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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! ūüôā ¬†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. ūüôā 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. ūüôā 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. ūüėČ

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.

2014-10-08 22.04.52

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.

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How to Make Nice Edges in Knitting

Want your exposed edges to be smooth and lovely? There’s a trick for that.

You can substitute this nice edges technique on pretty much any knitting pattern, as long as the stitch pattern doesn’t¬†extend to¬†the edge stitches. For example, this is great for scarves, sometimes shawls, and the little button band I just knit on my daughter’s sweater.

The designer had called for a little button tab to be worked in k1, p1 ribbing, ending with a k1 on the right-side rows. I could have just knit it as written, but I decided to add slipped-stitch edges to give it a line of smooth V’s running down the sides instead of the look you get from normal ribbed edges. It was a personal choice. The other way would have worked just fine.

Here’s how it works

Slip the first stitch of every row purlwise with yarn in front (from tip to tip, without twisting the stitch). Work the rest of the row normally until you get to the very last stitch. Knit it.

That’s it. The first stitch is always slipped, the last stitch is always knit. The end.

Here's a slipped stitch edge on a poncho thingy I made from Melanie Falick's book, Weekend Knitting. I think that was the first place I, personally, saw this technique.
Here’s a slipped stitch edge on a poncho thingy I made from Melanie Falick’s book, Weekend Knitting. I think that was the first place I, personally, saw this technique.

When to use this technique

On exposed edges that you want to look neat that might otherwise look… not so neat.

When not to use this technique

On edges that will be part of seams or picked-up stitches. (Unless the designer tells you otherwise. Sometimes they do.)

On edges that are meant to be worked with a different edge treatment, like garter-stitch edges along shawl sides or something. You could probably decide to change that if you really prefer the slipped stitch edge. It’s usually an aesthetic decision rather than a structural decision in that case.

Extra tip

If you’d like to work the slipped-stitch edge on your scarf, but there aren’t an extra stitches at the edge you could work them on… add them! Cast on two extra stitches and work them with this edge treatment. Easy peasy.

Try it out on your next scarf and see if you like it! Then, file it away in your mental toolbox for future projects. It’s always nice to have choices.

p.s. There’s an opposite way to work this technique. I guess I’d better tell you. They both end up with the same result, so try them both and pick a favourite:

Knit the first stitch of every row, then work the rest of the row normally until you get to the very last stitch. Slip it purlwise with yarn in front.

So, will you try it? Did you like it? Let me know in the comments.

p.p.s. If you were looking for a tip on how to neaten up other edges, check out this previous post in the 31 Days to Nicer Knitting series.

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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How to Use Your Gauge to Decide What Size to Knit

The big question with gauge isn’t really how to get it, but “Will this sweater fit when I’m done?”

Let’s say your gauge is close but not quite. You’ve substituted yarn and changed needle sizes, and it’s pretty close to what the designer recommends, but maybe it’s coming out to in between sizes. How do you choose which size to knit?

The first thing to take into account is ease. A good pattern will usually tell you how much ease has been built in. What is ease?

Negative ease means the fit is tighter than the body measurements. It will be tight and stretchy.

Zero ease means the fit matches the body measurements. It will be form fitting but not stretched.

Positive ease means the fit is bigger than the body measurements. It will be trim but not form fitting with 2″ of positive ease. It will be¬†a relaxed fit¬†with 3-4″ of positive ease. More than that could be baggy, oversized, drapey, or breezy, depending on the garment style.

If the sweater you’re knitting is aiming for 2″ of positive ease, then you know you have some wiggle room with your stitches. As long you choose the size that knits up to be¬†slightly bigger than your body measurements, it should work.

But first, here’s how to find out how large your sweater will be based on your gauge:

If your pattern’s called-for gauge is¬†4 Sts per inch, and your chest measurement is 34″, and the sweater measurement is 36″, then the pattern will likely tell you to cast¬†on about 144 Sts (assuming the fit is straight and the stitch pattern is simple). Because 4 x 36 is 144.

