Smaller’s not always better, but it can be funner



It’s another fun miniature project – taking a regular knitting pattern sized for child or adult and making it …roughly… the same proportions by gnawing off a math challenge with no fear. Well, maybe a little fear.

My starting point was a cute pattern with clear, excellent instructions:

Somewhere in the essence of my math-oriented brain, I must have realized that to use size 4 needles instead of the prescribed size 13 would render a finished length in proportion if I also kept to the number of stitches in the original pattern but reduced the length in rows to about one-third. This assumption was either intuition/experience or sheer dumb luck. 

I made the pink trial model accordingly, but it turned out pretty large for a Christmas ornament. (Unless you live in Texas, maybe.)


Besides wanting to get the miniature a little smaller, I saw that the rate of slant on the front neck edges was too shallow. Instead of the less-than-45-degree angle you see above, I needed something closer to 45. Tweaking for these corrections, and going for buttonholes instead of crocheted ties, I got the result shown below. BTW, I absolutely stink at crochet. Even a simple chain stitch comes out pretty awful, as you can see on the pink sweater.



HOW TO MAKE your Miniature Kimono Sweater

Approx. finished size 5.5” tall, 3.75” across at lower hem

First off, gauge is not highly important for this project. (Hooray!)

Second off, send a comment if you need any of my instructions clarified. I’ve used a number of abbreviations without explanation, such as “work a stitch f/b.”

With size 4 needles, c/o 24 sts. The alternate cable cast-on is recommended. It gives a nice, loopy/scalloped lower edge that is ideal when you’re starting off in ribbing. Work 3 or 4 rows single ribbing — IN CONTRASTING COLOR, optionally, then 1 row in stockinette stitch in CC then change to MC and work 17 rows in st st — or simply work 18 rows in st st if knitting the entire sweater in one color. Work should measure approximately 2 and 2/3″ from cast-on edge. End with a WS row.


RS: Using knitted c/o method, cast on 8 sts for sleeve, then knit entire row. (32)

WS: Using knitted c/o method, cast on 8 for other sleeve and work purl row. (40)

Continue in stockinette stitch until work measures 4.5″ from cast-on edge, ending with a WS row.


RS: Knit 14 and move these sts to scrap yarn or a stitch holder for right front. Attach a new yarn ball and bind off 12 sts for back neck; complete row in pattern. Illustration below shows right front stitches held on gray scrap yarn, back neck bound off (in center of photo), and left front continued as described in upcoming instructions.


### – return to this point to complete right front, later
Work 3 rows on left front stitches, then begin increasing at front edge on a RS row:
>A. Inc row (work a stitch f/b at edge, plus a yo next to that)
>B. Inc row (ditto)
>C. Work 1 row with a yo within 2 sts of front edge, but DO NOT INCREASE the total # of sts:
For RS rows: k2, yo, k1 [into the previous row’s yo], k2tog, knit to end.
For WS rows: purl to last 5 sts; sl 1, p1, psso, p1, yo, p2. I went this route to avoid p2tog. Purling 2 together is just plain difficult. Why do this if you don’t have to?

Repeat rows ABC until there are 28 sts, ending with a row A (a WS row). Work 1 row even.

Here’s a photo of my Instagram post at this point. I was so tickled to have come up with a strategy to correct that slant after the pink attempt came out too shallow because I had increased on every row:

IMG_3642 (1)


On next row (WS), bind off 8 sts, then purl to end of row. (20)
Work in pat until piece measures approximately 9.25″** from cast-on edge OR until the front in progress lines up with sweater back (above ribbing) when sleeve seam edges are held together. OPTIONAL BUTTONHOLES: If working small buttonholes into the left front (for a “man’s” sweater closure), refer to instructions below while completing this section. However, buttonholes may be made in RIGHT FRONT instead, for a “woman’s” sweater.

When left front is long enough to match up with sweater back at the same point, begin single rib on a RS row, working same number of rows of ribbing as for sweater back. OR, having worked to needed length minus one row if using a contrasting color for ribbing, work 1 ROW st st in CC, plus the ribbing rows. Why the one row of stockinette in CC? I explain that a little farther down, under TIP.

