Monday, October 10, 2016

Smoothed circles: a jogless join for single rounds in different colors

See for yourself--no jogs
(and yes, you are looking at some
Here's a way to completely avoid the jog when knitting single rounds in different colors. Not only do you avoid the jog, but your ends are worked in at the same time.  Introducing "smoothed circles."

TECHknitting blog has tackled the subject of jogless stripes several times.  If you want to know how smoothed circles fit in with the other kinds of jogless stripes, read on.  If you're impatient, you can skip right down to the trick (and by the way?  There's a separate bonus trick at the end of this post, also...)

BACKGROUND (or: 'for heaven's sake, WHY do we need yet another kind of jogless jog?')

When you knit circular (i.e.: knit a tube on dpn's or on circular needles) you are actually knitting a spiral.  Because of this, the beginning of a round is actually one row below the end of the round.  In one-color knitting, this is not noticeable, but the failure to match up definitely shows when you go to work stripes-especially narrow stripes.  When knit, every color change shows as a "jog."

There are ways to avoid the jog but none of them work very well on the kind of single-row stripes of different colors where smoothed circles shine. Specifically--

The HELIX (barber-pole) technique does create jogless stripes of single-round color, yes, and in that regard, they are the most like smoothed circles of any jogless join.  However, they have several downsides.
  • At the start of the work where the color stripes begin, there unavoidably appear several one-color starter-stripes--one starter-stripe for each color.  This same thing happens at the end of the work.  On this linked illustration, note the bottom one-color starter-stripes of red, blue and white at the bottom of each needle-section, for further views, have a look at Grumperina's famous spiral socks
  • Barber-pole stripes slant, and the more colors you use, the more pronounced the slant.
  • The biggest drawback: barber-pole stripes are really only meant for two- three- or possibly (if you're a masochist) four colors, and those colors **can't change** over the entire length of the work or you will certainly get a jog. By contrast, with smoothed circles, each round can be a completely different color, yet no jog will appear, regardless. 
CLASSIC JOGLESS JOINS are easy to work and are visually attractive, but ...
  • they cannot be used on stripes any narrower than 3 rounds high, and certainly cannot be used for the one-round high stripes where smoothed circles work best
PICTURE FRAMING works best for stripes which contain patterns within the stripe, such as fair-isle knitting--this trick works by interrupting the jog at the same place on each round with a visually distinctive column, one, two or three stitches wide.  For single row color stripes, picture framing does not work very well because...
  • all the ends wind up where the column is.
  • when the colors change with every single round, that's a LOT of ends to work into a very narrow space, with fabric-distortion as the usual result.
By contrast, smoothed circles start and stop at random places on the fabric-back, resulting in far less distortion.

STEEKING eliminates the jog by lining up all the jogs in one place, and then using a scissors to cut the circular fabric into a flat piece right up the line of the jog. The cut-ends are stabilized, then buried in the button-bands or hidden on the reverse of the fabric. Steeking is a wonderful solution for sweater-fronts, armholes and even sweater-necks, and it works just fine on single-row-high rounds of different colors but it too has a downside...

  • steeking is not suited to tubular items knit in the rounds, such as hats, mittens, socks, sleeves.
Bottom line: Smoothed circles work where other jogless techniques do not, to avoid a jog when knitting SINGLE ROUNDS of DIFFERENT COLORS. 


The idea

In smoothed circles, each round is actually a perfect circle, with an overlapping beginning and end--this is the "smoothing" referred to by the name.  The fabric is created from stacks of these perfect circles, each starting and ending in a different place so as to avoid fabric-distortion.  Crocheters will recognize this as similar to how rounds are worked in some kinds of crocheting--the end of one round is fastened to its own beginning and each different color begins in a different place. This is a common technique in granny-square construction, for example.
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The concise how-to

At round-end, each round is fastened to its own beginning by re-knitting the first three stitches, one at a time into the stitch UNDER the original stitch.  This re-knitting creates a 3-stitch wide "afterthought overlap join." This not only closes the gap between round-end and beginning, but also secures the tails without need for further finishing.  When, in the next round, you come to knit over the join, you treat each set of 2 stitches as a single stitch, knitting each set of 2 together. Each round is started in a different random spot, as far from other joins as possible--you get to the starting place by simply slipping stitches. After adjusting the final tail-tension, the tag-ends are clipped short to hang forever inside the garment, with no further ado.  To see these steps in greater detail, with lots of pictures, read on.
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The illustrated how-to

Suppose you're making a hat and wish to insert several single rounds of color as decoration.  Here are the steps you would take

STEP 1: Each smoothed circle begins/ends at different place on the fabric back, as far as possible from previous joins.  In the samples pictured below, the green round being worked is atop rounds of purple, dark green, orange and so on, so it should start as far away as possible from where the purple, dark green, orange, etc. rounds started.

