Hi designers and knitters, I am in a bad mood because someone was really mean to me in the questions on one of my online classes this morning. Also because I have found so many knitters who aren’t being taught the basic skills and knowledge they need to be successful in knitting.

1681Knitters, please buy a good knitting encyclopedia (like Vogue Knitting) and read it cover to cover. You can go slowly and take your time, but take the incentive to educate yourself from a book.

Designers, if you must spoon feed knitters and write out every single little detail in line-by-line and stitch-by-stitch instructions, please also include conceptual information explaining why they have to do things, instead of just listing step by step what they do and leaving them in the situation of being forever in the dark about what they are actually doing in their knitting.

Here are some things all knitters should know.

Knit the Knits and Purl the Purls. When wrong side rows are not charted or when wrong side instructions are very simple, you may find instructions that say “work the stitches as they appear” or “knit the knits and purl the purls.” When you see this, it means whenever you come to a stitch that looks like a V (knit), you knit it and whenever you come to a stitch that looks like a bump (purl), you purl it. You knit each stitch as you see it. Don’t worry about what it would look like on the other side of the fabric. It’s all about the side you are looking at now.

Work even. This means keep knitting in the pattern as set without making any increases or decreases to shape the piece.

What is 1×1 or 2×2 ribbing? K1, p1 ribbing or k2, p2 ribbing.
Row 1: (k1, p1) across–sometimes ending with an extra knit on the end to center the ribbing.
Row 1: (k2, p2) across–sometimes ending with an extra k2 at the end to center the ribbing.
On subsequent rows, knit the knits and purl the purls (see above).

Increase at the beginning and end of the row. You can do this any freaking way you want to. Usually, to have a nice selvage edge for pieces that will be seamed, I work the increases 2 stitches in from the edge. I use M1 all the time. But some knitters prefer to balance the increases so you could use M1R on one side of the piece and M1L on the other side.

What kind of M1 (make 1) should I do? Make 1 is NOT a synonym for generic increases. M1 is the lifted bar increase. The standard M1 is: insert the tip of the left needle under the bar between the stitch just knit and the next stitch to knit and lift it up onto the left needle, then knit that through the back to twist it. (If you don’t twist it, you’ll get a little hole in your knitting). You can make a right-slanting make 1 as well, but I rarely bother with this because in most cases, the visible difference is negligible.

So what are other kinds of increases called then? Increases. There several other kinds. The one many knitters learn first is kfb (knit into the front and back of the same stitch). It’s easy but I don’t like this increase because it makes a bump on the right-side of the fabric, and I don’t like the way that looks. In your knitting encyclopedia, you can look up other kinds on increases and use the ones that you prefer.

Decrease at the beginning and end of the row. You can do this any freaking way you want to. Usually, to have a nice selvage edge for pieces that will be seamed, I work the decreases 2 stitches in from the edge. If you want invisible decreases, make them slant the same way the shape of the piece is going. If you want them to be visible (with the little ticks you see on store-bought sweaters around the armhole and neck), work them in the opposite way the shape of the piece is going. If you don’t already know it, k2tog is a right-slanting decrease and ssk is a left-slanting decrease.

How do you work SSK? SSK is very frequently done wrong by knitters. The S S part means “slip 1 knit wise, slip 1 knit wise” — you slip two stitches knit wise one at a time. Why? To turn them around so the leading leg of the stitch (the side of the stitch closest to the tip of the needle) is in back of the needle. Then you slide the stitches back onto the left needle without turning them around again and knit them together through the back loop. Sometimes we do a shortcut for the last step and we just insert the left needle into the fronts of the two slipped stitches and then finish the k2tog-tbl. But the concept is that we are knitting 2 stitches together through the back loop and turning them around first so they are not twisted stitches when the decreases is complete.

What’s the difference between “pick up” and “pick up and knit”? Really, nothing. You always knit up stitches on the edge of the piece. You insert the right needle into the next stitch on the edge and wrap the yarn around the tip of the right needle like making a regular stitch and pull it through–it really is just like knitting a stitch right onto the loops on the edge of the fabric. If you have trouble grabbing the stitch with the right needle, you can insert the left needle into the edge stitch from from to back, then use it as a helper needle and use the right needle to actually knit into that. Or you can use a crochet hook to pull up loops of yarn through the fabric and then put them onto the right needle (why the right needle? Because they’ve been picked up and knitted with the crochet hook, so stitches that have already been knitted go on the right needle). Somewhere, somewhat recently, someone decided that “pick up” without “and knit” means you pick up the strands of yarn on the edge of the piece and just put them on the left needle, then you knit them later as a separate thing. IMO, that’s just stupid. (Don’t yell at me, I’m sure someone, somewhere has found a useful purpose for separating these two things but I’m just a curmudgeonly old fart.)

