Techniques

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Our last post on colourwork technique was about choosing colours that work together well. Choosing the orange and dark grey in the little swatch above gives a fabric with good contrast: the small diamond motifs pop out pleasingly.

But what’s happened here? This is the same yarn, the same needles and the same knitter – in fact, it’s the other side of the same swatch. But the little diamond motifs look smaller and in places nearly hidden inside the grey fabric. This is yarn dominance: you want the contrast to sing out, not shrink into the background. The difference between the two pictures is simply how the yarn was held.

If you want your contrast yarn to be dominant, make sure it’s the one that is held beneath the background colour. When you’re feeding a colour from each hand, that means simply holding the contrast in your left hand. If you’re holding both in one hand, then you’ll need to watch which colour is the lower one. And that’s it.

If you want to see this in action, then cast on a small swatch like ours and experiment. The difference will surprise you.

That’s part of a Snawheid. It’s a Kate Davies design, so of course the pattern is gorgeous, but this hat here? It’s just a bit…meh. It’s made with Navia Duo, which is lovely yarn and ideal for the job, and the stranded colourwork is very nicely done. Meh. Mustard and grey is a classic combination. Whatever: meh.

But this unfortunate hat is a perfect excuse for learning a little about how colour works. One of the things that distinguish colours is how far from white and black they are. It’s called colour value. And if we’re presented with two things of different colours and they have the same value, our brain notices and mutters “They’re the same!” And in this case, the knitter’s brain adds “That’s a boring hat!”

Happily, there’s a really easy way to avoid this which saves you time and money, and we were reminded of it by bioniclaura this week.

If you convert a colour picture to greyscale, you can see the values very clearly. So we did this with the picture at the top of the post, and here’s the result:

The stranded colourwork vanishes completely. That’s why this hat is uninteresting. Your brain notices that there’s no value difference.

Of course, it would have been good (and would have saved time!) to check this before starting. Well, here’s a picture of the two balls of Navia:

Converted to greyscale, that image looks like this, and you can tell it’s not going to end well:

Any digital camera will have a “monochrome” or a “black and white” setting, and so do most cameraphones – if you don’t know where to find this, a quick look in your manual will help. Click over to that setting when you’re choosing your yarn for colourwork and then snap a picture of your options. If they look like a good pairing when you subtract the colour, then you’re on the right path, regardless of the type of colourwork you’re planning.

Here’s a couple of examples. Here’s a likely-looking pair of yarns, both Malabrigo Rastita:

Changed to greyscale in the camera, this is the result, and it really does look promising, doesn’t it?

And ta da! here’s the finished product, a glorious Epistropheid hat!

Given the black and white treatment, you can see why this works so well – the colour values are deliciously distinct. Happy brain, happy knitter!

If you’re interested in reading more about colour theory in knitting, Knitty magazine has an excellent article here. Thanks again to Laura for inspiring this post!

By the way, this Epistropheid is now sporting a fake fur pompom from the new stock that we promised you last week, and Jacqui can’t be persuaded to take it off!

If we had our way, there’d be pompoms on pretty much everything! There’s two of them, adding extra dotiness to our Candy Floss Baby Booties (ahhhh!)

We put a jaunty one on our Thistle hat, of course. Pompoms like this are great for using up the remainder of a ball of wool, too, and they even have a practical purpose: if it’s snowing, the bobbing around of the pompom stops snow settling on top of your head!

Pompoms are terrifically easy to make. You can use circles cut out of cardboard (Vogue Knitting has a great photo tutorial at this link). An even easier, and more robust, option is a pompom maker like our Clover ones – you can see how they work on Clover’s video here.

Looking for a quick way to make teenytiny pompoms like the Candy Floss ones? Well, the incredibly clever Eskimimi’s got this covered over on her blog: hint! there’s cutlery involved!

But pompoms don’t have to be made out of yarn, either. Jen’s Epistropheid – the very one we featured in Tuesday’s colourwork post – just wouldn’t be the same without its great big funfur pompom! We have these in stock in red and white at the moment, but there’s a big delivery due in the next couple of days with lots and lots more!

Finally, if you find yourself needing to make a lot of pompoms in a hurry, here’s a video we found just for you! Garlands of pompons filling the house? Why not?

We’d love to hear what you’re putting pompoms on – let us know in the comments below!

A lot of new crocheters report to us that their projects suffer from mysterious narrowing. Though they don’t intend to reduce stitches, the intended square or rectangle turns into a triangle. It an be quite puzzling.

The reason is almost always caused by not working into the very last stitch of the row. That stitch isn’t always easy to spot, but happily we’ve got the perfect fix. All you need is a couple of ordinary hair clips, like the ones in the picture above.

It’s a very simple trick. Just make the first stitch of your new row and pause for a moment to pop a hair clip into the loop on top of it. It’ll sit there and mind its own business until you come back to it at the end of the following row.

When you get to the end of that following row, you’ll find the last stitch easily, because the clip is holding it for you.

All you have to do is work the last stitch, take out the hair clip, and then, after turning the work around and making your turning chain, you’ll insert it into the top of the first stitch you make on the next row.

