Tips and Tricks

Knitting Tips: Knitting Punctuation, Terms, and Phrases – November 2020

Su Fennern, Salem Millstream Knitting Guild 

There are a lot of great knitting patterns out there, whether you’re choosing from free pattern sources, buying patterns online, or using patterns from magazines or books. Most of the time these patterns are well-written. In the case of paid patterns or those published in books or magazines, they are often test-knit, tech-edited, or otherwise checked to ensure there are as few errors as possible.

Terms and phrases in knitting are like shorthand, and it’s like a special language. They’re used to shorten a long knitting pattern and also make the pattern a little more interesting to read.    

Tip: Not every pattern is set out in the exact same way, so remember to always read through the whole pattern at least once before picking up any tools or yarn. While reading through the pattern, if there are multiple sizes indicated, it’s a good idea to use a pencil to highlight or circle the numbers related to the size you’re making, before you start. This helps avoid confusion as you work through the pattern. Once you’ve decided that you are going to make the item, you should make sure you write down what needle size you are going to use, the yarn being used, and any other relevant information. Consider setting up a project page in Ravelry (if it’s safe for you to use).

In knitting, written stitch patterns include punctuation such as commas, asterisks, brackets, and parentheses. The use of these punctuation marks means more than you may think.

Commas (,) separate single steps. The instruction “Sl 1 wyif, k5” tells you to slip a stitch with the yarn on the front side of the work, and then to knit 5 stitches as normal (meaning you have to move the yarn to the back before knitting, even though the instructions don’t tell you to). 

An asterisk (*) indicates that whatever follows gets repeated (rep). For example, the instruction “K1, * sl 1, k3; rep from * to last st, k1” means that you knit 1 stitch, then you work the stitches between the asterisks (slip 1 stitch and knit 3 stitches) over and over until you reach the last stitch of the row, which you knit. 

Brackets [ ] or parentheses ( ) function much like the asterisks, except that you’re repeating a series of stitches a specified number of times. For example, the instruction “* K5, (p1, k1) twice, p1; repeat from * to end of row” means that, after you knit 5, you purl 1/knit 1 two times, followed by another purl 1, and then you repeat this entire sequence across the entire row. 

Here are a few terms you may find in patterns and what they mean. 

The right side of your knitting is the face of the fabric. This is the side that will be on the outside of a garment. The wrong side is the back side of the fabric and will be on the inside of a garment. When the right side of the fabric is facing you, you’re working on a right side row. 

The terms public side and non-public side can also be used meaning right and wrong side. 

Tip:  Grab your favorite locking/removable stitch marker and clip it to the fabric when you work that first right side/public side. Clip the marker into a stitch you’ve just worked so that it’s still facing you as you work to the end of the row. Now, each time you turn your work and see the marker, you know the right side/public side is facing you.  

Turn work. I don’t know why, but this throws many people off balance. It means exactly what it says: turn the work. I think it is because we usually do it automatically, we read too much into it and think it means more than it does. 

Work in pattern/evenly until piece measures xx inchesThis means that the piece should measure a certain length before you go to the next step in the pattern. Please measure somewhere in the middle of your knitted piece and NOT along one edge. Edges tend to be a bit looser (hence longer) than the rest of the knitting, and you could be lulled into thinking you are already there, while when measured in the middle you are missing 3/4 of an inch. “In pattern” means do exactly what you have done so far, be it stockinette stitch, seed stitch or a cable pattern, just continue as started.  

Using (a specific stitch or method such as knit in the front and back). This means the designer has found a method she or he particularly likes for this part of your knitting. It doesn’t mean that it is a better method all over, it just means at this particular point for this particular design it is a good thing to use. If it is something you have never done before, well, here’s your chance to widen your knowledge once again. 

