Combination Cables

I spent several cold winter days shooting this entire series of cable videos so, please, forgive me if I occasionally begin by saying things like “once again” or “we previously….”. Until I sat down and started editing the videos I wasn’t always sure which ones would include what information. The videos all seemed to edit out longer than I anticipated so some related topics were not ultimately covered in the same video. 

You are not limited to simple columns of cables on a knitting machine. By paying attention to which stitches are returned to the needles first, you can create all kinds of fancy, intricate-looking cables by working simple cables in pairs or groups.

It is always important to remember that the stitches that are returned to their needles first will show on the knit side of the fabric, but it is especially important when creating cables. One wrong crossing always seems to visually just pop right off the fabric and there is no hiding that kind of a mistake.

Sometimes I think of cable crossings in terms of right/left, meaning that I should cross the stitches from the right first and then from the left. You can also think of it as crossing towards the left and then towards the right. It doesn’t matter as long as you understand and can control the direction of the crossings and can be consistent throughout your fabric.

With paired cables, I tend to think about crossing in/out (or out/in) as the stitches relate to the center of the whole cable. Again, it doesn’t matter what you name the motions you use as long as they mean something to you and you can be consistent throughout.

Working From Charts

The solid, unbroken lines from lower left to upper right indicate that this is a right/back crossed cable.

Unless you work from a specifically machine knit pattern, cable charts are usually drawn for hand-knitters who almost always cross cables when working on the right side of the fabric. In a typical cable crossing, like the one shown at left, there is usually a solid, unbroken line designating the stitches that are knitted last so that they sit on the face of the fabric and define the direction of the crossing. 

In this example (handknitted) the cable is worked by slipping the first 3 (for example) stitches onto a cable needle and holding them at the back; then knit the next 3 stitches from the left-hand needle before knitting the 3 stitches from the cable needle. On a machine, you would remove both groups of stitches from their needles and return the right stitches to the left group of needles first and then the left stitches to the right needles to get the same effect.

When you move beyond columns of single cables and start pairing them up for braided effects, it becomes even more important to work with stretchy yarns as each cable tends to pull against the adjacent cables and things can get pretty tight. You definitely want some tension on the stitches to help define the shape of the cables, but you never want to risk breaking the yarn or damaging your machine. I almost always bring needles out to holding position after crossing cables. In fact, I usually just replace the first set of stitches on their needles in working position and then, as I return the second set of stitches to the needles, I pull them out to holding position in the same motion. If the needles are “kissing” and risk hooking onto each other, I nudge them back to upper-work position instead.

It isn’t always possible to have nice stretchy yarns to work with and if you have your heart set on a cabled cotton or acrylic sweater, you may need to rely on drop stitch or bridging to increase the size of some of the stitches. I often use short rows (bridging) to add a couple of extra rows to the stitches that will show on the knit side of the fabric. The extra rows make it easier to cross lots of wide cables or multiple cables close together and, more importantly, the extra rows help the cables stand up from the surface. I’ll show you some bridged cables in the next blog post, but figured I should mention it here.

I often count repeats, rather than rows, when working cables and many other hand-manipulated techniques. Very often I will make a list of row numbers and then use various symbols and short hand to designate what to do in which row. For example, if cables are supposed to cross to the right, I might show an arrow pointing to the right next to the row numbers; for popcorns, I often use a large dot (bullet) to designate those rows.  Some row numbers  may end up with several symbols next to them to indicate that there are cables to cross and corn to pop all in the same row. It is especially convenient when there are some cables that cross every 4 rows and others that cross every 6 rows. Whatever you do, don’t just rely on your memory or a head count to keep track of it all.

Gull and XO cables

The cable at left is a Gull Cable where the pairs of cables always cross out and then in. The cable on the right is a Hugs and Kisses Cable where the pairs of cables cross out/in twice and then in/out.

These cables, which are shown in the video are both based on pairs of cables and can be worked with two 2×2 or two 3×3 cables. Gull (also called Wishbone cables) always cross the same way – each of the cables crosses out, away from the center every time. So, I tend to think out/in for each of the cable pairs as I work them. Hugs and Kisses (X’s and O’s) cross out/in twice and then in/out twice so that the cables appear to open and close.

Braided and Woven Cables

The cable at left is a basic braided cable; the one at right is a woven cable. Both share the concept of splitting pairs and alternating the direction of the crossings from vertical repeat to vertical repeat. There is one less crossing in every alternate repeat.

