An Ode to Picky Knitters
You may call me square,
But I do not care.
My heart goes all pitter patter
To find fellow knitters who know that it matters
That how we start and that how we end
Can make all the difference
So let’s not pretend
That a rounded edge or a dip at the start
Is not a knitter’s version
Of a stab to the heart
So let’s solve this mess, and find a great fix
And I’ll stop with the rhyming
And get on with the tricks
I’ll admit it, I love a clean, sharp edge to my knitting. I thought it was just me. I thought I was the only one who railed against the rounded edge of a cable cast-on, or despised the dreaded dip at the start of a bind-off. But of COURSE, the keen-eyed readers of MDK also want something better. (Psst, in case you’re wondering, yes, both of these fixes are in my new book.)
I have a weird problem that might just be me. I really prefer the cable cast-on to long tail, and for most seamed things it looks basically fine, but the first stitch kind of rides up. It’s like the corner is round instead of a nice square. I can usually make this invisible in a seamed garment by using the tail to kind of “fill in” the gap, but I hate how it looks on a scarf. Am I nuts that this bothers me? Does this happen to anyone else? Do you know what the heck I’m talking about?
Just want the right side to look like the left side. Is that too much to ask?
Wanting a sharp corner,
I can’t even tell you how very much it is NOT just you. I love the look of the cable cast-on. The rope-like end is lovely. What’s less lovely is that weird rounded edge you get from that overlapping last stitch.
Of course it’s a bummer in a scarf, but it’s also no picnic when you try to seam two sweater pieces together.
Before the fix (say it with me) we need to start with the why.
In the cable cast-on, the new loop you pull through acts as a base to the stitch that came before it and the new stitch. This is what gives the edge that rope-like look.
The problem is, the last stitch has no base. It’s left hanging in the wind, a lonely stitch without a base to anchor it. Below you can see that the blue stitch is the base of the red stitch. The green stitch is the base of the blue stitch, but the green stitch has no base.
I’ve tried to fix this by casting on an extra stitch and then starting with a k2tog, but this trades one problem for another. The decrease is bulky, and I really dislike how it looks if the first stitch of your edge is a purl.
Here’s what I came up with to neaten that edge. Let’s give that lonely stitch a base!
Step 1. After you pull your last loop through onto the right needle, move the working yarn between the two needle tips, then to the back of the right needle, like a yarnover.
Step 2. Insert the tip of the left needle into the loop on the right needle and lift it up and over the yarnover, like a bind-off. You now have one stitch on your right needle.
Step 3. Finally, transfer that stitch knit-wise to the left needle.
Ta-da, that last lonely stitch is baseless no more.
When you knit into your newly perfect cast-on, you get a lovely square edge.
Which would you rather have?
I love your Ask Patty column and I LOVED the tip about fixing the last stitch in your bind-off, but what about the first stitch? No matter what I do, no matter how loose I work it, my scarf bind-off dips down at the start. I just want a nice square edge, so I thought, “Hey, why not ask Patty?” It’s hip to be square!
I think you’ve been reading this column long enough to know, it’s not you, it’s them. As usual, it’s the stitches’ fault.
The Dastardly Dip
A stitch is wider than it is tall. When we bind off, we are asking that stitch to lie down on its side and reach the center of the next stitch. That’s hard enough, but when it comes to the first stitch, you are also asking it to turn a corner! You can see right away what happens.
It can’t quite make it, so we get the dip. And your finished bind-off looks like this (insert sad trombone wah-wah here):
To get a nice square start to our bind-off, we can steal from crochet!
In crochet, to keep our edges square, we use a turning chain (one or more chain stitches that we make after we’ve turned our crocheted work) before we begin our next row. This brings the yarn to the height needed to work the next row.
A bind-off is basically a crochet chain, so we need to use that height from a turning chain.
Step 1. Knit one stitch and make a yarnover on your right needle.
Step 2. Insert the tip of the left needle into the first stitch and lift it over the yarnover.
That’s it, you have created a turning chain!
From there, continue your bind-off. You’ll be able to see the difference right away.
And when you finish your bind-off your start will look as perfect as your end (if you read my old column here).
Amazing how the simple yarnover can cure so many ills.
So thank you kind readers of MDK
For asking great questions
Of me every day.
I trust that these fixes will improve the look
And hopefully inspire you
To go buy my book!