Avoiding Bumps on the Cast-On Edge

cast on with purl bumpsWhen it comes to those ugly bumps at the cast-on edge, my skin crawls. Those bumps are a common knitting problem — dare I call them an “error”? However, it’s easy to avoid them once you understand that your cast-on has a right side and a wrong side.

The following explanations and video apply to right-handed knitters. Left-handed knitters, you may be casting on and knitting differently, but you should read and watch the video to understand the concept. Adapt it as necessary to fit your knitting technique.

Long-Tail Cast On

closeup of long tail cast on
Right side of long-tail cast on

When you cast on stitches using the long-tail method, the stitches are on the right needle at the completion of the cast on. You are looking at what is generally considered the “right side” of the cast on.

closeup of wrong side of long tail cast on
Wrong side of long-tail cast on

When you turn needle to put it in your left hand in preparation to work the first row, the purl side of the cast on is facing you. It’s usually considered the “wrong side” of the cast on.

If you knit that first row, you are knitting a wrong side row. This is perfectly fine if you are working garter stitch or reverse stockinette stitch, but stockinette stitch is “knit right side rows, purl wrong side rows”.

If you knit the first row after a long-tail cast-on, you’ll get a series of purl bumps on the right side (the knit side).

Instead of knitting the first row, simply purl the first row (a wrong side row), and continue with stockinette stitch.

Cable Cast On

close-up of cable cast on
Right side of cable cast on

When you cast on stitches with the cable cast on method, the stitches are on the left needle at the completion of the cast on. The right side of the cast on is facing you, and you don’t have to turn the needle around to start the first row. Therefore, knit the first row to avoid the bumps.

Knitted Cast On

Right side of knitted cast on
Right side of knitted cast on

The knitted cast on works the same way as the cable cast on. The cast on stitches are on the left needle, so just knit the first row and there won’t be any bumps.

The Solution

stockinette stitch with smooth cast onNo matter which cast on you use — and there are many more than these to choose from — pay attention to whether it has a smooth side and a bumpy side. In most cases, choose the smooth side as your right side and work the first row accordingly. You’ll avoid those bumps on your cast-on edge, and the State Fair knitter in you can be proud.

For more knitting tips, visit Knit: Basics & Beyond.



State Fair vs. Galloping Horse: What Type of Crafter Are You?

Title graphicWhen it comes to yarny fiber arts, I can be pretty easy going.  A few uneven knit stitches don’t drive me crazy, and I can deal with the occasional forgotten increase or decrease.

However, other missed details drive me crazy.  Cables that aren’t twisted consistently, off-center motifs, and fastened-off stitches with “ears” really push my buttons. Weaving that missed a warp thread gives me a headache.

Most of us have these little quirks. I think we stand somewhere on a continuum between obsessive attention to detail. and sloppy disregard for detail. I’ll use knitters as an example, but the following applies to any type of fiber artist.

The State Fair Knitter

grand prize ribbonThe winner of the grand prize for knitting at the Minnesota State Fair or (insert your own state here) State Fair probably pays attention to every tiny detail. The yarn is perfect for the project. Stitches are absolutely straight and even. Increases and decreases are done at precise intervals. The ends are woven in invisibly and securely. It’s flawlessly blocked and seamed. You get the idea: it’s perfect.

And congratulations and good for them! If that’s what floats your boat, go for it!

However, some of us (myself included) get stressed thinking about having to have every single detail perfect. We’d rather relax a bit, correct mistakes as we find them, and enjoy the knitting. We’ll frog as infrequently as possible while maintaining our own standards of quality, whatever those may be.

The Galloping Horse Knitter

galloping horseThis crafter is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Dropped stitches? That just allows for more airflow. Uneven stitches? They add texture and interest. Frogging? What’s that?

In other words, if it can’t be noticed by a blind man on a galloping horse at midnight, it’s good enough as it is.

If the process is more important to you than the finished project, and if you are happy with the results, then own it. There’s no judgement here. (However, I don’t suggest you enter the state fair. There are judges there.)

Where Are You?

Where do you stand on this continuum? Are there certain details that bother you every time? Or are you completely laid back about your crafting? Are there some days, or some projects, where the details matter a lot, and other times when they seem less important?

Is today a State Fair kind of day or a Galloping Horse kind of day?


The following are affiliate links.

Teaching Older Adults to Knit and Crochet

If you teach knitting or crochet, you may be faced with a variety of student ages and abilities. You have to be able to adapt “on the fly” to whoever shows up to class. Although every student is an individual, the very young and the very old may need your particular attention. You need to be ready to adapt your teaching style to meet the needs of your students where they are.

Recently I had a conversation with Lois Arsenault, an elder-care expert with a lot of experience in teaching frail older adults, the “old, old”. She graciously agreed to share her tips for teaching knitting and crocheting  to this particular  population. However, the excellent advice she offers can apply to any fiber arts teaching.

