Yarnless Bind Off: Normal and Stretchy

I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog talking about how to cast on or start a piece of knitting, but so far, I’ve only described two ways to bind off. That’s because I have fewer bind-offs in my bag of tricks. Nevertheless, I have a couple more to post.

One of my favorites is called the yarnless bind off. It’s yarnless in the sense that you use the yarn that is already on the needles, not the working yarn that’s hanging from the beginning of the row or round. It’s also the technique that all knitters discover eventually, but never admit to, because they think they’re committing some knitterly infraction.

Yarnless Bind Off (Normal)

The yarnless bind off is useful when you know or suspect you don’t have enough yarn to bind off in the usual way. Here’s how it works:

1. Find your starting point.
a. When you’re knitting flat, start at the end farthest from the working yarn. If you’re using circular needles, hold the tip nearest the end of the round in your left hand. If you’re using single-point needles, first slip all the stitches to another needle, so the working yarn is closest to the button; then put that needle in your left hand.
b. When you’re working in the round, do a little prep work. First, slip the first stitch of the round to the right needle. Then bring the working yarn between the needles, to the front if you’re knitting or to the back if you’re purling, and drop the working yarn. Finally, return the slipped stitch to the left needle.
2. Slip two stittches to the right needle.
3. Pass the second stitch over the first stitch. This means that you use the tip of the left needle to pickup the second stitch (the one farthest from the tip of the right needle), lift it over the first stitch (which is closest to the tip), and let it drop off the needle altogether. Only one stitch remains.
4. Slip one stitch to the right needle.
5. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 until one stitch remains. The remaining stitch is on the right needle and has the working yarn at the base.
6. Draw the working yarn through that last stitch and pull the tail to close the loop.

Yarnless Bind Off (Stretchy)

The stretchy yarnless bind off is useful when you need the bind off edge to be especially loose, like when you’re making a hat that starts at the crown, socks that start at the toes, or gloves or mittens that start at the fingertips. It’s also a great way for tight knitters to loosen things up. It’s a two-part process. Part 1 (Step 1 below) sets up the bind off, and Part 2 (Steps 2 through 9 below) actually bind off. Here’s how it works:

1. On the last row/round of the project, work 1 st as directed, * yo, work 2 sts as directed; rep from * until no sts rem. The last yo may be followed by one or two stitches. If working the yarn overs into the existing pattern feels overwhelming, simply knit or purl across the entire row or round with the yarn overs (e.g., [K1, * yo, k2 *] or [P1, * yo, p2 *]).
2. Find your starting point.
a. When you’re knitting flat, start at the end farthest from the working yarn. If you’re using circular needles, hold the tip nearest the end of the round in your left hand. If you’re using single-point needles, first slip all the stitches to another needle, so the working yarn is closest to the button; then put that needle in your left hand.
b. When you’re working in the round, do a little prep work. First, slip the first stitch of the round to the right needle. Then bring the working yarn between the needles, to the front if you’re knitting or to the back if you’re purling, and drop the working yarn. Finally, return the slipped stitch to the left needle.
3. Slip one stitch to the right needle, drop the yarn over off the left needle, and slip another stitch to the right needle. There are two big floppy stitches on the right needle.
4. Pass the second stitch over the first stitch. This means that you use the tip of the left needle to pickup the second stitch (the one farthest from the tip of the right needle), lift it over the first stitch (which is closest to the tip), and let it drop off the needle altogether. Only one stitch remains.
5. Slip one stitch to the right needle. There are now two stitches on the right needle.
6. Repeat Step 4 to pass the second stitch over the first.
7. Drop the Yarn over off the left needle and slip the next stitch to the right needle, repeating Step 4 again.
8. Continue as established, working the normal yarnless bind off except that you’re dropping all yarn-overs as you come to them.
9. When only one stitch remains, draw the working yarn through that last stitch and pull the tail to close the loop.

All of this sounds a lot harder than it is. For the yarnless bind off, you’re really just slipping stitches from one needle to the other and passing each stitch over its neighbor, and for the stretchy version, you add lots of yarn overs to the last row so that, when it’s time to start slipping stitches and passing them over their neighbors, you can drop the yarn overs making the stitches extra big.

