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6 Helpful Tips For Knitting in the Round

June 2nd, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

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Knitting in the round can seem daunting, but with a bit of practice, it’s no more difficult than knitting on straight needles. Here are some tips that I hope will make it a bit easier!

1. Circulars and Length

The appropriate circular needle length is the same size or slightly shorter than the circumference of the piece you are knitting. If it’s too short you’ll have trouble keeping all the stitches on the needle; if it’s too long, the fabric will be stretched too taut (this is why you need to switch to double points when decreasing the crown of a hat).

2. A Neater Join

For some people, the usual way of knitting the first stitch of the round can be loose and therefore sloppy. You can tighten it up with the tail when weaving in the end later.

A better way to join it the round can be to cast on one extra stitch. Slip this stitch to the left (the first needle if casting on to double points); this is the beginning of the round and next to the first stitch you cast on. Then knit the two stitches together.

Still better, slip the first stitch you cast on to the right, next to the last cast on stitch. Pass the last cast on stitch (which is now the second stitch on the right) over the slipped stitch, give the yarn a tug and begin your round.

3. Which Double-Pointed Needles to Buy

Aluminum needles can be slippery and your stitches will always want to slide off. Try bamboo or plastic.

Double points come in different lengths. Longer ones can be a bit more awkward but for larger number of stitches, you’ll need them so your stitches don’t fall off.

They come in sets of 4 or 5. If you have the option, always buy 5; then you’ll have it if you need it (and if one disappears you’ll have a spare!).

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5 Ways to Knit Increases

May 26th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

An increase adds stitches and creates shaping as a general rule. Lace patterns will use increases to balance decreases and you usually end the row with the same number of stitches you started with.

Many times, the pattern will tell you which specific increase to use; this is especially true with lace patterns. If the pattern tells you to simply increase, use the default increase: knit in the front and back of the same stitch (usually abbreviated kfb).

When working an increase in shaping, such as making sleeves wider, work them at least one stitch in from the edge. This makes seaming much easier.

Let’s take a look at some various ways to increase (click on any highlighted text to see diagrams:

1. Knit in the Front and Back (kfb)

As mentioned earlier, this is the default increase. It’s sometimes called a bar increase as it leaves a noticeable “bar” of yarn from the original stitch as it’s manipulated twice. It does not distort and it’s a perfectly fine increase except for the bar. If you don’t look closely, it will not be noticed.

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How to Choose the Right Needles and Hooks For You

May 19th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

HooksKnitting needles and crochet hooks are as varied as the crafters who utilize them. There is no right or wrong when you select a one. Needles and hooks have specific attributes based on the material they are made from and the manufacturers specifications. Only you can decide what type of needle or hook you like best and you may find that, depending upon the yarn you are using, you’ll reach for a different type than you used for your last project.

If you can afford it, buy several different types so that you can experiment and find your favorite.

Not All the Same

Some needles have very blunt tips while others have sharper tips. Some hooks have rounded heads and others have pointier heads. The shank (the smaller part of the needle or hook prior to where the sized portion begins) varies in length. You may never find these factors of much importance, or you may find it’s the difference between a tool that allows you to work swiftly and one that just seems to hang you up.

Tip: If you find your yarn to be “splitty” with a hook or needles that have sharper tips, try tools with more blunt tips.

NeedlesThese tools are made in a wide variety of materials. You’ll find them available in plastic, aluminum, bamboo, rosewood, ebony, and much more. When selecting the tools for a project, you should consider three factors based on materials: weight, temperature, and how slippery they are.

Weight

Plastic and bamboo is lighter while aluminum is heavier. This is more of a factor in knitting than crocheting because you have two needles you are using and they are longer than hooks. You might prefer aluminum overall, and if you are knitting something light such as booties, the weight of the needles will probably be of little or no consequence. However, with a larger project, you may choose to use a different set of needles.

Temperature

Bamboo and wood remain at a fairly constant temperature. They will not feel cold to the touch on a cold winter night. Aluminum conducts heat and cold so they might feel hot if you are knitting in the sun or cold if it’s cool wherever you may be knitting.

