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Tips

How to Knit Stranded Colourwork

Have you wanted to try knitting colourwork, but think it’s too hard or you don’t have the right skills? Then this post is for you! Here are my tips for beginner knitters to get started with knitting colourwork patterns and let me assure you – you absolutely can do it!

There are so many beautiful colourwork knitting patterns out there, everything from sweaters to hats to socks! Starting a colourwork knitting pattern for the first time can be intimidating. But I assure you, knitting stranded colourwork is not as hard as it looks and if you can knit the basic knitting stitches you can knit stranded colourwork. 

These tips will help beginner level knitters mast the basics of stranded colourwork. 

Tips for Stranded Colourwork: Gauge and Swatching

What is gauge?

If you’re not familiar with the term gauge and what it means, here’s a quick rundown. 

Gauge is how many stitches and rows of knitting fit within certain measurements, usually measured over 4”.  The pattern for your colourwork project should include the gauge and the stitch pattern to measure your gauge over.

Gauge can change depending on many factors, some yarn doesn’t puff up, or bloom, as much as others, certain fibers can knit up tighter or looser. And naturally knitters can have a tighter or a looser gauge as well.

If your gauge is tighter than the designer’s gauge, that means that your stitches are smaller, so it takes you more stitches to knit 4”. If you try to knit the colourwork project at that gauge with the designers instructions, it will come out way too small!! 

The opposite is true if your gauge is too big, your project will come out too big as well as it takes you less stitches than the designer to knit 4”. 

Measuring gauge when knitting stranded colourwork

To measure your gauge you will need to knit a swatch using the yarn you are going to use. 

A swatch is a square of fabric knit in the stitch you need to measure your gauge. Most colorwork knitting patterns will tell you to swatch using the colourwork part of the pattern, the pattern may also include the gauge for other stitches that are used in the design.  

For your swatch, you should cast on more stitches than you need for 4” and knit more rows than needed so your square is larger than 4” by 4” as you’ll want to measure in the middle, not near the edges where your stitches can be tighter or looser. 

Make sure you block your swatch so you have an accurate measurement of gauge. 

Once your swatch is blocked and dry it’s time to measure your gauge. I always start with rows personally! 

Lay your measuring tape down at the top of a stitch and count the number of stitches that fit in 4”. That’s how many rows you knit to reach 4” in length. 

Then lay your measure tape across your swatch starting from the left side of a stitch and count the number of stitches across to 4”. That’s how many stitches it takes to reach 4” across.

How stranded colourwork can affect gauge

Just like regular knitting, your colourwork can be tighter or looser, and because you are knitting a different technique you may find your colourwork is tighter or looser than your regular knitting. It’s really common for knitters to knit more tightly when knitting colourwork. 

If you are new to knitting stranded colourwork you should swatch over the colourwork portion of the knitting pattern, even if the pattern hasn’t said to, as you’re not used to what your gauge is over stranded colourwork.

What to do if your gauge is too small

If you are getting more stitches or rows in 4” than the pattern states than your stitches are tighter. To remedy this go up a needle size (or two if you’re really small) and swatch again to get looser, bigger stitches. 

What to do if your gauge is too big

If you are getting less stitches or rows in 4” than the patterns states than your stitches are looser. To remedy this go down a needle size (or two if you’re really loose) and swatch again to get tighter, smaller stitches. 

Tips for Stranded Colourwork Knitting: Reading Colourwork Knitting Patterns

Colourwork knitting patterns can have written or charted instructions. Most colourwork knitting patterns will be charted and may or may not have written instructions. 

Here’s an example with a quick colourwork pattern I’ve just made up on the spot. We will be discussing colourwork knit in the round from now on, as stranded colourwork is most commonly knit in the round. 

Written instructions will give the pattern instructions for the colourwork pattern like this (normally the written instructions would use abbreviation, but I have written them in full so it’s easy to understand):

Round 1: * Knit 7 stitches with colour A, knit 1 stitch with colour B, repeat from * to beginning of round

Round 2: * knit 1 stitch with colour A, knit 5 stitches with colour B, repeat from * to beginning of round

Round 3 & 4: * knit 1 stitch with colour A, knit 1 stitch with colour B, knit 3 stitches with colour A, knit 1 stitch with colour B, knit 1 stitch with colour B, knit 1 stitch with colour A, repeat from * to beginning of round

Round 5: * knit 1 stitch with colour A, knit 5 stitches with colour B, repeat from * to beginning of round

Round 6: * Knit 7 stitches with colour A, knit 1 stitch with colour B, repeat from * to beginning of round

The chart for these same instructions looks like this:

As you can probably tell it’s a lot quicker to read – and to create – the chart. it also makes it easier to avoid mistakes! This is why most stranded colourwork knitting patterns provide charted instructions only. 

