Here are a matching cast-on and bind-off that are worth knowing. They are easy enough to execute and they give an elegant edge to your ribbing. I highly recommend that you try them sometime soon. Like do a swatch. This week sometime. Consider it playing with yarn. And you do love to play with yarn, don’t you? So go ahead and do it. With abandon. With curiosity. With no ulterior motive other than enjoyment. It’s very freeing.
I have a book entitled Cast on, Bind Off: 211 Ways to Begin and End Your Knitting. It’s a fun book. I haven’t consulted it much. Most, if not all of the information in it I have in other books that I’ve been consulting for years, but it’s nice to have it all in one place. And I like the illustrations and photos.
BUTif I had been handed this book when I first started knitting (which would not have happened since I learned from Ma’s hands, but stick with me here) I would have run screaming away from the needles and yarn (even though I loved yarn even as a child). I would have been overwhelmed. I just wanted to get some loops on the needles and then make more loops.
If you have the time and inclination, I encourage you to play with bunches of cast-ons and bind-offs just because it’s fun. But if you just want to be secure in knowing that you only need a handful of them to tackle any knitting project with confidence, you’re in the right place. You already have the Long-Tail Cast-On well in hand. Today we take on Loose Ends.
In my 500+ days as the “Tuesday Troubleshooter” at my beloved local yarn shop, I saw a lot o’ problems, and easily 90% of them centered on two topics:
1) How can I make this sweater so that it fits me instead of being big enough to be a boat cover, or instead of fitting my 6-year-old niece?
2) How do I make my knitting look more “professional”? My seams look like they were sewn by a drunken chimpanzee.
To solve Problem 2, start with this video overview. If you read my last post, Cheryl’s Unified Theory of Finishing in Two Parts, you know I’m moderately obsessed (moderate obsession? Is that an oxymoron?) with the edges of your knitting. Prepare them with the thought and respect that they deserve and you will have more professional-looking pieces.
WHAT ARE THE DATES AND TIMES?
You and I talk on the phone and set a date that fits both of our calendars. The morning session is 9-12. Lunch is 12-1:00 (with me of course) and the afternoon session is 1:00-4:00. That’s flexible if our lunch runs a bit long or you need extra help at the end.
WHERE DOES IT TAKE PLACE? In the area of Port Townsend/ Marrowstone Island on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, USA. The exact venue depends on
1) your preferences (in a small Victorian Seaport, in an old farmhouse library in a vibrant, working agricultural valley, or on a bucolic island)
2) your needs (can you climb 2 flights of stairs built in the 1800s?) and
3) what’s available for the date we choose.
WHAT DOES IT COST?
$750 for one or two people spread over 3 payments.
~$250 due when we book your date on the calendar.
~$250 due 3 weeks before our event.
~$250 due on the day we get together.
HOW MANY PEOPLE DO YOU SCHEDULE FOR ONE DAY? Just you alone, or you and your chosen companion. You are the Very Important Person and you get my focused attention on your needs and questions. More than 2 people, especially if they don’t know one another, and it begins to feel like a “class” rather than private VIP tutoring.
I’M TRAVELING A REALLY LONG WAY. IS THERE ANY WAY I CAN SCHEDULE A SECOND DAY WITH YOU FOR ANOTHER SUBJECT? Probably yes. Let’s talk about it. Start by sending me an email.
I’VE USED YOUR SWEATER 101 FOR YEARS AND AM COMFORTABLE MAKING SWEATERS WITH IT. CAN I SCHEDULE A VIP SESSION WITH YOU WHERE WE WORK ON MY WORST KNITTING PROBLEMS AND ABANDONED PROJECTS?
Yes. Let’s talk about it. Start by sending me an email.
DO YOU EVER DO VIP SESSIONS IN OTHER PLACES? Once in a while. If you happen to live close to family or friends whom I like to visit around the country, that could happen. Send me an email and let’s see if it’s possible.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I HAVE TO CANCEL?
All VIP sales are final. However, if something comes up and you can’t make it on your original date you can reschedule for a later date for up to 2 years from the date of the original event. There may be an additional fee when you reschedule if I was not able to recover my deposit for our venue on your original date.
OR you can give or sell your scheduled session to someone else. It is entirely transferable.