Tada! That’s all there is to making perfect even rows. Of course, you can use a locking stitch marker if you like, but hair clips do the job just as well.

And if you’re looking for more expert knitting and crochet help, then why not check out our upcoming classes? We’ve got the November and December schedule up for booking right now, so click on over to see how we can help!

If a pattern features rib at a cuff or a welt, chances are it’s to give elasticity and snugness. It would be a pity to take away some of that stretchiness when you cast off, so a very common instruction is to “cast off in pattern”.

We get asked a lot at the counter what that phrase means, so here’s the details. It follows on very nicely from our last technique post on working stitches as they appear, too, because it really just combines that trick with a straightforward cast off.

Just as with a standard cast off, you start by working two stitches. The first two stitches in our row are bumps, so they get purled.

Again just as with a standard cast off, you cast off the first stitch by leapfrogging it over the second one, and the picture shows that happening.

At this point, you’ve purled your stitches and then cast them off. Looking at the next stitch, it needs to be knitted in order to keep the rib pattern:

So the next step is to move the yarn to the back of the work between the needles (because you’re going from purl to knit) and knit the next stitch:

Then pass the previous stitch over the one you’ve just knitted:

And that’s it! If a stitch needs to be knitted to keep the rib sequence, then knit it, and if it needs to be purled, purl it, and leapfrog the older stitch over the newer in the usual way as you cast off.

And finally, a couple of pictures to show the effect. The righthand portion of the stitches in our sample was cast off in pattern, and the lefthand section was cast off by knitting only without purling. It’s very easy to see where the change was made – the knitted edge has nothing to do with the rib below it and splays out, but the cast-off-in-pattern section ripples pleasingly with the rib.

It’s when the cast off is stretched (as it will be when you wear the garment) that the difference is really noticeable. The cast-off-in-pattern section stretches as much as the ribbing below it, avoiding that uncomfortable overtight edge.

So the welt of your topdown cardigan can be as supple as the work above it. It’ll wear better too, because the edge isn’t strained. No more top-down hats with forehead-hurting edges, either!

As they appear

“Work stitches as they appear” is an instruction that we get asked about at the counter a lot, so here’s a picture tutorial to help.

The key to this (and to much else in knitting) is the fact that knit and purl are just mirror images of each other. When you’re shown a stitch in isolation, you can’t tell whether it was knitted or purled on the previous round or row. This’ll illustrate: take a look at the picture at the top of this post. The first three stitches on the left hand needle have their smooth faces facing us. Now we’ll turn the work around:

This is the back of the same three stitches, and their bumpy sides are facing us. Smooth on one side, bumpy on the other. Were they knitted or purled?

Here’s two more pictures. That first stitch on the left hand needle has its bumpy side facing us…

…but when the work is turned around, there’s the familiar smooth V-shaped face (the needle it’s on is in the right hand of the knitter):

Bumpy one side, smooth on the other – knitted or purled?

When a pattern tells you to “work stitches as they appear”, it’s telling you to put a bump above a bump and a smooth face on top of a smooth face. That’s all: look at the row below and keep the sequence going. In practice, this means if you want a bump facing you, purl the stitch like this:

If you want a smooth face facing you, knit the stitch.

It’s as simple as that. The brilliant thing about this reversability of knitting is that you don’t need to know what you did on the row before. You can just look at the stitch in front of you, and that tells you what to do. It’s called “reading your knitting”, and it makes everything simpler! Don’t you just love the simple things?

We often get asked if there’s a clever way of knowing when you’re halfway through your yarn. It turns out that there’s a couple of ways, so we thought it would be useful to share them with you here.

First of all, when might you need to know such a thing? If you’re making toe-up socks and you know the mid point of your yarn, then you can just work till you approach that point and cast off. Result: matching socks with no leftovers!

Making a stunning scarf like Baktus or any of its lovely crochet variants is simple if you know the midpoint of your skein. The Heart to Heart Beaded Scarf in the picture above (and blogged about here) is another example: start at one side, increase until you’re half way through, then start to decrease. You can’t run out of yarn this way!

There’s two ways of finding out your midpoint. One takes longer than the other, but you don’t need any special equipment. The other just needs a digital scale and takes only as long as winding the yarn.

For the first method, take the two ends of your yarn, hold them together, and starting winding with the yarn held double. When you can’t wind any more, you’ll come to a loop right in the middle. That’s your mid point. Snip right there, and then start winding each end into its own ball (this is best done slowly, possibly in front of some good TV – wind a bit on one ball, wind a bit on the other to avoid tangling). This method has the advantage of finding the exact centre of the length.

The second method needs a digital scale. First of all, wind your yarn into a ball and weigh it. Now take one of the ends and start winding a new ball with it, leaving the first ball on the scales as it gets lighter. Keep an eye on the number as it goes down, and stop when you reach 50% of the original weight. That’s halfway. Snip the yarn there if you want two separate balls, or just tie a slip knot in the yarn and keep winding if you want just one ball.

The second method can easily give you thirds or quarters too. It works equally well whether you’re winding by hand or with a yarn winder

Welcome to the next technique post for our summer HAP-Along! This is a trick that works in lots of other places too – picking up stitches is a common task and very straightforward.

