The Daily Skein

All the craft that’s fit to make.

Counting Trick December 19, 2008

Filed under: knitting tutorials,Tutorials — Cailyn @ 10:33 am
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This post was supposed to be up yesterday.  I had it almost finished, put my laptop to sleep, and went to bed myself Tuesday night.  Now, this strategy has worked very well in the past.  I wake up, proofread over breakfast, and post.  This time, the rough draft was gone when I woke up.  The darn laptop had restarted overnight and I have to start all over again.  And since yesterday involved more cleaning than a circus after-party (??) I didn’t get a chance to rewrite it.  So here it is.  Finally.


I hate counting rows in knitting.  Well, not quite as much as I used to, since now I can actually do it if I have to.  But I still strongly dislike it.  I have a number of row counters and always keep a post-it note handy to make hash marks in order to keep track of rows.  I imagine this is not uncommon.  But both of those solutions involve putting down one or both needles to count a row.  And I hate to have to do that if I’m working on a small project.  And why should I carry around a row counter when I only need it once or twice and the rest of the pattern I’m fine?


Well, if you’re like me and hate counting rows even though you can do it and you only need to count a few rows at a time, I have found a solution.  It’s not a life-changing epiphany or anything, but I think it’s rather clever.  And it doesn’t even involve putting the needles down.  Unless you drop something.


Say your pattern calls for you to knit five rows (or rounds.)


Knit the first row (or round), then place an extra stitch marker after the first stitch on the right side.  Ta da!  Now if you go to cook dinner, you’ll know that you’ve knit one row/round of the five because there’s one stitch between the marker and the tip of the needle.




Knit the second row/round and move the marker to after the second stitch on the right side.  (This step is slightly easier to do in circular knitting, because you come to the marker before you come to the second stitch.  Knitting flat, it’s handy to have a locking marker for easy moving, or just slip the stitches back and forth on the needle.)  Isn’t this simple?  You can see you’ve knit two row/rounds when you stop to keep your dog from swallowing whatever that is.




Knit the third row/round and move the marker to after the third stitch on the right side.  You’ve got the hang of this now, right?  Just keep going on like this, moving the marker with each row, until you don’t need to count anymore.




Genius, right?


Lifted Increases September 13, 2008

Filed under: knitting tutorials,Tutorials — Cailyn @ 6:25 pm
Tags: , ,

I’ve been knitting as fast as I can on the Aran Tam.  Unfortunately, the bottom of the tam is mostly ribbing and stockinette, which tends to bore me (I’m such the process knitter) and I’ve been kind of slow on it.  The interesting stuff is all on the top.  I thought about changing that in my pattern, but I want this to be traditional, and the ones I found online were all plain on the bottom (as far as I could tell.)  Anyway, I only have two more increase rounds then the fun starts!  I’ve also been working on a pair of mystery mittens, but you’ll have to wait for pictures of those.



Not much to gawk at yet; but soon, soon it will be gorgeous!


So, on to the real purpose of this post.  In my quest to make the Arthurian Anklets easier to understand and knit, I’ve taken some pictures for a tutorial on the lifted increases, called LRinc and LLinc in New Pathways for Sock Knitters.  These are different from an M1 increase.  M1 uses the strand of yarn running between stitches, while the lifted increases use the right or left leg of the stitches in the row below.  Unlike an M1, you can use a lifted increase at the beginning or end of a row.  These increases are nearly invisible, although there will be a tiny hole, about the same or smaller than an M1.  I’m not sure if I like lifted increases more or less than M1s, but I believe in knowing as many ways to do an increase (or anything, really) as I can.

I first saw these increases in Knitter’s Arans and Celtics and the way that they were explained confused me to no end.  Once I figured them out, they were really easy, but I wondered why such awful instructions were used.  Hopefully you won’t have that problem. 🙂  Yarn used is Knit Picks CotLin in Key Lime on size 4 DPNs.


LRinc (Right-Leaning Lifted Increase)


Knit to the point where you need to increase.  See that blue stitch there? (Love Photoshop!)  That is the stitch below the next stitch on the left needle.

100_3687  100_3688

Insert the right needle into the right (closest) leg of that stitch.  Place that loop on the left needle.

100_3690  100_3691

Knit that new loop through the front.  Knit the next stitch on the needle as normal and continue on your way.  The second picture shows what things look like after you’ve knit the new loop but before knitting the next stitch.

  100_3694 - Copy (2) 100_3694 - Copy 

There’ll be a little hole where the increase is, but after a few rows, it’s practically invisible!  But there it is.


