I was recently at a fiber show admiring a cute pile of baby sweaters at a booth. I was talking with the owner/knitter and she had so many gorgeous sweaters, in every color imaginable. Her work was lovely and knitters and non knitters were buying her sweaters, mostly as gifts. Mothers LOVE a hand knit sweater for their baby after all.
Then by our surprise, a woman walked by and said "That is my design. You can't sell those." Everyone at her booth disappeared, leaving the designer and knitter to settle this dispute.
This made we wonder about ownership, rights, and profit in the knitting world as well as the perception of it all. After delving into research and consulting the U.S. Copyright Office, I learned a lot about the process and wish that I could have gone back in time to that booth to save that poor knitter.
First let me say that I am NOT a lawyer nor do I work for the U.S. Copyright Office. I am a knitwear designer and my words and views in this article are of my own, based upon my experience and research with U.S. Copyright laws. Laws oversees vary from country to country.
Before we tackle the "selling knitted goods" issue, let's talk a minute about copyrights in general. How do you know if a pattern has been copyrighted? Copyright protection automatically goes into effect the moment an original work has been completed and fixed in a tangible form. After the pattern has been finished, it is essentially protected under copyright laws. So you should assume that all patterns floating around in print and on the internet are copyrighted. A pattern or any other type of work does not need to be registered, published or stamped with the (c) copyright notice in order for it to be protected. I do register my patterns with the U.S. Copyright Office, but it is not necessary. In the United States, a copyright lasts from the time the pattern or original work is completed until 70 years after the individual author's death or 95 years if the copyright is owned by a company.
Copyright laws offer protection to the author, artist, or to me as the designer. They prevent someone else from selling my patterns, or distributing them for free. Now we get back to "selling knitted goods." The copyright extends to the PATTERN. That is the tangible thing that I have created and have rights to. It covers the pattern, and all parts of the pattern like the photos, schematic etc. What it does NOT cover is the item that is made by using the pattern.
When you knit from a pattern, that thing that you create is, well, yours. You bought the pattern and the yarn, you knitted the item, it is yours. You may do what you wish with that item. You can wear it, give it as a gift or sell it. You can knit one sweater from a pattern or you can knit 100 sweaters from that same pattern. What you can't do, is claim the pattern or design as your own, sell the pattern to someone else or make copies of the pattern and give them away.
If someone gives you the pattern for free, that is normally sold to the public, it is a gift for you. It does not allow you the right to give it away to others for free as well. Copyright laws protect distribution of copyrighted materials in this regard. The same holds true if you receive a pattern as part of a kit. It is your pattern that you received for your use.
If you knit a sweater or accessory from one of my patterns, and you are fortunate enough to sell your finished item and make a profit, I encourage you to do so! It takes great skill and attention to details in finishing, to create a project that is "sales worthy." First let me say THANK YOU for purchasing one of my patterns to begin with. From the initial concept, to the finished PDF, there is a lot of work that goes into publishing a knitting pattern. In many cases the cost of the knitting pattern is less than 10% of the yarn needed to knit an adult size sweater, so the cost of a pattern is minimal. But it is everything to me, as the designer! So I am appreciative to everyone who has supported me and my designs by purchasing one of my patterns.
If you decide to give credit to Donna Estin Designs for the design on your finished, sellable projects, thank you. It is not necessary, but it's kind of you. But it's completely your decision. Sometimes the purchaser (mainly another knitter) is interested in who designed the garment. But if you're selling to the general public, they really couldn't care less who designed the thing that you made and sold to them, so don't bother.
I'm honored that you 've selected one of my designs to knit with the intent of selling the finished garment. I hope that I am able to help you create a niche business in this fabulous fiber world we all enjoy. Each of us play a roll in furthering the fine reputation of hand knits in the eye of the general public. Knitting is a skill that should be upheld and cherished. It is quite impressive! The more we are able to share the uniqueness and quality of a hand knit item to a broad base of the population, the more sought after hand knits will become. Which further increases demand for our time-treasured craft.
Happy knitting & happy selling!
U. S. Copyright Office 26SEP19 <https://www.copyright.gov/>
Krellenstein, Jason. "Ask a Lawyer, Knitting and Copyright." Vogue Knitting. Spring/Summer 2012. <http://www.vogueknitting.com/magazine/article_archive/ask_a_lawyer_knitting_and_copyright>
The Three Needle Bind Off Purlwise allows you to use 3-needle BO with Reversed Stockinette or Garter stitch, where your purl stitches are on the right side of your garment. This creates a seam that blends in nicely with the purl stitches and is hardly noticeable.
You can read the step-by-step instructions below or watch the video [click here].
How to work the Three Needle Bind Off Purlwise:
1. The setup is the same as regular three needle bind off. With the right sides held together (we’re working with Reversed Stockinette so we want the purl sides together), needle tips pointing in the same direction, and same number of sts on each needle, insert 3rd needle knitwise into the first stitch on the front needle. Leave it on the needle.
2. Wrap yarn counterclockwise around 3rd needle tip to bring the yarn in front. (You’re setting up a purl stitch and you always bring your yarn forward before you purl.) Insert 3rd needle purlwise into the first stitch on the back needle and purl this stitch. Let it fall from the back needle.
3. Take the yarn clockwise around 3rd needle tip to the back of your work. Lift the front knit st that is being held open, over the st that you just purled and off the needle. You have 1 st on the 3rd needle. Do these steps again and you'll have 2 sts on the 3rd needle.
4. Lift 2nd st over 1st st and off. Continue until all stitches have been bound off.
What we’re doing is knitting the stitches on the front needle and purling the stitches on the back needle. You bring your yarn forward before purling, then bring it to the back before knitting.
For the front, go into the stitch as if to knit.
For the back, yarn forward, purl the st, yarn back.
Lift the knit stitch held open over the purled st.
Bind off one stitch.
This creates such a nice seam that blends in nicely to purl stitches. I hope you find it useful. Many knitters love to join shoulders with the three needle bind off. It is a convenient way to end your work and join the front and back at the same time. With so many cable patterns using reversed stockinette as a background stitch for the cabling, there are many times where you end up with lots of purled stitches around the shoulders. Patterns will have you bind off and seam, which has its own advantages (stronger, more stable seam, etc.), but the Three Needle Bind Off Purlwise gives you another option that is fun to do, looks great and saves time. I hope you enjoy it!
Thank you to all the tester who are testing the Belfast Pullover. New sizes are scheduled for release by the end of August 2019.
Belfast Pullover is an easy-to-wear pullover which achieves the look of cables without a cable needle. The body is worked in columns of textured cabled stitches and the bodice in Stockinette with a gently scooped neckline. It is worked flat from the bottom up and is both charted & written out with schematics. Pullover is designed to be loose-fitting so please select a finished size that gives you about 4"/10cm of positive ease.
Skill level: Intermediate
Yarn: Worsted weight (yarn shown in sample is Good Karma Farm 60/40 Alpaca/Wool blend)
The test is being run on YarnPond.com. If you're not familiar with YarnPond, you can sign up as a tester for free. Click here for all the test/pattern details, or to apply.
The deadline to finish your test garment is 7/31/19 (but I am flexible on this). I hope you can join us!
When I was Stockholm not long ago, I noticed women wearing shorts over tights. It was the first time I had seen this combination and initially I thought, why not just wear pants? But as I saw this outfit over and over again, it grew on me. Shorts are cute. They give a little burst of color in the middle of your body, and you can wear them over any color (or print) of tights you like. It was a beautiful example of combining the look you want with the practicality you need.
I thought about this recently when I watched the Pre-Fall 2019 fashion shows. There are two trends that grabbed my attention and I saw enormous potential in combining something that looks stylish with the practical.
Trend # 1 - Dresses over pants:
Skirts and dresses are being worn over pants and this is look is definitely taking off. Why would you wear a dress or skirt over pants? First, it gives you a longer, taller look. Second, it’s edgy and weird and everyone wants to be weird these days. Third, it’s a protest of tights and yoga pants. For people tired of the bulging spandex everywhere you look, replacing the tights with pants is chic, more conservative and definitely fashionable. If you select pants that are on the opposite spectrum of tights, and wear wide or flare legged pants, it creates an air of the roaring 20’s and Phrynie Fisher’s modern woman. Be on the look for tuxedo-stripe pants to make the colors pop. This trend is pushing into unisex better than any other. Men and women can both wear tunic dresses over pants. It allows men in the western world to pull in elements of the east and combine basic tunics with pants, in theory, wearing a dress but not really wearing a dress. As men and women’s attire become more and more unisex, you’ll likely see this trend picked up quickly. Watch for everyday brands such as Calvin Klein who are releasing this trend heavily for Fall 2019.
