New tricks!

Rooting around for some travel knitting that would be suitable to take on the plane, I wasn't really coming up with anything that wasn't at a fussy stage (project-of-the-moment on long, straight, aluminum needles gets packed in the checked bag or left behind).

The first pattern for A Year of Techniques was set for release on March 1st, and though I hadn't yet signed up, all of a sudden I had a yearning for knowledge! I knew the March project required a Zauberball and a set of DPNs, both of which I already had... ready, set, go!

The pattern is Hyacinthus Armwarmers by Jen Arnall-Culliford and the technique is helical stripes -- knitting spiraling stripes in-the-round. No jog!


That's neither the Zauberball that I had in mind nor the needles that I began with! My Zauberball was pink & green & white... great colors, but not what I want for armwarmers. Instead, I found a great neutral colorway called DOMINO while I was at The Quarter Stitch in New Orleans. Also, because I know that my knitting is tight on DPNs, I decided to go up a needle size... but my knitting is different with these stripes... so I ended up ripping it all out and beginning again with a size smaller. I like it much better.

Helical stripes! I want to knit them all day! That little bit of yarn is to hold the thumb stitches, and that's my next step. I'm just letting the yarn flow as it may, so sometimes it's more contrasty and other times there's some muddy water.

I think I'm going to use that original pink/green/white colorway to make a helical striped hat for Gin!


What's a knitting belt?

In Tuesday's post, I mentioned that my knitting belt would invariably be among the items in my project bag. I don't use it everyday, but it is essential for anything I knit on DPNs.

I am most comfortable knitting on straight needles -- the longer the better -- and avoid using circulars whenever possible (almost always). I normally anchor the right needle of a single-point pair in my "lap," throw my yarn with my right hand, and work the stitches with my left-hand needle.

If I knit on DPNs, the knitting belt comes into play as a place to anchor the right-hand needle. Before I bought the knitting belt, I'd use my clothing to anchor the needle -- not very well, most times, and I'd often end up with a holey shirt, too! I don't usually even put the belt on and buckle it, I just rest it in my lap.

You can understand why I avoid circs, as there is no "end" to anchor. I feel loosey-goosey and completely out of control when I knit on circulars!


I bought my knitting belt a few years ago from Journeyman Leather in Shetland.

(What I'd really like next is a knitting sheath!)

You can read more here:

It is worth a googling -- "knitting belt" -- for web pages, images, and videos. You'll also find references to speed and production knitting.

  • Knitting for Speed & Efficiency by Felicia Lo (sweetgeorgia)
  • Stephanie Pearl McPhee/The Yarn Harlot teaches the class called Knitting for Speed & Efficiency (as referenced in Felicia's post, above) and, while I haven't personally taken it, I definitely would... it's worth keeping an eye on Stephanie's schedule for upcoming events


The Rest of the Story: Stretchy/Loose Cast-on

There is some great discussion in the previous post's comments about loose cast-ons, and I learned a thing or two. There's nothing like hearing others' experiences to help inform a decision.

I'd all but decided on the Knitted Cast-on as demonstrated by Nancy Bush because, well, Nancy Bush. And Estonian lace knitting. It seemed logical. I've used that method before and rather like it, but also felt that I'd still need to carefully watch my tension to keep it loose.

Then Cheryl left a very thoughtful comment in which she mentioned June Hemmons Hiatt and The Principles of Knitting, and her general thoughts about the other options.

I happen to have that book, though Cheryl linked to a PDF of the Double Needle Cast-on that she suggested, as well as to a video demonstrating the method (aka Rolled Double Needle Cast-on). I'm not sure what I'd have ended up with had I not had the video, which effectively demonstrated the "rolled" part of the equation; I did not get that from the written instruction. I needed both in order to get it.

The method calls for using two needles -- it's unwritten, but I guess assumed that the working needle would be the same as for the project, and the second a size smaller. Not wanting to be stung again, I decided to cast on a test swatch using a needle a few sizes larger than the working needle, then knitting on to the proper size needle as I worked the first row. I cast on 20 or so stitches and proceeded to work several rows of the pattern. The bottom edge was definitely looser and able to be stretched.

I'd mentioned to Cheryl that I'd upped the needle size and she replied that she never had... so before committing to 300 +/- stitches, I thought I'd also try with the proper size. Lo and behold, it was still very loose and looked much nicer; in contrast, the previous attempt looked a bit too loose and even sloppy.

Now, I had saved those little swatches to show, but due to an unfortunate tangle in my knitting bag... um, there's not much left to show. I will do them again, though, and will also show the new cast-on edge compared to the original before it's frogged to reclaim the yarn.

There's a marked difference already in v.2 and how wavy the edge; that wasn't nearly as evident as I knit v.1.

