Techniques

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Most of the time, stocking stitch is worn with the smooth, unbumpy side out – the side that you can see facing you in the picture above.

The picture shows the construction of a wee baby sock. The smooth side is intended to be the right side, and that’s the side that’s facing the knitter.

Very often, though, your little tube of knitting can flip itself inside out. When it does, you’ll notice that the bumpy “purl” side of the work is facing outwards. In the picture below, you can see how the bumps are on the outside.

At this point, it’s easy to think you’ve done something wrong. You haven’t. All that’s happened is that the tube’s turned itself the other way out. You’re still doing it right, and you don’t even have to change anything. Just keep knitting! You’ll notice that your hands are now working on the other side of the tube – in other words, the tube is now between your face and your hands.

All you have to do to get the smooth side facing outwards – at any point – is turn the work the other way out. If you want to wait until you’ve completed your sock or hat or sleeve, that’s grand.

If you want to turn it while you’re still working on it, that’s grand too – and when you do, you’ll notice that your hands are now working on the near side of the tube. In other words, your hands are between your face and the tube. Just keep knitting!

Most knitters choose one way or the other simply because it’s the way they learned, or it’s what comes most naturally. There’s one circumstance in which it’s a very good idea to choose, though. If you’re working stranded colourwork in the round, it’s very easy to pull your strands a little too tight. A good way of avoiding this is to knit with the bumpy side out (hands on the far side of the tube). This puts your stranding on the outside of the work and forces the strands to be a little longer and a little looser, which helps to stop your work from puckering. More proof, if we needed any, that everything in knitting has a useful purpose!

Finally, we had such a good time at the Blog Awards on Saturday night. The evening was very well organised, and our hosts at the Osprey Hotel in Naas provided lovely food in impressive surroundings. A very big thank you from us to everyone who organised the awards, and a very big cheer for Molly Moo, who not only won the Best Craft Blog category, but also the awards for Best Designed Blog and Best Personal Blog too. It’s definitely one for the desktop feed! We were honoured to be in such company.

You know that part of a pattern where you’re instructed to “put the next (however many) stitches on waste yarn”, putting them aside to be worked later? The part where you have to put down the knitting and find the yarn needle, only to find it’s disappeared down the sofa cushions? Well, we’ve come across a way to simplify the process, and here’s how.

This technique works if you’re using Knitpro interchangeable needles, which have the little tightening hole in the metal join. (It’s the hole that you use the little allen key in – see our blog post here for details). You’ll also need some fairly fine waste yarn; crochet cotton or dental floss will work beautifully.

First, thread your waste yarn through the little hole.

Then just work the stitches that you’re told to put aside in a completely unremarkable fashion.

When you reach the end of the waste-yarn stitches, your work will look rather like this:

Slip the stitches you’ve just worked back onto the cable a little and pull the waste yarn free on the left hand side of the work. At this point, it’s going right through the stitches you just worked, running alongside the cable.

Unthread the waste yarn from the wee hole in the needle, leaving the stitches sitting happily on the cable and the waste yarn.

Now just slip the needle rightwards out of the stitches, leaving the waste yarn behind.

For safety’s sake, tie the two ends of the waste yarn together so it can’t try to work out of the stitches later.

And that’s it! That’s your stitches on waste yarn without a yarn needle. If you have more stitches to put aside for later, then repeat the process.

The knitting being worked on here is a Garter Yoke Baby Cardigan, a terribly doty pattern which is free on Ravelry, and the yarn is Debbie Bliss Rialto DK – machine washable and cosy. The recipient isn’t born yet, but there’s a knitted snuggle waiting for him.

Last week on Twitter, we got talking about how common household objects can help with crochet and knitting. We were delighted at the ingenuity of the suggestions. So we thought that it would be a good idea to mention some of them here.

It all started with trying to measure without a ruler. It turns out that we all carry a ruler with us all the time: the top of your thumb from knuckle to tip. Yes, the length of this varies from person to person, but once you know that yours is an inch or three centimetres or whatever, you’ll never be stuck for a way to measure again (thanks to Sweensie for this).

You know how one of the best things about crochet is how there’s really only one live stitch to worry about? Well, the image at the top of the page shows how to keep that stitch safe from unravelling: use a hair clip! The springiness holds the stitch secure, and when you’re not wearing it, you can park it in your hair! (This is what AoibheNí uses, and she should know.)