How to read a colourwork knitting pattern chart?

The first thing you should note when looking at the colourwork chart is the legend which will tell you which colour is which. The pattern will note how the different colours are labeled, some common ones are:

MC for Main colour and CC for contrast colour 

CA, CB, CC for Colour A, B, C etc.

C1, C2, C3 Colour 1, 2, 3 etc.

The example I’m going to show is just two colours, but stranded colourwork patterns can have 2 or more colours. 

In this legend the colours are marked Colour A and Colour B

You need to keep in mind which colours you are using for each, so you may be using black for Colour A and red for Colour B so where the chart is purple you will use black and where it is pink you will use red. 

The chart is read from the bottom right, it’s the opposite of how you’d read something normally, but it is also the direction in which you knit from right to left and starting at the bottom of a piece. 

The numbers along the bottom label the stitches and the numbers on the side are the rows/rounds. It is also common for charts to show more than one repeat, in this pattern a repeat is 8 stitches, but three repeats are shown to give a better idea of the pattern.

So you will start with round 1 but knitting 7 stitches in colour A, then 1 stitch in colour B and repeat that all the way around. 

Then you’ll move up to round 2 and knit 1 stitch in colour B, 5 stitches in colour A, 1 stitch in B, 1 stitch in A and repeat those 8 stitches all the way around. 

Then you’ll move up to round 3 and continue until you have knit the whole chart. 

Stranded Colourwork Knitting: What are floats? 

So now you know how to read the chart, but how do you actually knit with two colours? It’s a lot simpler than it seems. You will be creating strands, called floats, along the back of your knitting.

Floats are the strands of yarn that will be on the inside of your project. You create a float when you knit the next stitch in a different colour and bring that yarn strand across a section of stitches. 

Using stitches 2 to 6 in round 3 of our sample chart here’s an example: 

Stitch 2 is knit in colour B followed but three stitches in colour A. When we switch back to knit the 6th stitch in colour B a float is created behind the 3 stitches knit in colour A.

Catching floats

If you have to bring your yarn across a lot of stitches it is common to use a technique called catching, or trapping floats. This makes it so you can avoid having such a long loose float. This helps with the overall tension so a long float doesn’t pull too tight or be left too loose. 

You won’t need to catch your floats every time, only when you have a lot of stitches to cross. It’s recommended to catch floats when the float is going across 7 or more stitches, or longer than an inch. 

So in rounds 1 and 6 of our example, you’d probably want to catch your floats. You’ll catch your floats by trapping the non-working yarn behind your working yarn when you knit a stitch. 

Using round 6 as an example:

Knit 3 stitches with colour A (the working yarn). Then before working the fourth stitch, take the non-working yarn (colour B) and put it over the working yarn before knitting your next stitch. 

Now when you knit the next stitch with colour A the non-working yarn (colour B) is trapped by your working yarn, creating a shorter float. 

Managing the tension of your floats

When knitting stranded colourwork it’s important to manage the tension of your floats. If your floats are too tight then your knitting will be pulled in by the floats and pucker, it won’t lie flat. If your floats are too loose your stitches will be loose as well and won’t lie evenly in your knitting. 

To avoid tight floats stretch out your stitches along the right hand needle when you are creating your float so the float is going across the stitches at their full width and not bunched up. 

In the picture above I’m stretching out the three stitches in colour A so that when I knit the next stitch with colour B the float is not too tight. 

To avoid loose floats make sure the float is lying taunt, but not tight, against the back of your work and the stitches on either end are even and not loose. 

How to hold your yarn when knitting stranded colourwork

How you hold your yarn to knit colourwork will depend if you’re an english or continental style knitter. I knit english style and I will hold my yarn in one of two ways depending on how I’m feeling that day (LOL) and depending on how often I have to switch colours. 

One hand

If I don’t have to switch colours too often, I will just drop the working yarn and pick up the next colour with my right hand and keep going. So this means I just keep knitting normally in english style pausing every now and then to drop the working yarn and pick up the next colour. I only use my right hand to hold the working yarn. 

Two hands

If I have to switch colours frequently I will hold a strand of yarn in each hand and knit a combination of english and continental style. 

How you hold the yarn will depend on what you’re comfortable with! Experiment with different techniques as you learn. You can also use tools like a Norwegian knitting thimble to help manage your yarn strands. 

Don’t cross the streams!