Braided cables are worked by splitting pairs and alternating the direction of the crosses. In the first row of cable crossings, both cables cross right/left. In the next repeat there is only one cable that is formed by taking half of each of the previous cables and crossing left/right.

Woven cables are an extension of braided cables, usually worked over more groups of needles. They also utilize split pairs. In the example at left, there are four cables in the first repeat that cross right/left. The next repeat has one less cable because each of these cables is worked with half the stitches from each of the cables below, crossing left/right. The groups split so that the left pair of stitches from one cable below and the right pair from another form the new cable. The split pairs and alternating direction of the crossings are what contribute to the woven appearance of these cables.

Single Bed Drop Stitch

I did a couple of posts on drop stitch and enlarging stitches back in June of 2017, but I wanted to share this method with you as well because I think is is, simply put, a better approach that requires less fussing with the actual stitches. You can never have too many options to choose from!

Although I demonstrate this method on a 3×3 cable, you can use it anytime your cables are reluctant to cross. It is never worth straining the stitches – believe me, I know!

I like using the split ring stitch holders (I could hardly get the words out on video without slurring it all!) because the stitches are securely held. Sometimes, I also use a wooden hand-knit cable needle, like the ones that are available from Brittany Needles. They have little ridges that hold the stitches snuggly and prevent them from sliding off.

In a future video/lesson I will show you how to cross large cables more easily by adding extra rows or by increasing the stitch size of just the stitches that lie at the back of the cables.

Introduction to Cables

Easy to do and with all kinds of variations possible, cables are probably the most popular hand-manipulations with machine knitters. I think that individual knitters probably have their own favorite methods for dealing with the actual crossings, but I hope that this 3-part overview will help beginners get over their fears and offer new perspective for the experienced cable-crossers among you!

There is an entire chapter on cables in my first book, Hand-Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters and I also addressed some very specific cabling techniques in each of my other three books. If, for some unknown reason, you do not yet own any of my books, you can purchase as many as you like for 15% off the pricing on my web site (which is already about 20% below Amazon!) using this code at check-out: BD2319. The discount is good only until March 15 so don’t hesitate!

Simply stated, cabled are created by removing two groups of stitches on transfer tools, returning the right-hand group of stitches to the left group of needles and the left group of stitches to the right needles.  Sounds easy enough, right? It IS easy if you start at the beginning and work your way through more involved and difficult variations as you gain experience.

In this first (of 3) videos about cables, I’ve dealt with just the simplest cables. The next two installments will explain more involved cables and also how to go back and fix an incorrect crossing once the work is finished and off the machine and you think you’re going to throw it all out the window when you find the mistake!

The easiest – and most common – machine knit cables involve removing two stitches on two transfer tools. It is a fairly easy cable to cross because the groups of stitches (2 stitches each) are small enough that they do not create undue stress once crossed. Although you do want some tension on the stitches so that the cable is clearly defined by the crossings, you do not want to risk breaking the yarn or some needles in the process.

You should notice in the video that when I return the second set of stitches to the needles, I use my transfer tool to deposit the stitches and pull the needles out to holding position (HP) all in one smooth motion. When needles are in HP, the carriage has no choice but to knit the needles, even if the stitches are a bit tight. While it may not always be necessary (or possible) to do this when crossing 2 x 2 cables, it is extremely helpful with 3 x 3 and larger cables.

Sometimes, when the needles are pulled out to HP after crossing the stitches, you will find that the center needles in HP are touching because of the tension on the stitches. In that case, I usually nudge the needles back to upper-work position (UWP) because the shorter extended needle length causes the needles to separate slightly. A much safer position. Believe me, I know through bad experience that it is possible to have the too-close center needles hook onto each other as the carriage tries to knit them. What a nightmare!

One of the basic rules for hand-manipulating stitches on a knitting machine is this: The stitches that are returned to the needles first will show on the face (knit side) of the fabric. When reading hand knit charts, keep in mind that they are meant to be read and worked from the knit side of fabric. There is usually a symbol showing two crossed lines, with the darker line representing the stitches that lie on top of the cable and define the twist. On a machine the dark line represents the second set of stitches returned to the needles.

With a single column of cables, it probably doesn’t matter which way you cross the cables unless you are trying to exactly duplicate a pattern or effect. exa. It does, however, matter that you are consistent throughout the fabric. With braided, woven and complex cables, understanding and controlling the direction of the crosses is essential.

You can, of course, cross wider cables than 2 x 2 as long as you have multi-prong transfer tools or are willing to hold a couple of tools in each hand. There are some multi-prong tools available on my web site for 4.5, 6.5 and 9 mm machines.

