When working in the round, there are choices. Some pieces are large enough that you can simply use circular needles, spread the stitches around, and get to knitting. However, when the circumference is small, knitting in the round requires a way to move the stitches in closer proximity than what 16" circulars allow. Two of your options for knitting these smaller circumferences are either using double pointed needles or something called the magic loop method. These certainly are not your only two options, but they are both very good ones and most patterns are written to accommodate these two methods. I like both, but I like them for different things. I'll break it down for you here. This is not a tutorial on the how to execute these methods but more on how to choose which is right for you...or perhaps which is right for your project...or maybe just to inspire you to try one that you haven't yet ventured toward. This is purely submitted for your consideration and is based on personal experience and taste. We are all knitters as unique as the yarns and projects we choose, circular knitting is equally dynamic in taste and range.
Double Pointed Needles (DPNs)
With double pointed needles, you use three or more needles to hold your live stitches while using an additional needle to knit. These needles, as the name suggests, are pointed on either end so that you can knit and slide you stitches from one needle to the next with ease. Ideally, you spread your live stitches evenly on your working needles. You can use this method to knit very tiny rounds.
What I Like About DPNs
I feel like the flow of my knitting is a little smoother with DPNs. With this method, you just keep on knitting- there is no stopping to tug on cords- one needle just flows to the next. I especially like DPNs when I'm working with lace weight of fingering weight yarns because my working area is confined to just my needles and I feel I can work with a more delicate touch. There are no lengthy cords sticking out and tugging at my project, which can sometimes feel a bit tangly to me, especially with the lighter weight yarns. I also really like using DPNs when a project has few stitches or a particularly small circumference.
What I Don't Like About DPNs
When using double points, I like to shift where one needle's stitches stop and another needle's start. This is because at the join of the DPNs, the stitch is a little looser as I work. While this usually resolves itself with quality blocking, I don't like the appearance of these loose little seams in my knitting. By shifting the stitches around periodically, this problem can be avoided. However, sometimes it's more convenient to work with a set number of stitches on each needle, depending on the pattern. Also, there are three to four needles with stitches on them...and these needles have double points...and stitches like to fall off needles when you aren't looking. I would say that DPNs are less project bag friendly for this reason. There is not a great way of securing your live stitches from slipping and sliding other than being careful when handling.
The Magic Loop
This method essentially divides your knitting in the round into two rows of knitting by using circular needles with a lengthy cord. Half of your stitches go on the left hand needle to create your "front" row, the other half of your stitches patiently wait their turn on the cord in the "back" row. A long cord is necessary so that you can pull the right hand needle around to knit while still keeping a loop of cord between your front row of knit stitches on the left hand needle and those back row stitches that sit on the cord. When you finish the "front" row, it will have moved from the left to the right needle. You flip the whole operation over so that the front becomes the back, shift the stitches on the right hand needle to the cord and shift the stitches from the cord to the left hand needle. The right needle always stays the right needle and the left needle always stays the left. It really is like magic.
What I Like About Magic Loop
There is a lot to like about the Magic Loop method. First off, you do not need a special set of needles. Especially if you already have some interchangeable circular needles, you probably have what you need to implement this method. You do need a long cord- somewhere in the 32-40" range so you can comfortably maneuver your needles while maintaining your loops. I really like using magic loop on things like sweater sleeves. This is partially because I can usually use whatever circular needles I was knitting with for the body to also do the sleeves. Since you are using circular needles, everything is connected and there is very little risk of stitches falling off or things getting messy in a well-travelled project bag. Also, there are always only two areas where you can get the loose stitch seams I spoke of previously. And as a bonus, though I'm not really that great at it, you can knit two sleeves or socks at a time with the magic loop method, which is not possible with double points. The method is very versatile.
What I Don't Like About Magic Loop
I don't mind the stop and shift of rows from front to back for larger circumferences or heavier weight yarns, but this stopping and pulling slows my flow. So, for smaller projects or more delicate work, I find this stopping to be a little cumbersome. Also, for lighter weight yarns, I find that the cord wants to tug a little more at those loose stitch seams where the front and back rows meet. I know these are small complaints, but it is truthfully why for things such as socks, mittens or the tops of hats I typically stick with double pointed needles.