**For me, in my gauge, completing the front after sleeve edge bind-off was approximately 15 more rows from this point, before changing color and starting the ribbing.


Work several small buttonholes, evenly spaced, on RS rows by binding off the 3rd stitch and then casting it back on when purling the next row. In practical terms, this means: k4, lift 2nd loop over end stitch and off needle tip, knit to end. On next row, cast 1 stitch back on before purling the second-to-last stitch. Backward loop method may be the easiest way to do this.

Here’s how I spaced 4 buttonholes within a 16-row area:
Work rows 1 & 2 in pattern.
Row 3 (RS) = buttonhole row. See above paragraph for method.
Work rows 4,5,6 in pattern.
Row 7 (RS) = buttonhole row.
Work rows 8,9,10 in pattern.
Continue in this manner, working a buttonhole on rows 11 and 15, completing the final buttonhole by casting on a stitch at the appropriate spot on row 16. On my blue and white sweater, row 16 was a purl row worked with CC. I had determined that I wanted the buttons to go on down close to the lower edge.

TIP: when changing colors, I’ve found it looks better to do so NOT on the same row that you switch from ribbing to some other stitch or vice versa. The purl bumps tend to stand out awkwardly if there is a yarn color change at the same time.

After completing 3-4 rows of ribbing, ending with a RS row, bind off in Miraculous Elastic Bind-off with WS facing you. The pretty side of this bind-off is the side that faces away from you as you work.

I got so excited about figuring out where to place the buttonholes that I went ahead and did them in the left front, which supposedly makes this a male’s sweater (buttons on the right), but that’s perfectly fine, because this miniature is a Christmas ornament for a special family that includes a dad and a son.


The buttonholes are pretty small (but that’s the fun of miniatures!), just one stitch bound off and then put back on the following row. In retrospect, I see there could have been a fifth buttonhole above these four. As I compose this post, I can’t wait to go button shopping! ;0-)


Slip stitches for right front from holder back onto needle, with yarn source on same end as needle tip. See point marked ### above and begin right front starting with a WS row: work 3 rows even, then begin increasing at neck edge in the same manner as for left front, reversing the shaping and omitting the “work 1 row even.” Note that sleeve edge will be bound off at the start of a RS row.




Seam the sides, weave yarn ends in, and attach a button under each buttonhole. Or, work a chain stitch or narrow i-cord and attach to both sides of front for tie closure.


Your completed mini kimono sweater will add a handmade touch to someone’s Christmas tree, and it just might dress up a doll or a small stuffed animal, too!


Free knitting pattern: Lightning-Fast Roll-Brim Hat

bulky roll-brim hat original pattern

I wanted to call this project “7-11 Roll-Brim Hat,” but the trial run told me it would need to be “11-7” instead. Somehow, that just didn’t have the same punch.

This project was inspired by recent Instagram posts of knitted baby hats. I commented on one, asking what size needle was used. (The hat looked to be made with some hefty size, like 15 upwards.) The answer was “made with knitting loom.” Ah.

I don’t use a loom, so I pulled out my size 19 straight needles and some thick yarn, and I put my thinking cap on. My first effort suggested the name “Chunky sideways roll-brim hat.” It was 24 stitches, worked entirely in stockinette. The resulting tube was quite tall, requiring a REALLY BIG & FAT brim….roll, roll, and roll it up some more! (and expect your family to laugh when you model it) Too, the crown was wrong side out – too messy with all the color-change wrong-side rows. That’s why 7-11 didn’t work. I had started from the wrong end.

