Ever wonder if there are secrets to successful knitting? There are! Our resident knit doctor has compiled the following hints to help you kick your knitting up to the next level!
1. When you cast on a large number of stitches, place a stitch marker every 25 or 50 sts to help you keep count. Also, place a stitch marker after each repeat of a pattern across a row; later, if any repeat doesn’t end at the next marker, you know that you made a mistake in that particular small section. If knitting in the round, make sure your beginning-of-round stitch marker is distinctive from the rest.
2. When you knit a sweater in pieces, block each piece as you finish it. It’s easier than trying to find enough space to lay out all the wet pieces at once.
3. Block garment pieces before sewing seams; it’s easier to seam flat edges.
4. Try starting a sweater by knitting a sleeve instead of the back. It gives you a chance to practice the stitch pattern and confirm your gauge on a smaller piece.
5. Use sticky notes to mark your place in patterns. You always want to see what happened on the last row/round so that you can make sure the pattern lines up, so for line-by-line instructions put the sticky note below the line you’re working on, but for charts put it upside down and on top of the line you’re working on. An alternative is to use a magnetic board.
6. The last knit stitch before a purl in ribbing and cables tends to get enlarged and look untidy. That’s because the yarn, in making the next purl stitch, has to travel not only around the needle, but also from behind the work to in front of the work, thus putting more yarn into that stitch than into the previous knit stitch. If the purl stitch enlarges, you don’t really notice it since the purl stitches recede, but the excess can also work itself into the previous knit stitch. To avoid this, tug on the yarn when you pull it forward to purl, to take up some of the slack.
7. Work from a photocopy of your pattern. You can make notes on it without destroying the original, and it doesn’t matter if it gets lost or crunched in your bag when you’re out and about. (This is legal if you bought the pattern or it was a free pattern; it is not legal to photocopy and use a pattern that someone else bought.)
8. If you find parts of your pattern instructions hard to follow, just rewrite them - you can write out chart instructions as line-by-line directions or vice versa, or break long paragraphs into short lines.
9. Do you ever drop your knitting mid-row and don’t know in which direction you were knitting? Your working yarn (the yarn attached to the ball) should be attached to the needle in your right hand. Mysterious holes in your knitting are often caused by going the wrong way mid-row.
10. To check for errors when knitting a lace pattern in black, hold it against a light or against something white.
11. When knitting a difficult pattern, run a lifeline through your stitches regularly (make a note of which pattern row it is): thread a tapestry needle with smooth yarn thinner than your knitting yarn, and run it through all the stitches on your needle. Run it below any stitch markers, or you’ll end up sewing them in place, and watch what color you use - a red yarn lifeline can leave hard-to-remove red fuzz on white yarn. On the next row, make sure not to catch the lifeline in your stitches. If you have to unravel, the lifeline will stop the unraveling at that row, and you will know that that row is correct. I do this every dozen or so rows when knitting lace. I also make sure to place the next lifeline before I remove the previous one, just in case.
12. If you notice a dropped stitch, hook a coilless safety pin-style stitch marker through it to keep it from unraveling further until you can repair it.
I hope you find these tips helpful. Happy knitting!