YarnCraft Episode 58 Transcript :: Keep Cozy with 16 Quick Winter Accessories & Learn All About Charts

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

You’re listening to YarnCraft. [intro music]

Zontee: Welcome to YarnCraft. It’s episode 58 on January 19, 2010. Thanks for joining us today. I’m Zontee.

Liz: And this is Liz, and we are the hosts of YarnCraft.

Zontee: Visit YarnCraft.LionBrand.com for more information on subscribing, a list of the patterns products and websites we talk about on today’s episode. And while you’re there you can also leave us your comments, or you can give us a call and leave a voicemail at 774-452-YARN. That’s 774-452-9276. We always love sharing your stories and suggestions on the show.

Liz: As usual, we’re here at the Lion Brand Design Center in New York City, and since it’s continued to be blustery here in the Northeast, we’re sharing five kinds of projects that will help to keep you cozy this season. And for those of you who are in warmer climates we’ll also be sharing a ton of listener stories, questions and comments. So stay tuned for useful info from listeners like you.

Zontee: And on today’s “Stash This: Ideas for Your Crafting Life” we’ll be talking about different kinds of charts: knit, crochet, those for colorwork, those for motifs, and in general what are charts good for, tips on reading them and why you should learn to make your own.

Liz: It’s all about information and inspiration, next on YarnCraft. [music]


Zontee: Starting us off today we wanted to share some of the great comments, New Year’s resolutions and such that we got on our blog. Quite a few of you wrote in to share what your plans are for 2010.

Liz: Linel1 said she wanted to step up to the plate and answer the challenge question. What we thought was really cool about Linel1′s post was that her major goal is that she wants to make yarncrafting her career in 2010, whether she’s selling products that she’s made or getting into developing patterns and instructions.

And what was particularly impressive is that she had really good reasons why she wanted to pursue this and different angles that she was going to explore, and then laid out seven short term goals and five long term goals. I just thought that was really inspiring. I want to apply that kind of process to all my resolutions. Thank you for the organization and goal setting inspiration, Linel1.

On the more modest side but still very, very useful, Lara told us that she would love to get working on everything in her queue on Ravelry instead of getting sidetracked. And this is something I completely agree with because this has been happening to me ever since I’ve gotten on Ravelry.

Liz: Me, too. I have a focused queue of really great projects that I really want to make and that I may own the yarn for in my apartment.

Zontee: Perhaps.

Liz: Do I make those things? No, I make other random things.

Zontee: Well, see I always feel like I get roped into making other random things so this year…

Liz: Well there are always reasons.

Zontee: Right, there are always reasons. So this year, the sweater that I’ve been working on has been in my queue…

Liz: Yes, I know. I remember we talked about what color you should do a bajillion years ago.

Zontee: A bajillion years ago. And so I feel like this is the first step towards really doing things in my queue.

Liz: That’s excellent.

Zontee: So I’m feeling pretty excited. And, Lara, I hope you’re excited, too.

Liz: Our good friend of YarnCraft and Lion Brand Yarn Studio, Grace, says she was very impressed, as I was, with Zontee finishing all her works, and projects and unfinished objects in 2009, so that’s going to be Grace’s goal for herself for 2010. And then she wants to knit 80 percent from her stash. I think that was really good, putting a number on it, because 100 percent is hard to keep, no new yarn for a whole year. But 80 percent, that’s really doable.

Zontee: 80 percent I think I could do, too. Maybe. Grace is probably going to do better than me, honestly.

Liz: Yeah.

Zontee: We also got a really nice letter from Sundari on Ravelry. And she just shared with us some of the great things that she’s added to her stash, and she’s got Sasha, Fettuccini, LB Collection Silk Mohair, Fun Fur, all sorts of really great textural things. And I think it’s really great that she’s really excited about so many of the different projects that she’s working on. And she’s doing a lot of experimenting with different textures of yarns.

And I think that that’s a great thing to do in the new year as well is if you haven’t tried textural yarns, she’s doing things with everything from Homespun to Silk Mohair that we mentioned. Go ahead and try it because who knows, you might find something new that you really enjoy or just find a different way to really inspire yourself in your yarncrafting.