To get to the starting place, peek over the needles to the fabric back, figure out where you want to start, then slip the stitches from the L needle to the R needle until you get to that your target spot. When slipping, keep the stitches "open." In other words, the stitches are transferred from needle to needle with no change in orientation and no twisting.

STEP 2: in the illustrated sample, the round we're knitting is green, so once you're at your starting place, take some green yarn into your hand, leave about a two-inch tail and simply set off knitting--for this tutorial, I'm assuming you're using stockinette stitch. When you get to the end of the round, your last stitch will be on your right needle, the first stitch will be on your left needle, the work should look like the photo below.

Step 2

If we simply ended this round here, the gap between the first and last stitch would show as a hole in the fabric.  In the next several steps, we're going to fasten this gap shut using a trick called the "afterthought overlap join."

(BTW: If you'd like to brush up on the regular overlap join before reading further, here is the link -- scroll to the second trick called "overlapping.")

STEP 3: Pull the first stitch onto the right needle.  This will put it next to the last stitch, as shown below.

Step 3

Note the purple stitch under the first stitch--it is labeled "under-stitch" and picked out for you with a red arrow. This under-stitch is going to be important in the very next step.

STEP 4: Pull the under-stitch onto the left needle tip, as shown below.

Step 4

STEP 5: In steps 5 and 6, you are going to work an ordinary stockinette stitch into the under-stitch. You begin by inserting the right needle tip into the under-stitch as if to knit, then you catch the running yarn around the needle, as shown in the photo below.*(Running yarn=the yarn you knit with.)

Step 5--the right needle tip is inserted
through the under-stitch

STEP 6: The knit stitch is completed by drawing the running yarn through the under-stitch.**  The result is two green stitches drawn through the same under-stitch: the first green stitch being the first stitch of the round, and the second one being the new end-of-round stitch you just knit.  You can see both stitches on the photo below.

Step 6--the running yarn has been
drawn through the under-stitch, there
are now two green stitches
overlapped on the R needle tip

You might find that when you try to draw a second stitch through an under-stitch, the first stitch wants to slip and slide off the needle.  If so, use a spare a finger to pin that slippery little thing to the knitting needle as you pull the second stitch through.

End this step by dropping the purple under-stitch off the left needle, you do not need it any more.

For each of the next two stitches, you repeat steps 3 through 6. In other words, the second and third stitches of the row-beginning will be overlapped by two more round-ending stitches. The net result will be three sets of overlapping stitches.  After you have knit all three stitches with the running yarn, you can cut the running yarn loose.  A two-inch tail would be appropriate at this time.

The below pictures show the front and back of a completed afterthought overlap join.

Afterthought overlap join as seen
from the fabric front

The overlap as seen from the fabric-back

As you see, each under-stitch now sports two loops.  When you come to knit over the afterthought overlap join (just as when you knit over ANY overlap join) you knit each set of two stitches as if it were one single stitch.

The afterthought overlap join yields three wonderful results.
  • As mentioned, each round begins and ends on the same level, eliminating the jog
  • The gap between the first and last stitch of each row is sealed by the overlap
  • Best of all, finishing is a breeze because there are no ends to work in.  Here are the steps to finishing...
    • Tug the hanging tag-ends somewhat firmly, then stretch the fabric out again.  Repeat.  This begins the process of settling the ends within the fabric and helps determine the final length of the tag-ends.
    • Block the fabric (try steam-blocking for a quick result)
    • After blocking, re-adjust the tension for each join
    • Snip off the ends without further working-in: three-quarters of an inch is a good length for non-superwash wool, an inch-and-a-quarter or even an inch-and-a-half is good for slippery yarns such as synthetics, silk, bamboo or cotton. 
It is true that there are two tag-ends for every round. However, after the garment has been washed several times and is properly broken in, the ends will have settled into their final length.  At that time, they can be re-trimmed shorter. Not working the ends in also means each join has the minimum of bulk.  Leaving short ends dangling also greatly reduces fabric-distortion.  If you are concerned about the join pulling out, it would be better to work four or even more overlapping stitches, than to try to work in all those hanging tag-ends.

The below photo shows how the round beginning/ends are widely distributed on the fabric back, and also shows a good length for the final trim of the tag ends in wool.

the fabric-back showing 1) length of
clipped tag-ends in wool and
2) distribution of joins

This last photo is a reposting of the opening photo, showing the fabric from the front, and yes! there are several joins in the picture.

Fabric front--can you spot the joins?

