Knitters know that any time you take on a project, you'd better be ready to learn something new. That's just the way creativity works. And as a self-taught knitter, I've experienced my share of struggles over the years. (Why does stockinette curl like that? Why are my edges so sloppy when everyone else's seem so neat?) So, without further fuss, here are six top tips I wish I'd learned sooner.
1. Use circular needles (even when you're knitting flat)
There's no secret technique wisdom here. It's just that straight needles are WAY easier to lose. When you're not looking, the needle not attached to your knitting can leap out of your bag and escape through a portal under the nearest piece of furniture, never to be seen again. True story.
You can use circular needles for flat projects by just knitting back and forth instead of joining the work to proceed in the round. The cable connecting the needles will make sure they both stick around for the duration of your project.
But that's not the only reason to use circular needles for flat projects ...
- Circular needles are more portable. The short needles and flexible cable make it easy to bundle up your project in your purse or bag with no unwanted poking.
- It's easier to handle a lot of stitches on circular needles because the length of the cable can be longer than a pair of straight knitting needles combined.
- You reduce the risk of dropping stitches if you stop in the middle of a row. Just push both sides of the work to the middle of the cable and you won't have to worry about stitches slipping off the ends of the needles if you don't have point protectors.
2. The crochet hook is a knitter's best friend
Even if you're a die-hard knitter, you'll find that a crochet hook is indispensable. Here's why:
Fix dropped stitches
Photo via Craftsy instructor Stefanie Japel
If you drop a stitch, you don't have to rip back your work, even if it's laddered several rows down. Just insert the crochet hook in the work, hook the next rung of the ladder and pull it through the loop of the dropped stitch. You can see this magic in action in the class Save Our Stitches: Fixing Knitting Mistakes .
Picking up stitches to knit
When your pattern calls for picking up stitches to complete a neckline or anything else, a crochet hook can be easier to handle than a knitting needle. Instead of trying to coax the yarn through a stitch on a slippery, straight knitting needle, just slip the crochet hook through the stitch, snag the new yarn strand below, pull it through the stitch and then transfer it to the knitting needle.
Use a crochet hook to thread and knot strands of yarn through the edge of your knitting to add fringe-y flair.
3. Stockinette curls and it's not your fault
We know it's maddening: You're knitting a simple piece of stockinette and it starts to roll up at the bottom and curl in at the sides. When it happened to me, I figured I was doing something wrong. But it's actually caused by the nature of the stitch itself and can be prevented with simple changes like adding a border. Get the details to solve it for yourself here .
4. Create a neat edge with an easy chain slip stitch
You'll say goodbye to nubby garter stitch edges forever the minute you knit your first slipped stitch chain edge. As you can see in the swatch below, the slipped chain gives a pretty braid-like edge along the right side.
There are a few ways to do a chain edge, but this is the easiest way I've found:
- At the end of every row, slip the last stitch with the yarn in front
- At the beginning of the next row, knit the slipped stitch
This one's become such a habit for me that I do it automatically and it feels wrong to knit any other way.
5. Match the stitch to the yarn
When I first started knitting, I'd fall for every bouclé, ribbon or fuzzy-soft yarn I saw. But when I got them home, I learned they made a mess of the cables, lace, or other special stitch patterns I wanted to try. Textured yarn works best with simple stitches like stockinette and garter, and a textured stitch works best with a simple high-ply twisted yarn.
6. Recycle or upcycle your practice projects
When you're knitting — especially when you try a new technique — plenty of projects don't turn out the way you envisioned. Instead of scrapping it and buying new yarn (something we all love to do), reuse that yarn in a new project.