Liz: Yeah, absolutely.

Finally, we wanted to share a great comment we got on the Lion Brand Notebook from Renee. She wrote in to say that by listening to the podcast she got inspired to try one of the crochet afghan patterns she had been looking at for months that she had been putting off because it had been 17 years since she crocheted. She says she finally did it and gave it to her husband for Christmas, and he loves it and uses it every night.

So she just found that such a confidence building and got such a sense of accomplishment from doing that. She really wants to encourage everyone to get inspired.

Zontee: And I think that that’s really great. And thank you so much, Renee, for sharing that with us.

Liz: Absolutely.

Zontee: Next on the show before we get into the nitty gritty of what Liz and I have been working on, which maybe not necessarily be all that exciting this week…

Liz: Yeah. It’s a busy time here at Lion Brand. [laughs]

Zontee: It is a really busy time of year. It is big yarncrafting weather in the northern hemisphere and so we’ve been keeping pretty busy here in the offices, but we have gotten a little bit of our own work done. But in the meantime we’ve got some great questions from you listeners and we hope to help you out with them.

Liz: Harriet wrote in to the blog to ask about wool yarn. She wants to know what kind can be felted because she is specifically interested in starting to make some felted purses for her Christmas gifts in 2010. So way to go, Harriet. Way to seize 2010 and get cracking.

To find a good yarn for felting, you want something that the majority of the fiber content is animal fiber, specifically wool, or alpaca or mohair. Our Fishermen’s Wool is great, as is our Lion Wool. You want to make sure that nothing on the label says superwash, or unshrinkable, or treated to be washable, any of those kind of phrases, because those yarns have been specially processed so they can be gently machine washed without felting.

And always, if you are looking at a yarn that has a label on it, take a look at the washing instructions. Generally if it says hand wash only, cool water, lay flat to try, and it’s a wool yarn, it will probably felt. And generally things need to have around 75 percent wool content seems to be the tipping point. Anything closer like our Wool-Ease, which is 80 percent acrylic and 20 percent wool, that’s totally machine washable and dryable so you get the softness of wool but easy care, and it won’t felt. But about 75 percent wool, you’re probably going to be fine.

We recommend always doing small swatch, and you can just do a little hand felting in your sink to make sure that it’s going to felt when you do your larger project in the washing machine.

Zontee: That’s a really good suggestion, doing a swatch beforehand. And of course we have some great purse patterns in both Lion Wool and Fishermen’s Wool on our website so definitely check those out.

Liz: And if you’re looking for something a little heavier to make maybe a more structured purse, you might want to check out our new Alpine Wool, which also felts really well.

Zontee: Yeah, that’s beautiful.

Next we have a question from Gloria, and she says that she’s been listening to the podcast for a year now and she’s got a question about Vanna’s Glamour. And she wants to know how you can tell which end to pull from in order to get the center pull of the skein. And this actually applies to pretty much all of our yarns that come in balls, or skeins or I don’t know what else you would call them really.

And the trick to that is really to first look for the outside end and see where that’s tucked into because generally you have an end that comes and is wrapped to the outside, and you could possibly pull from the outside if you wanted to do that. So once you’ve located that, I always recommend pulling it out so that it can’t get caught and tangled in the yarn that’s in the middle of the ball.

Liz: That’s a really important step, actually.

Zontee: Definitely.

Liz: You definitely want to do that.

Zontee: And I’ve done this before where I’ve actually started pulling from the center but it got caught on that other end that was tucked in, and the all of my yarn just got really messed up. So don’t do this.

Liz: Yeah.

Zontee: First pull out the outside end and hold it in your hand so that you can see which end that came out of. Now, take your fingers and stick them in the other end of your skein and kind of pull out that big, goobery thing in the middle.

Liz: It’s going to be a big, goobery thing. There’s not going to be one little end that you’re going to find reaching in there.

Zontee: Right.

You’re going to have to pull out a little bit of a clump.

Zontee: Yeah. I know people who sometimes have reached in there, kind of scooched around, and magically managed to pull out that one single strand, but that happens like once out of every 30, 40, 50 times.

Liz: Urban yarn-crafting myth.

Zontee: OK, maybe it is a myth. Anyway, pull out the weird goobery thing. Wrap that yarn back onto your skein from the end that’s actually coming out of the ball and start working from the end you finally get to. That’s your center pull end. You’re going to work through that weird loop that you created around your skein really quickly, so don’t even worry about it.

As soon as you work to the end of that you’ll see that your yarn will start pulling from the middle, which is exactly what you were looking for. It’s relatively simple., can be done with everything from Pound of Love to Homespun to the Vanna’s Glamour, Vanna’s Choice. Most of our yarns come in wonderful center pull balls and skeins. Even the Amazing.

Liz: Exactly.

Zontee: OK, now that we’ve answered some questions, Liz, I guess we have to bite the bullet. We have to share what we’re working on right now. How are you doing?

Liz: I’m good. I’m still working on my leg warmers because it’s still really, really cold outside.

Zontee: It is really cold. It is biting. I know our friends in Europe are probably suffering just as much as we are. It is very cold over there as well.

Liz: Yes. Even all the way down into Florida, so a lot of people are cold. They’re going well. For some reason I zipped up to like 80 percent and somehow the last 20 percent is taking forever.

Zontee: Isn’t that always the way with projects, though? When you get close it starts feeling like you can never get to the end.

Liz: I have two skeins of the base yarn that I’m holding with the silk mohair and I just want to use one skein for each and use it up and be done with it. Get it out of my stash. It’s just unending. It just won’t end and there’s not much left of it, but it doesn’t change.

Zontee: That’s really tough. I’m still working on my sweater.

Liz: Yes, how’s that going?

Zontee: Like I said, since I haven’t yet divided and gotten the arms on waste yarn yet, it just feels like a really huge endeavor. I’m hoping that sooner or later I will actually get to that point because once I get there, the under-arm area, since it’s a short-cropped cardigan, won’t be so bad. That’s what I believe, anyway.

Liz: No, it does. It makes a big difference.

Zontee: I’m really excited to get there. I don’t know when it’s going to happen, but I’m hoping soon. In the meantime I’ve been showing it off to everybody I know because I do think it’s a really pretty pattern. It’s very exciting.

Liz: And the yarn. Isn’t the yarn beautiful?

Zontee: Yeah. I mean, Superwash Merino is pretty much a dream to work with. It’s very smooth, it’s very lofty, and it feels great. I always tell people to touch my project.

Liz: The Superwash of Merino is one of my babies, so yes, I was just fishing for compliments. [music]


Zontee: So today’s episode, since it is very chilly over here, is focusing on winter accessories, quick projects you can get done in the next week or two so that you can, in fact, keep warm very quickly.

Liz: I don’t know about you listeners, but there’s something about January. I love the new year, I love the new start, but then when you get a couple weeks into it you realize it’s still winter, the holidays are over, and it’s going to keep being winter for a really long time.

Zontee: It’s true, it really is.

Liz: I know I need some colorful, fun accessories to brighten up my winter mornings.

Zontee: That’s a great way of putting it. Of course we’re going to start off with the kind of “de rigueur” type projects, hats and scarves.

Liz: I need more hats, personally, so I’m very excited about this.

Zontee: Oh great. So first off is our Apple Pie Hat. It works up really quickly because it’s in our Hometown USA yarn. We’ve got it shown in Cleveland Brown, but, of course, you can make it in any color of the rainbow. It crochets up really quickly and it’s got a cute little pom-pom on the top.

Liz: For those of you who like sets, you may want to check out our Striking Hat and Scarf in our new Amazing yarn, which is all garter stitch, but because of the beautiful color pattern made it amazing. It just looks so fantastic. I really like this. I may have to make this after I finish the legwarmers. After.

Zontee: I like that, again, it’s got a cute pom-pom at the top, and the colors are just so striking. It’s shown in Arcadia, which is just beautiful tones of browns into teals and yellows. So, it’s got just beautiful shades.

