Hot Tip: Swap your needle tips

Hot Tip: Swap your needle tips

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 …

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Allow for adjustments

Hot Tip: Allow for adjustments

Hot Tip: Allow for adjustments

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.

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Don’t panic

Hot Tip: Don’t panic

Hot Tip: Don't panic

I wish I had a logbook of every time I’ve ever thought there was something horribly wrong with my knitting, only to realize it’s actually totally fine. Sometimes these occurrences are more phantom than others — like the time (during my first year) I had cast on for a sweater and there was something off about my ribbing. The multiple wasn’t working out but my cast-on math was correct and my stitch count matched, so it seemed literally impossible for there to be anything wrong, and yet there was. I looked at it over and over, counting and recalculating. I showed it to Meg, who did the same. Neither of us could make any sense of it, and yet it seemed clearly, undeniably wrong. Until the next morning, when I looked at it again and couldn’t even figure out why I thought it was off — there was literally no problem.

On the other hand, sometimes the “problems” are quite plainly right in front of me, in three robust dimensions. Like, oh, these raglans. After I blocked the yoke at the end of the first two bands of double seed, there was a tiny whiff of a notion that something might be a little wacky. But I blithely put it back on the needles and kept knitting, with it bunched up on a smaller-circumference circular for those last long rounds, like you do. The other night, I made it to the division round and could finally lay it out flat and take a look at what I’d wrought, and OH MY GOD WHAT IS UP WITH THESE RAGLANS!! The sweater seemed to think I had a little bonus boob at each raglan seam and was perfectly shaped to accommodate them. For a few minutes, I was holding my breath, hand over mouth, trying to think what could possibly have gone wrong and just how far I would need to rip to fix it.

But I have a rule: Do not panic. And above all, DO NOT RIP. If something seems off, I set it down — preferably overnight — and at least half the time, I find it was a moment of temporary insanity on my part. There’s literally nothing wrong. A good portion of the other half of the time, it’s not nearly as grave as it might seem. With these raglans, I had to think it was some weird result of where the increases ended combined with the mitering of the fabric at the raglans and the upper part being blocked and the lower part not. That all of that was just creating a temporary buckle. Or at least, I had to hope — and to find out for sure before I hot-headedly ripped anything out.

So I put it on waste yarn and into the wash, the same as the upper part had done. And I hoped that it would even out in the wash. That is the other lesson that must never be forgotten in times of don’t-panic: Blocking is magic. The upper and middle left images are Before; the middle right and lower images are After.

I’m pretty sure the raglans are fine and the four stray peaks will not reappear, but there is a chance now that I’ve gotten carried away and made it too big! Still not panicking and not ripping. I won’t know for sure until I knit a bit farther on the body and at least one sleeve. So that’s what I shall cool-headedly do …

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Take a selfie

Hot Tip: Take a selfie

Hot Tip: Take a selfie

Dianna Walla recently shared a great tip on her Instagram feed: Especially if she’s thinking of knitting with a color outside her closet comfort zone, she poses with the skein. Snapping a pic of the yarn held up to her face lets her see how she’ll look in that color and consider whether it’s really a shade she’s comfortable with and wants to wear.

For best results, stand near a window for natural sidelight — taking the pic under artificial lighting will throw off the tones of both your skin and the yarn.

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Check the back

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Hot Tip: Check the back

Hot Tip: Check the back

Even if you think you’re really good at reading your knits and purls, it’s not always entirely straightforward. Some stitch patterns are harder to decipher than others, so you also have to get good at finding other ways of tracking or counting or seeing things. Often, it’s as simple as flipping your work over and checking the back side. Take this stitch pattern for the Bellows cardigan, for instance. The main texture is “broken rib”: purl rows alternating with k1/p1 rows. You can get the hang of how to count those purl bumps in one column vs the other, or you can just flip it over — the back side is garter rib. It’s not only easier to count the columns of knits (for me, anyway), but it’s also quicker to see where you are in the stitch pattern at any give time.* The same can be true for large fields of cables and many other textures. So whenever you find yourself working on a stitch pattern that’s a little harder to read or count, check the back! You might find the answer there waiting for you.

*Just remember: A purl bump is the back side of a knit stitch, and vice versa.

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Steam out the kinks

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Hot Tip: Steam out the kinks

Hot Tip: Steam out the kinks

One of the hottest debates among knitters is what to do with the kinky-curly yarn that results from ripping out your knitting. If you just knit with it, will it affect your gauge? If so, do you soak and dry it in hanks (flat or hung?), or just knit a new kinky gauge swatch? Or none of the above. Like most knitting-related matters, everyone’s advice and experience is different. Romi Hill (you know her amazingly intricate designs, right?) says it does affect her gauge, and her favorite solution is to simply steam the kinks out of the frogged yarn before beginning again.

A hand-held steamer or travel steamer is also a handy tool for blocking knits when you don’t have time for a full soak, or just for freshening things up from time to time.

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Bridge the gap

Images courtesy of Romi

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Hot Tip: Bridge the gap

Hot Tip: Bridge the gap

There’s one tiny side-effect of knitting things seamlessly that have appendages — as in, a mitten with a thumb or a top-down sweater with two sleeves. There’s a moment where you set aside those thumb/sleeve stitches on waste yarn, carry on with the hand/body, and then come back to do the appendage. You put those live stitches back onto needles, pick up a few stitches around the top of the thumb or the underarm of the sleeve (pictured above) to complete the circle, and then knit the rest of the appendage. The side effect being that you will inevitably have a little hole at either end of the picked-up stitches. This isn’t a flaw of your knitting or of the pattern — it’s just a fact of life. Patterns will often tell you to simply take the yarn tail from where you reattached yarn at that point, and weave them closed. But there is also a simple way to minimize them, which is to pick up an extra stitch in that spot — in the gap between the live stitches and the picked-up ones — and then knit it together with the adjacent stitch on the next round, so you haven’t thrown off your stitch count.

There’s still a chance you might need to do a little refining with your yarn tail at the end, but the holes will be noticeably minimized.

EXAMPLE:
For the sleeves of the sweater pictured, I have 40 stitches on waste yarn and need to pick up another 10 along the edge of the underarm, starting at the center of the underarm stitches. So I’m picking up 5, then knitting the 40, then picking up another 5. However, to help bridge the gap, I’ll actually pick up 6.
Top photo: You can see the live sleeve stitches that have been hanging out on waste yarn, placed back onto a needle, and to the right is the cast-on edge of the underarm.
Middle photo: I’ve picked up my designated 5 stitches along the underarm edge, but you can see there’s a good 3/4″ between the underarm stitches and the sleeve stitches — that’s your future hole.
Bottom photo: I’ve plunged my needle behind both legs of the stitch right at the corner, halfway between the underarm and sleeve stitches, and picked up one extra stitch, which I’ll knit together with the adjacent sleeve stitch on the next round.

p.s. Like I love to say: A top-down sweater is a giant fingerless mitt with two thumbs instead of one — same process, just more of it. If you can knit a mitt, you can knit a sweater.

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Knit all the parts at once