Saturday, January 30, 2010

Vogue Knitting

For my birthday I was given a subscription to Vogue Knitting, and my first issue arrived today!

In high school, my adviser was a subscriber, and I found my first ever sweater pattern in the magazine. The cardigan wouldn't fit me now (I'm a little larger than I was at 17!), but I really should find a picture of it next time I'm at my parent's house. That would be a real blast from the past!

So far, I find myself tempted by all of the colorful ads. I'm realize that beyond patterns, the magazine will make me more aware of other stores and suppliers of products. I can feel my bank account shrinking as I read!

So I am going to go read now. Catch you later!

Monday, January 25, 2010

How to Make a Knitting Chart in Excel (Part 1 - Setting up the Chart)

A comment on my peptide beer cozy pattern page inquired how I was able to make the chart look so good. You can go to an office supply store and purchase graph paper. You can download graph paper online. But how can you easily make a chart of your own design and share it on the web? In this article, I will give you a tutorial for using Microsoft Excel to generate your knitting charts. In Part 2, I will discuss how to draw your chart and in Part 3, how to save and share your chart.

I'm using Microsoft Excel 2003 on a PC, so the location of some of the menus and tools may vary depending on your version. The general technique should work just fine for you. These instructions will give you a square grid. Keep in mind that knit stitches are not perfect squares.)


To see a larger version of any of the screen shots, click on the image and the full size file should open up.

Setting up the graph paper
  1. Open a new Excel document and save the file. (Always save your work frequently!)
  2. Resizing the columns: To resize the columns evenly, you need to select the columns you would like to resize. Click on the "A" header of the column (see red arrow) and drag until all the columns you want are selected. Alternatively, Click on "A" and while holding pressing the shift key, click on the column heading and the end of your range (selecting A through CZ will give you 104 columns.)


    The column "A" header


    Multiple columns are highlighted

  3. The end default of columns is Q, but if you press the right scroll bar arrow at the bottom of the screen (see red arrow in the below picture), you can increase the number of columns.



  4. Click on the edge of a highlighted column, and drag until you see the width label change to 1 (12 pixels). Note: You will not see these numbers when you release the click. This width is approximately the size of a single letter width in the column label. By selecting many columns at once, you will have a grid where every square has the same width. If you have kept track of the width value, then it is easy to add more columns of the same size later, but I like to start with more than I could ever need.


    Resizing the columns


    After the resizing is complete

  5. Now that we have a good square width, our grid is made up of small rectangles. To adjust he height, select multiple rows as you did with columns. I like to select a couple of hundred rows (sometimes I like to work on multiple charts in one document) As with selecting columns, click on the "1" row title, and the "150" row title while holding down the shift key.



  6. With the 150 rows selected, click on in between 2 rows (see red arrow) and drag to decrease the size until you have a height of 9 (12 pixels.)



  7. You now have a grid of 104x150! You are ready to start designing your knitting chart.

The finished grid

Continue this tutorial:
Part 2 - Drawing your Chart
Part 3 - Saving and sharing your chart

How to Make a Knitting Chart in Excel (Part 2 - Drawing Your Chart)

Welcome to the second article on how to make a knitting chart in Excel. Part 1 looked at setting up the spreadsheet so you would have a working grid. Now that you're set up and ready to go, this article will take you through the drawing process. Part 3 will give instructions on how to save and share your chart with the world.

Remember: to see a larger version of each screen shot click on the thumbnail.

I'm using Microsoft Excel 2003 on a PC, so the location of some of the menus and tools may vary depending on your version. The general technique should work just fine for you. These instructions will give you a square grid. Keep in mind that knit stitches are not perfect squares.)



The knitting chart you created in Part 1.

The Formatting Toolbar


The formatting toolbar may already be part of the toolbar you can see already. The buttons that will be most useful for your chart design are found on the default right hand side of the toolbar.
  • Familiarize yourself with the Formatting Toolbar. If this is not visible immediately, you can open it by going to Viwe --> Toolbars --> Formatting. (See the check by the formatting bar.)

    How to find the Formatting Toolbar
  • There are two parts of the toolbar that you need to draw your chart. "Fill Color" and "Borders".
  • If you plan on making a lace chart (not covered in this How To Article) you will need to find what symbols correspond to K2tog etc instead of Colors.

