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Knitting Tips and Tricks, from You!

Apr 16, 2010

    
Just a little scene-setting photo—knit on!
I was reading through the forums and the Knitting Daily blog post comments, and I was impressed by the wealth of knitting expertise out there! I thought I'd pull some of them and put them all here for you to enjoy. This is a potpourri of knitting tips, with my favorite tip of all time is at the end of the post. Happy knitting!

Susi, on sock reinforcing : I have used sock reinforcing thread quite often since I go through sock heels and toes rather fast. Recently I made a pair of winter socks in a solid orange and just used some lighter-weight variegated yarn that had orange as one of its colors. Everyone who sees them is impressed by how well it worked.

JKDobie, on darning socks: My mother always kept a light bulb in her darning basket. It slips into a sock very easily and is very lightweight. This won't work with a new fluorescent type bulb, however!

Bev from Montana, on pilling: I have a battery operated sweater shaver with the name "Evercare" on it. I believe it was around $5.00, and was certainly under $10.00. I have used it endlessly on wool, cashmere, cotton, etc., and it restores the beauty of the sweater without pulling the fibers, which is what I've found the various stones and combs to do, and which I think leads to more pilling. It seems impossible to harm the actual yarn because of a shield on the head. Anyway, I LOVE it!

RMHkidsX4, on yarn management: To keep yarns separate, I take a clear, heavy plastic zippered bag (saved from the purchase of bed linens/curtains) and insert grommets near the top of the bag, about 3 to 4 inches apart. Thread each skein through a different grommet, it keeps the yarn from getting tangled while keeping all the skeins in one place.

Martha Puccio, on Fair Isle tension: I make a lot of Norwegian mittens on four needles that have two colors. I have found the best way to avoid puckering is to work the mitten with the right side inside. In other words, after I complete the cuff and start the pattern work I rotate the knitting so the right side is inside and the wrong side is outside. This seems to leave just enough carried yarn to prevent puckering.

Turtles and Owls, on button-making forms: Save a lid or two from your favorite food--cottage cheese, large containers of yogurt, cool whip, etc. All of these have lovely large plastic lids you can easily cut with a pair of scissors. Trace or draw your design on with a Sharpie pen and cut them out. I've used the clear, see-through Cool Whip and Ralston Oatmeal lids for decades to make quilt, appliqué, and stencil templates-they work great.

Tammy T, on ease: My daughter's favorite tip for knitting sweaters is "Finish knitting them!" A tip that has been revolutionary for me is this: If you are a shapely lady, knit a sweater top down. I had no idea what size I needed and had trouble modifying bottom-up sweaters to fit my 12-inch difference between bust and waist measurements. If you knit from the top down, you can try it on as you go and get the perfect fit. Then when you do a bottom up sweater, you can use the top down one as a template to help with the sizing and shaping. Also, I don't know about everyone else, but I tend to overestimate my size. Even for a larger lady, wearing a sweater that hangs like a sack isn't attractive. A little negative ease is your friend!

Fairy-nuff, on sleeves: When knitting sleeves, try knitting them both at the same time on one needle. Then you know they are going to be the same length.

GerdaP, on decreases: I like to decrease at least one stitch in from the edge of pieces so that the finish is smooth; also, if you are decreasing more than one stitch, try purling 2 tog from the purl side at the end of the row and then continuing your decreases on the right side—you will not get any bumps along the edge! This is an EZ tip that I have always used.

Madhatton, on knitted gifts: I give a yarn label plus a piece or two of the yarn along with a knitted gift. The recipient then knows how to care for the piece.

Lillian M., on shaping armholes: Often times a pattern will call for binding off stitches on multiple rows. To avoid a "jagged" edge, I always slip the first stitch on a second or third row of the bind off and then work the next stitch, and then bind off that first stitch. It makes for a much smoother curve. (It also makes it easier to sew in sleeves.)

