Monday, June 30, 2014

Short-tailed Judy's Magic Cast On

Several regulars from GPY have decided to knit Pente. Pente starts with a very long provisional cast on. I decided that I was going to use Judy's Magic Cast On for my provisional cast on. Just one problem, Judy's Magic Cast On requires a tail of sufficient length to complete the cast on. I didn't want to waste time or yarn getting the length of the tail correct, so decided to try to cast on using the short-tail methodology, similar to Short-tailed, Long-tailed Cast On

Start with 2 tails and make a slip knot with both tails, creating the loop with the tail end. Later on you will be pulling out the slip knot by the tail.
One tail will be carried on your thumb and one will be carried on your index finger. Wrap the yarn on your thumb under and over the needle.
...and bring it back around the needle...
...in front of the strand on your index finger. This is the important part. At this point, we just do Judy's Magic Cast On. The rest of the tutorial deals with that. Or you can check out Knitty's version: Judy's Magic Cast On and skip to the end to see how to remove the slip knot.
Bring the yarn on your index finger under the bottom needle and over, bringing it down between the two needles.
Now bring the yarn on your thumb up between the needles, over and around the top needle.
and back under the needle.
The results at this point.
Drop off the slip knot after you have knit the stitch next to the knot. Removing the knot before you knit the stitch will result in a loose end. If you need to remove the knot before knitting, flip the loop around, forming a e-loop.

You can see how this cast on works in my version of Pente which can be found at Gomoku


Prairie Willow can be found on Ravelry at noliegirl. Prairie Willow is an avid knitter and jewelry designer. My jewelry can be found at Prairie Willow Jewelry;

Photos copyright Prairie Willow Knits. Pente by Carol Feller, copyright Brooklyn Tweed, Wool People #7.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Reference Gauge Swatches

I am a tight knitter. It is frustrating to start swatching a pattern from a designer that is a loose knitter when I have no idea that the pattern's gauge is based on that fact. Some designers tell you that they are a loose or a tight knitter. That is helpful information to a point. How tight is tight? How loose is loose?

It occurred to me that it would be helpful if designers adopted the concept of a reference gauge. What do I mean by this? Well, lets take a common, easily available yarn, choose a standard needle size and knit a 8" x 8" (20 cm x 20 cm) stockinette gauge swatch and set that as a reference gauge. Now, I can knit the same swatch on the same needle size and know the relationship of my reference gauge to the designers reference gauge. This gives me a starting point when knitting a highly gauge dependent pattern.

Simple, yes? Not really in practice. How do we determine which yarn becomes the reference yarn? The yarn must be universally available, from country to country. Its also unfair to favor one yarn manufacturer over another. Many factors affect gauge as well: Needle size, needle material, yarn weight, yarn fiber, yarn ply, time of day, etc. How are the swatches blocked to determine this gauge? You get the idea.

As a knitter, this can be worked from the other direction. Keeping a good record of gauge swatches will help when knitting the same yarn in the future. If knitting a project using yarn I've knit before I may be able to use my records to determine which needle size to use for the next swatch.

Since I am an occasional designer, I'm going to implement this for myself. I am going to choose some common, easily available yarns to knit swatches. I'm starting with Knit Picks Swish Worsted on a US 8 (5.0 mm) needle. I am also going to record all of my gauge swatches. Over time, I will have a good collection of numbers that may help someone knitting my patterns and may help me when knitting other designer's patterns. I'm making my swatch records public at My Reference Gauge Swatches.


Prairie Willow can be found on Ravelry at noliegirl. Prairie Willow is an avid knitter and jewelry designer. My jewelry can be found at Prairie Willow Jewelry;

Photos copyright Prairie Willow Knits..

Monday, June 16, 2014

Using Judy's Magic Cast On for Garter Tabs

Starting a shawl with a garter tab is a common way to start a shawl. Typically, the directions read:

Cast on 3 stitches.
Knit 6 rows.
Rotate 90 degrees and pick up 3 stitches along edge.
Rotate 90 degrees and pick up 3 stitches along cast on edge.

This method results in a pickup of 2 stitches in the corner of the garter tab; the 3rd stitch of the first pickup and the 1st stitch of the cast on pickup). Being a tight knitter I find the corner pickups to be difficult. Then it occurred to me, what if I cast on using Judy's Magic Cast On? So I knit my garter tab as follows:

Garter Tab Using Judy's Magic Cast On
Cast on 6 stitches using Judy's Magic Cast On (3 stitches on each needle). Hold the bottom 3 stitches to work at the end of the garter tab.
Knit 6 rows.
Rotate 90 degrees and pick up 3 stitches along the edge.
Rotate 90 degrees and knit the 3 held cast on stitches.

Here is how its done.

Start Judy's Magic Cast On. The top needle will be the held stitches. You will knit the stitches on the bottom needle.
Cast on 6 stitches, 3 per needle.
Begin knitting the first stitch. This is the trickiest part. You may need to twist the tail with the working yarn to create a loop to knit.
Knit 6 rows, 3 garter ridges.
Rotate 90 degrees and pickup 3 stitches, one in each garter ridge.
The garter tab after the 3 picked up stitches. There are 6 worked stitches and 3 held stitches from Judy's Magic Cast On.
Return 3 held stitches to the needle.
Knit the 3 remaining stitches (these are the held Judy's Magic Cast On stitches).
The completed garter tab

Lets compare:

The image on the left is knit the traditional way. The image on the right is knit using Judy's Magic Cast On.


Prairie Willow can be found on Ravelry at noliegirl. Prairie Willow is an avid knitter and jewelry designer. My jewelry can be found at Prairie Willow Jewelry;

Photos copyright Prairie Willow Knits..