More notes:

  •  Remember! when you come to work over the afterthought join, each set of two stitches is worked together as one stitch.  In other words, the six loops (3 sets of two) in the afterthought overlap join are worked as three stitches, not six.
  • If you want to know where the beginning of the round is for shaping purposes, place a marker in the fabric and work the shaping as directed, but do not use the maker for indicating color changes. The more widely distributed the joins are on the fabric-back, the better the overall look of your fabric.
  • Scrappers rejoice!  The above sample has at least three different weights of yarn: an odd Italian-made 8-ply semi bulky (the green yarn between the two oranges) a doubled baby yarn (the yellow) and several colors of worsted-weight (although the worsted is from several different manufacturers and is quite variable in itself). Because each color is only one round high, you can get away with more weight-changing than you otherwise could. Using a single weight of yarn (the lavender worsted) to make a broad stripes between the colored stripes helps unify the color-scheme and also stabilizes the overall gauge. I'll end this post with a little bonus trick which relates to broad stripes...

BONUS SUPER-GEEK trick for starting and ending wide single-color stripes (Introducing the Ha-YES trick)

Smoothed circles via "afterthought overlap joins" --the subject of the above post-- work really well for single-row different colored stripes.  But here at the end of the post, I'm going to go off on a little tangent and show you a different **bonus trick** for smoothing out the tops of wider single-color stripes, a trick called "Ha-YES."

So why have I included this bonus trick at the end of a post about smoothed circles?  Because smoothed circles are often worked on a foundation of wider single-color stripes.  As stated above, adding wider stripes has the advantage of tying together the color scheme, as well as smoothing out the gauge.  This bonus trick shows how to set up these wider single-color stripes so they provide a nice flat ring for your smoothed circles to lay upon.

When you knit a wider stripe as the base foundation for a smoothed circle, such as the lavender stripe in the sample above, you could just drop the lavender yarn, leave it hanging with a four-inch tail, slip the work a few stitches over, then start off knitting the first smoothed circle with your first color.  When you got to where you dropped the lavender, you would simply knit over that stitch. At the end of the project, you'd pull the tail of that last lavender stitch rather tight to decrease away the height difference at the round-end, then work the lavender tail in as part of the finished process, via skimming (with a sewing needle or with a knitpicker) or via weaving.  You see, as wide as the lavender stripe is, there is plenty of lavender fabric to soak up a worked-in tail without fabric-distortion.  

However, here is a little bonus trick you might like to try instead, a trick I am calling Ha-YES (stands for "Half-back-join-ish Yarn Ender & Starter"). Not only does Ha-YES work smooths the top of the main color round, eliminating the jog and setting up a foundation for a stack of smoothed circles to follow, but it also works in the tail, making finishing much easier.
  • Ha-YES is a hybrid between a short row technique (scroll to variation 3) and a sort of half-back-join--You could also think of it as a sort of variation on classic jogless jogs, in the sense that it creates a mezzanine stitch, smoothing the height difference between rounds. (Also like classic jogless jogs, Ha-YES **only works where there are at least 3 rounds of the main color** as there are in the lavender stripe.)
  • OK, ready?  What you do is, at the end of the wider lavender stripe, take the lavender yarn and double it back on itself, just like in the real back join.  Knit TWO stitches with the doubled yarn, also like in the real back join.  At the end of this, you should have a single loop of lavender yarn sitting on your R needle--a loop just about the size of a stitch. If your loop is too big or to small, rip back the two stitches just knit and adjust the amount of yarn doubled back.  After a few times of doing this, you'll "just know" how much yarn to fold back before knitting the two stitches. 
  • That single leftover loop? Leave it on your R needle, then slip the next stitch parked on your L needle onto the right needle, then snip the lavender yarn leaving a 2-inch tail.  The join is finished and you must now slip several stitches (at least) past the Ha-YES round-ending to start your first smoothed circle,  same as you slip to a new position to start any new color round. 
  • On the next round, when you come to knit over the top of the Ha-YES round-end, you essentially have 3 sets of 2 stitches, same as you would have with your afterthought overlap join.  Knit each set of 2 sts as a single stitch, turning 6 loops into 3 stitches, same as with any other overlap join.
  • However...note that the third set of 2 stitches (the last set, which is composed of the leftover loop+the stitch alongside) are worked as a k2tog, which brings the fabric-stitch stitch to the fore and hides the leftover loop on the fabric-back. If this looks familiar, it's because this is how you tie the end of a short-row into the fabric while also smoothing away the short-row's height difference--have a look at this illustration.)
  • It will have occurred to you that you can use Ha-YES to (rather undetectably) end/start ANY yarn where there are at least 3 rounds already knit/anticipated to be knit in the same color.  In other words, not only does Ha-YES provide a great foundation for smoothed circles, but you can also use Ha-YES to start or stop the yarn on any wide stripe (ha ha-yesssss!)

