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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Inventing Cables

Ten-year-old Maria wants to learn cables.  She’s fascinated with the play of over-under, turn and return.  

Are you?  It’s easy.  Easy as eyelet lace.  Once you understand what’s happening, you can create your own cabled patterns.  Where do you think all those wonderful twisty, snaky inventions came from?  (A fellow named Jay Petersen figured out the ball above and the pillow below.)

Such elaborate inventions, the entrelac you see above and the fascinating fishermen's sweaters we all know and love, are within our grasp, one cable at a time.  

So let's see how cables operate.    Maria can do it; so can you.

Grab some worsted and those #7 or #8 or #9 needles.  Oh, and a cable needle.  If you don’t have a cable needle, use a double-point needle.  If you don’t have a double-point…well, I’ve been known to use a toothpick.  It’s only an open-ended holder, after all.

So cast on the usual twenty stitches.  Long-tail makes a good cast-on.  Then purl the first row. 

Why start with purl?  Because we’re casting on with long-tail, and purl makes a natural transition from the single edge of long-tail. 

Another reason to begin with a plain knit or purl row is that the cables, as you create them, are going to make the fabric pull in a little, so it helps to have a foundation row following the cast-on before you begin cabling.

The purl row will become the wrong side, because we’re going to do knit cables over a knit background.  (You can do knit cables on a purl background—many patterns call for this—but it’s not the best choice for a beginner.)

As with the eyelet lace, all our changes are going to happen on the right side, which in this case is always going to be a knit row.  Every purl row will be a consolidating row, as it was with the eyelet.  Keeps things nice and simple.

To recap:

CO 20 (long-tail preferred)
Row 1:  p20.

Now the fun starts.  Knit the first four stitches as usual.  Why four?  Because we need to leave a space at the edge, the more clearly to see the cables at play.  We'll balance this with a space at the left edge, where we also will do a plain k4.

These cables are going to be 2 stitches wide.  The first one is going to lean to the left, crossing in front of the knit stitches behind it.

So, slip two stitches (slip as if to purl, not to knit) onto whatever you’re using as a cable holder.  A toothpick will work, actually.

This cable is going to lean left, in front of the other stitches, so bring your toothpick to the front of the work and leave it there for a minute.  Just let it dangle.  Knit the next two stitches you see on your left-hand needle. 

Now, return the two stitches from the toothpick to the left needle.  (Don’t let the toothpick twist, or the stitches will be in the wrong order.) 

Next, knit those two stitches you just transferred from the toothpick to the left needle.  One cable cross made.

Knit four more stitches in the regular manner.
Now we’re going to make a two-stitch cable, crossing to the right.

Slip two stitches onto the toothpick, then hold them at the back of the work.  It’s OK to just let them dangle; the toothpick is rough enough that they won’t slip off.

Knit the next two stitches as usual. 

Now transfer the toothpick stitches to the left needle and knit them in proper sequence.
Second cable made, crossing right.

Knit to the end of the row.
Purl 20.

Your work should look like this:

Let's move those cables toward each other.  
Knit 5, hold 2 in front, knit 2, toothpick stitches to left needle and knit them (that just shifted the cable to the left by one stitch).  
Now knit 2 for the space between the two cables.  
Now let's bring the left cable one stitch to the right: 2 on toothpick, leave in back, knit 2 from needle, toothpick stitches to left needle and knit (that shifted the cable to the right by one stitch).
Knit 5 to finish off the row.
Your work should look like this:

Let's close the gap between the cables.
k6, 2 to the front, k2, k2 from cable needle.  (First cable shifted; now for the second.)
2 to back, k2, k2 from cable needle, k6.
Your work should look like this:

We can make those cables twist over each other.  Watch.
k8, 2 to front, k2, k2 from cable needle, k8.
Are you seeing this?

From here, you can decide where you want them to go.  Make your shifts one stitch at a time, as above, but when you want to jump one cable over another, knit the whole cable the way we did here.  

