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Knitting For Baby
30 Heirloom Projects with Complete How-to-Knit Instructions
By Melanie Falick, Kristin Nicholas
ABRAMSCopyright © 2002 Melanie Falick and Kristin Nicholas
All rights reserved.
THE BEGINNINGS OF KNITTING ARE SHROUDED IN MYSTERY. PERHAPS IT BEGAN IN THE THIRTEENTH CENTURY—KNITTED SOCKS FROM AROUND THAT TIME HAVE BEEN FOUND IN EGYPT—OR PERHAPS IT BEGAN EVEN EARLIER. WHATEVER THE CASE, IT'S SAFE TO SAY THAT FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS KNITTERS HAVE BEEN TEACHING THEM-SELVES AND EACH OTHER HOW TO KNIT—AND THEN KNITTING FOR THEIR BABIES.
While there are those lucky few who knit perfectly from the first stitch (it seems, somehow, that their fingers were born knowing what to do), for most knitters it takes a bit of practice. If you are a member of the former group, congratulations. If you are part of the latter, join the crowd. The first few rows may feel awkward, but we're sure that before too long, probably within a few minutes, you will catch on. Your hands will start to move rhythmically, your eyes will begin to see the logic of the movements, and the knitted fabric will grow. The pace will quicken and the dreams will begin—of blankets and booties, of cardigans and caps, of the love and care and good wishes that you will knit into each and every project, each and every stitch.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
The most important tools for knitting are yarn and needles. In fact, with these two basic tools you can get by for a long time. However, there are a few other tools that, while not absolutely necessary, are quite useful.
There are many types of yarn, made of all sorts of fibers, in different thicknesses, and created using a variety of spinning methods. The natural fibers most commonly spun into knitting yarns are wool, alpaca, mohair, cashmere, angora, silk, cotton, and linen. There are also yarns made from synthetic materials like acrylic. The thickness, usually referred to as the weight of the yarn, can range from quite fine to thick. Though the terminology isn't officially standardized, the most common terms you are likely to run across when exploring knitting yarns are, from finest to bulkiest, laceweight, fingering, sport, DK (short for double-knitting), worsted, heavy worsted, chunky, and bulky. For learning to knit, we recommend wool yarn in a worsted, heavy worsted, or chunky weight. Wool is elastic and feels good in the hands and is available in a myriad of beautiful colors. Worsted through chunky weight yarns knit up relatively quickly and offer prompt satisfaction. When choosing yarn with which to learn, more than anything else, we urge you to choose yarn that you love to look at and feel. You will be spending a lot of time with this yarn and your affection for it is likely to influence how much you enjoy knitting. So, please avoid the temptation to start with the cheapest yarn you can find (unless you find a beautiful yarn on sale) or yarn that a friend or relative dug out of her basement for you when she heard you were interested in knitting (unless it happens to be really great).
WINDING A BALL OF YARN
Oftentimes yarn is sold in a skein, which looks like a figure eight.
Before you knit with skeined yarn, you have to rewind it into a ball.
To do this, untwist the figure eight and gently open it up into a circle. Place the skein over the back of a chair, over a friend's arms, or around your knees while sitting cross-legged. Sometimes there are yarn or string ties wound through the skein to keep it orderly. Snip any ties, being careful not to cut the main yarn. The two ends of the skein are usually tied together. Find the ends and either cut or untie the knot. Select one end and wind it loosely around your fingers. After a few rounds slip your fingers out and continue winding. Every so often, rotate the ball as you wind to create an even, round shape.
Knitting needles are made in many lengths with many different diameters, ranging from very skinny to very fat, and in a variety of materials, such as aluminum, plastic, wood, and bamboo. They can also be straight with a knob on one end, double-pointed (with points on both ends), or circular (two straight needles connected in the center by a plastic or wire cable). Straight needles and circular needles are used to knit flat pieces of fabric back and forth. Double-pointed and circular needles are used to knit tubular pieces of knitting (instead of knitting back and forth you knit around in a spiral; this is commonly called knitting in the round). American needles come in numbered sizes from 0000 (extremely skinny) to 15 and higher (bordering on broomsticks). In Europe needles are sized using the metric system (which is relevant for American knitters because many European needles are sold in American yarn shops). The thickness of the yarn dictates the needle size required for a project, and the correct sized needle gives the finished knitted fabric a pleasing look, feel, and drape. All knitting patterns list the suggested size and type of needles. All of the projects in this book call for knitting needles in commonly available U.S. sizes.
Although a project that is knit in the round must be knitted on double-pointed or circular needles, beyond that there are few rules in terms of knitting needles. To find the needles that work best and are most comfortable for you, experiment with different types. Consider their weight and texture, how they feel in your hands, and how easily you can maneuver the stitches on them. Keep in mind that you may like one kind of needle for one type of project and another kind for a different project. For example, you may like aluminum needles when working with soft wools and bamboo when working with cashmere. You may like one manufacturer's circular needles and another manufacturer's straight needles. If you break or lose a needle in the middle of a project, try to replace it with a needle made of the same material from the same manufacturer to avoid unevenness and possible changes in gauge at the point of the needle switch.
