Category Archives: Tutorial

Tutorial: Reading Charts- Repeats

Now we all are experts in reading a chart while knitting back and forth, and we’re experts in using charts in the round.  But charts aren’t always that simple.  Sometimes your project has more stitches in a row than there are on your chart.  You can imagine that this could happen with projects that have a wide, repeating pattern (like a dish cloth, a blanket, or sweater).

If you have to repeat the whole chart, that’s easy enough- knit across the chart row, then work it again (and again), until you get to the end of your row of your knitting.  Simple.

But sometimes you have to repeat only some of the stitches in a row.  When you need to do that, your chart will look like this:laura-chart-c-repeatsDo you see the change?  (It’s subtle, so I’ll help you.)laura-chart-c-repeats-highlightSee those highlighted vertical lines?  Those are your repeat marks.  OK, honestly, I’m not sure what they’re technically called, but they mark out the stitches that you have to repeat.

So, let’s make an imaginary project- a scarf maybe?  We’ll cast on 18 sts, and use this chart, repeating the 4 sts in-between the repeat marks 3 times.

Start at row 1 st 1, and knit straight through to st 6 (just before the second repeat mark).  (You’ve worked 6 sts)

laura-chart-c-repeats-order-1Then, go back to st 3 (just after the first repeat mark), and work back through st 6.  (10 sts total)laura-chart-c-repeats-order-2Then, you’ll repeat sts 3-6 once more, and continue on to the end of the row.  (18 sts total)laura-chart-c-repeats-order-3On the next row you do the same thing, but reverse the way you read the chart (because we’re pretending to knit back and forth).

So, start at row 2, st 10, and work across to st 3 (just before the second repeat mark).  (8 sts)laura-chart-c-repeats-order-4Then repeat the middle 4 sts.  (12 sts)laura-chart-c-repeats-order-5And finish by working sts 6-1 once more.  (18 sts)

laura-chart-c-repeats-order-6Make sense?  Of course, for a wider project, you might be required to repeat the middle section more times, but the concept is the same.  Just keep going across the row, looping back as needed when you get to a repeat mark.  Simple!

Any more questions?  Let me know if anything else is confusing to you, I’m happy to help!

Tutorial: Reading a Chart in the Round

Last week, I talked about the basics of reading a chart.  Today, I’m going to talk about reading a chart while knitting in the round.

*Gasp* What?!  Charts!?  And circular needles?! That’s just too much!  I can’t even!  (Sorry… I’m feeling a little dramatic this morning)

No, it’s not difficult!  It’s actually pretty simple.

So remember this chart from last week?  This is a chart that’s been written so that you can work it flat (ie, back and forth).laura-chart-c-plainI’ve modified it to now be read in the round.  Can you spot the differences (It’s like a sad, grown-up version of the puzzles in the back of Highlights magazine)?laura-chart-c-in-the-roundThe first big difference (that I’m sure you spotted), is that all the row numbers are lined up along the right side of the chart.  laura-chart-c-in-the-round-detailsThat’s because when you knit in the round, you’re always traveling in the same direction (from right to left).  When you knit flat, you knit back and forth, so the row numbers are arranged on alternate sides.  But, the same rule applies no matter how you’re knitting- you start knitting from the side of the row with the number, and work away.laura-chart-c-in-the-round-knitting-directionThe second big difference is in they key:laura-chart-c-in-the-round-details-2It looks like there’s a whole bunch of information missing, when you compare this chart to the “knit flat” chart.  But, in fact, you’re not missing any information!  This is because when you knit in the round, every row is a RS row!  So, it’s just implied that (in this case) a white square is a knit stitch on the RS and a gray square is a purl.


What’s your favorite kind of pattern?

Tutorial: Reading a Chart

I’ve had a rash of people emailing me lately who don’t know how to read a chart- and that blows my mind!  Not only are charts the best way (in my mind) to understand a complicated pattern, but I think they’re head-and-shoulders easier to read than a 100% written-out pattern.  So, without further ado- let’s look at a chart.

