Saturday, December 17, 2011

Some handy dandy knitting tricks

I am an avid knitter.  i like to snuggle down on the couch with repeats of Firefly on TV and a sleepy pug on my ankles and spend the afternoon knitting.  There is something zen-like in knitting.  Each simple movement makes a delicate stitch... each individual stitch is replicated hundreds or thousands of times to make a finished product.  It really is beautiful.  It's a time honored craft that has been around for a multitude of centuries and found all over the globe.  Teaching someone to knit is akin to passing on a piece of history.  What a truly lovely thing!

While i love to knit, i often don't take on big projects or complicated lace patterns.  It's not because of skill level or fear, it's more that my life is so busy that i know such a project will sit in my knitting bag as an unfinished object for a decade before i would have the time to get around to it.  Having spent so much time in the past 4 years knitting smaller items like hats or arm warmers or socks, i have learned some fantastic little tricks that help make knitting easier.  I figured i should share these.

1)  Knitting stripes while knitting ribbing:

So often, if you are knitting any type of ribbing (i.e. K1 P1 repeat )  you may shy away from stripes in a pattern.  When you change colors, you will get an odd ball stitch of color on your color change purl stitch:

You can see here in the pink circle on these leg warmers i knit years ago, where the gray and the black intertwine on the purl, there is a clash of the stitches which can make the stripes look a bit messy.  I didn't know this cool trick back then.

It really is the simplest of things that fixes this.  Instead of following your K1 P1 pattern on the row that you change colors, simply knit that row (or purl if you are on the wrong side of your work when not working in the round).  You return to your K1 P1 next round.  Each time you switch colors, you simply knit that row.  Easy as pie.  Sounds like it should mess up your ribbing, right?  It totally doesn't.  

Here is an example on a pair of socks i am knitting in the round.  you get a faint color clash on the top of the knit loop but you don't see that at all when not pulling the knitting apart.  Look at how seamless the color change is on the purls.  Love this trick!

2) Joining your work in the round:

This really is a simple trick.  It's so simple that i can't believe i didn't think of it first when i learned it.  Usually, when knitting in the round, you start with all of your stitches divided evenly between your DPNS or on your circular needles and then you start knitting into the first stitch.  This sometimes creates a bit of a hole at the end of your first round and a bit of a jog too.

Instead, try this;  cast on all of your stitches.  Once you are down to your last stitch, add one more.  Pass this extra stitch to your first needle (or the beginning of your round - careful not to twist your work into a mobius) and then knit the extra (or last) stitch together with the first stitch of your round.  You can click on the pictures below to enlarge.

Knitting in the round doesn't need to be scary.  It's so useful and fun.  Note in the picture above that the working yarn (it's on the right) is coming from within the triangle of needles.  You have to do this when you slip the extra or last stitch to the first needle or it's a pain.  Also notable here is that the bottom of all of the cast on stitches face each other.  Those little nubbies on the bottom?  By doing that, you are joining your work correctly.  This is really the only tricky part to working in the round.  Even using all of those needles is easier than you would think... you are only working with the needle in your right hand and the very next needle to your left.  The other ones?  You just ignore em until you get to them.

3) Loose clean bind off - perfect for toe-up socks:

I really like to knit socks toe-up.  Recently, i knit some rather large socks for someone with ribbing for the leg part of the sock.  I attempted to bind off the sock the way i normally do for socks which is a loose standard bind off.  This drove me nuts as while it was stretchy enough, it was TOO stretchy and made the cuff lose all shape.  I Googled cast offs/bind offs for toe-up socks and i tried many of them.  The looped cast off, like a loose bind off left the cuff too baggy and shapeless.

This is when i found the perfect and EASY bind off that works wonderfully for toe-up socks with ribbing or not.  It ends up stretchy but keeps the shape of the sock.  I will detail how to do this below.

When done your sock,  don't cut your yarn.  Unroll about 3 ft of yarn from your ball and cut. Slip end of cut yarn through a large sewing / upholstery needle.

~ step 1 ~ Pass the tip of the needle through the first and second stitch (from right to left) as if to purl.  Pull yarn through.  Don't pull tightly but don't let gap either.  (Remember, you can click on these pics to enlarge if you need to)

~ step 2 ~ Pass through first stitch of row from left to right and pull through.

~ step 3 ~ Slip first stitch off of knitting needle.

That's all you need to remember. Now you go back to step one and continue until you have bound off all of the stitches on your needle.  If you are using DPNS (double pointed needles), you will find that you will have one stitch left on the needle at the end.  You simply place that one onto the next needle and keep on going.  Here are some pictures below of what that bind off looks like un-stretched and stretched. 

As you can see, it is very close and tidy un-stretched and yet very stretchy when stretched out.

Happy knitting!  I will leave you with pictures of our crazy pink tree this year.

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