30 March 2010


You probably noticed the STITCHES South peach link popped up on this blog a couple months ago. My class is still open. I don't know how many people have signed up, but I'm looking forward to the experience whether I have three or thirty. I've gotten good feedback on my practice run. I feel confident that if you are someone who has been thinking about moving beyond simple projects and trying a sweater, my class will give you the confidence to choose a sweater project that will give you success. I have plenty of tricks to share to make the knitting more enjoyable. And none of my examples involve knitting each section separately and sewing them all together at the end.

Of course, I'll also be taking a few classes myself. I've signed up for:
Jean Frost: Chasing the Hounds, Tooth that is; Thursday afternoon
Edie Eckman: Pattern Writing 101; Friday all day
Carson Demers: Ergonomics for Knitters; Sunday morning
Merike Saarniit; Three 2-color patterns, One color at a time; Sunday afternoon

I chose Jean Frost's class just because I want to take a class with her. She is the champion of great jackets.

I chose pattern writing because I need to be good at that. I don't think I'm too bad at it now, but I need to be sure I'm not making novice blunders.

I chose ergonomics because although I don't usually have any knitting soreness, I do every once in a great while if I've done a marathon.

And I chose Merike Saarniit at the end because she's wonderful and I'm sure these patterns will open up even more ideas to explore in the knitting laboratory. I would have chosen her Spinning for Knitting class (which is full), but it meets at the same time as my class. I can't be everywhere at once! Dang these limitations of time and space!

The homework information arrived recently. The most interesting homework is for the pattern writing class: "Bring a pattern you find difficult to follow and one you find easy to follow." I'm tempted to choose Baby Surprise Jacket as a difficult to follow pattern. This is one more reason I miss doing knit help. So often newer knitters would come in and the problem was totally not their fault. Magazines with tight deadlines often fall prey to gremlins in the instructions. And there is one designer who is horrible in this regard, but it would be inappropriate for me to out her in a public forum. Maybe I'll just take her whole book to class and leave Elizabeth Zimmermann alone.

One last bit: I do plan to attend the opening day lecture. And I'll be at the luncheon. Teachers are asked to eat first and then attend the luncheon so we can go from table to table and get to meet the knitters. I'm very much looking forward to that. I'm also looking forward to the fashion show on Friday night and the student banquet on Saturday night. There is so much great knitting to see and share!

29 March 2010

Catching up

Where does the month go? I've been very busy knitting away. I'm not done with either project, so no finished objects to show yet. But I did want to show a little bit.

I'm working on a couple extra sweaters I want to add to my STITCHES South class. I've made good progress on both, so I have to just keep at it. One of them I cast on just a week ago. I'm using the hand-dyed cotton yarn Crayons Lite from Rainbow Mills. This is one of those handpainted yarns with color changes every few inches rather than every few feet. (Schaefer Laurel is similar.) I swatched this yarn about a month ago, trying different pattern stitches. The yarn is meant for plain stockinette in the round to create a tie-dye effect t-shirt. But I knew I would be knitting a cardigan jacket back and forth. After much testing, I settled on linen stitch.

Both sides of the fabric are interesting, so much so that I'm not sure which is the public side. Perhaps this will be a reversible garment. Glee! If you haven't done linen stitch, it isn't all that hard but it is time consuming. Working on an odd number of stitches, alternate knit one, slip one purlwise with yarn in front across the right-side row. (You'll end with knit one because of the odd number of stitches.) The right side is shown at the top of the post.

On the wrong side, alternate slip one purlwise with yarn in back, purl one. (You'll end with slip one because of the odd number of stitches.) In other words, you'll work the stitches that were slipped on the right side row and slip the stitches that were worked on the right side row. The wrong side is shown below. Because the purl bumps are on that side, it has a more textured surface. Can you see already that since you are only working half the stitches on each row, it will take twice as long to knit something in linen stitch as it would in stockinette?

The advantage of this extra patience is a reversible fabric that lies flat and behaves somewhat like weaving. That's because you are essentially weaving the working yarn in and out of the wales of knit stitches. The yarn on the slipped stitches is always carried to the right side of the work. However, I can certainly envision variations of this pattern where you slip more stitches, change which side the yarn is carried on, and the like. A special advantage for this yarn is that the slipping breaks up the color pattern on the hand-dyed yarn. There is some flashing and pooling, but it is broken up in a way that I think is very nice.

04 March 2010

Refined Helmet Liner

I'm not sure how many helmet liners I've made at this point -- maybe half a dozen? I can knock one out in just a couple nights. They are easy knitting in the round, plus they have enough going to keep me interested. There is some 2x2 ribbing. There is the interesting way in which the face opening is created. There is a plain stockinette section, perfect for television or knit night knitting. There are a few decrease rounds to close the top. And then the whole thing comes to a close with some picked-up ribbing around the face.

