Knitting 101: A Bit More “Fancy”

When it comes to knitting colorwork, it’s really easy to look at something like this:

20160918_120225

and say “This is gonna be awesome!” as we attempt to start our own version. Y’all may remember that phrase as the beginning to all of my MOST irritating and difficult projects (in fact, that very project started with that phrase). But once you get into it, you find ends everywhere and wrapped stitches that shouldn’t be and colors out of order. So the big question:

How in the world do you change colors in knitting without making a huge mess!?

We got the chance in a previous post to go over how to knit colored stripes. Wrapping the yarn up the side of the work as you go helps to keep things neat and tidy without trouble.

Now it’s time to figure out how to knit with colors switching in the middle of the row. Probably the EASIEST way to do that is called stranded or “fair isle” knitting in which you carry one strand of yarn behind the work making sort of a woven pattern behind the work. It looks something like this:

fair isle back

The front of that work is pretty fun looking though:

fair isle front

To get this to work, you have to worry about two things really. First, always make sure you’re using the right color to stitch with. That’s pretty easy for most patterns because you’re only working with two colors at a time and it is fairly obvious if you mess up. You have to really watch it if you’re using more than two colors.

Second, you have to keep an eye on your “floater” (yeah, kind of a weird name). The floater is the line that you’re carrying behind the work:

The floater needs to keep a smooth tension and keep tucked in (so you don’t have any long, loose strands on the back). Keeping smooth tension isn’t terribly hard if you are comfortable with your working tension already. The floating strand should be held behind with the same tension as your working tension. Resist the urge to pull it really tight. Pulling the float tight will not change that the back is woven together and will make the front of your work look or feel stretched too tight.

To help keep the floater tucked and looking neat, the working strand will always lay down and have the next color pulled around it when changing colors. What does that mean? Well, take a look:

floaters

If you are fairly dexterous, you can hold both strands in one hand and switch back and forth. Hold the active color between your thumb and forefinger (mostly like normal) and the second color between your middle and ring finger. As you work the stitching, have the two strands trade places as you change colors.

hold yarn

 

If you’re not able to do that, don’t worry too much. It will come with practice and in the meantime there is nothing wrong with dropping one color to pick up the next color. I have to do that when I purl still.

The tick with stranded colorwork is that you can only go so far with it. Carrying the yarn two to four stitches works fine, but anymore than that and you have to start worry about loose strands and potentially backing the work (which doesn’t really work well for things like mittens or socks). Most patterns you’ll find that call for fair isle work only use two colors or work in stripes where colors can be completely cut before beginning the next section.

If you DO choose to work with three or more colors, watch out for where and how you carry the third strand. Assuming that you’re not able to change colors every stitch for what you’re working on, you’ll need to lay the third color under the floater as well for the ENTIRE work. If you don’t carry the third color all the way with you, you’ll end up with a changing thickness across the work and it will feel a little weird. To do that, just hold the third color with the second color as shown above and when you change colors, lay the new color over the working yarn AND the third color.

One final thing before I go for now: just like all colorwork, take a break from time to time and untwist your yarn. Something like this:

twisted colorwork

will happen fairly often and I don’t think you want to deal with the big mess that results from leaving that hanging around.

Knitting 101: Toe Up Socks

It’s time for our final sock lesson, knitting toe up socks!

Alright, Alright, I know I said I wasn’t going to cover how to knit toe up socks, but I felt like it would be wrong to skip COMPLETELY over it. Especially when such a good change to highlight double pointed needles is involved. For those of you who don’t remember, there is a WONDERFUL toe up tutorial called Silver’s Sock Class that will take care of how to use circular needles to knit two at a time.

As in the previous lesson, I won’t be using sizes for this pattern, I’ll just be looking at measurements so make sure you do a gauge swatch before we start. I will also include the short version at the bottom of this post for those of you who just need the quick instructions. As for the sock I’m actually making here, I’ll note in parentheses how many stitches and such I’m using so you can follow along for practice if you’d like.

For my sock I am using:

 

you will need

 

1 Skein Worsted weight (4) yarn any brand, fiber, and color (about 275 yards)

4 size US-5 (3.75 mm) Double Pointed Needles–DPNs (or 1 circular needle)

Split ring markers, locking stitch markers, OR safety pins (at LEAST 1)

A measuring tape

OPTIONAL: Medium stitch holder(s)

OPTIONAL: Knitting Gauge

 

Toe Up Socks

In the last post, I wrote that I was quite pregnant while making the top down socks. Due to the magic of the internet (and advanced scheduling) I am no longer pregnant and have an almost six week old son. This time, I am NOT dealing with swollen ankles or feet, so I’ll be able to use more accurate measurements. If, however, you are still having troubles, here’s that link to the Craft Yarn Council’s foot size chart.

Now, obviously, we’re not going to start with an ankle measurement this time, we’re going to start with the toe. More specifically, we’re going to start with the measurement across the tips of your toe. Basically, we need to see how wide to make your sock. Once we have that (and of course after you’ve completed your gauge swatch to know how many stitches per inch you need), we’ll need to cast on.

For those of you who like a very nice, fancy cast on, I suggest you take a look at Judy’s Magic Cast-On by Judy Becker (does anyone know why everything is “magic” this or that? No, really. I want to know….). It’s a little complicated, but it makes a REALLY nice toe cast on. For those of you who don’t mind a little bit of a funky toe or a more square cast on (great for quick starts or practice) I’m going to show you what I do.

First, take two DPNs and set them a little apart from each other like so:

caston1

Notice I already have the yarn attached to the needle. If you haven’t already done that, get it attached and get ready for our normal cast on technique. Use the back needle (the one that’s empty in the photo above) for your first cast on:

caston2

The slip knot we started with counts as one, so now you have two done. Wasn’t that easy? Now, use our normal cast on method with the front needle (the one that has the slip knot on it). Then the back again, then the front, and you get the idea. After a few, it will look like this:

caston3

Now, because we were all very good and made gauge swatches before starting this sock (Seriously, make the gauge swatch), we can finish casting on our stitches.  Measure across the tips of your toes to see how wide your toes are and subtract half an inch. Whatever that measurement comes out to is the amount of stitches you’ll need to cast on (40 for me). So, cast on a few and then check your measurements. When you’re ready to measure, slide your cast on stitches to match your gauge (I’m not joking you need the swatch this time).

We’re ready to start our first toe round, but it doesn’t look very round yet does it? Don’t worry. It’ll round out as we work. The first thing to do is place a marker at the beginning of the round. Then, knit across both the needles the same way you would if your were working a round.

Now take a little break, flip the work over, and I’ll show you what I was talking about with the funky toe cast on:

funky toe

See how the stitches on both sides stand at attention? Here’s a better look:

funky toe2

The toe lays VERY flat. This cast on is also really great for making anything square (think blocks for baby). The other fun thing about this cast on is that if you flip it inside out, that sharp edge basically disappears. So if you’re wanting a purl sock (or if you start with purls rather than knits and flip the work) you’ll still get that nice round toe.

Anyway, enough of that side bar, back to knitting!

Well, almost. We still need to measure the length for our toe. Pull you’re measuring tape out and measure the length of your big toe. Then we can go on to round two.

For round two, knit the front and back of the first stitch in the round (check out my More Increases and Decreases post for help with that if you need it) and knit across needle 1. Knit the front and back of the first stitch on needle 2, then knit across that needle to complete the round. You may want to place a maker before the second KFB to help you remember to increase.

Marker or not, repeat those two rounds (knitting then increasing) until you have reached your toe length measurement.  When you get there, you should have something that looks like this:

toe

Now comes the easy part: the foot.

Measure your foot from the tip of your toe to the beginning of your heel. It may help to imagine your heel as a circle right about the top of that circle is where you’ll want to stop. For most adults, this will leave about 2.5 inches of heel left over.

Slide the stitches evenly onto three of the four double pointed needles (looks a little more round at least right?) and use the fourth to work. For those of you who have knit before and/or are wondering why I’m using four DPNs instead of five here, I couldn’t find the fifth one.

Yeah, really. I see no issue with using three rather than four in every case I’ve come across so far. The needles commonly come in sets of four, and I don’t want to pay more for needles that I don’t need. And this time, I HAVE five, but I honestly have no idea where the fifth one went, so….there’s that.

When it comes right down to it, as long as the amount of needles is working for you, you can use as many or as few as you like. I’ll show you the way that is easiest for me, but if you would rather use five or two or whatever, do that.

Moving right along then (I’m a bit side tracked today aren’t I?), you should have something that looks like this:

on DPNs

We still need that marker at the beginning of the round (and if you’d like, at the halfway mark), but from here, just knit around until you have reached your mark.

foot

Now we get to start the heel. Today I’m going to teach you what is probably the EASIEST heel I’ve ever done. We’ll start by knitting across half the stitches on the foot — to your marker if you placed a half way marker (20 sts). Now, measurements being what they are, you may have an odd number of stitches, and be wondering what to do? Generally speaking, having an even number of stitches for your heel will be better, so round either up or down to have an even number of worked stitches.

Place the rest of the stitches onto a stitch holder or just leave them unworked on your other DPNs. If you have point protectors, now might be a good time to pull them out. What’s a point protector? This:

point-protectors

They keep your work from slipping off your DPNs and are very helpful in these cases.