If you get confused about which maneuver moves the cable in which direction, here's a rubric:
                                  I left it in front, I'll be right back.

A caution:

Though the process is always the same, the notations for cabling vary from book to book.  You may see the very first operation we performed called Cross 2 Left, and abbreviated cross 2 L.  Another book may call it Cable 4 Front, though your crossing cable is only two stitches wide. 

Pay attention to the photos illustrating the cable you are trying to work, and run the notations by the reality check of the exercise we've performed today. 

It's all about maintaining control.  It's all about understanding what's going on. 

You can do it.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Inventing Eyelet Lace

Now that you know how to cast on, increase, and decrease, we might as well go ahead and invent some lace.  You’re ready.  Seriously.

I want you to see that you can create something as you go.  Creating is controlling.  Changing at will.  Innovating rather than following by rote.

Creating is understanding.  Seeing the connections between actions and results.  Realizing the implications.

If you can create, you can intelligently follow another creator’s pattern.  Catch their mistakes, even.  Trust me.

OK.  Find some yarn (worsted weight is good) and needles (about a #7 to #10 should be appropriate).  I’ve used a circular needle because that’s my default position.

Using the long-tail cast-on, CO 21 sts. 

(If you’ve just now discovered this blog, go back and follow the instructions for The Long-Tail Cast-On.)

Row 1:  purl. 

(You do know how to purl, don’t you?  Insert your needle into the front of the stitch, tip pointing toward you rather than away, as the knit stitch does.  Push the yarn back through the hole.  Knitting pulls the yarn forward; purling pushes the yarn back.  Simple as that.)

Row 2:  k8 (knit 8 stitches)
              SKP (slip one stitch as if to purl, knit the next stitch, pass the
slipped stitch over the knit stitch)
              k1 (knit 1 stitch)
              yo (yarn over:  see The Yarn-Over Increase)
              k10 (knit 10 stitches)

Row 3:  p21 (purl 21 stitches)

When making lace, the increases and decreases usually happen on the right side, which is usually the knit row.  This makes it easier to see what you're doing.  The wrong side, usually the purl row, consolidates the changes you've just made.  Brings them into focus.  Notice that you can now see the eyelet you made.  Subsequent rows will more clearly show the decorative ridge developing where you made your SKP decrease.

Notice:  when making lace, usually the same number of stitches are preserved across the row. These patterns are easier for a beginner to follow.  There are some more advanced lace patterns that will vary the number of stitches from row to row:  save these until you've logged, oh, about a couple of years of knitting experience.  

Also notice:  in order to preserve the same number of stitches across a row, every increase (in this case, the yarn-over, which makes the eyelet hole) must be balanced with a decrease.  Where you put that decrease is not as important as remembering to make one.  

We've just placed our decrease (the SKP) before the increase, with one knit stitch intervening.  Let's work a couple more rows and you'll see an attractive vertical ridge developing because of this placement.

Row 4:  Repeat row 2.
Row 5:  p21.
Row 6:  Repeat row 2.
Row 7:  p21.
Your work should now look like this:

Notice that the eyelets form a vertical row.  To their right is a discernible vertical ridge created by the SKP repeats.

I started these eyelets in the middle of the row.  That was purely an arbitrary decision.  You can put them anywhere you like.  

But if you want to continue playing along, let's start a set of eyelets to the right and also to the left of this middle set.  Let's use the k2tog decrease so you can see the difference in effect.  And let's place the decrease immediately after the eyelet, rather than one stitch before.

Row 8:  k4, yo, k2tog, k2, SKP, k1, yo, k4, yo, k2tog, k4.

If you lose your place easily, just mark off each operation after you've completed it.  It'll slow you down, but at least you'll know where you are.  Experience will teach you to read from the knitting to find your place.  

Row 9:  p21.
Row 10:  Repeat row 8.
Row 11:  p21.
Row 12:  Repeat row 8.
Row 13:  p21.

