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How to Measure Knitting

Many patterns will tell you to “work in pattern for ____ inches / cm.” So measuring your knitting is an often-used, important skill. Here are some tips for getting accurate measurements.

The standard for how to measure knitting is different from the “counting your rows” standard. When we’re counting the number of rows we’ve worked, we do not include the cast-on edge or the stitches on the needles.

But, when measuring, we want to include the entire length of fabric. So we include the cast-on edge and even the unfinished stitches on the needles.

Lay your knitting on a flat surface. Arrange it and its needles so it’s neither stretched out nor scrunched up.

To measure length in knitting

Grab a straight ruler and line it up so the zero line is at the bottom edge, just as if you were about to measure a piece of paper or a desk. (A fabric ruler will work fine, but they’re less reliable in this instance because they can become distorted over time and because they don’t lay flat. If you use it, stretch it out taut to measure, but don’t pull too hard or you’ll stretch it permanently.)

Lay the ruler on top of the knitting away from the edges or any other distortions in the fabric.

Measure from the bottom up to the tops of the stitches on your needles.

To measure width in knitting

Arrange the ruler so the zero line is touching the outside edge. Lay it across the middle of the fabric, away from the cast-on or the needles. You’re looking for a place where the fabric is the least distorted. This is where a straight ruler comes in handy. You can use it to gently press the edges down if they’re inclined to curl. Measure across to the opposite edge.

To measure from the last decrease or increase

This is what you do when, for instance, you’ve finished a sweater’s waist shaping, and now you need to knit ___ inches further before the arm hole shaping. Or when you need to measure from the arm hole shaping up to the start of the shoulder shaping.

Find the landmark in your pattern. It’s a good idea to mark decrease or increase rows in some way when you make them so you don’t have to search hard for them later. Use a piece of contrasting-colour waste yarn, a safety pin, a stitch marker, or even one of those cheap, plastic hair elastics. You can put it directly into the stitch or between stitches, as long as it stays in the same row as you continue knitting. If you’ve used a cheap hair elastic, you can just cut it out later. (Thanks to my friend Laurie for that tip.)

Now that you know where your landmark is, measure from its row’s top edge up to the top of your stitches on the needles.

If you’re looking for info on how to measure gauge, not length or width, check out this previous post in the series.

31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. www.aknitica.com #write31days #knittingtips

This post is part of my 31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. Every day, I’ll post a new tip or trick to make your knitting nicer. You can follow along easily by subscribing. If you have any knitting problems you’d like me to fix, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question as part of the series. You can find all the posts in the series here.

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How to Avoid Repetitive Stress While Knitting

At some point, most knitters deal with repetitive stress or carpal tunnel problems, whether mild or severe. Here are some tips that might help to keep your hands and wrists in good knitting condition for many years to come:

Take breaks. When you do, get up, walk around, and stretch out your arms. Reach them up over your head. Loosen up your shoulder and neck muscles.

Stretch. Bend your wrists backwards and gently stretch your muscles. When you stretch, don’t pull many little times and bounce your muscles, but apply constant, steady, gentle pressure for about 10 – 15 seconds at a time.

Listen to your body. When your hands and wrists are aching or starting to ache, stop. Stretch. If you feel shooting pain, you’ve gone too far. Give them a rest until you can resume without pain.

Think in the long term. It’s better to stop before you hurt yourself so you can enjoy many years of knitting.

Repetitive stress is caused by doing the same motion over and over again. So switch motions. Try knitting in another style, like Continental, English, the pencil hold, or Peruvian purling. If you’ve been knitting flat, switch to a project in the round. If you’ve been knitting with worsted weight and relatively big needles, switch to a small-gauge project, like socks or gloves for a while. Switch from a cabled project to some colourwork. That way, you don’t have to stop knitting altogether when your hands get tired. This is what I do, and so far, it works. Because let’s face it, it’s not fun when you have to stop knitting.

Try using different needles. A different size, a different style (straights instead of circulars, perhaps), or even try a different substance, like bamboo or metal. There are even needles that claim to be ergonomically better for your hands, like the square, four-sided needles made by Kollage. (I just bought one in a 32″ circular. I’m going to try it out, just because trying new things is fun. The back of the package is fascinating. It says “The square needles are perfect for knitters who have arthritis, carpal tunnel, or stiffness in their hands and fingers.”  I hope to try them tonight.)

There are other products out there to help, like wrist braces that fit like small bracelets and don’t impede your motion. A friend of mine uses them and says they do help.

Keep your hands warm. Protect them from muscle stiffness. Hey, I happen to have a pattern to help with that!

