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Schoolhouse Press—Newsletter #13 September 2010

“Now, let us all take a deep breath and forge on into the future; knitting at the ready.”

— Elizabeth Zimmermann, in The Opinionated Knitter

a newsletter from
Meg Swansen

Dear Knitter graphic

As it becomes more and more difficult to pretend that the days are not shortening, I am reminded of a touching children’s book, Welcome Back Sun, written and illustrated by Michael Emberley (Little, Brown,1993). Thinking of the seemingly endless sunless months that people in far northern climes endure makes our short mid-winter days positively cheering. I love the book very much, and the beautiful watercolors of numerous Norwegian sweaters gave me a reason to stock the title until it went out of print. Marilyn van Keppel was equally enchanted by the illustrated sweaters; particularly the painting in the frontispiece. She knitted it again and again and, with Michael Emberley’s permission, we have reproduced his painting to accompany Marilyn’s instructions for the Welcome Back Sun Sweater (SPP#22); a yoke-style cardigan in 3 sizes, knitted in Shetland Jumper Weight wool. When I went to pick up copies at the printers yesterday, they thought an artist had been inspired by the photograph of Eli to produce the painting. Actually, Eli had studied the painting carefully and practiced getting just the right expression to match it closely. Good job, huh?

Pattern News:

The Aspen Yoke (SPP20) and the Turkish Maple & Turkish Ocean (SPP21) are now available.

Amy Detjen and I are close to having a Two-Color Knitting technique booklet ready - all techniques related to stranded knitting. It is based upon the first 25 pages of Sweaters From Camp (now out of print). Once that is available, we will begin to reprint some of the splendid designs from that book.

Book News:

Dover’s new commemorative edition of Knitter's Almanac arrived a few weeks ago.

Katharine Cobey’s imaginative and beautiful, Diagonal Knitting: A Different Slant is now available.

Jeannine Bakriges’ Spinning Around: Spinning, Dyeing and Knitting Elizabeth Zimmermann's Classics ,is nearly ready for the press, and we should have copies in plenty of time for the holidays.

The steady stream of queries I receive feed this electronic Newsletter beautifully; thank you—and keep ‘em coming.


Q: On EZ’s BSJ (SPP#5, p2) Row 10 is a plain knit row of 140 stitches, but Row 11 needs 158 sts: k3, m1 takes 4 stitches x 9 = 36 sts. ??

A: The difficulty might be your method of increasing. You wrote, k3, m1 takes 4 stitches x 9 = 36 sts. If you k2, then knit into f&b of the 3rd stitch, the numbers will work (3 x 9 = 27). But if you knit 3, then knit into f&b of 4th stitch, indeed, you will run out of sts before you have increased 9 new ones. However, we did not specify that method of increasing. Please look on p9 of SPP#5 where you will see 2 different increase methods offered (backward loop, or raised-running-thread); those are the methods we mean when we write, "M1". Certainly substitute "K into f&b of stitch 3" if you wish.

Q: I am going to be starting the cardigan from WG #79 shortly. On all the other steeks I've cut (3, to be exact) the body of the sweater was knit in a multi-color pattern so the steek was striped and it was easy to see the correct stitches to crochet together and the bar in between to cut. I'm concerned that with the single color body these stitches and the bar will be difficult to identify given my aging eyes. I thought that knitting the one center stitch, that will have each half crocheted to the half of the stitch next to it, in a contrasting color. This would require carrying the strand of this color up from the bottom of the sweater and since it will be knitting in the round that center stitch would be knit with the strand always from its right side. I'm going to try a swatch like this but I wonder what you think of this idea and if you have another solution.

A: Dear Nina, I do not think it worth the trouble to add a second color to mark the center-front. Once you have established the steek sts - pay no attention to them until you start the color pattern -- then find them again. Here are 2 photos I took of cutting Lloie's plain cardigan body; (there was not enough room to add these shots to SPP#4). I spread the stitch over my forefinger so I could clearly see the horizontal bars...my eyes are also feeble; I put on two pairs of glasses as I carefully snipped the horizontal bar!


