Ask Jeanette

Your queries answered by Jeanette Sloan




I haven’t been knitting for very long and enjoy picking up tips from friends, books and, of course, your magazine. But I’m never sure about how to finish my knitting once I’ve cast off. I notice from yarn ball bands and labels that some have recommendations for ironing while some say not to iron at all. To add to my confusion, I noticed you mentioned steaming a sample in one of the yarn reviews, so what’s the best method? Oh, and is it best to sew the ends in before or after?

Maxine Small, by email

Sometimes knitting can look crumpled when it’s been in a project bag for weeks. While some knitters jump straight from casting off to sewing up, many projects benefit from the next stage of blocking, pressing or steaming. Personally, I never put an iron directly on to any knitted surface. It can burn, mark or melt the yarn if it’s set too hot as well as flatten out rich, densely textured fabrics.

So, regardless of the project, once I’ve cast off, I sew in my ends. Yes, it can be a laborious process, but take your time and learn to enjoy doing it. Next I’ll block or pin the item to its finished measurements and then hold an iron just above the surface (around 2-4cm) before blasting it with steam to settle
the stitches. Some yarns bloom at this stage, and if you’ve found your finished piece needs a tweak to get it to size, do it now. You may want to steam a couple of times, but make sure you allow the knit to cool thoroughly before unpinning, at which point you’re all set for sewing up. There are some occasions when another finishing technique, say, wet blocking for a lace project, will be necessary – there are plenty of tutorials online if you would like to find out more.


I would like to knit myself an infinity scarf that can be looped a couple of times around the neck for extra cosiness. My preferred cast on is the long tail method, but as I plan to cast on more than 100 stitches I’m worried about running out of yarn before all my stitches have been cast on. Can you offer any tips that mean I won’t be restarting my scarf over and over again?

Claire Brittany, by email

I was taught to knit using the cable cast on and stuck to that technique for absolutely years until I discovered the long-tail method, which is now my go-to cast on. I like it because it adds a purl texture to the initial right side row and it naturally has more give than the cable option.

For anyone who hasn’t tried this method, it begins with a slip knot placed in a long tail of yarn in order to create the number of stitches required for the width of the project. The slip knot has to be placed in the middle of the tail, allowing both the end attached to the ball and the free end to make the stitches, so it’s vital that free end of yarn doesn’t run out before you’ve cast on all the stitches you need. There are three options you could follow.

First, if you know how wide the finished project is going to be, measure a length of yarn that is three times that final width. So, if the finished cowl should be 150cm wide, the length should be 4.5m (150cm x 3). Second, you could allow 2.5cm or 1in of yarn for every stitch to be cast on, so for the 100 stitches you mentioned, you’d need a tail of 2.5m (2.5cm x 100). Finally, you could wrap the yarn 10 times around the needle you’ll be using then measure that piece of yarn. This is about what you’ll need for 10 stitches. If, for example, it measures 10cm, you’ll need 10 times that measurement to
get your 100 stitches.

If these all sound a bit hit and miss, you could take the risk out of the whole process and use two balls of yarn instead of one. Using an end of yarn from each ball, make a slip knot and place it on the needle. This doesn’t count as a stitch. Thread the yarn from ball one around the thumb and the yarn from ball two around the forefinger in the standard slingshot position, then cast on all the stitches you need. To begin knitting, break one end of yarn and knit with the remaining ball as normal. When you come to the doubled slip knot at the end of the row, simply slip it from
the needle.

Lastly, here’s another tip: I like to use scraps of yarn placed on the needles to keep track of my stitch numbers. As you’re casting on such a large number of stitches, try using one contrast-coloured marker every 20 stitches, then a different-coloured marker to mark the 100s. This will make it easier to quickly check your stitch numbers without having to count every individual loop.




Maxine Small asked this month’s star question. She wins a copy of MillaMia’s book Country Escape and 16 balls of MillaMia Naturally Soft Merino in a colour of her choice to make the Charlie Cardigan, courtesy of LoveKnitting.


If you have a question for Jeanette, email or write to Ask Jeanette, Knitting,
GMC Publications,
86 High Street, Lewes,
East Sussex BN7 1XN.

Note: Jeanette regrets that she cannot enter into any personal correspondence with readers and can only answer letters that are chosen for publication in Knitting.


Anna wins a copy of 50 Knitted Gifts for Year-round Giving by the editors of Sixth & Spring Books, worth £14.99, available from Share your thoughts for
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Every Christmas my sister and I have a tradition whereby we give each other one new Christmas decoration to hang on our trees. So on Christmas Day this year I handed over my gift of a pottery reindeer head. My niece immediately teased me, saying that when held upside down it looked more like an octopus, and therefore not in the least bit festive. On returning home I decided to demonstrate that she was wrong. I pulled out the August 2016 edition (Knitting 157) and turned to the pattern for Octavius the Octopus. I adapted the pattern slightly by knitting in the round, using a yarn with a bit of sparkle and stuffing it. I have posted Octavius to my niece and fully expect to see it on their tree next year, twinkling alongside all the other decorations.

Anna Ashwell,
Tring, Hertfordshire


I bought your magazine today at an airport after finally finding something as stylish as Vogue and as far removed from the usual, sickly, pastel-coloured oddities that give away cheap “bamboo” (balsa wood) needles as possible. Thank you. Something I can relate to and be inspired by. Now I just need to visit John Lewis for more yarn.

Sarah Leach, via Facebook


Ann-Marie Moncella shared this gorgeous hat and booties set for a six-month-old baby with us on Facebook, and Shirley Turner has been making this lovely homely tea cosy. Share your finished projects with us every Friday and show us what you’re knitting on Work in Progress Wednesday at

annemarie   annemarie2


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Post: Christine Boggis, Knitting, GMC Publications, 86 High Street, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 1XN



Responses (2)

  1. Sharon Ackroyd
    6 April 2017 at 4:21 pm · Reply

    I’m struggling with the drop cable technique in issue 165. When I create the ladder, the next two purl stitches seem to widen, creating a loop effect instead of maintaining a neat rib on either side of the ladder. Any suggestions welcome. I really love this design but am on the point of giving up!

    • Knitting Admin
      6 April 2017 at 5:14 pm · Reply

      Hi Sharon, we’ll ask our agony aunt Jeanette and get back to you as soon as possible!

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