Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Picking up stitches part 2: picking up along a bound-off edge

Garment finishing often requires the knitter to pick up stitches--to form a new row of live loops at the edge of a fabric where no live loops exist. TECHknitting blog has already dealt with picking up stitches along a selvedge, which is the "vertical" type pick up typical of cardigan bands.  This type of pick up is shown in green on the below schematic.

Today's post deals with a different kind of pick up: horizontal pick-ups (the brown areas on the below schematic).  A future post will deal with picking up stitches along a combo edge (light green).

The different types of picking up--today's post deals with the kind of pick-up marked "horizontal" on the above schematic of a cardigan sweater

There are actually TWO different kinds of horizontal pick ups: picking up live stitches from a provisional cast on, and picking up new stitches through a bound-off (or cast on!) edge. Today's post is only about the second kind: picking up through a bound-off edge.  This is because TECHknitting blog has already covered the first kind, links below.
As you can see, the bottom bands and cuffs (brown) were picked up on a horizontal edge.  In other words, the brown back-of-the-neck, as well as the bottom bands and cuffs were picked up and knit in the SAME direction as the knitting to which they are attached (arrows go the same direction on schematic).

Horizontal pick-ups are simple: the rate of pick up is 1:1, meaning one stitch is picked up through the top of each stitch-column in the main fabric.  Below is a diagram of how these are done using the "added yarn" method (very similar to the added-yarn method for selvedge pickups). As you see, the loops are picked up from the back to the front so that the live stitches appear on the OUTSIDE of the garment.  This hides the bind-off itself on the garment-inside, where no one can ever see it again.

The purple yarn is being picked up through the bound-off edge (brown) of the main fabric (yellow) using a crochet hook to draw loops through the top of each stitch column.  The loops are then parked on a knitting needle.
Here is a close-up photo of what such a pick-up looks like "in the wool" with the stitches parked on the knitting needle.

Reality check: how the picked-up stitches actually look "in the wool"

On the picked up stitches shown above, I knit a dozen or so rows to represent a collar, let's say, working one half in ribbing and one half plain (photo below) so you could see how the fabric would look either way.

The stitches picked up in the first photo were worked for a dozen or so rows, as a sample to show what a picked-up fabric--a collar, perhaps-- would look like worked in ribbing (right) or plain (left)

In the above photo, the "ditch" of the pickup (located along the row where the purl columns start)  shows as a disturbance in the smooth fabric, but the stitch pattern remains undisturbed through the pick-up row, because the bind-off itself is hidden on the back of the fabric scrap shown here.  In other words, the bind-off is inside the garment.

Where and why would a knitter want to pick up stitches through a bound-off edge?

Picking up through a bound-off edge is probably most common at the back of the neck of a garment. The reason to bind off and then pick up again is to hold the back of the neck from stretching--here is a link to an entire post about this.

Another common location this might happen is when your pattern calls you to bind off stitches at an underarm, followed by a requirement to pick the stitches up through the bound-off edge.

Yet another example of picking up through a bound-off edge can be seen in a scrap-yarn project featured in an earlier TECHknitting post, where the bind-off itself is a decorative horizontal element. This is called "Fake Latvian Braid, bind-off version." In this trick, the pick up is done from the outside to the inside, thus forcing the bind-off to the surface of the knitting where it becomes a decorative element. Using a decorative bind off like this is a particularly great trick to protect the already-knit part of a scrap project from unraveling, while at the same time freeing your knitting needles from a  project which might be knit in spurts, years apart, whenever more scrap yarn becomes available.  Using a bind-off as a decorative element also lets you use scrap yarn of different weights, colors, etc. because the horizontal element provided by the bind-off hides what would otherwise be discontinuities in the fabric.

As to picking up bottom bands and cuffs through a bound-off (or cast-on) edge: in truth, this isn't an ordinary manner of picking up such stitches in knitting. What's actually unusual is not the idea of picking up stitches to add the bands and cuffs afterwards.  In fact, adding cuffs and bands afterwards is an excellent idea because it allows you to custom-fit the garment with you in it.  However, such afterwards-added bands are usually worked "going the other way" on a provisional cast on. Bottom line: it's not the idea of picking up stitches for bands and cuffs which is unusual, it's picking up for these through a bound-off edge which is out-of-the-ordinary.

However, if we're talking children's clothes, it might make perfect sense to pick up the bottom bands and the cuffs in this unusual manner, working through a bound-off (or cast-on) edge.

Kids grow lengthwise a lot quicker than they grow in diameter. Further, the edges of a kid-sweater could use refreshing after a year of so of constant wear. By nipping the bottom bands and cuffs off and knitting brand-new, longer ones, you can keep a kid-sweater going for more years than you can imagine. Band/cuff lengthening  COULD be done on live stitches/provisional cast-on as you would do for an adult sweater, but it's actually easier to rip off the cuffs/bands and knit all-new ones if you don't have to worry about catching live loops.  So, if you'd originally picked up the cuff/band stitches through a bound-off edge, when the time comes for refreshing and lengthening, you'd simply rip merrily away until the cuff/band is all gone, then pick up all-new stitches through that same edge and re-knit.

An overlapping reason is that kids are hard on sweaters.  In fact, kids often wear sweaters  right out--little me sure did (and little-inner-me still grieves all these years later for that one worn-out, rust-colored sweater my mom knit!)   When cuffs and bands are picked up through a bound-off edge, a worn cuff/band can't unravel very far and all damage is constrained.  Instead of having to grieve for a worn-out sweater with runs all over it, your kids will think you are a magician as you simply frog that one worn-through cuff and knit a replacement, 1-2-3.

A final situation is which to use picking up through a bound-off edge arises in the special case of grafting ribbing head-to-head. Generally, such grafting would result in a 1/2 stitch offset causing disrution of the pattern.  However, if you bind off one fabric and then Kitchener-stitch (graft) the live stitches to the bound-off stitches, you can avoid this problem.  Here is a post with more info.

Until next time, good knitting!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I cord bind-off, I-cord selvedge border

Today's post is about knitted-in-place I-cord bind-offs AND edgings. Along the way, I'll show you a little trick for two-color I-cord.  (Today's post is not about attaching I-cord which was knit ahead of time--that is called "applied I-cord" and is a trick for another day.)  

Below: this little trivet has a two-color I-cord bind-off across the short end, which segues around the corner right into an I-cord border along the long edges (selvedges).

The pattern for the little trivet is at the bottom of this post--a stocking-stuffer, perhaps?

We'll start with the bind-off  (short edges), and get to the edging (long edges) in the second half of this post.

There are many tutorials for I-cord bind-off out there, but I do it a little different, so bear with me.

Here are the pithy directions.  If these make sense to you, no need to crawl through the rest of the post:
At top of work, with right side facing, CO 2 st via backwards loop technique. For same color I-cord, use running yarn from the top st of the fabric, for CC I-cord, use the tail end of a CC skein. K3. * Slip these 3 sts back onto L needle maintaining orientation.  K2, K2 tog tbl.    Repeat from * until all fabric sts are bound off, BO I-cord. 
This differs from the usual instructions by substituting "k2tog tbl" for "sl1, k1, psso."  IMHO, this substitution makes a neater, more tailored cord.
For more detail, read on...

--Step 1: At the top of the work with right side facing, use the running yarn to cast on two backwards loops onto the left needle. These are shown in lighter orange.

--Step 2: Knit three stitches: these would be the two you cast on followed by the first of the fabric stitches--which has been colored brown in the below illustration. After knitting, slip these off your right needle, returning them onto your left needle without twisting or reorienting the stitches in any way. What you have should look like this--

After slipping, the running yarn protrudes from the fabric three stitches in from the edge.  This is not a mistake. Rather, this is how I-cord is made: the running yarn becomes a traveling strand drawn across from the outermost (first) to the innermost (last) of the three I-cord stitches.  Because the traveling strand will take the shortest path, it pulls the first and last stitch together, making the (if you stop and think about, magical) result of a round cord knitted flat. The traveling strand has been shown long, flat (and colored green) in the below illustration, but in reality, the whole 3-stitch assembly is round and the traveling strand becomes invisible.

