The Daily Skein

All the craft that’s fit to make.

Twisted Stitches: Left vs Right January 19, 2010

Filed under: knitting tutorials,Tutorials — Cailyn @ 5:53 pm
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I love knitting and especially designing twisted stitch socks.  Exhibit A: Danube, Salzburg, and Glass Slipper.  I’ve finally completed my collection of German stitch dictionaries (if you haven’t seen, they’ve reprinted all three Überlieferte Strickmuster into one volume over at Schoolhouse press).  Well, “completed” might be a bit strong- I’ve gotten enough that most traditional twisted cables are covered.  I’d consider myself a twisted stitch fanatic.  I know at least three ways to do the cable turns and I understand why twisted ribbing is stretchier than regular ribbing.


How is it, then, that I’ve missed learning about this fabulous information until now?


Something about these beautiful stitches has always bothered me.  You can see it on the accent cables on Salzburg.  One cable is very compressed and just looks likes close diagonal lines.  The other cable has some space between the diagonals, allowing you to see the way the cable swirls.  It happens with any of the twisted stitch cables.  The ones that travel to the right always seem squished, not as defined.  I’ve always wondered what caused that.  And, of course, what I could do to fix it.  (What can I say, I’m a huge perfectionist.)  I started to think that this phenomenon was just a fact of knitting, like the curl of stockinette or the inelasticity of stranded projects.




I’m very glad that I always read “Ask a Knitter” in the Ravelry newsletter.  Usually I know the answers to most of the questions, but this time…!  This issue is written about just this problem.  Turns out that it’s the very twist of the stitch that causes this squishing, this lack of definition.


Knitting a stitch through the back loop causes the left side of the stitch to overlap the right.  This is a left-twisted stitch.  When a stitch like this travels to the left, it travels in the same direction as the twist.  The stitch stays flat, even, and well-defined.




But when a left-twisted stitch travels to the right, it kind of rolls onto its side.  It’s traveling against the twist and the pull of the yarn makes the stitches appear narrow and squished.  Think about looking at a book cover versus looking at the spine.


If you’re a crazy perfectionist like me, you can twist the stitches so that the right side overlaps the left.  That way the twist of the stitch isn’t fighting the direction of travel.  To twist a stitch to the right, use the right needle to remount the stitch so that the right-leaning leg is in the back.  This is sometimes referred to as an “Eastern mounted stitch.”




Then knit the stitch through the front leg, wrapping the yarn around the needle in the opposite direction of normal.  The opposite wrapping will make the new stitch have the same Eastern mount so that you don’t have to remount the stitch on the next row/round.  Ta da, a stitch with the right side overlapping the left!




102_4977 2


You might notice some similarity in the above picture to this tutorial of lifted increases.  The principle is the same, creating directional stitches.  It’s also the same as M1L and M1R.




See, no turning on their sides!  The stitches are flat and well defined.  Now, not everyone is as big a dork-perfectionist as I am, and not everyone is going to want to micromanage their twisted stitch projects so much as to change stitch mount for every right-traveling stitch.  But for those few of us who do, aren’t you glad to know about this?  Go check out the Ask a Knitter column in the #67 issue of This Week in Ravelry for more!


Short-Row Shoulder Caps November 25, 2009

Want to work a seamless set-in sleeve from the top down?  Did that sentence even make sense?


For my Central Park Hoodie, I lengthened the armholes but wasn’t smart enough to just use a larger size’s instructions.  I was then faced with this choice: destroy my brain by trying to figure out the math to make a sleeve cap and then deal with easing and sewing OR work my sleeves top-down with short rows.  Guess which one I chose.

 102_4776   102_4777    102_4775

Do you know how to pick up stitches and work short rows?  Then you have all the skills needed for this pattern modification.  For more information on this technique, check out Barbara Walker’s Knitting from the Top or Wendy Bernard’s Custom Knits.  Here are some good tutorials for picking up stitches from Knitty: Picking Up Stitches on a Straight Edge and Picking Up Stitches on a Curved Edge.


It was the short rows that confused me at first.  When you work short rows for a sock heel, you work shorter and shorter rows then longer and longer rows to make a pouch that’s essentially two trapezoids on top of each other like so:

Sock Heel

However, the short rows for a sleeve cap are just the second half of the diagram.  You start with a short row and then get longer and longer, picking up wraps as you work over them instead of saving them all for the end.

Shoulder Cap


Now, make a  decision.  Do you want to work the sleeves in the round or do you want to work them flat and then seam them? 


Let’s assume you want to make them in the round first.  Sew the shoulder and side seams for your sweater.  You now have a nice armhole to pick up stitches around.  Starting at the side seam under the arm, pick up and knit stitches evenly around the armhole.  If you haven’t made any modifications to the armhole, then the number of stitches on the sleeve before the sleeve cap shaping starts is the number to pick up.  Make sure that there are the same number of stitches on either side of the side seam.  Use the shoulder seam as the center of the sleeve top.  Place a marker for the beginning of the round.