Now that the extra foot stitches are safe, purl across your heel stitches to the last stitch and wrap the stitch. To wrap the stitch, lay the working yarn between the needles, across your work:

wrap1

Slip the stitch (knit wise for knit stitches and purlwise for purl stitches) to the working needle:

wrap2

Lay the yarn around the side of the slipped stitch and slip the now wrapped stitch back to the other needle:

wrap3

Pick up the working yarn and work to the end of the row. Wrap the last stitch and make your way back and wrap the last stitch, leaving the stitch your wrapped last time unworked.

Before we get too excited about this step, we need to know HOW MANY stitches to wrap right? We’ve knit half the stitches on the foot. Two thirds of those stitches will be wrapped. One third of THOSE stitches need to be on either side of the needle (leaving half in the middle).

harry's opinion

Alright, Harry…you’ve got a point…. let’s try that again. On your needles, you have a number of stitches (I have 20). Divide that number by 3 (6.33 for me). If you have an even number, awesome. If you do NOT have an even number round up to the nearest whole number (7 for me).

That number (the “nearest whole number” in my case–7) is the number of stitches that you will have wrapped on EITHER side of your work (in my case, 7 wrapped stitches on the left, 6 worked stitches in the center, and 7 wrapped stitches on the right). Whatever happens, you MUST have the same amount of wrapped stitches on BOTH sides of your worked stitches. These will be picked up in the next step to create the “corner” that is the heel of your sock and you don’t want THAT to be uneven.

By the time you’re ready to pick up stitches, you should have something that looks like this:

wrapped stitches

Ok, half the heel done. Now we move onto the picking up part.

Work across your short row and work the first slipped stitch (this is the only one that won’t need the k2tog part that’s coming up) then turn. Work across the row again and when you get to the slipped stitch this time, you’ll be looking at something like this:

k2tog wrap

We’re going to pick up the wrap yarn (from the stitch we wrapped earlier) and knit two together with that and the wrapped stitch on the needle (you may also need to pick up the first stitch in the previous row and k3tog to prevent holes here depending on your tension).

k2tog wrap2

Continue working back and forth, picking up wrapped stitches like this until you have no more wrapped stitches left and your work looks something like this:

heel done

It may look like the heel is folded over itself and your foot will never fit in there. Honestly, I thought I had put the heel on backward when I was making mine. Don’t worry though, there has NOT been a mistake this time. The cuff will take this funky looking heel and straighten it out to more sock like proportions. That does mean though, we’re ready to start the cuff! Almost done now.

Depending on how many stitches you had on your heel, you will either knit across the first needle or just keep working in the round. See my little pink marker in the picture? That’s the beginning of my round, so I’m just gonna jump right into the “corner” of the sock where we’ll knit three together.

k3tog wrap

Using the unworked foot stitch, a worked foot stitch from the same round, and the wrap portion of our first wrap stitch (just like before) knit three together to turn across the round. Knit across needle 2 and do the same thing in the other corner. Move your marker into the k2tog stitch to mark the beginning of the cuff and evenly distribute your stitches onto three DPNs.

corner done

Now, one last sidebar before we finish up the cuff (and the post really). When it comes to keeping holes out of your socks, we enter another “do what works for you” area. If you need to knit three together instead of 2, do it. If you need to knit 5 together then do it. Maybe you don’t need to do anything at all. Whatever works for you and is comfortable for your foot is the right way.

Oh, and don’t get too frustrated if you have a hole no matter WHAT you do. Socks and mittens are very straight forward, but not easy. They both take practice and time to get right and get rid of all the holes.

Right then, back to work.

To finish up the cuff, knit around for one inch (measure from the marker we just moved) and then start your favorite kind of ribbing. I’m using a 2×2 rib for mine, but you can use a 1×1 or whatever suits you. If you DO choose a 2×2 rib be aware that you may need to fudge the first row a little to make it work (I have 40 stitches on my needles and that left me with knits back to back, so I had to decrease by 2 to get the pattern to work right).

When you’re happy with the cuff length, bind off loosely. If you need to, get a larger needle (1-2 sizes bigger than you’re using) for binding off. The larger needle will keep the stitches looser. Tuck all your tails in and you’re done!

Repeat that business (or see the short version below) for sock number 2 and you’re all done! Congrats on you new pair of socks!

The Short Version

Materials:

 

  • 1 Skein Worsted weight (4) yarn any brand, fiber, and color (about 275 yards)
  • 4 size US-5 (3.75 mm) Double Pointed Needles–DPNs (or 1 circular needle)
  • Split ring markers, locking stitch markers, OR safety pins (at LEAST 2)
  • A measuring tape
  • OPTIONAL: Medium stitch holder(s)
  • OPTIONAL: Knitting Gauge

 

Gauge:

5 sts x 5 rows =1 in x 1 in

**GAUGE NOTE: Because this pattern is using measurements rather that stitches, it doesn’t matter what weight yarn you use or what size needles you use as long as you are matching the measurements. I have listed here what I am using for this project.

Take Measurements:

  1. Across top of toes
  2. Big Toe Length from tip to joint
  3. From your big toe joint to the start of your heel
  4. Heel height from bottom of foot to base of Achilles tendon or just below the Medial Malleolus (the bone that sticks out on the outside of some ankles)
  5. Desired cuff length

TOE

Using two DPNs and either the cast-on above, Judy’s Magic Cast-On or similar, cast on the length of measurement 1 MINUS .5 inch. Place a marker to indicate beginning of round.

Round 1:  Knit around

Round 2: Place marker, KFB, k across needle 1, place marker, KFB, k across needle 2

For older child and adult socks:

Repeat round 1 and 2 until measurement 2 is reached.

For younger child and infant socks:

Repeat round 2 until measurement 2 is reached.

FOOT

Slide stitches evenly across three needles

Round 1: K around

Repeat round 1 until measurement 3 is reached.

HEEL

Short Row 1: K across half the FOOT stitches and slide remaining stitches onto a stitch holder or leave on DPNs unworked.

Short Row 2: P across to last stitch, wrap last stitch and turn.

Short Row 3: K across to last stitch, wrap last stitch and turn.

Repeat Short Row 2 and 3 until 1/3 the number of short row 1 stitches are wrapped, ensuring that left and right sides of short rows have same number of wrapped stitches. Ending row will depend on number of stitches.

Short Row 4: Knitting knits and Purling purls, work across row. With 1 wrapped stitch and wrap yarn, work 2 together.

Repeat Short Row 4 until all stitches are picked up.

CUFF

Round 1: k around, working k3tog with working stitch, worked stitch, and wrap at corners of work. Place markers in K3tog st at beg of round.

Return stitches to 3 DPNs

Round 2: k around.

Repeat round 2 for 1 inch.

Round 3: k2, p2 around.

Repeat round 3 until measurement 5 is reached.

Knitting 101: Top Down Socks

Since we’re ready to get started on our first pair of socks, I have to tell you now that any sock pattern can be cast on either double pointed or circular needles. The trick is that DPNs do not allow you do to two at a time, so while I will touch on how to cast on this pattern with DPNs, you’ll largely be seeing circular needles in the photos for this post. In the next post (Knitting 101: Toe Up Socks), it will be the other way around as we look at how to do toe up socks with DPNs.

I’m going to talk you through this method, and I tend to be a little long winded, so for those of you just looking for the pattern, I’ve included the short version at the end of this post. I am also going to be working this pattern in measurements rather than sizes, so you won’t be stuck making ladies size 9-10 like I am. This is important when you look at your guage because it means that as long as your measurements match, it doesn’t really matter WHAT yarn or needle size you use. Use what feels good or what you have on hand. As for me, I’ll be noting how many stitches or inches I am working in parenthesis and I will be using:

supplies

  • 1 Skein Sport weight (3) yarn any brand, fiber, and color (about 275 yards)
  • 1 size US-5 (3.75 mm) circular needles (or 5 DPNs)
  • Split ring markers, locking stitch markers, OR safety pins (at LEAST 2)
  • A measuring tape
  •  medium stitch holder(s)
  • Yarn needle
  • OPTIONAL: Knitting Gauge

Top Down Socks

I’m sure we’re all excited to cast on, but before we do, we’ll need to split up our yarn and  figure out how many stitches to cast on! So, grab your measure tape and take a measurement around your ankle. As I am writing this, I am QUITE pregnant, so my ankles are swollen today. If you have a similar problem, you can either take a little off the measurement (to better match what a normal ankle would be), or  you can take a guess based on your shoe size using the Craft Yarn Council’s foot size chart. Generally speaking your foot circumference and your ankle circumference will be the same measurement. If you have wide or narrow feet, this may not be true though, so be careful.

Another note before we move on: if you’re planning on making knee high or even mid calf high socks, you’ll need to measure you leg at the knee (knee high only), largest part of the calf (both) AND the ankle (both) so that you can increase and decrease circumference as needed.

Being done with the measuring for the moment, let’s split our yarn into two balls or skeins, this can be done with a yarn winder, or by hand as I lay out in my post Yarn Balls, or you can very carefully take the center out of the skein and snip the part tying them together. If you’re going to use that method, be very careful not to tangle  your yarn and remember that the smaller the round of yarn, the less yarn there is. So the inside of the skein has less yards of yarn than the outside of the skein. However you choose to separate your yarn (or if you choose to just use two skeins), make sure they are about even in size.

