Ana and Crystal are on Viewpoints!

Ana and I did an interview for the Viewpoints Podcast. We talk about knitting with visual impairments and share some tips and advice for other blind and low vision knitters.

 

Please check it out:  ViewPoints 1214 4-4-12 Knitting for the Visually Impaired

 

Also, check out  ViewPoints

A weekly, half hour radio program for people living with low vision

Find out more about the show and get links to the podcasts at:

www.ViewPointsPlus.net

 

The Right Decrease: Knitting Two Together

When I was five, my mom taught me to knit. Literally. She cast on the stitches, and I knit them. After a few rows of crinkly garter, we moved on to purling. A sweater, after all, requires the ability to make smooth stockinet for the body and corrugated ribbing for cuffs and edges. I think the next lesson was binding off, and the last was the long-tail cast on. Great! Barbie and all my other dollies were happily stocked with blankets, scarves, washcloths, pillows, and more blankets, scarves, washcloths, and pillows. What else can a girl imagine squares and rectangles into?

Eventually, my mom taught me to decrease, turn two stitches into one. That was magical because I had been given the power to make the fabric change shape. For example, if I cast on a bunch of stitches and decreased at the beginning of every row, I made a triangle, which was like the shawls grown women I knew wore, or if I cast on a bunch of stitches, worked a few rows even, then decreased all the way across the row before working a few more rows even, I would create a ruffle. New and exciting things were possible, and the decrease was my first major step into non-rudimentary knitting.

The simplest decrease is called “knit two together.” The way it’s abbreviated in knitting patterns is “k2tog” or “k2 tog.” Technically it slants to the right. This is important when you’re making lace or when you want the decreases to line up, but when you’re starting out, it’s a great all-purpose decrease.

How does it work?

Normally, when I knit, I have the thumb of my left hand resting lightly on the needle between the first and second stitches. Before a decrease, I move my thumb so that it’s resting lightly between the second and third stitches.

For the knit two together decrease, I do exactly what I do for the knit stitch, only instead of inserting the needle into one stitch, I insert it into two. I start by placing the tip of the right needle where my left thumb is. I push the tip through the second, then the first stitch on the left needle, scoop or wrap the yarn exactly as I do when knitting a single stitch, then draw the right needle back through both stitches, dropping them off the left needle when I’m done.

It feels a little awkward the first time or two, and it’s one of those things that your hands just get, so it’s best not to think too much about what you’re doing or what you’re going to do. It’s best to imagine all the things that you’ll be making.

The Glory of Great Mistakes and Greater Influences

Contributed by Timothy Harshbarger

Who knew knitting would lead to so many bad influences and so much good folly? After four months of knitting, I still feel like quite the novice. So far, the only thing I’ve completed is what I am calling the misshapen-pink-Barbie-dishcloth-with-built-in-button-holes.

My friend Stacy, the bad influence who got me into knitting in the first place, and I went to a yarn store where we both bought lots of … well … yarn. I picked up a bunch of small skeins of cotton blend to make dishcloths, and the first skein I happened to grab when I got home and broke out the needles was bright pink, a fact I discovered when the guys were over talking and drinking beer—while I worked on my dishcloth. They all stepped up to their man-friend duty and informed me of the color. Fortunately, I think I carried it off manfully myself.

But I was talking about bad influences. After the misshapen-pink-Barbie-dishcloth-with-built-in-button-holes, I started on a scarf. I was doing really well until I snapped the yarn while sitting out front waiting for my ride to work. I am undaunted, though because my knitting list, a passel of bad influences, has helped me believe that I may theoretically have either a very thick woolen dishcloth or the world’s smallest, squarest scarf, or I can always try to pass it off as a coaster with a little salesmanship.

It’s like this. I realized, when I finished with the dishcloth, that I had two choices. I could decide that I had done a bad job of it, or I could change the name of the project, thus encouraging myself in turning it into a success. I pause here to reiterate that both my friend Stacy and my knitting list are the reason I am turning out this way.

My conversations with Stacy usually start out like:

Me: I really messed up. Can you tell me where I went wrong so I won’t do it again?

Stacy: Let me take a look at it?

