Tips and Tricks

This page is updated regularly.

General | Blocking/Cleaning | Cast On | Color | Customizing your Knits | Design | KAL or CALKnitting for Others | Knitting in the Round | Knitting Looms | Lace | Motivation | Organization | Socks | Travel

  • Yarn substitutions: to see how close your yarn will match in weight, divide grams by yards of both the pattern yarn and potential yarn substitutions. The closer the number the better the match. Other yarn characteristics can affect wear and drape.
  • It's commonly known that needle size and a knitter's individual tension can affect gauge but did you know that the material the knitting needle was made of, for example bamboo vs metal, can greatly affect gauge even if the needle size is the same?
  • Do you have uneven St st where some rows are longer than the previous row? Learn how to adjust your tension.
  • If your stitches are tight enough that it's really hard to m1, try a yo in the previous row. Then when you get to it in at the spot you're supposed to increase, you'll have enough yarn to complete the m1 with ease.

  • Life Lines: is a precautionary line of thread through stitches in a piece that acts as a barrier preventing you from ripping back too far. To add one, using a contrasting thread (finer, non-hairy yarn works best) and tapestry needle, thread the yarn through the live stitches on your needle. Be sure to note where in the pattern the lifeline is so if you rip back, you know where to start. As you knit your first row with the lifeline, make sure you don't catch any part of the lifeline yarn.

    You can use as many lifelines as you like but using two and removing the one furthest from your needles as you know the stitches in between them don't have mistakes allows you to use less waste yarn. Right after you thread your lifeline, if your piece allows it, you can take all your stitches off the needle for a try on. 

  • If you haven't tested your yarn for color bleeding, you can test your yarn with a yard or so in hot water in a white bowl (color bleeding is most apparent in a small white bowl.). After letting it sit a while, you can then dry it with paper towel. 

Cast On
  • Before you cast on: make sure you look up any errata. Mistakes are more common than you would think and some are not always apparent (especially if you're multitasking). Also check out what others have done on Ravelry's pattern project pages. Others might have modifications that you prefer over the original for a better look or fit, caution notes or have a different color scheme that you may not have thought of. I sort by helpful notes and make sure I read those even if I'm not keen on the end result. Just because you don't like the yarn or color in their photo doesn't mean that their notes aren't helpful.
  • Crochet Cast On: Use this method to cast on more than what's needed then just remove the extras as you go. That way of you forget a few stitches in a pattern you don't have to start over (I hate casting on... Shhhh). I also love this cast on as a provisional cast on because the waste yarn quickly and easily separates from the main yarn. Make sure your slip knot is on your crochet hook and make a few chains off of the needle so you know where to undo and pull. Also make sure to use the same yarn in a different color or one that is the same thickness but isn't hairy.

  • When knitting with two colors, one on each hand, put your MC in your dominant hand. This method will also help show which hand needs a tension adjustment by seeing which color is looser.

Customizing your Knits

  • Measure a sweater you love and compare it to the schematics in a pattern. Make sure you note sleeve measurements lengths and anything else that might be handy. Adjust patterns accordingly.
  • Depending on your cup size, your shirt may ride up and inch or two in the front. To prevent this, learn how to properly add bust darts (basically short rows).
  • Make your own dress form custom for your body out of duct tape. You'll be able to see your design on you or the person you're making it for at all angles when the time is right for you. Wendy Bernard has a great tutorial in her book Custom Knits.

  • Swatch plenty. Colors interact differently together, different types of yarn produce different fabrics and different stitch patterns affect height and width differently. If your object is primary knit in the round, swatch in the round. Same for row knitting. Try a few different needles.
  • Hate gauge swatching? Try designing with the same yarn. You'll know exactly how this yarn drapes, washes and exactly how many sts and rows per inch.
  • Take thorough notes of every change, tool and even thoughts as you design. It will make it easier to go back and make modifications, help with the final written pattern, and might spark other ideas.
  • Learn and perfect as many new techniques as possible. It's easier to create when you have more ways of doing things and depending on what you're doing, some techniques work better than others. Techknitting is a great technical blog well illustrated with variations that might not be common. Youtube is great for instructional videos.

Knit-a-longs (KAL) or Crochet-a-longs (CAL)
  • Audio book clubs: with a twist on the traditional book club, this one allows members to do two things they love together with others. More thoughts on this type of club.

Knitting for Others

Knitting in the Round
  • Put a needle stopper on the dpn at the beginning of round rather than a stitch marker. It's easy to skip over stitch markers and forget to count the row but not when you have to move the stopper to the end of the working dpn to continue knitting.
  • See my post with making a swatch in the round.

Knitting Looms
  • Make your own round knitting loom for socks and small tubes at fraction of the cost by using wooden letters and nails. Both can be found at a dollar store or craft store. Learn how with NaturalCrafter's Instructable. You can use a wood burner, stain or paint to decorate. Remember not to use food based oils because they eventually go rancid and the smell can transfer to your yarn.

  • See life lines.
  • Eyelet edges look different depending on if the k2tog or ssk is on the left or right of the yarn over. Using the chart below, are your yo's on top of each other or to they stagger to the left or right? Then what affect do you want next to the yo's?