Liz: You know, I don’t have any hats with pom-poms on them, I don’t think. That’s a situation that needs to be remedied.

Zontee: It does. It does need remedying.

Speaking of great colorful items, we have a beautiful crochet pattern for a whipple scarf in the Fiesta color of our Homespun yarn. So, it’s really soft, and it’s going to be nice against your skin.

I like this because it’s got kind of a zig-zag thing going on that’s really unique and that you rarely see in crocheted scarves. I’m liking the pattern of this. It’s really fun, and it makes the colors turn out in a really interesting way, because, of course, the Fiesta is one of painterly colors of Homespun, and self stripes over a long period.

Liz: And it just takes one ball, so again, that’s going to be a real quick project that you can probably do over a weekend, and then have to wear to work the next Monday.

Zontee: That’s really good.

Liz: Relating to the scarf is a perennial favorite of both Zontee and mine, the cowl. Cowls are just a really fun way to try a new yarn, or new technique. We’ve got a ton up on our website that are new, that are really big this season.

One we really like is the Cedar Springs Cowl, which is done with a strand of Fishermen’s Wool and a strand of Sock-Ease held together. You can really play around with which colors you use in the Fishermen’s Wool and in the Sock-Ease to create a lot of really different, fun striping effects. It’s a really simple way to use just plain stockinette stitch to make something really cool.

Zontee: Yeah, and what I like about this particular cowl is that it’s a little bit larger in size than some of the ones that we’ve talked about in the past. This really allows you to pull it up to nose level on your face, which I think is good if you’re in a place that’s kind of chilly.

Liz: It’s actually one those longer ones that you can leave wearing loose, like a long scarf. Draped around your neck, or loop it around your neck twice to bring it up to your nose, which I really needed walking home from work last night.

Zontee: Next up on our quick projects for winter are mittens, and gloves, and those sorts of things. We’ve got some great crochet mittens and knit mittens on our website for every member of your family, so just hop on the website, type in “crochet mitten,” “knit mitten,” and you’ll find tons of projects. That’s one way to go.

If you want to go in a slightly different, more advanced direction, check out our knit Atelier Gloves. These are luxurious, LB Collection Cashmere gloves that have a little bit of a lace pattern on the — What do you call this? — the back of the hand.

Liz: Yes. There’s… I don’t know if there’s a word for that.

Zontee: And, I think that’s really charming. They are going to be really warm, because, of course, cashmere is one of the warmest fibers. So, very luxurious.

Liz: Gloves are doable. They’re a little fiddly, but I’ve done them. Not these particular ones, but I’ve done gloves in the past, and they are doable.

But, for those of us who are more interested in some instant gratification, nothing could be faster than our Learn to Knit and Learn to Crochet cuffs in just one skein of the Wool-Ease Thick & Quick, where you can make a pair of fingerless wristwarmers that are going to keep you really warm, and that really bulky yarn. I can make that in an evening.

Zontee: Yeah, definitely, and those would be great to keep around the office if you have a chilly office, because you’ll be able to type through them.

Liz: Yes.

Zontee: Or, just for those of you who have those touch screen phones, so that you can actually text, or whatever it is that people are doing.

Liz: You know, those Roll Down Wristers we have from Michelle Edwards? I think I need to make a pair of those, because they can be rolled up and rolled down. I need their retractability for my touch screen phone.

Zontee: Yes. There you go.

Liz: Now, I don’t know about you guys, but according to mothers everywhere, I believe 90% of your body heat leaves both through your head and through your feet. So, I’m not exactly sure how that adds up. But, I know it’s important to keep both your head and your feet warm, which is why you need some yarncrafted socks.

Zontee: I have been finding that my slipper socks made with Wool-Ease Thick & Quick have been keeping me really warm around the house. I’ve been wearing them all the time. So, I believe that warm feet are good.

Liz: Yes. If you want something a little smaller than Wool-Ease Thick & Quick Slipper Socks but still really cozy and really quick. Try our Starboard Socks which are done in two strands of Wool-Ease held together. They’re going to be really cushy and really cozy.