Once I got the rhythm, the casting on went quite smoothly, and I even did it in the car on the way to Milwaukee! (More about that in a day or two.) The only thing I'd do differently is to work from both ends of the ball -- or wind off the generous amount I thought I'd need, and then a fair bit more! It took a little more than an hour, and I ran out of yarn with 281 of 321 stitches, but I can live with that! The small shawl is 221 stitches and the large is 321 stitches; my shawl will be a medium-sized hybrid!


Halp! (Multiple choice)

You are *loosely* casting on 321 stitches for a bottom-up, crescent-shaped shawl; which cast-on method do you use?

a.  e-wrap

b.  Jeny's Stretchy Slipknot Cast-on

c.  Helene Rush's Stretchy Cast On

d.  Knitted Cast-On, demonstrated above by Nancy Bush

e.  Another method not listed above.

I must get knitting but have been paralyzed over this question! I've already knit the smaller version of this shawl (221 stitches) and unsuccessfully used a not-loose-enough long-tail cast on on a needle 3 sizes larger than the working needle.

Does anyone have some experience, wisdom, or tips to share?



Ha! Not me. Nope. My yarn. Specifically, I had an email from someone who is knitting mittens with a braid and found my Latvian mittens...

...or what there is of them. Almost five years old, they are, and still in need of thumbs -- surprisingly, that is all!

The emailer was asking specifically about jogs -- a jog in the braid, a jog where the colors changed -- and mentioned that she had a hard time finding photos that were not showing a mitten at any angle other than from the flat -- back or palm.


When you're knitting in the round, you're going to have a jog. The jog becomes more apparent with anything that stripes -- color or pattern. There are many ways of minimizing the color/pattern jog by technique (type "jogless stripes" into Google) or by placement. For in-depth discussion of technique, I recommend:

My method of handling the braid here seems to be simply to do my best. The area of the "join" is placed on the inside of the wrist, below the thumb, on each mitten -- a spot less visible in the wild than any other. It looks like I may have employed some method of jogless knitting in the border area above the braid, but the remainder of the mitten is knit with a few stitches of solid color at each side of the hand which serves as a border and makes it less apparent that the color and pattern don't exactly match up.

I never finished these mittens because they're too small for me. They're also slightly two different sizes, as I ever-so-slightly loosened my death grip on the needles as I progressed. They'd fit Katie perfectly, and I think I shall finish them for her. She wore my North Star Mittens for quite a few years, even internationally, before they went missing late last year. She didn't tell me for the longest time, hoping they'd turn up. I am saddened by their loss, of course, but also happy that she loved, wore, and appreciated them for so long. I hope they still are -- worn, at least -- by someone!


I can picot, too-torial

I don't usually get too technical around here.  I answer questions when asked, I even draw pictures and diagrams and used colored pens and try to help people out.  If I can't describe it or draw it, then I try to find a better source for whatever and tell you about it.  Well, hold onto your handknit hat because here we go with me trying something technical -- I even created a new category for "technique," though this may be the only post thus categorized in a while... or ever.  ; )

I can picot and you can, too!

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To begin, of course, cast on and knit as directed.  In this case (and as I've done for all almost-9 socks I've knit), I cast on over two needles.  I distributed the stitches on the DPNs and knit 5 rows, did the YO row (the row that will make the pretty picot edge when folded over), then knit 5 more rows.  The directions started right off knitting in pattern from this point and sewing down the cast on edge after the toe was kitchenered.  I knew that a nice, finished picot edge would be motivation to knit the sock, and something to admire along the way!  I don't know about you, but I like to admire my knitting along the way.  Knowing that there was an edge to sew down after the toe was kitchenered?  Not something I'd really be looking forward to.

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There were fairly large, visible loops on the cast-on edge due to the double needles.  I threaded a needle with a bit of contrasting yarn and ran it through the loops along the cast-on edge -- the number of loops should be the same as the number of total stitches.

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Each loop was knit together with a stitch on the needle to neatly fold down the edge while knitting the next row, removing the contrasting yarn as each loop was knit.  The goal is to knit the stitch on the needle and the cast on loop from the same vertical row so there is no twist or bias to the finished edge.  This tedious business continues all the way around 'til every loop has been knit with its mate.

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Voila!  A pretty picot edge that you can admire to your heart's content all the way to the toe!

I can picot, you can picot, let's all picot!!

Disclaimer.  If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that I can blahblahblah with the best.  I've tried to keep it short and sweet here, but if there's something that needs clarification or I forgot something, please let me know and I'll try to fix it!  There may be a better way, there is likely a better tutorial; perhaps you'll find something useful here.

Thanks for the nudge to do this, V.; I doubt I'd have done it otherwise.  Sorry it took so long.  ; )

* * * * *

It's another weekend away... south to Madison this time.  I hope to be at the Dane County Farmers' Market, in the area of my sister and her wares (see sidebar at right), in the late morning.  On Sunday, we celebrate Mack's first birthday and the high school graduation of one of his big brothers!