Ask an Expert: Sweater & Mitten Knitting Advice from Marly Bird

Join us for Ask an Expert for advice directly from our expert Marly Bird, in response to popular questions asked by our community members within our Facebook Knitting Club. Do you have questions you’d like to be answered? If so, be sure to submit them here– no matter what you’re interested in, from knitting, quilting and cake decorating to photography, cooking or art– and tune in every week to see if your question has been selected to be answered.

Now, onto this week’s new questions and answers from Craftsy instructor of Mittens and Gloves Galore, Marly Bird!

Marly Bird with Mittens

What advise do you have for a new designer? How long did it take you from your first design to where you are today?

Marly Bird: Advice for new designers…submit everywhere you can. Don’t fear rejection it doesn’t necessarily mean your work isn’t good it just might not fit into that collection. Create a spreadsheet and keep track of all your sketches/swatches/submissions. If one place rejects a design make a note on the spreadsheet and then send it someplace else.

Knitting Club: We can’t wait for winter so we can wear some of the warm mits we made with the help of your class! What is your favorite part about your online class Mittens and Gloves Galore?

Marly Bird: I like the variety of patterns available in the class. I just about taught every possible way to make mittens and gloves.

Knitting Club: Hi Marly! We’d love to know where you get the inspiration to design your patterns!

Marly Bird: Inspiration comes from every where (generic answer I know). But I love to pay attention to fashion. I am always looking at what is happening at a variety of stores…these include childrens’ clothes as they are super cute.

I’ve been knitting sweaters, both top-down and bottom-up, and have a problem where I divide for the sleeves – seems that the last stitch before I start the sleeve s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s out, to the point that I’ve had to go back and sew up the hole it makes. How do I prevent that from happening?

Marly Bird: That is common. You are putting extra stretch on that stitch as you force it to go into a different direction than it originally was going. Honestly, I get the same things and I too sew up the hole. I think that is the best way to just make sure the hole doesn’t get Massive while you are wearing it. I wish I had better advice but the good news is that you are doing the right thing.

How can I get over my fear of DPNs?

Marly Bird: Immerse yourself in them I love to use the Square needles by Kollage Yarns and I especially love to use them to show beginners. I think they are easy to hold onto and help grip the yarn so they don’t fall out. Honestly, I love the way DPN’s look on a project…I feel like I am performing some sort of alchemy when I use them.

Since you are “bi-crafty” (as am I – I started as a crocheter) Do you find that you prefer one over the other? ie Knitting vs crochet. Or does one just inspire you per project or what look you want? Did you start as a crocheter or knitter first?

Marly Bird: It fluctuates. Right now I am doing a lot of crochet (working on 3 books) but it wasn’t long ago that I was doing a lot of knitting. I think it is important to keep up with both crafts…a healthy dose of variety.

If you could share one bit of advice to up and coming designers what would that be?

Marly Bird submit everywhere you can. Don’t fear rejection it doesn’t necessarily mean your work isn’t good it just might not fit into that collection. Create a spreadsheet and keep track of all your sketches/swatches/submissions. If one place rejects a design make a note on the spreadsheet and then send it someplace else.

How long does it take you to design a garment? Do you knit several prototypes?

Marly Bird: No prototypes. I usually start with a sketch or an inspiration picture. Then if I’m doing the knitting, write the pattern out for the sample size and have my tech editors (pattern writers) do all the sizing for the other sizes. If I am giving it to a contractor (hi Candace Musmeci and Alison Mersincavage and Julie Leibold and Jenni Andreotta Castañeda and many others) I have give all the vital information to the TE (pattern writer) such as pattern stitch, gauge, measurements and stuff then the TE writes the pattern fully to send to the contractor. All in all from start to finish it usually takes a 3-4 weeks from conception to finished product. Remember, I am NOT that good at MATH so the more help I have the better. I LOVE my TE’s and Pattern Writers.

I love to make socks! My question is, why is it that no matter how well spaced my stitches are, I still get a little hole on one side of the sock when i pick up for the gusset?

Marly Bird: Ugh…the dreaded hole. You know, it is hard to explain what I do to prevent the hole. I sort of pick up 1 leg of each stitch on either side of where the hole usually is then I knit them twisted.

Why do sweater patterns call to cast on with smaller needles and then work the body with larger ones? It seems that for me it always just makes the hem curl up so I just use the same size as the body. Maybe I’m missing something?

Marly Bird: Some designers like the way the hem ribbing looks when it is a little more snug. So, they have that part done on a smaller needle. It is not always necessary to do so but when the designer asks for it they usually have a reason…Also, if you don’t change needles when working the body make sure you have gauge.

I’m making your diamond lace caplets pattern I was wondering if there’s a way to keep track of the stitch count before you get to the actual lace, without having to count stitches every single row?

Marly Bird: Do you use stitch markers? I LOVE STITCH MARKERS! I would place a marker on the needles between each lace pattern repeat.

For more help from knitting and crochet expert Marly Bird, be sure to sign up for Mittens and Gloves Galore, and gain exclusive access to her insights and answers to all your questions!

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