But let’s say that you keep getting 4.5 Sts per inch. What size¬†would your sweater be if you just knit it at that gauge? Well, 144 divided by 4.5 Sts per inch is 32″. Your sweater would end up being 4″ smaller in circumference. It would have 2″ of negative ease instead of 2″ of positive ease. Uh oh.

What if you’d like to stick with that 4.5 Sts per inch gauge and just cast on the right number? In that case, you’d multiply your Sts per inch (4.5) by the size you want (36″) to find the new St total around the chest, which would be 162 in this case.

But, you’d have to be ready to make other adjustments during the pattern, too. Changing the Sts can change the stitch pattern repeats (if you’re working cables, for instance), it can change the number of decreases or increases used, the cast on number, etc…. Better to just choose another¬†size in the pattern and use the numbers the designer already calculated for you. (We use spreadsheets. And calculators. And percentages.)

So which size would you choose? Well, in this case, you’d choose a larger size for your stitches, but use the same length measurements as for the size you would have chosen so you don’t end up with too-long arms or a weirdly situated waist shaping.

Did this help you today, or is this whole sweater math thing still confusing? Leave me a comment and let me know. Tomorrow, I’m going to start showing you some little tricks for making nice edges in knitting.

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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How to Adjust Gauge in Knitting

Yesterday, we talked about a simple way to measure gauge.

Now, what do you do if your gauge isn’t matching the gauge your pattern calls for? How do you adjust gauge easily?

If you have too many stitches per inch, that means your stitches are too small and you need to make them bigger. Go up a needle size and try again.

If you have too few stitches per inch, that means your stitches are too big and you need to make them smaller. Go down a needle size and try again.

Keep adjusting your needle size until your gauge matches the pattern’s gauge.

To test different needle sizes using one swatch, work about an inch or two of stockinette using one needle size, then knit a ridge in garter stitch (knitting the wrong-side row instead of purling it). Change needle sizes and work another inch or two in stockinette. Knit another garter ridge, then change needle sizes again. This way, all your different gauges will be separated by a garter ridge.

To remember which needle size made which section, you could do a couple things:

1) Write it down in detail in a notebook of knitting & project notes.

2) At the start of each new section, work 7 purl stitches (bumps) for size 7 US needles, 6 purl bumps for size 6 needles, etc. Then, your notes will be knit right into your swatch.

3) Use your Ravelry project page as your notebook and write it all down there. Or use Evernote. Whatever digital brain works best for you.

4) Unless you’re Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, don’t assume that you’ll remember. If you’re more like me, you’ll think you’ll remember, then you’ll get distracted by something else and forget about it for a couple days, then pick it up and wish you’d written everything down somewhere.

If you’re a really tight knitter, don’t be alarmed if you need to go up a couple of needle sizes. That’s totally normal.

If you’re a really loose knitter, you may need to go down¬†a couple of¬†needle sizes. Also totally normal.

The point of getting gauge isn’t to compare yourself to others’ knitting styles, but to accurately measure your own knitting, in your own style, and make it work for you.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about adjusting patterns to fit our gauge. Sometimes, we want to use a different yarn that just won’t cooperate. How do we make it work?

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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How to Measure Gauge in Knitting

In knitting, “gauge” just means how many stitches you get per inch using your yarn and your needles.

Some of us knit tightly, some knit loosely, and some of us knit with average tension. And that’s why we need to measure gauge before starting a project that we want to actually fit. If your stitches are bigger than the designer’s were, then your sweater and her sweater will look vastly different, even if you both cast on¬†the same number of stitches.

There are a couple methods out there for measuring gauge. This is the simplest one I know:

Lay a straight ruler along a row of stitches. (Not a fabric measuring tape; they can stretch and distort the measurements over time.)

Line it up with the zero measuring line directly between two knit stitches. Knit stitches look like V’s, so the line should be between two full V’s.

Now, count the V’s that are in that inch. If your inch contains 4 full V’s and just one side of a V, the gauge is 4.5 Sts per inch.