The more stitches you cross, the wider your cables will be, but not all cable crossings are meant to create a roped effect. For example, the 1 x 3 cable I demonstrate in the video does not create a twisted cable effect. Rather, the single stitch on the front of the fabric creates a pattern of enlarged (stretched) single stitches. These single stitches are also the perfect place to add some beads are paillettes.

In addition to the number of stitches affecting the look of a cable, so does the number of rows between crossings. Once you cross a cable, it requires a number of rows for the stitches to relax in their new placement. I call this stitch recovery. There are some loosely written “rules of thumb” that dictate knitting 4 rows between 2 x 2 cables, 6 rows between 3 x 3 crossings, etc. The knitting machine police will not arrest you if you decide to knit fewer or more rows so experiment a bit!

With fewer rows between crossings, the stitches do not get a chance to recover and the resulting column of cables looks narrow and tight; if you knit more rows, not only do the stitches recover, the cables appear to spread wider. Try knitting a 2×2 cable with the first 3 crossings spaced out every 4 rows. Then try knitting 8 rows before you repeat that. You will see what I mean.

The 3 x 3 cable that I demo along one edge of the fabric will usually – usually – prevent the edge from rolling under and can be useful along the side edges of a scarf or shawl or along the front edges of a cardigan. If the edge still insists on rolling, try working one row of crochet or backwards crochet along the edge of the cables.

If they bother to reform any stitches at all, most people latch up a single rib stitch along each side of a cable. That is, they drop and reform the column of stitches as knit stitches, which presents as purl stitches on the front of the fabric. Rib being rib (even a single reversed stitch) it tends to pull fabric in. Cables already reduce the width of the fabric and by working the latch up in rib, it narrows the fabric further. When I am concerned about retaining as much width as possible, I usually latch up in tuck by passing the latch tool under two ladder bars but only catching the top bar in the hook of the tool. This tuck stitch looks like a tuck stitch formed by the ribber bed.

I know that some people leave a needle out of work alongside their cables, but I just don’t like the way it looks. It does help the cables cross a bit more easily but ultimately, I find that the extra slack from the ladder bars causes the edge stitches of the cable column to look kind of loose and sloppy. There are much better ways to ease cable crossings and I will address some of them in future blogs. The video doesn’t give a very good view of the latched-up stitches, which is sometimes what you get with a crew of 1 doing all the knitting/talking, filming so for a better look, check out the blog postings I did on latching up stitches on 3/1/16 and 5/1/16 for more information.

I cannot stress enough that you should include a proportionate number of cables in your gauge swatch if you want to be sure the finished sweater will fit the person it was intended for. Yes, it will take more time to work up the swatch, but a cabled sweater is fairly labor and time intensive and the swatch – as always – is a small investment in success. There really aren’t any short cuts when it comes to hand-manipulated stitches!

Seashell Nops and More!

This blog is the last follow-up to the posts about popcorns, incorporating short rows into the bridging to build raised textures. You’ll notice that I didn’t even bother to wrap most of the rows as I short rowed the examples in this video, but let me caution you that this may be influenced positively or negatively by the yarn you choose to knit fabrics like these. I tend to work with a lot of 100% wool, which “blooms” or fills out the stitches when the finished fabric is washed. You may find that a non-blooming yarn like 100% acrylic does not fill out the stitches as cleanly and would require more wrapping to produce a finished looking fabric. As always, sample, sample, sample!

The “seashell nops” are shown on page 41 of More Hand-Manipulated Stitches and the raised ruffle, which is a variation of the nops, is featured on page 42. There are two main differences between these fabrics: First of all, the nops were worked with 4 rows between repeats, while the ruffle includes only 2 plain rows between repeats. Also, the nops were completed by picking up a stitch from the first row and hanging it on the needle above to prevent the openings from gaping; There are no lifted stitches in the ruffled fabric. Both fabrics alternate repeats from the left and right.

The triangular nops (page 47 of MHMS) and the stegosaurus cables (page 48 MHMS) are first cousins. Both are short rowed as if to create tiny sock heels but the nops are completed by lifting the first row and hanging the stitches on the needles above, while the stegosaurus cable is completed by crossing a 3 x 3 cable. The way the cables sit on the surface of the fabric varies depending on which way the cables are crossed. If the cables always cross to the right (or left), all of the raised bumps will slant the same way. If you alternate the direction of the crossing each time, the texture will alternate right and left. You could probably add further variations by working some plain rows across all the needles before crossing the cable or by working more complex cable crossings.

