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German Short Rows

Short rows are the perfect technique for shaping knitting, and there are many different ways to knit short rows. Many of them are a bit fiddly, and some will even make a small hole in the knitted fabric where the turn is. My favorite technique is German short rows because they are easy to work and the result is a nice, almost invisible, turn.

Here, I’ll show how to work German short rows in stockinette. The project I’m working on is a striped version of my own Cook a wolf sweater pattern that I’m currently writing. I use short rows to shape the shoulder of this sweater, to give it a small slope that makes the sweater fit better.

After knitting on the right side

Here, I am showing what to do after finishing the knit stitches on the right side. Having reached the number of stitches the pattern states, turn the work so the wrong side is facing you.

Now, slip the first stitch as if to purl with the yarn in front of the work. Then, pull the yarn over the needle, pulling the two legs of the stitch long. After that, purl the stitches on the needle:

After purling on the wrong side

You basically do the same when you finish purling the required number of stitches on the wrong side. Turn the work so the right side is facing, slip the first stitch as if to purl with the yarn in front of the work, then pull the yarn over the needle, pulling the two legs of the stitch long. After that, knit the stitches on the needle:

In both cases, there is now a pulled-over stitch on the needle. This stitch looks doubled, but it is one stitch and should be worked as one.

Knit the pulled-over stitch on the right side

When you reach a pulled-over stitch on the right side, it looks like this. In this video, I knit two ordinary stitches, then the pulled over stitch, and then two ordinary stitches:

And similarly when you purl the pulled-over stitch on the wrong side. In this video, I purl two ordinary stitches, then the pulled-over stitch, then two ordinary stitches:

And this is what the shoulder looks like after being closed using a 3-needle bind off – you can just see that the stripes are narrower in one end, and that’s all it takes to improve the shaping of a sweater shoulder:

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A Decorative Rib

I am writing a pattern for a simple sweater with a simple shape and a gauge of 18 sts / 10 cm (4 inches). I’ll publish it as Cook a Wolf later.

I usually knit several versions when writing a pattern, and one of the versions of this sweater has a decorative rib edge that combines a normal rib with a zig-zag rib from Barbara Walker’s Treasury of Knitting Patterns. Walker calls this rib “rick rack ribbing”.

Here is the bottom edge of my sweater with the decorative rib. When I use normal rib, I usually use 10% fewer stitches for the rib than for the body. With this decorative rib, I use the same number, as the rick rack stitches are constantly crossing over, and that draws in the edge.

The rick rack stitches are actually a mini-cable, so the zigzagging look comes from the fact that the stitches are crossed. There are only two rounds, but they are difficult to explain in words, so I’ve made videos showing these stitches. They are shown for working in the round. The videos only show the special stitches, in the picture above, they are surrounded by purl, knit, purl.

Round 1: knit the second stitch through the back loop, then knit the first stitch:

Round 2: knit the second stitch through the front, then knit the first stitch:

It can be a bit difficult to get the needle through the front of the second stitch. I hold the stitches from the back, that makes it easier.

Repeat the two rounds.

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Provisional Cast On

Provisional cast on is one of my favorite knitting techniques. It is a cast on that you remove later, freeing live stitches that you can knit. I sometimes make a provisional cast on in the middle of a stockinette sweater if I haven’t decided how long it will be. Or if I’m not sure I have enough yarn. A provisional cast on is sometimes a good idea instead of an edge that stays when knitting sweaters both top-down and bottom-up. By finishing all edges with bind offs, I find that it is easier to make edges that fall perfectly. And bind offs on all edges also make them identical.

There are several methods for casting on provisionally, so I am going to show the one I think is the easiest. When using this method, you crochet the provisional stitches around the knitting needle. Below, I show the method both for left-handed and righ-thanded people. I am left-handed, so I know how impossible it is to study photos to learn something new while simultaneously having to mirror the photos in your head!! I made the right-handed photos by mirroring the images.

