In the comments to the last entry, RK asked some questions about how to get an even stitches when doing color stranded knitting. She (I'm playing the gender odds here--RK is usually a girl's name, right?) is having some problems with some stitches seeming to disappear into the fabric or appearing smaller.
Well, to start with it is true that one set of stitches will always be a tad smaller than the others. This has to do with I don't know what, but the color that goes underneath the other color will be a slightly different size--in general, it is larger. Therefore, it behoves the careful knitter to take note of which hand or finger (if carrying both in one hand) is prominent. I knit with one color in each hand; the pattern (or dominant) color is ALWAYS in my left hand. The background color is in my right hand. This is actually a bit of a pain, because I am a continental knitter and would prefer to do the background, which usually has more stitches than the pattern, with my preferred hand. Oh well, life is full of these little headaches. I'm pretty resigned to it.
Also, a single pattern stitch can appear sort of leggy and narrow all by itself, somewhat reticent.
Another possible cause of the "disappearing stitch" can be floats that are either too tight or too loose. Oh, isn't THAT an irritating statement! It's like those plant watering instructions: be sure to water enough but not too much. Right.
If you don't leave enough yarn behind the knitting when carrying it along, the stitches will be distorted and small. If severe, you will also notice puckering in the fabric that cannot be blocked out. If you leave really long loops, the entire fabric will become too loose and irregular.
Here is my secret, which isn't really my secret but I think that most stranded color knitters do this so automatically without thinking about it, that they forget to tell the newer knitters:
Be sure to stretch out the completed knitting on your right-hand needle AND KEEP IT STRETCHED OUT while you make the next stitch in a new color. If you do this, your float will be the perfect length and your stitches will have something to tension against. Many people think that the only way to get loose floats is to have loose stitches--not so. My early attempts at Fair Isle knitting were marred by this delusion. An early teacher, Sandy Blue, bless her heart, suggested that I go down a needle size and practice tightening my stitches.
It helps to have a long enough needle. It's hard to stretch out the knitting to get the float right if your stitches are crammed on the needle and just hoping to hop off when you let go.
Some people solve the long-enough-float problem by weaving in/tacking down/nipping their carries, as Maia suggested in the comments. I don't do this unless my carries are longer than 1" (7 stitches in Shetland jumperweight wool) because it slows me down. Weaving in creates a lovely, oh-so-slightly textured fabric--the woven color can sometimes show through, which can make for a heathery effect. It's not quite as drapey as non-woven fabric, usually. Mary Thomas's Knitting Book has excellent drawings of this technique; you can also find picture in Anne Bourgeois' Fair Isle Knitting Simplified.
Blocking makes a huge difference in how the stitches look. The wooly board used by the knitters in Scotland to block their sweaters leaves them very smooth. Betts Lampers, a brilliant color knitter whose sweater is on the cover of Sweaters from Camp, told me that she washes her sweaters and then, while still slightly damp, she steams them by putting a dishcloth over them and letting a steam iron do its work an inch or two above the fabric. This gives the same smooth effect.
RK noted that my knitting looks very regular. Well, it is fairly regular, but in person you would see that it is kind of textured. It needs the final blocking to come into its own.
Query about the Shoulder Shaping
Caroline wondered if I used a new piece of string for each short row or do I use the same one for the entire shoulder. I use the same one, a string that is about 16 inches long for each shoulder.
Hopes to Find Other Knitters
Personal to Pam: If you want to find other knitters, you will have to let people know where you live! I've been lucky to have found other knitters in the two places I've lived: Seattle and Berkeley. I've joined guilds, I've put ads in the guild newsletter, I've written to complete strangers. What helped? Patience, knowing that it takes time to get to know people, being open to different groups (not everyone I meet enjoys my kind of knitting, but they are fun and supportive nonetheless). The question I always ask myself is: what am I bringing to the party?
And How Is Shadow Doing?
Take a look at my sparky little guy:
He's too busy to pose, now that he's feeling good and has his new haircut! It's on to the next thing...