laura-chart-c-plainThis is a little chart from my new pattern, the Laura Shawl!  (It’s the narrow, textured stripe, in-between the big cables.)52162220_21Let’s look at the main parts of this chart.  At the top, you’ll see the chart name- this is important if you’re working a project that uses several charts.  For example, the Laura Shawl uses 5 separate charts, this is the third (C) one.  And, at the bottom (or sometimes to the side), you’ll find a key which explains what the symbols mean (I’ll explain that in more detail later).laura-chart-c-title-and-keyThen, along the left and right sides, you’ll find row numbers.  And, on the bottom, you’ll see the stitch numbers.laura-chart-c-rows-and-stsYou’ll notice that the row numbers go from bottom to top (ie.  1 is on the bottom).  This is because you’re going to knit from the bottom to the top.  That way, when you finish knitting the chart, you’ll be able to hold up your knitting next to the chart and you should see something that looks similar to the chart (in other words, it shouldn’t be upside-down or mirrored).laura-chart-c-knitting-directionThis chart is meant to be knit flat, and I can tell that because the row numbers alternate sides.  (1 is on the right, 2 is on the left, etc.)  laura-chart-c-rowsThe beginning of your row is marked by the row number.  So, Row 1 starts at the right and goes to the left.  Row 2 starts at the left and goes right.  (Just like your knitting!)laura-chart-c-row-directionNow you’ve got your bearings, it’s time to start knitting.  But what do all those little squares mean?  Each square is a stitch, and the symbol (or in this case, the color of the square) tells you how to work that square.  Do you see down in the key?  Each symbol has instructions, which include what to do on the Right Side and the Wrong side.  On odd-numbered rows (unless your pattern says otherwise), you’ll work the RS instructions.  So, for Row 1, you’ll K1, P3, K2, P3, K1.laura-chart-c-rsThen, on the even rows, you’ll use the Wrong Side instructions.  So, Row 2, you’ll P1, K3, P2, K3, P1.laura-chart-c-wsAnd, that’s basically it!  See?  It’s not so bad!  You can totally use a chart!

Next week I’ll walk you through knitting in the round using a chart (Spoiler- it’s even easier!), and how to work charted repeats.

Do you like using charts, or do you prefer written-out patterns?  Why?

Tutorial: Three-Needle Bind Off

I’m still jazzed about the three-needle bind off I did on my cabled sweater this week.  It’s just such a neat (in both senses of the word) technique that doesn’t get used enough.  It’s a great way to join shoulders on a pieced sweater, or pieces of a scarf, or squares of an afghan.  Is it kind of weird that I want to design something that uses the three-needle bind off, just so I can do it some more?  Possibly.

Anyhoo, if you haven’t done it before, it might feel a bit tricky- after all, you have to wrangle two pieces of knitting and three needles.  But, trust me!  It’s super simple.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst, hold your knitting with good sides together in your left hand.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, insert your third needle (in your right hand) into the first stitch of each piece of knitting.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWrap your yarn, and pull it through, dropping the two stitches off the left needles, just like you’re doing a k2tog.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, do it again. (Work a K2tog using one stitch from each needle.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou’ll have two stitches on your right needle.  So, now it’s time to do a plain ‘ol bind off, pulling the first stitch over the second.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust keep going!  Work a K2tog using one stitch from each left hand needle, then pull the old stitch over the new.

When you’re finished, you’ll end up with a lovely neat row of bound-off stitches.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd, when you open up the piece and look at the right side- Ooh!  So pretty!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHave you ever used a three-needle bind off?

The Library is Open- Part 2: Cables

Let’s talk about cables!  They’re some of my favorite things to knit, and they look super impressive.  But here’s the secret- they’re actually pretty easy!  (Especially if you can read your knitting as you go, instead of relying on a row counter to keep track of your pattern.)

Here’s the little sample I’m going to talk about today.  (These cables are both pretty simple, but the concepts I talk about here could totally be applied to more complicated cables.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s a cool thing about cables- 90% of them are done with knit stitches, and 90% of them only work crossover rows on the right-side.  That totally simplifies it, right off the bat!

First off, let’s figure out how wide these cables are.  This is super easy!  Just look at the widest part of the cable and count the knit stitches across, just like we did last week.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe cable on the left is 3 stitches across, and the cable on the right is 4 stitches across.

Next, we’ll determine how the crossover is worked for our cable.  Look at the narrowest part of the cable (where the two parts of the cable actually cross), and count how many stitches are on top.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe cable on the left has 1 stitch on top, and the cable on the right has 2 stitches.  This, combined with the width means that the left cable is a 1×2 cable, and the right cable is a 2×2 cable.

That’s all there is to figuring out the stitch count for a cable!  Next, we need to figure out how many rows each repeat takes.

Start by identifying the crossover row.  It should be the row where the stitches are all slanted sideways, instead of being nice, upright “v’s.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen count the rows from one slanty v up to the next one.  I like to count the outside edge stitches- I think they’re easier to see.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe left cable has 3 rows in-between each crossover row, so it’s a 4-row repeat.  The right cable has 5 rows between each crossover row, so it’s a 6-row repeat.

If we combine all the information we learned, we can come up with the pattern:  The left cable is a 3-stitch cable, with a 1×2 crossover worked every 4th row.  The right cable is a 4-stitch cable, with a 2×2 crossover worked ever 6th row.