Use another type of yarn than the one that will be used for knitting. A smooth cotton yarn is perfect. Use a crochet hook with about the same size as your knitting needle. To begin, make a standard slip knot:

Put the knitting needle below the crochet hook, making the yarn end hanging over the needle:

Carry the yarn up the back of the needle and over the hook:

Pull the yarn through the loop that was already sitting on the hook – there is now one stitch on the needle:

Carry on in the same way – for each stitch, the yarn goes over the front of the needle, up its back, over the hook, and pull through the loop:

Cut the yarn when enough stitches are cast on. From now on, things look the same for left- and right-handed people. The cut end is on the right side:

Tie the working yarn to the right side. I just tie an ordinary knot, then knit the provisional stitches:

Later you’ll come back and remove the white yarn. Untie the knot and put the live stitches on to a needle as the provisional stitches are unraveled. In this case, my purple yarn end is rather short, it is more practical to leave a slightly longer end in the beginning. That way, the end can be used to knit the first few stitches before adding more yarn.

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Knitted Cast On

The knitted cast on is a method to cast on stitches to the right of existing stitches or a slip knot. In Danish, one of the names for this cast on is a “school cast on”, indicating that this was the cast on girls used to learn in school. I have a housewife’s handbook from 1951 called “Femina”. That book calls the knitted cast on “knitting up new stitches”, a fine description. Femina uses the knitted cast on when constructing a buttonhole, but it is also a good cast on for modular knitting.

Here, I am showing the knitted cast on to the right of existing stitches. The work is placed as if one was about to work across:

First, knit one stitch as usual:

The left needle is inserted into the stitch from the back. This movement can also be thought of as putting the stitch back on the left needle through the back loop:

The right needle lets go, and one stitch has now been cast on:

To cast on more stitches, just repeat the steps above. Each time, work in the right stitch on the needle.

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Splicing Yarn

This technique for changing yarn makes life much easier, especially when knitting a thicker yarn where sewn-in ends can be bulky and easily seen.

I am showing how to splice using href=””>Rauma Vams, a thick 2-ply pure wool yarn. It felts really well. Splicing can only be used with pure wool yarns that felt well. It doesn’t work on superwash or fiber blends.

Here are the two ends that I would like to join. The two plies are easily visible:

Before splicing, I remove one ply of each end, leaving a 1-ply overhang of 2-3 cm. This means the splice will be the same thickness as the rest of the yarn, and completely invisible after knitting:

Then, I hold the yarn ends on my palm:

At this point, moisten the overlapping ends. You can dip your fingers in water, or use a bit of spit. The technique is also known as spit splicing, and some will even claim that enzymes in spit help splice the wool. This doesn’t make much sense, as spit doesn’t contain any enzymes that work on proteins as far as I remember! But spit is good because the lazy knitter in the comfy chair doesn’t have to get up.

When the yarn ends are moist, put the other hand on top and roll them using a movement perpendicular to the yarn. It’s fine if it feels warm between the palms, as the combination of moisture and temperature is what makes felting happen! The result:

The fibers are felted together, and the the yarn ends have been spliced. I usually give the join a little tug to see if it’s strong enough. If not, felt it some more.

Splicing is a very useful technique when knitting real wool. I imagine that the technique must be very old, older than knitting, probably. Nalbinding, which was the technique used before knitting, is hard to do without splicing, as new ends of yarn are constantly added. And wool yarns of the past would most probably have felted well. Splicing ends would also be an easy idea to come to mind for someone who spun all their own yarn, and thought of wool fibres as a material to be worked as you needed.

See more Rauma Vams?

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This increase is used in my pattern Madrigal, but would also be useful for other stranded knitting where it fits in. I’ve called it AC-increase because the pattern colors in the Madrigal pattern are A, B, C, and D, and the colors A and C are used for the increase round. A is navy blue and C is pink, and C is the dominant yarn.

The AC-increase is worked by knitting two stitches in one, first a stitch with the non-dominant color A (picture 1), then with the dominant color C (picture 2).