Fill Color will be your color pallet for your chart


Borders will help you provide a grid that is visible when you print your chart. Although you can currently see a grid, if you try looking at your work with "Print Preview" this grid is invisible.


Drawing your Chart
  1. Choosing your color Pallet. By reading the above formatting toolbar section, you should know how to find the Borders Toolbar. We will start my making a grid the that should be large enough to accommodate our project. Select (highlight) the region you would like to make a grid with.



  2. In the Borders Tool Menu, select "All Borders" (The symbol looks like a mini grid.)


  3. Now it's time to choose your color pallet using the "Fill Color" Button off of the toolbar. When drawing your chart, you could highlight each grid field you would like to change color, then go to fill color and select the color you want. This would quickly become tedious. I prefer to make a mini color pallet in the corner of my workspace, and use Copy and Paste to make my chart.


    See the mini color pallet in the top right section of the grid with 4 colors. Now you can copy and paste from these colors, rather than go into the Fill Color menu each time you want to make a color selection.

  4. Draw your chart! Copy the color you want in you "palette", select a cell, and paste to change the color. Continue until you have drawn the outline or design of your choice.



  5. Even if you have copied one lavender square, if you highlight 4 empty cells before you paste, all of them will turn lavender. (This can make filling in the a shape much easier.)


    Select multiple cells (left) and paste the color into all of them (right)

Save your work often!
Even with saving your file frequently (I will save each time I pause, but I am neurotic about saving), it is possible to erase your hard work accidentally. Or it can be hard to undo some modifications you made to your chart, and you would like to go back to a previous version. I like to save my in progress charts by copying them to a lower area of the same excel document.

If you copy the chart (in rows 11-16) and paste it below the work-in-progress grid (I pasted at rows 49-58), then you have a copy you can work on, but a previous version saved below. This way, if you become unhappy with your progress and would like to go back to an earlier version, you can!


Continue to Part 3 (How to share your chart)
Go Back to Part 1 (Setting up your chart)

How to Make a Knitting Chart in Excel (Part 3 - Sharing Your Finished Charts)

Welcome to the third article on how to make a knitting chart in Excel. Part 1 looked at setting up the spreadsheet so you would have a working grid. Part 2 gave you tips on how to actually draw your chart. Now I will give you instructions on how to save and share your chart with the world.

Remember: to see a larger version of each screen shot click on the thumbnail.

I'm using Microsoft Excel 2003 on a PC, so the location of some of the menus and tools may vary depending on your version. The general technique should work just fine for you. These instructions will give you a square grid. Keep in mind that knit stitches are not perfect squares.)

Sharing Your Chart
  1. Finalize Your Chart. Using the borders toolbar (see Part 2 for how to locate this toolbar) you can clean up your chart so the grid is only pronounced around your chart.

    The borders toolbar from the Formatting toolbar.


    Comparison of charts with an "unclean" grid (left), no grid (middle) and a grid only (right) around the chart itself.

  2. The example chart is 21x21 stitches. To make it easier for the reader, I sometimes choose to use the "Thick Box Border" to mark every 5 or 10 stitches. This can reduce counting.


    The "Thick Box Border" button (left) and what a chart would look like after adding the thicker grid every 5 sts (right). These thick borders are more helpful and obvious if there is a lot of background in your chart.

  3. If you chart is really long and complicated, you may want to add numbers to the rows. This will enable you to refer to them by name in your pattern. It is your choice whether you want row 1 to be at the top or bottom, it really depends on how you are incorporating the chart into your pattern. (There is no harm starting with row 21 of a pattern in the instructions!)

    If you have been following my instructions for making the grid then the default font size (10) will be too large for our grid, in both height and width. Change the font size to 6 and widen the column so you can see double digit numbers. I also like to make the numbers bold and a contrasting (non-black) color.




    Numbers too small (left) and adjusted column width for smaller numbers (right). It is worth enlarging these thumbnails as the details are hard to see here.

  4. I personally choose a very simple and non-elegant method to bring my chart from excel to a publishable format. The screenshot. There is a button on your keyboard that says PrtSc (print screen) or something similar. This will capture the image that you see on your screen into your clipboard so you can paste it into another program. Here are some references on how to take a screenshot in Windows or Max OS X.