LLinc (Left-Leaning Lifted Increase)


Knit to the point where you need to increase.  This time the stitch needed is the second stitch below the stitch just worked on the right needle, shown in orange.  Don’t use the stitch directly below the stitch just worked (blue).  The orange stitch is part of a previous row, just like the stitch used in LRinc; the blue stitch is part of the row you’re currently knitting into, which would make your increases be on different rows and probably look ugly.

100_3675  100_3679  

Insert the right needle into the left (closest) leg of the orange stitch.  Knit into the back of this new loop.  Knit the next stitch on the needle as normal and continue on your way. 

100_3694 - Copy (3) Copy of 100_3694 - Copy  


Ta-da, mirrored increases!  Pretty, huh?

100_3694 Copy of 100_3694


Do the Loop de Loop September 2, 2008

Filed under: knitting tutorials,Tutorials — Cailyn @ 7:43 pm

Hope you had a fun holiday.  We went on a nice long hike yesterday, up to a very pretty alpine lake.  It’s at the base of a mountain that we’re planning on hiking to the top of next weekend.  (Gotta get those last big hikes in before the rains come!  Because then those hikes’ll be covered in mud… then snow!)  No pictures, because, well, sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy the scenery with your eyes instead of through a viewfinder.  But man, I’d love to capture the color of that lake in a yarn or fabric… the light brown by the shore, the teal with the sun sparkles, and the dark blue in the center.  Beautiful.


I’ve also been taking some time and getting used to writing and publishing my posts with Live Writer instead of the WordPress writing-thingy.  I’ve tried out a number of other writers and I actually can’t remember all of them now that I’ve uninstalled them.  So far, I’m really liking Live Writer.  It’s got a number of neat features, like a link glossary for pages I link to a lot and it’s really easy to link to old posts.  Anyway, it’s got its own set of problems, too, which I’m trying to work around, like not center aligning when I tell it to.  The biggest problem I’ve run into so far is pictures.  It’s great not to have to upload every single picture by hand, but if I have to edit an old post, Live Writer uploads all the pictures every time I re-publish.  This sometimes leads to problems with image links and other nastiness.


Long story short, please let me know if there are any broken images or links.  And I hope that I’m not messing up anyone’s RSS feed or anything by having to publish posts multiple times to make sure the images are right.


That taken care of, let’s get to the interesting part of the post.  I’m starting to get into a real glove/mitten groove with the air starting to get a little nippy. (My hands are always cold).  A friend of mine a while ago was making the Queen of Diamond Gloves from Knit Picks, which I made 3 pairs of last year. (I think that’s the most times I’ve ever knitted the same pattern, although I did change the cuff for each…) She asked me to explain the Backwards Loop Cast On (BLCO) to her when she got to the part to divide the thumb.  So I demonstrated… Turns out this was how she casts on all her projects, she just didn’t recognize the name!  And I started to wonder if other people were confused about this.


This was the cast on I was taught as a kid.  I remember it was my favorite part of knitting back then; I was crazy fast at it.  It’s a very easy cast on to do, but it’s hell to knit.  Because it’s just a series of loops, the tension gets all off.  As you work a loop, it gets pretty loose, but then the next one is very tight.  It can become almost unworkable in long cast ons.  It’s not stretchy and gives a rather messy edge for large things, like socks, sleeves, and certainly sweaters.  I use the BLCO for casting on over gaps in thumbs/fingers for gloves and that’s about it.  I’ve heard that it’s a great cast on for lace, because it blends in perfectly.


In case you haven’t seen or heard of this cast on before, and you’re working on some gloves (hopefully the Snowflake or Albuquerque gloves, hehe) here’s a picture tutorial for you.  There are lots of ways to do this cast on (video, Knitty, Knitting Daily), this is just the way I learned.  This is different from “looping on;” in BLCO, the stitches are cast on twisted to make them a little more stable (but not much!)

Backwards Loop Cast On


If you’re casting on for a project, make a slip knot about 6″ in from the end of the yarn.  If you’re casting on in the middle of a round for fingers/thumbs/buttonholes, skip the slip knot step.


Wrap the yarn around your thumb (I prefer left thumb) from the backside to the palmside or counterclockwise if you prefer. (I know that first picture has more sts on it than it’s supposed to).  Bring the needle in front/over the yarn coming from your thumb.  This makes a loop where the working yarn goes around your thumb and under the yarn on the needle.

100_3450 100_3452

Insert the needle up through the loop you just made.  Drop the loop off your thumb and tighten gently on the needle.  I suggest keeping it fairly loose.