Back to the drawing board! #ifatfirstyoudontsucceed

The second version was much better. If you want a fast project for a Saturday afternoon or a sleepless night, try this:

Lightning-Fast Roll-Brim Hat (adult size)

Hat is worked flat, side edge to side edge, on size 19 straight needles using 18 stitches (11 worked in garter stitch and the other 7 in stockinette stitch). Ending yarn tail can be used for seaming; or, work PROVISIONAL CAST-ON at the start and use THREE-NEEDLE BIND-OFF at the end. Note: if you’ve ever knitted a simple Christmas bell ornament flat, this is the same general construction approach:



  • Size 19 straight needles
  • Optional: Extra needle size 19 or 17 for three-needle bind-off
  • Two different colors of thicker yarn like Lion brand Wool Ease “thick&quick” or 2 strands held together of Lion brand Jiffy or similar-weight novelty yarn like Deborah Norville Serenity Chunky Sprinkles. But hat can be made in one solid color if you prefer.
  • Yarn needle with large eye

For standard cast-on, cast 18 stitches on size 19 needle, leaving a yarn tail of at least 18″ (for drawing up top of hat later).
For provisional cast-on, use scrap yarn and crochet hook to work 19 or 20 loops around size 19 knitting needle, plus an extra chain of several stitches off the needle. Secure chain loosely and cut scrap yarn away.

With color 1, knit 11 then purl 7 (into 18 of the the provisional cast-on loops if using that method; drop extra provisional loops off needle).

Next row: Knit all sts. Do not cut working yarn.

Row 3: Introduce color 2, knitting 11, purling 7.
Row 4: Knit all sts with color 2. Do not cut yarn.

Repeat first two rows, picking up and using color 1.

Repeat rows 3 and 4, picking up and using color 2.

Continue in this manner, alternating colors every two rows, keeping in garter stitch and stockinette stitch as established, until you have nine stripes of both colors (36 rows).

Work next row in pattern with color 1. Turn needle. Right side of stockinette section and wrong side of garter section should be facing you.

If standard cast-on was used, bind off with color 1. Secure and keep a yarn tail long enough for seaming. Note: by starting and ending with a stripe of the same color, the idea is that seaming will “use up and hide” half of each color 1 stripe, resulting in the look of one stripe uniform with the rest of the hat. Use large-eyed needle to seam hat. Secure and weave ends in. Now, thread yarn needle with starting tail and weave needle tip in and out of upper edge of hat (upper edge is garter stitch end) every 5/8″ to 3/4″. Pull up snugly. Secure. Weave all ends in and turn hat right side out. Roll stockinette brim up on outside.

If provisional cast-on was used: undo provisional cast-on and carefully place row of starting stitches on your spare needle from left to right, so both needles are facing the same direction. Remember that the first stitch may not be a full loop yet, depending on how you introduced color 1 into the scrap yarn at the start of row 1. If necessary, use a crochet hook to pull starting tail of color 1 through another loop of your work. Both needles now in your work should be facing the same direction and each should have 18 stitches on it. With the needle you just loaded held in back, use empty size 19 needle to work three-needle bind-off, continuing with color 1 as working yarn. Ending loop should be at garter stitch end (top of hat). Secure last stitch and keep a long enough yarn tail to thread through needle and draw up top of hat. See above paragraph for particulars. Weave yarn ends in and turn hat right side out. Roll stockinette brim up on outside.

Size Adjustments
My example hat fits me snugly. Add 2 more stripes if you want more width. Start with a few stitches more than 18 if you want more height. Sized as is, this would be a great pattern for someone without thick hair… a good gift for someone getting over temporary hair loss, perhaps.


Murder, She Wrote; Growing Pains; and this needlecraft book


In today’s title we have overwhelming proof that 1986 was a good year, and that’s without even adding that Jeff and I were married on April 19. Happy 31st anniversary, sweetie! 😘

I chose this 1986 sewing/knitting/crochet/needlecraft book at the home of a very, very nice friend when she was reassigning the ownership of sewing supplies that had belonged to her mother, a trained and talented seamstress. In short order, the pattern for “Loose and bulky jacket,” a garment made of 12 identical knitted squares, caught my interest.


Here’s the photojournal of my effort, completed on April 15 – a day I’m surely glad I was finishing a knitting project instead of finishing my tax returns.


Size 10 needles 🙂


Ah, the pleasure of marking off the final row!