As with any knitting technique, it is important you find what works for you. Whether seeing double or doing magic (or perhaps a little bit of both) it is always nice to have more than one trick up your sleeve. It is also fun to try new things. As I tell my kids when they refuse to try my latest vegetable concoction- you never know, you might be missing out on your new favorite thing.
I'd love to hear about what method you use. Do you have an arsenal of circular knitting tricks or do you stick to one that is tried and true?
I always get the words mixed up, but I believe there is a modern proverb that goes something like; "Neccesity is the mother of invention." Sounds good even if its not the right phrasing. And I think more to the point is how true the sentiment is. The other day I was warping a rather large project on my PVC loom, and somehow or other, about four of my warp threads ended up being a yard too short. I could hazard a few guesses as to how it happened, but the how it happened at the time was not nearly as important as how in the world I was going to fix it. My first impulse was to just cut my losses and make my warp a yard shorter than planned and cross my fingers I included enough warp waste in my calculations. That seemed very risky, though. Especially since I was planning a lot of weaving on this warp- it would be awful to get to the end and be just short of a complete project.
Then, my husband pulled out his phone and did some internet magic. (He is really good at that.) As a sat, aimlessly staring at the problem, he asked;
"What's a weaver's knot? It looks like it could help." I love that man.
A weaver's knot is pretty much magic! It solved my too-short-warp-thread problem with such ease, it was almost unreal. And the beauty of this particular knot is that you add length to your thread and the knot simply gets tighter under tension. You don't have to worry about it slipping about or coming undone. How awesome is that? And I did complete the beast of a project I was working on, and the knots did their job without fuss. I will say that the one consideration is the reed. You want to be careful as the knots need to pass through your weave if the thread was a tight fit in the reed. I had to manually push a few of them through, which took some time until I got past them. But really, even though it added time to the weaving process, it saved me a ton of time from having a project that did not work out quite right.
Here is how to make this wonderful knot:
1. In the thread that has come up short on you, make a standard slip knot. Do not pull it tight yet. You do not have to leave a long tail, the knot is suppose to be so strong you can clip the tails right off when you're done. I left tails on mine and wove them in because I'm a scaredy cat. In my example, the thread being lengthened is yellow.
2. Thread your new yarn through the loop of the slip knot. Again, you should not have to leave a long tail as you thread the new yarn through the loop. However, you can leave a tail long enough to weave in later if you're nervous (like me). In my example, the new thread being used to extend the yarn length is blue.
3. With the new yarn threaded through the slip knot, pull the slip knot tight by pulling the two yellow thread ends. Once it is secure, pull a little more. You want the slip knot to pull your new thread through the twist of the knot. I have shown both when the slip knot is pulled tight and then once the new thread as pulled through the knot. I have found that the thread makes a satisfying little popping noise when it makes it through the knot. This pull-through is what gives the weaver's knot its power, because as you pull, the knot now only tightens on itself. In my example, you can see the little peak of blue looped through the yellow knot in the completed weaver's knot.
4. The knot is not complete. The yellow portion of the thread is the yarn that needed to be lengthened. The blue portion of the thread is the new extension to your yarn. You will have a tail from the old thread and a tail from the new thread.
I'm sure this happens to more people than just me- you look at your stash of yarn, complete with this mushy, half-used balls wound into an enticing menagerie of color and wonder what in the world to do with it all. I compulsively buy a little extra when I have a project in mind that I would like to knit, that way I'm ensured to have enough. However, once the project is done, there are the leftovers. And just like with food, it can be money saving, fun, and sometimes surprisingly tasty to use leftovers. Other times it can be lack luster, disappointing, and/or a little disgusting. I think my biggest fear of using one of those squishy, half-used balls of yarn in my stash is the mystery of whether or not I will have enough to complete my goal. Nobody wants to spend the hours knitting a project just to be short a few meters at the end. What if the yarn is discontinued and there is no hope of getting more?! With food, I often resort to the sniff test when questioning whether or not a leftover should be used. What's the sniff test for yarn?
Well, it turns out the answer to that is much more scientific (or rather, mathematic) than sniffing. I guess I should preface this with the statement that you should ALWAYS keep your ball band. (The ball band is the little bit of paper that you get on a ball or skein of yarn that has all that important information on it- like length, weight, needle suggestion, gauge, etc.) I love to shove the ball band in the middle of my yarn cakes so it stays put even when I move my yarn stash about. Even if you have a great memory, I doubt there are many people who can boast a memory great enough to keep track of the yards per grams for all of their yarn. Not saying it's impossible, just saying it is probably outside most of our spheres. There is still hope if your leftovers are lacking in ball bands. Please see note at the end of post.
