how I use straight needles to cast-on & knit a lot of stitches

A new prayer shawl has been started today and it will be for me.  My mother went to her heavenly home October 3, 2012 and is most dearly missed by her daughter, who wants to embrace quiet introspective thoughts, ponder favorite verses and pray as she knits in memory of her sweet mother.
It was cathartic to pull together a celebratory video of mother's life  posted at our nature, garden and homelife blog for her funeral, but now that 'life' has settled down into a new normal, I simply miss her.... a lot.  You're never too old to miss your mom.
Ramona Jo Bennett Watson ~ 12.20.1932 - 10.03.2012
Tom (my husband) and I put this pretty flower arrangement together for mother's grave this past weekend.  I am learning a lot about what supplies to use and how this all goes together.  Who knew the headstone's empty vase was upside down in a hidden compartment.   Now her grave looks proper with pretty flowers in the up-righted, up-turned, above-ground vase and I thought the silk flower sprays we chose looked spring-like and 'natural'.... something my mother would like.  
I am modifying my basic simple knit trinity stitch prayer shawl pattern - again - and will post about that another day.  Today I wanted to (finally!) answer a reader's question from last year about using straight needles to cast on so many stitches.  In my 38" wide trinity stitch prayer shawl, you cast on 87 stitches, in the wider 45" wide trinity stitch prayer shawl, you cast on 99 stitches using size 9.0mm/US13 needles for each.  I've made many prayer shawls in the past using both straight and circular needles and my personal preference is straight needles, because it always seems when I use circular needles, I stretch my work terribly.  These 'shawls' are heavy from both the bulky Homespun Lion Brand yarn and the size(s) at completion, so there's a lot of weight on your needles as the shawl is knitted.

Okay, let's begin a new cast on after making sure all supplies are at the ready.  This yarn, from my stash, was purchased a long time ago, as you can tell by the Wal-Mart sales sticker of $4.00 per skein and the color 'Antique', has been discontinued.  (Click here to see the current Homespun Lion Brand yarn colors.)
For this new 'shawl' that will complete at approximately 45" wide, I need to cast on 101 stitches, again using 9.0mm/US13 straight needles. 
A slipknot to begin.  There's much instruction available for how to cast-on, so we'll just cover how the stitches handle on straight needles.
80 stitches have been cast on at this point..... 21 to go... don't worry.... all will fit.
101 stitches have been cast on here.  It might look a little crowded, but it works for me.   I simply push all the stitches down, and manipulate stitch-control with my left hand as I knit with my right.  For some reason I don't have as many problems with my work stretching on straight needles as it gets larger and longer.
Let's begin knitting.  I tend to use my fingers a lot to manipulate the yarn and each stitch.  Below, my left finger has moved the stitch to the top of the left needle to get it placed for my right needle.  My other fingers on my left hand, are keeping the other stitches down and out-of-the-way.  I'm knitting my third row in the following photos.
Working the same stitch as the above photo, the right needle is about to slide off the completed stitch.  This is to show how I use my right index finger to make sure nothing slides off my needle until I'm ready.
Still working the same stitch as the above two photos.... but it has been completed and slid off the left needle and onto the right needle.  The photo below is to show how I'm using my right index finger to pull it down onto my right needle and make sure nothing accidentally slides off.
As the stitches begin to build up and 'bunch' on your right needle, stop every once in a while and gently pull them down.  I've got my left fingers placed making sure nothing accidentally slides off the top!
About halfway done - looking pretty good.  You can see my cheapo counter in the photo below... I love it and use it to keep track of rows when needed.  It's an old plastic money adder gadget from long ago.
Just a few more.....
....and we've completed knitting row 3 of 101 stitches on straight needles.  No problem at all.  Don't worry about the curleque on the needle there.  It'll all knit straight.
I hope this helps with the thought of using straight needles for a large quantity of stitches.  I'll post about my new pattern as it begins to take shape.

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  1. I also prefer straight needles to circular ones. I feel I have better tension control (for some reason) on straight needles.

    The flower bouquet for your mom's grave site is lovely, Lisa. Although fresh flowers are beautiful, they just don't last long at all when out in the elements. The silk flowers we can get today look so real that it just makes a lot of sense to use them in certain circumstances.

  2. 'Tension control' is a great way to put it. It's gotten to where I rarely use circular needles unless for some reason I absolutely have to.

    I agree - I'm usually not a fan of silk flowers, but for a gravesite it is the only type of greenery to use. Some had put fresh flowers out on mother's grave that had been there since maybe December, and it was a terrible feeling walking up and seeing dead flowers laying there. Mom always loved more of a 'wild' and 'natural' look in her flower garden, so our informal flower arrangement suits her resting place well, to me. Thank you Mama Pea.


Thank you for taking the time to leave a note.~Lisa