This post contains affiliate links.

What do we mean by “older adults”?

Hands-elderly womanThe term “older adults” is actually subjective. Some 80- and 90-year olds are quite robust. I will answer based upon my experience with what is termed “frail older adults.” That term is actually more related to mental and physical health than to age.  It can be as young as from age 70 and up.

What motivates frail older adults?

Never Stop LearningThat too is very individualized. Some people remain lifelong learners and require the mental stimulation of new learning experiences throughout their lifetimes. Others enjoy the ability to renew a craft or skill they enjoyed in their younger years. Some others are very focused on their frailty. They use most of their energy just doing the activities they need to do to make it through the day. This segment of the population really enjoys being entertained and/or reminiscing.
With  my frail older adult clients, I have to learn a little about them. If their motivation is located within themselves, we are lucky. If their motivation is externally generated, we must figure out, on an individual basis, what turns them on. This may be gifts for family, gifts for self, learning or regaining skills, or the fellowship with people doing the same activity.

What special needs does this population have? What do teachers need to pay special attention to?

Muscle memory is a beautiful thing. It can remain long after the cognitive part of the brain has begun to deteriorate.

Brightech Magnifier Lamp
Brightech Magnifier Lamp

 Eyesight can be a challenge. The magnifying glasses that hang around the neck or rest on a table with a frame can be helpful (or distracting).

Kollage square knitting needles
Kollage Square ergonomic knitting needles

Small motor skills may also deteriorate. One of my senior clients used to create fine doilies. I now have her working with bulky yarn and a 7 mm hook.

Eye-hand coordination can be a barrier as well. This same woman  often needs me to help her yarn over or insert the hook into the correct location. She knows what to do but can’t make her hands do it.

Elderly woman with puzzle pieces overlayBrain changing diseases/conditions such as memory loss will make it difficult for individuals to learn new information. If you are working to call up former skills, you will have to be patient to determine what the person can do. You must be prepared for that person to need much reinforcement.

round knitting loom
Round knitting looms and pompom makers

For individuals with brain changing diseases, frustration is our enemy. Teachers must find ways in our language and the projects that we choose to help them feel successful. That may mean knitting looms, finger crochet, weaving, or simply helping to wind and sort yarns. If they were perfectionists in their past, they may be aware of the imperfections in their work.

How can teachers take advantage of the student’s existing skills and life experiences to enhance their teaching?

Grandma hand, baby feetIf teachers know something about their students, they can use it. Were they family oriented? Then help them make gifts for family, especially focus on the fact that it will always be a great memory for the family to cherish. Were they work oriented (professional or volunteer)? Then help them make gifts for the local shelter, hospital, church, etc. Are they self oriented? Then help them make a gift for themselves.
Teachers should remember if the student has crocheted or knitted previously, they have somewhere in muscle memory the holding of their work and the types of projects they worked on. As much as possible, adapt to the types of projects and let them hold the yarn their way. Take my example of the woman who made doilies: now we are working in granny squares with bulky yarn.

Please elaborate on the need to adjust expectations for certain students.

For special needs students, especially frail older adults, I think we need to remove expectations—as we traditionally define them to mean progress and new learning—from the equation. I think our goals should be enjoyment on the part of the student with process being more important than product. I reiterate the need for as close to as possible a guaranteed feeling of success on the part of the student. That being said, “success” is likely to be different for each student. Can they tell you what they expect to gain, what they expect to be able to accomplish? If so, run with it.

Can you give some specific examples of physical adaptations and teaching-style adaptations that teachers may want to try?

Furls ergonomic crochet hook
Furls ergonomic crochet hook

Physical adaptations may include commercially made ergonomic hooks, or a different technique. Who knows, the Tunisian simple stitch may just be easier than traditional crochet. Maybe crocheting around a ring to make wreaths or around a wire or plastic coat hanger would be easier than traditional foundation chains or even the chainless foundation stitches.

Repetition or boredom with the same project may not be an issue with this population.  I once  worked with an individual who, once she learned the pattern, must have made 20 or 30 Christmas wreaths crocheted around rings.

Teaching styles require patience. Body language is as important as what we say and the tone in which we say it. For someone with cognitive changes, each day can be different and you can measure success by their enjoyment of the activity. Always be aware of the energy you are sending out. Individuals with brain changing diseases may be memory and discernment impaired but their responses are very likely to be what they “feel” rather than what they think, even if they cannot articulate either.

If someone is hard of hearing: speak into the strongest side if there is one. Raise the volume somewhat and lower the tone (not volume but tone) as bass tones are more easily heard than a more shrill voice. Speak facing the person rather than from behind where they cannot see you. Eliminate background noise or other distractions; write it down if necessary. Make certain by verifying that they have heard correctly.

What other words of wisdom do you have for us?