Yo Column
vertical [ | ]
feathered chained chained feathered
to the right [ / ]
chained compressed feathered compressed
to the left [ \ ]
compressed feathered compressed chained


Some projects can feel dreadfully tedious or you've committed to a project for someone else that you were once excited about but the desire to finish has fizzled. Other times you might be starting a project with new techniques that make a project appear scary. Dealing with these projects is what this section is all about because even the most enthusiastic knitter needs some motivation.
  • For those ginormous projects, try working on them for 10 minutes a day. If at the end of 10 minutes you aren't feeling it, at least you got a little done. If you go further great. Consistently getting a bit done everyday will get you that much closer to wearing your masterpiece.
  • If you're gifting a project that is taking a lot of work, write a card with washing instructions and include a mini repair kit. Taking a moment to focus on the recipient can renew your focus or at least give you a break while doing something useful.
  • Large projects that don't require you to look it (or at least not often) can be knit while you're doing other things like listening to an audio book, reading long emails, watching tv or hanging out with good people.
  • Keep a small variety of projects on the needles. Simple socks, scarves etc are fast instant gratification projects that can be completed while slowly working on a large project.
  • Knit with others. Sometimes you'll get creative solutions you never knew existed.
  • Document your progress. Ravelry is great for this as well as blogs. You'll be able to see how far you've come and maybe your notes/modifications will help another knitter out.
  • Divide and conquer: break down your project into milestones and celebrate each one you surpass. This is great especially for projects with new techniques.
  • Nervous about a new technique? Practice with some scrap yarn until you are satisfied with your work. That way you will not be thinking every time you look at that sweater, "yeah, I was such a noob when I knitted this" but instead think "It took a lot of work learning how to do ____ but you wouldn't know looking at this FO that it was the first item I used that technique with."
  • Look up different ways of doing the same technique. For example, dread weaving in the ends? Learn how to weave them in as you go. Techknitter has 8 different methods on her blog.
  • Learn how to knit Continental rather than English. Some of the fastest knitter in the world prefer that method. I find it's less strain on the hands and it's less maneuvering with each stitch which saves time.
  • Have fun. Crank up some good tunes, knit somewhere beautiful and enjoy the moment.


  • Mystery Yarn: for weight you can use a yarn or kitchen scale (make sure it is the yarn only --- no bobbin, daisy etc). For yardage, a fishing line counter will work although companies are starting to develop cheap yardage counters specifically for yarn. Lightly twist two strands of yarn together and stretch over a needle gauge and the hole it just barely covers is a good starting point for estimating a needle size. Although none of these methods will tell you the fiber content, at least you'll have a good idea what project you can use the yarn for without running short.
  • Yarn bobbins for intarsia color knitting can be be prevented from unraveling with hair clips/bobby pins. You can also use cut straws to help keep the loose bobbins straight and easily untangled.
  • Tuck the yarn label in the skein or in it's storage container with a small sample attached to it so that yarn will not become "mystery yarn." Make sure you separate dye lots if they is more than one.
  • Snips of yarn from weaving in ends or intact waste yarn can be used for future projects as part of stuffing for toys or longer pieces for a provisional cast on. I keep all my scraps in a large ziplock baggie with my stash and a snack sized baggie with current projects to catch new ends. Make sure none of the colors are bleeding before you use as stuffing. Last thing you need is a penguin with a pink belly.
  • Keeping needles in hibernating projects can prevent you from starting a new one or give you an excuse to buy more of the same needle. Needles can also pull on your work changing the tension where they meet in circular work. Instead, using a tapestry needle, thread all your live stitches onto the same or thinner slippery yarn in a different color.

    Mark where you are at in the pattern and the exact needle you used as well as any other info that you might forget and need when you decided to pick up the project again. Notes on modifications you have done and ideas for modifications you will do are a must. You might even want to keep notes for great tutorials on difficult techniques. Keep the pattern/notes, knitted portion, gauge swatch, project specific notions (buttons, elastics, zipper, etc) and extra skeins in a zip lock bag or clear container.

  • If your gusset stitches are too lose, twist each stitch in the first round of knitting.
  • Tension tends to vary in flat knitting vs knitting in the round, so make sure your swatches are in the round to get an accurate gauge.
  • Socks are a nice portable project that lets you experiment with new patterns and techniques on a smaller scale -- nice on the bus, doctor's office or on a long flight.
  • Make tube socks for children -- they are faster (less shaping details), don't have to worry about the heel being upside down/in the wrong place and if you work them in the same color... you don't have to worry about finding a mate. One skein can make soooo many!

  • When flying, knitting needles and crochet hooks are allowed with your carry on while flying. Circular yarn cutters are not. Take an official print out that states this with you just in case and keep with your project [More info].
  • Try taking projects that are small and portable like socks, a scarf, mittens, a shrug or parts of a big project like sleeves.
  • Enjoy the view: if you're visiting a scenic country side, pick a project you don't have to constantly watch while knitting. If you're in an isle seat in an air plane, maybe pick something interesting to focus on with lace or cable work. Depending on your travel plans, you might want a project of each so you have an appropriate project to suit your current needs.
  • Take project photos against your traveling backdrop. You can either wear or stage them (like on a statue or at cafe table with the Eiffel Tower in the background). Makes for great conversational pieces and memories.
  • Carry a pocket notebook that you can keep track of modifications, counts and ideas as you go.
  • Look up destination LYS. If you finish your project early, you have an excuse for souvenir yarn. You might also find interesting, magazines, tools and notions that are unavailable at your LYS.

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