Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Face Mask Returns!

I am bringing back the Face Mask pattern that I first posted on Ravelry and then withdrew 24 hours later. My thoughts about this have evolved over time. Here's how that happened.

Since it is both impossible to buy face masks and also the CDC has asked the public not to purchase them to allow medical staff to have any that become available, I had the thought "Any mask is better than none, right?" With that thought in mind, I created the Face Mask pattern. I liked how it turned out so I then posted it on Ravelry with warnings that they are not as effective as medical masks and everyone should decide for themself whether it is a good idea.

The pattern became instantly popular on Ravelry, rising to number 12 on the "hot right now" list in less than 24 hours.

But at the same time I started receiving comments that I was doing more harm than good because people would think they were getting more protection than they actually were. Then Ravelry also posted a notice at the top of the pattern saying "This design resembles a medical mask. The World Health Organization’s coronavirus guidance states that the use of cloth masks is NOT RECOMMENDED in any circumstance." I read the article which does make that statement at the very end, but offers no supporting reasons for it. However, it is W.H.O. so even without supporting reasons and data, we should pay attention.

After doing a bit more research, I then withdrew the pattern and replaced it with a warning that it was as bad idea because it might increase your chance of infection if it is not sanitized frequently.

So what happened next? On Saturday, I made a last minute trip to the market to get bread before it all got bought out again and decided for myself again, "Any protection is better than none." So I put on cloth gloves and wore my knitted face mask and went to the store. As soon as I got home, I took off the mask and gloves, put them directly into the washing machine, and washed my hands for at least 20 seconds. I assume, though I have no way of knowing for sure, that if the mask is a breeding ground for pathogens, then that is not going to happen in less than any hour for a quick trip to the store. 

So then I started to think, what if other people feel like it do and would like to have some kind of protection rather than none and also will be careful not to endanger themselves by wearing an infected mask? While still considering whether to bring it back, I ran across this New York Times article which pointed to the study that concludes that a homemade mask "would be better than no protection at all."

So I decided to bring back the pattern with all the appropriate warnings at the start. So here it is:

Face Mask on Ravelry

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Should you work your swatch in the round?

The answer to that question is, "It depends." Some knitters can get away with working the swatch flat and some may need to work the swatch in the round. If your knit stitches are not the same size as your purl stitches, then you definitely should work your swatch in the round because the sweaters from patterns are all worked in the round. So they are made up entirely of knit stitches (except for a little bit on the shoulders of course). So naturally if half the stitches in your swatch are purled then your gauge for the swatch would not match the gauge on the sweater. So you would need to knit your swatch in the round and enter that gauge when you create your pattern.

How can you tell which you are? There are two ways to find out.

  • If you have a Stockinette stitch swatch that was knitted flat, look carefully at the back of the swatch and see if there are gutters between every other row of purl bumps. The gutters are the result of knits and purls being two different sizes. So if your swatch has them, you should knit your swatch in the round. Here are pictures of a swatch that has gutters.  Notice that you can also see enlarged rows of knit stitches on the right side. But sometimes these are even harder to notice. By looking across the swatch, the gutters and the enlarged rows, also call "rowing out," are more visible. 

Gutters, looking straight at the swatch
The same gutters, looking across the swatch
Rowing out, looking across the swatch

  • However, some people who are not used to looking for gutters just don't seem to see them when they are there. I know because I review submissions to the Master Hand Knitting program of TKGA and the first thing to do in the program is knit a swatch and answer the question, "Do you see gutters on the back?" It is not uncommon for people to say "no" when I see very prominent gutters. So if you are not sure, here is the sure way to find out. Knit a swatch in the round and then knit a swatch flat and see if the two gauges are the same or not. You don't have to do this every time you start a project. Just do it once and then you'll know whether you need to work your swatch in the round or not if the project is worked in the round.

How to knit a swatch in the round

You should always knit your swatch using the same needles you will use to work the garment. I assume that since we are knitting sweaters, that means you are using circular needles (I guess you could use very large double-pointed needles. I don't recommend that though). The obvious, but slower method, would be to cast on enough stitches to knit your swatch in the round, probably using the magic loop method or the two circular needles method to avoid having to work a 16 inch circular swatch. You could then steek (cut) the swatch from top to bottom, flatten it, block it, and then take your gauge measurements. 

But here's a simple method. Using your circular needles, cast on enough stitches for a 5 or 6 inch swatch plus about 5 or 6 extra stitches. Knit a row and then push the stitches back to the other needle. Drape a loose section of working yarn across the back of the swatch and knit another row. Push the stitches back to the other needle and continue in this manner until you have worked the size you need to work.

