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March 8, 2022

64: Quick Fixes

64: Quick Fixes

Laddered stitches, jogged stripes, and that last floppy stitch on a bindoff - this week's episode is all about quick and easy ways to solve Those Knitting Problems. Our letter this week is from a knitter whose favorite sweater is getting bleached out in the underarms.

Sure, there are advanced techniques for eliminating those little knitting annoyances... but sometimes you just want a quick fix that will make the problem a little less obvious.


Five Ways to Neatly Bind Off the Last Stitch

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Karen Hi, and welcome to Make Good, the podcast about yarn and knitting from Scratch Supply Co. We're recording today in downtown Lebanon, New Hampshire, and we're really excited to be here. I'm Karen.

Jessica And I'm Jessica.

Karen I think lately we've made some mistakes.

Jessica Oh, you're telling me.

Karen So today we're going to be talking about quick fixes.

Jessica We are going to dive in a little bit into simple solutions for really common sort of irritating issues that knitters encounter all the time. This is by no means an exhaustive list of all of the irritating things that crop up in your knitting and ways to fix them all. And we welcome your suggestions about things that irritate you and that you would like us to address. So let us know what else is super annoying about knitting. Tell us your life, too, but we're only going to talk about the knitting issues here on the podcast.

Karen Okay, so the big one for me, when I'm using double point needles, my five double point needles is ladders.

Jessica Ladders are a thing, y'all. And if you're not familiar with what ladders are, this is something that happens when you're knitting in the round. And generally it only happens smaller circumferences. So like a sock or a hat or a sleeve like the body of a sweater has such an expansive fabric spread out over such a big circular needle that there's not the same sort of tension issue that happens with small circumference knitting. So it's basically a loose stitch. And it happens when you're working on double pointed needles or if you're using, like, two circular needles, or sometimes when you're using the magic loop method.

Karen Yeah. You'll see it in the place where you're making some kind of transition, whether it's from needle to needle or from one side of the pulled out loop for magic loop to the other side of the pulled out loop, you just end up with a little extra yarn and it hangs out there. And it isn't quite right compared to the rest of your stitches.

Jessica It makes the first stitch larger than the rest of your stitches, like the first stitch on a needle. So it looks kind of stretched out. And it's called a ladder because that stretched open column of stitches let you see through the stitch. So you can see the little leg of yarn running behind the stitch, which is actually the top of the stitch below. And it looks like a ladder rung.

Karen So, for example, with double pointed needles, when you're transitioning from one to the other, there are actually three needles involved in that first stitch. There's the holding double pointed needle or DPN that you're leaving. There's the DPN that you're moving to, and then there's your working needle. So all three of them have to be inside of that one stitch. It's just going to make that stitch look a little bit bigger.

Jessica It's kind of like the working yarn at that point is like a float in color work. There's just some extra length to it which, over the course of your fabric, results in a whole column of distorted stitches. If you haven't done something to address it.

Karen I find that once it starts, it just keeps happening in, like, an individual project. Okay, so what do we do about it?

Jessica Okay, so the first thing you can do and this will a little bit depend on what the actual thing is that you're knitting is. You could try blocking to see if that helps even out the tension. Sometimes it will, sometimes it won't. It'll depend on the type of yarn that you're using. It will depend on how egregious this issue has become. Sometimes you'll see, like, a tiny ladder, but once your object has been wet blocked, everything kind of settles into place. And sometimes you've got, like, clear running lines up two sides of your project. So steaming or wet blocking may or may not help. I'm going to take a second here to fly my lazy knitter flag and tell you that depending on the project, I don't care. Sure, I don't want ladders in my hats. I mean, maybe I do. You know, I'm just going to lose it anyway. Who knows where it goes? Someone else might not care about the ladder either. But, like, for a sock specifically, I'm less concerned about things like ladders because I'm a lazy knitter. I can tell you that in my early days of sock knitting, I learned how to knit socks by teaching myself on double pointed needles. And I had ladders.

Karen Like, Whoa, socks are.

