Newbie Knitting | Long Tail Casting On

We have already learned the Backwards Loop Cast On method. That is a great technique to know if you need to cast on stitches in the middle of a project but it isn't generally the method you will want to use to start a project. It tends to create a loose cast on edge that is difficult to work with on the first row. It also does not stretch much... stretch is good especially on any type of cuffs (mittens, hats, sleeves, etc). I taught it first just because it is easier to teach and to get everyone knitting quickly.

Now I'm going to teach you a more versatile, more commonly used method of casting on called the Long Tail method. The Long Tail method creates a much nicer finished, stretchy edge. The trick here is just figuring out how long of a tail you need when you get started.

For this method of casting on, you need start by estimating how much yarn you will need to cast on all your stitches. For worsted weight yarn on size 8 needles 12 inches of yarn will give you approximately 20 stitches. Be sure to give yourself a little extra for a tail too.

There is nothing so frustrating as casting a couple hundred stitches for a blanket and realizing that you didn't give yourself a long enough tail and have to start all over. On the flip side... no one wants to waste yarn leaving a super long tail. You will get better at estimating tail length over time. One tip is to try wrapping the yarn around your needle and measuring how long of a strand of yarn it takes to make 20 wraps.

Once you have estimated how long of a tail you need, create a slip-knot (or you can just cast on the first stitch). Place it on your needle with the tail yarn closer to you, the live yarn in the back.

Hold the needle in your right hand. With your left hand, slip your index finger and thumb in between the yarn strands. Use your two or three other fingers to hold the yarn strands in place in your palm.

Spread out your thumb and index finger to make a Y shape. Tip the Y back slightly so you can see the yarns easier.

Slide the needle along your thumb under the yarn loop in an upward motion (the blue strand).

Reach the tip of the needle back and hook the yarn (from right to left) that is laying on the front of your index finger (the purple strand).

Slip that index finger yarn loop (purple), under the middle of the thumb loop (blue).

Slowly drop your thumb down and let that yarn fall free, creating a loop around the index yarn (the purple stitch).

Tighten your new stitch by tugging slightly on the yarn tail. Do not drop the yarn tails.  Slip your thumb back between the yarn strands. Tip the Y shape back and you are ready to cast on another stitch.

Newbie Knitting | Knit & Purl Wash Clothes

To practice knitting and purling I have included 2 wash cloth patterns. These make a great gift when paired with a special bar of soap. When working in stockinette stitch (when you knit one side and purl the other) it helps if you can visualize how the knit side and the purl side should look.

After a couple rows of a pattern it should become pretty obvious if you are on a knit side or a purl side. On the knit side (when you are looking at the stitches on your left needle that you are getting ready to knit) you should see rows of Vs.

When you are working on the purl side you should see offset horizontal lines.

Take a look at a couple sweaters in your closet. The outside (unless it has fancy stitches) will probably have the Vs and the inside will have the horizontal lines. If you are able to see the difference in your sweater being inside out... then you should be able to see what type of stitch you need to do. I must admit thought, this is one of those things that I remember as a kid having a hard time truly seeing. I would ask my mom at the beginning of every row if it was a knit or a purl row. Fairy does the same thing now. It is also hard to see during the first couple rows so keeping track of where you are in a pattern especially for the first few rows is a good idea. Tally marks on a scrap of paper works well for me but there are rows counters that you can buy.

Another thing to note, in both of the patterns below you will have to switch from knitting to purling in the middle of a row. When switching from knitting to purling, you will need to bring the yarn from the back to the front. Likewise, when switching from purling to knitting, you will need to bring the yarn from the front to the back. When switching, you will want to be careful to bring the yarn through the middle of your needles and not over the needles, otherwise you will create a "yarn-over" and add an extra stitch. Below is the correct way to switch from purling to knitting. (Front to back.) After you switch, beginning knitting as usual.

Materials for both patterns:
size 8 needles
cotton yarn such as Lily Sugar ‘n Cream

You may be able to make two wash clothes from one skein of yarn.

Simple Stockinette Wash Cloth
Cast On 34 stitches.
Knit 7 rows.
Row 1 and all Odd Rows: Knit 4, Purl 26, Knit 4
Row 2 and all Even Rows: Knit all stitches
Repeat  the pattern (row 1 and row 2) until you are about an inch away from a square. (Note: Knitting the first 4 and last 4 of every row will create the garter stitch border and stop the cloth from curling.)
Knit 7 rows.
Bind off.
Weave in ends.

Add the Simple Stockinette Was Cloth to your Ravelry Queue.

Basket Weave Wash Cloth (more advanced pattern for your second cloth)
This is a smaller version of my mom's Basket Weave Dish Cloth pattern that can be found here.

Cast on 36 stitches.
Knit 6 rows.
Pattern: Row 1: k4, *k4, p4* repeat between* a total of 3 times (24 stitches), k 8.
Row 2: k4, *p4, k4* repeat between * a total of 3 times (24 stitches), p4, k4.
Row 3: repeat row 1.
Row 4: repeat row 2.
Row 5: k4, *p4, k4* repeat between * a total of 4 times (32 stitches).
Row 6: k8, *p4, k4* repeat between * a total of 3 times (24 stitches), k4.
Row 7: repeat row 5.
Row 8: repeat row 6.
These 8 rows make up the pattern. Repeat these 8 rows 6 times (48 rows).
Knit 6 rows.
Bind off.
Weave in ends.

Add the Basket Weave Wash Cloth to your Ravelry Queue.

Newbie Knitting | The Purl Stitch

Lesson Five: The Purl Stitch

So now that you have been knitting for awhile, it is time to learn the purl stitch. You actually already know the mechanics... IN, AROUND, UNDER, OFF... but this time instead of working to the back, we will be working in the front. To get started cast on a bunch of stitches and knit one row. In the photos below I have already purled a few stitches trying to find a good spot in the variegated yarn for photos.