There are endless possibilities for creating short rowed textures within bridged fabrics and there are a number of them in MHMS and in Open Spaces, but there are still lots of discoveries waiting to be made by knitters who wonder “what would happen if I ……..”

Vittadini by Machine

I decided to return to the issue of converting hand knit patterns to the machine. It becomes more and more necessary with the lack of good sources for reliable machine knit patterns these days. I stress reliable because I am a firm believer in good editing and much of the material on the internet has never been edited. Even with editing, mistakes slip by and I know that when I find 2 + 2 = 5 the first time, I am likely to keep making the same mistake throughout! There is nothing as valuable as good technical editing to make sure a pattern is correct throughout.

That said, the patterns in magazines like Vogue Knitting and Knitter’s are often doable by machine – and dependably edited to eliminate as many mistakes as humanely possible.

Trisha Malcolm, editor of Vogue Knitting, gave permission for me to reproduce the pattern for this gorgeous Vittadini cardigan so I could detail the step by step directions for converting it to the machine. I realized, once I was done, that it is actually quite similar to the garment I talked about in a blog posting on 8/30/16 – another shawl collared sweater. Sorry about the duplication and next time I will focus on necklines and armholes a bit more. This post is actually far more detailed and, I hope, useful.

I have included both the original pattern and the converted version in a Vittadini Conversion PDF that you can download to work from. The important information for my size (medium – a girl can dream!) is highlighted in yellow. The red type explains the changes that need to be made for the machine.

Just a couple of notes:

(1) Numbers were not rounded off until I needed to know how many rows or stitches and then they were usually rounded up to even numbers.

(2) Each section on the schematic begins with RC 000. So, once the lower body of the garment is done, reset the RC000 before starting the armhole shaping, etc.

(3) These are some of the abbreviations I have used:

STS     stitch/stitches

NDLS  needle/needles

HP       holding position

C/O     cast on

B/O    bind off

S/O    scrap off (shown with a small triangle symbol on schematic).

 

Lastly, I tried my very best to keep going back over the text and re-checking the re-checked math so if you find something that doesn’t compute right about when you thought you understood what was happening – it is probably my mistake not yours!

We’re roasting here in Connecticut this week – hopefully the cooler fall weather is coming soon and we’ll all feel a bit more like knitting!

 

 

 

 

 

Peek-A-Boo Purple Pullover

While I was working on Open Spaces: Machine Knit Eyelets, Ladders and Slits, I actually found a little time here and there to get some real knitting done. I fell in love with this effect when I was writing the chapter about slits and knitted all the pieces for this sweater (and half of another one!) at a knitting retreat I attended with members of the San Francisco Machine Knitting Guild in the early spring. I packed up my yarn, borrowed an LK-150 and spent two wonderful days knitting dawn to dusk , visiting with other knitters and discussing clothes, wine and everything under the sun while we worked. The weekend was perfect and complete with hummingbirds and delicious meals at the Sonoma Orchid Inn. I could get used to that life!

I’ve added a pattern for this sweater to the Free Stuff on my website. Be sure to use the link you were sent when you registered for the newsletter to bring you right to the downloads page – it is the only way to get there!

The pattern includes all the stitch and schematic charts and basic knitting directions. You can knit this fabric by using bridging and bridge bars, holding position to knit each side separately or intarsia to work both sides at the same time. Without re-writing the whole chapter on slits, I’ve tried to give enough direction to help you knit your own sweater. I recommend that you try a sample first to get used to the method and immodestly suggest that you check out the chapter on Slits if you need more guidance and specific information. You’ll discover lots more great ideas in all three chapters!

 

 

Single Bed Drop Stitch

My last couple of postings were about Drop Stitch, which is typically worked on a double bed machine. Not all of us, however, have two beds to work with so this short clip shows you how to work drop stitch on a single bed machine. This is a great way to cross cables without strain or to quickly create enlarged stitches for a variety of effects.

What I do first is to temporarily “borrow” a couple needles by transferring their stitches to adjacent needles. The empty needles remain in working position where they cast on in with the next pass of the carriage. When that cast on loop is dropped, it is longer than a simple ladder (yarn passing in front of a non-working needle) would be and provides the extra give you need.

Next, cross the cables and then return the stitches to the borrowed needles and finally, hand knit the needles that were in hold and the stitches just returned to their needles. I never just leave a ladder next to cables because (a) it really doesn’t provide all that much extra give and (2) when the fabric is removed from the machine, the edges of the cable often “spread” into the ladder’s space. I just don’t think it looks very good. Give this method a try and I think you will agree!

