Tree of Techniques Advanced: Create the Projects of Your Dreams
In the Tree of Techniques (my visual guide to becoming a better knitter, below) the top of the tree represents advanced knitting.
These projects are what most KnitFreedom readers say that they would like to be able to knit within the next 1-3 years.
Are You Holding Yourself Back?
Could it be that you already know these techniques and yet are still holding yourself back? Think about that as you read through this post.
Trick: Combine Two Techniques You Already Know
Just because a project is "advanced" doesn't necessarily mean that it's hard -– it might just be a combination of two intermediate skills.
Look back over the projects you've made and find areas where you could combine two skills that you already have. For example:
- Felting + color knitting = felted Fair-Isle bag
- Two-at-a-time + mittens = two-at-a-time mittens
- Lace + hat = lace hat
- How about stripes + socks?
Advanced Knitting Topics Covered In This Post
- Sweaters and Custom Garments
- Embellishments and Customizations
- Stuffed Animals and Toys
- Color Knitting
- Fair Isle
- Double Knitting
- Moebius Knitting
- Perfect Cast-Ons and Bind-Offs
- Knitting with Challenging Materials
- Making Up Your Own Patterns
By the way, I have video classes on some of these topics but not all of them. If I do have a video class available, I'll provide links to it. Many of these topics are on the waiting list, as I add new tutorials over time.
Sweaters and Custom Garments
A lot of knitters responded to my first post on how to choose projects and said they wanted to be able to knit sweaters, and this is a great goal.
Start with the most basic kind of sweater there is: a stockinette-stitch pullover knitted in the round that has drop sleeves (left). A plain stockinette or ribbed collar and cuffs are perfect.
A sweater with drop sleeves just means that the body is a big rectangle and the sleeves are just tubes -- no shaping.
Next try a fitted sweater, but still following a pattern. I recommend learning a new kind of sleeve with each sweater: top-down sweaters often have raglan sleeves– a more fitted but still very easy way to make sleeves. Set-in sleeves are the trickiest of all. Of course, you can always knit your sleeves two-at-a-time!
When I learned to knit sweaters I didn't stop at what other designers made.
I devoured the book Custom Knits and learned how to make sweaters completely to my measurements (right). Fun and very rewarding!
You will learn a lot about fixing mistakes and reading your work when you do lace– so if (when) you mess up, remember to celebrate -- you are learning!
Please make sure to attempt patterns that are written from charts. Charts are an uncluttered, visual way of showing what stitches you need to do, so you don't have to wade through lines and lines of written instructions (potentially losing your place often).
To do felting, use pure wool and larger needles than normal to knit any regular old thing -- it will come out huge. Then you put it in the wash with hot water with soap, And voilà! Felt.
They are very easy felted patterns out there. One of my favorites is a pair of felted slippers (above).
I also recommend felted purses and market bags.
Try adding crocheted flowers, fringes, duplicate stitch embroidery, or buckles and handles -- anything to personalize your knitting.
You'll see that you don't always have to follow the pattern exactly. These fun animal mittens (above left) and scary rabbit slippers (above right) are my favorite example of that - just click the images to compare them to the actual patterns!
One super easy and free-form way to embellish your projects is by doing needle felting (right).
Needle felting uses a felting needle to attach pieces of yarn to your knitted fabric in any design you like. You can get an inexpensive needle-felting kit and instructions at any yarn store.
Stuffed Animals and Toys
You can always add buttons, embroidery, ears– whatever it is– realizing that you can add shapes and change your choices based on what you know.
As you continue to get better, you can use tiny yarn to do tinier and more intricate projects that have a lot of steps and a lot of sewing – like this little octopus (right). These are quite challenging indeed!
There are 4 common kinds of color knitting and they are all useful for different types of designs and effects. Tip: Whenever you are knitting with two yarns, make sure to watch your tension and not pull either yarn too tight, or else the fabric will pucker and not lay flat.
Fair-Isle is good for repeating geometric patterns like in the two photos you see here. To do it, you have to hold two strands of yarn in your hands at the same time (Continental Knitting comes in handy for this).
Intarsia knitting requires you to make little bobbins of different colors of yarn. You then switch from one color to the next as you go across your work.
