Diagonal Stripes Afghan

Contributed by Mary Nettleton
marynet@centurytel.net

This afghan had its beginning with a project that my knitting group did for an auction. The group afghan was made in 4 colors with two-color blocks. Then I started to wonder how else the 2-color squares could be arranged. Our grand son was graduating from highschool at about the same time and he wanted black, red and white. I absolutely and unequivocally never give a high-school graduate anything in white so 2 colors were what he got.

the finished afghan made from simple granny squares has bold diagonal stripes. For a similar tactile effect, find a Color B yarn that is also of a different texture from Color A. The project itself is very portable. As I remember it took me about 1 1/2 hours to make 1 square.

Materials:
• 8 skeins each of 2 colors, Plymouth Encore Chunky, Wool-ease Chunky, or any chunky yarn. Designate 1 color as A and the second color as B.
• Needle size: 11 or 13. The size needle is governed by the density of the fabric you prefer.
• Yarn needle for sewing squares together and safety pins or some other convenient method of marking the B half of the squares.

Skill level: easy.

Gauge: not important

Afghan Square:
Make 30

With A, Cast on 3 sts. Leave a generous tail for sewing.

Row 1: Inc1 st in first St, K to end).

Repeat this row until there are 42 sts on the needle.

Break A and pick up B.

Row 2: K1, K2tog, K to end of row.

Repeat this row till 3 sts rem.

Last row: Sl1, K2tog, Pass slip st over and fasten off.

Leave a generous tail for sewing, and place a safety pin near the corner to mark side B of the square.

Assembly;:

The afghan is 5 squares across and 6 down. Find a place where the squares can be laid out and sewn together. A bed works well for this. Start in the lower left-hand corner of the bed.

1. Beginning at the left edge of the bed, position Square 1 so that half A lines up with the lower left-hand corner of the bed.
2. Position square 2 to the right of Sq 1 so that side B lines up with side B of the first square. With one of the B tails, and a yarn needle, pass a thread back and forth in the edge sts.
3. Position Sq 3 to the right of sq 2 with the A sides lining up. Sew as before, using color A tails.
4. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 one more time to attach squares 4 and 5.
5. Returning to the left edge of the afghan, position Sq 6 above sq 1 with the B sides together. Sew as before, using color B tails.
6. Position square 7 to the right of Sq 6, ( with the A sides together and sew in place, using color A tails.
7. Position Sq 8 to the right of sq 7, with B sides together, and sew in place, using color B tails.
8. Repeat Steps 6 and 7 one more time to attach Squares 9 and 10.
9. Repeat Steps 1-8 until all 30 squares have been sewn together.

If you sew and nip and tuck the ends as you go, it will be much less trouble later. How do I know this? Of course, if all else fails, ask for sighted help with the positioning or the ends.

Knitting Small Circumferences with Two Circular Needles

Contributed by Paulette Vickery

I love knitting small circumferences, like the crowns of hats or the thumbs of mittens, with 2 circular needles rather than a set of double-pointed needles. Once you get the hang of it, the technique is much easier, less complicated, and not at all prone to having stitches fall off the needles. Plus you never have a little needle slip into the innards of a couch or roll merrily across the floor, managing to stay just out of reach. I’ll explain how to use two circular needles to knit small circumferences with a simple set of step-by-step instructions that will remove all of the confusion from the learning process.

But first, take time to settle into your favorite knitting chair with a glass of your favorite libation at hand. Being comfortable while learning is just as important as the learning process itself. I know that I learn best when I am relaxed and comfortable. Now, let’s do it!

Learning the Process

So that we are all working on the same project, let’s use a 16-inch (41 cm) circular needle to make a simple hat. It doesn’t matter which one. Cast on the number of stitches your pattern calls for, Join to work in the round, make the brim and the body, then start the decreases for the top. When you get to the part of the hat where you have to use double-pointed needles because the opening is too small to continue on 1 circ, you are ready to start working with the second circular needle. Here is what you need to do in order to use 2 circulars instead of double-pointed needles:

First, divide your stitches onto 2 needles. I like to have 1 needle longer than the other so I can tell where the beginning of the round is. Let’s say that your original needle is the shorter needle and the second one is the longer needle. When you finish putting half of your stitches on the longer needle, the short needle, the one with the working yarn coming out of the first stitch, will be on the right, and the long needle, the one with the other half of the stitches will be on the left.