Trend # 2 - 1980’s style Mini Dresses:
Those famous super short dresses are becoming THE party dress. The hem length for dresses has been getting shorter and shorter beginning in 2016 with Saint Laurent’s Fall show and reaching massive popularity across loads of designers at the Pre-Fall 2019 shows. If you love this look but can’t pull it off, be a trendsetter and wear the mini dress over yoga pants or capris.
Easton Tunic/Dress is designed to be worn over a long sleeve tee shirt and pants. It works well with jeans and cords for a casual look and provides great coverage so it’s easy to wear without being self-conscious if your jeans are a little tighter than they used to be. Designed in 2 lengths (tunic and dress), it is flattering with A-line shaping. Without sleeves or neckline finishing, this is a good project to work when you want to take your brioche into a garment.
For more inspiration, please visit:
When you're substituting yarns for a pattern, knitters know that if that pattern calls for a worsted weight yarn, that substituting another worsted weight yarn is the thing to do. But all worsted weight yarns are not the same. Some yarns like cotton are inherently heavier than yarn made of angora. But even within the vast area of Worsted Weight Wool, you'll find balls of yarn that will weigh differently.
Why does weight matter?
When you finish your garment, you will either end up with a fairly lightweight sweater or an extremely heavy one. If you're doing a lot of cables which takes more yarn, a sweater knit with a heavy fiber will be even heavier. This affects your shoulder seams, the neckline drop, the sleeve length, and the overall comfort. If you're knitting with lace, a heavy yarn will really widen the openwork and leave you holes bigger than you wanted. Brioche uses almost twice as much yarn as stockinette, so you'll definitely want to minimize the total weight.
In these cases, you'll want to select a yarn that weighs less. This is a yarn that gives you more yards per gram in each ball/hank/skein.
On the other hand, if you're working with a "puffy" stitch pattern that you want to lie flat, a heavier yarn will help pull the garment down and stretch out that pattern to a pleasing texture. If you're working with elongated stitches that only look cool when actually elongated, you don't want a yarn so light that the dropped yarn overs puff out and glob together. You want them stretched out to give the full effect.
In these cases, you'll want to select a yarn that weighs more. This is a yarn that gives you less yards per gram in each ball/hank/skein.
Also think about the size. You can use a heavier yarn with a Woman's XS than you can with a Men's size 5X.
When substituting yarn for a pattern, first figure the weight per yard of the yarn listed in the pattern. Divide the total grams by the total yardage on the ball band to find out how many grams one yard of yarn weighs. This is easier to do in grams than ounces since with ounces you'll end up with a slew of fractions to contend with.
Below is a comparison of WORSTED WEIGHT YARNS, ranked from lightest to heaviest:
As you expect, the cotton blends are the heaviest. But look at the difference in wool! There's a big difference in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter at 0.36 grams per yard compared to Sugar Bush Bold at 0.53 grams per yard. A sweater that uses 1300 yards of yarn will weigh 468 grams with Shelter and 689 grams with Bold. That is a substantial difference that you will notice as soon as you pick up the garment.
Sometimes you want it light, sometimes you want it heavy. But knowing that the weight will have an effect on the finished garment, is an important tidbit to tuck away in your brain.
Before you make your next substitution, think about what you're creating and how you want it to behave. Then grab your phone to do a quick calculation to figure out how much one yard of yarn weighs before purchasing your yarn. When you invest time and money into a hand knitted garment, you want it to turn out the best that it can be. This quick little trick helps to do just that!
I recently traced the journey of my latest project around the globe and it made me think about local versus global trade in knitting. Fiber from Alpacas raised in SOUTH AMERICA sent to MASSACHUSETTS to be transformed into hanks of hand knitting yarn, then shipped to the UK who sold it online to me, a knitter in VIRGINIA, who knit a cardigan for someone who lives in SOUTH AMERICA. So the yarn traveled around the world and ended up where it began.
I think of the time, effort and cost of such a journey. And I also think of the local sheep and alpaca farms and woolen mills along the East Coast of the US who do it all. Yes, we live in a global market, but is it always better? Sometimes, yes.
But sometimes it's a great feeling to walk down the lane wearing a sweater you made from sheep on the farm just over the ridge.
Knitting is a way of life for many of us. It has meditative qualities, allows you to be productive while watching a movie in the evenings, is relaxing, is a great way to solve problems, and allows you to be creative and produce one-of-a-kind garments that are uniquely yours. The more you knit, the more you want to knit. Knitting 3+ hours a day, every day, of every week of every month for years and years can take it's toll.
