Tink, Tink, Tink …

Knit, knit, knit. do you see the connection. Tink is knit spelled backwards. For knitters it means unraveling your work – usually to fix a mistake, although sometimes you just don’t like the way it looks. Another way of saying this is to frog your work. It’s called “frogging” because you simply “rip it” out – seriously. As you may have guessed, today’s topic is about fixing mistakes. There are a few ways to fix mistakes and the way you choose usually depends on three things:

  • How big is the mistake – one stitch or 100?
  • How far have you gone before realizing the mistake?
  • Your experience level.

For beginner knitters, tinking is usually the way to go fr small mistakes on the same row or the row below. Once the mistake is more than a couple of rows below where you are, you’ll usually want to frog it. Experienced knitters won’t frog until it’s a big mistake more than a few rows below. Let’s look at some of these techniques then see how we can prevent having to use them.

The easiest mistake to fix is one in the row you’re working on. If you catch it in the same row, you simply tink back to the mistake, fix it, and continue on with your knitting. To tink, stick the left-hand needle into the loop of the stitch from the previous row and pull gently on the yarn attached to the ball so that the loop from the row you were just working comes out. Repeat this process until you get to the stitch you need. When you tink you need to follow the same rules as when knitting. If you’re tinking a purl stitch make sure the yarn is in front of your work and in the back for a knit stitch. If you don’t, the yarn will get caught between the loops on your needle.

The second easiest mistake to fix is a mis-worked stitch. If you look at your work and realize that you purled where you should have knit or vica versa, find a crochet hook similar in size to the needles you’re working with. I usually go one size smaller with the crochet hook as I find they match better that way. Go to the column where the mistake stitch is and drop it from your needle. You should have a little loop where the stitch from the row below is just hanging in mid-air. Lightly tug on the bar below this loop to drop this stitch as well. Continue doing this until you reach the stitch you want to change. Using your crochet hook, go through the loop and grab the bar just above it. Pull the bar through the loop and voila – you’ve recreated your knit stitch. Continue doing this until you get to the top row again and place the last stitch on your needle. If you need to re-create a purl stitch, make sure the bar is front of the loop and go through the loop from the back – just as if you were purling. If you don’t like this you can turn your work around and re-make a knit stitch, which will be a purl stitch on the other side. This is also the way you would pick up a dropped stitch.

The third and last method we’re going to look at today is frogging. Now as I said before, you’re just going to “rip it” back to your mistake. If you’re a beginner and you don’t want to risk dropped stitches and complicating this procedure, frog your work back to the row before your mistake and then tink the last row. For everybody else, proceed as follows. Take a safety-pin or strand of yarn and pass it through the last stitch on the row after your mistake. This is a way of stopping your frogging. Now simply take the work off your needles and rip it back. You can go quite quickly when ripping it back, but slow down as you approach the safety-pin. When you get to it, simply remove it and then carefully place the live stitches back on your needle. You should now be ready to knit again and hopefully you won’t make the same mistake twice!

So how can we prevent mistakes? Well, truthfully, we can’t. Everybody makes them. I actually find that by learning how to fix mistakes, I make fewer of them because I’m not worried about it and can relax more when I’m knitting. You can try to reduce your mistakes in the following ways:

  • Work carefully – not fast. Speed in knitting develops over time and through muscle memory. Once your finger know what they’re supposed to be doing, you’ll find that you don’t have to look at your work as often and you pace will quicken. Rushing this process however leads to dropped stitches and other mistakes that actually slow you down in the end.
  • Use lifeline. See the post I put up a few days ago about improving your knitting for a full description of lifelines.
  • Check your work regularly. When doing more complicated patterns,check your work on a regular basis to make sure you haven’t crisscrossed your cables, dropped stitches, or added or reduced your stitch numbers.
  • Use stitch markers. When necessary, use stitch markers to mark areas in your knitting where you need to increase or decrease.
  • Count your rows. Whether you use a row counter or pencil and paper. keeping track of your rows is essential – especially when working increases on a sleeve.
  • Pace yourself. Knowing how long you can go before needing a break is vital to keeping your work as error free as possible. It also reduces boredom and allows you to go longer overall as you can stretch your fingers and body on a regular basis.
  • Concentrate. I know it sounds silly, but until you get used to a particular pattern, try not to knit where you will be easily distracted. Only you will be able to decide this.