Interchangeable Needle Sets

I’ve been hearing about the Knitter’s Pride interchangeable needles for a few months now. I’ve also heard about a few other sets recently. I don’t think they are all new but the only ones I knew about when I started knitting were Knitpicks and Denise so I thought I would spend some time and do a review of some different sets. But, alas, another blogger has gotten to it before me. No surprise there but here is the link to her post listing all the different sets. There are definitely more than I thought.

 

The Knitluck Guide to Interchangeable needles

 

I’ll give a couple of thoughts on the two sets I have. The first set I acquired was the Knitpicks Harmony needles. I love these but it helps to have a tube of super glue around. Maybe it’s just that I’m hard on needles but I’m pretty sure they have all been super glued back to the metal joining at least once over the years. I’ve had my set for about 4 1/2 years. The cables did start coming apart and this is a little harder to fix. I chalked that one up to them being old so I just replaced them and the new ones are fine. It was pretty irritating when I dropped a lot of stitches because my cables broke though. Knitpicks is really good about sending you replacements if anything is wrong.]

I also have one set of the nickel plated tips. I love the way stitches just glide on the needles. I’m seriously considering a set of metal interchangeables. When I was a beginner knitter the metal needles were a little harder to manage but now I think the knitting goes faster with these.

I am not an acrylic fan. A lot of people love them but I’m just not one of them. I have a couple of Knitpicks Zephyr tips. They are fine for acrylic and the price is one of the best selling points.

I also have the Denise interchangeable needles. I really liked these for a while but the longer I knit, it seems I like the acrylic needles less and less. The Denise set has fatter cables which can make it harder to maneuver your work. They also come apart easy if the cable gets worn out. Also the flexibility of the acrylic sets has started to hurt my hands a little.

One important thing to note is that I’m a tight knitter. This makes the drag on acrylic needles much worse. If you are a loose knitter it might not bother you as much.

That’s all the ones I’ve tried for now. I’ll just have to decide which metal set I want. I have a feeling I’ll be sticking with Knitpicks but its fun to shop around. Also the metal tips are one solid piece so I don’t think I can break them.

 

So, go check out Knitluck’s wonderful guide to interchangeables. I found her articles very helpful and I hope you do too.

Cardigan Fever

I finished the Mr. Greenjeans Cardigan last week. While I was trying it on I realized that in five years of knitting, this was the first sweater that I have made for myself that I’m actually going to wear. This makes me really happy. This sweater is a top down raglan with a cable and rib section on the body and on the sleeves. I think it will be a great casual sweater to wear with jeans.

. I made this same sweater a few years ago out of an acrylic yarn. I wasn’t happy with the button band and the whole sweater needed serious blocking. In my beginner state I didn’t know that acrylic is basically impossible to block. This time I used Boroco Ultra Alpaca. It’s 50% wool and 50% alpaca. It has a much better drape than the acrylic sweater had. I also used a larger needle for the cable and rib section instead of the smaller needle it called for. It just didn’t make sense to me that I should use a smaller needle that would necessitate more blocking when I could use the larger needle and do less blocking. Now I’m just hoping for some cooler evenings so I can actually wear this cardigan before this fall.

I immediately cast on another cardigan. I was so pleased with the first one that I thought I would try another one and see how it went. This time I chose the Sitcom Chic Cardigan. It’s mostly stockinet with a garter and eyelet strip around the yoke. It has ¾ length sleeves and one button at the center of your chest. It was a fairly simple knit and worked up pretty quickly. I had a lot of knitting time last week since I skipped all the housework and knit instead. It’s just too bad I can’t get away with that every week. I’m done with all the knitting for this cardigan. I just have to do the finishing work and I’ll have a cute little cardigan to wear over summer dresses. It should be a little cooler than the other since it’s made out of a 75% cotton and 25% acrylic yarn.

 

Ana and Crystal are on Viewpoints!

Ana and I did an interview for the Viewpoints Podcast. We talk about knitting with visual impairments and share some tips and advice for other blind and low vision knitters.