Zontee: Yeah, those are great. I love the tweedy look of them. I like that they did the cuffs in one single color to kind of give it a different effect. It’s very cute.

Liz: And depending on the two colors you pick in Wool-Ease, there’s so many options you can get for different kind of looks.

Zontee: Oh, definitely. And if you have a husband or son or friend who just really likes some sports team and wants to have socks in their colors, Wool-Ease is definitely one of those lines that has lots of matching colors for sports teams.

Liz: Absolutely. And crocheters, you can make socks, too. Check out our Cozy Crochet Socks done with our Sock-Ease. I think the color pattern name in Sock-Ease looks incredible in these crocheted socks. I love them.

Zontee: Definitely. They look really nice. And what I love about Sock-Ease Socks, of course, is that you can wear them in regular shoes and not worry about that extra heft.

Liz: You don’t need to go up two shoe sizes like you would with Wool-Ease Thick & Quick socks.

Zontee: Listen, I haven’t even attempted to wear my Wool-Ease Thick & Quick socks in anything. I don’t think they’d fit into a single pair of shoes I own. There’s just no way.

Liz: No. No, no. Those are slipper socks, straight up.

Zontee: So, those of you who are really fast at yarn crafting or just looking for a bigger project that you can sustain through a couple of weeks and, maybe, into spring and have for next cold season. Or just for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere who are looking for something to make for when the cold actually comes, we’ve got a great set of sweater coat-type patterns to recommend to you, mostly because I think they’re really gorgeous and they’re in our new catalog.

Liz: One that’s really flattering is our Fishermen’s Wool Soft Ribbed Cardigan. It’s got a great big collar that’s going to keep you really warm but also frames the face really nicely and then a nice curved hemline. It’s very flattering.

Zontee: I think that’s a cardigan that you can see a lot of different body types wearing and it being flattering on most people.

Next up is our Cozy Chic Jacket. This is made in Alpine Wool, so it’s going to be really, really warm, and it’s got kind of a cute, very modern neckline and three buttons that are actually crocheted buttons, which I think is really cute. It’s just a nice detail. It’s got a three-quarter length sleeve, and it’s a sweater that you can wear over a lot of different things. I think it would be really good for work.

Liz: And with the three-quarter length sleeves and using Alpine which is a No. five yarn, this is probably one of the quickest sweaters we’re talking about that would be pretty quick.

Zontee: Definitely.

Liz: Also for crocheters, we have the Cafe Coat which features different granny square motifs. So, it’s a little bit more open. So, maybe, your office is sometimes cold, sometimes hot, this is going to be a great choice because it’s not going to roast you if the temperature suddenly changes on you.

Zontee: Definitely. And that’s a great sweater that comes only in two sizes. We do it in kind of a small-medium and a large-1x-2x. So, you can obviously see that it’s a really great one for just people who like a looser fit, a drapier cardigan.

Liz: Exactly. And it’s done in Vanna’s Choice. So, so many colors to choose from.

Zontee: Oh, tons of colors. You can definitely find something that’s going to go great with your skin tone or your wardrobe. Now, that one is made in the eggplant, the one we just talked about, and it made me think of the Elizabeth Wrap Cardigan which is done in the LB Collection Superwash Merino in the wild berry color which is what I’m making my sweater out of. I really love these berry tones right now. I think they’re really flattering on a lot of people.

This is a great sweater because it’s got a really long set of panels in the front which are great for wrapping around you, and you can wear it several different ways. You can cross them over and pin them. You can leave them loose, kind of like a coat, really cute. And, again, this is one of those patterns that comes in two sizes. So, it’s going to be a looser, more relaxed fit item.

Liz: Another great option is, if you’re looking for a more coat-like style, our Whiter Shade of Pale Car Coat done in Wool-Ease Thick & Quick. It’s got a very attractive, slightly open stitch pattern. So, another one of these that is going to be really versatile in your home, in your office, wherever you’re going.

Zontee: Definitely.

