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Knitting FAQ

What is the difference between American and European knitting?
What are all those needles, and why are there so many sizes?
What does worsted mean? What are yarn weights?
How long does it take to make a sweater, scarf, hat, or whatever?
What is a good project for a beginner?
How can I learn how to knit?
How do you read a pattern for knitting?
What's a Purl and What's a Knit and how do you count them?
What's a Knit-in, a Knit-away?
Do you really learn much at a workshop? Who teaches them?
Are there any good books and magazines on knitting?
What famous people knit?
Where can I get free patterns?
What's the difference between Knitting and Crochet?
I can't see what I'm knitting because the yarn is so dark, what do I do?

What is the difference between American and European knitting?

The European method requires a lot less hand movement and is a lot faster.

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What are all those needles, and why are there so many sizes?

The texture and compactness of a knitted item depends on the size of the yarn and the size of the needle used. Small needles and small yarn produce finely knitted items with small tight holes. The amount of yarn required to make a sweater, say, largely depends on these two things. The size of the sweater is largely determined by the stitch count, the number of stitches per inch. The larger the needle and yarn, the fewer stitches that can crowed into an inch. Often, different sized needles are used to knit a small swatch to determine the stitch count before proceeding with a project. A needles "gauge" is how big around the needle is. These range in scale from #0 to #15 (2 millimeters to 10 millimeters or about the size of a pencil lead to about half the size of a nickel). They are sold in pairs and come in varying lengths. There are also "circular knitting needles" which are simplly two needles connected together by a flexible metal or plastic wire. They are used when making seamless projects like some types of pullover sweaters. Finally, there are Double pointed needles which are used for the same thing except smaller, like small socks or mittens when you don't want any seams. They generally come in sets of four. None of these have a notch at the pointy end of the needle. Those are called "crochet hooks" and are used to grasp loops of yarn and making crochet stitches. Nonetheless, they come in handy when a stitch is dropped, or when repairing a tear or pull later on. Its always good to have a few even if you don't do crochet.

Needles are made of metal, (stainless steel, aluminum) or wood. The wooden ones are good for beginners, because the yarn doesn't slide off as easily and you don't drop stitches as often. Metal ones are quicker.

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What does worsted mean? What are yarn weights?

If you have ever seen someone knitting, or felt a hand made sweater, then it is obvious that yarn comes in different sizes and colors. But that is only where it begins. Some yarn is soft, some is scratchy, some will warm you at the north pole, and some is light enough for a relatively cool summer day. Some yarn is very fuzzy, some like ribbons. Books can, and have been written about yarn. But to put it in a nutshell, there are a number of accepted ways that yarn is described, so that we can all read from the same sheet of music. Yarn weight is described in in five basic categories:

  • Baby/fingering
  • Sport/baby
  • Worsted weight
  • Chunky
  • Bulky

Each of these has a different thickness, and if you were to have equal lengths of them they would all generally weigh more or less than the other, which is the "weight". Fingering is the finest. The term "ply," means to the number of smaller strands that were spun together to form the yarn. Yarn is made of different things, synthetic, natural, and even metalic. That is the "fiber content". Weight, ply, and fiber content are almost always found on the label wrapped around skeins or attached to balls. Often, yarn is a combination natural and synthetic fibers. Natural fibers can be from plants or animals, for example, cotton or flax or more exotic ones like hemp and even kudzu. On the animal side, there is sheep's wool of course, but sheep come in too many varieties to list. There is rabbit, chinchilla, yak, llama, and camel. Making clothes has been around since Adam put on the grape leaf, and just about every kind of fur has been twisted together at some point; Dog hair, horse hair, and believe it or not, you can buy o'possum yarn, not to mention the webs of a bagworm that just loves to eat mulberry leaves (silk!). Each has a different feel, durability, warmth, washability, and skin sensitivity, and it is always wise to consider alergic reactions to each. Nease's Needlework has a whole room devoted to knitting. From floor to ceiling are yarns by the ball and skein, in all the weights listed above, in natural cotton, sheep, llama, yak, chinchilla, as well as acrylics and specialty yarns. And if we don't carry it, (like 'possum) we can order it in a few days.

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How long does it take to make a sweater, scarf, hat, or whatever?

That depends on who you talk to. I swear I waited around for a year and a half for Susan to finish mine... jeez. No really, it wasn't that long, and she made plenty of other things in between. It's beautiful though, I love it.

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What is a good project for a beginner?

Simple stitches and something that can be completed quickly so that you can have a sense of accomplishment.

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How can I learn how to knit?

Glad you asked. Susan teaches beginning classes. Be sure to check out her calendar. Quite often she will have professional certified knitting teachers teach classes too, right in the shop in the evenings.

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How do you read a pattern for knitting?

