For those times when you can’t have a teacher by your side, here are tips and techniques that I hope you’ll find helpful.

Using Charts

My favorite tool for working with charts is Post-It Notes. You can get them in various widths, depending on the width of the chart. Stick the Post-It just above the chart line that you’re currently working on. This keeps track of what row or round you’re on, hides the rows you don’t yet need, and also allows you to see the rows below it that you’ve already worked. That way, if a purl stitch is supposed to be worked directly above a knit stitch, for instance, you’ll be able to see right away if you’re off track.

I don’t know of anyone who knits lace without making mistakes along the way. You can either find the mistake after several rows, and have to rip back, or you can count stitches as you go. I like to count as I go, even if it seems tedious. For me, ripping back lace and having to figure out which row I’m on is worse than counting all the stitches in every row. This is where stitch markers come in handy. Using charts, it’s easy to figure out how many stitches should be between the markers. Counting the stitches between the markers, as opposed to across a whole row, goes relatively quickly. (When the beginning of the round shifts, you may have to move the markers as well.)

Thanks to my teacher Brenda, I always use a lifeline. This is where you take some smooth waste yarn (in a lighter weight than the yarn you’re using) or dental floss and thread it through the stitches on your needle. Choosing a row/round without increases, decreases or yarnovers is best. Be sure to go around the outside of the stitch markers, not through them, or you won’t be able to move them up to the next row! Mark on your chart which row you put the lifeline so you can easily go back to it if needed. When you work the row after the lifeline, just be careful not to knit the lifeline into the stitch. Once you’ve given your work a close look and made sure everything looks just like the picture in the pattern, move the lifeline up. Even counting, I’ve made mistakes or dropped stitches and had to rip back to the lifeline, which made it well worth the effort of putting it in.

If you are as bad as I am at multi-tasking, you may want to save your lace knitting for quiet times without distraction. I’ve learned through experience that I simply cannot knit lace while knitting with my friends. I always keep a simpler project on hand for social knitting.

How to Knit a Cable

This video on the AudKnits YouTube channel uses the Braided Cable Hat pattern to demonstrate how to knit a cable using a cable needle.

Finding Tips Online

There are amazing resources online for learning all kinds techniques. One of the most comprehensive, with over 150 tutorials, is Knit Picks Tutorials. For covering the basics new knitters turn to Lion Brand’s Learn to Knit library, KnittingHelp and’s Learn to Knit section. Typing “how to knit” into the search box for YouTube yields videos on lots of different techniques.

Casting On – The Purl Long Tail Method

The Purl Long Tail Cast On is a great way to cast on for a pattern that uses both knits and purls. Use the standard long tail method to match the pattern’s knit stitches, and the purl method to match the purl stitches. You’ll need to think through the first row of the pattern, realizing that your cast on may be  pattern’s wrong side. If that’s the case, you just cast on just as you would for any wrong side row, where you purl the wrong side stitches that read as knit on the right side, and knit the wrong side stitches that need to appear as purls on the right side. This is my favorite way to cast on ribbing for socks and sweaters. Thanks to Jennifer and her pieKnits blog!

Weaving In Ends

Do you get tired of weaving in a lot of ends? I love to knit in ends as I go, especially when doing fair isle patterns. Here’s a very nice YouTube video that demonstrates “Knitting in ends“.

Checking for Pattern Corrections

Don’t you just hate it when something has gone awry as you’re knitting a pattern and you can’t figure out what you’ve done wrong, and then you finally figure out the pattern has a mistake in it? Here are two suggestions that have worked well for me:

  1. Before starting a pattern, do a search by pattern name, or go to the publisher’s web site, and check for corrections or errata.
  2. When I get a book, or give one as a gift, I always look for corrections. I print the page of corrections and clip them to the inside of the book. For books I’m keeping, I mark up the patterns that have corrections. That way I know about the corrections as soon as I turn to the page.

Binding Off in Pattern

I love casting on and binding off in pattern. Especially with ribbing, it can lend a nice subtle edge. I find this technique so useful, I’ve made a new video to match the previous one about casting on in pattern.