1. Do always keep a crochet hook in your notions pouch
When those gorgeous stitches accidentally slip off the needles your heart drops and your stomach flip flops. We have all been there.
Use a crochet hook to safely rescue those free falling stitches without having to unknit (or even worse restart) your knitting. Hook the loop, and feed it back up your work either knitting or purling (depending on the way you feed it through the exposed yarn ladders).
It sounds more difficult than it actually is; however, once you watch Knit Purl Hunter’s video tutorial for how to save your dropped stitches, you will be keeping a handy hook near you always.
2. Do a gauge swatch for sweaters
Your beautiful plush yarn in sitting in its merino bamboo blend glory waiting for you to cast on—a whole 1,600 yards for your perfect sweater awaits.
I am so guilty of skipping the crucial gauge swatch because I’m just too excited to cast on and begin my ideal sweater. But more often than not, your ideal sweater will turn out less than ideal if you did not do a gauge swatch.
From sizing to shaping, it could all be wrong for your body or for your recipient if you knit looser or tighter than the pattern designer. As annoying as it is to pump the brakes a bit on your sweater knitting train, it’s even more annoying wasting hours and yarn on a project that does not fit.
Don’t know what a gauge swatch is? Or maybe you’d just like a refresher. Watch Cheryl Brunette’s video tutorial on gauge swatching here for help.
I will openly admit that I do not gauge swatch for any knitting that does not have to be fitted to a specific body, such as shawls, socks, hats, dishcloths, mittens, toys, blankets, cowls, and more. Although, I will ALWAYS gauge swatch for a sweater or a dress, and you should too.
3. Do alternate hand-dyed skeins every few rows when knitting a large project
My stash is home for many gorgeous color drenched skeins of hand-dyed goodness that make my heart sing. Each skein is unique and a piece of art. How these talented dyers generate these stunning colorways are beyond me. Use these yarns with pure delight, but be careful to avoid unintentional pooling of those colors.
Since hand-dyed skeins are of course, not dyed by machine, each skein—even from the same colorway and dye lot—are different. This is what makes the yarn so extraordinary, but you have to be cautious when knitting a large yardage project with hand-dyed hands.
Since each skein is wonderfully unique, you need to alternate yarn from each skein you are using every few rows to ensure you create a consistent colorway throughout your project.
If you don’t alternate skeins, some color pooling could occur. If this does not bother you, then don’t stress about alternating skeins. But if you want the colorway to show consistently throughout the project, I recommend alternating your skeins every two to four rows.
4. Do remember to stretch your hands properly and take periodic breaks when knitting
When I’m on a knitting roll, the last thing I want to do is take a break from knitting (Are you crazy?! I just made it to the last lace section!). However, taking breaks and knitting in an ergonomic way with good posture is critical to keep us knitting for years to come.
Doing a repeated motion without rest can lead to muscle fatigue—even injury—if rest is never achieved. The process of knitting is performing certain motions repeated, and for many knitters, this can go on for hours (especially if Netflix is involved).
Although I never want to slow down my knitting, we must take breaks and make sure we are knitting with good posture and healthy hands if we always want to knit. I can’t even speak the nightmare of all crafters (*whispers *carpal tunnel), but please take the time to listen to Fruity Knitting’s podcast about ergonomic knitting and make sure you are keeping your hands in prime knitting condition.
5. Do keep stitch markers handy
So many brave stitch markers have counted my row repeats, alerted me when it’s time to change colors, reminded me of stitch repeats, gotten lost in the depths of the couch, or eaten by the dog.
I’m convinced that I couldn’t knit a simple eyelet pattern without my trusty little army of stitch markers. Listing their uses could go on and on for hours. Available in various sizes, a plethora of colors, and a gamut of designs, there is a perfect stitch marker out there for every knitter.
I use numerous types, sizes, colors, brands, and designs of them in all of my projects, but my favorite go-to stitch markers are the Clover Stitch markers that look like adorable baby diaper pins (this type of stitch marker also doubles as a progress keeper for knitters AND crocheters).
6. Do stay consistent with the same needles during a project
Gauge and tension can be tricky little nuances in a knitting project. Although everyone knits differently with their own style of tension and gauge, the choose needles for your project can impact your finished fabric quite a bit.
For example, my tension and gauge varies drastically on the different material types of needles I use. I tend to knit more consistently on nickel-plated needles, and I tend to knit tighter on bamboo needles. I also tend to knit loosest on plastic needles. It is different for everyone, and your tension and gauge of knitting can even change over time.
Thus, it is very important not to change needles during your project (unless the pattern explicitly asks you to change needles) to achieve a consistent finished fabric.
Blocking can help smooth out some unevenness in a finished piece, but it relieves a lot of headache to stay consistent with the needles you started your project with.
