Knitters' Graph Paper
In the following post I talk about knitters' graph paper as something you do not
need for two-colored stranded knitting--because it knits to a square
gauge. But much knitting does not: stockinette is more like 5X7 than
5X5. So we need special graph paper if we want to draw out something,
then knit it, and have the knitting be proportionate.
I have struggled to find this, because the knitters' graph paper you can download from the internet has two problems.
I have created my own graph paper, and I will send you the PDF file if
you email me at email@example.com. (Some day I will learn how
to offer this as a link, but for now just email me.)
- The lines are black, which means I cannot see what I draw on it.
- It comes in 8 1/2" X 11" pages, and I have to tape many together if I want to knit something that covers my whole sweater.
You can ask for the LARGE--which will print on a piece of 20" X 28" poster paper.
You can ask for the SMALL--which will print on a piece of 8 1/2" X 11" paper.
file will come in a light orange. You may print in in color (so you can
see your pencil lines), but if you print it in black-and-white it will
appear as a nice-to-work-with light gray.
When I went to
print the LARGE size, they told me that they only print color on glossy
paper--which wouldn't be cool to draw on and would be very expensive.
So I chose to print in the gray. The large format was costly ($3
service fee + $4 for the job = $7 for one sheet), but it will probably
accommodate front + back + 2 sleeves. But I'm
also thinking you can find a cheaper way to accomplish this? Or you can
tape together many SMALL pieces? Or maybe it's for a once-in-a-lifetime
sweater and so worth it?
Long ago our guild had 2000 sheets
printed for $120. But tthat was a long long time ago and through a very
large guild. it took 30 years to use up all that paper! But now that
it's gone, I see how precious it was and what a gift we gave
Finding and Knitting Letters of the Alphabet
our new book, we have a Christmas stocking with a row of hearts around
the top. In the notes, I suggest that some of the hearts could be
replaced with someone's name. Here's how. (I am doing this
'generically' rather than just giving you an alphabet so you can choose
your own font and learn this valuable skill!)
If you are making the Nordic Stocking in Warm Knits, Cool Gifts, you can now knit-in the name over the area of the chart that was supposed to be hearts!
yourself some graph paper. (It need not be 'knitters' graph paper,
because these letters will be done in two-color-stranded knitting which
tends to be square. Regular square graph paper is fine, but don't
choose something really tiny. Print it out from the internet if you
wish. But do understand that it does not have to be the same size as the chart in the book.)
- Look on your printer programme for a font you like. Print out the person's name, bold and at the 72 size. Or have the person for whom the stocking is intended write his/her own name. Or write your own letters.
how many rows tall you want your letters to be. Lay your graph paper
over your letters to see how many squares tall the letters you have
printed are. (The
heart chart will allow you a height of 8 squares for your letters.) If
your letters are not the right height, take them to a photo copier and
have them copied to the right height. When they are the right number of
squares tall for your chart, you are good to go.
- Now lay your
letters behind your graph paper. Following the lines of the graph
paper, trace the letters and colour them in. Look critically at your
result, and adjust as needed. (If you really just don't like the
result, perhaps you chose the wrong font? Do you need something bolder
- Now you have the name on chart paper, ready to knit in!
Picking up vs Picking up and Knitting
knitting patterns are not yet standardized (as sewing patterns are), so
there is some confusion as to what these terms mean. And sometimes a
pattern will say one thing--"pick up"--when the results (a row of
knitting) clearly indicate that you were meant to "pick up and knit."
addressed the difference between these two terms in THE KNIT STITCH,
page 41. But here is a more lengthy discussion of what these terms should mean. (I have Meg Swanson's agreement on this, so we're in good company here!)
"pick up," you simply insert your left needle, from left to right,
through bumps, or slip stitches, or whatever you choose along an
edge, until you have the required number of 'stitches' on your LEFT
needle. Do note that no knitting has occurred! If you did this with the RS of your work facing, your next row will be a RS row.
"pick up and knit," you insert your right needle through something at
the right edge of your piece (usually with RS facing), use yarn, and
draw through a new stitch. You continue working from right to left
until you have the required number of stitches on your RIGHT needle.
When done, one row of knitting has occurred! Your next row will be a WS row.
- What the latter does not ever mean is for you to insert your right needle, draw through a stitch, and then somehow knit it again!
may have been told (I know I have) that knitting patterns are like
recipes--which you wouldn't use without reading through before
I do not
agree. I think that if we read through a knitting pattern--with its
frequently torturous language--no-one would ever knit anything!But there are things you should read through or work with before you begin, and here's what they are.
you get going, you can read a little ahead--especially to look for that
pesky but unavoidable AT THE SAME TIME instruction. Otherwise, just
work with what you encounter as you encounter it.
- skill level (Make
sure you are choosing a piece appropriate to your level. If you choose
to challenge yourself beyond your level, do you have someone handy who
has knit this same pattern and can guide you?)
