Things I didn't know: Part 1

As a new knitter, there were some things I knew I didn't know, that I was consciously incompetent about - for example how to make a cable, how to knit fair isle, where to start with double pointed needles, and so on. There were also lots of areas where I was unconsciously incompetent - there were so many things that I simply didn't know I didn't know. It was only through figuring out different patterns and asking questions on my blog, or reading/listening to other knitters that I realised quite how little I knew about the craft. After a couple of years of knitting, I am constantly learning new techniques and tricks, and  usually find myself wishing I'd known about them sooner.

Things I Didn't Know about knitting by Sarah Knight, Crafts from the Cwtch blog

To start the series of 'Things I didn't know', I'd like to share some things that have made a significant difference to my knitting. These are the things I do all the time but that I didn't even know existed a short time ago. There are lots more to follow and I hope they will be helpful to some of the newer knitters amongst you, and perhaps serve as a reminder to more experienced knitters too.

1. CONTINENTAL KNITTING

When I learned to knit as a child, I had no idea there was any other way to do it and had never seen anyone knitting differently until I was watching knitting tutorials. I have written about this already and really can't stress enough how much switching to continental knitting changed the speed at which I knit and consequently my enjoyment of knitting and of making larger items.  You can read the detailed post here which includes some great video links. Edit Jan 2015: There's a brand new comprehensive online class from Craftsy: Knit Faster with Continental Knitting

2. MAGIC LOOP

I had no idea it was possible to make a small round object on one long needle - I'd only ever seen DPNs (and they looked really complicated). This was a revelation, and although DPNs are no longer a mystery I use magic loop all the time. If you're new to the technique, this Knit Picks photo tutorial is a great starting point. 

3. RUSSIAN JOIN

A common pet hate for knitters if the comments here are any indiction is.... sewing in ends! When one of my friends sent me this Russian Join video it felt like a gift and I try to use this as much as possible (depending on the yarn). If you haven't tried it, you might like to give it a go. 

4. SEWN BIND OFF

This is one of the things I tried just a few weeks ago and which has now become my go-to method of binding off. It is totally flexible as it can be as tight or loose as you require, great for socks, hats, sweater cuffs and just about anything else you can think of. You can find a useful video tutorial here.  

5. BLOCKING

The women in my family were always knitting when I was growing up but they never blocked anything at all, so this came as a surprise. The first time I tried it (on Mizzle, visit the link for the pictures of a million pins!)  the difference was quite incredible. I have since invested in blocking wires and don't consider a project truly finished until it is blocked. You can read how I do it here

So what are the things you were unconsciously incompetent about but which have made a big difference to your knitting? 

    22 comments

    1. What a great idea for a series of posts :)

      I think I've been knitting too long - since I was five - I can't really access beginner's mind any more when it comes to knitting and so I forget that so much of what I take for granted is news to those just starting out. For instance, I splice yarn ends together as you don't get the significant change in yarn diameter that you do with the method you've linked to and so there's no resulting bulge. Plus you need only spit (or water if you prefer) and no other tools than your fingers.

      Thank you so much for the email Sarah, I now owe you a reply ;)

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    2. brilliant post!

      I've found your posts on continental knitting really useful, I must persevere with it, it still feels so awkward!

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      1. It didn't come naturally to me at first, but by the end of that first little jumper I made, it fell into place.

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    3. This is brilliant! I knew pretty much nothing about knitting at all and just dove straight i'm with a pattern I wanted to make. I learned about wrapping stitches and short rows which I literally couldn't get over! So clever! No seams to sew, knitting in the round all in one piece was a revelation and caused me to enjoy knitting so much, and caused me to experiment with patterns, building up my confidence. There's still tones I don't know, I'd love to learn to knit continental :)

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      1. Ah yes, Knitting in the round was what made me start making garments. I can't stand the thought of sewing lots of bits together! :D

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    4. Ooh, lots of examples; knitting my seams rather than stitching them, using only half a strand of yarn for sewing on buttons, NEVER switching to a new ball at the edge of a piece, weaving in ends before blocking but trimming the yarn after blocking... This is a great topic, I'll be back to see what else your readers recommend!

