Knitting Techniques by Mary Ellen Meisters

Knitting Techniques by Mary Ellen Meisters

Copyright © 1996–2004 by Mary Ellen Meisters • This HTML version was last revised February 17, 2004

A much improved version of this HTML document is to appear in March or April 2004.
It will be the HTML version of the Feb 28 PDF version now available just below.

Some of the following techniques are not original with me, but are ideas I have collected during my fifty years of knitting. I use them frequently and think it is convenient to have them written in one place, especially for anyone who is not used to using them.

Tubular cast-on for one-by-one ribbing or for double knitting

Repeat rows 3 and 4 at least once, then change to the size needle required for the ribbing and work 1-by-1 ribbing the usual way for the desired length. Remove the scrap yarn and you have a neat rounded stretchy edge through which you can run elastic.

Tubular bind off for one-by-one ribbing or for double knitting

The last two or four rows of the ribbing must be done in double knitting. That is, knit the knit stitches, and slip the purl stitches as if to purl with yarn in front, for an even number of rows. Break off yarn two or three times as long as the length of the row. Thread the yarn into a blunt pointed darning needle (DN) and proceed as follows: If the first stitch is a knit, put the DN through the stitch as if to purl, and leave it on the knitting needle. Put the DN through the second stitch as if to knit, and pull the yarn through both stitches leaving both stitches on the knitting needle. If the first stitch is a purl, put the yarn through the stitch as if to knit, and through the second stitch as if to purl. From this point on you will work the stitches according to whether the first stitch on the knitting needle is knit or purl. If the first stitch is a knit, insert DN into it for the second time as if to knit, and slip it off the knitting needle. Insert the DN through the next knit stitch as if to purl, and pull the yarn through,—but leave the stitches on the knitting needle. If the first stitch is a purl, insert the DN into the first stitch for the second time as if to purl, and slip it off the knitting needle. Insert the DN between the next two stitches from the back, and put it through the second stitch on the knitting needle (which is a purl) as if to knit. Pull the yarn through, but leave the stitches on the knitting needle. Continue in this manner until all stitches are bound off.

For tubular or double knitting in the round

Work rows 1 and 2 for tubular cast-on as described above, using a circular needle and an even number of stitches. Place a marker and join, being careful not to twist stitches. Then proceed as follows: Repeat these 2 rounds at least once, then continue with normal 1-by-1 ribbing or the invisible bind off.

Decreases

To slant left on a knit row:
Slip two stitches, one at a time, as if to knit. Put the left needle back into the stitches toward the front and knit them together in the regular way. (ssk)

To slant right on a knit row:
Knit two together in the regular way. (k2tog)

To slant left on a purl row:
Purl two stitches together in the usual way. (p2tog)

To slant right on a purl row:
Purl two stitches together through the back loops, going into the second stitch first. (p2tog tbl)

Double decrease for a V-neck sweater:
This can be worked in single or double rib. Work to the stitch before the center front stitch. Slip (as if to knit) the stitch before the center stitch together with the center stitch. Knit the next stitch and pass the two slipped stitches over the knit one. (s2kp2) Work the same way whether the stitches are knit or purl on either side of the center stitch. Decrease on every row for the desired width of ribbing.

To knit shoulders together

Have an equal number of shoulder stitches on the front and back of your garment. Place them on two needles, right sides together, or wrong sides together if you want a decorative shoulder seam. Hold the points of your needles in the same direction. With a third needle, knit together one stitch from the front needle and one stitch from the back needle. Work another set and you will have two stitches on the right-hand needle. Bind off one stitch in the regular way. Continue in this manner until all the shoulder stitches have been bound off. Pull yarn through the last stitch. Be sure to knit with the same size needle that you used for the body of the garment. If you forget to bind off as you are knitting the stitches from the front and back needles together, you may do a regular bind-off row since all the stitches are now on one needle.