Liz: Or very dynamic in a car.

Zontee: Oh absolutely, a great car coat. But what I love about it, of course, is the Wool-Ease Thick & Quick is really going to work up quickly. And so, this might be a project that you could get done before winter’s end.

Liz: Oh totally.

Zontee: And finally, we come to our “home” category. Of course, there are tons of great afghans on our website that you might want to check out.

Liz: I don’t think we need to tell you about the “5 1/2″ and “6-hour Afghans” again, if you’re in the need of some quick cozy in your life.

Zontee: Definitely, and we do have some great throw patterns for lapghans, TV afghans, all sorts of things that are small and easy. But, I did want to point out one thing that is, of course, a favorite here on Yarncraft.

Liz: The hot-water bottle cozy. I was going to say, “Haven’t we talked about how much I want to make one of these yet?” Have we not?

Zontee: I’m sure we’ve talked about this. I kind of want to make one, too. It’s on my list, but I can put it…

Liz: It’s on my list, too.

Zontee: …on the bottom of the queue, or else I’m never going to get all those other things done.

Liz: Exactly. I’m waiting for the right yarn to surface in my stash.

Zontee: Mmm, that’s good. What I love about this pattern is that it’s in two strands of Cotton-Ease, which makes it quick to work up, and again, it gives you a great line of colors that are really lovely. And, I like the feeling of Cotton-Ease. It’s so smooth and soft, and it’s going to be really nice in your bed.

Liz: Cotton-Ease performs great in the washer and dryer, which is something you want for an item that’s going to get, hopefully, a lot of use.

Zontee: Exactly.

Liz: So, we want to know what your goals are to finish yarncrafting before the end of the season, whether that’s winter, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, or your summer projects you want to wrap up, for those of you down in the Southern Hemisphere. Let us know. [music]


Liz: On today’s “Stash This: Ideas for Your Crafty Life,” we’re going to talk a little about charts that are used in knitting and crochet. Hopefully, in this new year, some of you are branching out into new techniques, and maybe some of those include charts, and you may be wondering what to make of them.

Zontee: Absolutely. So, first of all, do we want to talk about some examples of different charts and what they are used for?

Liz: I think so. Charts are used as a visual representation of what the fabric you are knitting or crocheting will look like. It’s a way to give you the stitch by stitch instructions in a much more concise way than writing it out word by word.

Zontee: Exactly, and you’ll see in knitting charts for cables. You’ll see charts for lace. You’ll see charts for any kind of three-dimensional popping out action happening. In more complex patterns, that’s a really good way that a lot of designers like to represent them.

Liz: Mm-hmm. In crochet, often motifs are represented by charts.

Zontee: You’ll also see that with crochet, publications from other countries, particularly Japan, they’ll actually show you a lot of patterns using charting, so we’ll talk a little bit about that later.

Liz: And then, in both knit and crochet, colorwork is often expressed in a chart, because it’s much easier to make a chart. The chart shows the picture of what you’re crocheting, and to say, “Single crochet four blue. Single crochet two red. Single crochet one black. Single crochet four blue.” [laughter]

Zontee: And also, it helps you, as the yarncrafter, understand what to expect, and what you should be seeing in front of you, instead of having to imagine what all of those words are actually going to end up looking like.

Liz: We’re going to link to examples of each of these different types of charts. A great example of cables is the Tree of Life Afghan. What’s great about that is that it both has the pattern written out and the pattern shown in a chart, so if you’re new to reading charts, you can sit there with the written instructions and the chart, and see how they relate to each other, see how they’re both just different ways of expressing the same thing.

Zontee: Definitely. We’re also going to be linking to some crochet motifs that use charts, as well as examples of colorwork in both crochet and knitting, that are represented with charts.

So, now that we’ve discussed some of the different types of charts that there are, you might be wondering, “Well, I am really comfortable with written directions. Why should I learn to read a chart, or what is the extra benefit to me?”

