Category Archives: tutorial

When row gauge matters

So, you know what’s really fun to talk about? Gauge. Gauge, gaugegauge. Super awesome, right? Well, okay, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it is the opposite of fun, let’s be honest, but it’s the reference point that defines so much of what we do in knitting. There are knitters who always get gauge, knitters who never get gauge, and knitters who never even bother to swatch. There are knitters who will swatch several times until they get gauge, and there are knitters who will swatch only once and proceed to modify the pattern completely around the gauge they have achieved with that swatch. It’s all good. The goal is to get a finished knitted item that pleases you and fits you, and if you’re doing that, then you’re doing gauge right.

June4-StitchGauge

We’ve talked about swatches before around here. Swatches can be really useful pieces of knitting, especially once you get into knitting larger or fitted garments. Work them up as large as you can stand, because the larger a piece of fabric is, the more likely it is to mimic the way a full garment will behave. When you lay out your gauge swatch with your ruler or measuring tape to count stitches per inch (often we count over 4 inches, and then divide), you’re searching for that all important stitch gauge measurement. We put a lot of stock into stitch gauge (horizontal gauge – stitches per inch) because it’s what has the most impact on a garment’s width or circumference, and this really affects the fit.

(For example, if we are aiming for a stitch gauge of 5 sts/inch in stockinette stitch, and the intended bust circumference of the sweater is 40 ins, then we would expect a stockinette pullover would have about 200 sts. If, however, we’re getting a stitch gauge of 4.5 sts/inch and we knit that 40 ins size, it is in fact going to turn out to be closer to 44.5 ins around at the bust. Oh what a difference half a stitch per inch makes.)

June4-Swatch

A lot of the time, once we’ve achieved a stitch gauge that works for the pattern, we can easily stop there and not bother as closely with row gauge (vertical gauge – number of knitted rows per inch). This is because a lot of patterns (though not all) will give length indications in inches/cm rather than in rows, and in that case you can often skip the business of needing to count rows. Examples: if you are knitting a scarf and just need to knit until it is as long a scarf as you want, or if you are knitting a sweater from the bottom up with no waist shaping and can knit until X inches before the armholes or until desired length from armholes. In these cases you can pay less attention to row gauge because the more important thing is to decide the real physical length you want in inches/cm. (Also, I’ve not taken an empirical study of this, but I’m pretty sure matching row gauge is about eleventy million times harder than matching stitch gauge. I would bet money on this.)

However, there are some instances when row gauge does matter. Here are a few of them, regarding sweater knitting.

Sweater 1

1. When you’re knitting a raglan yoke sweater.

Raglan yoke sweaters (or, similarly, circular yoke sweaters)  require you to shape the top of the body and the top of the sleeves to the same height, either in one piece seamlessly or in pieces which are later seamed. The raglan yoke pieces then determine the total height from neckline to under-arm when worn, and thus also determine how the sweater is going to fit you around the shoulders.

Let’s say, then, that the raglan yoke decreases (if working from the bottom up) happen over a total of 56 rows (something that you can usually figure out if you count up how many decrease rows are involved in the yoke shaping), and that the pattern assumes a row gauge of 8 rows/inch. This means the total vertical depth of the raglan yoke will end up being 7 ins (56 rows divided by 8 rows/inch). Let us say, however, that your personal row gauge (that you know from your swatch) is actually 7 rows/inch. This means that your actual raglan yoke will end up being 8 ins high – a full inch difference.

Whether or not this is a good or bad result is up to you to decide, relative to how well you think those raglan depths will fit you. If you want your yoke to end up with the intended depth, then you’ll have to adjust your shaping decreases (if working bottom-up) or increases (if working top down) to be a little more frequent to compensate.

2. When you’re knitting a sweater with waist shaping.

3. When you’re working increases (from the cuff up) or decreases (from the top down) to shape sleeves.

Similar to the concern with raglan yoke depth, above, if you’re working a sweater with waist shaping, the amount of vertical space taken up by the series of increases and decreases at the top of the hip and just below the bust will be different if your row gauge is different. You can compensate for this, again, if you know in advance if your row gauge is slightly looser or tighter than indicated in pattern, and either alter the frequency of shaping decreases and increases, or place them slightly differently.