Slippery vs. Non-Slip

Yarns can vary in terms of how “sticky” or “slippery” they are. You may find your slippery yarn sliding right off aluminum needles, which tend to be quite slick. Bamboo, which has more grip, would be a better choice here. On the other hand, if you are knitting with a yarn that tends to stick, you might want to use a more slippery needle. Tip: If your needles or hook is too sticky and you don’t have others to select from, rub some wax paper over it and the yarn will glide much easier.

Other Types of Needles and Hooks

In addition to the above, circular needles and some Tunisian hooks (also called Afghan hooks) may pose yet another factor to consider. The joins, where the needles or hook meet the cable, are different depending upon the brand. Some may catch the yarn while others are much smoother. Some swivel, making the tool more flexible.

Tip: To straighten the cables, put them in hot water for a minute. The kinks will come out of the cable.

Editor’s Note: If you’re finding that you’re having trouble achieving the gauge in a pattern and you’re between hook or needle sizes, try a hook/needles made of a different material, as the “stickiness” or “slipperiness” may affect how tightly or loosely you knit or crochet. Remember, an accurate gauge is the key to getting an accurately sized garment!

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5 Steps To Designing Your Own Scarf

May 12th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

Although there are many lovely scarf patterns available, a scarf is relatively simple to design, and it’s a great way to venture into your very first custom design. By understanding a five simple concepts, you’ll be able to design and knit or crochet beautiful scarves on your own.

While most basic crochet fabrics are relatively flat, many knitters venture into their own scarf pattern by simply working in stockinette stitch, and then they see it rolls and have knit what amounts to a big tube. Stockinette rolls. You can’t stop it. It’s the nature of the fabric that is produced when you knit one row and purl the next. What you can do is work the first and last 3 or 4 rows in garter stitch or seed stitch as well as the first and last 3 or 4 stitches in each row. This will usually keep a stockinette scarf from rolling.

Seasonless Scarf Knit Rainbow Ridge Scarf Angora Lace Scarf
Crochet
Seasonless Scarf
Knit
Rainbow Ridge Scarf
Knit
Angora Lace Scarf

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How to Attach and Make a Fringe Trim for Any Project

May 5th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

Fringe can be added to just about any project: afghans, scarves, shawls, even the bottom of a sweater.

There are countless variations. It can be long or short. You can add just a few strands or a thick bundle. Fringe sections can be spaced close together or far apart. Use the same yarn you used in the project or a contrasting color; you can use an entirely different yarn as well. Or you can combine different yarns within the same section. Strands can be even or you can make them differing lengths, either within the same fringe section or alternating sections. Experiment and have fun!

Here are some examples of projects using fringe:

Croak Skull Illusion Scarf Loom Knit Fringed Poncho Knit Cabled and Fringed Hat
Knit
Croak Skull Illusion Scarf
Loom
Knit Fringe Poncho
Knit
Cabled and Fringe Hat

Some yarn frays quickly at the end when it’s cut; some people like how this looks and others don’t. Eventually all fringe will fray at the ends with wear to some degree. If you would like to minimize this, you can either knot the ends of your fringe or apply a fabric glue or seam sealer, such as Fray Check (a liquid seam sealer used in sewing). Keep in mind that while this will minimize fraying, there will be this glue-like substance on the ends.

Here’s how to make and attach fringe:

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Working with Multiple Strands of Yarn

April 28th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

There are so many different patterns that call for working with two, three, or even four strands held together (our Spring 2014 Knit-Along pattern, the Spring Lace Shawl, calls for four). Why do designers like working with multiple strands? There are quite a few reasons. Different colors held together and worked together as one can create a tweedy color effect. Two different yarns together may create a unique texture. Other times, the multiple strands will make for one extremely bulky yarn which enables an afghan to be worked up very quickly. Here are a few examples:

Marmalade Kimono Crochet Mother of the Bride Crochet 5/12 Hour Throw
Knit Marmalade Kimono: Two colors held together for a tweedy look. Crochet Mother of the Bride Shawl: Two different yarns held together for a combined texture. Crochet 5 1/2 Hour Throw: Several strands held together for a fast finish project.

If you’ve never knit or crocheted with multiple strands, don’t worry: just pretend you are working with a single strand; each stitch is made as if you were holding one strand of yarn. That’s really all there is to it.