Except for when you are catching floats, avoid crossing your yarns strands if you can as it will cause them to tangle and it will eventually be difficult for you to pull from your yarn. 

To avoid crossing the strands always take your second colour from underneath the first so you’re not crossing it over the yarn coming from the ball (except of course when catching floats and you want to cross the non-working yarn over the working yarn). 

There you have it! Those are the basics of knitting stranded colourwork, not so bad right? Now you’re ready to go out and tackle your first stranded colourwork knitting pattern. If you need a suggestion I’ve recently released a beginner friendly colourwork hat pattern called Brigand – you can find it on Ravelry! It’s worsted weight and is has instructions for three sizes: baby/toddler, child, and adult. 

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Tips

Tips for knitting your first sweater

Hello! It is the beginning of a new year and maybe you set some goals for the year ahead like knitting your first sweater! As much of the world is in a lockdown thanks to COVID-19 this is a perfect time to learn how to knit and knit your first sweater. 

Knitting a sweater for the first time was my new year’s resolution for 2018. I had intended to knit Flax by TinCanKnits as my first sweater, in fact I even finished the body, but my gauge was way off (we’ll talk about how to avoid this later on) so it was way too big – I rippled it out and made the Harvest cardigan with the yarn instead, but that’s a story for another day… 

My first complete sweater ended up being the Julia sweater which I got as a kit from Wool and the Gang. It’s made out of their Billie Jean yarn which is upcycled denim. I absolutely love this yarn…too bad I’m not the biggest fan of the sweater.

From my experience above you may think you’re also going to hate your first knit sweater. But that’s not true! And the tips for knitting your first sweater that I’m going to give you below will help you avoid my mistakes! 

Choosing the right size for your first knit sweater

Most knitting patterns use bust size as the main measurement for determining which size you should make. Choose the size that matches, or is the closest, to the measurement of your full bust. The widest part of your chest. 

What is positive or negative ease?

In many sweater knitting patterns you will see the terms positive or negative ease. Ease is the difference between your measurements and the final measurements of the garment. So this will make the garment looser or tighter fitting. 

Positive ease refers to a garment that is looser fitting around your body and allows for movement. A good example of a sweater with positive ease is Andrea Mowry’s Weekender, which has 10” of positive ease. 

Here’s a picture of me wearing the Weekender I knit for my mom. I have a 38” bust measurement and the finished measurement of this sweater is 48” giving me the full 10” of ease. 

Negative ease is a garment that is tighter and will fit snuggly to your body as the measurement of the finished knit sweater is smaller than your actual measurements. 

Here’s me in the My Little Secret Crop with a negative ease of 5”. As you can see it is tight fitting.

Most patterns will indicate if the knit sweater has positive or negative ease built into the final measurements, or if you should choose a size that is a certain number of inches smaller or larger than your bust measurement. 

For example, wording similar to this means you do not need to choose a larger size to get the intended ease, the ease is written into the pattern already: This sweater is intended to be worn with 5 inches of positive ease, this is included in the design, please choose the size that correlates best to your bust size. 

In this case, if you have a 42” bust you will knit the size that is closest to 42”.

While wording like this means you need to pick a size that will give you the intended ease: This sweater is intended to be worn with 5” of positive ease, to achieve the intended ease choose a size that is 5” larger than your actual bust size. 

In this case, if you have a 42” bust you will knit the size that is closest to 42” plus the 5” of ease, so the size with a bust closest to 47”.

Gauge and swatching 

Gauge is how many stitches and rows of knitting fit within certain measurements, usually measured over 4”.  The pattern for your first knit sweater should include the gauge and the stitch pattern to measure your gauge in (if it doesn’t include this info do not knit this sweater, especially as your first knit sweater! This information is critical!)

Gauge can change depending on many factors, some yarn doesn’t puff up, or bloom, as much as others, certain fibers can knit up tighter or looser. And naturally knitters can have a tighter or a looser gauge as well.

How does gauge affect fit?

Gauge is incredibly important for sweater knitting because it’s how you ensure your finished garment will fit! 

If your gauge is tighter than the designer’s gauge, that means that your stitches are smaller, so it takes you more stitches to knit 4”. If you try to knit the sweater at that gauge with the designers instructions, it will come out way too small!! 

The opposite is true if your gauge is too big, your knit sweater will come out too big as well as it takes you less stitches than the designer to knit 4”. This is what happened to me when I knit my first Flax sweater that I had to rip out. My sweater came out several sizes too big because my gauge was off. 

My gauge was only off by a couple stitches, but this shows just how important it is! Just a couple stitches off produced a garment that was a completely different size than intended, so you need to make sure you’re meeting the pattern’s gauge. 