You can still use the two swatch method I described in an earlier blog entry. Just create each one as I just described with drapes of working yarn across the back.

You should block your swatch before you measure the gauge since blocking can change the gauge. And you also should cut the loops of yarn that are draped across the back so they don't mess with your measuring. Finally, there will be as many as three loose stitches at each edge of the swatch, so don't include them in your measurement. That's why we added 5 or 6 extra stitches when we did the cast on.

And please do not skip the swatching step. As I said in the earlier post, there is nothing more important to create a garment that fits. Your gauge will almost never match the gauge on the yarn band. 

My Workshop Last Weekend

I had the great privilege last weekend of leading a workshop for the What the Knit Guild in Bakersfield, CA. Sixteen women took part and worked through all the details of knitting a crew neck and a saddle shoulder sweater using the pattern on We has such a good time and I can't wait to see the sweaters they now produce. Check out (or click the Forum link at the top of any page) to meet some of the women who were there. Hopefully we will also get to see their works in progress and their finished garments as well.

The What the Knit Guild is led by one of my favorite teachers, Suzanne Bryan. If you are not familiar with her videos, check out her channel Knitting with Suzanne Bryan.

Happy knitting!


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Crochet Cast On - New Video

Crochet Cast On

Yesterday my sister Carol Ann asked me if I could help her learn how to do the crochet cast on that I recommend using at the underarm in the patterns generated at I first made a video just for her, but then I realized it might be useful for everyone to see how I do it. Also, that first video only showed how to get the stitches onto the needle, but did not include how to pick them up later, which can also be a bit tricky. All the patterns tell you to cast on a number of stitches but then later tell you to pick up one more stitch than you cast on. You may be wondering why that is the case also.

So I expanded the video to produce a full explanation of the crochet cast on, how to work it, why there are more stitches in the opposite direction than you originally cast on, and how to pick up those stitches when you are ready to do that.

Happy knitting!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Picking up Stitches at Cast On Edge in the Crew Neck Pattern

In the Crew Neck pattern, one of the most confusing parts, yet very important to do correctly, is this line:

Front Shoulders

With WS facing and CO edge of left side at the top, using the needle emerging from the sweater's left side below and a separate strand of yarn for each piece, pick up purlwise and purl XX sts from the middle of each st of the CO row—XX sts on each piece.
I have tried to explain it in response to a question in the PhranckoForum but it is very difficult to put into words. However, knowing the proverbial "picture = 1000 words" here is a picture that I hope will make it perfectly clear:

As you see, we have "the WS [wrong side] facing" and we are looking only at the "left side" of the sweater, the one that does not have the right side marker, and we have oriented it with the "CO [cast on] edge at the top." We are about to use the needle that is "emerging from the sweater's left side" which is actually on your right side. And we have positioned the point of the needle to pick up purlwise starting in the selvedge stitch directly above where needle emerges from the work.
Now it's perfectly clear, right? I sure hope so. This is the most important reason for marking the right side of the sweater. Without that, would you know that this picture is looking at the left side? It's upside down and wrong side facing. Now that is very confusing!

How do we then pick up the stitches purlwise?

We want to pick up the same number of stitches that we cast on in the beginning. That means we need to pick up one stitch in every single cast on stitch, including the selvedge stitch at each end. Each stitch other than the selvedges looks like a V, when you are looking at the fabric on the right side and also not upside down. You want to pick up a stitch in the middle of every one of those V's, right next to the cast on edge. For the selvedge stitches, you just have to find a good place to pick up a stitch since it doesn't look like a V. But the main thing is not to forget to do it or you will not have enough stitches and the connected edge will not be flat. 

To pick up purlwise, you insert the needle from the RS (i.e., the far side since the WS is facing you) through to the WS, wrap the needle and then pull it through the fabric. Then you insert the needle in the next stitch from the RS to the WS. It will feel like you are purling since you insert the needle towards you as in making a purl stitch, hence the name "pick up purlwise."

A Wonderful Visit with my Sister

I just completed a visit with my sister in Maine and we had such a great time together. She has a couple of friends who came over to let me show them all how to get started on the crew neck sweater pattern. We worked from a baby-sized pattern so we could get through the entire process of creating the shoulders and starting the sleeve caps, the only difficult part of the pattern. We had such a good time!

Here are the three beautiful knitters patiently enduring my hovering over them to make sure they did everything exactly right.