Now let go of both of the points of the short (right-hand) needle. Just slide those stitches to the middle of the cable so they won’t go anywhere.

next grab both ends of the long needle (the one on your left). First, take hold of the closest tip. This will be your left-hand needle. Then take hold of the other tip, which is probably dangling toward the floor. Pull it toward you around the hat so it is in your right hand. This is now your right-hand needle.

Let’s pause for a moment to think about what we’ve got.
• You have the short needle in the back. The stitches you are not working right now are centered on the cable, and both points are pushed somewhere out of the way. The working yarn is hanging down from the cable on your right side. It’s not near the point of the needle because you pushed your stitches to the center of the cable to keep them safe.
• You also have your long needle. It’s now in front. It’s your current working needle and the needle at the beginning of the round. You have the point with the stitches on it in your left hand, and you have the empty point in your right hand.

It’s time to start knitting. Slip the point of your right hand needle into the first stitch on your left-hand needle like you usually do. To keep things simple, let’s say you’re working a knit stitch. Pretend the yarn coming from the cable of the shorter needle in the back is coming out of the needle that you are using, and just knit the stitch as usual, being sure to give the working yarn a little extra tug afterward to make the stitches nice and snug and to avoid an unwanted gap where the needles meet. Now the yarn really is coming out of the stitch on the needle that you are using, so continue knitting and work all of the stitches on the long needle.

Repeat the process. Only this time the current working needle will be the short one, and you will be working the second half of the round. So the steps are these:

• Drop both points of the long needle and center the stitches in the middle of the cable.
• Pick up both of the points of the new short needle, the one that was In the back, which is now on your left, because you have shifted things around a bit.
• Push the stitches up to the tip of the closest needle, which is now your left-hand needle.
• Pull the other end of the needle around so it is now your right-hand needle.
• Work all of the stitches on the short needle.

And you are ready to do it again. This time, you will have the long needle as the current working needle, and when you begin knitting the stitches on that needle, you will be starting a new round. Simple.

Starting a Project with Two Circs

If you decide to work the entire hat using 2 circular needles, or if you are knitting a miniature hat or some other small project, here is how to begin a project with 2 circular needles. Remember to use 2 different needle lengths to make it easier to recognize the beginning of the round:

Using the shorter needle, cast on the number of stitches you need plus 1 extra stitch. Then slide all of the stitches to the other end of the needle so that the first stitch cast on is nearest the tip.

Beginning with the first stitch you cast on, slip the first half of the stitches onto the longer needle. You will have one half of the stitches on the short needle and the other half of the stitches on the long needle, but they will still not be joined to form a circle.

To close the circle, slide both sets of stitches to the opposite end of the needles. Be sure the stitches are all facing the same direction. You can do this by placing your hands at opposite ends of the work and moving them toward each other to make sure there are no twists. The first stitch cast on and the extra last stitch cast on are beside each other near the needle tips. The tips are lying side-by-side close enough together for you to carefully lift the extra stitch from the short needle across the gap to the long needle.

So now, the first 2 stitches on the long needle are the first stitch you cast on and the extra stitch. Using only the tips of the long needle, knit these 2 stitches together to join the circle and get rid of the extra stitch. For a really smooth join, knit those 2 stitches together using both the working yarn and the tail held together as a single strand of yarn. Then still using both points of the long needle and only the working yarn, continue working across the stitches on that needle to finish the first half of the round.

Next, just like we did before, drop the points of the long needle, sliding the stitches to the middle of the cable to keep them safe. Then pick up both points of the short needle, and work across the other half of the stitches on that needle to finish the first round.

It really isn’t hard. After you do a few rounds, you will probably wonder why you ever used those pesky double-pointed needles in the first place, and you will use your favorite libation to celebrate your new skill!

This article was originally published in Seeing It Our Way, a Braille magazine published by Horizons for the Blind, and has been reprinted with minor editing by permission of the author, who is one of the magazine’s contributors.

the Bag Keeper

Contributed by Chris Cooke

Bag Keeper

Storing plastic grocery bags can be a puzzle. They need to be out of the way, but they also need to be handy so we can use them to line our waste baskets.

