05 April 2012


The genesis of design ideas can be a strange thing. While the final success is the published blanket at right, the path to completion was not quick.

The initial idea dates back to the summer of 2009, when I was trying to come up with an original pattern for Christmas in July at The Whole Nine Yarns. This was shortly after the inaugural STITCHES South, which had featured Elise Duvekot, but also shortly after Sophia died and while Scenter was in the cardiac ICU. It also wasn't long after my stint as Atlanta Knitting Guild president, so I was getting back into the swing of working on my own ideas instead of guiding the guild. I still had thoughts of knit one below patterns in my head after STITCHES. I liked how the column pattern made vertical stripes by knitting back and forth. I started to think about making a scarf that would alternate horizontal and vertical stripes in blocks.

The idea for Tetra came, in fact, in the cardiac ICU. I don't recall now which visit it was. Scenter was maybe or maybe not aware of me. But I got in the habit of bringing knitting with me. On this visit I had the scarf with me -- a square section of garter stitch and a square section of column pattern. And I held it up to show it to Scenter. And then I thought about folding it. Of course! If I folded it this way, and then that, and then . . . . It sounds strange to say that somebody who was unable to speak should get partial credit on the design, but at that moment, Scenter was my muse.

Tetra Prototype
There's more to this ordinary-looking shape than meets the eye. And dang it, I'm sure Scenter would have known if topologists have assigned a special name for this form. Googling "four squares" doesn't really help.

So that was the prototype, a 1 x 4 scarf that was folded and seamed. It was about the size of a potholder. In fact, I still use it to cushion the head of my Majacraft Rose against the treadle when the spinning wheel is folded for transport.

The next Tetra was much larger and simpler, since I eliminated the knit one below stitches in favor of 100% garter stitch. This was also the summer we visited Wisconsin, so Lambeau Field and the Green Bay Packers were still on my mind. I knit a stadium blanket. Since it is an item that would get hard usage, I used eight skeins of Red Heart Classic Super Saver.

That's Vincent, helping to model and provide scale. In the picture, the blanket has been folded by bringing all the corners into the center. It works because the blanket is square. As with so many things, after the blanket was completed, I got wrapped up in other things. I really do have too many irons in the fire very often. But knitting it was useful, as I had proof of concept and had some ideas about what would need to be explained to help people knit it.

Then in January of 2011, Karin Skacel sent a gift a yarn to Atlanta Knitting Guild with a challenge to create patterns using her new yarn, Simplicity by HiKoo. Let me just say out of the gate that this is a wonderful, soft, easy-care, budget-friendly alternative to squeaky 100% acrylic. Knitting the green and yellow blanket was, at times, the Garter Stitch Death March of Knitting. Friends at Knit Night wondered how many miles of hard acrylic can anyone really take? On the other hand, Simplicity was very easy on my hands and a pleasure to work. And it has a lot of the easy-care and hard-wearing qualities of 100% acrylic, without reminding you at every stitch that you are knitting with plastic.

So I sent in my ideas -- including the picture above of Vincent modeling the blanket  and a mini Tetra -- and my design got accepted. Hurray! My first steps into being published!

And then the box of yarn arrived.

I actually had two patterns accepted -- the Tetra blanket and the Serpentine Short-Round Scarf. The scarf takes about six skeins. We decided I should work the blanket with sixteen skeins. I went from, "Hurray! Yarn! I'm going to be published!" to "Oh my gosh, what have I gotten myself into?" All of a sudden, I realized I had to do a lot of knitting, and quickly. I searched around for "speed knitting" and "Irish Cottage knitting" and "English Lever knitting." I think what I ended up doing was a variant of Irish Cottage-style. The blanket has 80,000 stitches. I got to where I could crank out 10,000 stitches -- 2 skeins -- in a 7-9 hour work day. Both the scarf and blanket were done in time to show at STITCHES South.

And you may be wondering, why would you want to make this object? Watch the video and see:

Special thank you to Karin Skacel herself for working the camera on the video!

Remember, it is easy to adapt the pattern to whatever size Tetra you want using however much yarn you personally feel like incorporating. You can make a small one that doubles as a potholder or hat. You can make a large one that is nearly a hammock when you fold it into a triangle. And there are some interesting ways you can play with it if you leave a seam open, but I'll leave that to ya'all to explore on your own.

I've also included some extra ideas at the end of the published pattern that will show you how to make Tetras in patterns other than the garter block pinwheel. Some of these other approaches could make good scrap projects. If you make a Tetra, please post a link in the comments below. I'd love to see what other people do with this idea!

Upcoming: Video tutorials to help with your Tetra.

1 comment:

JennyH said...

How can there be no comments? This is really cool! I'll probably make one, in my Roller Derby daughter's team colours.