Stacy takes the fabric from me and checks it over.

Stacy: Tim, you discovered the yarn over.

Me: I did? Goodness, I am just a creative genius and don’t know it. Now if I could only make mistakes on purpose.

Stacy: You are doing better all the time. Here’s what you did to create the yarn over ….

And she goes on to tell me all about yarn overs, how to make one (on purpose,) what I might use them for, and we finally discuss how to fix the mistake. Thus she encourages me to make as many mistakes as I possibly can so I can learn all sorts of new things. Such a bad influence.

Then there is my knitting list, with all their talk about the yarn sometimes telling you what it wants to be, their seditious nonsense about making patterns your own, and blasphemy of blasphemies, their outright support of making mistakes. They are happiest when I take chances and experiment. True instigators.

They all make knitting just too enjoyable, too risky, and too exciting, and I really want to be daredevil enough to do some fancier things, though topping a misshapen-pink-Barbie-dishcloth-with-built-in-button-holes will take some skill indeed. I’m looking forward to the first time I give a finished project to someone, and I know I’ll do it with so many knitters to lead me astray.

Solids, Heathers, Jewels, and More

Colors can be something of a headache, and asking sighted people for clarification doesn’t help because each has a different notion of what color matches what and which color looks good on whom. So I’m not even going to pretend to go there. Instead, I’ll mention a few general bits and pieces about colors that may come in handy while working with yarn.

Some Basic Characteristics

Light and dark are contrasts. If you’re musically minded, think of light as one octave above middle C and dark as one octave below it. Think of muted, a dull version of the color, as quiet (piano), and think of vivid or saturated, a bold medium dark to dark variation, as loud (forte).

While most colors can be light medium or dark, white, yellow, pink, and lavender are light by definition, and black and red are dark by definition.

Solid yarns are the same color all the way through and make fabric that is uniform in color. A textural equivalent is the smooth public side of a store-bought knitted sweater.

Tweed yarns are solid yarns with flecks of different colors and make fabric that is uniformly not-solid. We all did a little weaving in elementary school or summer camp. (Remember the potholder?) The yarn and loom were big enough that the fabric we made had a definite grain and a clear textural pattern: the longer lines of the weft lay across the vertical warp, which was mostly hidden to the touch. This texture is like tweed: the solid background color is like the horizontal lines of the woven potholder that are easy to find with our fingers, and the flecks are like the tiny vertical bits that we can also feel. The foreground and background colors are so uniformly distributed that the fabric isn’t described as being two different colors though the two colors are seen.

Heather yarns are different muted shades of a single color. The different shades would be something like light blue, light-medium blue, medium blue, maybe a turquoise that’s more blue than green. Muted means that the colors are visually soft or grayish, like a dusty or fuzzy surface. The overall textural equivalent of a heathered fabric is like the fabric that results from working with slubby yarns, the yarns that are thick in some places, but thin in others. This type of fabric is full of subtle, but unmistakable variation. It has loose, almost lacey areas where thin yarns form a meshlike fabric; it has dense areas where thick loops interlock; and it has normal areas where thick and thin loops come together.

Variegated yarns are a dramatic version of the heathers. Variegation progresses through unmuted shades of the same color or more commonly from one color to another. The cape I’m making now has several shades of pink and peach, , a related lavender, white, and green. Texturally, the general effect is like making a slubby fabric, only imagine that the different fabrics—mesh, dense, and standard—are made of different yarns, maybe silk, wool, and cotton, so while the way one color or texture blends into the next is subtle, the over all effect is not.

Jewel tones are vivid medium or dark colors resembling gemstones (e.g., ruby red, emerald green, sapphire blue). They’re usually solid or nearly solid (meaning subtle variations of the same bold color), and they draw the eye, so they’re best for items that make a statement, comparable to a melody heavy with fortissimos, allegros, or slinky syncopations.

Colors and Stitch Patterns

To show off stitch patterns, solids and heathers in light to medium shades work best.

The darker the yarn, the less likely people are to see the stitch patterns and the more impressed they’ll be by the person who could see well enough to knit or crochet with the color.