Scrunchy Ombre Arm Warmers #knitting #stashbusters www.aknitica.com

If you’re a tight knitter, Stop It! Try to relax while you’re knitting. Be conscious about how you’re holding your needles and yarn, and if you notice yourself tensing up, make a point of relaxing your shoulders, arms, fingers, hands. If you’re worried about your knitting tension changing, try using a bigger needle size to make up for your new relaxation. An added bonus of relaxing your tension is that it will make your stitches much easier to work with and to slide along your needles.

Sit up straight. Apparently, when you slouch your shoulders forward, it compressed nerves in your neck. This, in turn, affects your arms, wrists, and hands.

What do you think? Have you tried any of these things? Did they work for you? If you have any extra tips to help other knitters, please leave them in the comments. 

31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. www.aknitica.com #write31days #knittingtips

This post is part of my 31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. Every day, I’ll post a new tip or trick to make your knitting nicer. You can follow along easily by subscribing. If you have any knitting problems you’d like me to fix, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question as part of the series. You can find all the posts in the series here.

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The Most Important Thing You Can Do To Improve Your Knitting

Hello, my knitting friends! We’re just over halfway through October’s series, and I have something important to tell you. It’s maybe one of the most important knitting tips I can ever share, and it needs to be said.

It will definitely improve your knitting because it will give you the confidence to seek out new skills, to try new things, to achieve more than you dreamed possible. It has worked for me, and it will work for you.

I’ve spent time with lots of knitters and, well, lots of people. And you know what we all do to ourselves that makes everything so much more difficult? Myself included?

We tell ourselves it’s too hard. We’re not very good. We need our hands held. We’re not as fast as so-and-so. We’ll never be that proficient.

What the heck are we doing to ourselves? We’d never put our friends down like that. We tell them nice things, and we encourage them. (I hope.)

So, today’s tip is this: be kind to yourself.

I love reading books about neuroscience and how our brains work. I have depression, and I’ve been on a constant hunt for the last 14 years for any and all information on how my brain works and how I can fix it. And you know what? I’ve found LOTS of good stuff. So many small things that have added up to me living a practically-normal, depression-free life. The most I get now is the winter blahs, and that’s because I keep forgetting to take my vitamin D.

One of the main, most helpful things I’ve learned applies to every area of life, whether it’s depression or knitting. It’s the neuroscientific (is that a word?) principle of “use it or lose it.” Did you know that our brains are constantly restructuring themselves? It’s called neuroplasticity. The more we think something, the more the neurons in that thought pathway light up, and a stronger, faster connection is formed. If impulses and chemicals keep going down that pathway, it becomes a superhighway in your brain. It becomes the default setting, if you will.

If your default setting is negativity, then your thoughts will more quickly go down that path without your even thinking about it. And, of course, our actions and outcomes follow directly behind our thoughts. And our emotions trail behind.

Are you feeling discouraged? What are you thinking about? I bet it’s pretty gloomy.

When I started examining my thoughts, I realized, My goodness! No wonder I feel so terrible!

The good news is that we can retrain our brains. We can decide to stop using those negative superhighways, and eventually, because of the use-it-or-lose-it principle, they’ll fade away. Isn’t that amazingly good news?

Next time you’re feeling discouraged about your knitting, stop and notice your thoughts. Would you say those things to your best friend? Your child? Your mate? Your boss? Then why are you saying them to yourself?

Now that you’ve noticed your thoughts, consciously replace them with something positive.

You can do this.

You can knit anything.

This mistake isn’t such a big deal. If it’s not on fire, it’s fixable.

Every time your thoughts start going down that spiral, notice them. Stop them. Change them. After a while, with some practice, you’ll build new pathways in your brain. Your superhighways will be made by you, as a conscious decision, and they will be beautiful.

It will take time and practice, so the first rule of reprogramming your brain is to give yourself grace. What’s grace? It’s unmerited favor. It’s unlimited chances without recriminations. It’s allowing yourself to start over right that minute, without bringing the baggage of past mistakes forward.

One sweater disaster does not equal a failure at future sweaters. It means one sweater’s worth of yarn that you can make into something beautiful.

Go make something beautiful today. You’re worth it.

Yes, you.

p.s. Neuroplasticity and visualization can also help you knit faster. Cool, right?

31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. www.aknitica.com #write31days #knittingtips

This post is part of my 31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. Every day, I’ll post a new tip or trick to make your knitting nicer. You can follow along easily by subscribing. If you have any knitting problems you’d like me to fix, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question as part of the series. You can find all the posts in the series here.