 

Please check it out:  ViewPoints 1214 4-4-12 Knitting for the Visually Impaired

 

Also, check out  ViewPoints

A weekly, half hour radio program for people living with low vision

Find out more about the show and get links to the podcasts at:

www.ViewPointsPlus.net

 

The Right Decrease: Knitting Two Together

When I was five, my mom taught me to knit. Literally. She cast on the stitches, and I knit them. After a few rows of crinkly garter, we moved on to purling. A sweater, after all, requires the ability to make smooth stockinet for the body and corrugated ribbing for cuffs and edges. I think the next lesson was binding off, and the last was the long-tail cast on. Great! Barbie and all my other dollies were happily stocked with blankets, scarves, washcloths, pillows, and more blankets, scarves, washcloths, and pillows. What else can a girl imagine squares and rectangles into?

Eventually, my mom taught me to decrease, turn two stitches into one. That was magical because I had been given the power to make the fabric change shape. For example, if I cast on a bunch of stitches and decreased at the beginning of every row, I made a triangle, which was like the shawls grown women I knew wore, or if I cast on a bunch of stitches, worked a few rows even, then decreased all the way across the row before working a few more rows even, I would create a ruffle. New and exciting things were possible, and the decrease was my first major step into non-rudimentary knitting.

The simplest decrease is called “knit two together.” The way it’s abbreviated in knitting patterns is “k2tog” or “k2 tog.” Technically it slants to the right. This is important when you’re making lace or when you want the decreases to line up, but when you’re starting out, it’s a great all-purpose decrease.

How does it work?

Normally, when I knit, I have the thumb of my left hand resting lightly on the needle between the first and second stitches. Before a decrease, I move my thumb so that it’s resting lightly between the second and third stitches.

For the knit two together decrease, I do exactly what I do for the knit stitch, only instead of inserting the needle into one stitch, I insert it into two. I start by placing the tip of the right needle where my left thumb is. I push the tip through the second, then the first stitch on the left needle, scoop or wrap the yarn exactly as I do when knitting a single stitch, then draw the right needle back through both stitches, dropping them off the left needle when I’m done.

It feels a little awkward the first time or two, and it’s one of those things that your hands just get, so it’s best not to think too much about what you’re doing or what you’re going to do. It’s best to imagine all the things that you’ll be making.

Sweet Tomato Heel

I love knitting socks. Whenever I grab a pair of skinny circs and a hundred grams of equally skinny yarn, I get fizzy and tingly, and all thoughts of chocolate and earthly delights leave my brain.

So imagine the biological upheaval that took place when I discovered that Cat Bordhi developed a new heel technique last summer, which she calls the sweet tomato. It produces a smooth, round heel without holes and other weirdness, and it’s one of those things that works right the first time. The heel uses short rows, but there’s no wrapping or picking up stitches, and once you practice it on medium weight yarn, you will understand what to do when working with the skinny stuff.

After you learn to do it, you can purchase her ebook for patterns. The book is a pdf file, which you can save as text, and it includes both text and charted instructions.

The Sweet Tomato Heel Explained

Bordhi describes her technique for the sweet tomato heel in a YouTube video. Her directions are easy to follow until, of course, the crucial step—hence this tutorial.

For our purposes, let’s say you’re making a slipper sock with medium weight yarn and 4 or 4.5 mm needles (i.e., worsted weight yarn and size 6 or 7needles). Because you like your slippers roomy, you’ll make them 36 stitches around, and because you’re a great planner, your math will be simple and your yarn will be big enough for you to identify things without too much trouble.