Suzlh, on life lines: Whenever I get to a section of knitting where I am starting a new procedure, I run a "lifeline" through the last row I have just knitted. I do this by running a length of smooth, silky embroidery thread of a contrasting color through the stitches on the needles with a blunt darning needle. If the new section does not work out as expected, I have a known good row to rip back to. This takes the fear out of ripping back because it is so easy to reload the lifeline row of stitches. Also it insures that each stitch is oriented properly when reloading and I know exactly where I am for restarting the pattern. It is easy to pull the slippery embroidery threads out later. Lifelines are well-named because they have saved my projects from doom many times!

Olga H, on poppy pins as markers: I have found that regular bobby pins (with smooth rounded tips) work great as markers. Use a light color works well when working with a dark yarn and works best for sport or worsted yarn. 

Margaret J, on blocking boards: I have not been able to find a wooden blocking board like my mother has, so I improvised. I went to my local home store and purchased a package of six Styrofoam sheets (fairly inexpensive)—they are about 15" wide, 48" long, and 1/2" deep. I pin my damp pieces onto them and lie them on a bed that is not being used. In a day or two I have wonderfully blocked garments and I can put the Styrofoam sheets in a closet or under the bed until next time. They don't hold water and seem to work well for drying. If i need something wider than 15" (for baby blankets or shawls) I just put two or three Styrofoam sheets side by side and keep pinning.

And, from Kathleen, on slip knots: This is perhaps my favorite knitting tip of all time—how to cast on without a slip knot. The person who taught me to knit (and changed my life in the process), Pat Harris from The Neighborhood Knit Shop in Hendersonville, Tennessee, showed me this method on my first day as a knitter, and I've rarely used a slip knot since.



Have fun trying these tips, and be sure and check out our new book that's just chock full of techniques to make you a better knitter: Fearless Knitting Workshop by Jennifer E. Seiffert!


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memegreen wrote
on Apr 22, 2010 7:59 AM

In adding to the darning egg,  if you go to any major hardware store, in the cabinet handle department, find wooden balls (knobs) that work great.  If you have a clever friend or can operate a drill press (my favorite tool of all!) you can drill a hole part way through and take a length of doweling, glue it in and make your own Knitting Egg, or ball, what ever you call it.

I inherited some very old, worn out ones I ahve had about 40+ years and they were very very old when I got them.  Wouldn't trade them for a bucket of money.  

Look around your house.  Be creative and think outside the proverbial "box".  I find great clips and things at the hardware store all them time.  

joan sickles wrote
on Apr 20, 2010 7:43 AM

these are great. the cast on has been around for a while . I have  been teaching my students how to do it that way for a while. I saw on the inter-net a number of years ago. I go to the fishing dept  and I get the small contener that has one side and the flip it over and has another one . I put all  darning needles and small markers and anything eles that will fit in it . I can carry it with me and have it at all times

BethP wrote
on Apr 19, 2010 12:21 PM

Wow!  That last tip IS amazing!  Wonderful column, thanks!

Salli@5 wrote
on Apr 18, 2010 2:58 PM

You should know there is a downside to eliminating that slip knot on the cast on. That corner of your knitted piece will not have a nice corner, but will be a rounded corner that doesn't seam very nicely and is a bit unsightly on flat pieces.

aksam wrote
on Apr 18, 2010 1:08 PM

Another option instead of the light bulb.....the fillable plastic Easter eggs. These are available in different sizes and pretty cheap...easy to have different sizes for adult + child socks. Superglue the two halves together if they keep popping open while you're working.

SusiW wrote
on Apr 18, 2010 7:40 AM

strangely enuf i have done the no slip knot cast on ever since i learned the long tail cast on.  then i saw others start with a slip knot, and because the first stitch was always a little bigger than the others, i tried a slip knot and liked it better.  why do others not like the slip knot start?  

i like the idea of the plastic light bulb, cuz i have a lot of curly cfl bulbs.  i am lucky enuf to have either inherited or found at a tag sale, a wooden darning egg. my mother had one, but i didn't get hers, just lucked out and found one when i was more mature and realized the value in having one, if for no other reason than it is pretty and very cool.

susi, in plainfield, mass

HarmonyO wrote
on Apr 17, 2010 3:01 PM

The coolest hand-darning tool I've seen is my Granny's. She was born in 1886! It's wood, shaped like an egg with a handle at the narrow end, and about the size of a light bulb. You could probly find them in a junk/antique shop. Granny called it a Darning Egg.

