Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Three decreases
--knit 2 together
--slip, slip, knit
--centered 3 stitch decrease

*Knit 2 together *slip, slip knit *three stitch decrease
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includes a how-to

This post is about 3 handy decreases.

The first, "Knit 2 together" (abbreviated "k2tog") slants to the RIGHT. K2tog decreases away ONE STITCH every time it is done.

The second decrease, "Slip, slip, knit" (abbreviated "ssk") slants to the LEFT. Like k2tog, ssk also decreases away ONE STITCH every time it is done.

In lots of garments, paired decreases are used: k2tog AND ssk to make raglan decreases, v-necks (and other shapings too, like hat tops, sock gussets, etc.)

A third type of decrease "3 stitch decrease" (abbreviated "3stdec") slants neither right nor left, but makes a STRAIGHT LINE. 3stdec decreases away TWO STITCHES every time it is done. It is used especially on the tops of hats where a flat top is wanted (tams, roll-brim shaped hats) or to make the flat bottom of a knitted bag.

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Here are directions for each of the three decreases:

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  1. PREPARATION: Insert right needle from left to right (knitwise) through the two stitches at the tip of the left needle. Draw the yarn through the loops.
  2. The FINAL RESULT: The LEFT stitch lies on top, the RIGHT stitch is hidden behind, and the decrease slants RIGHT. One stitch appears where 2 were before, so k2tog is a one-stitch decrease.

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  1. FIRST SLIP: Insert the right needle from left to right (knitwise) into the first stitch on the tip of the left needle, and slip the stitch onto the right needle.
  2. SECOND SLIP: Repeat same step with the second stitch
  3. KNIT TOGETHER THOUGH THE BACK LOOPS: Insert the left needle into the front of the 2 stitches previously slipped onto right needle. Draw the yarn through the loops from this position.
  4. The FINAL RESULT: The right stitch lies on top, the left stitch is hidden behind and the decrease slants left. One stitch appears where 2 were before, so (like k2tog) ssk is a one-stitch decrease.

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  1. Inserting from left to right (knitwise), run right needle through TWO loops at tip of left needle and slip these two stitches onto the right needle. Note: You are to slip both stitches at the SAME TIME, therefore, insert the needle from L to R through the second stitch from the tip, then through the stitch at the tip, then slip both off the L needle, together, onto the R needle. 
  2. Knit the next stitch. 
  3. Next, insert the tip of the left needle under the 2 slipped stitches and lift them OVER the knitted stitch. (This is called "passing the slipped stitch(es) over" and is abbreviated "psso.")  
  4. If 3stdec looks like combination of k2tog and ssk, that's because it is. The stitch which originally lay two from the tip of the L needle comes to lay on top of the resulting stitch sandwich, and it is pointing straight up--the orange stitch in the above diagram, while the two stitches lower down in the sandwich (green and red) slant R and L, respectively, as shown.
  5. One stitch appears where 3 were before, so 3stdec is a two-stitch decrease.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Jogless stripes--a new way

includes a how-to
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Knotingale asks "can you explain the 'jogless' join method for stripes knit in the round? I can't understand the instructions I've found thus far."

As we say here in Wisconsin, "yup, you bet!" But, it all depends on WHAT KIND of stripes you're planning to make.

--->For one or two round-high stripes worked in the round, using the same two or three colors throughout consider trying the barberpole (helix) method.

--->For one round-high stripes where every round is a different color, consider working the smoothed circle way. 

--->For stripes with designs in them (such as Fair Isle) worked in the round, consider trying the picture-frame method which disguises the ends of the rows, while allowing you to stay in pattern.