Once you get started, you may find the strands twist together. People have come up with all kinds of ideas to try to prevent this from happening. You can section off a shoebox, putting one skein in each section, and make holes in the top to feed the yarn through. There’s even a gizmo specifically made for this purpose that you may see in stores. While these organizers will keep your balls from getting tangled into each other, they will not keep the strands of yarn from twisting as you knit or crochet them. This is in part due to how you wrap the yarn around your fingers as you feed it through as you work each stitch. I wrap it several times and every wrap twists it. Don’t worry if this happens though; it makes no difference if the strands are twisted around each other or not. The stitches will look the same regardless.

Here is the one word of caution however: it’s easy for the strands to get so tangled that loose loops start to form. Just take care that you don’t have any of these loops lurking as you work each stitch. If those loops are becoming a frequent problem, try running your fingers through and down the strands toward the skeins to eliminate some of them. If you are still having the problem, hold the strands of yarn and dangle the work itself, letting it spin to untwist the strands. I’ve found this a much easier solution than dangling the individual skeins.

Enjoy your next multiple strand project!

Want to learn more about creating colors by using multiple strands of yarn? Click here to read our popular blog post about the topic. 

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To sign up for the Weekly Stitch and get columns like this, free patterns, how-to videos and more, click here.


How to Make a Repeating Stitch Into a Scarf or Afghan

April 21st, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter.

You have a throw pattern with a beautiful stitch pattern, but you’d like to make it wider or narrower. Or perhaps you’d like to make it into a scarf. Maybe the converse is true…you’d like to change a scarf into a throw.

It’s not as difficult as it may seem, even if you are a beginner!

There are two vital concepts that must be understood to accomplish this.

Calculating the Repeating Pattern

The first is the stitch multiple, or the number of stitches needed for one repeat of the stitch pattern. A multiple of 5 stitches means you can cast on any number of stitches that is divisible by 5 such as 25, 30, etc. A multiple of 6 + 1 means you need to cast on any number of stitches that is divisible by 6 plus 1 extra stitch; examples include 25, 37, etc.

Sometimes the pattern will tell you the multiple of stitches used which makes it much easier to make adjustments. If the information is not included, you will need to determine this yourself. You do this simply by adding up how many stitches are used.

Here’s a stitch pattern called Twin Rib:

Row 1: *k3, p3; rep from *
Row 2: *k1, p1; rep from *

Leaves of Grass Stitch
 Leaves of Grass Stitch

Row 1 uses 6 stitches (3 + 3) while Row 2 uses 2 stitches (1 + 1). The pattern is a multiple of 6 because that is the larger number and you need 6 stitches for Row 1 to work correctly. Since 6 is evenly divisible by 2, the 2 stitches in Row 2 are more frequently repeated.

Calculating Your Desired Gauge.

Crochet Cable Stitch The second concept is gauge. You might hate working a gauge swatch, but it really is important. Work your swatch in the stitch pattern. Measure how many stitches you get over 4 inches. Now divide by 4 to determine stitches per inch.

The “magic formula” is stitches per inch x desired width=number of stitches to cast on.Keep in mind that given a certain set of parameters, the exact width you wish to make your project may not be possible without making further adjustments to, for example, your gauge by switching either yarn or needle size.

Let’s say your gauge is 5 stitches per inch, you are using a stitch pattern that is a multiple of 12 and you wish to make a throw 33″ wide. 5 (sts per inch) x 33 (desired width)=165, so you would cast on 165 stitches. However, 165 is not evenly divisible by 12, so that won’t work for your stitch multiple of 12. You’ll need to choose the number closest to 165 evenly divisible by 12, which is 168.

Crochet Cable Stitch

Armed with that bit of knowledge, you can now easily adjust any throw or scarf pattern you have, even if it’s not written at the size you really wanted!

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To sign up for the Weekly Stitch and get columns like this, free patterns, how-to videos and more, click here.


How to Determine if there is an Mistake in the Pattern, Part 2

April 14th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter

Last week I went over how to read an afghan pattern. Today we’re going to look at a sweater example.