With measurements done and yarn separated, we’re ready to cast on! This will be the same amount of stitches whether you’re using DPN’s or Circular needles. Either way, you need to make a circular gauge swatch to know how many stitches will equal one inch. Since we really do have to make a gauge swatch, lets just start small. We’ll cast on 20 stitches total.

For those of you using DPNs, you can either cast on all 40 stitches to one needle, or you can cast on 10 at a time across four needles as I show in Knitting 101: The Ever Dreaded Round. Either way you’ll want to make a square with your needles so that all the stitch bottoms are facing inward. You should end up with something looking like this:

DPN square

Just like we did in The Ever Dreaded Round, slip the first stitch you made over to the last needle, lay the working yarn between the first and second stitches, and then slip the first stitch back over to the first needle. This will help to hold the round nicely and keep it from having a loose spot.

For those of you using circular needles, I’m going to show you how to cast on two at a time here, but you only need to work one for the gauge swatch. For the sake of this cast on, I’ll be using two different color yarns so you can see what’s going on, the socks I’m making will actually be the same color though, so don’t feel like you have to make two different socks.

To begin, cast on HALF of the stitches you will need from ball number 1 (the grey ball in my pictures) for our gauge swatch we’ll cast on 40 stitches, so do 20 from ball number 1.

cast on 20

Slide your stitches from ball one onto the cable and cast on ALL your stitches from ball number 2 (the yellow ball in my pictures). For this demonstration, that will be 40 stitches.

cast on 40

Slide all the stitches to the cable part of the needles and find the center of the ball number 2 (yellow) stitches (you’ll have 20 on each side for this gauge swatch). Pull the cable through the center point of the stitches so that half are on one side and half are on the other.

finish cast on

Using the working yarn for ball number 1, cast on the second half of the stitches you will need, and make sure that the bottoms of the stitches are facing, similarly to the DPN method shown above.

Now, I mentioned in the last lesson that one way to cast these on is the long tail method. I will go over some alternate types of casting on in a different post for those of you who are interested, but if you’re BURNING with curiosity, Knittinghelp has a a good you tube that can show you how today. The benefit to using a long tail cast on here is that it is a very stretchy cast on that will give a lot, but the ribbing that we’ll use for the top of the sock should compensate for any lack of stretch.

Once you’re cast on, knit at least an inch long around (remember, you only need to do one gauge swatch) and measure your gauge either with a tape measure or a knitting gauge. For me, about 7 rows is one inch and about 6 stitches in stockinette stitch (knitting every round).

gauge

Now that we know how many inches we’ll need and how many stitches in an inch, we’re ready to cast on for REAL. Pick your favorite method from above and cast on 10% less stitches than your ankle measurement calls for (ankle measurement x .1, then ankle measurement – that answer for those of you using the calculator). This will mean your sock is just a little smaller than your leg and will help it to stay up. (I’m using 10 inches as my ankle measurement, so I’ll have 10*.1 = 1 and 10-1 = 9. Then 9 inches *6 sts per inch means I’ll would be casting on 54 sts for my sock, however in order to maintain my k2,p2 evenly I need two more stitches so I’m casting on 56) Math being what it is, you may have to round up or down to get to an even number for casting on. You will need to have an even number of stitches for your cast on. You will also want to make sure that when you divide the number in half (56 / 2 = 28) it is an even number as well. This will help you to keep you ribbing correctly in pattern.

To begin working your stitches, slide the last stitches you cast on down to the cable so you have one needle with stitches on it and one needle free to work. Remember to take your working yarn across your stitches like we did above. Be VERY careful during this first round to keep good tension. If you don’t you’ll end up with sloppy side stitches.

prepare to work

There are all kinds of ways to do a cuff with all kinds of fun things you can work into them, but for today we’ll stick to the basic 2×2 ribbing. So knit 2, purl 2 across your first set of stitches with ball number 1 (28 sts), and then SWITCH and work your second set of stitches with ball number 2 (28 sts), don’t forget to lay the yarn over just like we did for the first set. DO NOT WORK BOTH SETS WITH THE SAME BALL. While the result is interesting and kids seem to think it’s funny, it’s no joke to have your socks stitched together.

Turn the work and very carefully slide the stitches that are on the cable onto the empty needle. If it helps, grab one of your stitch markers and place it the gap just in case you slip and your stitches end up back together. Once you have it turned, work this side the same as the previous side, just remember that you’re starting with ball number 2 this time and ending on ball number 1.

Here comes our next measurement: Cuff length. Relatively long socks will have 5 or more inches for cuff length. I would suggest doing at LEAST one inch of cuff to help keep the sock up. With knitted socks, I feel like two is better. I’m just making ankle socks, so I’ll go with two inches and call it good. When you’re done with your cuff it should look more or less like this:

cuff

If you’re making knee high or mid calf socks, it will obviously be longer and have a little shaping as you add and remove stitches to match the circumference of you knee and/or mid calf. Remember as you’re working those, do increases and decreases every OTHER round and calculate how MANY decreases you need total so that you can start enough rounds ahead to do 1-2 increases or decreases PER ROUND, keeping the changes even dispersed around. Otherwise you’ll end up with weird bunched up socks that don’t fit right.

Make sure you have ended your cuff at the beginning of the round so that you’re not working half a round. Once you’re done with the cuff and happy with it, you’re ready to move on to the heel flap. If you’re working with DPNs you’ll want to slide half the stitches onto one or two stitch holders. If you’re working with circular needles, that step is optional, but it may help you as we work back and forth here.

To slide your stitches onto a holder, you’ll want to slide the stitches you just finished working up onto the needle part of your circular needles (obviously DPN users skip this), and carefully slide the stitches straight onto the holder like so:

As you work, slide the stitches off the needle and push the rest forward until you have half your sock on the stitch holder.

heel onto holder

If you feel comfortable working back and forth on just one side of your circular needles (or DPNs) just skip this part and move on to the next step.

The next step is to pull your measure tape out again and measure the height of your heel from the flat of your foot to base of Achilles tendon or just below the Medial Malleolus (the bone that sticks out on the outside of some ankles).  This measurement will tell you how long to make your heel flap. For most adults, this will be about 2 inches.

Ok, pick your knitting back up and slip one stitch as if to purl, then knit across the row. When you get to sock 2, slip one stitch as if to purl  and knit across (this row is identical to sock one of course). STOP when you get to the end of sock two and TURN your work. Slip one as if to purl and purl across the work. Turn the work after, and slip one as if to purl, then knit across. Keep working back and forth in this way until you’ve reached your heel height measurement (2 inches for me). Make sure to end on a purl row so that you’re ready to knit your next row for the heel turning.

When you’re done, you should have something that looks like this:

Notice on the purl side of the sock there are some nice knit-looking rows on either side? Those will be the stitches we pick up when we get to the gusset. Before we get there though, we need to turn the heel and you’ll probably be glad to know we do NOT need the measuring tape for this one.

There are two ways to work this heel turning. This section is short, so I recommend just working the socks one at a time so you don’t’ have to deal with stitch holder here, but if you would like, you can slip the unworked stitches on to stitch holders and work both socks at the same time. Either way you go, slip one stitch as if to knit this time and knit across sock one until you’re within 1.5 inches of the end of the work (9 sts if you’re following my gauge). Leave those stitches unworked and turn your work. This is the first set up row for the turning of the heel.

Next, slip one stitch as if to purl again (we’re not setting up the gusset anymore, so always slip the way you’re stitching going forward) and purl to the last 1.5 inches of the work (9 sts) and leave the rest unworked and turn again. This is the second set up row for turning the heel. Make sure you have the same amount of unworked stitched on both sides before you move on.

Now you’re ready to pick up stitches and make a heel. Slip the first stitch like we’ve been doing, knit across the row until the last stitch on the row (this is the stitch we slipped on the previous row).

Decrease by knitting two together and then knit one more stitch. Turn your work, slip one, purl across to the slipped stitch from the previous row, purl two together and purl one more then turn. Keep working in this way until you have picked up all the unworked stitches from rows one and two. On the last two rows, you’ll be out of stitches after the work 2 tog part, but don’t worry, that’s normal. Just stop when you have worked 2 tog and turn.

Now if you still have all your stitches on circular needles, slide the finished heel onto the stitch holder. If you opted to move your cuff stitches onto the stitch holder, slide your heel stitches onto the empty needle and down onto the cable to hold for later. Then repeat the heel turning instructions for sock two and we’ll be ready to move on to the gusset.

Before we get started on the gusset, get all your stitches back onto your needles (whichever kind you’re using). This would also be a good time to straighten out your yarn and make sure any tangling is dealt with.

To start the gusset, knit across the heel flap we just created–only the first one for now. Then, we’re going to pick up the stitches in that pretty part we made along the side of the heel. You may want to put the stitches for the heel of sock two on a holder for this part because it can get a little tight if you’re working with short circular needles like the ones pictured (30″ or shorter). Working under the stitches we slipped earlier, pick up one stitch for each slipped stitch on you holding needle like so:

pick up gusset stitches

Then knit that stitch. When you get to the corner, pick up one more stitch through the center of the knit and knit that as well.

This will help to keep the gusset tight and reduce the chance of a hole forming where the round comes together. Place a marker to keep track of the corner (9 picked up stitches). Repeat that for sock two (don’t forget to put your stitches back on your needles if you moved them).

