Monday, July 28, 2014

Tieing up Your Yarn Tail

I always end up with a long tail, especially if I'm casting on with Long-tailed or German Twisted Cast Ons. Rather than cut the tail and let it hang, I wind it over one of my tail holders or I wind it up as I'll illustrate here.

Lay yarn across 3 fingers, with the tail end in the right hand.
Wrap over and around the back of your fingers, bringing the yarn back up.
Continue wrapping the yarn until you have about 8" remaining.
Pull yarn off of fingers maintaining loops.
Grab both ends of the loop bundle and twist to create a figure-8.
Grab the tail and wrap around the center of the figure-8 until only 4-5" tail remain.
The wrapped bundle.
Put a crochet hook through the loops on the side of the bundle furthest away from your knitting.
Catch the yarn tail...
...and pull through the loops
Keep the crochet hook in the loop that you just pulled through
Take the crochet hook over the ends of the bundle and catch the tail again.
And pull it through the loop. You can pull the yarn through and tighten or ..
Do what I do and pull through another loop, then pull through and tighten. This chain end stabalizes the wrap and makes it easy to undo when you are ready to finish your knitted item.
The final bundle

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, July 21, 2014

Cable Needle Alternatives

I have some cable needles somewhere amongst my myriad of tools, but I never use them. I'm not even sure where they are. (Ok, I'll dig them out for this article.) I'm one of those knitters that will grab anything that works as the tool that I need. I also don't like carrying extra tools when I can reuse another tool to perform the same purpose. (You can also cable without a cable needle. There are many tutorials on the web which cover these techniques. I won't be discussing those techniques here.)

Removable Markers

This is my favorite cable needle alternative. I use these for so many things that I always have some in my kit. You can't easily knit off of the marker, so I just put the stitches back on the needle to knit them.

Tapestry Needles

I used a tapestry needle in Knitting Smocked or Wrapped Stitches. Tapestry needles come in steel, plastic and aluminum in different sizes. Be careful with the steel needles as they can be slippery.

Double Point Needles

Typical double point needles can be used in a pinch, but they are long and can get in the way. Sock length double points are shorter and may work better.

Stitch Holders

I never carry these, but they can be be used like a cable needle.

Short Length Circular Needles

If you use short length circular needles (9" for example), you can use them to hold cable stitches.

Interchangeable Needle Tips

These can be heavy and slippery, but in a pinch they will do the job.

Crochet Hooks

Aluminum crochet hooks are nice and light and can be used to hold your stitches. You can't easily knit from the crochet hook, so just put the stitches back on the needle.

Paper Clip

Paper clips are universal tools. How many times have you grabbed a paper clip, bent it open and used it as a tool? Same for knitting. Just bend it open. If you like the hook type of cable needle, then a paper clip will work well. Just bend it into shape.

Bobby Pins, Hair Pins

Hair pins have a nice "U" shape. Bobby pins can be used just the way they are or bent open. (I don't have any hair pins, so only bobby pins are shown in the photo.)


Toothpicks are rough, but it will still work as a cable needle. Just be careful not to snag your knitting.


Along the vein of the paper clip, you can use a piece of wire as a cable needle. You can shape the wire to your preferred shape. You may want to round the ends with a file.


If you are knitting on large needles pencils will work. Just be careful of the lead if you are knitting a light color.


If you are handy, you can create your own cable needle out of dowels.

Other Oddities

Twist ties, zip ties, straws....

Ok, I'm starting to go off the deep end here. Once I let my brain loose, I can't stop. For cables, all you really need is something to hold the stitches as the stitches can be returned to the needle for working.

So, next time you don't have the tool you need, look around. There are many every day objects that can be repurposed or used in a pinch.

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, July 14, 2014

Using Twisted Rib to Tighten Up Your 1x1 Rib.

I don't know if you are like me, but I typically don't like how my 1x1 rib looks, especially in sock cuffs. I've been playing around with some techniques to improve the look of my sock cuffs when the pattern calls for 1x1 rib. I'm using Knit Picks Stroll Sock Yarn using US 1 1/2 (2.5 mm) needles for these tests.

All swatches were knit as follows: Cast on 56 stitches using German twisted cast on. Join in the round. Knit 16 rows in pattern. Bind off using Jenny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off.

First, lets look at my typical 1x1 (K1, P1) rib cuff. You can see how the knit stitch has expanded in width. This makes for a sloppy looking rib
My typical solution is to knit a simple twisted rib (K1tbl, P1). In my sock cuffs, I don't typically worry about twisting the purl side. This creates a much cleaner and crisp rib, but it is twisted and this may not work with some sock designs.
So, I thought I would experiment a bit. In this example, instead of twisting the knit stitch, I twisted the purl stitch (K1, P1tbl). I have to say, this one was a bit annoying to knit, but it creates a wonderfully clean rib.

Using twisted stitches to clean up my 1x1 rib doesn't solve the underlying problem, but rather, only disguises it. The underlying issue is having a purl stitch with a different gauge than my knit stitch. I believe the purl is larger (uses more yarn) than my knit stitch. I need to work on reducing the size of my purl stitch. I'll do some more swatches working on tightening my purls to see what works and what doesn't. Hopefully I'll have something to report on later.

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, July 7, 2014

Its Smaller on the Outside

Are you a Doctor Who fan? Need a pair of Tardis Socks? A designer friend of mine, Audry Nicklin, just issued her Police Box Sox pattern.

I had the perfect color of blue sock yarn in my stash; London Blue in Baah! LaJolla, one of my favorite yarns to knit with. I matched the twist of La Jolla with some Koigu KPM in black and white.
I am test knitting the small size. I start with 2 US 1.5 (2.5 mm) circular needles. I typically use this size needle for the legs of my socks.
I continued with my US 1.5 (2.5 mm) needles until the start of the black band. Here I switched up to US 2.0 (2.75 mm) needles. I switched up to add a bit more size to the first stranded section, since it is close to the cuff. (I normally knit the top of a stranded sock leg using this size.) This sock is interesting in that the designer chose to increase to a larger number of stitches for stranded sections of the socks. I typically have to knit the large size in stranded socks because I need the larger number stitches to account for lack of stretch in stranded knitwear. This pattern accounts for that issue in the design.

At the end of the black band, I switched back to the US 1.5 (2.5 mm) needles.

After one repeat of the second chart. Leg is 5 1/4" long at this point.
Complete second repeat. I decided to stop at 2 repeats, since the leg is a perfect fit at this height. Leg length is 6 1/4".
Complete the heel flap. I dropped needles sizes one more time since I find the heel flap slip stitch edge works best when knit using a US 1.0 (2.25 mm) needle. When I knit a heel stitch heel flap using a US 1.5 (2.50 mm) needle, the slip stitch is a bit loose and pulls when you pick up and knit along that edge, leaving a small gap.
Turn the heel.
Complete the gusset.
Complete the foot portion of the sock. I'm still on a US 1.0 (2.25 mm) needle.
Complete the toe. Complete the second sock.
The completed socks.
Details on my sock can be found at Smaller on the Outside. The pattern is free and can be found at Police Box Sox

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. "Police Box Sox" pattern copyright by Audry Nicklin..