ANY OTHER QUESTIONS? PUT THEM IN THE COMMENTS BELOW or SEND ME AN EMAIL AND I’LL ADD THEM TO THIS LIST. THANKS!!!
Part 1: The Interior
The interior of a piece of knitting pretty much takes care of itself until you need to block it. Your blocking method is based on the fiber content, the pattern stitches used, and your intentions for the end product. You want that lush and fluffy brioche cowl to stay lofty so you gently pat its damp self into shape. However, that holey, misshapen, lace lump needs to be stretched flat with merciless pinning, an experience from which it will emerge as an elegant shawl.
Part 2: The Edges
Ah . . . but the edges. There’s where the serious finishing happens. There are basically 3 things to do with edges in knitting, whether they’re straight or curved (you are beyond making stair-steps, right?) They are:
IT (the edge) will be sewn into a seam.
You will pick up and knit something new along IT (the edge).
You will do nothing to IT (the edge). IT will be on display to all the world forevermore.
And that, my lovely knitters, is why finishing begins the minute you pick up the needles . . . because when you cast on, you’re making an edge. And that edge might make you cry later. Real tears. Like the time Joan made a beautifully textured, intricate, pink cotton drop-shoulder sweater for her husband. They were headed to Palm Springs for several weeks in the winter, this was during the 80s, and he was a very handsome and bold man, so the pink was perfect . . . except. Except . . . when he put on the sweater after weeks of Joan’s work, the bottom, cast-on edge practically cut him in two.
Joan was a very skilled knitter but, as a dedicated wool and alpaca woman, had never worked with cotton before. Somehow she misjudged and made her long-tail cast-on way too tight.
We were able to fix it, of course, with scissors, some patience, a tapestry needle, and new length of yarn, but let it be a cautionary tale to you.
I hereby offer you Sweater Finishing 101, a complete video class to help you with every sweater you will ever make. I suggest watching the whole class all the way through one time to get the “flow.” You don’t have to remember how to do all the skills. You just need to know that they exist and when the time comes, you can refer back to the video series for specific skills like directional decreases or increases and you’ll know where to put them.
Pay attention to the edges and your knitting life will be easier. I guarantee it.
Here are two ways to avoid stair-step bind-offs and I think both are handy tools to know about even if you don’t memorize them because you don’t use them that often. You can apply these techniques to any pattern that calls for sequential bind-offs along the same edge.
These are among those little tricks that the pros use to make things look good and to prevent frustration at the finishing stage. Power to the knitter!
The first uses classic Wrap and Turn (W & T) short rows. This is handy when you are at the shoulders of a sweater and want to do a 3-needle bind-off.
2. The second method uses the sloped bind-off, something I learned from the brilliant designer Shirley Paden. This technique is especially good when forming certain crew-neck shapings or a scooped neck.
Given that few of us need to knit for basic survival anymore, why are we so passionate about it? What is it about art, beauty, working with our hands that is so compelling? Here are a couple of my musings on the subject and after you watch them I hope you’ll share your reasons in the comments. What does handcraft in general and knitting, specifically, mean to you?
That quote was on a poster that hung in my high school English classroom for years. It may seem like madness to encourage this behavior among teenagers, but it wasn’t. It acknowledged that I didn’t know everything and that they were invited to challenge me. It made for some lively discussions.
Things that are “in print,” with lovely layouts and professional photography, command a certain automatic respect from us. We assume that if a pattern is from a “designer” or published in a magazine or book, that it’s “right.”
My advice to you is to question every pattern you meet and not slavishly follow it. Put it through a sanity test. Make sure the numbers add up right. Make sure it makes sense. Rewrite it in your own visual language if necessary (I do this for everything I knit).
Here are a couple resources that encourage you to question the “authority” of patterns. Many tears have been shed by knitters who have said, “But I followed the pattern exactly!” Let’s dry those eyes.
1) “Knitting Patterns”
This is the first knitting video I made after a 20-year break from making videos. I thought the subject was that important.
2) “Patterns are Guidelines, not Gospel”
This is an article from 2015. I felt the need to expand on the subject because most of the problems that people contact me about are because of patterns. You can CLICK HEREto read it.
What about you? Have you ever been disappointed or misled by a pattern?