Category Archives: tutorial

Stretchier bind offs for knitting

I recently received my Parquetry cowl sample back from Fiber Gallery.

When it arrived I decided that I wanted it to be…more.

So I frogged the old bind off and added more to the body of the cowl. And then I decided that I wanted an even stretchier bind off than the suspended bind off that I had used before. Apparently I was very relaxed when I cast on my Parquetry, and that edge was super stretchy! I went poking through Cap Sease’s Cast On Bind Off book, and learned the Russian Bind Off.

I love it! I made a video so you can learn it and love it, too.

Now I have several stretchy bind offs in my knitting tool kit:

Elastic Bind Off, which I like for edges on lace shawls

Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off, which I like for binding off brioche rib

Suspended Bind Off, when just a little extra stretch is needed

And now the Russian Bind Off, when I want even more stretch!

Remember, you’re the boss of your knitting, and you can use whatever cast on or bind off you want in your project. You RULE!

Yarn color dominance tutorial and Soldotna update

I didn’t realize I was almost done with the yoke by the time I finished auditioning my color combinations. Now we’re just flying along!

Remember I said that I hadn’t done a proper gauge swatch? Yeah, that. The stated gauge for this project is 5.5 sts/inch. Now that there was plenty of knitting on the needles, I could see that my gauge was varying between 5.5 to 6 stitches/inch, depending on which color work motif I was working. I was bouncing between holding both yarns in my right hand, and holding a color in each hand, depending on the motif, so that also added to my inconsistency.

I’m going to take a moment here to digress about color work yarn management, and yarn color dominance. You can put a color on each side of you, left and right, and pick up and drop each color as needed. Don’t twist them around each other as you work. This is how I teach my beginning color work class. Another option for yarn management is to carry a color in each hand, so you’re knitting continental/picking with one and throwing/English with the other. The third option is to carry two colors in one hand. Here’s how I carry both in my right hand. (I still can’t manage both in my left.) This is an old video, so it doesn’t address color dominance.

Yarn color dominance! For most knitters, the yarn coming from the left is going to be dominant in your knitting. It’s going to show up more because it’s coming from underneath the other color, which makes the stitch a tiny bit taller because it has to travel further to the needle. See how my white stitches look bigger than the green ones on the vertical stripes on the left, and vice versa on the right? So choose which color you want to be dominant in each 2 color section, and be consistent!

Okay, back to the sweater. I hadn’t washed and blocked a swatch, so that’s another level of the unknown. I’m guessing that the 6 sts/inch section (1×1 vertical stripes) will relax a bit when I wash and block the sweater, so that’s fine. If the piece is a little too narrow, I can block it a bit wider. If it’s a little too wide, I can block it a little longer, which will steal a bit from the width. It’s superwash wool, so it can be very stretchy when it’s wet, and I can play with all that. (This is a big experiment on my part; I’ll let you know how it turns out! You’re my companion in this adventure.)

Anyway, I had planned to work the body in just the Iris (light purple) color, but when I started knitting it that way, it was boring. And the fabric was so much lighter in weight than the color work yoke. So I’ve decided to put in the white flecks for interest. But not the dark purple ones, because they barely show up, so it’s not worth that effort. This all means I’ll have more plain Iris stockinette rounds, which is great for multitasking/reading while I knit.

But! When I checked my gauge on the plain stockinette, I was getting 5 sts/inch, which would give me a 44 inch sweater, rather than the desired 40 inch sweater. My options were to either go down a needle size or two, or to refigure the number of stitches in the body. Since I knew my gauge and liked the fabric with my current needles, I opted for THE MATH. Which wasn’t hard.

When dividing for the sleeves, I needed to make sure I ended up with 200 stitches (instead of 220) for the body. I could do this by casting on fewer stitches at underarm (3 instead of 9), and putting a few more of the yoke stitches into the sleeves instead of the body. Done.

Oh, one more thing? The pattern has the beginning of round set at the center back, so there’s a jog there. That’s kind of pleasing, in that it’s very symmetrical. I like symmetry! But I didn’t really like the jog being so visible. So I moved the beginning of the round to be on the back, where the sleeve division occurs. (So from the beginning of round it’s right sleeve, front, left sleeve, back, instead of beginning and ending in the middle of the back.)