- size (Choose
the right size by doing the following: measure your actual bust, then
look at the finished size and be sure it has appropriate ease for the
weight of yarn and style. Set-in sleeves often have 2-4" ease, drop
shoulders have 6" or more of ease, raglans can be either of these. Some
yarns or stitch patterns or styles can be tighter than 2-4" of ease,
but be sure this is what you want.)
- materials (Do you have everything you need before you begin?)
Isn't it a pain when you find a pattern you like for which
the yarn is no longer available?
And trust me, as bad as this is for you, it's a nightmare for me!
Before I've put a pattern out there, I've checked with the
yarn company—to ask if this yarn is going to be around for a
while—or I've chosen something that has enjoyed longevity. But if a mill
decides to not produce the yarn anymore, or if a company finds the yarn no
longer profitable, it's removed. No amount of begging on my part can change
this. (I suppose I could promise to buy, say, $50,000 worth of the
yarn—but I'd have to sell my home to do so.)
So while I understand the yarn company's position, I also
share your frustration. What do we do?
If the situation is particularly perilous—as can
happen when a yarn is very specific—I'll find a reasonable substitution
and post it on my website. But often I am confident that
there are many substitutions available—too many to discuss—so to
address that situation I offer the following steps you can take to make a
1. Look in the
pattern for 3 pieces of information: the name of the original yarn + its fiber
content, the yarn's CYCA weight designation, and the gauge of the pattern.
2. If possible, go to a
yarn shop that carries the original yarn and follow the next 3 steps: if you
cannot get your hands on the original yarn, skip to step 7.
3. Feel the yarn: is it soft (and will, therefore be drapey) or hard (and will,
therefore, be stiff).
4. Find a yarn with a similar feel (and perhaps fiber content) and of the same
weight. (This matching weight is evident by a matching CYCA number. But often
there is no CYCA number on the ball band, although sometimes you might find it
on the yarn's website. In any case, you can look to the gauge on the band:
matching gauges = matching CYCA weights.)
5. Because CYCA weights and gauges on labels are only approximate, you should employ
the 'twist test' to find a truly matching yarn. Here's how: loop the yarns
against each other (so now two strands of one are in your right hand and two
strands of the other are in your left hand); twist each hand in the opposite
direction (to spin the air out); run your hand across the join between the two;
if there is no perceivable difference in bulk, the two yarns will match. (If my
words don't adequately explain this, go to The Knit Stitch or The Purl Stitch,
and look up yarn substitutions.)
6. Make a gauge swatch in your new yarn—just to be sure. (You know I have to
7. If you cannot find get your hands on the original yarn, work through the
following 2 steps.
8. Find a yarn with a similar fiber content and of the same weight. (This matching
weight is evident by a matching CYCA number. But often there is no CYCA number
on the ball band, although sometimes you might find it on the yarn's website.
In any case, you can look to the gauge on the band: matching gauges = matching
9. Make a gauge swatch in your new yarn—just to be sure. (You know I have to
When pattern gauge
yarn substitutions, we often rely on the wrong information—the gauge of
the project. Here's why that isn't always appropriate.
pattern, I might use a worsted weight yarn (that normally gets a gauge of 18
stitches over 4" over size 6 [4mm] needles).
But in this
particular pattern and with this particular stitch pattern, I might use size 9
(5.5mm) needles to get a gauge of 14 stitches over 4". (You might even have
done this yourself—used a super-fine yarn with medium-sized needles to
knit an open-and-airy shawl?)
If you were
to only look at the pattern's gauge—in this case, 14 stitches over 4"—you'd go
looking at a bulky yarn, wouldn't you? You wouldn't normally go looking for a
worsted weight? And you'd make an entirely inappropriate fabric.
the CYCA number is such a good thing. Not only does it codify yarns from all of
the world ('cause I have to admit that I don't know what a British 2-ply is?!),
but it is a quick reference to the yarn's weight.
When you go
to this CYCA number—which should be offered in every pattern—then
you can look for a matching yarn—one with the same CYCA number (which
should be on the ball band but most certainly on the yarn's website). And now
you're ready to make a reasonable substitution.
By the way,
I think they made an error in only allowing for 6 categories. In my humble
opinion, there is too much of a leap from weight 4 (worsted, 16–20
stitches) to weight 5 (bulky, 12–15 stitches). There should have been a
category between—that weight we've always known as aran and usually knit
to 15-16 stitches.
reason, the weight they call medium has been assigned a gauge range of 5
stitches (16-20), while the fine and light weights were only assigned a gauge
range of 4 stitches (23-26 and 21-24). I'm not sure why they did this, or why
they felt compelled to limit the number of categories to 6?