There's nothing magical about knitting the same row three times.  I'm being purely arbitrary, so you can watch the eyelets develop.  

By now your knitting should look like this:

Notice the difference between the vertical ridge to the right of the middle set of eyelets (created by the SKP and k1) and the more subtle effect of the k2tog immediately following each of the eyelets on either side.

We can move those side eyelets.  Let's shift them toward the center.

Row 14:  k3, yo, k2tog, k1, SKP, k1, yo, k3, yo, k2tog, k5.
Row 15:  p21.

Your work should look like this:

See how the side eyelets are moving toward the center?

Let's move them in even further:

Row 16:  k6, yo, k2tog, SKP, k1, yo, k2tog, k6.
Row 17:  p21.

Are you seeing this?

 I'm thinking that if we moved the side eyelets in one more space, we could call this Little Arrow Eyelet Lace or some such.  And if we repeated it on either side, and if we continued knitting those same 19 rows, it could make an attractive over-all fabric design.  We might want to add a row of plain knitting and purling in between vertical repetitions of the motif.  Or we might want to stagger the arrows (like a tic-tac-toe effect).  

We have the helm, Scotty.  

Now go and make up some lace.  Tell us about it so we can try it too.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011


So we’ve reviewed casting on stitches (a number of ways) and increasing stitches (also a number of ways).  Now let’s look at ways to decrease. 

Basically, there are two methods:  passing a stitch over, or knitting (or purling) two into one.  Let’s look at the passing method first.

SKP (slip, knit, pass) aka skpsso (slip, knit, pass slip stitch over)

We slip one stitch, passing it from the left needle to the right as if to purl (this keeps it from getting twisted, thereby preserving the “knit” look). 

Next, we knit one stitch. 

Finally, we lift the slipped stitch with our left needle, bring it over the stitch just knitted, and drop it.

The resulting slipped/dropped stitch will lean toward the left.  Keep this in mind when you’re choosing how to decrease.

k2tog (knit two together)

Just as it sounds, you insert your right needle, knitwise, into the front of the second stitch on your left needle and also the front of the first stitch. 
            Then you knit both of these stitches at the same time.

The resulting k2tog stitch will lean slightly toward the right.  This makes an effective counterpoint to the left-leaning SKP.  Consequently, many patterns that call for a decrease at both ends of a row will prescribe a SKP toward the beginning and a k2tog toward the end of the row.

But the k2tog can also be done by knitting into the back of two stitches.  The results will be subtly but detectably different than the k2tog performed from the front.

The k2tog has a corollary, p2tog (purl two together).  This is always performed from the front of the two stitches to be purled. 

And if you’re really dexterous, you won’t be intimidated by p2tog’s relative, p2togb (purl two together back).  Though some would rather train to be a contortionist, if you take your time and have not knitted too tightly, you can indeed go into the backs of two stitches at once and purl them together.

If the pattern needs to decrease by two stitches, it can either call for you to knit three together, or it can combine the SKP with the k2tog in this way:

            Slip one stitch purlwise.
            Knit the next two stitches together.
            Pass the slipped stitch over the results.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Invisible Increase

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Lifted Loop Increase

So, to get more stitches we can cast on at the beginning or end of a row.  (The loop-over works well for this.)

But in the middle of a row, we can’t cast on.  Then our choices are to

            make something out of nothing:  the yarn-over (yo)
            turn one into two:   the bar increase (kb-f or kf-b)
                 and moss increase (kp)
            raise the running yarn:  the make-one increase
                 (M1R or M1L)

or we can lift a loop (KRL or KLL).  This is a good choice when many increases must be made in the same row, because a long sequence of bar increases or make-one increases can get really tight. 

You’re going to find this easier if I give you the long version:

            KRL = knit right loop
            KLL = knit left loop

So where’s this right loop we’re going to knit?  It’s the top of the stitch immediately below the unworked stitch presently on your left needle.  

Just lift it (with your left needle) and knit into the back of it (with your right needle).  Then continue on course.  Easy.