Here, AC-increases have been worked in the last two stitches:

When the stitches are reached on the next round, simply work them one at a time as you reach them. The increase is quite well hidden – the arrows in the picture below point to a couple of AC-increases

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Memory Vest & 3 Needle Bind Off

I’ve been working on a modern version of a child’s vest, knit by my maternal grandmother during the first half of the 70’s.

My maternal grandmother, Judith Harvest, was born in the northern Danish town of Aalborg in 1908. In so many ways, she is my entry point into historical knitting. Although she died when I was little, I grew up with her knitting. And of course, my mother taught me everything in knitting that her mother taught her. I am currently working on finding out more of my grandmothers’ story. So this is definitely not the last time she will be mentioned on this page.

I first tried knitting the patterns from the small vest in 2014:

The child’s vest from the early 70’s. Judith Harvest’s original on the right and my muted version on the left.

Now, I’ve dug up my notes on the vest, and I’m going to turn them into an actual knitting pattern. It will be called “Memory Vest” and will come in women’s sizes.

The colors of the original are both garish and somewhat uncoordinated. And that is not a criticism – it just goes to show that my grandmother grabbed into her yarn basked and used whatever came out. She did not plan patterns out beforehand. Look at the large red and yellow pattern band on the top part of the original. It is not centered around the V-neck, that’s what happens when you just knit! She must have thought that it was not a big problem.

My first adult version of the vest is in cool aqua shades with a light gray background. I am knitting it with Rauma Finull

And that finally brings me to the topic I was actually going to write about in this post: how I close shoulder seams using a 3 needle bind off. It is basically a variation on the standard bind off (or cast off, whatever you like to call it) where you knit 2 stitches and pass the first over the last, knit one, pass over, and so on.

In a 3 needle bind off, two stitches from two different needles are knit together (instead of just knitting one in the standard bind off). The 3 needle bind off allows you to knit two pieces together with a strong and slightly elastic join, perfect for a shoulder seam.

When the body is finished, I turn the work inside out. Here, the stitches for one shoulder are held, the front and back stitches each on their separate needle (or actually two ends of a circular needle in this case).

A third needle is inserted through one stitch from each of the two needles holding the stitches – the first stitch on one needle and the front stitch on the other

Then, the two stitches are knit together

Repeat for the next two stitches, that leaves two stitches on the right needle

Just like in a standard bind off, pass the first stitch (that was worked first) over the last

One stitch was bound off. Then, knit together the next two

And pass the previous stitch over. Keep going, knitting two together and passing the previous stitch over, until all stitches have been worked

Break the yarn and pull the end through. The bind off is finished.

When I worked my blue version of the Memory Vest, the stitches to be bound off in shoulder seams were all grey. If you find yourself needing to 3 needle bind off color-knitted rows, the best thing is to work in the color of the stitches, holding the yarns in the same way as when doing colorwork. The yarn used for the bind off will show just slightly on the right side.

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Corrugated ribbing

Corrugated ribbing is a classical element of Fair Isle knitting. In corrugated ribbing, the knits and purls are worked in two different colors using stranded knitting.

I’ve searched through my books on Shetland knitting to try to find out when corrugated ribbing became such a central element. But none of my books comment on that specifically. In Alice Starmore’s “Book of Fair Isle Knitting” there is a photo of the earliest known Fair Isle hats, from around 1850. They are covered in OXO pattern bands, but none of them have corrugated ribbing.

On the knitting famous portrait of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII), painted by John Lander in 1925, the prince’s sweater clearly has edges in corrugated ribbing. It also has OXO bands throughout, painted so clearly that you can almost knit them from the painting! It is said that the golfer prince started a new fashion by showing up in this outfit (knit sweaters used to be for poor workers and fishermen). But more on that some other time – here, I’ll just use the prince to say that corrugated ribbing seems to have emerged between 1850 and 1925.

