30 May 2016

Reversible Entrelac with Gwen Bortner

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, the only class I took at STITCHES South 2016 was "Reversible Entrelac" with Gwen Bortner. It was an advanced class and on Sunday morning. I was a little concerned the class might not make, but we had exactly four people. Whew!

Some of you may be wondering why I would take this class. After all, I've already posted the Sir Thomas scarf, which is a reversible entrelac project. But Gwen's approach is different from Jay Petersen's. Always good to survey the range of technique.

You'll recall in entrelac you are joining little blocks as you go. These blocks join in two places. When you start a new block, you work up stitches off the side of a block in the previous tier. That is one place to think about reversibility. As you work back and forth on the new block, you also join one selvedge edge to live stitches from a block in the previous tier. That's the second place to think about reversibility.

You'll recall from my previous posts that Jay Petersen's method primarily involves thinking about the selvedge edge joins. Jay has done a lot of experimenting with knit, purl, and cable patterns. When he creates new stitches from the selvedge of the previous tier, he thinks about whether knit stitches or purl stitches will blend, and he uses the turning loops as if they were live stitches. When he joins the selvedge of his new block to the live stitches of the previous tier, he does so using Rick Mondragon's intarsia sliding loop technique. But again, that technique mimics knit or purl stitches. So Jay again thinks about which ones will blend.

This comes back to the question, what kind of reversibility? Jay has focused on the kind of reversibility found in knit-purl patterns, such as seed stitch. If there is a knit on the "front," there is a purl on the "back." Depending on the symmetry, these patterns can look essentially identical from either side (the pattern is merely shifted or mirrored), or they can be different but related. (The pentagonal entrelac cushion cover is an example of this type of reversibility.) This is similar to the reversibility of basic two-color double-knitting. The sides are positive-negative mirrors of each other. If there are equal numbers of knits and purls, and especially if the arrangement employs certain types of symmetry, then at a glance both sides appear to the be same.

Gwen is instead focusing on both sides having identical reversibility. Jay's solution is to accept that both A and B exist, and to come up with patterns where both A and B are relevant and ways to choose between them. Gwen's solution is to think about ways of joining that might look identical from either side of the fabric. A versus B no longer matters. Furthermore, Gwen focused on creating new stitches from selvedge edges in the previous tier, rather than how to join to the live stitches from the previous tier.

Without giving away too much (I hope!) Gwen has three potential solutions. The first involves using the selvedge turning stitch that is so critical in Mondragon loop. The second and third involve using the encased pick up Gwen teaches in her “No Wrong Side – Reversible Fabrics” class.

The homework for the class was to make three left-leaning base triangles on a magic number of 7. Gwen didn't provide the directions to how to do that. If you can't do the homework, you probably aren't quite ready to take the class. Truth be told, I'm used to doing entrelac square rather than en pointe, so I had to look up how to work base triangles. In my swatch, the grey triangles are the homework.

Reversible entrelac obverse

The green course and grey triangles demonstrate the three pick-up methods Gwen taught. Those are the ones I worked in class. From left to right, using the turning stitch (similar to Jay Petersen's method), solid encasement, and lace encasement. These were worked from the reverse side of the fabric, so in the photograph above, you are seeing what they look like from the opposite side. In all three cases, Gwen had us join to the live stitches by working two stitches together.

Given a few weeks' time, I realized I needed to get back to this swatch and finish it so I could liberate the needle and class yarn. But I also got thinking about potential variations. Since I wanted to work one more plain course of rectangles before working top triangles, I had a chance for more experimentation on the purple tier. I was especially interested in if I could match where the selvedge joins live stitches to where stitches are initially picked up.

