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Knitting on the Bias: An Exploration of New Techniques

This summer I wanted to deal with two issues—finding something quick to knit, and reducing my yarn stash. I’ve accumulated lots of yarn over the years, and frankly, it’s crowding my storage space. Also, I’m the kind of knitter who likes to make a fresh start every so often, especially at the beginning of a new knitting season. In July, it seemed a good time to clear the decks for the fall.

If I’m looking for a new project, I usually assess my stash or go to a yarn store to see what calls out. When I surveyed my stash a few weeks ago, I was drawn to a basket holding lots of Wool-Ease Thick & Quick in different colors. There were full and partial skeins, remainders from earlier projects. I immediately sensed the potential project—a beautiful blanket. A friend has just bought a home—her first—and I knew that an afghan she could drape over her sofa or bed would be a fine housewarming gift.

I’d recently used Wool-Ease Thick & Quick for a color-block baby blanket. I was familiar with its softness, warmth, and gauge. I wanted to try something different, and hit upon bias-knit stripes. They’re more interesting to knit than horizontal stripes, and since the blanket would start very small—with two stitches—I knew it would be a transportable project that wouldn’t be suffocating at the height of summer. So, I pulled out those number seventeens, the same needles I’d used for the baby blanket, and began.

The formula for a bias knit is simple. You increase one stitch at the beginning of each row until you get to the width you want. Then you decrease one stitch at the beginning of each row until there are no stitches left. I worked in garter stitch—knitting every row—and I made the stripes twelve rows wide before changing to another color of yarn.

I’m a firm believer in mindless knitting, the sort of project you can work for a few rows while watching TV or waiting for an appointment. When you pick it up, you don’t worry about having to find your place in the pattern. This garter stitch bias knit afghan is exactly that—mindless knitting par excellence! The finished dimensions were 56” by 52”—the perfect size for a snuggle on the sofa. Garter stitch makes the fabric stretchy, too—if you wrap it around yourself, it feels like a hug!

bias knitting

This afghan used up fifteen partial skeins of Wool-Ease Thick & Quick, and a full skein of off-white (“Fisherman” is the exact name of the color), since I doubled the middle stripe in size. In other words, in the center of the blanket I knit twelve rows of off-white while increasing at the beginning of each row (I increased by knitting into the stitch front and back), and twelve rows of off-white while decreasing at the beginning of each row. (The decrease stitch I used was K2tog, but you might prefer the look of a different decrease, like SSK or S1KPSSO.) This large middle stripe offers a nice spatial divide, like a deep cleansing breath.

Within a few weeks of on-and-off mindless knitting I had accomplished exactly what I’d hoped for. I’d reduced my yarn stash, and I’d knitted a beautiful gift for my friend. Now I’m ready to move on to the next exciting project!

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  • Kate

    So pleased to see someone else utilizing the same stash busting idea as myself! I have been doing this exact formula for years, after a large influx of gifted yarn increased my stash beyond life expectancy!!! Each winter I produce about 5-7 of these cozy utility blankets, as I call them - sturdy, washable and hard-wearing -good for strollers, cars, and the great-outdoors. These little blankets are quick and easy and are perfect for gifting, and charity-giving, even the ones with color-ways not so appealing to humans are great for giving to the local SPCA and other animal rescue organizations - animals in need of care love to cuddle up no matter the color!
    And if you don't have the all the yarn in the same weights, just double up the strands and watch the interesting colors appear, not to mention the yarn stash dis-appear!
    Cheers and knit on!

  • Sue

    I make corner to corner to use up stash, some in garter stitch (knit every row) and some in stocking stitch (knit a row, purl a row). I like a slight border to stop it curling. I do 5 or 10 stitches garter at each end of the work, then after the first border stitches KFB (Knit front back) into the next stitch to increase, work to the last border stitches KFB and this increases each side. When I have reached the size I want , I begin the decreases. Work the border stitches, then SKPO (Slip a stitch, knit one, pass slipped stitch over) , work to last border, K2tog.Knit border stitches.