Eastern European Knitting

There are many different ways of knitting which amazingly produce the same results.  People hold needles differently (some even like to hold long needles under their arms) and throw the yarn in a different way to produce stitches.  It usually depends on who taught you how to knit and where they came from (Europe, Asia, Africa, etc).  Sometimes newish knitters are intimidated when they see other knitting methods being used thinking that they are not doing it wright.  I comfort them by saying that if your knitting produces the good results (nothing is twisted for example) and you feel comfortable when knitting -there is no need to re-learn.  However, I still want to talk about Eastern European knitting and Continental knitting which are two of my favorite.

I, myself knit eastern European way for almost everything except for lace. I am often asked why my knitting method looks so easy and there are so little hand movements when I knit.

Today let’s talk about the advantages and disadvantages of Eastern European way of knitting.  The main differences are: the knit is done through the back loopand the purl is done with direct loop from the front.  Do not worry, I will be showing “how” in my little video attached.  The yarn is usually held on pointing finger and secured between pointing and middle finger.  This is the fastest way of knitting when it comes to Stockinette, any ribbings, any combos of knit and purls, fair isles and other pattern types where there are no “k 2 tog”, “ssk”, “yo” involved.  Of course, you can still knit lace patters with Eastern European method, but you would have to do it in reverse (where it says “k2tog” – do “ssk” instead and vice verse) – that is a disadvantage of my favorite knitting method.  I usually avoid the headache and if I need to do lace – I use Continental method.  It also applies to full Fashion decreases: if you knit Eastern European way – read pattern reversed: k2tog becomes ssk and ssk becomes k2tog.

And finally – there is a wonderfull way of binding off with Eastern Europien way: *knit 2 tog, put the stitch just produced from right needle back to the left needle*; repeat to the end. It produces a more flexible edge than when you pull one stitch over the other.

Do you want to practice with me? Prepare the yarn and needles, and watch my little video attached.


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Neat knitting edge: slip the first stitch, knit the last stitch.

In many of my patterns you can find the instructions to start the row with: Slip the first stitch” and to finish the row with:knit the last stitch”, no matter what the rest of the pattern says. We call it edge stitches and it is very important to make them look good. It is a very simple technique, but it still seems to puzzle many people.

Why and when do we slip the first and knit the last stitch? What difference does it make to your knitting if the first stitch is slipped? It makes your edges look very neat.  I recommend slipping the first stitch on the open surfaces as scarfs, front lines of cardigans, shawls, blankets, etc.

By slipping the fist stitch of the row you make your edge tighter (because you are basically knitting this stitch every other row) and if it is done right – a beautiful braid runs along your edges.  Sometimes I also do it on the side of a sweater because it is extremely easy to sew when the edges are done with the slipped stitch, but you have to be careful with the sides as it could be too tight for some patterns. it usually works very well with higher number of rows per inch, for example seed stitch.  NEVER slip the first stitch on armholes or raglans as it will make the seams feel tight and uncomfortable.

Often people ask me how to slip the first stitch: “as of to purl” or “as of to knit”? If you follow my method of knitting the last stitch (not purling), you should slip it “as to purl”.

If you are not familiar with this technique and want to learn how to slip the first stitch right, cast on 15 sts, knit the first row and watch my little video.


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Designing and knitting with short rows

I just finished writing pattern for one of my latest Karabella designs: KK 617 “Bluebell Yoke sweater”and can definitely say that it is one of my favorite: classy and elegant. I like it so much that I immediately decided to make one for myself while it is still fresh in my head. It will be in cognac color (will post a picture when done).

In this sweater I used one of my favorite techniques: short rows.My followers know that I use short rows technique quite often in my designs (quite a few in my book “Runway Knits“) and over the years I realize that not every knitter (even a good one) knows how to do short rows or at least they sometimes confused with the wordage describing it: ”wrap and turn”. I am sure that there are different ways authors describe short rows, but today I will talk about my own short rows instructions so that my readers could be more comfortable in following my instructions. Moreover, we created a little video to help you visualize the process.

