Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Loosen up, will ya?

One of the most common yells requests for help that I get is that the knitter has cast on too tightly and now the hat, sock, mitten or whatever will not stretch enough to put on. I really can't tell you how many tops of socks, cuffs of mittens and neckbands I have cut off, picked up the stitches and reknit for customers. Yes, I really do use scissors and cut off the first couple of rows, pick up the stitches, knit a few rounds, and then bind off loosely.

Here's my most recent repair project - lovely socks that need to be loosened up.

I have already cut off the cast on edge of one sock and am in the process of picking up the live stitches. Trust me when I say it's far easier to cast on loosely than it is to do this fiddly work. If the yarn was a little bit heavier, I could unpick the cast on edge (I did try this), but I had to resort to the scissors. The knitter couldn't even watch when I took out the shears and started to cut.

Now, I have to make sure all the stitches on the needle are from the same round, then I will knit a few rounds in knit 1, purl 1 ribbing. Then, I will incorporate my sooper sekrit method for loose bind offs.  And it works every time. No learning a new way of casting on is required. You can use your usual bind off. Just make this teeny tiny change to the pattern, and I'll you'll never have to fix a tight cast on or bind off again. (Thank goodness!)

When I am about 2 or 3 rounds away from binding off, I knit a round like this: *Knit into the front and back of the first stitch, purl 1 and repeat this across the round. Then on the next two rounds I *knit 1, purl 2 across the round. Then I bind off in my preferred way. This method increases the number of stitches on the last couple of rounds by 33% and is barely visible.  This sock was knit from the toe up and increased in the as discussed. I often use this method when I knit toe up socks to ensure the cuff isn't too tight.

When knitting socks from the cuff  down, you can also use this method in reverse. Let's say your sock pattern calls for a cast on edge of 60 stitches. Cast on 90, and for the first two rounds do the *knit 1, purl 2 across the rounds. Then do a decrease round of *knit 1, purl 2 together across the round. Then continue in the knit 1, purl 1 rib. If your pattern calls for a knit 2, purl 2 rib and a cast on of 60 stitches you would cast on 75, and do a knit 2, purl 3 rib. Decrease one purl stitch each pattern repeat after a couple of rounds - knit 2, purl 1, purl2 together.

For a visual example, here is a sock with a knit 2, purl 1 ribbed cuff. When I was almost finished the cuff, I increased one stitch every repeat as follows - knit 1, knit front and back of next stitch, purl 1. The next two rounds were then k2, p2 ribbing. I bound off using the ordinary k2, pass second stitch over first stitch method.

See how the top of the cuff flares out? Here's a close up of the edge.

Now, here's how it looks on my sock form. No flared out edge now! Just a nice smooth edge to slip on your foot and up your leg.

You can see the K2 P1 ribbing here.
Trust me when I say, try it, you'll like it. And so will the lucky recipient of your lovingly hand knit socks.