    Before taking the screenshot, you want to make your image as large as possible. Go to the View Menu --> Zoom and select a custom value so your chart takes up as much of the screen as possible.


    How to find the zoom tool


    Adjust the zoom until your chart takes up most of the screen.

    If you want to eliminate the background grid completely, you can take the screenshot from the Print Preview screen, but even with the zoom button you may not be able to zoom in as much.

  5. After you're happy with you zoomed in image, take a screenshot.
  6. Copy the captured file into Microsoft Paint and save it was a bitmap or jpeg. (Bitmap is the default of Paint, and is what I use).



  7. Crop the file using your favorite image editing software. I personally use Adobe Photoshop, but there are many free programs available that will let you crop.
  8. Distribute your chart! Upload to your flicker or picasa account, blog or email it to friends.

Go Back to Part 1 (Setting up your chart)
Go Back to Part 2 (Drawing your chart)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dyeing Wool Ease Yarn with Kool Aid - 3

I have been planning on making a big needle blanket for months. I have so much fisherman's colored Lion Brand Wool-Ease yarn that I wanted to dye it so I wouldn't end up with a second cream afghan.

To prepare the yarn I allowed it to soak in plain water until the yarn was thoroughly wet. I let some soak overnight, but that length of time is not necessary. It would help to bring the dye bath to a boil before adding the yarn, this way when the yarn is absorbing the dye you can keep it on a low heat to prevent burning. Additionally, since this is a machine washable wool blend, felting is not a concern. Too much heat and agitation can change the texture of this yarn, but you you don't need to be as careful as you would if you were stove-top dyeing 100% wool.

Yellow Stove-top Dyeing:
  • 1 packet KoolAid lemonade (yellow)
  • 30 drops of yellow food coloring
I let two skeins simmer in the color bath until the water ran clear. The dye bath does not need to come to a rolling boil, some heat is enough for the color to absorb. Allow the skeins to cool completely (you can remove them from the dye-bath to speed up this process). Wash the completed skein in mild soap and luke warm water. Hang to dry.



Yellow-Orange colorway (Stove-Top)
  • Create a dye-bath with 1 packet Kool-Aid Orange
  • Add 10 drops red, 5 drops yellow food coloring.
Bring the dye-bath to a boil, then turn off the heat. Using a skein that has been pre-dyed yellow, dip an end of the skein into the bath and wait 1 minute. Slowly, minute by minute, increase the amount of yarn that is in the dye-bath (about 1/4 of the skein at a time). Do not dip the final yellow portion. The dye-bath will not run clear because you want the later dipped sections to have a lighter orange color, and you're not going to let it soak that long. Remove the skein from the dye-bath and allow it to cool. Wash the completed skein in mild soap and luke warm water. Hang to dry.


Dip Dyeing the skein


The finished skein.

Orange Stove-Top Skein

  • Use the remaining dye-bath from above and a fresh, undyed skein.
Bring the dye-bath to a boil. Turn off the heat, add a skein and allow the skein to sit in the dye-bath until the color is in the wool and not the water. Remove the skein from the dye-bath and allow it to cool. Wash the completed skein in mild soap and luke warm water. Hang to dry.



Drip Dyeing a Pre-Knit square
  • Dye-bath: Cleared water from previous dyeing (above). The water should still have citric acid in it and work to dye the wool.
When I was making my sampler afghan, I decided to redo one of my squares. This means that I have an extra square that was already knit for me to dye!

Bring the dye-bath to a boil. Dip the pre-knit square in the water, and spread it out as much as possible. Using food coloring, drop color over the square in a random pattern WITHOUT stirring the water. Allow to simmer until you see the dyebath becoming a single color. Remove the knit square and allow to cool. Wash in mild soap and luke warm water. Hang to dry.


Un-dyed square spread out in the pot (left) and after the dye is added (right)

video

You get more of a spot of color when the yarn is closer to the surface. If you are unhappy with the pattern that you created, and want more color in a section, make a new clear dye-bath and add more color to the sections you feel need it.