Those are some common mistakes in knitting and how to fix them.  You can Google “fixing knitting mistakes” to get video demonstrations of what I’ve described here. As I said before there are more and we’ll cover some of them in a future posting.

Hugzzz 😎

Wrap-up: Counting, Calculating and Casting On …

Both groups are working on their projects during the lesson time. The Knit 1’s have cast on their stitches and joined the first round (being careful not to twist it) . This was particularly challenging as we cast on using alternating knit and purl long tail cast on so that we have a nice finished edge for our seed stitch hat. The Take 2’s have made their swatches and are almost ready to cast on some stitches to start making that sweater. So what’s next? Well, unfortunately for some, a bit of math but I promise  that it’s not too bad and the good thing is that once you get the hang of it, you’ll realize just how simple it is.

Before you can calculate how many stitches to cast on, you need to  determine your gauge. The best course of action is to find a 4″ patch on your swatch in the desired stitch pattern. Lay your blocked swatch on a flat surface and place your ruler on top of it. Try to place the ruler in such a way that you are not using the edge of the ruler or the swatch for your measurements. Now count the number of stitches over 4″ of pattern.  Remember that knit stitches are identified by the tell tale “v” and the purl stitches are the  horizontal bar. (‘Knit up, purl across’). It’s not important to know the difference between the two right now – just make sure you count all the stitches over that four inches. It’s possible to have half a stitch in your count. The number of stitches you just counted is your stitch gauge. Write it down. Turn your ruler vertically and repeat the process, but this time you’re counting rows. You may find it easier to do the rows over reverse stocking stitch (or on purl stitches). When you look at it,  you’ll notice a row of smiles alternating with a row of frowns. Make sure you stay in the same vertical column and count each smile as a row. This is your row gauge. Write it down.

If you can’t find 4″ or if that particular pattern isn’t 4″ wide, don’t worry. Count the number of rows and stitches over as large an area as you can. If you are doing a cable panel or a repeating texture that isn’t 4″, make note of the width of the particular panel. You will write that information into your pattern later as it will be important for knitters to test their gauge with the different textures in your pattern. Now that you’ve figured out your gauge, it’s time for a little math. Most sweaters start with a ribbing  and it is often done with a smaller needle. A general guideline is to make the ribbing 90% of the width of the body but that is up to you. Using your stitch gauge, calculate the number of stitches you will need to cast on. Here is an example:
Gauge = 20 sts/4 in = 5 sts/in
Body (finished size) = 48 in. 
48 x 5 = 240 (entire body) Front/Back – 240/2 = 120.
120 x 90% = 108.
I will be working in a 2×2 rib so this works perfectly. If necessary, I can adjust this number up or down to fit the repeat of my ribbing. I am also going to use a selvedge stitch to make finishing easier so I will need to add 2 stitches (one on each end of the work). My final calculation will be 108 + 2 = 110. So I will cast on 110 stitches and start my ribbing, working the selvedge stitches in stocking stitch. A general guide for sweaters is 2.5″ of ribbing but again, this is up to you. Once I have knit the ribbing, I need to increase to the total number of stitches needed for the body. For half the body (working on the back), I need 120 stitches. I have 110 but 2 of those are selvedge stitches, so I need another 12 stitches (remember the selvedge stitches are not part of the pattern). On my last row of ribbing, a wrong side row (or back), I need to increase 12 stitches evenly across it. Space out your increases and do this. In this case, I would increase a stitch every 9 stitches. I like to start the first increase before the 9th stitch so I would probably do it after about the 6th stitch, then after every 9th after that. After that is done, you need to switch to your larger needles – the ones you did the original swatch in – and start knitting the back of your sweater. It is that easy. Unless you have specific shaping for your sweater, you won’t need to worry about increasing or decreasing until you get to the armholes. We’ll be covering that next week – see you then!


