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FO Spotlight Tips

My First Afterthought Heel

There are a few things on my knitting bucket list from brioche to toe up socks and one of the techniques on that list was an afterthought heel on a pair of socks.

If you’re not familiar with the afterthought heel technique, basically you knit a sock tube with a cuff and toe, but no heel. Then when you’re done the sock you go back to place your heel by picking up stitches and…cutting into your knitting!!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The idea of cutting into your finished work can be kind of scary, in the whole afterthought heel process that’s what worried me the most. But after I learned how it’s done I saw it’s really not that scary at all!

About my socks!

Before getting into the technique, I want to share a bit about the yarn that I used for these socks.

I used Lion Brand Mani Pedi which has been in my stash for FOREVER in the colour Boot. I only used one 50g skein and I was expecting these to end up being shorter than they turned out, so I’m please how much leg I actually got out of just 50g.

I actually didn’t want the stripes to match on these socks, I was just aiming to use the full skein and so I didn’t care if they matched. And they ended up being exactly the same practically down to the stitch!

For the cuffs, heels, and toes I used Lion Brand Sock Ease in the colour Grape Soda which has also been in my stash for a while. I’ve used this yarn for cuffs, heels, and toes before.

Tutorials

I looked a quite a few tutorials and how-tos when I was preparing to start these socks and also when I was figuring out where to place my heel and how to pick up the stitches and cut my knitting.

The resource that I used most is this video tutorial from KirbyWirby. She takes you through the whole process of how she does her afterthought heels. I watched this video before I started my socks and then I watched it as I did the afterthought heel completing it step along with the video.

I watched the tutorial from KirbyWirby during the entire process. it was a huge help!

I also referenced these blog posts/articles about afterthought heels while I was trying to figure out where to place my heel.

Process

Because I knew I wanted to use as much of this 50g skein as possible, I weighed my skein as I knit. Once I was about 25g through the skein I started the toe on my first sock.

I did about 28g left to make sure I wouldn’t be cutting it too close I ended up with enough yarn leftover to put a square in my Coziest Memory Blanket (Ravelry link).

I knit both of my tubes before starting the heels so that when I measured and placed my markers I could be certain it was the same on each sock. I definitely didn’t want a pair of socks with different foot lengths!

For the heel I really just followed all of the steps from KirbyWirby’s tutorial.

For placing my heel I followed KirbyWirby’s instructions for measuring. My foot length is 9.5 inches (women’s size 8) and so I subtracted a quarter of an inch for a snug fit because you want some negative ease in your sock.

The toe of my socks were 1.75 inches. So 9.25″ – 1.75″ = 7.5″ from the tip of the sock toe to placing the heel.

Right after cutting and undoing the stitches in my first afterthought heel!

Once I knew where I was putting the heel it was pretty easy to count the stitches down the socks and place my markers. Although I have to admit my eyes were a bit sore after from looking at the tiny stitches for so long. Especially because I double and triple counted to make sure it was correct.

Challenges

The hardest part for sure for me was figuring out where to place the heel. I agonized over this part it probably took me longer to actually place the heel than it took to knit it LOL.

But I ended up following KirbyWirby’s instructions to the letter and it worked perfectly!

Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Measure your foot from toe to heel – I also compared to my shoe size and how many inches it should be based on that to know my measurement was correct.
  2. Subtract a quarter inch to make sure you have a snug fit.
  3. Measure your sock’s toe from tip to start of decreases and subtract the length of your toe.
  4. Measure that length from the tip of your sock and that’s where you put your markers for your heel!

Would I do it again?

YES! Here’s what I love about the afterthought heel:

Compared to a short row heel it’s much cleaner especially if you follow the tips from KirbyWirby’s video tutorial for keeping the corners tight.

You can see in the picture above which is a short row heel done with the wrap and turn method that the heel is not as clean and there are small holes at the corners.

The afterhought heel has cleaner corners and no holes along the side.

The thing I love most about this method is that you can can just knit and knit and knit a tube without worrying about when you have to do the heel.

