I've found quite a few interesting knitting books at the local library here and have been looking through them for potential patterns. I normally avoid buying books because when I do and get them home I realize that there isn't that many patterns that I really like. They must just look better under the bookstore lights. Plus I'm trying not to collect large heavy objects that will need to be packed up again.
I've never really taken the time to read through the knitting instruction part that almost every pattern book has: how to cast-on, purl, ssk, etc.
A couple of things from these sections have caught my eye recently, so I've started taking the time to skim through the current books I have.
Casting On: Long Tail cast on- this is what I normally use to begin my projects. I can't count the number of times I pull out what I think is enough of the long tail section to cast on and find myself short. Then the first of many frog stitch sequences (rip-it) begin. So here's a trick. Before you begin, wrap the yarn around the selected needle to equal the number of stitches you need. I've tried it several times now and it comes out perfectly. Keep in mind if you are planning to use the tail section to sew up a seam you'll want to add to it.
Or another method is that the length of yarn you'll need is 2 1/2 times whatever the final width of your piece is. The width isn't always apparent in some patterns so this might not be as useful.
And how many times have you found yourself actually knitting with that long tail, huh? Especially when knitting with circular needles? So I've started to wind up the extra tail and tie it into a little package like a very loose overhand knot.
Picking up Stitches: If you are picking up stitches in rows you normally don't want to pick up a stitch in very row. You would have too many stitches and it would knit up bigger than your original piece (like for a button band, gusset on socks). Look at your gauge and pick up that number of stitches and skip 1. So if you gauge is 16 stitches = 4 inches (so 4 stitches = 1 inch - for those mathphobic) then you would pick up 4 stitches from 4 rows and then skip one row.
Felting Tips: When you are knitting your gauge (you always knit a gauge, don't you) mark ever 10 or 20 stitches with a non-wool yarn piece so that when you do a test felting on the swatch you're able to count the stitches.