Repeat as needed.  You don’t have to do this cast on at the base of your thumb, or with your thumb at all; I’ve seen people do it with their index or middle fingers. I personally do this cast on at the tip of my thumb.  Remember that the cast on stitches are twisted; I like to knit them through the front loop on the next row.  I think it tightens things up better.



Vikkel Braid August 23, 2008

Filed under: knitting tutorials,Tutorials — Cailyn @ 9:48 pm

This was supposed to be up much sooner this week, but we’ve had some Internet problems and been pretty busy.  Anyway.  Enough about me, on to the braid!

Edit 8/20/08: I can’t believe I didn’t actually link this back to the project it’s used in!  The vikkel braid is used in the Arthurian Anklets.  And probably other projects in the future.

I first learned about the vikkel braid in Nancy Bush’s Folk Knitting in Estonia.  This is a great book if you’re interested in historical/traditional knitting.  She has instructions for 3 different braids in the book; all make the stitches look like they’ve tipped over onto their sides, but all made very differently.  According to the book, vikkel is the word for stitches that cross over each other, which is just how this braid is worked.  This braid looks so nice on socks and mittens and it’s sure to bring questions of “How did you do that?!”  As you’ll see, it’s pretty easy to get such adulation.


Step 1: Increase 1 stitch using an M1 increase. 

Step 2: Place the stitch just made back onto the left needle. 

Step 3: Bring the right needle behind the left needle, knit the second stitch on the left needle through the back loop,

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then knit the first stitch on the left needle through the front as normal. (Getting the right needle around the left needle tip smoothly takes a little practice, but you’ll get the hang of it.)  Drop both the first and second stitch off the left needle.

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Repeat Steps 2-3 until the end of the round, rearranging stitches as needed.  Give the working yarn a good pull right before slipping the stitches off the needle to keep the tension right.


At the end of the round, slip the last stitch over the first stitch of the round to get back to the original stitch count.



See, I told you it was pretty easy.  Now, go forth and vikkel!


Ties that Bind 2 August 13, 2008

Filed under: Knitting Projects,Musings — Cailyn @ 3:47 pm
Tags: , ,

The Knitting Gods were not appeased. But that’s ok. See what I care. I’ll finish those socks even if they send a dragon to stop me! (Please don’t send a dragon!)

I think I’ve opened a dangerous door with that cast off experiment the other day. There are so many, many different ways to cast off… I wish I had time to test them all! While I’m sure that EZ’s Sewn Bind Off will forever remain the stretchiest cast off, sometimes it’s just not right for the piece you’re working on. Or the actual sewing drives you nuts. Or, like me, you keep loosing your tapestry needle. Thus, I present to you

A Study In Stretching, Continued

Same deal as before, all swatches knit with Knit Picks Memories (discontinued) on Size 2 needles. They’re 20 sts wide and 11 rows tall, cast on using the long tail method. I pinned the swatches down unstretched and measured the width. Then I stretched the swatches as far as they’d go, pinned them down again, and remeasured. This article in Knitty has detailed tutorials for two of these cast offs; I might make a tutorial for the third.

Suspended Cast Off

Suspended Cast Off

This is one of the cast offs from Knitty. I really liked knitting this one- it has a nice rhythm to it. It’s done by knitting 2 stitches, passing the first over the second, but don’t drop it off the left needle. Then knit the next stitch, going around the slipped stitch. Drop both stitches off the needle and repeat. It looks really pretty, just like a regular cast off.

Suspended Cast Off, Stretched

Suspended Cast Off, Stretched

And it’s fairly stretchy. I think this one has potential as a sock cast off, especially if done in with the next size up needle. Further research will be required on this specimen.

Crochet Cast Off

Crochet Cast Off

As you can see, this yields a cast off edge identical to the suspended cast off. (So identical, in fact, that I almost mixed them up… multiple times.) This one requires a crochet hook in a similar size to your knitting needles. Which can be a problem if you either don’t have a lot of crochet hooks or if you can’t ever find them. The crochet cast off is essentially the same as a normal cast off, but using the crochet hook instead of the right needle and drawing the new stitch through the old one instead of passing it over.

Crochet Cast Off, Stretched

Crochet Cast Off, Stretched

Good, but not great. A little stretchier than a regular cast off, but not as stretchy as the suspended or sewn. I think the annoyance of having to find a hook in the right size puts this cast off far down on my list.