It’s great for knitting during movies or on the go. I’ve taken socks with me when I go camping and trying to do the heel while talking with friends or in the darkness around the campfire is the worst! But with afterthought heel I could easily knit up two sock tubes and not worry about heels at all.

Working on a heel flap during a camping trip last Summer!

And thirdly, because you’re knitting the heel in the round you can have a striped heel! When you do a short row heel or a heel flap your self-striping yarn won’t really follow the pattern in this area because it’s a smaller amount of stitches, so it ends up more colour blcoked than striped.

But with the afterthought heel you’re knitting the heel in the round, so you can get a fun self-striping heel. I’m planning to do this on an upcoming pair so follow my Instagram to see those when I knit them!

Categories
Tips

Tips for Knitters During Social Distancing

Earlier this week I posted about Tips for Learning to knit for non-knitters or newbie knitters who were looking to learn a new skill during the COVID-19 self-isolation. But I recognize that the majority of my audience are people who already know how to knit. 

Well, I didn’t want anyone to be left out! So here are some tips for knitting during COVID-19 self-isolation. 

Have good posture

Good posture is a good habit to have when you’re knitting at any time, but during self-isolation, you’re likely to be knitting for longer than normal and this can take its toll on you physically. 

Here are some tips for good posture and avoiding pain while you knit

  • Sit up straight with back support. I know I’m guilty of knitting in a slumped over position with my legs crossed. But it’s better to sit in a straight posture, with your lower back supported and shoulders relaxed and not hunched or tightened upwards
  • Take frequent breaks! As much as we all love a knitting binge for hours on end it’s really not great for your body. Make sure you’re taking frequent breaks to stretch your arms and hands out. Here are some hand and wrist stretches courtesy of We Are Knitters
  • Take care of your eyes too! Make sure you have good lighting – ahem ahem a note to self as I knit in the dark watching horror movies…. And if you’re reading a pattern make sure you have it zoomed on your screen or use a magnifying glass if needed to make sure you aren’t straining your eyes to read

Support Your Local Yarn Store

Yarn stores that can still operate are doing so through online sales and curbside pick-up. With many of the larger yarn distributors placing a hold on shipping, like KnitPicks, this is a great opportunity to support a local business. 

You can also support independent yarn dyers during this time by buying yarn directly from them! I just picked up a couple beautiful skeins from Sweet Georgia and I can’t wait until they’re delivered!

Stash dive!

You might have some yarn in your stash that you’ve been waiting to use up. Now is the time!! Trust me there’s probably some real gems in your stash. 

I went deep stash diving into some scraps to use for Jessie Maed Designs My little Secret Crop KAL. This pattern is totally free during the KAL it’s kind of like a big test knit! You can find more details on Jessie’s Instagram.

A hand holds two knitting needles with a blue, white and orange knitting piece on them
I’m loving the blue and orange splashes in my Little Secret Crop

I’m having so much fun with it and I never would have thought to use the colours I’m blending together from scraps in my stash. 

Use Social Media to Connect

If you’ve been watching my Insta stories (and if not you should totally come follow me on Instagram) I’ve been doing a daily Captain’s Log update about my day. As well as posting other updates and pictures of the kitties.

Instagram has been a great tool for me during this to stay connected to my knitting friends and follow up with what everyone is doing. 

An orange tabby cat lies on a bed with paws curled up near his face
Follow me on Instagram for knitting and cute kitties!

Local knit nights are going virtual through video hang outs and knitting podcasters are doing more live video broadcasts to connect with their community. It’s so great that we have this technology to stay connected even if we can’t meet face-to-face!

Don’t get cast-on-itis

This is my final tip, and it might be the hardest one! I know that I have been suffering a serious case of cast-on-itis…I just want to cast on everything that I have queued up (and many things that I don’t have queued up).

This is definitely a good time to stash bust and knit a bunch of projects off of your Ravelry queue! But in order to really finish anything, it’s important you try and focus on just a few projects at once. 

That’s what I’m trying to do to make sure I really make the most of this time and come out with a bunch of FOs and not a bunch of UFOs.