--Step 3: Draw the traveling strand to the edge of the work, then knit two stitches in a normal manner.  **Working through the back loops** knit the third stitch (brown) together with its neighbor to the left (darker brown) as shown below.  In so doing, the lighter brown stitch becomes the edge of the I-cord and the darker brown fabric stitch has been bound off into the I-cord.

Below: Inserting the right needle into the back loops of the two brown stitches.  Note the running yarn has been colored blue to identify the part of the running yarn which turns into the stitch holding together the two brown stitches.

After knitting the two brown stitches together with the blue yarn, you will wind up with a total of three stitches on your right needle--the blue, which is the last (edge) stitch of the I-cord, as well as the two orange stitches which make up the other two-thirds of the I-cord stitches.  The traveling strands which connect the I-cord's first and last sitches have been colored green, and shown long and flat, but in real life, the cord is round and the traveling strand, invisible.

--Step 4: Slipping these three stitches off your right needle, return them to the left needle. The running yarn will again protrude from the fabric 3 stitches in from the edge.

You can also see that knitting through the back loops not only twists the stitches but also puts the first I-cord stitch (lighter brown) over the top of the fabric stitch (darker brown) thus hiding it.

Here is a reality check: this is what a same-color I-cord in progress looks like "in the wool" at the end of step 4, with the stitches returned to the L needle.

--Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you get to the end of the live stitches.

If working flat, when you run out of live fabric stitches to bind off, bind off the I-cord.  Finish by running the tails at both ends of the I-cord into the hollow core of the I-cord itself, never to be seen again.

If working circular, (ie: around a continuous edge, such as the live stitches at the top of a cowl or live stitches around the bottom of a hat) there are three ways to end the work, depending on your relationship to perfectionism:

  • --if you are a perfectionist, you can undo the two backwards loops at the I-cord cast-on, then Kitchener-stitch the beginning of the I-cord to the end where they meet.  Remember that the Kitchener stitching itself has the height of one round of I-cord, so plan to factor that in.
  • --if you are an ordinary mortal, then, at the end, knit an extra two or three rounds of I-cord loose of the edge.  Next, bind off the I-cord by threading the tail through the three live I-cord stitches.  Finally, using a crochet hook, pull the end inside the core of the I-cord where the cord first started. The result is like a snake eating its own tail.  I call this a "dive-join" because the end of the I-cord dives into its own beginning. Dive-joins create a little bump, yes, but nobody--except you--will ever notice.
  • --if you are somewhere between ordinary mortal and perfectionist,  duplicate-stitch one or two stitches over the dive-join to disguise the break in fabric pattern. Lower in this post, there is a photo of a dive-join which has been disguised in this way.

In step 1, cast on two backwards loops using the contrast color yarn. Then, using the contrast color for all the knitting, simply follow all the instructions of steps 3 and 4.   Here is a closeup photo of a contrast color bind off--orange on a white background

The red boxes show where the white blips would be if you pushed the 
stitches of the I-cord apart to see them. 

As you see, the blip of the white stitch (the one being bound off) is pretty well hidden. If the blip shows more than you want it to, sharply pull the I-cord up and the fabric down.  This seats the fabric stitches deeper inside the I-cord fabric.  You can also fluff up the edge stitches with a slim dpn to hide the blip even deeper inside the I-cord.  If you're still having an issue, knit the I-cord with a larger needle or fluffier yarn, or both, so there is more bulk with which to hide the blip.

If really want to get fancy, you can work an I-cord bind-off in two (or even more) colors, but it is something of a pain the neck:  you have to work with a cut length of yarn and you'll also need a crochet hook or a blunt-nosed yarn needle.  (OTOH, hiding the ends is easy--you simply slide them into the hollow core of the I-cord.)

I have worked this two-color trick on the live stitches of the fabric ends (a bit lower in this post, that I-cord you see on the selvedge will make a how-to appearance, and the same trick as shown here to add a color to I-cord binding off live stitches can be used to add color on selvedge stitch borders, as well).

OK, so for the color, let's say you want to insert a 4-round-long dash of green into an orange I-cord. Start off working in orange. Go as far as you want to go in that color, ending on a step 4.  Drop the orange yarn and, starting with step 3, work 4 rounds of I-cord in the green, again ending on a step 4.

--Step 5: Now it is time to again knit with the orange yarn.  But, there is a problem: you dropped that color several rounds ago, so how to get at it? If you simply draw it across the back, you'll get a long loop laying on the fabric surface--not nice.

After much fooling around experimentation I think what shows least and is easiest is to actually cut the orange yarn to about a twenty-inch length, thread it onto a blunt needle and draw that entire length THROUGH the four rounds of green you just knit.

Keep pulling the orange through through until the cut ends pops free. Now that the orange is the correct spot, use that for knitting, starting off on step 3.  Continue with orange for four rows, ending on a step 4.  Don't yank the orange through the green: that would distort the last stitch of the orange and would make the green segment stiff and short. Be mild in your tension, this is like adjusting the traveling strands in two-color knitting(And that's because...it IS two color knitting!) 

--Step 6: Repeat step 5, except thread the green yarn through the core of the orange stitches and knit the desired number of rounds with green.

--Repeat steps 5 and 6.  As you run out of yarn, cut a new length to use.  At the end of the work, you can work in all the loose ends, they will be hidden in the core of the I-cord.

This post does not show an I-cord cast on.  This is because  if you start your knitted item with a provisional cast-on (COWYAK is an easy one), at the end of your project, you can remove the provisional cast on to get live loops. With live loops at both ends of your fabric, you can bind OFF both ends via this trick and get absolutely matchy-matchy ends. 

I cord can be attached to the  selvedge (long edge) as a flat-laying border or trim (a "purfle" as the old folks used to say, as opposed to a "ruffle" which was also a trim, but does not lay flat).

If you are simply adding the I-cord at a single selvedge, you have no worries.  However, if you wanted to go around a corner--such as we are doing here to get from binding off live stitches to edging the selvedge-there is a trick for that.  Specifically, you have to add slack at the corner to avoid cupping and curling.  If you fail to add slack, your corner will never lay flat.

To add slack, simply  knit a round or two of I-cord loose of the edge, by which I mean, knit this little stretch of I-cord as a free-standing cord, not attached to the underlying fabric.  Once you have the necesary slack, you then begin to attach the I-cord along the selvedge.  By knitting this extra row or two, the I-cord can make the bend without distorting the underlying fabric.

Three things to notice about the above photo.  First, you can see the I-cord has been knit loose of the edge in order to create the required slack for getting around the corner.  Second, note the stitches being held in waiting along the upright needle.  This is an every-other-row fabric method pick-up of stitches through the selvedge, and we'll get to that in the very next part of this post.  Finally, if you want to see what the corner actually looks like anchored down, the last two photos below both show a fastened-down corner. 

Once you have sufficient slack in your I-cord to get around the corner, your work is not done.  The problem is, there are no live loops waiting to anchor the I cord to the selvedge.  You must therefore make some appear, and you have two choices about this.  Confusingly, both choices are called "picking up stitches." May I suggest that you go to this post and read all about both methods?   I'll wait here til you're done.

Anchoring via the fabric method: Choose the every-other row method--the illustration just above shows two stitches picked up this way onto the upright needle.  Then, knit the first picked-up stitch together with the first I-cord stitch just as you did along the cast-off edge. When you get to the second row, where there is no stitch waiting to be picked up, you would knit the three I-cord stitches loose of the fabric edge, just as if it were a free-standing I-cord. On the third row, you'd again knit the I-cord onto the stitch picked up out of the fabric, and so on.

