Saturday, June 09, 2007

Taking something off the needles.

(This is for Kris The Noob, in the comments. She seems to think it was a stupid question, but it seemed pretty intelligent to me.)

Specifically, she'd heard of people taking things off knitting needles to get an idea of size, and wondered how to do that. I'm also gonna throw in a comment or three on how effective it is.

In the end, all you do is pull the knitting off whatever needle it is on, smooth it out on a flat surface, and see what it looks like. It's a way to get an idea if shaping is working, stranded color is laying flat, that kind of thing. If you are using a 'sticky' yarn like wool or mohair, that stays where you put it and takes effort to pull out (the Icelandic lopi I'm using for the Steeked Jacket is a fine example), by golly you can just pull it right off and then put it back on again.

If, however, you are working with the other 95% of yarns that will unravel if you look at them funny, you should thread the stitches onto a smooth piece of yarn or thread with a needle (a sewing/darning one) as you take them off the knitting needle. Same idea as when you put stitches on a holder, and use a spare bit of yarn to do it. Make sure that there's enough extra length on your waste yarn so that when you spread out your knitting, the stitches don't fall off the other end. The waste yarn will keep everything from unravelling, and you can put the stitches back on the knitting needle that way.

I hope this makes sense. I'm drugged again.

A few things to keep in mind when doing this:

A lot of yarns change character dramatically when washed, so you may not be getting an accurate idea of size, even after taking it off the needles and laying it out flat. (If you don't believe me, check out my gauge swatch example, here.) Wool yarns, cable patterns, and ribbings are particularly bad for HUGE shifts in gauge, but nearly everything changes a little bit after washing. (If you're thinking, you can measure your gauge swatch before washing and after, figure the percentage of growth, and then use those figures to estimate what's going on when you knit your project. That works.)

Stranded color will often be lumpier before washing, and then smooth out after a decent blocking. So unless your stranded knitting is HORRENDOUSLY puckered, taking it off the needles won't tell you much. And if it's horrendously puckered, you can tell while it's ON the needles.

It's only worth the bother if your project is mashed up on the needle to begin with, like if you're knitting a sweater forty inches around on a twenty-four inch circular needle. If you can spread out the width of the fabric you're creating across a couple double-points or a really long straight needle, there's no point in taking it off the needle unless you want to try it on. And even then you can often fake it - I've tried on socks when they were on double-points before, and sleeves.

So, taking knitting off the needles is useful. Except for when it's not.

How's that for helpful?


kris said...

Ah, Julie, I knew you would come through for me!!!

Thank you, thank you. I'm working away on my lovely lacey shawl, and thinking it might almost be big enough, but it's already waaaaaay beyond the length of my 48 inch circular, so I really do need to do this. Now I'll feel a bit safer while I do it.

Mary the Digital Knitter said...

If you're using KnitPicks Options or Boye NeedleMaster interchangeable circulars, you can thread a thin, strong line through the hole used to tighten the tip. Then pull the needle through from the other end, putting all your stitches and stitch markers onto the line.

After you do all your measuring, etc, you can pull the cable back through the stitches by putting the end of the line through the hole and pulling carefully. Then put the tip back on and continue on.

I frequently use plastic-covered wire cable intended for stringing heavy beads. It's extremely flexible and very strong. If your knitting is lightweight, you can use monofilament line (beading or fishing) or perle cotton.

If you're using Denise interchangeable circulars, you can use the couplers and every cable you have (I have the extra-long ones for Moebius scarves) and not even take it off the needle. You can do something similar with the Boyes, but there's a funny kink at the coupler.

I which KnitPicks would add couplers, too, because they're my favorites. I just love those pointy tips and thin cables.

I knit pretty much everything I can on interchangeable circulars, hence my interest in finding an easy way.

Amy Lane said...

hee hee...I just heard the term 'zip and drop' for when your needles are too small and your knitting just jumps off the damn things and unravels... you mentioned the 40 inch sweater on 24 inch circulars and suddenly, I was there...

Maggie Tipping said...

Good ideas! I never thought of using thread. I usually use my super duper long addi turbo lace needles. For most sweaters and things like that that I have knit it is more than long enough.

Laural said...

Or if you are making a sweater and doing decreases and suddenly realize that you do not have any size 24 circs so you are forced to use a 16 in. but luckily the sweater is ribbed.

Waste yarn is your friend. a) You probably already have some b) You can use a nice contrasting color c) You can thread all your stitches back on your needle and then just pull the waste yarn out.

I make sure that I have a lot extra and then I knot it way off in the distance (say you are trying on a sweater, the knot is hanging down past your knees kind of long)