Ask Patty: Let the Tool Do the Work

July 20, 2020

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  • Hi, Patty. Forgive me if I’m looking in the wrong place, but I don’t see a Zoom schedule for upcoming “Build a Better Fabric: Perfect Your Knitting” workshops. (I do see the June listings.) Can you point me in the right direction? TIA!

    • Hi, I haven’t announced the dates for the next one yet. I got a bit underwater trying to get my virtual retreat ready and my fall video sweater class. If you’re on my newsletter list you’ll get a notification when I announce the Aug dates.

      • Thank you, ma’am. Again.

    • Hi Jacmknits, since my schedule is so packed trying to get ready for Virtual AffiKNITy and teaching at Virtual Vogue Knitting Live, we decided to rearrange the VK Live schedule to include Perfect Your Knitting! It goes on sale today (July 23 at noon EDT)

  • Hello!

    I love to read your column, andit would make soooo much easier if you *also* use the metric system. When referring to US needles, could you also ad mm in parenthesis? Or meters/grams when talking about yarn length/weight (not the the case for this post). This goes inline with being inclusive: gender, race/ethnicity and… country-inclusive!!! Do you know that only 3 countries in the world use the imperial system, and the rest (about 194) use the metric system? Are these 3 countries the most important ones? Is the knitting (or DMK) community only American or only from imperial system countries?

    Please take this as a constructive suggestion, because that is my intension. I am an avid, happy follower of DMK posts!


    • +1 Metric is also much easier to calculate with. I understand Americans are used to what they’re used to but, like the measuring cups*, there are better systems out there and if you have the time it’s great to do both.

      (*No matter how well you use measuring cups, they’re inherently inaccurate. Passable for savouries, terrible for baking.)

    • Thank you for saying this Joao! I couldn’t agree more.
      I am Canadian and only use the metric system.
      I work on many test knits for designers, and I am frequently asking the US based designers to be inclusive of knitters in other countries. This includes providing metric needle sizes (mm), metric yarn requirements (meters and grams), as well as measurements (cm) on the pattern schematic.
      Knitting has a worldwide reach and I would be delighted to see a more inclusive approach to our shared passion.

    • Thanks João and Romneym for pointing this out! We totally agree and have added metrics to the needle sizes. We do include metric measurements and needle sizes in our Field Guides. (We even wrote a post about the joys of metric recently:

    • Since I always use mm in my patterns I checked my original column notes and it looks like I did put the mm in parenthesis for the first couple of needle mentions, but then I missed a bunch. No excuse, but my computer died and I lost 1/2 the column and all the videos so I was in a bit of a scramble to redo them before my deadline. Thanks for pointing it out, I’m sure Ann & Kay will fix the ones I left off.

      • Thank you, Patty, Ann and all, for your understanding and support!

    • In spite of being an occupant of one of those countries that uses the imperial system, I am finding myself using the metric system more and more. I weigh my yarn in grams, definitely find it easier for weighing exact amounts in baking, and have been trying to use the metric size for needles as that too makes more sense for actual needle sizes. It is a learning curve but well worth the effort, and that learning is enforced by seeing the imperial and metric descriptors side by side.

      • Oddly enough, as a daily metric user in nearly everything (we adopted metric here quite a while back), I find using imperial measurements (1/8 inch, 1/4, 5/8 inch etc) much, much easier for sewing garments and when quilting.

  • Dear Patty, I see your point (no pun intended!) but I am one of those loose pickers with gauge problems who could really use a video of exactly how to do what you just said to do. 0therwise, as I don’t quite understand how to do what you are saying, I will slide back into my decades-old bad habits. Thanks!

    • I believe the last video in her article demonstrates the correct way. The videos are a great help! I need them also 🙂

    • Did you get a chance to watch the videos? I include a video of me sizing my stitches using the needle in both picking and throwing. I can’t actually teach what I do in a full class in this column, but it gives you a sense of what you need to work on. I also cover this in my video class “Improve Your Knitting” (link in column).

  • Huh, well I am just here with appreciation. I am a super-loose knitter (but have just coped with it, and love the things I make) and I am excited to try this approach to solving the problem! Since I’m not inclined to be relaxed in the rest of my life I’ve always wondered why my hands seem to be relaxed, maybe this is the answer! Thanks!

  • Patty, another great post. Been
    following for years and my knitting has become much more consistent as a result. And I love love love your analogies!

  • I know a couple of loose knitters who don’t tension their yarn by wrapping it around a finger. Instead they hold it in between the thumb and index finger. They knit very quickly, but don’t have as much control over their guage.

    • In interest of full disclosure, that’s the way I hold my yarn when I throw. You can actually get perfect tension that way. It’s all about using your needle to size your stitch, and keeping and even tension on your yarn when you exit your stitch. The problem comes when you drop your yarn after each stitch.

      • Amen, double amen!

  • Thank you so much for this column!!! It was very helpful, I’ve been struggling with gauge issues all Summer.

  • This is fabulous! Thank you so much for this. My gauge used to be very consistent but has been all over the place for some time now. It’s been very frustrating and discouraging. I recognize exactly what I’ve been doing in your videos. Thank you so much, I’m really looking forward to knitting being enjoyable again!

  • This was awesome! I’m a self-taught, relatively new knitter. Very helpful!

  • OMG this is so true – I’ve done both/all the mistakes. This is so freaking true!

  • What a great column! It was a ‘knitting epiphany’ (knipiphany? that works!) for me when you mentioned this in passing in the Tips & Tricks workshop in Dallas for the Dallas Hand Knitter’s Guild last year. I latched onto it and implemented, although I did still have a nagging doubt that I was getting it exactly right, so now with the video I know! My consistency has improved and it was actually easier than what I’d been doing!

  • Patty, I am a loose knitter as well. At one NY Vogue Show you changed my life by telling me to use a smaller needle (one size down) when I purl! I got gauge and it makes life so much simpler! -Karen

  • Thank you so much for this!! I had never noticed my grab-and-go tendencies but this explains so much!

  • Thanks for the reminder. I’ve saved this article. I know you covered this before but I needed the refresher!! Old habits are hard to break.

  • I’m such a grab-and-goer, and I had no idea. My stitch gauge is always loose, and row gauge always too small. I like the fabric I’m getting and I’m consistent, but yeah it would be nice to be closer to the recommended pattern needles. Thank you, I will definitely try the sizing trick.

  • Patty, Could you write a how-to letter about reversing shaping for left and right fronts? I’m knitting my first sweater, a cardigan from Rowan. The pattern states it is a Level 1 and the knittng is easy enough but I cannot understand the reverse shaping. A reply email from RowanKnits was not helpful 🙁 and I cannot find anything on Google. My LYS knit is still under quarantine. 🙂

  • SO helpful! Thanks Patty and happy, healthy new year to you and your family.

  • Thank you for speaking to us too-tight knitters! I’m trying to knit a stuffed dog for my nephew (I haven’t knit more than a hat so it’s a challenge) and end up with a too-tight swatch about 4 rows into the pattern and I’ve started over about 5 times. Can’t wait to get home and use my needles more conscientiously!

  • I have been knitting for many years and have been told how tight the fabric was and that I should “try to loosen up a litttle.” Now, at the age of 73YO, I have finally been able to produce a fine-looking peice of fabric. Thank you Patty!

  • Patty. I can’t believe how much this changed the way I’m knitting. Thank you SO much!!