Absolutely. You could continue to just use written directions as you like, but what I find really great about charts is that because they visually represent an entire repetition out for you. You can actually see, drawn out in a picture, what your patterning is actually going to look like, and which stitch is actually on top of which other stitch, which can be incredibly useful for things like lace, or cables, or for crocheting motifs that are very elaborate.

Because what you’re seeing is where in the written directions, like Liz said, maybe it just says SC 3, DC 3, but now you see what those stitches are sitting on top of and you understand exactly why it is that you’re doing those things and that makes a really big difference.

Liz: Also, having that kind of overview of the entire pattern at once makes it a lot easier to see where maybe you’ve made a mistake. Maybe you dropped a stitch in one of your repeats and that’s why you’re one stitch short and you can see how to go back and fix it much more easily.

Zontee: Exactly. So when I actually made my Lacy Luxe Cowl, I actually made myself a chart for the lace pattern so I could understand what I was going to be doing. It made it really easy for me to break it down so when I did drop a stitch I could compensate for it in the right places and I could know what I was expecting.

Liz: For those of you like Linel1, who we talked about at the beginning of the episode, who might want to get into writing and distributing your own patterns, it’ll really broaden the number of people you’re able to reach if you can provide both written instructions and chart instructions. For those of people who are interested in charts on a more professional level, you might want to check out the Knit Visualizer software or the Stitch Painter software, which features both knit and crochet. These are both software programs that allow you to build your own charts.

Zontee: Oh, that’s really good to know.

Liz: Or if you’re just someone like Zontee who insists on having to make everything into a chart. If you’re finding yourself doing that a lot for complex patterns, it might be worth it for you to get a dedicated piece of software for it.

Zontee: Definitely. I just find that it’s really great to be able to visualize it ahead of time so I know what I’m getting myself into. Especially with pattens I’m not familiar with because who knows what it’s going to look like unless you draw it out or do a test swatch. Liz, would you like to start us off on some tips on reading charts?

Liz: My number one tip is enlarge that chart. Blow it up. Make a xerox copy. Make a couple and make it big. Zontee and I are still fairly youthful. I still have to enlarge everything, so there’s no shame in it. I make them as big as will fit on an eight and a half by ten piece of paper. If the lines get a little blurry or some of the symbols get a little less crisp when I enlarge it I go over with a black marker and make sure everything’s very clear.

Zontee: I think that’s a really great tip. It’s easy enough to do. Just take it to a copy shop or use the enlargement settings on your copier and blow it up for you.

Liz: If you’re going to a copy shop you might want to consider a tip we’ve heard from a lot of different people is for relatively small charts they will enlarge it and then cut it out and put each line of a chart on a separate index card and then have them bind it together as a spiral bound. So they’ve got this book of index cards so as soon as they finish one row they just flip to the next. They’ve got the whole thing together, but they can just isolate that one row really easily that they’re working on.

Zontee: That’s great. It probably also helps them keep track of which row they’re on, which is something I always have trouble with.

Liz: What I do to deal with that is that after I’ve completed a row I go over it with a highlighter, like a very light color, so I can still see what I’ve done and still read that chart, but I know for sure I’ve already done it.

Zontee: But what happens when you have a chart that you need to go over several times?

Liz: Have you not explored the world of erasable highlighters?

Zontee: Oh, that’s such a great tip, Liz! I’ve got to get one of those.

Liz: I love erasable highlighters. Everyone should have them. I’m not even joking. I have one in my knitting notions bag.

Zontee: I believe you.

Liz: People do manufacture little stands where you can put a piece of paper on and then have either a magnetic or plastic slider that marks your place and you move it up every time you finish a row and then some of those even have a magnifying glass on it, so it enlarges the specific row you’re working on. I’ve never used one of those, but I can imagine it could be very helpful.

Zontee: That would be really great on a chart. I should look into that.

Liz: What’s also really important is to thoroughly read your pattern before you start working on a chart. What sometimes confuses people is that on certain kinds of lace or cable patterns where on the wrong-side rows you’re just curling back doing the stocknet stitch all the way across, that won’t be included on a chart. Even in a pattern where you’re just knitting each stitch as you see it as you would for a ribbing pattern, that won’t be spelled out on a chart. They’ll just give you the right-side rows.