Next, knit across the cuff stitches for sock two ONLY (28sts) and place a marker. When you’ve gotten to the end of the cuff stitches for sock two, you’ll pick up the stitches from this side of the heel flap as well as one in the corner. Remember, the corner is the FIRST stitch you will encounter this time rather than the last. Another good thing to remember is that you should be picking up the same amount of stitches on this side as you did on the previous side (9 if you’re knitting along with me). Repeat that for sock 1 and we’re ready to start on our decreases and head toward the foot!

Get your socks ready to work and knit across until the last 3 stitches before the corner marker, knit two together then knit one and move on to sock two repeat. When you get back around to you cuff side, knit across to the marker, slide the marker, knit one more, slip slip knit, and knit the rest of the stitches. Repeat that for sock one. Knit one round even and you have completed the gusset decrease rounds!

Repeat the gusset decrease rounds until you’re back to the same number of stitches that you had for your cuff (56), ending on a work even round.  You should have something that looks like this:

See the triangular area formed by the stitches? That’s the completed gusset! You’re ready for the easiest part of the socks: the foot.

Grab our that measure tape one more time and measure your foot length from the back of your heel to the first joint on your big toe (8 inches). Knit around your socks evenly until they match that measurement from heel to needles.

foot

Now we’re ready to work the toe and finish up our socks. You’ll have to do a little more math for this part, but we’re mostly done with the measuring tape at least. Take your number of stitches and divide it by 8, because you want 8 decreases spaced evenly around (56 / 8 = 7). To evenly space decreases, knit the answer minus two (since you’re knitting two together), then decrease by knitting two together (k5, k2tog) around the sock.

You may get to the end of side one of sock one and have a remainder of two or three stitches. Don’t worry, just pick up the pattern when you get to the other side (I have two knit stitches at the end of side one, so starting on side two I’ll k3, k2tog then continue in the pattern across side two).

If you end up having a decrease with one stitch on side one and one stitch on side two, use a locking stitch marker or small stitch holder to hold that stitch off the needle until you get to side two. Then slide that stitch onto the needle as the first stitch for side two and work your decrease. Use the same holder or marker and hold the finished decrease off the needle. When you get to your knit around round, slide the stitch back on to the needle for side one and knit it. That will keep your sides even.

What do I do if my stitch number isn’t evenly divisible by 8!? It’s ok. If you have one remainder stitch, it’s not going to hurt anything. When you get to the round that has you knitting two together around, just knit three together with the remainder stitch so that both sides of your sock have the same number of stitches.

If you are making small socks (like for a child or for very small feet) or very large socks (like larger men’s socks) you may need to adjust the amount of decreases you are using. For those cases, measure the toes from the first joint to the tip to make sure that the socks are long enough for the rest of the toe to fit. For very small feet you may need to skip a few knit around rounds  to decrease faster or use less than 8 decreases to get the length you need. For very large socks, you may need to do a few more than 8 decreases or add a little to the foot of the sock to get the length you need. The most important thing here is to keep your decreases evenly spaces around the toe and use an even number of decreases.

However you need to adjust your toe, work a round with 8 decreases evenly spaced (just lose one knit stitch each time around, for example if your first decrease round was k5, k2 tog then the next one will be k4, k2tog)  and then knit around until you have finished the round that is k1, k2 tog and knit around one more time.

toe

Take the working yarn and lay it across the toe of the sock. You want the length to be 3-4 times as long as the stitching so that you’re sure you have enough to sew with. Cut the long tail and grab a yarn needle.

long tail

Thread the needle with the long tail and sew the toe of your socks shut by working back and forth through the stitches like this:

sew shut

Just remember as you work to slide the stitches off the needle as you go and pull them gently when you’re done to pick up any slack left over.

If you want to make them REALLY fancy, you can try grafting the toes shut. To graft knitting, you first need to slide both sides of one sock onto the needle portion of your circular needles.

grafting set up

Then, hold that with one hand and use your yarn needle to pull the tail purlwise through the first stitch, leaving the stitch on the needle:

purlwise front

Put the yarn needle through the stitch on the second needle knitwise:

knitwise back

Come back forward and put the needle through the first stitch (the one you already ran purlwise) knitwise and pull the stitch off the needle.

knitwise front

Bring the yarn needle purlwise through the next stitch on the front needle

purl next front

Then bring the yarn needle through the first stitch on the back needle (the one you’ve run through knitwise) purlwise and slide it off the needle.

purlwise back

Bring the yarn needle knitwise through the next stitch on the back needle and you’ve successfully begun your graft.

knit next stitch back

Knit the front stitch and slide it off, purl the next stitch on the front needle, purl the back stitch and slide it off, knit the next stitch on the back needle and keep doing that across your toe until you’re finished and you can tie off the end. (pardon my green for looking clumsy, I used a heavier weight yarn to help the pictures be clearer)

Weave in the loose ends and you’ll have a brand new pair of socks! Good job!

The Short Version

Materials:

  • 1 Skein Sport weight (3) yarn any brand, fiber, and color (about 275 yards)
  • 1 size US-5 (3.75 mm) circular needles (or 5 DPNs)
  • Split ring markers, locking stitch markers, OR safety pins (at LEAST 2)
  • A measuring tape
  • Medium stitch holder(s)
  • Yarn needle
  •  OPTIONAL: Knitting gauge

Gauge:

7 rows x 6 sts =1×1 inch

Make a gauge swatch to determine your gauge if you are using a different weight yarn or different size needles. Use a tape measure or knitting gauge to help you measure.

Measurements:

  1.  Ankle circumference***
  2. Cuff Length
  3. Heel height from bottom of foot to base of Achilles tendon or just below the Medial Malleolus (the bone that sticks out on the outside of some ankles)
  4. From your big toe joint to the back of your heel

***If you’re planning on making knee high or even mid calf high socks, you’ll need to measure you leg at the knee (knee high only), largest part of the calf (both) AND the ankle (both) so that you can increase and decrease circumference as needed.

CUFF

Split your skein into two balls (ball 1 and ball 2) and cast on the amount of stitches needed to match Measurement 1. Make sure the number of stitches cast on is both even and when divided by in half is even as well. (example: 56 /2 = 28).

Round 1: k2, p2 around working one sock with ball 1 and one sock with ball 2. Keep working yarn separate so it does not tangle.

Repeat round 1 until cuff reaches desired length.

Longer socks

If you’re making knee high or mid calf socks, add and remove stitches to match the circumference of you knee and/or mid calf. Work increases and decreases every other round and 1-2 increases or decreases per increase or decrease round. Increases and decreases should be worked evenly around.

HEEL FLAP

If desired, slide half the cuff stitches onto a stitch holder.

Row 1: slip one purlwise, knit across half the cuff stitches, turn.

Row 2: slip one purlwise, purl across half the cuff stitches, turn.

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until measurement 3 is reached. End on Row 2.

HEEL TURNING

Work socks one at a time or use stitch holders to hold unworked stitches.

Row 1: Sl 1, k to last 1.5 inches of row, leave last inch unworked and turn.

Row 2: Sl 1, p to last 1.5 inches of row, leave last inch unworked and turn.

Row 3: Sl 1, k to slipped stitch, k2 tog with slipped stitch and unworked stitch, k1 turn.

Row 4: Sl 1, p to slipped stitch, p2 tog with slipped stitch and unworked stitch, p1 turn.

Repeat rows 3 and 4 until one unworked stitch from rows 1 and 2 remain.

Final Row A: Sl 1, k to slipped stitch, k2 tog with slipped stitch and unworked stitch, turn.

Final Row B: Sl 1, p to slipped stitch, p2 tog with slipped stitch and unworked stitch, turn.

If working socks one at a time, place stitches for sock 1 onto a stitch holder and repeat for sock 2

GUSSET

Round 1: k across HEEL stitches. Pick up stitches in slipped stitches on side of HEEL FLAP and one stitch in corner of work place marker. k across cuff stitches and place marker. Pick up stitches in slipped stitches on side of HEEL FLAP. Make sure the same amount of stitches were picked up on both sides of HEEL FLAP.

Round 2: k to 3 before marker, k 2 tog, k 1 move marker. k across to marker, move marker,  k 1, ssk, k to end of round

Round 3: k around

Repeat rounds 2 and 3 until the stitch count is the same as the amount of stitches cast on for CUFF.

FOOT

Knit around until sock matches Measurement 4 from back of sock HEEL.

TOE*

Round 1: k,  spacing 8 decreases evenly around.

Round 2: k around

Repeat rounds 1 and 2 until 8 stitches remain on each side of the sock. Sew or graft toe shut with yarn needle, weave in ends.

*See end of blog section for notes on adjusting for very large or very small toes.

Knitting 101: Eso Si Que Es?

Depending on who’s Spanish your speaking, this can mean “Yes, that, what is is?” or “it is what it is” or just be an Americanized silly phrase that means nothing at all. Whatever it means though, it’s homonym in English is S O C K S which spells out what our next set of lessons will be! SOCKS!

Now, I know I said that we would wait till summer and Christmas stockings to make something round, but I thought you guys might want a practice go on a small sock before we get to the big one. Before we get started though, there are a few things we’ll want to go over.

Basic Sock Terms

No matter what kind of socks you’re making, this part will be the same. I’ve put together a picture to label the parts of sock here (yes, it’s a crocheted sock, sorry guys):

parts of sock crochet

Toe: This is the part that covers JUST your toes, usually about 2 inches or so.