Jessica Yes, a lot of ladders. I have no language for it. So I was like, I guess this is just what hand knit socks are. Like, who knows? I can see that there's something wonky. But I had never really looked up close at anyone's feet in hand knit socks. So who knows? They could have had ladders. But really, I decided I have no solution for this. This is what my socks look like. And over time, wearing them and washing them, they just kind of work their lives out. Stitches moved. It's wool, it's got stretch and bounce, and over time, it settled. Definitely not at the first pass, at blocking or washing, but over time, I'm going to say I was maybe not lazy. I was patient. I played the long game with these socks and was like, My urge to have beautiful socks will eventually win.

Karen I like that framing.

Jessica It's just patience, just letting time take care of this problem.

Karen Yeah, I find--and this is a little bit of a subjective measure--but there is a degree of ladder that does. It just goes away, particularly on something like a sock where you're sticking your foot in it and it's getting reblocked over and over every time you wash it.

Jessica If you want something quicker than time, maybe or maybe not working out this issue for you you can try a couple of things to address the laddering issue. One of them is super easy if you are knitting a fabric that has alternating knit and purl stitches, which often happens in the case of a sock because there is frequently ribbing going on. Make sure that the first stitch on your needle is not a purl. Arrange those stitches because a Purl stitch on its own, just by nature of the construction of the stitch, uses more yarn than a knit stitch does. Because you're taking your yarn from the back of the fabric, you're pulling it to the front of your fabric, and then you're creating the stitch and then bringing the yarn to the back again. So there's just a little bit extra. It's not like inches or anything, but a small amount that over the course of your fabric makes a difference. And at this funny intersection where there's the opportunity for there to be more slack in the stitch can make a really big difference. So make sure your first needle stitch is always a knit stitch and not a purl stitch if you can help it. Another thing that you can do is make sure that you are working with the purl side of your fabric inside of your tube, which maybe sounds funny, but let me explain. Sometimes, in an attempt to control tension in small circumference knitting, knitters will kind of flip their project inside out so you're still knitting, but your needle is not closest to your body, your needle is furthest away from your body, and the kind of fabric hang flat in front of you. The right side of your fabric is at the inside of the tube. I, for example, do this sometimes when I'm knitting color work because it helps me control the tension of my floats by making them travel along the larger expanse. It helps prevent from pulling them too tight. And sometimes you'll also see people do this when they're knitting sleeves. I think that's one of those things where it's a suggestion to do that in the same way that going up a needle size to knit your sleeves helps you from knitting little Saran Wrap arm tubes. Just let that fabric be more of relaxed and loose. But if you have problems with laddering when you're knitting in the round, make sure that the purl fabric is on the inside, because that just creates additional slack in your stitches. If you're doing it the other way and will exacerbate the latter problem.

Karen And then the other thing you could do is move your stitches around so that that transition isn't always happening in the same column of stitches, just like shift one or two to one needle or the other needle as you're going, and that will at least distribute that tension and keep you from having, like a full run of wrongs.

Jessica I need to do this in particular when I'm knitting magic loop. Yeah. If I have a cable for my needles that is not floppy and flexible enough. And sometimes that happens because your cable isn't quite as long as it should be. You know, you really need a 37 inch cable to do it, but you're like, I grabbed the 30 inch cable out of my bag, it'll be fine. Or you've got needles that have one of the cables that's made out of kind of stiff nylon, so it just wants to be popping open and it's sort of fighting against you. I have laddering issues there, so when I use that type of needle, I need to redistribute my stitches kind of regularly because otherwise at the split points for magic loop, those areas just have a lot of tension pulling the first stitch of one needle and the last stitch on the other needle apart from each other. And I struggle to avoid it if I let them stay in the same place all the time.

Karen So speaking of tools that might cause that, such as your cable on your circular needle, your stitch markers could cause it too.

Jessica Yes, I think we all like to think of our tools as our friends in this knitting journey we have all undertaken. But sometimes there are secret enemies. If you happen to have stitch markers in your toolbox that are big and bulky, I think people are right now thinking, what are you talking about? A big and bulky stitch marker. I want you to envision a very specific stitch marker, though it's not the only culprit, but I think it's ubiquitous enough that we all recognize it. The big plastic locking stitch markers. They look like cute little padlocks and they're like peach or teal. And I feel like at one time or another every knitter has had a handful of these. Crocheters often have them because they're opening stitch markers, which you need when you crochet. They are bulky. The actual little cute lockbox section of them is bulky, and also the little hooked arm that goes over your needle is kind of thick. So if you use that type of stitch marker, it may need to be readjusted on your needle so that you're making sure that the bulkiest part is always at the front of your fabric and not falling to the backside where your yarn is coming across your stitches, because that can cause gaps. It can expand the size of the actual stitch, which can be causing ladders. And you'd never know that it was working against you.