Having received diagnosis's for 2 Frozen Shoulders over the years, and having experienced constant pain irritated by knitting, I have made some observations and found remedies which may help other knitters. It has been my experience, that knitting in certain people and conditions, can cause shoulder, bicep and elbow tendinitis. When you continue to work through the pain, the inflammation builds, the pain intensifies, and adhesive capsulitis can set in. NOTE - I am not a doctor or physical therapist. These are my own observations of things that have worked for me.
Before we begin, observe your body after you've been knitting for awhile. Freeze your position and you'll notice your arms are tense. Shoulders are elevated, upper arms are tense and elbows have been in a bent position while working for awhile. Your head is often held down and the center back of your neck is tender. Crocheters tend to have issues with carpal tunnel because of all the wrist movement. It's been my experience that knitters usually don't have a problem with their wrists as much as they do with their forearms, upper arms, and shoulders.
1. If you exercise regularly (by exercise I don't mean knitting) you are less likely to experience pain. Even 100 jumping jacks every day helps strengthen the arm muscles and provide joint stability.
2. Stretching after exercise and while knitting is essential. Take a break from knitting every 30 min. and stretch your arm (bicep, tricep, forearm, shoulder, - move everything around and hold the stretches).
3. Switch to circular needles which allows the weight of the garment to rest on your lap instead of being held by your arms.
4. Wear reading glasses while you knit which allows you to hold your fabric lower and avoid the temptation to work with the garment held mid-tummy or chest level, which adds weight to your arms.
5. Check your posture. Sit up straight and place a pillow behind your back to help with this.
6. Place pillows (or dogs) under each elbow to support arms and take tension off your upper arms.
7. When you have pain, stop. No really, stop knitting. It's a death sentence for addicts, BUT, it's temporary. Take a break for a few days, or however long it takes for the pain to subside. Do something else. Look through books and pick out your next pattern, buy yarn, learn a new technique from a reference book, add a new reference book to your library, make a list of things you want to knit, inventory your supplies, wind hanks of yarn into skeins, visit your LYS and immerse yourself in all things knitting, look online at knitting tutorials, take an online knitting course from Craftsy.com, organize your knitting supplies. Just stop the motion of knitting for a short bit.
8. Get massages. (smile) Not the standard 50 min. massage from the place in the shopping center, but go to a wellness center that has massage therapists who specialize in sports medicine. Tell them about your arm muscle overuse, and have them spend the whole hour on your hands, forearm, upper arm, shoulder and pecs. They will know what to do. By breaking down the fascia, you'll feel better instantly.
9. To alleviate pain:
10. Knit with finer yarns and smaller needles. You won't work as hard knitting with a size 1 needle and flexible fingering yarn as you will with size 10 needles and bulky, stiff yarn.
11. Knit with natural fibers. Pure wool is elastic and easy to work with. Alpaca slides through your fingers effortlessly and is light as air.
12. Avoid cotton.
13. Work on lace patterns and try to stay away from large cables which require more muscle effort as you twist and pull stitches.
Knitting without pain is a given for some people. But for those of us who do experience pain, and sometimes you're just genetically predisposed to tendonitis, there are ways to alleviate the pain the still knit.
By being aware of what's happening, changing your posture and habits, you can continue to knit for a lifetime. Know that if you experience pain, and develop tendinitis, after you rest, stretch, ice, etc .and the pain goes away, it will just come back again after you get back into your knitting routine. This is why improving your posture while knitting, and the way you knit is so important.
I hope you find relief from some of these tips. And please share other tried and true remedies and tricks of the trade that helped you.
All this chatter about seamless knitting leaves me feeling a need to defend the humble seam. I know, I know, you either knit or you sew but not both. Knitters generally don't like to sew. A cast on or bind off with a tapestry needle leaves many knitters shaking their heads NO. We all know how to Kitchener, but how many knitters say, YIPPEE, I get to Kitchener!
Frankly, knitters go out of their way to avoid sewing. So when a flat piece can be worked in the round, it is. When working a baby cardigan, many knitters cast on the left front, place a marker, cast on the back, place another marker and cast on the right front, all to avoid stitching a seam.
But there are benefits to seams! They provide stability, keep the garment in place and give it a nice shape. A pullover knitted in the round can take on a barrel shape around the middle, which is not the look we want. A seamed sweater tends to hang flatter, giving a more flattering look.