The Prince of Wales, later Edvard VIII, sporting a Fair Isle jumper and holding his favorite dog. John St Helier Lander, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Corrugated ribbing is a wonderfully decorative element, but it does have some fundamental structural flaws. Unlike true, 1-color ribbing, corrugated ribbing is not the least elastic. But that problem can be solved by:

using the same number of stitches for your corrugated ribbing as for the rest of the garment.

That is different from a garment with normal 1-color ribbing and stockinette, for example. In that case, my rule of thumb is:

use 10% fewer stitches for the rib than for the rest of the garment.

But a deeper problem with corrugated ribbing is this: it is tighter than a normal cast on (by normal, I mean a long tail cast on). So if you were to cast on normally and then work corrugated ribbing, the cast on edge will stick out and the rib will never lie flat. The solution is to use another type of cast on. I find the old Norwegian (also known as twisted German) cast on works well.

I first saw the old Norwegian cast on in action when I was teaching children to knit at the Textile Museum in Herning. I was working with Gerda, a volunteer who is in her 80’s. We cast on the stitches for our knitting students, since it is hard enough for them to just knit the stitches. I saw Gerda cast on stitches for a student, and I was quite surprised that her standard cast on technique was not the same as mine. I later connected the dots, and realized she was using the old Norwegian cast on. So that technique must have been in use in this area as the standard method.

The old Norwegian cast on can be used anytime you would use a long tail cast on, but it’s moment to shine is for corrugated ribbing.

Here is a video where I show the old Norwegian cast on:

In the last part of the video, I turn the work around. The side that faces away from you as you cast on has a row of bumps that look just like purl bumps. Before beginning the corrugated ribbing, I turn the work so the bumps are facing me: the bump side is the right side. And then it will look like this:

Here, I’ve used the simplest possible corrugated ribbing for the edge of a vest in my own pattern, Folkvang. I began with an old Norwegian cast on in white, and you can just make out the bumps.

The pattern for the Folkvang vest will come later. The vest in the photo above was my prototype, but something bad happened to it when it was almost finished. I had it in my knitting bag in my car, along with a thermos full of tea. The thermos tipped over, the vest was soaked in tea, and the spot covers about half the vest and does absolutely not come off. Right now, I’m knitting something else to get over that event. But I’ll return to that design as soon as I find the mental strength.

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Beginning a Steek

Steeking is a great technique for stranded knitting (also known as Fair Isle knitting). With the addition of steek stitches, a vest, sweater, or cardigan can be knitted entirely in the round, then cut open. So then, you don’t have to knit flat in stranded knitting, and that’s a major advantage. Purling in stranded knitting is notoriously difficult.

Some knitters are afraid of cutting their knitting. Me, I love it! It’s not dangerous, and as long as you use a suitable yarn type, there is no risk that the cut stitches unravel.

By suitable yarn type, I mean a Shetland-type wool, Rauma Finull, or Retrofutura 2-ply Lambswool. All are “sticky” wools, where the strands of wool slightly adhere to their neighbors. Even with unsuitable yarn types, steeking is still possible. In that case, just make two machine seams along the steek and cut between them, that will completely eliminate the risk of unraveling.

Here, I’ll show how to cast on for a steek using a backwards loop cast on with alternating colors. I’ve taken the photos while knitting a Folkvang Vest (pattern to come later) where the body is worked from the bottom up. Here, I’ve saved stitches on waste yarn for the underarm, and I’m ready to cast on the steek stitches:

First, I cast on a black stitch – it’s not hugely important which color you begin with, I chose black to make the float on the back as short as possible:

Then, I let the white yarn cross over the black yarn and cast on a white stitch:

Let the black yarn cross over the white yarn and cast on a black stitch:

Let the white yarn cross over the black yarn and cast on a white stitch:

And so on! The yarns are twisted for each stitch, reinforcing the cast on edge. Here, I’ve cast on 8 steek stitches, my usual number:

I usually place markers around the steek stitches. Otherwise, I easily get confused by all the color changes, especially when making decreases around the steek stitches.