Friday, February 10, 2006

Email Tutorial

I get a lot of letters - not as many as Crazy Aunt Purl, (but then she's absolutely phenomenally hysterical!) Actually, reading some of her email at her blog made me think I should post the following exchange.

Backyard Leaves is my scarf design that was in Pam Allen's book, Scarf Style.

It's gratifying that folks are stretching their perception of their knitting skills when they attempt - and succeed - in following the chart for the pattern. Below is an exchange I recently had with a knitter who was trying BYL.

I thought it might be helpful for other folks attempting the pattern - and it also explains my philosophy of knitting and happy stitches pretty well. Enjoy!

On Jan 13, 2006, at 7:34 PM, Leslie A. G. wrote:

Hi Annie -- My name is Leslie and I'm an intermediate knitter in San Francisco.  I've been admiring the Backyard Leaves scarves I've seen on knitting blogs and I've decided to attempt it as my first charted project.  I got through two rows last night and I already have questions.  I hope you don't mind (and I hope you don't think I'm ridiculous).  First, when you slip a stitch with the yarn in the front, should I slip it knit-wise or purl-wise? 

Also, (here's the one where you might think I'm ridiculous), when the chart calls for a YO, does that mean simply bringing the yarn to the front of the work or does it also include knitting a stitch after bringing the yarn over?  THANK YOU for your help.  I apologize for bothering you but I'm eager to make this gorgeous scarf -- and do it right!  Leslie Gordon

Leslie A. G.

Hi Leslie,

When you slip a stitch, I don't really specify whether you should slip it knit or purl wise.  The truth is, it doesn't really matter as long as you work the stitch THE WAY IT WANTS TO BE KNIT in the following row.  If you slip the stitch purl wise, then the stitch will be set up for either a western knit or purl on the reverse side.  If you slip the stitch knit wise, then the stitch will be set up for a Combination knit on the reverse side.  Because different folks knit differently, I don't like to add 'standardized' instructions which can be very counter productive for the average knitter.

The most important thing is to be able to "read" your stitches - to tell by looking at the stitch whether it "wants" to be knit into the front or the back loop.  By this, I mean that when you knit a stitch the stitch should want to open up wide.  If the stitch crosses itself at the bottom, it will be a twisted stitch and won't be very "happy".  When you insert your needle into a stitch to make it "happy" - you are inserting  your needle into the LEADING edge of the stitch.  (When you purl, you would be inserting your needle into the TRAILING edge of the stitch.)  I hope you don't find this more confusing than helpful!  I am a strong proponent of understanding the way your stitches WANT to be knitted - if everyone can grasp this relatively simple concept, then knitting instructions can be written to accommodate ALL knitters (Combination, Eastern, Western, Left Handed) and no one has to be left out!

A YO means to wrap the yarn around the RH needle as if you were making a stitch.  The RH needle won't be IN a stitch at the time.  You will wrap the yarn around the needle in the same direction as you wrapped the yarn when you made the previous stitch.  This will create a "hole" - aka an "eyelet" which is what makes the lace look like lace!


Annie Modesitt
Knit Designer / Craft Writer PO Box 813, South Orange, NJ  07079

On Feb 9, 2006, at 12:54 AM, Leslie A. G wrote:

Hi Annie --

If you recall my e-mail below, I wrote to you recently about some basic Backyard Leaves questions.  I've spent the last couple of weeks alternating between chart phobia and a desire to buckle down and just do it.  Ultimately, I enlarged the chart (huge!), color-coded it, pre-counted big blocks of stitches and pre-calculated row-by-row stitch counts. 

Between your e-mail below, doing all that prep work and adding in contrasting-color "lifelines" every few rows (to reduce the fear and time of making a mistake), I have overcome my phobia of the BL chart and tonight I reached row 19!!!  I am thrilled and I now see the brillance of the pattern.  I cannot wait to start again tomorrow night.  THANKS for your e-mail below and the beautiful design.  :)  Leslie

Leslie A. G.

