When I was first knitting — almost entirely in the round, mind you — I had a lot of trouble with my yarn kinking up on me between my work and the ball. Some yarns were worse than others, and I remember running across a discussion on Twitter (this would have been 2012) wherein Clara Parkes was talking about it potentially being a problem of too much twist in the yarn, and/or that it can be an issue with yarns that are Z plied vs S plied … or maybe it was vice versa. I don’t remember! I have no doubt that was accurate information, but it didn’t lead me to a solution. One day I went to the nearest yarn store (which no longer exists) and asked the owner about it, as I was having a LOT of trouble with it and my yarn of that moment. She suggested I try knitting from the other end of the skein, which made no difference.
It was only in the past couple of years that it really sunk in that when I was knitting around and around and around in a circle, I was adding twist to the yarn in the process. So it’s only natural that it would have to be unspun once in awhile to get the kinks out — like the phone cords of yesteryear. But I also realized I have a habit of turning my work the same direction for every next row when working flat, which means I’m effectively doing the same thing whether I’m knitting flat or in the round. It was a hard habit to break, but I’ve gradually trained myself to turn the work one direction and then back the other, and I rarely have kinky yarn anymore.* The mnemonic that eventually worked is that I turn the work clockwise when turning to the right side (right/right, get it?), then counterclockwise to go back to the wrong side. Problem mostly solved!
*To be clear, this yarn I’m currently knitting with has no twist issues whatsoever. I forced it to kink for the sake of this photo!
The first Hot Tip I ever posted was about using two different-size needle tips if knitting on interchangeable needles. When you’re knitting in the round, you only use one end of the needle for making stitches, and the other end is essentially just a stitch holder, and it’s easier to work the stitches off of a smaller tip. Many of you responded at the time that you also mismatch your needle tips for working flat to make up for gauge differences between knit and purl rows, which I found completely fascinating and sensible! (Bonus tip!) And then on Instagram over the weekend, I saw a whole ’nother angle on this from my friend Veronika of YOTH Yarns.
Ve is knitting what appears to be a cardigan with the body knitted in one piece, flat, so she’s got about 48″ worth of stitches on a long circular needle, and she’s working a lot of cable crosses on top of that, which causes her wrist strain. To help with the strain, she puts a smaller needle tip on the left end (or non-working tip end) of her interchangeable and the proper gauge needle on the working end, again making it easier for her to work the stitches (and especially the cables) off the smaller tip. That does mean every time she gets to the end of a row and is ready to start back the other direction, she has to swap out her needle tips. Seems tedious, yet according to her wrists it’s well worth taking the 30 seconds to do. But on top of that, she had a really clever tip for how to simplify that process, which you can kind of see in my screengrab of her video above. She slides the needle key doohickey through the hole in both tips at the same time, unscrews one, unscrews the other, then screws them back on in opposite positions. Like most great tips in life, that seems so obvious now that I’ve seen it!
Ve is a fount of stuff like this, so make sure you’re following her on Instagram @yarnonthehouse. Thanks, Ve!
p.s.If you’re not using interchangeables, I highly recommend them, and we stock the Lykke Driftwood beauties at Fringe Supply Co. If you’re reluctant to commit to a full set without trying them, I always suggest buying a pair or two of needle tips in your most-used sizes (which means you’ll want extras of them regardless) and a couple of cords. Then if you like them, you can either build a collection of the sizes you use, or invest in a set, which really does pay off quickly. Says the person who bought an ungodly number of fixed circs in her first couple years of knitting …
Sometimes the finish line of a project is not a bright line — you can ease your way across it with finesse, as needed. Take this sweater, for instance, which I bound off on Labor Day. This was a classic case of why knitting top-down is great and also why some people rail against top-down: To wit, A) yes you can try it on as you go and get it exactly how you want it, but B) only if you take into account what happens when you block it. My unblocked gauge on this sweater was 7.25 rows per inch, whereas after a wash it came in at 8.25. That’s substantial shrinkage! Had I simply tried on the sweater and bound off when it looked done, it would have been way too short once it was washed. Here again is why it’s critically important to count rows rather than measuring fabric. But that said, I wasn’t 100% sure how I wanted it to fit or how long I wanted the cuffs and waist ribbing to be — those are all little fit and design details that I like to let the sweater dictate as it takes shape. Part of trying on a top-down in progress, for me, is letting it tell me what it wants to be.
So in this case, I did my math to calculate total rows and decrease placement for my projected lengths but also left room for last-minute adjustments, just in case. A few rows before what I thought would be final, I put the cuffs and body on waste yarn, washed and dried the sweater (this O-Wool Balance is machine washable, but you always want to treat your swatch and your WIP however you’ll treat the finished garment, whether that’s hand-washing or whatever) and put it on again to make those final decisions before binding off and seaming. (I knitted the sleeves flat, as usual, so yes there was seaming.)
It’s all about being the master of your own knitting! I’ll show you the whole sweater as soon as I can get photos.
I recently saw Bristol Ivy saying on Instagram that she had incorporated my “basting stitch” idea into a sweater she had made for herself (among other fascinating mods detailed in her caption). Bristol is one of the more fascinating engineering brains of the knitting world, so for her to try (and like) my little trick felt like quite the endorsement, not gonna lie. I know from traffic and comments, and so on, that this post continues to draw in a lot of people, and there are now even sweater patterns out in the world that employ the idea. So for those who maybe haven’t seen it, today I want to point you the post where I first detailed why I had the urge to seam a seamless knit, and how I went about it: Basted knitting: Or, How (and why) to seam a seamless sweater.
This came up in one of my classes last week, and it really can’t be said often enough: If you want your knitting to turn out a particular length/height dimension, don’t measure it! So today I’d love for you to give this post a read: Count, don’t measure. And share it with your friends!
Actually, it’s a great time to just give the whole Hot Tips scroll a read …
When Iasked about your all-time favorite posts, lisakoby said: “I have the post regarding swatching to get the fabric you like and using the gauge to adjust the fit bookmarked and I refer to it every time I swatch for a new pattern. Every single time. It has been invaluable in my knitting life.” That makes me so happy! I do find this to be a really important lesson for sweater knitters to learn, since often you simply cannot match both the pattern writer’s stitch and row gauge, so then what? It’s pretty critical to know how to think through the implications of knitting at a different gauge and making adjustments as needed — and it’s not even hard! So today that’s the post I’d love for you to read: How to account for gauge differences.
p.s. That post was tied to the knitalong for my Anna Vest, and I’ve had several people recently asking about that one. I’m aiming to get it published as a standalone pattern this fall!
If there’s one past post — or set of posts — that I believe to be endlessly useful and also of particular relevance at the moment, it’s Pullovers for first-timers: Or, an introduction to sweater construction and its lesser-known sequel, Cardigans for first-timers: Or, how button bands work. As we head into Summer of Basics, I hope to see a lot of people knitting their first sweater, and so I offer you these bits of guidance in choosing where to start. But whether you’re participating in SoB, maybe just thinking about getting started at some point the future, or have knitted a sweater before but want to gain a better understanding of the different sweater construction methods/types and their respective pros and cons, give these posts a read. And of course, they’re also chock full of pattern recommendations of every variety!