Then there’s paper clips. They’re terrific little multitaskers, as wyvernfriend pointed out. You can use them as stitch markers, or as emergency cable needles, or as a quick substitute for the little Allen key tightener that comes with Knitpro interchangeables. You can also use toothpicks as cable needles, or even as knitting needles themselves!

Then there’s cork (from bottles, not from Munster). You can use a bit of cork on the end of a needle as a point protector while your work’s at rest, and you can turn a pair of double-pointed needles into short straights in similar fashion. Instantly, you remove the risk of the stitches slithering off the far end of the needle. Rubber bands wrapped round your needles work very well for both of these uses too.

There were lots of other suggestions – dental floss as a lifeline and using the ruler in Word for measuring. We’re absolutely certain, though, that you have other favourite tricks and hacks, and we’d love if you shared them with us in the comments below. If you’re on Twitter, we’re @ThisIsKnit, so keep an eye out for us there too.

A few blog posts back, we promised that we’d show you how to fix a missing yarn over. It’s very straightforward, and it will save you a lot of ripping back. In this post, we’ll show you both how to deal with the issue both immediately after it happens and when you only realise a couple of rows later what’s happened.

It’s always a good idea to count your stitches when you’ve worked a row with yarn overs – if there’s a stitch or more missing then it’s likely that there’s a yarn over missing in action.

A yarn over is simply a strand of the yarn lying across the needle – when you leave one out, all that’s happened is that the strand hasn’t gone over the needle. It’s still there, and we can capitalise on that to rescue the situation.

In the picture at the top of this post, there should be a yarn over where the knitter’s right finger is pointing. We’re looking at the work from the right side, though if you’re knitting a flat piece of work, the fix usually happens on the wrong side, and this is how we’ll be doing it here.

See the top strand of yarn linking the first stitch on the left hand needle to its neighbour on the right? That’s the bit of yarn that would have been the yarn over, and that’s what’s going to become the yarn over when it’s fixed.

With the tip of the left hand needle, lift the strand from front to back, so that it lies across the needle just like any other yarn over before you work it.

Then just work it like any other yarn over, because that’s what it is (in the picture, we’re purling it):

And that’s it – we’ve replaced the yarn over where it was supposed to be. In truth, we’ve probably pinched a little bit of yarn from each of its neighbouring stitches, but this will make no difference to the final object unless there’s an awful lot of yarn overs to replace on a single row. (If you did leave out lots of them on one row, it would probably be better to tink that row.)

But what if you don’t realise until a couple of rows later that the yarn over was left out? Well, that’s also fixable without ripping out the intervening rows, and here’s how.

The principle is the same – make an afterthought yarn over out of the strand of yarn between two stitches. The only difference is that there’s more strands above it that need to be integrated. In the picture above, we’re targetting a strand of yarn two rows down (see how there’s a horizontal strand of yarn above the one we’re interested in? We’ll come to that one in a minute).

Using the tip of your needle, lift the lower strand up:

Transfer it to your left hand needle…

…and then work the upper horizontal strand through the loop on your left hand needle:

What you’ve done at this point is replace the yarn over, and then work through it the bit of yarn that would have made the stitch above it on the next row – knitting vertically instead of horizontally, if you like.

And when you’ve worked the stitch back up to the level of the current row, your fix will look like this – like any other yarn over a couple of rows further on:

A word of caution, though – the rows above a missing yarn over in the second scenario will all have a little less yarn in them than ideally needed. Working an extra stitch up through lots of them will leave that stitch a little tight all the way up. If you’re working a piece at a very loose tension (like most lace), the unevenness will probably block out. But depending on tension, you may be left with a tight little column of stitches if you have a long way to work up, and you’d be better to rip back.

But most of the time, these tricks will serve you well, and there’s huge satisfaction about having rescued your work. (Ask us how we know….)

YO ho ho!

We encounter a lot of yarn overs at This Is Knit. We also get a lot of questions about how to do them, and so we thought a tutorial would be useful.

The picture above shows the finished product, a yarn over one row after it’s been made, showing the hole that’s been created. And here’s how to do it.

We start with the yarn at the back of the work – we’re on a knit row here, so that’s where it’s naturally to be found (we’ll talk a bit later about what to do if you’re purling).