The only thing I wish I had done differently would be to put one more plain round between the white flecks. But I’m not going back again.

Test knitter Ann’s Hopscotch

Onward! I’ll keep knitting, but first I need to get ready to publish my Hopscotch Scarf pattern tomorrow. I’m planning a class at Twisted with this pattern to teach syncopated brioche, and that class listing goes live tomorrow. I know what I’m doing this afternoon…

PDXKnitterati’s Better Garter Tab Cast on for Crescent Shawls

I have a new shawl design, Lucky Star. It features an elongated garter tab cast on at the beginning, designed to minimize the hump that can occur at the center neck of top down crescent shawls.

Many crescent shawls have this visible hump in the middle; it’s a function of construction and stitch pattern. A short garter tab results in more rows right under the center, creating a hump.

Garter stitch is less humpy than a stockinette based stitch, because the height of the stitches is more compressed. I like to use garter stitch at the center neck of my crescent shawls.

Elongating the garter tab can help smooth out the center. If you add YO’s along the edge of this elongated garter tab, it visually mimics the YO’s along the top edge of the shawl. It also adds flexibility to the center of the shawl neck.

I find this works better if you make a tab long enough to pick up in every other garter ridge as shown in the bottom shawl pictured above. See how this gives those first rows a little more width to stretch out and relax?

Let’s do it! My sample is in garter stitch.

Decide how many working stitches you’d like to have on the first real row of your pattern. Call this N. These are the stitches you’ll use in your patterning. (Don’t include the stitches you’ll increase into at the beginning and end of the row.)

Cast on 3 sts for garter tab. If N is even, knit 2(N) rows. If N is odd, knit 2(N – 1) rows.
Next row (RS): K3, turn work clockwise. *YO, pick up and knit in second ridge from needle, rep from * until you have N sts counting from the YO if N is even. If you want N to be an odd number, end with a YO. Turn clockwise and pick up and knit 3 sts along cast on edge. Now you have N+6 sts. (3 sts on each end, and N in the center.)
Next row (WS): K3, pm, yo, k(N), yo, pm, k3. (For stockinette stitch, purl the N working stitches on this row.) You have N+8 sts: N working sts, and 3 garter stitches and a YO increase at each end.

Here’s a video tutorial.

Now you’re ready to work your shawl. The small bit of hump can usually be blocked out, depending on your stitch patterning. Blocking is essential for top down crescent shawls. And a biasing stitch pattern can still make a hump. Lace where the YO’s are not right next to the decreases can cause biasing, which makes lovely scalloping, but you don’t want it right next to your garter tab beginning. Start with some plain garter at the neck, and gradually move into your stitch pattern after several rows.

Much better! I used this cast on for my Lucky Star Shawl. Many thanks to Ann Berg for test knitting the pink version shown here.

Lace, blocking, SSK

I always say that blocking is magic. Especially with lace. But even then, I’m always astonished at the transformation.

Here’s my Nymphaea shawl, right off the needles, no blocking, no weaving in the ends. It’s pretty small, 48 inches across the top eyelet edge, 20 inches at the wide end, not including the lace edging in either measurement.

I wet blocked it; it pinned out to be 60 inches across the top eyelet edge, and 30 inches across the wide end, just above the lace edging. Where it was once thick and chunky, it’s now ethereally and diaphanously lovely. It’s almost as big as the sample I knit last fall with the mini skein gradient kit, just nine repeats instead of ten.

Zigzags 4 evah

Lacy border, this time with beads

I knit this in Bumblebirch Heartwood, 75/25 superwash merino/nylon. The colors are Atlantic and Hellebore, the same colors in my Tumbling Leaves, but reversed. I love it, and I love the beads, too. Depending on how you look at them, they’re blue, or green. Perfect.

I’m going to knit one more of these, a sample with a Fierce Fibers 650 yard continuous gradient, and a semisolid contrast color. This is in preparation for our Fall Shawl Retreat in November. Registration opens August 1, and the price will include yarn and beads for a knit or crochet version of Nymphaea.