Reversible entrelac reverse

The first option I tried was a variation on the lace encasement. Gwen's version is a bit more delicate because she skips unneeded stitches. I decided to try it using the turning stitches but working them together in pairs. The join is a bit thicker, although it still has the decorative gaps. The advantage is I could match this pick up method to the live stitch join.
  • Work all the stitches towards the join. Turn.
  • Place working yarn where you need it to be for the next stitch.
  • Slip a stitch purlwise to the right needle.
  • Using the left needle tip, pass the two live stitches from the previous tier over the live stitch on the current tier.
  • Slip the live stitch back to the left needle.
  • Work the row.
  • Exception: On the very first row, I only passed one stitch over instead of two.
The second experiment involves the encasement method.
  • I put the seven turning stitches on a needle.
  • Work alternating knit 1 wrapping yarn counter clockwise (the way opposite from how most people in the West are taught), reverse yarn over 1, across all seven stitches. 14 stitches/7 pairs total. Turn.
  • With yarn where you need it for the next stitch, slip the first pair to the right needle.
  • Pass the live stitch from the previous course over both the stitch and reverse yarn over.
  • Slip the pair back to the left needle.
  • As you work the row, work all the pairs together either "knitting through the back of the loop" or purling up through the back of the loop. (If you had wrapped yarn the regular way, you'd need to slip all these stitches knitwise to change their facings. I figured it was easier to give the stitches the facings I wanted at the time I created them.)
  • On later rows, use the same maneuver to join, except slip just one stitch instead of a knit-revyo pair.
For the third experiment:
  • Work k1, p1, k1, p1, k1, p1, k1 across the 7 turning stitches.
  • Knit up (or if appropriate, purl up) a Mondragon loop from the live stitch of the previous tier.
  • Work back and forth on the loop.
  • Repeat as needed.
Since this is the method Jay uses, I experimented by alternating knitting up and purling up for the Mondragon loops, even though the fabric was garter stitch. The colored blips are noticeable. In garter stitch, the alternative is to make them noticeable on one side of the fabric but not the other. My suspicion is the blips would be less obvious in 1×1 ribbing, since the fabric would pull in.

All three experiments produced joins with different visual characteristics. But I also feel they all produced pick ups and joins that generally matched.

I did try one more experiment on the blue course. At the center purple block, I ended the row with (k1, yo)×7 instead of k7. I wanted to see if I could somehow sandwich the blue yarn. I eventually tried:
  • Knit across.
  • Purl the yarn over.
  • Pass the previous stitch on the right needle over the active stitch on the right needle.
  • Reorient the knit stitch on the left needle so that it faces east/right.
  • Slip the active stitch on the right needle to the left needle.
  • Pass the stitch on the left needle over the active stitch.
  • Turn and knit back. (In this special case, there is also a decrease at the end of the row to shape the ending triangle.)
 This created a stack with two purple stitches and a blue sandwiched in the middle.

Overall, an interesting set of experiments. As with so many things in knitting, the optimal solution is predicated on artistic goals.

29 May 2016

STITCHES South 2016

At the beginning of April I drove up to Nashville for STITCHES South 2016.

First off, the Tennessee Department of Transportation does not seem to realize that tourism is an important component of their state economy. A drive that should have taken just under four hours took more than six! Due to construction, traffic was unbelievable around Chattanooga. I expect that kind of slow crawl in a snow storm but not on a pretty spring Saturday. More construction on I-24 heading over the mountains added another hour. By the time I got to the STITCHES South market, I needed to walk around and just unwind as I breathed in the calming yarn fumes. I did just a little shopping on Saturday but more on Sunday right before I left.

I haven't read Knit My Skirt yet. Like many people, I was a little uncertain about the book. Skirts? As it turned out, a friend gave me a lovely embroidered Indian blouse and I am having a poor time finding a skirt that matches. I bought the coral-colored Claudia linen directly from Claudia. I plan to purchase several skeins of teal from Eat.Sleep.Knit (Claudia didn't have much teal left) to make a skirt to match the Indian blouse. Skirts should be a lot of fun. After all, there is lots of knitting more or less mindlessly in the round. And I have seen in person that a linen skirt can have flirty drape and swing.

