Keep a small gage circular needle in your project bag. I use a 2.0 mm 16” circular needle to pick up a row after ripping back several rows or rounds. This can also be used in place of a stitch holder. Just let the two ends hang down in front and out of your way.
When casting on a large number of stitches, I find it helpful to place a stitch marker every 20 stitches. This makes counting up the stitches so much easier.
When knitting mittens, I knit up and finish the thumb right after I finish the gusset. (Here is a good time to use the 16” circular for holding the hand stitches.) For this tip I give credit to Jessica Anderson of Frosty Acres. She taught me this technique while on one of my Knitting Retreats in Ireland.
Always keep a crochet hook with your current project (of a similar gage as your knitting needles). This works well when picking up a dropped stitch or for fixing a mistake made several rows back – drop the stitch down to the mistake, redo it, then pick it back up with the crochet hook to the current row being worked.
Keep your ball bands with a small snip of the yarn itself taped to the ball band. This will be helpful later if you are working with left over yarn or if you want to know exactly what yarn was used in a certain project.
Lifelines. I like to use these when doing a new or complicated pattern repeat, such as a lace pattern where you will have several unique rows. The lifeline will make it easier to rip back – if necessary – by stopping the stitches from unraveling below the lifeline. To make a lifeline first select a plain row such as a straight knit or purl row in your pattern repeat. With a sewing needle and some thin, contrasting color waste yarn, simply run a length of it through the live stitches on your knitting needle. Leave a couple of inches of the waste yarn on each end just hanging down. Make a lifeline every few repeats of your pattern or until you feel confident enough to continue without the possibility of having to rip back. When you are finished just pull one end of the waste yarn and it will come right out.
Gage swatch. Instead of making a gage swatch for a large project like a sweater, start with a sleeve or a pocket. If you are working in-the-round you can make a hat. This will take about an extra 200 yards of yarn if you are working in medium weight yarn. The hat cast-on should be equal to ½ the circumference of the body of the sweater. This tip came from The Knitting Workshop by Elizabeth Zimmermann.
I keep a small food scale in my work shop, so that I can weigh a project such as a finished sock or mitten. This way I know exactly how much yarn I will need to make the second one.
If I could have only one knitting book in my library (and I have many) I would have either Knitting Without Tears or the Knitting Workshop – both written by Elizabeth Zimmermann. These books are well illustrated, teach a variety of very useful techniques, and are written in a unique style. Every time I pick up one of these books, I feel as if I am sitting with Elizabeth and she is talking directly to me. She teaches her students how to think and not just of blindly follow a pattern. And if that were not enough, she was a genius at designing patterns that were more like puzzles and are fun to knit.
Yarn. My last tip is a direct quote from Knitting Without Tears by Elizabeth Zimmermann. “A well made sweater, knitted with good will and good wool is beyond price; why try to save a dollar on the material?” And always “take an extra skein in your chosen color and dye lot as insurance against running short”.
What is your favorite knitting tip?