12 wiggly squares worked on the diagonal. Can they be blocked into shape?


Blocking isn’t my forte, but I did try.


6 narrow strips of garter stitch trim required for finishing


Above, the model photo. Below, mine. I didn’t choose a “bulky” yarn as recommended, but at least the color was very close. I started off with something I had on hand, but of course I had to buy more along the way – Lion brand Heartland, color name Grand Canyon. I like the color nuances, but the yarn’s limp texture and (lack of) durability seem, I’m sorry to say, too much like Simply Soft by Caron.


Photo credit Jeff Lowery on the day before Easter, while we were running errands. If you don’t look too closely, you may miss how difficult I found it to

1. Block the pieces into true squares when increased and decreased edges didn’t have the same “give”

2. Seam squares together without creating the appearance of holes where stitches made on the diagonal had to be stretched in blocking (revisit item 1 & check my left shoulder in the photo)

3. Remember to seam the trim to the front edges on the other side in the areas where the front edges fold back 😩


It was a stimulating project; the jacket is warm (against the onslaught of the air-conditioning season); and I now have a size model to guide me if I decide to try a similar jacket made of squares or rectangles not knitted on the diagonal. NOTE TO SELF: the more pieces you start with, the more yarn ends you have to weave in at the end.

The longest ladder I’ve seen lately

A quick lesson in pulling a wrong-direction stitch out and repairing it using a crochet hook.

Ribbing is that neat-looking, stretchy edging that allows knitted cuffs and collars to stretch out and then spring back. When you are making ribbing, the “Golden Rule” is Knit the knits and purl the purls. Just go by what you did on the row before. It’s that simple. Usually. The problem with following what you did on the previous row is, what if you made a mistake on a previous previous row and didn’t catch it right away?

On the WIP you see here (WIP is short for work in progress), I accidentally switched to the wrong type of stitch 16 rows before I realized it. See how the wide rib of V-shaped stitches suddenly got too narrow? #oops


What to do?

I’m glad you asked. Fortunately, this kind of knitting goof is very easily fixed – and without taking 16 rows of work out. In fact, you don’t have to lose any work at all, and very little time. (And here’s where the “ladder” comes in, in case you thought I was writing about painting tall buildings or about the way people used to sneak out to elope, as in that episode of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. I’m sure you know the one, with cast regular Ted Bessell, who also played “Donald” in That Girl. But, I digress. Enthusiastically.)

I took the loop in question off the left needle and gently pulled it loose from the loop below it, and that one from the loop below it, and so on, down to where the problem occurred – probably while I was watching When Calls the Heart or a marathon of Garage Sale Mysteries. And here’s what I ended up with:


Those long, loose strands are sometimes made on purpose for a fashion statement. Clue: watch for the term “dropped stitch” or “drop stitch” in a garment’s or a pattern’s name.

Quick Fix

Now, see how easy it is to pull each loop back into place, placing the “purl bump” on the side where it is supposed to be. Got a crochet hook? Good. Let’s do this. #couldntbeeasier

Voila! We’re back on track. Only 50-something more rows to go, and this cabled pocket scarf will be finished.


TIP TIME! “Weave in” shortcut

Let’s face it: it’s just annoying to be “finished” with an exciting new knitted item, only to have to “weave all ends in” before you’re really finished.

I had a great idea for how to work in the starting yarn tail, but I had to scrap it at the last minute. Instead of my idea, I offer you someone else’s tip instead. The basic maneuver you see in the linked video can be used to work your starting yarn tail in at the beginning of a project. Give it a try! I plan to. There’s always something fun and new to learn.

A bum steer narrowly avoided

I was all set to propose a different method of weaving the yarn tail in, which is illustrated in the following pictures and video. However, I realized (thanks be to God!) about 24 hours before this post was scheduled to be published that my idea basically turned the yarn tail into a working yarn, and its loose end would still need to be worked in to secure it against the possibility of unraveling. Shucks – I was really proud of my post draft and my video! So, I’m going ahead and publishing it, with edits, to show that not all of my ideas are brilliant and foolproof. Just most of them… 🙂

If you get through the rest of this article, you’ll actually see in my video and the comments below it some valid information that’s not directly related to working a yarn tail in. Hooray! Some salvage accomplished.