Short rows are used in designs to advance one side of the garment against another: like a dart. In the “Bluebell Yoke Sweater” I used short rows tecnique to create a nicely fitted yoke: the side which is creating a neck line is much shorter than a line connected to the body of the sweater.

 There are different types of darts: symmetrical darts, short to long, long to short, etc. Today I will be talking about “long to short” technique which I use the most. So, basically you work the row each time shorter and shorter until all the stitches are worked completely. That is easy, but there is a trick to it: every time you turn the row it will be a hole in your knitting. To avoid that we wrap a last st before turning the row: “wrap and turn”.

Below is a fragment of “Bluebell Yoke Sweater” I want to discuss: 

Row 13: Work in patt to the last 7 sts, wrap the next st, turn

Row 14: Slip the wrapped st to the right hand needle, work in pattern to the end of row.

Row 15: Work in patt to the last 14 sts, wrap the next st, turn

Row 16: repeat row 14.

Row 17: Work in patt to the last 21 sts, wrap the next st, turn

Row 18: repeat row 14.

Row 19: Work in patt to the last 28 st, wrap the next st, turn

Row 20: repeat row 14.

Row 21: work to the last 35 sts, wrap the next st, turn

Row 22: repeat row 14.

Rows 23-32: Repeat rows 1 and 2. In row 23 work the st with the wrap together where occur. 

Row 13: Work in patt to the last 7 sts, wrap the next st, turn

Row 14: Slip the wrapped st to the right hand needle, work in pattern to the end of row.

Row 15: Work in patt to the last 14 sts, wrap the next st, turn

Row 16: repeat row 14.

Row 17: Work in patt to the last 21 sts, wrap the next st, turn

Row 18: repeat row 14.

Row 19: Work in patt to the last 28 st, wrap the next st, turn

Row 20: repeat row 14.

Row 21: work to the last 35 sts, wrap the next st, turn

Row 22: repeat row 14.

Rows 23-32: Repeat rows 1 and 2. In row 23 work the st with the wrap together where occur.

If you would like to practice short rows with me, cast on 39 sts, work 4 rows in k1, p1 rib, turn on my little video and let’s practice short rows together!

Knitting short rows YouTube video

Please post any questions you may have – I will be happy to answer them.

Happy Holidays to all of you and thank you for reading my blog.



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Preparing yarn for hand-dying

How to prepare Yarn for dying.  My yarns come from Italy either in big hanks of 500 grs or on cones.  If it is in big hanks – I dye it the way it is and if it is on cones – we wind it in 50 gr hanks, using a swift and a special yardage counter to make sure all the hanks are the same yardage. The interesting part is that I am trying to teach people how to convert meters into yards and it seems to be quite a task. If you ever get European yarn on cones un-dyed (let’s say buy it at School Products Yarn Store) you need to know how many yards to wind to get 50 gr hank. Inside of the cone I sell there is usually a label with the number corresponding with the count of yarn: for example 1.500. That means that in 1 kilo (2.2 lb) there is 1.500 meters of yarn. Let’s convert it into yards by using a coefficient 1.09 (it is a constant number for meter/yard conversion): 1.500 x 1.09=1.635 yrds per kilo.  We have 20 (50gr) skeins in 1 kilo. Now let’s figure what is the yardage of 1 skein/hank: 1.635 : 20 =81.75 yrds round up to 82 yds. Now if you ever go to Europe and want to buy yarn there – you are an expert!  If the label on the yarn shows you a meter count – you just multiply it by 1.09.

Ok, yarn is wound in a hank.  Now we have to secure it in 3-4 places that it does not get tangled when many hanks meet each other in a pot!

Tips: a) Use the same or similar in content yarn for tying. b) Tie it in 4 places (crossed like number 8 ) spaced evenly. It is important to tie it pretty loosely that the dye goes through easily, otherwise it will leave ugly white marks behind.