Announcing: Week 2 of projects/new knitter lessons

Both groups started their projects for the new year. Knit 1s are working on a seed stitch cap and Take 2s are modifying or designing a sweater. This week, we will continue on our projects so here is what you will need to bring for the lesson at the beginning of the meeting:
Knit 1s: 4.5 mm needles and worsted weight yarn (if you were there last week, we started our piece with alternating side twin tail cast on for 80 stitches)
Take 2s: Bring your swatches and pictures (of ideas) or pattern (if you are modifying an existing pattern). We will be working on the design and scale so please bring paper and a pencil.

Remember to bring something for our show and tell.

We also will have a new group of beginner knitters in our Knit 1 group. This is a great time to start from the beginning if you want to learn how to knit. Please bring 4.5 mm needles and worsted weight yarn. We will have Starter Garter kits available for $5 which contain recycled needles and worsted weight acrylic yarn to get you going.

Yarn over and out,

Wrap-up: Just SWATCH it man …

The first step in designing or knitting your first sweater is always the same – make a swatch! If you’re making it from a pattern you have to make a swatch to make sure you are going to have a garment the size you want. If you’re designing a sweater you need a swatch to make all the calculations necessary for the instructions you are going to write so someone else can make a garment the size they want. I know some people don’t really like math, but I assure its not that difficult – it just takes a little time and concentration. 

But before we get to the math, let’s talk about the swatch. At this point, you have picked out the yarn you are going to use and have a very good if not definite idea of the texture or color pattern as well. The next step is to start making swatches. Yes, I did say swatcheS. If you’re designing a sweater, you’ll want to make at least two swatches to see how the yarn looks on different size needles. Its probably a good idea to start with the recommended needle size for the yarn you’ve chosen. After making a swatch with the recommended needles, you can decide whether to go bigger or smaller with your next one. When making your swatch(es), make sure you use all the textures in your pattern. This is again to ensure that your garment is the right size as six stitches over a cable pattern will not be the same as six stitches in stockinette stitch with the same needle.

Once you’ve decided on the needle size and you have your swatch made ,you’ll need to block it. You’ll be amazed how a yarn will change once its been blocked. To block it , I  like to stretch it to the size and shape that looks good to me without measuring it. If I’m knitting from a pattern I will stretch and pin it to the size and shape required from the gauge provided. Once it’s where I like it, I will pin it down with t-pins on my blocking board (currently a large piece of craft foam). You can’t have too many pins, but it is very easy to have too few. You don’t want the swatch stretched too tightly or to be too loose. Once it’s pinned down, I spritz it with water until it is lightly damp. Then I cover it with a towel and let it dry. Take out the pins and you should have a very co-operative swatch ready for you to measure!
 The above three images show a swatch in progress …
a) The unblocked swatch with four different textures – a 5×3 rib, a 3×2 rib, a 6×2 rib with alternating cable, and a 4×2 rib with alternating cable
b) the swatch pinned down ready for blocking
c) the swatch after being blocked

You can notice the difference between swatch a and c after it is blocked. While the unblocked swatch has a tendency to roll and be a little unruly, the blocked swatch lies flat and is easy to work with. This will help in giving accurate measurements. Also, since there are four different textures on the one swatch, I can design a variety of sweaters or incorporate a variety of textures in the one sweater – all from the one large swatch. Next week we will get into what measurements are needed and how to take those measurements accurately. See you then!


Knitting pet peeves …

Yes, it had to come out sooner or later, so I thought I would get it out of the way sooner rather than later. Everybody has pet peeves, especially about something they do. Well, knitters are no different. I actually have pet peeves in a few other areas too, but since this is a knitting blog, I’ll let you know my peeves regarding that. Again, I’m not meaning to offend anybody but I say call a spade a spade. So if you’re the sensitive type you might want to skip over this post. I’ll revert back to the lovable Mr. Hugzzz tomorrow – promise. Maybe.