Hey Leslie,

I'm so PROUD of you!!  Doesn't it just make you feel like you can do ANYTHING when you finally figure out something that seemed incomprehensible a few weeks earlier?

Would you mind if I shared our email correspondence on my blog?   I won't list your name or email -

Annie Modesitt
Knit Designer / Craft Writer PO Box 813, South Orange, NJ  07079

On Feb 9, 2006, at 12:50 PM, Leslie A. G. wrote:

Annie -- Yes, you may included it in your blog and you could even keep my name in it.  (If anyone wanted to e-mail me about my color-coding scheme, I'd be happy to share what helped me.)  Although I've made sweaters before, I really believe that finishing this scarf will make me feel that I can conquer anything.  

Leslie A. G

...and because one can't mention Laurie enough...

Perhaps THIS is what the Prez was trying to warn us about?

photo from Laurie's window at work - see the original at crazy aunt purl


Cheryl said...

you know...I thought the SAME thing...WHO is aiming that Blimp at that building!!!???

February 10, 2006 1:41 PM  
fiamma said...

Annnie - This picture made me laugh out loud!!! I had to call my hubby in to look at it as well :)

February 10, 2006 1:42 PM  
Kenny said...

Wow, that is the first time I understood why and how stitches are slipped!!! Thanks so much annie!!

February 10, 2006 5:29 PM  
Lori said...

I actually saw that blimp today in South Pasadena! It looks like one of the "cow parade" figurines, but messier. And apparently it is still circling for the PERFECT target...

February 10, 2006 7:11 PM  
M-H said...

Just a comment on your email tut - I'm not sure what an 'intermediate knitter' means, but I think that slipping stitches and yarnovers are quite basic skills. Being self-taught and wih 40 yers under my belt I know there's always something to learn, but I would have thought these things would have been taught in an intro course...

February 11, 2006 4:43 PM  
Anonymous said...

As the recipient of the generous tutorial, I feel I must stand up for myself here. I've been knitting for 18 months and my projects have included several sweaters -- so I wouldn't characterize myself as a beginner, but I'm not advanced either. Intermediate seemed an appropriate description, especially given that Backyard Leaves was my first charted project. Also, if you read my e-mail carefully, you'll see that I wasn't asking HOW to slip stiches. I was asking whether they were to be slipped knit-wise or purl-wise -- a reasonable question, I thought, given that most patterns specify. (Annie was very thoughtful in her response about why she didn't specify.) Second, my next question wasn't about HOW to do the yarnover. Rather, given that this was my first charted project, I wasn't sure whether a yarnover box in the chart included a stitch after bringing the yarn around. I do appreciate Annie's generous and thorough response to my e-mail! :) And for the record, I'm now in my 7th repeat of BL -- what a joy!

February 12, 2006 10:57 PM  
annie said...

Labels are troublesome - but there's no need to cast aspersions on someone's skill or the way they choose to label themselves as a knitter. My point in using G's emails was that she had asked very intelligent questions that come up for ALL KNITTERS when first approaching a chart.

I prefer to say "New" and "Established" when I talk about knitters - and I would say that G is most definitely an established knitter who had an excellent question. I hope no one will feel put off from asking questions because they're afraid that they'll be challenged on the way they describe themself as a knitter.

February 13, 2006 8:02 AM  
Cheryl said...


I am coming in here very late. I googled BYL and left-handed knitting and it brought me here to your site. I have stared at-and even bought the yarn for-this pattern which I love. Then I looked at this stitches and choked! I am a true lefty moving the stitches from the right to left needle. I have absolutely no idea where to begin. I am just learning the slants and which stitch should slant which way but your stitch list for this project-well, it stopped me cold. Is there a magical way to convert the stitches for my "wrong way" of knitting according to most folks?

October 26, 2006 4:06 PM  

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