If you don’t know FO = Finished Object and UFO= Unfinished Object

Two hands wearing blue speckled knit fingerless mitts hold a mug of coffee
Make sure you take this time to relax and enjoy some slow knitting

Those are my tips! This was an extra special bonus post on a Thursday – make sure you keep your eye out next Tuesday for my regular update. I’ll be talking about what I’m binge watching because of course while you’re doing all this knitting you need to knitflix!

Categories
Tips

Tips for Learning to Knit

Because of COVID-19, most of us have been on self-isolation at home for the past couple of weeks and we’ll be in full isolation a couple of weeks longer and likely social distancing for longer than that. During this time I’ve had a couple of people ask me for tips for learning to knit. And this is a great time to learn as it will give you something to do! 

This post will cover some tips for learning to knit, we’ll cover

  • The basic skills
  • The materials you’ll need to get started and where you can get them
  • Common mistakes and how to fix them,
  • Some recommendations for easy patterns

It’s not going to be a post that goes into the details of how to actually knit, but I am going to link to tutorials that will. 

Materials to get started

Well…you’ll need yarn and needles of course! 

Now needles come in a variety of sizes from very teeny tiny US size 1s (2.25mm in diameter to bigger US 19 (15mm in diameter). The size needle you use will determine how big your stitches are and they correspond somewhat to the bulk of your yarn. For example, you wouldn’t use a very small needle with a very bulky yarn. 

A thumb and pointer finger hold up a knitting needle to show the numbers on the side
Most needles will have the size written on the side

Like needles, yarn comes in different sizes as well, called weights. The lightest weight is fingering represented by a 1 and the heaviest is jumbo weight, which is number 7. You’ll know what weight a yarn is by reading its label.

A dark purple ball of yarn on a wood table
The yarn label will tell you the yarn’s weight and other useful information like how many yards there are in a ball and washing instructions.

For beginners I’d recommend starting with worsted weight yarn – that’s number 4 on the yarn weight range. And a US 5 or 5.5 needle. This yarn and needles are going to be not too thick, not to thin and will be easy enough for your hands to work with as you get started.

Knitting needles are commonly made of wood, metal, or plastic. For beginners, wood is the best choice as they have a bit more grip and will help keep the stitches from sliding off the end and getting dropped. 

Pick a light colour of yarn so you’ll be able to easily see the stitches. 

Where can you buy knitting needles and yarn 

For beginners, I’d recommend shopping at your local big box craft store like Michaels when you get started. They have a wide selection of yarns and will be more budget-friendly when you’re just getting started. 

You can also find a local yarn store (LYS) in your area. A LYS can be especially helpful as a beginner because most of them offer classes and knitting help if you get stuck or make a mistake you’re not sure how to fix. 

In addition to needles and yarn you’ll also need the following before starting your first project. 

  • A yarn needle (for weaving in your starting and finishing ends)
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • You might also need stitch markers
  • A crochet hook can also come in handy for picking up dropped stitches

DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

As I’m writing this during the time period of COVID-19 and you should avoid all unnecessary outings. I recommend you order materials online or find a store in your neighbourhood that is offering curbside pick up.

A hand holds two knitting needles with stitches and knit fabric hanging off them
Don’t go out during the COVID-19 pandemic if you don’t have to! Just stay home

Where to begin

It can be overwhelming to learn something new. But all you need to know right now to get started is that all knitting is basically made up of two stitches: knit and purl. You can do some neat things with them, lace and cables and there are increases and decreases. But the foundation of all of this is knit and purl.

And you’ll, of course, need to know how to get started – this is called casting on. And how to finish called binding off or casting off. Counting stitches and rows will also be something useful to learn right off the bat. 

I recommend you start by making a square or rectangle and just practice knitting and purling, casting on and binding off. You can unravel it over and over to keep practicing. 

Check out these video tutorials to learn the basics: 

Very Pink has tutorials for all the basic skills here

And you can find a video on counting stitches here also by Very Pink

Common mistake

You’re learning something new and you’re going to mess it up!! And that’s totally okay. Don’t get upset, don’t panic almost any mistake you make is fixable. 

