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Stranded Colorwork Discussion: Part 5 - Knitting in the Round. (Video Episode 6)

Knitting in the Round

As mentioned earlier, most stranded knitting is worked in the round. One possible reason is that apparently early knitters had an abhorrence of the purl stitch. Most likely because purling takes longer to work…or at least changing from knitting to purling takes that fraction of a second longer than straight knitting. This can add up…and when you have other household duties…or light is fading, any time saver can help.

Another reason…and probably more likely…the patterning is easier to read when the right side is facing you. Also, purling stranded work is a real bear…as mentioned earlier.

Another time saving advantage is construction techniques for knitting in the round require little, if any, sewing up. Piecing knitted garments is a relatively recent addition to knitting pattern construction. When you think about it, with the exception of knitted blankets or shawls, most things you knit are a series of tubes…hats, mittens, sweater bodies, sweater sleeves, socks, stockings. Just saying.

As you think through this “in-the-round” construction, two thoughts will most likely come to mind…

What about cardigans…and if you really think about it, you’ll ask…what about armhole openings or V-necks or round or scooped necks…how do you accomplish these things, Miss I-Love-Knitting-In-The-Round?

My answer to you is “steeks”…those ingenious stitches that serve as placeholders for all of those openings you just mentioned….and I hate to do this to you, but a discussion of steeks and the use of steeks is better left to another series of posts….which I will get to in the near future...I promise…really. (What’s the count now…up to three “other posts”? I’d better get busy.)

The other thought when you have a chance to think about knitting in the round is you will quickly appreciate that mastering one of the techniques for knitting smaller circumferences will come in handy. Actually, even if you never knit anything using stranded techniques, working with small circumferences effectively is a good skill to have.

Ok, so let’s start with the obvious way to accomplish this.

Working with a circular needle with a shorter cable will give you a smaller circumference, right? If you can find one (they can be difficult to locate), even the shortest circular needle can only be used on limited circumferences. The 16" circular used below is just right for the body of this hat...and may work for the top of a sleeve, but what happens when you get to the top of the hat or closer to the wrist of the sleeve?

Small circumference circular needle

There are smaller circs, you say. The trouble here is that they usually include shorter needles as well as a shorter cable…which can feel a bit cramped to work with.

So moving on to the other techniques for knitting smaller circumferences....ones that can be flexible depending on the circumference you are working with. These involve using double pointed needles (dpns),

two circulars needles at the same time (two circs),

and the Magic Loop method.

Ok, I know that Magic Loop is probably not the best solution for this moment in this particular hat. The method would probably be better used closer to the crown, but you get the idea.

I thought about creating a video for each of these methods, but after doing some research, I am rethinking the idea. My apparent part time job as “Google girl” turned up…

over 3 million results for “using double pointed needles”

over 8 million results for “using two circular needles”

over 76 million results for “using Magic Loop”

…and those are just the video results on YouTube. There are scads of other non-video tutorials on these topics out there.

Somehow I do not think instruction using my hands and my voice (either spoken or written) will be necessary….and besides, odds are if you have knitted socks or mittens...or finished the top of a hat, you are familiar with at least one of these methods.

The question then is how to knit stranded work using these methods. As I see it, in addition to mastering holding the yarns…which we will talk about next…there are two issues to think about.

One is possible laddering (a column of lengthened strands that are surrounded on either side by normal stitches) at the joins between two needles or at the loop area of your knitting. The solution generally includes giving the yarn a bit of a tug when changing needles or rearranging the loop (Magic Loop method).

This issue can also occur with non-stranded knitting, but I think I have a solution which involves managing the back floats, which I will cover in a later post.

A second issue involves irregular tension at those same points…usually too tight tension.

I usually don’t have either of these issues…and before you said “well, good for you…aren’t you special”, let me explain what I do and maybe you won’t have the problems either. If it doesn’t work for you, then please know that I’m sure there are issues that I have that you don’t…so we’re even…right?

Anyway, we will talk about how I manage the tension at these points in the “Weaving yarns…while turning corners” section a bit later. The solution involves a discussion about sections of fencing.

And on that cryptic note, I'll close for now. Oh...and just for the record...I generally use 2 circs when working on smaller circumferences. Mostly because almost all of my circular needles are 24" long...which is the result of something EZ suggested in one of her videos. What do you prefer? Next up: Holding Yarns and Tensioning

FYI, I talk more about this topic on my podcast series on Stranded Colorwork Knitting. You can find the series and other videos under the Videos tab. There is also a tab for Tutorials for Stranded Colorwork.

If you have any questions or gentle comments, please feel free to send me an email. I'd love to hear from you.

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