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Dear Patty, 

I love knitting cowls in the round. I read your column about the slinky thing and how to fix the gap at the start of the round for a hat, but what about the end? I know the jogless join in stripes by working into the row below, and I’ve tried to apply the same logic to the end, but can’t figure out how to work into the row below on the bind off.

HELP!

Lovely Start, Icky End

Dear Lovely Start,

Ah yes, as my mother would say, “they get you coming and going.” The dreaded slinky effect strikes the edge of both cast-on and bind-off. The bind-off jog is a bit more dramatic because that last row has nothing to attach itself to. It’s just hanging out there naked.

The trick of working into the round below for a stripe is done on the second round of the new color, working into the jog row below. And of course, there is no row above your bind-off to smooth out that jog. 

Once again, your yarn tail is your hero. The “braid” of edge stitches is even clearer on the bind-off, so we need to create the final braid that closes up that ugly gap.

If you look closely at the braid, you can see it’s made from nesting Vs of yarn.

Put the yarn tail on a tapestry needle and bring the needle under the legs of the first bind-off V:

Now, go back through the heart of the V it came from:

Like magic, the braid is joined. It’s as if it actually were knit in the round, and no more slinky.

(Ugh, it took me two months to get that song out of my head.) 

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Bigger or Smaller?

Dear Patty,

Do you have an easy method for remembering if you need to change to a larger or smaller sized needle to get gauge? 

Thanks,

Karen

Dear Karen,

This is such a common problem. I’ve seen even experienced knitting store owners measure a customer’s swatch and then say “let me get you a larger, wait, smaller, no larger needle.”

As a knitter, when you’re looking at a ball of yarn, you know instinctively that if a yarn is 32 stitches per 4 inches, you’ll be using a smaller needle than you’d use for a yarn one that knits to 14 stitches per 4 inches. Yet often, when measuring gauge, we get it backwards.

What we need to remember is this: if we can fit MORE stitches or rows in the same 4-inch space than the pattern calls for, those stitches are too small, so we go to a LARGER needle. If we can fit FEWER stitches or rows in the same 4-inch space that the pattern calls for, those stitches are too large, so we go to a SMALLER needle.

I used to use the “how many people can fit into a phone booth” analogy, but since nobody knows what a phone booth is anymore (thanks, iPhone), I use the iPhone vs iPad analogy. If you can line up 7 iPhones on a table, but only 4 iPads on the same table, it’s because the iPhones are smaller. Get it? Smaller stitches, smaller garment. If you want to make small stitches larger, larger needle!

Don’t forget: this also applies to rows. I often get messages along the lines of “I’m only getting 28 rows per 4 inches. The pattern is calling for 32 rows per 4 inches, but I’m short so that might work because I want my sweater shorter.” Hmmm, well, you’re gonna be sad then. The sweater will be longer, not shorter, since each row is bigger. (If you can only fit 28 rows in the space that the designer fit 32, your rows are taller.) As one knitter once said to me about a knitted coat, “my row gauge meant I knit myself either a long bathrobe or a wedding train.”

Just remember: don’t knit an iPad when you wanted an iPhone.

For Love or Money

Photo by Fluid motion. Used with permission.

Dear Patty, 

I know people mean well, which is what keeps me from wanting to punch them (well it keeps me from actually punching them), but I kind of dread a nonknitter’s question “did you knit that?” because it’s immediately followed by “you should sell those, you’d make a fortune.”

What do I say? How do I explain that there might be a reason that no handknitter is on the Forbes richest people list? 

Signed,

Never Gonna Be Rich Knitter! 

Dear Never Gonna Be Rich,

What? There are no knitters on the Forbes list? Way to kill a girl’s dreams.

OK, I’m over it.

Yes, it’s true that nobody understands how much time and effort goes into our knitting. Here are a few options depending on whom you’re speaking to. As always, let’s go to the poets for advice.

1. The practical approach, with a little help from Oscar Wilde.

“The salesman knows nothing of what he is selling save that he is charging a great deal too much for it.” (Oscar Wilde)

“The knitter knows all about what they are selling, including that they are charging a great deal too little for it.” (You)

Ask the helpful business consultant what they think you could sell a hat for. Then sit them down and explain that even a superfast knitter, who might knock out a hat in a few hours, would still end up making $2.27/hr if they sold a hat for what people are willing to pay for it.

2. The haughty artistic approach, with a little help from Ezra Pound.

“Nothing written for pay is worth printing.” (Ezra Pound)

“My knitting is my art, selling it would only cheapen it.” (You)

Explain how knitting feeds your soul and brings you joy. That it is deeply personal, and even the mere suggestion of selling your art is an insult!