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How to Count Rows in Knitting

Have you ever lost track of how many rows you’ve knit? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just look at your knitting to find out?

Well, you can. Yay! And I’m going to show you how to count rows in knitting right now.

Most of us, at some point, get confused by where we begin and end our counting. Do the stitches on the needles count as a row? When a pattern tells us to increase every 4th row, does that mean we knit four rows, then increase, or do we knit three rows, then increase? And what does that look like in the knitting?

Basic rules for counting rows in knitting

Don’t include the cast-on edge in your counting.

Don’t include the stitches on the needles in your counting.

Count rows by counting all the V’s (knit stitches) stacked in one column. If you have a column of five V’s, that means you’ve completed five rows in your pattern. You’re about to work the sixth row.

If you get confused by the stitches on the needles, think of them like this: They’re incomplete. They’re waiting in the wings, ready to perform. They’re on deck, but not yet in play. That’s why you don’t count them.

Examples

Let’s say you’re cabling every 8th row. What this looks like in your knitting is that you have a column of 7 V’s completed. The 8th row is on the needles, waiting to be worked, but not yet counted. As you begin to cable, you’ll notice that it’s those on-deck stitches that are getting crossed, and you’re knitting into them. When the row is finished, you’ll have 8 V’s in your knitting, but they’ll be hard to see because they’ll be crossed now. The stitches that are now on your needles will become row 1 in the next cable repeat, but you haven’t knit them yet so they’re not counted.

Let’s say you’re decreasing every 4th row. You’ve already made a couple decrease repeats, and you’ve lost count. Look at your work. Find the last decrease you made. It will look like two stitches that are separate at the bottom but are overlapped and have only one stitch growing out of their tops.

Count the first stitch growing out of the tops as your first row. Including it, how many V’s are completed under your needles? Two full V’s mean you’ve knit 2 rows. Oops, that’s not enough! What you’re looking for is 3 full V’s worked, and your 4th row on the needles, ready to be decreased but not yet in play.

Let’s say you’re M1 increasing every 3rd round. Increases are interesting to count because they’re generally worked into the round or row below. You reach into the row below and pick up the running stitch, then knit into it twisted. So what that looks like when you’re counting from M1 increases is a tiny loop appearing in the middle of two normal stitches, with a normal-sized stitch growing out of it. When counting, don’t count the tiny loop. Start counting your rounds at the first normal-sized stitch or V. When increasing every 3rd round, then, you’re looking for the tiny loop as your landmark, and then there should be 2 normal V’s stacked above it and the third round on the needles, waiting to be worked. Now you can increase your third round.

When counting above a yarnover increase, first find the hole as your landmark. Look at it closely. There will be a kind of spread-out, horizontal strand of yarn forming the top of the hole, with a more normal-looking stitch growing out of it. That spread-out strand is the yarnover. Don’t count it. Start counting at the stitch that grows out of it. Count those V’s up the column as normal, ignoring the stitches on your needle. If you’re yarnover increasing every 5th round, there should be 4 V’s in the column. Then, you’re ready to work the next increase round.

Similarly, when you’re counting above a Lifted Increase (AKA LRinc or LLinc), you don’t count the weird stitch itself, but the first normal V that grows out of it as your first row. Take a close look at the increase. It looks like two stitches that grow out of the same base. It’s a two-headed V. 😉 Don’t count the two-headed part. Count the first stitch that comes out of the leaning-over head. Then keep counting up the column to see how many rows are under the needles.

Counting purl rows

If, for some reason, you need to count your rows in purl instead of in a knit column, look for the frowns. As I mentioned in The Anatomy of a Knit Stitch, stitches on the purl side look like smiles and frowns. The smiles are the running stitches, the “feet” that connect one stitch to another in a row. They’re the in-between part. The frowns (the downward-curving bumps or lines) are the tops of each stitch.

Find a column of frowns and count each frown. If there are 6 frowns stacked above each other, you’ve complete six purl rows.

Counting garter stitch rows

Garter stitch (where every row is knit) is funny to count because the tops of the stitches are harder to find. The V’s get smooshed behind the frowns and disappear. Most of us count garter stitch by ridges. A ridge is simply a complete set of two rows: one row of V’s and one row of frowns.

When you begin your garter stitch, place a marker at the beginning of your row or round. Now, you have a landmark by which to measure your progress. If the first row of your garter stitch is a knit row, which is normal, then from the right side, a complete ridge will look like a flat line of V’s hidden under the next row of frowns/smiles. Those two rows make one garter ridge.

When you’re working flat (in rows): If, from the right side, you see that your needle tip is at the left of your work and there are V’s directly under your needle, you’ll know that you’ve only worked half a ridge, or an uneven number of rows.

