Logalong: How to avoid, minimize and weave in ends

How to avoid, minimize and weave in ends

We all know one of the deterrents to any multi-strand or patchwork project — such as Log Cabin! — is how many ends it can leave you to weave in. Even the most sanguine among us — the ones who will extol the virtues of end-weaving as closure and bonding and meditation — can sour on the process when faced with too many of them. Ends are a fact of life, but not only are there lots of methods for weaving in ends, there are at least as many ways to minimize them! Which is what I’ve polled our illustrious Log Cabin Make-along panelists about for today. (There’s also lots of general community advice under How do you weave in your ends? and a good overview of basic methods in this Purl Soho tutorial.)

I have it comparatively easy. First: My fingerless mitts project consists of two 7-inch blocks — plus some appendages and fanciness — each made of 9 strips, so even if you changed colors on every single strip, the absolute project maximum would be 36 ends. (As compared to a blanket?) Second: Mitts have a wrong side. Nobody will ever see the inside of them, so it isn’t as critical for them to be artfully done. That said, all I’m doing is sliding my tapestry needle one direction under a stack of bumps, then back the other direction, as seen above. Done.

Were I more concerned about it (or more accurately, if I could remember to do it!), I would knit them in as I join each new color, which is done in the same way as trapping floats in colorwork. For this, I hold my working yarn in my right hand and the yarn to be trapped in my left hand. Every-other-stitch, for maybe 10 stitches or so, insert your working needle into the stitch to be worked and under the strand to be trapped, wrap the working yarn around the needle as usual and pull up the stitch. You’ve caught the loose strand in the backside of the stitch, and it won’t show on the front of the work. (Very Pink demonstrates an alternative version here.) Once you’ve trapped it a handful of times, snip off the rest of the end. For many people, this is sufficiently neat and tidy to be done even on a blanket or such where the back of it will inevitably be seen. If you want it to be more like invisible, or not to exist in the first place, here’s the rest of the panel with further thoughts and ideas! And of course, if you haven’t checked out the #fringeandfriendslogalong feed, I highly encourage you to do so!

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Logalong: How to avoid, minimize and weave in ends - Russian Join

VERONIKA JOBE of YOTH Yarns (Instagram: @yarnonthehouse)

One of my tackles with my Log Cabin project has been the many ends I’m producing. Now, don’t get me wrong! I actually find a peace and rhythm in duplicate stitching my tails in place at the end of a project, but when we’re talking 18 ends per 9-block square, that makes even me cringe. I have high hopes in publishing this beauty as a pattern and kit at the end, so cutting down on work that the common knitter dreads is key.

I started by posting on Instagram to see what my community had for suggestions — went through various comments and links, eventually landing on the good old-fashioned Russian Join. I am by no means an expert at the Russian Join, but I do have some experience under my belt with this technique. If you are up for wanting to try it out for the first time, I highly recommend watching one of the many YouTube videos out there and seeing the actual process. [Editor’s note: My first introduction to Russian Join was this Susan B. Anderson video.] Here are just my little tips and tricks that I found useful!

1. I like to knit to the end of my row where I want my transition to happen, mark it using a thin removable marker inside the plies of my yarn, and then unpick 6-8 stitches back so I have enough room to work with.

2. My preference is to overlap my yarn ends about 3″. Most tutorials recommend 2″, but I like to lean on the side of caution.

3. Not all yarns like to be invaded and create a nice opening down the center, so I just weave my end in and out of the plies in a various manner. Nothing too precise. The key is to get that end to lock in. Weave or slide in further than you think. If you end up having a little tail sticking out, don’t worry. You’ve left yourself a whole 1″ cushion and you can just snip it off!

4. You can easily tighten or loosen your gauge a bit to make sure that the transition lands right where you want it to once you start knitting.

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Logalong: How to avoid, minimize and weave in ends

KAY GARDINER of Mason-Dixon Knitting (Instagram: @kaygardiner)

I have a tough-love attitude about weaving in ends: I just do it.

With log cabin, which typically is worked in garter stitch, it’s not an unpleasant task, as it’s easy to hide the ends by weaving them back and forth through the “bumps” of the garter ridges. (The two photos of the WS of my piece show a mess of ends and then how neatly they disappear when woven in.)

I try to minimize the number of ends, for the sake of the integrity of the piece. It’s a game: When I eliminate an end, I win. One firm rule: I never cut the yarn after I’ve bound off a strip if the next strip is in the same color, as is the case with certain color schemes.

Logalong: How to avoid, minimize and weave in endsIn the case of my log cabin pullover, I’m knitting all the strips in a single color. If I were working the basic spiral log cabin block, around and around, I’d never have to cut the yarn until the main body piece was finished. Unless there was a knot or break in the skein (aka an Act of God), I’d have only 2 ends!

But my strip layout is done courthouse-steps style, with 3 sides that form a U shape. The pattern requires you to work the two side strips (which are identical) before working the bottom strip of the U. If you go back and forth knitting Side A and then Side B and then the bottom strip (C), you may end up with more ends than necessary.

After working the initial Side A, I cut the yarn. I start with new yarn to knit Side B. I do not cut the yarn after Side B; I then work Side C, the bottom strip that completes the U, then (without cutting the yarn), I work Side A of the next layer of the U.

Then I have to cut the yarn, go across the piece to the other side, and start Side B. But I knit 3 strips with only 2 ends—victory is mine!

