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Knitting Tutorial: One Needle, Two Needle, Three Needle: JOIN!
Knit garments are often worked as flat pieces that must be joined together. Afghans are more portable when worked as squares or strips to be assembled later. Overlay/underlay skirt tiers are worked one at a time and then put together in order to work upward to the waist. All of these assembly tasks can be managed by sewing, and that may be the best choice for your project. But wouldn't it be fun to KNIT the parts together? In this update we'll look at how a handy third needle can be used to join pieces together.
Imagine you are making a skirt with multiple overlaid tiers, a cardigan with true pleats, or a bag with decorative layers of ruffles. Working one stitch of each layer together across an entire row of stitches will join the two layers together, leaving fabric of the same width from which you can continue knitting. Here's how it works.
End each piece of fabric on a wrong-side row, stitches still on the needles. When joining in this way, you need to have the same number of stitches on each piece of fabric, so check your counts. Leave the working yarn you want to continue attached to its layer but cut the working yarn attached to the other layer (be sure to leave a tail long enough to sew in later!). Referring to Photo 1, with the right sides of both layers facing and the underlayer (the purple reverse stockinette swatch) behind the top layer (the blue-green stockinette swatch), hold the needles parallel. *Insert a third needle of the same size through first stitch of the front needle and the first stitch of the back needle (Photo 2). Wrap the working yarn around the right needle as usual and, with the needle tip, pull it back through the stitch on the back needle (Photo 3) and the front needle (Photo 4). Slide the old stitches on the left needle off (Photo 5). Repeat from * across the entire row of stitches (Photos 6-10), joining the two layers into one; continue as directed (Photo 11).
The shoulders of a lightweight sweater, the sides of a pillow, or the squares and sides of an afghan (see this update's free pattern!) can be joined together by adding a bind-off step to the three-needle join. There are two ways to do this: with right sides together or with wrong sides together. Let's look at right sides together first.
As above, keep the working yarn you want to continue with attached and cut the other one. Hold the two needles parallel with right sides together, facing each other (i.e., on the front needle the wrong side faces you and on the back needle the right side faces you) as shown in Photo 1. Work the first two stitches of each side together as when joining above (Photo 2). With one of the left needle tips (I find it easier to use the back one), reach into the rightmost stitch on the right needle and lift it over the leftmost stitch (Photos 3 and 4), thereby binding off one stitch (Photo 5). Join the next first stitches on the left needles and lift the rightmost stitch over the leftmost (Photo 6). Continue joining and binding off (Photo 7) all the way across the row. Notice how this creates a ridge on the side of the work facing you. When you flip the joined squares over to the right side, you will see a valley (Photo 8).
Now let's look at joining the other way, with wrong sides together. Prepare the pieces to be joined as above but arrange them with wrong sides together, facing each other (i.e., on the front needle the right side faces you, and on the back needle the wrong side faces you) as shown in Photo 1. Work the first two stitches of each side together as when joining above (Photo 2), bind off as above by lifting the rightmost stitch over the leftmost (Photos 3 and 5) and continue across the row (Photos 6 and 7). There's no need to turn because, when you open the fabric out, the right side, with the distinctive bind-off ridge, is facing (Photo 8).
If the look of the valley is right for your project, put your pieces together with right sides facing each other. If the look of the ridge echoes the look of your fabric, use it to join and bind off. And if you want to continue knitting, omit the bind-off!