How to measure gauge

To measure your gauge you will need to knit a swatch using the yarn you are going to use to knit your sweater. Here’s a photo of a swatch I recently knit for a sweater, it has a purl line in the middle because I swatched with two different needle sizes so that border divides the different gauges.

A swatch is a square of fabric knit in the stitch you need to measure your gauge in, if you need to measure gauge for stockinette stitch then you will knit your swatch in stockinette. You should cast on more stitches than you need for 4” and knit more rows than needed so your square is larger than 4” by 4” as you’ll want to measure in the middle, not near the edges where your stitches can be tighter or looser. 

You should knit your swatch in the method that you will knit your sweater. If your sweater is knit in the round you should knit your swatch in the round, if it’s knit flat you should knit your swatch flat. 

Block your swatch 

Blocking is when you wet your knitting and then lay it out flat to dry in the shape you want it to be in. Being wet, and then drying, can cause the yarn to stretch out more, so that’s why it’s important to block your swatch. Seeing as you’re going to wash your sweater at some point it’s going to get wet, and when it does that can change the size of the stitches. 

So it’s important to know what your gauge is after your knitting has been blocked

To block your swatch leave it soaking in warm water for about ten minutes, squeeze out as much water as you can (don’t wring) and lay it out flat, tug gently to shape it, but don’t pull too hard and stretch it out unnaturally.

Measure your gauge from the swatch

Once your swatch is blocked and dry it’s time to measure your gauge. I always start with rows personally! 

Lay your measuring tape down at the top of a stitch and count the number of stitches that fit in 4”. That’s how many rows you knit to reach 4” in length. 

Then lay your measure tape across your swatch starting from the left side of a stitch and count the number of stitches across to 4”. That’s how many stitches it takes to reach 4” across.

What if your gauge is wrong?

Firstly, if your gauge is wrong take a deep breath!! There is nothing wrong with you, or with the designer for that matter. Everyone knits differently and there are a handful of designers out there who knit tighter or looser than me, when I knit one of their patterns I just know that I won’t get gauge with the needles they recommend! And that’s OKAY. 

What to do if your gauge is too small

If you are getting more stitches or rows in 4” than the pattern states than your stitches are tighter. To remedy this go up a needle size (or two if you’re really small) and swatch again to get looser, bigger stitches. 

What to do if your gauge is too big

If you are getting less stitches or rows in 4” than the patterns states than your stitches are looser. To remedy this go down a needle size (or two if you’re really loose) and swatch again to get tighter, smaller stitches. 

What to do when the stitch gauge matches, but the rows are off (or vice versa)

You may find that you are able to meet the stitch gauge but not the row gauge, and then when you swap needle sizes the row gauge matches, but now you’ve lost the stitch gauge. When this happens, prioritize meeting the stitch gauge.

As stitch gauge is what determines the width of the garment it is what’s most important for fit. The length can almost always be altered easily by knitting more or less rows and most patterns give the length directions in measurements rather than the number of rows. So it will say something like “knit until sweater body is 15” from the cast on edge”  so you won’t even need to worry about knitting a set amount of rows. 

All this swatching can be really annoying. I won’t lie to you it’s my least favourite part about sweater knitting, and every time I debate not swatching. But it is so so so important for knitting sweaters and other garments. 

Sweater construction

Top-down vs. Bottom-up 

If you are knitting your first sweater with a design that is knit in the round then you will be either knitting from the top-down, meaning you start with the collar and work down to the bottom edge. Or the button-up meaning you start from the bottom edge and work your way up to the collar. 

Flax by Tin Can Knits is knit from the top-down and is a raglan style sweater. 

A young white woman takes a selfie in a mirror, she is posed with her hand on her hip. She is wearing a blue knit Flax sweater and grey leggings
I’ve pretty much been living in this sweater for the past week

The weekender is knit from the bottom up with a drop shoulder for the sleeves. 

Both a perfectly fine options for your first sweater, but many knitters prefer top-down for sweater knitting as you can try the sweater on as you go to test the fit and see the length. 

Knit in the round vs. flat

You can knit a sweater in the round using circular needles, Flax is knit in the round so it has no seams along the sides; it’s all one piece. 

Or you can knit a sweater flat in pieces and then seam the pieces together. The Julia sweater that I made is knit flat and seamed, as is this super bulky cozy sweater. 

Skills to know

Basic stitches for knitting your first sweater

To knit your first sweater you’ll need to know how to knit and purl. These are the two foundational knit stitches needed for any project. 