Its like a foreign language isn't it? Here are some abbreviations that may help:

approxapproximate, approximately
begbegin(ning)
BLOback loop only
BObind off
ch(s)chain(s)
CCcontrasting color
COcast on
dcdouble crochet
decdecrease(ing)
DP or dpndouble pointed needle(s)
g or grgrams
hdchalf double crochet
incincrease(-ing)
in(s) or "inch(es)
kknit
k 2 togknit 2 stitches together
LHleft hand needle
lp(s)loop(s)
MCmain color
M1make one
ozounce(s)
patt(s)pattern(s)
prevprevious
pssopass slipped stitch over
ppurl
p-wisepurl-wise, or as though to purl
remremain(ing)
reprepeat(ing)
RHright hand needle
rnd(s)round(s)
RSright side
scsingle crochet
skskip
slslip
sl st(s)slip stitches
sl 1k 1, psso or SKP, slip 1 stitch as if to knit, knit 1 stitch, and pass the slipped stitch over the knit stitch, and over the end of the needle, or slip, knit, pass.
sp(s)space(s)
SP or spnsingle-pointed needles
SSKSlip, slip, knit. Slip first st as if to knit. Slip next st as if to knit. Put the tip of the left hand needle through the front of these two sts from left to right and knit them together
st(s)stitches(es)
St ststockinette stitch
togtogether
trtriple crochet(s)
WSwrong side
YB or ytbyarn to back of work
YF or ytfyarn to front of work
yoyarn over
YRNyarn round needle

* An asterisk is used to mark the beginning of a portion of instructions which will be worked more than once; thus, "rep between * * three times: means after working the instructions once, repeat the instructions between the asterisks 3 more times (4 times in all).

( ) Parentheses are used to enclose instructions which should be worked the exact number of times specified immediately following the parentheses, such as: (k1, p1) twice. They are also used to list the garment sizes and to provide additional information to clarify instructions.

[ ] Brackets can be used in the same way as parentheses, but are usually used in combination with them to further clarify instructions.

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What's a Purl and What's a Knit and how do you count them?

A Pearl is precious jewel found in oysters...

I have no idea what a purl is, but its like the opposite of a knit...

A knit is... well, its what you do with yarn and a knitting needle. Now a nit, is the dropping of a flea, hence, a "nit-wit" is someone that has no more wits than a nit. Kinda like me.

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What's a Knit-in, a Knit-away?

A "Knit-in" is an informal get together for knitters to knit and talk and share knitting ideas, and just about anything else. Yes, men are allowed, sometimes. Or so I've heard. Neases' needlework sponsors Knit-ins at a little coffee/desert place in decatur named "JavaMonkey" They have great cheese-cake, and wine, and coffee. Its a private business like Susan's, and we love to support small places like that. Its what makes a town, a town.

A Knit-away is when you pack up all your stuff and go away to a retreat in the mountains and stay there to knit all weekend away from the kids. Lots of fun. Some of the guilds sponsor these.

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Do you really learn much at a workshop? Who teaches them?

As Susan is fond of saying "Oh my, yes". She teaches them, and so do various guild members and teachers in the area. Sometimes we have teachers come in from out of state.

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Are there any good books and magazines on knitting?

Lots and lots. Practical ones, beginner ones, advanced ones. Historical ones too. Check out the internet

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What famous people knit?

Julia Roberts for one. She's famous. I'm sure there are others. Did you know that she's from Smyrna?

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Where can I get free patterns?

There are a lot on the internet. Nease\' Needlework has some. And since we've bought all of Mrs. Dennis' inventory, we have patterns that go back to the 1970's. Its a real hoot to look at some of them. Also, try the Lakewood antique market. Someone bought a whole bunch of patterns from us last spring and is selling them down there for cheap.

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What's the difference between Knitting and Crochet?

Knitting is done with two needles and some yarn. You loop the yarn around the end of the needle and make stitches that gather on one side. When the needle is full, you go back the other direction until all the stitches are on the other needle. Crochet is done with one needle that has a notch in one end. You make loops with the thread, and reach through the loops with the needle to grasp another thread with the notch and pull it through. But its a good thing I just write this website instead of answering questions about things I don't know about....hmmm

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I can't see what I'm knitting because the yarn is so dark, what do I do?

Get an OTT-lite. There are several varieties, most notably the floor stand model with the large magnifying glass. Here is what some people have said:

"Get it! I have purchased 4 - 2 for my elderly parents so they can read at night and 2 for home - my kids took the first one for their homework table! No more late-night eye strain for anyone".

I purchased a portable model (OTL 13TCG) and have had it for more than a year and love it. The reason I bought the portable model was so I could take it to whereever I choose to knit. Even on a trip to knit in the hotel. They really do make "seeing" much easier

I bought the desk-top model Ott light (which is the same as the floor lamp but with a shorter base) 1 1/2 years ago. I am absolutely crazy about it and use it nightly while working on my knitting. I love to knit with black yarn, and people often comment "how can you see well enough to work with black yarn at night." My answer -- "my Ott light!" With the bendable, adjustable arm I can keep the Ott light focused on my work and keep the light from disturbing those watching television which wasn't the case with other lights I formely used. The lamps are a little pricey at first glance, but they are an investment worth every penny and then some.

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