Zig Zag Cast Off

Zig Zag Cast Off

This is a very intriguing cast off. I read about it on Weebleknits and it originally came from Ask Athena from Knitter’s, I think. That site has a lot of cast offs that will need to be tried… someday, lol. This is worked with a combo of slipping stitches, k2togs, p2togs, and passing the slipped stitches over. This creates an interesting zig-zag look to the cast off edge which I think will look better on some 2×2 ribbing instead of stockinette.

Zig Zag Cast Off, Stretched

Zig Zag Cast Off, Stretched

Oh boy, does that stretch! Not as much as EZ’s Sewn Cast Off, but really, that’s like comparing any other swimmer to Michael Phelps. EZ and Phelps are just in a different league. This cast off has the clear advantage of being worked right on the needles, no sewing required. I think this could work out really well for socks or mittens, especially if you want a unique edge. I’ll be making a tutorial soon, because this one might be hard to understand from the written descriptions.

There are so many more cast offs to try… tubular, double knitting, increasing stitches… I can only do a few at a time before I start to hate making those swatches, so this might have to be a recurring topic to cover more of them. We’ll call it… Casting Off with Cailyn or Bind Off to Success! or The Evening Stretchfest. Something like that.


Ties that Bind August 11, 2008

Filed under: Knitting Projects,Musings — Cailyn @ 4:08 pm
Tags: , ,

Apparently the Knitting Gods heard my foolish statement last week, declaring that I find color work relaxing and fun. They were very, very tricky. They waited, silently lurking, until I was done with the increases. Then the heel was completed… Cautiously, I tried them on, knowing that this was a tricky part. They fit! Amazing. It was clear sailing from there on, right? Just some color work on the cuff and then the bind off. WHAM! The Knitting Gods looked down upon my confidence and it did not please them. The cuff wouldn’t go over my foot. Rip back, try again with bigger needles. Mess up the color work pattern. Rip back, try again. Now too loose around ankle. Rip back, work some 1×1 ribbing, work cuff. 1×1 ribbing totally useless, looks ugly. Oh well, I can ignore that. *Mess up color work again, rip back again.* Repeat from * to * for half a day. Finish cuff. Cast off, very loosely with bigger needles, using a regular cast off for a clean look. Haha, what was I thinking? Rip cast off out and replace with Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Sewn Cast Off. Now start all over again for second sock, being very careful not to anger knitting gods. Maybe they would like a sacrifice of some purple cashmere….

When I first learned to knit, I loved it. But then I quit and didn’t pick it up again for 10 years, proclaiming to the world that knitting was no fun. One of the reasons I quit was because no one taught me how to cast off. Or at least, I didn’t remember how if they had showed me. I tried a number of things, but finally settled on just cutting the working yarn, running it through the live stitches and tying it off. Not very pretty, but all I was making was garter stitch blankets for my dolls, so it worked.

Nowadays, I’m an intensely curious person. I collect knitting (and other crafting) techniques like other people collect stamps or DVDs. I bought Folk Socks, not because of the patterns, but for the great collection of heels and toes in the beginning. I love learning new cast ons, new ways to purl, new ways to wrap short rows… And, obviously, new ways to cast off.

There are already a ton of great tutorials and videos online on different cast off methods. My favorite is this collection of cast offs from Knitty. But what does “stretchy” mean, really? Is a particular bind off actually stretchy or just looser? Time to get all Mythbusters on this problem! Here are my results:

A Study in Stretching

These swatches are all made with Knit Picks Memories (discontinued) on Size 2 needles. They’re 20 sts wide and 11 rows long, cast on using the long tail method. I pinned the swatches down unstretched and measured the width. Then I stretched the swatches as far as they’d go, pinned them down again, and remeasured. This article in Knitty has detailed tutorials for all three of these cast offs.

Standard Cast Off

Standard Cast Off

This first swatch is cast off in the normal method (knit 2, slip first stitch over second and off needle, and so forth) with a normal tension. (Normal for me, anyway. I tried not to make it too loose or too tight.)

Standard Cast Off, Stretched

Standard Cast Off, Stretched

The cast on edge stretched a whole inch, but as you can see by the trapezoid shape, the cast off edge hardly stretched at all. The standard cast off gives a pretty, firm edge, but isn’t great for anything that needs to stretch (i.e, a sock or mitten cuff).

Decrease Cast Off, Unstretched

Decrease Cast Off

This one is one that I hadn’t tried before this experiment. It’s supposed to be more “flexible” than the standard method. It’s called a decrease cast off, and is done by k2tog, slipping the stitch back to the left needle, and then k2tog again, to the end. There are many ways to do this one, including k2tog tbl and p2tog and a combo approach. I used the k2tog method, but I think the k2tog tbl is prettier.

