I never thought I’d be a fan of drop shoulder sweaters. You know the type – the sleeves stick straight out from the body with no shaping whatsoever in the shoulders or the waist. They typically consist of four rectangles sewn together: a front, a back, and two folded rectangles for the sleeves. On the plus side, drop shoulder sweaters are incredibly simple to make! In fact, Mim recommended the basic drop shoulder sweater as an excellent choice for a complete beginner in her 7 Best Knitting Projects for Beginners post from November 2015. I thought of them as boxy nightmares from bygone days (particularly the 1980’s) until quite recently.
This summer, I knit the Cullum sweater in Sparrow from Quince & Co. as a shop sample. It doesn’t have sleeves, but it’s a standard drop-shoulder shape. Something shifted in my brain while I was working on it. Sparrow is a fingering-weight 100% linen yarn. It drapes absolutely beautifully because linen is a drapey fiber and thinner yarns are automatically more drapey. (Apparently “drapey” is not a word but I firmly believe it ought to be.) It’s nothing at all like the drop-shoulder sweaters of yore depicted above!
I’ve decided there are three factors that make the modern drop shoulder sweater more flattering than the vintage styles: 1. Thinner yarn, 2. Fibers with better drape, and 3. SLEEVE FIT! How did I never notice that all of my most reviled examples of drop shoulder sweaters all had ridiculously oversized sleeves? I’ve come around to the idea that drop shoulder sweaters can be comfy, flattering and totally stylish looking! All the best things! Here are some of my favorite modern drop shoulder sweaters on Ravelry.
Hello, my lovelies, and welcome to The 12 Weeks of Christmas Holiday Knitting series 2017.
This is our 5th season knitting along with you for the holidays! as usual, we’re publishing 12 original patterns for knitters and hosting 12 knit-alongs with free instruction every Saturday from September 30 through December 16. If you complete all 12 projects, then you’ll have 12 hand-made gifts to give to your friends and family by Christmas time! Patterns will be released the week prior to the knit-along and shared in our weekly Pot O’ Gold e-newsletter, on Facebook, and on this event page.
We design our 12 Weeks of Christmas projects with three criteria in mind:
- It must be possible to finish within one week with moderate diligence.
- Materials must cost $25 or less.
- It will make a good gift for someone you know.
Patterns are free with the purchase of the recommended yarn for the duration of the season. Knitting instruction is free with attendance at any of our Saturday morning knit-alongs.
We will also be posting all 12 patterns in our shop on Ravelry.com for purchase on the Saturday of each knit-along. See our Ravelry shop here: http://www.ravelry.com/stores/over-the-rainbow-yarn-design/
For those who live away, if you purchase the recommended yarn from our online store at shopovertherainbowyarn.com and include a comment with the 12 Weeks pattern you’d like us to include when you place your order, we’d be glad to send it along with your yarn. We’d love to see photos and comments on our Ravelry pattern pages! If you’re on Facebook, you can also post your comments+photos to our Facebook page.
Each knit-along is a stand alone, so you don’t have to come to all of them. But if you do, and if you’re moderately diligent in doing your homework between now and December 16, 2017, you’ll have 12 finished knit pieces to give as gifts. No need to register in advance. All levels of experience are always welcome!
Here’s the schedule with a thumbnail photo of each project.
A tiny Nativity Scene. The pattern has instructions for a general figure that you can embellish in your own way to make The Holy Family, or Wise Men, Angels, Shepherds, anything you like. They will stand on a table top, hang on a tree, or you can use them as finger puppets. They’re adorable and will appeal to children and adults alike.
Foxy Mittens. The pattern is sized for children through adults and features duplicate stitching on the tips of the hand to make an adorable fox face.
Felted and belted, the headband hat is great for those of us who don’t look our best in beanies or watch caps. The pattern has instructions for three brim widths and may be hand shaped to fit. Our version of this felted classic features belt loops that hold separate bands in place. You can make as many bands as you like using whatever stitch pattern you like and change your hat with every change of mood.