While knitting this shawl, I started thinking about my personal rules for SSK. When I first learned SSK, I did them conventionally, slipping both stitches as if to knit. The result is a left leaning decrease, exactly the same as SKP: Slip one (knitwise), knit one, pass slip stitch over. The passed stitch could sometimes be stretched out and unsightly; Barbara Walker invented the SSK as an improvement on the SKP.

Eventually, Elizabeth Zimmermann figured out that slipping the second stitch purlwise instead of knitwise made this decrease lie flatter, and mirror the right leaning K2tog better. It’s less zigzaggy. I learned this from her daughter Meg Swansen in a class oh so long ago, and adopted it as my go-to SSK. For me, it’s quicker to execute (don’t have to pull left needle out of the second slipped stitch before ktbl).

But! When I was designing my Meander Cowl, I noticed that this SSK looked wide and bumpy when it met up with a YO on its left side. It’s because the right leg of the stitch shows a bit more prominently behind the left leaning stitch on top. Subtle, yes, but there.

So, my personal SSK rule: Slip the second stitch as if to purl when working stockinette. But if there’s a YO to the left of the SSK, slip the second stitch as if to knit. Try them both, if you like. You’re the boss of your knitting; as long as you get the result you want, you’re doing it right! Here’s a video on the whole thing.

How do you SSK?

Fixing Brioche Knitting Mistakes

I’m planning to teach a brioche knitting class at Stash in Corvallis on June 2, and at Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival on September 22. This is a three hour class, so it goes beyond the two hour Petite Brioche class that I’ve taught at Twisted.

I’m using my Heliotrope hat as the basis for this class, but I want to start with a bit of brioche rib before getting into the increases and decreases that create the leafy patterning. I may change the top of the hat too. We’ll see when I get to that part on the sample I’m knitting!

I love this color combo. While I’m knitting the sample, I’m taking the opportunity to make some video tutorials. Here you go!


Here’s my original Petite Brioche tutorial; I’m including it here so everything is one one easy page. I’m carrying my yarn in my right hand (English/throwing style).


Petite Brioche for continental knitters. I’m not the most adept at the left hand carry, but I wanted to show something that works with my Petite Brioche instructions. I think this does.


Where’s my YO? What to do if your YO goes missing from your slipped stitch.

And then I made a mistake not on purpose! So while I was fixing it, I made a video for that, too.


How to fix a brioche mistake, two rounds down. Yes, I did it, repeatedly, and lived to tell the tale.

I hope these are helpful to you!

Are you knitting brioche? You can give it a try with my free Petite Brioche pattern! And now you can fix your mistakes, too.

Log cabin pick up lines, Rose City Yarn Crawl

No, it’s not about dating in the pioneer days! (Hey baby, wanna go for a buggy ride?)

I taught a log cabin knitting class last month, and I wanted to revisit how I pick up my stitches along the selvage edges before class. I had recently read a post describing how to pick up and knit these stitches, and it wasn’t how I was doing it.

This new-to-me way involves picking up in the edge stitches with a separate needle (slide it through the last horizontal clam shell), and then knitting them off. My edge stitches of the previous square are stretched out and distorted, making them look straight instead of like the purl bump clamshells that we know and love. See it on the red edge stitches? And the white pickup area where I picked up the new green block is also pulling on the diagonal.

So I did a little experiment.

Section 1 is picked up in the edge stitches with a knitting needle, then knit through the front loops. It pulls on the diagonal.

Section 2 is picked up in the edge stitches with a knitting needle, then knit through the back loops. Not so diagonal, but still distorts the stitch.

Section 3 is picked up and knit under the single strand between garter bumps.

Section 4 is picked up and knit under two strands between garter bumps. This leaves a bigger ridge on the back, but it matches the bigger ridges of the pickups along the bound off edges. You know to pick up in the front half of the bound off edge, right? If you pick up in the back half, the front half of that bound off stitch leaves a line on the front of your work.

Result: I still like picking up under the thread between garter bumps, whether under one or two strands.

Is this incredibly fussy of me? Yes. Would you notice it if I hadn’t told you? Maybe. But sometimes fussing makes me happy.

Your mileage may vary; part of it depends on how tightly or loosely you knit. I recommend experimenting to see what looks best with the way *you* knit. Remember, as long as you get the result you want, you’re doing it right!