Anchoring via the added-yarn method: As shown in the photo below, with this trick, you have one loop per row, placed on a knitting-needle yarn holder.  Because you have picked up one stitch per row, there is no need to knit every second round of the I-cord loose of the edge.  Instead, simply proceed as if you were working a cast-off edge. In other words, each round of I-cord is anchored to a picked-up stitch loop, just as if it were a live loop being bound off. Here is an illustration of a contrast color I-cord being knit onto live loops along a selvedge, where the live loops were obtained via the added-yarn method.

When you get all the way around all four corners, you are facing the identical situation as mentioned above for circular knitting.  That is, the end of the I-cord has come around to meet the beginning.  You would therefore "dive join" the ends according to those same directions, again--it's just like a snake eating its own tail.   Here is a photo of a dive-joined ending--it is just at the corner, and I took two duplicate stitches where the end of the I cord dived into its beginning .  You might be able to feel it a little bump, but you pretty much can't see it--have a look for yourself. (Also, note how nice and flat that corner lays due to added slcak--no cupping at all.)

Dive-joined I-cord, joined just at the corner, disguised via duplicate stitches 
Good knitting


Bonus stocking-stuffer trivet pattern (this could be made into a neck scarf by simply knitting it longer.  If you want it wider, add stitches in groups of 4) 

Materials: Scrap amounts of worsted weight yarn in three colors, knitting needles which, in your hands, give a nice fabric with this yarn, and also knitting needles three sizes smaller.  Crochet hook and/or blunt nosed yarn needle.

Directions: Using needles three sizes smaller than you usually use for worsted-weight yarn, CO 27 sts in waste yarn.  Work a row or two in stockinette, ending on a knit row.

Switch to main yarn.

Row 1: p
Row 2: k
row 3: p
Row 4: establish ribbing patt as follows: *k3, p1, repeat from * to within 3 st of end of row, k3.
Row 5: *p3, k1, repeat from * to within 3 sts of end of row, p3
Switch to larger needles.
Rows 4 and 5 make up the ribbing pattern.
Continue in ribbing pattern until you have worked a total of 29 rows from beginning of piece.  Upon completion of row 29, you should have just finished a purl row. Switch to smaller needles.
Rows 31, 32 and 33:  continue in rib pattern.
Rows 34: purl
Row 35:k
row 36:p
Turn work, remove provisional cast on from bottom and put those stitches on a dpn or stitch holder. You are now ready to add I-cord bind off as shown in the above post.

Optional: steam block piece before adding I-cord (makes it easier to handle).

Siting the color blips: Obviously, you can put these wherever you want.  I put the color blips on the bound-off ends only, not on the selvedges.  There there are 7 total ribs, and I centered the two green 4-round-long blips on third and fifth ribs respectively.  Due to a quirk of the structure of color knitting, you must change colors one I-cord round BEFORE the rib stitch itself if you want the color change centered on the rib.  This is because the first green stitch actually anchors down the last orange stitch.  Try and see for yourself.

BTW:  you get around to the bottom of the work, where the live stitches were freed from the provisional cast-on, you'll see that the rib seems to growing out the middle of two knit columns, instead of coming out of the middle of one knit column. This is because knitting is 1/2 stitch off at a provisional cast-on edge.

Why knit the first and last few rows so tightly?  Due to the structure of knitting, fabric edges want to flare. A tight first tight rows at beginning and end of the work help counteract this nasty tendency. (Good trick for the cast-on and bind-off edge of any strip of knit fabric: scarves, afghan strips, etc.)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Picking up stitches along a selvedge

Getting live loops where there are none requires you to pick up stitches. But what does "picking up stitches" mean? Part of it depends on WHERE you are picking up stitches.  Per the below diagram, one common type is picking up along a vertical edge.  This is called picking up through a "selvedge" (sometimes spelled "selvage" or "selvedge") and is the subject of this post, which is the first in a series.

* * *
As you see on the below schematic of a cardigan sweater, the most common place for a vertical selvedge pick up is along the "long edges" of a cardigan sweater, in order to knit the button bands (shown in darker green, below).

The different types of picking up--today's post is about picking up through the vertical (dark green) "selvedges" which are the "long" fabric edges on this schematic of a cardigan sweater. Future posts will show horizontal and combo pick-ups. 

There are two methods of picking up stitches along a selvedge.  The first, called the fabric method, involves actually picking up loops out of the fabric itself. The fabric method comes in two versions: the every-single-row version and the every-other-row version.

Here are several illustrations: the first shows the every-single row version.  In this method, you pick up one arm of every stitch along the selvedge.  This is done by tracing up the first full column of knitting, and pulling onto your knitting needle, the innermost arm of each stitch in that column.

As you might imagine, this is a fairly primitive process. There is little slack in these edge stitches, and after catching the first one or two stitches, brute force is required to squirm the loops up onto your knitting needle.

There are several tricks you can use.  A very slim dpn helps to park the loops upon.  Another variation is called "pick up and knit" where you park only one or two stitches on the holding needle, then knit those off right away, and then pick up another one or two. Obviously, pick-up-and-knit gives the same end result as picking up the stitches first, and then knitting them all off at the same time--it's just easier, slack-wise, because knitting each stitch AS you pick it up allows for more slack at the time of pickup as only a stitch or two has to be dragged up to stretch all the way around needle. Yet, whether you use a slim dpn or the pick-up-and-knit trick, pulling every stitch right out of the side edge distorts and stresses the underlying fabric, and I would not recommend it.

The second, somewhat more refined version of the fabric method involves missing a row, then picking up a loop, and repeating this process, so you get a loop on every other row.  This fits with the actual structure of knitted fabric better--if you have a knit selvedge, the edge generally falls into a pattern of a longer loop paired with a shorter loop, you would (obviously) pick up the longer loop onto your needle. This is something of an improvement over the every-single-row method: with more slack, there is less stretching and stressing of the underlying fabric, less brute force.

If you are running a slipped selvedge, where one edge loop spans two rows, you might want to consider ignoring the actual loops of the slipped selvedge.  They are so large, the danger is that they'd get stretched out if you used their arms to pick up onto the holding needle.  Instead, consider moving in to the first full column past the selvedge for your pickup.

The second method of picking up stitches is called the added-yarn method.   In its classic incarnation, it is worked by holding a yarn behind the fabric.  As illustrated below, you then reach between the arms of the first full column of knitting with your crochet hook and fish forward a loop. Each loop is parked onto a knitting needle as it is formed.  Some knitters prefer to draw the added-yarn loop up into the space between the first and second full columns of knitting.  If you prefer that method, you'd draw up loops by inserting the crochet hook as the two red dots at the top of the illustration indicate.

The added-yarn method is rather more respectable in knitting circles than the fabric method, because this added-yarn technique does not distort the underlying fabric. Further, the line of yarn traveling up the entire length of the selvedge helps spread stress evenly along the column of knitting, which cannot be said for the fabric method.

There is another added-yarn method which is much better for picking up when you are planning to knit a layer of fabric, such as a facing.  Since, I have already written an entire post about my "beautiful method" I won't repeat that here, but if you go and look, I'll be waiting here when you return.

Given the amount of stress and distortion of the underlaying faric, the every-single-row fabric method is probably one to avoid.  But, for a quick item which receives no stress or tugging (edging on a neck scarf muffler) the every-other-row method works well enough.  In fact, if you do this enough, you get to where you can simply knit right through the edge loop without even bothering to anchor it on a knitting needle first--a true "pick-up-and-knit" trick.

Yet it is undeniable that, from a structural--and even from an aesthetic viewpoint, the added yarn method is all-around better: less stress and a prettier back-of-fabric.  For the front bands on an adult's cardigan sweater, which get tugged all the time and which are always on display, the added-yarn method is really going to be better. For this high-end use, I would not use the fabric method.