Foot: This is the part from the toe joints to where your foot starts to curve into your ankle.

Heel: This is the part that covers JUST your heel, usually about 3-4 inches of work.

Gusset: This is the weird triangular piece that fills in the space between the heel of your foot and your ankle. This piece basically evens out the sock so that the cuff can be worked evenly.

Cuff: This is the part of the sock that goes up your ankle (and sometimes leg).

Ways to Cast On

When it comes to casting on socks, there are several ways to go about it. First, you need to know if you’re going to make one or two at a time. I SERIOUSLY recommend making two at a time. Working two at a time means that when you’re done you’re DONE and you don’t have to cast on another sock and start from the beginning again.

The second thing you’ll need to know is if your pattern is working toe up or top down. As the names indicate, toe up works from the toe of the sock up toward the cuff and top down works from the cuff down to the toe. Depending on the direction your socks go, you’ll need to change the method for which you cast on, and may need to change the kind of needles you are using.

Now, since there are several VERY good tutorials out there already and I do not want to take up four posts on how to cast on in various ways, I am instead providing you some links to my favorite tutorials.

Two at a Time

These methods will require circular needles to make something known as the Magic Loop. The “magic” of the magic loop is that is shortens the cable part of circular needles and allows smaller work to be done by folding the needle basically in half.

Toe Up

There is an AMAZING picture tutorial that takes you not only through how to cast on two at a time toe up socks, but ALSO how to make the WHOLE sock on Silver’s Sock Class. This is both my favorite method and the site I keep coming back to when I forget how to do a toe up cast on (I don’t make socks that often). Because she does such a good job and takes you through the whole sock, I won’t be covering this method in our sock lessons.

If you need help with this method, please contact me!

Top down

Knitpurlhunter has a good video for top down cast on. And for those of you who would rather the pictures than the video, there’s a great tutorial on KNITfreedom. Knitpurlhunter shows how to cast on with the “long tail” method, this method is a continental cast on, and I have been teaching you guys how to “throw” knit, so I will show you a method of casting on more appropriate to throwing in our next lesson.

One at a time

Both of these methods will use DPNs (Double Pointed Needles) to work the socks. Working socks one at a time can be more time consuming, but the cast on tends to be less frustrating. If you’ve never made socks before, this is probably the best place to start.

Toe up

This cast on is sometimes called the “magic cast on.” Knitty has a good blog on the subject that takes you through in 8 steps how to use DPNs to cast on for toe up socks.

I’ll cover this method as well when we make our toe up socks.

Top down

It just so happens that I DID a tutorial on this method already, so if you haven’t taken a look at my entry on The Ever Dreaded Round, you should pop over there to take a look. I mentioned in that entry that this was not my preferred method for socks, and indeed it is not, but it IS a good place to start if you want to get comfortable with DPNs or if you have never made a sock before.

Knitting 101: Blocking

We’ve knitted some pretty fun things at this point and you may have knitted a few things on your own. Have you looked at your work and wondered why it’s curling up or twisting and not looking like the pictures at all?

Probably what’s happened is that you need to “Block” your work. Not, mentally block it out,  but manipulate the yarn to give it some shape. Blocking is a way to show the yarn who’s boss and get your work to lay the way it’s supposed to lay. Blocking will NOT fix twisted stitching or crooked seems, but it will make our dishcloth lay nice and flat and keep our sweater pieces flat and easy to sew together.

I will be honest here, I think blocking is a total pain and I really don’t like it. However, it is WORTH THE TROUBLE! (I say that a lot huh?) Please learn from my experience here and just block your work. It usually needs to happen before you can really finish a piece, so you’ll need some patience, but it will be worth the wait to do it right.

I will also say that I am not terribly skilled at blocking. There is a really great blog entry on Knitty.com called “To Block or Not to Block…” that will serve you much better if you are a more advanced knitter and want to get more detailed information on how to block specific fibers. I am going to go through the beginner’s basics here so that you can get started on your blocking journey. Just know there is more out there than what I’m going to show you in this post.

So, what do you need to block your work? That depends on which way you want to do things. For yarns like cotton and acrylic I prefer to wet block. When it comes to wool and other animal fibers, I prefer to steam block them. Now, that being said, there are wool pieces I will wet block because there is a lot of (or very thick) cables and there are cotton pieces I will steam block (like dishcloths) because it’s just faster and I don’t need it to be sized perfectly.

BEFORE YOU PICK A BLOCKING METHOD: READ YOUR LABELS!!!!

I cannot stress enough that you have GOT to pay attention to your yarn labels. If your yarn says “do not hot iron or press” then DO NOT STEAM BLOCK IT. There is a GOOD REASON the care instructions are there.

Now that you’ve read your label, here’s what to do for

Wet Blocking Method

You will need:

You will need wet

  • A large cardboard box (or similar flat surface you can stick pins in)
  • Straight pins
  • A tape measure or ruler
  • OPTIONAL: A felt tip pen
  • A large towel (larger than the work being blocked)
  • A washtub or sink (large enough for your work to fit in)
  • Water

Before you get to the fun part, you’ll want to get your box or work surface set up. If you want to spend the money (or will be receiving gifts soon) you could get a cool set of blocking boards like these (from Amazon.com), but I don’t have those currently. To get the same effect as those, you can use a felt tip pen to create a 1×1 inch grid on your box so that you have a way to know how many inches you’re working with and don’t have to muck about with the measure tape later.To make a grid, use a ruler or tape measure to mark out your box and a straight edge to join the marks, making a grid like so:

If you’re confident in your measuring abilities, you can skip that part, but make sure your measure tape and pins are ready. I am blocking a few cotton blend hearts, so I’ll show you a little bit of grid, but I’m not actually going to use it today.

Fill up your sink or washtub (or bathtub, or whatever) with some water–nothing added, just water–and immerse your work in the water.

wet the work

Make sure you have your towel laid out flat nearby, you’re going to wrap your work in that in just a minute.

Gently squish the work to get any excess water out of it. DO NOT WRING YOUR WORK! Most fibers, but especially wool and other animal fibers do not like to be wrung out. It is better to either use the towel to absorb the water or to let the work dry a little longer.

Speaking of that towel….now we need it. Lay out your work on the towel as flat as possible and roll the work up in the towel, gently pressing to help absorb water.

Again, DO NOT WRING YOUR WORK. You may need another towel or two depending on how large your work is and how much water it soaked up. By the time you’re done with this step, your work should be mostly dry.

Unroll your work and lay it out flat again on your box or work surface.

lay on box

With those pins that you kept nearby, pin your work to the box and use your measure tape (or grid) to check the size of the work. Your pattern should have given you a size measurement to match up to.

pin wet work

You may have to shuffle pins or pull the work slightly to reach the right size, but once it’s there, you’re done.

Now is the hard part. Wait for the work to dry. DO NOT get out the hairdryer or similar high heat device to speed this process. You will risk felting your animal fibers and burning other fibers. Just let it sit. If you have a room in your house that stays a bit warmer than the rest, you can move it in there (the laundry area with the dryer on is ok, but not IN the dryer) to help speed things a bit. We live in Texas, so in the summer, I’ll move a work outside if it’s not too windy and let it dry in the sun (DISCLAIMER: the sun can bleach color out of work, so be careful with bold or bright colors or work that rely on contrast).

Once the work is dry, you can unpin it and when you hold it up, you shouldn’t see any rolling or twisting of the work.

finished

If you do see a little rolling, or if the work is not blocked to your satisfaction, go back to the top and try it again, or try steam blocking if the fiber can take it.

Steam Blocking Method

You will need:

steam blocking you will need.png

  • An ironing board (or similar flat surface you can stick pins in)
  • Rust resistant straight pins
  • A tape measure or ruler
  • An Iron
  • Water
  • OPTIONAL: a thin towel or pillow case

I prefer this method for small pieces or animal fibers because it is relatively quick and gentle. It can be difficult to find a large enough area to work sometimes, so larger pieces usually get wet block if I need to block the whole work. As I mentioned above, there are some exceptions to this and the work pictured is one of them. This piece is an acrylic nylon blend that I needed to block quickly and that I am only blocking the pointed ends of. The method is the same whatever fiber you are using though.

To begin, make sure you have either a steamer or an iron handy and that it has plenty of water for steaming. You may want to keep a refill bottle nearby just in case you need it.

measure and pin.png

Lay your work out on the board, use a measuring tape to make sure that you are pinning the work to the correct size and pin the work to the board cover. I am only blocking the ends of this piece, so I am only pinning a few inches, of it. If you are blocking a whole piece (like you would for a sweater) you will need to have a surface that is large enough to hold the WHOLE piece at the same time.

steam.png

Turn your iron to steam and let it warm up. Once it is ready, blow off some of the steam AWAY from your work. You may be able to skip this step, but my iron is a little older and we have pretty hard water here, so there is sometimes an almost saw dust like buildup that comes out of the thing the first couple of times you steam something if you’ve let it sit for a bit. Clean or not, I always do this step with my iron because it’s troublesome like that.

Hold the hot iron over your work, and DO NOT TOUCH THE WORK, seriously, hot iron on MOST yarns is a bad thing and will easily crush or warp your fiber. Acrylic is a kind of plastic remember, so it CAN melt in high heat. If you are worried that your hand is not steady enough to hold the iron close, but not touch, get an old pillow case or thin towel and lay it over your work where you are steaming. This might mean you need more steam, but it will provide an “oops” barrier if you accidentally touch the work.

