It won’t surprise you at all that we have customers come in every day asking for help with their knitting. We love to oblige. But there are a few common, one might even say universal rookie mistakes that it’s so easy to avoid, once you know what to look for.
#1 The Accidental Yarn Over:
When you knit a stitch, your yarn travels from the back of your work, around the back of the back needle, and naturally falls to the back.
When you purl a stitch, your yarn travels from the front of the stitch, around the front of the front needle and naturally falls to the front.
If your yarn starts in front of your work when you knit, an extra loop of yarn gets wrapped around your needle. This extra loop is not anchored at the bottom to the row that came before. It will increase your stitch count by one and leave a hole underneath it. (NOTE: this extra loop is also called a yarn over and is the essential component of lace where you want the holes!)
The most common time for these yarn overs to appear is when you set your knitting down or put it in your project bag. The working yarn can easily slip from one side of your work to the other and never cause a problem. Then when you pick your work back up again, you don’t realize that the yarn is on the opposite side from where you want it and knit blithely on, only noticing rows and rows on that you have a hole and too many stitches.
To Fix It: To avoid adding stitches and holes when you didn’t want them, just make sure that the yarn is in back when you are forming a knit stitch, or in the front when you are forming a purl stitch.
#2 The Accidental Short Row: If you stop knitting in the middle of a row, turn your work around and go back across the partial row you just knitted you have worked what we call a Short Row. It makes the stitches you just worked two rows further on than the stitches you didn’t finish.
Like the yarn over, it will leave a small hole though the yarn over hole will be round-ish and the short row hole will be more like a vertical slit. (NOTE: short rows are an essential component of sock heels and bust shaping where you want some parts of your knitting to be taller than others!)
The most common time for these short rows to appear is also when you set your work down in the middle of a row. To avoid making these accidental short rows, always look at your work when you pick it up. Find the working yarn and follow it toward your needles and find the stitch it is leading straight to. This is the last stitch you worked.
To Fix It: Put the last stitch you worked, and the needle it is riding on, in your right hand and proceed to knit as you always do, confident that you are going the right way!
#3 The Backwards Stitch Mount: If you look closely at a knit stitch when it’s lying flat, you will see it has two legs. When a stitch is on the needle, it is turned in profile and the right leg is closest to you and you knit into it from front to back. But some times you can see or feel that there is something just…well, weird and funky about a stitch. It might feel too tight when you begin to knit it. If you look closely at it, you can see that it is riding on your needle with its left leg closest to you.
Sometimes this happens when you are picking up stitches that have slipped off you needle. Sometime it can happen if you wrap your yarn around your needle in a clockwise rather than counter-clockwise motion. Either way, there is nothing to worry about.
To Fix It: Simply slip the stitch off the needle and put it back on so the right leg is closest to you. Or, better yet, just knit it through the right leg even if the right leg is in the back.
These are the simplest ways to avoid rookie mistakes and really start to be the boss of your knitting!
I know you’ve had the experience. We all have. You have a pattern that calls for a certain yarn and lists the amount in grams. But what if you want to make a yarn substitution? How much of the new yarn do you need? Or you have a bunch of yarn you’ve lost the ball band for and have no idea what the yardage is? Yup. I’m pretty sure you’ve been there, too. So how do you know how much you have, or what you can do with it?
The trouble with yarn weights is that you have to know the size of the yarn (lace, sport, DK, worsted, etc) in order to understand how many yards you have. The spinning process involves stretching the fibers out to a specific thickness which correlates to a specific length, as well. That thickness…or thinness…will determine how long you have to tease out the fibers. If you take 100 gm raw fiber and spin in into a super-super chunky blob of yarn that gets 1/2 stitch to the inch, you won’t get anywhere near the same yardage as you will get if you pull it thin, thin, thin to a super-fine lace weight. Same 100 gm, very different yardage. So how will you figure out the yardage based on the weight?
The first thing you want to know is the gauge of the yarn your pattern calls for. Stitches per inch or stitches per four inches should be written in your pattern along with a recommended needle size, and should also be on the new ball band. Recommended needle sizes are pretty standard for most things. Yes, I know that there are some designers who like to play with out-side-the-box gauges. Still, the majority of the time, there are some standards. Knowing the recommended needle size and gauge will help to identify the size of your yarn. The ball band will also tell you the weight of your yarn. If it matches your pattern, voila! You’re done. If it doesn’t, read on.
If you have no ball band, you’ll have to get a little bit craftier. A while back, in our newsletter, we gave you a WPI (wraps per inch) chart that gives you a pretty good idea of the gauge of you yarn.
In case you didn’t print it out and save it, here it is again. (Or you can read the whole article on how to check your WIP in the newsletter, here. Scroll all the way to the bottom and read the Yarn School segment.)
After you check your wraps per inch and have a pretty good idea about what size yarn you’re talking about, you will want to weigh it. If the weight matches your pattern, you have a pretty good idea that you can make the substitution. If not…well…
Since you’ve figured out the thickness, or thinness if you prefer, of your yarn based on either the ball band or the WPI chart, you just need to know what the standards are for yardage of that weight for that size, right? Here you go.
You can print these charts and keep them in your knitting library and never be in doubt again.
Solid — You’ve heard the old phrase, “dyed in the wool,” right? Well this is what they’re talking about. Solid colors are exactly what they sound like; color is consistent throughout every fiber. Every nook, every cranny every individual strand is saturated with dye until it’s all uniformly colored. This kind of color can be achieved by dying the fleece before processing so the color is consistent before it is even spun. It is dyed in the wool red…or blue, or orange…and won’t surprise you. It can also be achieved by making certain dye penetrates evenly throughout a skein despite density or twist. No matter what you do to it, you’ll only see uniform color throughout.