If you’re working garter stitch in the round: a purl ridge directly under the needles means one ridge set is completed. A line of flat, knit V’s directly under the needles means only half a ridge set is completed.

31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. www.aknitica.com #write31days #knittingtips

This post is part of my 31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. Every day, I’ll post a new tip or trick to make your knitting nicer. You can follow along easily by subscribing. If you have any knitting problems you’d like me to fix, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question as part of the series. You can find all the posts in the series here.

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How to Pick Up Dropped Stitches, Even from the Cast On Edge

I first knew that I could knit anything when I learned that I could fix anything.

My fear of making mistakes, trying a new project and getting stuck, and ruining hours of knitting went away.

The first step towards knitting confidence, then, seems to be learning how to fix mistakes in knitting. Here’s how to fix a dropped stitch.

If you don’t currently have a crochet hook in your knitting kit, it’s time to put one in there. (And if you don’t have a knitting kit, it’s time to put one together. Make it small and portable. I throw mine in my knitting bag every time I leave the house… or even change rooms.)

To pick up a dropped stitch, insert your crochet hook into the loop on the knit side. If just one stitch dropped, then just put it back onto your left-hand needle with its right side in front.

If a column of stitches dropped, it will look like a little loop (the dropped stitch) with a ladder of any number of horizontal lines of dropped stitches above it. Put the crochet hook into the loop to catch it. Then, lay your knitting on a flat surface (a table, your knee, a book) and smooth out the ladder of dropped, horizontal stitches. You want to make sure they’re not all jumbled together so you can see that they’re in the right order. If in doubt, check their sides, where they’re still connected to the columns of stitches beside them. Smooth them into their proper order in the ladder as best you can.

To pick up a dropped knit stitch

Now, with your crochet hook, reach through the front of the last proper stitch and grab the first (nearest, bottom) strand in the ladder. Pull it through the stitch. One stitch has been remade! Keep on reaching through and pulling each consecutive strand through each loop. When you get to the top, put the last stitch back on the left needle, ready for knitting. (Or purling, as the case may be.)

To pick up a dropped purl stitch, I find it easiest to turn the work so I’m looking at the other side, where it’s a knit stitch. Then just pick it up as you would a knit stitch: insert the crochet hook into the stitch from the front, grab the nearest running stitch in the ladder, and pull it through the stitch. But put the remade stitch onto the right-hand needle… because when you turn your work back around to the proper side, that will be the left-hand needle, and the stitch will be ready to be worked.

To pick up a dropped column in garter stitch, you may want to keep flipping the knitting over so you can pick each stitch up as a knit stitch. Remember, knit stitches look like V’s and purl stitches look like bumps or frown lines. You’ll be picking up a knit stitch over a purl bump, then flipping the work to the other side and picking up another knit stitch over a purl bump. Back and forth, until you’ve reached the top. Be extra careful picking up garter stitch because the strands in the dropped ladder like to fool you into picking them up in the wrong order.

Now, what if you’ve dropped stitches all the way down to the cast-on edge? And all you have is a ladder of straight running stitches and no loop with which to start? Well, you’re going to create that loop. That’s all a cast on is, after all, in its most basic form: a series of loops that have had stitches pulled through them.

So, to pick up a dropped cast on edge, lay your work down and spread out the dropped stitches so you can smooth the ladders and get them in order. Find the very bottom strand in the ladder. This is the strand you’re going to twist into a loop. Look at your cast on edge around it, the edge that hasn’t been messed up. If you used a long-tail cast on or variation of it, it will look like little lines slanting slightly up and to the right. If it looks like purl bumps in front of lines, you’re looking at the back side and you need to flip your knitting over so the other side is facing you.

With the cast-on edge of your work pointed towards you:

Insert your crochet hook perpendicular to your body and the cast-on edge, with the hook pointing towards you, between the first and second strands in the ladder, towards the first strand. Grab the first strand under the hook, then rotate the hook counterclockwise until the hook is pointing away from you. This will have created a twist in the strand. You now have a loop! Keep it on the crochet hook, and now you can grab the next strand in the ladder of dropped stitches and pull it through the loop you created. Continue up the ladder as you would for normal dropped stitches until you’ve gotten them all.

I know that’s a mouthful of words to describe a really simple maneuver, so here’s a quick video of questionable quality, taken by my oldest, to illustrate:

What do you think? Does this help you pick up dropped stitches? Let me know in the comments.