Here are my finished Log Cabin Mitts, this time in Noro Taiyo Sport. They’re adorable. The pattern is free from Karen Templer of Fringe Association. I made them for the #logalong on Instagram.

And Rose City Yarn Crawl is upon us! Click the link for details on ALL the fun. It runs Thursday through Sunday. I’m having a group trunk show with fellow local designers Shannon Squire and Debbi Stone, and dyer Lorajean Kelley (Knitted Wit) at For Yarn’s Sake on Thursday (tomorrow!) from 10 am to 4 pm. Come by and say hi! I love seeing what you’ve knit (I know you’ll be wearing it!) and I’ll have my newest designs with me for you to squish.

You know there will be some brioche. I taught my first Petite Brioche class last week, and everyone was well on their way by the end of class. Team Brioche is growing!

Wishing you a very yarny weekend, whether you’re yarn crawling, or not!

Two favorite knit-in i-cord edgings

I love i-cord selvage edgings that are worked simultaneously with your project. No afterthoughts here! They give a finished edge, and help keep stockinette from rolling. I’ve been using two techniques for this.

thrumbelina thrummed slippers

The first is on my Thrumbelina slippers, around the opening. This i-cord is accomplished by this little dance with the last 3 stitches of each row, both right and wrong side: Bring yarn to the front, slip last 3 sts purlwise. At the beginning of the next row, just knit.

As you can see, the edging curls towards you on the left edge, and away from you on the right edge. It takes working a few rows before you see the curl clearly, too. (There’s a column of garter stitch right next to the edging, to separate the stockinette from the i-cord.)

beanstalk scarf and mitts

My Beanstalk scarf features a different knit-in i-cord edge. It works like this (wyif means with yarn in front):
Beginning of the row: K1, Sl 1 wyif, K1.
End of the row: Sl 1 wyif, K1, Sl 1 wyif.

You can use this on one edge or both edges; you just have to remember the dance for beginning or end.

These edgings look a little more like each other. I like using this edging on scarves and sideways shawls to give the edge a more finished look. It also helps reduce curling. (There’s a column of garter stitch right next to the edging, to separate the stockinette from the i-cord here, too.)

So why did I just run through these options? A knitter wrote to me with a question about the edging on the Thrumbelina slippers, because the edges look different. I thought about revising the pattern with the second i-cord technique, so I made these swatches. Here’s what I found:

The original edging on the Thrumbelina slipper is firmer and slightly bulkier. I like that for a slipper opening, so I’m not going to change it after all. If the slightly different appearance on each edge gives you the willies, you can always swap it out. Knitter’s choice!

Edited to add:
Based on Leslie’s comment below, I tried out her beginning of row i-cord edging: Slip 3 with yarn in back at beginning of RS rows, Slip 3 with yarn in front at beginning of WS rows. I kept my garter stitch column next to the i-cord, and worked in stockinette. Here’s the pic:

It rolls to the back on both edges, yay! But it doesn’t roll as tightly as the other two, so I’m still not changing anything. It’s good to have so many options, and I may play with more, but not right now. Other projects are calling!

Use these handy edges for all sorts of other knitting; they’re pretty cool. Where do you want to add them now?

Cast on tricks, fixing mistakes, and classes at OFFF

The Go Tell the Bees KAL is underway, and we’re having a grand time chatting over in the Ravelry thread. It’s not too late to join the KAL; we’re knitting at our own pace and just having fun. Some of the tips that have come out of the cast on thread are particularly helpful, so I thought I’d share them here.

I chose the cable cast on for the beginning of this project, which starts at the lower edge. Why not use a long tail cast on? Because the cast on is huge, 350-400 stitches. I’d hate to run out of yarn just before my goal.

Why not use the two ended long tail cast on? Because I’m using a gradient/ombre ball of yarn, which means that the other end is a different color. I thought it might be pretty that way, but I tried it and it wasn’t at all pretty.

Also, the first row after a long tail cast on is the purl/bumpy side, which is part of why it wasn’t pretty, for this particular pattern. The first row after a cable cast on is the knit/smooth side, which is what I wanted.

The tip for any long cast on is to use markers to help you count. You can place them after every 20, or 50, or whatever number of stitches, and then not have to count all the stitches at once after you’re done. Much better than long counting, and coming up with a different number several times.