Working with frail older adults can be a very fulfilling experience, and it is not for everyone. One must be able to “be in the moment” and in the “immediate reality” of the individual with whom they are working. Sometimes it comes down to conversation and reminiscence. Other times, it may mean helping the person catch the yarn with the hook on a yarn over action. You may have to persistently coach step-by-step through each stitch which can be painfully slow,  but is so rewarding when the student executes a row with your assistance.

Frail older adults have a lot to offer us even if their minds aren’t working as well as they used to. Always speak to them as adults, get to know who they are, validate their worth, never be condescending, never use terms of endearment (“dear”, “honey”, “sweetie”) unless they are culturally appropriate to the student. They are adults who have a brain changing illness. Their memories may be slower or pretty much non-functional, but “who they are” at their center is still there and can be reached in some fashion in many cases.

About Lois

Lois Arsenault is a veteran eldercare professional of more than 30 years. Much of her experience is in the field of Therapeutic Recreation. Her last 11 years were primarily spent in management roles such as executive director of an assisted living community and an adult day center. Her credentials include a BS in human services  and an M.Ed. in psychological studies  with a focus in dementia and the psychology of aging.

Thanks so much to Lois for sharing her expertise!



How to Graft Garter Stitch

Are you a knitter who runs away as fast as you can from a pattern that requires grafting on garter stitch? I’ll show you how to graft garter stitch. Never fear, it’s easier than you think! (And I think it’s easier than grafting stockinette stitch.)

Grafting, also known as Kitchener Stitch, uses a yarn needle to join two pieces of knitting invisibly. The short and sweet written version of how to graft garter stitch follows, but scroll on down for the more in-depth video description.

The Set-Up

How to Graft Garter Stitch-two pieces of garter stitch

Because you’ll be creating a row of “knitting” , one of your garter stitch pieces needs to be one row shorter than the other. If you have ended one piece with a right side row, you’ll need to end the other piece with a wrong side row. (See the video to help you recognize which piece is which.)

Hold pieces with knitting needles parallel, with wrong sides together and with the shorter piece in back.

Grafting Step-by-Step

Cut a yarn tail at least 3 times the length of the pieces you are joining.  In my example my working yarn is the yarn tail from the blue swatch.

Thread a blunt-tip yarn needle (tapestry needle).

How to Graft Garter Stitch Step 1Step 1. On the front needle: Insert the needle purlwise (as if to purl) through the first stitch and pull the yarn through.
How to Graft Garter Stitch Step 3

Step 2. On the back needle: Insert the needle purlwise through the first stitch and pull the yarn through.

How to Graft Garter Stitch Step 3A

Step 3. On the front needle: Insert the needle knitwise through the first stitch and drop that stitch off the needle;
How to Graft Garter Stitch Step 3Binsert the needle purlwise through the next stitch and pull the yarn through.

How to Graft Garter Stitch Step 4BStep 4.  On the back needle: Insert the needle knitwise through the first stitch and drop that stitch off the needle;
insert the needle purlwise through the next stitch and pull the yarn through. Note that this is the exact same thing you did on the front needle!

How to Graft Garter Stitch adjusting stitchesRepeat Steps 3 and 4 across. Every few stitches, stop and adjust the tension of your stitches so that they match the size of the surrounding stitches. 

On the last two stitches (one front and one back), insert the needle knitwise through the last stitch on the front needle and pull the yarn through, then insert the needle knitwise through the last stitch on the back needle and pull the yarn through.

How to Graft Garter Stitch completedTake one more look at your grafted stitches and adjust them to size. If you know how to graft garter stitch carefully, no one will be able to tell that the stitches were grafted and not knit!

To see grafting in action, watch the video:

Looking for more knitting resources? Check out Knit: Basics & Beyond.


Sneak Peek: Creativation 2018

Creativation Red Heart Sweater

Brother Creativation 2018The Creativation 2018 trade show was held in Phoenix last weekend. I’ll give you a glimpse of what I saw there, and what you might expect to see in stores in the upcoming months.

This post contains affiliate links, which may provide me a bit of income but don’t cost you anything.

Creativation AFCI drummers The show started with a bang, literally, as a group of energetic drummers opened the show floor.

What is Creativation?

Creativation Red Heart Sweater
This cute sweater was in the Red Heart booth.

Creativation is the trade show for the craft industry. This is where craft buyers, from both small and large stores, come to see what’s new and to purchase product for the upcoming seasons. Put on by the Association for Creative Industries (AFCI), it combines business and craft education with exhibitor booths for a very full weekend of activity.

Creativation Paper House signUnlike the show put on by The National Needlearts Association (TNNA), which is going on this weekend in Las Vegas and focuses on the Needlearts industry, Creativation includes all aspects of craft. In addition to the yarn booths, there is paper crafting and scrapbooking, art journaling, woodworking, sewing, rubber stamping, mixed media and probably lots of other crafts that I can’t remember!

