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?

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