First off, when Purling always keep your live yarn in FRONT of your needles. So for knitting it is always in the back, for purling it is always in the front. Go into the stitch from the back to the front. It is more of a downward motion, rather than an upward one. (If you need more help seeing if you went IN the right way... scroll down... I have some more detailed photos).

Keeping the live yarn in front of your needles wrap it AROUND your right needle. It is the same counter-clockwise motion.

Just as before you will take the tip of your right needle UNDER the old stitch.

And slip the old stitch OFF the left needle. Tighten as you would your knit stitch. That's it. You now know how to knit and purl. A whole new realm of pattern possibilities has opened up to you.

Keep practicing. Purl to the end of the row. Then knit the next row. Work back and forth in this manner... knitting one row, purling one row, knitting one row, purling one row, etc. That is called Stockinette stitch and will give you a smooth, finished piece. Note the edge will probably curl. We will start a new project next week.

Here is another way to see the difference in the stitches. When you knit, after you go into a stitch align your needles parallel to each other.

When knitting, both points will be facing the same direction.

When you purl, after you go into a stitch align your needles parallel to each other.

When purling, the needle points will be facing away from each other.

Making Pom Poms

Newbie Knitting Lesson Four : Making Pom-Poms

If you are following along with our Newbie Knitting series you will need to make two pom-poms to complete your Block-Work Hat.

There are a couple different ways you can make pom-poms. I've included a pattern and directions for using a cardboard homemade pom-pom maker or using the Susan Bates Easy Pom-pom tool. The homemade, cardboard version works ok if you just need to make one or two, if you want to make a lot of pom-poms I would suggest buying a tool.

Cardboard Pom-Pom Maker Directions

First print out the Pom-pom pattern (I used the medium template) or draw a circle about 1/2" to 3/4" larger than your desired Pom-pom. Draw a 3/4" circle in the middle and create a cut-away notch. Cut out two matching disks in cardboard. I used a cereal box but if you want to make several pom-poms you might want to use a more durable cardboard. (If you use corrugated cardboard, you can get away with using only one disk).

Cut out two yarn pieces about 12" long and center them between the two disks.

Holding everything together start wrapping the disks with your yarn at one end. A little triangle of cardboard at each end will not be covered. Wrap the whole thing tightly... I like to wrap about 3 layers... at this size, with worsted weight yarn approximately 140 times.

Once it is completely wrapped, trim the wrapping yarn even with the outside edge of the disks. Then tie the center yarn pieces into a loose knot.

Carefully slide the tip of your scissors in between the two disks and snip the wrapped yarn. Go all the way around. Be careful not to trim you cardboard. Tighten and double knot the center pull yarns

Carefully remove the cardboard disks.

Trim up any yarn strands that are sticking out further than the rest.

You can use the center pull yarn strands to attach your pom-pom to your knitwear. (Note my pom-pom below is a little anemic... I should have wrapped it a bit more but I was more worried about taking photos than counting my wraps. But you get the idea).

Pom-Pom Maker Tool Directions

These directions go with the Susan Bates Easy Wrap Pom-pom Maker set.

Obviously, I'm using the pinkish colored disks. What you need to do is take them apart so you have 4 pieces and then set them up so that you have two facing sets... bumps to smooth side with the feet sticking out as pictured below.

Hold one pair together and start wrapping the yarn around. It is awkward at first, but gets easier after a few times around. For this size I like to wrap the yarn around about 70 times.

When you have completely wrapped the first set, cut the yarn and do the same for the second.

Once you have both sides ready, flip them over and look at the feet.

You need to slide one set of feet into the other to make a complete circle. One side will slip into the folded opposite side as seen below. (Note mine is pictured off centered just so you can see how they fit together better. You will want yours to line up straight).

Carefully slide you scissors in the grove between the disks and cut the yarn.

Once you have gone all the way around, slide two 12" pieces of yarn in between the disks and tie them tightly with a double knot.

Carefully removed the plastic pieces.

Trim up any bits that are sticking out too far.

Newbie Knitting : Block-Work Hat Project

Project Three : Block-work Hat

I designed this hat project to help us review everything we have learned so far. This hat requires you to complete casting on, knitting, binding off and seaming multiple times. For this project you will need to make 4 rectangular blocks. Two will be completed in a solid color yarn, two in a multi-colored yarn. The picture shows the hat before it has been finished... we will complete it in a couple weeks when everyone has finished their 4 blocks.

One skein Deborah Norville Collection Everyday Soft Worsted Prints Yarn and
one skein Deborah Norville Collection Everyday Soft Worsted Solid Yarn in a color to match
or 2 skeins of worsted weight yarn
size 8 needles
Yarn needle

Cast On 40 stitches.
Knit 4 and 1/2 inches.
Bind Off. Leave yourself a 18-24" tail for seaming later.
(make 4 total, 2 solid color, 2 multi-color)

When you have completed all 4 blocks, sew them long sides together in a solid, multi, solid, multi pattern. Then sew the outside two seams together to form a complete a circle. We will discuss how to finish the top of the hat in a couple weeks. We will be making pom-poms using the Susan Bates easy wrapper pom-pom maker.

Just so you know, after we complete the Block-work Hat we will be learning the Purl Stitch.

Additional Projects
I know that a few of my students will finish their hats early, while others will need the full 4 weeks to complete them. So I search the web for some other patterns that can be completed with the knitting skills that I have taught so far. These patterns are all from the Lion Brand website. They are free but you may need to register on their site to view them.

Easy Berry Scarf

Learn to Knit Cuff

Soft Berry Hat

My Favorite Blankie

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