Karen There was somebody who came in the other day who had used a piece of a pipe cleaner. She twisted it into a ring to use a stitch marker, which on the one hand is totally genius. Like, you don't have one handy. You just find something and make one. On the other hand, the diameter of that particular material ended up being a problem for the fabric that she was creating.

Jessica Oh, things you can't anticipate sometimes. So ladders are annoying, but they don't have to be your life unless you're a lazy knitter and you don't care. But you can do things to fix them. And there are probably lots of other fixes too. But these are quick fixes.

Karen So your other option is the diligent application of time.

Jessica No one's got time for that.

Karen Ok, stripes. Boy, this one drives me nuts. And I know it's not just me. There's a sample that we have in the store of a striped hat that I knit at like a conference, and it was one of my more amusing off site knitting projects because the stripes are very narrow and I spit spliced every single one of those. And I was not with knitters. I was like, I'm just going to spit in my hand 24 times.

Jessica Very much prepandemic.

Karen Oh yes, this would have been in like, 2017, I think. And every single one of those stripe transitions has a little jog. It's uneven. And every time I look at the back of that hat, if I look over at the shelf and I can see the back of the hat, I run over and turn it on our little mannequin head, so that I can pretend that it didn't happen. Just so I don't have to look at it and feel annoyed unease that comes with seeing jogged stripes.

Jessica Just so I don't have to look at it and feel annoyed unease that comes with seeing jogged stripes. If you're not familiar with the term Jogged stripes, let me explain. So I am a stripe lover and I have encountered this repeatedly over my knitting life, and when I discovered that there was a solution, it changed my whole knitting world. So when you're knitting in the round, I think we don't spend a lot of time thinking about this, but what you're actually doing is creating a spiral of stitches. It's not like knitting flat and seaming something into a tube where the end of one row meets the beginning of that same row. We are stacking and spiraling our stitches, but you're knitting this spiral. So if you experience a color change and I don't mean in like a motif type color work, but you're changing colors. Like in stripes, the first stitch and the last stitch of that round are not nestled next to each other when the colors don't line up. This is called a jog. You may have recognized this in someone else's knitting and never said a word to them about it because you're nice and you may have recognized it in your own knitting and thought, what is happening? Why don't those colors line up?

Karen Can I just say, when I see striped patterns posted on Ravelry where the designer has put it in the back, but you can see a whole line of jogs at the center of their back? It actually makes me feel like warm inside because I feel so relieved. Okay, it is okay to do that. It's annoying, and we're going to tell you how to fix it, but it's okay to do it too.

Jessica Oh, sure. If your jog, your transition is placed in a way that is aesthetically appealing to you, that's great. And like, Sidebar, every irritating thing we're talking about today is only irritating to some of us, not all of us. There is latitude here for what is acceptable and what is like, I need a fix for this. Jog stripes are like that, and in some circumstances, there's no avoiding it. Like, self striping yarn going to be a jog because the color change happens on the actual yarn. So unless you want to do something funky, like cut the yarn. No, I feel like self striping yarn is just not for you. If this is super problematic.

Karen Yeah. Save yourself the hassle of finding the self striping yarn and just find yarn and weave in those ends and do the stripes. Right.

Jessica Yeah. So there are a couple of methods for doing this. One is called traveling joglas stripes. They're stationary joglas stripes, and they're also kind of related to helical knitting. These things warrant a whole conversation that's like a podcast episode on their own today. We are telling you. Quick fixes. So here is the quick fix for joglas stripes. So say you're knitting a sleeve and you've got stripes in your sleeve. When you are switching colors, we're going to reference my beautiful what I like to think of as my watermelon sweater, that flax light that I knit with all of my single weird skeins of indie dyed yarn.