The same goes for sleeves, when you want to make sure the sleeve shaping still leaves a comfortable few inches of even length at the wide part of your upper arm. If your row gauge were significantly looser, then your from-the-cuff-up sleeve increases would stop much higher than intended, and if you were working sleeves from the top down, your sleeves might end up too long by the time you get to the end of the shaping.

 

Sweater 2

4. When you’re knitting a sleeve cap intended for a set-in sleeve.

Sleeve caps shaping is calculated so that the height and curve of the sleeve cap will fit correctly inside the shaped curve of the armhole where the sleeve will be ‘set in’ when attached to the body of the sweater. If your row gauge is different, then the height of your sleeve cap will also be different, either slightly too tall or too loose. This isn’t quite the emergency that a difference in raglan yoke depth might create, but it’s still good to be aware of in case you are finding your finished sleeve caps just don’t quite sit right.

5. When the pattern gives you instructions in terms of’number of rows’ or number of pattern repeats, instead of in length indicators like inches or centimeters.

A lot of contemporary patterns will give you length indicators to help you out – i.e. they’ll tell you the length from hem to waist, from hem to armhole, from armhole to shoulder, and so on. This makes it really helpful if you need to modify for length (to make parts of the sweater shorter or longer), because you can make those adjustments on each part of the pattern, safely comparing your own desired lengths with the ones in the written pattern.

However, you might encounter patterns that give these indications more obliquely by telling you to work a specific number of pattern repeats, or a specific number of actual rows. When they do this, they are assuming that you are working with pattern gauge, and that you will end up with the same finished size as intended in the written pattern. If your row gauge is different, it’s up to you to decide whether that difference will result in a better or worse sweater fit. For example, I tend to modify to add more length since I’m a bit taller size than most patterns are written for. So, if I have looser row gauge then I might be able to work the pattern as written and end up with the final size that I want anyway – it’s all a matter of knowing what you want and whether this is different than the result you will get by knitting the pattern exactly as written.

In other words, gauge is pretty great to pay attention to – you might be getting along just fine with gauge so far, but in case you haven’t been the best of friends, paying row gauge could help you out!

And in other news, this week I’m off to sunny (or perhaps foggy?) San Francisco for some getaway time, and I’m bringing knitting with me and look forward to some chilling out time, knitting time, drinking wine time. I’ll be sure to report back with some San Francisco photos next post!

Have a great Wednesday!

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It’s a little gross, but it works

If you knit a lot of large projects – or projects involving more than one skein of yarn, you have encountered the step of switching from one skein of yarn to another mid-project. This is called a ‘join’ or a ‘tie-on’ in knitting lingo, and there are a lot of different ways to do it. You might know twelve different ways. It’s also entirely possible that you’ve been sort of Macguyver-ing this step and are convinced there is a better way to do it than your way. If you’re happy with the results you’ve been getting, by all means keep doing it.

Truthfully, you’ve got many fun options available to you, including simply dropping the old yarn and picking up the new one and returning later on to weave in the ends. There’s also the tried-and-true method of overlapping the incoming and exiting yarns with each other (holding them both yarns together and knitting a few stitches with both), or the approach of tying a square knot between the exiting and incoming tails of yarn, proceeding by knitting with the new yarn. I’ve used both of these options before, and they work just fine. The main downside with both of these options is that they  involve coming back later to deal with the ends.

Splice1

If you’re working with 100% wool, more methods are available to you – in particular, the spit splice. Strands of wool (and it must be 100% regular wool, not superwash wool or wool blended with other things) have the ability to get fuzzy and friendly with other strands of wool. The same qualities, incidentally, that allow wool to felt – the planned and purposeful version of shrinking a piece of knitting – allow you to execute a spit splice.  Just as any kind of wool felting involves three steps: moisture, heat, and friction, a spit splice also needs all of these things! If you’re not familiar with this join, here’s how it goes:

Splice2

(I grabbed this yarn from my leftovers bin, but in case you’ve fallen in love with it, it’s Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, in ‘amethyst.’)