Now we come to the question of the RATE of pickup.  In a nutshell, the problem is that stockinette (the most common knit fabric) is not square.  A typical gauge in worsted weight yarn is 5 st/in, 7 rows/in.  If you attach two such fabrics to one another via picking up stitches along a selvedge, you can see the mismatch which will occur between rows and stitches.  In other words, if you pick up at a rate of 1:1 (one loop per row) you will get 7 loops where you really need only 5.

The blue square and the red square are both knit in stockinette,
but they are 90 degrees offset.  You can see the mismatch
between the row and stitch gauge where they adjoin.
The gray arrow shows the direction of the knitting on each square.

So, how to adjust the rate of pickup? There are many different opinions about this.  I think probably the most common trick is to simply skip rows on the pickup process. So, if you were using the added yarn method, with a 5-stitch:7-row pickup ratio you would skip drawing up loops in 2 of every 7 rows.  This would bring your live stitches on the needle to the exact number you need for a 5-st/inch gauge.

However, IMHO, this is not the best approach.  If you think about it, skipping rows makes for an uneven gappy edge, and the underlying fabric will respond by flaring or puckering.

I myself would strive for the most even pick-up possible.  Once I had my loops live, I would then worry about my gauge.  An even pickup followed by an increase or decrease has less of a gapping problem because the foundation, at least, is even across the underlying fabric.

With the every-other-row fabric method, I would be picking up only 3½ stitches per 7 rows, or more realistically--since I can't knit ½ stitches--I am picking up 7 stitches per 14 rows.  This is lower than my target rate of 10 stitches picked up for every 14 rows. (basic algebra--I hated it too--says 10 st picked up for 14 rows is the exact same as 5 stitches picked up for 7 rows.) So, I must INCREASE the number of loops on my needle.  In the first row (the one I am going to knit into the fabric selvedge loops) I will make this adjustment.  Into every group of 7 stitches on my needle, I will add three, more-or-less evenly spaced loops via the backward loop method (or any other increase you like).

The spacing isn't even, I fudged the spacing
to be able to illustrate two increases

With the added yarn method, I would pick up through every stitch.  Obviously, I will get one loop per row, a 1:1 ratio. At this rate of pickup, I will have 7 picked-up stitches on my needle for every seven rows, but I really want to have 5.  So, I will have to DECREASE the number of stitches on my needle to get to a target pick up rate of 5 loops picked up per 7 rows by getting rid of 2 stitches per group of 7. On the first row I will knit right after the loops have been picked up, I will work the decreases: k2tog's or ssk's are very handy and easy decreases to use, and I will space the two required decreases more-or-less evenly across each group of 7 stitches.

If you are knitting BANDS, an even better trick (imho) is to sufficiently change the GAUGE of the knitting you are going to add on the newly-picked-up stitches, so that this new knitting is at the natural pickup gauge of 1:1.  With the added-yarn method, this means you need not decrease. With the every-other row fabric method, you would double your number of stitches by k1, m1 in the first row to get to the same 1:1 ratio as added-yarn method (one stitch picked up for each row of selvedge).

The band-facing is picked up
via the "beautiful" method,
which is an added-yarn technique. 
In fact, changing gauge is what I myself nearly always do, especially with front bands on a cardigan, and here is why.  The gauge of knitting suitable for the body of a garment is much looser and stretchier than the gauge suitable for the front bands of a cardigan. The front bands should be knit more tightly (and it wouldn't hurt the cuff, neck or bottom bands of a garment to be knit tightly, either). If you adjust your needles down far enough, and knit tightly enough, the change in gauge makes the 1:1 pickup rate work.

In my experience, this tighter gauge and a 1:1 pickup rate yield a very professional result for knitting bands on picked up stitches.  See for yourself: at left is a photo of a front band-facing tightly knitted at right angles to the main fabric (showing on the purl side) on a 1:1 ratio of picked-up stitches.  Although this band-facing is on the inside of the garment, it is the same idea as a band which would be seen on the outside of the garment. As you can see, the knit stitches line up straight across from the purl stitches of the main fabric, even though the knit stitches were picked up and knit at right angles. By going down several needle sizes, the band-facing was knit tight enough to make its stitch gauge identical to the row gauge of the underlying fabric.

I will leave you with an aside on garter stitch which has the unique property of being "square,"  For this reason, it is a very good choice for modular knitting, which often features attached squares, triangles or strips at various angles to one another.  In the context of picking up stitches, garter stitch is naturally picked up and knit at a 1:1 ratio without having to perform any tricks at all.  However, as The Provisional Kitchener states in the comments, this is only an APPARENT 1:1 ratio, it is actually a 1:2 ratio because garter has "got as many stitches as ridges in a square - one ridge being made up of two rows. Which means you pick up one stitch every second row (which is every ridge)."(Thank you PK, for this good catch!)

Good knitting

You have been reading TECHknitting on picking up knit stitches along a selvedge, (also spelled selvage and selvedge, go figure!)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sweater-saver: reknitting the cuffs of a purple sweater

Poking around some drafts of blog articles written through the years, I came upon a sweater-saver  project from several years back. Although I thought this got posted a long time ago, I can't find it online anywhere, so here it is (again?)
* * *
This purple cabled store-bought sweater was beloved of its owner, but the cuffs were baggy and the sleeves too short.  I put on my "Garde Tricot"* hat and fixed it like this---

Below: The start, one cuff removed.  You can see how short the sleeves are.
 first cuff removed    

Below: A little known fact about commercial knits is that they are often knit of several strands of thin yarn simply held (not twisted, not plied) together, much like three-strand "Persian" needlepoint yarn or six-strand embroidery floss. It is possible that the thin yarns which are held together are themselves plied, but until the thin strands are knit together, they remain separate strands. This particular sweater was knit of three stands of two-ply.
three strands of 2-ply

Below: After unraveling the yarn, it was severely kinked.  I made each cuff's worth into a mini-hank, knotted in several places to prevent tangling, then reclaimed the yarn from both cuffs via steam un-kinking.

One cuff's worth of unraveled, kinked-up yarn
wound into a mini-hank 

Below: The problem was, the sleeves were so much too short that the unraveled cuffs contained not enough yarn to significantly lengthen the sleeves.  Further, there was no possible chance of a match.  I could match color with Persian yarn (with over 400 colors, you can come pretty close to matching most solid colors) but Persian yarn was the wrong texture. So, instead of using the reclaimed yarn as it was originally knit (one 3-stranded yarn) I separated ("stripped") one strand of the thin two-ply yarn out of each of the cuff-mini-hanks and  re-did the two hanks of 3-strand into three mini-skeins of 2-strand.  This magically yielded 1/3 more yarn.  Remember: the 3 thinner strands of yarns were not twisted nor plied together, merely held together, meaning it was possible (although tedious) to separate them.

Yarn skeined up as two strands of 2-ply

It is true that the two-strand yarn resulting from this trick is thinner, but there was no choice about this.  There simply had to be more yarn or the sweater sleeves would still be unwearably too short.

Cuffs re-knit narrower and waaaaay longer

Above: The cuffs were reknit narrower and much longer. They feature a rolled edge for sturdiness. I seem to recall there was so little yarn left over that I had to bind off part of the second cuff with a single strand of two-ply.

 Below: Overview of the reclaimed sweater.

Perhaps you know someone whose favorite sweater has a little problem?  What with the holidays coming up, you do realize that as a hand knitter, you are uniquely positioned to reclaim a favorite and beloved sweater?  Also that re-knitting a small part of a sweater takes a whole lot less time (ahem, cough, cough) than knitting a new one?

Good knitting--TK

PS:  Here is another sweater reclaimed several years ago

*In the classical French kitchen, there are various stations, like a battleship, and one of these is "garde manger" which means "guard of the food."  Among other duties, this chef recycles high end food: yesterday's filet mignon becomes today's Beef Salad Pareisienne.  In the same way, I think there should be a "garde tricot," or "guard of the knitting" who takes yesterday's beloved sweater and turns it into a whole new fave. (That could be you!)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The mechanics of slip stitching (Fake Latvian Braid)

Includes 2 illustrations and a video
There haven't been many posts lately (sorry 'bout that...) but the most recent ones have been about applying slip stitching to the surface of knitting, a trick I call "Fake Latvian Braid," FLB for short. Today's post shows more about the mechanics.