All you need to get started in unraveling the mystery of how much yarn is left is a scale (any small kitchen scale will do), your yarn, a calculator or pencil and paper, and your yarn's ball band.
Once you turn your scale on, many kitchen scales boast a feature of being able to switch from ounces to grams. You will want to reference your ball band and see exactly how your length per weight is reported. If it is recorded in yards per grams, you will want to make sure your scale is set to grams. Likewise, if you have yards per ounces you will want the scale set to ounces. Whether your yarn is measure in meters or yards does not matter for this step, but is important to know for pattern reading purposes. (If you are not using a digital scale, you still need to pay attention to whether you are measuring in ounces or grams. There was life before digital things and you can even use a triple beam balance for this if you feel so inclined. I will not get into that here, but if you have a triple beam balance, I will assume you know how to use it.)
Make sure your scale is zeroed (For digital scales, the screen should not have any numbers but 0 on the readout. If your scale is reading out some numbers to you, you can zero your scale by pressing the "zero" button.) Then, place your yarn on the scale. If your yarn is in a higgilty piggilty mess, you can always place a bowl on the scale, zero your scale, then place the yarn in the bowl. (Or record the weight of your bowl when empty, add your yarn, record the value of the yarn and the bowl then subtract the weight of the bowl from the total, leaving only the weight of your yarn.) Read the number on your scale.
In my example, my yarn weighed 95 grams. I had used a small portion of this ball of yarn to knit a sample and ended up choosing a different yarn for the project. The critical question in my head was whether there was still enough yarn left in this ball to knit a pair of socks. The next thing I did was look at the ball band and find where my length per weight was recorded.
In this particular case, for this particular yarn, there are 462 yards/ 100 grams. Now it's time for a little algebra.
I know there are 462 yards per every 100 grams of this yarn, but I want to know how many yards I have left after my sampling. After measuring my current ball of yarn, I know I have 95 grams of my yarn left; how does that translate to yards?
Dividing 462 yards by 100 grams simplifies down to 4.62 yards per 1 gram. (I simply put 462 in my calculator and divided that number by 100.) I have 95 grams. I can now multiply my 95 grams by 4.62 yards/gram. (Again, I used my calculator. I typed 95 and multiplied it by 4.62.) The units of grams cancel and I am left with 438.9 yards. This lets me know that I have roughly 439 yards of my yarn leftover and can plan my project accordingly.
Here is an equation you can use if perhaps my example was a little confusing or not quite close enough to your numbers to be helpful. It should work for you whether your yarn is measured in meters or yards, grams or ounces.
length of leftover yarn= (length/weight recorded on ball band of yarn) x (measured weight of leftover yarn)
I hope this helps clear up some of those leftovers off your shelf and leads to some beautiful projects!
***For those leftovers lacking a ball band: It's a little trickier, but you can figure out the length per weight on your own. Using your scale and starting with the end of your yarn, make a little pile of the yarn on the scale until you get 1 gram or ounce. Mark your yarn where this occurs or use some scissors to snip the yarn. Measure the length of this piece of yarn. You should now have the desired length/weight to multiply by the measured weight of your leftovers. It's not perfect, but it'll get you pretty darn close.
When you use all capital letters when you are writing it is often read as shouting. A simple "hello" comes across as much more alarming when it is written "HELLO." With that in mind, I will say this post is about making a knit SWATCH. I do not mean to shout at you, but every time I read the word swatch, I read it as though one of the knit gods is shouting at me to, well, swatch.
Making a swatch has a bad reputation, I think, because it takes some time to do it well and the end product is nothing exciting. You've picked a pattern, you've purchased the yarn, why the hell do you want to spend an hour or two making a swatch? You want to dive right in to your project, of course. You want to skim right over that pesky little phrase that pops up in nearly every pattern to use a particular size needle "or size to obtain guage." Why not just go ahead and use the same size needles the designer did and call it a day?
