Mellow long-tail cast-on

(This will work for Tunisian crochet as well as knitting; you’ll want to use a knitting needle alongside the crochet hook.)

I was fiddling around with using the basic long-tail cast on with two needles when I had an inspiration for another way to use two needles to make long-tail cast-ons even more relaxed. There are at least four long-tail cast-ons; the principle should work with all of them. (I haven’t ever seen anyone else use this method, though of course that doesn’t mean that someone else hasn’t thought of it.)

One of the constraints on the tightness of long-tail cast-ons is the size of the loops that are knit into when creating the stitches. The tightness of these loops is usually controlled by how tightly the knitter pulls on the tail when forming the stitches. However, if you insert the second needle into these loops as you go, you can force them to be larger.

I’ve used two needles the same size in this demo, but it’s probably better to use a smaller needle for the second one—in my opinion, the bottom loops look sloppy otherwise.

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Holding two needles together, start by working the first pair of stitches of the long-tail cast on as usual, except that it should be worked only on the main needle. (The first stitch on my needles is just wrapped around, as shown in these excellent instructions by TECHknitter; scroll down for the no-slip-knot version.)20130506-135051.jpg

Before starting to make the next stitch, catch the thumb loop on the second needle. Snug everything up as usual, and go on.

Once you have cast on all the stitches required for your work, pull the second needle out of the loops, and continue onward.

Please let me know how this goes for you!

I hope to have a video of this process sometime this week; I’m getting my recording setup worked out.

 

Foundation cast-on

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Last week, I was playing around with variations on the foundation base chain, and came up with this two yarn version:

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When I looked at that for a while, I started thinking again. The white chain looked like the chain on a bag of pet food. So I unraveled it and stuck the resulting loose stitches on my Tunisian crochet hook. It looked like a cast on.

f5914688-2f5944960-2It was a cast on.

It’s actually nicely stretchy, and you can work it directly onto a knitting needle or afghan hook without the chain across the top!

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Eno Twist – an unusual decrease

eno twist

Here, at last, is the unusual double decrease I unvented for a shawl that I’m in the midst of writing up. The shawl is called Eno River, and so I called this the Eno Twist, because the abbreviation got a little unwieldy otherwise: SSTSKPSSOYO2K3tog? Yeah, I don’t think so.

This is not a usual sort of double decrease. A normal double decrease takes three stitches and turns them into one. This one takes six stitches and turns them into four. Only two stitches are decreased, though perhaps I shouldn’t really call it a double decrease.

You won’t see this decrease in its original habitat until the Eno River shawl pattern is available, but it looks pretty nifty in a column as shown above, so maybe you’ll want to play around with it and use it for your own devices. Raglan decreases, maybe? Go for it!

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Double decreases, common and less so.

A double decrease is a technique used in knitting to knit three stitches together to make one; two stitches are decreased. There are six possible permutations of the three stitches involved; I’m only going to describe five, as the sixth is indistinguishable from its mirrored stitch.

If your stitches usually sit like this on the needle, wait for next week to avoid unnecessary frustration!
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All the stitches shown here assume a starting point of three stitches like this:

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Of double yarnovers and lark’s heads.

Some lace patterns contain double yarnovers, which are used to add two stitches in the middle of the work as well as adding a decorative hole. (The word yarnover makes me think of turnovers. Yum!)

Five different ways of working double yarnovers.
Five different ways of working double yarnovers.

The question I’ve seen from people who haven’t dealt with them before is how to work them on the next row or round. There’s two loops on the needle

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but if you knit each loop the way you would a normal stitch, it won’t make two stitches, which is undesirable.

The standard way to work them, as described by Barbara Walker and many others, is to knit the first loop, slip it off, and then purl the second loop. (Double YO #1 in the photo above) You can reverse the order, but it makes a funny little knot in between the two stitches. (Double YO #2.)

Another technique I learned about more recently is to knit or purl through each loop, but to twist them as you go. (Double YO #3) This seems to be rather less well-known, and is a useful basis for Double YOs #4 and 5 above, so I’m going to write about it here.

There’s one finicky thing about it, in my opinion, and that’s loosening each loop up enough to get the needle through. If your yarn is thick enough, you can pinch the bottom of the loop and pull it down to get some slack:

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Then you can twist the loop and either knit or purl it.

Alternately, insert your needle as if to purl,

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then slide it around under the yarn so that it’s behind the other needle.

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If you’re knitting it, it’s in the perfect spot to go ahead. If you’re purling, you’ll have to remove the needle and hold onto the slack with your other hand while bringing the needle in from behind.

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Once you’ve worked the first YO, work the second one the same way you did the first, so that both are knit or both are purled.

Note that since the loops are twisted, the double YO is smaller. Sometimes this is a benefit; sometimes it’s not. What I like about this technique is that it works really well when you start getting more than two yarnovers in a row. (For an example, see the Auge doily.)

Now that’s all very well and good, and is sometimes the best option, but it’s asymmetrical, and I’m often in favor of symmetry. I was thinking about knots one day. A twisted yarn over loop is basically the same as a half hitch. When I was a child, I was taught a knot that we called a whole hitch, but that is more commonly called a lark’s head knot. A lark’s head knot is two half hitches in a row, but one half hitch is twisted in the opposite direction from the other, so that they mirror each other.