Zontee: That’s correct. Also, what sometimes happens is that if say it’s a repeating pattern where there’s a couple basic stitches then you do a line of the chart then you do a couple more basic stitches and then you do a line of the chart, make sure you don’t forget about those basic stitches in-between each repeat, because sometimes people forget that as you’re working horizontally, you have to still follow the directions written as they appear.

So, I noted that, for instance, in our “Tree of Life Afghan,” it says, “Knit four, follow chart, knit four, follow chart.” I’ve had a lot of people come and ask…

Liz: “I have four extra stitches at the end. Why?”

Zontee: They forgot that there were directions that said, “Knit four”, then “follow chart.” So, be careful, and do make sure to review it. And, of course, it’s always really important to read over your chart for exactly what the symbols mean, as well.

As you get more used to reading certain kinds of charts, you’ll start getting very used to the symbols, and being able to identify them. But, every writer and designer may vary a little bit, so you want to just double check.

Liz: They’re fairly standard, but not completely. So, you always want to double check, and if someone’s having you do something a little unusual, they may have invented their own symbol for that.

Zontee: Exactly.

Liz: This tip is a little weird, but I find that it’s really helpful. When you’re looking at a chart, particularly for anything textured, like cables or lace, hold it out at arm’s length and squint at it a little bit, like you used to do with those Magic Eye things. That helps me get a little more dimensional sense.

I know when I first started reading cable charts, I found them very confusing, but once I realized that if you kind of look at it just right, it pops out in the texture… It really helps you see exactly what you’re doing.

One tip that you may find in a lot of different kinds of charts — probably most often with lace, but also with cables — you may, at a certain point, start to see grayed out boxes on the edges of your chart, and it says, “No stitch.” This seems to be confusing for a lot of people.

What that literally means is that there’s no stitch there anymore. At some point in a prior row, you have decreased, so you now have fewer numbers of stitches, and probably at some point you’re going to increase again and be back to your same number over the course of your repeat. So, that’s why they’ve kept those boxes there, but grayed them out for the moment.

Zontee: Exactly, and so, when it says “No stitch,” literally skip that box and keep going.

Liz: Just ignore it. Don’t even give it a second thought.

If you’re getting really excited about charts, and you want to start creating your own, Lily Chin on a couple episodes back had a great tip. You can find special knitter and crochet graph paper, because depending on what kind of stitchery you are using, it is not exactly square. If you are doing regular stockinette stitch and you use square graph paper, because a knit stitch is wider than it is tall, after you knit your turtle or bunny or heart, it’s going to be a squashed turtle or bunny or heart, and nobody wants that.

Zontee: Agreed.

Liz: There are lots of places online where you can look up blank graph paper to print out for all different kinds of needlecrafts.

Another little fun tool is… I believe it’s called “KnitPro,” which is a free little website you can Google where you can take any sort of photo you have on your computer and upload it through their little magical engine. You just answer a few questions about what type of stitch you’re doing, et cetera, and it prints you out a little chart of whatever your photo was, adjusted already to fit that different scale.

Zontee: Oh, that’s really great.

The great thing about most colorwork charts is that they’re useful in so many different crafts, so you can use the same thing in knitting and crochet, then go ahead and embroider it on something else.

Liz: Absolutely. So, if you have any tips on charts, or questions we haven’t answered, please leave us a comment, and we’ll be sure to share them on our next episode. [music]

Zontee: We want to thank all of you for joining us today. We want to thank those who shared their stories, questions, and comments.

Liz: Join us again in two weeks when we talk about great projects for Valentine’s Day. Also, take a minute to share your comments, photos, and questions with us on our website, Yarncraft.LionBrand.Com, on Ravelery, or by leaving us voicemail at (774) 452-YARN. That’s (774) 452-9276.

In the meantime, happy yarncrafting. And, as usual, or music was “Boy with a Coin” by Iron and Wine from the Podsafe Music Network. [music]

For more information about the patterns, links, and products discussed on this episode, please visit the episode guide.