1. First, separate the plies of your wool yarn at the ends (as pictured above). The yarn pictured is 4-ply which means I could actually go in and tease out all 4 individual plies on each of the two ends, but as you’ll see, separating the plies into 2 sections each does just fine. And, if you had a 2-ply yarn, you’d only be able to separate it out into 2 individual plies anyway.

Splice3

2. Next, arrange these unwoven plies so that they are overlapping and getting friendly with each other. Again, you can be as meticulous or non-meticulous as you want. Mostly you just want the plies from one end to intermingle with the plies from the other end.

Splice4

3. Apply the moisture required for the felting step – yes, this is the step where you actually spit on the yarn! If you’d prefer not to get quite that personal with your wool, you can apply water or run it under the tap, but I have no shame in admitting my splices are happily infused with my own spit. (I really put as much of myself into my knitting work as I can.) You can also just lick the whole thing in your mouth if you want – it doesn’t take long and is quite effective, although you do of course risk getting a fuzzy tongue.

(God I can’t wait to see the search strings that result from this post. I’m so sorry, blog.)

4. Finally, you’re going to apply the friction and heat at the same time, by rubbing the splice vigorously between your hands. This is going to take vigorous motion (i.e. more briskly than rolling a rolling pin), but will not take you very long. I bet this must look really fun to kids. Heck, grown-ups have fun with this part. Possibly after the first go you might have a few bunched-up portions, so go back a second or third time to rub those smoothly if you like.

Splice5

Ta-da! A  successful join. The nice thing about this is that you have no ends to weave in afterwards. Once the work is finished you’re not likely to notice it, but it’s still prudent to place this somewhere other than front-and-centre across the middle of your sweater, say. As you might imagine, this kind of join is especially useful on a project where a simple overlap or knotted join might be either very obvious (on a piece of lace knitting, for example), or when you’ve already got a lot to deal with and you don’t want to have to worry about two more ends (such as a colour-work project). It does, however, only work when you are joining the same colour to itself.

So there you have the spit-splice, folks. Is this already one of the tools in your knitting toolbox? What’s your favourite method of joining yarn ends?

Happy Wednesday!
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Looping along

A couple of folks asked last week about a blog tutorial on Magic Loop, since it’s a technique I mention every so often and one that I use happily. So, ta-da! Let’s talk about that, with the aid of some photos.

I will start out with a brief proviso – Magic Loop is the popular name given to the technique of working small circumferences in the round by using a single, long circular needle, in place of a short circular, multiple double-pointed needles, or two circular needles. It is by no means my invention, and in fact I learned this technique through a collection of things – friends showed me, Elizabeth Zimmerman mentions the same basic approach in her books, and of course Bev Galeskas and Sarah Hauschka have what is arguably the most popular publication on the subject. There are likely other resources on the technique. What I’m going to show you here is the essential basics, but as for any technique, I invite you to check out your local resources and advice from other knitters on the subject. I hope this post will spark your interest at the very least!

Nov14-MagicLoop1

So: you’re interested in working in the round for small items (hats, sleeves, socks, gloves, mittens, toys, booties…snake sweaters? Flute cozies? I don’t know, there’s got to be endless options, right?), but aren’t so keen on double-pointed needles (DPNs), or at the very least you’re interested in an alternative. I definitely enjoy the magic loop technique – I still use DPNs frequently, and haven’t tossed them away, but more often I gravitate towards ML as a default.

First: you need a long circular needle, in whatever needle size is desirable for your project, and in a length no shorter than 32″. 40″ circulars are an ideal option for most needle brands, but 32″ is an option if the cord is flexible enough. (The reasons for this will become apparent later on in this post.) I find with products like Signature Needle Arts circulars, Knit Picks fixed circulars/interchangeables, and Addi Lace needles, a 32″ is all I need. With needles like Chiao Goo “red” circulars, classic Addis, and craft-store finds like Unique or Susan Bates, the cords aren’t quite as flexible and a 40″ circular is what you need. There are plenty of other brands that I haven’t managed to spend a lot of time with that are easily in play here as well,  (Dyakraft, Addi interchangeables, Lantern Moon, Hiya Hiya, etc), so if in doubt experiment until you find the ones you prefer the most. I tend to reach for the needles I do because of a combination of preferences – the cord, the materials of the needles, the pointy-ness of the tips, how well the knitting slides (or not) along the needle and cord, and so forth.

