Skip to content

Wow, what an eclectic mailbag this month. We are going to unravel the mysteries of how stitches move, and why yarn untwists when you’re casting on.

Moving Stitch Patterns 

Dear Patty,

I have found much on the internet about the many increases and decreases, how to execute each type, and where to place them in shaping a garment like a sweater. 

However, I have not been able to find anything about using them as a design element to create movement in one part of a design while another stays stationary. An example would be a center lace pattern or cable that doesn’t move and two other stitch patterns (one on either side) that move toward and then away from center. Thanks for any help you can give this budding designer.


Dear Debbie,

There are so many fun things you can do with the humble increase and decrease. I actually play with this quite a bit in my designs.

First, think about how you use them when moving fabric. Take a v-neck, for instance: the decrease happens on the outside of each neck edge, and that shapes the fabric.

So, if we have a stitch pattern at the neck, like this cable, then if we put a decrease to the outside of the cable on each side, not only does the fabric move, but the stitch pattern moves along with it.

We can use this same technique to move a stitch pattern when we shape a waist. In Diamond Slim, notice how the waist decreases and increases are placed inside the column of knit stitches at the waist. This not only shapes the garment, but moves the adjacent column of purls to trace a lovely curve.

But what if you want to move a column of stitches and not shape your garment? In Rising Spades, I wanted the cable to move diagonally across the sweater, but there is no waist shaping. I put an increase before the cable, and a decrease after.

The fun doesn’t stop there. Just as you can move a stitch pattern within a body of stockinette, you can also move a stitch pattern within another stitch pattern. In the Hourglass Pullover, you can see that the outside braid is traveling in and out, cutting into the reverse stockinette of the center panel. So, you’ll need an increase in the stockinette to the outside of the braid and a decrease in the reverse stockinette on the inside of the braid.

What about a stitch pattern growing? In Tortola, the center lace panel at front and back grows across the shoulder. Now things get a bit trickier. This is where the skill of shaping staying in pattern will come in handy. For this party trick you’ll need a decrease on the outside of the stitch pattern, but the increase will be in the lace—that’s right, you’ll have to add a stitch and incorporate it into the lace.

I have one final trick up my sleeve. When decreases come towards each other, the bottom edge of the fabric will be pushed down. This is even more accentuated when you are using double decreases. In Harbor Springs, we are using decreases inside the traveling mesh columns and increases on the outside, and once they come together, we use central double decreases. This not only moves the stitch patterns, but it gives a shape to the neck and the hem without doing anything!

How can you figure all this out on your next design? Say it with me, folks: SWATCH!

In the MDK Shop
These are our go-to circs. Try them and see why. And thanks for your purchases. They support everything we do here at MDK.

It’s Not You, It’s The Yarn

Hi Patty,

My question is about casting on a lot of stitches and finding the twist in your yarn unwinding. The untwisted yarn begins to resemble a column of threads (or plies) that spread apart and create a cast-on edge that looks different from the beginning stitches and sometimes gets messy. 

When I find this happening, I usually compensate by re-twisting the yarn with my fingers to make it look neater in the section I am casting on with.  This results in the yarn farther down the strand unwinding, so I end up stopping my cast on and re-twisting section by section. It makes a long cast-on even more tedious and time-consuming.  I am hoping there is a better way!  



Dear Elizabeth,

So often when stitches or yarn misbehave, we need to bend them to our will.

With the long-tail cast on, it is often said that you are “knitting” the first row. Which you are, but you are sort of fake knitting. In a real knitting row, the running thread between two stitches is connected to that actual stitch. In long tail cast on the “running thread” is the yarn held inside of your thumb, which remains stationary and not connected to your “working yarn,” which is the yarn held inside of your finger.

After casting on for a while, you’ll see that the action of entering the loop of thumb yarn, with that inside piece of yarn remaining stationary, makes it untwist.

What do we do about it? My favorite trick is to put the entire tail into a butterfly.

Put the yarn that is attached to the butterfly over your thumb, and start casting on. When you feel that yarn start to untwist, drop the butterfly off your thumb and watch in delight as the weight of the butterfly spins the twist right back into your yarn.

Ta da. Bent to your will.

About The Author

Patty Lyons is a nationally recognized knitting teacher and technique expert. In her pursuit of training the mindful knitter, Patty is known for teaching the “why” in addition to the “how.” She specializes in sweater design and sharing her love of the much-maligned subjects of gauge and blocking.

You can find Patty at her website and on Ravelry.

Do you have a problem you’d like Patty to tackle? Write to her at



  • Thank you so much for the casting on tip. I’d always thought that the annoying untwisting was one of those things we just had to put up with. And it’s such a simple technique – perfect.

  • Wonderful column! With casting on, I have the opposite problem. My working yarn gets OVER twisted. Any advice?

    • The yarn butterfly will still solve this – it will twizzle the other way!

      • Or if it is the end connected to the ball, use a peg to hold the strand in place and let the ball twizzle.

    • Are you putting your working yarn over your thumb when you do long tail? If the tail is over your thumb you won’t have that problem.

  • Love the Hourglass pullover! Any clue as to where I can find the pattern?

  • Moved a cable design on a sweater awhile ago…now that was fun…now working on stranded mittens for my sister…almost finished….deb

  • Clever, clever. I wondered about that untwisting in the long tail cast on, but never did anything about it!

    • I always figured it was just me!

      • “it’s not you, it’s the yarn!” 😉

  • Thanks, Margie!! I appreciate it! 🙂

  • When I find a long-tail caston untwisting the yarn on me (most often with Lett Lopi), I use a knitted or cabled caston instead.

  • Thank you so much for the long-tail-untwisting hint. I’ve been noticing that problem for years (I’ve been knitting for 70 years). Every time i’ve mentioned it to others, I get blank looks, or, worse, ‘doesn’t happen to me’ comments. I ‘ve always thought it was something stupid that i was doing. I’m soooo happy to find out I’m not crazy.
    So what about all the knitters i’ve asked about this? Are they just oblivious?

  • Love the butterfly tip for the tail when doing a long tail cast on for a lot of stitches. have used it often.

  • Ha, I feel brainy now – I came up with that butterfly idea too. (Although I did spend a lot of time retwisting before I thought of it!)

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping