Knitting Tips/Techniques

Never forget your Kitchener stitch again.

Kitchener stitch is one of those things. You think you have it off pat, you sit down with your sock and your needle ready to go ..and can you remember the blessed way to work the stitches? Nope.

If you are anything like me you always have to look it up in your handy reference of choice (for me - it's Google every time) and before you know it your precious 5 minute window has disappeared and your attention is needed elsewhere..

So, let me introduce you to King Philip and you will never forget again. More precisely King Philip and his Purple Knickers - or the mnenomic Knit, Purl, Purl, Knit

K = knit (insert needle as if to knit on 1st stitch of front needle and slide off)

P = Purl (anchor next stitch on front needle - insert needle as if to purl & pull yarn through)

P = Purl (insert needle as if to purl on 1st stitch of back needle and slide off)

K = Knit (anchor next stitch on back needle - insert needle as if to knit & pull yarn through).

And there you have it. Simple, effective and slightly cheeky. The perfect mnemonic.

Incidentally, opinions vary about whether setup stitches are needed for Kitchener stitch or not. Some patterns ask you to work the 1st st on each needle in a different way, before you start sliding stitches off the needle. Personally I have tried both ways and find that I get slightly rounded and more comfortable corners by omitting the setup stitches. So in the interests of simplicity that's exactly what I do.

What exactly is a Twitter Chat?

On Monday 21st November 2016 (at 8pm GMT,London) I am going to be hosting the first of my monthly Twitter Chats aimed at everyone who loves to knit socks - and I know there are a few of you out there.

So far so good, but what exactly is a Twitter Chat, I hear you say.

Well, fear not. It isn't scary. It is just a bunch of people chatting on Twitter but instead of randomly chatting amongst ourselves we use the hashtag #KnitSockChat. This enables us to see all the conversations going on around us and to join in and hopefully make new friends who share our love of all things to do with knitting socks.

Most Twitter Chats last for an hour but don't worry - it's fine to dip in and out as you can. Most of us have other things going on in the evening - small people, pets or significant others clamoring for attention - but the beauty of Twitter is that you can join in as it suits you and no one will be offended if you bow out. Or if you are can't to join in at the time you can catch up with the conversations later and find out what you missed.

To give us something to get us started I will post 3 questions or topics during the chat:

Q1: Show us a picture of your favourite knitted socks or sock WIP. What do you love about them?

Q2: Patterned socks or plain vanilla?

Q3: Do you knit for others or just you?

To help you get the most out of the Chat it helps to remember to use the hashtag #KnitSockChat on each of your posts - this will help everyone else to find you. And also if you answering a specific question, preface your comment with Q1, 2 or 3.

With these simple guides in mind, grab a beverage of choice and join us for some serious sock chat.

I look forward to seeing you there


Getting ready for a new twitter chat

Carrying on the Socktober theme into the coming months I am really excited to share with you the news that I am planning to start a live monthly Twitter chat. I have recently really enjoyed participating in a few such chats - most notably #makingwinter and the fabulously informative #instachat run by Sara of @meandorla fame.

There is an undeniably energy associated with lots of like minded folk coming together to share tips, tricks and a general buzz for their passion and as much as I love Instagram, for real-time conversations and banter it hard to beat Twitter.

So, put a date in your diary for Monday 21st November at 8pm (GMT). For non-UK folks,  use the handy converter here to find out what time this is in your timezone.

I will be using the blindingly original hashtag #KnitSockChat - I did honestly try to come up with something more inventive - but hey, it does what it says on the tin.

Please look out for reminders on social media and about a week in advance I will be posting a list of 5 questions to serve as prompts and a focus for our discussions in the hour long chat. If there are any burning issues to do with sock construction that you would like addressed please do get in touch. It would be great to hear from you. Similarly, please do share the news with others, I'd love to reach as many people as possible and help spread the sock love.


Afterthought heels: or the ninja skill of cutting your knitting

If you follow me on social media you will more than likely know that I'm a huge fan of the afterthought heel and indeed it is one of my favourite classes to teach. Every time I post an image on the subject though it generates a lot of comment and interest and so I thought I would do my best to summarise how I go about inserting a true afterthought heel.

There are also methods which involve knitting in a strand of waste yarn at the point where the heel is to go. This can then be removed from the sock tube and the live stitches placed onto your needles. Confusingly this may also be referred to as an afterthought heel when in fact it is really a Forethought heel - you need to know in advance where your heel is going to go. As you are merrily knitting your sock tube it isn't always possible to stop and try it on or otherwise determine where to place the heel - think crowded train carriage or dark cinema. For these and other reasons I vastly prefer the true afterthought heel.

For this you will need:

  • Your completed sock tube. I prefer to knit both socks and put in the heels at the same time.
  • 3 DPNs - I prefer wooden DPNs with sharp tips
  • 1 lockable stitch marker
  • 1 tapestry needle
  • Sharp scissors
  • Tape measure
Work out where to insert the heel

Work out where to insert the heel

1. Try the sock on and pull it firmly up the leg. Find your ankle bone on the inside of your foot and trace an imaginary line with your finger down to the sole (underside of your foot). Mark this point with a removable stitch marker. It is normally about 2-2.5" from the back of your heel.

Start to pick up stitches for one side of the heel.

Start to pick up stitches for one side of the heel.

2. Take the sock off, lay it flat being sure to have the toe flat - your heel needs to align with the toe - and starting at one side of the sock start to insert a DPN tip into the first leg of each stitch from the row you have marked with your stitch marker (self striping yarn can be helpful here as, often you can follow the line of a coour change).

Work your way across, take your time being sure to pick up the leg of each stitch until you have half the number of stitches of your total sock circumference. eg. for a 64st sock I would pick up 32st. I find that wooden DPNs are easier to use as they are more flexible but this is personal preference.

Once you have 1 line of stitches picked up repeat the process on the 2nd row below your first DPN. You will end up with stitches on 2 DPNs separated by 1 row of knitted stitches.

Identify where you are going to snip

Identify where you are going to snip

4. Insert a tapestry needle into the leg of one stitch in the middle of that row and pull it up firmly to make a loop. Take a deep breath and snip that loop. Now breathe out and slowly start to unpick the loose thread you have created on each side of the fabric.

Start to snip

Start to snip

5. Keep going all the way across until you have 2 DPNs each with 32 (or your chosen number) stitches on them and two curly strands of yarn at either end. These ends can be woven in later. I normally tie them in a knot with the working yarn to keep the tension even. I then untie them and darn them in at the end.

All neat and tidy

All neat and tidy

6. It happens to the best of us. During the picking up of stitches if you find that you have missed a stitch and you have one loose, just secure it with a lockable stitch marker and slip it back on the needle as you knit that row.

Use your locking stitch markers to capture any strays

Use your locking stitch markers to capture any strays

Now, just reattach your working yarn and start decreasing as you would for a toe. Essentially you are knitting a 2nd toe in the middle of your sock. My preferred way of doing this is:

Rnd 1: ssk (sl 1 knitwise, sl 1 purlwise, k those 2 tog tbl), k to last 3 st, k2tog, k1. Repeat on 2nd DPN

Rnd 2: k

You may come across the odd stitch which is aligned back to front on the needle, if that happens simple knit it through the back loop to correct it.

Repeat Rnds 1 and 2 until you have decreased the total number of stitches by half. For my 64st sock this would be 2 DPNs each holding 16st. Try on the sock at this point and check the fit. If you need to do a few more rounds you can continue 1 or 2 more decrease rounds.

Finally - use Kitchener stitch to graft the heel closed, exactly as you would do a toe.

Weave in all the ends and do a happy dance in your new socks! Take a photograph to show me (tag it with #louisetilbrookdesigns)  - I'd love to see your finished heels :)


Next time: a closer look at sock toes.





How I Knit

Some of my favourite hashtags at the moment are the series on #howiknit and #loop2loop over on Instagram. As a knitter, nothing fascinates me more than how other people knit (apart from what they are knitting of course). Whenever I teach a class or go to a Knit Night I am always struck by how differently we all knit. We all do much the same thing, in much the same order and produce the same fabric but the actual mechanisms by which we achieve that vary greatly.

Like many people I was taught by my grandmother to knit, using long grey metal needles, in the 'English' or 'throwing' style. Wedged into the comfy chair at my Grandma's side I remember watching her practiced, fluid movements and trying desperately to get my needles to do the same. It didn't help that she knit by tucking her left hand needle between her armpit and ample busom and try as I might, I couldn't manage that skill. Nearly 40 years on, I am still lacking that essential life skill...and the ample busom to go with it.

Last year I started to get some wrist and shoulder pain and decided to learn to knit the Continental way in order to give my joints a bit of a rest. I came across the online course by Anniken Annis aka YarnAddictAnni and was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I managed to pick it up. I was inspired in my learnings by Claire of the New Hampshire Knits podcast who also recently made the switch to Continental knitting and on her advice I chose a simple garter stitch project to learn on, rather than trying to change part way through existing projects. A simple baby blanket was ideal and after the first few rows I found that by keeping my left index finger very close to the needle tip I was able to keep a good even tension on the yarn - something which had always eluded me before.

Purling proved to be a little trickier, but practice really does make perfect and now I can happily both knit and purl in the Continental style. My knitting is defintely faster with this method and with fewer movements I am hoping that it will place less strain on my joints. Purling is slower than my knitting, but it is still much faster than my old way of throwing the yarn and it is still improving.

To check out the videos on my Instagram feed and to see how others knit just click here.

When it comes to learning new techniques muscle memory really is the key. If you are planning to learn this or any other new skill in 2016 my top tips would be:

1. Pick a simple project solely to learn that skill on.

2. Practice daily for 15 minutes - don't try to do too much in one sitting and risk frustration. Do your 15 minutes and then pick up something else to work on.

3. Persevere - learning a new skill takes time.