--->For stripes which are three or more rounds high worked in the round, try this nifty method described below:

(a new way)
  • On color change rounds, change colors by knitting the first stitch of the new color as you usually would. Then, knit the rest of the stitches to the end of the round.
  • On the next round, slip the first stitch of the new color, then knit the rest of the stitches.
  • On every following round, knit every stitch as usual
Keep doing this over and over again. That's it. That's really all there is to it. Well--nearly all. You still face the issue of--


The only thing at all complicated in jogless striping is how you choose to stack the color changes. If you choose to let the beginning of the round travel one stitch to the left with each color change (this WILL make sense as soon as you try jogless stripes with needles) then every part of every row will be the same height and have the same number of stitches. Such jogless stripes are called "traveling stripes." If you choose to hold the beginning of the round in the same place, then at one spot on every stripe, there will be one fewer stitches. Such jogless stripes are called "stationary stripes."

Here it is, one more time, slower, with complete step-by step directions and more photos.

  1. On the round BEFORE you intend to change colors, insert a stitch marker at the place you intend to change colors.
  2. On the color change round--slip the marker, then change colors by simply starting to knit with the new color.
  3. On the following round, when you come to the marker, slip it. Then, slip the first stitch of the new color from the left needle to the right needle WITHOUT KNITTING IT (and without twisting it--this is called "slipping purlwise"). Knit all the rest of the stitches of the round.
  4. Knit as many rounds as you desire for the stripe, knitting every stitch.
  5. One the round BEFORE your NEXT color change, shift the marker over one stitch to the left.
  6. Make more stripes by repeating steps 2 though 5.
These stripes are called "traveling jogless stripes."
  • ADVANTAGE: Every part of every round is the same height.
  • DISADVANTAGE: The round beginning "travels" one stitch leftward with every color change.
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  1. On the round BEFORE you intend to change colors, insert a stitch marker at the place you intend to change colors.
  2. When you come to a color change round, slip the marker, then change colors by simply starting to knit with the new color.
  3. On the following round, when you come to the marker, slip it. Then, slip the first stitch of the new color from the left needle to the right needle WITHOUT KNITTING IT (and without twisting it--this is called "slipping purlwise"). Knit the rest of the stitches of the round.
  4. Knit as many rounds as you desire for the stripe, knitting every stitch.
  5. Make more stripes by repeating steps 2 through 4.
These stripes are called "stationary jogless stripes."
  • ADVANTAGE: the color change remains in the same place.
  • DISADVANTAGE: at one part of each round, that round will dip one stitch lower.
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With stationary stripes, each stripe dips one stitch lower at the color change. With thin stripes, and/or in thin wool, you'd soon have substantially fewer stitches along this column, so the fabric might start to "pull" along that column of stitches. However, with thick wool (5 st/in or fewer) and/or thicker stripes, this isn't an issue because the knitting stretches enough to solve the problem. Therefore, stationary stripes are best for thick wool and/or thick stripes.

With traveling stripes, a faint spiral pattern will develop along the diagonal of the color change, so be careful not to pull your yarn too tight, especially if you are carrying the yarn behind from stripe to stripe. This spiral pattern is more obvious in heavy fabrics and less obvious in thinner fabrics, so the traveling stripes are better for thinner stripes and/or thinner wool.

If you have thin stripes in thick wool, or thick stripes in thin wool, you'll have to make up your own mind.


If you choose stationary stripes, you have no problem you wouldn't have with regular (non-jogless) stripes--you begin the garment shaping as directed in the pattern. If, however, you choose to let the round beginning shift by one stitch with each stripe--what will happen when you come to shape the garment?

Suppose your directions require that, "at the beginning of the next round," you must increase (or decrease) to shape the garment. If you've been using traveling stripes, where the heck IS the beginning of the round? Is it where the COLOR beginning of the round is, or is it where the cast-on ACTUAL beginning of the round is?

Long answer short: if you've used the 3-in-1 TECHjoin to start your circular knitting, you won't really be able to tell where the cast-on beginning of the garment is. This frees you to use the COLOR beginning as the beginning of the round. You start your shaping opposite the last color change (double-headed arrow photo below). When you start the shaping, you switch gears. In other words, once shaping begins, you hide the color change IN the shaping (the right part of the photo below). This keeps the color beginning of the round from wandering further and avoids complications.
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Are you wondering how the spiral shift of traveling stripes will affect the shape of the finished garment? Will the one part of the garment be longer than another? The short answer is "no problem." Many knitted garments face this issue--to match shaping, the left front and the right front of a cardigan are almost always off by one row. The same thing with shoulder shaping--that too is almost always off by one row between the left and the right shoulders. Even a circular-knitted sock is one row off between the left side and the right side of the heel tab, or on either side of a short row heel. Knitting stretches, and a spiraling round beginning will not cause any greater problem than do any of these.