Here are the most common knitting mistakes with resources on how to fix the ones you can and avoid the ones you can’t. 

Twisted stitches

Twisted stitches are a common mistake for new knitters. Twisted stitches cause your knitting to sit unevenly. 

This tutorial from Martha Stewart describes twisted stitches and what causes them

Dropped stitches

You are indefinitely going to drop a stitch at some point! This can cause a lot of anxiety and you may think you need to start over – but that’s not the case. Picking up a dropped stitch is actually very easy. 

Here’s a quick tutorial from The Spruce Crafts on fixing dropped stitches

Adding stitches at the sides

See #2 on this list of common knitting mistakes from Martha Stewart. This is a great resource that also covers dropped stitches, twisted stitches and tight tension. 

How to un-knit to fix an error or rip back your project

It’s unfortunate, but sometimes you’ll need to undo part of even all of your knitting to fix mistakes! 

This comprehensive tutorial covers two ways you can undo knitting to fix past mistakes. By unknitting stitch by a stitch or by ripping out all or part of your project. It also goes into how to decide which method you need to use. 

Where to go from here

Once you have the basic skills down it’s time to knit your first pattern! 

A pattern is going to provide you with the needle size and yarn weight you need. Make sure you use the specified yarn and needles. The pattern information will also tell you how much yarn you’ll need.

When knitting a pattern you’ll need to make sure you meet the gauge for the pattern, especially if it’s something like a hat where the size matters. Gauge is the size of your stitches and rows to ensure your item comes out the right size. You measure gauge by knitting a swatch and measuring your stitches. 

This post by Lion Brand Yarn will teach you about gauge

Knitting patterns are written in almost another language, there are a lot of abbreviations. The pattern will give you a “dictionary” for what all the abbreviations mean so make sure you read that before getting started!

For example this 

Row 1: K3, p to end of row

This means you will knit three stitches and then purl to the end of the row.

When you’re just getting started it can be helpful to write out the abbreviated instructions in full for yourself. 

Finding your first pattern 

Ravelry is a great place to find knitting patterns. You can set up a free account and browse through the pattern base. You can filter your search by difficulty level and the techniques involved. 

You can also buy kits from Wool and the Gang or We Are Knitters that come with everything you need. 

Tin Can Knits has this collection of easy (and free) patterns created for knitters who are just starting out!

A light blue knit sweater without sleeves sits on a white background
This is the beginnings of a Flax Sweater from the Tin Can Knits Simple Collection

You’re ready to get going with your brand new hobby!! Good luck and remember to enjoy it!

Categories
Tips

Digital Tools for Knitting

Obviously, knitting originated before the time we had the internet and computers. But just as knitwear styles have kept up with the latest trends, knitting has also kept up with the latest technologies and there are many digital tools for knitting or ones that can be used for knitting.

You know, as a millennial I need to bring a little bit of digital into every I do. So I wanted to share with you some of the online tools I use in partnership with my knitting.

A white hand holds two knitting needles with white and blue knitting hanging off, on top of a white desk, a keyboard is in the background
Digital tools like these can really help enhance your knitting experience

I’m focusing here on the tools I use as a hobby knitter and not the tools I use on the business side of Knits of Steele. That will be a separate post, although I do touch on some of them here and there is overlap.

Ravelry

If you’re not already using Ravelry you are missing out!! This is the greatest online resource for knitters.

Ravelry is a really huge database of knitting patterns, and it’s also a great tool for connecting with your fellow knitters and planning and tracking your projects and your stash. There are so many features I’m sure I’m not even taking advantage of all of them.

How I use Ravelry

  • To search for and purchase patterns
  • Favourite patterns to keep track of things I’d like to knit when I need ideas (as if I’d ever run out)
  • Queue up the patterns I’ve purchased in the order I want to knit them
  • Track my WIPs and FOs and keep pattern notes, really helpful for socks and mittens so for the second one I can remember what I did
  • Connect with other knitters through groups
  • See projects for certain patterns or yarns the notes other knitters make are really helpful 
  • To sell patterns of course!