Til next time--


* In the illustration for step 5, the running yarn trails off to the left, as it would for continental knitting.  If knitting English-style, the yarn would trail off to the right.  However, the wrap over the needle would be identical. 

**Does the step 5 and 6 maneuver seem vaguely familiar?  Knitting into the under-stitch is very similar to a trick called "knitting into the stitch below."  The important difference between them is, when knitting into the under-stitch, you wind up with two loops on your needle, whereas with knitting into the stitch below, you do not. 

Knitting into the under-stitch is also first cousin to a different trick called "nearly invisible increase."  However, knitting into the under-stitch is worked somewhat differently, and most importantly, does not increase your stitch count, whereas nearly invisible increase increase. As stated in the text, when you come to each set of two overlapped stitches arising out of the same under-stitch, you knit them together as one, instead of treating each loop as a separate stitch.  In this way, your stitch count remains the same.

A final thought about steps 4, 5 and 6: pretty quick, you'll discover a shortcut--after you place the original beginning stitch onto the R needle, you can knit directly into the under-stitch without first propping that onto the L needle tip.  This collapses steps 4, 5 and 6 into one quick jab-grab-drag. In fact, once up the learning curve, overlapping each round-end and slipping your way to where the next round starts will go PDQ (as long as you can remember where you put the scissors down at the end of the previous round!)

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You have been reading: TECHknitting on one row high stripes (1 row color stripes)


Quinn said...

Wow, am I ever GLAD to see a post from you!!!
Okay, going back to read it now :)

Anonymous said...

Genius! I can't wait to try this.

Charade said...

So good to have another post from you. I haven't been knitting at all in the last year, but you make me glad winter is coming with its shorter days. I'm not sure how you do it, but you do such a super job of !clarifying! complex techniques. And your drawings and annotated photos are amazing! Thank you so much.

abelian said...

I'm with Quinn and Charade! Glad to see you! I'll need to get yarn and needles to practice Ha-YES. Thanks for this and all the other tips you've shared.


Betsy said...

This is awesome :)

I am nearly finished with a round striped blanket I built on 2 of your tidbits (disappearing cast on an invisible increase) and wanted to make a matching hat... which I can now do top-down-jogless thanks to you!!

For the blanket I used disappearing cast on of 8 stitches, increase every other with invisible increase, then shift stuff around slightly for the next few rounds so the increases don't line up until there's "enough" on the needle to follow my pattern -I experimented a bit at the beginning... we'll see if I do another round stockinette blanket when it's done and blocked, lol! to figure out a good "beginning". My pattern was then a "sisterhood of the traveling stitch markers" - knit till I reach a stitch marker (4, evenly spaced around all the stitches), remove marker, knit into stitch below, knit into stitch, knit 2, replace stitch marker... so my increases are in a kind of off-set spiral. If I do it again, I might increase the number of stitches before replacing a stitch marker, but the pre-blocked 'dents' look kind of cool where they are... so maybe not ;). I had to pull it off the needles to frog a color stripe I didn't like and hopefully got it all back on "right" - haven't had a chance to pick it up in the past 2 days. It was cool to finally see it laid out though! Doing it with "magic loop" on 60" needles... I'm at 480 stitches and increasing by 4/round for another 22 rounds. Just need to figure out what kind of pattern stitch and how many rounds I need to keep a stockinette circle flat :-/. I plan on winging it... just like all my other projects ;)

I need to re-read the Ha-YES like, 3 more times I think before it sinks in, lol, but I'm sure it'll be awesome once it does!

Kruliczyca said...

As a psycho fan of stripes I waited for soooo long for this post. Greatest thank-yous!

Melanthe said...

Thank you so much! Your posts have saved my knitting bacon more than once. :)

Melinda Downie said...

Thank you from the very bitty-bottom of my knitterly heart... the time and effort it must take to do a post like this! Wow. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for sharing so generously!!!! This is awesome. And so are you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this tip, it looks really useful.
Just one stupid question about wider stripes. What stops me from using the same smooth circles technique to end wider stripes? Just decide on an end point and knit 3 sts in the under stitch. I would not have to learn yet another new technique(Ha-YES). Or am I missing something here?

TECHknitter said...

Hi Anon-Ha-YES is a LOT like smoothed circles, it just lets you moe a little faster--start and stop joglessly without having to fish for the stitch below. The main difference is that Ha-YES doesn't really work on one-row high stripes.