In some other instructions, the pattern writer seeks STATIONARY color changes (the color change should stay in the same place) AND the same number of stitches in every part of every round. The only way to accomplish this is by somehow inserting an extra stitch in the same column as the color change, which can get messy pretty fast.

In other instructions, the jog is evened out--not by slipping the first stitch of the new color as set forth in this post--but by slipping some other stitch or part of a stitch already knitted (typically, a stitch in the row below). The complication isn't really one of execution--it is one of explanation. In other words, the complication arises from trying to explain which stitch or which part of which stitch from the row below should be slipped "up" onto the left needle, how that should be done, and what to do with it once it's there.


One thing is for sure: regardless of how you choose to stack your color changes, whether with traveling jogless stripes or stationary jogless stripes, your result has got to be better than regular (jogging) stripes--see photo below.
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PS: There is a different version of this same information in a newer post with prettier photos, so for a different and prettier view of jogless stripes, here is the link.

Pretty, aren't they?
Addendum June 2016:  I was sent the following link to a method which makes a very nice jogless result, using a sewing needle.  I am sharing it with you here. Thanks to Lizzy for this new trick.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Joining circular knitting--the 3-in-1 join!

includes a how-to Joining the first round of casting-on for circular knitting can get ugly. There is a horrid loose stitch where the join occurs, as well as a "jog." The tail gets unwound and makes the loose stitch even looser, while working in the tail has the potential to make a mess of the cast-on edge.
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It need not be this way. Here is a join for circular knitting which avoids that horrid loose stitch, eliminates that nasty little "jog" AND works in your tail, three tricks in one! Here is the TECHknitting 3-in-1 TECHjoin!
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1. Begin with long-tail casting-on. Long-tail casting on actually consists of a foundation row AND a knitted first row. This double row is substantial and so is easier to keep "sunny side up" when joining. 2. For the first stitch of long-tail casting-on, do not use a slip knot. Instead, use a simple loop.(more info about the simple loop in the long tail post) 3. Make the cast-on row as follows:
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  • Make the first stitch as a simple loop over one needle, not two.
  • Make the next two stitches as ordinary long-tail cast-on stitches, again looping over one needle, not two. 
  • After you've created the first three stitches, create additional cast-on stitches by looping over two needles until you have TWO LESS stitches than you need, total.
  • Create the next two cast-on stitches over only one needle.
  • ADD AN ADDITIONAL stitch, again casting on over only one needle.
  • Count your stitches. You should have one stitch more than you need, and the first and last three stitches should have been cast on over only one needle (not two)
  • In the photo above, the first stitch cast on (extreme right) is made by a simple loop. There are 23 stitches cast on, for a 22 stitch tube.
4. Create the join and the knit first round as follows:
  • Make sure that the stitches are "sunny side up" (not twisted).
  • Pull out one needle so all the stitches lie on one needle. (For dpn's, distribute evenly among 3 or 4 needles.) Arrange your work so the cast-on stitches to knit first lie on your LEFT needle.
  • Slip the first stitch (the one you made by the simple loop method) from the left needle to the right needle WITHOUT knitting it.
  • Starting with the second stitch, knit all the way around.
  • When you come to the end, knit the last stitch together with that first slipped stitch (in knitting parlance, knit 2 together, abbreviated k2tog).
  • SLIP THE NEXT STITCH (which was the second stitch you created, and the first stitch you knitted).
  • OPTIONAL: If you want to mark the beginning of the round, insert a stitch marker after this most recently slipped stitch.
  • Catch the tail yarn and hold it together with the standing yarn (standing yarn=the yarn coming from the ball). Knit the next three stitches with BOTH yarns, then drop the tail yarn and continue with the ball yarn.
Ta da! The right number of stitches, no loose join, no jog, and the tail end is already "worked in." A real 3-in-1 trick! Are you nervous about trimming off the tail end? Wait until after you've washed and blocked the garment. This helps the tail felt into the fabric a bit more. For non-felting yarn, such as superwash wool or acrylic, consider working the tail in even further by picking it up on the second round and knitting it together with the standing yarn for an additional three stitches as you come past it on round 2. --TECHknitter

