Hot Tip: Weigh it

Hot Tip: Weigh your yarn

Let’s say you finished a project awhile ago and need to know but can’t remember how many skeins of yarn you used. Or you want to wind one skein of yarn into three equal balls. Or you have most of a skein left over from your last project and think it miiiight be enough for that hat pattern you’ve got your eye on, but aren’t sure. How do you solve these problems and others like them? With a kitchen scale. Every yarn is labeled with the weight of the skein and the yardage, so with those two numbers, the weight of whatever you’re questioning, and a calculator, you can get to the bottom of anything.

Scenario 1 up there: Let’s say the yarn you used came in 50g skeins. If your sweater weighs 460g, you used 9.2 skeins of yarn. (If each of those skeins was 140 yards, and you have .8 of a skein left, you have 112 yards.) Scenario 2: Wind until your first ball weighs 1/3 of the skein, repeat for the next two balls. Scenario 3: That little nubbin of yarn in the photo above is all that was left when I finished Bob’s sweater! It’s O-Wool Balance which is 130 yards per 50-gram skein. I have 5g left, one-tenth of a 50g skein, so that’s 13 yards. (Enough to knit a new neckband if needed? Dicey! But more than I would have guessed from looking at it.) If you know what the yarn is but no longer have the label for the weight and yardage, consult the yarn company’s website or the Ravelry yarn database.

Although I can’t find any supporting evidence, I’m pretty sure the very first time I ever saw mention of weighing yarn was Jane Richmond (a role model where maximizing yardage is concerned) blogging about how to use every inch of your yarn for a Rae shawl, which is a long triangular shawl knitted from one wingtip to the other. She said to knit until your ball weighed exactly as much as your knitting, which would mean you were exactly at the halfway point of your skein, so that would be the exact center of your shawl (in this scenario). I was a brand-new knitter at the time, and the notion of weighing anything seemed like the most brilliant thing I had ever heard! No more guessing at how much yarn was used or left over when filling in Ravelry projects, or casting on with leftovers without knowing how far they would go.

PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Mark your rows

Hot Tip: Mark your rows

Hot Tip: Mark your rows

Rather than using a counter or making tick marks in the pattern margins or what have you, many knitters prefer to keep track of their work right in the work. We’ve talked before about using stitch markers to mark your rows or increases/decreases — so you can see at a glance exactly what you did and where — but Jerome Sevilla of Gridjunky has a less jangly method, which he found in a 1977 book called Scandinavian Knitting Designs by Pauline Chatterton. In this method, a length of contrasting scrap yarn is carried behind the work and used to mark every tenth row (or whatever it is you want to keep track of). When you get to the spot you want to mark, simply move the scrap yarn between the needles to the front of the work. Work the next stitch, then move the scrap yarn back to the back. So what you have on the front of the work is a single wrapped stitch each time that’s been done, as seen in Jerome’s photo above, and on the back you have a long vertical float from that stitch up to the next one marked. When you’re all done, just snip the waste yarn and unpick it.

For a steady stream of inspiration from Jerome, follow his blog or Instagram.


PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Save time at try-on

Photos by Jerome Sevilla, used with permission

Hot Tip: Save time at try-on

Hot Tip: Easiest way to try on a top-down sweater

The number one benefit of knitting a sweater from the top down is being able to try it on as you go, fine-tuning the fit along the way. The only challenge (such as it is) is not losing stitches off the ends of your circulars as you pull it over your shoulders, especially once you’ve joined the body below the armholes. The following tip is buried somewhere in my top-down tutorial but I wanted to pull it out and shine some daylight on it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to do any extra work — whether that’s threading stitches onto waste yarn and then back again onto the needles, or inserting “try-on tubes” or anything that has to be done and then undone. The easiest way to resolve the issue, when you’re on a round where you want to try it on, is to simply knit half the stitches onto a second circular needle. That’s it! As long as both circs have a cord length that is at least half the circumference* of the knitting, you can pull both sets of needle tips free and clear of the stitches — so half the stitches are resting on one cord and the other half on the other — and pull it safely over your head. Then when you’re ready, just start knitting again. When you reach the end of that round, all of your stitches will once again be on a single needle, with no extra doing or undoing of any kind.

You may also find it useful to steam your sweater before you try it on — especially if your swatch changed meaningfully before and after blocking.

This tip builds on the very first Hot Tip, too, regarding mismatching your needle tips. If you’re knitting with interchangeable needles, you don’t even need two sets of tips!

*You can see that the second needle I used for the top photo is not half the circumference, but the two combined lengths are still equal to or greater than the circumference. Just make sure your second needle is of appropriate length for completing the round. This one will be a tight fit for the rest of the stitches, but you can always switch back to your first needle on the following round, if the second one is either too short or too long for carrying on with.


PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Turn one strand into three

Hot Tip: Turn one strand into three

Hot Tip: Turn one strand into three

While we were at the trade show last spring, debating other points of the army-green test vest one night, Bristol Ivy taught me something so simple and so wildly valuable.  It’s a spinning trick called Navajo Ply or Chain Ply, and it may come in handy if, as one example, you’re swatching for the knitalong and have chosen the DK held-triple option.

Any time you’re knitting with three strands held together, yarn management can get tricky. You can wind three balls and pull a strand from each. Or you can wind three skeins together into one mega-cake. But what if you only need a little bit of yarn? Like for a swatch or a just a wee bit of colorwork? Winding three tiny balls is tedious — and either way, how much do you wind? With this trick you can turn a single piece of yarn into three strands, just like magic!