The reason for today's post is that after the FLB post was published, quite a few knitters have written in frustration asking how it is possible to apply FLB slip stitching.  Since each slip stitch goes through the fabric, either you have to flip the fabric for every stitch (slow) or work without seeing one of your hands (awkward).

The answer is, for sure, not to flip the fabric.  Instead, the trick is to reduce the awkwardness of working with one hand out of sight.

I've actually been thinking about this for a couple of months because I'd like to be free to explore more slip-stitched techniques on this blog, making this is a matter of some importance to me. I'm thinking that working with one hand out of sight might be a matter of perhaps further developing the innate sense which each person has of their own body.

Over the past several months, I've asked people to touch their hands together with their eyes closed. It turns out knitters and non-knitters, young and old can do so, and this is true even with hands held to the side, behind, over the head: anywhere, really.  I conclude that each of your hands knows where the other one is in relation to itself, even if your eyes can't see both (or either!)

The relationship between your hands is good to begin with, and via practice, it can get even better.  As a matter of habit, hand quilters sew with one hand out of sight: the hand under the fabric rocks the needle back up to the top hand over and over again, each stitch the same distance from the next.  Quilting needles are sharp, so learning hand-quilting involves blood.  Luckily, crochet hooks are dull, so there's no blood-letting in learning to work the FLB slip-stitch with one hand out of sight.

As a background to the slip stitch tricks already published, and as a foundation for the possibility of more, here's an illustration of the L hand position for a right handed knitter who habitually knits "regular" (stitches to be knit held on L needle, completed stitches on R needle, so the knitted fabric moves from L to R.) For those who habitually knit from R to L ("mirror image") the right hand would hold the fabric.
The bottom illustration shows the hand position, the top illustration, 
the same with actual fabric and yarn, and with a crochet hook poked through. 
The right hand (not shown on this illustration) manipulates the 
crochet hook, with only the thumb of the left hand in front 
of the fabric, and the other fingers of the left hand behind the fabric.

I am right handed so my left hand holds the fabric and the yarn.  Admittedly, as a right-handed German-style knitter (yarn fed off the left hand)  using my left index finger to positon and feed the yarn in slip stitching is identical to feeding a knitting yarn, so my hands are used to it. If I were an English-style knitter (yarn fed off the right hand) the learning curve would surely be steeper. (In the silver-lining/lemons-from-lemonade department, learning to feed yarn off both hands makes two-handed color knitting easier)

In the above illustration, the top panel is shown from above the work, with fabric.  The bottom panel shows the L hand as it appears from the front, but without fabric.

The below illustration shows the two hands as they appear from the front of the work with fabric. As you can see, from the front, the only part of the left hand showing is the thumb: the method of of clutching the fabric means the fabric hides the other fingers of the left hand behind it.

The position of the hands from the front.  The only part of the
holding hand (left) which shows is the thumb, the other fingers
are behind the fabric

The right hand is responsible for manipulating the crochet hook, thus drawing the yarn from the back of the fabric to the front in a loop, then pulling that newly-made loop through the previous loop around the barrel of the crochet hook (which is what slip stitching is.)

If you prefer  moving pictures to still illustrations, here's a 2-minute video. Note that in the still illustrations above, I am applying the slip stitch to the reverse stockinette side of a fabric, whereas in the video, the slip stitching is on the smooth face.  However, the action of working the slip stitch (Fake Latvian Braid) through the thickness of a fabric using a crochet hook is identical, regardless of to which face the braid is applied.

Last thing:  The illustrations in this post and the video are meant only to show the hand position, rythym and gross motions. Neither shows the actual mechanics of how to catch the yarn around the hook, where to insert the hook, or anything beyond the barest hint of why FLB is so groovy. Instead, those details are found in these previous posts:
Good knitting (or should I say, slip-stitching?)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Lazy Knitter Scrap Tam recipe: a use for deco bind-off FLB + introducing some shaping tricks for bringing order out of chaos

The Lazy Knitter Scrap Tam is one of my go-to scrap recipes. It works for all size humans: children, women or men, and features an "unvention" shown in the previous post: the deco bind-off Fake Latvian Braid (FLB).
Blue/green scrap tam with deco bind-off FLB

Beige/multi scrap tam with deco bind-off FLB

Going beyond the deco-bind off FLB, however, this tam is full of tricks. For one example, shown below are three (!) different tricks you can use to divide a random number of stitches for evenly-spaced decreases, regardless of whether the stitch count was evenly divisible in the first place --"order out of chaos" is my private name for this range of tricks.

This tam's first name is "Lazy" for a good reason--no particular measuring or gauge is required, and very little stitch counting, yet the recipe will make a custom tam to fit anyone, and it's all done using scrap yarn. Specifically, this recipe allows for a one-size custom fit, meaning the tam is made for the head of the wearer, regardless of yarn or gauge. The only requirement for fitting is that the wearer's head be available for try-on at the end of the first step.

As a scrap project, I use whatever is laying around.  However--truth in advertising-- although I've made a bunch of these (10? 12?), I've always used yarn in the DK/worsted/aran range.  As you'll see with the blue/green tam featured in this post, yarns of different weights can also be mixed.

Choose the yarn of which you have the most as your theme color--the band and all the FLB rows are knit from this color.  A single theme color unifies a scrap project--the human eye delights in repetition--so it'll look carefully planned out.  One contraint:  as discussed more below, if you're mixing yarn weights, the heavier yarn has to be used for the lower part of the tam.

The beige/multi tam is made of Dale Garn Heilo DK, a long-fiber, somewhat scratchy but very hard-wearing yarn--the tam in the illustrations is over 10 years old and gets significant wear every Wisconsin winter. I used around 50 grams of beige for the theme color and scrap-ish amounts of the other four colors: blue, gold, green and rust.  The tam was knit over the course of a year or more.

The blue/green tam is knit of Lana Grossa Bingo for the band and bottom two stripes.  I had only a limited amount of Bingo--one ball of blue, which I used for the theme color, and one and a half balls of green (the limited amounts of yarn is why this was a scrap project). The top of this tam is knit of Heilo in a matching color. Bingo is a soft, thick superwash wool--very splitty, biases easily.

Scrap project: Bingo to the left, Heilo to the right: two very different yarns, in very different weights, but the color match is pretty good

From this view, you can see that the tam-top in Heilo is a slightly different color than the stripes below in Bingo.  The difference in stitch gauge is evident too (same stitch gauge, but different row gauge, due to the Bingo being "pushed" (compressed) to a smaller stitch gauge than recommended by the manufacturer.
Stiff-ish long-fiber wool yarns like Heilo make quite a structured hat, especially when knit tightly. By contrast, yarns with low body and a soft hand-- alpaca or "silky-type" acrylics, for example--create a rather slouchy snood-type result, especially when knit rather loosely. To make a stiff-ish tam out of the Bingo, I worked it tightly--6 stitches to the inch instead of the recommended 4/in.  In other words, I treated the Bingo like a DK yarn, working it at the same gauge as the Heilo, then knit the Heilo at its normal gauge to match, as best as possible.
Pro-tip 1--combining yarn weights
When you "push" a yarn to a different gauge, the stitch count will match that of a yarn normally knit at that gauge, but the row count will almost certainly exceed that of a yarn normally knit at that gauge, as shown in the photo above. As is explained further below, the lazy knitter's tam recipe depends on the gauge of the band and the bottom stripe being proportional. So, if you choose to combine yarn weights, the heavier one must be used for the hat band and lowest stripe. This means you have to have scrap yarn at least two different color yarns in the same weight. Either the heavier or lighter yarn can be used for the second stripe, the top for sure can be made in the lighter yarn. It is for this reason that the blue/green tam has the band + the bottom two stripes knit in the heavier Bingo, while the lighter Heilo reserved for the hat-top. 