Q: In the instructions for your Proverbial Cap in Interweave Knits (Fall, 2010, page 31), I noticed that some of the right traveler, knit over purl and left traveler, knit over purl were charted incorrectly (I think). Some of the stitches that are marked this way came up with two knits as oppose to a knit over purl right and left. Is there an error with the print or is it my mistake. The cap is still coming out pretty cute but wanted to know if there can be a misprint in the magazine.

A: Actually, dear Susan, I think I mentioned in the text to remain alert: occasionally a knit stitch-being-traveled-over will morph into a purl as it comes out the other side- or a travelled-over purl may become a knit. The stitch will remain in its new incarnation until the chart tells you otherwise. This startled me the first time I met it, so I have to pay attention until the motif becomes familiar; then I can “read” it from the previous repeat on my garment.

Q: I'm working on a Modular Tomten using yarn that is 5.5 st to the inch and 5 rows to the inch. The instructions in the "Opinionated Knitter" book mentions the per inch gauge for stitches, but only talk about the number of "ridges" with no mention of a row gauge. I think the pattern was written with Sheepsdown in mind. Is the row gauge for Sheepsdown the same as the gauge for stitches? P.S. I only learned about your mother's genius last year. I thank you for continuing her work. She was indeed a great lady of knitting and I am the grateful recipient of her skills both as a knitter and as a writer.

A: Thank you, dear Sherry, for your enquiry and for your kind words. For the most part, regardless of weight, when firmly knitting garter-stitch with 100% wool, my ma and I achieved a nearly perfectly square stitch/ridge gauge; 5 sts and 5 ridges - or 140 sts and 140 ridges equalled an almost perfect square. That was one of the beauties of garter-stitch which appealed to EZ most strongly. If your gauge/ridge ratio is not square, you can extrapolate the number of ridges EZ talks about into inches, then apply that measurement to your personal gauge and number of ridges.

Q: WOW! The Butterfly Vest (SPP#1) is perfect for dd#4's new dress that Grandma sent for her birthday! Any tips on how to make it child size? Thanks for the GREAT pattern. I cannot wait to knit one up for her and for me!

A: Dear Nellie, when I knitted the larger version, I first obtained my GAUGE. The beginning can be the same for nearly all sizes -- then, when you cast on for the shoulder, make it the number of stitches you need for the width YOU want. Since children have hardly any shoulders to speak of, you may increase the body width as you work your way down the armhole if you like. The semi-circle was done empirically...I kept laying it flat until I had knitted enough 'wedges" to make a half-circle.

Q: Warning: Beware of doing EZ's Phoney Seams. When I dropped the first stitch it could not run all the way down because of the earlier increase row and looked terrible. Has this happened to anyone else?

A: Whoops, dear Grace. Thank you for alerting us always to check that the Phoney Seam has a clear path in which to run. That is why I always increase on either side of 3 stitches; the middle one is the PS stitch. I’m sure you salvaged the non-seam by hooking up every stitch again and pretended you never intended there to be a seam.

Q: I am knitting the Fair Isle Yoke Sweater from Elizabeth's Newsletter #1 (in The Opinionated Knitter) and would like to have it be a cardigan, rather than a pullover. I've been carrying 5 extra stitches in the front. My question is, once I machine stitch and cut open the sweater, it there a preferred method for picking up stitches for the front band? Does the cut edge of the sweater body get covered in any way (as in a Scandinavian-style sweater) or does it stay as a raw edge? Also, any recommendations for the front band? I am planning to do a few rows of garter stitch. Any tips on binding off the bands? Should I use a smaller needle for the front bands than I've been using for the body? Any help would be greatly appreciated. P.S. I've made this sweater twice now, as a pullover, and they have turned out beautifully. The instructions, and Meg's added-on tips in the Opinionated Knitter, are easy to follow and blessedly accurate!