I used the “knitted cast on” method. So, before I begin, the yarn tail is at one end and the working yarn is at the other. If I had used the long tail cast on, both yarns would be at the pointed end of the needle and I could start this shortcut tip right away. As it is, I will knit one row with the working yarn and then proceed. Note: this holds true for the valid weave-in tip shown in the Youtube video linked above. When both yarns are on the same end, you should be able to wrap the tail around the needle along with the working yarn, and you won’t have the issue of “showing through” that’s mentioned in the video – because all of your yarn is the same color here.


For purposes of illustration only, I have colored the yarn tail with a marker so it will stand out in later photographs.


Above, I have knitted one row with the working yarn. Now, the working yarn and the tail are at the same end of the needle, and I can begin a weave-in shortcut. I hasten to add, some patterns will instruct you to leave a starting tail of a certain length to use to stitch a seam later on. In a case like that, of course you should follow your instructions and not use a shortcut for weaving in as you go.

In the video below, I am knitting with the tail and the working yarn alternately – using a different yarn source for every other stitch, switching back and forth between them until the tail runs out. Make sense? I thought it did until I realized I had turned the tail into a second “working yarn.” Boo. #fail

Again, although this doesn’t work in the way I started out to prove, holding one yarn source above and the other below prevents the yarn source strands from continually crossing over one another and creating a thick spiral. That is the same approach I take when working “Fair Isle” or other multicolor motifs, as in the hat, boot toppers, and headband shown below. Here is a site that offers some multicolor stitch designs. And be sure to check out more of my knitting pictures in the Picture Gallery or on Instagram. Find me by the handle hiyabets.


NOTE: In my video, you’ll also see evidence of my propped-needle knitting method! Years ago, I found this was the easiest way for me to succeed at knitting, especially with standard, straight needles. Propping the right-hand needle against my body or between my knees allows me a lot of freedom to manipulate the work (with my left hand) and the yarn (with my right hand), as well as to grip and move loops as needed sometimes for special stitches like “purl 2 together.” Really amazing knitters seem able to work that needle tip through loops deftly in all directions. Average but determined knitters like me find ways to “cheat” with our fingertips. #ifitworksitsnotwrong

1-hour garter stitch tissue pack cover



Knit this easy project on a weekend morning or a long lunch hour for a cute accessory or a “little gift” for a special friend!

This is a simple, rectangular, beginning knitting project using the added skills of seaming with a yarn needle and attaching a button for a simple closure that uses a space between stitches as a ready-made buttonhole.

Suggested yarn: sturdy worsted weight or cotton cord. Variegated is a good option. Yarn shown in illustrations is a “denim look” cotton.

With size U.S. 9 needles, cast on 18 sts or number needed to make a width of 5” in your gauge. Long tail cast-on is recommended – and leave enough of a yarn tail for easy seaming later. (Smaller sizes of needles – down to size 6 – are fine, so long as the piece worked is 5” wide. Size 9 will go faster!) TIP: If you need to, use the picture below to practice counting how many stitches were used in a knitted piece. Look only at the loops forming the top of one ridge, and you should easily count 18 of them from the left edge to the right. Being able to do this accurately helps you to figure out how to make something when you have only pictures to go by! #smartknitter

Knit every row until piece measures 5.5” from cast-on edge.


Bind off all sts, keeping a yarn tail long enough for sewing ends together (18″ – 24″). Recommended bind-off method is a “knit 2 together bind-off.” Different tutorials go about this different ways, but the end result is an edge that doesn’t pull up tight the way passing the lower stitch over the end stitch does in the simple bind-off many knitters learn first. I knit 2 sts, then knit those same two off the right needle together as one; then I knit another stitch from the left needle and continue in the same manner. (This may be the long way of working a k2tog TBL* off the left needle.)