One of the most important areas to seam is the neckline. So many of us place the back and front neck stitches on a holder instead of binding them off, then pick them up again when working the collar. Why go through the trouble of binding off 40 stitches if you need 40 sts back on the needle to continue knitting. The reason... is that it provides stability.
A seam holds the garment place. It keeps the neckline the width it's supposed to be. Stitches that continue from the back into the neckline are stretchy and will expand outward. A nice, high turtleneck will quickly slip down into a crew neck that runs down into your collar bone. If a sweater stretches down your shoulder and takes on a shape of it's own, it is most likely due to the absence of a sturdy, seam. The few minutes that you save by putting the stitches on the holder will cause disappointment later when the garment is worn. To keep your sweater squarely on your shoulders, with your lovely collar in place, bind off the front and back entirely. Sew the shoulder seams in place, then pick up your stitches and work the neck.
Next is the shoulder. This join can take on a lot of stress with heavy garments made from cotton or longer tunic length sweaters and dresses. Heavily cabled sweaters also add weight which tests the shoulder seams. This is where you'll likely need extra reinforcement to keep the garment from stretching out too much. Heavy fronts and backs that are joined with the 3-needle bind off will often exhibit stitches that are stretched out of shape and add extra length at this junction. When dealing with a heavier fabric, it's best to bind off the shoulder stitches then seam them together. For fine fabrics, and lightweight, cropped garments, or children's sweaters, the 3-needle bind off works just fine.
Seams done properly look neat, finished and professional. They enhance the garments and give it a polished look. They are also wonderfully slimming on skirts. A solid piece of skirt fabric has little to distract the eye. Two or more pieces seamed together break up the width, create slimming panels. Seams can be turned inside out and worked with a different color yarn to create a whimsical, accent especially fun on children's sweaters.
There are many seaming methods to chose from depending on your needs. The versatile Mattress Stitch allows the benefit of working with the Right Side of the fabric facing you, so you can match up color work, patterns, and cables. It is virtually invisible and can be used to join many different types of stitches. If you learn only one seaming method, learn the Mattress Stitch. The backstitch is fast. The crochet method is easier on the hands/arms and doesn't require the same length of yarn to constantly move in and out of the fabric, which is good for yarns that pull apart easily like Icelandic yarns. Whichever seaming method you chose, do consider the function of the particular seam. If you don't want a bulky ridge, you might want to pass on the crochet method.
When you bind off that last stitch, think of the knitting phase finished, and the fun "finishing" phase is next. Put the work down for the night, wait until the next morning when you're fresh and have new light streaming in the windows, and embrace the finishing technique of seaming. You'll thank yourself later with garments that just wear better.
Ages ago, I walked into my local yarn shop and said I was done with superwash yarns. Sweater after sweater ended up so much larger than the pattern called for and had super long sleeves that were unwearable. Yes, I had swatched, and I had knitted the pattern exactly as written, but ended up with an expensive, time wasted mess.
With more and more amazing superwash yarns popping up, the desire to knit with them is becoming irresistible. When wool yarn is treated to become "superwash" it is stripped of it's natural elasticity properties. It won't spring back into shape after being soaked in water. It grows in size. And this can ruin a carefully hand knit garment.
But there is a way around this. You can knit with a superwash yarn and have your sweater turn out as expected. You just need a bit of planning and math. (just a little).
I always list in the notes section of my patterns that are worked in superwash yarns, to measure lengths vertically with the weight of the garment hanging from the needles. But there is just so much explanation that you can write into a pattern before it becomes tedious to read, especially for knitters who are already know this.So I'm taking a few moments to elaborate here, and arming you with the knowledge and steps to take to be able to knit a garment that fits with superwash yarns.
1. Knit a swatch. As a wise knitter told me once, "We all knit swatches after all! We either knit 4x4" swatches or 18x20" swatches." With superwash yarns, this is a must!
2. Measure the UNBLOCKED swatch. Write down your stitch and row gauge over at least 4".
3. Block it. Soak it in water, roll it in a towel, lay it flat, pin it and let it dry.
4. Unpin it and fluff it out. Lay it back down and with a ruler, measure the dry, blocked swatch and again write down your stitch and row gauge over 4".