Inez Cardigan

This pattern has a series of increases to shape the collar and decreases for the armholes and shoulders but it’s not tricky to break down the number of stitches you should have. To make this example easier to follow, I’ve eliminated the multiple sizes in the pattern.

Shape Collar

Next Row (RS): K 6, inc 1 st in next st, place marker, sl 1, place marker, inc 1 st in next st, k to end of row – 43 sts.
Next Row: Purl.
Next Row: K to 1 st before first marker, inc 1 st in next st, sl marker, sl 1, sl marker, inc 1 st in next st, k to end of row – 45 sts.
Rep last 2 rows 21 more times

There are 2 increases each time the increase row is worked so 21×2=42

You had 45 stitches to begin; 42+45=87 stitches

The pattern continues: and AT THE SAME TIME, when piece measures 17 in. (43 cm) from beg, end with a RS row and shape armhole.
Shape Armhole
Bind off 7 sts at beg of next WS row. Work until armhole measures same as Back to shoulders, end with a RS row and shape shoulder.

You’ve eliminated 7 stitches.
87-7=80 stitches
Shape Shoulder
Bind off 6 sts at beg of next WS row and 6 at beg of following WS row – 68 sts.

You’ve eliminated 6 stitches 2 times.
80-12=68 stitches

Conclusion

Once you understand the pattern line by line, it will be easier for you to follow it and maintain the right stitch count. Stitch markers can be helpful when there are repeats, so that you can mark each section and keep track of them. If you determine that there is an error, you can send a note to the pattern’s publisher so they can correct it in the future. By breaking down the pattern as we have above, you can also often determine what the correct stitch count will be so that you can continue working on your project.
Finally, if a pattern is frustrating you at the moment, take a break! Leave it and look at it with fresh eyes the next day. Often, when you come back to a pattern later on, it becomes obvious what the issue may have been.

To sign up for the Weekly Stitch and get columns like this, free patterns, how-to videos and more, click here.

*Editor’s note: While we triple-check each pattern for errors here at Lion Brand, an occasional one may slip through. If that happens, you can contact us via LionBrand.com. When we issue a correction, we include a note at the top of the pattern (for people who may have previously printed out the pattern, but we also incorporate the changes into the body of the pattern for new people downloading the pattern so that you don’t have to worry about the correction.


How to Determine if there is a Mistake in the Pattern, Part 1

April 7th, 2014

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This column by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, originally appeared in The Weekly Stitch newsletter

You’ve completed a row and something isn’t right. You have 2 sts left. Or you’ve completed the row but the pattern still has instructions for the row you haven’t worked. You try it again and there’s still a problem. What do you do?

It’s possible there is an error in the pattern…it does happen sometimes*. Or despite the fact that you’ve worked it twice now, you may be misunderstanding or skipping part of it.

If you break down the section or row by number of stitches used and number of stitches remaining (if there is an increase or decrease), it will be easier to determine if there is a pattern error or if it’s a knitter/crocheter error.

Let’s look at an example of how to do this.

Cromwell Court Afghan

This pattern is worked over 114 stitches. At the end of this row, you should still have 114 stitches.

Row 3: K3, (k2tog) 3 times, (yo, k1) 6 times, *(k2tog) 6 times, (yo, k1) 6 times; rep from * to last 9 sts, (k2tog) 3 times, k3.

First, let’s look at K3, (k2tog) 3 times, (yo, k1) 6 times,

There are 3 decreases (k2tog) and 6 increases (yo). You have used 15 stitches (k3, k2tog 3 times, k1 6 times [3+6+6]) and you have 18 stitches on the right needle now (3+3+12).

*(k2tog) 6 times, (yo, k1) 6 times; rep from * to last 9 sts,

This repeat has 6 decreases and 6 increases so the number of stitches used is the same as the number you have on your right needle for this section. The yo’s compensate for the k2tog decreases.

There are 18 stitches used (k2tog 6 times, k1 6 times [12+6]) and 18 new stitches (6+12).

This section is repeated 5 times.

We know this because we started with 114 stitches, we used 15 stitches prior to the asterisk, and we will have 9 stitches left to work.

114-15-9=90 stitches worked over the repeat

90 divided by 18 stitches used=5

(k2tog) 3 times, k3.