The k2tog bind-off leaves an edge the same width as your work, rather than being tighter! And, if you can work it out this way, bind off so the ending yarn tail is on the opposite side of your piece as the starting yarn tail, and you’ll have the “sewing thread” you need all handy on each end without having to attach another piece of yarn, which would leave more ends to weave in. TIP: Always look for patterns (or make up your own) that give you the smallest possible number of loose ends to weave in when you’re done! Another tip: on a project like this one, you can also “cheat” a little by tacking down the very end of woven-in yarn with a dot of hot glue.

Fold piece in half, lining up the cast-on edge and the bound-off edge together. Mark the fold as the midpoint at top and bottom, using a safety pin or straight pin.

Now, fold each edge in to the midpoint, creating the look of an envelope or a coin purse with a center, slit opening. Using a plastic yarn needle, stitch in and out at each end to secure. Stitch a second time for a stronger seam. Right-hand illustration below shows the lower end’s seaming complete and the upper edges partially turned in to begin the same process on that end.


Weave all ends in invisibly. Turn cover right side out.



Choose a shank-type button approximately 3/8” to ½” in diameter, or whatever size just fits through a hole between your stitches. Use regular sewing thread and sewing needle to attach button to center of cover on one side. Insert a package of 10 folded tissues and push button through a hole between stitches on the other side to secure. You want the cover to fit pretty snugly over a full pack of tissues so it won’t be way too loose as the ten tissues diminish down to one over time.



*k2tog TBL means “knit 2 together through the back loop”

TIP TIME! Try cable needle one size larger

Two stitches held forward on size 7 double-pointed needle; project is being worked on size 6 needles.

Oh, the excitement of trying a new stitch! Involve the word “cable,” and you really have enthused the avid knitter.

While much of my top-secret Christmas gift items are employing colorful “Fair Isle” motifs, I decided to step out and try a solid color with a cable design. Turning to the little book I still thank my sweet coworker Lynn Stewart for giving me that year she drew my name for the office gift exchange, Field Guide to Knitting, I chose a cable ribbing stitch. It looked only slightly daunting in spite of the fact that I had to convert purls to knits in order to work the design in the round. #iloveachallenge


So, what’s the TIP here?

The whole idea of cables is to make a twist in the fabric by knitting several stitches out of order, every so many rows. To do this, you have to use a separate needle to hold some loops either forward or back, temporarily, while you work others. I found that my mother’s vintage set of Susan Bates metal size 6 DPNs were a bit slippery. The cable needle tended to fall out of the two held stitches and clatter to the floor, or to that abyss between the seats in the car. #disaster

Of course, it was AFTER I’d finished the entire cable section of the mystery item pictured above that I hit on a solution. Using a bamboo needle gives a little more resistance against the yarn than a metal needle does. Unfortunately, I don’t own any bamboo DPNs in size 6, but – eureka! – I do have a set of size sevens. Moving up one needle size will not stretch the held stitches to any degree for the short amount of time they are on that needle, and if the fit is a little tighter, it will cut down on the tendency of the spare needle to slide out of the stitches while that bit is just hanging there because your hands are employed with the work behind them.

See that otherwise very useful, size 6 green needle just sliding right out of these two stitches I’m holding in front while I work with circular needles of the same size:

Any time you drop a stitch off the needle accidentally, yarn loops typically will hold together until you can slide the needle back into the stitches, but occasionally a loop will come out and you will have a problem that must be fixed. Too, some yarns are just so darned ornery that the little strands will instantly move out of place, making it difficult to insert the needle tip precisely where it needs to go.


Fear not cable knitting! My daughter made a beautiful red scarf a few years ago with a huge cable twist running right down the middle, and she definitely is a “beginning knitter.” I must remember to ask her if I can borrow that scarf for a special occasion or two during Christmas.
Social Media “spoiler alert”…Working on gifts at “Santa’s Workshop” in November and December has really challenged my self-control. I want to post my progress on Instagram without spoiling surprises, so I have “snuck in” a few close-ups here and there, hoping it won’t be apparent what I am knitting. (“Fair Isle” is just too beautiful not to share…) Please check out my Instagram account @hiyabets AFTER Christmas for more pictures! Meanwhile, here’s a sneak peek:

Proud to be included in local exhibit this month!

