Reference


Week of Discussion: Day Five – Techniques (one of the main Ravelry Boards)

This week I am featuring the best of the Ravelry discussion boards. Each day I highlight a particular group, forum, or topic that I personally find either interesting, informative, inspiring, or just plain cool! Be sure to log in to your Ravelry account to be able to view boards/threads! (It is free to sign up and well worth it if you ask me!)

Day One: Gorgeous Gradients

Day Two: Yarn (one of the main Ravelry forums)

Day Three: Lovin’ the Freebies!

Day Four: Selfish Knitters & Crocheters


Day Five – Techniques (one of the main Ravelry boards)

I learned about the "Bubble Wrap" stitch from a random post on the Techniques board!

I learned about the “Bubble Wrap” stitch from a random post on the Techniques board!

I saved this board for last because, for me, this board is pretty spectacularly useful. If you follow only one board on Ravelry, this should be it. I have learned more about knitting from this one discussion board than anything else on the internet. There are a couple specific threads that are particularly treasure trove-y in terms of valuable tips and information, but the real value in this discussion board is due to the fact that there are questions of all sorts constantly being asked (and answered). Everything from “How should I block this awkwardly shaped item?” to “Something messed up, can you help me figure out where I went wrong?” to “Can you identify this stitch pattern?”. Perhaps a weird way of putting it, but I have learned a tremendous amount from everyone else’s questions, concerns, mistakes, and problems. I read pretty much every thread in that board, even if the question being posed isn’t at all related to the type of knitting I do, because I think the more I know, the more ways of solving all types of problems I’m aware of, the better knitter I will be. (It bares saying that, like the Yarn forum, this is one of the main Ravelry boards and is therefore pretty closely moderated. To me this is good because it keeps the posts on-topic and not filled with unhelpful, uninformative chatter, resulting in a concentrated board of informative awesomeness.)

The piece de resistance is the Personal Tips and Resources thread. It isn’t a place to ask questions, but rather to post about the tips, shortcuts, tools, and solutions you came across (or invented) that you personally find helpful, and maybe it will help someone else. As I make this post there is over 5,700 posts in that thread, and I have read every single one of them. It took me a long time (obviously) but I did, and holy hannah have I taken a lot away from it. I love that sometimes someone will post their tip and other people will come in and confirm it, or (more interestingly) disagree and then explain why that doesn’t work for them.


 

There are tons of other discussion boards and groups on Ravelry, covering every topic and interest, so definitely browse around. I guarantee you’ll find at least a few that suit you! I have a number of honourable mention groups that I could have posted about (like the Fans of Wolle’s Color Changing Cotton group and the Harry Potter Lovers group) so maybe someday I’ll revisit this, but really the point I wanted to make is that the Ravelry discussion boards are hugely powerful, valuable, and worthwhile, and I encourage everyone to participate. 🙂

 

There ends the week of discussion. It was fun doing this theme week of sorts, but I look forward to getting back to normal posts next week.


Nostepinne: the low-tech way to wind your own center pull balls 2

For a long time I was a big supporter of balling any yarn I purchase, regardless of how they were when I purchased them. I even balled some nicely wound center pull cakes, believing that a ball is much easier to use, tidier, and less likely to tangle. 017

Yarn Barf

noun, slang

1. A big tangled mess of yarn that comes out of a center pull ball when trying to retrieve the end.

The origins of this belief that center pull balls are terrible is due to the commercially wound center pull balls. Not the cakes, but the center pull balls, like the Kroy Sock Yarn balls in the adjacent picture. Those types of balls can be center pull and are supposed to be, but holy hannah they are very often a pain in the butt. Yarn barf, tangles, the ball collapsing as you go, etc. So because  I had such a miserable time with those kind of center pull balls I assumed ALL center pull balls (including cakes) were awful, and therefore balled every bit of yarn I got my hands on.

This was a mistake.

Balls DO have their benefits (they are pretty good at not tangling, and it is easier and faster to ball up yarn than it is to make a center-pull ball/cake by hand) but there is a bucket load of downsides, the biggest being that they are BALLS, and therefore roll all over the place, including under the couch to collect dirt and dust and the various flotsam and jetsam of life that resides under couches. There also is the problem that the ball needs to move around and roll to unwind, which means the yarn doesn’t always smoothly and easily unwind as you knit. I find I have to pull out slack from the ball, knit, then pull out more slack, knit, etc. It is a pain.

When I finally left a center pull cake as it was and just used it as a center pull cake I was converted. What a magical experience it was! No tangles, no collapsing, no rolling under the couch. Just smooth, easy, happy knitting. Once I discovered the wonders of center pull cakes I looked dejectedly at my stash and all the balls and got pretty sad. So many balls of yarn that used to be center pull…

I resolved to convert my balled stash into a center pull stash.