What’s great about Ravelry

  • Totally free!! 
  • Biggest pattern database out there
  • They stand against discrimination in our community and ensure a safe space
  • And I don’t use this feature because I’m too unorganized, but you can track your stash and search for yarns 

Click here to check out my Ravelry page, projects and add me as a friend!!

Young white woman wearing an orange knit hat poses in front of trees with yellow leaves
Let’s be friends!

 

Google Drive 

If you haven’t heard of Google I don’t know what to tell you! So I don’t think much intro is needed here. 

If you haven’t heard of Google Drive it’s part of Google’s suite if free cloud based programs. If you have a Gmail address you have Google drive! 

How I use Google Drive

  • To store patterns I’m working on. It’s great because there’s no need to print and can access from all my devices if I need to check a stitch count quickly I just open it on my phone or I can read my pattern off my phone while I’m knitting on the go.
  • To write my patterns and blog posts. I’m writing this post write now on Google docs on the subway and I’ll finish it up on my computer when I get home.

What’s great about Google Drive

  • It’s free up to a certain amount of space (it’s tons of space) and if you’re using Google you already have it.
  • You can access anywhere from any device, and there’s a mobile app.
  • It’s cloud-based so no need to worry about losing your patterns and documents if your computer crashes.

Using Google drive has really simplified my knitting and has allowed me to take advantage of commute time to work on my patterns and blog. 

Trello

Trello is a web-based project management app and the free version offers all the features you need to use it to organize your knitting. I was introduced to Trello at my old job where we used it as a team to manage our projects.

You can set up multiple boards, and within the boards you have lists and cards that you use to organize your tasks. You can set deadlines, add labels and to-do lists and lots of notes. 

Picture of Trello card, yarn quantities and a check list of knitting steps are listed
Here’s one of my cards, I’m using it to plan my yarn for For Fox Sake by Maxim Cyr

How I use Trello for my knitting

  • Track my queue because I’m able to add additional information and notes that aren’t available in Ravelry. I can add notes for how much yarn I need for my size, links to the yarn and comparing prices. And I set up a checklist for each project.
  • Track custom orders. During the holidays I take customs to make a little extra money for Christmas presents and Trello helps me track when orders are due and how much people owe me.
  • I also use this for my blog content and patterns to (try to) stay on track and plan out a few months in advance.
  • I use it on the go if a pattern idea strikes me I can jot it down in my pattern ideas list, and you can attach photos so I can attach a picture of my sketch and not worry about losing it!

Why Trello is great

  • Freeeee 
  • Another one that is cloud based and accessible from anywhere. There is a great mobile app. 

Instagram

I use Instagram for the “business side” of Knits of Steele, of course, to grow my audience and promote my blog and patterns. But Instagram is also a huge part of my hobby knitting. 

Instagram is one of my fave digital tools for knitting, it’s where I got started with Knits of Steele way back in 2017. I know it’s weird to think of it as a “tool”, but I think it is. 

A striped shawl in warm pink and brown tones lies on a light hardwood floor
My first Instagram post from October 2017

How I use Instagram

  • To connect with all of you! 
  • I love sharing what I’m working in and it’s the best place to see the hottest upcoming patterns and follow dyers and designers.
  • I use my feed to show off pretty knitting and my stories to give more of a behind the scenes look at my day-to-day.

Why Instagram is great

  • Free (are you noticing a trend?)
  • Connect with other knitters and see beautiful knitting pictures but also behind the scenes.
  • Use hashtags to follow the trends you like, there are tags for certain patterns, yarns and designers.
  • Make sure you’re following #knitupjoy and #knitsofsteele to see my posts on Insta 🙂 

If you’re not already following me on Insta click here!

 

Well there you have it. 4 of the digital tools I use to enhance my knitting experience as a hobby knitter. Stay tuned for more of how I use these tools and more on the business end of Knits of Steele.