20 December 2007

Heel to the end

If you've made it this far in the pattern, all that's left is the heel. There are several ways to make a heel. The one I'm offering here is only one of many; and because it is worked in garter st, I'm not sure it would work well on a real to-be-worn sock. Remove the waste yarn and put loose stitches on dpns. (In the sample, I knit 40 waste yarn stitches, so I picked up 40 sts on the bottom and 41 on the top for 81 total.) Starting in the lower right and using the contrast color, knit once around. As you do this, pick up an extra st or two at each corner to prevent holes. Purl the next round. Knit the third round, but work a double decrease at each corner (4sts decreased total on the round). I used a sl-2tog-knitwise, k1, psso decrease to make a strong line. If you don't like the central line, just knit all three sts together. Purl the fourth round. Continue alternating a round of knits with double decreases and plain purls until there are only about one-quarter of the original sts left. (If you started with 40 & 41, work until you have 10 & 11.) Kitchener graft those last sts together. Make sure all ends are woven in. Your stocking is done, and looking very fine for the holidays!

Hang up and wait for the holiday goodies to appear inside.

19 December 2007

Fluffy cuff

I've found that cuffs often look "fluffier" from the purl side. Now, you could cut the main color, tie on the contrast color, knit one round and then purl, purl, purl. But there is another way.

Hold the stocking and join on the contrast color so that the inside of the stocking is the RS and the outside is the WS. Purl the first row only -- the knit side of this row will be on the public side of the stocking and will make for a smooth transition. Now, knit around so that you are forming reverse stockinette stitch on the public side of the work. Keep knitting until the cuff is double the length you would like it to be. On the sample, I knit about 65 rows. Don't bind off yet.

I've made the cuff extra fluffy and strong by folding it in half and stitching it down. In the first photo (upper left), you see the nice row of red and white bumps. This is the view from the inside of the stocking. You can see the rounds and rounds of knit stitches in white. In the second photo (at right) I've folded the cuff so that the knit side of the work will be hidden inside and the fluffy purl stitches face out for the world to see. Make sure you line up the wales (vertical columns of stitches). You're going to join both ends of the cuff and bind off at the same time. Put a dp needle through the 1st white bump, then through the first st on the left-hand needle. (In my photograph, the live sts are on a metal circular needle, the dpn is the wooden needle.) It looks like the second photo. Knit through both stitches as if you are doing a three-needle bind off. Repeat.

The second knit st has been pulled through both the st and the white bump, but the old st has not yet been dropped off the circular needle. There are two sts now on the dpn.
In the middle photo, the left needle has been inserted for the bind off.
In the last photo, the first st has been pulled over the second st in order to bind off.

From this point, just keep repeating these steps around -- knitting the st and the bump together, and binding off. At the end of the round, break the yarn and work in the end as invisibly as possible. You can even hide the end inside the doubled fabric. Below and behold, the final result:
This beautifully bound-off edge is on the inside. The cuff itself is double-thickness and reversible, and could even be folded down for a rakish, boot-like appearance.

18 December 2007

Onward up the stocking

If you've worked the part of the pattern posted yesterday, you have a nice round spiral. That's the toe. There should be 79 stitches on the needles. The body of the stocking is pretty easy -- p1, k1, p1, k1, p1, k5. Always work the whole repeat. The beginning of the round shifts one stitch to the left with each round. On the sample stocking, I knit about 30 rounds. The toe of the sample stocking is a bit short -- feel free to make it whatever length you like.

Then I set-up for inserting the heel later. In Knitter's Almanac (New York: Dover Publications, 1974, 1981 reprint) p.145, Elizabeth Zimmermann calls this a thumb trick. Lynne Barr in Knitting New Scarves (New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2007) pp.138-139 calls this a scrap yarn slit. Cat Bordhi in A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting (Friday Harbor WA: Passing Paws Press, 2005) p.109 calls it a waste yarn opening. (BTW, I highly recommend all three of these books.) In this case, take a spare piece of yarn and knit across half (i.e. 40) stitches. Slip these 40 stitches back to the left needle. Continue working in pattern as if nothing had happened. Later on, you can take out the waste yarn and pick up stitches around the opening using dp needles. The heel I worked on the sample stocking did not turn as much as I thought it would. If you want your stocking to turn more, either use a different heel construction or knit across more stitches with the waste yarn so that the heel will be bigger.

