Tuesday, January 18, 2011
TUTORIAL: I-cord or "Belly Button" Provisional Cast-on for Circular Knitting
When knitting something circular in shape, the initial cast on can be a bit fiddly. Working those first stitches with no knitting on your needles to manipulate can be a challenge. One solution is a variation on a provisional cast-on. You knit an i-cord out of waste yarn first and then drop the waste yarn and pick up the project yarn and start knitting your the pattern right on to the i-cord. Later, you remove the i-cord.
An online friend had some questions about the technique and I wanted to help her. This is my first-ever attempt at making a photo tutorial, so bear with me. Comments and suggestions are welcome.
For my demonstration I am knitting the Swirl Cloth, a circular dish cloth (or wash cloth) pattern available for free. Dishcloths are a great way to try out new techniques.
To start, take some waste yarn and knit a short length of i-cord. Your waste yarn should be a contrasting color from your project yarn. If you do not know how to knit i-cord, I highly recommend the video tutorial found on this page at KnittingHelp.com. I am using double pointed needles (DPN's). If you are not familiar with using DPN's, you can find a video tutorial here. The white kitchen cotton in my photos is my waste yarn. The blue yarn is my project yarn.
Since the pattern I am knitting calls for a cast-on of 8 stitches, I knit my i-cord with 8 stitches. This does not yield an attractive i-cord, but don't worry. It doesn't have to look good since it is only temporary and will be removed.
This is what it will probably look like after you have knit a few rows of i-cord.
The next step is to divide your stitches evenly over 3 or 4 needles. My DPN's came in a set of 5, so I chose to use 4 needles.
Now, drop the waste yarn (mine is white) and start working with the project yarn (mine is blue). Be sure to leave a decent "tail" on the working yarn because you are going to need it later. There is is nothing complicated about this step. You just pick up your project yarn and start knitting with it instead of the original waste yarn.
The first row you knit with your project yarn will essentially take the place of your cast-on row. My pattern tells me to cast-on 8 stitches, then knit around one time. So I knit a second row of 8 stitches in the blue. At this point, my pattern suggests putting a marker between each stitch, but you can imagine how incredibly fiddly and difficult that would be with only 2 stitches per needle...markers flying everywhere! So I will wait a few rows before adding the markers.
The pattern is very simple. It is just a repeat of the following two rounds:
*Knit to marker, yarn over, slip marker* for one round.
Knit next round.
Easy peasy, right? Well, not exactly at the beginning. That would mean on each needle for the first round of this stitch pattern I would have a k1, yo, k1, yo, then on to the next needle. Personally, when working with DPN's I do not like ending with a yo before before changing needles.
My solution is simple. On needle 1 I do the following: k1, yo, k1. But I stop there. Instead of doing the second yo after the second knit stitch on that first needle, I will do it at the beginning of the next needle. In other words while needle 1 has a k1, yo, k1 on it, needles 2,3,and 4 will have yo, k1, yo, k1. When I get back around to needle 1, I will start with the final yo of the previous round.
Below you can see me making a yarn over prior to knitting the stitches on one of my needles.
Now that I have more stitches on my needle, I decide to add the stitch markers. The pattern for doing so will be as follows: knit one stitch, knit the yarn over made in the previous round, place marker. Repeat.
Here is what it looks like from one angle.
And here it is flipped. You can see why some folk call this a "belly button cast-on." It looks like your project has a knitted umbilical cord attached.
Continue knitting in the round until you are ready to remove the provisional i-cord. You can wait until you finish your project or you can do it sooner.
Take the tail of project yarn from your cast-on and thread it through a darning needle. (I am using a CHIBI needle by Clover. They have a bent tip that helps in picking up stitches.) You are going to weave the tail through each of your first 8 stitches that you made in when you started knitting with your project yarn. If you are a really brave soul, you can remove the provisional i-cord first and then pick up your stitches. Because I am not fond of dropped stitches, I choose to pick up the stitches first, then remove my waste yarn.
You are going to do this all the way around, picking up each of the 8 stitches.
Here is a close-up showing where I put my needle. See the "v" of white yarn with two strands going into a loop of the blue. That is what you are looking for.
When you have gotten all the way around and you are certain you have all your stitches picked up, you can start removing the provisional stitches made by the waste yarn. If you need to snip it with scissors, please, PLEASE be very careful! It is very easy to accidentally cut your working yarn. I just used the tip of my CHIBI needle and gently pulled the white yarn out, snipping it's tail short to make removal easier.
Here is what it will look like as you begin to remove the waste yarn:
And now it is all gone. Do you have a gaping hole? Don't panic!
Take your darning needle with the tail and carefully thread it through your each of your picked up stitches again.
Gently, but firmly tug on that tail and draw those stitches together until your hole is all gone.
Give yourself a nice pat on the back. You've learned something new, and look at how tidy the center of your circular knitting is!
Be sure to securely weave in that tail on the underside of your knitting.