Move the ruler to another row, across other columns of V’s, and measure again. Measure three times, in three different places, and average your measurements. Don’t forget to include the partial knit stitches because they’ll make a difference. If there’s just a quarter of a V, don’t ignore it.

It might help to poke your needle tip in the center of each V as you count it. Do NOT count in the upside-down V’s. If you need to blink, poke your needle in the V first so you don’t lose your place.

Do not measure gauge near the cast on edge or near the sides of your swatch or directly under your needles. Measure in the middle where the stitches are not distorted. (This means that your gauge swatch needs to be big enough to have a middle with undistorted stitches. Aim for about 4 – 6 inches wide and tall.)

About your gauge swatch

Don’t dread your gauge swatch! It is your friend. It can save you hours of frustration. Would you like to spend a whole month knitting an entire sweater that doesn’t actually fit a human person? Neither would I.

Now, here’s the trick about gauge swatches. They won’t show you how your sweater will behave unless you wash them, just like you’re going to wash your sweater, and then measure them. Sure, your sweater might fit perfectly before you wash it, but what will the yarn do after it’s been washed? Some fibers really fluff up and spread out or relax or do nothing. You won’t know until you test it. So wash your swatch.

(For the yarn-frugal, yes, you can probably unravel a washed swatch if you need to later. Or, you could save them all up for a walk-down-knitting-memory-lane patchwork blanket.)

If you’ll be knitting your project in the round, knit your gauge swatch in the round, too. Most of us purl more loosely than we knit, so this really does make a difference. Knit your swatch in a way that mirrors your project. Always.

Most patterns will tell you whether their gauge was measured over the pattern (like cables or lace) or over stockinette. There’s a bit of disagreement on which way is better, but for your gauge swatch, measure it in the same way the designer did.

Row gauge

Row gauge is really hard to match. And most of the time, it doesn’t matter, because a pattern will tell you to knit for such-and-such inches instead of so many rows. So don’t worry too much about it unless the pattern tells you to.

There’s lots more to talk about when it comes to gauge. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how to adjust your gauge and how to do some basic knitting math.

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 Knit Faster

There are a couple tricks you can use to speed up your knitting.

Repetition – Back when I was a kid in dance class, we used to groan every time our teacher said, “Do it again.” We thought we already knew the steps. Was she telling us we sucked? Nope. She was preparing us for the big show. She knew that we’d get out there on the stage and our minds would freeze and we’d forget everything. But she also knew that if we practiced enough, our muscle memory would kick in and we could do the steps terrified.

You want your fingers to¬†remember your knit stitches in your sleep. It’s fairly easy to repeat knitting, since every project requires many stitches. But new knitters might feel better to know that even though things feel horribly awkward at first, once you repeat a series¬†of movements enough for muscle memory to kick in, you’re golden.

Visualization – As you drift off to sleep, instead of counting sheep, picture your hands knitting. Zoom in close. See how the motion of the needles grabs the yarn and scoops it through the stitches. Knit in your imagination, smoothing out the motions and gradually quickening them. Visualize how it feels as well as looks. Do this every night, or every time your mind wanders, or when you’re brushing your teeth — whenever works for you.

I know visualization sounds a little weird, but it really works. It’s how I sped up both my knitting and my typing. When your brain works on an activity, with or without the muscles, it forms new, fast, more-direct pathways, which in turn will make you knit faster.

Positive thinking – Let me tell you a secret to life: You’ll never get anything done well if you tell yourself you can’t do it. You have control over your thoughts. You’re in charge. If you’re used to telling yourself things like It’s too hard, I’m never going to get this, I’m not smart/good/fast enough and I never will be…. well, guess what? You probably never will be because you’ll be stopping yourself the whole time. So give yourself a chance. Be kind. When the knitting¬†gets frustrating or slow, remind yourself, It’s okay. I’m working on this. It’ll get better. Because you, my dear, are an amazing miracle, and you can do whatever you put your mind to.