My mom, born in 1918, darned socks with a special contraption on the sewing machine that used no "pressure foot" so you could stitch in any direction "freehand."

I think the Needle-Felted Patch should get the award for Most Creative! Plus, I bet there's no lumps at the edges of the patch to bug your foot ~ I LOVE IT! THANK YOU (:  

I will start knitting socks now that I can see a way to really make them last!

Do you suppose you could Needle-Felt a patch onto a thick cotton or poly sock?

SmithC wrote
on Apr 17, 2010 9:24 AM

Duh, why didn't we all think of that. LOL

Karen_183 wrote
on Apr 17, 2010 6:24 AM

Kathleen

Thank you so much for the no slip knot cast-on. I knew there had to be a way to do that and I couldn't figure it out by myself.

re: light bulb darning egg. If you are worried about glass breaking, my husband points out that you can get fake plastic light bulbs that are designed to go over fluorescents to disguise them.

Diane@2 wrote
on Apr 16, 2010 8:16 PM

After I read the "tip" about using a light bulb as a darning egg, I was so shocked that I read no more tips.  Although it sounds good  in theory, and probably works very well, ask yourselves this question:  What happens when that  "darning egg" BREAKS?(especially if children are around)  The shattered glass of a light bulb can be potentially very dangerous.

I know your heart was in the right place, but it was (to me) quite irresponsible to pass along that bit of information.

CathyJ@14 wrote
on Apr 16, 2010 8:00 PM

It's interesting to read Kathleen's tip about the slip knot, until now I thought I was the only one (apart from my mother) who doesn't knot when casting on. When mother taught me to knit when I was eight she never mentioned slip knot, and just taught me to cast on without one, except her method is slightly different to that shown in Kathleen's video, instead of holding the right needle under the yarn, we hold it above and pull the yarn downward and do the loop around. This way you don't need to hold the yarn over the needle. (sounds a bit confusing but it's actually really easy)

dgoric wrote
on Apr 16, 2010 3:33 PM

Kathleen:  Thanks for all the tips!  It was interesting to find that you had lived in Hendersonville TN, I live in Brentwood and I make time for knitting everyday!

jean01 wrote
on Apr 16, 2010 3:31 PM

Here is a link to the you tube felt mending video (if this comment box allows links)

www.youtube.com/watch

thanks so much for this!

JLC wrote
on Apr 16, 2010 2:44 PM

I've used the no-slip-knot technique for years and it's great. Another way I use this technique is in joining for knitting in the round. I cast on the first stitch with no knot, then use the long-tailed cast on for the rest of the stitches + 1 more. When you join in the round, slip the last stitch over the first stitch -- which should be your no-knot stitch -- so that the last stitch now is wrapped around the base of the no-knot stitch.  If you've cast on correctly, the loose end of your yarn can be pulled to tighten the wrap around the base of the first stitch. Now you have a join without an ugly knot, and the edge of the kitting looks uniform.

capless wrote
on Apr 16, 2010 12:11 PM

Years ago I asked my friend Sharon to help me learn to knit and this was the co method she taught me.   It's so easy I've used it ever since.  I've always wondered why it's never explained in the "learn to knit" books.  I never asked her where she learned it.

Sally MC wrote
on Apr 16, 2010 11:45 AM

This is faster and easier than a slip knot!   Thank you!

Sally MC wrote
on Apr 16, 2010 11:44 AM

Easier than a slip not!     Thank you!