7. Do add lifelines to your complex projects
Lace is so elegant and smooth. When you have the right lace weight yarn on the right needles, the lace seems to guide gracefully from one needle to the other until you realize ten stitches just glided themselves right off the needles.
If it isn’t too complicated of a lace pattern, you can probably use your handy crochet hook to rescue the jumpers.
However, if you accidently dropped too many stitches to be saved and you have no other choice but to tink (to “tink” is to unknit, see how “tink” is knit spelled backwards? Us knitters are so clever!), and redo the pattern*. (*Collective groan)
A lifeline in a knitting project is quite literally, your stitches’ lifeline. Before you begin to knit an intense cable section or a lace pattern filled with yarn overs, thread a tapestry needle with waste yarn (a smooth, cotton-based yarn that’s a different color than your project works best) and thread it through all of your live stitches right on your needles.
If you even have to tink or full-on rip out your knitting, you don’t have to undo the entire project. You can just rip back to the stitches on the lifeline, put them back on your needles, and begin again.
A helpful tip is to mark where in your pattern you added a lifeline, so if you ever have to rip back to it, you know where in the pattern you need to start at without skipping any rows.
You can add as many lifelines as you want, and a typical lace project for me has about three lifelines. Just in case the absolute worst happens, I don’t have to start my project over.
8. Do know that alpaca fibers can grrooooowwwww when blocking
Ask me how I know this.
One of my favorite fibers: alpaca (especially baby alpaca*, *squee!), is unbelievably soft, warm, and has the ability to stretch when wet.
I was blocking a cowl I made for myself out of the most amazing baby alpaca blend, and when I was stretching the wet fabric out, it just kept stretching and stretching. In my confusion, I unintentionally stretch out my cowl soooooo far that it warped my pattern design.
Thankfully, I was able to re-block the piece and return it to its proper form, but I always have to be careful when blocking alpaca yarns. Check out Tara Miller’s video for amazing tips for blocking with various yarns for the perfect finish.
9. Do read through the ENTIRE pattern before casting on
I’m sure it’s no longer a surprise that I love to cast on all of the things as soon as possible (my excitement is a persuasive encourager). However, if I want to avoid any pattern confusion, knitting snafus, or encountering any unknown stitches, I have to read through the ENTIRE pattern.
Doing this helps you grasp the overall construction of the pattern so you can spot errors or knitting accidents in your project sooner than later. It helps you decide if you want to alter the pattern in any way before you are halfway through the pattern and you realized you are about 150 yards short of the discontinued yarn you chose.
This also helps you knit through the more challenging parts of the pattern with more ease because you can better understand how it fits into the project as a whole.
10. Do keep your projects out of reach of pets and children
My sweetheart little Hazel is so intrigued by my knitting.
My ornery miniature dachshund will watch me knit and turn her head from side to side trying to understand why her mommy loves to play with sticks and string so much, and why her mommy won’t share this game with her.
If I ever left my knitting on the couch or somewhere she could reach, it would be a complete goner.
Be sure to keep your precious projects out of reach for little sweethearts who don’t mean to ruin, but may unintentionally do so to your knitting.
11. Do push yourself to try new techniques
As a knitter who always has a pair of vanilla socks on the needles for relaxing knitting, I am also a knitter who loves to have a new technique on the needles as well.
Yes, I have always loved school and learning, but by challenging yourself as a knitter, crafter, and artist, you continue to grow and foster your creative juices.
You discover what you like and don’t like, and you continue to refine your talent of knitting along the way.
12. Do make sure you always have a project going for yourself
One of the most amazing qualities crafters possess is how truly generous and giving they are with their beloved projects. This is a wonderful attribute many crafters share; however, it is critical not to overlook yourself when you are so generous.
Make sure you always care for yourself with your knitting too. If you don’t like knitting brioche, then don’t knit any brioche projects for anyone. If you realized you’ve knitted over 20 shawls but you don’t own a single one, and then start a special shawl project just for you.
Knitting should give back to you in enjoyment as much as you give to your knitting.
We live in a time where most of us don’t knit because we have no other way of clothing ourselves; we knit because we enjoy it.
If knitting everyone’s Christmas gift is not providing you enjoyment, then it’s not worth it.
Knitting is meant to create and share joy and community, please don’t lose sight of that as a crafter.
13. Do your best, not your “perfect”
As a recovering perfectionist, this is the most significant aspect of knitting for me. Humans are not perfect, and neither will be what we create, and that’s phenomenal.
Striving for perfection in something that is meant to bring joy will only lead to disappointment and frustration.
Knitting isn’t meant to be perfect; it’s meant to be enjoyed and shared with yourself and others.
Embrace the little mistakes, because you are usually the only one who can see them. Others cannot see knitting mishaps like you fear they can.
Love your knitting, because your knitting loves you.
This blog is my open diary to anyone and everyone about my life and my crafts. Life can be difficult, but it's always beautiful, and I want to share that love of life and making.