Bring the yarn to the front of the work between the needles, just as if you were going to purl the next stitch, and stop there for a moment.

That’s the yarn over pretty much done. You still have to work the next stitch, but that’s none of the yarn over’s business. In other words, a yarn over doesn’t use up a stitch.

So on we go to the next stitch, then. Since the yarn’s at the front of the work, just knitting the next stitch will bring the yarn over the top of the right hand needle.

When you’ve worked that next stitch, you’ll see what’s happened: the yarn over is a strand of yarn over the needle between two stitches.

It’s worth while pointing out that patterns have two ways of telling you to do this manoeuvre. UK patterns, especially older ones, will tell you “yarn forward, knit 1″, which is exactly what we’ve done in these pictures. US patterns (and increasingly, patterns from elsewhere as well) tell you “yarn over, knit 1″. In other words, the UK version emphasises the action (the yarn is brought forward) while the US version tells you the result (the yarn lies over the needle), usually abbreviated to YO. So if you come across either of these, they’re essentially telling you the same thing.

But what if you want to work a yarn over before a purl stitch? This will happen any time you’re making yarn overs on a purl row, but it could also happen in a lacy rib. The yarn starts at the front of the work – bring it there as before if the last stitch was a knit, and it’s already at the front if the last stitch was a purl. It loops right round the right hand needle, backwards over the top and returning to the front between the needles:

That’s the yarn over completed, so it’s on to the next stitch, which is going to be purled:

And this is the result – a yarn over before a purl (and in this case, after a knit):

On the next row, you’ll spot the yarn overs easily. They’re just strands of yarn lying lazily across the left hand needle, and when you come to one, you work its front leg.

If you work the back leg instead, you’ll twist the yarn over, making the eyelet smaller and less obvious.

Every one of the eyelets in a piece of lace is made from a yarn over, and they make very handy buttonholes, especially in children’s garments. You can thread ribbon through a line of them at the top of a knitted gift bag and you can make a set of decorative increases on a raglan jumper with them. But sometimes we forget to put them where they’re supposed to be, and that’s going to be the subject of an upcoming post: how to fix a missing yarn over. And you won’t have to rip out a single stitch. We promise.

A couple of weeks ago, baby E was born to friends of ours, and she’s beautiful. Babies, you will agree, deserve handmade garments more than anyone else in the world, so we looked for the nicest one we could devise.

It had to be Owlet by Kate Davies. This is the baby version of O w l s, from this booklet and as you’d expect from Kate, it’s clever, easy to knit and dotey beyond belief.

We used Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran in a sweet dusky pink, so it’s soft as anything and it’ll be easy on Baby E. It washes (even in the machine) and dries fast, so it’ll be easy on Baby E’s parents as well.

We knitted the second size, the one that’s suggested for a nine month old. It has thirteen owls, and that meant…twenty six cute buttony eyes.

Twenty six buttons is a not inconsiderable number, so we started to think: what if there were a way of adding the buttons that didn’t require sewing them in after the fact? It turns out that there is. You can knit the buttons in as you go, and here’s how.

Take a very generous length of your yarn – at least six times the circumference of your Owlet round to be safe – and thread all your buttons onto it, using a yarn needle. (We’re only demonstrating with two, but for the size we knitted, all twenty six were pre-threaded.)

At the beginning of round 14 of the Owls cable chart, drop the working yarn and take up the strand of yarn with the buttons on it. Use that to knit the round.

We placed the buttons on the two eye stitches closest to each other, so there were two stitches between buttons. When you come to an eye stitch, bring the yarn to the front of the work…

…hoosh a button up close to the work…

…slip the next stitch without working it…

…and then bring the yarn back to the rear of the work and work on. You’ll have trapped the button at the front of the work. It’s a good idea to tension the yarn rather firmly here.

Continue all the way around the row, and when you’re finished it, take up the original working yarn again and knit on. You’ll have just four extra ends to weave in, and your owls can watch you contentedly as you finish the jumper.

This technique won’t work for functional buttons, which need to be attached rather more firmly. But any time you want buttons to be a purely decorative element, it will save you a lot of fiddle at the endgame.

So, baby E, you’re only with us a fortnight and already you’re inspiring us to try new things!