Press the steam button and let the steam saturate your work. Keep in mind, you are NOT trying to get the work wet. It will be a little damp because steam is evaporated water, but it should not be soaked and if your iron starts dripping, you need to let it stand up and reset.

And really, that’s it. Cover the work with steam and then stop. Let any damp parts dry before you remove the pins. You should be able to hold your work up and notice that there is no more curling or twisting. If you do see any curling or twisting, or if the work is not blocked to your satisfaction, go up and try the wet block method.

Knitting 101: The Ever Dreaded Round

When I first started knitting, I had never seen circular needles. Now, I KNEW that socks didn’t have seams, so I knew some how these straight needles that I had been gifted could make a circle, but how exactly to do that was beyond my comprehension. So I knitted nothing but scarves and blankets for several years.

It wasn’t until I was working at a medical clinic and one of the doctors I worked for mentioned that he would really like a pair of lavender socks (at the time it wasn’t common for men to wear “feminine” colors like lavender or pink) that I got my interest up in trying to figure this silliness out. So, I bought a “I can’t believe I’m…” book all about knitting socks.

I learned precisely two things from that book:

  1. If I knit socks one at a time, you will get precisely ONE sock.
  2. Hand knit socks are NOT meant to be knit on straight needles.

So, since you’re learning after me, you gain the benefit of my experience. At least that’s the goal here.

No, we won’t be tackling socks today. We’re going to start by getting acquainted with a new style of needle and working in the round. We WILL get to socks SOON. Knitting 101 and Crochet 101 will be working along with our designers on our Ugly Christmas Stockings over the summer and you’ll need a stocking (sock) to do that. Today, we’ll be looking at different types of needles used for making rounds.Some of this will be review, but bear with me, we’ll get to the good stuff soon.

We already learned about circular needles last lesson. Remember, two points and a wire.

circular-needles

Circular needles are good for really two things, larger round works (the baby sweaters) and longer straight works (like blankets). Circular needles come in a variety of lengths and all the same sizes as straight needles. Make sure to check your pattern for what length circular needle you will need. Working a pattern that calls for 36″ needles with 9″needles does not end well (I tried).

The other way (and my preferred method usually) for working in the round is Double Pointed Needles (DPNs). These are straight needles with two points and usually come in sets of 4.

dpns

DPNs are my favorite for working any small round (sleeves, stockings, etc.) but NOT for socks (when we get to socks, I’ll show you why). They are a little more complicated to work with, but once you’re comfortable with them it’s not so bad. There isn’t much variation in length with these and they come in the same sizes as straight needles (although you may have to go online to find some of the larger sizes). Most of the patterns I have found call for sets of 5, but a lot of retailers sell these in sets of 4, so keep an eye on what you need for your pattern. Much like hotdogs and buns, someday they’ll figure this out, but not everyone is there yet.

There is ONE other fun tool that we’ll talk about here and that is needle point protectors. These have the dual effect of keeping your work from sliding around and keeping you from stabbing yourself in the hand (not that needles are THAT sharp, but it can be annoying). Mine happen to look like little Christmas socks (they were a Christmas present ^_^) but most look like little cones. Keep an eye on the sizing too. These are usually made of a rubber of flexible plastic, but they have their limits. Small protectors don’t fit well on larger needles and large protectors will fall off smaller needles.

point-protectors

Now that we know all the tools, grab your circular needles and we’ll be working in the round with them. I’m working with a pair of size US 13, 24 inch bamboo needles and some worsted weight scrap yarn today. If you don’t know what size your needles are, take a measure tape or yard stick and lay them out flat. Measure from one tip to the other and that is how long they are.

Cast on just like you would for straight needles. I did about 100, but for this project, do as many as you need for your needles to be loosely covered from end to end. something like this:

cast-on-circular

Once you’re satisfied with your cast on, lay out your needles like we have above and make sure that ridge is all laying toward the inside of the loop, like this:

straighten-stitches

Last time we used circular needles it didn’t matter as much, because we were working straight across. You can fix stitches as you go across that first row when you’re working straight, but this time we’re going around, so we need to make sure the base of the round is straight before we move on.

Now, before we knit our first stitch, we’re going to link the first and last part of the circle. This step isn’t strictly necessary, but it WILL help as you work round 1. Especially as a beginner, I found this helpful. To link the round, take your working needle (the one that’s got the skein yarn attached) and slid the first cast on to it knitwise. Notice you are not knitting this stitch, just slipping it over.

Take your working yarn and lay it over the space between the slipped stitch and the next stitch on the other needle.

lay-working-yarn

Slip the first cast on back over to the other needle.

slip-back

This forces the two to stay together and now we’re ready to knit! Just knit around and around until you’re comfortable with the process. As you work, you’ll need to slide your stitches (probably by hand) around the circle. You may notice the stitches getting squirrely, but if you laid them out neat to start with, you can just adjust them back to the right position as you go.  You’ll notice when knitting in  the round that you get a very nice stockinette stitch without having to purl! This is because you’re working in circles and not back and forth like with straight needles.

knit-only

Now we’re ready to try out DPNs. The very first rule is DON’T GET FRUSTRATED. These really aren’t the easiest thing to work with and you feel like you have about a thousand needles hanging around, but I promise, this is a skill WORTH learning!! You’ll need it for our stockings at the very least.

When casting on for DPNs, most patterns will tell you to cast on x and distribute the stitches evenly across the needles. To do that, cast on all your stitches on one needle, then slip the appropriate amount to the other needles knitwise. I have ALSO found that you can cast on the appropriate amount of stitches to EACH needle and skip the silps if you are careful. I will show you THAT method here.

I’ll be using four size US 8 DPNs for this and the same scrap worsted weight yarn. I’m casting on 30 stitches to make it a nice round number. The first needle is easy. Cast on 10 like you would a straight needle.

Once you have those on, grab your second needle and hold it out farther than your first needle.

needle-2-cast-on

Then cast the next 10 onto the empty needle.

two-needles-cast-on

Repeat that for needle 3.

three-needles-cast-on

Now that we have all our stitches on, we’ll bring the circle together just like before. This time, we don’t have the wire to help out though, so instead we’ll make a triangle (or a square if you’re using 4 needles). Again, make sure that the ridge is facing the inside of your shape. And remember, your needles WILL pile on top of each other. That’s ok.

line-up-triange

As you can see in my picture, things don’t line up perfectly, but that’s largely because this is a triangle. with a square it should be a little easier.

Now, before you grab that extra needle, pick up the set you have already. Just like before, use the working needle to slip the first cast on over and lay the working yarn between the first two stitches. Then slip that first cast on back over.

Make sure that your stitches are centered on your needles as best as possible and then you’re ready to work!

NOW you can pick up that extra needle. Find the place where you just linked your round together and begin working your first needle (the one that has the first cast on) with the spare needle. I’m just knitting every stitch again, but often times you’ll be doing ribbing here.

work-needle-1

When you get to the end of that first needle, the spare needle will become needle 1 and what WAS needle 1 will become your working needle. Take your new working needle and work needle 2 the same way we did with needle 1. Then do the same with needle 3. Keep working in this way around and around until you’re comfortable with the DPNs.

end-needle-1

Just like the circular needles, if  you’re knitting around, you get a beautiful stockinette stitch with no need to purl.

a-few-dpn-rows

Now you know how to knit in the round two ways! Get practicing because we’re going to pick this back up again when we start our stockings this summer!

 

Knitting 101: More Increases and Decreases

So in our last lesson, we got the chance to look at basic increase and a basic decrease. In this post, we’re going to go over a few more stitches that will allow us to increase and decrease in different ways. I’ve included our stitches from last lesson here as well so you guys have them all in one place. Keep in mind, this is NOT an exhaustive list and everything that has a knit version probably ALSO has a purl version you can do. I am going to hit the ones you will see most here. If you would like to see how to do an increase or decrease that is NOT covered here, please contact me so I can get it added on here or help you out (or both).

Increases

Left Leaning Increases

Make One Left(M1L)

Find the space between the stitch you just made and the next stitch to work. Lift up the string between the two stitches from front to back (if it helps think that when someone has “left” they go away from you). Then knit through the back side of the loop you’ve just made.

Left Lifted Increase (LLI) aka Knit Left Loop (kll)

Knit your stitch, then lift the left side of the stitch below the stitch you just worked. Knit that stitch as well.

Knit Front Back  (kfb)

Knit the stitch like normal, but before you slide the knitted loop off the main needle, knit through the back loop of the same stitch.

Make One Toward (M1T)

Basically for this increase, you’re casting on a stitch and then moving on to the next knit stitch. Make a loop with your working yarn by laying the part closest to your work over the part closer to the ball (this can be more practically done by wrapping the string around a finger, but is harder to see in photos). Twist the loop slightly and slip it onto your working needle and move onto the next stitch.

Right Leaning Increases

Make One Right(M1R)

Find the space between the stitch you just made and the next stitch to work. Lift up the string between the two stitches from back to front (if it helps think that when someone is coming toward you they’re coming “right” at you). Then knit the loop you’ve just made like normal.

Right Lifted Increase (rli) aka Knit Right Loop (krl)

Lift the right side of the stitch below the stitch you that is next on your main needle. Place the lifted loop onto your main needle and knit that stitch, then knit the next stitch  as well.

