FAQ: What are twisted stitches?

There are two questions about twisted stitches that come up a lot from knitters who are working on Miette. What are they and why use them? Twisted stitches are exactly what they sound like. They’re stitches that have been twisted by being worked through the back loop so the legs cross instead of being open. You’ll most often run across twisted stitches in textured stitch patterns or ribbing patterns.

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Ribbing can cause the legs of a normal stitch to spread farther apart than in stockinette, and many knitters don’t enjoy the appearance of that. On the left is normal, plain ribbing that was created using plain knits and purls. On the right is twisted ribbing. Twisted stitches twist the legs of a stitch which pulls the column of stitches in tight and prevents it from expanding like normal ribbing. Ribbing with twisted stitches tends to look neater than normal ribbing, but it also doesn’t stretch as much. This can be useful for a yarn that can stretch out of shape, like the cotton blends recommended for Miette.

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And I can’t write about twisted stitches without writing about accidental twisted stitches. They’re a common mistake for beginner and self-taught knitters, typically caused by wrapping yarn in the wrong direction while purling. Unintentionally twisted stitches can create a striped look and will spoil features like eyelets. If you’ve ever noticed that your eyelets aren’t as large or your stockinette isn’t as smooth as the sample, this could be the culprit.

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The easiest way to spot accidental twisted stitches is to stretch your knitting. Regular stockinette stretches evenly with the columns opening up, but twisted stitches prevent the columns from opening, so you get tight, compact columns instead.

Vintage Pledge 2016 Plans

I’m participating in the Vintage Pledge again this year. Are you? If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s a low-key event where everyone makes a pledge of their own choice related to working with their vintage and vintage-reproduction patterns. It’s a good way to motivate yourself to actually use those patterns instead of just hoarding them. Last year I pledged to sew with two of my repro or vintage patterns, but I only actually used one. I sewed that same pattern many times, but I didn’t meet my goal. This year I’m aiming for two patterns again, and hopefully I’ll really use more than one!

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I already have one project planned with all of the materials I need in my stash. I’m going to sew Butterick 6055 using this black and red stretch cotton, minus those ridiculous pockets. This was supposed to be my second project last year, and I got everything ready to go, including sewing a muslin of the bodice, but I never found the time to make the dress.

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My second project is less thoroughly planned. All I’ve really decided is that I’d like to make something with a fitted skirt, because it can be windy here, and I’m always short on windy-weather outfits. I’ll either make this 60s pencil skirt or this 50s sheath dress. I’m not sure if I have any fabric in my stash appropriate for either of these patterns, so I’ll have to do a bit of digging and maybe some shopping!

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If I get the previous two projects done, and can squeeze in a third, I’d love to make this 50s crop top with a matching skirt. I might do a pair using the pencil skirt pattern above or just do a simple circle skirt. But this one is really low priority because I won’t be able to wear it as many often as the other projects.

FAQ: Is this a good pattern for a beginner?

Agatha

“Is the pattern suitable for a beginner?” is always a tough question to answer, and the common variation, “Is this a good first sweater?” isn’t any easier. It all depends on what technical skills you possess, your pattern reading skills, and either your ability to visualize what you’re supposed to do or your willingness to trust that the pattern will work. All three of these skills can vary widely among knitters who consider themselves to be beginners. Lauren who co-hosts the Outfit Along knit Agatha as her first sweater, but I’ve had knitters who consider themselves to be at an intermediate level struggle with the pattern because, although they might have more knitting experience, their skill-set was different.

Is this a good pattern for a beginner?

So I can’t tell you if a particular pattern is too advanced for you or not a good choice for a first sweater, but I can tell you how to evaluate a pattern for yourself. The first thing to do is to study the photos and descriptions. Can you visualize the construction? Are there skills mentioned or shown that you’re unfamiliar with? Can you follow a stitch pattern if it’s separate from the rest of the instructions and the pattern requires it? Can you diagnose mistakes in your knitting by yourself, and are you willing to rip back to fix them? Can you keep track of your row and stitch count without trouble? How willing are you to experiment and learn with a sweater on your needles? If your answers make you think that the pattern might be one for you, next you’ll need to decide if you’re willing to spend the $4-8 to buy the pattern and find out if it’s truly something you’re comfortable knitting at your current level. Once you’ve got the pattern in front of you, you can read through and highlight any unfamiliar terms or techniques, and then make a fully informed decision about whether or not the pattern is manageable for you. Patterns are pretty cheap compared to everything else you’ll buy for a sweater, so don’t feel committed to use a pattern you bought if it doesn’t feel right after you’ve read through it closely.