We’re always counselled to leave nice long ends for weaving in safely (15cm is a good guideline most of the time). But sometimes we can’t (or don’t). The yarn breaks, we just squeak it to the end of the cast off – there’s lots of reasons for ending up shorter than ideal. Here’s a cunning little trick for dealing with just that situation. You can weave in like this even if your end is shorter than your yarn needle.

The cunning part? Don’t thread the needle. Weave it through the fabric as normal, unthreaded. When you’ve got as far along as the length of your yarn tail, stop.

Now thread the needle with the little bitty end of yarn.

Finally, just pull the needle so that the yarn tail follows it through the fabric, getting woven in as it goes. Ta da! Then you can clip it close to the fabric, though you’ll remember from our post on blocking lace that we prefer to leave the clipping until after the piece has been blocked.

That lovely piece of knitting in the picture is a shawl that Jacqui’s knitting from Skein Queen Delectable. In fact, it’s the second shawl she’s knitting from the one skein, because 700 metres of yarn gives you quite a lot of knitting. More details of both pieces of lace in the fullness of time, of course, but for now, we can be confident that the ends are safe and snug.

That’s a piece of lace, straight off the needles. Looks pretty unimpressive, doesn’t it? It’s nothing like the beautiful delicate lace creations that you see on people’s Ravelry project pages, and it’s easy to think that something must have gone wrong. It hasn’t, and there’s one magic word that will reveal the loveliness.

Blocking.

Blocking is the yarn equivalent of styling your hair. Sometimes you just want to give it a quick brush and tie it back, sometimes you want to do a bit more. Lace needs that bit more: it takes a little time, it needs a little care, but the results are oh! so worth it. This post illustrates the entire process of blocking a triangular shawl for you, because we’ve been asked several times to cover the topic (and because it was an excuse to knit some lace specially!).

The materials you need are simple: a basin of cool water, a towel, some string, some rustproof pins, a measuring tape and something you can stick the pins into. That can be a carpet, a mattress, or blocking mats. (If you use your own bed first thing in the morning, your lace will be dry by bedtime. NB: do not use your bed if it’s a waterbed; trust us on this.) If you’ve got blocking wires, you won’t need the string, and the whole process will go faster, as we’ll see below. A spray bottle filled with plain water is useful if you’ve got warm conditions, so you can give your lace a nice misting to stop it drying too fast as you block it out.

Before you start, weave in your ends, but don’t clip them short just yet.

Next, thread some string through the long side of your shawl, using a piece at least one and a half times the length of the side. (You can expect lace to grow by 30%, so longer is better than shorter here.) Tie a loop in each end of the string so you can pin it to your blocking surface.

Give your lace a nice long soak in a cool bath. If you want, you can put some wool wash in there, and some people swear by a drop of hair conditioner (after all, most yarn’s hair too). Leave it for at least twenty minutes, because you want to make sure the fibre is all evenly saturated (an hour’s even better, and overnight won’t hurt).

You want your lace to be evenly damp but not dripping, so blot it in a towel so remove excess water after you rinse. Leaving the rolled-up towel for a couple of hours will ensure that you’ve got nice damp lace, but if you’re in a hurry, standing on the rolled-up towel will hasten the process.

Pin the string, well stretched out, to your blocking surface, and then pin down the point of the shawl.

Now you can start pinning out the sides. The measuring tape comes in useful here to make sure you’re getting an even size.

Keep on pinning until you have the points all pinned out and the long side straight – pinning out the string rather than the lace on the latter helps to keep your edge nice and even.

If you’re using blocking wires, then the procedure is even simpler – just thread one wire through the long edge of the shawl and another through each of the short sides:

Then pin out the wires. A few pins on each side will be enough, rather than a wee forest of them for the string-and-pin option:

When you’ve got your lace all blocked out, leave it to dry completely. Overnight will do nicely, or overday if you’re using your own bed. It goes without saying that you should exclude your beloved pets from the area (though this won’t always work, as this Ravelry thread demonstrates). Other humans, large and small, should be dissuaded as well.

Then unpin your lace and prepare to be amazed.

Magic!

Counting rows has been much on our minds lately. Both the Fan Jacket and Sandrine, the cardigans in the Spring Knit-Along, feature stretches of regular increasing and decreasing – “work the decrease round every six rows seven times”, that sort of thing. Not counting rows at such times gives you weird sleeves.