Knitting with your eyes closed – Do it for just one stitch. Look to make sure you didn’t mess it up. Knit another stitch. And another. What’s the point of this? Well, not only is it handy for simple knitting in movie theatres, it also gives your hands a chance to really feel what you’re doing. Focus on how the stitches feel as they move through your fingertips. Your sense of touch can help you knit faster. As you learn to trust your fingers, you’ll gain more confidence and speed up.

Listening to upbeat music – And keeping up with the beat. Your hands will fall into a rhythmic trance as your body moves in time with the beat. Conversely, I find that listening to relaxing music makes my knitting slow down.

Being intentional¬†– I can knit really fast, but sometimes I find my mind wandering and my hands moving slowly. If I have a gift to finish, that’s no good. I have to actually think about it and tell my hands to speed up. And then I go put some upbeat music on so my mind can wander again.

What about you? Are you a fast knitter or a slow knitter? Have you ever tried any of these tricks before, and have they worked for you or not? Leave me a reply in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

How to Knit Faster. 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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Choosing the Right Yarn for Your Knitting Project: Quick Guide

So how do you know which yarn to choose for your project? Well, there are many options. Let’s talk about them.

But first, does it have to be the yarn suggested by the designer? No. No, it does not. But it should probably have some similarities.

The qualities to look for when choosing yarn for your project

Fiber content. What the yarn is made of affects so many things: how to wash it, how it drapes, how it feels, and how it lasts. Try to choose a yarn with a similar fiber content to the one suggested. It doesn’t have to be identical. Just not opposite. For instance, if you’re knitting something lacey or cable-y, choose something you can block to shape, like a wool or cotton. Acrylic will just spring back into its original form and won’t hold blocking. Very sad. (More on blocking later this month.)

If you want something cozy that also breathes, choose wool or superwash wool.

If you want something super drapey, choose bamboo (viscose), silk, or cotton, or a blend that includes them.

If you want something machine washable and dryable, choose acrylic, cotton, bamboo, or superwash wool.

If you want something luscious that will look amazing forever, choose cashmere, wool, silk, or a blend thereof.

If you want something super soft, choose merino (a type of wool), alpaca, cashmere, silk, a nice acrylic, a nice cotton, angora, mohair… The list could go on. There are so many gorgeous yarns out there.

If you want a workhorse yarn for making dishcloths, cheap cotton is the way to go.

If you want a workhorse yarn for making warm outerwear that’ll get dirty and used and worn lots, use any old 100% wool with multiple plies. (Plies are strands all twisted together.) If it’s itchy, it’s okay because it won’t be worn next to the skin.

If you want to make chemo caps or something for sensitive skin, use something soft and luscious with no hairs. Use the “soft” list above, but scratch off alpaca and mohair. They have hairs in them that make many people itch.

If you’re making baby soakers or longies, 100% wool is the only way to go. Keep in mind that wool refers to all animal fibers, not just sheep’s fleece. I love wool, but I’ll have to save my reasons for a different post.

Yarn weight. The term “weight” here actually refers to the yarn’s thickness. You’ll want to find a yarn that’s the same weight as the one the designer recommends. Yarns can also be classified by their gauge:¬†how many stitches per inch they knit up to. The standard North American weights, in order from finest to thickest, are

  1. Lace weight
  2. Fingering weight or Sock weight
  3. Sport weight or Baby weight
  4. DK weight or Light Worsted
  5. Worsted weight
  6. Heavy worsted or aran
  7. Bulky
  8. Super bulky

Sometimes, they get grouped together, but I really do find there’s a difference between Worsted and Aran. Also, lace weight can be found as super-fine cobweb lace or slightly heavier lace, but they’re all grouped together in one inadequate category.

Colour. This is really a personal choice, so I have only one thing to say: If you’re going to spend hours working an intricate stitch pattern (lace or cables come to mind), don’t use a variegated yarn. All those colours will just drown out your fancy stitches. What a waste.

And those are the basics. A quick primer in yarn choices. Did I miss anything? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

How to Get Perfect Tension in Knitting. www.aknitica.com #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.