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Becoming a better knitter

Mar 20, 2013

We all started off as beginning knitters. We learned about knitting needles, yarn, how to cast on, knit garter stitch, and bind off.

Somehow, we've progressed to knitting hats, scarves, mittens, and even sweaters! Along the way we learned all sorts of things: how to increase, decrease, work cables, work complicated stitch patterns, and so on.

We learned things on our own, from books, in classes, from other knitters, or on video. Each of these lessons increased our skills and made us better knitters.

Learning never stops, though! And I know you love tips and tricks, so here are some more for you:

How do I know how much tail to leave when casting on?
This is an important one! When using the long-tail cast-on, you don't want to waste any precious yarn, but perhaps even worse is when you run out of tail before you're through casting on! Here's the formula for having the correct tail every time: You'll need the width of your finished piece ( 8 inches for a scarf, 22 inches for a sweater back, etc.), multiplied by 3, plus 10 percent of the total.

My bind-off is too tight.
Try a looser bind-off, such as the Suspended Bind-Off. Begin your bind-off as standard, but instead of dropping the bound stitch from the left-hand needle (Figure 1), knit the second stitch on your left-hand needle (Figure 1), and then drop both stitches from the left-hand needle. This method elongates the bound-off stitch. The only thing that's different from the standard bind-off is when you're dropping the stitch from your needle.

Suspended Bind-Off, Figures 1 and 2
The colors are pooling in my handpainted yarn.
Handpainted, multi-colored yarns have a tendency to pool (areas where the same colors stack upon itself row-to-row). You can minimize this pooling by first winding two balls from the same hank of yarn. Then, when working flat, alternate the balls of yarn at the end of every other row. When working in the round, switch the yarn every row. These techniques will reduce the chance of colors stacking up.

Better looking stripes!
My stripes don't look great in ribbing.

Wonder how to achieve a crisp, even stripe when ribbing? On any given color-change row, knit completely across the row—do not purl. After the color-change row is completed, continue working in ribbing as per pattern. Look at the difference in striping in the sample at length. The bottom half is knitted in 1x1 rib as normal. The top half (above the line) is knitted the flawless method.

Weaving in ends as you knit
I hate weaving in tails!

Weaving in tails is a necessary evil in knitting. Make it easier on yourself by weaving them in as you knit! Place the needle in the next stitch and, before wrapping it, lay the yarn tail over the working yarn, as shown at right. Now work the next stitch; the tail is now fastened in. Repeat this for a about 1½ to 2 inches making sure to carry the yarn tail loosely to avoid puckering.

For even more ideas to make you a better knitter, check out Lily Chin's video workshop, A Knitter's Toolbox! You can download it or order the DVD. It's over 5 hours(!) long, full of amazing knitting instruction for all levels of knitters. It's really great.


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Interweave Knits Presents: The Knitter's Toolbox: Lily Chin's Techniques and Tricks for Savvy Knitters Video Download

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Learn 50+ knitting techniques and tricks in this 176-minute knitting workshop with master knitter Lily Chin.


Interweave Knits Presents: The Knitter's Toolbox: Lily Chin's Techniques and Tricks for Savvy Knitters

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Learn 50+ knitting techniques and tricks in this 176-minute knitting workshop with master knitter Lily Chin.


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bgcromer wrote
on Mar 30, 2013 12:44 PM

That was amazingly simply, retrospectively obvious, and incredibly useful advice on weaving in tails.


AmyLynnK wrote
on Mar 24, 2013 3:54 PM

MernaS - Could you explain what you mean by "use one strand from the other end of your ball of yarn"? How exactly would that work?

Susana Lopez wrote
on Mar 23, 2013 10:40 PM

A video with the  bindoff will be much appreciated and better to undertand the method.


AnneM@2 wrote
on Mar 23, 2013 2:30 PM

Good question about whether a table of contents is available for Lily Chin's video. Or at least a search function?

Would like to see this question answered. Thanks.

MernaS wrote
on Mar 23, 2013 9:34 AM

A far more efficient way to have the right amount of yarn for a long tail cast on is to use one strand from the other end of your ball of yarn. When knitting begins, cut that end and weave it in for a few stitches, no waste or running short at all.

nitnfrog wrote
on Mar 23, 2013 6:35 AM

Gloria E - one place I can recommend is

They have a whole section devoted to loom knitting.