In addition to knitting and purling you may need to know techniques like cables and lace knitting depending on the sweater pattern you choose. The simplest stitch for your first sweater is going to be one that is knit primarily in stockinette stitch. 

Increases/decreases for sweater knitting

If your sweater is knit in the round from the top down then you will need to increase to make the body wider from the neck out over the shoulders. If the sweater is knit in the round from the bottom up then you will need to decrease to shape the neckline. 

And regardless if the sweater is top down or bottom up you will likely need to decrease as you knit the sleeves so that the sleeve tapers from your upper arm to your wrist to fit your arm correctly. 

Common increases and decreases

There are a few common increase/decrease methods that are used in knit sweater patterns. Increases create new stitches to increase the overall stitch count, making the sweater wider. While decreases take stitches out to decrease the overall stitch count, making the sweater narrower.

When I was knitting my first sweater I found online tutorials really helpful so I have linked a few below!

Increases
Make 1 left/Make 1 right

Abbreviation: m1l/m1r

This increase involves picking up the strand between two stitches and making a new stitch. There are two variations, one is left leaning and one is right leaning. This sounds complicated, especially if you’re a beginner knitting. But it is pretty straightforward!

Here is a tutorial from Tin Can Knits on how to make 1 left and make 1 right.

The hardest part for me is remembering the steps for each one. Here is how I remember

Make 1 right: R for rear and for regular. Pick up from the rear (the back) and knit the stitch regular (through the front). 

I don’t have a trick for make 1 left, just that it’s the opposite no r, so pick up from the front and knit through the back. 

Knit front and back

Abbreviation: kfb 

This increase is essentially creating two stitches out of one! Once you knit a stitch as normal sticking your needle through the front, you’ll put your needle back into the same stitch, through the back loop and knit it again. 

Check out this knit front and back tutorial from very pink

Decreases
Knit two together

Abbreviation: k2tog

To knit two together you do exactly what it says! You knit the next two stitches together, so instead of putting your needle into one stitch, you put it through two and then pull them both off. 

Here’s a video tutorial from Purl Soho showing the knit two together in action! 

Slip-slip-knit 

Abbreviation: ssk

Just like the knit two together, slip-slip-knit makes one stitch from two. Instead of just knitting two stitches together though, you slip the next two stitches onto your right hand needle and then knitting them through the back loop. 

I know this sound so confusing! Here’s a useful tutorial from Tin Can Knits on how to slip-slip-knit.

The difference between the ssk and the k2tog is the way that the decreased stitch leans. A knit front and back leans right, while an ssk leans left. The way the decrease leans affects the shape of the garment so most knit sweater patterns will use both! 

For example when decreasing on the sleeves you will knit front and back for your first decrease and slip-slip-knit for the second one. This causes the decreases to lean into each other giving the sleeve a nice shape. 

In this photo the left leaning knit two together is boxed in red and the right leaning ssk is in yellow.

Seaming your first sweater

If you’re knitting a sweater flat in pieces you will need to seam all of those pieces together at the end to make a sweater. Most knitters prefer to knit in the round over seaming as seaming can be…well annoying and time consuming. I personally find it a little fiddly! 

But there are advantages to seaming, it gives a knit sweater more structure than a sweater that is knit in the round with no seams. 

When I knit my Julia sweater it was the first time I had seamed and it came out really wonky! 

The mistake that I made was pulling too tight. When you are seaming make sure your seam isn’t too tight or too loose. 

Here’s a list of helpful seaming tutorials from Very Pink!

I hope that this guide has filled you with the confidence you need to knit your first sweater! I love sweater knitting and I promise it is much easier than it seems. You can do it! 🙂

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FO Spotlight Tips

My First Afterthought Heel

There are a few things on my knitting bucket list from brioche to toe up socks and one of the techniques on that list was an afterthought heel on a pair of socks.

If you’re not familiar with the afterthought heel technique, basically you knit a sock tube with a cuff and toe, but no heel. Then when you’re done the sock you go back to place your heel by picking up stitches and…cutting into your knitting!!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

The idea of cutting into your finished work can be kind of scary, in the whole afterthought heel process that’s what worried me the most. But after I learned how it’s done I saw it’s really not that scary at all!

About my socks!

Before getting into the technique, I want to share a bit about the yarn that I used for these socks.

I used Lion Brand Mani Pedi which has been in my stash for FOREVER in the colour Boot. I only used one 50g skein and I was expecting these to end up being shorter than they turned out, so I’m please how much leg I actually got out of just 50g.

I actually didn’t want the stripes to match on these socks, I was just aiming to use the full skein and so I didn’t care if they matched. And they ended up being exactly the same practically down to the stitch!