And that left loop we’re going to knit?  It’s the top of the stitch two stitches below the worked stitch presently on your right needle. 

Lift it with your right needle, place on left needle, knit into the back of it.  Continue on course.

If “raised” and “lifted” get confusing, just remember—

            we raise the runner
            we lift the loop

Tomorrow, for you who have stuck with this whole exercise, a bonus:  the invisible increase.  Did you know there was one?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Raised (Make-One) Increase

So far, we’ve seen how to add a stitch that was not there (the yarn-over increase) and how to get an extra stitch by doubling up on an existing one (the “plain increase,” otherwise known as bar and moss increase).

Now let’s look at how to use part of an existing stitch to create a new one.

This method is called the “raised increase” and also the “make-one increase.”  It uses the horizontal bit of yarn between two stitches on opposite needles (the “running yarn”).  The raised (make-one) increase can be worked so the made stitch leans to the right or to the left.

Raised (make-one) increase, right (M1R):

            Insert right needle under running yarn from front to back.

Transfer raised running yarn to left needle.
Insert right needle into the front of this raised running yarn and knit it or purl it.
The made stitch slants slightly toward the right.

Raised (make-one) increase, left (M1L):

            Insert left needle under running yarn from front to back.
Insert right needle into the back of the raised running yarn and knit it or purl it.  The made stitch slants slightly toward the left.

Though the visual difference between M1R and M1L is subtle, if you’re making a small, sculptural object such as amigurumi, these subtle differences are noticeable.
Tomorrow, the lifted increase, also called the “lifting up the loop” increase (KRL and KLL).

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Increasing: The Bar and Moss Increases

We’ve talked about the yarn-over increase, which adds a stitch by creating a new one.  Now let’s look at the bar increase and the moss increase, which turn one existing stitch into two.

The bar increase, sometimes also called the “plain increase,” abbreviated K-fb:

Knit into the front of the stitch as usual, but do not remove the stitch from the needle.  Knit into the back of the same stitch.  Now you can release the increased stitch from the left needle.

or K-bf

Knit into the back of the stitch to be increased.  Do not remove stitch from needle.  Knit into the front of the same stitch.  Now release the increased stitch from the left needle.  Personally, I find it easier to make the bar increase this way.  For me, it’s just less awkward to knit into the back first, then the front.   

It’s called a bar increase because the created stitch wears a little horizontal bar across its base.  This has two advantages:

            1.  It’s easier to locate and count the created (added) stitches.

2.  You can turn it into a decorative element by making two bar increases, one right after the other.  If on subsequent knit rows you make the bar increase in the same place, it creates the appearance of a single chain stitch flanked on each side by little bars.

The moss increase:

            This also makes two stitches out of one, but in a slightly different manner.

Knit into the front of the stitch to be increased.  Do not remove from needle.  Bring yarn forward.  Purl into the same stitch.  Now remove from needle.

Be aware that this kind of increase can create a noticeable hole in your fabric.  It’s best to save the moss increase for a side edge, where the joining of the seam will hide it.

Tomorrow, the raised (make-one) increase.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Increasing: The Single Yarn-Over

The simplest way to add a stitch to a row of knitting is with a single yarn-over (“yo”).  When the yo is subsequently knitted or purled (on the return row), it leaves a hole, which you want if you’re making lace or eyelet, but which you should try to minimize if all you’re after is a simple increase (see reverse yarn-over, cross right; and reverse yarn-over, cross left).  

To make a regular yo . . .

when the next stitch is a knit:

Bring the yarn forward between the two needles, wrap it over the right-hand needle, and continue working with the yarn in back.

when the next stitch is a purl:

Bring the yarn forward between the two needles, wrap it over the right-hand needle, and bring the yarn forward again.  Continue working with the yarn in front, as for a purl.  This leaves a slightly larger hole than a yo between two knit stitches.

at the beginning of a row:

When the first stitch is a knit, put the right-hand needle under the yarn and proceed to knit.