The bag keeper is an elongated pouch with a loop at the top and a small hole at the bottom. Use the loop to hang it on the back of a door. Roll up the plastic bags and push them in through the top. Then when you need one, pull it out through the hole at the bottom.

Makes a nice gift.

Materials

• 2 50G balls worsted weight cotton
• 1 Size US 8 16-inch circular needle and either DPN’s in the same size or another circular when decreasing
• 1 stitch marker
• small amount of narrow elastic for hanger

Gauge: 4.5 sts/inch in stockinette stitch.

Beginning at the top:

Cast on 32 sts. Join for knitting in the round, and work ribbing for four rounds–either k1-p1 or k2-p2.

Increase Rounds

Next rnd (eyelets): * K4, yo *: 40 sts.

Next 4 rnds: Increase 4 sts evenly each round by knitting into the front and back of the stitch. The last round will have 56 sts.

Body

Next: K around for 18 inches from eyelet rnd.

Decrease rounds:

Rnd 1: * K5, k2tog * around: 48 sts.
Rnd 2: * K4, ssk * around: 40 sts.
Rnd 3: * K3, k2tog * around: 32 sts.
Rnd 4: * K2 ssk * around: 24 sts.

Next 4 rnds: Ribbing as for top.

Bind off loosely in knit.

Finishing:
• Weave in ends.
• Thread a ribbon through the yo’s at the top of the bag keeper if you like.
• Knit or sew an elastic loop for hanging.

Why I wanted To Write Tutorials

When my sister-in-law, Tammy, taught me to knit it immediately became my favorite pastime. She taught me the basics and I took off. We were both surprised by how easily and quickly I progressed.

I was very lucky to have someone to teach me this wonderful craft. Tammy took the time to close her eyes and think about how to describe the steps so that I would be able to understand without having to see what she was doing. It helped that she was there to direct my fingers and needles when I needed help following her directions. After I learned the basics she was there to help when I had questions. “What does ssk mean?” I would call her up and she would explain. Then I discovered the knitting resources and communities online and branched off on my own.

A lot of the tutorials and explanations I found referred to pictures with captions like “Hold your needles as shown in Photo C.” These were almost no help at all. It occurred to me that there really should be instructions written so that blind people could understand and learn to knit even if they didn’t have someone to show them in person.

It was about 3 years ago when I set out to write a whole series of blog posts to teach knitting and crochet to blind people. The articles have sat on my computer since then. They taunted me when they got the chance. “We could be helping someone if you would post us online.” They whispered to me when I passed over their folder on my way to something else.

A few months ago another member of the BlindStitchers group on Google published a whole book aimed at teaching blind people to knit. It just goes to show how much need there really is for this type of instruction.  I haven’t read his book but the descriptions he posts to the Google group are always very detailed. After this I thought, Maybe my tutorials aren’t needed any more. Then I decided that was definitely wrong. The bottom line is that everyone explains things differently and you never know which description will make a light bulb go off in someone’s head.

So, here are links to the tutorials I wrote all those years ago along with Davey’s book. I recommend using every resource you can get your hands on. If you are learning to knit, good luck. It’s a wonderful adventure.

Tutorial: Slip Knot

Tutorial: Casting On

Tutorial: Knit Stitch

Tutorial: Purl Stitch

Tutorial: Binding Off

Davey’s Book, The Touch of Yarn

Android Yarny

I got an android phone last summer, and after swearing at it for a month, I woke up one morning and realized the Lovely Droidia was really a very helpful and groovy … phone? (She’s asleep, so I’m hoping she won’t think we’re not friends.) My abnormal relationships with semi-animate electronic devices aside, I recently found three free Android apps that are accessible and sure to feed any yarn addiction.

Knitters Friend by Moorhen Apps is a portable hook and needle conversion chart. for knitting, it’s got three dropdown lists. the top one is for metric. the middle one is for U.S. needle size. The bottom one is for UK/Canadian. Select a number in one dropdown list, and the others change accordingly. For example, selecting a 5 for the metric box at the top makes 8 appear in the middle U.S. box and 6 in the bottom UK/Canadian box. To change the conversion chart from knitting needles to crochet or crochet steel hook simply hit Menu and the option you’d like. While the dropdown lists themselves are completely accessible, the labels aren’t, so you have to remember that the top box is metric; the middle one, U.S.; and the bottom, UK/Canadian.