OK, I’ve got to go do some other things now. I have a YouTube channel with videos about decreases and other techniques, and I teach live classes and online video classes too. But I feel very strongly that every knitter needs to own a knitting encyclopedia and be able to read about the concepts behind the knitting stitches and techniques they use, not just learn how to do things by rote. Literacy is important.

9 Responses to Things knitters should know
  1. And people should be nice, or at least polite. There’s enough meanness around that we don’t need to be mean about knitting. Jeez.

  2. Yes, yes, yes. I also use this. K2tog has a 2in it. the 2 has a slope–the slope leans right, and so does the decrease . SSK has S’s, and these have a slope in the middle, and the slope leans left.

    This is an easy way to remember which decrease you want–and which way it will lean.
    I knit combo, and i write patterns, My patterns are for standard western knitting–and this is how i remember which decrease to put in the pattern (i don’t need for my self while knitting, my eyes are my guide.)

    which is another good point.. KNOW YOUR KNITTING. learn what a knit stitch looks like, and what a purl looks like. and what a twisted stitch looks like!

  3. I’m sorry that you had a mean comment. Despite all the positive comments, isn’t it the one out of hundreds that is mean, that stays with you? I wish I could say, rise above it and forget it, but I never could when I was teaching. You just want to change that person’s mind, so that they could realize what they need to know before they make a fool of themselves by the way they speak to people. I’ve noticed that when people do that on Craftsy, the community certainly dishes it right back. The teacher usually does not respond or responds politely–thus, rising above the meanness. Your post above is clear and you certainly take a lot of time to pass on your love of knitting, and your love of people. We really appreciate your generous and positive spirit, Donna! By the way, I’m taking my knitting needles to Europe with me tomorrow to continue a pair of Toe up socks which I know how to do because of you! So thank you for all your knitting wisdom and experience. You are a GREAT teacher!

  4. Great post Donna. It has me thinking. I’m wondering whether this is partially to do with the way that people are learning to knit – it’s no longer something we do alongside the experienced women in our families, and the skills are not ‘handed down’ now as they once were.

    Although my own family were knitters, I didn’t start until my mid-30s, by which time I lived hours away from ‘home’ and had children of my own. I relied heavily on the internet. Luckily a friend also loaned me a copy of The Principles of Knitting (I now own two copies of this and consider it essential) and I have the curiosity to look things up. But I agree that lots of knitters I know don’t, and knit blindly without really understanding why. (One of the friends I met though knitting has been making beautiful items for many years, but doesn’t really understand the construction etc which means she gets into pickles quite often as she’s not able to think her way out of them!)

    And it’s not limited to knitting – take parenting for example, without extended families around these days (cousins, nieces and nephews) many of us also have to wing it when our kids come along. Many of my friends hadn’t held a baby or changed a nappy until after they gave birth!

  5. I’ve been knitting over 50 years. I own a few different how to knit books. Well, several how to knit books…. Some I’ve had for nearly 50 years, others I’ve purchased recently!! And there are still a few on my “to buy” list! Valuable resources – I can always learn something new, despite my advanced experience. I can refer to them when showing someone else something, and direct them to the passage in their copy of the book (or if they need to find the book at their local library if they don’t or can’t own it.) Also, I’ve got grand children, who will likely inherit the books later – this way, they can each have one (or more) and not fight over them 😉 Seriously – I don’t use all knitting skills daily, and it never hurts to be able to look something up without having to fire up the computer!

  6. Great blog entry!!! I wish I had that when I first started knitting, would have saved so much grief!
    I’m so sorry anyone would be mean to you over knitting! Knitters are usually some of the nicest people, always willing to help, offering words of encouragement and positive affirmations! Don’t let someone else’s negative attitude effect you! It’s just not worth it!!
    I love your classes and patterns! Keep 8th up, there are so many of us who adore your work!

  7. Designers should also own and use a basic knitting encyclopedia or use the same abbreviations as are used in the magazine for which they publish (I know, that is what the tech editor is for, right???) I realize that, in magazines, a designer doesn’t always have the final say. You do if you self-publish.

    As a knitter, it is very frustrating to come across a term that is not only unfamiliar…but also cannot be found ANYWHERE!!! I wish I could remember what the term was now…I even took it to a knitting convention and asked several teachers. I ended up winging it with the assistance of a couple of knowledgeable knitters…because no one I met had ever heard of it.

  8. Thank you so much everyone! I really love knitters and I’m sure Miss Meany Pants probably had a much worse day than I did. I try to remember that when people are mean online it could be because they have had a really bad day — maybe their boyfriend dumped them or their kid got really sick, or even something worse. But every once in a while, especially when I’m really tired, I let it get to me. I really appreciate all the love and support here!

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