Karen You're like pink and green?

Jessica Yes, it's very pink and green. It's got big watermelon energy. I've been knitting with my green yarn. It's time to switch to a pink skin. So I'm going to knit one round in my beautiful pink yarn. When I get to the second round, my beginning of round marker, I'm going to flip the first stitch of the round that I already knit, Purl wise. And then I'm just going to keep knitting.

Karen And you only do that on the second row of the color transition. You don't keep slipping that stitch every time you come to it.

Jessica No. If you kept slipping that stitch throughout, it would create some weird, like, puckered cinching. No to that whole sentence. That stitch only needs to be one row taller. But what that does is it kind of pulls your fabric into an alignment by slipping that stitch. And if you don't look super closely and count things because you can find this kind of invisible fix, nothing is invisible in fabric. Each stitch is its own thing. But you do that once and then continue knitting for as long as you're knitting that color normally. And then when it's time to switch colors again, you'll knit a whole round in your new color and then start your second round of that new color by slipping the first stitch and then just keep going.

Karen It's like an illusion.

Jessica Very much so. And your eye is happy to receive the solution. It's such a simple thing, but it makes such a visual difference. So that's my quick fix for that. Okay.

Karen The other thing that I want to know a quick fix for is that weird loop when you do a bind off. You know what I mean?

Jessica Yes. For me, sloppiest most aggravating stitch that I make in an entire project. You all may know about this. It's, I think, kind of always there haunting us. But most prevalent when you're knitting flat pieces of fabric, the last stitch of your bind off is kind of wonky and irregular in shape.

Karen There's no next stitch to stretch it over.

Jessica It's just hanging out.

Karen Yeah.

Jessica Mocking you.

Karen I always just trap it a bunch with my end when I weave in the end.

Jessica Oh, you kind of like tack it down.

Karen Yeah. I like, ruin its life and I like, pull it.

Jessica You wrestle with it.

Karen Yes. I make my problem go away.

Jessica So first let me tell you why this exists. Because I had to do some homework. Because I had no idea. I knew it was a thing. Didn't know the why. So stitches maintain their structure because they have stitches on either side of them, creating tension. So the fact that your fabric is a whole row of little buddies snuggled up to each other, the stitches maintain even tension because it's distributed evenly across that row. You may have noticed in your flat knitting that the edge stitches are never as neat and tidy as your fabric stitches. And sometimes people resolve this by slipping their edge stitches. Like, there are ways to deal with that. Sometimes you don't care if it's going to be a seamed object. Sometimes actual edge work exists, like stocking up fabric. But we do a Garter edge or an I cord edge or something to tidy that up because your little friends hanging out on the beginning and end of your fabric edges, your Selvage edge don't have the benefit of stitches being on both sides of them to maintain their structure. Okay, so we have floppy edge stitches. We know how to deal with those as knitters. Your final Bindoff stitch exists directly above the last stitch of the last row that you worked. So it tends to be the loosest stitch, because not only does it not have a friend to the left or the right, depending on where your fabric ends, it also doesn't have a friend above it. So this is a stitch with, like, structure around it on two sides.

Karen Yeah.

Jessica So it's kind of floppy. And you don't super notice that until you do your bind off. And there's just like, this weird, unruly little bubble of yarn there.

Karen That little guy needs some support. Yes. He's on his own.

Jessica We're going to tell you how to help him be in it with his other friends. So you've got this loose little stitch that you don't really think of as a loose little stitch until you finish your bind off and then you're like, what is this? And there are actually a number of ways to fix this. Some of them get pretty involved though, and I felt like they would be maybe cumbersome to try and talk about without a visual. So we are going to link to a blog post that I found that has nice clear pictures of the processes for doing this with like bright happy yellow yarn so you can see what is happening. But I'm going to tell you about some quick fixes. And then if you're interested in having options, use the show notes and click through to this blog post to see even more options to fix the wonky weird loop. You are going to work until you get to that point before you start binding off. You're working your final row. You're going to slip the first stitch of the last worked row before the bind off. So your final row of knitting. Slip that first stitch Purl wise.

Karen So the stitch that's going to end up underneath your final bound off stitch.

