Saturday, May 31, 2008

One Approach to Beads

Beads knitted into stuff look so cool, but the process can be such a pain -- the traditional method, which is to string all the beads onto the yarn before the knitting begins, and then slide them up to the needles as needed, is slow and frustrating and puts an awful lot of stress on the yarn. Recently, we've seen some techniques for adding beads "as you go" (that is, putting the bead onto the yarn as you knit the stitch that needs it). This is a big improvement.

Most of the instructions I've seen for this, however, call for special tools: a "beadle" (which is like a teeny tiny latch-hook, for those of you old enough to remember latch-hooked rugs), or a minute crochet hook. And to make them work, you need a bead with a hole large enough for the tool to pass through. Because beads are quite heavy (for their size), I find that I usually want to use a bead too small for my tools.

In fact, let me say up front that the spot where I most often want a bead is at the edge of a lace shawl. With the ultrafine yarns in some shawls, I like to add just a little weight, to improve the drape of the finished product. The old-fashioned method of stringing the beads first is out of the question, because the yarn is fragile (and because laceweight skeins are typically hundreds of meters long -- I don't want to be sliding 200 beads down 800 meters of yarn from the moment I cast on 7 sts at the back of the neck).

Here's an alternative. You'll need a 6-inch length of heavy-duty sewing thread in a color that contrasts with your beads and your knitting yarn.

My demonstration project is Evelyn Clark's Swallowtail shawl from Interweave Knits Fall '06. The yarn is merino laceweight from Cinnamon's Dyepot. The pattern called for nupps in the last pattern section, but it only took a few p3togs to send me to the bead shop. These are #6 beads, I think.

Step 1: Work the bead row, making each stitch that's going to get a bead a plain knit stitch. The beads get added on the following row.

Step 2: Work in pattern to the stitch that needs a bead. Then take your length of sewing thread and pass one end of it through the stitch.

Step 3: Bring the two ends of the thread together and hold them as if you were going to thread a needle. (You can't see the knit stitch in this picture; it's behind my thumb.)

Step 4: Push the ends of the thread through a bead.

Step 5: Slide the bead down the thread loop until it reaches the knit stitch.

Step 6: By pulling on the thread loop, lift the knit stitch off the left needle. Then push the bead further down the loop until it transfers onto the stitch.
Step 7: Put the knit stitch back onto the left needle. Have a little care not to twist the stitch (though it probably won't show if you miss, since the twist will be in the bead).

Step 8: Work the stitch. (This one is purled, because it's a wrong-side row.) The bead is almost invisible here; it's just below the right-hand needle and looks like it's between the first two stitches.

Step 9: Turn the work around and admire it. (This step is essential.) The bead in question here is on the fourth stitch on the left needle, right near my forefinger.

Repeat steps 2 through 9 as necessary.

Depending on how big your project is, you may need more than 6" of sewing thread -- the ends get limp after awhile and need to be trimmed (or the whole thread replaced). Buttonhole twist is more durable than plain sewing thread, but it's also thicker, which may be a problem with the smallest beads.

What I like about this technique is that it doesn't just make a really fidgety technique a little less fidgety, it makes it totally reasonable. From "gorgeous, but who's going to do THAT?" to "sure, I can handle a few slow rows" with one piece of sewing thread. You should try it!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Springtime in Philadelphia

Going on a car trip in the next few days (or just happily contemplating all the possibilities of one more day off)? Looking for something beautiful to knit and a super cute project to try out the new Koigu Mori? Wondering what the heck happened to spring?

Why not check out "Springtime in Philadelphia", Kate's new free beret pattern?!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Harlot in the Hood

If you haven't already heard the very LOUD buzz, the Yarn Harlot, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee will be in town tomorrow as part of the Free Library of Philadelphia's Book Festival

From the Library's website:

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee | Things I Learned from Knitting (Whether I Wanted To or Not)
Sunday, May 18, 2008 at 12:00PM
Citibank Main Stage

The irreverent spokeswoman for today’s knitting revival, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee—a.k.a. the Yarn Harlot—is the author of several books on knitting, as well as keeper of the popular blog, In Things I Learned from Knitting, she examines age-old aphorisms—e.g., “hope springs eternal”—with respect to knitting, casting them in a punchy, upbeat light.