31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. www.aknitica.com #write31days #knittingtips

This post is part of my 31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. Every day, I’ll post a new tip or trick to make your knitting nicer. You can follow along easily by subscribing. If you have any knitting problems you’d like me to fix, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question as part of the series. You can find all the posts in the series here.

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How To Cable Without A Cable Needle

Confession: I find cabling to be a little tedious. Using a cable needle and transferring stitches back and forth breaks my flow, and it annoys me. I knit cables sparingly.

Until, that is, I discovered how to cable without a cable needle. Now, I don’t mind cabling so much. In fact, it’s kind of fun.

I know of two ways to cable without a cable needle. One way, I learned from Grumperina’s website, here. But after trying it, I found that I didn’t love it as much as the straight rearranging-stitches method that I’m about to show you. But one of the joys of knitting is that you can try a couple methods and then settle on your very own favourite. In fact, I encourage it. Try everything!

Basic Construction of a Cable

A cable is made of a column of knit stitches, usually flanked by columns of purl stitches. The column is generally, but not always, divided in half. The direction the cable leans is determined by which half of the stitches in the column crosses in front of the other half.

If the left half crosses in front, the cable leans over to the right.

If the right half crosses in front, the cable leans over to the left.

Right-Cross Cable without a cable needle

To get a cable to lean to the right, you’ll want the left half of the stitch column to come across the front. So, with your right-hand needle, reach in front of the right half and insert the needle tip into the stitches that form the left half of the cable. In this case, I have a 6-stitch cable, with 3 stitches in the left half and 3 stitches in the right half. A written direction for this cable might read either C6R (cable 6 right) or 3/3 RC (3 over 3 right cross).

Right cross cable step 1. Cabling with a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

With your right hand, pinch the stitches under the cable. With a smooth, straight movement, withdraw the left needle from all the stitches in the cable.

Cable right cross step 2. Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

The right needle will be holding on to the left half, and the right half of the column will be free at the back, but pinched and held in place by your right hand underneath. With the same smooth, straight movement at the back, poke the left needle back into those stitches immediately.

Right cross cable step 3. Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

Slip the stitches on the right-hand needle back to the left needle…

Right cable cross step 4. Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

…then knit across all the stitches.

Right cross cable step 5. Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

Right Cross Cable: Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

Tips:

While you’re performing these movements, keep the needle positions the same except for the straight, out-and-in motion of the left needle. Don’t move or spread the needles and stitches in any way. Keep the movement small and quick.

A slippery needle works best for this maneuver. I use Knit Picks Nickel-Plated needle tips. Metal Addis or Hiya Hiyas are also perfect. Anything slightly sticky, like bamboo, laminated wood, or plastic might add just enough friction to tug the stitches and frustrate you.

Left-Cross Cable without a cable needle

To form a left-leaning cross, the right half of the cable column needs to go in front, and the left half needs to cross behind. So, with your right-hand needle, reach behind the right half and insert the needle tip into the stitches that form the left half of the cable.

Left cross cable step 1. Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

With your right hand, pinch the stitches under the right half of the cable. With a smooth, straight movement, withdraw the left needle from all the stitches in the cable.

left cross cable step 2. Cabling without a cable neede. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

The right needle will be holding on to the left half, and the right half of the column will be free at the front, but pinched and held in place by your right hand underneath. With the same smooth, straight movement at the front, poke the left needle back into those live stitches immediately.

left cross cable step 3. Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

Slip the stitches on the right-hand needle back to the left needle…

left cross cable step 4. Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.come #knittingtips #write31days

…then knit across all the stitches.

left cross cable step 5. Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

left cross cable. Cabling without a cable needle. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

 

It is completely normal to be nervous about this technique. Most of us freak out a little when we pull our needles out of our stitches. Needles usually fall out against our will, so we try to avoid it at all costs. But it doesn’t have to be something you’re afraid of. Tomorrow, I’ll show you how to easily pick up dropped stitches, even if they’ve dropped all the way down to your cast on edge.

But in the meantime, don’t worry. Practice this on a worsted-weight project with real wool so it’s nice and sticky and doesn’t want to unravel. It might feel awkward the first couple times, but, before you know it, your hands will get the knack of it and your cabling rhythm will improve and get faster.

31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. www.aknitica.com #write31days #knittingtips

This post is part of my 31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. Every day, I’ll post a new tip or trick to make your knitting nicer. You can follow along easily by subscribing. If you have any knitting problems you’d like me to fix, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question as part of the series. You can find all the posts in the series here.

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Why You Should Spit Splice Your Yarn

Ooooh, this is one of my favouritest little things to do now. It’s called spit splicing, and it’s a really, really easy way to join two balls of wool yarn together. Knitting a lace shawl? No problem. Don’t sew those ends in later; spit splice them together now!

