, click here to learn more.

Don't forget to block your swatch with our Knit Blockers!
Photo by Angela Tong; click here for the full tutorial on Angela's blog.
Of course, it wouldn't be a KAL without some fabulous prizes, and here are our lucky winners:

Knit Blockers: TinaSanders
Marblz Interchangeable Circular Needle Set: HelenHG69
Allure Fiber Wash: LaurenS

We also have one more prize to give out this month for our May blog giveaway; congratulations to quiltdabbler, who has won Nova Platina Cubics Deluxe Interchangeable Set! We will get in touch with you shortly to arrange for the delivery of your prize.

Thanks to everyone who entered this month's blog giveaway and joined in our KAL!

Giveaway+ Designer Spotlight: Tanja Steinbach

On today's post, our designer spotlight goes international! We recently interviewed a German designer named Tanja Steinbach. Tanja is a key designer on the Schachenmayr design team, and she also self publishes her own designs in German. Tanja learned to crochet, knit and sew as a child and - skills which all contribute to her interesting approach to designing. We hope you will find inspiration in her designs and learning more about her process in today's interview. 

How long have you been knitting, and how did you get started designing?
I grew up in a family that was very DIY oriented; I started crocheting doll clothes before Elementary School using patterns from the magazine Nicole (I was 12/13 years old). From there, I learned to knit and to sew. I perfected sewing by learning to become a dressmaker, after which I studied at the Textildesign in Reutlingen. The program at Reutlingen also focuses on knitting techniques because the company Stoll is nearby. The campus has a lot of knitting machines and techniques centered around yarn, which is how I came back to yarn and knitting. After my graduation, I thought about working in the clothing industry, but in the end, I took a different path by entering the world of knitwear design. And if I took a look back, it was the right decision to start working for Coats with the labels Schachenmayr, Regia and Jaeger.

Where do you get inspiration?
I love my work because every day is so different. That's hard sometimes, but it it helps to be open to new ideas. Of course, I also am always on the lookout for new trends in fashion and color, which is also a good way finding new ideas outside of the world of yarn. Tradition & experience is an important base, specially in hand knitting, so vintage craft books are great inspiration tools. Also traveling to other towns, meeting with people or taking in an art exhibition brings new impulses. Keeping eyes and ears open and being open to trying new things is key! 

How did your Design Label come about?
I wouldn't exactly say that I have my own label, but I've worked for the last 20 years for the brands Schachenmayr and Regia at Coats (since 2015). The assignments have changed a little from time to time, but I play a role in the marketing and product development, as well as working in the yarn and design development. When my children were small, I worked part-time, but when they grew older, I began to take on design jobs as a freelancer. I started with TV spots and little book projects in early 2000. The Frechverlag was looking for patterns and designers to star their new handcraft book series, and that was how I made my first sock knitting book.  In the last few years, I have designed more patterns for books such as Jacquardstricken, Gestrickte Taschen, and  Wendemuster stricken. Currently, I am working as co-author for a book called Tücher stricken, will be arriving in stores in Autumn 2016. 



In June of last year, I started a blog where I can directly interact with other fiber enthusiasts, much like on Facebook and Instagram, which I love. My blog was an idea of a collegue and I'm very thankful that she encouraged me to start it! It began with a new knit-a-long for a German TV show called ARD Buffet“ in summer 2015; the pattern, Der Sommernachtstraum, is also availabe here on Ravelry as a free download in both English and GermanIt's been wonderful to see all of the resulting shawl projects from this KAL! 
The year before, I had started something similar for ARD Buffet, the Adventsschal 2014 knit-a-long which took place in December 2014. With a KAL such as this, a lot of projects tend to come in, and knitters often need some assistance - I thought that an independent platform such as a blog would be the perfect place for this! I also share lots of my patterns, tips and tricks on the blog. 
How do you balance your own design and blogging career with curating from your own Design Label?
Truly, I'm always looking for the right balance...work & passion are so close, so it's hard to me jump into other leisure activities.

What are you most looking forward to in 2016?
Right now, I am very happy with how things are going between work & life. I'm happy to be part of some knitting events this year such as the Schwabsburger Wollfest, where I'll be teaching my first-ever workshop, and Yarncamp in Frankfurt this October. And I am always looking forward to all of the interesting people I'll meet along the way, not to mention at these events. I may even start another KAL! 

Do you have any knitting horror stories/mishaps?

No! Util now, everything has been working out fabulously, but my personal nightmare is how quick some of my test knitters are able to knit in relation to how quickly I can complete a project. Sometimes I'm doubtful about my own speed of writing patterns and knitting samples......and the testers knitting at full speed and send it back to me so quickly! Sometimes I get a little jealous when I look at my own private projects! 

Giveaway
This month, one lucky blog reader will win a Nova Platina Cubics Deluxe Interchangeable Set! To enter, leave a comment telling us what kind of projects you like to knit or crochet in the summer months. Be sure to also mention your Ravelry ID or email address so that we can contact you if you win. We'll announce the winner on our next blog post on Friday, May 27. Good luck! 

Winner + Knit & Crochet for Charity: Where to Donate

Congratulations to LisaTknits, our first prize winner for the Spring KAL with Angela Tong that's happening now here in our Ravelry group! We will get in touch with you to arrange for the delivery of your prize, a Marblz DPN Set. Click here to learn more about our KAL on our previous blog post
Our Spring KAL is a great opportunity to knit items to donate to charity, especially if you're making the newly-released Hishigata Hat by Angela Tong! Knit in a bulky weight yarn with a pretty diamond cable pattern, this hat is a fun, fast project that can be donated to those in need.
The Hishigata Hat by Angela Tong
Of course, you don't have to limit your donation to projects made in our KAL, or just hats - there are plenty of organizations that are looking for hats, scarves, and other items year-round! Today, we'd like to spotlight a few of these organizations where you can donate your finished objects (FOs), though this is by no means a complete list! If you happen to knit or crochet for a particular organization that isn't listed here, we would love to hear about it in the comments! 

This project was launched last year to collect knitted and crocheted hats (or tuques, as they are known in Canada) for Syrian refugees arriving in Canada. Initially begun as a small group in Quebec, the project quickly spread throughout the country and even into the US with Purlescence Yarns in Sunnyvale, CA serving as a donation collection point for American crafters. While the project is focused mainly on hats, other donations of mittens and scarves are also accepted if they have a matching hat along with them.

This not-for-profit organization accepts knitted, crocheted or sewn caps for chemo patients which are distributed to over 450 cancer centers each month. They provide a set of guidelines for your handmade donation here on their website, as well as free and for sale hat patterns for knitters and crocheters

This organization accepts donations of sweaters, caps and blankets to distribute to children living in poverty worldwide. They prefer items which are knit with easy-care acrylic yarns and provide free patterns for making your donations. Donors can also use a pattern of their own choosing if they prefer.

This organization accepts donations of knitted and crocheted blankets and other accessories year-round; you can check their Current Needs section of the website to see which items they are currently looking for.