After the heel set-up, I knit another 70 rows in the swirl pattern. As with the toe, knit to the length you like. If you come from a family where all the gifts go inside the stocking, you may need to knit the spiral for quite some time.

Tomorrow: the fluffy cuff!

17 December 2007

Spiraling out of control

Ok, I really did not mean to get wrapped up in how many different ways there are to create a spiral in pattern. In my defense, I did mention the perfectionism at the start. After many tries, I have here a pattern that I am willing to post. And many, many comments to go with it.

There are several ways to start a center. I hadn't realized how many. The example in natural uses a 7st center. The very first row is in seed st. Unfortunately, the seed st is somewhat obscured by the increases in the second round.

Another variant (at right, in magenta), uses an 8 st center. The first row is all knit, and the seed st is not established until the increase round.

Both of these beginnings involve merely wrapping the yarn around a knitting needle and then threading the loose end back through with a tapestry needle. This makes a beginning that looks exactly the same as an ending -- i.e. an end bit of yarn runs through all the loose loops and pulls them together into one tight little bind.

Last time I posted an example that used Thom Christoph's circular beginning. That beginning creates a nice little daisy shape that looks more like alternating knits and purls. So much of this is a matter of taste. Keeping the first round or two in all knit makes for a flatter and calmer center. The "daisy" beginning, on the other hand, lends itself nicely to the seed st pattern. So, if you are knitting this spiral ask yourself, how much chaos do you want in the center? Purl sts or daisy center = semi-controlled chaos.

I also experimented significantly with where and how to increase the spiral. More on that another day. For today, here's one possible solution for how to knit a seed stitch and stockinette stitch spiral in pattern.

Nomenclature clarifications:
I've used lifted increases here. Hence when I write (p1 k1blw) the lack of comma between them indicates that both of these movements are in the same stitch or wale. The first movement is to purl the stitch, the second movement is to knit into the head of the stitch below it in order to increase. A comma will tell you to move to the next stitch.
I've used parenthesis the same way they are used in algebra. Hence (k1, p1)3x means to repeat everything between the parenthesis three times -- in this example, to k1, p1, k1, p1, k1, p1.
A semicolon indicates extra stitches required to finish the round to keep the pattern correct. For this pattern, instructions following a semicolon are followed only once.
A period indicates the end of the round.

Ways to start:
Cast on 7 sts.
Round 1: (k1, p1)3x; end with k1.
Round 2: (p1 k1blw, p1blw k1)3x; end with p1 in the running thread btw the next two sts, k1. 15 sts total. Notice that the k1 at the end of the round will be in the top of the p1 that started the round.
Cast on 8 sts.
Round 1: k8.
Round 2: (p1 k1blw)7x; end p1, k1. 15 sts total. Again, the k1 will be in the p1 that started the round.
Daisy cast on 8 sts.
Round 1: count the cast-on round as the first round.
Round 2: (k&p in one st)7x; end with k1. 15 sts total.
Daisy cast on 7 sts.
Round 1: k7.
Round 2: (p&k in one st)7x; end with p1 in the running thread btw the next two sts., k1. 15 sts total. The last k is in the top of the 1st purl of the round.

Round 3: (p1, k1)8x.
Round 4: (p1 k1blw, k1)8x. 23 sts total.
Round 5: (p1, k2)8x.
Round 6: (p1, p1blw k1, k1)8x. 31 sts total.
Round 7: (p2, k2)8x.
Round 8: (p2, k1 k1blw,k1)8x. 39 sts total.
Round 9: (p2, k3)8x.
Round 10: (p1, k1blw p1, k3)8x. 47 sts total.
Round 11: (p1, k1, p1, k3)8x.
Round 12: (p1, k1, p1, k1, k1 k1blw, k1)8x. 55 sts total.
Round 13: (p1, k1, p1, k4)8x.
Round 14: (p1, k1 p1blw, p1, k4)8x. 63 sts total.
Round 15: (p1, k1, p2, k4)8x.
Round 16: (p1, k1, p2, k2, k1 k1blw, k1)8x. 71 sts total.
Round 17: (p1, k1, p2, k5)8x.
Round 18: (p1, k1 p1blw, k1, p1, k5)8x. 79 sts total.
Round 19: (p1, k1, p1, k1, p1, k5)8x. Pattern established.