1. Start your slipper sock in the usual way. You can work cuff-down or toe-up. It doesn’t matter. Just do what you do until you’re ready to work the heel. (For this example, remember your slipper is 36 stitches around.)
2. For the heel, you will use two thirds of the stitches (24 of the 36), so separate the heel stitches from the instep stitches. You can use a pair of markers to let you know where the heel stitches begin and end, or you can put the instep stitches on one needle and the heel stitches on a different circ or on two dpn’s.
3. Knit across all (24) heel stitches, and stop.
4. Turn the work, slip one stitch, and purl across the rest of the heel stitches. Make a point of tightening the two stitches after the slipped stitch by giving the working yarn an extra tug as you finish each.
5. Run a finger over the work. You’ll notice a wide space between the stitches at the point where you turned in Step 4. A new gap like this one will appear every time you turn the work. Get to know it since it’ll help you decide when to turn again.
6. Turn the work, slip one stitch, and knit across the heel stitches. Stop when you are two stitches away from the gap. Make a point of tightening the two stitches after the slipped stitch by giving the working yarn an extra tug as you finish each.
7. Turn the work, slip one stitch, and purl across the heel stitches. Stop when you are two stitches away from the gap. Make a point of tightening the two stitches after the slipped stitch by giving the working yarn an extra tug as you finish each.
8. Repeat Steps 6 and 7, always turning when you are two stitches away from the nearest gap. Stop when there is about an inch or 2.5 cm between the two center most gaps. The last row is a purl row.

If you’ve played the video, you got this far without any problems at all. The trouble begins with what comes next. Here’s a sampling of my notes:

1 st before gap:
Let me lift this off.
Daughter, mother, grandmother; ignore grandmother.
Mother says, “Let me ride that horse with you. I’ll sit in front.”
Put Mother on the horse.
Call this “thanks, Ma.”

Now, if the movie in your head didn’t feature a lonely prairie and a cowboy with lots of stamina, you’re not as normal as the rest of us.

But I digress.

9. Turn the work, and knit the entire round. Do the following as you work across each section of the round:
a. As you work across the first half of the heel stitches, pause when you’re one stitch away from each gap. Insert the tip of the left needle into the stitch below the one you are about to knit; place that stitch on the left needle; and knit those two stitches together. You are not working a k2tog across the gap: you are knitting the stitch before the gap together with the stitch below it.
b. As you work across the instep, knit all stitches if you’re making a plain slipper sock, or work in pattern if you have a cable or some other fancy stitch going.
c. As you work across the second half of the heel stitches, pause after you knit the stitch before each gap. Insert the tip of the left needle into the stitch below the one you are about to knit; place that stitch on the left needle; and knit those two stitches together. You are not working a k2tog across the gap: you are knitting the stitch after the gap together with the stitch below it.
10. Knit two or 3 rounds even.
11. Repeat Steps 3 through 10 two more times, working three heel wedges in all.
12. Continue the slipper sock in the usual way.

Tips for Finding the Stitch Below

In Step 9, locating the “stitch below” is tricky the first couple of times, so practicing with larger yarn is a good idea.
• Some knitters suggest putting a pin in those stitches. This way, you can just grab the pin and lift the stitch onto the needle. This method works, but it can stretch the stitch out a little, which is what you’re trying to avoid in general.
• Another approach is to use your thumbnail to find the correct strand. When you’re working the first half of the heel, the strand is easier to locate on the public side, and when you’re working the second half of the heel, the strand is easier to locate from the wrong side of the slipper. In both cases, the strand is the outermost vertical line.
• A third way to find the “stitch below” is to make the “stitch above” submissive. When you’re working the first half of the heel, separate the needles so that the stitch you just worked and the one you are about to work are far apart; then use your thumb or the tip of the right needle to slide the “stitch below” toward the left needle. If you’ve got the correct stitch, it’ll slide. When you’re working the second half of the heel, slip the stitch you are about to work to the right needle and separate the needles; then use your thumb or the tip of the left needle to slide the “stitch below” toward the right needle. If you’ve got the correct stitch, it’ll slide.

Variations on a Theme for the Sweet Tomato Heel

I haven’t been working with this heel long enough to have strong opinions about it, but two things I noticed during my early experiments are these:

A. The heel might be a little tidier if you use k2tog tbl in the second half of the heel.
B. You can use this technique when working a more traditional short-row heel. Just make each row one stitch shorter than the previous one as you would when working the first half of the standard short-row heel. Then as you work Step 9 (above), knit each of the sloppy short-row stitches together with the stitch below it. Work the foot right after that, or work a couple of rounds even then do exactly what you did before.