If they had
asked me, I would have suggested 7 categories. And I would have told them of
the 'rule of 7.' (Do you know that rule? That human beings can easily remember
up to 7 things. Go past 7, and our brains find it difficult. Hence, 7 numbers
in a phone number . . . and the fact that any list you make should not have
more than 7 things if you hope to remember them all.
that, I think my number is decreasing to something closer to 4!
The right gauge for a yarn
What is the correct gauge for a yarn? Can we trust the
label? Not always. Sometimes the label is just wrong, sometimes it offers too
wide a range, and sometimes the stitch pattern of the garment works a yarn to
something other than its usual gauge.
The right gauge for a yarn is what feels right—not so
stiff as to stand on its own, but not so loose that the piece will not hold
shape. It's a matter of experience. (And it is a tough lesson for new knitters
who, having only knit scarves, believe that a worsted weight yarn is usually knit on a 6mm needle. Those 4mm needles look so
I have learned, over many years of knitting, to knit to a
tighter gauge than I did in my early years. Knit to a tighter gauge, I know
that my garments hold shape better and don't pill as easily. (If you realize
that plied yarns don't pill as easily as non-plied yarns, then you could see a
tightly knit fabric as giving it the twist of more plies.)
I have also learned that the correct gauge for a piece is after
blocking. But what is blocking? The most
definitive blocking treatment would be to treat the garment as you would when
you clean it, which most often means washing the swatch. (I have heard from a
few folks who say "I knit my Einstein Coat, and I loved it . . . until I washed
it. And then it grew!" I can
honestly say that my original Einstein Coat was unwearable—too
stiff!—until I washed it.) When you
wash your fabric you can almost hear its long and wonderful sigh of relaxation.
But do we always have to wash the swatch? No, there is a
pretty dependable shortcut: we can steam press the piece. When is this
appropriate? When the yarn and stitch pattern can handle it: stockinette stitch in wool, for example. And what's the
worst that can happen if you press a swatch you shouldn't? You mangle the swatch? It's only a swatch, and you've
learned something about your fabric!
The slip knot
There's no getting past it: the
slip knot is an ugly thing.
I try never to use it unless I have to. And here's how.
- If working the
long-tail cast on, just put the yarn over the right needle—tail to the front.
Begin the cast on from here: the piece of yarn laid over the right
needle is your first cast-on stitch. (Pull tightly against this 'first
stitch' as your work the next one.)
- If working the cable
cast on, start with 2 e-wrap (half-hitch) cast-on stitches. Begin the
cable cast on by working between the 2 e-wrap cast-on stitches. After a
few more stitches cast on, remove the first e-wrap cast-on stitch.
- If you do need to
start with a slip knot, go back later to pull your thread through the
knot once: this will take the 'ugly away.
I never teach a class without
being asked "Do we slip
knitwise or purlwise?" So I ask the class, "What do you think." And
me a very curious answer. "If the pattern doesn't say, you are to slip
purlwise." This is the prevalent belief of what our industry wants us
I don't agree. Here's why. I've
seen many instructions that
say 'slip one purlwise' but very
few that say 'slip one knitwise.' So it seems as if they tell us when they want us to
purlwise but not when they want us to slip knitwise.
So when do we do what? These are
not hard-and-fast rules,
but they generally work.
- If working a
decrease, slip knitwise.
- If working a stitch
pattern, slip purlwise.
I will sometimes say, in class,
"If you are going to touch
it again in this row, slip knitwise: if not touching it again until the
row, slip purlwise." One student expressed this as knit now, purl
later. Pretty clever!
I can’t say that this is written in stone, but I have been told
the following: that the CYCA (Craft Yarn Council of America) committee
is setting the standard for what it means to ‘bind off’ and
that they are intending to establish that to ‘bind off’
means to bind off in ‘knit.’
I am not sure I agree with this principle. I think
‘bind off’ has more usually been assumed to mean
‘bind off in pattern:’ if you are on a knit row, you bind
off in knit; if you are on a purl row, you bind off in purl; if you are
on a rib row, you bind off in rib. And so if the pattern-writer wants
you to do something else (which is relatively rare), you should be
told. Here’s why I think this is more logical.
Whatever the committee decision is, it’s best if we all approach
our knitting intuitively, doing what feels right. And even if what I
have been told is not the committee’s decision, this discussion
is still important, because I never teach a basic technique class
without being asked the question. (I suppose that if this is their
decision, they are doing it so that the question need never be asked:
you will be very often told how to bind off! And that’s probably
a good thing. Really, the sooner these sorts of standards are employed
in our industry, the better!)
- Most of us already do this—bind off in
pattern. For example, if you are shaping a neck in a stockinette
garment, you would—intuitively—bind off the right neck in
knit (because it is a RS row) and the left neck in purl (because it is
a WS row). (If you bound off in knit on a WS row, you’d get bumps
at the last row of the left neck.) But no pattern ever explicitly tells
you to do it this way—to bind off in purl on a purl row. You just
know that you should.
