Friday, February 05, 2021

How to Work a Russian Join.

I’ve been knitting for over 40 years.  In that time, I’ve tried most of the usual methods for joining yarn - in the middle of a row, whether it’s weaving in the ends during or after knitting, spit splicing, or an invisible knot.   Most often though, I would just avoid changing yarn in the middle of a row and sew my ends into the side seams during finishing. 

In the last few years, however, I’ve developed a love for seamless construction, without any need for sewing up afterwards.  With this, I wanted to find the neatest method for joining yarn in the middle of a row.

I’ve tried the Russian join several times in the past, but I hadn’t managed to perfect it until recently.  My joins always seemed to turn out lumpy, with the cut ends slightly protruding.  Last year, however, I started a project that necessitated that I really got to grips with honing my Russian joining skills and I developed my own technique that I believe is about as invisible as a join can be.

Projects that are improved by working a Russian join -

I’ve been working on my ‘Blending a Spectrum’ project for quite a while.  You can see some of my progress on Instagram.  For my first set of blends, I decided to knit each set of 24 colours into a single heart.  I had lots of short lengths of handspun yarn, that were only useful for knitting very small amounts and I wanted to see how the colours transitioned together.

These were my first two attempts at knitting a 24 coloured heart, and the reason I decided to master the Russian join.  The first heart shows how weaving in ends can sometimes distort the knitted stitches and the second... well the knitting is neater, but you can see how far I got before I decided to give up!  

Russian joining all your yarn for a project into one ‘magic ball’ before you start can create a beautiful self-striping yarn.  For the hearts, I spent quite a while Russian joining 24 x 60cm lengths of handspun yarn together before I started.  The joining was a little tedious, but it did give me an uninterrupted session of satisfying striped knitting.  Working over 150 Russian joins in quite a short period of time allowed me to explore the best methods for threading and cutting a Russian join.

'Magic Ball' made by joining together 24 graduating colours.

I’ve seen several talented knitters that have designed their own self-striping socks by Russian joining together matching ‘magic balls’ so that they can have an identical pair of striped socks that are not only unique, but stash busting too - finishing off all those ball ends of precious handspun yarn that are too small to do anything else with must be very satisfying.

Bead Knitting 

I also find a smooth Russian join to be invaluable when I’m bead knitting.  The beading technique I prefer requires me to thread the beads on prior to knitting. If a project uses 2000 beads, it is much more manageable (and less frustrating) to thread on enough beads for about 10 rows, work those beads, break off the yarn and thread on more beads, (joining with a Russian join) than it is to thread on 2000 beads from the beginning and have to keep repeatedly pushing those beads down your yarn.  A good Russian join is smooth enough to pass beads over and, on handspun yarn, it is practically invisible as it just mimics the naturally slubby nature of most handspun yarn.

I’ve made a video of my technique for working a Russian join which you can find here -

If, like me, you prefer to learn by photo tutorial, I’ve taken all the pertinent frames from the video and broken it down into a step by step tutorial.

Materials I use to work a Russian join


Photo Tutorial of how to work a Russian Join

Thread one end of yarn through a big eye needle and lay the second yarn that you want to join it to at right angles over it.

Bring the threaded big eye needle over the overlapping yarn...

... and insert it into the middle of the yarn

I find slightly untwisting and pushing the yarn towards the needle helps to open up the centre of the yarn so that you can pass the needle through.

Thread the needle through about 6 to 7 cm of yarn. (You can see here that I didn’t manage to keep the needle completely inside the yarn for a small section. This is fine, it’s really only the last couple of centimetres that this is important.)

Pull the needle and yarn through...

... and then remove the needle from the yarn.

Thread the other yarn end through the big eye needle.

Repeat threading the needle through the second section of yarn, inserting it as close as possible to the overlapping point...

... and trying to keep the needle inside the strands as much as possible.

Pull the threaded needle through the yarn.

Pull the loose yarn ends so that the areas where the needle entered meet in the middle.

Tug the yarn ends tightly so that the inner yarn is taut.

