Your knitting speed questions answered

Thanks to our current collaboration with ICHF Events to see how quickly knitters can complete a row of 100 stitches, for the Nations’s Fastest Knitter competition, we’ve had more than a few questions about how to knit faster.

The first thing to say is that often with knitting you can have a bad case of more haste less speed, in that when you try to knit really quickly, you can end up dropping stitches, splitting yarn or making other mistakes that mean over all your knitting takes longer.

So rather than thinking about speed, it is better to think about finding an efficient knitting style which allows you to get into a steady rhythm and where each stitch takes very little movement.

Needles

The first step is to work out what sort of needles you are most comfortable using. For some people this means using long needles they can tuck under their arms, for others it is working on circular needles (even for rows) because they find it easier only to move the short tips.

Flicking

Once you have established what needles suit you, it is time to look at how you make your stitches. If you look at the speediest knitters they have a very economical style where they don’ t move their hands or yarn much for each stitch.

One way to do this is known as “flicking”. Knitters with this style hold the yarn with their right hand and use their index finger to move or “flick” the yarn round the needle without ever letting go of the right hand needle. This allows them to work at a stead rhythm with very little excess movement.

You can see how the yarn and needles are held in this picture by Stacie of VeryPink.com who has made a video showing the technique.

knitting technique flicking

Continental knitting

Unlike in the “English” style of knitting most commonly learned in the UK, in continental knitting you hold and tension the yarn with your left hand.

The right hand needle is used to pull or “pick” the yarn through the stitch as in this video from Knitting Help.

Again this creates a very efficient movement, that allows you to knit smoothly.

Combination knitting

The main difference with combination is in how the purl is worked and the technique is often combined with the continental knit stitch.

Here the yarn is held with the left hand and scooped up through the stitch as in this diagram from Annie Modesitt.

The result of this technique is that when you come to knit your stitches on the next row, you will find they are orientated differently to usual. This means you have to work the knit stitch into the back of the loop which can affect your decreases.

It is worth trying these various techniques to find which is most comfortable and effective for you.

And if you are in Birmingham this week, why not come along to the Hobbycrafts and Sewing for Pleasure shows, where you will find us in Hall 12. Our knitting doctor can show you these knitting styles in person or you could see how fast you can knit 100 stitches.

Increasing with and without holes

Our yarn doctors report that one of the regular questions they are asked at yarn shows is about doing neat increases.

For most knitters, their first experience of increasing is by accident when they create a stitch and (inevitably a hole) by knitting into some part of the knitting that isn’t a stitch or by accidently wrapping some yarn round the needle between stitches.

Once they’ve learned to avoid these problems, knitters will tend to learn one type of increase but this can be confusing because different patterns can call for different increases and if you don’t understand the technique you can end up with unintentional holes.

Kfb – knit front and back

knitting increases

This form of increasing uses one stitch to make two. You first knit normally into the stitch but instead of dropping the loop off the left hand needle at the end, you knit into the back of it first, creating two stitches from one.

It is important to remember that this method uses an existing stitch to increase. It is most commonly what is meant by “inc 1” or “inc in next st” in patterns but it is important to check the pattern to make sure.

This method of increasing creates a little horizontal bar at the base of the new stitch, to the left, as you can see above. This means you cannot create exactly symmetrical lines of stitching which some designers prefer. However it is a neat increase method.

M1 – make 1 stitch

A “make 1” increase uses the space between two stitches to create a new one. The left hand needle is inserted under the “bar”, the horizontal strand of yarn between two stitches, and then you work into that new loop to create a stitch.

increased knitting

There are two ways to do this:

mi stitch

  1. Insert tip of left need from back to front of workIn this case you knit the “new” stitch normally .
    This will give you an increase that leans slightly to the right as on the right hand side of the swatch picture above.
  2. Insert tip of left need from front to back of workm-1-f2b

    In this case, you knit into the back of the new stitch, creating an increase that leans slightly to the left (as pictured above).

It is very important to work into the new stitch as indicated because this will twist the picked up yarn – otherwise you will create a small hole in your work.

The left and right leaning increases can be useful when symmetrical increases are needed. In some pattern instructions you will see these abbreviated as M1R and M1L. Always check the pattern notes to be sure you understand which version is needed.

Remember that a make 1 increase doesn’t use any existing stitches.

Yarn over increase

This is an intentional version of those accidental increases we started with.

yos

A yarn over increase is worked by simply putting the yarn over the needle between two stitches and working into it on the next row creating a new stitch with a hole below. It is most commonly used in lace and is often paired with a decrease.

Remember to always read the pattern carefully to check what type of increase ins required.

You will find our Yarn Doctors on the UK Hand Knitting stand at the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show at London Olympia, 2-5 March 2017

 

Finding and saving patterns on Ravelry

When our Yarn Doctors are out and about on our stands at craft shows, one of the regular questions that people ask is “where can I find patterns?”.