The first thing to get out of the way is the terminology: there is, as far as anyone can tell, no difference between “pick up” and “pick up and knit”. Patterns use both expressions to mean exactly the same thing, and So whichever words are used, this procedure is what is meant.

Holding the work in your left hand and the needle in your right, poke the needle through the edge of the work where you want to make the new stitch, knitwise. “Knitwise” means that the needle is going from front to back, and from left to right, exactly like a knit stitch.

Since we’re using the loopy edge that you get from the yarn over increase, our needle is going through one of those loops, but if your edge is different, the path of the needle remains the same: front to back, and left to right.

Wrap the yarn around the tip of the needle…

… and pull the loop back to the front of the work.

Then simply repeat this procedure until you’ve amassed all the stitches you need, gaining new stitches one at a time. If you’re going round a corner, you’ll probably need to pick up a couple extra to mitre around the bend. And here’s our little garter stitch square with stitches picked neatly up from two sides, ready to go round the next corner and head for the other two sides:

It’s a nifty technique, and one that you’ll use for button bands and collars over and over again. Knitting a hap with a garter stitch centre is the easy way to start picking up stitches. If you’re picking up from stocking stitch or another stitch pattern, there’s a wee bit more to consider, but we’ll come back to that in another post.

Things are really hotting up over in the Ravelry HAP-Along thread, and we’ve got a tag for your Ravelry project pages: tagging with TIKHAPALONG will make it much easier to follow each other’s progress! See you over there!

There’s a lot of ways of increasing a stitch when you’re knitting. Different methods have different effects on the fabric you’re producing, and your choice depends on the results you want and on your own personal choice.

This post is about one way of increasing right at the very edge of a row when you’ll be picking up stitches from the edge later on. It’s a traditional Shetland technique and Gudrun Johnston uses it in her Hansel.

It involves making a yarn over right at the very start of the row, and it gives a set of little loops that are very easy to pick up from. What’s more, it gives a very elastic edging, which is what you want in a stretchy squishy hap shawl. You can see the edge it gives in the picture above: the triangle starts at the bottom right and grows with those loops on each edge. What’s more, it’s uninterrupted garter stitch right to the edge, with no increase line a few stitches in.

You work it right at the beginning of a row, before you knit the first stitch. Put the right hand needle behind the working yarn…

…and making sure that you have a strand of yarn crossing the right hand needle, put the tip into the first stitch of the row.

Wrap the yarn around the tip of the right hand needle and work the stitch as usual.

The yarn over will make a loop of yarn around the needle to the right of that first knit stitch. That loop is your increase.

You want your edge to be nicely stretchy but not sloppy, so when you come to the end of the row and it’s time to work the yarn over that started the previous row, work its back leg:

And that’s it – a stretchy edge with a set of loops just begging to be picked up and knit as a border, as you can see in the very first picture. If you’re not going to pick up from it, though, then it’s probably not the best increase, and that loopy border wouldn’t be much fun to seam. It’s certainly not the only way of doing these increases – Jared Flood uses knit-front-and-back in his Tweed baby blanket. It’s fun to work, though, and you could substitue

Very soon, we’ll be blogging here about how to pick up stitches for the shawl border. But we don’t need to worry about that yet – knitting the centre will take a wee while!

Part of the fun of a KAL is finding out new ways of doing things. Our HapKAL means that we’re all hearing about different techniques, because there’s lots of different patterns being used. Over the next couple of weeks we’ll feature picture tutorials for several of the techniques involved, and today’s the first of these.

Hap patterns often have the centre made on the bias, starting with a very tiny number of stitches in one corner, increasing until the full width of the diagonal is reached, and then decreasing back down to the opposite corner. This gives a very elastic and stretchy fabric for snuggling into. And the smallest number you can start with is just one. So that’s what we’re going to show you here: how to cast on only stitch and increase from it.

The picture up above shows where to start: make a slip knot and pop it onto the left hand needle, and take up the other needle in your right hand, just as if you were going to knit.

Put the tip of the right hand needle into the single loop, again just like a knit stitch.

Wrap the yarn around the tip of the right hand needle (again, just like a knit stitch):

Pull a new loop of yarn out of the stitch on the left hand needle (yes, just like when you’re half way through a knit stitch!). But then, don’t let the old stitch drop the left hand needle. You want to keep it on the needle because you’re not finished with it yet.

Move the tip of the right hand needle towards the back of the stitch on the left. You’ll see a little gap between the back leg of that stitch and the needle.

Poke the tip of your right hand needle into that gap…

…and wrap the yarn around the tip of the right hand needle, pulling a new stitch out in the usual way.

And there you are – you’ve made two stitches from a cast on of just one. When you increase by just one stitch at the beginning of every row, you end up with a right-angled triangle, so your increase rate is bang on from the very first row.

The next thing is to work those increases on subsequent rows. There’s more than one way of doing that, and there’s advantages and disadvantages to all of them. You’ll find details of one of them, with yarn overs right at the beginning of the row, in our next blog post.

Of course, if you’ve got a technique question that we can help you with, leave a comment below and we’ll do out best to help!

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