The Basics of Knitted Accessories
“The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.”
—Clairee, played by Olympia Dukakis, in the movie Steel Magnolias
This well-known quote is funny, but true! We love our accessories, and as knitters, we love to make them ourselves. If sweaters are the staples of a knitter’s wardrobe, knitted accessories are the embellishment. Knit accessories are the fun in your wardrobe-and in your knitting bag.
I like to have an accessory project on the needles all the time so I can take a break from sweater knitting, and accessories travel better than big sweater projects.
Whether it’s a knitted scarf, knitted mitts, or a hat knitting pattern, we love our accessory knitting! The bonus is that since these projects are small, it’s fun to try a new technique, such as a lace scarf, a cabled hat, or some Fair Isle Mitts.
Many knitted accessories are one-skein projects, too, and in today’s economy, we could all use a couple of one- or two-skein projects, right? You can also “shop your stash” to find yarn for many of these patterns.
Below are some wonderful knitted accessory patterns and some knitting techniques that will help you make them!
The Perfect Cabled Hat Knitting Pattern
The Snowball Hat is such a cute hat, and a wonderful first cable project. It can be knitted as a beanie or with a giant pom-pom “snowball” on top.
All you need to know is how to knit in the round and how to knit rop cables. If you need a refresher course, here’s a quick tutorial:
The Basic Cable
The most familiar type of cable is a simple rope cable. A rope cable is worked over a set number of stitches that are (usually) worked in a straight column, without moving over background stitches to the right or left.
The cable strands are most often made of stockinette stitch (knit on right side, purl on wrong side), which tends to come forward when viewing the right side of the work. The background is usually worked in reverse stockinette stitch (purl on right side, knit on wrong side), which tends to recede when viewed from the right side. The flanking areas of reverse stockinette stitch make the central stockinette-stitch cable pop forward in high relief.
The actual cabling in a rope cable couldn’t be simpler. At predetermined
intervals, and usually while working a right-side row, half the strand stitches
are placed out of sequence before knitting. Cable instructions and chart keys
often direct you to do something like “place two stitches onto a cable needle,
hold in front, knit two, knit two from the cable needle.” This means that you
use a third, smaller cable needle to hold half the strand’s stitches out of the way, knit the former
second half of the strand first, then knit the former first half of the strand.
Doing so switches the order of the two halves, making them pass over one
another and creating a cable crossing.
If you hold the first half of the stitches to the front of the work while you
knit the second half, you will have a left cross, where the first
half of the cable passes over the second.
If you hold the first half of the stitches to the back of the work while
knitting the second half, you will have a right
cross, where the first half of the cable passes under the second. Rope cables
typically repeat the same cross direction over and over for a continuous twist
that resembles a rope.
Source: Eunny Jang, Interweave Knits, Winter 2011
The Perfect Lace Scarf Knitting Pattern
The Spectrum Scarf is a great beginning lace project. Color blending with multiple strands of ultra fine—and ultra soft—alpaca yarn shades this lacy scarf achieved with a simple one-row lace repeat.
Whether you’re a beginning lace knitter or an advanced lace knitter, here’s a fabulous technique that will get you back on track if you make a mistake, which is so easy to do in lace knitting!
How to Use a Lifeline
A lifeline is a temporary thread inserted through a row of stitches that serves as a checkpoint if you need to rip out and redo several rows. Here’s how to make a lifeline:
1) Decide on a lifeline row. A good choice is an unpatterned “rest row,” which is defined as a plain knit or purl row that usually occurs at the beginning or end of a pattern repeat.
2) After completing the designated row, thread a fine, smooth thread (crochet thread or embroidery floss works well) in a contrasting color onto a tapestry needle and run it through the bottom of each stitch on the needle, but not through any markers. Pull the lifeline thread out on each side of the row, leaving tails at least 6″ hanging down on each side. When you resume knitting, be careful not to knit the lifeline into the new stitches you make.
With luck, you’ll never need to use the lifeline. But if you discover a mistake, remove the knitting needle and ravel down to the lifeline thread. With a smaller size knitting needle, pick up stitches along the lifeline thread by inserting the needle tip through each stitch held by the lifeline; follow the lifeline thread to pick up all the stitches in the original marked row so that they are mounted on the needle properly. Do not remove the lifeline. Count the stitches to be sure that you have the number you should have on the designated
lifeline row. Then resume knitting with the original size needles.
When beginning a lace pattern, some knitters place lifelines between each lace repeat until they’ve become comfortable with the pattern.
Practicing a few good habits will make it easy to work even the trickiest lace pattern.
• Be sure that you can easily read and keep your place in the instructions. Enlarge charts and, if necessary, transcribe texts or charts into terminology or symbols that work for you.
• Use a magnetic strip, ruler, or Post-it just above the row you are working. Doing so helps your eyes focus on that row while it allows you to check previously knitted rows as a reference point.
• Create good working conditions: increase lighting, minimize distractions, and avoid knitting when you are tired.
• Check your work often: count stitches, use markers liberally, place lifelines, and visually compare your knitting against any available charts and sample photographs.
• Read the pattern out loud as you work through the lace repeat the first few times. Simultaneous seeing, hearing, and doing can be helpful.
Source: Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer, Interweave Knits, Summer 2006
The Perfect Fair Isle Mitten Knitting Pattern
Mittens are wonderful knitted accessories, and they make perfect gifts. Try your hand a Fair Isle knitting with the White Witch Mittens. And if you need a little tutorial on Fair Isle knitting, here you go!
Fair Isle, or color stranding, is the technique of multi-colored knitting in which
yarns that are not in use are carried loosely across the back of the work. In traditional Fair Isle, just two colors are used per row. The colors are changed frequently, and diagonal pattern lines dominate over vertical lines to distribute the tension more evenly over the knitted fabric.
Fair Isle is worked most efficiently if the two yarns are help simultaneously; one in the left and worked in the Continental method, the other in the right hand and worked in the English method. Although this may feel awkward at first, it is well worth the effort because it allows for uniform stitches and rapid knitting.
You can prevent the two balls of yarn from tangling around each other as you knit by always stranding the right-hand yarn over the left-hand yarn and the left-hand under the right-hand yarn. Do not twist the strands on the back.
In multicolor knitting, the stitches will pucker if the strands are pulled too tightly across the back. To prevent this, spread the stitches on the right-hand needle to their approximate gauge each time you change colors, rather than allowing them to scrunch up near the tip of the needle.
Source: The Knitter’s Companion by Vicki Square, Interweave, 2006
Find a knitted accessory for any occasion (or no occasion at all!) right here at Knitting Daily. In addition to patterns, we also offer expert tips and ideas to help you make your knitted accessories uniquely you!