It’s a wonderfully firm and permanent join. You can tug on it and hear the yarn twang, it’s so secure.

I first tried this technique with acrylic yarn and was really disappointed. It didn’t work at all. Then, I was lucky enough to take a weekend of workshops with Nancy Bush — THE Nancy Bush, of Knitted Lace of Estonia and other gorgeous, advanced techniques and patterns — and I asked her opinion on the best way to join my yarn tails together. I thought she might say, “Sew the ends in with duplicate stitch afterwards.” To my surprise, she said to spit splice them! No ends to sew in later in complicated, airy lace.

The catch is this technique only works with the kind of yarn that felts. It has to be made of wool, or at least mostly wool. (Alpaca, camel, cashmere, angora, and other animal fibers all count as wool.) I’ve tried it with Berrocco Vintage (a wool-acrylic-nylon blend) and it worked okay.

It works best when joining two balls of the same colour together. I wouldn’t use it for joining in stripes. You’ll see why in the example below.

How to Spit Splice

Unravel about 1.5 – 2 inches of the ends of each tail. If it’s plied, unwind all the plies. If it’s a single ply, untwist and gently separate the tail into 3 or 4 strands. (I’ve done this with Manos del Uruguay Fino, a fingering-weight single ply, and it worked great.)

Lay the tails down, end to end, overlapping them where you’ve untwisted the strands. Intertwine the strands a little, laying them flat across and next to each other. They should all be parallel to each other, with no curls that will make a mess in the felting.

How to Spit Splice. Joining yarn without having to sew in ends. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

Put the overlapped strands in your mouth and get them nice and wet. Make sure you haven’t just been drinking coffee or eating chocolate, or your yarn will turn brown. Rinse first! 🙂  You can, if you’d rather, simply wet the yarn with clean water.

Roll and rub the join in your palms. It’s just like rolling play dough into a worm.

Rub for about 20 – 30 seconds, until the yarn is mostly dry, and the strand is felted together. It will be fat at first, but as it felts, it will shrink into a size that matches the yarn.

I've used two colours for visibility. In real life, I'd only use this join with one colour.
I’ve used two colours for visibility. In real life, I’d only use this join with one colour.

You’ll know it’s done when you pull on both strands and the join twangs without budging.

Resume knitting as normal, knowing your work is done and you won’t have to come back later to sew anything in. Woohoo!

31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. www.aknitica.com #write31days #knittingtips

This post is part of my 31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. Every day, I’ll post a new tip or trick to make your knitting nicer. You can follow along easily by subscribing. If you have any knitting problems you’d like me to fix, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question as part of the series. You can find all the posts in the series here.

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How to Make Mirrored Increases in Knitting: M1R, M1L

Have you ever knit a pattern that says something like “increase one stitch” or Make 1, but doesn’t specify what technique to use? Here are tips on how to choose which increase to use in your knitting.

Generally, when a pattern says “M1,” it’s referring to the Make-One increase, which is a specific technique. That’s when you lift up the running stitch between stitches and knit into the back of it (to twist it so it doesn’t make a hole). Some patterns specify mirrored increases, which would be written as M1R (make one right) or M1L (make one left). When the direction of the increase isn’t given, it’s either because the direction it leans doesn’t matter, the designer or tech editor doesn’t think the difference is significant or even know there’s a difference, or the designer expects you to know the difference for yourself and choose accordingly.

Mirroring increases can be fun and add just a little extra professionalism to your knitting. I usually choose to mirror them, just because I can.

When do you mirror increases? In garments that have paired sets of increases. For example, on each side of a thumb gusset. On each side of a sock toe. On each side of a shoulder. On either side of a waist… and so on.

When does it not matter if you mirror increases? When they’re spaced evenly around a garment. Like when increasing around a hat evenly. When increasing around a waist evenly. When increasing around a top-down sweater yoke evenly. You get the idea.

If you choose to mirror increases, how do you know which direction to point them? Good question. I like to point them towards the new fabric that’s being built. If I’m increasing a thumb gusset, I point them in towards the growing thumb, not towards the hand that isn’t changing in size.

If I’m increasing a top-down sweater, usually there are multiple pairs of increases: the sleeve increases and the body increases. I point the sleeve increases towards the growing sleeve and the body increases towards the growing body. If I point them towards the ungrowing area of stitches between the body and each sleeve, I find they make an extra line in the knitting that seems out of place. (But that could be construed as a “design element” by some.)

When I point them towards the area of growth, I find they blend in better.

