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Patty's Purls of Wisdom


Technique, etiquette, and lifestyle advice for the modern knitter

By Patty Lyons 


Dear Patty,


My problem is left-going cables. The leftmost stitch of the completed left-going cable always is noticeably bigger than the other stitches in that cable. I have tried various fixes, even trying to determine what stitch is "too small" (where that extra yarn should be), but no luck. There must be a way to work the stitches evenly without futile tweaking, just knitting it right the first time! I've looked in all sorts of knitting books, but this is not addressed, yet I see finished work where all the stitches are evenly sized. What am I doing wrong? Is there a secret?


Your puzzled fan


Dear Puzzled,


As with anything that goes wrong in our knitting, it’s not you. It’s them. It’s the stitches’ fault. First let’s think about the why.




When we cable, we are reversing the position of the stitches, so the stitches on the cable needle will be knit after the stitches on the knitting needle. This can cause the last stitch to be knit from the cable needle to get stretched out.


In the right cross, the cable needle is held to the back, so the stitches from the cable needle are covered up once they are knit.


 Right cross.


In the left cross, the cable needle is held to the front, so once all the stitches are knit from the cable needle, it leaves that last stretched-out stitch sitting at the front of the fabric in all its annoying glory.


Left cross.                                                                Stretched out stitch


Cabling without a cable needle helps a lot (reversing the order of the stitches first, then knitting them), but the real secret is to stretch out the first stitches on the cable needle to take up the slack of the final stitch.


As you knit the first stitches off the cable needle, use your knitting needle to stretch out each stitch to make the first tight stitches larger. You’re making the greedy big stitches share with the stingy tiny stitches.



Stretch out the tiny stitches


So by the time you get to the last stitch it’s neat and small.



Neat last stitch


Ta da! That sloppy last stitch doesn’t stand a chance!


Dear Patty,


I’ve been a knitter since a young age but now that I'm older I have a problem with being round-shouldered. Cardigans flare out at back and fronts flare out to each side. I have searched knitting books but can't find solution. How do I solve this problem?


Thank you,




Dear Lois,


What’s causing the back to flare is that it’s riding up over the roundness of the shoulders. Working a few short rows in the sweater back is a great way to sneak in a bit of length. The important thing is to make sure the sweater sides line up, so that the short rows are all worked between the shoulders and the armholes.


Decide on how many inches longer the back needs to be to make the whole sweater hang correctly. Then multiply that by your row gauge (e.g. you need 1 1/2” x 7 = 10.5 rows. Round that down to the nearest whole number and that means you’ll have five short row pairs.


Make sure to stagger what stitch you make your turn on and work straight rows in between. If you stack the short rows too closely together it can create a bulge in the fabric. Spread out the turns in the straight knitting section of your armhole.


You’ll be wearing cardigans and sweaters you’ll love!


Dear Patty,


My daughter and I both knit. We knit everywhere. Recently she was called into her professor’s office and told that she should not be knitting in his class. He said “if you aren’t going to listen, I’d prefer you not attend the class”. He told her it was both rude and distracting. She was really upset and didn’t know what to say, so she stopped knitting in class. She has always suffered from a bit of ADHD and when she was in high school her teacher taught her how to knit and ENCOURAGED her to knit in class, and her grades improved wildly. Three weeks after this happened, MY boss pulled me aside after a meeting and asked me to “leave the crochet at home” (not going to even go into the difference between crochet and knitting!). So, are we both wrong, are we being rude? It has always helped us concentrate, but is there any evidence that can back us up?


Distracted in Denver

Dear Distracted in Denver,


You’ll be happy to know that many scientific studies say a rhythmic repetitive motion made with our hands helps us concentrate. There are many who will not understand your knitting and assume you are not listening. I had a friend who was told by her boss she couldn’t knit during staff meetings as it looked like she wasn’t paying attention (this same boss played with his iPhone constantly during staff meetings and answered questions with “huh, what? Yes, let’s put a pin in that for now.”)


That being said, first let’s get some (hopefully) obvious no-nos out of the way: no light up knitting needles, no rustling of pattern paper, no swearing at lace. Do keep your knitting low on your lap, look straight ahead (then others see you are paying attention), and work on simple patterns. Leave the double-sided lace, two-color brioche and reversible cables for the subway ride home.