If you’ve decided to work your sleeves flat, just sew the shoulder seams of your sweater.  Pick up and knit stitches evenly across the armhole.  If you haven’t made any modifications to the armhole, then the number of stitches on the sleeve before the sleeve cap shaping starts is the number to pick up.  Make sure that there are the same number of stitches on either side of the shoulder seam, using that as the center of the sleeve top.


Now for a little math.  Divide the number of stitches on your needle by 3.  Go ahead and round up or down to the nearest even number.  The result is the number of stitches you will need to have at the top of your sleeve cap.  Center this 1/3 on the shoulder seam.  Place markers on either side.

Flat Shoulder Round Shoulder
Knitting Flat Knitting in the Round


Mark the underarm stitches.  If you’re knitting from the bottom up, the underarm stitches are the stitches that have been picked up from the cast off stitches and decrease rows.  Make sure that there are the same number of underarm stitches on either side of the beginning marker (if knitting in the round) or either end of the sleeve cap (if knitting flat).  If you’re knitting from the top down, the underarm stitches begin at the first increase.  Place markers at either end of the underarm stitches.  If you’re knitting in the round, you should have 5 markers.  If you’re knitting flat, you should have 4 markers.


Okay, the set up is finished.  Now, work (in pattern) to the end of the top 1/3 stitches and slip the marker.  Wrap the next stitch and turn.  Work back across the top 1/3 stitches, slip the marker, and wrap the next stitch.  Turn and work back to the first wrapped stitch.  Pick up the wrap and conceal it with your preferred method, then wrap the next stitch.  Turn, work back to the next wrapped stitch.  Pick up the wrap and conceal it, then wrap the next stitch.  Here is an excellent write up of the various ways to conceal a wrapped stitch.


Continue working back and forth this way until you reach the underarm markers, ending on a RS row.  In the round, knit across the underarm stitches and continue around, concealing the last wrapped stitch as you come to it on the RS and then finishing the round.  Flat, work the underarm stitches to the end of the row, then turn and work back, concealing the last wrap as you come to it and continue on to the underarm sts.


Continue the sleeves as laid out by your pattern.  Unless the pattern has top-down sleeves, decrease whenever the pattern says to increase.  Remember that if you have picked up more stitches than the pattern called for to adjust your decreases accordingly.


That’s it!  Not so bad, eh, and no seaming!


Here’s a real world example to make things clearer:


On my CPH, I made my armhole 1” longer than called for.  I knit my sleeves in the round and changed the frequency of the decreases.


Starting at the side seam, I picked up 1 stitch for each cast off stitch or decreased stitch.  This gave me 9 stitches for the first half of the underarm.  I placed a purple marker after the 9 sts and for the beginning of the round. Then I picked up 2 stitches for every 3 rows of knitting until I reached the shoulder seam, which ended up being 35 sts.  I picked up 35 stitches down the other side of the armhole, placed a purple marker, and picked up 9 stitches for the underarm.


This gave me 88 stitches total for my sleeve.  Dividing 88 by 3 gives me 29.33333.  I rounded up to 30.  I want 15 sts on either side of the center of the sleeve top.  I placed blue markers on either side of my sleeve top, which was centered at the shoulder seam.


Since the CPH has cables running down the sleeve, I also placed white markers for the beginning and end of the cable chart, centered on the shoulder seam 6 sts away from the blue markers.


I knit to the purple marker (the top 1/3 of my stitches,) slipped the purple marker, knit 6, then worked the sleeve cables between the white markers, knit 6, slipped the purple marker, wrapped the next stitch and turned.


I purled back to the cable, worked the cable between the white markers, purled to the purple marker, wrapped the next stitch and turned.


Knitted to the cable, worked the cable, knitted to the wrapped stitch, concealed the wrap, then wrapped the next stitch and turned.


Purled to the cable, worked the cable, purled to the wrapped stitch, concealed the wrap, then wrapped the next stitch and turned.


Once the short rows were finished, I worked the rest of the sleeve in the round. 


Intarsia Multi-Directional Scarf July 10, 2009

Filed under: knitting tutorials,Tutorials — Cailyn @ 4:47 pm
Tags: , , ,

It took me forever to write up this tutorial.  It’s kind of hard to explain, but once you get the hang of it, it seems really simple.  This scarf looks great in handpainted yarns, but if you want solid colors this is a great way to go.  So, I hope that I’ve written the instructions clear enough so that you can experiment on your own.  It will be helpful to have a read the directions of the Multi-Directional scarf, since I haven’t rewritten the instructions, just made them confusing! 


The Multi-Directional Scarf is basically made of triangles that are formed with short rows.  The triangles start at the bottom as essentially one stitch and increase from there, with a decrease eating up the stitches from the previous triangle.  A typical multidirectional scarf looks like this, with the arrows showing the direction of the knitting:


To knit the scarf with intarsia blocks, the essential construction is the same except that at a certain point in the triangle, a new color is added.  This is done by adding the new color at the beginning of the row as part of the increase instructions.  The old color becomes a stripe and the new color is a little triangle inside the overall bigger triangle.  The color changes are the dotted lines on the line drawing.