There are 3 decreases and no increases. So the last section compensates for the 3 extra increases in the first section.
You have used 9 stitches (6+3) and there are 6 new sts (3+3).

So the total number of stitches used is 15+90+9=114
The total number of stitches you now have is 18+90+6=114

Conclusion

Here are four simple tips to help you think there is an error in a pattern:

  1. Try to understand the pattern line by line so you can follow it and maintain the right stitch count.
  2. Use stitch markers, which can be helpful when there are repeats. Mark each section and keep track of them.
  3. If you do determine there is an error, send a note to the pattern’s publisher so can correct it in the future.
  4. If a pattern is frustrating you at the moment, take a break! Leave it and look at it with fresh eyes the next day. Often, when you come back to a pattern later on, it becomes obvious what the issue may have been.

Next week we’ll be looking at another example: a sweater pattern.

To sign up for the Weekly Stitch and get columns like this, free patterns, how-to videos and more, click here.

*Editor’s note: While we triple-check each pattern for errors here at Lion Brand, an occasional one may slip through. If that happens, you can contact us via LionBrand.com. When we issue a correction, we include a note at the top of the pattern (for people who may have previously printed out the pattern, but we also incorporate the changes into the body of the pattern for new people downloading the pattern so that you don’t have to worry about the correction.


Keeping to Pattern

April 6th, 2014

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We’re reposting some of our favorite columns by Barbara Breiterauthor of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, previously featured in our Weekly Stitch newsletter.

When knitting a project that involves a stitch pattern (something other than stockinette or garter stitch) and shaping, such a sweater or hat, you will likely run into the term “keeping to pattern”. It may be written as “keep to established pattern”, “work pattern as established”, or “continue in established pattern”; they all essentially mean the same thing.

When working on the non-shaping section, you will knit your stitch pattern, following the written instructions for each row. But if you increase or decrease at each end of a row while shaping, those rows will no longer begin and end as written because you have added or subtracted stitches. But you need to keep the previous stitches aligned so the stitch pattern continues.

doubleseedstitchMany times, you can simply look at your knitting and see where you are within the stitch pattern. This is why it’s important to learn to “read your knitting” and understand by looking at your work the sequence of knits, purls, yarn-overs, etc. Knitting from a chart is also an advantage here because you can look on each side of the pattern repeat and understand visually where you are in the row.

There are times when it’s more difficult to follow where you are at or perhaps you are just starting out. So let’s work through an example of Double Seed Stitch, sometimes known as Box Stitch:

Multiple of 4
Rows 1 and 2: *k2, p2; rep from *
Rows 3 and 4: *p2, k2; rep from *

Let’s suppose you began with 16 stitches and you have increased one stitch on each end on Row 4. You now have 18 stitches and you can no longer begin Row 1 with a knit stitch because you no longer have a multiple of 8 and knits and purls will no longer align as intended.

How should you be keeping to pattern when you work Row 1 again? You would begin p1, then proceed to begin the row as written. The first stitch you work is the last stitch of the row as written. You are working backwards from the end of the repeat to the beginning of the repeat as you increase stitches.

keepYou will also have one extra stitch at the end of the row. As written, you ended Row 1 p2. Because you have an extra stitch, the row will now end with k1, which is the first stitch of the row as written. The last stitch you work is the first stitch of the row as written…the repeat is starting over again. However, you won’t have enough stitches to complete the row as written.

So, the new Row 1 would be:
P1, *k2, p2; rep from *, end k1

Remember that where you begin and end each row will change each time you add more stitches. If you increased one stitch at each end again, Row 1 would now be:
P2, *k2, p2; rep from *, end k2

Or even more simply:
*p2, k2; rep from *

When you decrease you eliminate stitches, so again you need to recalculate how to begin the row and how it should end.

Let’s suppose you were working over 16 stitches again but this time you decreased at the beginning of Row 1. You would have k2tog and this brings you to p2 as the next step. You would then continue k2, p2.

You don’t need to worry about ending the row when you decrease. As long as you begin in the correct place, the row will end when you’ve run out of stitches and they will all be aligned as intended.

Remember, just as with increasing, where you begin and end will change each time you decrease stitches.

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