Now I put hanks in bundles of 10 connecting them with the strong 20-24″ string. They are ready now to be washed! Yarn has to be washed and rinsed before dying for a couple of reasons: to get rid of the spinning oil and to relax the fiber in the water for the better absorbency of the dye. I make a warm bath for the yarn and drop few drops of mild detergent (no bleach, please).  The more yarn stays in the water (up to 24 hours) the better it is, but I usually do it much faster, just wash it, rinse it and we are ready to go!

Let’s  go over the equipment and other little things I use for dying:

1. Two large enamel pots (34 and 50 gallons). The pots could be any capacity depending on the quantity you are planning to dye, but it should be enough room for the yarn to move in the pot.

2. Two outdoor burners with the gas tanks attached to them. I use Bayou burners.

3. Stainless steel stand with pegs on it (arranged at the different levels) to hold the string from the bundles of yarn.

4. A couple of long wooden sticks to mix dyes and vinegar in the pots.

5. 2-3 medium size (1lt or 1.000ml) measuring cups to mix the dyes.

6. Dust masks (very important!). 

7. Heavy duty gloves.

8. Heavy duty apron.

9. Few large plastic bins with handles to accommodate the yarn.

10. Clothes Wringer - this piece saved my life! Boy, when you wring few hundred hanks at the time, your joints screem at night!

11. Dyes. Let’s talk a little about dyes: I use Aljo acid dyes and I love them! I am sure that there are a big variety of other dyes, but it is the most popular dye company in New York and I love their colors. The acid dyes are used for natural fibers and nylon, there are not good for cotton and linen. My yarns are mostly cashmeres and cashmere blends, silk, merino and merino blends and acid dyes work perfectly on them.

Below are pictures of my new 100% cashmere in light fingering weight hand-dyed collection. 250 yrds/hank. Great for fingerless gloves (or regular gloves),  scarfs, shawls and of cource fine sweaters!

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Yarn hand-dying

If you have ever visited my School Products Yarn store, you have probably seen an ocean of different color-sand textures of hand-dyed cashmere hanks and hand-dyed merino wool hanks on the tables. These are tied in bunches which are called “mushrooms”. They are incredibly soft and silky and a pleasure to touch. They are unique and once sold, can not be replaced with the same color. They are simply a work of art! I bring the yarn from Italy undyed and hand-dye it in my back-yard. I started 6 or 7 years ago when my designer/friends were unable to produce the quantities I needed. In my usual way I decided to solve the problem by doing it myself! I started it and loved it and every summer I am dying to do my dyeing! That’s a little bit of a lie – I love and hate it! Love the results and hate the slave labor. Wait, don’t be discouraged - don’t forget I am dyeing commercial quantities and its therefore very hard work. If you do a small or moderate amount, it is an incredibly creative and challenging process. The results are often unpredictable (not always to your liking, I have to say) but always exciting. It really depends on whether you are following a recipe or experimenting with colors. Up until last year, I mostly experimented. People loved my colors,and whatever I produced, sold well. However, last year we started getting re-orders for the same colors and I was forced to write recipes and remember where I left my notebook (that was the hardest part, as I am so disorganised). This year, I realized how much easier it is to follow a recipe but, of course,I had to satisfy my creative nature as well and do some mish-mash. It’s very funny when the most gorgeous colors emerge and I have absolutely no idea how I got them. I am attaching pictures of my hand-dyed Aurora 6 merino wool collection from this summer. These hanks were dyed from my secret recipes which I will leave to my grandchildren in my will! (just kidding). If you would like to see more of my hand-dyed yarns, click on Berta’s Store and designer’s hand-dyed yarn.
In the next post I will be writing about how to prepare the yarn for dyeing and the equipment I use.

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Welcome to my blog!

Hello my friends,

Welcome to my new blog! I finally woke up and realize that blogging would be a good way to share my vast knitting experience with you especially if you are not in New York and can not come to School Products Yarns store for advice. With my 15 years of knitwear development for the New York’s most famous Fashion houses like Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and others, I have a lot to share! I will be telling you my knitting secrets and tips on “how I do it” and welcome your comments and questions. I will post tips on knitting, crocheting, yarn hand-dying, crewel sweater embroidery, finishing, designing and more.

Join the club and I am looking forward to blogging with you!

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