Kettle Dyed — Once upon a time, all dyeing was done in small kettles at home. The dyers were chemists, but did not have tools or dye stuffs as sophisticated or precise as we have available today. If the pH or temperature of the water, the age or potency of the dye materials, the precise measurement of the mordants, the average microns of the fiber or twist ration of yarn, or the rate of manual stirring during the process varied even a little bit, the saturation of dye into the fiber could be subtly different from one batch to another, or even within a single batch or skein. When all dying was done by hand, the skill of the dyer was judged by the consistency of the colors they were able to produce. Even small variations in color within a batch of dyed fiber or cloth were marks of lack of skill or carelessness. Now-a-days, there are still small batch dyers who do their work in small kettles. Some of them are extremely skilled and can created clear, consistent, uniform colors when they choose. But subtle variations in color saturation, which once meant lesser skill at dying, have come be a mark of individual artistry. Rather than prizing the clear consistency of skilled hand dyers or large commercial operations, we consumers have come to admire and prefer the variations. Which is why large commercial operations, as well as skilled dyers, have learned to mimic the subtle variation of small batch dyers.
Heathered — You know that if you mix red paint with blue paint you’ll get purple paint. Red and blue make purple. Red and yellow make orange, and yellow and blue make green. In pigments, like paint or dyes, red, blue and yellow are called the primary colors, and purple, green and orange are called the secondary colors. But if you take two or more different colors of fiber and card them together, the colors don’t mix in a chemical way. If you look closely at the resultant yarn, you can see individual fibers that retain their original color. The color with the most fibers will be dominant, but the color or colors in smaller amount will still be present and give an overall effect of a subtly richer color. This is heathering.
Marled — Like heathered yarns, marled yarns rely on mixing two or more colors for their effect. Where heathered yarns are two or more colors combed together, marled yarns are two or more solid colors spun individually and plied together. Think of it like the swirled stripe on a candy cane or barber pole. The result when marled yarns are knit or crocheted is an all-over speckle. Ragg Wool Socks and Sock Monkeys are examples or fabric knit with marled yarns. (perhaps because sock monkeys were originally made from ragg wool socks?) Most marled yarn have two colors spun together, but there is no real limit to the number of colors, or plies for that matter, that you could include. The colors that are spun together, while they don’t actually mix, will reflect each other and subtly change the over all effect. It can get even more complicated if the strands are kettle dyed or heathered before being spun together. A finely spun rich, dark forest green spun with a deep merlot maroon will give an overall affect of soft warm brown even though, when you look closely, there’s no brown in it.
Tweed — Tweed is a term we sometimes apply to anything with a somewhat speckled appearance, but real tweed has a structure and effect all its own. Tween is made when small bits of a contrasting color are spun into the surface of yarn. The small bits are called neps or noils and are usually pulled out and discarded either during carding or spinning. They are purposefully added to tweed yarns to give the flecks of color. While the effect of Marled yarns is an all-over speckle that gives a blended color appearance, tweed has a sparser proportion of random flecks that give the appearance of a predominant color with small highlights here and there.
Variegated — Yarns that have more than one color. Normally, in large commercial dying operations, yarn is run through a machine that applies dye in precise patterns repeated in sequence. There are no limits to how many colors you can include, and no hard and fast rules on how long each color segment or the repeat will be. Noro is a variegated yarn with really long color segments and may only have one or two repetitions of the sequence per skein. This is what gives the striping effect. Many so called baby yarns have short color segments and the sequence repeats many time within each skein. This gives the random appearance of colors in a traditional variegated yarn.
Space Dyed — When hand dyers set about to make skein with more than one color, they lay our the yarn in an oval and apply dye to specific areas of the oval. Or, they dip separate segments of each skein in different dye baths. While this makes space dyed yarns technically a type of variegated color, the main difference is in how the sequence is established and the length of each color segment. The yarns we are used to calling variegated usually have short color segments in a repeating sequence, while space dyed yarns have larger color segments, possibly repeated out of sequence…which creates just a different kind of sequence. It’s a small distinction and not an altogether reliable one as large commercial dye houses can easily reset their machines to create sequences the mimic small batch artisanal space dyed yarns, and small batch artisans can space dye in such a way that they make linear color sequences. Space dyed is one of those terms, like kettle dyed, that gives the impression of individual artistry which we have come to prize over commercial mass production.
Tonal — Any variegated yarn that uses two or more values of the same color. A yarn that incorporates cornflower blue, robins egg, blue and periwinkle, or burgundy, maroon and merlot, or forest green, avacado green and olive green are tonals.
Hand Painted — This term once meant that individual artists actually applied dyes by hand to specific lengths of yarn within a skein according to a personal aesthetic. The colors might be laid on in sequences and repeats. They might be applied only to part of a skein with other colors or no color at all in another part. Hand paint is another term, like kettle dyed and space dyed that implies individual artistry and rarity. But it ain’t necessarily so. The term has come to be applied to many variegated yarns that have a sophisticated, contemporary color palette whether they were actually painted by hand or not.
Striping — A variegated yarn that makes stripes when you knit it. The length of each color segment is calculated to make a predictable number of stitches. As long as the width or circumference of each knit row is within the calculated range, the stitches of each color stack up on each other and make a stripe. Then the color changes and a new stripe just come along without the knitter having to do anything to make it so.