So, now that we know the pattern, what’s should we do next to continue the swatch?

Look down the cable to the most recent crossover row, then count rows up to the needle.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe left cable has been worked 1 row past the last crossover, so we need to work 2 more rows even before we make the next crossover.  The right cable has been worked 5 rows past the last crossover, so we can work the crossover on the next row.

Does that make sense?  Do you have any favorite tips for working cables?


The Library is Open-Part 1

The other day, I was kitting with a friend, drinking coffee and working on my cabled sweater, when I noticed her watching what I was doing with a look of vague concern and puzzlement.

“What’s up?” I asked her.

She responded, “How do you to that?”

“Do what?”

“How can you make such a complicated project without making a million notes and keeping track of all your rows and looking at a pattern constantly?”

I replied,  “Well, it’s mostly just knitting the knits and purling the purls, and keeping track of my rows.”

She looked at me like I was crazy, and I realized that no one had ever taught her how to read her knitting.

I am here to fix that today, in case anyone else out there in internet-land hasn’t been reading their knitting, either.  Because, there is nothing so useful as being able to look at your knitting and figure out where you are in your pattern and what you need to do next (or, to be able to look at your knitting and figure out where you went wrong).

We’ll start with a very simple example, just knits and purls.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt minimum, reading your knitting will let you know the stitches you need to work next to remain “in pattern,” and will tell you how many rows you’ve already worked.

To look at your stitches, look at the row directly underneath your needle.  There, you’ll see either little V’s (knits), or little bumps (purls).  If you want to stay “in pattern” (for example, if you’re doing ribbing), you’ll knit when you come across a knit in the row below, and you’ll purl when you come across a purl in the row below.  (This is what people refer to as “knitting the knits and purling the purls.”)

In our example, I’ve highlighted the stitches in the example below:sts(Note:  I’ve worked the first and last 2 sts in garter stitch, which means that you just knit every row, so I don’t have to worry about reading those 4 sts!)

The other basic skill in reading your knitting is figuring out how many rows you’ve worked.  Of course, you can use a stitch counter or paper and pencil to keep track of your rows, but you’ll inevitably get caught up in the episode of Law and Order you’re watching and lose track of your count.  (What?  That’s just me?)

Rows are easiest to count in stockinette.  This sample is ribbed, but you can think of the knit portion of ribbing as just a skinny little section of stockinette.  You’ll again look for the V-shaped stitches, and then count down the whole column (don’t count the stitch that’s on your needle).  Like this:

rowsSo, I can tell that this swatch has been worked for 8 rows, because there are 8 little V’s.

See, not so bad!  I use these techniques all the time, and I bet they’ll totally help you, too.

Next time, I’ll talk about reading your knitting while making cables!

Shrinky Dinks!

Every year for Christmas, my mom and I do a craft together (don’t judge- Christmas Crafts are the best).  One year we got a bunch of teeny MochiMochi Land patterns and spent Christmas week knitting up an army of little dudes.  Another year we broke out all of Mom’s papercrafting things and made dozens of little notebooks.

This year, Mom got a big pack of Shrinky Dinks!sq-bright-bulkI love Shrinky Dinks.  They’re so easy to do, and always delightful (I use them with one of the kids’ classes I teach- they’re always a hit).

If you haven’t played with them before, Shrinky Dinks are sheets of plastic that you draw/color on/stamp/decorate, then cut out, and put in the oven.  As they bake, they get all wiggly, and when they settle down, they’ve shrunk to about half their original size.

It’s fun!  (Despite the boring way I’ve explained it.)

Anyway, this year, a pile of pristine Shrinky Dink material and a box of my mom’s fancy art pens in front of me, I tried to come up with a project that would end up being useful- after all, most things made with Shrinky Dinks are pretty silly- lots of ornaments and pendants.

Because I’m a knitter, my mind jumped to stitch markers!

I cut out a stitch marker (a circle about 2 inches in diameter, and about a quarter-inch wide, decorated it, and popped it in the toaster oven.  And would you believe, it worked!

Needless to say, I spent the rest of the afternoon manufacturing as many stitch markers as I could.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow, they ended up a little large- the smallest one could probably fit on a US13, but I bet you could totally come up with the dimensions for tinier stitch markers.   I should probably go get some more Dink material, and start experimenting some more.  For science.  Yeah…

I’m definitely not just looking for an excuse to play with Shrinky Dinks.

Have you ever made your own stitch markers?  What did you use?

Itty Bitty Faces

As I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of all things tiny.  And when I make tiny stuffed animals, I need to make tiny faces, too.