When the first stitch is a purl, wrap the yarn over the right-hand needle and bring the yarn forward, then proceed to purl.

in garter stitch, use the reverse yarn-over:

Instead of bringing the yarn forward between the two needles, begin with it at the back of the right-hand needle, then bring it forward over the needle and to the back between the needles.  Continue knitting.  This leaves a smaller hole than a regular yarn-over.

cross right (stockinette):

Create a reverse yarn-over on the knit row, then when you reach the created stitch on the return (purl) row, purl off into the front of the stitch.  This will make the stitch cross to the right.

cross left (stockinette):

Create a reverse yarn-over on the knit row, then on the return row, purl into the back of the stitch.  This will make the stitch cross to the left.

The cross-right and cross-left produce a close stitch, with no eyelet.  Used as a pair (say, on either side of a gusset), they give a smooth, flat seam.

Tomorrow, the bar increase and moss increase (making two stitches out of one).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Increasing Knit Stitches

So, we’ve cast on our stitches and knitted our rows, and now we find that we need to increase our number of stitches.  There are a number of clever variants, but basically it boils down to six ways to do this:

1.  We can do a yarn-over (yo), whereby we simply wrap the yarn around the needle (once) without knitting it.  When we come back with our purl row (for stockinette), we purl this yarn-over.  Now we have an extra stitch, but we also have a hole, which is fine if we’re making eyelet or lace. 

But what if we don’t want a hole?

2.  We can turn one stitch into two by knitting into the back of the stitch and then into the front of the same stitch before dropping it off the left needle.  Sometimes instructions will tell you to knit into the front first and then knit into the back.  This technique is called a bar increase because the second stitch has a little bar at its base, which makes it easy to count.  

3.  We can also turn one stitch into two by knitting into the front of the stitch and then purling into the front of the same stitch before dropping it off the left needle.  This technique is called a moss increase.  

Or we can pick up an extra stitch in one of three places:

4.   We can knit into the horizontal bar between the stitch on our right needle and the stitch on our left needle.  This will act similar to the yarn-over, but will leave a smaller hole in the work.  (If we knit into the back of this bar, the hole will be slightly diminished, but still visible.)  This technique is called a raised increase.

5.   We can knit into the top loop of the stitch below the stitch on our left needle.  This is called a lifted increase.

6.   Or we can knit into the top loop of the stitch below the stitch on our right needle.  This is also called a lifted increase.

There are subtle visual distinctions among these six basic methods of increasing.  Tomorrow we’ll explore them in detail, beginning with the yarn-over.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Provisional Cast-On

Here's a cast-on that allows you to knit in two directions at once—seamlessly.  Using this cast-on, you can knit a lacy pattern into, say, a scarf, and have it look the same at both ends.  

Some instructions call for doing the provisional cast-on with a needle to make "live" stitches and some "waste" yarn that acts as a placeholder, which is removed when the reserved stitches are picked up. 

I prefer the method that produces two sets of live stitches, one above and one below.  And because for most purposes I prefer circular needles, I'm going to show you how to do this with two circular needles of the same gauge.

You'll see stitches being cast onto one tip of a grey plastic needle (circular) held in the hand, and at the same time onto the cable of a second circular needle (in this case bamboo) that will dangle below.  I'm going to call the grey plastic needle the upper needle.

1.     Place a slip knot on your upper needle.

2.     Hold the cable portion of a second circular needle below the upper needle with the slip knot.  (The two tips of the second circular needle are going to dangle.)

3.     Grasping the slip knot, bring your needle tip down below the cable of the second needle.

4.     Bring the needle tip up behind the cable, and grab the yarn.  Yarn is behind needle.

5.     Drag yarn down below the cable.

6.     Bring needle up.  Wrap yarn over needle from front to back.  Notice that at this point there are three stitches on the (upper) needle (the first stitch is the slip knot) and two stitches on the cable below.