Intarsia is used for flat projects that have big, non-repeating designs, like this skull pillow (left).
My double knitting class starts you off with a very simple chart and pattern to help you get used to knitting two sides of a fabric at once.
An even more advanced color technique that a lot of knitters really get addicted to is two- or even three-color brioche knitting.
Start with scarves and cowls and then, as you improve, progress to hats and even sweaters.
Other advanced techniques to add to your repertoire include...
Moebius knitting is a really popular trend. Whole books are devoted to the garments and accessories you can make when you learn to create an "infinity loop" by putting twists in your knitting on purpose.
This popular advanced moebius project (left) actually has five twists.
It is a set of fun felted bowls for putting your keys and pocket stuff in which combines advanced Magic Loop plus the Moebius knitting skill.
Perfect Cast Ons and Bind Offs
At this stage you will definitely want to make sure that you have the perfect cast on and bind-off for every project that you do, whether it be stretchy, ribbed, decorative, invisible, moebius, or two-at-a-time...
Knitting With Challenging Materials
As you approach the top of the challenges tree, try knitting with more challenging materials, like raw silk and linens. You can also add beads to your knitting, or even knit with wire!
Making this wire votive holder (left) was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me - literally! Knitting with wire once was enough for me, but I'm really glad I tried it. It's definitely a challenge for the hands.
Making up your own patterns
At the top of the tree, represented by this fingerless mitten, is the ability to make improvised patterns.
The goal is to be able to buy yarn at the yarn store, come home, and make your own pattern out of it to fit your custom measurements based on what you - all by yourself.
The ultimate expression of this would then be to write up the pattern and publish it on Ravelry for other knitters to enjoy.
And that's it! Once you are making custom garments, writing up patterns that you've invented or modified, and -- the telltale sign -- teaching others how to read patterns and fix their mistakes, you are truly an advanced knitter.
You're ready to not only go wild with the projects you attempt, but also to pay it forward!
The knitting tips and tricks that you've gained through your experience of knitting all the way up the tree can save someone else a lot of time and frustration, so share the wealth!
If you’re ready to tackle these skills now, here’s how I can help
My email fills up with amazing messages from students who can’t believe what they were able to accomplish when they have the right instruction. They love being able to make intricate scarves and patterned hats and sweaters and look forward to new knitting challenges.
If you’re ready to double knit, do Fair-Isle, or try Brioche knitting, my library of advanced video knitting courses is where I suggest you start.
But DON’T BUY THEM NOW – just look them over to see if they're right for you, because in a few days I’ll have a special surprise for you that you won’t want to miss.
Pattern Links and Free Downloads
Download the Tree of Techniques PDF - now with links to all patterns and ebooks.
Patterns that I’ve mentioned in today’s post:
- Basic Sweater
- Custom Sweaters
- Easy Lace Scarf
- Halley's Comet Hat
- Foliage Hat
- Haruni Lace Shawl
- Easy Felted Slippers
- Gelato Bag
- Beginner Fair-Isle Felted Bag
- Mouse Mittens (based on Later Gator Mitts)
- Scary Rabbit Slippers (based on Fluffy Bunny Slippers)
- Elefante Stuffed Elephant
- Beginner Fair-Isle Felted Bag
- Pitt's Mitts Fair-Isle Fingerless Mittens
- Bridger Beanie Fair-Isle Hat
- Pillow make from Skull Chart
- Double-knit hearts or checkerboard scarf in Double-Knitting ebook
- Brioche Cowl
- Entrelac Scarf
- Pentafold Felted Moebius Bowl
- KnitFreedom Video Guide to Cast-Ons
- I Love Bind-Offs
- Wire Menorah Votive Sleeves
Leave a Comment
I'd love to know - has this post been helpful to you?
I know this is a lot of information, but I wanted to make sure I gave enough detail so that knitters at all stages in their knitting can get what they need. Leave a comment and let me know what you think!
Related Course: Brioche Knitting
Brioche knitting is complicated. One-color, two-color, decreasing... and all those weird abbreviations!
Luckily, it is well within your abilities to knit Brioche, flat and in-the-round, with ease. By following along with the videos and exercises in this course, you'll be amazed at what you create.