Purl Front Back (pfb)

Purling the front and back is basically the same thing as knitting the front and back, but you do it on the purl side instead. Purl your stitch like normal, but before you slide the stitch off you main needle, purl the back loop of the stitch as well.

Make One Away (M1A)

Basically for this increase, you’re casting on a stitch and then moving on to the next knit stitch. Make a loop with your working yarn by laying the part closes to your ball over the part closer to your work (this can be more practically done by wrapping the string around a finger, but is harder to see in photos). Slip the loop onto your working needle and move onto the next stitch.

Neutral Increases

Yarn Over (yo)

To Yarn over, you simply wrap your yarn around your working needle (the one you’re moving your freshly worked stitches on to) in a counter clockwise (ALWAYS COUNTER CLOCKWISE) direction.

yarn-over

Yarn Forward Round Needle (yfrn)

Alright you guys, you know my thing about “always counter clockwise?” This is one of the few times that it actually doesn’t apply.  This is usually used when increasing between knit and purl stitches or between two purls. Wrap the yarn clockwise all the way around your needle and then purl your next stitch.

Decreases

Left Leaning Decreases

Slip Slip Knit (ssk)

This is a fairly standard counter weight for the k2tog below. To make a slip slip knit, insert your working needle into the loop on your main needle as if to knit, then slide the loop to your working needle. Do that one more time so you have two unworked loops on your working needle. Now insert your main needle back into the stitches and knit the two together like normal.

Slip Slip Purl (ssp)

Slip Slip purl is the “wrong side” version of the slip slip knit and is worked virtually the same way. To make a slip slip purl, insert your working needle into the loop on your main needle as if to purl, then slide the loop to your working needle. Do that one more time so you have two unworked loops on your working needle. Now insert your main needle back into the stitches and purl the two together like normal.

Knit Two Together Through the Back Loops (k2 tog tbl)

This is worked the same as k2 tog below, but you’ll be working the back loops of the stitch rather than knitting them normally. Insert your working needle through the back loop of TWO stitches from your main needle. Then knit.

Slip One, Knit One, Pass Slipped Stitch over (sl 1, k1, psso)

This one is actually not in use much anymore. It has the same result as slip slip knit (and you can substitute ssk if you would rather in patterns that call for it), but you’ll see it in some older patterns so I am going to cover it here just so you know what it means. Slip one as if to knit the stitch, but just leave it on your working needle for the moment. Knit the next loop on your main needle. Then pick up the stitch you slipped to your working needle with your main needle and gently pull it over the stitch you just knitted and off the needles.

Slip Slip Slip Knit (sssk)

I’m guessing your so smart, you already know where this one is going. Just like the ssk, To make a slip, slip, slip knit, insert your working needle into the loop on your main needle as if to knit, then slide the loop to your working needle. Do that two more times so you have three unworked loops on your working needle. Now insert your main needle back into the stitches and knit the three together.

Slip Slip Slip Purl (sssp)

Just like above, this is the “wrong side” version of the slip slip slip knit. To make a slip,  slip, slip, purl, insert your working needle into the loop on your main needle as if to purl, then slide the loop to your working needle. Do that two more times so you have three unworked loops on your working needle. Now insert your main needle back into the stitches and purl the three together.

Slip One, Knit Two Together, Pass Slipped Stitch Over (sl 1, k2tog, psso)

This is very similar to the sl1, k1, psso but we’ll be knitting two together in the middle. Slip one as if to knit the stitch, but just leave it on your working needle for the moment. Knit the next two loops on your main needle together (exactly like k2 tog below). Then pick up the stitch you slipped to your working needle with your main needle and gently pull it over the stitch you just knitted and off the needles (exactly like the sl 1, k1, psso above)

Right Leaning Decreases

Knit Two Together (k2 tog)

You’ll remember from last lesson that knitting two together was really as simple as is sounded. Slide your working needle into two loops on your main needle and knit them as though they are one stitch.

Purl Two Together (p2 tog)

You’ll remember from last lesson that purling two together was basically the same as knitting two together, just with purls. Slide your working needle into two loops on your main needle and purl them as though they are one stitch.

Knit Three Together (k3 tog)

If you thought knitting two together was easy, wait till we knit THREE together. Seriously, it’s the same thing, just slide your working needle into three loops on  you main needle and knit as though they are one.

Purl Three Together (p3 tog)

And You guessed it! This is the same as knitting three together, but we’re using purls. Slide your working needle through three loops on your main needle and purl as one.

Neutral Decreases

Centered Double Decrease (cdd) aka slip two, knit one, pass two slipped stitches over (s2kp2)

Last, but certainly not least on our list is the unique centered double decrease. This stitch is unique because it is the only decrease (that I am aware of anyway) that doesn’t lean one way or the other. In order to make this stitch, we’ll slip two stitches kintwise onto our working needle (just like we did for ssk above) then knit the next stitch on the working needle. You’ll have three loops on your working needle now. The final step is to lift BOTH slipped stitches over the knit stitch and off the needles.

 

How to Dye Yarn–Part 4

We’re getting close to the end of this series now, I promise!! I promised you home-school parents and camp leaders (among others) a fun project for the older kiddos, and here it is! Acrylic yarn is cheap, readily available and easy to find in large quantity; as is acrylic paint.

This is a project that I would say kids 10 and up can do basically on their own with direction and supervision (of course, you know your kids best, so be mindful). I would also recommend this as a “mommy and me” craft with younger ones as long as they can follow directions. My three year old wasn’t up for it at the time I did this set, but I know he would LOVE the squish-the-bag part (again, you know your kid and what they’re ready for).

Acrylic Yarn ‘Dyed” with Acrylic Paint

Before you begin, make sure you are wearing “paint clothes” or an apron that can get permanently messy. Acrylic paint dries rapidly and you will have 7-10 seconds to get it off your clothes before it stays that way for good. Once you are appropriately dressed, gather your supplies! For this process, you will need:

supplies

  • A 2 cup measure (if this is for food, you will ALSO need a 1/ 4 cup measure for PAINT ONLY)
  • A paintbrush of any sort (a chopstick or other thin stick will due)
  • Paper towels
  • A large ziptop bag (the more yarn you have the bigger you will need)
  • Any color acrylic paint (or colors to blend)
  • Water
  •  About 3 oz Pre- washed acrylic yarn
  • A notebook or printout with your instructions

Once you have all those together, put your instructions somewhere you can easily see them without having to touch them. Mine were in a notebook, so I left it open to that page on the table, but the fridge is a good place or pinned to the wall behind the space where you are working.(Sound familiar? We did this for the food coloring project as well!)

Please remember, Acrylic is basically plastic. Plastic is NOT good for eating. Please DO NOT USE your food dishes for ANYTHING that will touch the paint. When in doubt, use craft dishes.

mix-paintThe first thing you will want to do is decide what color you want. As you’re thinking about your paint color, remember that the color will end up lighter than it looks on paper and that you will be hanging your yarn to dry, so there will be a natural variegated look to it (scroll down to see my end ball). The hanging part means that the top will lose more color than the bottom and make parts of the ball paler than others.

If you have a solid color that you like, then you’re set to go and you can move on to mixing. If you’re mixing a color, grab your paper towels and use one to mix up. I was trying to mix blue and green to get teal, but I didn’t have the right sort of green on hand, so I mixed a dark and light blue to get a nice mid blue.

 

Once you have your paint color decided, mix 2 cups of water with 1/4 cup paint in your zip top bag. Remember if you have more than one color you’re mixing that you will need to have a TOTAL of 1/4 cup of paint. If you’re mixing equal parts, that’s easy enough, but if you aren’t it can get a bit tricky.

To mix it, just pour the water and paint into the bag and zip it shut. Remember to leave some air so the mixture has space to move. You may need to rub on the bag a little to get any paint that stuck to the plastic.

rub-to-mix-paint

Once your paint and water have mixed nicely, stand the bag back up and very carefully open it so you can add your yarn.

add-yarn

Close the bag back up and massage the paint into the yarn. Remember those ties we have on the yarn to discourage tangling? Do your best to slide them around just a little so the paint covers the space underneath the tie, otherwise you’ll have a white stripe in your yarn. The more coated your yarn is with your paint/water mix the more color will be visible.

massage

Once the yarn is coated to your satisfaction, remove the yarn from the bag (again, careful not to spill the excess water). Give it a little time hanging over the bag of paint mix so that all the excess mixture can run off to the point of just dripping. You do NOT want a paint stream through your work area. Acrylic paint sticks to just about everything! No joke.

remove-yarn

 

 

 

When the yarn is ready to move, hang it dry in a safe location. This can be done on a drying rack, hanging dowel, or just using a regular clothes hanger. The best way to do this REALLY is to fold over seven or eight layers of paper towel and let the yarn drip straight onto the towels. I was stuck working in my kitchen, so to practice safety, I took a craft bowl and put a CLEAN zip top bag into the bowl. Then hung the yarn inside the new bag to drip.

hang-dry

Once the yarn is dry, it’s ready to ball up and use!