Stop by the shop, we're open from 12-5 - we have copies of her book, and I wouldn't be shocked at all if she stoked your yarn addiction just a teensy bit - and of course, we got yarn!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Sea Silk Has Arrived

Sea Silk from Handmaiden arrived today in eight great new colors.
In my (not so humble) opinion our camera has washed them out a bit, they are lovely and vibrant. Really rich colors that shine! If you didn't make the Montego Bay Scarf from Interweave, now is your chance. It's a great summer knitting project, particularly with the yarn it is intended to be knit in. Seacell, which is a seaweed derived fiber, is cool and lightweight and it is thematically appropriate for beach knitting.

We also got in Mini Maiden, which is a single ply fineweight silk blend in these lovely colors
Stop on in and check it out!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sheep and Wool

Maryland Sheep and Wool was a success.  Everyone came, they bought Koigu, they got on the buses, we didn't forget anyone, we shopped, we ate, we came home, again not forgetting anyone, I got a horrible sinus infection and have been in bed ever since.

But I got some great yarn, so it's all worth it. 
I hope you all had a great time.  Rosie's Knitting Circle is hosting a Wine and Wind (as in winding yarn, not as in the wind blowing) party tomorrow night for you all to show off your goods.  I hope everyone can come out, mostly because I'm noosey (pron. news-ie, a philly-ism not a misspelling) and want to see what you all got!  Clyde and I will be there with our purchases and some snacks.  Wendy, can you bring a corkscrew?

Friday, May 02, 2008

We have some spaces left!

Guess what folks?


We've had about 10 spaces open up. Call us at the shop to reserve a seat. It's also worthwhile stopping by if you're in the neighborhood in the morning. Buses pull of at 7:30am & seats are first come, first serve, so hurry!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Interweave Summer Is Here

The new issue of Interweave Knits arrived yesterday. Everyone knows that summer is a slow knitting season. It's funny, I think we are busy all year round, it just changes in the summer. We still get the folks who stop in to get their cotton yarn for their summer shell or tank, but those customers are few and far between these days. More often, the scarf knitters stop coming in until it gets chilly again and we are left with the real die-hards. And, in my experience, the die-hards don't stop knitting their fair isle cardigans or Manos afghans just because of a little thing like 85 degree weather! Probably they will pick up another little project, like a lace shawl or some socks for beach knitting.
The summer issue of Interweave Knits really reflects our customers projects. There is lots of lace, and we had what we call around here "The Summer of Lace" last year when everyone knit shawls, and this winter we were selling sweater projects left and right as our customer base expanded their knitting horizons and now this summer we are seeing lots of lace sweaters!
Leaf Kimono Top by Sarah Barbour
Louet Euroflax Sport Weight (avail. in the shop)

Apres Surf Hoodie by Connie Chang Chinchio
RYC Cashcotton 4-Ply
This one is already in my Ravelry queue!

This issue also has a great article celebrating the 50th anniversary of Schoolhouse Press! Learn the history of the conception of the great Press that was the brainchild of knitter Elizabeth Zimmerman. No one would publish her books after the publication of Knitting Without Tears and Knitter's Almanac so she, very successfully, took matters into her own hands and Schoolhouse Press was born. Also included is the pattern for her popular Maltese Hats, reprinted with additional notes and color chart by Meg Swansen. I think I know what Clyde is getting for his 6 month birthday!

Maltese Hats--Reconsidered
14 sts/10 cm for baby size (try it in Rapture!)
11 sts/10 cm for others (try it in Rowan Country! avail. in the shop)

And to round out your summer knitting experience there's a great pair of socks in a simple colorwork pattern. A good colorwork project if you are hoping to one day make a fair isle sweater as it includes some charted shaping for the gusset. This is a nice manageable beach project and would be a good use for some Koigu mill ends mixed with a nice bright solid to balance out the multis.

Windowpane Socks by Chrissy Gardiner
Lorna's Laces Shepard Sock (avail. in the shop)

So that's my Interweave update for summer. You can always view more and score some free patterns from the Interweave website.