For the cuffs, heels, and toes I used Lion Brand Sock Ease in the colour Grape Soda which has also been in my stash for a while. I’ve used this yarn for cuffs, heels, and toes before.

Tutorials

I looked a quite a few tutorials and how-tos when I was preparing to start these socks and also when I was figuring out where to place my heel and how to pick up the stitches and cut my knitting.

The resource that I used most is this video tutorial from KirbyWirby. She takes you through the whole process of how she does her afterthought heels. I watched this video before I started my socks and then I watched it as I did the afterthought heel completing it step along with the video.

I watched the tutorial from KirbyWirby during the entire process. it was a huge help!

I also referenced these blog posts/articles about afterthought heels while I was trying to figure out where to place my heel.

Process

Because I knew I wanted to use as much of this 50g skein as possible, I weighed my skein as I knit. Once I was about 25g through the skein I started the toe on my first sock.

I did about 28g left to make sure I wouldn’t be cutting it too close I ended up with enough yarn leftover to put a square in my Coziest Memory Blanket (Ravelry link).

I knit both of my tubes before starting the heels so that when I measured and placed my markers I could be certain it was the same on each sock. I definitely didn’t want a pair of socks with different foot lengths!

For the heel I really just followed all of the steps from KirbyWirby’s tutorial.

For placing my heel I followed KirbyWirby’s instructions for measuring. My foot length is 9.5 inches (women’s size 8) and so I subtracted a quarter of an inch for a snug fit because you want some negative ease in your sock.

The toe of my socks were 1.75 inches. So 9.25″ – 1.75″ = 7.5″ from the tip of the sock toe to placing the heel.

Right after cutting and undoing the stitches in my first afterthought heel!

Once I knew where I was putting the heel it was pretty easy to count the stitches down the socks and place my markers. Although I have to admit my eyes were a bit sore after from looking at the tiny stitches for so long. Especially because I double and triple counted to make sure it was correct.

Challenges

The hardest part for sure for me was figuring out where to place the heel. I agonized over this part it probably took me longer to actually place the heel than it took to knit it LOL.

But I ended up following KirbyWirby’s instructions to the letter and it worked perfectly!

Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Measure your foot from toe to heel – I also compared to my shoe size and how many inches it should be based on that to know my measurement was correct.
  2. Subtract a quarter inch to make sure you have a snug fit.
  3. Measure your sock’s toe from tip to start of decreases and subtract the length of your toe.
  4. Measure that length from the tip of your sock and that’s where you put your markers for your heel!

Would I do it again?

YES! Here’s what I love about the afterthought heel:

Compared to a short row heel it’s much cleaner especially if you follow the tips from KirbyWirby’s video tutorial for keeping the corners tight.

You can see in the picture above which is a short row heel done with the wrap and turn method that the heel is not as clean and there are small holes at the corners.

The afterhought heel has cleaner corners and no holes along the side.

The thing I love most about this method is that you can can just knit and knit and knit a tube without worrying about when you have to do the heel.

It’s great for knitting during movies or on the go. I’ve taken socks with me when I go camping and trying to do the heel while talking with friends or in the darkness around the campfire is the worst! But with afterthought heel I could easily knit up two sock tubes and not worry about heels at all.

Working on a heel flap during a camping trip last Summer!

And thirdly, because you’re knitting the heel in the round you can have a striped heel! When you do a short row heel or a heel flap your self-striping yarn won’t really follow the pattern in this area because it’s a smaller amount of stitches, so it ends up more colour blcoked than striped.

But with the afterthought heel you’re knitting the heel in the round, so you can get a fun self-striping heel. I’m planning to do this on an upcoming pair so follow my Instagram to see those when I knit them!

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Tips

Tips for Knitters During Social Distancing

Earlier this week I posted about Tips for Learning to knit for non-knitters or newbie knitters who were looking to learn a new skill during the COVID-19 self-isolation. But I recognize that the majority of my audience are people who already know how to knit. 

Well, I didn’t want anyone to be left out! So here are some tips for knitting during COVID-19 self-isolation. 

Have good posture

Good posture is a good habit to have when you’re knitting at any time, but during self-isolation, you’re likely to be knitting for longer than normal and this can take its toll on you physically. 