(Since I know someone will ask – here I’m using a 32″ circular from Signature Needle Arts, with a 5″ stiletto tip, and a superwash worsted from Neighbourhood Fiber Company that I found at Fibre Space in Alexandria/DC on a trip a while ago.)

Anyway, for magic loop, you’ll need a long circular needle.

The first thing you’ll do, naturally, is cast on all of your stitches as required for the pattern (first photo, above). Next, to get the stitches into working mode, you’ll divide them into two sections, one for each needle, like so:

Nov14-MagicLoop2

It’s most likely you’ll divide them evenly, but you might vary this up slightly depending on pattern. Here I have 2 sections of 22 and 20 sts, because I’m working ribbing in k1tbl, p1 on this mitten cuff, and wanted to keep the ribbing repeat intact. You’ll note that, as one would normally do for working in the round, I have made sure that the round is not ‘twisted’ around the needle, and the yarn will be pulled from the end of the round so that when I make my first stitch, the round will be complete and joined.

This is the position you will start from at the beginning of every round, and at the mid-point of every round. Many knitters refer to this as the “start position.” Your needle tips are lined up, with the work emerging below:

Nov14-MagicLoop3

To start knitting, you will first reach for the needle tip sitting in back…

Nov14-MagicLoop4

…and pull it out along with a portion of the cord.

Nov14-MagicLoop5

Now, you are ready to knit. Just start at the beginning of the round with your two needle tips and proceed as normal according to your pattern.

Nov14-MagicLoop6

When you get to the end of that side, you’ll have the Left Hand needle now sitting loose, drooping at the end of the cord that was looping around the left side.

Nov14-MagicLoop7

So, what you do is flip the work over…

Nov14-MagicLoop8

And pull that formerly droopy needle all the way through the work so that it is lined up at the beginning position just as we had before. Then, keep knitting the other side just like you did the first side.

Nov14-MagicLoop10

You’ll notice that while you work, you’ll have two loops – one on each side of the work, where the sides divide. Managing these two cord loops is, in my humble opinion, the only real difficult part of magic loop, and this is where your needle selection will make the biggest difference. Some needles swivel and twist more than others, others pull and separate at the side join more than others. Try a few kinds and see what works for you.

Nov14-MagicLoop11

There are several advantages to this technique over others. For one, you are only using one attached circular, and so there is no risk of losing one DPN of your set – both needles are always attached to each other at all times. Additionally, this method has the effect of dividing your work into two surfaces instead of 3 or 4. If you happen to be working a pattern which has an intricate pattern over the “front” and on the “back” (as for some socks – the front of the leg and the back are often identical), working this way allows you to not interrupt either of those surface with the join of a DPN, as would typically be the case for working with a set of either 4 or 5 DPNs. This also reduces the number of potential “laddering” points to two, as opposed to 3 or 4.

The only immediate downside to this is that, if you don’t own them already, you’ll have to go shopping for some long circular needles. (But on the other hand…you get to go shopping. So, still a win? ;) )

I’ve taken the liberty of putting up a short video clip on YouTube (because, uh, maybe the zillion other video clips weren’t enough? Heh), in case you’d like to see a little 3-D action on this.

Nothing like getting your Monday off to a good start with a little learnin’. May your day be as painless as possible, and with knitting waiting for you at home!

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Things are picking up (yuk yuk)

Inevitably, when I teach a knitting class, a few miscellaneous things crop up that fit into that category of Things Everyone Does But They Are Not Shiny Enough To Normally Get Huge Technical Explanations About them All The Time category. Those things that, once you know how to do them, you often take them for granted as a normal step. Sort of like how, once a person explained to you that “stockinette stitch” is actually code for “knit all stitches on the Right Side of the work and purl all stitches on the Wrong Side of the work, when working flat, or if you’re working in the round then that means that you knit all stitches on every round,” you stopped asking what stockinette was and now you just do that without having to need it explained to you.

