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Knitting Tutorial: The Beauty of Long Stitches

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The size of our stitches in width and height is determined largely by the size of the needles we use. But there are some neat tricks that can be employed to make stitches bigger, to elongate them, either across an entire row or in isolation on a stitch-by-stitch basis. In this update's tutorial, we'll look at some simple techniques for making stitches longer and discuss when you might choose one technique over another. In the next update, we'll look at how elongated stitches can be slipped, twisted, crossed, wrapped and threaded to create fabulous fabric.

Needle Elongation

Needle elongation makes all stitches of a row longer.

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When at the row to be elongated, simply work across it with a needle several sizes larger than the usual needle (Photos 1 and 2). On the return row, switch back to the original needle (Photos 3 and 4). The larger the needle, the bigger the stitch and the longer the elongation. A needle that is four sizes larger will make stitches roughly 50 percent larger. The garter stitch swatch illustrates the difference between going up four sizes (U.S. 6 to U.S. 10) and going up six sizes (U.S. 6 to U.S. 11).

While the swatch is worked in garter stitch, needle elongation can be done in any stitch pattern and can be worked across more than one row. The longer row(s) can be worked with a different yarn or in a contrasting color, or simply alternate needle sizes to form a repeating pattern in the fabric.

In this day of interchangeable needles, one could use needle elongation to make only some stitches of a row longer, but doing so seems like a lot of work. There are other ways to make only select stitches longer.

Stitch Elongation

Stitch elongation techniques can be used across an entire row or only some stitches, making a whole host of other stitch manipulations possible.

Yarn Overs

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Work to the stitch to be elongated; yarn over the right needle (Photo 1). At the end of the row, there will be a yarn over to the left of every stitch to be elongated. Every stitch of the garter stitch swatch will be elongated, so every stitch has a yarn over next to it (Photo 2). On the next row, drop the yarn overs off the needle as you come to them (Photos 3 and 4) and pull up as you work the following stitch to draw in the extra yarn (Photo 5). Gently tugging the work downward at the end of the row can further help redistribute the extra length and open up the row (Photo 6).

To make even longer stitches, either work

a double yarn over or work one yarn over on either side of the stitch to be elongated (Photos 7 and 8).

Wrapping The Needle Multiple Times

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Work to the stitch to be elongated; insert the needle and wrap as usual, and then wrap again before pulling the needle back through the stitch on the left needle (Photo 1); slide off. Every stitch of the garter stitch swatch will be elongated, so every stitch has two wraps in it (Photo 2). On the next row, use your left index finger and thumb to gently pull the fabric down, exposing the opening in each stitch below the double wrap. Insert the right needle into that space, wrap and pull through a new stitch (Photos 3 and 4), dropping both wraps of the old stitch off the left needle (Photo 5). The extra wraps can make the work feel all loosey-goosey. Try not to tug too tightly to cinch up the work; instead, use your right index finger to hold the shape of the new stitch.

You can wrap stitches as many times as you like (Photos 6 and 7 show a triple wrap). Each wrap adds about half again as much length as usual for the stitch. As with the yarn over method, after working a row, pull up on the needle and tug down on the fabric to open up the stitches (Photo 8).


Vertical elements draw the eye, and long stitches are no expetption. Intersperse rows of elongated stitches on a simple fabric to showcase a ribbon or multicolored yarn, or to create a place for further embellishment. Next time we'll look at manipulations that take elongated stitches to another level!

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