Step 1: Make a slipknot and pull out a big loop. (It can be much bigger than the one I’ve made here — I was trying to fit this all in the frame.)

Step 2: Reach into the loop, grab the working yarn, and pull out another big loop. Repeat step 2 as often as needed.

What you’ve basically made is the arm-knitting equivalent of a crochet chain, and when you put tension on that chain to work with it, you’ve got three strands of yarn. The little spots where each loop is bending back on itself are completely undetectable in the knitting. I’ve used this trick a few times since learning it, and I pull out BIG loops — like 10 or 12 inches each — so three loops are enough for me to knit across one row of the knitalong vest. I’m telling you, magic.

It’s a little hard to photograph, but if you pull out a ball of yarn and give it a go, you’ll see what I mean. Thanks, Bristol!


PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Let the knitting remember for you

Hot Tip: Let the knitting remember for you

Hot Tip: Let the knitting remember for you

This is such a tiny tip, but it’s worked for me for years. Whenever I’m working in the round and calling it a night, I don’t just knit to my Beginning of Round marker. Instead, I mark my place by going one or more stitches past the marker — however many it takes to tell me which row of my knitting I was about to begin. For instance, on my Hermaness Worsted pictured above, I’m into the decrease portion, which is [k3, k2tog], a knit round, [k2, k2tog], a knit round, etc. If I’m working from a chart, hopefully I’ve also moved my post-it note to the row I’m about to work, but that’s not a sure thing (and post-its fall off, or what have you). The work itself is my definitive guide. For instance, when I pick this hat back up, I can see that I’ve worked k1, k2tog, so I know that’s the row I’m on, plain and simple. Whatever my brain or my notes might think, the knitting knows exactly what I recorded at the time.

Of course, it doesn’t apply 100% of the time, but generally speaking, it works great for colorwork and anything with a stitch pattern that varies from round to round.


PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Mind your edge stitches

Hot Tip: Mind your edge stitches

Hot Tip: Mind your edge stitches

I’m pretty sure the first person to ever clue me in on this one was my pal Meg Strong. A lot of times there will be an edge of your knitting that’s exposed — say, the long sides of a scarf or the edge of a button band (when knit integrally or vertically). Or, as pictured above, the armhole edges of the superbulky sleeveless turtleneck I’m working on, which are especially prominent at this scale. If you work the edge stitches normally — for instance, in stockinette — you wind up with a bump on the edge of your knitting at each row. Sometimes it looks fine, like if it’s garter stitch ridges at the edges of the work anyway. But often it’s nicer to have that edge look smoother and more finished. Current patterns will often specify how to work edge stitches when they’re meant to be picked up or seamed together (e.g., stockinette selvage or twisted stitch selvage, or whatever the case may be), but it’s less often noted what to do when the edge will not be disappearing into a seam. For the cleanest finish on a visible selvage, all you need to do is slip the first stitch on each row with the yarn held in front, work to the opposite edge of the fabric as written, and then knit the last stitch. So on the right side, the first stitch gets slipped wyif. When you come back to that slipped stitch at the left edge of the wrong side, you knit it. Same thing on the wrong side: slip the first stitch wyif, work to the other end, knit the last stitch.

Try it on a swatch  — knit a few rows in plain stockinette and then a few rows with the edge stitches slipped — and you’ll see what a difference such a simple thing can make.

[UPDATE: The sweater pictured has since been released as a free tutorial-pattern called Sloper]


PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Off-center your buttons

Hot Tip: Off-center your buttons

Hot Tip: Off-center your buttons

Once you’ve worked out the specifics of where and by which method to knit the holes into a buttonhole band, it seems like an easy enough proposition to sew the buttons onto the button band in corresponding positions. And that’s not hard: Most people will line up the two bands, put a pin (or removable stitch marker) in each spot where a button should be sewn, and then commence sewing. But how often have you seen (or experienced) a case where, once the buttons are buttoned, the two bands no longer overlap correctly? You wind up seeing the buttonhole band plus 1/4 or 1/3 of the button band peeking out alongside it. It’s a common mistake: centering the buttons horizontally on the band.

What? How can centering the buttons be wrong? When a garment is on you (this applies to sewn garments and their plackets as well as sweaters and their bands), the two bands will naturally attempt to pull apart. The button doesn’t magically float in the center of the hole. Gravity and body mass cause the edge of the buttonhole to rest against the stitching of the button. So if it’s to anchor the buttonhole band directly over the button band, the stitching of the button needs to line up with the edge of the buttonhole. I used to have to stop and think about this every time, which direction to shift the button, but then I heard Pam Allen say it so plainly on a podcast: You need to sew the buttons slightly closer to the body side of the band. That’s all there is to remember. Sew the buttons slightly closer to the body side of the band.

ON A RELATED SHOP NOTE: These stunning blackened brass buttons I used for my vintage waistcoat are now available at Fringe Supply Co. I ordered a small batch of them awhile back to have a look at, and forgot all about them until I was digging around for the perfect buttons for this vest. I’ll be ordering more, but what I have on hand are now up for grabs! ALSO: the coolest little scissors you ever did see. Available in black, silver and gold.

Happy weekend!

NEW! Scissors and buttons at Fringe Supply Co.

PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tip: Mark your armhole depth