Picking up stitches along an edge is something that fits into this category. So, I thought I’d take the liberty of making a photo post about that, in the event that there are some of you out there who are figuring this out. Most often you’ll encounter this task in one of two place: picking up stitches for a neckline/collar/buttonband for a sweater, or along the edge of a heel flap of a sock in order to create the gussets (when working from the cuff-down). Here I’m going to show you how I pick up stitches in both such situations, using my Dusseldorf Aran (pink Berocco Ultra Alpaca) for the neckline example, and the heel of my sock design for Tanis Fiber Arts’ Year in Colour yarn club March installment (more posting about that to come, from both Tanis and myself, I am sure!), in her club colour for March.

Much of the process is the same, in either case, but there are a few small differences. Let’s take a look at it step by step.

Apr7-PickingUp1

For a neckline or buttonband or collar, you generally have to pick up stitches along a vertical section of the body (or cardigan fronts, as the case may be), and for the collar or lower part of the neck you also often have stitches held aside on waste yarn as the central section; These last few are just slipped back onto the needle and knitted as required, but it’s the picking up along the vertical edge that is the required step here.

Apr7-PickingUp4

The way I do this is to simply insert the needle through the middle of the stitch (above), and then pick up the yarn with the tip of the needle (below).

Apr7-PickingUp5

This is, as you can see, taking advantage of the continental-style method of knitting, wherein the yarn is held in your left hand, and stitches are ‘picked’, as opposed to in the English-style or right-handed method which involves ‘throwing’ the stitches. I am generally a right-handed knitter, but I am also generally of the opinion that everyone should know how to do both (even if they only mostly use the one method), because you just never know when the other method is going to come in hand. Picking up stitches and working stranded colour-work are the two times I’m glad I know how to knit continental.

Apr7-PickingUp6

If you’re picking up stitches along a vertical edge like this, you also generally don’t want to pick up a stitch in every single stitch on that edge. This is because you are working a new stitch into what was formerly the end of your row on the vertical-running piece, and your picked-up edge is going to be going horizontally. Since (most of the time), your row gauge is usually looser than your stitch gauge (check it, I’ll wait), if you were to pick up a new stitch in every row, you would end up with one floppy collar. The way around this is to pick up stitches in the same general ratio as the row-gauge-to-stitch gauge ratio. This generally works out to picking up about 3 sts for every 4 along the edge, and that’s the ratio I use. It was good enough for Elizabeth Zimmerman and gall dangit it’s good enough for me.

Apr7-PickingUp7

Another option, which I’ll demonstrate below also, is to pick up the stitches using a crochet hook, then slip them onto the needle afterwards. This is a comfortable alternative if you’re not into picking stitches continental-wise.

This next set of photos details the picking-up process on the heel flap of a sock. I like heel flap construction, and it works well for me since I tend to work socks from the cuff-down. So, this involves working a heel flap and then picking up stitches on the edge of the heel flap to make the gussets and re-start the round for the foot. For a heel flap, the main difference in this process is that you are working with a specific sort of edge construction. If you’ve done a traditional heel flap where the first stitch of each row is slipped, as you are working the flap, then you will end up with an edge that has a nice little row of elongated slipped stitches waiting and ready for you.

Mar10-SockHeelFlap-1

So, we have the same steps as above, this time inserting the needle through the base of the slipped stitches on the heel flap – but not the actual slipped stitches themselves. (It took me a couple of years of sock knitting to learn that part).

Mar10-PickingUp4

Then, you pick the yarn from your left hand (below)…

Mar10-PickingUp5

…and slip the new stitch through.

Mar10-PickingUp6

And that’s that. Keep doing it for every slipped stitch, and maybe one or two extra at the join of the instep, if you’re worried about gappy holes. As I mentioned above, though, one  alternative to working these picked-up stitches with the yarn held continental, is to use a crochet hook. (You could do this for a neckline/buttonband pickup as well).

Mar10-PickingUp8

Insert the crochet hook through the edge in the same way as above…

Mar10-PickingUp9

…and then pull the new stitch through. Eventually, this will leave you with several stitches collecting on your crochet hook. Just transfer them every so often to your working needle.

