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).

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.)

Wrong side row worked to center stitch, which has just been purled to prepare for a centered double decrease.
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.

Small mitered square after five decrease rows.
Small mitered square after ten decrease rows.
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!

Why I Knit and Crochet, and WIPs 4/12/2017


(A preview of my Work in Progress in the photo above.)

I touched on my motivations for knitting in my debut post here, but I’d like to write a bit more about how knitting has touched my life.

I consider myself ambicraftuous, as in I can do both of the major yarn and needle crafts, knitting and crocheting, with relative ease, and this is not always the case with knitters or crocheters.  Some crocheters don’t know how to knit or knit sparingly, and some knitters don’t know how to crochet or crochet sparingly; a great little piece on this is the Yarn Harlot entry “Hooking Because I Have To”, where she talks about dipping into some crochet skills to help out her knitting.  Though I do tend to knit more than I crochet, these days, I don’t believe in being a “yarn snob” or a “knitting snob”.  I’m not going to stick my nose up at crocheters because there are amazing things out there that can be made with just yarn and a crochet hook.  I look on in sheer awe every time I see someone who’s crocheted an amigurumi figure or used the amigurumi method to come up with their own creations.  (I was never quite able to master amigurumi as a crocheter.).  Really fine thread and the skinniest of hooks can make incredibly intricate doilies and tablecloths.  Even with some cheap worsted weight yarn and a J hook, you could make a functional scarf or a colorful afghan.  I’ve crocheted a stole for The Lady Bryan’s mom and helped my maternal grandmother crochet granny square style afghans all the way back when I was 8 or 9 years old.  I’m not going to tell you what kind of yarn you should be using because there are yarns for just about every budget and need these days.  I am perfectly okay with using cheap, acrylic yarn.  I would love to be in a position where I’d be able to get wool, but being a homemaker at the moment, it is just not possible.  So acrylic it is.  It takes a little extra care when it comes to washing items made from it, but other than that, I don’t mind it at all.  In fact, my current Work In Progress (known in our crafting community as a “WIP” and pronounced like “whip”) is being made with acrylic yarn.  I will get to that WIP shortly.

Why do I craft?  I craft for many reasons.  I craft because I’m shy and sometimes have trouble socializing, and when people ask me about my projects, it serves as an icebreaker.  I craft because I can’t draw or paint very well.  I craft because it calms my nerves when I feel anxious.  I craft because when I feel upset about something, it helps me take my mind off why I feel so upset.  I craft because I’ve been inspired.  I craft because I need something, be it a sweater to protect me from cold winter winds (and we do get those down here in Florida) or a case for my crochet hooks (which I have done before using Star Stitch).  And most importantly, I craft because I love the act of crafting.

Okay, my WIP.  Over the years, I have made a number of patchwork and quilt-like afghans using the mitering method of creating knitted shapes.  Basically, mitering works like this: you cast on an odd number of stitches onto your knitting needles (and depending on the shape you want to create, you can cast on multiple sets of the same odd number of stitches: one set makes a small square, two makes a rectangle, three an L shape, and four a large square which I would normally work in the round), knit a wrong side row (purling the center stitch in each section), and then begin working the right side row in your chosen stitch pattern (I normally use garter stitch because of its simplicity), working a centered double decrease (slip 2 together knitwise, knit 1, pass the 2 slipped stitches over the knit stitch; this puts the stitch you purled in the previous row on top and makes a lovely stockinette column in the center of each section).  Work across the row, turn, work the wrong side row (purling the center stitch of each section), turn, lather, rinse, repeat until you’ve decreased to one stitch in each section depending on the shape you’re working.  Cut your yarn, leaving a tail for weaving, fasten off (if you’re working a small square) or secure stitches like you would in the top of a hat knit in the round, weave in ends.

This one I am working on is for nobody in particular; I started it with some scrap yarn I had on hand from an old Frankenball of yarn I had made from some leftover Red Heart Super Saver (the light pink L in the corner that you’ll see and some variegated purple and some solid black).  I only got two skeins of Red Heart yarn the last time I went to my local store (Dark Orchid, which is the solid dark purple, and Panther Pink, which is the pink and black variegated), but the next time I go, I plan on getting another three or four colors, depending on budget.  By the way, I used up every single scrap of the Panther Pink in this project.  I played yarn chicken trying to finish an L piece yesterday and just barely succeeded.  I had a short tail to weave in, but it wove in!  Here is a collection of pictures from my project so far.

I give you La vie en rose et violet, whose name is a take on a favorite song of mine, “La vie en rose” by Édith Piaf, and its name is also a reference to its color scheme, pink (“rose”) and purple (“violet”).

I hope my experiment with adding photos and links has gone well.  And most of all, I hope you enjoy the pictures that I’ve shared with you here.  I can’t wait to see how this afghan turns out, because I am having a lot of fun knitting this one so far!  Until next time…

The Rite of Spring

I will get to actual knitting in my next post, but I felt the need to write about this first.

