Thursday, May 17, 2007

One Answer and One Question

I received a comment on my recent post about the lace scarf that I'm working on asking the following: In working the new scarf - what needle size are you using and why?

I'm using a US size 6 needle on this scarf. The "why" is an interesting question. I definitely am not an expert on such things and I'm sure you could certainly find many more authoritative sources on the subject of needle size out there, but I do love to chit chat about such things, so here's my thinking . . .

When choosing a needle size for any knitting, I always begin by thinking about gauge. I start with the needle size recommended in the pattern or a size that feels about right if I'm not using a pattern, and do a gauge swatch and then adjust needle size from there. With items such as a scarf, however, gauge is not so critical and so I tend to think more of what type of look I want to achieve.

The scarf I'm working on now that raised the question is the Feather and Fan scarf from KnitSpot with my FF Laceweight Merino. It's actually grown quite a bit since I took this photo, but I'll save a new photo for the blocking phase, which is just around the corner.

For this scarf, my decision on needle size was based on a combination of gauge considerations and the general look of the finished piece. I prefer my scarves to be fairly narrow. Sometimes, you can achieve the desired size by adjusting the number of stitch pattern repeats across a row, but in the case of this scarf there are only two pattern repeats per row, so I didn't have the wiggle room to increase or decrease the repeats. That meant that I needed to keep the gauge fairly tight to get a narrowish scarf. At the same time, I wanted it to be open enough to have a light, springtime feel. The size 7 just felt about right. (The lace will open up a good bit with blocking.)

In another example, back when I first started this blog I made a scarf using my FF Sportweight Cashmere. For this scarf, I wanted something with some weight and substance, but more of a lightweight feel than a real winter scarf. I wanted something that could be worn in Fall or Winter and that might be worn indoors as well. The pattern is a ribbed lace pattern, which worked nicely to achieve a slightly heavier weight scarf. Since the stitch pattern repeat on this scarf was just a few stitches, I had plenty of room to choose the needle size I preferred and then adjust the width of the scarf by playing with the number of pattern repeats. I used a size 4 needle in this case to keep the ribbing a bit tighter to add more density to the fabric, but with the lace touches giving it a bit of an open and airy feel. I also chose not to block the finished piece. I don't have a photo of the finished scarf, but here's an old shot of the work in progress.

So that's my general thinking on needle size and lace. Not an exact science by any stretch, unless it's a garment where gauge is critical.

So that's my answer. Now on to my question!

It's about time for me to buy a new book or two and I'd like to hear suggestions from anyone. Do you have a favorite, must-have knitting book you can recommend?

I'm open to most anything, but keep in mind that I love, love, love stitch dictionaries. In fact, I could probably use a couple of focused dictionaries, such as one specific to cables or lace. I could also certainly use some more pattern books, but I think perhaps something themed would be best. The chances that I'll like more than one or two patterns in a book that's got a mish-mash of patterns is pretty slim, whereas I might like quite a few patterns in a book of lace patterns or cabled sweater patterns or Fair Isle, etc.

I'm also not too keen on books with lots of history and background. Although all of that is interesting, I tend to read it once and then forget all about it. My library is pretty slim, so I'd rather focus on more practical information right now. Oh, that leads to another thought. My finishing skills are sorely lacking. I keep meaning to pick up a book on finishing techniques, but the few that I've browsed in yarn shops and book stores always seem very rudimentary. I look through them and think that I could find more useful information online. Perhaps someone knows of a really good book for finishing techniques?

Would love to hear your suggestions and recommendations! Thanks all!


Meghann said...

I have the vogue stitchionary on cables and I like it quite a bit. I know a few people have found errors, but I haven't had any problems with that yet. I love the color photographs of the swatches, it helps me envision things better. I'm hoping to pick up the knit/purl one also!

Lynne E. said...

The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques, by Nancie Wiseman, is pretty good, and relatively inexpensive. I collect knitting books, and found some not-to-be-found-elsewhere items in it right away. I haven't picked it up in quite a while, and couldn't say for sure that it's the best one out there, but I think it probably is.

Here's an Amazon link:

Jersey Shore Deb said...

I second the praise for The Knitter's Book of Finishing Techniques. I use it all the time. It is useful to read all the way through, as many of the techniques mentioned really need to be thought about before starting an item.

Sue J. said...

I love the 4 Barbara Walker volumes. There is also the 3 Vogue Knitting Stitchionaries (#4 coming this fall will be about crochet), and Nicki Epstein's "edge" books are excellent references. Also, there are the Harmony Guides, and Interweave has three new ones coming out this Fall. All of these have books devoted to just cables, just lace, etc.

Anonymous said...

For lace I would strongly suggest "Heirloom Knitting" by Sharon Miller. It is pricey at $55, but well worth it. I would say it would be the only lace book you would ever need. Can't help you with finishing books, etc because I don't remember ever finishing anything but lace! ha!


Judith said...

Janet Szabo ( has a great finishing book (not to mention great cable designs). You might like Japanese stitch dictionaries. There's a new group dedicated to Japanese knitting - - if you join and look in the files, there's lots of info about what to buy and where. Their patterns are very different from stuff you usually see

MonicaPDX said...

I simply love the Harmony Guide "220 Aran Stitches and Patterns - Volume 5", for the cables. (On Amazon -

Written and charted instructions for every stitch; grouped by row repeat; beautiful clear pictures of samples knit in lovely plain, creamy yarn so you can see details; overview, samples and ideas for combining into panels/entire sweaters. There are more than cables, of course, such as Trinity and bobbles - but cables and twisted stitch patterns are in the majority. Which is why I bought the book, and it turned out to be exactly what I was looking for.

anne said...

cables untangled by melissa leapman is also a nice book—it has a stitch dictionary AND some attractive projects.

~Tonia~ said...

Cables Untangled by Melissa Leapman is a great book. I have it and love it. There are some really nice pictures and great stitches in it.