Gather the outer yarn down towards the overlap point to reveal a large section of the inner yarn. With the blade of a scalpel, craft knife or sharp scissors, stroke the inner yarn up and down to fray and taper the end.

Fraying and tapering the cut like this helps the inner yarn to grip the outer yarn, while helping to minimise and hide the cut end.

Repeat by fraying and cutting the second yarn end.

Pull the two yarns apart to let the frayed ends go inside the yarn.

And it’s done! One finished Russian join that looks just like a slightly thicker section in handspun yarn.

I do hope you’ve found this useful.  If you have, please pin it to Pinterest, it makes a big difference!

This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links to similar products that I purchased myself to work the Russian join. If you click through and purchase anything from Amazon, I may receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.


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Monday, December 28, 2020

DIY Rose and Pom Pom Garland

Five years ago I blogged about how to make singed roses out of inexpensive nylon lining fabric. It’s been one of my most popular blog posts, possibly because they are so effective and realistic, yet simple and cheap to make. I did actually start writing this blog post shortly after the singed rose tutorial, but never got around to finishing it properly. I was struggling to get a good photo of the garland in situ, with the lighting available to me, and then I just kind of forgot about it.
Please do take look at the singed rose tutorial - they really are easier than they look!

I eventually made 15 of them and turned them into a garland to decorate my daughter’s bedroom.  

Well she’s now a very grown-up 12 year old and wanting to put her own mark on her bedroom.  The rose and pom pom garland has come down and she’s wanting to put posters on her bedroom wall and move away from the sugary pastel colours.  Before I pack it away, I thought I’d finish the blog post I started about how I made the garland all those years ago.

As fun as they are to make, I must admit that by the time I'd made 15 of them, the repetition was getting to me a little so I started to look around for something else to fill up my garland.  

I looked through my stash and remembered that I had quite a few pom poms left over from when I made my Pom Pom 'Up' House Mobile and many of them toned in with the room.  I really like the juxtaposition of the roses with the pom poms - the colours and textures have a real carnival feel to them.

To make your own singed rose and pom pom garland you will need:-

Firstly, decide on the order that you want your roses and pom poms to sit on the garland.  As I only had three different colours of roses I felt a repeating pattern was easier than a random arrangement, so I laid down all of my roses first and then dotted the pom poms in between.

Cut your beading thread to the desired length, plus a little extra to allow for the threaded needle.  I wanted my garland to span the width of a single bed, and then hang down from the ceiling, so after a bit of experimentation I worked out that I needed my garland to be at least 450cm.

Thread on a crimp and take it to the very end of your thread.  Secure it in place by squeezing it tightly with the pliers.  Now start threading on your roses and pom poms on in order, but add two crimps between each and every rose and pom pom, finishing with a single crimp.

Once everything has been threaded on it is time to start securing it all in place. Forgetting about the pom poms for now, secure all of the roses in place by squeezing the crimps shut with the pliers on either side.  I used a tape measure to make sure that my roses were all about 31cm apart.

Finally, it is time to secure the pom poms in place.  Space them out fairly evenly between the roses and then squeeze the crimps shut as close as possible on either side of each pom pom.

To hang it on the wall I used just three decorative Command clips to secure it all in place.  Some of the roses had a tendency to hang facing downwards and so I secured them with a little white tack.


When it came to packing the garland away, I wasn’t ready to part with it just yet and so I relocated it to the spare room/craft room.  

Unfortunately, it became extremely tangled, just on the short journey from one room to the next and so I ended up cutting it, which is why I have a few errant roses and pom poms hanging from the centre.  

I think I prefer it this way!

This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links to similar products that I purchased myself to make the Rose and Pom Pom Garland. If you click through and purchase anything from Amazon, I may receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

If you have enjoyed this post, you may also be interested in some of my other blog posts - 

Singed Rose Tutorial

Easy Needle Felted Flowers

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Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Bohemian Wreath - Loop Stitch Knitted Christmas Wreath

Last month I wrote about a 22 ply yarn that I made by dividing up a 2.2 kg cone of chenille yarn.

