A few years ago, my therapist encouraged me to pick up knitting again. She suggested that perhaps a simple creative act on which I could focus and make distinct progress would help calm my anxiety and provide a sense of accomplishment. At the time, I was skeptical; in all past attempts, I’d never quite learned how to purl, so I figured I would struggle to make any garment worth wearing. However, I still humored her, and I never could’ve predicted how much knitting would alter the fabric of my life.
With the help of several internet tutorials, I relearned my past skills: casting on, the knit stitch and binding off. For those who don’t know, knitting is typically done across rows, with the knitter turning their work at the end of each. Beginning a project involves casting on an appropriate number of stitches; knitting is to work these stitches to create a fabric; casting off is the method of removing the work from the needles. With these three techniques, a variety of garments can be made in garter stitch, which is a fancy way of saying knit all rows. Garter stitch creates a bumpy-textured fabric, which can be desirable depending on the goal of the project. The most classic knitted fabrics are made in stockinette stitch. When working flat, this means that rows are alternatingly knitted and purled. Since I didn’t know how to purl and wanted to craft a smooth fabric, I returned to the internet for guidance. Once I realized that purling is really nothing more than knitting in reverse, I got the hang of it.
Armed with this new knitting knowledge, I started cranking out projects at lightning speed. I would sit in my classes listening to the teacher as I knitted scarves, hats, shawls and eventually even socks. Knitting became a mindful activity. I found that I could focus more easily while working on a project, and the sensory experience of the soft yarn running through my hands provided an easy grounding point when I became anxious.
In the spirit of sharing coping mechanisms during this stressful point of the year, I would like to provide a little knitting tutorial. This is a fairly simple project, which is both versatile and fit for those who are just beginning to knit. If you should need any help figuring it out, don’t hesitate to ask me. I’m always happy to spread the knitting love.
The following pattern for a simple “mug rug” is great for putting under a hot mug if you want to prevent heat damage to your oh-so-valuable Vassar-issued desk. The general technique is highly adaptable to a wide variety of projects: You can make a larger square by simply continuing the pattern, or you could even sew multiple squares together to make a patchwork-style quilt. While this pattern is worked in garter stitch (all stitches knitted), it would be easy to incorporate different stitch patterns as well!
For this mug rug, you can use almost any kind of yarn and any knitting needles available. The cheap acrylic yarn at Dollar Yard works just fine. Bear in mind that the larger your needles are, the looser your knitting will end up. If you want a tightly knitted mug rug, you will want smaller gauge needles, like a U.S. size five or six.
Before I start the explanation of the pattern, let me first talk a bit about the technique. Generally speaking, the goal of this pattern is to start with very few stitches and add on as
we go to create a diagonal square shape. This is accomplished by adding stitches to every
other row until we get to the desired hypotenuse length. Then, we will start decreasing the stitches in the row by working more than one stitch together into a single stitch. Let’s dive in.
This project uses a simple method of adding stitches to a knitted row: the yarn over (abbreviated YO). This simply means wrapping the working yarn around the right-hand needle from back to front. This will create a new stitch where there was none in the previous row, resulting in a small hole in the fabric. This pattern uses the yarn overs to form a decorative border.
Row 1: Knit five stitches.
Row 2: Knit two, YO, knit one, YO, knit one.
Row 3: Knit all stitches.
This establishes the pattern for how you will continue the increasing half: On even-numbered rows, you will knit two, YO, knit until there are two stitches remaining on the left-hand needle, YO, and knit the remaining two stitches. On the odd-numbered rows, simply knit all stitches. Continue in this pattern until you have your desired hypotenuse length. In my example, I worked until I had 25 stitches in total. End with an odd-numbered row. If you should lose track of whether you’re on an odd or even row, you should notice that a YO stitch looks a bit different from a regular knit, which serves as a good reference.
At the halfway point, you should have a triangle. A clear eyelet border should have emerged, as shown in my example. The garter texture should also be clear, with a consistently bumpy texture.
To decrease, you will use three different methods. First is the slip-slip-knit (abbreviated SSK). For this method, you will slip two stitches from the left-hand needle onto the right, as if to knit, but then slip them back onto the left-hand needle (keeping the right-hand needle through the two slipped stitches) and knit through both stitches. This decrease method turns two stitches into a single one and creates a stitch that leans to the left.
Next, you will use the knit two together (abbreviated k2tog). This goes exactly how it sounds: simply knit through two stitches as if they were one. This decrease method turns two stitches into a single one and creates a stitch that leans to the right.
Finally, near the end of our mug rug you will use the central double decrease (abbreviated CDD), which is also known as the slip: knit two together, pass (sk2p). This is the trickiest of the stitches used in this pattern. To accomplish it, you will slip one stitch as if to knit it. Then you will knit the next two stitches together as one. Finally, you will insert the left-hand needle into the slipped stitch and slip it over the k2tog stitch you just made. This decrease method turns three stitches into one and has no lean.
This half gets a little bit more complicated, because you want to keep our nice eyelet border happening, but you need to net a decrease of stitches (unless you want a triangular mug rug, which is perfectly valid). So our rows will get just a little bit more complex.
Odd-numbered rows: Knit two, YO, SSK, knit to last four stitches, k2tog, YO, knit two. (This will be a net change of zero stitches.) Even-numbered rows: Knit three, SSK, knit to last five stitches, k2tog, knit three.
Repeat these rows until there are nine stitches remaining, at which point you will notice that there aren’t enough stitches to continue in the pattern as set. Knit the last odd-numbered row you can as set, and then you’ll change it up to accommodate this issue.
Row 1: Knit three, CDD, knit three (seven stitches remaining).
Row 2: Knit two, YO, CDD, YO, knit two (five stitches remaining).
Row 3: Knit one, CDD, knit one (three stitches remaining).
At this point, the mug rug is completed! You can now cast off the remaining three stitches, break your yarn, weave in your ends and start taking aesthetic pics. Happy knitting!