I've been asked to teach a helmet liner class at Rare Purls in Duluth. While it may not seem as if there is a lot to cover, there is quite a bit if you are looking to refine the pattern. To begin with: How to cast on? There's the trick of making the cast-on edge match the 2x2 ribbing in elasticity. This is important in a sock cuff that must hug the calf but fit over the foot. It is really important in a helmet liner that must hug the neck but fit over the head.

Then there's the 2x2 ribbing itself. Ribbing can sometimes show off minor tension issues to ill effect. The neck ribbing is a great place for practicing combination knitting, at least in the knit stitches but not the purl stitches.

The opening for the face works wonderfully with Elizabeth Zimmermann's provisional cast-on. Not only do you end up with the needed stitches, but you end up with the needed stitches going in the other direction. And if you use a circular needle in place of the waste yarn, then the needle for the face ribbing is already waiting.

If you are an English knitter and have been thinking of learning Continental, the four inches of plain stockinette in the cap are an opportunity for practice. And there are even a few decrease rounds to keep you intrigued.

When you come to the face ribbing, there's the challenge of picking up stitches in the corners and decreasing them out in pattern to close any holes or gaps. Then there's that last inch of ribbing -- another combination knitting opportunity. And the bind off at the end, hopefully completed seamlessly to create an unbroken line of chain stitches.

So when I teach this, I can cover:
German twisted cast-on
stitch facing and combination knitting
Elizabeth Zimmermann's provisional cast-on
Continental knitting
picking up corner stitches and decreasing in pattern
seamless circular bind-off

Who knew you could get so much learning out of a one-skein project?

01 March 2010

Scallop cast-on

Yesterday evening I was casting on a helmet liner. I've made about a half-dozen of these over the last few years. In fact, I plan to be teaching a workshop on helmet liners at Rare Purls in Duluth. A helmet liner begins with a lot of 2x2 ribbing. Since the ribbing needs to stretch to go over the head, the cast on needs to be very stretchy. There are several ways to achieve this -- a long-tail cast-on with a double-thickness of yarn in the tail (Lucy Neatby), a German twisted cast-on (Beth Brown-Reinsel), or a tubular cast-on (Elizabeth Zimmermann). I got to thinking about the tubular cast-on.
Imagine the black line in the drawing is a row of knitting, all by itself without a row above or a row below. The bright green line represents a piece of waste yarn or a narrow needle or wire. If you've done Elizabeth Zimmermann's provisional cast-on, you've done this on your needles. You create a single row of knitting that is ready to be worked in either direction because that single row is folded in the middle. In a typical tubular cast-on, you'd continue with knit one, slip one for one round; then slip one, purl one for the second round. At that point you either go right into your knitting or you work those two rounds again if you want a little more edge. The cast-on is a little tube -- or a bigger tube if you work more rounds. Because is has the same structure as knitting, it will behave as knitting and stretch and give. Once the edge is established, the waste yarn is removed.

Now, there's a nifty little game you can play with this. Imagine that the black "yarn" is slightly stiff. Imagine I have it laid out as in the diagram, with a narrow piece of stiff green wire across it. Imagine I fold the lower stitches up. Counting from the right, the odd numbered stitches would lie behind the green wire and the even numbered stitches would lie on top of it. In other words, the odd stitches are purls and the even are knits. If I worked purl one, knit one across the row, the edge would be mysterious indeed. This is why Elizabeth Zimmermann's provisional cast-on can be so great for 1x1 ribbing.

But the helmet liner is 2x2 ribbing. Hmmmm. I decided to mix it up a bit by working the stitches out of order. When I needed to, I skipped the next stitch the get to the one I needed. The result is that every-other knit-purl pair is crossed. Here is the result:
It is a little dark with the black yarn, but you can see there is a large then small then large then small rhythm in the cast-on edge at bottom. I'm going to tear this out because I think this edge is too decorative for military use on a helmet liner. But it may have uses later in other projects.

To review:
Use Elizabeth Zimmermann's provisional cast-on with waste yarn.
Work knit two, purl two on the very first row. Treat the stitches in front of the waste yarn as knits. Treat the stitches in back of the waste yarn as purls. Work stitches out of order when you need to to get to your next knit or purl as needed. There will be times when you are skipping the nearest stitch on the left needle, working the next one in line, and then returning to the skipped stitch. It is this 1x1 stitch twist that produces the scallop.
After you get a couple rows established, remove the waste yarn. Smile.