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Tips and Tricks

August 2, 2010

I think that every knitter must have a trick or two, skills that they developed or tools that they repurposed, because they needed to do something with yarn, and couldn’t figure out an established way. Or maybe they thought that there must be a better way than the established one. Sometimes, we will talk about these tips and tricks, and we would love for you to tell us about yours by posting a comment. We might even have a contest. Yes, we should. A contest.

Here’s how it will go. Post your best tip or trick, one per person please, because the next time we chose this topic, we might run this contest again, and you won’t want to give up your best stuff all at once. Winners will be chosen out of a hat, because random number generators creep me out, and I am in charge of this here contest. And because I said so. You can win as long as you are not Tesia, Allison, Abi or me. Prize TBD. The deadline to enter will be 6pm PST on Monday, August 9th.

My tip is one that I discovered out of necessity. The first pair of socks that I knit with fingering weight were cabled, the Twists and Turns socks by Ariel Altaras. My project here. I didn’t realize yet that I am a very loose knitter, and need to use much smaller needles than the average knitter to accomplish an adequate gauge on any size yarn, and for socks, well, let’s say that I use the same sized needles to knit a worsted sweater as I had originally bought to knit these socks. But anyway, at the time, I didn’t know about cabling without a cable needle. Or online stores that sell tiny needles. So I used a wooden toothpick, cinnamon flavoured, as a cable needle. At first, the toothpick may catch on the yarn, but all it takes is a few swipes with a nail file, and my super efficient cable needle storage system to compensate. My trick is to keep the cable needle in my hair when I am not actually cabling. I put my hair in a pony tail, and stick the toothpick between the elastic and my head, through the gathered hair. The natural oils on my hair smooth the needle and make it nice for knitting. I don’t do this often anymore, now that I use 1.2mm needles to knit fingering weight socks. So now I use a 1.2mm dpn, by Hiya Hiya as a cable needle. Sometimes I still stick it in my hair, but these suckers are pointy, so I always regret it.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Julie (Jaia) permalink
    August 2, 2010 9:53 am

    I don’t know if this is my best trick, but it’s certainly one of my favorites!

    Nail Clippers! I keep nail clippers – the kind with a built in nail file) in my knitting bag at all times! They have saved me so many times. They cut yarn. They file rough fingernails that snag on the yarn. They file rough DPN’s and sharpen needle points. They never get confiscated on airplanes like scissors. They are awesome!

  2. Lyn (DownwardDogFbrs) permalink
    August 2, 2010 5:43 pm

    I’m not sure this qualifies as a trick, but it’s my favorite thing to teach in the beginner class – spit splicing! I always find it amusing to see how many people are fascinated vs. grossed out by the actual use of spit… It also works as a parlor trick on little kids – now it’s 2 pieces of yarn, now it’s 1!

  3. August 3, 2010 6:38 am

    One of my favourite tricks is to use a bobby pin when I can’t find a yarn needle. You thread the yarn through the bent end, and just sew carefully. Since I’m always losing my yarn needles, this is a great quick fix.

  4. August 5, 2010 1:40 am

    I love Trisha’s trick with the toothpick.
    Mine’s not really a trick but more an organizational tip:
    – I have a list of my swatch measurements in my Blackberry and laptop, including yarn name, weight, spi, needle(s) used, circular/flat, and date. It helps when trying to decide on what needles to bring on a trip.
    – I also compiled a list of most-used technique tutorials that I often forget: grafting (k-p, p-k), Jeny’s Stretchy Bind-off, Magic Cast-on, crochet seaming, math for heel turning, etc. Keep in in my BB and laptop too.

  5. Ellen (Lnand) permalink
    August 5, 2010 4:56 am

    A tip for starting when casting on – instead of making a slip knot, I just use a half-stitch. I.e. basically a loop around the needle. Make a loop, but take care that the yarn face the right way when starting the long-tail cast-on. The upper yarn end shall cross to the right over your index finger, the one under shall cross to the left and across your thumb.

  6. Cheryl permalink
    August 5, 2010 5:06 am

    This isn’t so much a trick as laziness. Instead of having to weave in my cast on tail, I knit it into the first 4 or 5 stitches. I do the same when I have to join a new ball of yarn in the middle of the project. A lot of people say that it makes the fabric too thick but most of the time after the project is blocked you can’t see where these joins are.

  7. August 5, 2010 5:32 am

    Hmmm…oh, here’s one. I don’t always like to use those little gauge measuring tools because sometimes the stitches don’t show up well enough through those small windows. So I use a measuring square that I have for my quilting, like this: (although I usually use a larger one, 5″x5″. There are a lot of benefits to these: I can cover my entire swatch, which holds it all flat and lets me see if there were any variations in my gauge when I knit; there are lots of lines on it, as compared to most gauge tools which either have none or just one at 4″, so I can measure to any distance; and I can measure rows and stitches at the same time, which some gauge tools don’t do (and others only over a short row distance).

  8. khyricat permalink
    August 5, 2010 8:38 am

    My favorite tip is how to keep my hands from cramping. I try to either take frequent breaks (knitting on the run), or to switch back and forth between something tiny (socks) and something big (shawl or sweater). I don’t mean finished project size as much as needle size…

    I have arthritis in my right hand and wrist and with this trick can knit for hours at a time days in a row without any issues..

  9. August 5, 2010 8:53 am

    No tricks come to mind, but I have a tip, especially for new magic-loopers. I was constantly losing stitches off the end when I switched needles, and forgetting which way I was knitting when I had to set it down to chase a kid. So I learned to hold the point of the needle as I pulled on the cable. And when I set something down mid-row, I place the tip of the needle I am knitting onto (my right needle) into the work. That way I always know that the needle I pull out of my work is my right needle!

  10. Amber permalink
    August 5, 2010 9:15 am

    Take notes. If you do ANYTHING different than the pattern says write it down so that you can duplicate it either on the 2nd sock or sleeve or if you want to make it agian you will know what you did to make it work for you :)

  11. August 5, 2010 9:27 am

    My tip : When I am winding yarn into cake, I have a trick for keeping the yarn tag or band with the cake. Once the yarn is wound, I roll up the tag or band, and hold it at the center post, where the cake is wound. I hold it there while I gently pull the cake off. Now it is in the center! As the yarn gets itself comfortable, it hugs the tag in there :)

  12. ikkinlala permalink
    August 5, 2010 10:28 am

    Similar to Rhiannon’s tip, I’ve used a twist tie to substitute for a yarn needle before. I’ve used them to substitute for cable needles occasionally, too.

  13. August 6, 2010 6:10 am

    When I start to get tired of whatever I’m knitting, I’ll go ahead and weave in as many ends as I can. Then my project looks nicer and I don’t dread weaving in a bunch of ends when I finish. This usually is enough of a diversion that I am ready to start knitting on it again and race to the finish.

  14. August 9, 2010 2:14 pm

    This might be common sense to some folks, but it was a huge light-bulb moment for me when I realized that I could use hi-liters to color code a cable chart. Sometimes, several of the symbols are very similar, the the L/C and R/C versions of the same cable. Its so much easier to glance at the chart and see a swath of pink or yellow that it is to see the subtleties of which way tiny lines are slanting.

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