08 March 2015

Sonic Boom Cowl, Feather & Fan Stitch Pattern

Feather and fan is a classic knitting stitch pattern. Anything that is a classic is so for a reason. Casablanca -- possibly the best dialogue in the history of cinema. Where the Wild Things Are -- a great visual description of childhood imagination. Macaroni and cheese -- comfort food that fills your belly and reminds you of home. The Feminine Mystique -- articulation of the "problem that has no name," which is really the universal human search for purpose in life. A little black dress or a string of pearls -- unfussy, modern fashion, subtly complimentary of feminine sexual beauty without being vulgar.

Feather and fan is a classic for several reasons.
  • Firstly, the stitch pattern gives you a lot of result for little work. Most variants of the pattern have action on every-other right side row -- i.e. every fourth row. That means three easy rows of knit all or purl all.
  • The clustering of increases and decreases bends the fabric to create a wonderful wavy edge. If you are ever looking for a stash-buster, a scarf or afghan of striped feather and fan is a satisfying solution.
  • The skill level is typically intermediate. It is a basic lace in that all the increase-decrease pairs are usually in the same row.
  • Finally, it is a pattern that offers opportunity for variation -- throwing in a row of purls, trying different numbers of yarn-overs or decreases, working more or fewer plain rows, even putting the yarn-overs on one row and the decreases on a different row. (See Jan Eaton 200 Ripple Stitch Patterns Iola WI: KP Books 2006, for an amazing array of ripple and chevron patterns, both knit and crochet.)
I've used feather and fan on the Sonic Boom cowl. Because this is a welted möbius, I ended up with some rounds worked from the knit side and some from the purl side. I think most knitters can work the knit side without my help. But some of you may be unfamiliar with working from the purl side, especially the ssp maneuver. Hence, two videos.

Feather and fan from the knit side:

Here is feather and fan worked from the purl side. While this is fiddly in places, the decreases I am using will match the decreases I worked for the knit side version. Thus, your fabric will be reversible. Glee!

07 March 2015

Sonic Boom Cowl, Lace Möbius Cast-on

As I mentioned yesterday, I've used Cat Bordhi's center-out möbius cast-on but adapted it for lace. Start with the plain möbius cast-on. The trick is to change the numbers and only cast-on the knits and decreases but not the yarn overs. Then on the first round of the möbius, I added the yarn-over part.

For example, my feather and fan pattern is:
(k1, yo) ×4, k1, ssk ×3, dd, k2tog ×3, (k1, yo) ×4.
The pattern multiple is 16 stitches. Each crest is 9 stitches (9 knits with 8 yarn-overs between them) and each trough is 7 stitches (three left-leaning decreases, a center double decrease, and three right-leaning decreases).

If I get rid of the yarn-overs, I have 9 knits + 7 decreases = 16 stitches. Therefore, I should cast on 16 plain stitches for every pattern multiple. I don't need any extra +1 stitch for balancing the pattern since a möbius is in the round. However, to align pattern crests and troughs I need to cast on an extra half multiple. In the pattern I cast on 88 stitches (16 + 16 + 16 + 16 + 16 + 8). To make the circumference of the möbius larger or smaller, just add or subtract pattern multiples (the +16 part).

On the first round I worked the lace in pattern but only the knits and yarn-overs. Any decreases are worked as knits. This adds the yarn-overs back in and expands the pattern multiple up to the correct number. In my example above, instead of working the pattern as written, I would instead work:
(k1, yo) ×4, k1, k7, (k1, yo) ×4.
The ssk ×3, dd, k2tog ×3 have been replaced with 7 knits.

I have not experimented with other lace or chevron patterns, but this process should work for at least some of them.

And if this doesn't quite make sense, here's a video tutorial to help:

06 March 2015

Sonic Boom Cowl

I'm teaching a workshop later this summer on stash busting. I was sorting through my ideas for what techniques to put in the class; and it occurred to me a möbius would be suitable. But I wanted to teach it first before I commit to it. I decided the easiest way to do that would be to design a pattern and put it on the schedule at the shop. Thus, the Sonic Boom Cowl.
You may not realize at first glance, but a möbius is a great shape for stash busting. If you use a center-out cast-on -- such as the one devised by Cat Bordhi -- the yarn will automatically produce mirrored stripes. This works with any skein of reasonably long-print yarn and would be perfect for a magic ball. In addition to the stripes, a möbius can be knit until you run out of yarn. Visually it is wonderful. Practically, it is a shape that permits maximum fabric with minimum waste.

Stripes are also great for stash busting. One of the best is feather and fan pattern. Typically, there are three or five plain rows/rounds for every one action round. So you get lace, you get a pretty pattern, and you don't have to work too hard. I decided I wanted a möbius cowl with feather and fan.

It did take a little thought, but it turns out if you cast on whole repeats plus one half repeat, the crests and troughs will align on the möbius. In the written pattern I provide a table showing how many stitches to cast on and how many repeats of pattern it produces. I've only done this one pattern stitch, but it should work for a variety of feather and fan as well as chevron patterns.

I also decided I wanted lace at the center of my möbius at the cast-on. That was a little trickier to engineer and required some trial and error. My first attempt -- use plain möbius cast-on and work the lace pattern on the first round -- was not completely satisfying. The yarn overs worked well, but the decreases did not. I slept on it. I woke up and decided to try making just the yarn overs but not the decreases, crazy as that sounded. That worked! In this example, I've used a 24-stitch wide feather and fan that has 8 yarn overs. When I cast on, I cast on only 16 stitches for each multiple of pattern. In the first round, I added the yarn overs where they belonged to bring the multiple up to 24 stitches.

The möbius shape automatically produces one side of stockinette and one side of reverse stockinette if you knit all the way around. If you change to purling, then you get reverse stockinette followed by stockinette. I decided to work just this sort of change a couple of times to produce a reversible fabric. Thus, I've ended up with a welted feather and fan as a natural outcome of the möbius. Because of the welts, sometimes I've worked the lace pattern from the knit side and sometimes from the purl side. Of course, the clever way would have been to just turn the work as if making a short row and knit back in the other direction.
I worked until I had remaining merely twice as much yarn as I typically needed to knit one round. How would you know this? When you get low on yarn, fold the yarn in thirds and tie a loose knot -- one you can unpick later -- to mark the third closest to the skein. Then work a round. Bind-offs typically require more yarn than a plain round of knitting, and Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-off definitely requires more. If you work past the knot, then you probably don't have enough yarn.

This is lace and I did dress it (see photo). Since it won't lie flat, I blocked half the cowl and propped the top half up on a wash cloth. The following day I rotated the cowl and the twist and repeated the process to block the other half. The stretchy bind-off gave me confidence the bind-off would not inhibit the blocking.

The picture at top was taken by the Cuddly Hubby on a crazy cold day at the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum in Lexington Park, Maryland. Yes, that is an F-14 Tomcat -- something that can produce a sonic boom.

Over the next few days I'll post videos of the cast-on as well as feather and fan lace from both the knit side and the purl side.