I've wanted to have a go at knitting a loop stitch Christmas wreath ever since I accidentally designed this one while I was knitting a snowy fringe for my daughter's jumper.  

It was only after beta-testing the Electric Eel Wheel Yarn Counter that I realised that this would be the perfect gadget for making the task of measuring multiple equal lengths of the same yarn a whole lot easier.

Loop stitch is perfect for knitting fur trim as you can combine as many plies as you can handle to speed it up and then when you cut the loops, the knitting is virtually hidden under a layer of wild, yarny fur.

I've watched several videos on working the loop stitch and I think that I knit it slightly differently to most people, so I've made this video to show my technique for knitting the loop stitch.

I've got an embroidery hoop that I covered in a knitted tube last year, with the intention of knitting some kind of wreath.  I think that I struggled to muster the inspiration to finish it before Christmas last year and so this will be perfect to go inside my furry wreath.

My hoop is about 33cm wide, so not massive - I think I'm going to have an awful lot of yarn leftover!

Using size 15mm knitting needles, I cast on 6 sts, working the loop stitches every other row on the central 4 stitches.  If you wanted to make a similar wreath, it might be helpful to know that my 22 yarn strands created a 3wpi yarn - 3 wraps around a ruler or gauge tool measure 1 inch.

There are very few items that I manage to knit in a day, but this was one of them.  It was so satisfying to see all of that fur building up steadily with each row!

I have a couple of tips if you decide to attempt a many stranded loop stitch to get a furry, tasseled effect.

Firstly, don't stick to wrapping the loop just once around your thumb.  Wrapping it many times would give you a much longer fringe, which you could always cut to length later if you wanted to.  I wrapped mine twice so that it neatly covered the stitches below.

I also found that it was significantly easier if I cut the loops just after I'd worked the stitch.  This was because the yarns were only very lightly twisted together and so if I left it too long to cut them, they all separated and I had to cut them individually, rather than 22 at once.

Once my knitted fur was a little more than half the circumference of my embroidery hoop, I switched to knitting in garter stitch.

This section was knitted over just 4 stitches as I wanted it to be much thinner than the fur section.

When my knitting fitted around the embroidery hoop, when slightly stretched, I cast off.

I then just sewed it closed around the hoop with a length of green yarn and a large needle, making sure that the stitching stayed at the back.  At this point, I was glad that my hoop was already covered in knitted fabric as it gave me something to sew through and fix the wreath to, ensuring that the stitching didn’t twist around to the front.

I could say that it’s finished now, but I fancied adding a little Christmas sparkle.  I have a technique for turning copper wire fairy lights into “spray lights” that I used to decorate my guinea pig cage for Christmas -

I hoped that the sprays of lights would complement the modern, asymmetrical effect of my slightly Boho wreath.

To make the lights, I just used a wire twisting tool that I’ve had in my tool drawer for a couple of decades.  It’s the most basic of tools as it’s just a hook screwed into the end of a stick, but it does make the job significantly easier than doing it by hand.

My fairy lights have 100 LEDs on them and I wanted 5 sprays of lights.  I worked out that I needed about 16 lights in each spray, which would leave me enough lights to wrap a few around the thinner, garter stitch section of the wreath.

I’ve made a little video to show my technique for making spray fairy lights from copper wire lights.

When the lights were finished, I spent a little while arranging them on my wreath, moving the sprays around, trying to position them so that they were evenly spaced.  

I pinned over the wire and then stitched the sprays in place, securing them on either side of the base.

All that was left to do was to wrap the remaining lights around the wreath and sew a felt pocket to the back to hold the battery pack in place.

If you've found this post useful, please Pin it for later - it makes a big difference!

This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links to similar products that I purchased myself to make my Bohemian Wreath. If you click through and purchase anything from Amazon, I may receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

You may also find these blog posts interesting - 

Rag Heart Wreath

DIY Christmas Crackers

How to make an Extreme Knitting Yarn

Serendipitous Knitted Wreath

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