If you think ahead while you’re casting on, you can place the markers at your stitch repeats. Figure out how many stitches are outside the repeat and add them to the first section, then place the following markers to note your repeats.

A very common error is either missing or dropping a YO. You don’t notice until you’re on the next right side row, when you don’t have enough stitches between markers to work your repeat. I posted this in the last post, but I think it bears repeating. Here’s how to fix it:

I once took a class in fixing mistakes, and that teacher said you should count on the WS rows to make sure you have the right number and kind of stitches. Me, I’d rather relax on those WS rows and deal with mistakes on the next RS row. Both ways work, but I use those WS rows for reading or chatting!

I’m going to be teaching two of my favorite classes at Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival in September. This year’s festival runs from Friday Sept. 22 (classes only on Friday) through Sunday Sept. 24. The theme at OFFF this year is lace, and you know I love that!

I’m teaching Tink Drop Frog, Fixing Mistakes: Lace Edition on Saturday Sept. 23 from 9:30 to 12:30. We’ll be learning ways to fix lace mistakes when you’ve noticed them in the same row, a row or two later, or even later than that! This is an empowering class; you are really the boss of your knitting when you can use these techniques.

I’m also teaching Be Manipulative, Elongated Novelty Stitches on Sunday Sept. 24 from 1:30 to 4:30. The honeybee stitch from Go Tell the Bees is just one of the stitches we’ll be practicing. If you like the lacy look of these stitches, come learn them with me!

Rescuing a dropped YO at WWKIP Day

It was a jam packed weekend! I was a guest designer at the Knit Picks WWKIP Day Knit Pick-nic, where I worked on my Go Tell the Bees KAL.

I love how my mannequin Lacey has my yarn ball tucked into her decolletage. I’m knitting with Knit Picks Stroll Gradient in Ice Sculpture. The project is well under way. While I was knitting, I noticed an error because I was one stitch short in one of my repeats. Usually this happens because I dropped a YO while purling back on the wrong side row. I don’t count stitches on the WS rows; this is my time to chat or watch tv or read. I find the mistake on the next right side row.

Do you have to rip/tink back two rows to fix this? NO WAY. I’d never get anything done. I made a video of this easy fix. It was a chilly day here in PDX, so I’m wearing my Beanstalk/Trellis Vines mitts sample, trying to get warm.

Hope this helps!

The rest of the weekend was a whirlwind. We saw Ira Glass (This American Life) at the Schnitz, I had my Go Tell the Bees KAL party at Pearl Fiber Arts, and I sang with my harmony singing class at a benefit for Artichoke Community Music. Whew!

How was your weekend? Did you knit in public?

Technique Tuesday, and new yarn

It’s been quiet around here, but things are moving along behind the scenes. Sometimes if I haven’t posted for a bit, I just need a jump start, so here’s an increase that I ran across recently.

If you’ve ever used KFB, knit in the front and back of a stitch, you know it’s an easy way to increase. It’s easy, and great for garter stitch where the bump from the increase doesn’t show. In stockinette, it does show, and you have to decide if that bump is a bug or a feature. But I recently ran across YarnSub’s post on Knit Front Slip Back (KFSB), which avoids the bump, and thought it was worth sharing. You can click the link for pictures and a video, but basically it’s knit in the front of the stitch, go into the back of the stitch as for KFB, but just slip that back of the stitch to the right needle without working it. Voilà!

It does have a directional lean to it, though, so if I wanted paired increases with one leaning the other way, I’d choose my favorite left and right leaning lifted increases. My other favorite paired increases are M1 (make one) increases by working into the back (right leaning) or front (left leaning) of the bar between stitches.

So many ways to get things done! What’s your favorite increase method?

Currently on the needles for a design project, this drop dead gorgeous 600+ yard gradient cake from Fierce Fibers. This color is Saigon Cinnamon, but every time I look at it, I think of Thai iced tea. I’m through the hard thinking on this project, and about to hit cruise control. Ahhhhhh. It’s a crescent shawl, with conventional lace and a fun new lace motif made with elongated stitches. I’ll work up a 400 yard version, too. Details soon.

What’s on your needles?