3. The knitterly approach, with help from Seinfeld.

“So, you think you’re spongeworthy?” (Elaine Benes)

“So, you think you’re knitworthy?” (You)

Explain how knitting is something you love. Before you could possibly sell it to somebody, you would have to determine if they are worthy. For instance, would they wear your lovingly hand-knit hat paired with a cheaply made mass-produced sweater? Since it is far too difficult to vet every potential buyer, you feel it’s best to not enter the mass market.

I hope one of those approaches will help. If not, just take a cue from my personal guru, Grumpy Cat, and cut off the questioner with a simple “no.”

[Editor’s note: See Patty’s update on these techniques here.]

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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 askpattymdk@gmail.com.

 

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41 Comments

  • A couple of weeks ago I was in my office in the large federal building where I work, when suddenly a woman with whom I’d worked NINETEEN YEARS AGO in a different agency appeared in my doorway. She told me a tale of woe — she had accidentally felted her favorite sweater and sought me out to knit her another one. Immediately. I told her (more or less politely) that I did not have time to do so — work was insane and asking a knitter to drop everything to make a sweater for an almost-stranger a few weeks before the holidays was at the very least a faux pas.

    She got a little nasty about the whole thing, then sighed and said “Fine! How about I pay you?”

    The only way I managed to get rid of her was to claim a pressing meeting so I could get up and leave the office.

    • “How about I pay you” !!!!!!!????? That’s when I really want to ask the person to do whatever it is they do for fee. They are a real estate agent – will you sell my house for me, commission? Oh, I thought because I knew you it would be free . . . AHHHHHH

      • This is EXACTLY how I reply to such questions. “Will you paint my house/fix my plumbing/tend my garden/prepare my will/remove my appendix for free? Oh, why not?” If they’re professionals, I say I’ll trade my knitting services for an equal number of hours of their time. Actually, I wouldn’t knit anything for any “gimme pig” for any price, but usually the offer to trade valuable services shuts them up.

    • My first thought was “raised by wolves,” but that’s not fair on wolves really.

      • Uze giys be funE! LOL!!

    • Maybe you should have knit her that sweater, but with the neck hole sewn shut!

  • If I had a nickel for every time someone told me
    “ You should sell those “, I WOULD be on the Forbes list.

  • For the “you should sell that” comment, I make them do the math. What they see me making is invariably socks, since they’re my go-to portable project. Here’s how the conversation goes:

    I ask them if they think $10/hr is a decent hourly rate. (I’ve never had anyone say no.)

    I then tell them that I can make about an inch of sock per hour. (My socks are long-ish – each one is about 14” long. )

    I then tell them that the beautiful yarn for said socks cost me $20.

    (I let them do the math. Eyes invariably go round.)

    Problem solved, and non-knitter educated about the labor of love that is knitting.

    • Oh, excellent!

    • Brilliant and well done!

  • When people want to pay me to knit them something, I always say that when you take something you love and do it for money, it stops being fun – which is why I never became a prostitute.

    • BRAVA ! Wonderful comeback

    • Love this!

    • uh oh (says the woman who know knits for a living) 🙂

      • LOL!!!!

      • I meant NOW knits for a living (thanks auto correct!)

  • Re. #3, a) I try to treat it as a compliment … the person is saying that whatever I’m knitting looks beautiful; b) I was at a fair this weekend and there ARE people who sell chunky small acrylic hats for $50! I was desperately curious about how many she sells.

  • My response when people ask me to knit for them is this: “I only knit for people who came out of my body or that I’m married to. If you would like to learn how to knit, I’d be thrilled to teach you. .” The usual response is a confused expression, then a laugh. And a few of them now know how to knit!

    • This is my usual response, as well. Except now I have to add “or came out of the body of someone who came out of my body.”

  • Wendy: Mazal Tov on not strangling the woman!
    People are always asking me why don’t I sell my knitting. I just ask them if they would pay $1000 for my hand knits?
    ( I am the slowest knitter on the planet!)

    • My response is often “you can’t afford it”.

  • Why get upset? This question is a non-knitter’s way of praising what we are doing and complimenting our particular piece. I tell them what a slow knitter I am and that selling would not be feasible for me as I could never break even. If they ask further, I give them a sense of the scale of the thing… how little one would make per hour, and how long the recipient might wait. Similarly, I tell them, cheerfully or regretfully, depending on how tactful I’m feeling, that I have a long queue of requests pending (true of every knitter). Stephanie Pearl McPhee writes eloquently about the number of stitches and the love involved in making a knitted gift.