Little Speckles Table Runner. Using the simplest form of brioche stitch, Stockinette Brioche, this graceful piece is as pretty on the back side as it is on the front. The fringe is worked along with the body.
This Mitten Scarf. This pattern is sized for children and adults. Simple to knit and fun to wear, this generous scarf wraps twice around your neck, and has mittens knit right in at the bottom. Children will never lose their mittens now! And adults, if they don’t want to use mittens to warm their hands, can use them as pockets to carry cell phone, wallet or car keys. Fun and quick to knit!
Week # 6: Sat. November 4 @ 10am – 12pm
Foxy Slippers. Using the same duplicate stitch chart as the Foxy Mittens, these slippers have ears added at the cuff. These little darlings will keep your feet toasty indoors, but light enough to be stuffed into boots for a quick trip to the mail box or the grocery store. The pattern is sized for children and adults up to women’s large.
Week # 7: Sat.November 11 @ 10am – 12pm
Twinkle Lampshade. Knitwear doesn’t have to be confined to the human body. Adding some simple lace to a table lamp will add color and coziness to any room.
Florentine Frieze Swag Mittens. Using Barbara Walkers Florentine Frieze stitch pattern, and sized for small or large women’s hands, this pattern incorporates several simple stranded color techniques to make a truly fancy mitten that is as warm as it is beautiful.
The Rock City Hat. Inspired by a hat seen at Rock City Cafe, here in Rockland, this hat is easy to knit and fun to embellish with colorful buttons.
The Clock Cozy. Add a bit of knitting coziness to any decor with this easy and super fast project. This pattern is more of a recipe with suggestions for how to fit any clock (or round or oval picture frame).
Gorget. Knights of old wore gorgets to protect their necks, throats and upper chests in battle. Our gorget will protect necks, throats and upper chests from the cold. An updated version of a classic dickey, this chill chaser can be worn under a sweater or shirt for an added layer of warmth, or under a coat as a splash of color.
Last Minute Muffatee. This pattern is so simple and quick, you can probably finish it in an evening. This pattern is perfect for office party Yankee Swaps, last minute additions to your gift list or even as a stocking stuffer. The yarn does all the work and you look like a hero.
You probably won’t be surprised that we do a lot of teaching people how to knit around here. From the very beginner novice who is learning how to form a knit stitch to the advanced expert trying to wrap her head around decreases in the middle of a cable in single pass two color brioche in the round. And if you don’t know anything about the second category, don’t worry; there’s time. There are also a lot of resources in books and on the internet, so if you want to learn on your own and can absorb information that way, more power to you. If you look around, you’ll find that not only are styles changing, and pattern and knitting styles right along with them, teaching styles are changing, too.
You may have already heard me say it, but I’ll say it again anyway. I learned to knit when I was seven and how to crochet when I was nine. And I had my first student when I was nine. In the intervening 40-mumble years, I have at least dabbled in every other string craft you or anyone else has ever heard of, and some you probably haven’t. I’ve also always approached these crafts with an eye to teaching them some day. So believe me when I tell you, I’ve taught some people how to knit. And I’ve taught some people how to teach knitting.
Of course, just as you are the boss of your teaching just as much as you are the boss of your knitting, so you will adapt and develop your own skills if you go in for teaching. But today, I’m here to give you some tips on how to help your students to be successful right out the gate.
• First, where to start.
Though most books and video tutorials start with casting on, I start with forming a knit stitch. Whether you knit English or Continental, it is far easier to form a knit stitch than it is to put the stitches on the needle in the first place. In fact, I have a “Learn To Knit In Five Minute Or Less” guarantee which is successful because I cast on for them and start with simple knit stitches. It usually takes significantly less than five minute. In fact, it usually takes about 90 seconds and people are amazed that they are actually doing it so quickly. Also, when it comes time to cast on, it’s simpler because you can tell your student that casting on is just the same as knitting except that you do it off your finger instead of another needle. By then, they have the concept of pulling a loop through a loop and some muscle memory in their hands. Everything else in knitting is based on the knit stitch and everything else in knitting can be referenced to the knit stitch. So that’s where I start. My learning sequence goes…
- Knit stitch
- Casting on
- Purl stitch
- Binding off
Second, English vs Continental.
Most of us have a default style. Many of us can use either style.You’ll hear experts say that there are advantages and disadvantages to either style. You’ll hear claims that Continental is faster and looser than English, or that English is easier to learn and has better tension control. Bosh. I’m going to state here and now that knowing how to do both, and variations on both, will help you in a lot of ways in the long run, and I may write another blog post on that topic alone. For now, there is no need to worry when you are teaching a beginner. Just go with your default style. It will be easier for you to teach, and easier for your student to understand what you say, if you don’t load them down with choices, right off the bat. If you know how to knit in both styles, and your student seems to be struggling with whichever one you started with, you can try them on the other style. But don’t fret about it if you only know one style. One is plenty to start with. Both you and your student can practice patience and perseverance and it will come out alright.
• Third, Flat vs In The Round.
For most of the time I have been teaching, I’ve started with flat knitting. Some of that has to do with my decided preference for straight needles over circular. I find that straight needles do not fatigue my hands as much as circulars, and I have better tension control with my straights. Recently, however, I ran across a book by Susan B. Anderson titled Kid’s Knitting Workshop. I actually highly recommend that yoiu use the same teaching techniques with adults that you would with children, and I’m adding this book to my own teaching tool box. Susan starts with knitting in the round. It makes a certain amount of sense. If you cast on for them and join in the round for them, they can make a successful hat with nothing more than the knit stitch. Also, if they start right away working in the round, they will not be intimidated when they come to switching techniques. Too many people are intimidated by the joining bit and shy away from hats, mittens, socks and sweaters because they think it’s mysterious and somehow harder than working flat. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for the small success and rewards of finishing a row. Beginners especially need to have small goals in order to feel like they’re making progress. Coming to the end of a row can serve as a frequent, tangible sign that they are advancing. Like with choosing a style, though, it’s going to be easier for both you and your student if you work with the tools you are most familiar and comfortable with. There’s always time to learn more techniques.
• Fourth, Process Knitters vs Product Knitting
Knitters fall into two personality categories; Product Knitters and Process Knitters. (A cute blog post about it on Twist collective and be found here.)Some folks knit because they like to have knitted things. Some folks like to knit because they like to knit. To use an analogy, some folks get in the car and drive to a destination. They use the car as a tool to get where they’re going. Other folks, get in the car and go for a drive. They have no destination in mind and use the car as a tool for the experience of moving through space. Product Knitters want to make a thing. They want that thing and they want to be the one who knits it. Process Knitter want to knit. They want the feel of yarn in their hands, the excited neurons in their brains or the sense of calm that comes over them when they pick up their needles. Product Knitters want to start with a project. They want to knit a scarf, or a hat, or a washcloth. They are also more likely to be nervous about making mistakes. Product knitters want to practice for a while before they commit to a first project. They are interested in learning how to fix mistakes, but don’t worry so much about imperfections. You’ll know, probably even before you start, which type of student you have. Product Knitters won’t care so much about what kind of yarn or needles you tell they to start with. They will actually ask you, “What am I gong to make?” Process Knitters will fall in love with a particular yarn, either the color or the feel. They may also want to do their learning on less important yarn before moving to the yarn that inspired them in the first place. No matter which category your student falls into, don’t try to change them. They’re the boss of their own knitting, even if they’ve never knit a stitch. Just go with their process. You’ll both be happier for it.
Beyond that, just go with the flow. Share your knowledge and skills, but don’t insist on your student learning to do everything exactly the way you do it. Instead, let them find their own preferences and ask questions at their own pace, you’ll both be successful.