Curls had been on my ‟maybe” list for awhile. As I continue to design patterns in reversible lace, I thought a curl project might be appropriate. I'm trying to mix up the projects and shapes.

The two skeins of sock yarn were purely stash enhancement, for which I should be ashamed. How could I resist the colorways — ‟Cape Canaveral” and ‟Huntsville”? The colors are based on a photograph of a Saturn V rocket launch. And little rocket stitch markers came with the skeins. Blame Hook a Frog from Madison, Alabama (just outside Huntsville) for coming up with an irresistible marketing strategy.

On the other hand, thank you to Nancy Alison for work to preserve the skill of bead knitting. Her booth had a lovely display of assorted bead knitting kits, including the purse clasps! I've admired this technique and read about it but never tried it. The Monarch butterfly wing purse will be a perfect chance to expand my skills. Most of Nancy's kits were $50 or under, so fairly affordable.

The last two things I purchased were another vibrating pillow (in a zebra print, not pictured) and the multi-colored Zulu wire bowl. I had purchased a vibrating pillow a couple years ago. It is very useful on long car trips, especially for keeping my back comfortable. The bowl was simply a failed Will save against entrancing beauty. I love the color, the pattern, and even the size. In the two months since I purchased it, it has become a great place to drop knitting notions. And the basket won't break if a cat — cue The Great Brûlée, bringer of chaos — knocks it off the couch.

I also attended the student banquet. Phyllis had two fabulous outfits, one with mitered squares and the other a coral-colored lace dress with turquoise blue glass beads. Jill totally rocked the place with two garments in intarsia — one depicting Elvis and the other John Lennon. She even incorporated lyrics on the back! Joyce had a yellow and black mosaic knit jacket that matched a commercial skirt and blouse combination. There was a crocheter showing off a shawl in crocodile stitch. I love the texture! And several ladies from Florida had a car cover depicting scenes from Florida.

On Sunday morning I took Gwen Bortner's reversible entrelac class. More about that in tomorrow's post.

28 May 2016

Closed Yarn Over Increases in Reversible Lace

As I explore and develop reversible lace, I keep adding new techniques. I usually start with, "Ok, I like this technique on one-sided fabric. How do I do it reversibly?"

One of the increases I like is the yarn-over version of make 1. There are at least three different increase methods I know of that go by the name "make 1." One technique involves co-opting the running thread. The second method (used by Elizabeth Zimmermann) is casting on a backward loop. The third method is throwing a yarn over or reverse yarn over and then twisting it closed on the next row or round. Since it is twisted, this means there is a left-leaning and a right-leaning version.

Working reversibly, here is the version that leans left on the obverse and right on the reverse.

And here is the version that leans to the right on the obverse and the left on the reverse.
Of course, there are other ways to increase. And I admit these are fairly fiddly. As with so many things in knitting, this is only one possible solution.

09 May 2016

Crochet Dragon

I can crochet. I don't always remember I can do this. I learned to crochet when I was about nine or ten years old. I can remember working on crochet in school when I was in fourth or fifth grade. Both of my grandmothers as well as my great grandmother were crocheters. And when I was in college, I used to crochet snowflakes. That was a great way to learn the basic stitches, because snowflakes usually incorporate a variety of stitch heights to create their patterns. I would hang the snowflakes against the large sliding glass windows of my dorm room.

As we know, Ravelry is the Internet Wonderland of knit and crochet. On the Woolly Thoughts board was a thread titled "Amish Puzzle Ball." What's that? For an adult, the puzzle ball isn't that difficult. But for a child, it would be an interesting object for learning three dimensions (width, length, height or for pilots, pitch, roll, and yaw). I followed links over to this website, where I learned what a puzzle ball is. Dedri Uys is the designer. Somehow — and I really don't remember what link I followed or how I fell down the rabbit hole —I discovered her book. Dedri has converted puzzle balls into toy animals. Adorable!