A: Dear Pam, Congratulations on your completed pullovers, and your boldness - striking out into a cardigan. The 5 steek stitches can be kept in vertical stripes (or speckles) once you get to the yoke pattern. Make certain the pattern is perfectly balanced on either side of the center front - AND, keep an extra stitch before and after the steek in background color throughout for ease in knitting-up for the border afterward. There are 4 methods for knitting up for the border - and my preference varies depending upon the circumstance. The snuggest way (with no gap between border and body) is to dive down into the fabric - either between 2 stitches or between the two halves of a single stitch - and pull the working wool up from below; that way you are not distorting any part of a stitch and do not have to worry about contrasting-colors when going through the yoke pattern.

(Meg's Favorite Knit Up Method)

A garter-stitch border is excellent - and, for a proper ratio of garter to the stocking-stitch body, knit up 2 stitches for every 3 rounds... i.e., knit up into stitch #1 and 2, skip 3. Knit up #4 and 5, skip 6. I like to cast off in Purl on the "right" side... keep it loose. Or, for a more tailored finish, you might work 2-stitch I-Cord Casting Off for a handsome stocking stitch edge. You may choose to knit a facing to cover the cut edge, as on Norwegian sweaters, but that will add considerable bulk. For a very tidy inside edge: machine-stitch (2 or 3 machine stitches into each knitted stitch) down the left side and up the right side of the single center steek stitch. Cut through the horizontal bar that joins the two halves (see? no tufts or ends)... now, from your 5-stitch steek, fold the 2-1/2 steek stitches to the inside, turn under the HALF-stitch with the machine-stitching in it and tack it down. Very nice. A crocheted steek produces a beautiful kind of serged cut edge and requires no further neatening.

Q. I don't exactly know how to snip and ravel the stitches for the eyes and mouth of the knitted masks you had in Threads magazine. I knit up a swatch to practice and can't seem to get it right. Do you have any tips for this part of the pattern?

A. Dear Ellen, I remember the first few times I tried it - I snipped through a whole stitch... no nono. Snip through one-half of a stitch. First make sure it is the row which you want to open - then, in the middle of the proposed opening, pick either the right or left side of a single stitch and snip through that. Now ravel - a half stitch at a time - to the right and then to the left until the opening is as wide as you need. You will see tidy rows of sts above and below the opening, waiting for you to pick them up and finish off as you wish. If you have any of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s books, look for her After-Thought Pockets; the initial technique is identical.

Q: In your book, "Armenian Knitting" on page 6, I read the following about trapping: "Meg had two methods: one quick that might produce specks (...), and one slower, but invisible method". Since I happen to have this problem (undesired specks of the carried color showing on the outside of the fabric) I would love to know what these two methods are.

A: Dear Daniel, As Joyce and I were photographing each other’s hands, we realized that we work identical moves, but with slightly different methods. My least-visible method is exactly what Joyce demonstrates in Armenian Knitting at the top of page 7... my moves are identical, but I have one color over each of two fingers. For me, showing or not showing is dependent upon whether the trapped color is Over or Under the MC. When Under the MC, it is closer to the surface of the fabric and is more liable to show through. When Over the MC, it is being pulled away from the surface and is neigh unto invisible...for me, that is; other knitters get opposite results. Please try both and see what might work for you.

If you have questions you wish to see answered in a future newsletter, please write to us at info@schoolhousepress.com.




Meg's signature




New Books:


Diagonal Knitting: A Different Slant


Knitter's Almanac: New Edition


Spinning Around

Spinning, Dyeing and Knitting Elizabeth Zimmermann's Classics



New Patterns:


Welcome Back Sun



Turkish Maple & Turkish Ocean



Aspen Yoke



WG 83

Lap Shoulder Sweater




Book Sale

30-40% discount on selected books while supplies last.


Prym/Inox Needle Sale

With a change in distributor, we will no longer be able to supply our favorite Inox needles. Our remaining supply of Prym/Inox Circulars, 6" and 8" DPs is discounted by 20%.


Jewelry Sale 25% OFF

Subscriber Only Sale: Paste JEWELSALE11110 into the comment section of your order to receive a discount. The discount will be given when we receive your order; it will not show on your e-invoice. Valid till November 1st, 2010 as supplies last.








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