  1. I am NOT gay … Okay, the simple fact that I even has to say this show just one of the problems with our society. I don’t have a problem with anybody’s sexuality – and they shouldn’t with mine – and I don’t judge anybody because of their sexuality. So why should you prejudge me because of a specific activity I do? Grow up people – there are lots of places where men knit prominently – and they don’t have to be gay to do it. Actually, I applaud the gay guys out there that knit. They have the balls to knit whenever and wherever it suits them. Maybe if more straight guys came out of the closet it would be a different story. Yes, you know you are. That is a challenge … pull out your needles guys. Everybody else – read my other post about everything I learned and check #10.
  2. I WILL NOT make you a sweater for the cost of the yarn – If I had a dime for every time I heard that one. People, it takes talent and TIME to knit as well as I do. I have been doing this for over 15 years. Even if you are just starting (maybe especially so) it takes time to make somebody a sweater. Everything else in life gets paid by experience – except artisans it seems. Well, if you want a cheap sweater go to a thrift store. I am not going to invest 30 – 60 hours of my time for just anybody. Slightly better are the people that offer $100 on top of that. Again, NO. Think about it. 40 hours of work for $100. That’s $2.50/hour. Would you work for that? I do not run a sweat shop and never will.
  3. $10 scarves at craft fairs – Okay, if you need an explanation for this one you haven’t read #2 well enough. Folks, $10 can’t buy the yarn for a decent scarf (at regular prices). Yes, I’m a bit of a yarn snob and I could probably find yarn for $10 for a scarf, but that takes a bit of searching and a lot of luck. So now that we have that cleared up, again, it takes about 5 – 10 hours to make a scarf (sometimes more). Personally, I think all scarves should start at $75 and then go up. Sorry, did I lose you? Don’t ask for my prices on a custom hand knit sweater.
  4. Closet knitters – I take public transit as it allows me time to get a lot of things done – the crossword, Scrabble, Sudoku, and yes, KNITTING! You would be amazed how often I am knitting away on a bus and somebody comes up to me and says “That’s cool – I used to knit!” Yeah, right. More like they think its cool that I knit – and have the guts to do it in public. If you’re a knitter, you’re a knitter. Don’t come up to me and try and re-live your glory days. If you knit, take out your needles and knit.
  5. Cheap yarn – by cheap I don’t mean inexpensive – I mean low quality, cheap. I understand that not everybody can afford silk and cashmere and lots of other fancy stuff. That is no reason to settle for cheap synthetics. With a little bit of research and hunting you can find real good bargains on really good quality yarns. Everybody should learn to knit with wool and move on from there. If you’re allergic try superwash wool – its been treated to prevent shrinking but a by-product is the removal of the common allergens in it. You wouldn’t believe the bargains I have found.
  6. Phentex slippers – I have a friend – a  male knitter who also is not gay (lol) – who swears by these Phentex slippers. If you’re over 30 you probably know what I mean. If you’ve ever had the unfortunate experience of knitting with this you are probably cringing right now. I know Acrylic is not a good fiber for the environment, or for baby clothes (it doesn’t burn but actually melts which can be more hazardous than the fire), but it does have its uses and there is no reason why it should feel like coarse grade sandpaper. Yes, apparently it gets softer after being washed 1 million times – or so. Ugggghhh!
  7. Knots in Yarn – If you’re knitted more than a scarf you’ve probably come across a ball of yarn with a knot in it. I still don’t know why they can’t just junk the ball or in some way warn you that there’s a knot in it. It’s not too bad when it’s a yarn that you can spit-felt together, but when it’s not and there’s more than one knot in more than one ball, it’s a royal pain in the a**.

Those are a few for now … as time goes by I will add some more. I’m also hoping to have the sweater that I designed from the swatches in the post two days ago done. I’ll put up pictures. In the meantime, let me know your peeves.

Hugzzz 😎