Because of the way knit fabric is created, often teeny tiny embroidered faces end up looking kind of dumb and stretched out.

So that’s where this cool face technique comes in.  I’d pretend that I came up with it myself, but alas, I’m not that clever.  Julie at Little Cotton Rabbits came up with it, and generously included the tutorial with her instructions for her teeny tiny toys.

It’s so simple, and so perfect, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t come up with it on my own.

6a00d83451d24769e200e5520787618833-800wi[1]Simply cut out a little piece of felt and hold it behind the doll’s face before you stuff the critter.  The felt is dense enough to allow you to embroider to your heart’s content without worrying about the sewing into knit stitches, and it is soft enough that you don’t even notice it once you’ve finished the little guy.


I used her technique on my tiny teddy bears, and they turned out perfectly!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt worked so well that I think I’ll probably use the same technique on my Mother Bears, too!

Have you ever come across an insanely-simple-but-totally-perfect technique before?


Sorry, Folks! I totally promised you that I’d tell you about adding the zippers to my husband’s sweater… and then I didn’t. My husband has been wearing his sweater almost every day for the past month or so, so it’s starting to look a little lived-in, but it’s still holding up pretty well.

Anyway, here’s the zipper. (I think it turned out pretty well.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I don’t really have a secret to zipper installation, or any magic techniques. I just pin them very carefully and make sure that both sides match up well.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then, I use a needle and thread to carefully sew the zipper to the knitting, trying my best to make the stitches on the outside of the sweater hidden. That means the inside stitches end up being a little messy, but the inside isn’t the important part.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Easy, right? Sort of, anyway.

Have you ever used a zipper for your sweater?

Stoichiometry and Knitting

calculator[1]I don’t get to use my college degrees very often (they’re in a couple fairly impressive-sounding branches of biology and chemistry), but sometimes I get to use a technique I learned in school.  It always makes me happy to use to use things my professors never would have expected.

For example:  Stoichiometry.

Never heard of it?  Not a problem.  Stoichiometry is a fancy chemistry word for a really useful way to do conversions.

If you’ve ever figured out how many stitches there are an inch of sweater or how many rows you need to knit to make a  foot of scarf, you’ve probably done stoichiometry without even knowing it.

Here’s the idea:

You know how if you divide a number by itself, it equals 1?  (Like:  2/2=1)  Stoichiometry tells you that you can do the same thing with words, units, and variables (remember x from high school algebra?).

So what does that mean?  Let’s take a really simple example:

1We can cancel out the “sts” from the top and bottom, so the answer (1) doesn’t have any units.

Now, that example is kind of useless to us, right?  So let’s use stoichiometry to do something that really is useful.  Figuring out how many rows we need to knit to get a 7 inch-tall sock.

Start by making a list of everything you know:

  • Our gauge is 12 rows/inch.
  • We want a 7 inch sock.

You could probably figure this one out in your head (or just on a calculator), but let’s do it the long way for example’s sake.

Start with the number that has a single unit (in this case the “7 inch” finished length) then, build your equation, multiplying across, and making sure that you cancel out your units as you go:

4 We can cross out the units that appear on the top and on the bottom (in this case, the “inches”).

Then we just multiply across, and the answer to the problem gets whatever unit is left (in this case, “rows”)3

So, in this example, if you have a 12 row/inch gauge and you want to knit a 7 inch sock, you have to work 84 rows.

Does that make sense?  Want to do one more (slightly complicated) example?

OK:  Imagine you’re designing a sweater pattern.  You want the front to be covered with fair-isle patterned stripes that are 8 rows tall.  You want to calculate how many stripes you will need to work to cover the front.

Here’s what we know about your sweater:

  • Gauge: 6 rows/inch
  • Sweater length from hem to shoulder: 22 inches
  • Stripe width: 8 rows/stripe

So, let’s set up the formula (starting with the sweater length- remember, begin your calculation with the number with the single unit.)

5(See how I flipped the 8 rows/stripe upside down, so it’s 1 stripe/8 rows?  That’s totally OK!  And, actually really important.  Flip any/all of your numbers, if it makes the units cancel out correctly.  Just remember, if you flip your the number, make sure you flip your units, too.)

Once everything is lined up correctly, start crossing out units that cancel:

6Then multiply across:7And then divide the top by the bottom.8So, in this example, you’d need to work 16.5 Fair Isle stripes to cover the entire front of your sweater.

Cool right?  (Or maybe that’s just me being a math nerd.)

Of course, you don’t have to use stoichiometry to work these things out, but it’s a great tool to have in your pocket- you never know when it will come in handy.

Do you think you’d ever use this technique to calculate bits of your pattern?  Do you have a different technique for calculating things?  Or do you avoid math completely?