What this looks like in real life is usually that the increases are pointing away from the stitch markers. We generally put stitch markers in places where they won’t move every time we increase, right? We put them on the edge of the area that won’t grow and leave them there while we make increases to either side. Now, this could change, depending on the pattern, so you’ll have to use your thinking knitter’s brain to determine where the areas of growth are. Don’t just blindly follow the stitch markers, okay? That generalization will only help you most of the time, not all of the time.

M1R Increase

On the knit side:

Lift up the running stitch and place it on the left needle with its left leg in front (mounted twisted). Knit into the front of the stitch.

Tip: If you insert your left needle under the running stitch from back to front, it will be mounted twisted. It will be a little tight to knit into the front of it, so work near the tip of the needle, with your needles close together so you’re not pulling on the fabric. Keep the tension as relaxed as possible.

M1R on the purl side:

If you’re working this one as a purl, where its purl side will be its public face, it doesn’t matter which way you lean it because the lean won’t show. But, if you’re working it on the back side for some reason (say, as the increase on the purl side in double knitting), and it’s public side will be the knit side, this technique will have it lean right when you look at it from the knit side.

Lift up the running stitch and place it on the left needle with its left leg in front (mount twisted). Purl into the front leg.

M1L Increase

On the knit side:

Lift up the running stitch and place it on the left needle with its right leg in front. Knit into the back of the stitch. (Put your right needle behind the stitch and knit into the back strand from right to left.)

Tip: If you insert your left needle under the running stitch from front to back, it will be mounted properly.

M1L on the purl side:

Again, this technique will have it lean left when you look at it from the knit side.

Lift up the running stitch and place it on the left needle with its right leg in front. Purl through the back loop. (Put your right needle behind the stitch and insert it from left to right into the back leg. It will feel incredibly awkward and twisty, and you’ll have to work it near the needle tip to give it enough looseness for it to work. Once the right needle is inserted, purl it.)

Other increases

If the pattern doesn’t say M1, it will usually specify a different type of increase.

The Kfb increase (knit into the front and back, AKA the bar increase) is one that will be written into the pattern by name. Just follow the directions for it. Because it looks like a knit stitch followed by a purl stitch, it blends in perfectly with ribbing when worked in the last knit stitch before a purl section. It can also be used as a decorative increase when positioned by the designer to form a line of purl bumps in the midst of knit stitches.

The Lifted increase, or as Cat Bordhi calls it, the LRinc and LLinc, can be mirrored by you. However, this one will also be named in the pattern if the designer wants you to use it. Because it’s less common, it will also likely be described in detail in the instructions. Because the lifted increase uses the stitches in the row below as well, it isn’t always appropriate to use. It is best worked at least every 2nd row or more. When increasing every row, the M1 or Kfb would be better.

The Yarnover increase doesn’t need to be mirrored because… it’s just a hole. 🙂 They look pretty as lace increases and as substitutes for M1 increases on little girls’ raglan shoulders and elsewhere. I’ve even seen glove gussets made with yarnover increases.

Bonus Tip: Create a Missed Yarnover

Did you know that by picking up the running stitch and putting it on your needle, you’ve recreated a yarnover? So, if you miss a yarnover in the previous row, simply pick up the running stitch with its right leg in front to remake it, then work into it as the pattern calls for.

31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. www.aknitica.com #write31days #knittingtipsThis post is part of my 31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. Every day, I’ll post a new tip or trick to make your knitting nicer. You can follow along easily by subscribing. If you have any knitting problems you’d like me to fix, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question as part of the series. You can find all the posts in the series here.

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The Anatomy of a Knit Stitch and Why It Matters

Knowing your stitches and their characteristics can help you in so many ways. It makes it easier to spot or fix mistakes, easier to count stitches, easier to twist or untwist them, and easier to mirror them when it comes to increases and decreases.

So, grab your closest knitting project and examine it along with me:

From the front, a knit stitch looks like a V.

It has two public sides that make up the V, plus the top of the stitch, which hides behind the bottom of the V above it. From the back side, the tops of the stitches look like little frowns. If you’re picking up stitches to knit a collar, or to close a gap when knitting a thumb, these frowns are the parts to grab. Just reach in through the front and put the frown on the needle with its right leg in front and knit into it normally. It’ll look beautiful.

The bottoms of the V’s hide behind and between the bottoms of each stitch. They all link together in a row. If you’re looking at them from the back side, they look like little smiles.

Those little smiles on the back side are actually called running stitches. They’re the horizontal lines that link together all the stitches in one row. When a pattern calls for a M1 increase, that means you’ll lift up the running stitch and knit into the back of it. These running stitches between the columns are also the bits you work with when you’re sewing up using Mattress Stitch or when you’re picking up and knitting a button band.