The Dyed Square

This square is reddish, but the remaining dyebath is blue/green. Red colors absorb to the wool first, so you could leave it in if you want colors to even out more.

Unravel the square, and wind into a ball.



Green Stove-Top
  • Use remaining dyebath from the dip dyeing of the square.
Bring the dye-bath to a boil. Turn off the heat, add a skein and allow the skein to sit in the dye-bath until the color is in the wool and not the water. Remove the skein from the dye-bath and allow it to cool. Wash the completed skein in mild soap and luke warm water. Hang to dry.


The leftover dye ball on top of the dyed square (left) and comparison of the two balls (right)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Knit Toys

World of Knitted Toys by Kath Dalmeny

This is a guilty pleasure book for me. I love making knit toys. (Just wait, my future children!)

There is a paragraph about the animal or people in each section… so fun! They range from ~2-12 inches (if you use the yarn weights as described). There is also an indication about how easy each pattern is to complete.
Patterns include:
  • Basic Person Pattern (make people from all different places of the world!)
  • In the Jungle: South American Indian, Spider Monkey (mama and baby), Snake, Tiger Cub, Gorilla, Orang Utan, Parrot
  • Australian Outback: (I spent a semester abroad in Oz, so I have a special connection to this land. If only there was a fuzzy Australia possum!) Australian Sheep Farmer, Merino Sheep, Koala (mama and baby), Duck-Billed Platypus, Wombat, Kangaroo (with a joey)
  • Down on the Farm: Farmer Lady, Highland Bull, Pigs and Piglets (solid, spotted or striped!), Cat, Mallard Duck, Cockerel & Chicken & Chick
  • The Deep Blue Sea: Pearl Fisherman, Dolphin, Shark (none for me, please), Killer Whale, Turtle, Octopus, Clownfish (I found Nemo!)
  • Forest Friends: Canadian Mountie with a horse, Grizzly Bear (with cub), Beaver, Raccoon, Chipmunk, Moose
  • On Safari: Park Ranger, Zebra, Lion Family (Lion, Lioness & Cub), Rhinoceros, Elephant, Warthog
  • The Snowy Regions: Eskimo (with caught fish and sled Husky Dog), PENGUINS (Adult and Chick Emperor, Adult and Chick Adelie), Seal, Walrus, Polar Bear
  • Pattern Variations: Use the previous patterns to make… Sea Lion, Panda

The detailed pictures about how to sew the knit work to make certain details is very helpful. The patterns are well laid out and clear. I want this book! I really want this book! (Hint, HINT!).


Amigurumi Knits: Patterns for 20 Cute Mini Knits by Hansi Singh

I like knitting small stuffed animals. It's fun, it's fast, and you can impress your friends. Most Amigurumi I've found on the internet is for Crochet, so I was excited to find a knitting book.

Don't be intimdiated. This book doesn't only show pictures of the glorious finished projects, but it highlights key intermediate steps, so you can see how things are supposed to look as you go along.

The Patterns:
  • Five Servings A Day (The Vegetable Basket): Aubergine (Eggplant me thinks), Tomato, Carrot, Garlic, Cucumber, Peas in a Pod
  • Get Your Barnacle On (Underwater Creatures): Hermit Crab (uhoh.. this looks hard but I have to try it!), Common Octopus (I'll try to come up with the King Octopus later... wow I'm snarky today!), Jellyfish, Black-Devil Anglerfish, Sea Star, Sun Star
  • Garden Variety (Backyard Critters): Earthworm, Praying Mantis, Ants, Garden Snail, Spider (EEK!)
  • Revenge of the Cryptids (Strange, Mythical, Cryptozoological Specimens): Kraken (but it's arms aren't 10 miles long!), Nessie, Jackalope
The pictures are crystal clear and the colors are so vibrant you'd think they were real. Amazing, amazing, AMAZING! Definately would make a fun addition to my library.


Knitted Finger Puppets: 34 Easy-to-Make Toys by Meg Leach.

Unfortunately, I returned this book to the library before I had a chance to make a list of all of the cute patterns.

There is a lot of non-knitting finishing for some of the patterns, so other notions might be required (Felt is used to make many of the accents).

I would not purchase this book, but it was a fun read and I plan on attempting some of the patterns someday!