Magic Cast On

The third provisional cast on of the series is Judy Becker’s magic cast on, which was described in the spring 2006 issue of Knitty. It’s the most seamless of the cast ons if you’re doing stockinet or garter, and it’s perfect for making closed tubes, like socks and purses; for projects that start in the middle, like scarves and afghans with ends that are mirror images of each other; or for the start of a top-down triangular shawl. . It’s also fairly stable, so unlike the figure-8 cast on, you can freely put lots of stitches on the needles. The original directions are pretty clear, but Steps 4 and 5 of Becker’s article, where the actual stitch is being described, require much rereading and experimentation, so here’s an alternate explanation of the way it works.

For this cast on, you’ll need two needles (circs or dpn’s) or maybe one long circ and some practice yarn. My instructions aren’t identical to Becker’s, but they’re very close. The biggest difference is that, in Step 2, she has the knitter hang the tail end of the yarn over the index finger (opposite from the long-tail cast on), while I’m satisfied with holding the yarn in the standard long-tail cast on way. I’ve tried both methods, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference, so ….

1. Tie a slip knot around one of your needles, leaving a longish tail (about 12 inches or 30 cm).
2. Hold the yarn as if you were doing the long-tail cast on.
a. Your left hand is holding an imaginary glass of water.
b. Lay the yarn over the thumb and index finger of your left hand, with the tail end hanging from your thumb and the ball end hanging from your index finger.
c. Curl the middle, ring, and pinky fingers of your left hand into the palm and tuck the hanging strands of yarn into them.
d. The yarn itself forms an inverted triangle. A horizontal strand goes from your thumb to your index finger. One diagonal goes from your thumb to your middle finger, and another diagonal goes from your index to your middle finger. The needles are resting on the horizontal line at the top of the inverted triangle. The one with the slip knot is farthest from you, but we’ll get into that in the next step.

As you continue reading the instructions, it helps to think of the clock: 9:00 is to your left; 12:00 is in front of you; 3:00 is to your right; and 6:00 is behind you.

3. Hold both needles in starting position.
a. The needles are in your right hand. They point left to 9:00, and the needles are lying side by side, like the planks of a floor or the seat of a rocking chair.
b. It’s helpful to put the thumb of your right hand on this floor, so you always remember which side is the top.
c. The slip knot is on the needle that is farthest from you. Call this Needle 2.
4. Twist the needles so they point away from you to 12:00.
5. Tip the needles so that Needle 2 is above Needle 1. Imagine they’re a rocking chair you’re tipping to the left; your thumb is no longer on top, but to the left.
6. Twist the needles back to 9:00. On your way, make sure the horizontal part of the triangle that is nearest your left index finger slides between the two needles. When you are all the way back at 9:00, tip the needles back to starting position, with the right thumb on top and Needle 2 behind Needle 1.
7. Twist the needles so they point toward you to 6:00.
8. Tip the needles so that Needle 1 is above Needle 2. Imagine they’re a rocking chair you’re tipping to the right; your thumb is no longer on top, but to the right.
9. Twist the needles back to 9:00. On your way, make sure the horizontal part of the triangle that is nearest your left thumb slides between the two needles. When you are all the way back at 9:00, tip the needles back to starting position, with the right thumb on top and Needle 2 behind Needle 1.
10. Repeat Steps 4 to 9 until you finish casting on all of your stitches, ending with Step 6. If you do things right, you should feel a ridge forming on the underside of the needles.
11. Twist the working yarn and the cast-on tail once.
12. On Needle 1, knit all stitches (k), and on Needle 2, knit all stitches through the back of the loop (ktbl).
13. After that, do as the spirit moves you.

Once you get the hang of this cast on, the movements become smaller and subtler, a flick of the right wrist as the needles swing back and forth catching the yarn on their way.

Instead of starting with a slip knot, you can just twist the yarn around Needle 2. This sometimes produces a tiny hole at the end farthest from the cast-on tail, so if I’m making socks, I often work a couple of rows back and forth and just pick up stitches at the ends.

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