Spring began in this part of the planet a couple of weeks ago.  Just four days after the 2017 vernal equinox, I turned 30.  Just a couple of weeks earlier, we were experiencing the last throes of a Florida winter, which is normally very dry and occasionally very cold.  Within two weeks of the beginning of spring, that last cold blast was a distant memory.  Spring has come in like a lion here: the live oaks and the maple trees (and yes, we do have maple trees in Florida) are beginning to don their leafy green coats; the sand pines that cover our landscape are dropping their old pine needles, pine cones, and even what can best be described as their stamens (structures that provide pollen to the pine cones); and the birds are singing and flying around in full force.  Male cardinals sing their songs in the hope of attracting a mate, and tiny chickadees remind us of their presences with their signature call that gives them their name.  Mockingbirds mob the crows that try to invade their nests in search of food, while turkey vultures and red-shouldered hawks glide through the azure skies for prey and carrion.  And on occasion, I will see a swallowtail kite in flight, its trademark forked tail immediately noticeable to my eye.  The grass is slowly starting to grow again after laying dormant for the winter, and it will not be long before the neighborhood lawn mowers awaken and hum their own loud songs.

As for us humans, we have long shed our winter coats and traded them in for tank tops, lighter fabrics, and even the occasional athleisure wear.  We watch the basketball and ice hockey seasons wind down, and baseball season finally begins anew.  Some families go to church on a Sunday, while others hunker down in their air-conditioned homes and prepare to watch that day’s NASCAR race in the hopes that their favorite driver will take home the checkered flag, be it for the first time or the umpteenth.  We let our furry companions out to enjoy the day’s rays of sunshine, while their owners either walk with them, or in my case find a place in the shade to sit and knit while watching my dog chase the tiny lizards around the front yard.  And I watch how her ears prick up in excitement, while her tail wiggles in curiosity and her snout pokes around in the scrub in search of those quick, elusive little lizards.

And I think and realize that this will be my niece’s first full spring on this planet, and how she’ll complete her first year as a living, breathing member of the human race as this spring, the one we are living in now, will blend into summer in a couple of months’ time.  I think of how she will soon be approaching this world with the curiosity and enthusiasm that almost all children her age do.  She will soon be able to speak and walk and express herself, and I can’t help but wonder if she’ll be as enthused by the wonders of spring as I am this year.  I have completed 30 revolutions around our Sun, and she will soon complete her first.  I wonder what her 30 revolutions will have in store for her, if she is lucky enough to make it that far.  Will she be happy?  Will she find amazing friends who stand by her and stand up for her?  Will she find something that she becomes incredibly passionate about?  Will she find love?  Will she be independent and successful?  We all face these questions throughout our lives.

I love the weather of a Florida winter, but I also love the brightness and the renewal of a Florida spring.

Dipping My Toes

Hello readers.  I had been mulling over the idea of starting a knitting blog for some time, but today was the day I decided to cast my anxieties aside and finally start it, just a few days after turning 30.  You only live once, right?

First, a little bit about me.  My name is Crystal, and the reason why I decided to title this blog “The Snowless Knitter” is because of the fact that I am a knitter (and occasional crocheter) who lives in the incredibly snowless region of Central Florida.  I was born and raised right here in Central Florida, and as I mentioned in the last paragraph, I just turned 30 years of age.  I am unmarried, with no children, but I do have one dog and one very adorable baby niece.  I have been crocheting since I was about 8 years old, learning how to make granny squares from my maternal grandmother, although I did not learn flat crocheting until I was about 18 years old.  I also took up knitting at 18, although it took me a year to learn how to purl.  Once I figured out purling (thanks to a dear friend’s mom), the other blocks kind of fell into place.  These days, I can knit almost anything, even some projects without a pattern, except for intarsia, and I can crochet almost anything with the help of a pattern.  My main craft is knitting, but I am not above pulling out some yarn and a crochet hook when the inspiration strikes me.

While this is not my first attempt at blogging, this is my first time blogging on WordPress.  I’ve kept my own personal journals and notebooks over the years, but this is the first time I am publishing a knitting blog.  I guess in a way I am trying to explore myself through writing, because I am currently at a point in my life where I am not sure what direction my life is going to go in terms of a personal life or a career.  I have a lot of ideas and dreams, but I don’t have any idea as to what I want to do.  I currently care for my mother while my father works during most of the week.  At times, I think she needs me more than the rest of the world needs me, and for now, I’m probably right.  To express myself and indulge my ideas, I usually knit.  I pick colors that reflect my mood or state of mind, and I design projects that reflect my ideas.  For me, knitting is more than just a hobby…it is a way for me to express myself in ways that I normally feel like I can’t do by speech or in writing.

I feel like I’m trying to rediscover my literary side by doing this.  My favorite blogger is Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, better known by her nickname, “Yarn Harlot”.  Ever since I found her blog about a decade or so ago, I’ve always admired how she approaches things in life, the big and the small, with a sense of humor and a touch of whimsy.  The smiles and giggles I’ve gotten from reading her blog over the years helped me through some tough times for me emotionally in my early 20s (along with watching The Golden Girls and discovering a love for baseball), and even now as I’ve been on more even footing emotionally, I still enjoy reading about her adventures in life as she is about to become a grandmother (as she’s chronicled on her blog) and her continued adventures in knitting.  I hope to discover things about my writing through this blog.  I really do.

I don’t know how often I plan on posting here.  I do know this: I don’t plan to post just for the sake of posting.  This is a blog, not a diary.  This is not for sharing my deepest, darkest secrets; this is for sharing a bit of myself with the world and hoping that the world will appreciate me in return.  I hope the readers enjoy my writing, and perhaps I may start chronicling my knitting here very soon.  Thank you.