There’s many ways of keeping count – you can use a mechanical device like the barrel counters and the Kacha counter that we mentioned in this post, or you can make neat marks on paper. But both of these require you to count the row at the time that you knit it. (Hopeless confusion results otherwise. Ask us how we know).

There’s another way of keeping track which has several advantages. It’s easy, it’s flexible and best of all, if you forget to check off a row, you can make it up later. Instead of counting individual rows, it counts blocks of them, so it’s perfect for keeping track of your spaced-out increases and decreases.

All you need is a length of contrasting yarn, a bit longer than the final length of the piece you’re going to knit. When you come to the first row you want to mark (say, your first decrease row), just lay the contrast yarn over the work, between the needles.

Then you just leave it there and knit on.

It sits there, minding its own business, and as you knit on, it gets further and further down. It’s easy to count the number of rows above it, and so to spot when your next increase or decrease row comes along.

After you’ve marked a few rows, the contrast yarn will start to look like giant running stitches in your work, just as in the first picture above. When you’ve finished your work, the contrast yarn just pulls right out.

And if you forget to mark a row, why, then poke the yarn through the fabric at the right place and act innocent.

We talk a lot about shawls here – lovely things like Swallowtail and Aeolian and Ishbel. When you first come to knit one, though, the very start can seem puzzling. So we thought it would be a good idea to do a post on how to do the garter stitch tab start that so many of them share.

To begin with, you cast on a very small number of stitches. We’re going to be working on a garter stitch tab three stitches wide, which would turn into a three-stitch garter border on a shawl, with five stitches in between the two garter bits. Of course, the number of stitches and rows that you work here may differ in any particular pattern, but the principle will be the same.

The very start is provisional, which just means that you’re going to set things up so that you can knit away in one direction and then come back later and knit away from the same place in the other direction. Any provisional cast on will do (they’re really all the same), but one we like is this one.

Take some waste yarn – something non-sticky and non-hairy, like cotton – and tie a knot in the very end (we’ll explain why in a moment). Crochet a small number of chain (seven is easily enough), cut the waste yarn and fasten off the chain.

Now let’s consider the shape of a crochet chain. One side of it has a line of interlocking loops, just like a cast off edge in knitting – we’re not interested in this side.

The other side (the one we’re interested in) has a line of little bumps running along it.

Starting with the end of the crochet chain closest to the knot, poke your knitting needle under one of those bumps, a stitch or two in from the end.

Wrap the working yarn around the needle, and pull a loop of it back under the crochet chain bump:

Continue like this – needle under the bump, wrap the working yarn, pull a loop back through the bump – until you have four new working yarn stitches on the needle:

Then knit along your new row of stitches, knitting the second and third stitches together (casting on one stitch more than you need and decreasing it away immediately ensures that you have the right number of loops to pick up later on):

Work ten rows of garter stitch in total, which will give you a little strip of garter stitch like the one below. Knit the first stitch of every row rather than slipping it if that’s your usual habit – you want the little bumps along the edge that you get when you knit the edges.

Turn your little garter stitch strip so that you’re facing along its long edge, and poke the tip of your needle under the first edge bump you encounter…

…wrap the yarn around the needle and pull a loop through under the bump. You now have a new stitch on your needle, bringing the total up to four:

Repeat this procedure at each edge bump along the garter stitch strip, getting five new stitches in total (one for every two rows of garter stitch that you worked earlier):

Now you’re back down at the provisional cast on, and you need to retrieve the stitches from it. The easiest way to do this is to take another needle and poke it through the loops at the cast on:

Then knit these stitches.

At this point you’ve completed your garter tab cast on, and all you have to do is remove the crochet chain. The chain will rip back only in one direction, towards its beginning – this is the reason for the knot right back at the start, because the knot tells you which is the beginning of the chain. If the chain sticks at any point, though, you can just snip it. Because you’ve already knit the stitches from the provisional, nothing bad can happen if you do need to snip the chain.

And when you’ve removed the crochet chain, you’re left with a cast on like this:

You’ve got three stitches from the top end of the garter stitch strip, five picked up from the side, and three retrieved from the provisional cast on: in other words, you’ve got stitches emerging from three sides of your little garter triangle. It’s clever, it’s easy to do, and when you knit away from it, you won’t even be able to see where it happened!

And then you can start literally thousands of neck-down shawls. Can we see, please?

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