Invisible increase


Kitchener (or grafting) stitch for stockinette [Horatio Herbert Kitchener 1850–1916]

Grafting is done with wrong sides together, right side of fabric facing you. Thread a blunt pointed darning needle (DN) with garment yarn. Put the same number of stitches on two knitting needles pointing in the same direction (with one closer to you, the front needle, and one further from you, the back needle).
      	    		    	    	    	    	    	 
  1. Pass DN through first stitch in front needle as if to purl. Pull up yarn, but leave stitch on the knitting needle.
  2. Pass DN through first stitch on back needle as if to knit and pull up yarn, but leave the stitch on the knitting needle.
  3. Pass DN through first stitch on front needle for the second time as if to knit, slipping the stitch off the knitting needle.
  4. Pass DN through the second stitch on the front needle as if to purl, leaving the stitch on the knitting needle. Pull up yarn.
  5. Pass DN through the first stitch on the back needle as if to purl, slipping the stitch off the needle. Pull up yarn.
  6. Pass DN through the second stitch on the back needle as if to knit, leaving the stitch on the knitting needle. Pull up yarn.
Repeat steps 3 through 6 until all stitches are used. Snug up ends. Grafting will look exactly like the knitted fabric. It can be used for the toes of socks or any other place that calls for an invisible joining.
For garter stitch: Do step 1 on both needles; then repeat steps 3 & 4 across all stitches on both needles.

Idiot's cord or I-cord (for a drawstring, knitted buttons, or trim)

Using 2 double pointed needles of proper size for the yarn you choose, cast on 2 or more stitches and knit them. Do not turn the work—keep the knit side toward you. Place the needle with the stitches on it in your left hand, slide the work down the needle and knit again, pulling up yarn snugly. Repeat until you have the length desired. Bind off.
To make buttons:
Make an I-cord about one to one-and-a-half inches long and tie it in a tight knot. Leave a tail of yarn with which to attach the button to the garment.
Knitted-on I-cord (for the front band of a cardigan):
Cast on 3 extra stitches at the outside edge of the front band. When these stitches are at the beginning of a row, slip them as if to purl with yarn toward the wrong side of your work and proceed across the row. When these stitches are at the end of a row, knit them on the right side or purl them on the wrong side. This will make a smooth rolled edge that will not sag. You may use this if your front band is in ribbed-, seed-, stocking-, or garter-stitches. If you are using a contrasting color for the I-cord, to avoid bleed-through, work from the wrong side.


Double knitting

Think of double knitting as having two right sides of contrasting colors. Think of stitches as being in pairs; one knit, one purl. All the knit stitches in a row make up one layer and all the purl stitches make the other layer. Both layers are stockinette on the outside; the purl sides are on the inside. There are two methods for double knitting:
  1. You can knit the stitches for one layer (the one facing you) and slip the stitches for the other layer. (Knit the knits and, with yarn in front , slip the purls.) In the next row, knit the stitches you slipped in the previous row and slip, with yarn in front, the stitches you knitted. You must work across and back to add one row to both layers, so this is slow.
  2. The second method allows you to work both layers of the fabric at the same time. If you are familiar with holding one color of yarn in each hand for two-color stranded knitting, you will pick this up quickly. Hold the main color (MC) in one hand and the contrasting color (CC) in the other. *Knit the first stitch with MC as usual, bring both yarns to the front, and purl the second stitch with CC, bring both yarns to the back*; repeat between *s across the row. This will give you a fabric with an MC layer and a CC layer. You may also work both colors in one hand, if you prefer. The key point to remember is to bring both yarns forward when purling and both yarns back when knitting.
Headband (a small but useful project for practice):
This headband will fit most adults; but you can vary size by changing the weight of yarn and/or the needle size. Use any sport or worsted yarn, that knits 5 stitches-to-the-inch, in two contrasting colors MC and CC. Use a size 2–5 circular needle no longer than 24 inches; or use four or five double-pointed needles. Use some scrap yarn for step 1, as you will discard this in step 4.

----x---- ---x----x17
----xx--- --xx-----16
----xxx-- -xxx-----15
-xxx-xxx- xxx-xxx--14
--xxx-xx- xx-xxx---13
---xxx-x- x-xxx----12
----xxx-x -xxx----x11
x------xx x------x-10
----xxx-x -xxx----x09
---xxx-x- x-xxx----08
--xxx-xx- xx-xxx---07
-xxx-xxx- xxx-xxx--06
----xxx-- -xxx-----05
----xx--- --xx-----04
----x---- ---x----x03
--------- ---------02
--------- ---------01
18171615141312111009 0807060504030201C\R

Start at the lower right corner (row 1, column 1) and work left across each row in turn.