    • In my case and probably most everyone here, its not that anyone gets upset about someone telling them they should sell things and leaving it at that. Those cases are more teaching opportunities — an opportunity to teach that not everything is about money. The thing that irritates me is when people ask me to make something for them because it’s almost always someone I don’t know well or at all, and the sort of people who ask that tend to be very persistent. It’s nice to have a bag of comebacks that shut that type of person down quickly so that I can get back to the bliss of knitting.

    • I can never think of a snappy answer fast enough for the person who asks me to knit for them. I have offered to teach, but folks never want to do it themselves. I have thought to myself that maybe an explanation of costs might help. What if I said that a 50 dollar deposit would get you a spot for a pair of socks, scarf, whatever…then when they gasp, you could spell out the time needed, cost of quality yarn, etc. It’s comforting to know that I am not alone in thinking of clever responses! You all are a howl!

  • Regarding the question about selling one’s knitting, I always say that knitting is one of the things I do for love that I won’t do for money.

  • Lol, love your attitude Patty!! And regarding smaller/larger needle in relation to gauge, I had to find an explanation and WRITE it down as it always gets my head turned around the more I try to figure it out

  • I learned a good solution to the gauge conundrum from a knitting teacher (name forgotten) years ago. EXAGGERATE! If you’re getting a smaller number of stitches per inch than the pattern says, in your mind go WAY smaller — like “What if I were getting 2 stitches/inch and the pattern says 10?” You would immediately understand that you need to go with a smaller needle, right? Or if you said “I”m getting 20 stitches/inch and the pattern says 6.” You’d know you need to go with a larger needle. That has always worked for me.

  • Somewhere I read…
    Knitting is like Sex
    If I love you enough, it’s free.
    If not, you can’t afford it.

    • Perfect!

    • AHHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAAAAAA!

  • I understand why it can get annoying, but I’m with those who choose to explain to non-knitters why I don’t make things for sale.
    There’s no way for them to know how long it takes, and how expensive the materials are. They are simply admiring your work… the creativity, the skill, the beauty. In that sense it’s a compliment.
    When that comment comes I simply tell them how long it takes… if it’s about 10 hours to knit a pair of stockinette socks, and if I want even minimum wage that’s $74 for labor and another $20-30 for materials. The idea of a $100 pair of socks both surprises them… and informs them.
    That question is not even close to as annoying as the statement “You can get those socks cheaper at Walmart”. THAT makes me want to punch people (though I don’t).
    BTW, I sew for a living and get a similar question about sewing garments… the answer is much the same, and equally surprising to non-sewers.

  • I was just reminded of a former co-worker who I would avoid at all costs as I found her to be lazy and just a pain in my posterior end. I was wearing a new sweater that I still love , it took time, time and more time but was worth it. You got it if you’re thinking you can finish this story. Yep, she asked me if I would knit one for her. I very politely told her NO ! But to this day, every time I wear that sweater, I think of all 300 pounds of her asking me if I would knit “one” for her

  • These are some of the funniest comments ever ! Knit on with love ❤️

  • As everyone else has noted, kind people who intend to compliment usually earn some back-of-the-envelope arithmetic about yarn costs, hourly pay, and time investment. For persistent people who refuse to hear the gentle no (or for those who asked rudely) I use some snark. I find responding “I don’t sell but I DO barter—what are you going to spend 50 hours making for me?” usually gets the message across.

  • I tend to think of the people I would knit for as being “Woolworthy”. I only knit for ones I love!

  • Whenever I’m asked about selling my knitwear my response is that knitting is like sex. . . If I like you enough you can have it for free. . . If I don’t, no amount of money will entice me to do it. That usually gets a laugh. (Sorry if I offended anyone)

  • Just this week, my sister texted me to ask if I had some handmade socks she could buy to give as gifts. Um… no. No, I have given her a few pairs and she lives them, so it was obviously a sense of appreciation that prompted her to ask, but she obviously doesn’t have a handle on how long it takes. Nor, how much they would cost.

  • The slinky bind off method you mention is also the standard invisible bind off for crochet in-the-round motifs.

  • Patty, all I can say is that I think you would be a fabulous person to have dinner with: as witty and sarcastic as all of my favourite people. Some day I hope I can take a class with you, just to listen to you speak. I love learning with a side of funny!

  • Patty, my question is what should you do if you have the correct gauge for stitches but not for rows?? I almost never have the correct gauge for rows. However, it didn’t really matter because I have only been knitting hats, shawls, etc. things that gauge is really not that critical. I have just started the Weekender and that was the case again. Not sure what to do or how it will affect this sweater.

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