Terms used when knitting a garment such as a sweater:

  • Left Front (or Left Sleeve): The piece that will be worn on the left front or left arm of your body.
  • Right Front (or Right Sleeve): The piece that will be worn on the right front or right arm of your body.
  • At the Same Time:  This is used when you are asked to work two different steps (perhaps shaping at the armhole and at the neck) at the same time.
  • Work same as Left (or Right) piece, reversing shaping:  This can be a difficult step to follow. Let’s say you have worked a series of decreases on the left shoulder. Instead of telling you exactly how to do this for the right shoulder, in order to save space, the pattern may just tell you to: Work same as left shoulder, reversing shaping. That means you have to figure out what to do. It will be easier if you take pen and paper and sketch out what you did the first time, then do this in reverse for the other piece. For example, the armhole decreases on a left front are worked at the beginning of right side rows. To reverse it for the right front, work the decreases at the end of the right-side rows.

Designers work really hard to make sure that their patterns are as clear and accurate as possible. However, patterns are complicated, and unfortunately errors sometimes slip through, with most being typing mistakes. If you are having issues with the pattern not working, and you think there is a mistake, you should check for a pattern errata. Errata is a fancy word for corrections. Designers, magazines, book publishers, Ravelry, and others usually have errata’s on their websites. Search these sites using the pattern name.

Tip:  Before you print out the pattern, review it to see if any of the instructions are in color. If there are, you don’t want to print it out in black and white. 

Something to think about is that you should never forget that knitting gives you the perfect opportunity to try out things. If it is wrong, you can undo. If you have to do it three, four or maybe even five times until you figure it out or it is perfect, that is okay. If you are really, really stuck, pick up the phone and call another knitter who is always willing to help.

Yarn Stash Tips: Yarn Colors – October 2020

Su Fennern, Salem Millstream Knitting Guild 

Yarn Color Styles

Do you have a new project in mind to start? Choosing colors can be fun. It’s an opportunity to be creative and express your own personal style. What is the right color style, the right color design for that project?

Is your new project one with simple stitch patterns? Or is it one with complicated stitch patterns? Having this answer will help you determine what color style of yarn would work up best for our project. 

Terms used to describe different methods used to dye yarns can be very confusing. Here’s a brief look into different color styles that are available.   

Solids:

A solid color yarn is just what it sounds like, one color for the entire strand of yarn. 

If you are working a complicated stitch pattern, use a lighter solid color to let the stitches stand out. A darker color yarn, like navy blue or black, will hide the stitches.

Heathers are often sold as solids, and most people will think they are solids until a real close look. Heathers are made from fibers in two or more colors with all fibers spun up together. The result is a yarn that has more color depth. In almost every project that a solid yarn will work, a heather yarn will work just as well.

Semi-Solids:

A semi-solid yarn is one that has two or more colors that are close but not exactly the same. Such yarn typically adds amazing depth to cable stitch patterns and is also great for emphasizing the textures of a stitching project.

Tonals:

Wait – Isn’t this the same as semi-solid yarn? Not exactly. Tonal yarns include the darker end of the hue – grey or black is added to the colorway. The result is a yarn that is of the same hue, but has sections that are lighter and darker where the grey or back dye was added.  Tonal yarns look great in lace, cables, and most textured stitch work. They look good in simple stockinette and in stranded-knit colorwork, stripes, color blocks, etc.

Gradients/Ombres:

Gradients are created by transitioning different colors from one to the next. For instance, you could find a gradient that transitions from blue to orange to orchid. The progression is from light to dark.

An ombre on the other hand, is a single color that smoothly transitions through its own shades, such as a light green to a deep forest green.

Using either a gradient or ombre yarn, choose a pattern with a plain stitch or very simple design that will allow the yarn to shine!

Speckled/Flecked:

These yarns feature random speckles or flecks that add little splashes of color.

These bits of random color can be one color or a multiple of colors throughout the skein. When you work up this style of yarn, the results are a base or a background of solid color with sprinkles of color on top. This effect is best used with a simple stitch like stockinette or single crochet. Texture patterns lose the effect. A simple lace pattern might work.

Variegated:

This is a colorway that contains two or more colors. Variegated yarn can be made using similar colors like yellow, yellow-orange, and orange, or be created using more contrasting colors such as red and green. The distribution of color varies from dyer to dyer, and you will want to consider what pattern you are making with your yarn – or better yet make a swatch – before beginning your project; you might not like how it works up.

A yarn with long color repeats will tend to look more variegated regardless of whether the hues are high or low contrast, simply because those long stretches allow the colors to separate in the knitting or crochet. Depending on your project, they may stripe (or semi-stripe), pool, argyle, or create irregular flashes.

The reverse is true when a yarn has many short color repeats, it tends to look less variegated, regardless of whether its hues are high or low contrast. Short, quick color repeats create tiny pops of color that sit right next each other in your knitting without such distinct edges.

All variegated yarns present a challenge to knitters. Crotcheters working up a lace project will be very pleased with the results when using a shell or a cluster type stitch, as the short runs of color will clump up. Knitters will find that variegated yarns make terrible lace. Knit stitches do not clump up very well, and any lace pattern usually loses all the color changes. The same goes for knit cable patterns. Variegated yarns work well in stockinette, garter stitch, seed stitch, or slip stitch patterns. They work really well with paired with a matching solid color.

Self-striping:

Self-striping yarn has long stretches of color and is a type of variegated yarn. Self-striping yarn moves from one color to the next without a blending of the colors between, creating crisp stripes. Be mindful when selecting self-striping yarn for crochet projects, as you will want a larger section of each color to ensure that self-striping is possible.  

Jacquard:

Jacquard yarns are a hybrid of short and long colorway yarns. You will get some long, stripe forming stretches, and some short stretches. While the long stretches form stripes, the short ones look like you are doing stranded knit color work. These yarns make great socks with one ball, and you get a sock that looks like you did all kinds of fancy colorwork. One might consider jacquard yarn a yarn that makes certain knitting much easier.

Have you figured out what color and what style you will be using?  Hope to see your project at our next meeting during show and tell!

This and That Tips – October 2020

Here a just a few tips that have come from all kinds of sources.  Maybe one or two of them you might find useful.

Using Stitch Markers

When you cast on a large number of stitches, place a stitch marker every 25 or 50 stitches.  This keeps you from recounting and recounting and recounting. 

Place a stitch marker after each repeat of the pattern across a row.   As you continue knitting and the repeat doesn’t end at the next marker, you know that something is correct.   

If knitting in the round, make sure the beginning of the round stitch marker is different from the rest. 

Use a removable marker to indicate the right side of the work for stitch patterns; like garter stitch.  Keep moving this marker up as you work making it easier to see the right side of the project. 

Adding a removable marker at each decrease or increase row makes keeping track so much easier.  You just have to count the markers. 

Storing Yarn

Yarn storage should do three things.  Keep yarn protected, easy to access, and nicely displayed (if you choose to). 

Winding skeins into cakes can reduce storage space by 30%.  Remember to put the yarn label in the middle of the cake as you take it off the ball winder. 

Yarn needs to breathe when stored.  Don’t store yarn in plastic bags – at least for the long term.  Depending on the fiber the yarn is made from, it can hold 30% of the weight in moisture without feeling wet.  If you like to keep your yarn in easy to grab bags, use canvas or mesh bags. 

Don’t store yarn in direct sunlight.  Direct sunlight can cause colors to fade, while weakening the strength of the fibers.  Instead, store yarn in non-clear containers, or even in a storage tower cabinet that has baskets. 

If you want to display your yarn, put up a peg board with hooks.  You can organize your yarn in many different ways while it becomes a form or art.  Besides your yarn you can also store other knitting tools on the peg board.   

You can also use the pockets of an overdoor shoe organizer to store your yarn. 

Lifelines- What, Why, and How

A lifeline is a piece of yarn or thread that runs through every stitch in a row. It’s a preventive measure that keeps stitches safe in case you need to unravel your knitting later. 

A lifeline is good if you find that a mistake has been made in the pattern a few rows back.  The lifeline is inserted in the last row of a pattern repeat.  Unraveling to the lifeline is much quicker than undoing all of your knitting.  The lifeline is good also if you’ve dropped a stitch. 

Use a lifeline when knitting lace and especially Brioche stitch patterns.  Other times when it comes in handy is when knitting with fuzzy yarn and when you have many stitches on the needles.   