Monday, June 9, 2014

Short-tailed Long-tailed Cast On

Ever have trouble with too short a tail when casting on with the long tailed cast on? Of course you have! I have! I bet everyone has had this problem at one time or another. The solution is easy. Cast on with two tails. Draw your yarn from the center and the end of the ball. Anchor each yarn to your working needle with a slip knot. Make sure to leave enough tail to weave in ends later. Now treat the yarn from each end of the ball just like you would handle both tails in a long-tailed cast on. Cast on the desired number of stitches plus two. Once complete, drop the slip knots off the needle (or if using straights, don't knit them and drop them at the end of the first row). Cut the yarn you won't be knitting with, leaving a long enough tail to weave in later.

Using this method, you will never run out of yarn while casting on using the Long-tailed cast on. The downside is that you will have three tails to weave in.

Here's how you do it:

Choose your 2 ends. If you have one ball, choose an outside and an inside end. If you have multiple balls, you can choose an end from each ball. I have multiple balls, so I'm choosing 1 end from each ball.
Create a slip knot using both strands of yarn, leaving a 6-8 inch tail for weaving in later. Create the slip stitch so that the loop is created with the yarn tails. This way you can easily pull it out once you have completed your cast on. The slip knot is not a stitch. You will slip this off the needle once the cast on is completed.
The working strands form the "V".
From between your thumb and forefinger, wrap one strand over the top and around the outside of the thumb. Wrap the second strand over and around the top of the forefinger. Catch the working strands with your remaining fingers.
Bring your needle around and under the thumbs outside strand. Your needle is in the middle of the thumb loop.
Continue by taking your needle over the top of the index finger loop's inside strand and catch it with your needle.
... and pull through.
Release loops and pull tight.
Repeat until desired stitches are cast on. In the case of this example I have cast on 10 stitches. You will notice that it looks like there are 11 stitches. The first "stitch" is the slip knot.
Slide stitches to the other end of the needle.
Slip the slip knot of the needle & pull out.
The completed cast on. The stitches need to be moved back to the other end of the needle to be worked. Cut the yarn that you will not be working with making sure to leave a long enough tail to weave in later. The downside, you now have 3 tails to weave in, a small price to pay for not running short of yarn to complete your cast on.


Prairie Willow can be found on Ravelry at noliegirl. Prairie Willow is an avid knitter and jewelry designer. My jewelry can be found at Prairie Willow Jewelry;

Photos copyright Prairie Willow Knits..

Monday, June 2, 2014

Casting On Loosely in Long-tailed Cast On

It is commonly recommended in patterns, blogs and by knitters that the way to loosen up a cast on is to cast on using a larger needle. Does this really work? Is this the most effective way to loosen up your cast on? The looseness of a cast on is mostly constrained by the tightness of the bottom edge of the cast on. For this test I'm using one of the most commonly used cast on's, the long-tailed cast on, with Knit Picks Swish Worsted yarn.

Test 1 - Cast on Using different Size Needles

I am casting on 40 stitches using a US 8 (5.0 mm) needle. The stitches were then placed on a US 6 (4.0 mm) needle so the stitches wouldn't be unduly stretched. My second cast on was using a US 15 (10.0 mm) needle with the stitches placed on a US 11 (8.0 mm). For both, I cast on tight (normal for me anyway) with each stitch cast on next to the previous stitch without a gap.

As you can see, from the picture the length of the cast on's are the same, but the size of the loops have increased.

Test 2 - Cast on Using different Size Needles, Knit with Smaller Needle

For this test, I'm casting on 40 stitches on a US 8 (5.0 mm), a US 9 (5.5 mm), and a US 15 (10.0 mm). I am then going to knit a small ribbed swatch using the US 8 (5.0 mm) needle. I'm adding a third cast on, one needle size up to make a comparison of what is more typically knit.

At this point the swatches look pretty much the same.

Notice on the US 15 (10.0 mm) needle, that first row is pretty sloppy as a result of the substantially larger needle size.

Now lets look at the stretched swatches:

As you can see you gain about 1/4" - 1/2" between the US 8 (5.0 mm) and US 9 (5.5 mm) cast ons, not a large enough growth to have any impact. The US 15 (10.0 mm) grows because some of that extra stitch height is making it into the cast on. Unfortunately this is at the expense of a floppy edge.

Test 3 - Increase the Spacing Between Cast On Stitches to 1/8 Inch

For this test I am going to cast on 40 stitches using my US 8 (5.0 mm) needles, increasing the space between each cast on stitch to 1/8". I use my finger to maintain an approximate 1/8" gap. The swatch is knit in 1x1 rib for 16 rows and bound off using Jenny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off, with no change of needle size.

 
Here's the swatch as knit:

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
And here is the swatch stretched:

As you can see we have gained some substantial stretch in this version of the swatch.

What do I take away from these tests? Adding space between my cast on stitches is a more effective way of getting a looser cast on than increasing the needle size. Of course, there is always the option of changing the cast on to a stretchier cast on.

What Do I Do?

I rarely use the long-tailed cast on. Instead, I use the German twisted cast on which is similar to long-tailed cast on, but it adds an extra twist for more stretch. When a loose long-tailed cast on is called for I never increase my needle size. I use German twisted cast on with a gap between the cast on stitches.


Prairie Willow can be found on Ravelry at noliegirl. Prairie Willow is an avid knitter and jewelry designer. My jewelry can be found at Prairie Willow Jewelry;

Photos copyright Prairie Willow Knits..