County by BobbinsSoft is an electronic row counter. Each time you finish a row, hit Menu and Increase, and each time you rip out half a dozen rows because you skipped one or two vital stitches while caught up in your favorite TV show, hit Menu and Decrease. This app is great when you’re new to yarn crafting and still bitter about having to keep track of rows. It’s also great when you’re working on a really intricate project or when you do a lot of knitting on the go, especially if you’re plodding through patterns with repeats within repeats.

Yarn Shopper by Beekeeper Labs is a skein estimator: supply a few basic project details, and the app gives you a list of possible yarns and the number of skeins or hanks you’ll need to buy. Again, the app is generally accessible, but two of the edit boxes aren’t labeled. From top to bottom, the information to be supplied is name of project (edit box), yards required in pattern (edit box), yarn weight (dropdown list), and fiber content (edit box). The OK and Cancel buttons are at the bottom, and the results appear in nice readable text. To add yarns or get more results, hit Menu and adjust the filter. This is definitely not a good app for someone on a stash diet.

Who knew yarn and technology could come together so beautifully?

Tutorial: Standard Bind Off

Binding off is the term used for finishing off the last row of stitches so they don’t unravel when you’re done knitting. Another term used for the same thing is casting off. Just as with casting on there are many different ways to bind off. This method is called binding off in knit. Binding off like this generally makes a tight bind off. You’ll probably want to use a needle 2 or 3 sizes larger to keep from making it too tight. You can also try to make your stitches looser as you go.

HOW TO BIND OFF

Step 1

Knit the first two stitches.

Step 2

Use the left needle tip to pick up the first stitch you knitted and draw it back over the second stitch and completely off the needle. This will leave only one stitch on the right needle. To pick up the stitch place the left needle point through the front of the stitch from left to right. The left needle tip should stay in front of the right needle. Lift the stitch up and over the stitch to the left. At the same time lift the stitch completely off the right needle while making sure the left stitch stays on the right needle.

Step 3

Knit the next stitch on the left needle. You should now have two stitches on the right needle.

Step 4

Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you have knit and bound off each stitch on the left needle. You should have only one stitch remaining on the right needle.

Step 5

Cut yarn and draw it through the last loop. Pull it snug.

CONGRATULATIONS!

You’ve bound off your work. With all the skills you have learned you can begin making things for yourself. Most people start with simple scarves and washcloths.

Tutorial: Purl Stitch

To purl a stitch is the opposite of knitting a stitch. When you purl it makes the bump on the front of the work while the knit stitch makes the bump on the back. All knitting is made of combinations of these two stitches.

HOW TO MAKE A PURL Stitch

Step 1

Insert the right needle tip into the stitch you want to purl. Insert the point of the needle into the stitch from right to left. Be sure to keep the right needle tip in front of the left needle.

 

Step 2

Holding the right needle in place with your left thumb, wrap the yarn around the tip of the right needle in a counter clockwise direction. Imagine the clock is laying face up in your lap with the 12 on your knees and the 6 at your stomach. Your yarn should end up back on the right side of the needle.

Step 3

Carefully push the loop of yarn through the stitch on the left needle. You will be pushing the tip of the right needle through the stitch and underneath the needle. When your right needle tip comes out the back it should have one stitch on it.

Step 4

Gently push the stitch you just went through off of the left needle while making sure to keep the stitch you just made in place on the right needle.

CONGRATULATIONS!

You’ve made your first purl stitch. Continue purling all the stitches in the row. When you knit all the even numbered rows and purl all the odd numbered rows it is called stockinet stitch. This is the stitch pattern that gives you that nice flat “fabric” look.  

To learn how to make a knit stitch see Tutorial: Knit Stitch

To learn how to bind off see Tutorial: Binding Off

Tutorial: knit Stitch

In knitting there are really only two stitches. You knit and you purl. Everything is made with variations of these two stitches. The knit stitch puts a bump on the back of your work while the purl stitch puts the bump on the front of your work. Once you learn these two stitches you will be on your way to knitting whatever you want.