Remember, you always have one fewer stitch than needed for a full pattern multiple. The shift each round creates the spiral.

13 December 2007

Swirl toe

I decided I wanted the stocking toe to flow gracefully into the body of the stocking. In other words, I wanted the toe to increase in pattern. The goal: p1, k1, p1, k1, p1, k5 in the round, on a multiple of 10 minus 1 stitches. Why the ‑1? Because the swirl comes from having the whole pattern shift one stitch to the left on every round. The offset will make the p1, k1 section produce seed stitch rather than 1x1 ribbing. My inspiration for the pattern came out of the Moss-Stitch Zigzag for 7 December in the 365 Knitting Stitches a Year perpetual calendar (Woodinville WA: Martingale & Co, 2002). The original pattern was written for flat knitting, zigzagging left and right, and the stockinette stripes were narrower. I discovered that the zigzag effect wasn't well-suited to knitting in the round.

Since I've decided to share this stocking pattern, I thought I'd better spend a little time improving on the swirl toe. The two experiments in today's post were knit on 3.75mm needles (US 5) with Cascade 220 Heathers color 9455. (This is leftover from an über-silly Cat Bordhi Jester Tentacles Bag that I'll post much later.) The pattern multiple is 8. Thus, increasing somewhere within each pattern multiple on every-other row will yield a flat circle of fabric. In the picture at left, I started with 8 sts using a folded Judy's Magical Cast On. (In all fairness, the folding is not a solution Judy Becker recommends. I should have stuck with her method.) I quickly established a 15 st row of seed st. From there, the toe grew outward in seed st always worked over an odd number of sts. The stockinette portion of the pattern did not appear until after the pattern multiple contained at least 5 sts. Most of the increases were made somewhere near the center of the pattern multiple. I was a little disappointed in how the center seems to be too chaotic. I decided to try another version with the stockinette starting sooner.

The photo at right is the result of that experiment. This time, I used Thom Christoph's circular beginning from Meg Swansen's coffee table book A Gathering of Lace (Sioux Falls SD: XRX Books, 2000) p 163, but cast on only 7 sts. Again, getting to the 15 sts round of seed st is an early key to setting up the pattern. I tried to keep the seed st and the stockinette st areas increasing at the same rate. I am less happy with the swirl results. The stockinette portion seems notably angular. I increased at the end of the stripes rather than in the middle of them. Thus, one round of increases was placed after the seed sts and the next round of increases was placed after the stockinette sts.

As I'd like to post the rest of the stocking pattern, I'll come back to this at a later date. I liked the center of the second swatch better, but liked the swirl better on the first. I am wondering if a hybrid solution is to work in stockinette and reverse stockinette at the beginning, and then establish the seed st later. We shall see.

As a final note, the fabric is flat. It could be adapted to coasters or afghans. Or maybe even a shawl.

12 December 2007

Perfect versus Good Enough

I'm a recovering perfectionist.

After admitting the problem -- and really, it IS difficult to admit that striving for the very best in everything is a fault -- I've tried to focus this energy into specific projects. Perfectionism is a really bad thing in relationships. Thus, I keep it out of my marriage and instead put it into my knitting practice. My intention in the coming weeks is to post pictures and notes of my assorted knitting experiments. Like any artistic endeavor, some things work brilliantly as planned, some don't, some are better for not having worked as planned, and some lead to other paths and other places not yet imagined.

In keeping with the holiday season, I recently knitted a Christmas stocking to contribute to the charity knitting at the North Georgia Knitting Guild. These will be given to a local hospital so that the babies born during the holiday season go home in a stocking instead of in a blanket. My contribution is the stocking you see in today's post. As this is charity knitting, the materials are discount-store acrylic rather than a nice merino-alpaca blend. I'll be posting the annotated pattern in the coming days, including the toe increase worked in pattern and an elegant way to make a double-thickness, turned-down cuff.

For now, the short & slick version:
Cast on circularly @ toe.
Increase in pattern to desired size – multiple of 10 minus 1 stitches.
Work in pattern to heel.
Waste yarn across half the stitches for heel.
Work in pattern to cuff.
Work cuff, fold and bind off.
Remove waste yarn and work heel.

Specifics to follow on subsequent days.