My spoon nostepinne

Now, the obvious answer for making center pull cakes is a ball winder. I have a pretty fantastic swift (courtesy of my mother-in-law and father-in-law) and have been eyeing a ball winder for a time to complete the set, but I’m cheap. It is going to take me a while to work up the will to spend money on a ball winder. I then looked to other options, including DIY ball winders, and came across a device called a nostepinne. Weird word for what is a pretty simple tool. Basically, its a stick. It is a smooth stick, usually made of wood, that you use to wind center pull balls. You can get fancy dancy ones that are carved, you can get them in various widths, some have notches or grooves to hold the yarn, but seriously… its a stick.

I dug through my kitchen drawers and found a nice fat, smooth wooden spoon and decided to give it a try as a nostepinne. 2015-03-27 11.27.29The basic technique isn’t complicated and there are a lot of tutorials and explanations online for how to wind a ball using a nostepinne (I linked to a few at the bottom of this page), but the broad strokes steps are the following:

  1. Wind a starter section an inch or so wide. Just wind it around as you would normally until you have a good core to use for the “real” winding.
  2. Begin winding the yarn in a diagonal fashion (bottom right to top left is how I usually do it). Either use your fingers to hold it or catch the loops on the edge of previous loops in order to keep the diagonal loops from just slipping down the side.
  3. Continue to wind in a diagonal fashion while slowly rotating the nostepinne.

That’s it.  Well, sort of. Obviously this is the simple way of doing it and there are other fancier and perhaps nicer ways of doing it. There is a criss-cross method that results in a nicer looking ball and that probably has more stability and that looks a lot more like the cakes you get from a proper ball winder, but I haven’t quite figured it out yet, and doing it this basic diagonal way gets the job done. Once you’ve wound all the yarn you just side it off your nostepinne and you’re done!

I must confess that my first nosepinne-wound ball was a bit of a disaster. I accidentally wound my end (the end I would be pulling from the center to knit with) into the ball without noticing. The next time I tacked my end to the spoon nostepinne using a little hair elastic so that I wouldn’t lose it and then wound away. Lo and behold, it worked! It wasn’t beautiful or perfect, but it was definitely a center pull ball! Huzzah!

I have done a few since I have have some tips, or things I have found helpful:

  1. Be sure to secure the tail end to the nostepinne so that you don’t lose it later. Some nostepinnes have little notches or grooves for this. I just use a little elastic band. Do whatever works for you, but do secure it. It is very easy to accidentally wind that end in.
  2. Make sure your starter wrapped core (step 1) is substantial enough. You want some yarn accumulated so that when you start going diagonal there is something for the yarn to grip against. Otherwise the diagonal yarn will just slip and become a weird loopy mess.
  3. Don’t wind too tight, that isn’t good for your yarn AND your diagonal loops are more likely to slide down your ball.
  4. If you are having trouble keeping your diagonal loops from slipping try using a finger and a thumb as guides. Each wrap will hold the previous wrap in place, so your fingers just need to sort of prop the wraps up long enough to get wrapped over again.
  5. A tiny nosepinne-made center pull ball! Hurray!

    When a ball is done you need to secure the wrapping end somehow. You can’t just leave it loose because it will unwrap and make one hell of a mess. What I have found works is to make the last few wraps around the center of the ball snugly, and then tucking the end into one of those last wraps. It doesn’t need to be perfect or fancy, you just need it to not unravel on its own.

  6. After you slide your finished ball off your nostepinne, it helps to give it a bit of a squish. This helps it to collapse (in a good way) inside.
  7. If you’re going to use a spoon or some other random household thing as a nostepinne, try to find something a little wider than you think you need. If the thing you’re using as a nostepinne is too thin/narrow it can be hard to wind. I’d say thumb thickness is best.
  8. The more you do it, the easier it gets, the tidier your balls will be, so just keep trying!

 

Here are some additional resources on using a nostepinne:


Ways of connecting new balls of yarn

Joining yarns is just part of knitting but holy heck there is a lot of options. Some options work better for different situations, so how to know which method to use? I know I was finding myself questioning which method to use when I was first starting out, so I decided to do up this reference of the different joining types and their uses.

NOTE: I have not included just starting with the new ball and then weaving in the ends after the fact. There are quite a few ways to weave in ends and I intend to tackle that in a future post.

 

Basic knot

It is exactly what you think it is. You simply knot the two yarns together… the end. You can either knot the new yarn to the end of your old yarn and then just continue on (which gives you little ability to control where the changeover happens), but the knot can be tied retroactively after you change balls (ie. just switch to the new yarn, leaving a tail of the old yarn and a tail from the new yarn that you later on knot together).

