Monday, February 27, 2017

Knitter's Questions: Clean Edges, Right & Wrong Side of Garter Stitch, and Knitting a Blanket with Circular Needles

Today I thought it would be fun to share some tips based on a couple questions that I received from knitters in the last few weeks.  I especially enjoy being able to help beginning knitters gain more confidence in their knitting.  Some of these questions might seem 'basic' to experienced knitters but I suspect other beginners might find these notes helpful.

Here's the three topics covered below...

1. How do you get such 'clean' edges in your patterns?
2. How do you identify the right and wrong side of garter stitch?
3. How do you use long circular knitting needles to knit a blanket?

How do you get such 'clean' edges in your patterns?

I tend to obsess about the edges! Here's the three things I focus on for the edges:

1. Pull the first stitch of each row a bit tighter: When I am knitting I pull the yarn a bit tighter when I work the first stitch of each row.  Some knitters like to slip the first stitch or the last stitch of a row...but I don't...especially on blankets or scarves that do not have seams.

Pull the first stitch of each row a bit tighter for a clean edge.

2. Change skeins of yarn mid-row: When I am knitting a blanket or other project where clean edges are important...I make mid-row transitions from one skein of yarn to the next. When a project doesn't have seams I would rather hide woven in ends in the middle of the row.

Weaving in ends on back of the middle of rows.

3. Careful blocking: Taking the time to carefully block a finished blanket or other knitted object is essential. It's really important to carefully pin the knitting in exactly the shape desired with very straight edges so that the knitting will look the best when dry. I have written about blocking several times here on my blog including on this post and this post. (Scroll down a bit in both posts to find the step-by-step tips about blocking.)

Careful blocking includes pinning the edges in place.
In case you are wondering...the pattern shown in the photo above is my Third Street Blanket. Read more about the pattern here on my blog post.

How do you identify the right and wrong side of garter stitch? 

A couple of my blanket patterns have garter stitch edges.  For me, deciding on the right and wrong side when working with garter stitch is determined by my cast on row.  I use a basic long-tail cast on method and one side always looks better than the other.  I pick to have the "nice looking" side of the cast on edge be the right side (or front) of my knitting...and the side that doesn't look as nice is the wrong side.  Here's a couple close up photos:

Once you decide which side is the right and wrong side of your knitting, it can help to pin a marker on the knitting to help remember.  For example, in my Where the Sidewalk Ends and Westport Blanket knitting patterns, it is important to keep track of which side is the wrong side because that is where the main stitch changes are made. Pinning a marker or tying a loop of contrasting color yarn to the wrong side of your knitting will make it easy to remember which side is the wrong side.  (I need to use this tip because several times I have had to rip back several inches of knitting when I realized I had mixed up the right and wrong side!)

How do you use long circular knitting needles to knit a blanket? 

A few weeks ago I received a nice email from a knitter who was confused about the concept of using long circular knitting needles to knit a blanket. She had only used straight needles for knitting...and I think she realized that she would not be able to fit enough stitches on the straight needles to knit a large blanket. She said that she had a hard time visualizing how to use circular knitting needles to knit a blanket.  I'm so glad she emailed me...she said the info below helped her understand the concept!

Here's what I shared with her about knitting a flat piece with circular knitting needles...

To use circular needles for a big blanket you are really using them like super long straight needles...that happen to be connected by a long wire.  Cast on stitches the same way you do with straight needles.  Start knitting the same way you do with straight needles.  When you get to the end of the row of knitting...just turn your knitting around the same way you would with straight needles.

Circular needles are often used to make hats and knitters just keep knitting around and around and around so all of the rows are connected.  This is called "knitting in the round". Circular knitting needles can also be used to work "flat" knitting (as described in the last paragraph) and are especially helpful when working with a lot of stitches...such as knitting a blanket.  The other benefit of using circular knitting needles is being able to spread out and view your knitting as it progresses.

Using circular knitting needles to knit "flat" - it's easy!
In case you are wondering...the pattern in the photo above is The Parkway Pillow.  Read more about it here on my blog.

If you have not tried knitting with circular knitting needles, give it a try!  Many knitters, including me, use circular knitting needles almost all the time because you don't have the ends of long straight needles to manage.

Knitting flat...back & forth...on circular knitting needles.
If you have a question when working on one of my patterns please feel free to contact me. The best way to reach me if you have a question is to use the email address provided in the pattern.  I usually check my email multiple times a day and try to respond in a timely manner.

I love hearing from my knitting customers! It's so fun to hear how knitters plan to use my patterns as gifts for others including...knitting blankets to donate to a charity that is meaningful to them, making a blanket for a grown child moving into their first apartment or a grandchild going off to college, or knitting a blanket in anticipation of welcoming a new baby to the family.  It means so much to hear that knitters are using my patterns to commemorate milestone moments in their family's lives!  And...I am often touched to tears when I read about the meaningful charities where my customers are donating their hand knit blankets.

Thank you for sharing your stories with me. I love hearing from you by email (my email address is in all of my patterns and it's the best way to reach me with questions!), comments here on the blog, or through Ravelry or Etsy messaging. Drop me a line anytime!

Happy knitting!

Mary Lee
Fifty Four Ten Studio

p.s. Here's one more tip...I just finished reading "A Gentleman in Moscow" by Amor Towles.  It's very good!  This author also wrote "Rules of Civility"...also a great book! (Blanket in photo below is my Westport Blanket.)

A good book & a cozy, hand knit blanket go together!

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