- In addition, if you bind off a ribbed neck
edge in knit, it might be too tight. Besides, it looks appropriate when
bound off in rib. Try it to see for yourself!
Here's my definition of a selvedge
stitch: a stitch at the edge of a
piece that may or may not be treated differently from the rest of the
sound very specific . . . but we have too many choices and
situations to be specific.
Here's what I think of the 3 choices we have.
1. Slip the fist stitch of each row
think this is lovely if this is the final edge
of the piece AND the row gauge is twice the stitch gauge (ie, 20
stitches and 40 rows = 4"). Then this treatment of the selvedge is
appropriate. Otherwise, if you are going to seam or pick-up-and-knit
against the edge AND the stitch gauge and row gauge are more usual
(like stockinette, with its typical 20
stitches and 28 rows = 4"), it doesn't work so well. (We get holes in
the seams and don't have enough spaces to pick-up-and-knit against.)
Also, I have seen (in students' work, when they put a slip stitch edge
onto a stockinette piece) that the slip stitch itself is lovely, but
the ugliness that we get from a stockinette selvedge (see below) is
simply transferred to the next stitch--which would appear on the public
side of the work after seaming or picking-up-and-knitting an edging.
Again, lovely as she is, she doesn't work except in garter or a
similarly-gauged stitch pattern.
2. Knit the first and last stitch of
every row (garter stitch)--I only use this if the piece is done
in garter and I do not want to a slip-stitch edge. Then it works
brilliantly, because garter is best seamed by working close to the
edge. (A flat edge butts to a flat edge, and all is well with the
world.) It also works brilliantly for picking up against, because one
can just insert the left needle through the very-obvious garter bumps
at the edge. But a problem occurs in garments that need a seam
allowance (whether we are seaming or adding an edging): garter wants to
lie flat, but we want the seam allowance to turn to the wrong
side--into the seam allowance. This is a struggle with a garter stitch
3. Knit the fist and last sitch of
every RS row, purl the first and last stitch of every WS row
(stockinette stitch)--When the selvedge goes into a seam
allowance (whether we speak of a seam or an edging), this is the
selvedge I use most often. I know: she's ugly. But sometimes the
unattractive one has the best personality! This girl rolls to the wrong
side, which is exactly what we want her to do. I also find that her
little 'knots' at every second row help me count rows.
I am often asked if patterns have these selvedge stitches built into
them, and my answer is "Mine do, but I can't speak for anyone else." If
you need to know, multiply the gauge by the width of your piece, and
see if the numbers match up. (If your gauge is 5 stitches, and your
piece is 20", but the garment has only 100 stitches in its width, then
there are no selvedge stitches: if it has 102 stitches, then there are
Selvedge stitches in
This is kind of an advanced discussion of the previous tip.
The reason I like a stockinette
selvedge is that it rolls to
the wrong side. So if we do a garment with reverse stockinette at the
it, well, guess what, rolls to the front and is a heckuva thing to seam.
I've struggled to turn these to
the wrong side and never
been wonderfully happy with the result. So here are my
- Give it 'right
side' seams—I will
sometimes seam a reverse stockinette piece from the stockinette side,
taking ½ stitch into the seam allowance, and then turn the
garment to the reverse side: you get little, 'right side' seams.
- Border the pieces
appropriate, I will add 2 stockinette stitches to each edge of every
reverse stockinette piece. I will then take 1 stockinette stitch from
each edge into the seam allowance, which results with a stockinette
'frame' at the edge of the reverse stockinette piece.
(By the way, I have tried
putting 1 stockinette piece at the
edge of a reverse stockinette garment to see if this is enough to make
selvedge roll nicely to the wrong side. But it is not enough. It's
struggle to seam the piece.)
This discussion follows from the
selvedge stitch discussion,
and here's why.
People who know how to do side seams in stockinette struggle
to do shoulder seams in the same fabric. Why? Because the piece doesn't
the wrong side! And so we struggle to make the edge go a direction it
want to (kinda like side seams in reverse stockinette). If you don't
on this one, try a shoulder seam in a reverse stockinette
the seam wants to roll to the wrong side—and you'll see that it's
beautiful thing and oh-so-easy to execute.
I am not a fan of grafting or
3-needle bind-off at the
shoulders. The whole weight of your garment hangs from this seam, and I
to be tight and firm. So I just do the following.
There are photos of this in my book, THE PURL
- Bind off in pattern.
- Take the bind-off
edge into the seam allowance.
- Seam the stitches of
the row beyond the bind-off edge of one piece to the stitches of the
row beyond the bind-off edge of the other piece, one-at-a-time.
- Turn the bind-off
edge (which is now your selvedge) to the wrong side as you seam,
pulling the sewing thread taut every 2 stitches.