Techniques

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End to end

One of the questions that we get asked most is “what’s the best way to join in a new ball of yarn?” Well, as with many questions, it depends. It depends on the yarn, mostly, and on the project. So we thought it might be a good idea to talk about it here.

Today, we’re looking at splicing non-superwash wool. Given particular circumstances, it will felt, and you can exploit this to give a completely knotless join with no ends to weave in. Those circumstances are moisture, agitation and heat.

The three are usually deliberately applied to knitting to felt (or more properly, full) the fabric, but here we’re going to show you how to apply them all just to the ends of your yarn. All you need is a little water (we borrowed a very pretty saucer for ours from our friends at The Pepper Pot).

To avoid unnecessary bulk in your join, reduce each end by a few plies (we’re using Soft Donegal here, which is a 2-ply construction, so we just halved the ends). You’re aiming for three inches or so of halved plies that will overlap later to give you full thickness.

Immerse both ends in your water and poke them around well to get them nice and wet.

Remove them, and squeeze out excess water. Then lay them across your hands so that the damp ends overlap.

Then rub your hands together briskly as if you were trying to warm them up – in fact, you are: you’re providing the heat part of the equation.

After a few moments, test the yarn. When it’s done, you’ll be able to tug on it and the join will hold.

Then you can just continue crocheting or knitting with your yarn. The join will be completely invisible, there’ll be no ends to weave in, and you don’t even need to place the join in an inconspicuous place.

This technique won’t work on yarn that isn’t (mostly) wool, and superwash wool has been treated to ensure it won’t felt. So for these other fibres, it’s better to choose a different technique – we’ll talk about them in the future.

This is the end

One of the commonest technique questions in the shop is how to finish off the ends on a piece of crocheted or knitted work. So we thought it would be useful to provide a tutorial for this (all those carefully worked Christmas presents deserve it!).

A neat and careful finishing-off starts right at the very beginning of the work. Leaving nice long ends – about 15cm or so – makes the process much more comfortable (though if you haven’t done so, you’ll find a hack for dealing with short ends at this link). Generally speaking, putting your weavings-in along seams or edges works best, so plan to have your ends there.

The best tool for the job is a yarn needle with a blunt tip, such as the Chibi being used here. Sharper needles can catch unpleasantly on the yarn.

Rather than going over and under stitches, it’s a good idea to go through them. In other words, use the needle to skim the end right through the centre of the yarn that makes up the knitted or crocheted fabric.

This has two purposes. First, it makes the weaving in invisible from the other side of the work. Second, it means that subsequent stretching, washing and wearing of the finished object will hug the end ever tighter within the stitches, holding it firmly and stopping it from escaping.

Continue weaving in through the stitches until you’ve gone about 4 centimetres. At this point, one might be tempted to declare the job done, but why not take a moment to make the finish even more secure? You see, there’s some chance that the pesky end might wiggle its way back out along its path, but we can circumvent that.

Turn the work, and skim again for 4 centimetres (or so) in another direction. This could be perpendicular, diagonal or parallel to the first pass – here, we’ve opted for parallel.

The pesky end is most unlikely to wiggle its way back out along its path, turn a corner, and then wiggle its way back right to the start, and that makes for neat secure ends.

When you’re done, it’s time to snip off the end up close to the work…

…and admire the neatness of the finished result – pretty as a picture even on the wrong side:

And on the right side, the finishing off is completely invisible:

And that’s how you can treat all your ends – the cast on, the cast off, all your joins from new balls of yarn, all your ends from sewing your garment together. What’s more, if you ever need to undo one, they’re easy to find and easy to unpick.

There and back again

You know when you’re knitting away happily, only to look down and see, several rows below, a stitch that should have done differently. A purl bump interrupting your smooth expanse of stocking stitch, for example, like in the picture up above.