I am privileged to have several items on display with Greater Birmingham Fiber Guild during September at Homewood Public Library. Please get by there this month to see all of the guild members’ beautiful work! There are exquisite shoulder wraps, wall art, stitchery, hand-dyed items…so much more than the simple things I knit.

I knitted and felted a 2-tone wool bowl specifically for this occasion (pictured above at left). Also displayed is a vertical-stripe self-fringing “shawlette” (pictured above, third from left) featured in a separate post on this site. My large, felted tote bag from last fall is there, in orange with stripes of taupe and jade, as well as two of the Vestavia Hills Baptist Church summer “Arts on the Mountain Children’s Camp” projects: felt balls and hand-sewn doll. My doll, Sylvia, is wearing the wool garter-stitch tunic I made in miniature from Claire Kapstein’s children’s pattern (an unrelated project that just happened to fit the doll very well). That adventure is chronicled here.

Homewood Public Library is open every day: 9 to 9 on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday; 9 to 6 on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday; and 2 to 6 on Sunday. Enjoy the exhibit!

Tunic at the start_VIVIFY

P.S. I am also entering four knitted items in Shelby County Fair the first week of October in Columbiana, Alabama:

Wish me luck! #INeedMoreBlueRibbons

I definitely will post a Fair update here once the event opens and the ribbons are distributed on Monday, October 3. I am entering a number of photographs, too.


TIP TIME! That flippin’ yarn tail too long or too short?

Having trouble pulling off the right amount of yarn to start your long tail cast-on?

A general guideline for projects on sizes 6-10 needles is to pull out an inch of yarn from the skein for every stitch you plan to cast on, plus a few inches more for good measure, then to make your slip knot at that point and begin. If you are casting on a significant number of stitches, 50 or more, you certainly don’t want to have to do that more than once. Therefore, you need to start with enough yarn to do the entire cast-on. Check the link in the next paragraph for an interesting tip on how to estimate how much yarn to start with! This method was new to me and I haven’t tried it yet – but I will.

If you start with too short a tail on the thumb side of your hand position, you’re going to run out of that side of the yarn and you will have to start all over again! Boo. 😞 [Need a reminder how to do the long tail cast-on? Click here.]

When I began to cast on in a black wool combined with a soft, knobby, novelty yarn for my last “Emma Bag,” [find this great free pattern here!] I started off with too little and realized it after casting on about 24 of the required 72 stitches. I pulled all of that off the needle and unraveled it.

Not to be fooled again, I started with an extra, EXTRA long tail. You know what happened: the pendulum swung too far the other way, and I now I had WAY too much excess to trim off and let go to waste. (This waste is not a huge deal if you have plenty of yarn and it wasn’t expensive; after completing your cast-on, just trim the excess to about 12″ or whatever you need to use later with a yarn needle or a crochet hook for weaving the end into the edge of your finished project.)

A solution presents itself
Knitting with the yarn tail instead of the working yarn is typically a huge “no-no” and is a common mistake for beginning knitters – although it happens now & again to virtually everyone, no matter their skill level. Watching television or talking while knitting – that will set you up to pick up the tail by accident on a row near the start of your project! 🖥

In the situation at hand, however, it occurred to me that knitting the first round with that excess of yarn tail could be a handy maneuver! I got all the way around my circular work of 72 stitches, and that ridiculously long yarn tail was reduced from over 2 yards to about 22 inches.


When I got to the marker, having completed one full round, I was at the point where the working yarn was easily picked up. I simply let go of the tail and began the first stitch of the new round with the working yarn. The same maneuver could be done, across and back, one time, with a flat project on straight needles: knit rows 1 and 2 with the tail; drop the tail and pick up the working yarn at the beginning of row 3.