And here I am reminding my sister how to do the standard long tail cast on. She taught me to knit when we were teenagers. Since she always uses the knitted cast on, it was so nice to return the favor all these decades later and show her some things in return.
We also went to a yarn store and bought yarn for her sweater, so the next day we generated a custom-fit pattern for her and started her sweater. The picture above, as you can see, was taken on her plaid table cloth and it is a picture of the start of her sweater using Cascade 220 Aran yarn.

Happy knitting!


Saturday, September 7, 2019

Invisible Ribbed Bind Off

I just published a video describing the Invisible Ribbed Bind Off that is recommended in all my patterns at Of course you can always use whatever bind off you choose, but this one is my favorite by far. To learn why and get a demonstration of how to use it, take a look at this:

Happy knitting,


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Published patterns using Phrancko's Seamless Set-in Sleeves

Since the Summer, 2018 issue of Cast On magazine, I have been publishing patterns with Phrancko's Seamless Set-in Sleeves. Each of these patterns started as a plain sweater pattern generated by earlier versions of the website while it was still under development. Each plain pattern was then enhanced in some manner to produce the design for publication. Here are all of the results with thoughts about why it was advantageous to use Phrancko's Seamless Set-in Sleeves construction.

Ultra Wide Mock Cable Pullover
Ultra Wide Mock Cable Pullover
Appearing in the Summer 2018 issue of Cast On, this was the first pattern I published using Phrancko's Seamless Set-in Sleeves. This is a V-neck so the neckline does not get closed until farther down the sleeve openings than for a crew neck. The mock cable pattern however only does cross-overs on every other row until the neckline join, so they are easy to do while working back and forth. After that knitting in the round begins and the pattern immediately begins doing cross-overs on every row, which would be more difficult to get right if knitted flat.

Triple Mock Cable Sweater
Triple Mock Cable
The Triple Mock Cable sweater in the Fall 2018 issue has a complex Alpine style mock cable design that would be very difficult to work flat. However, it doesn't begin until after the neckline closes, so it is never worked back and forth. By using Phrancko's Seamless Set-in Sleeves design it is no problem to work it in the chest area between the neckline and the underarms, unlike every other method for set-in sleeves.

Ziggy-zaggy Child's Sweater
This pattern also appeared in the Fall 2018 issue to accompany the original article describing Phrancko's Seamless Set-in Sleeves. The only modification to the Crew Neck pattern produced on the website was the knit-purl pattern. Being a knit-purl pattern, of course it could be worked flat. But by working in the round, it is a bit easier than remembering to reverse the meanings of the symbols on every other row of the chart.

Book of Kells Sweater
This sweater, published in the Winter 2018-2019 issue of Cast On, used only Aran style cables which has not cross-overs on the WS when worked flat. So it could have been worked using a different method for set-in sleeves. However it was such a complex pattern, it was nice to be always working on the right side in the round as it developed down the chest.

Weaving Diamonds
Appearing in the Spring 2019 issue, this was the first sweater using the Saddle Shoulder version of the pattern available on Not only is the stranded color work easier to create because it is done in the round across the chest and back, this sweater also takes advantage of the fact that the technique works entirely in the round across the chest/back and around the sleeve caps at the same time. As a result, there is no effort required to get the pattern to match across the set-in sleeve "seam."  

Fibonacci Striped Sweater
Another Saddle Shoulder sweater, this appeared in the Summer 2019 issue. There was no complex cabling or stranded color work here. The design is as simple as following the pattern as it is produced on the website and changing yarns at the designated times. Easy peasy!

Gray-dient Sweater
This is the back view of the sweater in the Fall 2019 issue of Cast On. This Crew Neck version of the pattern also simply changes yarns to produce the transitions from one color to the next. The focus of the pattern was how to do the transition in two different ways, depending on whether or not the two colors blend readily. 

And that's not all, my knitting friends! I'm am currently working on another variation for publication in the Winter 2019-2020 issue and have also worked out a plan for another one after that. You can see all these and so much more at for just $25 a year.

It seems the possibilities are endless. I can't wait to see what some of you come up with in your designs. Future blog entries will discuss how to make modifications to the plain patterns generated on the website to create incredible designs. Of course, if you just want to follow the directions without enhancement, you will still get a beautiful sweater in the yarn and colorways that you choose.

Happy knitting!


Sunday, August 25, 2019

Phrancko's Seamless Set-in Sleeves

It is often said that set-in sleeves are the best fitting type of sleeve. That's probably why T-shirts and polo shirts are constructed with set-in sleeves. A set-in sleeve sweater will not have the extra fabric at the underarm like you get with drop shoulder and modified drop shoulder sleeves and also in yoked sweaters.