Mar10-PickingUp10

In both cases – picking up at a neckline or on a sock edge – this process is likely to leave that first picked up row with relatively loose stitches, like you can see below.

Mar10-LooseSts2-13b

So, what you do to fix this is to work these stitches through the back loop on the next round – in other words, as ktbl, or twisted knit stitches. This tightens the gap left by those loose stitches on the pick up round. Here we can see the step of inserting the needle through the back of the knit stitch on the needle:

Mar10-PickingUp14

And then wrapping the stitch as normal:

Mar10-PickingUp15

And then your first row becomes a nice neat little strip of twisted stitches. From then on you can work the stitches as normal knits, when you encounter them, or however the pattern tells you to.

Mar10-TwistedSts16

So there you have it folks, just another piece of my knitting brain from me to you.
I hope you have an excellent Saturday!

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On the subject of things that are challenging

 

Mar11-Staked3

In the mean time, I’ve been spending a bit of thought and energy going back to the whole technique of cabling without a cable needle. It’s a favourite technique of mine, knitting-wise, and one that I use and encourage a great deal through my designs. (Hint: I am probably not stopping with the cables in the designs, any time soon.) And I directly point out how this works in this blog post from the fall, with a step-by-step set of photos demonstrating a left-leaning and right-leaning cable.

I don’t think everyone needs to know how to do this, in the same way that I don’t think that any kind of technique is required knowledge for knitting. We are all capable people and we do things as we please, and there is rarely only one single way of accomplishing something in knitting world. But I do think that being able to do this greatly increases your chances of working cables efficiently and quickly, if you don’t have to reach for the cable needle every single time, especially if you are working a pattern that asks you to work several cable twists over a row, every other row. (Um, not that I would know anything about that. Heh. ::coughcough::) And this is one way of working cables that I like a lot.

There are a few basic steps to this that have to do with what cables are and how they are constructed, that may help you to wrap your head around this technique in case you are still struggling with it.

1. All cables or cable twists involve 2 things:
a) the addition of a twist or directional turn in the knitting, that moves one or more stitches in one direction, in the foreground of the work, over top of one or more stitches that move in the opposite direction, in the background of the work.

b) working the stitches in some combination of knitted and purl stitches. In the cases where all stitches are knitted, this is usually referred to as a cable, i.e. C4L is a cable twist leaning to the left over 4 sts, where all sts are knitted. T4L is a cable twist leaning to the left, involving knitted stitches leaning to the left over a background of purl sts.

Some examples of cable notations that all lean to the right might be like so:

Left Cables and Twists

And similarly, all of the following lean to the left:

Right Cables and Twists

In other words, the action of making the twist to the left or to the right is always the same, regardless of how many total sts are being worked. What may differ, however, is whether or not all the sts are worked as knits, or some as knits and some as purls. So…

2. This also means that, although I am working all of these in English style and not Continental (i.e. ‘throwing’ the yarn with the right hand instead of ‘picking’ with the left), you can work the twist like this regardless of whether you are an English or Continental knitter. Just do the twist in the required direction, then work the sts.

3. When you’re working this technique without a cable needle, the only thing that really matters is that you are working these steps in 1a and 1b in sequence: First you make the twist, then you work the sts according to the pattern.

So, all you need to ask yourself when working a cable is: Is this leaning to the left or to the right? And then; Which ones do I knit (or knit through the back loop – ktbl – as the case may be, as here), and which do I purl?

I decided to add to this whole cabling tutorial experience with a video demonstration, because as helpful as photos are, it’s easier for some people to simply see this live in 3D action. So I’ve taken the liberty of doing just that, and as it turns out I like to blather about this so much that I had to divide it up into 3 segments. Part 1 (above) involves some general explanation of the cables and twists (as I do some of here in this post), and also demonstrates a right-leaning cable.

Part 2 (below) adds to the demo by showing several right-leaning and left-leaning cables and twists. All of these are over 2 sts, but the technique would be the same for cables over 4 or 6 sts. After about 8 sts I jump back to the cable needle, it’s just easier that way. (Spoiler alert, in this clip you also see me fixing a couple of boo-boos as I go, re-knitting an unknitted stitch and so forth, from the RH needle. Knitting in front of a camera is tricky, yo.) I also refer to the need for a bit of relaxation while working this technique, to avoid a death grip and hand/arm strain.