When the knit stitches are in the completed fabric, they look like neat little V’s, all laying flat together in a grid. But when the stitches are still on the needle, they’re not flat, are they? One side of the V is in front of the needle, and one side is in back. The top of the stitch, of course, goes over the top of the needle.

Take a look at that stitch on your needle. Which side of the V is in front? The right one? Excellent. All is right with the world.

If the left side is in front, the stitch is mounted twisted. In some stitch patterns, that’s a good thing. For regular old knitting, it needs to be reoriented so the right leg is in front. (Yes, I tend to call them legs. I think I got that from a class with Lucy Neatby. Wherever it came from, it has stuck.)

Knowing about stitch mount helps in a couple ways:

~ When you’re picking up stitches, place them on the needles with right legs in front. (Or, if they’re dropped, just rescue them any which way, then switch them around before you knit them.)

~ If the stitch is mounted twisted, with the left leg in front, you now know what to do with it to untwist it: Either reorient it or knit into the back loop. Both methods will untwist the stitch.

~ If you want to twist your stitch on purpose, you have two choices: reorient the stitch before knitting it (the long option) or knit into the back of the stitch (the short option).

~ To make your stitches twist in different directions, like for M1R or M1L increases, knowing how your stitches twist can eventually make those maneuvers second nature. This also works for twisted-stitch patterns.

To twist a stitch to the left, whether it’s with an actual stitch or a running stitch: With the stitch mounted normally (right leg in front), reach behind the stitch from right to left and knit into the back (left leg) of the stitch from right to left.

To twist a stitch to the right, whether it’s a normal stitch or a running stitch: Mount the stitch backwards (left leg in front) and knit into the front (left leg) of it from left to right.

I like to tell my students that if it feels slightly awkward and tight, it’s twisting. 🙂 If it’s too easy, it’s probably a normal stitch. This is especially true when picking up the running stitch to make an increase.

So, how do you remember which leg belongs in front? Here’s a handy little mnemonic trick:

  • When it’s mounted RIGHT, the RIGHT leg is in front.
  • Leave the LEFT leg behind: LEFT BEHIND. “Oh no! I’ve been left behind! Oh wait, that’s a good thing.”

Silly, I know. But hey, silly tends to stick in our brains. 😉

Tomorrow, more on mirroring increases and what to do when the pattern doesn’t specify which type of increase to use.

31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. www.aknitica.com #write31days #knittingtipsThis post is part of my 31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. Every day, I’ll post a new tip or trick to make your knitting nicer. You can follow along easily by subscribing. If you have any knitting problems you’d like me to fix, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question as part of the series. You can find all the posts in the series here.

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Perfect Bind Off in the Round: My Favourite Trick

I love this little trick for joining my cast-off edge in the round. It finished it up so nicely. Use it for the cast-off around cuffs, sock tops, headbands, or any other circular project that you’re binding off.

Cast off normally. (I assume you’re knitting 2, then passing the first stitch over, etc, until the end. But this also works with Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off and other cast off methods that look like a chain of V’s along the cast-off edge.)

When the last stitch has been cast off, cut the yarn, leaving a 6″ tail, but don’t thread the tail through the stitch.

Binding Off trick. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

Instead, pull the last loop until it gets bigger and bigger and then gigantic and then — gasp! — it grows so big that it pops out entirely. You’ll now have a straight, non-loopy tail that comes out of the previous cast-off stitch. Nothing will unravel; it can’t. That tail is still holding things in place.

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Using a darning needle, sew the tail underneath the first stitch of the round. Go under both sides of the stitch:

Binding off in the round trick. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

Now, poke the needle back through the last stitch of the round, where the tail originated.

Binding off in the round trick. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

You’ve just created a fake “stitch” in the chain of cast-off stitches. Sew in your end as normal. (I prefer to use duplicate stitch to sew in my ends.)

Perfect cast-off edge join for circular knitting. www.aknitica.com #knittingtips #write31days

Isn’t it gorgeous? I first learned this trick from Cat Bordhi’s book New Pathways for Sock Knitters. It’s one of my all-time favourites because not only did it help me to understand sock structure and give me a way to custom size my socks, but it was also full of little tips like this that made my knitting nicer. I definitely recommend it for every knitting reference library.
31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. www.aknitica.com #write31days #knittingtipsThis post is part of my 31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. Every day, I’ll post a new tip or trick to make your knitting nicer. You can follow along easily by subscribing. If you have any knitting problems you’d like me to fix, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question as part of the series. You can find all the posts in the series here.