So let's take a look at how a sweater is is constructed with set-in sleeves. The traditional way is to knit four flat pieces of fabric, namely the front, the back, and two sleeves. These pieces are then seamed together.

And that is the first problem. You may or may not be very good at seaming straight edges up the sides of the body and up the length of the sleeve. But then you get to that place where you have to fit the sleeve into the hole left in the body. This is considered the most error-prone seam in knitting. Many times it takes more that one try to get it right. How frustrating it is to get the seam finished and then realize it is stretched in some areas and puckered in others! So you tediously take out the seam and try again.

But that's not the only problem with this construction. What if you have a pattern that is very difficult to work on the wrong side. Some people have a lot of trouble working Fair Isle in alternating right-side and wrong-side rows, for instance. Or perhaps you want to use a complex Alpine style pattern, which unlike most Aran patterns, works cross-overs on every row. It can be very confusing to get the cross-overs in the right direction when working on the wrong side. Or maybe you just hate to purl and now half the sweater in Stockinette Stitch has to be purled. For any of these reasons and perhaps a few more, knitters may want to do as much of the sweater as possible in the round.

It is possible to modify the traditional approach by working the lower body in the round (and maybe also the sleeve. But everything above the underarm still needs to be worked flat since the sleeve is knitted separately. And you still have that pesky shoulder seam to sew.

If you Google the phrase 'seamless set-in sleeves' you will find a number of books and articles. Most of them will suggest a top-down approach that works something like this. The top of the sweater is worked flat from the shoulder to the underarm, leaving shoulder holes as usual. Then the lower body is completed in the round. Finally you pick up stitches around the armhole in the body. But you can't just start knitting in the round because the sleeve needs to be given a shoulder. So you then have to work a number of short-rows, working flat, back and forth, until you finally get to the point that you can finish the sleeve in the round. Look how much of the sweater is still worked flat, even though now don't have any seams to work.

With that construction, it is still difficult to work complex patterns above the underarms where you have to alternate right side and wrong side rows. It can also be difficult to work the shoulder area if you want to have a complex pattern there as well.

So I have developed a method and enhanced it over the past year to construct a sweater with set-in sleeves that is seamless and is done almost entirely in the round. Of course nothing is really new in the thousand year old craft of knitting so I am sure this has been done somewhere or some time before. In fact, the general idea was suggested by Barbara Walker in her book Knitting from the Top.  But her suggestion did not produce a sleeve cap that is bell-shaped as would properly fit the shoulder. See the sleeve cap in the traditional sweater construction above? It is shaped like a bell. Not like a witch's hat with a flat brim, two flat sloped sides, and a flat top, as JC Briar pointed out in her class on set-in sleeves. 

What I developed was a computer algorithm to use properly spaced increases down the sides of the cap to generate a five-sectioned curve that closely resembles a bell-shape that perfectly fills the sleeve hole with the proper depth and recess to replicate the traditional set-in sleeve construction. An early version of this algorithm was published in an article in TKGA's Cast On magazine in the Fall, 2018, issue. By all means, you should subscribe to that magazine for only $25 per year and not only get every new issue that comes out, but also access online to their entire archive of issues, including the one with that article. 

Take a look at the construction of a sweater using Phrancko's Seamless Set-in Sleeves:

 As you see, the only part that is knitted flat is the very top on the sides of the neck. Once the neckline is joined, you work in the round down to the underarms by working across the front, around the left sleeve cap, across the back, and around the right sleeve cap. When you reach the underarm, you place the sleeve stitches onto a waste-yarn, cast on a few underarm stitches and complete the lower body in the round. Then you begin working with the stitches that have been waiting on the holder plus the cst on stitches and finish each sleeve down to the wrist...all in the round.

I have published a pattern using this technique in every issue of Cast On magazine since the Summer, 2018, issue. An article I wrote specifically describing an early version of the algorithm appeared in the Fall, 2018, issue. In the next blog entry, we will take a look at those patterns to see what you can do with Phrancko's Seamless Set-in Sleeves that is more difficult with other means of construction.

Once I realized the algorithm would work for almost every realistic sweater size and knitting gauge, the idea occurred to me to create to create custom-fit sweater patterns using the technique. Even though the sweater pattern is for a plain sweater, you will see in the next entry how the pattern can be modified to create all kinds of sweaters that would be difficult in any other type of set-in sleeve construction.

Happy knitting!