And then, in Part 3 (below), I put this all together and just plain work a full needle’s worth of stitches including several cable twists to the left and to the right.

All of this asks you to be comfortable with having some sts that are temporarily live (off a needle). This can sometimes be a bit terrifying if you’re new to it, but it also happens pretty quickly. The worst that could happen is that you drop a stitch in the process, and heck, if you do that, all you have to do is go and remember your Knitting 101 and remember how to pick it up again. (See that? See how I calmly breezed past that? Lalalala you can too.)

Finally, because I know people might ask – I’m demonstrating all of this on a pair of Staked socks, and the pattern will be available from Indigodragonfly Yarns as a kit in mid-April, and as a wide release pattern from me in June. (I’ll be sure to let you know when that all happens.) Also, the knitting back in the background is one of Jennie Gee’s, happily snatched from the Knitty City booth at the Vogue Knitting Live event in NYC. I love her stuff.

Anyhoozle, there you have it. More endorsement for cabling without a cable needle. (And, um, probably not my last). Stay tuned until next time, when I may actually have more cabled knitting progress to report. Those sleeves on the Dusseldorf Aran aren’t going to knit themselves.

Happy knitting!

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Getting there

This is the story of how a knitter fixed a really annoying mistake and didn’t die.

Feb24-Sasha1

Here we see intrepid, mild-mannered local (or occasionally local) knitter Sasha, at the local yarn shop, working away on a colour-work sock project. (This is incidentally my Neptune High sock pattern, but that’s actually less material to the rest of the story, so I’ll keep the self-promotion to a minimum. Except that, um, I like this pattern and think argyle is awesome. Moving on…)

So anyway, we were all at the yarn shop happily chatting away about yarn and television and movies, as one does, and at one point Sasha looks down at her work and realized she had made an unfortunate error, and not only had she made the error but it was at least a full inch back in the work. And this is on fingering weight yarn (Tanis Fiber Arts sock, and Louet Gems fingering weight, in case you’re curious), so that means an inch is 8-10 rounds. In colour-work.

Feb24-Sasha5

It’s the sort of thing that is only obvious in colour-work, in the sort of situation when you might, say, be working 1×1 alternating stripes in knit stitches across the sole of a sock. Have a closer look:

Feb24-Sasha3

At some point she just goofed and switched the colours, just on those ten stitches or so. And she, in fact, did not panic. Instead she calmly and quickly decided this was not the sort of thing that was worth pulling out the entire last inch worth of work, and did what I would likely have done in her situation too, which was to isolate one stitch at a time, drop it down to the correct stitch, then pick up each stitch in the correct colour with a crochet hook.

Feb24-Sasha4

If you’re thinking “gee, that sounds like the exact same way you would pick up a dropped stitch on a regular non-colour-work piece of knitting,” then, well, you would be correct. Because stranded colourwork always involves carrying both working colours along at once, there are floats in both colours behind the work all the time. So in this case, all a person needs to do is drop down just past the offending stitch (so that it is all gone now), then re-pick-up the stitches in the correct colour. Then move on to the next offending stitch and do the same thing. It all took less than 15 minutes, and when the fix was all done you would never have known.

Feb24-Sasha6-Fixed

And everyone lived to tell the tale.

The end.

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Cabling without a cable needle

This weekend was quite a knitterly time at the Kitchener Waterloo (or “K-W”) Knitter’s Fair, with much yarn and knitter interaction to be had. I know I didn’t see everything there was to see, but what I did see was darned nice. I was once again followed home by a few skeins of sock yarn from Van Der Rock yarns and Indigodragonfly, a skein of Viola laceweight, and inexplicably, some Twinkle soft chunky that was on sale at the Purple Purl booth so that I can knit myself up a super warm scarf and hat set in about three seconds when I feel like it.

And now that it’s September and decisively moving in the cooler direction (oh thank you dear sweet heavens, the humidity was starting to break me down), it’s easy to turn to the yarns. Add in the fact that I just finished a couple of projects and well, you’ve got yourself a nice vulnerable time for start-itis. I want to knit everything, excepting of course the sweater I’ve already started for Rhinebeck and put down a month ago to work on other things.