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CAL PATCH of Cal Patch (Instagram: @hodgepodgefarm)

I’ll be the gloater here because crochet has the clear advantage of being able to hide ALL THE ENDS as I go! I should really write  a post about it — I have several tips — but this one shows the main part of it.

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ANN SHAYNE of Mason-Dixon Knitting (Instagram: @annshayne)

Blanketophobes whinge on about all the ends that a log cabin blanket generates. I say phooey.

When you change colors, just wet splice the yarns. If you’re working with non-superwash pure wool (like the Donegal Tweed I’m using), or alpaca, you can eliminate virtually all ends by wet splicing (or spit splicing, which just sounds gross but there it is).

In this blanket, I stop seven stitches from the end of a square and break my yarn, leaving a tail about five inches long. Then I splice the new color to this tail and knit to the end of the row. Voila: the new color emerges at just about the right moment. With no ends to fool with later. 

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Thanks, panelists! And I want to hear from the rest of you: What’s your strategy? Weigh in below!


PREVIOUSLY in Log Cabin Make-along: How to crochet log cabin and Elsewhere






17 thoughts on “Logalong: How to avoid, minimize and weave in ends

  1. I knit in the ends as I go, using the entrapment method described above. I have done this for so many years that its automatic. With “classic log cabin, this takes care of all of the ends but the corners, and these ends can be left long to use for sewing up the blocks if thats what you are planning to do. At the end of the project, or part of the way along if the opportunity presents itself, you can just snip off all those tails which is sort of satisfying in and of itself. I save the fancy joins, like the Russian join, or even spit splicing, for bigger pieces: too tedious when the blocks are small annd you are frequesntly changing colors.

    • I’m a devout spit-splicer in any regular knitting situation and haven’t attempted Ann’s described method of applying it to color changes. If I had more than this many ends to deal with, I might feel motivated to give it a go!

  2. I have done a lot of colourwork in my time and nothing keeps ends put like whipstitching them after weaving. I have tried many methods but eventually those little buggers start sticking their heads up to see whats going on. I made a full length lopi coat once, improvisionally and an art deco version of log cabin, inspired by Fassett’s coats starting out with just one small square. There were hundreds of ends. I whip stitched them, and now 20 yrs. later not one end has poked thru. Some times I will sit with 5 needles threaded up with different coloured threads. In the end, it goes much faster than one fears….like filing a months worth of receipts, documents, etc. You get into the rythym of it. I would be interested if any knitters here ever have to deal with ends that appear later in their finished garments.

    • One of my favorite things about working with nice sticky wools (like lopi, especially), as opposed to slippery fibers, is they’ll just lightly felt on the inside and never be a bother. It was very liberating to me when I took a class with colorwork maven Mary Jane Mucklestone very early on in my knitting life (i.e., about five years ago!) where she said she often just ties a little knot on the inside, snips the ends to a half-inch or so, and leaves them to felt. She’d been doing it since seeing the insides of garments in the Shetland Museum and discovering that’s what they’ve long done! Such nice “permission.”

      • A million years ago, I took a weekend workshop with Kaffe Fasset and Brandon Mably. Brandon taught “the technique” which is the entrapment method, although refined by sometimes starting the new yarn in the row below, which can eliminate some of the lumpiness. The class was at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, where there was, at the same time, a museum show. I had a friend who helped with the set up of the exhibit, and she said the sweaters were all knotted inside with ends hanging everywhere. Much later in life, Brandon taught a class at the LYS where I worked; by then it was an all knot story, with ends clipped to about an inch. I think that with wool, that’s all good as long as no one will see the reverse side; it could be a disaster with a slippery yarn, or something wirey, like linen.

  3. I just weave mine in after I am done. I usually wait until I have a few ends to do it, and just pick a night for sewing ends.

    One thing I always struggle with is how close to clip the yarn after weaving in a few… Too long and it’s noticable, too short and it slides thru the taste bump or two. Any tips for that?

    • This isn’t foolproof, but my best results have all come from leaving a little extra poking out, then doing the first wash / blocking, and then snipping the rest close to your finished work.

      I do the same when I sew knit fabrics as well. (But I don’t pre-wash most of my knits for t-shirts- I just cut them a little bigger to account for shrinkage).

      • I’m going to have to try your trick, but I usually do it by giving a little stretch along the grain of the fabric and then snipping close to the edge – I find this helps encourage it not to slide through

  4. Kay, your pullover is looking gooooood, girl. Can’t wait to see the finished garment.

    And Amen to what Cal says about the ease of getting rid of ends in crochet. They can also be anchored by simply tunneling them through an inch or two of stitches, especially if they are sc.

    As for ends in knitting, here is a great join, somewhat akin to the Russian join, but quicker and less bulky. H/T to Yvonnegut on Ravelry for turning me onto a method I now use so often. https://www.ravelry.com/projects/yvonnegut/sewn-join—plied-version

  5. Great tutorial and options! I weave my ends as I go a la colorwork, but in past blankets they have wiggled their way free to make unsightly 1 inch tassels on the wrong side. This time I will do the same, but weave them back in the opposite direction with a tapestry needle.

    For your next panel, can you talk about edge treatments and sewing together? I always slip first stitch purl last stitch because I like to use 3 needle bindoff to join, but I’m doing asymmetrical squares this time and will be joining garter edges to cast off edges, and I want to do it invisibly.

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