A lifeline acts as a keeper of your work.  Before adding one, make sure the number of stitches are correct and that there are no mistakes.  Most generally a piece of smooth yarn is used.  Choose a yarn that is not thicker than your working yarn and in a contrasting color.  Dental floss can also be used.  You will need a piece that is at least 2 times as long as the width of the stitches on your needle. 

The most common way to insert a lifeline is using a wool needle.  You need to insert the needle in the bottom of every stitch on the needle.  Once you have the lifeline through all the stitches tie a bow at each of the life line.  This will keep the lifeline from slipping out. 

If you have interchangeable needles you can insert the lifeline in the small hole and bring it along as you knit each stitch.  If you don’t have interchangeable needles you can just tape the yarn to your right needle and knit the row.  Make sure you remove any of the tape residue on the needle before you continue knitting. 

Lifelines to the rescue!!! 

Joining A New Yarn

If possible, avoid joining a new yarn in the middle of a row.  Joining in the middle of a row could result in a noticeable hole and/or looser stitches at the join.  A join is more noticeable in stockinette stitch in a solid color.  If you are working with a pattern stitch or a variegated yarn the join might not be as noticeable. 

Joining the new yarn at the beginning of a row allows you to weave the ends into the seams or the edge stitches where they won’t be as noticeable. 

If you run out of yarn in the middle of the row, the easiest is to unknit to the beginning of the row and joining the new yarn.  If you absolutely must join in the middle of a row, try using a technique such as the Russian join or spit-splicing. 

Website for Russian join:  https://www.craftsy.com/post/russian-join/ 

Website for spit-splicing:  https://thefibreco.com/spit-splice-tutorial/ 

Last Couple of Tips:

Whenever possible, finish the row you are working on before you put your knitting down.  If you don’t and you stop in the middle of a row, you may find that when you got back to it, your tension might be different.  Also, if you are doing a pattern such as lace you won’t need to take time to figure out where you are. 

To get more knitting time, have a small project that you can take with you or even have a car project.  Throughout the day there could be many opportunities for you to knit.   You might be amazed how often there’s time to knit.

Yarn Stash Tips: Yarn Put Ups – September 2020

Su Fennern, Salem Millstream Knitting Guild 

The general term for the actual way yarn is presented (assuming it’s not in an unwound pile) is called “put up.” Yarn can be put up in different ways.

Yarn is made in long strands that have to be cut, packaged, labeled, shipped, and displayed without getting into a tangled mess. You have probably purchased yarn that had to be wound into a ball before you could start your project, or maybe you’ve purchased some that you could just remove a label and begin the project.

Can you match the description with the pictures of the types of yarn put ups on the attached document?  

If you know of another type of ball or hank that isn’t listed, please let us know.

Knitting Tips: How to Substitute Yarn – August 2020

Su Fennern, Salem Millstream Knitting Guild 

There is a bit of homework involved in substituting yarns for your projects, but it is not really that difficult, and it allows you to make any project your own. Don’t be afraid to branch out and explore the different yarns that are out there. 

You will be using the yarn label.  You should try and substitute yarn that has the same weight, gaugefiber content, and yardage listed on the pattern.  Each of these can have an affect on the fit, drape, and size of the finished article.

A good place to start is by checking the weight of the suggested yarn on the pattern. Yarn weight describes the yarn’s thickness and will affect every aspect of your final article from size to fit to drape.  It’s necessary when substituting yarn to choose yarns with the same weight and thickness.  You can knit a pattern in a different weight of yarn; just be aware that it might not come out looking like the pattern and that you might have to have additional yardage. 

Your next comparison is the gauge. The actual gauge may vary from knitter to knitter due to individual tension, but this measurement should provide a rough idea. The swatch will show you how the yarn knits up; does the fabric look good, does it have the right feel for you, is it showing off the stitch pattern? Don’t skip the swatch, as it will answer all these questions.

It’s time to consider the fiber content. Not all fibers are equal, and they are unique in the fabrics that they create. You need to try and match the fiber of the suggested yarn in the pattern that will match the feel of the pattern article. A scarf knitted in wool will have a lot more body and stitch definition than one knitted in a drapey silk blend. Both will be a nice scarf, but they won’t look the same. 