For convenience, choose a small pair with a blade cover or a pair of folding scissors that can fit into the accessories pouch of a knitting bag.
TAPE MEASURE, RULER, AND / OR YARDSTICK
A tape measure is necessary for taking body measurements and is easy to carry around in a knitting bag. Be aware that tape measures can stretch and become less accurate over time, thus should be replaced accordingly. Rulers and yardsticks, which are easier to position, tend to be more accurate than tape measures when measuring flat pieces of knitting.
Because some needles are not marked with their size, and because some size markings fade over time, it is important to have a needle gauge. Most needle gauges also have inch and/or centimeter markings on them (so they can be used as short rulers) and include handy 2-or 4-inch cutouts to simplify measuring gauge (stitches and rows per inch). Because some needle manufacturers use American sizing terminology and some use the metric system, it is useful to have a needle gauge that includes both systems. To use a needle gauge, slip your needle into the holes, from small to large, until you find the smallest one that fits the needle comfortably.
(also known as tapestry needle or darning needle) This large, blunt-tipped needle is used to sew pieces of knitting together and to weave loose ends of yarn into the knitted fabric.
All knitters accidentally drop stitches off their needles from time to time. They can be picked up easily with a crochet hook. The crochet hook should be close to the same size in diameter as the knitting needle being used.
T-PINS OR COIL-LESS SAFETY PINS
It is often useful to pin pieces of knitting in place before sewing them together. T-pins stay in place better than the large plastic pins that are also sold for this purpose. Coil-less, rustproof safety pins work well also. These look like conventional safety pins, except that they have an open, U-shaped bottom, without the familiar doubled coil we are used to seeing. As a result, they are less likely to become caught on your knitting.
To create cables, or groups of stitches worked to look like twisted ropes, you exchange groups of stitches using a cable needle. Most knitters choose a cable needle that looks like a large hook or one that looks like a double-pointed needle with a hump in the center. Some knitters skip the cable needle and use a double-pointed knitting needle instead.
There are times as you knit when you need to set stitches aside to be worked on at a later point. For example, often you will put the neck stitches of a sweater on a holder until you are ready to work the neckband. For these situations, a stitch holder is recommended. You can also create your own stitch holder in a variety of creative ways, by putting stitches to be held on a double-pointed needle and wrapping rubber bands on both ends, or by threading stitches through a shoelace or a piece of scrap yarn.
Often when you are knitting you are counting stitches and/or rows. To simplify the task, markers can be placed on individual stitches or in between stitches. Closed ring markers can only be placed or removed when you reach the specified stitch on the row. Split ring markers can be placed or removed at any time. Many knitters make their own markers by tying small pieces of yarn in colors that contrast with their work.
These small, usually plastic or rubber caps are placed on the points of knitting needles to keep stitches from falling off when you're not working on your knitting project. For a snug fit, be sure to choose point protectors that correspond to the size of your knitting needles.
BASIC KNITTING TECHNIQUES
Often people tell us that they're not good knitters, that all they know how to do is knit and purl. We have news for them: There's not much more to learn. This is the wonder of knitting, what makes it so humble yet so potentially powerful. With two sticks (needles) and a string (yarn) and the knit and purl stitches, you can create a seemingly infinite number of effects. Here we present instructions for casting on (putting stitches on a knitting needle to start), the knit stitch, the purl stitch, and binding off (taking stitches off the needles when you are finished). Learn these techniques and you are on your way to what can easily become a lifelong creative adventure.
Casting on is the process of putting the first set of stitches on a knitting needle. There are many different ways to do this, each creating a slightly different edge. In this book, we introduce three cast-ons, all of which begin with a slipknot. We suggest that you start with the simple cast-on, which doesn't create as neat an edge as the other two cast-ons, but is, we think, the easiest to learn from a book. That way you can get started quickly. Once you feel comfortable knitting, we suggest that you try the knit-on and long-tail cast-ons, neither of which is hard, just simpler to learn once you are feeling at ease with your yarn and needles.
There are several different ways to make a slipknot, all equally good. So, if you already know how to make a slipknot, there's no need to spend any time looking at these instructions. If you don't know how to make slip-knot, here's our favorite method.
1. About 8 inches from the end of the yarn (called the tail), make a loop with your fingers, passing the working end (the yarn coming from the ball) in front of the tail. With your thumb and forefinger, pinch the space where the two yarns cross each other.
2. Make a second loop with the working yarn right next to the first loop and, from behind, push it, through the first loop about an inch. Pull on the tail to tighten the slipknot.