Pros:

  • fast
  • easy
  • quite secure (as long as you don’t accidentally tie a slip knot)

Cons

  • still need to weave in ends
  • oftentimes visible
  • oftentimes noticeable when wearing (ie. can feel the knot in the sock)
  • if you tie the knot incorrectly you could create a slip knot that is decidedly NOT secure.

Spit Splice (aka. Felted Splice)

For feltable yarns you can felt the end of the old yarn to the start of the new yarn. Get the ends wet (either with water or with your spit) and then rub them vigorously together until they felt together. You divide up the plies and intertwine the two yarns to help secure it better before you spit splice it. Need to make sure you do a proper job of felting them together in order to have a solid join.

Here is a video demonstrating this join.

Pros:

  • quite secure if you do it right
  • no ends to weave in
  • invisible
  • no bump
  • great for same colour transitions.

Cons:

  • only works with feltable yarns
  • Takes a bit of time
  • can be a big problem if it isn’t felted enough and fails.
  • No slack to use to reattach/knot if it fails
  • potentially kind of gross if you use your spit as the name suggests (but you can just use water)
  • can be hard to control where the yarn changeover happens/not suitable for colour changes

Russian Join

Works best with plied yarns. Using a tapestry needle floss the yarn end into it with at least a few inches of tail. Making sure you maintain the open looped end, floss the needle back in to the yarn BETWEEN THE PLIES. Take the second yarn, bring it through the loop you created in the first yarn, and then bring it back into itself using the tapestry needle. There is a bit of added bulk where the yarn is flossed back into itself but it isn’t usually significant enough to be visible in the finished knit.

It can sound hard and fussy to do but it isn’t that hard. I think that to understand this method you need to see it being done, so check this video out. It very clearly shows exactly how the join is done.

Pros:

  • very secure
  • invisible
  • no bump
  • no ends to weave in

Cons:

  • doesn’t work well with single strand/unplied yarns
  • requires additional tools (tapestry/yarn needle)
  • slower to do
  • a bit fussy
  • not appropriate for colourwork because you cannot easily control exactly where the colour change will happen.

Braided Join

Very similar to the Russian Join, but rather than flossing the yarn back into itself you divide the plies and braid it backwards into itself. It results in a very secure join, and doesn’t result in any added bulk. Plus, this method can be done without any additional tools (though in the video linked below she does use a tapestry needle.)

Like the Russian Join, I think it is easier to understand when you see it being done, so check out this video.

Pros:

  • invisible
  • very secure
  • no added bulk to the yarn
  • can be done with no additional tools

Cons:

  • doesn’t work well with single strand/unplied yarns
  • slower to do
  • a bit fussy
  • not appropriate for colourwork because you cannot easily control exactly where the colour change will happen.

Overlap join

When switching to a new ball you knit a couple stitches with both the old yarn and new yarn, then just continue with the new yarn. You can just snip the tail left from the old yarn, no need to weave in the end. I personally like to do this almost every time I have a tail, especially when I start a new project or pick up stitches. For example, in my sock yarn blanket I pick up the first stitch and then pick up the rest of the stitches for each square using both the working yarn AND the tail for at least a few stitches but often until the tail is all used up.

Here’s a video demonstrating the overlap join.

Pros:

  • fast
  • easy
  • fairly invisible
  • secure
  • can control exactly where the changeover happens

Cons:

  • results in a couple stitches being double thickness which can be noticeable in some cases
  • not terribly suitable for colour changes because those couple of stitches in both colours would look weird and verigated. Isn’t always a problem but it can be.

“Magic” Knot

You make a slip knot with each colour and then pull them together snugly, and then you can just snip off the ends really close to the knots and not worry about ends to weave in. Straightforward, right? Well, I have heard quite a few horror stories of where this join failed and it was nearly impossible to reattach since you have absolutely no length to use to resecure it.

Check out this video to get a clear demonstration of this method.

Pros:

  • no ends to weave in
  • not too difficult

Cons:

  • RISKY!!! You are in big trouble if it fails because there aren’t any ends left to be able to reattach.
  • not advisible for more slippery yarns or for knits that will get a lot of wear or be put through the wash often.
  • can leave a bump
  • oftentimes visible
  • oftentimes noticeable when wearing (ie. can feel the knot in the sock)
  • can be hard to control where the yarn changeover happens/not suitable for colour changes

 

View a table summary of all the different types.

 

 

Know of other joining techniques you think I should include? Leave them in the comments and I will add them to this list!