And I couldn't help but notice that the dinosaur looked similar to the dragon from Tomie dePaolo's book The Knight and the Dragon. This is one of my favorite books to give as a baby gift. After all, the story involves a knight and a dragon! And there is a princess, too, who happens to be the librarian. It's a great story about books, learning, practice, and discovering that enemies can be friends.

The modifications turned out to be more complicated than I expected. That said, I'm not sorry I waded into the project. It is good to push oneself creatively. I had assembled the legs and the basic forms of the head and tail section. But it took most of the weekend diligently working on the project to finish all the little elaborations. Many of these I worked more than once until I got something that worked. For those of you who would like to give this project a try, below are my modifications from Dedri's delightful pattern. I can also see the potential to work this pattern as a rhinoceros.

Rounded “spikes” instead of pointy ones.
Working in a spiral.
Use magic circle, chain 2, 6 sc around. (6 sts total)
Work (1 sc, 2 sc in next sc) ×3. (9 sts total)
Work 9 sc. If making smaller spike, skip to end.
Work 10 sc. (the extra is because you lose 1 st per round when working in spirals)
To end: break yarn leaving 30-40cm tail for sewing.
Pull end through and weave under chain to fasten off.
When attaching, flatten to for semi-circle.
Sew three small spikes and three large spikes to spine of of tail, working from tip of tail. Sew five large spikes to back and top of head. Sew by going through both legs of chain on opposite sides and taking the same stitch twice. You want these to be very secure so they cannot be pulled off no matter what!

Spade shape for the end of the tail:
Working in a spiral.
Magic circle, chain 2, 3 sc. (3 sts total)
2 sc in each sc. (6 sts total)
1 sc in each sc. (6 sts total)
(2 sc in next sc, 1 sc, 2 sc in next sc)×2. (10 sts total)
(1 sc, 1 sc, 1 slip, 1 sc, 1 sc)×2. (10 sts total)
(2 sc in next sc, 1 sc, 1 slip, 1 sc, 2 sc in next sc)×2. (14 sts total)
1 sc to offset precession
(1 sc, 1 hdc, 1sc, 1 slip, 1 sc, 1 hdc, 1 sc)×2. (14 sts total)
(1 sc + 1 hdc in next st, 1 dc in hdc, 1 hdc + 1 sc in next st, slip, 1 sc + 1 hdc in next st, 1 dc in hdc, 1 hdc + 1 sc in next st)×2. (22 sts total)

Ears (make 2):
for pink inner ear:
working in rows
Magic circle with tail for sewing later, ch 2, 2 sc.
Ch 1, 2 sc.
Ch 1, 2 sc.
Ch 1, sc decrease to end.
For green outer ear:
working in rounds
Magic circle with tail for sewing later, ch 2, 4 sc.
4 sc.
2 sc in each sc. (stitch count increased to 8 total)
8 sc.
8 sc.
4 dec dc. (stitch count reduced to 4 total).
4 sc.
Fasten off, leaving tail for sewing.
Sew pink to one side of ear.
Run green tails so they both come out the less-pointy end (should be the beginning end of the ear).
Sew less pointy ends to side of head.

Horns (make 2):
Working in a spiral.
Magic circle, ch 2, 3 sc.
Work 8 rounds of 3 sc.
Reach across (i.e. skip next sc) and sc in middle stitch to close tube.
Work another tube as above, but with only 3 rounds not 8.
Work a third tube as above, but with only 2 rounds not 8.
Sew three pieces together to form sturdy horns.
Sew to top of head between spike and ears.

Wings (make 2):
Worked in rows. Leave long tails for seaming and attaching.
Cast on 18 foundation single crochets (fsc).
Ch 1, 2 sc, sc dec, 10 sc, sc dec, 2 sc. (16 sts total)
Ch 1, 1 sc, sc dec, 3 sc, sc dec, sc dec, 3 sc, sc dec, 1 sc. (12 sts total).
Fold in half. Seam top and bottom. Attach to back of neck.

