Becoming a better knitter

We all started off as beginning knitters. We learned about knitting needles, yarn, how to cast on, knit garter stitch, and bind off.

Somehow, we've progressed to knitting hats, scarves, mittens, and even sweaters! Along the way we learned all sorts of things: how to increase, decrease, work cables, work complicated stitch patterns, and so on.

We learned things on our own, from books, in classes, from other knitters, or on video. Each of these lessons increased our skills and made us better knitters.

Learning never stops, though! And I know you love tips and tricks, so here are some more for you:

How do I know how much tail to leave when casting on?
This is an important one! When using the long-tail cast-on, you don't want to waste any precious yarn, but perhaps even worse is when you run out of tail before you're through casting on! Here's the formula for having the correct tail every time: You'll need the width of your finished piece ( 8 inches for a scarf, 22 inches for a sweater back, etc.), multiplied by 3, plus 10 percent of the total.

My bind-off is too tight.
Try a looser bind-off, such as the Suspended Bind-Off. Begin your bind-off as standard, but instead of dropping the bound stitch from the left-hand needle (Figure 1), knit the second stitch on your left-hand needle (Figure 1), and then drop both stitches from the left-hand needle. This method elongates the bound-off stitch. The only thing that's different from the standard bind-off is when you're dropping the stitch from your needle.

Suspended Bind-Off, Figures 1 and 2

The colors are pooling in my handpainted yarn.
Handpainted, multi-colored yarns have a tendency to pool (areas where the same colors stack upon itself row-to-row). You can minimize this pooling by first winding two balls from the same hank of yarn. Then, when working flat, alternate the balls of yarn at the end of every other row. When working in the round, switch the yarn every row. These techniques will reduce the chance of colors stacking up.

Better looking stripes!

My stripes don't look great in ribbing.
Wonder how to achieve a crisp, even stripe when ribbing? On any given color-change row, knit completely across the row—do not purl. After the color-change row is completed, continue working in ribbing as per pattern. Look at the difference in striping in the sample at length. The bottom half is knitted in 1×1 rib as normal. The top half (above the line) is knitted the flawless method.

Weaving in ends as you knit

I hate weaving in tails!
Weaving in tails is a necessary evil in knitting. Make it easier on yourself by weaving them in as you knit! Place the needle in the next stitch and, before wrapping it, lay the yarn tail over the working yarn, as shown at right. Now work the next stitch; the tail is now fastened in. Repeat this for a about 1½ to 2 inches making sure to carry the yarn tail loosely to avoid puckering.

For even more ideas to make you a better knitter, check out Lily Chin's video workshop, A Knitter's Toolbox! You can download it or order the DVD. It's over 5 hours(!) long, full of amazing knitting instruction for all levels of knitters. It's really great.


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