 

HOW TO MAKE A KNIT STITCH

Step 1

Cast on enough stitches to practice with. Try about 10 at a time to start. To learn how to cast on see Tutorial: Casting On

Step 2

Insert the empty right needle into the first stitch on the left needle. Your first stitch is the one closest to the tip of the needle. Place the point of the right needle into the first stitch from the front left side of the stitch, go under the left needle and come out the back on the right side of the stitch. This is the same way you insert the needle when you use the knitted cast on.

 

Step 3

Holding the right needle in place with your left index finger, wrap your yarn around the right needle tip in a counter clockwise direction. Imagine the clock is laying face up on your lap with the 12 on your knees and the 6 at your stomach. Your yarn should end up back on the right side of the needle.

Step 4

Use the right needle tip to pull the yarn through the stitch. This is where the technique changes from how you cast on. Do not keep pulling the yarn. Stop pulling as soon  as you are through the stitch.

Step 5

Gently push the first stitch off the left needle while making sure you keep the stitch you just made on the right needle. If you cast on 10 stitches you should now have 9 on the left needle and 1 on the right.

 

CONGRATULATIONS!

You’ve completed one knit stitch. Continue repeating steps 2 through 5 until you’ve knitted all 10 stitches. Then just move the full right needle to your left hand and go again. Knit every row for practice. Knitting every row is called garter stitch. Try to keep your stitches uniform. They should be not too tight to slide easily and not so loose they are sloppy. Most beginners have a problem with making their knit stitches too tight. Just relax your hands. Try to have faith that the stitches will appear like you want them too. If you need to in the beginning wiggle your just formed stitches a little to loosen them up. It is much easier to knit the next row if your stitches will slide a little. Using aluminum needles will also help. Wood, plastic and bamboo needles have more “grip” and yarn doesn’t slide as easily on them as it does on the aluminum ones. When you are more comfortable with knitting you can experiment with different types of needles before you buy your permanent collection.

To learn how to make a purl stitch see Tutorial: Purl Stitch

To learn how to bind off see Tutorial: Binding Off

Tutorial: Knit-on Cast On

 Casting on is the term used in knitting for setting up your first row of stitches. There are many different ways to cast on. These instructions are for the first method I learned. I would recommend using slightly larger needles to learn how to cast on. Something in the size range of US 9 to 11 should be good. You’ll also need some scrap yarn to practice with. Any simple yarn such as Cascade 220, Red Heart or Simply Soft will do. Don’t use anything too fluffy or fuzzy for your first time. You will have plenty of time later to experiment with different yarns.

Knit On Cast On

Special trick for understanding step 3. Do this before beginning step 1. Especially for blind people.

Hold both needles together so that the points are facing up toward the ceiling. Place slip knot over both needles and hold your yarn coming from the ball to the right side of the needles. Pull the yarn so the slip knot is snug. Hold both needles in your right hand with your thumb holding the slip knot in place. Twist the needle on the left so that it crosses in front of the one on the right. You should have an X shape. This is the way your stitch should look after step 3. Take special note of how you would have to insert the right needle to achieve the same affect. Remove the slip knot and begin with step 1.

Step 1

Make a slip knot. To learn how to make a slip knot see Tutorial: Slip Knot

Step 2

Place slip knot on left hand needle and adjust to fit. This will be considered your first stitch. Do not tighten it too much. You need to be able to get your other needle through it too.

Step 3

Insert the point of the left hand needle through the stitch from front to back. The right needle should be underneath the left needle. See Special trick above. Needles should be crossed about 1 or 2 inches from the tips.

Step 4

Use your left index finger to hold the right needle in place and let go with your right hand.

Step 5

With your right hand wrap the yarn coming from the ball around the

Right hand needle tip in a counter clockwise direction. Imagine the clock is laying face up on your lap with the 12 on your knees and the 6 at your stomach. The end of the yarn should end up back on the right side of the needle. Then drop the yarn and put your right hand back on the right needle.

Step 6

Pull the wrapped yarn through the loop on the left needle with the right needle tip. It helps if you pull the needles apart just a wee bit so that your wrapped yarn can get in between them. Put the needles back together and then keep the right needle tip lightly touching the left needle continuously as you draw it through the stitch to keep from losing your yarn. Use your left index finger to hold the stitch on your left needle in place.

