Our February meeting, sneaking in at the end of the month, was a knitting one – an ‘open forum’, led by one of our members who is a sensational knitter:
It was full of tips and hints and suggestions. And reminders: like when you are working with handspun, don’t just knit a tension square (we all do, don’t we?) but wash and block it too.
- For a neater buttonhole, one where you have to cast off stitches on one row and then cast them back on when you come back, use the ‘backward loop‘ cast on. It makes a neater finish. It’s also useful where you have to cast on stitches elsewhere in the body of whatever you’re knitting, too.
- Are you running out of yarn, want to avoid joining more in the middle of a piece and wonder if you’ve got enough to get to the end of a row? Spread your knitting out, gently put the yarn round the whole thing twice, without pulling. If it reaches, you’ve likely got enough.
- How about socks? knitting them from the cuff down? Cast on with a larger size needle; it gives a bit of extra stretch on a cuff which could easily be too tight.
- Also, try casting on one stitch more than the pattern says, and when you come to that point on the next row, k2tog. It gives a smoother edge, or you can knit the tail in with the first stitch of the next round. Both of these help you avoid the ‘little step’ effect.
And then we had a mattress stitch refresher. Our forum leader advised using the half-stitch method; it certainly gives a smoother finish (on both sides – if you follow the link, it’s the second of the two examples). Needle in, up two, then across: someone said that ‘ladder stitch’ would be a better name.
There were so many new ideas, reminders of techniques we had once used but had fallen out of the habit of doing, interesting tips and tricks. Then we were asked when we started knitting, and how. Almost everybody, except one, had learned to knit as a child or a teenager (that was another one only); five to eight was the general age bracket. Four people were even taught at school. One of our longest-serving members knitted socks during the war for sailors, and recalled going to collect the yarn. She remembered it very clearly: the wool they had to use made her hands sore. And her grandmother had knitted for a living.
It seems appropriate to be publishing this post on International Women’s Day, especially in the light of the reminder that so many British women in the past knitted for a livelihood, not for pleasure. We are lucky. And lucky to have had such a lovely day, talking about it.