As tempting as it was to do Make & Takes at every booth (Stamping! Gluing! Cricutting!), I tried to focus on the yarn.

The Yarn

I started at the Red Heart booth. Red Heart has lots of exciting new products, some of which aren’t even in stores yet. You can find some of the  yarns now, and I’m pretty excited about them:

Chic Sheep by Marly Bird, a 100% superwash merino that comes in lots of yummy saturated colors. You’ll be sure to see some designs from me in this yarn in the upcoming months.

Creativation red heart yarn hyggeHygge is another new yarn with lots of possibilities. As always, Red Heart had lots of pattern support (meaning patterns in the yarn), so you won’t be at a loss of what to knit and crochet with it.
Pompoms were in evidence everywhere. Bernat/Yarnspirations had a pompon wreath. At the Craft Yarn Council booth, all weekend there was a mob of people making pompoms.

Lion brand LONDON kayeLion Brand had a huge bright booth of beautiful yarn. One of their new ones is Feels Like Butta!, a super-soft baby yarn. I also met yarn artist London Kaye, who has some interesting new crochet products coming soon. (In other words, be on the lookout for them, but I think they are still somewhat secret!)

Premier Yarns yoga yarn bombPremier Yarn had an awesome yarn-bombed yogi and a nice new color-changing acrylic called Luna DK. I’m swatching with it right now;  if you are taking my Reimagining Ripples class at Stitches West, you’ll see the finished project.

The Surprise Prize

Creativation Akron Mounts prizeThe highlight of the show for me was winning a prize!. I put my business card into a drawing at the Arkon Mounts booth and was absolutely thrilled when I was notified that I had won  a prize package that included an overhead camera mount, and other useful items which will make it much easier for me to produce videos.

I’d gush more about it now, but I’m on vacation and want to be able to give it my proper attention in its own blog post. For now, check out the Arkon Mounts website and, if you see something you love, order it and use the code “edieeckman” to get 10% off your order.

The People

Creativation marly bird jessie at home
Linda Dean and Jessie Rayot yuck it up with Marly Bird.

My favorite part of any trade show is talking to a diverse group of people, with a common interest: our industry. This show was no different. I attended panels presented by Tamara Kelly (of Moogly), Jessie Rayot (Jessie at Home), Kathy Lashley (ELK Crochet) and Marie Segares (Underground Crafter). I went to a networking event and learned about new products and new affiliate opportunities with various brands.

The Take Away

In the end, I wasn’t able to resist crafting. I sat down at a Make and Take table, picked up the Dremel tool, and made myself a nice reminder of my visit to Phoenix.


Knit Along: Custom-Fitted Gloves Part 3

How are your gloves coming along? If you have the fingers finished, it’s time to put them all together. If you are joining us a bit late, you can read about the knit along, get the pattern, see what we did previously, and knit along!

This post may contain affiliate links.

Joining The Fingers

At this point, you’ve knit four fingers and a thumb. The stitches are on holders or needles as described in the pattern, The next part is probably the fiddliest bit of the entire glove; it gets much easier from then on.

Following the pattern instructions, knit the stitches in the order given, working from the waste yarn. Ignore the stitches on safety pin markers for now. You are only joining three fingers at this point: the index, middle, and ring fingers. Don’t fret about the holes between the fingers or the long yarn tails between the fingers. We’ll take care of those later.

For most people, these fingers are set up a bit higher than the little finger, so you’ll knit a few plain rounds around three fingers until they reach the base of the little finger. As you work, keep trying on the glove until you’ve reached the base of the little finger.

Joining the Little Finger

Now join the Little Finger in the same way you’ve worked the others, placing the stitches between the fingers on safety pin holders. You’ll now have four fingers joined together. Work around for several rounds until you reach the base of the thumb.

See that big mess between the fingers, with yarn tails hanging out everywhere, and those pesky stitches on holders between the fingers? Now’s the time to attend to them.

Graft the stitches at the base of the fingers, set aside the stitch holders, and weave in the ends  Once I grafted the stitches on the right side of the gloves, I turned the fingers inside out to weave in the ends. I made sure that I tightened up any holes left by the grafting before working the yarn tails diagonally along the wrong side.

You may be tempted to save this weaving-in until the end, but I encourage you to do it now. It is much easier to reach this spot now, before you knit the rest of the hand.

If you have trouble getting to the stitches, you can always put the hand stitches on a waste yarn holder while you weave in the ends.



Joining the Thumb

You know what’s next, right? The thumb! Join it in the same way you’ve joined the previous fingers, and join me back here next week to work the gusset and cuff.



If you have questions along the way, leave them in the comments below. I’ll be monitoring it and responding daily.

Part 4 of the Knit Along is here.

CTA Buy the Pattern