Step 7

Keep pulling the yarn until you have about 3 inches between the needles. Rotate the needles so that they are parallel to each other with both points pointing at the ceiling. This should not take a very big motion.  You should be able to hold them about 3 inches apart without much give in the yarn between the needles. Hold the needles so that your index fingers and thumbs are holding the stitches on each needle.

 

Step 8

Being sure to hold your loops in place turn the left needle clockwise so that it points straight to the right. You’ll need to hold the needles so that the yarn stays taught. Your left needle tip will be pointing at your right needle.

Step 9

Put the point of the left needle through the large loop on the right needle from the front. It helps if you press the loop open a little by pushing the yarn up with your right thumb while still holding the stitch in place from behind the needle with your index finger.

 

Step 10

Pull your right needle out of the loop while making sure the loop stays on the left needle. Snug up the stitch by pulling on the yarn coming from the ball. You should have 2 stitches on the left needle and none on the right needle.

CONGRATULATIONS!

You’ve made your first cast on stitch. Repeat steps 3 through 10 to cast on more stitches. Always be sure to insert the right needle into the last stitch from the front left side of the stitch.

To learn how to make a knit stitch check out the following link.

Tutorial: Slip Knot

Slip knots are used in both knitting and crochet. In knitting the slip knot is the first stitch of your cast on just as in crochet the slip knot is the first stitch of your starter chain. The slip knot is made to “slip” so that you can adjust it to fit any needle. It’s also convenient that it doesn’t leave a permanent knot in the yarn if you need to pull it out. The only material you need is yarn to practice with. I always find that instructions make more sense when you are actually attempting them with yarn in hand. There are a lot of steps but I’ve described exactly how I move my hands to make a slip knot. It becomes second nature very quickly. You can do it with your eyes closed.

HOW TO MAKE A SLIP KNOT

Step 1

Hold your right hand flat with your palm facing your body. Your arm should be parallel with the floor.

Step 2

Bend your ring and pinky fingers toward your palm so they will be out of the way. Your index and middle fingers should be pointing to the left. They will be straight and held together.

Step 3

Place a strand of yarn over your index and middle fingers so that the cut end is pointing down. Leave about 6 inches hanging down. You should have the short end of the yarn hanging in front of your fingers and the long end hanging down behind them. The long end will usually be attached to the ball of yarn you’re working from.

Step 4

Keeping the yarn hooked over your right hand fingers, hold the strands of yarn with your left hand so that with your palm facing down the long end of the yarn goes down between your left index and middle fingers and the short end of the yarn is held to the side of your index finger with your thumb. This is easily done by holding both strands of yarn together with your left hand and placing your index finger through the open space between the strands. Make sure not to twist the strands. You should have about two inches of yarn in the space between your left and right hands.

Step 5

Twist your right hand toward your body so that your palm is facing down. Be sure to keep the yarn looped around your index and middle fingers. You may have to bend them slightly to keep from losing the loop of yarn.

Step 6

This is the tricky part. You have to grab the long end of the yarn (The one that is probably attached to the ball) and pull it through the loop you have made on the fingers of your right hand. I have broken this step down into 4 separate parts to make it clearer.

6A: While Still holding the yarn in your left hand as in step 4, spread your right index and middle fingers about an inch apart. The loop of yarn should be positioned on the knuckles in the center of your index and middle fingers.

6B: Use the middle finger of your right hand to hook the top strand of yarn and pull it through the loop of yarn on your right hand by holding it between the tips of your middle and index fingers. The top strand should be the long or “attached” strand. It should be on top both as in on top of the short strand where they cross and above the short strand as positioned in your left hand.

6C: Be sure not to hold the “top” or long strand tightly between your left index and middle fingers. It has to be able to slide. Do be sure to hold the “bottom” or short end tightly to the side of your index finger with your thumb.

6D: Pull the loop snug.

Note: You’ll be able to change the size of your slip knot to fit whatever needle you want by pulling the long strand. If it adjusts by pulling on the short strand you’ve pulled the wrong strand through the loop.

CONGRATULATIONS!

You’ve made your very first slip knot. How to make a slip knot is the first thing you need to know to start knitting or crocheting. To learn more see the links below.

Tutorial: Casting On

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