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Gauge, ease and fashion--or "why doesn't my sweater fit?"

includes a how-to
Knitting any pattern for the first time is an act of faith. You see a pattern. It appears on a model, cunningly displayed on a chair, or hanging at the LYS. Through some combination of experience, fashion sense and hope, you decide that although you aren't a model, a chair, or a hanger, that sweater will surely look as well on you. You buy the yarn, you buy the pattern, you cast on. You switch needles 3 times until you get the exact gauge. You work diligently, keeping the gauge perfect all through the sweater. You assemble your masterpiece--and--well, um. Your new sweater fits best if you don't button it and covers up best if you don't breathe. And forget about raising your arms. It fits your friend well enough though, so it goes to her. Not a disappointment, exactly, because she does look good in it and she admired the heck out of it, but a sweater for your friend is not what you were aiming for. What went wrong? I am here to absolve you. It isn't your fault. It wasn't an error in your gauge--there was insufficient "ease" in the pattern to get the fit you were looking to get.
So what is ease? Well, when you buy a sweater at the store, you try a few on. Perhaps you find that even among garments from the same manufacturer, you prefer a size 6 sweater, while in a different model, a size 4 might fit better. Assuming we are not talking high-fashion sweaters here, the difference between the way the two sweaters fit is due to their "ease." Stated otherwise, "ease" in a technical sense does not refer to lolling about watching TV while eating bon-bons. It refers to the amount of extra room inside your clothes--how much looser your clothes must fit than your skin does, in order that you do not tear your clothes or expose what you would rather not, every time you lift your arms, turn around, sit down. It is the amount of extra room which allows your clothes to slide and glide becomingly as you move around.
Confusingly, the concept of ease often runs right into the concept of fashion. Fashion waxes and wanes. Sometimes the fashion is for baggy pants--big enough to conceal one's friends in, sometimes for skinny jeans. Yet, it would be ease, not fashion, which dictates that, among the stereotypical body types, her pants must typically be cut broader in the beam than his, and that his pants must, regardless of fashion, be cut looser in the crotch than hers (at least if fathering viable offspring lays in the future). 