There’s a few ways to deal with this. You could use an afterthought lifeline to rip back down, or you could tink back down all the intervening rows stitch by stitch. (You could also put the entire project in a plastic bag and stuff it at the back of the wardrobe, but let’s assume that’s not an option, shall we?)

If you only have to fix a single stitch, though, probably the best option is to drop down just at that place, fix it and then work back up. This involves dropping the stitch and making a ladder, and this sometimes makes knitters nervous, but here’s how to do it with confidence.

The only tool you need is a crochet hook. (You can also do this fix without one, but even if you’re not a crocheter, a hook makes a very useful addition to your knitting bag.)

Work across to the stitch that you need to drop…

…and just let it pop off the needle. Don’t worry about it dropping – after all, that’s what you want it to do. You might need to encourage it to head downwards if your yarn is at all sticky…

…and let it ladder down until it’s reached the place you want to fix. (There’s something rather liberating about this!)

Now pop your crochet hook though the loop of the stitch. We’re ready to effect the repair.

Find the lowest rung of the ladder made by the dropping stitch – that’s the strand of yarn that makes your corrected stitch. Pull it through the loop, from the back of the work to the front, without twisting it. That’s the repair done, and now you only need to get back up to where you started.

To go back up, find the rest of the rungs of the ladder, and starting with the lowest, make new stitches back up, with each rung becoming a loop, which gets a rung through it, becoming a loop, all the way up.

When you’ve reached the level of the row you started on, all you have to do is pop the remade stitch back onto your needle, and continue as if nothing had happened.

See? There’s nothing to indicate that this piece of knitting was ever any different, and if you don’t tell, we won’t either.

Completing a repair like this imparts a wonderful sense of warm smugness. You realise that, in Elizabeth Zimmermann’s words, you are the boss of your knitting. And that feels very good indeed.

Throw me a lifeline

That’s a picture of some contented knitting which knows that whatever goes wrong later, it won’t need to be ripped out. You see, it’s got a lifeline through it.

We’ve talked about lifelines before – how grateful we are to the clever knitter who worked out how to save your work as you go. That line of non-sticky yarn lying quietly through your stitches makes you a more relaxed knitter, even if you never have to rip back to your lifeline.

But there’s more than one way of lifelining your work. As well as using a yarn needle, as we showed you last year, you can use your Knitpro interchangeable needle to do all the work as you knit with it. You see, the needle tips have a little hole in them so you can tighten the join (there’s details in this post). All you have to do is thread your lifeline strand through that wee hole in the needle you’re going to knit onto…

…and then start to knit your row. As you work your way along it, your righthand needle will effortlessly pull the lifeline through every stitch. After a few stitches, you can stop if you like and admire what’s going on:

If you’re using stitch markers, then the lifeline will get threaded through them as you go. They’ll be fixed in place till you take the lifeline out, but that’s not a bad thing at all. Just insert another set of markers on your next row and then, should you need to retrieve the stitches from the lifeline, your rescued row will have its stitch markers still in place and ready to go.

When your knitting is finished, your lifelines will pull out as if they’d never been there (if they’re holding stitch markers, remember when you pull, so you can catch them!). That knitter who invented lifelines did us all an enormous favour, don’t you think?

If you’re curious about what’s being knitted in these pictures, it’s the early stages of Pogona, a lovely Stephen West pattern in Louisa Harding Amitola. We’ll be sure to show you the finished article – it looks like it will be a lovely combination of yarn and design.

One last thing: we got two much anticipated deliveries into the shop today. First there was lots and lots of amazing new Coolree hand-dyed yarn, including a chunky-weight pure alpaca and a superbly sheeny silk/baby camel laceweight. Then there was a large box from Knitpro with plenty of new tips and cables and such, but also a very special limited-edition Dreamz set in a presentation case (if you know someone who deserves a very special present, then…).

We’ve been tweeting about these from @ThisIsKnit, as you would imagine, so you can see pictures here and here and here. They look even nicer in person, though….

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!

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