5. Your stitch gauge, after blocking, must equal the stitch gauge of the pattern. Some patterns list both the pre and post blocking gauges, and if they don't, it is standard practice that patterns will list the gauge after blocking. If your stitch gauge doesn't match, try a different needle size, make a new swatch, and measure it before and after blocking.
6. Once you have a blocked swatch that matches the pattern's stitch gauge, use this swatch and figure the percentage that your swatch lengthened. Compare your pre-blocked row gauge to the post-blocked row gauge. If the pre-blocked row gauge is 32 rows=4" (8 rows=1") and after blocking it's 28 rows=4" (7 rows=1"), 8 div by 7=1.14. The length increased by 14%. You can also measure the new swatch. If the old one was 4" and the new one is 4.57" 4.57/4=1.14.
If the swatch is 10% larger, then it increased 110% of the original size. This equates to (110/100) or 1.1. This is the number you'll need.
10% = 1.1
15% = 1.15
20% = 1.2
22% = 1.22 etc.
(If blocked is 10% larger, you can't just reverse it all and say the pre-blocked swatch is 90% smaller. It's close, but not accurate.)
7. Back to row gauge! If your blocked swatch was 10% larger, you'll divide by 1.1 remember. Use this knowledge when knitting lengths. When a sweater says to"work until piece measures 18" and divide for armholes", you'll want to lift your needles up and measure the length with the weight of the piece hanging from your needles. Place the tape measure just under the needle so you're measuring the last row of stitches worked that are lined up under the ones that are on the needle. Let the tape measure hang until it reaches the bottom. You'll stop knitting when you've reached the length called for in the pattern, in this case 18" divided by 1.1 which equals 16.36". That is a big difference, especially if you're working sleeves.
Since you've done the pre/post block experiment, you know that, in this scenario, a piece of knitted fabric measuring 16.36" unblocked, will grow 10% after blocking and become 18". The percentage changes with every project. Yarn, needle size, tension, and stitch pattern all affect the percentage of growth. So you'll want to do this every time you're knitting with superwash yarns.
If you're unsure of your math, or just nervous about proceeding, you can always stop 3-4" short of the length that the pattern states to knit to, take a tapestry needle threaded with yarn and run it through all the stitches, remove your needles and soak the unfinished piece. Block it and measure it after it's dry. This will help you to figure out how much more you need to knit before proceeding. Once it's dry just re-feed your needle into the stitches, remove the waste yarn and continue on. You can always start knitting the sleeves or front while it's drying, because we need to keep knitting right?
There are many reasons why you might end up knitting with a superwash yarn, and I hope this helps you to knit garments with confidence. You've mastered the hardest part - knitting stitches into a lovely fabric. By tweaking your process just a tad, you'll end up with a garment that fits. And expand your repertoire of yarns in the process.
If you have any questions, please ask here. (It's not a live a chat, the link will direct you to an email, just so you know.)
[NOTE - this article applies to those who knit either English or Continental style. Both are considered "Western Knitting", and proper orientation of a knit stitch is where the right leg of the stitch is on the front needle. If you practice "Eastern Knitting" where you knit and purl in reverse, and the left leg is on the front needle, the below article will not apply.]
Unintended bias in knitting causes a garment to twist to one side in a spiral nature and is caused by too much twist in the yarn. This is more common in inelastic yarns like cotton and in yarns that are 2-ply. In wool blends yarns it is most often caused by the yarn being overspun.
Z twist yarns rarely give us trouble with creating bias. It’s the S twist yarns that are the culprits. This is because when a yarn is inelastic or twisted too tightly and you knit it, the very process of wrapping the yarn around the needle for each new stitch adds more twist to an S twist yarn. Knitting removes twist from a Z twist yarn. When the twist tightens, the entire fabric will slant or skew to one direction, which ends up wrapping around the body if you’re knitting a garment. If you've ever had a cheap t-shirt or cotton shirt that twists, this is why. The side seam ends up swirling around to the front and back of the top and it just won't hold straight no matter what you do it.
It doesn’t matter whether you knit English or Continental style, because when you knit either style, the yarn is traveling around the needle in the same direction. In Continental style, your fingers make smaller movements and the needle moves around the yarn instead of guiding the yarn around the needles with your fingers which happens in English style. But when you examine each in slow motion, you’ll see that the yarn is wrapped counterclockwise around the needle in both methods. Once you've knit a stitch, the right leg of the stitch will be on the front of the needle and the left leg of the stitch on the back of the needle.