Although you are likely to graduate quickly to the more refined cast-ons once you become comfortable knitting, you may continue to use this technique when you desire an especially elastic edge and/or for shaping, that is, to increase one or more stitches at the beginning, end, or in the middle of a row.
1. Make a slipknot and place it on a knitting needle, pulling it tight enough to stay in one place on the needle but not so tight that it won't move easily if you push it. If your "tail" (the cut end of the yarn) is longer than 5 inches, trim it to 5 inches so that you won't confuse the tail with the working yarn (the yarn coming from the ball). Hold the needle with the slipknot in your right hand and hold the working yarn with the fingers of your left hand. With the fingers of your left hand, shape the working yarn into a loop, with the yarn connected to the slipknot in back.
2. Turn your wrist about 15 degrees so that your knuckles face up and the center of the loop moves over the tip of the needle. Pull the working yarn gently to tighten the stitch on the needle.
Repeat step 1, from the point when you shape the working yarn into a loop, and step 2 until you have cast on the number of stitches desired. The slipknot is only used once, to create the first stitch on the needle.
CHOOSING A KNITTING BAG
A knitting bag can be anything from a plastic grocery sac to an elaborate lined tote made with antique fabric. Ideally, the fabric should be strong enough to keep knitting needles from poking through, and the bag should include at least one zip-shut pocket for small tools. If you do choose a plastic grocery sac, make sure that it is absolutely clean and has never held raw food, as remnants of the food may attract bugs that can harm your yarn. Picnic baskets (again, untouched by raw food) also work well as knitting "bags."
The long-tail cast-on is one of the most popular. Though it may seem complicated at first glance, it really isn't, so don't lose heart if it takes a little while to get the hang of it. Once you know it, you'll be impressed with its rhythmic quality and how quickly and gracefully your hands can move. Unlike the other two cast-ons in this book, for this one you have to estimate how much yarn you will need before you start. As a general rule, for worsted-weight yarn, allow 1 inch for each stitch to be cast on, then add a few inches as insurance. (For bulkier yarn, allow more; for finer yarn, allow less.)
1. Estimate how much yarn you will need based upon the number of stitches you are casting on. For example, if you are casting on 10 stitches in worsted-weight yarn, measure 10 inches plus 2 inches insurance. At the 12-inch mark, make a slipknot on your knitting needle, pulling it tight enough to stay in one place on the needle but not so tight that it won't move easily if you push it. Hold the needle with the slipknot in your right hand. With the fingers of your left hand, grab both the working yarn and the tail about 4 inches or so away from the needle. With your palm facing down, using your thumb and forefinger, open the space between the working yarn and tail to create a diamond shape with the yarn (the tail will be over your thumb).
2. Flip your wrist so your palm faces up and take a look at your fingers and yarn. Now envision a baseball diamond. The space between the yarn on your forefinger and the needle is first base; the space between the yarn on your thumb and the needle is third base; the space between your forefinger and thumb is the pitcher's mound; and the slipknot on the knitting needle is home plate.
3. Take your knitting needle to third base by sliding it under the space between the yarn on your thumb and up into the center, working from the outside of your thumb (foul territory) inward.
4. Now take the point of the needle to first base by inserting it down into the space formed by the yarn on your forefinger and the needle.
5. Rotate your thumb up and over the needle tip. Remove your thumb from the loop; replace your thumb between the strands as in step 1, and pull on the tail to tighten the new stitch on the needle.
Repeat until you have cast on the number of stitches desired.
We suggest that you learn the knit-on cast-on after you have mastered the knit stitch. At that point, learning the knit-on cast-on will be a breeze, taking a couple of minutes or even less.
1. Make a slipknot, pulling it tight enough to stay in one place on the needle but not so tight that it won't move easily if you push it. Follow steps 2 through 4 of the knit-stitch instructions on page 16.
2. Instead of continuing to step 5, insert the left-hand needle from the front down into the center of the stitch on your right-hand needle. Remove the right-hand needle and pull on the working yarn with the fingers of your right hand to tighten the new stitch on your left-hand needle. Return to step 2 of the knit stitch and repeat the casting-on process until you have the desired number of stitches on your needle.
Before beginning to knit, take a moment to examine your cast-on stitches. Note that each stitch looks like a loop with one leg of the loop in front of the needle and one leg of the loop in back of the needle. The stitches on the needle are called live stitches. The cast-on edge runs perpendicular to the live stitches. To complete your first row of knitting you are going to knit into the live stitches. To practice the knit stitch, cast on about 10 stitches and knit row after row until you feel comfortable. Knitting all stitches in this way is called garter stitch. When you feel ready, choose a project from Chapter 2, all of which are made with garter stitch.
Excerpted from Knitting For Baby by Melanie Falick, Kristin Nicholas. Copyright © 2002 Melanie Falick and Kristin Nicholas. Excerpted by permission of ABRAMS.
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