Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Knitting with Dpns: Avoiding Ladders

Laddering is a problem that a lot of knitters have when working on double-pointed needles. It refers to the long vertical line of horizontal strands that can develop at the joins where two needles come together. I suspect that concerns about laddering are at the root of today's movement away from dpns toward the magic loop method of small diameter circular knitting. I've been knitting now for 51 years and knitting on dpns for about 43. It's second nature to me and, although I've given other methods a try, I'm sticking with what I like and know. Here's what I do to prevent ladders from forming at the joins between my needles. Give it a try, and you might find you enjoy dpns after all.
First off, let me show you how I hold my needles. I don't honestly know if this is a factor; all I can tell you is that holding my handful of dpns UNDERHAND feels very comfortable and helps me get keep everything positioned snugly at the joins.

Second, I knit with the RH working needle positioned ATOP the preceding needle (the one on the right of the photo). See? In this next photo, the RH working needle (the horizontal needle) is receiving stitches from the far left needle. By positioning the RH working needle this way, the yarn travels the shortest possible distance from one needle to the next. If the RH working needle is held UNDER the preceding needle, the yarn has a tiny bit farther to go to get to the first stitch on the next needle--just enough to make a visible ladder over time.

Third, I use my right forefinger to lock the RH working needle into place, right up against the preceding needle, while I work the first three stitches after the transition.

 That's right--the FIRST THREE. You will often read about the importance of snugging up the first two stitches, but really, I find I get the smoothest transitions when I keep the first three stitches as close as possible to the join. Then I knit the rest of the stitches onto the needle as usual. The result?
No ladders, no ridges (the opposite of ladders, when the join is too tight), just smooth, even stocking stitch.

FYI, the yarn is from Opal's "Little Prince" series. As usual, the computer cannot do justice to the lovely antique feel of the slightly faded colours.