DebHeaphy wrote
on Apr 16, 2010 11:36 AM

I loved reading the article on making your own buttons in the 3/24 Knitting Daily email - Checkerboard Buttons.  One thing that kind of bewildered me -- why use cardboard for the foundation of the button?  Once the sweater (and buttons) undergo cleaning, the cardboard is likely to disintegrate and you'll have no more button.  Why not use a circle of plastic cut from perhaps a milk or juice jug, or lid from coffee can, etc.  Many of these things are available in translucent plastic and when used for the button's foundation would last through washing.  Another button option is to crochet a small ball button which adds a nice finish.  

buddhafly wrote
on Apr 16, 2010 10:13 AM

Great tips!  Thanks!  :-)

Nancy Green: Please do share your YouTube video on felting holes in socks - I could really use it!  

BRD wrote
on Apr 16, 2010 10:03 AM

Following up on Benbrae's sheet protector tip -- I then place a piece of magic scotch tape on the outside of the sheet protector running vertically next to the pattern.  I can check of rows as I go, and keep track of where I left off on a pattern with many rows.  The great thing is you can also erase marks on the tape, add notes, and remove or replace the tape any time you want!.

memegreen wrote
on Apr 16, 2010 10:00 AM

I would like to give you my latest thoughts on darning socks...I don't.  I make pretty heavy duty wool socks and wear them like slippers.  When I get a hole in them, I felt them!  It is slick, works great and makes a wonderful patch.  

I put a piece of foam rubber into the sock positioning the hole over the foam.  I take matching  (if I still have it) fiber from spinning my yarn or if you aren't a spinner, find someone that will part with a few handfuls of fiber.  I take my felting needle, lay the fiber over the hole and felt away  In about 3-5 minutes, I have a felted patch over the hole.  It is soft and seamless inside the sock and durable on the outside.  

As you wear them, you might have to trim off some of the fibers that don't catch all the way, but you double the life of the sock.

I have a short video on youtube, or would be happy to share it with anyone interested.

Nancy Green

Marybouw wrote
on Apr 16, 2010 9:30 AM

After years of searching for a better way to block my knitted items than pinning them to my carpet, I have finally found a back-saving solution.  I purchased a package of 8 "Reversible Multi-purpose Flooring Pads" from Costco.  They are 21" square foam pads that interlock at the edges so I can configure them any way I need them for differently sized or shaped projects from baby sweaters to large afghans.  It's easy to pin into the foam and it doesn't absorb water.  Best of all, I can set them up on a table or counter which is a much better working height than the floor and when I'm done, they break apart and store flat under a bed.

trock wrote
on Apr 16, 2010 8:55 AM

Thank you for the fabulous tips! It's wonderful how these little tips can be so helpful. Please continue sharing! I really look forward to reading your emails. I would like give credit to the amazing EZ for teaching the same slip knot free cast on in her Knitting Workshop.

on Apr 16, 2010 7:46 AM

How amazingly simple!!!  Why didn't we all learn that way?!  Thanks, Kathleen!

Sonja@23 wrote
on Apr 16, 2010 7:35 AM

Thanks so much to all you talented knitters. I have been knitting for about a decade and am always learning new things. I look forward to "test driving" all your tips and tricks. Thanks so much for sharing your expertise with us all.

benbrae wrote
on Apr 16, 2010 6:15 AM

Thanks for the tips and most especially the no-slip knot way of starting to knit. It's brilliant! I've been knitting off and on for 40 years and that 40 years of experience is an accumulation of great tips from every book, every pattern and now, every Knitting Daily email. Some work for me, some don't but I'm always learning.

One of my best tips -- never work from an original pattern. Photocopy all the instructions and then put the copies into a plastic sheet protector. If it gets lost, you can always copy another and if your tea cup spills, you can just wipe it off.

on Apr 16, 2010 5:47 AM

One of the best tricks I learned years ago, was to use one size smaller needle on the pearl side so that my stitches comes out like soldiers.....so perfectly done.  Make sure you do your gauge with this configuration so that your guage is accurate when you make your garment.