How much yarn will I need? Now it’s time for the math. If the pattern does not list the yardage information, you can use Ravelry (if it’s safe for you to use) to look up the yarn listed on the pattern to get the yardage. Make sure that you get the same length of yarn as listed on the pattern with your substituted yarn. Length is a more accurate measurement than weight, because different yarns have different densities. A cotton and a wool yarn may knit to the same gauge, but the ball of cotton yarn will have less yardage than (total yardage) a similarly sized ball of wool. Double-check to make sure the figures you use are either meters or yards when doing the math to get the total amount of the substitute yarn. Once you have the total yardage needed, you then compare that with how many yards are in the yarn you want to substitute. 

It’s important to know how to care for the article you are making. Is it washable or not? You will find yarn that is superwash and non-superwash. Knowing whether the yarn is superwash or non-superwash can affect more than how you launder it. Superwash yarn has lots of benefits. It does have a negative benefit of growing, as the yarn does not have the scales that regular wool has that locks with each other to keep the wool from growing. If you are using superwash yarn, you really need to do a gauge swatch using the main stitch pattern. The swatch should be hung to dry rather than pinned out. Hanging the swatch will help see the same effect of the fabric as if it was being worn. You are looking to see if the swatch grows. If it does grow, you can try going down a needle size. In substituting yarns, it’s important to have the same washability of the pattern’s original yarn. 

Some questions for you to think about: 

  • Will this yarn knit to the gauge required by the pattern? Is yes, then ask yourself —
  • Will the yarn have the same drape, feel, and look of the original yarn? If not, is that okay?
  • Final question, how much yarn do I need? 

Additional Resources: 

Ravelry (if it’s safe for you to use) is an excellent source of information. The section titled “Yarn Ideas” of the pattern will show what yarns other knitters have used.   

YarnSub.com is a free and independent tool to help knitters and crocheters find workable substitutes for discontinued or hard to find yarns on the internet. 

Another online resource I find helpful is Yarndex. You can look up nearly any yarn there — even discontinued yarns — and find out information like weight, gauge, fiber, and everything else you need to know to compare a substitution. 

There is a calculator program that will figure everything out for you.

There are several You Tube videos on how to substitute yarns:

Let us hear if this was easy for you to decide if the yarn in your stash worked for that new pattern or not.

Yarn Stash Tips: Fiber Types – August 2020

Su Fennern, Salem Millstream Knitting Guild

How many of you have been going through your yarn stash in the last couple of months? Do you have a mystery skein, ball, or hank of yarn that is missing its label? You might have an idea what fiber content it is from feeling it. Or you can use either one or both of the following tests to make a determination.

Bleach Test:  this test uses a small amount of bleach and a length of the yarn. 

Burn Test:    this test is based on how each fiber burns. 

The Bleach Test is a simple procedure that will tell you if the yarn is of animal, plant, or synthetic.

Start by pouring a small amount of bleach into a glass bowl, then place a length (4-6 inches) of the yarn into the bleach.  After a few minutes one of several things should happen: 

  • The bleach around the yarn begins to bubble; this is an animal fiber including silk and the yarnr will dissolve in less than an hour. 
  • The yarn starts to lose its color; this is a plant fiber and will not dissolve but will bleach out becoming white. 
  • The yarn floats in the bleach largely unaffected by the bleach; this is an acrylic yarn that will not be changed by the bleach.  If the yarn starts to bubble but it does not disappear completely, it is probably a wool-acrylic blend. 

The Flame Test is based on how fibers burn.  In a well-ventilated area away from any flammable materials, set a candle on top of a sheet of aluminum foil.  Cut several 10 to 12 inch lengths of yarn and twist them together.  Using a pair of tweezers or kitchen tongs move the yarn slowly into the flame. 

Remember that some fibers ignite slowly then burn quickly.  Take care to avoid any painful burns. 

You will need to watch how the yarn burns to determine the fiber content. 