I do have a couple of notes that I would pull out of this process, so I’ll share those with you guys now:

  • For the recipe listed here, the yarn is double the amount I actually used. I found that my yarn was very “crunchy” from the paint and I think it would have done better to have less paint for the amount of yarn I used.
  • You can get a lighter color and less “crunchy” yarn by using less paint than called for here. The mix is really up to you, but the more paint you have the more “crunch” you’ll have to deal with. The upside of that is that you get darker colors
  • This project can be done (following the same method) to make GLOW IN THE DARK yarn! I’m serious, this stuff actually works for that, just get the glow in the dark acrylic paint from you local mega-mart or craft store in the paint sections. This usually comes in the smaller bottles. 11214199_10208232507719809_1842973856261281432_n
  • To make a TRUE variegated yarn, you can mix up several bags of paint and dip different parts of the yarn into the mixtures. Using rubber bands or ties to hold your yarn together (tie dye style) will ensure that you get some white sections as well and help to keep colors separate.

 

Knitting 101: Getting “Fancy”

If you have made it this far in knitting and you’re comfortable with all the stitches I’ve shown you so far, CONGRATULATIONS! You are now prepared to graduate from beginner to intermediate patterns!

NOW, don’t get a big head. There will still be some beginner patterns that are confusing and difficult and there will be some intermediate patterns that you can do in your sleep. As far as I can tell, there is no standard for what constitutes a “beginner,” “intermediate,” or “advanced” pattern. It seems to be a generally agreed upon level of stitch and that’s about it.

Now that we’ve had a little celebration, time to get “fancy.” We all know that chevrons are “in.” Just look at every Pintrest board on home decor or nursery design and you’ll see them plastered all over. So, let’s see what we can do to keep up with the times!

What’s a chevron? A ripple pattern with a sharp point at the top and bottom. Something like this:

 

yellow-chevron

Now, this one happens to be crochet, but you get the general idea. If you’d like to take a better look, check out this Pintrest board for ideas.

Since we’re INTERMEDIATE knitters now, let’s pull out the big guns: circular needles. We’re not using these because we’re making anything circular, but more to get used to the length on them and how wiggly they are for casting on. We’ll get to the round stuff this summer when we start the Ugly Christmas Stockings pattern (if you can’t handle Christmas in summer, you may want to re-think your hobby choice, no joke. These things take time ^_^;;).

For those of you unfamiliar with circular needles, they’re the ones that have two pointy ends and a wire attaching them. Like this:

circular-needles

While we’re here, we may as well address colorwork. I’ve talked about colorwork and what it is in my Design it Yourself blog as well as the Crochet 101 blog so I will do what I did for the crocheters here and give you the short version: Colorwork is any work that uses multiple colors of  yarn. I’m going to be using a tan and purple for this project, but anything will due (we’re learning, it doesn’t have to be pretty).

The first thing to do is cast on. Casting on works exactly the same on straight needles as it does on circular needles. I’m only doing a few here, but you can do as many as will fit on your needles. The important part for this is that the number you cast on be a multiple of 12+2. For those of you who are quick at math, DO NOT cast on a multiple of 14, cast on (x*12) +2 and PEMDAS. I will be casting on 38 stitches so we have a good size section to look at. If you have loops slide onto the wire part, DON’T WORRY! It’s supposed to do that.

cast-on-slide

Before we get to stitching, I’m going to introduce two new concepts: Increase and Decrease. Yeah, they really are as simple as they sound. Increase means to add or make bigger, and decrease means to remove or make smaller. There are several ways to both increase and decrease, but we’ll focus on the basics for now.

yarn-overTo Increase in our pattern, we’ll be using a lace stitch called Yarn Over (YO). To Yarn over, you simply wrap your yarn around your working needle (the one you’re moving your freshly worked stitches on to) in a counter clockwise (ALWAYS COUNTERCLOCKWISE) direction. Then, move on. Yeah really, that’s it. The yarn over makes a “hole” in the work that is usually seen in lace.

To Decrease in our pattern, we’ll be stitching two together. This can be done with both knits and purls and is again, very simple. Slide your needle into the stitch the same as you would for knitting or purling (this is called “knitwise” for knits and “purlwise” for purls), but take TWO loops when you do. Then wrap your yarn and pull ONE loop through both stitches. These stitches are abbreviated k2 tog (for knit two together) and p2 tog (for purl two together) This will pull the fabric together and in our case create the “v” part of the chevron. I’ve shown p2 tog here:

Now that we can increase and decrease, lets get to the pattern! There are three rows to this pattern:

  1. k1, YO *k5, k2 tog, K5, YO repeat from * to last stitch k1
  2. p1, YO *p5, p2tog, p5, YO repeat from * to last 2 stitches p2 tog
  3. k1, YO *k5, k2 tog, K5, YO repeat from * to last 2 stitches k2 tog

Once you have those three done, just repeat rows 2 and 3 until you have the length you want. DON’T FORGET! We’re making stripes, so don’t go for a mile on color one, just make a nice stripe size and then we’ll add in color two. I did about 7 rows, jut to get a good look at the color before I moved on to the next.

When you’re ready to move on, grab color 2. DO NOT CUT YOUR YARN. Put the scissors down and back away slowly. We’re going to save ourselves the trouble of having a thousand strings to deal with and just wrap color one up the side of color 2. Yes, you will see color 1up the back side of the work, but really, it’s not that bad when you consider the alternative (if you want to spend the time hiding strings, I will NOT stop you, but I’m not up for it).

So, the first thing to do is get color 2 wrapped around color 1. I am lazy and don’t like keeping track of loose string, so I tied color 2 to color 1 with a slip knot.

joincolor2

Once that is done, continue in the pattern until you get back to where color 1 is. When you’ve met back up with color 1, wrap it around color 2 and then keep going with color 2 in the pattern. This method is called carrying

When you’re ready to switch colors, wrap color 1 around color 2 and keep going in the pattern with color 1. This method works anywhere you have to deal with stripes, and since it is on the back side of the work (or “wrong side”) it works great for sweaters and socks as well. Just remember as you go to untwist your skeins when they start to look like this:

untwist-time

Otherwise you could end up with a serious tangle on your hands and that is no fun for anyone.

When you’re done with your piece, bind it off the same way your next row is (if your next row is a purl row, bind of in purls) and cut all the strands (you can have your scissors back now).

finished-colorwork

You will have to go back and tuck the tails where the two colors start and end–but isn’t that better than tucking tails at the start and end of every stripe?

 

 

 

Knitting 101: Terms and Tricks

sampler

Now that you have the bare basics of Knitting, there are a few more things you’ll need to know before you move on to your next project. Starting with a few terms and tricks about the stitches you may encounter.

Garter Stitch

garter

Garter stitch is yet another example of doing what is most comfortable for you. Most books or tutorials will teach that garter stitch is when you knit all the rows paying no mind to turning. Since we already learned that purl stitches are the same as knit stitches, just backward, WE know that Garter Stitch can be done by either knitting OR purling every row.

As long as you keep the same stitch for EVERY row, the result will be the same. This makes it a great stitch for practicing either purling or knitting if you feel you are struggling with one or the other as well as a great “take a break” stitch for when you just want to do something easy.

Stockinette Stitch

stockinette

Stockinette Stitch is the most essential stitch to knitting because nearly everything you come across will use it. Especially when you get to knitting stockings (more commonly known as socks)! Again, usually whatever is more comfortable for you will work here. The Stockinette Stitch is made up of alternating rows of knit and purl stitches. You can start on knit or purl row as long as you switch between them.

Technically, starting with a purl row is called “Reverse Stitch,” but ultimately they give you the same result. Just BE CAREFUL! When you’re working a patter they will often tell you to stop on the “right” or “wrong” side. Make sure that YOUR “right” side matches with the pattern your are working. Whichever way you choose to do your Stockinette Stitch, head your pattern when it says to stop on a certain side.

Ribbing

rib

2×2 Ribbing shown here

Ribbing is a term for any time your switch between knit and purl stitches on the same row in pattern. Most often this can is done equally with each set of knit stitches followed by the same amount of purl stitches (four knits then four purls for example). When you turn, you do the opposite of what you just did. So if you were doing k2, p2 when you started, when you turn the pattern will become p2, k2. Some patterns will call for uneven ribbing. Not to be confused with “Broken Ribbing,” which is next on this list, what I mean by uneven ribbing is that one knit stitch may be followed by 3 purl stitches.

Ribbing is often noted by YxY in patterns. Like I mentioned above, sometimes that will look like 4×4 or 1×3. The first number is usually knit stitches and the second number is usually purl stitches, but make sure to read you pattern closely to know for certain.

When it comes to ribbing comfortably, there really isn’t much you can do. You’re going to end up knitting and purling in the same row either way. If you DO want to start on a different stitch than your pattern asks you to, be mindful of how the pattern starts and ends and be sure that you are not going too far off course.

Broken Ribbing and Rice Stitch

Broken Ribbing starts to take us out of “basic” stitches, but I promised I would cover it, so I will. The Broken Rib Stitch is made up of one knit row and one ribbed row. Usually the stitch starts with the knit row and then goes into a 1×1 rib then back and repeat ad nauseam (or perhaps ad infinitum if you really enjoy this stitch!).

When you flip your Broken Rib stitch over, you have a completely different stitch called Rice Stitch. Yeah, this is a two for one set that HIGHLY depends on which is the right side of the work.  If you want your “right” side to be Rice stitch, usually you’ll start with the ribbing row and then move on to the knit row and repeat. Whichever way you slice it, you’ll have Broken Ribbing on one side and Rice Stitch on the other.