With some patterns you can plunge blindly forward with the prescribed needle size (don't forget to check the weight of your yarn). Sometimes a pattern even states it does not matter too much, especially with shawls, scarves or cowls that can be knit in different weights or sizes with the same pattern. I've even seen a few hat patterns that are written to accommodate our seemingly inherent and visceral dislike of swatching. I would highly recommend you treat yourself to a pattern like this every once in a while. But, and this is a big ugly but, never become complacent about swatching. There are many good reasons to do it, and while we are all good at making excuses not to, at the end of the day swatches actually save time. Gasp.
Gauge is given in a pattern so you know how many stitches there are within a set of inches or centimeters. This matters because it is how the designer made their calculations to obtain the size of their finished product. It wouldn't really be crazy to think that if you use the same yarn and the same needles as the designer you should get the same results. And you very well might. However, you might not. Every knitter is different. We all have our own special way of knitting. I do not mean this in a technical sense, I mean it more in a personal sense. As you knit, you develop a relationship with the fiber you are using. This might sound like crazy hippie lady talk, but it's not. Your relationship with the fiber is uniquely yours and this may lead your stitches to be slightly tighter or slightly looser than the designer's stitches. The only way to know is to make a swatch.
Especially if you are making something where the size matters (*ahem*), you want to make sure your gauge is correct. And "close enough" is not enough. If, for example, when you knit four inches and you have one less stitch than the designer, you would be fine in the short term. One stitch off? Who cares? But imagine you are making a sweater that has a 32 inch circumference. That one stitch has suddenly become 8 stitches by the end of your round. That could seriously effect the way your garment fits or drapes. And that is just a little difference. Imagine if you are four or more stitches off from the designer. I shudder to think. And no, people will not believe you that "that's the way it's supposed to look." There is only so much shrinking or stretching a good blocking can do- don't test the knitting gods that way, it's not worth it.
So, let's say you make a swatch and you do discover, whether because you are using a different yarn or you have slightly different stitch-tension from the designer, that your stitch count is not the same as theirs. What do you do? Well, that is where that phrase comes in..."or needle size to obtain gauge." You simply need to find the needle size that gets you on track with the designer. Typically, you only will need to move up or down one needle size. There are exceptions, though, so be patient and make sure you do your due diligence when making a needle size adjustment.
Making a swatch is not only important for gauge. It also helps you to see if a yarn selection is a good one for a given project. When you make a swatch, you can see if the stitch definition, color, and drape are what you were looking for. It's much easier to take an hour to make a swatch and change your mind about a yarn than it is to finish a whole project and realize you don't like it or the it's not quite right.
A hint, though...keep your swatches if you can. (Sometimes you may be desperate for that last little bit of yarn to finish a project and have to sacrifice a swatch, and that's okay, too.) Label each swatch with the yarn you used and the needle size. If you are using a fancy stitch in your swatch, keep track of that, too. The more you knit, you will begin to build a reference library for yourself. It will help you make smarter decisions about yarn for your projects, fiber and color choices will become easier, and you will begin to feel like your swatches really are good for something and a bit more satisfying to make.
It is a pain, there is no doubt about it. But taking the time to make a swatch can save you a whole lot of grief, my friend. Take it from a knitter who has tried to get around it and learned the hard way how important it is to do a little prep work. And that is why every time I see the word "swatch" I read it as "SWATCH." Heed the shouting.
You can knit a whole host of things with the simple knit and purl stitches. However, when you move past scarves and pot holders, you may find you need to use some shaping. Shaping can be intimidating. There are numerous types of stitches that can increase or decrease your stitch count to help shape a project, whether it be a sweater, a shawl or a pair of socks. And different designers have different favorites to achieve the same end. While you can get into some fancier or more complicated decreases, I thought it might be nice to have a tutorial on what I feel is the most basic decrease. Now, I say "most basic" but that does not mean it is inferior. This is a hard working stitch you will come across in countless patterns. The fundamentals of knitting, the knit and purl stitch being the most fundamental, are never inferior. What I feel is the fundamental decrease is the "knit two together" stitch which is abbreviated k2tog in most patterns that use it. I rather love the name of that stitch, too. Knit two together just sounds so cozy and loving to me. It's silly, I know, but since I feel knitting is creating and creating is part of loving, knit two together just sounds right.
The tools I referenced above are mental ones, but you also need a physical tool for cable work. There are a variety of commercial cable needles available and it is really your personal preference that dictates which is the best one. Also, if money is tight or your urge to cable is immediate, you can use a pencil or extra double pointed needle to accomplish a twist or any other cable work. My own preference has led me to the straight, notched cable needle. I find I can manipulate it with greater ease than the hooked variety and the notches really secure my stitches from falling off.