Jessica Yes. Okay. Make sure that you slip it purl-wise so it's not twisted, it's oriented normally, just like all the other stitches on that row. You'll work across that row. You're going to bind off. You're going to come back to your slip stitch friend. You're going to slip the final stitch of the bind off onto your working needle. You're going to use your other needle to pick up the top of the stitch that is immediately below the one that you just flipped. Oh, you've picked that up and now it's on your needle. You are going to slide the slip stitch back onto the needle where you slipped it from. So now you have that stitch and the one that you have picked up from the row below. So we've got friends here, they're hanging out. You are going to work them together and bind off your final stitch as usual. And what that does is create tension that is otherwise missing. And it cinches up that final little corner of your fabric and eliminates the weird lumpy loopy. Bump. No again to every word that's coming out of your mouth.

Karen You like pair-bond them.

Jessica Yes. They're just snuggled and happy and cozy. That's really smart and like super easy. I think once you do it once, you just remember how to do it and Yay new skills.

Karen And we're going to link to that blog post. So there's a visual there.

Jessica Check out the show notes. So those are some quick fixes for some common problems. And we're happy to keep doing this. If you tell us about other common problems that you would like us to explain quick fixes for, it's kind of fun thinking about these fast little solutions to things that make you go.

Karen Why is it like this? Given enough time, knitters as a community will invent new problems and then invent new solutions for them.

Jessica Because we're crafty. Yes.

Karen So what's on your needles, Jessica?

Jessica Nothing exciting. It's my Soorik still and I'm still in the skirt. It is so much grey stockinette knitting, and that's okay.

Karen I love it.

Jessica I love it intensely because I love this yarn, and yet it's just a lot of grey knitting a tube.

Karen You knew this was going to happen.

Jessica I did know. So I'm not complaining about it. I'm just saying there's nothing really exciting happening. And I haven't picked a spring project yet because it is still cold here and I'm still outside in the snow and the ice dealing with chicken water that freezes all the time. I've been finding myself thinking lately, do I need to knit mittens? It would be a quick project to break up the skirt knitting, and my hands would be warmer. Maybe I'll find some mittens to knit, but I don't have any clear vision for my next project yet. What's on your needles, Karen?

Karen Mostly my secret project and very, very slowly, like three or four rows at a time. My Gresham wrap.

Jessica That's endurance knitting. That's like an ultramarathon of knitting.

Karen It was perfect virtual meeting knitting. And now that I'm not in virtual meetings anymore, it's really hard for me to knit in some of the meetings that I have.

Jessica It'll be done at some point. Yes. I believe in you.

Karen I bet it'll be done by the time the weather is appropriate for it again. Yes.

Jessica You've given yourself a month.

Karen Perfect. Hey, Jessica.

Jessica Yes, Karen?

Karen Are you ready for a letter?

Jessica I am.

Karen Let's do it. So this week's letter comes from Laurie: I knit one of my favorite sweaters using a fingering weight stock yarn, 80% Merino, 20% nylon, and it's a great sweater. But after a few wears, the underarms became discolored or bleached, like my sweat was made of peroxide or something. A more likely culprit is that I use a more natural deodorant that is aluminum and paraben free but does have sodium bicarbonate and magnesium hydroxide. Could this have bleached the underarms of my sweater? And how could I prevent this from happening again? What would you recommend I do to make the sweater wearable should I die? It at home. I'd hate to have robot arms that don't reach over my head when I leave the house in this sweater.