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    5. Good things to know! I must remember the sewn bind off one - I've done it before and it's great... must remember!!!

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      1. Yes, I think when we have been knitting for a while, it's easy to forget things. I hope this series will be useful for more than just the new knitters for this reason. x

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    6. I'm simply hopeless with continental knitting! I think I knit fairly quickly though... And I also like to splice my wool ends together, kind of carding the ends, making it easier to blend the 2 ends together. I did this while waiting for my car to be serviced once, and you should have seen the glare I received from an elderly lady who was watching me! LOL I nearly burst out laughing. I guess it was the equivalent of a cardinal sin...

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      1. Oh that's funny! I've had some strange looks in the car too actually :D

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    7. I learned to knit Continental. I do have to add an interesting comment from a teacher at a conference, she said everyone says Continental is faster but the fastest knitters in the world are throwers.
      I guess learning the Double Knot and Russian Joins have helped me immensely as weaving in ends can be a pain. I'll need to try the sewn BO on my soon-to-be shawl project. Learning Fair Isle with both hands or knitting inside out while Fair Isling is very helpful.

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      1. Oh yes, I tried two hands for different colours on my first colourwork as I'd just learned Continental and it was much easier! Great one!!!

        My mum is a thrower and she is really fast, although she also knits back and forth like a knitting machine as she is left-handed but was taught to knit right-handed. Now she doesn't turn her work but knits left- and right-handed. I need to get a video of her doing that!

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      2. Well - the world record holder is knitting continental. 118 stitches/minute. Her name is Miriam Tegel and she's from Belgium.

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    8. When I got my first book on how to knit, I decided that continental was the better fit for me, since it more closely mimics the way I hold my crochet hook. It put less stress on my wrists (I'm prone to carpal tunnel) and just felt more intuitive to me. I'm still not a big knitter, but when I do, I do it "my" way! :-)

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    9. Great blog post! I especially find the sewn bind off helpful advice. Thank you!

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    10. I'm a continental knitter (Sweden) but i throw when knitting twined and I use both methods in stranded knitting, holding a colour in each hand. The best of two worlds.Thank you for this interesting blogpost!

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    11. Things I didn't know I didn't know - well where to start!
      I learned knitting as a child, but I only knitted winter socks (Northern Norway - you need them!). So I only started knitting for real two years ago, when my maternity leave started. The most usefull stuff I've learned is jogless stripes, magic loop (No more pesky dpns always leaving small runs in the fabric), kitchener stitch, german short rows (LOVE!), better looking ssk (slip as if to knit, slip as if to PURL tightens it up - another is SYTK from techknitting), a better looking garter stitch edge (slip last stitch w yarn in front), and lots of ways to reinforce edges/corners in knitting to avoid weak spots that are likely to fray. And much more. Amazing thing, the internet! Google is my best friend, and techknitting.blogspot.com is THE best blog on these issues! Pinterest is also a great source for knitting tips and tricks.

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      1. Oh, and spit splicing too...love that quick and dirty trick, saves so much time and dread!

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    12. Although I've been familiar with continental knitting for many years, I've never felt the need to use it...until I picked my needles up again recently and realized the current craze for round needles. Those things are not comfy for 'english' knitting. I also thought that knitting on dpns will be much much easier in continental style. Sooooo I can see myself using both styles, each depending on what I'm working on. That is the theory anyway, we'll see how it works out in practice. I too am new to blocking for knitting, but so far I like it. Great tips here! TFS!

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    13. I use the Russian join for some yarns, but it doesn't work for things like chenille. My go to knot for that kind of yarn is the double or magic knot (long known to fly fishermen). Its simple, effective, strong and virtually seamless. Best shown in a tutorial at this link. http://sakeenah.com/magic-knot/

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