Bias is more noticeable in Stockinette stitch. When you incorporate a combination of knit and purl stitches, it can help but not always. Cables can actually increase the bias because of the extra tightness that occurs when forming them. Working in twisted stitches can cause more twist as well which is what we are trying to avoid in overly twisted yarns.
If you’ve wound your own skein and are pulling from the center, pull out a foot of yarn and hang it next to a foot of yarn from the outside. The yarn in the center may be pulled tighter than the yarn at the outside, because when you’re first getting the swift going, if you allow the ball winder to pull yarn from the stationary swift, it will stretch tightly at first. Once you get some momentum going and less yarn is on the swift, you’ll notice that the tension eases off. However, this is not causing the bias.
When you examine two pieces of yarn, one from the center and one from the outside of the cake, the center strand may be pulled tighter but the amount of twist remains the same. Once you remove the tension from the center, both strands should lie the same. If you just pull on a strand, it makes it tighter, but doesn’t affect the twist. The amount of twist can be determined by looking at the number of crosses that one strand makes on the other. The closer the diagonal lines are together the more twist you have. Measure out about 6” of yarn from the center of the skein and 6” from the outside, then count the number of diagonal slants in each piece. If they are close to the same then you have the same amount of twist in each end of the yarn.
More often than not, the root of the problem lies with the way the yarn is spun before you buy it. Bias cannot be steamed out. Severe blocking may help, but once the fabric is dry it will have a tendency to skew again. Knitting flat & seaming the sides is better than knitting in the round but again, it will not eliminate it.
The correction needs to be made during the act of knitting.
For overspun yarns, one easy, but time-consuming method is to pull out a yard or so of yarn, take a clothespin and clip the yarn to the ball. Let the ball of yarn hang from the work so it untwists itself, then knit normally from the untwisted yarn. Or by hand, untwist a section of yarn, clip it to something (pillow, blanket, your shirt, anything really), and knit until you reach the clip. Then untwist another section and keep doing this. Eventually you’ll need to let the ball spin itself back to a normal position.
Another better, faster remedy when working in Stockinette is to wrap the yarn in the opposite direction (under and clockwise instead of over) when forming the purl stitch on the WS rows. Then when you’re working the RS rows, knit each stitch through the back loop. This untwists the yarn and you’ll notice instead of a tightly swirled S on the needle, you’ll find a very loose one that almost resembles a single ply. If you’re working with 2 ply yarn, instead of a twist on the needle, you may actually see both plys squeezed together and lying almost side by side, with just a little twist between them.
If you’re working in a combination of stitches this becomes a bit trickier, since the front & back of the same stitch need to be altered in order to reduce the amount of twist in the yarn, and at the same time prevent the stitch from becoming twisted. A twisted stitch has the bottom two strands of the V crossed. When you pull the stitch apart, instead of the V opening up at the bottom, you’ll see the strands crisscross and become tight. You do not want twisted stitches (unless the pattern calls for them in the design.)
By wrapping the yarn around the needle the wrong way (clockwise) when making a purl stitch, and knitting through the back loop when knitting this same stitch on the next row, you are orienting the stitches on the needle so that the left leg is at the front of the needle and the right leg is at the back. This is opposite of how stitches are normally oriented. If you were to only do one of the two, for example, knit a stitch through the back loop, then purl it normally on the WS row, you would have a twisted stitch. But since you’re knitting through the back loop on the RS AND wrapping the yarn around the needle clockwise when purling on the WS, both actions counter each other out and the stitches remain untwisted. And you are accomplishing your task of untwisting the yarn every time you work a stitch.
Most of the time we don’t realize we have a problem until we’ve knitted a few inches and the fabric begins to slant. If you notice that the yarn is kinking and doubling back on itself, that’s a sign that it’s spun too tightly. Removing some twist at this point may save you time in the long run. Watch the yarn as you go though. Sometimes you'll find sections of yarn with a tighter than normal twist, then it evens out.
I hope this tip helps and that it brings some answers to the puzzle of unintended bias. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and if you can fix the problem as you knit you’ll be able to continue creating a garment that you can be proud of.
Hiatt, June Hemmons. The Principles of Knitting. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1988.
“Adding twist to splitty yarns." 07MAY18. <https://yarnsub.com/articles/techniques/adding-twist/>
Hello! I'm Donna. I knit every day and enjoy designing knitwear that is artistic, intricate and comfortable. I specialize in women's sweaters with a contemporary silhouette.