They are a wonderful world wide group who dive in and offer help.

Gloria E wrote
on Mar 22, 2013 2:16 PM

I wish there were postings about 'loom knitting' for knitters who use the knitting looms instead of needles.  I am not able to do 2 needle knitting due to a brain injury. I can no longer do simple, but dfferent,  things with both hands  at same time.   I can not turn off a wall light switch with one hand and turn door knob with my other hand at the same time.  I have to do each thing  separately.  Strange, I know.   So now  I have the long wooden loom and most of the different shaped plastic looms on the market.  I am learning to use them and I like them, so far.  I also have purchased loom knitting books,  but I could sure use any tips that  I can find.   Just my wish...   8)

poppy8dog wrote
on Mar 21, 2013 12:20 PM

Liz, it sounds like you ordered the DVD (to be mailed out to you) and not the download.  You might want to contact Interview Customer Service at:

and enquire as to when you will receive the package.

on Mar 20, 2013 1:50 PM

I pre-ordered the DVD, but have not received it yet.  What do I need to do to get it?  or how do I contact the interweave store to ask about it?  Please let me know.  Thanks

poppy8dog wrote
on Mar 20, 2013 1:06 PM

I have a question about the DVD/download for Lily Chin's "Techniques and Tricks" video for anyone who has purchased & tried it. Is there a table of contents or at least an indication of how to find certain sections (e.g., cast-ons, bind-offs, fixing errors, etc.).  I have purchased videos such as this in the past where there is no table of contents and it makes the section you are looking for a time-consuming and frustrating nightmare. With a video containing 299 minutes of material, trying to find that particular 5 or 10 minutes which pertains to the problem you want to solve by fast-forwarding through the voluminous contents can be more trouble than it's worth.  One ends up just going to YouTube for a quick answer.    

t_threads wrote
on Mar 20, 2013 10:24 AM

I'm a knitter since age 4 (I'm 52), and a teacher for a number of years.  I work mostly with fair isle projects and I teach sweater design.

I'm surprised that you would recommend weaving in as you knit.  It's something I tell my students NEVER to do.  If you have to take out your knitting, those woven ends will make it impossible to rip down and repair or to make any changes at all without completely ruining the knitting into which the woven ends are placed.

I learned this the hard way, having knit 17 inches into a Scandinavian ski sweater and for the ONLY time ever, having decided to weave in as I knitted.

Unfortunately the recipient of the sweater was unavailable for a few days, and I'm a very fast knitter.  When he was available, and I tried the sweater body on him (knitted in the round), it was too snug, and I had to rip down to the ribbing and make changes in my circumference.

To unweave all those ends caused me a massive loss of time and also caused the loss of a lot of yarn which had to be snipped and discarded, as finding and unweaving diminished the quality of sections randomly throughout.  I did not just have to discard the ends, but also much of the yarn into which the ends had been woven, as many of those sections had been compromised by the tails being woven into them.

I always save all the weaving until the end when I've ascertained that there's nothing about my projects which needs adjusting or changing.

It's just part of the process.

on Mar 20, 2013 10:01 AM

Striped Ribbing - I'm a little confused by the instruction.  1x1 rib - it appears to be a 2x2.  The photo isn't large enough to see how the "all knit row" appears.  I totally agree that the top part looks so much better, but would love to have a more detailed description of the technique.  Thanks - I enjoy the daily tips.

CatherineV@4 wrote
on Mar 20, 2013 9:48 AM

Your advice on how much to leave for a long tail cast on doesn't seem to work for a wide range of yarn weights.  It will take much more length of a bulky yarn to complete a cast on for a sweater than it will a lace yarn.  I cast on 10 stitches, then unravel and measure, then multiply by how many stitches I am casting on.

Also, in the stripes in ribbing tip, you might tell readers that the alternative ribbing stitch is not as elastic as regular ribbing.  But it does look very nice!

on Mar 20, 2013 9:13 AM

Gosh, I really better take notes on the pooling (I despise despise!!) cuz I just bought not one but two skeins of Miss Babs hand-dyed yarn. Mine's mostly cream with I hope are flecks of black. If I am swift knitter (ha!) I can make a springy sweater in time for Easter. So many knitting, sewing ideas, so little time. Help. (But I do have some pattern ideas saved on Ravelry, thank goodness. Phew!)