7.     Bring needle tip down below (and in front of) cable.

8.     Bring needle up behind cable, with tip between cable and yarn.

9.     Come up and grab yarn (same as Step 6).  Yarn wraps over needle from front to back. 

10.  Repeat these steps.  Observe that for every stitch on the upper needle, there is an equivalent stitch on the cable whose tips are dangling below.

11.  When you have the appropriate number of stitches on the upper needle, turn work.  You will begin knitting into the first stitch on the end of the upper needle.

12.  Continue knitting from the work on the upper needle until you have achieved as much as you need to.  (While you are working these stitches, if the dangling circular needle gets in your way, you could temporarily substitute a large cable needle, or even a piece of yarn threaded through the stitches. Then when you're ready to work in the other direction, replace the circular needle onto whose cable you cast on originally.)

      When you are ready to build out from the stitches below, the ones that were cast onto the cable of the circular needle whose tips were dangling, turn work over so the cable is on top.  Draw on that cable until its needle appears.  Now you're ready to begin working.  (In the photo, the bamboo needle on top holds the stitches that began on the bottom, on the bamboo needle’s cable.)

13.  Bring up the dangling end of the second needle (in this case it’s the bamboo one) and begin to knit.  To make it easier for you to visualize the process, I used a contrasting color as I began knitting the stitches from the bamboo needle.  (Actually, I knitted in both directions at once, doing the rows in green that you see on the plastic needle, then turning the work upside-down and knitting in white the rows that you see on the bamboo needle.  If you had a limited amount of yarn, this would be a handy way to be sure it would be equally distributed between the two directions.)

14.  Notice that this technique produces a seamless transition.  Basically, you’re knitting upwards and downwards at the same time.  Out from the center of a long rectangle, as it were.  Those of you who have done Moebius knitting will recognize the similarity here.  The only difference is that with Moebius there’s only one needle, and it makes a single twist over itself.     

Monday, April 11, 2011

The English Long-Tail Cast-On

Here’s a real treasure of a cast-on.  Basically, the left hand makes a loop that the right hand knits into.  This produces a neat, tailored edge that is double on both sides and appears as if the first row has already been knittedUse this method where you want a firm, heavy, handsome edge that can take a lot of stretch.

It requires an agile left hand.  Try this:  Curl your left forefinger into the very base of your thumb.  Nestle it at that little webbed spot where your thumb joins your hand.  Now slowly sweep that left forefinger along the side of your thumb that houses the thumbnail.  Pretend you’re trying to wipe something off of that knuckle-side of your thumb.  Wipe all the way to the thumbnail.

If you can perform that action, you can do the English long-tail cast-on.  Ready?

This method consumes yarn from the tail in the same way and to the same amount as the first long-tail method we worked.  We’re going to cast on twenty stitches, so grasp the loose end of your yarn in your left hand and pull toward your left elbow.  There.  That’s how much you’ll need.

For now, grab both sides of that spot with the pinky and the ring finger of each hand.  

Bring your right hand toward you and wrap the yarn around your extended left thumb, wrapping away from your chest, toward the palm of your left hand.

Now bring your left forefinger down over the yarn.  Make that wiping motion toward your thumbnail, catching the yarn in a loop that laps over your forefinger.  

Holding a needle in your right hand, place the needle into this loop as if to knit.   

With your right hand, wrap the long end of the yarn around the needle and actually knit a stitch.  (You’ll need to give a slight tug with the left hand to snug the yarn up.  Not too tight, now.)

From here on, the right needle holds the stitches, the right hand wraps the yarn around the needle.

With your left forefinger, snag the taut yarn again.  Curl forefinger toward base of thumb, wipe toward thumbnail, and hold finger up with yarn wrapped over it.  Knit into this stitch just as you knitted into the first one. 
When you finish twenty stitches, compare the results with the regular long-tail cast-on.  With the English long-tail cast-on, basically that first stitch (the loop around your left forefinger) has already been knitted into.  Notice that this produces a foundation row that shows two ridges on both sides, whereas the regular long-tail displays two ridges on only one side.  