Leave aside fashion and assume that we knitters are persons of distinction seeking sober well-fitting garments. We still might not get what we want when set out to knit a sweater, because we might not consider how much ease we actually like to have in our clothing. And even if we do know how much ease we want in our clothing, we might not know how much ease the pattern creator allowed. When we add fashion to the equation, we step ever further away from any assurance our hand-knitted garment is going to achieve an attractive fit. What is wanted is the baby bear's amount of ease--not too much, not too little, but just right. But how to find it?
Here is the trick. Do NOT measure your BODY. No. Or at least, not yet--not first. Instead, go and measure your favorite sweater/hat/gloves/whatever it is you are trying to knit. That's right--do not wrap the tape measure around you--use it to measure your favorite garment, instead.
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The reason you love that garment is because it fits you the way you like clothes to fit. And that fit is something you can analyze. How big around is the sweater in the area of your bust? Your waist? Your hips? How big is your actual bust, waist, hip? The difference is the amount of ease you prefer in a sweater. Are you surprised that it might be as much as 8 inches, and maybe even 10 inches in a heavy jacket-type sweater? I know I was when I first started knitting sweaters. How long do you want that sweater to be--do you want your rear end covered, or do you find that a garment grazing your belly-button is quite long enough? Better be sure that the sweater you are making is long enough to cover what you want covered (and only that). The best way, again, is going to be to measure your favorite sweater. Ditto sleeve length, ditto shoulder span, ditto neck hole width and depth, ditto v-neck depth and angle. How about the depth of the armhole? My sister recently gave away an expensive Norwegian tapestry-knit sweater. It fit everywhere except for armhole depth. These were too shallow, causing the sweater to bunch unattractively. In other words, even assuming the garment you want to knit has the same armhole style as your fave, what is the armhole depth of your proposed creation?
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Now let's add fashion to the equation: Look at the shoulder--are all your favorite sweaters drop shoulder? If so, why assume that raglan sweater you are planning to knit is going to be flattering? A drop shoulder sweater typically hangs so the shoulder seam lies some distance past your natural shoulder--a shoulder-broadening profile on the narrow-shouldered. A raglan sweater has, technically speaking, no shoulder at all. The wearer's shoulder defines the sweater's shoulder. A person accustomed to depending on their sweater for a few extra inches of shoulder-broadening might be surprised how narrow-shouldered they look in a raglan. On the other hand, a broad-shouldered person looking to minimize shoulder span might be surprised at how they look a drop-shouldered sweater, as if wearing a padded jersey. 

OK, enough philosophy. Here's where the rubber meets the road. Before you knit a sweater from a pattern, look to see that the pattern gives the FINISHED GARMENT SIZE in inches (or centimeters) not just in dress sizes, or XXXS through XXXL. If the pattern does not give the finished garment size, you have a lot of detective work. Where finished garment sizes are provided, use them: If you are usually size M, and the finished garment size for size M differs from your favorite sweater, disregard the size designation--DON'T knit a size M. Instead, knit the sweater which will give you the finished garment size, measured in inches (or centimeters) closest to your favorite sweater. This way, regardless of how much ease the pattern writer thought appropriate, your finished sweater--whether labeled size S, M, L, or XL, will fit YOUR notion of how much ease is appropriate to your body. You may have to do some detective work to figure out some of the dimensions of the finished garment and work backwards from the pattern directions (so and so many rows, at such and such a row gauge) to determine the armhole opening depth. (Hint: your LYS is a great resource here.) 

 A caveat: The heavier the fabric, the greater ease required. If your favorite sweater is lighter weight than the weight of the sweater you are planning to knit, you will have to add ease so the thicker sweater fits like the thinner sweater does. Conversely, if your favorite sweater is heavier in weight than the sweater you are planning to knit, you must subtract ease to get to the right fit. How much ease to add or subtract is a judgment call, which is why the very best way to get a good result is to use a sweater in the style and weight you want to make as your taking-off point. click picture

Another caveat: Very high fashion styling changes the equation because, unless you already own a leg-of-mutton sleeved sweater with a twirly button band and the fronts longer than the back, you really have nothing against which to measure your proposed new handknit in that style. A department store or boutique showing the high-fashion garment you covet, some surreptitious activity with a tape measure in the fitting room, and you've laid the groundwork for a better fit when this eventual masterpiece rolls from your needles. 

 A final thought: If you used the same yarn and needles to make your next project, you'd be ahead of the game. You already have a big, big gauge swatch in the sweater (hat, mittens, whatever) which you made first. You have an important body of knowledge and experience gleaned from working with that yarn and those needles. You know in the core of your being what X number of stitches look like after they come off the needles. With this information, you're far more likely to make a fitting garment the second time through than you were the first time around. After all, think on traditional folk knitters: unlike modern knitters, they didn't use a different yarn and different needles for each project. In fact, most had access to only one weight of yarn, and they used the same needles over and over again. I don't advocate that every sweater you ever make ought to be in the same yarn as you used for the first one, but you will get an increasingly professional-looking result with each project for which you use the same yarn and needles. --TECHknitter

Monday, January 1, 2007

See you in a few weeks...

I'm off to Europe and I'm coming back with a suitcase full of ...
airplane full of yarn