Here are some tips for good posture and avoiding pain while you knit

  • Sit up straight with back support. I know I’m guilty of knitting in a slumped over position with my legs crossed. But it’s better to sit in a straight posture, with your lower back supported and shoulders relaxed and not hunched or tightened upwards
  • Take frequent breaks! As much as we all love a knitting binge for hours on end it’s really not great for your body. Make sure you’re taking frequent breaks to stretch your arms and hands out. Here are some hand and wrist stretches courtesy of We Are Knitters
  • Take care of your eyes too! Make sure you have good lighting – ahem ahem a note to self as I knit in the dark watching horror movies…. And if you’re reading a pattern make sure you have it zoomed on your screen or use a magnifying glass if needed to make sure you aren’t straining your eyes to read

Support Your Local Yarn Store

Yarn stores that can still operate are doing so through online sales and curbside pick-up. With many of the larger yarn distributors placing a hold on shipping, like KnitPicks, this is a great opportunity to support a local business. 

You can also support independent yarn dyers during this time by buying yarn directly from them! I just picked up a couple beautiful skeins from Sweet Georgia and I can’t wait until they’re delivered!

Stash dive!

You might have some yarn in your stash that you’ve been waiting to use up. Now is the time!! Trust me there’s probably some real gems in your stash. 

I went deep stash diving into some scraps to use for Jessie Maed Designs My little Secret Crop KAL. This pattern is totally free during the KAL it’s kind of like a big test knit! You can find more details on Jessie’s Instagram.

A hand holds two knitting needles with a blue, white and orange knitting piece on them
I’m loving the blue and orange splashes in my Little Secret Crop

I’m having so much fun with it and I never would have thought to use the colours I’m blending together from scraps in my stash. 

Use Social Media to Connect

If you’ve been watching my Insta stories (and if not you should totally come follow me on Instagram) I’ve been doing a daily Captain’s Log update about my day. As well as posting other updates and pictures of the kitties.

Instagram has been a great tool for me during this to stay connected to my knitting friends and follow up with what everyone is doing. 

An orange tabby cat lies on a bed with paws curled up near his face
Follow me on Instagram for knitting and cute kitties!

Local knit nights are going virtual through video hang outs and knitting podcasters are doing more live video broadcasts to connect with their community. It’s so great that we have this technology to stay connected even if we can’t meet face-to-face!

Don’t get cast-on-itis

This is my final tip, and it might be the hardest one! I know that I have been suffering a serious case of cast-on-itis…I just want to cast on everything that I have queued up (and many things that I don’t have queued up).

This is definitely a good time to stash bust and knit a bunch of projects off of your Ravelry queue! But in order to really finish anything, it’s important you try and focus on just a few projects at once. 

That’s what I’m trying to do to make sure I really make the most of this time and come out with a bunch of FOs and not a bunch of UFOs.

If you don’t know FO = Finished Object and UFO= Unfinished Object

Two hands wearing blue speckled knit fingerless mitts hold a mug of coffee
Make sure you take this time to relax and enjoy some slow knitting

Those are my tips! This was an extra special bonus post on a Thursday – make sure you keep your eye out next Tuesday for my regular update. I’ll be talking about what I’m binge watching because of course while you’re doing all this knitting you need to knitflix!

Categories
Tips

Tips for Learning to Knit

Because of COVID-19, most of us have been on self-isolation at home for the past couple of weeks and we’ll be in full isolation a couple of weeks longer and likely social distancing for longer than that. During this time I’ve had a couple of people ask me for tips for learning to knit. And this is a great time to learn as it will give you something to do! 

This post will cover some tips for learning to knit, we’ll cover

  • The basic skills
  • The materials you’ll need to get started and where you can get them
  • Common mistakes and how to fix them,
  • Some recommendations for easy patterns

It’s not going to be a post that goes into the details of how to actually knit, but I am going to link to tutorials that will. 

Materials to get started

Well…you’ll need yarn and needles of course! 

Now needles come in a variety of sizes from very teeny tiny US size 1s (2.25mm in diameter to bigger US 19 (15mm in diameter). The size needle you use will determine how big your stitches are and they correspond somewhat to the bulk of your yarn. For example, you wouldn’t use a very small needle with a very bulky yarn. 

A thumb and pointer finger hold up a knitting needle to show the numbers on the side
Most needles will have the size written on the side

Like needles, yarn comes in different sizes as well, called weights. The lightest weight is fingering represented by a 1 and the heaviest is jumbo weight, which is number 7. You’ll know what weight a yarn is by reading its label.

A dark purple ball of yarn on a wood table
The yarn label will tell you the yarn’s weight and other useful information like how many yards there are in a ball and washing instructions.

For beginners I’d recommend starting with worsted weight yarn – that’s number 4 on the yarn weight range. And a US 5 or 5.5 needle. This yarn and needles are going to be not too thick, not to thin and will be easy enough for your hands to work with as you get started.