Why not, I thought, mirror the twist in the two YOs for more symmetry? Here are the results of this experimentation. I’m going to call this the lark’s head stitch, though surely someone else must have come up with it and called it something else.

This is a case where it matters which order you make the stitches in depending on the effect you want on the front of your work. Both Double YO #4 and 5 above are worked with a lark’s head stitch.

The first variation I show will create a horizontal blip on the side of the fabric that is not facing you. The second will create a horizontal blip on the side that’s facing you. Which you work depends on whether you’re knitting in the round or knitting flat, and whether you want a horizontal blip showing or not.

Variation A:

Twist and work the first loop as shown above.

Now, drop the second loop. Don’t worry! It won’t run; it can’t, since there’s no stitches below it. Now, bring your non-active needle in from behind to pick up the loop again so that it sits on the needle in the opposite direction.

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Now, either knit or purl the YO leg that’s in front of the needle so that the YO is twisted as you work it.

Variation B:

Drop both loops of the double YO. Bring your non-active needle in from behind to pick it up as if it’s one stitch, like this:

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Twist it as you knit or purl it. There should still be some slack in the long loop you dropped; pick that up again so that it sits like this on the needle:

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Twist it to work it with the same stitch you did the previous stitch (so, a total of two knits or a total of two purls.)

Have fun! Play around! See if this makes you think of something else to try!

(If you like my posts like this, please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks!)

Triangle lace cast-on

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Sometimes I come up with ideas and then never get around to doing anything with them. I was reminded of one such idea recently, when a friend shared a link to a fantastic scallopy, lacy cast-on posted at Twist Collective, called the Eyelet Cast-on . Go have a look and add it to your repertoire; it’s quite beautiful, and useful for lace, as it will accommodate blocking.

Anyway, back when I was first discovering more than the one or two cast-ons I learned as a beginner, I came up with something related. It has a number of different qualities from the Eyelet Cast-on: one, it’s not very elastic or loose; two, it has only one chain in between each new stitch on the needle, and three, the yarn overs are not twisted. The instructions as given will produce an odd number of stitches. There’s an easy way to make an even number of stitches, but that is left as an exercise for the reader. (Why? Because.)

Aside from your yarn and your knitting needles, you probably also want a crochet hook the same size as your knitting needle (or maybe a titch larger).

Here we go!

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First, put a backwards loop (also known as a half hitch) on your needle.

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Next, insert your crochet hook into the loop from the left.

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Pull a loop through. Now, in ordinary knitted-on cast on, you would put this stitch on the needle. instead…

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Pull another loop through. (Chain one, in crochet terms.)

Now put that stitch on the needle, leaving the hook in the stitch.

Pull a loop through and chain one. Put the new stitch on the needle, and repeat as desired, ending with putting a stitch on the needle.

Now what?

Knit the first stitch (no, don’t slip one). Now repeat the following two things to the end of the row: yarn over, knit one.

I now recommend working one plain row or round of stockinette before going on to anything fancier, but you may (as always when it comes to the needle arts) do as you wish, so long as it produces results you like and nobody gets hurt.

As you can see, I’ve added a photo!

Tinkertoy spindle wheel tutorial

(Instructions for spinning yarn not included.)

Finished Wheel

I’ve been toying with the idea of making a charkha, also called a spindle wheel, for Maker Faire. I do want to make something sturdier, but this does have its charms. And it does actually work. (Photo taken with the wheel lying on its side so I don’t have to find a backdrop. Click any picture to see a bigger version.)

Make one of these:
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The spindle has to turn freely; the two wheels it sits in need to have the larger holes.

Make two of these:
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Put them together like this (note the addition of two more red sticks):
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Make two square “wheels” (ignore the string for the moment; all will become clear):
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Gather up some more bits like this to make an axle:

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(Note that the stick is the same length as the green bits from the wheels.)

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  1. axle through the circle at the top of the big purple triangle.
  2. one small round wheel from this picture onto the axle.
  3. a big square wheel on the axle.
  4. three small wheels on the axle.
  5. the other square wheel on the axle.
  6. one more little wheel on the axle.
  7. axle through the top of the other purple triangle.
  8. second stopper on the end of the axle.

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Get some crochet cotton. Using a darning needle or crochet hook, thread it through alternating points of the square wheels so the string zigzags back and forth. When you’ve threaded it through all the points, cut the string, gently pull it so that the wheels don’t shift, but not so tightly that the square wheels come apart. Turn the square wheels so the points are out of sync with each other and the wheels are parallel.

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The two square wheels now make a bigger single wheel. The next step is to make a belt that goes around the big wheel and the spindle whorl. More crochet cotton! Tie it in a big loop around the smaller part of the whorl and around the string part of the big wheel. Tie it fairly tightly, but not so tight that the contraption’s base starts to fold.

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Ta-dah! (Video yet to come.)

The spindle won’t hold much in the way of thick yarn, but I’ve seen pictures of spindle wheels like this used for making cotton thread or fine yarn. I do want to come up with a way of using a proper pointy spindle, but this will do for now, when my son lets me use his Tinkertoys.