Variegated yarns are best for no-frills crafting, like stockinet, garter, or ribbing for knitters. People never see the stitches amid all the interesting color activity, so take it easy and let the variegation do the work.

Jewels are also good for no-frills stitching. The colors tend to be darker, and their vividness is pretty damn interesting in and of itself.

All of these are generalizations, of course. A sighted friend with color and craft sense can discourse on various nuances or, more likely, point out a specific yarn that does or doesn’t do well with intricate stitch patterns, but knowing broadly what these color terms mean and how they affect our work is takes some of the uncertainty about what to do with our yarn.

Learn to Crochet

Knowing how to crochet can be a great thing for knitters as well as those who have never picked up a ball of yarn. Even if you’re not planning to crochet a lot, it can be used for borders on knitted items, embellishments, ties for bags and other little things. If you really get adventurous, you can do a whole project with crochet. There are some wonderful afghan patterns out there.

I recently did a few posts on the basics of crochet. It’s worth taking the time to learn. I wanted to list all the posts together in one place so here they are in the order you would need them to learn how to crochet. I hope you find them helpful.

The Art of Crochet – An article on my personal experiences with crochet as well as some highlights on the history of crochet.

Slip Knot Tutorial – A slip knot is the first step in both crochet and knitting.

Chain Stitch Tutorial – The chain stitch is used to make the foundation row in crochet.

Single Crochet Tutorial – The single crochet is the most basic stitch in crochet.

More Crochet Stitches – A short explanation of the most used crochet stitches.

more Basic Crochet Stitches

All the basic crochet stitches are a variation of the single crochet stitch. The only difference is when and how often you yarn over. You also pull your hook through different numbers of loops. I’ll explain the basic idea behind each stitch. See this post for a detailed description of how to do a single crochet stitch.

Half double Crochet

 

The half double is the same as a single except there is an extra yarn over before you insert the hook into the next stitch. The half double is exactly half way between a single and a double in height. To work a half double, you yarn over, insert your hook into the next stitch, yarn over and pull your yarn through so you’ll have three loops on the hook, yarn over and pull through all three loops on the hook. You should end with one loop remaining on the hook. .

Double Crochet

 

The double crochet stitch is twice as tall as a single crochet stitch. To make a double, yarn over and insert your hook into the next stitch, yarn over and pull the yarn through so you’ll have three loops on the hook, yarn over and pull the yarn through only two of the loops on the hook, yarn over one more time and pull the yarn through the last two loops on the hook. You’ll want to use your right fingertip to control which loops get worked and which ones stay on the hook. By holding the loops that aren’t going to be worked with your finger, it makes it easier to work only the ones you need.

Triple Crochet

 

The triple crochet stitch is one of the more difficult stitches for me to work. Luckily, it doesn’t come up very often. To work a triple crochet stitch, yarn over twice and insert your hook into the next stitch, yarn over and pull the yarn through. There will be a total of four loops on the hook. Yarn over and pull the yarn through only the first two loops. There will be three loops on the hook. Yarn over and pull through the first two loops on the hook. Now you should have two loops remaining. Yarn over one more time and pull through the last two loops on the hook. You should be left with only one loop on the hook. To simplify that a little, you would yarn over twice, insert your hook into the next stitch, yarn over and pull through. Now you’ll yarn over and pull through only two stitches a total of three times to complete the triple crochet stitch.

Slip Stitch

 

The slip stitch is used to connect your rounds as well as being used in some more complicated stitches. To make a slip stitch, insert your hook in the next stitch, yarn over and pull the yarn through all the loops on the hook. You will most likely only be doing this stitch when there is only one loop on your hook to start so you’ll be pulling the yarn through the next stitch and the loop on the hook all at one time.

Spend some time practicing these stitches along with the single crochet. The half double and double will be used a lot more often than the triple so if the triple is too awkward, don’t worry about it very much. There are a lot of other stitches in crochet but they all use these few stitches in different combinations. Once you feel fairly comfortable with the hook, find a simple pattern and get going with your first crochet project. They can be a lot of fun.

For a list of crochet pattern abbreviations, as well as some free patterns, see the Purple Kitty Website.

Also be sure to check out Crochet Pattern Central for a directory of free patterns.