For a project on much smaller needles, size 5 or less, you might even get away with knitting 4 rows with the tail before switching to the working yarn. You just don’t want to bring that new yarn source in from a long distance because you will have a bar of yarn hanging off the side of your project there.


Final note
For some projects, you will be instructed to leave a certain length of cast-on yarn tail until finished, so it can be used to “sew” a seam. I have made bedroom slippers by patterns that employ this technique.

Add knitted mini-blanket to baby gift

Baby gift

A  mini blanket or “blankee” attached to a soft stuffed animal or doll makes a sweet baby gift. Similar products are seen in stores with the traditional-looking blanket swatch, its edges bound in satin trim.

This clutchable security blanket knits up quickly in Box Stitch on size 10 needles with solid or multicolor baby yarn. Choose yarn to coordinate with your purchased toy. A soft, solid pink or blue baby doll would be very cute done up this way, with lots of pretty baby yarn out there to choose from!

Your favorite stitch pattern is always an option. I like Box Stitch because it is reversible. That’s important on this project because both sides show. For this reason, Box Stitch is a good choice also for scarves and for nonfelted baskets where the inside and the outside show equally.

Let’s Make This!

With size 10 needles, cast on 50 stitches.*

*50 would be a minimum. Cast on more for a fuller blanket you intend to make longer for a larger stuffed animal. In that case, you might wish to use circular needles. Cast on the multiple of stitches your stitch pattern requires. Box Stitch requires a multiple of 4 stitches, plus 2 more.  I generally use shorthand to note this type of requirement: 4* +2

The Box Stitch Pattern
Row 1: (K2, P2), K2
Row 2: (P2, K2), P2
Row 3: as row 2
Row 4: as row 1
Repeat rows 1 thru 4 for pattern.

Work until piece measures about 8″ or 9″ long, or several inches longer than a “standing” stuffed bear or other cute, soft animal or soft, huggable doll.

Bind off in pattern.

Understanding the pattern.
I have coined the phrase “understanding the pattern” to mean the ability to recognize where you are within the rows and to know what to stitch next, without having to refer to a grid, a spreadsheet, or any printed instructions. This ability can be especially important when you are working increases and decreases into the sides of a sleeve or a sweater!

Understanding the Box Stitch pattern is easy if you have knitted in ribbing patterns much at all. Box stitch is essentially an offset, “checkerboard” placement of groups of 2×2 ribbing. When you see two rows of purl bumps, it’s time to do knit stitches at that point on the next two rows. Every row is the worked the same except that you alternate whether you are starting with k2 or starting with p2. Two rows the one way, two rows the other way, etc.

Make a grid or a printed spreadsheet if you need to, but visually is the best way to know what row comes next.

[[Telling on myself, a.k.a. “how far we have come”
Long ago, I made a spreadsheet with row after row, cell after cell, to mark off Knit and Purl rows when learning the stockinette stitch. I saw soon that understanding the pattern for stockinette simply means “knit the pretty side and purl the ugly side.”  No spreadsheet needed! :0-) ]]


Attaching the blanket “skirt” to a stuffed animal or doll

First: Be sure to keep the tags of your purchased toy intact so the recipient of your gift will not think it is secondhand!

Run elastic cord or very narrow, flat elastic in and out of stitches along top or bottom edge, whichever makes the finished piece look nicer. Secure elastic well at ends after fitting the piece to the toy. Narrow, flat elastic may be the better choice because you can sew it together at a small overlap and not have dangling ends. I used tubular elastic cord and knotted it very tightly. Then I slid the knitted stitches around to put the knot and the cut ends out of sight.

Slip the snug circle around the body of the animal or doll, just under the arms. Adjust gathering and meet the front edges at center front of toy.


Using a circle of elastic (as opposed to stitching it on) keeps the knitted piece removable for separate laundering as needed. (And in case the family ever wishes to use the toy without the blankee.)


See the adorable little lamb using its body wrap as a head wrap!


Sweet mom-to-be with her gift. This is one of the greatest joys of knitting!