Clever Techniques

As a lover of knitting techniques and challenges, the following are ingenious methods to kick your knitting up a notch.

Provisional Cast-On (PCO)

PCO is often used as a temporary foundation row or beginning. You return to these live stitches and knit in the other direction to form details like hems or toe-up socks. The two common ways to achieve a provisional cast-on are with a waste yarn or a crochet chain.

For waste yarn PCO, just cast-on and work one row or round with this yarn, then continue with the main yarn. When returning to these stitches, carefully remove the waste yarn, and slip the live stitches onto your needles.

For crochet chain PCO, make a length of chain plus 2 or more extra chain than the required number of stitches. Inserting your needle into the 2nd chain, pick up one stitch in each chain until the desired number of stitches has been placed on your needles. As for the waste yarn PCO, carefully remove the chain, and slip the live stitches onto your needles.

One Row Buttonhole

My all time favorite, the self-reinforcing buttonhole. And as the name implies it is neatly made all in one row.

Short Row Shaping and Wrapping

Short rows are partial rows of knitting created by turning your work within a row. They are used to shape or curve sections, such as a shawl collar or sock heels. To shape a shawl collar, rather than working decreases, short rows are used for the back neck section, and allow the collar to lie flat. Shaping with short rows eliminates jagged edges that occur when binding off.

Sometimes wrapping is used to make a smooth transition between the edge where a row is worked, and the edge with the extra row made by short rows. Wrapping also prevents holes when turning your work.


Elizabeth Zimmerman is credited with the many applications for i-cord, which she named “idiot cord”. I-cord is a simple technique to make a small tube with two double pointed needles.

i-cord necklace
I-cord Necklace


The traditional method for multi-colored Fair Isle designs is to knit in the round. Steeks are extra stitches or wound yarn loops used to bridge or close an opening of a cardigan front or at the underarms, so your project can be knit in the round all the way to the shoulders. After completing the tube, the steeks are cut and then secured to make room for the opening, or to attach another piece such as a front border. There are a few ways to make the steeks, and to secure the yarn ends. Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting is the definitive voice on this traditional technique.

Cutting cardigan front steek (Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting, 1988)

Magic Loop

The magic loop method allows you to knit small projects like socks in the round with one, long circular needle. You may want to give this method a whirl if you find that using double pointed needles causes holes when moving from one needle to the next.

Solo circular needle for magic loop method

I hope you will try some or all of these clever techniques.