Straight needles can be used to knit the band, but you'll need some form of circular needles (short circ, long circ-magic-loop style, dpn) to work the rest. 

Finished Measurements
This is custom one-size, fitted as-you-go. The size stems from the base diameter of the bottom band, which you fit by simply holding it around your head until it meets your personal ideal of tightness.

It is possible that the hat will change measurements after it has been blocked, and this is especially so if it is knit loosely, or is of a silky hand, such as alpaca.  All I can say is this is meant to be a scrap project, so your experience with the main project will guide your result here--if your sweater made with this yarn stretched all to heck, then make the tam tighter, expecting it will grow, just as the sweater did.  Alternatively, consider knitting quite tightly indeed--stiff fabrics change less in gauge upon blocking than do loosely-knit ones. 

Band is knit flat (back and forth), the rest of the tam is worked circularly on stitches picked up through the long edges of the bottom band.  

This tam is called the "lazy knitter's tam," and below, the recipe is offered in narrative form. In the narrative are links to all the different little tricks which allow for a polished finished product without a lot of forethought at the front end. 

Bottom Band
Taller band effect
With the theme color (beige=lady's multicolor tam, blue tweed=man's blue/green tam) cast on enough stitches to knit a double-wide bottom band. Both of the sample tams have a band 25 stitches wide, which makes the band a lot higher when knit in Bingo (the blue/green tam) than in the Heilo (beige/multi tam). How I settled on this number is lost in the mists of time.  This number works for me, but vary it any way you like--a quite narrow band will make more of a beret, a taller band will give more of a Scotch Bonnet effect.

The bottom band, knit flat.  The dotted line = fold line

When folded in half lengthwise (along the dotted line) this fabric becomes the bottom band of the hat.

Texture pattern
Broken rib pattern on outside of bottom band
The beige/multi tam has a broken rib pattern on the outside of the band.

Here's the reasoning: When I knit circular, the knitting is nice and even, but when I knit flat, the knitting tends to row out. Rowing out is hard to disguise with steam blocking, but steam blocking is much faster than wet blocking, so I would always rather steam block if I can get away with it (remember, "lazy" is this tam's first name). Therefore, for the bottom band outside--the part that shows--I chose a near stockinette fabric which disguises rowing out --the broken rib pattern.

The band on the blue/green tam is pure, straight stockinette.  This is because even so mild a pattern as broken rib was "too fancy" for Mr. TECH (he is a sad disappointment in the fashion department). This, of course, required extra attention to avoid rowing out. (In knitting--and cooking, too--it's ironic: a really good "plain" sometimes takes more care than "fancy").

I did get away with adding a small contrasting stripe of Fake Latvian Braid (FLB) to Mr. TECH's blue/green tam, applied through both layers near the bottom of the band with  green-colored sock yarn. The FLB was structurally required: the yarn from which the band is knit (Bingo) tends to bias exceedingly, and the FLB stopped that trick cold. Mr. TECH objected to the "fancy trim" but had to accept that without it, the hat would have been unwearable.  The fact that the FLB was in a contrasting color was not required: I didn't tell Mr. TECH I could have worked the FLB in a blue sock yarn and thus made it invisible against the blue band--a knitter has to have SOME fun, after all. (And no, Mr. T. never reads the blog.)

Fold line/outside edges
On the beige/multi tam, the fold line is defined by a line of slipped stitches. In other words, the fold line was constructed by slipping the middle (13th) stitch of the headband, every front-side row. On the blue/green tam, as stated above, the fold line was not knitted-in, but was afterwards defined by the FLB of green sock yarn. There are other methods, too, for making a fold line, such as an Elizabeth Zimmermann afterwards- inserted phoney seam or any other method you can think of--or for a narrow beret-like band, no fold line at all--the narrow band forms a roll.

The long outside edges of the bottom band were knit with a slipped-stitch selvedge. This makes picking up the stitches in the next step easier.

As this bottom bands grew lengthwise, I kept fitting it around the wearer's head until, when folded in half the narrow way (along the column of the 13th stitch) and pinched shut, it fit the way the wearer preferred: not too loose, not too tight. In fact, it might be best to pin the band shut and wear it around for a while--what seems comfortably snug at the outset may end up feeling very tight after wearing for a while. This is pretty nearly all the measuring required for this tam. (Lazy, again.)

Once the band is a long enough rectangle, the ends are kitchener-stitched, resulting in a circle of fabric which looks like a double-wide ear band, as shown by the zig-zag below. If Kitchener-stitching is not your thing, work a three-needle bind off--the seam will be hidden inside the band.

The last step in preparing the band is to fold it in half the narrow way to form a double-thick, half-width band, with the texture pattern, if any, to the outside.

If knit as a true scrap project, then at this point, the project is ready to be put into a bag with the theme yarn and a note about which size needle was used, there to rest until some more scrap yarn in the same weight as the band shows up. (BTW: storing the band folded helps set the fold.)

First Stripe
Picking up live stitches through the band
Now comes a rather unusual procedure.  To prep the bottom band for the first stripe, hold the folded bottom band lengthwise, then use the theme (band) yarn to pick up the stitches through band-top.  In the above illustration, this edge has been folded to the outside--it is the dark selvedge. Because this long edge was knit with a slipped selvedge, picking up stitches is easy--each edge stitch is two rows high, making for a nice, large loop to pick up through.  I find it easy to pick up through the front arm of the stitch with a crochet hook, then transfer to a short circ (14"), but this is utterly knitter's choice: any method of circular knitting will work--dpn's, magic-loop, two-circs, whatever, so as you pick up the stitches through the front arm of the slipped selvedge, transfer them to your needle of choice.

Next, you repeat this process with the bottom (inside) selvedge--the lighter gray ring on the above illustration. However, this time, you pick up through the back arm of the slipped selvedge. The ultimate result is two (circular, dpn, whatever...) needles, arranged in concentric circles, each with the same number of newly-picked up stitches.

Change colors and join front and back of band into one continuous round

Pro tip 2--offsetting the round beginnings
The previous post in this series offered a pro-tip about offsetting the round beginnings and endings--offsetting reduces bulk and eases working in the ends.  Rather than repeat all that, here's a linky which takes you directly to that tip.  As offsetting applies to this recipe, at this point where you change colors to knit a stripe is the spot to work the offset by slipping a few stitches in either direction before you start working with the new color yarn.

In the next step, you change color and knit together the front and back of the band.  This is a variant of three-needle bind off. Specifically, using the new-color yarn, knit one stitch from the front needle, then one from the back needle, continuing in this alternate manner until the band has been knit shut.

The below photo shows the method in progress on the blue/green tam's band--each of the two circs at the band top has the live blue stitches picked-up through its respective band-edge, while the third needle, the active needle, carries the green stitches being used to knit the band shut. 

Knitting the band shut by knitting one picked-up stitch from each band edge, alternately

Not only does this trick knit the band shut, but it also corrects the stitch count to what is required for a tam. Even though we picked up only 1 stitch for each two rows, the fact that we did it twice (once on each long edge of the band) yields what amounts to a 1:1 pick up: one live stitch to be knitted up for each row of the band. Specifically, like most (all?) non-garter stitch fabrics, the band’s gauge has more rows per inch than stitches per inch. Therefore, a 1:1 pickup rate makes for a fabric wider in the stripe than the headband.

Further, this rate of pickup makes the first stripe reliably larger than the bottom band (as is required by a tam) regardless of what yarn you work, as long as the yarn for the band and bottom stripe are the same weight, are knit at the same gauge, and this is true regardless of the actual circumference of the bottom band. (This is the reasoning behind pro-tip 1, above.)
Stated otherwise, a 1:1 pick up through the long edges of the bottom band automatically yields a correctly sized increase of the bottom stripe over the headband without having to do any figuring at all. (Lazy again.)