The next thing is to learn what a twisted cable looks like in a charted pattern. As I have mentioned before, it is crucial to study the key of your pattern prior to digging into the knitting. There can be custom symbols for cables, but the ones I have come across tend to follow the same basic notation. For a symmetric twist, the symbol typically looks like the photograph below. These photographs are from an actual pattern. (The paper got a little crinkled because my toddler decided it was page that just had to have some crumpling.) There is both a left and a right twist, so the two you see are representative of each of those and I will include steps for accomplishing both.
In the charts below, the actual twist is illustrated in row one. The subsequent rows have no cabling but are essential to allow the development of your twist. Trying to achieve twisted cables without allowing some spacing between the actual twists would not yield a pleasing result. Always give your twisted cables some room to grow.
Once you get to the cable in your pattern, you will slide the prescribed number of stitches onto your cable needle from the lefthand needle (the stitches in your working row that have not yet been knitted). In my example of three, I slipped three stitches from my left hand needle onto my cable needle, shown in the photo above. I like to hold my working yarn with normal knitting tension and keep it back, out of the way when I do this. It takes a little practice, but gets easier the more you do. The end result will be that your working yarn is still on your righthand needle, the next three stitches will be on your cable needle, and the rest of your unknitted row will remain on your lefthand needle.
For the left twist, you then hold your cable needle in front of your work, meaning it should be between you and your knitting. You then proceed to knit from your lefthand needle like the cable needle is not there. If you find your cable needle getting in your way, just gently hold it still with a free finger as you knit. It is important to be mindful here, though, you do not want any stitches slipping off of your cable needle. It can also feel a little awkward because you will have a little bit of a stretch to make when knitting behind your cable needle since you have essentially skipped stitches that used to be there. In my example, you should knit three stitches from your lefthand needle, the same number of stitches that are being held on the cable needle.
Once you have knit from your lefthand needle, you will pick up your cable needle and, using your righthand needle and working yarn, knit the three stitches off of your cable needle. You simply hold your cable needle in your left hand and treat it like your lefthand knitting needle. Depending what type of cable needle you are using, you might have to manipulate your stitches a little to get them to the point where you can knit them with ease. Obviously, if you are using a hooked needle, you will have to shimmy your stitches out of the u-bend. With notched needles, you will need to free your stitches from the notches so you can knit them on to your righthand needle. Make sure you do not twist your cable needle around. You use to left side of the cable needle to slip the stitches, but you must move the stitches to the right side of the needle before knitting from your cable needle.
I've tried to capture the negative space in the photograph below. Notice how it looks like it is behind the twist? That is the three dimensional affect you want.
Now, as promised, let's look at a right twist. A right twist cable spirals upward from the left to the right, the opposite of the left twist. There is only one crucial difference in the steps to make a right instead of a left twist. Once you slip your stitches onto your cable needle, in our case three stitches, you hold it in the back of your knitting before knitting from your left hand needle This means your knitted fabric and your working yarn will all be in front of your cable needle.
Below, you can see a completed right twist cable. The pattern I am working on frames in the cables nicely with two knitted columns and purled negative space that allows everything to pop forward. The true trick with cables is to take your time and pay attention. Make sure you are careful with the stitches on your cable needle, they will want to wiggle free because they think you are knitting them in the wrong order, the little boogers. Cables are not inherently difficult, but the do take patience. Now go forth and do the twist.
Have you ever been knitting needles deep in a project and realized there was some tool you didn't have (or couldn't find)? Sometimes it is not practical to drop your project and run out to a knitting store. Sometimes it isn't even necessary. There are some tools that you can make yourself, on the fly, McGyver style. Here are a few little notions that I make fairly often.
1. Stitch Marker
This is one of my favorites, because oh my goodness, do I have trouble keeping track of stitch markers. Those pesky little plastic doodads are elusive. And of course I find twenty of them when I don't need any and none when I just need one. A quick fix to a lack of stitch markers is a paper clip. You could also use a safety pin. You simply take your paper clip or closed safety pin and slide it on your needle in place of a traditional stitch marker. As you knit, the paper clip can be slipped in the same fashion as any traditional stitch marker.