Jessica Oh, Lori. Well, you've got a problem. That kind of stinks. And I'm sorry. I had to do a little reading about deodorant and deodorant ingredients because that's not my area of expertise. But fortunately, I have Google. I think that based on what I have learned, the sodium bicarbonate, which is baking soda, is the likely culprit here in your natural deodorant. I think that it has stripped the dye from your yarn, and it's going to continue to do so if you have ever colored your hair in, like, fun manic, panic style colors. And at some point, though, I have to get this dishwater green color out of my hair, and it is not fading. You have gone to the Internet and said strip color from hair. Strip manic panic color from hair. And the Internet has told you to do a couple of things beyond hair color stripper. You can aggressively wash your hair with dawn dish soap. And I feel like everyone out there who cares about hair in the world is like, oh, don't do that. But guess what? You've already bleached your hair and put manic panic in it. The other thing you can do is scrub your hair with baking soda. I can tell you I have done this and that it lifts color like crazy. So I think what has happened is that the baking soda in your deodorant is lifting the dye out of your wool. Is there a solution to that? Really? You could try something like dress Shields. They're also sometimes called garment guards, and they're basically like little inserts sort of like a liner that might go in underwear. And it's to protect fabric from coming in contact with your body. Now, I have never used a garment guard in my armpit, so I don't know how effective they are. And I don't know if the adhesive that sticks them into place would be problematic on the inside of your sweater armpit, but it's an option. You could also consider something like lining the armpits of your sweaters cotton or some sort of fabric that feels like a lot of work to me. I think that if I were in your situation, my first step would maybe be exploring other natural deodorant options that don't have baking soda in them, and they definitely exist. You're going to have to experiment to see what brands work well for you, like what you like, but they definitely are out there because lots of people are sensitive to having baking soda directly on their skin. Hi. Hello. That's me. Karen. Do you remember the time that we were doing, like, natural body care DIY make it at home kind of stuff?

Karen Yes.

Jessica And we did that. It was a face mask that had baking soda in it, maybe.

Karen I think so.

Jessica And I put it on my face, and then I took it off and I was like, bright red. My skin was like, yeah.

Karen And I can use natural deodorant with baking soda in it for about two weeks before I start having skin problems.

Jessica Yeah.

Karen So there are lots of options out there.

Jessica You just need to do a little exploration. And as far as what you can do to make the sweater wearable, you could try dyeing it at home. I say that with the caveat that you will be dying over died yarn and over bleached yarn. So the dye is not necessarily going to take uniformly. You might just have a different type of different colored armpits than you currently have. You could get weird and do some experimental visible mending type stitching. You could stitch flowers into your armpit.

Karen I would say, even though dyeing over dyed fiber and bleached fiber is going to give you a different result, probably any amount of color there is going to feel less visible than bleached white.

Jessica Oh, absolutely.

Karen So if you're like, this is my favorite sweater, and it's currently light blue, and you would be okay with it being dark blue and maybe having medium blue armpits. It's worth a try if you're willing to risk it, maybe making it worse in a different way that you can't anticipate and we can't anticipate.

Jessica I think that at this point the sweater will never be back in its original state. So depending on how committed you are to continuing to wear the sweater, you just have to figure out where you are in terms of being open to possibilities for it looking different. Sorry that happened, Lori. That's tough when it's not like a quick stitch it up with some yarn type of fix, but let us know what you have tried and what works.

Karen Should we check in on the Stashdown?

Jessica We should check in on the Stashdown. Today is March 8 and the Stashdown runs until March 31, so there are still a number of weeks left. And y'all are stashing like wild. It's amazing.

Karen So fast.

Jessica So many projects. And can I tell you what my favorite part of the stash down is? That people are pulling, like, works in progress out of the depths of their homes and they're like, oh, I just needed to see my armpits. Boom. Done. That's the best. Yeah. Like you had a secret sweater that you forgot that you had, and all you had to do was graft your armpits and pick up the collar. And now you have a wearable garment in a couple of hours of work. It's amazing. I hope you're really enjoying wearing them because they're all so gorgeous.

Karen I think that might be it for us this week.

Jessica It sure is. You can listen to make good podcasts everywhere, including where you're listening to us right now. And if you're not currently subscribed, what are you waiting for?

Karen Go subscribe.

Jessica So we just show up in your podcast streaming thing every week.

Karen You can rate and review us. We get really nice reviews all the time, and it always makes us smile and tell your friends you can follow us on Instagram.

Jessica Which is where all of the visual podcast fun occurs. We're at makegoodpod. Big, huge thank you to our Patreon people. We adore you. You're fantastic. And you do the amazing community work of helping us continue doing this and bringing you new content every week without ever taking on advertisers. We appreciate you.

Karen You can visit our website, and check out the show notes or the transcript. So good, which is a new thing. And you can send us questions to I think that email address may be changing in the relatively near future so keep your ears out.

Jessica We'll talk to you next week. Bye.