At the end of this pick-up round, all your picked up stitches have been knitted together in the new color.  In other words, this joining round is also the first round of the first stripe. 
When you come to the end of this first round, work a jogless join. This prevents an apparent jog where the end of the first color round meets its own beginning. A jogless join in this context means nothing more complicated than simply slipping the first stitch of the new color when you come back around to it.  On every round thereafter, simply work normally, right around. In total, you work 10-12 color rounds in this first stripe.

The number of actual rounds you choose depends on the yarn: in DK, I work 12, in worsted/aran weight, 10.  The general idea is to get a stripe somewhere in the range of 1 1/2 inches high. If you prefer a roomier tam, as for a long hair worn up, by all means add rounds.

Bind off first stripe using deco-bind-off FLB
At the end of the first stripe, bind off using the deco bind off FLB. Once again, offsetting is a good idea, and so is avoiding a jog in the bind off. I used the "pretty good" method for the last stitch of the chain bind off to avoid a jog in the bind off.

Binding off the first stripe using the theme color (same color as the band)

After the bind off, the project can go back into its bag with the FLB yarn, there to rest again until more scrap yarn shows up.

What the tam looks like at the end of the first stripe
Second Stripe
Pick up live stitches through the FLB to provide the basis for the second stripe. The written instructions and a diagram are at this link, the photo below shows what this looked like IRL on the blue/green tam.

The red dotted lines show how the live stitches were picked up through the deco bind-off FLB
As with the first stripe, slip the first stitch of the stripe color when you come to it to prevent jogging.

On the third round, decrease all the way around by k5, k2tog.  I promise you that starting 2/3 of the way around, I fudge the decrease spacing to keep the decreases more-or-less even--no way do I trouble my lazy brain to come out with a correctly divisible number of stitches in the pick-up process, nor has this lazy disinclination to count and figure ever resulted in a noticeably lopsided tam. (All this laziness has to be paid for later, of course, but we will deal with it in good time...)

Work this second stripe the same number of rounds high as the first stripe. Then, just like the first stripe, bind off.

Below is a sketch of where the hat is at this point, as well as a photo showing the hat at this point IRL.

What the tam theoretically looks like at the end of the second stripe

What the tam actually looks like at the end of the second stripe

 Tam Top
As with the previous two stripes, the pick up through the bound-off FLB is worked in the same color as the FLB.  Before we go further, however,  a little theory.

Smoothing the decrease points--two tricks
The default decrease for a flat-ish top on a hat is 8 stitches decreased every second round. However, if we were to establish 8 decrease points at the beginning of the tam-top and immediately begin decreasing, we would end up with a tam which looked like it were topped with a stop sign--not a good look. We'll use two tricks to minimize this unfortunate look.  First, we'll move the decreases away from the very edge of the stripe, which smooths the decrease points out somewhat.  Therefore, we'll work two rounds plain without any decreasing, insert our makers on round 3, then work the first decrease as we knit round 4.

Moving the decreases in from the stripe edge smooths out the points, yes, but decreases have a tendency to propagate through the fabric regardless, so more trickery is required. Our second smoothing trick, therefore, is to double the number of decreases to 16 in the first (and only the first!) decrease round, switching to the default 8 decrease rounds thereafter.  This works because to the human eye, a 16-sided figure (a hexadecagon) looks a whole lot more like a circle than an 8-sided one does.

However, this leaves us with the somewhat tricky proposition of inserting 16 evenly spaced markers on whatever random number of stitches we happen to wind up with at marker-insertion time.  It also requires that we distinguish between the two kinds of decrease when we insert the markers.  The below instructions assume you're using a red marker for the 8 decreases which will continue up the hat, and a white marker for the 8 intermediate decreases which are worked only once. (Such markers are really easy to make out of a slip-knotted loop of yarn inserted between stitches.)

In theory, we'd now divide the hat top into 8 sections, each with the same stitch count, each headed by red markers.  Each of these sections would be further divided  by a white marker inserted at the half-way point.  The net result would be 16 markers, evenly spaced and inserted alternating red and white. (Addendum, 11-25-14: thanks to KADRI K. who wrote via e-mail with a correction.  If you read this paragraph before the addendum date, the previous text was in error.)

Order out of chaos: marker insert, or "how to evenly divide an uneven number of stitches"
Theory is one thing, but now comes the reality. Except by the most lucky of accidents, you will not have an even multiple of 16 on your needles.  We have been knitting in the laziest possible manner, without measuring or counting a darn thing, so this laziness must now be offset with trickiness as we prepare to insert the red and the white markers.

We have several tricks in our arsenal to work with, and which we choose depends on how our stitch count relates to the nearest multiple of 16. There are four possible situations.
  • First, your stitch count could be anything between 1 and 7 stitches LOWER than the nearest multiple of 16.  If that is the case, you would use TRICK A just after slipping a red marker. 
  • Next, by luck your stitch count might actually be a perfect multiple of 16.  If that is the case, you need not use any tricks, simply insert the stitch markers in an alternating red-white pattern, evenly spaced, however many times around your needle. 
  • Third, your stitch count might be anything between 1 and 7 stitches HIGHER than the nearest multiple of 16.  If that is the case, you would use TRICK B just after slipping a white marker
  • Fourth, your stitch count might be exactly half-way in between two multiples of 16.  If this is the case, use TRICK C on the white markers.
This is summarized in the below table based on some some common stitch counts you might expect to find in hat-knitting. (Click to enlarge.)

Although you wouldn't normally need to do this, it is entirely possible to work a k2tog  (knit two together) followed IMMEDIATELY by a nearly invisible increase.  This looks for all the world as if you had decreased in pattern, although, of course, subtracting a stitch and then immediately adding one back means the stitch count remains the same.  This trick works because the decrease shows more than the increase--see for yourself, below is a closeup.

Fake decrease, closeup
In this recipe, the fake decrease trick is only to be used in sections headed by the red markers, because in those locations, a fake decrease will be followed two rounds later by a real decrease, and this actual decrease will propagate through the material.  This will eventually create the eye-fooling 16-sided figure despite your fake-decrease trickery two rounds earlier.

Trick A in action
Suppose you have 110 stitches.  This is stitch count appears in the FAKE DECREASE column of the table, so that's the trick to do.  You're TWO stitches off the perfect multiple. This means that on two different (and separated) red decrease sections (sections headed by a red marker) you'll work the fake decrease trick.

See, if you had 112 stitches, you could insert 14 markers 8 stitches apart (7 sections of 16, each of those sections divided into a red-marker 8-stitch-half and a white-marker 8 stitch-half, for a total of 14 markers). However, since we're two stitches short, and since we're going to work Trick A on the red markers only, then, as we work round 3 inserting markers, we choose two red-marker sections at random (not next to one another, however) and on those sections, we'll insert the following white marker 7 stitches away from the red marker, rather than the normal 8.  We mark these special sections where the stitch count is off by KNOTTING the tail of the red marker.

At the end of round 3, we have divided our 110 stitches into 12 regular sections--7 white and 5 red--of 8 stitches each, and two special red-knot sections of 7 stitches each, and all the makers will be inserted in an alternating red-white pattern, with the two red-knot sections not adjoining.

On the actual decrease round (round 4), every time you come to a marker, you slip the marker, work a k2tog.  However, on the two red-knot sections, you'll work a k2tog followed immediately by an m1.  At the end of your decrease round (round 4) you'll have 16 sections, each of which is now 7 stitches wide--12 of those sections will have been decreased from their original 8 stitches by means of the k2tog you worked, and the other two sections--the red-knot sections--will be 7 stitches wide because the fake decrease trick left them unchanged at their original 7-stitch width.  Tada! Trickiness has provided a work-around, and we get an even spacing despite having started with a random stitch count--order has been brought forth from chaos.