2. Stitch Holder
Many patterns suggest this one- if you do not have a manufactured stitch holder, just grab your tapestry needle and some waste yarn and thread your live stitches onto the waste yarn. You can tie your waste yarn in a loop once the stitches are on board so that nothing slips away.
3. Cable Needle
I love my cable needle. I'm a fan of the small, straight cable needle with the little grooves so my stitches do not easily slip away. They also manufacture hook shaped cable needles. However, if you find yourself short a cable needle and you're in a pinch, you can use a pencil. If a pencil is too fat, you can use a spare double pointed needle. I will caution you when using a knitting needle as a cable needle; the knitting needle is designed to let stitches slip around easily, which means keeping your cable stitches on your needle can be a little wily and might need extra attention lest they fall away.
4. Storing Project on Needles
If you need to take a break from a project or, like me, you have fifty project going at the same time, there exist little rubber stoppers for the ends of your knitting needles that prevent your work from falling off. These little stoppers can save you from a lot of grief. There is no worse feeling when knitting than pulling a project out of a project bag to discover half of it quietly unraveled while you were away. However, if you do not have these handy little rubber stoppers for your needles but you do happen to have a wine cork, you have the next best thing. Simply push the wine cork on the end of your needle and you eliminate worry that your project will slip away. If you only have one cork, you can cut it in half and still have an adequate stopper for both of your needles.
As with many things, you are only limited by your imagination when it comes to knitting. If you have any McGyver styled knitting solutions of your own, I would love to hear what they are.
Do your palms start to sweat when you catch a glimpse of an elaborate lace chart? Do you want to make that beautiful scarf but are scared away by the endless hieroglyphics in the pattern? You are not alone in these knitting trepidations, but you do not need to be afraid of lace charts. Once the mystery of lace charts is unraveled, you might just fall in love with those yarn over, k2tog combinations. I will admit, however, any project is much easier when you are able to read the instructions- so that's where we will start.
Sometimes a pattern that involves lace will provide both a chart and written instructions. Often, though, this is not the case. Many books and magazines are tight on space and therefore use only the chart to illustrate what stitches are needed in a lace pattern. All charts have keys, and that is a good place to look first. You will notice there are knitting symbols that seem to be universal, but it is still important to study the key carefully. There are some symbols that mean one thing on the right side of your knitting that mean something totally different on the wrong side. (For example, an empty square in a chart might mean knit on the right side but purl on the wrong side.) There may even be special symbols present that represent a unique, uncommon stitch. Below is a key taken from the Craft Yarn Council website that shows many of the common symbols. This chart is by no means exhaustive, nor is it the end all be all list for how things can be written, but it is a good list.
Once you have looked at the key and taken note of any stitches you may need to find a YouTube video to figure out, you can turn your attention to the actual chart. Now, here is where things can get really murky. Traditionally, lace charts are read from the right to the left for right side rows and from the left to the right for wrong side rows. In the made up chart below, the right side rows start with the number 1. You know this because the 1 is on the right-hand side. The next row of the chart is a wrong side row and the number 2 is therefore on the left-hand side.
However, perhaps even more common, is the lace chart that only shows the right side rows. If you look at the numbering on a chart that only shows right side rows, you will see that the numbers are listed on the right-hand side and skip count, including only odd numbers. You would read this chart from right to left, following the pattern. However, when you turn your work to complete a wrong side row, you purl a row. This wrong-side row of purl stitches is implied by the absence of even numbered rows in the chart. Sometimes the pattern will remind you of this fact, often times it will not. Excluding every other row in the chart saves space and makes the structure you are knitting more obvious in the chart. Also, it feels redundant in a chart to have every other row full of blank squares, don't you think?
Shown below are two iterations of the same lace pattern. One includes the wrong-side purl rows and the other does not. Something to note, which I included on purpose, I promise- lace charts typically start on right side rows. In the chart on the left, however, the chart actually starts on a wrong side row. This does happen and you know that it is a wrong side row because the number of the row is on the left-hand side. This means you would read the chart from the left to the right. In the chart on the right, the lace pattern is the same, but the chart starts on a right side row because ONLY right side rows are shown. You know this because the number for the row is on the right-hand side.
