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Tech Tip Tuesday: Shopping from Your Pattern Stash

I love patterns – even ones that I know I will never knit. And having patterns available and in mind to knit makes purchases at the yarn store so much easier.

Over the weekend, I worked at Bluebird Yarn and Fiber at their 5th Anniversary sale. My job was to be on the floor to help customers find yarn, and make selections. The ones who ended up being very successful were the ones who walked in the store with an idea of what they wanted to knit – be it a cowl, sweater, hat. We could look at the yarn requirements and then pick the yarn and needles to go with the project. I helped one woman choose 4 different project yarns for four separate projects, and she thought I was a miracle worker to find her appropriate yarns – well, she helped tremendously by knowing what she wanted to knit!

Today I checked my virtual library on Ravelry, and it contains – among the books, magazines, leaflets, single and multiple pattern pdf”s.

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 4.16.27 PM

a total 2, 279 patterns! These are ready to knit and now to me free, but I don’t remember a lot of them. It’s a knitting stash buried in the stacks, so to speak.

The Ravelry library in your notebook makes shopping from your pattern stash easy, once you invest a bit of time. Take a rainy, quiet afternoon and gather your knitting and crochet magazines and books and enter them into your Ravelry library. (You don’t need to do this for patterns bought on Ravelry – they’re already there.) It might take an hour, two if you have a lot of them.

Why do you want to do this? Well, in the Ravelry pattern advanced search, you can click on a button to search only for patterns that are in your library.  So, if I’m looking for a scarf pattern with lace, I can search for that kind of pattern that is buried in my own books and magazines (I have 47 patterns to choose from with these characteristics). I can search all the cable cardigan patterns in my library to see what appeals (18 patterns here, and I’ve knit many of them!).

Dark and stormy FO



Do you notice a color theme here? LOL!

Make the small investment of time in your pattern library on Ravelry, and you’ll make more intelligent yarn choices, save money, and use those patterns you already have!

Want to do this? Check out the guided tips page on Ravelry to take the Library Tour.

Tech Tips Uncategorized

Tech Tip Tuesday: Backing Buttons for Button Bands

Buttons can make or break a garment. Drooping buttons are a drag. I have some drooping buttons on a sweater myself, and they really bug me!

But how can you prevent the droopage? Backing buttons! These are small plain buttons that you attach through the button band so that there is something on the other side to hold the button in place.

I’m currently finishing my Dark and Stormy sweater which is coming out very well – the fit is good but loose for casual wear. I love the buttons that I got for it!

The fashion button and the backing button are two different sizes:



I got a 100 buttons through a service company to dry cleaners, but just search for backing buttons, and you’ll find them. Buy a bunch at one time, I’m still working through the first 100. Now sometimes I will add a grosgrain ribbon treatment on the back of the button band, but in this case, I didn’t think the weight of the buttons would be an issue, so I’m going sans ribbon.

Essentially, I am making a button sandwich with the buttons as the “bread” (pro-tip – don’t eat it!):


I sew on the buttons together, going through the fabric and the other button with the same thread. On the front, things look really good:

IMG_1899and everything is tidy on the back as well!




Tech Tips Uncategorized

Tech Tip Tuesday: Swatching buttonbands

I’m beginning a new series here on the blog  called Tech Tip Tuesday, which will focus on technical tips that can make our knitwear and knitting more beautiful and efficient.

Let’s begin with something I’m working on now – a buttonband for a cardigan – Dark and Stormy. Having read a lot in Ravelry project pages as well as in the pattern itself, I came to two conclusion: 1. the Shawl Collar instructions are not helpful, and 2. the ratio of stitches picked up on the bands in the pattern were off. I concluded that I was going to need to redo the pattern, because, let’s face it, the collar and bands are the most important finishing for a cardigan sweater.

I consulted two of my favorite sweater knitting design books, Knitting Pattern Essentials by Sally Melville, and Knitwear Design Workshop by Shirley Paden. Each of these books has a wealth of information; while some of it overlaps, there are also unique features, and sometimes these knitting mavens disagree. Shirley seems to like to separately knit collars and buttonbands, while Sally strongly urges knitted-on ones. Shirley provides some good detail on shawl collar construction, while Sally provides numerous pick-up ratios for various bands on various stitch patterns at the various points on the bands and collar. See my review of Knitting Pattern Essentials.

I followed a lot of the instructions in Shirley’s book beginning on p 235 (for horizontal shawl collars), which I won’t duplicate here. Instead, let’s focus on the button band.  I swing with Sally on this one – I am not going to separately knit a button band and collar and then attach it – instead,  I want to pick up stitches and knit.

Onto to testing the button band approach. This is enough knitting that I don’t want to find out after I knit the whole thing and blocked it that the ratio was off. What can I do?



This is my sweater swatch.  At 9 inches by 7.5 inches, it’s large enough to see how the fabric feels, and will be perfect as a test for my button band, which will also let me test out some buttonhole sizes.  I knit up the side of the swatch in the 1×1 ribbing in a needle size one size smaller than I used for the body of the sweater, using a 5 stitches for every 6 rows ratio that Sally Melville recommends for single fabric ribbing against a stockinette background. She has a plenitude of ratios for all kinds of situations, which, in my mind, is worth the price of the book right there. Here’s the swatch after knitting and blocking. In this case of Miss Babs Yowz! superwash wool, blocking entailed soaking the swatch wet for about 20 minutes, throwing into the dyer until damp, and flat drying from there to bone dry.




And focusing in on the band itself and the various stitch sizes of each buttonhole:IMG_1856
The swatch is laying perfectly, with just a hint of pulling together, but after hanging ought to even out. The ribbing is firm without being stiff.

What about the buttonholes. Here’s the button I am using:


I did three different sizes of buttonholes – 3-stitch, 4-stitch, and 5-stitch.  I always want the buttonhole to be slightly smaller than the button, but how much smaller is difficult to tell ahead of time. While the knitting was on the needles, I thought the 4-stitch one worked the best to my rule of thumb – use the smallest size hole that I can get the button through easily – but blocking can change that. After blocking, I found that the 5-stitch one worked, as did the 4-stitch one, but the 3-stitch one was too difficult to use. My initial guess was correct, but it could have been wrong!

Let’s review what I learned through this exercise: the correct ratio of rows to stitches on the front bands, the correct size of needle for the buttonband, and the correct size of buttonholes. Combined with the information from Shirley’s book on shawl collar construction, I can knit the last bit of this sweater with confidence, and not have to reknit later!