05 May 2016

Divide and Conquer

There have been some questions for the Georgia FiberFest knit-along.

While it has been advertised as a mystery knit along, quite a few people have been curious. The schematic at left will give you some idea of the overall shape. When you wear this shape, it turns out to be rather flirty and cute. The Bootkicked scarf also used a similar shape.

Several people are using gradient yarns other than the ones called for in the pattern. That's fine. In fact, that is part of the fun of a knit-along. How will the final projects be similar or different? The trick is, I wrote directions for dividing the yarn (with pins, please don't cut the yarn!) based on the Camelid Cottage yarn. This is a post about how to divide the yarn if you are making your own design decisions.

The first questions is, "How much yarn do you have?"
The second question is, "How many zig-zags do you want?"
The third question is, "How much do you want to blend when you change colors?"
The answers may be inter-related.

For my sample, I had 300 yards in 3 colors, 100 yards per color.
I decided to work 5 zig-zags.
I decided I wanted to blend 10 yards of each color at each color change.
Dividing the total yards (300) by the number of zig-zags (5) gave me 60 yards per zag.
So my plan:
start with a zag to the right
knit 60 yards from color A
zig to the left
knit 30 more yards from color A
knit intermingled stripes using the last 10 yards of color A and the first 10 yards of color B
knit 10 more yards from color B
zag to the right
knit 60 yards with color B
zig to the left
knit 10 yards with color B
knit intermingled stripes using the last 10 yards of color B and the first 10 yards of color C
knit 30 yards with color C
zag to the right
knit 60 yards with color C

If I've done this correctly, every zig-zag section uses 60 yards of yarn.
Every blended area uses 20 yards of yarn (10 from each color).
Sometimes a pin is telling you to start or stop stripes but sometimes a pin is telling you to change the zig-zag direction.

One question I got was what to do with a 500 yard 5-color put up?
In that case, I'd be tempted to do 5 wider zig-zags and blend 20 yards.
Each zig-zag unit will have 100 yards in it.

So the first zag is 80 yards of color A plus blended 10 yards of A and 10 yards of B.

The zig is blended 10 yards of A and 10 yards of B, then 60 yards of B, then blended 10 yards of B and 10 yards of C.

The next zag is blended the final 10 yards of B with 10 yards of C, 60 yards of C, then blended 10 yards of C and 10 yards of D.

The next zig is blended the final 10 yards of C with 10 yards of D, then 60 yards of D, then blended 10 yards of D and 10 yards of E.

The final zag is the final 10 yards of D blended with 10 yards of E, then 80 yards of E.

I'm not good enough with Excel to write a spreadsheet for this. Maybe I can convince the Cuddly Hubby?

01 May 2016

Some Terminology

The downside of the technical experimentation I do is in trying to describe a new technique. If you are doing something that isn't commonly done, what words do you use to explain something that doesn't yet have a name? As with teaching, the key is to find terms that are already common knowledge and build upon them. The following three videos are intended to clarify these terms. Some of these might be things you already know. I'm just showing you what the words are that I use to describe them.

This first video is the difference between yarn over and reverse yarn over. In some of my patterns, I do differentiate between the two! If you are a standard Western European/North American knitter, may I please recommend you make the regular yarn over your habit? The regular yarn over will have the same stitch facing as the rest of your stitches, so you won't have to think about it later.

This second video shows the difference between Western and Eastern stitch facings. Neither is right or wrong, but depending on how you knit, you can end up with twisted or plaited stitches when you don't mean to!

This third video shows the four different ways to insert the right needle into the next stitch. You probably already know knitwise and purlwise. If you know how to work a left-leaning decrease (SSK), then you also know knit through the back of the loop. But do you know purl up through the back of the loop?

I hope these videos will help make the more peculiar instructions in my patterns more intuitive.