Decrease Cast Off, Stretched

Decrease Cast Off, Stretched

As you can see, we’ve still got a trapezoid, meaning that the cast off isn’t as stretchy as the cast on. But, the sides don’t lean in at quite the same sharp angle as before. This cast off isn’t really stretchy, but it is a bit looser. Still not great for socks, though.

Sewn Cast Off, Unstretched

Sewn Cast Off

The famous Elizabeth Zimmerman’s equally famous sewn cast off. I stayed away from this one for a while, because you have to cut the yarn before you bind off, thus guaranteeing that you’ll run out of yarn or have yards extra when you’re done. Kind of like the long-tail cast on problem. (I hate wasting yarn like that. I’ve been known to cast on 5 or more times just to get the exact tail-length I want.) Cat Bordhi recommends cutting 10x the length you need, but I’ve found that’s way too much. The Knitty recommendation of 3x works 90% of the time, depending on the whims of the Knitting Gods. The edge looks kind of like a row of purl bumps. Here’s how to do it in a nutshell: cut the yarn 3x the length needed, thread onto a tapestry needle, slide the tapestry needle through the first two stitches as if to purl, pull the yarn through, then slide the tapestry needle through the first stitch again knitwise, pull yarn through and slip the first stitch off the knitting needle. Repeat around.

Sewn Cast Off, Stretched

Sewn Cast Off, Stretched

The cast off edge stretched just as far as the cast on edge. Actually, it stretched a little further. This cast off is so stretchy, it’s unbelievable! I’m really not sure why I don’t use it for all my socks. It’s not quite as convenient as a normal cast off, what with the cutting and sewing, but it’s really worth it. I’m even starting to like the unusual look of the edge.

There are many more cast offs out there (I didn’t even cover all the ones in Knitty!) and this was a fun experiment. Maybe there will be more scientific stretching in the future!


Twist and Shout July 24, 2008

Filed under: knitting tutorials,Tutorials — Cailyn @ 11:54 am
Tags: ,

As promised, a tutorial on twisting stitches without a cable needle. This is my favorite way to do twisted stitches, but there are others. The other method that I’m familiar with is to use a combo of k2tog and then knitting into one of the stitches again. That just seemed too… let’s say “annoying” when there were going to be a lot of purl stitches to deal with. The following method is used by Nancy Bush in Folk Socks for her Chalet Socks and by Eunny Jang for her Bayerische Socks (both of which were inspiration for the Danubes.) I do my twists so that the loose stitch is always at the front of the work (I think it’s easier to pick them back up) but Eunny does her left twists slightly differently.

Like I said before, twisting stitches is very similar to cabling without a cable needle, so if you’ve done that before, this will be a piece of cake. (Here’s a different tutorial from Wendy.) If not, I suggest getting some chocolate and maybe some relaxing music- the first few times you do this it can be a mite stressful. 😉 I used some kitchen cotton in the pictures- don’t use that to practice! Use a nice wool, something that sticks to itself pretty well and doesn’t split a lot. (In other words, acrylic is not recommended.)

Twisting Stitches for Austrian/Bavarian Patterns

Left Twist

From the back of the work, insert the right needle into the back of the second stitch on the left needle.

Take a deep breath and pull the left needle out of the two stitches. The first stitch will be hanging free. Don’t worry, it’s not going anywhere.

Reinsert the left needle into the loose stitch. (Ah, safe again!) Slip the stitch on the right needle back to the left needle. Now you can knit both stitches tbl or purl 1, knit 1 tbl as the pattern demands. (Here’s a tip for the Left Purl Twists, because the stitches can get tight: Before twisting the stitches, bring the yarn to the front; when you slip the right stitch back to the left needle, don’t pull the right needle out, just purl from there. No pictures of that right now, sorry.)

Right Twist

Slip the next two stitches purlwise to the right needle.

From the back, insert the left needle into the back of the first slipped stitch.

Another deep breath and… Pull the right needle out of both stitches. The second stitch is waving in the breeze. Reinsert the right needle into the loose stitch (you can breathe again now)

… and slip the stitch back to the left needle. Now, knit two tbl or knit 1tbl, purl 1 as the pattern dictates.

(Another tip, which works for both right and left twists: If the first stitch is a knit, don’t pull the right needle out after slipping the stitch back to the left; rotate the needle to the back of the stitch and knit it tbl like normal.)