The next thing to talk about are repeats within a chart. Repeats are illustrated by a box of a contrasting color or perhaps just a bold line outlining only a portion of a chart. This is used to denote the section of a lace pattern that should be repeated. For example, if you are making a triangular lace shawl, the area of lace gets larger from the point to the base of the triangle. This means that as you knit, you will be adding repeats of the lace pattern to fill the space. It is often the case that an entire row should not be repeated, only a small section of it. It would not be practical for a designer to chart out every repeat of the lace motif as the shawl grew...and it is likely your paper wold not be big enough. Another example of in-chart repeats would be if you are making a scarf that has three repeats of the same lace motif. Instead of making a super large chart to include the same lace pattern repeated three times across the scarf, in addition to whatever border the scarf has, the designer might opt to chart out only the border and one iteration of the lace motif, instructing the knitter to repeat the lace motif three times. An example of an in-chart repeat is shown below in a made up lace chart. The area outlined in bold black would be the "repeat" section of the chart.
Also, if you are exploring lace charts as a designer, a lace pattern will tell you how many stitches you will need to complete the motif. This could look something like "8 sts +5 sts". This would translate to mean you need a multiple of 8 stitches, for each lace motif will be 8 stitches, and you will need to add five to this multiple of 8 for the finishing edge stitches. This sounds confusing, so let's use real numbers. I want to make a scarf with a lace motif I like. I want the scarf to have the motif repeated 4 times. Using the information that I need "8 sts + 5 sts," I would multiply 8 times 4 (because that would give me enough stitches for the 4 motif repeats that I want). Eight times four is 32. I now need to add five stitches to 32 to have the appropriate number of stitches for my final count, giving me the final stitch count of 37. To make the scarf with the four repeats of the lace pattern, I would need to cast on 37 stitches.
Finally, some charts are meant to be repeated in their entirety a certain number of times. This is usually denoted in the written instructions as something like "Repeat Chart A 6x." This means you would repeat Chart A six times. It is often the case with lace shawls that there is more than one lace motif, meaning there is more than one chart. It is important to read through an entire pattern before you start so you have a clear idea of what charts need to be used when.
As always, read an entire pattern before you begin. This includes charts. Look up any symbols you don't know before you pick up your needles. I hope this was a helpful launching point for reading lace charts, please share your experiences if you feel so inclined. Also, explore other types of charts, too! There are colorwork charts and cabling charts...knitting is amazing.
Right now I am working on a project that requires a wrap and turn, abbreviated as w&t (in some patterns it can also be W/T). This is a technique used to create what are called "short rows" that allow for shaping in a piece of knitwork. Really, it allows a designer to only be limited by their imagination- the handy wrap and turn shows up in shawls, sweaters, hats, socks...you name it, there is a pattern out there with a short row for it. It can seem intimidating, but as with many things, it is not as scary as you initially think. I feel like any technique that gets it's own special name or symbol tends to frighten the novice knitter, but go forth with confidence...you can do this!
A wrap and turn is exactly what it sounds like; you wrap a stitch and then turn your work and knit in the opposite direction. For example, if a piece has 20 stitches across your needle, a pattern may want you to wrap and turn at the half way point. This means you would knit 10 stitches, wrap the 11th stitch, turn your work around then head back to where you came from. In a pattern, it may look something like this:
That is why a wrap and turn creates what is called a short row. The row you knit is shorter than the full set of of stitches on your needle. The wrap and turn eliminates the small holes that would appear if you simply turned your work and went the other way without wrapping a stitch. It works as an anchor, of sorts, to create seamless, hole-less shaping. Now that you have a basic idea of what a wrap and turn is, let's dig deeper into how to achieve it.
I will say at the beginning of this tutorial that the wrap and turn is often a two-step process, though some patterns do not require the second step, so make sure you read through completely. The second step would be in a row worked after your wrap and turn. As you knit the row above your wrap and turn, patterns will often ask you to pick up and knit the wrap with the stitch that it is wrapped around. To achieve this, simply treat the wrap yarn as its own stitch and complete a k2tog (knit two together) with the wrap yarn and the stitch it wraps. If you forget this step, it is not the end of the world. It simply serves to make the short rows you are creating even more seamless. However, wrapped stitches are not obvious themselves, so please do not unravel a project if you forget the second step. In fact, as I mentioned, some patterns do not even ask it of you.
This picture tutorial takes you through the process of the wrap and turn for both a knit stitch and a purl stitch.
