Knitting Tips and Tricks, from You!

Just a little scene-setting photo—knit on!

I was reading through the forums and the Knitting Daily blog post comments, and I was impressed by the wealth of knitting expertise out there! I thought I'd pull some of them and put them all here for you to enjoy. This is a potpourri of knitting tips, with my favorite tip of all time is at the end of the post. Happy knitting!

Susi, on sock reinforcing : I have used sock reinforcing thread quite often since I go through sock heels and toes rather fast. Recently I made a pair of winter socks in a solid orange and just used some lighter-weight variegated yarn that had orange as one of its colors. Everyone who sees them is impressed by how well it worked.

JKDobie, on darning socks: My mother always kept a light bulb in her darning basket. It slips into a sock very easily and is very lightweight. This won't work with a new fluorescent type bulb, however!

Bev from Montana, on pilling: I have a battery operated sweater shaver with the name "Evercare" on it. I believe it was around $5.00, and was certainly under $10.00. I have used it endlessly on wool, cashmere, cotton, etc., and it restores the beauty of the sweater without pulling the fibers, which is what I've found the various stones and combs to do, and which I think leads to more pilling. It seems impossible to harm the actual yarn because of a shield on the head. Anyway, I LOVE it!

RMHkidsX4, on yarn management: To keep yarns separate, I take a clear, heavy plastic zippered bag (saved from the purchase of bed linens/curtains) and insert grommets near the top of the bag, about 3 to 4 inches apart. Thread each skein through a different grommet, it keeps the yarn from getting tangled while keeping all the skeins in one place.

Martha Puccio, on Fair Isle tension: I make a lot of Norwegian mittens on four needles that have two colors. I have found the best way to avoid puckering is to work the mitten with the right side inside. In other words, after I complete the cuff and start the pattern work I rotate the knitting so the right side is inside and the wrong side is outside. This seems to leave just enough carried yarn to prevent puckering.

Turtles and Owls, on button-making forms: Save a lid or two from your favorite food–cottage cheese, large containers of yogurt, cool whip, etc. All of these have lovely large plastic lids you can easily cut with a pair of scissors. Trace or draw your design on with a Sharpie pen and cut them out. I've used the clear, see-through Cool Whip and Ralston Oatmeal lids for decades to make quilt, appliqué, and stencil templates-they work great.

Tammy T, on ease: My daughter's favorite tip for knitting sweaters is "Finish knitting them!" A tip that has been revolutionary for me is this: If you are a shapely lady, knit a sweater top down. I had no idea what size I needed and had trouble modifying bottom-up sweaters to fit my 12-inch difference between bust and waist measurements. If you knit from the top down, you can try it on as you go and get the perfect fit. Then when you do a bottom up sweater, you can use the top down one as a template to help with the sizing and shaping. Also, I don't know about everyone else, but I tend to overestimate my size. Even for a larger lady, wearing a sweater that hangs like a sack isn't attractive. A little negative ease is your friend!

Fairy-nuff, on sleeves: When knitting sleeves, try knitting them both at the same time on one needle. Then you know they are going to be the same length.

GerdaP, on decreases: I like to decrease at least one stitch in from the edge of pieces so that the finish is smooth; also, if you are decreasing more than one stitch, try purling 2 tog from the purl side at the end of the row and then continuing your decreases on the right side—you will not get any bumps along the edge! This is an EZ tip that I have always used.

Madhatton, on knitted gifts: I give a yarn label plus a piece or two of the yarn along with a knitted gift. The recipient then knows how to care for the piece.

Lillian M., on shaping armholes: Often times a pattern will call for binding off stitches on multiple rows. To avoid a "jagged" edge, I always slip the first stitch on a second or third row of the bind off and then work the next stitch, and then bind off that first stitch. It makes for a much smoother curve. (It also makes it easier to sew in sleeves.)

Suzlh, on life lines: Whenever I get to a section of knitting where I am starting a new procedure, I run a "lifeline" through the last row I have just knitted. I do this by running a length of smooth, silky embroidery thread of a contrasting color through the stitches on the needles with a blunt darning needle. If the new section does not work out as expected, I have a known good row to rip back to. This takes the fear out of ripping back because it is so easy to reload the lifeline row of stitches. Also it insures that each stitch is oriented properly when reloading and I know exactly where I am for restarting the pattern. It is easy to pull the slippery embroidery threads out later. Lifelines are well-named because they have saved my projects from doom many times!

Olga H, on poppy pins as markers: I have found that regular bobby pins (with smooth rounded tips) work great as markers. Use a light color works well when working with a dark yarn and works best for sport or worsted yarn. 

Margaret J, on blocking boards: I have not been able to find a wooden blocking board like my mother has, so I improvised. I went to my local home store and purchased a package of six Styrofoam sheets (fairly inexpensive)—they are about 15" wide, 48" long, and 1/2" deep. I pin my damp pieces onto them and lie them on a bed that is not being used. In a day or two I have wonderfully blocked garments and I can put the Styrofoam sheets in a closet or under the bed until next time. They don't hold water and seem to work well for drying. If i need something wider than 15" (for baby blankets or shawls) I just put two or three Styrofoam sheets side by side and keep pinning.

And, from Kathleen, on slip knots: This is perhaps my favorite knitting tip of all time—how to cast on without a slip knot. The person who taught me to knit (and changed my life in the process), Pat Harris from The Neighborhood Knit Shop in Hendersonville, Tennessee, showed me this method on my first day as a knitter, and I've rarely used a slip knot since.

Have fun trying these tips, and be sure and check out our new book that's just chock full of techniques to make you a better knitter: Fearless Knitting Workshop by Jennifer E. Seiffert!

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