One last note, you can also re-form the stitches that you remove and then return to the borrowed needles if you want to include a purl stitch along each side of your cables.

Judith Duffy’s Cabled Edging

Talk about something I wish I had invented, but didn’t! I LOVE this edging/Bind Off/trim and have used it for all kinds of things over the years. With Judith Duffy’s kind permission, it appeared in Hand-Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters (page 183) and there was even a hand-knit version of it in Knitters’ Magazine to accompany the machine knit pattern I did for the gold sweater that appeared in the blog post of March 7, 2016 – and again here (below).

I first saw this edging when I was a contributing editor for Threads Magazine (in the earliest years of the magazine) and they were doing a feature article on fiber artist Judith Duffy’s work. They asked me to choose one of her textures to reproduce for the article and I spent some time figuring out machine knit directions for the cabled edging. Do you remember the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing garment that graced a back cover in those early years? It was a stunning piece by Duffy and unlike anything I have seen before or since, hand or machine knitted.

Notice the Duffy Edging on the ribs - great way to bind off ribbing for a change!
Notice the Duffy Edging on the ribs – great way to bind off ribbing for a change!

The gold sweater at left is a twisted stitch and latched up tuck stitch pattern (see previous blog 3/7/16), but take a close look at the edge of the ribbing. I started all the garment pieces on waste yarn and went back later to work the ribs. Instead of a conventional rib bind off, I worked the Duffy Cabled Edging to trim and bind off the ribs all at once.

 

 

 

Check out the pretty neckline with JDCE finish!
Check out the pretty neckline with JDCE finish!

Most of all, I think I have used it to bind off neckline stitches when shaping a neckline with short rows, preserving live stitches. On a standard gauge machine it produces a lovely, delicate neckline finish.

You can also use this edging to join two garment or afghan sections together by rehanging them on the machine with the wrong sides facing each other and then working the edging. As with the I-cord join (blog 4/8/16), make sure you always hang the pieces the same way as there is a right and wrong side to the way the edging joins the base fabric.

This Cabled Edging can be worked on live stitches or selvage edges, which makes it perfect for finishing afghans!
This Cabled Edging can be worked on live stitches or selvage edges, which makes it perfect for finishing afghans!

The method is quite simple. Hang the work on the machine with the right side (whatever that is) facing you – live stitches or selvage edges (whole stitches are best). All of the needles except the first 3 on the carriage side are in holding position and the carriage must be set to hold needles in HP. Knit 12 rows over the 3 working needles and then remove those stitches on a 3-prong tool and pass the tool under the adjacent 3 needles and re-hang the stitches on the 4th, 5th and 6th needles from the edge.Place the empty needles in NWP. Repeat till you either reach a corner or the end. If you want to turn a corner, add two more rows to the last two groups on each side to help make the corner so that it doesn’t flatten out. You’ll also find that you can’t easily hang the next side of an afghan until you get right to the corner. At that point, you might want to remove those last few stitches and re-hang them on the far right end of the bed to give you lots of needles to re-hang the next side.

I almost always work with 3 stitches and knit 12 rows for each spiral, but you can certainly work with more stitches if you have a tool to handle them. Twelve rows almost always works out right, but you might find that 10 or 14 are better so work the edging on your gauge swatch to find out before you begin. You might also find that you want to adjust your stitch size a bit smaller or larger – sampling always pays off.

As I said in the tutorial, the float that passes underneath the first 3 needles always gets hidden inside the spiral, but you can certainly opt to knit those needles back and eliminate the float if – for some unforeseen reason – it shows. Also, by way of variation, I have seen students work this trim in two colors, which is very cool. In that case, it might be best to knit back the float of at least one of the colors.

When you reach the end, you want the trim to end quickly and neatly. What I have always done is to knit half as many rows on the second to last group and then immediately reduce those 3 stitches to a single stitch. Move that single stitch to the last needle at left, knit 1 row over the last 3 needles and then reduce those stitches to a single stitch and pull the yarn tail through to secure.

I think there are all kinds of creative possibilities for this edging – I love the cabled effect and the fact that it also binds off stitches. Lately I have been playing with a cabled cord effect by e-wrapping, knitting 1 row over all needles and then working the JDCE. I think it still needs a little work and then I will share it with you! What other ways can you think to use this trim?