A Knit Wrap and Turn
The first step is to knit to where you need to execute the wrap and turn. Keeping with our example, in a k10, w&t scenario, you would knit ten stitches. Then, on the eleventh stitch, with your working yarn in back, you would insert your right needle into the first stitch on your left needle as if to purl. Slip the stitch from the left needle to the right needle.
Your working yarn was in back when you slipped the stitch. Now, bring that working yarn forward.
With that yarn still in front, slip the last stitch on your right needle back on to your left needle. (This is the stitch that you slipped in the first step.) Your working yarn should now be "wrapped" around this slipped stitch, coming forward between the first and second stitch of your left needle.
Last, you turn your work. Now your working yarn is in the back of your knitting and between the first and second stitch on your right needle. Use the working yarn and simply knit back the way your came. You have achieved a wrapped stitch.
A Purl Wrap and Turn
Working a wrap and turn for a purl stitch is essentially the same as the knit wrap and turn, with a few subtle differences in where you hold your working yarn.
Work your piece to where you need to wrap and turn. Then, with your working yarn in front, insert your right needle purlwise into the first stitch on your left needle. Slip this stitch from the left needle to the right needle.
Move your working yarn to the back. You have now wrapped that slipped stitch and need to return it to your left hand needle. Simply slip the first stitch from the right needle on to the left needle, making sure to keep holding your working yarn in back.
After slipping the stitch, turn your work. Your working yarn should be in the front, coming forward between the first and second stitches on the right needle. Now purl back the way you came, you have successfully completed a wrap and turn!
Don't you love when you discover that something that looks complicated turns out to be easy? That's how I feel about the knitted mitered square. It's a fun pattern that looks unique and a touch more complicated than it really is. And once you master this tiny square, there is a lot of creative freedom to go wild with colors and square configurations. (There is a tutorial post about joining mitered squares as you go if you are interested. Very useful if you are working on a large project.)
This tutorial will walk you through a simple pattern for a mitered square. Through my knitting journey on the topic, I have uncovered various methods to accomplish the same marvelous mitered masterpiece, but every pattern has a double decrease in the center. It is the center double decrease (CDD) that gives the signature zippered diagonal of the mitered square. The method outlined below is one I found to be straightforward and easy.
1. The first step is to cast on the correct number of stitches. This takes a little thought. If you want your finished square to be a certain size, you must double that count and add one. Stick with me here, I promise it will make sense. If you want a finished square with 10 stitches along each side, you will need to cast on 10+10+1 or rather 21 stitches. To make this an equation that is universally applicable to any desired project, let's make it algebraic. If you want a square with Z number of stitches along each edge, you will need to cast on 2Z+1 stitches. Just for clarity's sake, let's do one more real stitch example. If you want a square with 24 stitches on each side, you would cast on 2(24)+1, which is 49 stitches.
2. The next step is to place your marker. While holding your needles with the stitches cast on in your right hand, count stitches starting on the right side. You will count over Z+1 stitches and then place your marker. Using the example above, you will count over 24+1 stitches, or rather 25 stitches. This gives 25 stitches on the right side of the marker and 24 on the left side.
3. Knit one row sliding the marker as you go.
4. Now it is time to work your first "zipper" row. Knit across until two stitches before the marker. Slip those two stitches knitwise onto your righthand needle. Remove the marker. (Don't slip the marker, it will get in your way. You actually need to remove it.) Knit one stitch. Now, pass the two slipped stitches over the one knit stitch. You will have decreased your number of stitches by 2. Replace your marker. Knit to the end.
5. Knit one row slipping the marker as you go.
6. With your knitting in your left hand, you can take a moment to make sure things are going as planned. Count the number of stitches on the right side of the marker. Then count the number on the left side. The right side should have one more stitch than the left. Using our example, we started with 25 stitches on the right side and 24 on the left. We have completed one zipper row, which is my way of saying we did a CDD. Now there should be 24 stitches on the right side and 23 on the left. You can do this counting check at any point when making your square. With the needle in your left hand after working the knit row, you should always have one more stitch on the right side than the left.
7. Work another "zipper" row. (Repeat step 4). You can start to see the corner of your square forming early in the process. It is like magic, each zipper row brings you closer to a neat little square.
8. Continue to work a knit row then a zipper row until you only have three stitches left. You will work these three stitches in the same fashion, slipping two, knitting one then passing the slipped stitches over. This will leave one knit stitch on your needle. Tie off your work and you have your mitered square.