  1. Using tubular cast-on (described on page 1), cast on 90 sts with scrap yarn.
  2. Working in the round with MC, and using a very small needle, *k1, yarn over (yo)*. Repeat between *s to get 180 stitches.
  3. *k1 with MC, p1 with CC*. Repeat between *s to finish row 1.
  4. Change to a larger needle,—and, reading this chart from right to left and bottom to top, continue with row 2, work all rows, then rows 1 & 2 again. The chart is repeated 5 times around the band. There will be 90 MC sts and 90 CC sts. Knit the knit sts with MC and purl the purl sts with CC. The x 's on the chart indicate where to switch colors. When you have completed the chart, bind off using tubular bind-off (page 1). Remove the scrap yarn, weave in the ends, and block lightly. Each of the squares in the chart represents two stitches, one knit and one purl. The colors are reversed on the opposite side.

Making your own pattern for a sweater

Select a pattern stitch. Make a gauge swatch. REMEMBER: It is necessary to do the swatch using the stitch pattern. Do at least 20 stitches or the number of stitches required for at least one repeat of your chosen stitch pattern.
Figuring the number of stitches needed for your garment:
In order to determine the size, it is a good idea to take a sweater the fits you well and lay it out flat and measure the chest.
For example,—If your pattern swatch measures 3 1/2 inches, and the sweater you want to make measures 42 inches, divide 42 by 3 1/2 (= 12) and multiply the result by the number of stitches (n) in the swatch. That is: 42 divided by 3 1/2 times n equals 12n stitches required for size 42. If you are working the back and front separately you must divide the number by 2. If the number of stitches in the repeated pattern isn't equal to the number of stitches in your calculation you will have to fudge a few stitches. Calculate the number of stitches you need for the back, plus l stitch on each side for the selvedge stitches. Cast on approximately 10 percent fewer stitches for the ribbing on needles 2 or 3 sizes smaller than those you are using for the body of the sweater. After the ribbing is completed (usually 2–3 inches), increase the 10 percent of stitches that you didn't cast on at the beginning, evenly spaced across the row. Knit a rectangle for a drop shoulder sweater. If you are making a drop shoulder sweater, knit the length desired to the shoulder and place the stitches on holders or on a piece of scrap yarn as follows:

1/3 for right shoulder1/3 for neckline1/3 for left shoulder

Note: Most sweaters can be knitted in the round to the underarms. When the length to the underarm is reached, divide the stitches (1/2 for front and 1/2 for back) and proceed back and forth on 2 needles to shoulder; finish back first, then front, so that you can more easily determine where to start the front neck. Want a mock underarm seam?—Purl a few stitches at each side while working the body. You can make a square-set sleeve, and thus reduce the length of the shoulder seam, by binding off an inch or two worth of stitches at the underarm. Then your sleeve will have to be knitted that much longer.

For the front of a cardigan:
Cast on half of the number of back stitches plus 7–10 stitches (depending on your gauge) for the front border. Here again you may have to fudge a few stitches to fit in your pattern. The front border should be about 1 to 1.25 inches plus the 3 stitches if you are making an I-cord edge. Work the side with the buttons first so you can measure to evenly space the buttonholes. Buttonholes are usually spaced 2 to 4 inches apart. I use a scrap of yarn to mark the place for each buttonhole. Knit front until 3 or 4 inches shorter than the length to back shoulder. Put about 2/3 of half the number of back neck stitches, along with the front border stitches, on a holder. These will be picked up later when you rib the neck band. Decrease the remaining third of the stitches on every other row along the neck edge and continue until the front is the same length as the back at the shoulders, and you have the same number of stitches as the back shoulder.
For the front of a crew neck:
When the front is 2 to 4 inches shorter than the back, place 2/3 of the number of back neck stitches on a holder and decrease remaining stitches at each side of the neck until you have the same number of stitches for the front shoulders as you have for the back shoulders. Place the stitches on holders and later knit the shoulders together.
Set-in sleeve:
At the underarms on the front and the back decrease about 1 inch worth of stitches at the beginning of the row and decrease 1 stitch at a time, every other row at each side, until you have decreased another inch or two. Work even. The same decreases must be done on the sleeves. Sleeve cap length C must be made shorter than the body armhole length B by an amount of D inches. (D = B - C.) The approximate amounts for D (in inches) are given in the following table.