The Every-Other-Needle Tool

The every-other-needle or EON tool is one of my favorites. In addition to transferring stitches for row after row of eyelets, you can also use it to knit baby basket weave – a twisted stitch pattern made up of lots of 1×1 crossed or twisted stitches. If you own a copy of Hand-Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters (HMS, which really doesn’t stand for Her Majesty’s Stitches even tho I may have said differently from time to time….) there is a discussion of baby basket weave that starts on page 93.

EON eyelet grid
EON eyelet grid

To knit an all-over eyelet pattern like the one at left, you could transfer all the alternate stitches individually, but it would take a very, very long time to complete a sweater. With the EON tool, you can transfer 8 stitches at a time and the work goes fairly fast (in terms of hand manipulations). One thing to keep in mind for an all-over grid like this, you should transfer alternate sets of stitches each time. Otherwise, if you always transfer the same set of stitches, the eyelets will form in columns.

The way I keep track of which set of stitches to use is pretty simple. I choose the first needle on the right of zero the first time – and all the alternate needles – and I transfer those stitches to the adjacent needles at right. After knitting two rows, I make sure the next selection in includes the first needle at the left of zero and I transfer those stitches to the left. If you lose track, you should be able to tell what you did last by looking at the way the stitches slant.

Apart from looking neat and even, alternating the direction of the transfers will guard against the fabric biasing, as it might if all the transfers were made the same way. Why chance it?

Alternating needles and the direction of the twists creates a woven effect
Alternating needles and the direction of the twists creates a woven effect

I use the same system of selecting needles to knit baby basket weave. The stitches are twisted (or, in this case, shifted) every two rows and the direction of the twists and the needles selected alternates each time. By choosing alternate needles/stitches each time, it effectively takes care of the “splitting pairs” needed to create woven and braided cable effects. Splitting pairs, coupled with alternating the direction of the crossing/twisting is what gives this fabric the woven effect. The same two rules also apply when crossing cables of any width: splitting pairs and alternating the direction of the crosses will create woven or braided effects.

If stitches 1 and 2 cross 3 and 4 and 5 and 6 cross 7 and 8 the first time, the next time you cross cables, 3 and 4 will cross 5 and 6. That is what is meant by splitting pairs. And, in this example, stitches 1-2 and 7-8 would not be used at all in the second row of crosses.

babybasketgridBecause so many adjacent stitches are crossing, you must enlarge the stitch size by at least one full number from where the yarn usually knits a comfortable stockinette. Otherwise, the stitches will be very tight and difficult to cross (i.e. dropped and broken stitches) and the fabric will have even less give than it does – which isn’t a lot. This is a very firm, stable fabric.

EON tools for 6.5mm and 9mm machines are available at www.guagliumi.com. For standard gauge machines, you can use an adjustable 7-prong tool. If you own a Passap or Superba, Passap used to make an adjustable (5 mm) transfer tool that is well worth having if you can find one. You can pull the prongs out of the holder and re-set them in whatever order you want. Do I ever wish those were available in all gauges!

 

(By the way – I really DO plan to post more often than I have been doing lately, but I have been busier than I can describe getting ready to teach a very special class in Denver next month……)

Latching Up Stitches

This is the first of a series of short “How-To” lessons I plan to post here on the blog. While the information is old hat to a lot of you, there are so many new knitters out there (working on used machines all by themselves) that I figured I would start with some basics and then get progressively more involved and creative as time rolls on.

I think the important thing for new knitters to know about handling the latch tool is that slower, smoother motions ultimately end up being a lot faster than having to re-do the same thing over and over. Speed comes with experience so don’t rush it!

When I latch up a stitch, I concentrate on making sure that the old stitch slides smoothly over the latch to open it before I catch the next ladder bar in the open hook. Then just pull back enough for the old stitch to close the latch and slide over it. The fabric itself should hardly move – let the tool do the work.

When reforming stitches from the purl side, I always insert my tool into the bottom stitch in the column then release the stitch from its needle and let the stitch drop back to the tool. Dropping first means you would have to poke around to insert the tool through the stitch and sometimes that isn’t as easy as it looks. Doing it first is much safer and a whole lot easier.

I really love the way a tuck stitch looks along side cables and in addition to looking a bit more open than a reformed knit stitch (purl on the other side), tuck has the added advantage of returning a little width to the fabric. Lots of cables can cause a fabric to become narrower so using a tuck at each side of a cable actually returns that width to the fabric. With very large sizes, it could mean the difference between having enough needles – or not – to knit your garment!