TRICK B: the K3TOG trick
It is possible to decrease three stitches into 1 (k3tog)  rather than the more usual two stitches into one (k2tog). K3 tog is worked the same exact way as k2tog, just starting one stitch further in.  Below is a closeup of the finished result.

k3tog, closeup
So, if we count the stitches and find we are a few stitches ABOVE the nearest multiple of 16, we can get rid of these extra stitches via a k3tog instead of a k2tog, spacing the k3togs so they aren't right next to one another, as best as possible.  This trick is worked only on the white (intermediate) markers.

Trick B in action:
Suppose you have 149 stitches. This is stitch count appears in the "K3tog" column of the table, so that's the trick to do.  You're FIVE stitches off the perfect multiple. This means that on five different (and separated) white decrease sections (sections headed by a white marker) you'll work the k3tog trick.

See, if you had 144 stitches, you could insert 18 markers 8 stitches apart (9 sections of 16, each of those sections divided into a red-marker 8-stitch-half and a white-marker 8 stitch-halfhalf, for a total of 18 markers). However, since we're five stitches over, and since we're going to work Trick B on the white markers only, then, as we work round 3 inserting markers, we choose five white marker sections at random (as well-spaced from one another as possible) and on those sections, we'll insert the following red marker 9 stitches away from the white marker, rather than the normal 8.  We mark these special sections where the stitch count is off by knotting the tail of the white marker.

At the end of round 3, we have divided our 149 stitches into 13 regular sections--4 white and 9 red--of 8 stitches each, and five special white knot sections of 9 stitches each, and all the makers will be inserted in an alternating red-white pattern, with the five white knot sections as well spaced as possible. Note that with 5 special markers, you can't space the special sections evenly around the brim, but try not to get them all on the same side of the tam.

On round 4 (the actual decrease round) every time you come to a knotted white marker, you'll slip that marker and work a k3tog, rather than a k2tog. After round 4, you'll have 18 markers, each of which is 7 stitches apart. Again, trickiness has provided a work-around, and we get an order from chaos despite having started with a random stitch count.

TRICK C: the trick to use if you are 8 stitches off a multiple of 16 (halfway between)
If you are halfway between multiples of 16 (8 stitches away from the next higher AND the next lower multiple of 16), insert the red and the white markers, but work the first decrease ONLY on the white markers, then begin the red marker decreases on the very next round.  This decreases away only 8 stitches at the white makers in the first decrease round, rather than 16, but, because  an additional 8 stitches are decreased away at the red markers only 1 round later, the 16-sided figure is still created, fooling the eye into thinking circle, rather than octagon.

As far as marker-placement for trick 3,  you place the red marker following each white marker one stitch further apart than the white marker following a red marker. This extra stitch in a section headed by a white marker is decreased away in the first (white-marker only) decrease round, leaving the 8 red markers all spaced equally apart.

Decreasing after round 4
Regardless of which trick you used, as you knit round 5, remove all the white markers--they marked a once-only decrease location. Also on round 5, you must move the red markers over so that the marker is immediately on the LEFT side of the decrease (whether a real decrease, or a fake decrease) worked earlier. Stated otherwise, unless you move the red markers to the left of the decrease, the spiral created by stacked decreases will not develop properly.

On round 6, and every even-numbered round thereafter, decrease at each red marker by working to with two stitches of the marker, working a k2tog, then slipping the marker. On odd-numbered rounds, knit all the way around with no decreases. Thus, you revert to the default decrease of 8 stitches every second row, which makes a fairly flat hat top. (Addendum, 11-25-14: Again, many thanks to KADRI K. whose e-mailed correction is now reflected in these decreasing instructions.)

If you are working with a short circular needle, at some point, your stitch count will decrease so far that dpn's, magic loop or two-circs will have to be used.

Alternate ending #1: Kitchener-stitched tailored top

Kitchener-stitched tailored top

Kitchener-stitched tailored top, in real life.  Quite elegant. no?

To make an elegant tailored as on the blue/green tam, the red-marker k2togs continue until there is one stitch between each decrease (16 total stitches).

Pro-tip 3--a truly flat top
If you want a truly flat hat top, switch to smaller needles when there are 5 stitches in each section.  This creates a variant on the "truly flat top" for a ribbed cap. 

The final 16 stitches are divided onto two dpn's and these two sets of 8 stitches are Kitchener-stitched together, which can be done with a knitting needle.

Alternate ending #2: I-cord tassels 

I-cord tassels on tam top

I-cord tassels in real life

To make an tassel-top as on the beige/multi tam, the red-marker k2togs continue until the tam top is reduced to two stitches between each decrease (so, 3 stitches for each section, 24 stitches total over the eight sections). Next, the tam is chain-bound-off in the FLB color (beige in the beige/multi tam). As with the previous stripes, the following round is picked up through the chain bind off= 24 stitches. Next, a round was worked in the color you've selected for the I-cord tassels, which is rust in the sample tam.  the following round is decreased randomly via k2tog's to 15 stitches. Holding all but three stitches on a scrap yarn stitch holder, the three stitches left live are put onto a dpn and worked into a 3 stitch I-cord of random length. * Again 3 stitches are slipped off the holder onto a dpn and worked into an I-cord of random length. The process is repeated from * until all 15 sts are converted into 5 various-length I-cords. The top of each I-cord is knotted to give each I-cord a cute little ending and add a little heft (this entire process is a variant on I-cord tassels).  A few running stitches were taken between the cords to connect them at the bottom and tame the tendency of the I cords to spread, and the hat is done.

Skim in the ends on the inside. You are now ready to block. The entire blocking process is shown in the below photo.

Blocking a tam in 3 steps-find a plate of the correct size, insert the plate and soak, stand to dry on a pedestal made from a tall glass, remove plate when tam is dry
Begin by finding a plate (mint green in illustration) in your desired tam-top size.

Pro-tip 4--blocking forms
For a tam, a full-size dinner plate usually does the trick, but if not, thrift stores are a great resource for cheap-o plates in all sizes.  Or, cut a blocking form from a flexible cutting board--a pack of these are handy for cutting out blocking forms for many small objects: tam-blockers as well as sock- mitten- and even glove-blockers.

The plate can be somewhat larger than the dry tam top, or the same size, but not smaller. Find also, a tall glass, stable enough to support the plate (red in illustration).  Fit the plate, convex (bottom) side up, inside the dry tam, then wet the tam-plate sandwich by submerging in a sink partly filled with lukewarm water, as shown.

Once the tam is utterly soaking (a few minutes, at least) remove the tam from the water, turn the works upside down, then place the glass under the plate so the tam is suspended with even its bottom band clear of the underlying surface. Pat and smooth the tam over the plate, stretching it to fit evenly, if necessary.

The FLB between stripes 1 and 2
is the widest part of the tam,
block accordingly
The FLB between stripes 1 and 2 is the largest part of the tam, so that's what runs around the rim of the plate.

The tam will now drip dry on its pedestal.  Annoyingly, this takes a day at least, since the plate slows the drying time. It is best to leave the tam to dry over a thick and thirsty towel on a waterproof surface--a tile floor or kitchen counter. When utterly dry, remove the plate and the tam will be smoothly blocked.

If you choose to add a  pom-pom, these are attached after the blocking process is over.

Pom pom added to tailored (Kitchener-stitched) top

Pom pom in real life

Pro-tip 5--pom poms and washing
Pom-poms on hats are best removed before washing--a washed pom-pom looks awful.  Therefore, sew your pom pom down using a different color yarn-it only takes a few big stitches to tack down--and this makes it easy to snip free for washing.  Or, you know, use a safety pin. Lazy, yes. The kind for emergency button repair, with a bump halfway down are best, just be sure the metal of the pin penetrates the solid heart of the pom-pom. 

Good knitting
--TLK (the L stands for "Lazy.")

PS:  here's the Ravelry Link for this tam.  As time goes by, perhaps there will be other examples of this tam for you to look at.