Crochet Tutorial: Single Crochet Stitch

In crochet, there is one basic stitch called the single crochet stitch. Variations of this stitch include the half double, double and triple stitches. Once you can do the single crochet stitch, it will be easy to learn the other stitches.

Keep in mind as you read this tutorial that it will make more sense with yarn and crochet hook in hand. These instructions also assume that you are holding your crochet hook in your right hand. I am left handed and still hold the crochet hook in my right hand. If you do hold your crochet hook in your left hand, you can reverse these directions. The basic steps will still be the same whichever hand you use.

Working Single Crochet Stitches Into The Foundation Row

 

  1. Chain 11. Remember not to count the slip knot or the loop on the hook. There will be 11 completed chain stitches between the slip knot and the loop on the hook.
  2. The chain will have a flat side with two strands of yarn facing you while a third strand of yarn makes a bump on the back. You want to work into the chain with the top strand from the front and the bump on the back both above the hook. From the front, insert the crochet hook into the second chain from the hook so that there are two strands above the hook and one strand below. When counting chain stitches from the hook, don’t count the loop on the hook. There will be one skipped chain stitch between the one you put your hook in and the loop on the hook.
  3. Make sure you are holding the chain with your left thumb and fore finger. The working strand of yarn should go over the top of your left fore finger and go under your left middle finger. When you insert the hook into the chain, it should go underneath that strand of yarn. Now pull the hook back toward you, making sure to catch the strand of yarn as you pull the hook back and through the chain. You should have two loops on the hook.
  4. Let go of the work and wrap the yarn around the hook. The strand should go away from you, up behind the hook, over the top and back down in front of the hook but still behind the work. When you’re done making the yarn over, you should return to holding the work just as you did in step 3. Pull the strand of yarn through the two loops on the hook. Turning the hook so that it is facing the spot where your loops meet the work will help you draw it through without getting hung up. You have made your first single crochet and should have one loop on the hook.

 

Continue steps 2 through 4 in each chain stitch. It is easier to feel the next chain by finding the bump on the back. From right to left on the back you will feel the vertical strand of the stitch you just completed, the knot where the chain you just put a stitch in meets the next chain and then the bump of the next chain. You’ll want to hold your fingers where the bump is and try to get the crochet hook inserted as in step 2. Don’t worry about it too much if you can only get the hook under the top strand for now. This isn’t the most important part of learning to crochet and I don’t want this to frustrate you too much.

Working A Regular Row Of Single Crochet Stitches

 

  1. When you get to the end of the chain, you should have worked 10 single crochet stitches. Yarn over and pull through the loop on the hook. This is called the turning chain. With single crochet, you always chain one and then turn. After you turn your work, the crochet hook with the loop on it will be to the far right with your work to the left. The same row you just worked will still be at the top of your piece.
  2. Now you will work another row of 10 single crochets. Don’t count the turning chain. The first single crochet will be worked in the stitch directly at the base of the turning chain. Insert the hook under the two strands at the top of this stitch. Complete the stitch the same as in steps 2 through 4 from above. A short version of steps 2 through 4 are put the hook through, yarn over, pull the yarn through, yarn over again and pull it through the two loops on the hook.  Continue working a single crochet in the top of each single crochet across the row.
  3. When you get to the end of the row do not work into the turning chain. The other crochet stitches skip the stich at the base of the turning chain at the beginning of the row and use the turning chain at the end of the row to work the last stitch. With single crochet, you do not have to do this.

Keep making a new turning chain at the end of the work, turn and make another row. Make as many rows as you like. When you want to tie off your work, simply cut the yarn, yarn over and pull it through the last loop on the hook. Snug it up, weave in your ends and you’re finished.

As you practice, try not to get frustrated. Nothing is perfect the first time you try it. The wonderful thing about yarn is that it’s very forgiving of mistakes. Just pull it out and the mistakes are gone. Try again and again, and eventually you’ll have it down. It’s not as hard as it sounds and before long the whole process will be second nature.

These instructions have been very detailed. For a more concise tutorial or to see pictures, see one of the following links.

Lion Brand Learn To Crochet

Wool Crafting’s How To Crochet Page

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