Welcome to the goodies page for Get Started Stranding. Here you’ll find an assortment of links, mini tutorials, inspirational photos, reference lists, and the like. Thanks for being a student in one of my classes!
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Beyond Long Tail Cast-On: German Twisted
The long-tail cast-on is a workhorse in the knitting world. It provides stability yet flexibility at the bottom of edge of a piece when worked at the proper tension (tip: to help set spacing and tension when cinching down a new stitch, keep your right index finger just above the previous stitch and tighten until the new stitch sits softly just above your finger). The standard method (going under the front thumb strand and up through the thumb loop with the needle, to the right of the index strand to grab it and take it back through the thumb loop, then removing your thumb from its loop in order to tighten the thumb loop around the base of the index strand around the needle) produces what looks like a knit stitch on the facing side and a purl stitch on the opposite side. Being structured like a knit stitch, it wants to curl like a knit stitch too, up at the bottom and away on the sides.
Most of the time this tendency doesn’t matter, as the stitch pattern above the first row/round is sufficient counter to the curl. For color work and certain other situations, German twisted cast-on, a long-tail variation, is your best bet. Start with a slip knot so your first stitch has the same height as the subsequent stitches. Continue as follows:
Swatching for Circular Knitting
You know the importance of making a gauge swatch, yet your circular knitting project’s final measurements never match the swatch’s. What’s going on?
Our knits and purls are not always exactly the same size, which can make a stockinette stitch swatch worked flat (i.e. knit 1 row, purl 1 row) with slightly different stitch/row gauge than one made by working circularly (knit all rounds). Ideally the working method for making the swatch matches the project’s working method. Elizabeth Zimmerman’s solution to this problem was to make “swatch caps.” But there are two ways to make smaller swatches in the round, using less yarn and taking less time.
With your 16″ circular body needle, cast on enough stitches to swatch your motif (i.e. at least 4″ worth). You can work a few back-and-forth rows top and bottom to keep piece from curling, if you like. Continue as follows with 1. or 2.
Work first right side row in stranded pattern. Either:
- * Slide stitches to other end of circular needle. Strand yarns very loosely across back of work to bring them to opposite end of work. Strands should be width of back + a few inches either side. Work next row of pattern. Repeat from * to motif height/desired swatch height. After binding off, you can choose to leave strands at back or cut and open swatch up. If you choose to do the latter, tie cut strands together with overhand knots at side edges to keep from raveling.
- * Leaving 4-5″ tails, cut yarns. Slide stitches to other end of circular needle. Leaving 4-5″ tails, join yarns for next row, work in pattern. Tying tails together with overhand knots every few rows, repeat from * to motif height/desired swatch height.
When your swatch is done and any tail ends secured, block as for project. When dry, measure your circularly-knit flat swatch for a gauge that better matches your circular project!
Going Further: Stranded Caps
If you’re looking to practice your stranding skills, a cap is a good next project. The two variations at right were made using eight shades of Universal Yarns Deluxe Worsted, a 100% wool yarn in over 120 colors, but you can create your color “chart” to use what you have on hand. For both caps, only one strand changes colors while the other remains constant throughout a motif, but whether the solid is foreground/pattern or background changes between hearts and diamonds section. Which do you like better?
You’ll need two 16″ circular needles, US size 5 and 7, a set of US 7 double-pointed needles, markers, and tapestry needle. The “recipe” is given below; download the charts for both caps plus a blank template to fill in your own patterns.
The chart uses the dots-and-boxes model, with color columns to the right specifying background and foreground/pattern colors to be used for each round. Shaping is indicated by the stair-steps of missing chart boxes. The column of tall stitches at left indicates the decreases are worked on either side of a center stitch for Cap 1, or using the stitch itself plus one either side of it (an s2kp2 double decrease) for Cap 2. Another style of chart would show the first stitch of each round at far right, in its usual place, and the center stitch around which the decreases are worked in the middle. The down side of that style is you can’t see the whole motif at a glance—the right half of the motif rises to the left and the left half to the right.
The first motif after the ribbing is a 4-stitch repeat, while subsequent motifs are all 26-stitch repeats. Practice weaving tails as you go, both with a new yarn before a change and with a discard yarn after a color change.
Some find the hand of single-color ribbing flimsy when contrasted with the firmness of stranded fabric. Their solution is to hold two strands of yarn together for cast-on and ribbing. I used this for Cap 1 and found it too firm for my taste. Cap 2’s ribbing is single color but with stripes, and is certainly not as firm as the stranded fabric above it. The Goldilocks solution might be to hold two thinner (dk weight?) yarns together, or one of lighter weight (sport?) with the worsted.
Dimensions 19½” around, 9½” depth
Gauge 21 stitches and 24 rows = 4″ [10 cm] in stranded stockinette stitch
With smaller needle, E, and using German twisted cast-on, cast on 96 stitches. Join, making sure work is not twisted, and place marker for beg/end of rnd. For Cap 1, work in 2×2 rib until piece measures 1 inch (~4 rnds); cut E. For Cap 2, work 2×2 rib for 1 rnd; cut E. Join G, work 3 rnds 2×2 rib; cut G. Join C, knit 1 rnd, work 2×2 rib for 2 rnds; cut C.
Round 1 (Increase), both caps With larger needle and D, k5, [kfb, k11] 7 times, kfb, k6—104 sts.
Beginning at arrow and changing colors as given by color columns, work chosen cap chart. Note the chart for Cap 1 uses single decreases on either side of a center stitch for top of cap shaping whereas Cap 2 uses the s2kp2 centered double decrease.
When 16 sts remain, cut yarns and fasten off. Weave in ends; wet block to shape.
My Craftsy Class
Sign up for my Craftsy class Cut Your Knitting: Strand and Steek With Confidence for $14.99 using this special link. The first part of class covers much of the same material we covered in class, but you can rewind and replay as much as you like as well as try the tablet case pattern. There’s a small section on working flat, more material on color and patterns and of course the lessons on steeking.
Leapman, Melissa, Mastering Color Knitting. New York: Potter Craft, 2010.
McGregor, Sheila, Traditional Fair Isle Knitting, New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 2003.
McGregor, Sheila, Traditional Scandinavian Knitting, New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 2004.
Radcliffe, Margaret, The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing, 2008.
Starmore, Alice, Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting. New York: Dover Publications, 2009.
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