Myrna

This post probably qualifies as advice that no one wants to hear, so to make it a little less frustrating, I’ll share with you my two patterns that most commonly get knit as first sweaters. Myrna is a popular choice as a first sweater. It’s really simple with small details like the eyelet stitch pattern that surrounds the edges, and the accompanying Outfit Along 2014 blog posts are helpful if you ever get stuck. It also comes in a full range of sizes, and the construction is easy to modify. Miette is my other pattern that frequently gets knit as first projects. It’s a raglan, which many newer knitters find more approachable than set-in sleeve techniques because the construction can be easier to visualize, and it also is free, so it doesn’t cost anything to read through the pattern first. The limited sizes can be an issue for some knitters, though.

One of Two

Henriette_SSK_1st_sleeve

I was feeling behind on my Selfish Sweater KAL project, but this weekend I knocked out the majority of my first sleeve in no time at all. I forgot how fast the sleeves on Henriette are to knit! There’s just the single motif, and then it’s super speedy, bulky, reverse stockinette. If I can get my second sleeve done this weekend, I’ll have two weeks to knit my raglan yoke and button band before the KAL deadline, which should be plenty of time.

3 Knitting Library Essentials

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There are a thousand good reasons to have a small library of knitting books. They’ll teach you a ton, and you’ll always have resources on hand to quickly answer your questions. The internet is full of information, both good and bad, but in order to find it, you need to know what exactly to look for, the terms to use in your search, and how to evaluate the quality of the advice. Having a good selection of books on hand can speed things up.

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1. A Reference Book
Reference books are dull and dry, but they’re also invaluable. My favorite knitting reference book was recommended to me by my aunt Lisa when I was a new knitter, and it’s The Knitter’s Handbook by Montse Stanley. It’s full of different ways to cast on, bind off, increase, decrease, and every other technique you can imagine. That’s what a good knitting reference book will give you– a lot of techniques and a lot of different ways to do them. Now, this particular book doesn’t always have the best instructions on how to work those techniques, but it gives enough information that you can decide which ones are worth trying, and then you know what terms to search to find a tutorial online if you can’t figure it out. The important thing is to have a resource that will expand your knowledge of knitting techniques so when a pattern says, “Bind off using a stretchy method,” you’ll be able to flip open your book to the bind off section and find 2-3 options to choose from in the stretchy category. I’d say about 75% of the pattern support questions I get could be answered in under 10 minutes if the person who asked had opened up a reference book instead of writing an email to me.

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2. A Book on Construction
Whatever your favorite object is to make, you should have a book on its construction. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably a sweater knitter, but the advice holds true if you’re a sock knitter or a toy knitter. You should have a book on the basics of construction for your favorite kind of project. My go-to book on sweater construction is Sweater Design in Plain English by Maggie Righetti. If you’ve been reading this blog for a long time, you might have heard me complain about this book before. We have a love/hate relationship. This book is full of great information, and it’s the most well-rounded book on sweater construction I’ve ever seen. It covers pretty much everything you can think of, including short-row set-in sleeves. Even if you have no interest in creating a sweater from scratch, a book on sweater construction can help you better understand why you’re doing certain things while following a pattern, and that will allow you to make better modifications. That said, the author of Sweater Design in Plain English has an attitude about women’s bodies that makes me want to throw the book across the room. There’s a lot about hiding your flaws and disguising your body, and she gives some terrible style-related fit and fashion advice. If you’re confident in your personal opinions about fit and style so you can easily ignore the author’s and don’t have a hard time with body-image issues, this book is a great one to have in your library. If that’s not the case, I’d suggest developing a small collection of sweater construction books that were written more recently to cover a variety of different construction options without all the negativity.

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3. A Book on Yarn
Yarn choice can make or break a project, so it’s in your best interest to learn as much as possible about it. The expensive and time consuming way to learn a lot about yarn and fibers is to buy a ton of yarn and knit a million swatches, but it’s much more cost effective to just grab a good book. The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes is my favorite yarn book. It goes into good detail about different fibers and their properties as well as yarn construction and how those things all work together to give yarns their unique characteristics. Simply understanding yarn better will improve the quality of your projects more than you might imagine if you don’t know much about yarn yet. Experience with different yarns is important, and there are always oddball yarns that behave totally contrary, but the knowledge you can get from a book will help you avoid some costly mistakes in the process of gaining experience. This book is probably the resource I recommend the most because a yarn book is usually the one that gets forgotten by knitters who are building their library. So much attention goes to construction and technique, but yarn is just as important!