There are a number of answers including a wide range of knitting and crochet magazines, and browsing the pattern leaflets at your local yarn shop. Your local yarn store owner will no doubt have an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of patterns available, but if you still can’t find what you are looking for, another useful tool is Ravelry.com.

ravelry pattern search

Ravelry, the online knitting and crochet community, has a database with over 400,000 knitting and 200,000 crochet patterns including patterns from books, leaflets and magazines. Most entries include a picture or several, yarn and needles details and where to find the pattern (for example the leaflet number or magazine edition, and whether it is available online).

ravelry pattern searchYou can just browse popular patterns on the site but several hundred thousand options would take a while, so Ravelry has created a range of filters to help you find what you are looking for.

To narrow down you search you can choose different types of pattern in terms of knitting versus crochet, clothing or other projects, size, and yarn weight etc.

You can also choose options such as types of colour work, whether there are lace or cables, and even styles of pattern such as written versus charts.

As you make your choices the range of patterns reduces until you have a manageable number to browse.

You can also use the search box to look for patterns using a particular yarn or brand or from a particular source.

For example in the screengrab below, you can see a search for UK Hand Knitting which has brought up images for our baby patterns. I could further narrow down my search by clicking to only search for patterns using 4ply and including preemie sizes.

ravelry pattern search

I could also have searched for a particular yarn that I have in my stash to find patterns using it.

Once you have picked out a pattern you might want to make, you can save it to your “queue” – a list of patterns you like on your own account, which is very handy because it is easy to find the pattern again. Below I’m saving the particular UK Hand Knitting pattern I want to use  – now I have the details for when I’m ready to buy and use it.

ravelry pattern queue

The queue function also comes in handy when you spot a pattern in a magazine or book, or even in a pattern selection in a shop, that you might want to make in the future.

For example, it can be very frustrating flicking through a pile of magazines trying to remember where you saw that perfect cabled sweater. But if you search for the sweater on Ravelry and add it to your queue it will be much easier to find it in the future (as long as you keep the magazine). And if the pattern isn’t yet in the database, there are straightforward instructions to help you add it so you, and others, can track it down again in the future.

It can take a little bit of organisation to start your queue but once you have it, it is easy to browse all the things you want to knit and find where to access the patterns.

Dealing with a knot in your yarn

One of the things that irritates most knitters is finding a knot in their yarn.

_mg_7075

While there may be occasions when you find more than one knot suggesting a problem, in general finding a knot will be a rare happening, however annoying.

Those rare knots are the result of how yarn is produced using long continuous threads. This can be difficult to maintain and occasionally the yarn will break. It will be joined with a small knot to keep the production process going.

This means that once in a while you will come across a knot that needs to be dealt with. If you are knitting stocking stitch with a DK or thicker yarn it may be possible to just keep knitting and ensure the knot sits on the wrong side.

_mg_7063

But if you are working in a textured stitch pattern like in the swatch pictured, or lace, finer yarns and reversible patterns this is not an option. The best option is to cut out the knot and treat the rest of the ball the same way as if you were joining in a new yarn or ball.

If you can it is neatest to make the join at an edge, but if you are working in the round or find the knot half way into a row of 200 stitches, you might not see that as an option. In which case you should stop knitting when there is 10 to 15cm of yarn to the knot. Cut the knot and then leaving another 10cm tail. Knit two or three stitches using both the tail of the “old” yarn and the “new” yarn and then continue using the new yarn only.

_mg_7066

You can weave in the ends after a couple of rows or when you make up the piece.

Another option would be to cut out the knot and split splice your yarn instead of joining in as above.

Whatever approach you take, remember that knots are a rare occurrence and that they shouldn’t spoil you knitting.

New year yarn clear out

When we asked on social media if you were planning to make any yarn or crafting-related resolutions for 2017, a number of people mentioned having a stash clear out or tidy.

For me that would produce a lot of orphaned single skeins or balls of yarn left over from projects and a great many more half balls. Usually once I have cleared these into a box or bag, I find myself wondering what to do with them – and I’m sure that other people have had the same problem.

It is easy for your stash to become disorganised over time

To help, UK Hand Knitting will sometimes collect your left over yarn for a charity when we are at a big event, but because we have other things coming up in the next few months we haven’t any plans to do that for while. However, we do have some other ideas for you.

