Greetings, knitters! We are delighted to welcome our newest columnist at MDK: expert knitter, designer, and taker-of-no-prisoners Patty Lyons.
An experienced advisor, today Patty kicks off a new column to solve all your knitterly (and some of your non-knitterly) problems. Patty has yet to see a problem, knitting related or otherwise, that could back her down.
Do you have a problem you’d like Patty to tackle? Write to her at [email protected]
–Kay and Ann
“People can tell you to keep your mouth shut, but that doesn’t stop you from having your own opinion.”
“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”
“If you had a dollar for every opinion you had, you’d be a millionaire.”
It was statements like these, and the not-infrequent suggestion by family members that I go to law school, that told me from an early age that perhaps I was opinionated. It’s no surprise, then, that I loved advice columns. It is also no surprise I had a strong opinion about which advice column was best.
I loved Dear Abby. It was the first thing I read each Sunday, even before the comics. Let me be clear, my love of Dear Abby was in no way a reflection on Ann Landers. I’m sure Ann Landers was a wonderful writer; it’s just that we were a Tribune family and Ann Landers was a Sun-Times gal.
Dear Abby believed anything you cared about you should care about enough to have an opinion on. We knitters care about our knitting … a lot. I’ve been teaching knitting for many years now, and the most important thing I’ve learned is: knitters have opinions. Lots of them! I’ve always said get 10 knitters in a room together, odds are there will be eleven opinions. (It’s one of my favorite things about knitters.)
Knitters also come up with the most amazing questions. I’ve been proud and happy to answer your questions in emails, PMs, and tweets, in my Ravelry group, and in various advice columns for quite some time now, and I’m so excited that “Ask Patty” is now joining Mason-Dixon Knitting. This will be a space for questions and opinions. Think of me as the Dear Abby for knitters.
There’s no question too technical-nerdy or too etiquette-sensitive. Techniques, tips, how to, knitting decorum, lifestyle questions, you name it. E-mail your questions to: [email protected]
Without further ado, let’s dig into the mailbag.
I love knitting in the round and I make a million hats. I hate the gap when you join in the round. I use the long tail cast on and I’ve managed to reduce the gap by working the first stitch tightly, but that makes sort of a lumpy bit. It used to be worse when I used a slip knot in the cast on (that left a big lump), and now I just use a twist to start, but it still looks bad. It’s hard to describe, but it looks like the sides don’t match up and the first stitch is really open. What am I doing wrong? I’m really careful when I join, but there’s still a weird gap!! Is there a way to avoid it? Fix it?
Running in Circles!
Dear Running in Circles,
I have good news and bad news and good news for you. The good news is, you’re not doing anything wrong. The bad news is, what you see is not a gap from joining in the round but the jog from the nature of working in the round. The other good news is there’s a trick to avoid that jog and to fix it if it’s already there.
When you work in the round, you are not really working in the round, but rather in a spiral. If you’ve ever knit stripes in the round, you can see that spiral clearly. Think about a Slinky: for fun it’s a wonderful toy, and your circular knitting is fun for a girl and a boy (ugh, now I have that song stuck in my head).
A Slinky has a little jog at the start and the end. It’s that annoying bit of loose metal that would always get caught on the shag carpet and bend your Slinky.
This jog is equally annoying in your knitting. First let’s look at a way you can lessen the effect if you cast on traditionally.
Here’s what it looks like after knitting just a few stitches: you can see how once you join in the round, the spiral to trouble begins. You also have the issue of the unconnected cast-on edge.
The long tail cast on edge is made from one piece of yarn on your finger being pulled through the loop you make with your thumb yarn. Each stitch seems to emerge from a tiny twist and is connected to the one that comes before and after it. All of them except for the first stitch and the last stitch. Luckily you have a yarn tail that you have to get rid of anyway, so you might as well put it to work. What we are going to do is create another little twist to connect the first stitch cast on to the last stitch cast on.
Put your yarn tail on a tapestry needle and bring it up, back to front between stitch 1 and 2.
Now bring the tapestry needle down, from front to back through the V of stitch 1.
Finally, bring the tapestry needle from front to back between the last stitch cast on and the second to the last stitch and weave the tail in to the back.
It’s a fake to smooth out the jog, and it looks pretty darn good.
However, for your next in-the-round project, there is a little trick to smoothing out that jog.
Here’s the trick: Start by casting on an extra stitch. Slip the first stitch you cast on from the left needle to the right needle and place your end-of-round marker.
Join in the round by knitting the second stitch cast on, continue to work in pattern until you get to two stitches before the end of round marker, and then work those two stitches together.
Ta-da, jog smoothed! It’s as close as you can come to the jogless join trick used for striping … but that’s a subject for another day.
So fix it if you’ve already cast on, or cast on better for your next project. Either way, no more Slinky…and now the song is back in my head.
When I was in college, my mother used to send me Cathy cartoons that she would clip out of the newspaper with a little note clipped to them like “isn’t that just a hoot.” I used to hate it. Now that I am a knitter and I am emailed, PMed, DMed, IMed and every other kind of annoying M-ed, with every “knitting is the new yoga” story by all my well-meaning friends, I would literally kill to be back to getting one Cathy cartoon in the mail once a month. I love that my friends and family are excited by my knitting, but what do you do when you get sent 1,000 copies of the chicken wearing sweaters story in the same week, or the “breaking news” that knitting is good for you, or how (gasp) even not-nearly-dead people knit. It’s enough to make you go off the grid entirely.
Drowning in Emails in Illinois
Full disclosure, after reading your letter I did have to put my head between my knees, curl up in a tiny ball, and gently rock back and forth quietly chanting “knitting is not the new yoga, knitting is not the new yoga, knitting is not the new yoga,” until I felt calm enough to respond.
But seriously, knitting is not the new anything! Knitting is old, yoga is old, how could an old thing be a new old thing?? Yes it is my grandma’s knitting. It is literally exactly the same as my grandma’s knitting. It is a string and two sticks and it makes a thing where there was no thing … and what’s your damage with my Grandma!
OK, where to start? First off, I have tried many methods to deal with this one, and it depends on the category the “news” falls into: annoying, obvious, and true vs. annoying, unnecessary, and not true.
I began by answering every email or message. I started with a simple “thanks, I’ll read that,” but over time my answers started to become more and more passive aggressive: “A man knitting on the subway! What will they think of next! Why I once saw a woman doing math on the subway. Can you imagine, a woman … doing math. Math!”
For the category of annoying, obvious, and true (e.g., knitting is good for your health, men knit too, even young people are knitting), I found moving to a simple form email sent as a response to everyone, gently got my point across:
Dear friend, relative, or coworker,
Thank you for the article, cartoon, or video about knitting, yarn bombing, or crochet (yes it was crochet even though the headline said knitting). It was very funny, interesting, or moving.
I certainly will consider the topic covered in this article, get a chuckle out of the cartoon or video, or consider knitting aforementioned item for aforementioned event.
Your friend, relative, or coworker
For the category of annoying, unnecessary, and not true, I’ve had to resort to the same method I use for every Facebook message warning me not to accept a friend request from (fill in the blank). True, there is not a dedicated Snopes page for knitting (although, dear God, there totally should be), but still, do a quick Google search and you can come up with articles titled “Newtown asks people to please stop sending Teddy Bears,” “Please don’t knit a sweater for a penguin,” and perhaps my favorite “9 Reasons Your Chicken Should Not Wear a Sweater.” Simply cut and paste the link without commentary.
Good luck and godspeed my friend, and just know you are not alone. You are not alone.
[Editor’s note: Check out Patty’s updating of these techniques here.]