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.
Knitters, 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.