Untitled2   Untitled3


Start the Multi-Directional scarf according to the directions with your first color.  When you’re sick of that color and before you reach the desired width, change to the next color.  At the beginning of a row, work the increase with the new color.  Bring the old color’s working yarn up from under the new color (to prevent holes) and continue the row with the old color.  The side that has the yarn wrap showing is now the WS.  On the next row, work the old color until you reach the new color; bring the new yarn up from under the old yarn on the WS (you’ll have to bring the working yarn to the front to do this on alternate rows) and work the remaining stitches with the new yarn.  Continue this way until your triangle is as wide as you want.

102_4578   102_4582

Wrong side:


Right side:


Now, you’ve got your base triangle.  Mine looks all wrong because I forgot to increase every row.  But the principle is the same!

Main Triangles

Choose a new color.  This is the stripe part of the larger triangle.  It won’t look like a stripe yet, because of the short rows.  The key is to add the new color when the side of the triangle is as tall as you’d like the stripe.  It can be as short as two rows or as tall as twenty-five, it’s up to you.  Work the instructions in this color until the side is as tall as you’d like, then make the next set of increases in a new color.  Bring the old yarn up from under the new on the WS to prevent holes and continue the row (including decrease) in the old yarn.  Work back with the old yarn until the first stitch of the new yarn, bring the new yarn up from under the old on the WS and continue the row.  Work this way until the triangle is completed.



If you want, you can use more than two colors per triangle.  It can get a little dicey, because every new color in a triangle means another ball of yarn hanging from the back, but if you can handle the tangle, go right ahead!  The principle is the same, work the increases in the new color and switch yarns as you reach them.


Just remember to always twist your yarns on the same side of the scarf for neatness.  And good luck weaving in all those ends… that was not fun!


Random Linkage May 29, 2009

Filed under: Musings — Cailyn @ 2:37 pm
Tags: ,

It’s warm and sunny.  So warm that I’m even thinking about turning on the AC for the first time this year.  Much too warm to be writing a blog post.  So here are some random links to interesting techniques that I’ve found in my wanderings of the World Wide Web.  Enjoy!


Russian Cast Off  Haven’t tried this technique yet, but it looks pretty!


Russian Join Cool way to join some more yarn without tying a knot or weaving in ends.  I like to use this technique with wool when I have to cut the yarn because there’s a knot in the skein.


Knitting Backwards  Easy to master and it makes heel flaps so much easier to knit.


Eclectic or Combo Heel  A combination of a gusset and a short row heel.  I like the way this heel fits better than a straight short row heel.


Double Wrapped Short Rows  Speaking of short row heels…


Afterthought Lifeline May 7, 2009

Filed under: knitting tutorials,Tutorials — Cailyn @ 4:45 pm
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Having ripped back on a number of projects recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about mistakes.  Some mistakes are easy to fix, involving just a single stitch or maybe three or four.  Or there are the mistakes that require you to rip back rows and rows of knitting.  In detailed lace knitting, knitters will thread a lifeline every few rows or every pattern repeat.  A lifeline goes through a specific row of stitches so that when you have to rip back, you know which row you’re on and it’s easy to put the stitches back on the needles. 


Well, most of us usually don’t put in lifelines as we’re knitting.  I sometimes think about it and then am too lazy to do it.  So what I end up using is what I call the afterthought lifeline.  Like an afterthought heel, it’s put in after the fact to save you from pain and heartache.  It’s easiest when done on stockinette stitch, pretty straightforward on ribbing, and can take a little practice with fancier stitches.  I’m not sure what it says about my knitting, but I’m now practiced enough to do an afterthought lifeline pretty well on cables and lace.


Placing an Afterthought Lifeline

You’ll need a tapestry needle and some scrap yarn long enough to go through your project.  The yarn used for this tutorial is Knit Picks CotLin, in Key Lime; the scrap yarn is Patons Grace in Sky.


000_0037   000_0038

This is a swatch of stockinette.  We need to decide which row we’re going to rip back to.  I like to use a spare needle to help me keep track of columns of stitches.


000_0039     Copy of 000_0037

Now I’ve placed the needle at the bottom of the row where I want to put my lifeline.  Remember that a knit stitch forms a V; each V lines up with the one next to it.


000_0040    Copy of 000_0041

Using a tapestry needle threaded with some scrap yarn, pick up the right side of each stitch.  If you pick up the left side of the stitch, the stitches will be twisted when you put them back on the needle.  It can take a little practice to pick out the next stitch in the row without a guide; try practicing this on a spare swatch to get the hang of it.



Yes, I am using the world’s largest tapestry needle.  I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t let me take that thing on a plane- it’s 3 inches long and thicker than my size 1 needles!

 000_0043   000_0045

Once the lifeline is in, take a deep breath, pull the needle out and rip back with gusto.  The lifeline will keep you from ripping back to far.  If you ended up loosing the row and threading some of your lifeline through the row above your chosen row, you can transfer the stitches back to the needles and tink from there.  Or move the lifeline around, or whatever works for your knitting.  Depends on the project and the number of stitches from the wrong row.  Experiment, there’s no wrong answers here.



Put the stitches back on the needle and return joyously or resignedly to your knitting.