  • Animal fibers, including silk, burn but does not melt.  There should be a strong odor of burning hair.  The yarn curls away from the flame and are somewhat self-extinguishing when pulled out of the flame. 
  • Cotton and other plant fibers will burn but will not melt.  They do not shrink from the flame and continue to burn after you remove it from the flame.  It should smell like burning paper. 
  • Rayon and Tencel does not shrink from the flame, it will continue to burn after removal from the flame and will smell like burning wood. 
  • Acrylics and various man-made fibers will shrink away from the flame and then melt as they burn.  The ash will form a brittle bead. 

The attached chart breaks down the fiber by types, their general characteristics, and some uses.

Tips/hints/tools/websites – February 2017

Protect your fingers from sensitivity.

  • Rubber fingers and if necessary cut a slit in the top for your fingernail..
  • Thimblettes
  • Liquid skin or new skin bandages

Cutting tools other than scissors

  • Thread cutter (round disc with various openings for different threads/yarns)
  • Finger Nail Cutter
  • Used Dental floss container

Hand Relief

  • Use a therapeutic glove. (There are two types, The ones with fingers will also help arthritic fingers ).

Cable holder

  • Use a U cable hook. Holds the cable stitch and it hangs very nicely to the project.
  • Use a paper clip.

Dropped stitches

  • Crochet hooks

Yarn Wraps

  • Use footies from store after trying on shoes, (old nylons, panty hose, knee highs)
  • Use a nylon scrubby, cut the securing thread, and you will have yards of nylon tube you can cut to any size and wrap your yarn balls

Storage containers for knitting supplies/Organization

  • Clear pencil box from department stores (Fred Meyer, Walmart, etc.)
  • Small plastic compartment containers from Dollar Tree
  • The Knit Kit
  • Coleman’s dry mustard tin
  • Take a photo of your project , date it and clip it to your pattern or put it in the page protector sheet.
  • Put patterns in a page protector sheet and file in a notebook or file folder by project.
  • Weekly planner – available from JoAnn’s.
  • Sort needles and put them in soft pencil holder bags marked with the needle sizes and store them in a tote bag.

Websites

Books

  • Cast on/Bind Off by Leslie Ann Bestor
  • The Knitting Answer Book by Margaret Radcliffe

Help aids

  • Have staff (sit with someone who is very knowledgeable)

Needle Threading

  • Cut a piece of paper approximately 1.5 inches by the width of the eye of your needle. Fold the paper in half, insert the yarn in the paper near the fold, and pull the paper through the eye of the needle.
  • Fold yarn in half over the needle. Pull the needle up holding the yarn tightly, pull the needle out, keeping the yarn pinched between your fingers, slide the eye of the needled through your pinched fingers, and pull up the yarn.
  • Use pieces of jar opener to grip the needle. (Dollar store item)

Quick hand warmers

  • Use old sock tops. Cut the top off for the length you would like for hand warmer. Crochet or knit a top edge and add a thumb hole.

Counting your stitches

  • Copy your pattern onto index cards. Punch a hole in top left hand corner, and put the index cards on a book ring. Turn the cards row by row. Mark the card you are on.
  • Small notebook with a pen/pencil
  • Use bread wrapper tabs as markers

Wrap per inch tool

  • Use this tool to know how much yarn per inch you need on your project.

Strickspiel Needles

  • Use these needles instead of double-points.

Yarn Bowls

  • Use cherry tomato containers for yarn bowls
  • Wooden yarn bowls by Ken Howald (Turner Turnings)

Historical patterns

Free Patterns

  • Ravelry: www.ravelry.com – Ravelry designers have several free patterns in February.

Keep your project clean

  • Use a piece of masking tape to pull human and pet hair off your project.

Miscellaneous

  • Use gel pens to mark yarn or project pieces. Be sure they are not permanent. White gel pens work better for dark fibers.
  • Have a cup of coffee/tea or wine and a bar of chocolate.
  • Keychain with needle and directions for kitchener stitch
  • iPad with Adobe.

Yarn winder and hand made swift

  • Portuguese pin for yarn tension when using the Portuguese knitting technique.