But today i’m here to talk about cables, and cabling without a cable needle. I’ve been wanting to do up a photo tutorial for this for lo these many months, and I finally used my talk at the K-W fair as the necessary excuse, including these photos as part of the talk. Because I think if you’re going to take steps to knit fearlessly, getting a good comfortable grasp of cables is one of those key steps. And for many knitters (thought not all, I recognize), it’s easier to get there speedily if you can get the hang of cabling without a cable needle. So, I’m going to share with you my method of doing it.

[ETA]: The yarn, if you’re wondering, is a skein of Tanis Fiber Arts Aran weight in the Garnet colourway, that I have kicking around extra and love using in a pinch for playing with.

I’ve got photos here demonstrating cables over 4 stitches, to the left and right – C4L or C4R is probably how you would see them noted in patterns. I use this exact same technique for cables over 2 stitches as well, which comes in super handy for all my little twisted-stitch cable patterns like Royale or Nouveau or even Viper Pilots.

(I will preface this by saying that there are a few other ways of cabling without a cable needle. A quick Google search will reveal some of them. This is the way that I’ve fallen into, and it works really well for me.)

Ready? Okay.

For a Cable twisting to the Left (where the first 2 sts of the 4 will twist over top of the second 2 sts, in a left-wards direction):

Step 1: Insert RH needle into the sts which will end up moving to the back:

LeftTwist1

So far so good.

Step 2: Slip all sts off of LH needle. The first half of sts in the cable (which would normally go onto the cable needle) are now “live,” and not on a needle at all.
At this point it helps to secure the sts by holding your right thumb and forefinger close. (You’ll probably do this on reflex anyhow). DO NOT PANIC. These sts will not be live for very long…

LeftTwist2

Because, on Step 3: You will, quick like a bunny, slip the LH needle to the front of work, through the live sts:

LeftTwist3

And then on Step 4: Transfer the sts now on the RH needle onto the LH needle…

LeftTwist4

…then knit all the sts as normal:

LeftTwist5

So, all you have done, in essence, is form the twist first, then worked the stitches (knit-wise), second. If this was a twist involving some purl sts as well, the twist would still be the same, you would just work the sts as knits or purls as necessary in that final step.

Here is the whole process for a Right-leaning Cable (Where the first 2 of the 4 sts twist to the back, and the second 2 sts twist forward, in a right-wards direction):

First, transfer your sts from the LH needle…
RightTwist1

…to the RH needle. (On a Left-leaning cable, star with the sts on the Left needle. On a Right-leaning cable, start with the sts on the Right needle.)

RightTwist1b

Next, slip the LH needle in back of work to the first half of the sts in the cable – the sts which will lean to the back:

RightTwist2

Step 3: Then, slip all stitches off the RH needle. The second half of the stitches in the cable (the ones which would normally go onto the cable needle) are now “live”:

RightTwist3

But then, in Step 4, you very quickly slip the RH needle in front of work through the live sts on the LH needle:

RightTwist4

Then, Step 5, transfer the sts from the RH needle back onto the LH needle…

RightTwist5

…and then work all the stitches as normal (knitwise, in this case):

RightTwist6

Ta-DA.

Some things to keep in mind, as you do this:

1. This works best on cables that are worked over 8 sts or less. If i have to do a really fat cable of 10 sts or more, I do use a cable needle then.

2. This also works best with yarn that is not going to slip and disappear on you. When you’re working with live stitches you want to minimize the chance that they will unravel on you, so super slick yarn like 100% silk, say, would be risky. (But if you’re knitting with 100%, um, I’d say you’re probably enjoying that anyway even if you’re having to use cable needles.)

3. There is a strong inclination (and helpfully so) to sort of pinch the work with your thumb and forefinger in that moment when you have the live stitches. Try not to do this in a death-grip fashion. The more stress you put on your hands as you knit, the more you are increasing the risk of knitting injury.

I hope that this has been helpful!
Happy Tuesday, and happy knitting.

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