How to Care for Hand Knits - Pro-Tip Tuesday

Once you’ve finished your knit project, there are two important steps:

1. Wear it. Accept the compliments and admiration of your friends. You’re awesome.

2. Care for it. 

You know how to do step 1, let's look at step 2.


Knits do not typically need to be washed after every wear, but if you spill food or other organic material on them, wash them right away. It is particularly important to wash your wool items before storing them for the winter in order to avoid moths. Moths are attracted to the dirt on the wool item, not the item itself. So clean woolens will not typically get munched.


  1. Wash in a basin, sink or other container of tepid water filled with a small amount (teaspoon or so) of detergent. An official wool wash, such as Eucalan or Soak, is a great idea, as you do not need to rinse them, therefore avoiding excess handling.

  2. Swish the detergent around with your hand to mix thoroughly. Then place your knit in the soapy water and let it sit for 15 minutes.

  3. Rinse (if necessary). Gently lift your item and squeeze the water out. Lay the knitted item on a bath towel and roll it up. Press it to remove more water.

  4. Dry flat. I use this hanging sweater dryer with 2 layers of mesh, allowing air circulation and space to dry two items.

  5. Be patient. Some items, especially cotton, may take a long time to dry. If necessary, when your item is partially dry, lay on a blocking board or yoga mat and pin out.

Once your item is completely dry, fold it carefully and put it away. If you are storing for the winter, consider packing it in acid free paper.



What Kind of Needles Should I Use?

Pro-Tip Tuesday


As a knitting instructor, I get this question all the time. There’s no single answer to this question, rather, it triggers a barrage of questions of my own:

 Are you a loose knitter or a tight knitter?

  • A loose knitter may be better off with bamboo or plastic – something with a bit of friction
  • A tight knitter may prefer metal, to allow his or her stitches to slide more easily

What kind of yarn are you using?

  • If you use a slippery yarn, like silk, you may be happier with a “grippy” needle.
  • If you use a grippy yarn, like wool, you may be happier with a slick needle.

What are you making?

  •  I nearly always recommend circular needles to people knitting anything wider than a scarf (or hats, socks, gloves, you get the picture).

What have you used before? Did you like them?

  • If you learned with 14” long metal needles and were comfortable with them, by all means, keep using them, unless you really want to try something else.
  •  There’s no reason for a beginner to buy needles in a range of materials, unless you really want to. It’s more important to spend your knitting money on yarn and on the correct size of needle
  • Inevitably, if you keep knitting, you’ll have all the needles. Trust me.

Pro-tip Tuesday: Another Reason to Swatch

I am so on my soapbox about swatching. It not only crucial for ensuring your projects fit. It is also a truly knitterly thing to do. It allows you to get to know your yarn, your gauge and the type of needle you want to use. Finally, you can use a gauge swatch to estimate the yarn requirements of your project.

First knit your swatch and measure it. In addition to gauge, you will want to calculate the area of your swatch. For those of you who haven’t studied geometry lately, it is length x width = area (in square inches in this case). Then weight your swatch on an accurate digital scale, such as the type bakers use. When you know how much the swatch weighs, you can calculate how much yardage you have used, based upon the weight of the swatch. If the skein of yarn weighs 50 grams and it has 87 yards, a 4 gram swatch uses 7 yards of yarn.

How did I come up with this number? I like to say that knitting requires a great deal of lower mathematics – algebra, geometry and the occasional dash of trigonometry may be called on to help you complete your project

In this instance, I figured out that:

 4/50 = x/100, or 8%.

Then I multiplied 87 yards by .08 (8%) and got 6.96, rounded up to 7 yards. Ok, so what? Well, our mythical swatch also had an area of 6 x 6 inches or 36 square inches. So, 36 sq. in. of knitting uses 7 yards of yarn and 5 sq. in. uses 1 yard. If I were planning a 60 inch x 60 inch blanket, (3600 sq. in.) I would divide 3600 by 5, getting 720. Therefore, my blanket would require approximately 720 yards of yarn.

I would go ahead and buy at least 800 yards in order to ensure that I have enough of a matching dye lot to complete my project (and that is a sermon for another day).

Ten Essentials for the Beginning Knitter

As you begin your knitting journey, you will find that your knitting rarely stays home. Indeed, one of the great things about knitting is its portability. Especially in summer, when so many people travel, knitters need a "go kit."

Following are the 10 essentials for knitting on the go -- just one knitter's opinion of course.

1.    Scissors. While most wool can be broken by hand, people working with linen, cotton or silk will need an implement.

2.    Small crochet hook. A smaller hook than your needle, but not too tiny, will make it easy to pick up dropped stitches and do other impromptu repairs.

3.    Darning needle. Weave in your ends, seam pieces or use it to put your project on waste yarn or dental floss (see below).

4.    Stitch markers. I carry ring markers (for indicating borders or pattern repeats) and locking stitch markers (to mark specific stitches).

5.    Row counter. Just like stitch markers, row counters are essential for lazy knitters (like me) or forgetful knitters (like me), who want to outsource brain functions like counting.

6.    Dental floss. A dual purpose tool, dental floss can replace waste yarn as a handy stitch holder and its built in cutters can cut yarn when your scissors go AWOL.

7.    Calculator/smart phone. Between figuring out sizes and making purchase decisions, knitting involves a lot of lower mathematics. Again, outsource! And save your brain space for knitting patterns.

8.    Measuring tape. Measure stuff, 'nuff said.

9.    Pen/pencil. I'm a big believer in marking up my patterns, taking note of where I stop knitting so I know where to start again. Sometimes, when you put a project down for the day, you may not pick it up again for weeks, even years.

10. Paper. See above.

Plus your needles and yarn, silly.