Tomorrow, the provisional cast-on.

How are you doing with all these cast-ons?  How am I doing with all these explanations?


Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Loop-Over (Single-Edge) Cast-On

You have now learned the long-tail, the knit-on, and the cable cast-on.  Let’s look at the single-edge cast-on.  You can think of it as the loop-over, the one most beginners start with.

It’s not as easy to knit into as the others, and it gives a light, single edge (suitable for lace), but there will be times you’ll need it, nevertheless.  It can be worked on either the right needle coming toward the left, or the left needle coming toward the right, which is one of its great advantages.

In either case, begin with a slip knot. 

Now hold your yarn toward the tip of the needle.  Make a loop whose tail comes back over (not under) the yarn.  (If you loop the tail back under the yarn, it won’t work.) 
Place that loop on the needle and pull it snug.

Make the next loop the same way.
And so on.

See?  Simple.

Tomorrow, a true double-edge cast on with good stretchability:  the English Long-Tail Cast-On.  This one is different.  Bring a friend.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Cable Cast-On

Now here’s a good example of two steps forward and one step back.

The cable cast-on has, as its foundation, the knit-on.  It begins the same:
Make a slip knot.  (One stitch on needle.)  Knit once into the slip knot.  Draw the loop through and put it on the needle to the right of the slip knot.  (Two stitches on needle.)

Those are the two steps forward.  Here’s the one step back:

Instead of knitting into stitch #2, insert your needle between stitch #1 and stitch #2.

Draw the loop forward and place on needle as stitch #3. 

Insert needle between stitch #2 and stitch #3.  Pull loop through, place on needle as stitch #4.  And so on.  Don’t pull these stitches too tight; leave a little slack in the loop as you place it back on the needle.

The cable cast-on gives a double edge similar in appearance to the long-tail cast-on, but it’s firm, rather than resilient.  Use it where you want your cast-on edge to resist stretching.  As with the long-tail, the cable cast-on is easy to knit (or purl) into.   
Occasionally you’ll be instructed to insert your needle two steps back instead of one.  That makes a firmer cable, which is especially useful for the one-row buttonhole. 

After you’ve knitted twenty stitches of cable cast-on, compare them to your twenty stitches of knit-on.  Notice how the base of the cable cast-on stitches is firmer and much less elastic than the base of the knit-on stitches.

Remember this: 

Cast-ons are much more than just a way to get stitches on your needle.  They are, in truth, the unknitted row, the base row of your garment.  Choose your cast-on accordingly, paying attention to your garment’s starting line, making sure it’s appropriate for the purpose of your garment.

And remember this: 

Most times, you’re on your own; the pattern will simply say CO.  That’s why you need a versatile vocabulary of cast-ons.

Tomorrow, the loop over.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Knit-On Cast-On

Congratulations on your mastery of the best of the first operations essential to the ancient and honorable craft of knitting.  The virtues of the long-tail cast-on are several:  it’s easy to knit or purl into, it’s reasonably elastic, and it gives a neat, finished edge.   For most projects it’s the cast-on of choice.

Still, you may meet instructions or circumstances where the knit-on cast-on is required.  This method is particularly useful if you’re casting on to extend the top edge of an already knitted piece; for instance, to make a t-shirt sleeve.  (The knit-on part becomes the top of the T, extending out from an existing block of knitting.)      

It’s also possible to begin a piece this way.  It’s easy, fast, and intuitive—a cinch to make—although it produces a beginning edge that looks rather “loopy” and can occasionally give too much stretch.

To begin the knit-on from scratch:

Make a slip knot.

Knit one stitch into the slip knot.

Draw that stitch out into a loop.

Place the loop on the needle to the right of the slip knot.  Two stitches now on needle.

Knit into the stitch you just created, draw out the loop, and place the loop on the needle to the right of the previous stitch.  Three stitches now on needle.

Proceed in this manner.  You're knitting. 
See?  One loop through another.