Tips and Techniques: Mitering (or, How to Give Your Project the Norm Abram Treatment)

(My dad and I used to watch The New Yankee Workshop a lot when I was a kid, and I seem to remember Norm Abram making a lot of mitered corners in his projects; hence, the title.)

Since my last post, I have gotten quite a few questions (both through this blog and on Ravelry, where I can also be found as snowlessknitter, all one word) as to how I do the mitering method I use for my afghans.  I sort of detailed it in my last post, but today I figured I’d go more in-depth, with illustrations, also known as pics.

It should be known that I did not invent this method.  In fact, I learned most of my current style from a book called The Knitter’s Bible by Claire Crompton, which I would recommend to just about any knitter of any skill level (and a million thanks to The Lady Bryan and her mom, who ended up giving me a copy of that book when they suddenly had to move years ago; that book has been in very good hands ever since and it has been extremely useful in helping me to develop my own skills).  The book also teaches how to make mitered rectangles, Ls, and large squares (although I now use a different method of making large squares than the one detailed in the book).  For simplicity’s sake, I will only show you how to make a small square, as all other mitered shapes in this family are essentially extensions of the small square.

So, here we go.  The example used here is from my current WIP, La vie en rose et violet.  I have been working on building up the sides to establish the overall square shape (which will be 18 small squares long and 18 small squares wide).  The shape being worked here is the final piece to finish one side of the afghan.

Step 1: Get an ODD NUMBER of stitches onto your needle.  There are different ways to do this, depending on the nature of your project and the orientation of the piece you are working.  Stitches will either be cast on, picked up along the edge of an already knitted piece, or a combination of both.  If casting on stitches in a mitered piece, I strongly recommend using a knitted-on cast on, as a long tail cast on will cause the corner of the piece to curl up instead of laying flat.  For this particular shape, since I have two already-knit sides that will be holding the small square (which is 29 stitches to start with), I picked up stitches along the two edges of fabric, making sure to pick up the center stitch from the area where the other two fabrics (the dark purple and the variegated) meet.  If you are adding an edge to the right of your previous piece, you will want to cast on and then pick up stitches, And the center stitch will always be picked up (cast on 14 stitches, then pick up 15).  If you are adding an edge to the left of the previous piece, you will want to pick up and then cast on stitches (in this case, pick up 15 stitches, then cast on 14).

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Twenty-nine stitches have been picked up along the two adjoining edges, as indicated by the pink yarn on the needles.

Step 2: Knit a wrong side row.  Before beginning any decreases, work a plain row on the wrong side of the work.  If you are planning on any sort of centered double decrease, purl the center stitch (here, it’s knit 14, purl 1, knit 14).  If you are doing a regular double decrease (like a k3tog or a sl 1-k2tog-psso), knit the center stitch.  If you also want a neat edge for picking up stitches, from this row onward you may also choose to work to the last stitch, then bring the working yarn to the front and slip the last stitch purlwise.  (This stitch will be knit at the beginning of the next row.)

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Wrong side row worked to center stitch, which has just been purled to prepare for a centered double decrease.
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Here, the row was worked to the last stitch, and then the working yarn was brought to the front and the last stitch slipped purlwise.

Step 3: Work to your center 3 stitches and work a double decrease.  I normally use a centered double decrease here, but any double decrease that reduces three stitches to one stitch will work: knit 3 together or the slip 1, k2tog, pass slipped stitch over are two popular ones.  Once the decrease is complete, work to the end of your row as set.

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Step 4: Repeat Steps 2 and 3 as set until you have decreased to one stitch.  When one stitch remains, fasten off stitch by breaking yarn (leaving at least a 6 inch tail for weaving in), and then thread end up through last stitch to secure it.

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Small mitered square after five decrease rows.
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Small mitered square after ten decrease rows.
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Small mitered square after final stitch has been fastened off.

Mitered rectangles and Ls are worked in the same manner, except that in a rectangle, two small squares are worked simultaneously and in an L, three small squares are worked simultaneously.  (I would strongly recommend using stitch markers to divide each set of stitches so that the decreases in each section are easier to work.). After all decreases, a rectangle ends in two stitches, while an L ends in three.  In both cases, you would thread the yarn tail through all stitches at least three or four times to secure them (much like finishing the top of a hat).  My method of working a large mitered square would take a whole separate post that I must save for another time.

I hope this post answers your questions and does a decent job in illustrating the mitering method.  A tablet camera isn’t the best, but it’s what I have, and I’m still working out the kinks in learning how to post them.  Until next time, me hearties!

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