  • Charity knitting groups – you may find that a knitting group near you has a charity project to produce preemie baby hats or squares for blankets and would happily take some yarn off your hands. My last box went to a hospital knitting group making Twiddlemuffs for dementia patients. Check our knitting group directory as a starting point.
  • Schools and Craft Clubs may be interested in receiving yarn to teach kids knitting and other skills. One place to start to find a school or club is via the Craft Council’s Craft Club initiative.
  • Care homes – some care homes have craft activities for residents. Why not contact local homes to see if they are interested in your yarn.
  • Freecycle – I’ve advertised yarn oddments to giveaway in my local freecycle group. Mine went to an art project.
  • Scrapstore – this is an initiative that collects unwanted craft materials from indviduals and businesses and makes them available to schools and voluntary organisations at a fraction of normal costs. Many Scrapstores also have shops open to the public selling high quality art and craft materials from glue to paintbrushes to complement the scrap. There are Scrapstores all over the UK and you can use the organisation’s directory to find your nearest branch.

Wherever you choose to find a home for your excess yarn, it will feel good that it will be used and appreciated by someone else.

 

 

Plan your 2017 knitting and crochet fun

In some jobs it can be quite a good thing to be the person in the office on the days between Christmas and New Year.

You can sort out loose ends from the year, sort out the filing and get your diary organised for the new year.

If you have some down time at home over this period you can apply the same principles to your knitting and crochet pursuits.

You could plan some trips to yarn shows or workshops for the new year. There are already quite a few shows from large multi-craft events to local wool festivals in our 2017 events calendar and plenty of knitting and crochet classes being added to our workshop diary.

yarn event diary

Over the Christmas holidays is also a good time to finish off a few projects (or be brutally honest that some things aren’t going to be finished) and to plan new ones.

The equivalent of sorting out the office filing is to tackle the stack of knitting magazines you have been accumulating over the months. Go through them and identify the patterns you want to make. Some of us are strong willed enough to tear out those patterns to go in a folder and to throw away the rest – or perhaps share the remainder with other people at a knitting group.

organising knitting patterns

Once you have narrowed down your patterns, it can be great fun to go through your stashed yarn to see if you have something suitable. This can of course mean getting out all your yarn to have a look. Matching patterns to yarns and putting them together in a project bag can be very satisfying as you line up a little collection of projects for next year.

Of course you will discover that you don’t have the yarn for all the patterns you’ve saved, but that’s OK because now you have an excuse for a spot of yarn shopping and perhaps some online browsing to narrow down suitable yarns and colours. So it is a win win.

 

Knitting from charts

When we talk to knitters, many mention that they don’t like charts or are nervous of patterns that include them. Often this is because knitters haven’t ever been shown how to work from charts, so we thought we’d provide an introduction.

Charts are simply another way of providing knitting instructions and if they are well drawn they should to some extent be a diagram of how your knitting should look.

The most straightforward charts to understand are those for colourwork.

knititng in colour chart

Each square on the chart represents a stitch. You could think of putting your knitting needle below the chart and matching the stitches on your needle to the stitches on the chart.

Right side rows are worked from right to left, this is why the right hand column is labelled 1. If you think about matching your knitting to the chart, if you are working a right side row the tip of your needle would be at the right hand side of the chart. A wrong side row would be worked from left to right because you are working back along your stitches.

The key to the chart tells you the right side rows are knitted and the wrong side ones are purled. It also shows you what colour yarn each stitch is worked in. So your knitting should look like the chart picture as you progress.

This chart also has a red outlined box. This shows you the set of stitches to repeat across the row for the pattern to right a across your work. For example a in a garment with five flowers across it, row one might be written out as “K2A (k5A, k2B, k5A, k2B, k6A) five times, k1A” – A and B refer to the yarn colours. All the chart is doing is showing you that in a picture.

Cable charts

Cable charts can be a good example of showing how your work should look as well. The symbols for cables here show which direction each cable should slope.

knitting cables chart

It is important to read both the key to any chart and the abbreviations carefully. This will tell you how many stitches are used in a cable and what to do.

For example here we have a symbol using three squares which the key says is Tw3B. The abbreviations section would tell you that this means “slip next 1 st on to cable needle and hold to back, k2, p1 from cable needle” – this makes cable that slopes to the right and if you look at the symbol it has a right leaning slope. The dot in the symbol is the purl stitch and you can see that it is worked after the knit stitches.

Texture and lace

lace chart knitting

Charts for texture and lace should be approached in just the same way, understanding what each symbol means and working one stitch at a time.

You may find that as you work with charts for a while you will be able to look at a piece of knitting and see more clearly what is happening with the pattern because you are more used to reading the stitches from a picture.

Top tips

Of course looking at the charts at first might still be daunting so we asked our social media followers for their advice.

Most of this focused on being able to see clearly which row you are working on the chart. The top recommendations were to use washi tape, post-it-notes or a chart board with magnetic strips to outline the row you are working. That way you won’t be distracted by other rows.

Another useful suggestion is to photocopy the chart and use coloured pencils or highlighter pens to mark different stitches in different colours.

If your chart involves repeats, put a stitch marker or a loop of contrasting yarn on the needles at the start of the group of stitches for each repeat.

What are your top tips for working from charts, please tell us in the comments.