CHEST SIZE D = B - C
20" to 26"2.0" less
27" to 31"2.5" less
32" to 40"3.0" less
41" to 48"3.5" less
over 48"4.0" less

After the length (C = B - D) of the sleeve cap has been reached, bind off the remaining stitches.

Sleeves for a drop-shoulder or square-set armhole:
Measure the stitches you need for the cuff by holding the back ribbing around your wrist. Count the ribs that fit your wrist and cast on that number of stitches. After the ribbing is complete increase at least 10 percent of the stitches on the next row. To figure the number of stitches you need for the top of the sleeve, measure the depth of the armhole on the back (usually 9 or 10 inches) and take that number times the number of stitches per inch times 2. Take the number of stitches needed for the top of the sleeve, subtract the number of stitches already on the needle, divide by 2 and you have the number of increases you will need to make at each edge of your sleeve. Multiply the number of rows per inch times the desired length of the sleeve; divide by the number of necessary increases and you will know how many rows between increases should be worked. (I find that the number of rows is usually 4 or 6 between increases, or a combination of the two.) Stop the increases 1 or 2 inches before the desired length is reached. Don't forget to make a square-set sleeve longer. You may pick up stitches around the armhole (after the shoulders are knitted together and the side seams are sewn up) on a circular needle and knit down toward the cuff, reversing the shaping. Cuffs will usually have to be knitted on double pointed needles. Using this method you have no seams to sew up on the sleeves.
Neck:
Pick up stitches from holders plus stitches along the bound-off neck edge. Keeping the pattern the same for the front border of a cardigan, work in ribbing (usually 1 to 1.5 inches in width) for the neck band and bind off loosely using a larger needle.
For a Cardigan:
One buttonhole should be worked in the neck band, unless you are making a V-neck cardigan. Remember to consider this when you are spacing buttonholes.
For a V-neck pullover:
Start the neck for a V-neck pullover at the beginning of the underarm by putting the center stitch (or two) on a holder. When working neck-band, work to one stitch before the center-stitch, slip 2 sts together as to knit, k 1, pass the 2 slipped sts over the knit-stitch.

To figure the spacing of the decreases, take the number of rows in which you need to decrease (rows-per-inch × length-of-V) and divide that number by the number of decreases needed to make the shoulder stitches the same as the back. This will determine how many rows you need to work between decreases. Work the decreases as evenly as possible in the second or third stitches from the edge, never in the edge stitch.

For a V-neck cardigan:
You may start the V at any point, and figure the spacing of the decreases the same way. Slant the decreases as follows: right side, right slant (k 2 tog); left side, left slant (ssk).


Loose ends

TYPE OF YARNSTITCHES PER INCHNEEDLE SIZE
fingering7–81–3
sport64–6
worsted4.5–57–9
bulky310–11

These are only some examples. There are some yarns that do not fit into these categories. Sometimes you may want to knit much looser or tighter for various reasons. For example: A lace shawl might be knitted with fingering yarn on size 8 or larger needles. Usually the recommended needle size and desired gauge are printed on the yarn label.


Buttonholes

The best buttonhole I have found is a self-reinforcing buttonhole. The instructions for this buttonhole can be found in A Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns, page 354, by Barbara G. Walker, originally published by Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1968. Reprinted by Schoolhouse Press, 6899 Cary Bluff, Pittsville, WI 54466; Schoolhouse Press ed. © 1998, Barbara G. Walker, ISBN: 0-942018-17-6.


You may send e-mail to Mary Ellen Meisters via her husband, Gary, at gmeister@math.unl.edu

This HTML document is available at the Web address (URL) http://www.math.unl.edu/~gmeister/
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H A P P Y   K N I T T I N G!   •   Copyright © 2004 by Mary Ellen Meisters