Knitting needles are commonly made of wood, metal, or plastic. For beginners, wood is the best choice as they have a bit more grip and will help keep the stitches from sliding off the end and getting dropped. 

Pick a light colour of yarn so you’ll be able to easily see the stitches. 

Where can you buy knitting needles and yarn 

For beginners, I’d recommend shopping at your local big box craft store like Michaels when you get started. They have a wide selection of yarns and will be more budget-friendly when you’re just getting started. 

You can also find a local yarn store (LYS) in your area. A LYS can be especially helpful as a beginner because most of them offer classes and knitting help if you get stuck or make a mistake you’re not sure how to fix. 

In addition to needles and yarn you’ll also need the following before starting your first project. 

  • A yarn needle (for weaving in your starting and finishing ends)
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors
  • You might also need stitch markers
  • A crochet hook can also come in handy for picking up dropped stitches

DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

As I’m writing this during the time period of COVID-19 and you should avoid all unnecessary outings. I recommend you order materials online or find a store in your neighbourhood that is offering curbside pick up.

A hand holds two knitting needles with stitches and knit fabric hanging off them
Don’t go out during the COVID-19 pandemic if you don’t have to! Just stay home

Where to begin

It can be overwhelming to learn something new. But all you need to know right now to get started is that all knitting is basically made up of two stitches: knit and purl. You can do some neat things with them, lace and cables and there are increases and decreases. But the foundation of all of this is knit and purl.

And you’ll, of course, need to know how to get started – this is called casting on. And how to finish called binding off or casting off. Counting stitches and rows will also be something useful to learn right off the bat. 

I recommend you start by making a square or rectangle and just practice knitting and purling, casting on and binding off. You can unravel it over and over to keep practicing. 

Check out these video tutorials to learn the basics: 

Very Pink has tutorials for all the basic skills here

And you can find a video on counting stitches here also by Very Pink

Common mistake

You’re learning something new and you’re going to mess it up!! And that’s totally okay. Don’t get upset, don’t panic almost any mistake you make is fixable. 

Here are the most common knitting mistakes with resources on how to fix the ones you can and avoid the ones you can’t. 

Twisted stitches

Twisted stitches are a common mistake for new knitters. Twisted stitches cause your knitting to sit unevenly. 

This tutorial from Martha Stewart describes twisted stitches and what causes them

Dropped stitches

You are indefinitely going to drop a stitch at some point! This can cause a lot of anxiety and you may think you need to start over – but that’s not the case. Picking up a dropped stitch is actually very easy. 

Here’s a quick tutorial from The Spruce Crafts on fixing dropped stitches

Adding stitches at the sides

See #2 on this list of common knitting mistakes from Martha Stewart. This is a great resource that also covers dropped stitches, twisted stitches and tight tension. 

How to un-knit to fix an error or rip back your project

It’s unfortunate, but sometimes you’ll need to undo part of even all of your knitting to fix mistakes! 

This comprehensive tutorial covers two ways you can undo knitting to fix past mistakes. By unknitting stitch by a stitch or by ripping out all or part of your project. It also goes into how to decide which method you need to use. 

Where to go from here

Once you have the basic skills down it’s time to knit your first pattern! 

A pattern is going to provide you with the needle size and yarn weight you need. Make sure you use the specified yarn and needles. The pattern information will also tell you how much yarn you’ll need.

When knitting a pattern you’ll need to make sure you meet the gauge for the pattern, especially if it’s something like a hat where the size matters. Gauge is the size of your stitches and rows to ensure your item comes out the right size. You measure gauge by knitting a swatch and measuring your stitches. 

This post by Lion Brand Yarn will teach you about gauge

Knitting patterns are written in almost another language, there are a lot of abbreviations. The pattern will give you a “dictionary” for what all the abbreviations mean so make sure you read that before getting started!

For example this 

Row 1: K3, p to end of row

This means you will knit three stitches and then purl to the end of the row.

When you’re just getting started it can be helpful to write out the abbreviated instructions in full for yourself. 

Finding your first pattern 

Ravelry is a great place to find knitting patterns. You can set up a free account and browse through the pattern base. You can filter your search by difficulty level and the techniques involved. 

You can also buy kits from Wool and the Gang or We Are Knitters that come with everything you need. 

Tin Can Knits has this collection of easy (and free) patterns created for knitters who are just starting out!

A light blue knit sweater without sleeves sits on a white background
This is the beginnings of a Flax Sweater from the Tin Can Knits Simple Collection

You’re ready to get going with your brand new hobby!! Good luck and remember to enjoy it!