Friday, January 29, 2010

Why I’m a Spoiled Brat—#1

I've often said that I have the best life possible. I always attributed it to the fact that I'm the luckiest person in the world. But it recently occurred to me that I might just be a spoiled brat and I’m coming up with all sorts of evidence for that designation. Over the course of the next few days, I’ll share some of this evidence with you (that which isn’t just too embarrassing for me to admit even to myself).

Evidence #1: I am the youngest of four children.

That’s me in the droopy diaper. We all know that the youngest, or baby of the family, has a lot of advantages. My next-older brother’s torments notwithstanding, I had a pretty easy life. My older siblings (especially my next-older brother) wore down my parents so that by the time I was a teenager, they left me pretty much alone. If they did suspect me of any wrong-doing, I blamed it on my next-older brother (and they were all too willing to believe me).

Where are these people now? My sister is a professor at Vanderbilt University. My oldest brother is a mucky-muck HIV/AIDS researcher at Harvard (I’m very proud to claim the same gene pool). My next-older brother is happily retired (who knew?)—I’ll be working until I croak.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Favorite Formula --CORRECTED!

I initially posted this blog Wednesday night but I made an error in the short-cut formula. Thank you to everyone who pointed out my error! (This is why I love tech editors.)

A few weeks ago, I taught a short workshop on the mathematics of knitting for the Front Range Knitting Guild. Before I go on, I’d like to thank the members for being so exceptionally nice to me as I faltered at the white board. (I'd also like to ask your patience with my bad images--I'm just learning to use a digital camera.)

At the end of the meeting, I was asked how to adapt a pattern written for one gauge to another gauge. For example, let’s say that a pattern calls for worsted-weight yarn at a gague of 5 stitches to the inch and you want to adapt it for sportweight yarn at a gauge of 6.5 stitches to the inch. Let's say that the pattern calls for casting on 98 stitches. How many stitches would you cast on to produce a piece the same width at your tighter gauge of 6.5 stitches to the inch?

1. The answer lies in a simple relationship of ratios:

2. If we plug in the numbers, we have:

3. To solve for the unknown (Number of sts at your gauge), simply cross multiply between the two ratios:

4. Then divide both sides by the Your gauge (in this case, 5):

5. Solve for the unknown number of stitches:

Because you can’t cast on partial stitches, you’d need to round up to 128 stitches (if you wanted to work with an even number of stitches) or round down to 127 stitches (if you wanted to work with an odd number of stitches).

For a short cut, simply plug in the following equation every time the pattern lists a number of stitches to determine the number of stitches to work at your gauge:

For example, if the pattern said to bind off 30 stitches at the center neck, you’d bind off 39 stitches instead.


If you chose to work with an even number of stitches initially (128 stitches), you’d want to adjust this number to be an even number as well so that there would be the same number of stitches on each side of the neck. Keep in mind that it’s your choice whether to adjust up to 40 stitches or down to 38 stitches--the difference of a stitch won't make a visible difference.

Now, I don't need to tell you to power of this little formula. It's what I used to figure out all of the additional gauges for the patterns in The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns and The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns.

For each project, I figured out the pattern for a gauge of 6 stitches/inch, then used this formula to determine the stitch count for all the other gauges. If there is no specific pattern repeat row-wise, you can simply knit to the specified length to the underarm, shoulder, etc. But be aware that it doesn't work as well if you're altering the gauge in a set-in sleeve cap or if your working with a stitch or color pattern that's designed to end at a particular point at the armholes, neckline, or shoulders. In these cases, the original row gauge is an important factor in the design. (But these adjustments can made as well, using the same formula along with a little practical sense.)

Monday, January 25, 2010

(More than You Need to Know) About Me

When I posted my first blog Saturday, I intended to add the following to my profile. But the profile only allows 1200 characters. Rather than chop out about 50% of what I wrote, I decided to just post the entire profile here. Thanks to Joe Hancock for taking photos of a very unwilling subject.

The youngest of four children, I was an unremarkable child and would have no story to tell if my father (see him in my first post) hadn’t dragged us all to Switzerland in 1968 when he had a one-year sabbatical. During that year, I attended the village elementary school where girls and boys were separated for a few hours each week to learn gender-specific skills. The boys learned woodworking, technical drawing, and mechanics; the girls learned needle arts and housekeeping. I knew precious little German, but I quickly took to the language of knitting. (The housekeeping part never stuck, although I did learn the proper way to sweep a floor, make a bed, and organize a drawer of socks and underwear.)

Rejecting anything that might be considered a traditional “woman’s” career in the 1970s, I studied science in college and ended up with a MS in geology in 1983. I worked in my local yarn store for a year while I looked for a “real” job. As it turns out, this temporary job was a pivotal part of my life—I learned to weave as well as alter and write knitting patterns for customers.

I finally got my “dream” job as a geologist for a research company, but continued to knit and weave in my spare time. The recession of the late 1980s hit the oil industry hard and in 1989 I married, reconsidered my career choice, and decided to pursue a job opening for an editorial assistant for HANDWOVEN magazine at Interweave Press. Not believing that I could be serious, Interweave put off hiring me for four months—I suspect they were hoping for another applicant.

I stayed with HANDWOVEN for a few years, then worked part-time in the book department editing knitting and weaving books while I had three boys (over the course of 17 months!). When INTERWEAVE KNITS premiered in 1996, I had the uncommonly good fortune to turn my favorite hobby into a career. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I was designing projects for KNITS and writing my own books.

I now keep busy as a freelance editor, author, designer, and teacher. You can find all of my books and many of my designs at (search for Ann Budd).

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Five of My Knitting Rules

I’ve always been a private person. I never spoke out in class, I hid when a camera was near, and I never, ever kept a diary or journal. To be honest, I’ve never liked being the center of attention. So nobody is more surprised than I am that I decided to write a blog. But here I am, stretching beyond my comfort zone and putting myself out in cyberspace to talk about my many relationships with yarn and needles and what I’ve learned along the way.

To begin, I want to share five of my top knitting rules.

1. Do not leave projects involving double-pointed needles on the floor if you might walk across that floor in the dark. One of Murphy’s Laws of Knitting states that you will put at least one of said needles through your foot, which is exactly what I did when knitting the sleeve of this Norwegian sweater for my father. The knitting gods were smiling on me, though, and there was very little blood and none of it stained the sweater.

2. Always carry spare needle if knitting with bamboo needles on trans-Atlantic flights. Another of Murphy’s Laws guarantees that you’ll break one shortly after take-off and have to spend six hours reading and re-reading the in-flight magazine.

3. Keep at least one of your early knitting projects. This will keep you humble. My first project, a pair of baby of baby booties that would have fit a basketball player, went missing decades ago, but I still have the second—a hobby horse made out of a sock. I’m glad to report that my tension is tighter now.

4. If your stash makes you guilty, hide it (the stash as well as the guilt).

5. Sock yarn is not considered stash. Buy a ball at every knitting shop you visit and you’ll never need to wonder what to knit next.