11 October 2011

A Little Entrelac

On Saturday, I took a class from Gwen Bortner. Gwen was here in town to teach for Atlanta Knitting Guild. On Saturday she taught "Entrelac: Beyond the Basics."

I had been out of practice on entrelac, so I did some swatches earlier in the week. Specifically, I tried Jay Petersen's clever trick for joining entrelac. Oh my gosh, awesome! Here's what I did:

First, I ran a vertical lifeline up the side of the work. You are going to have to pick up stitches on the selvedge in entrelac, so you might as well trap a piece of yarn as you turn. When you need to pick up the stitches, they are then already there on the waste yarn and you don't have to hunt for them.

Second, I used Rick Mondragon's technique for modular intarsia. Jay is the clever person who realized you could use Rick's technique to make entrelac lie better. Instead of working ssk or p2tog to join a new unit to a unit on the previous course, pull up a loop in the live stitch. Knit out with the loop, then knit back backwards with the loop. Tighten. Repeat. Not only does this give you nicer joins in your entrelac, but it prevents color peek through between courses. When I showed this to Gwen, she observed, I think correctly, that the knitting back backwards part is important. While you could do this and turn your work to purl backwards, you are much more likely to have success if you don't turn your work.

Jay has done some experiments with how knits and purls behave when you pick up entrelac this way. And he has produced some intriguing reversible entrelac fabrics. But I've digressed from Gwen.
A bigger card case -- one extra unit at cast-on and two extra courses in the body.
I also used crab stitch not garter to border the flap.

Gwen had us work a little card case in entrelac. One of the ways you can tell in Entrée to Entrelac that Gwen is a teacher first and a designer second is that her book is peppered with interesting little projects that you can use for learning a technique before you invest the time and money in a full-scale garment. In the class we learned a very interesting way to start the bag at the bottom. I was pleased that Gwen uses a crocheted provisional cast-on. (Jeny Staiman also uses it in the Double Heelix socks.) It is one of my favorite techniques, so it is nice to see if becoming more commonplace. After the initial set-up, we got to work up the case in seamless entrelac. At the end, we worked some shaping in back and forth entrelac. And the shaping at the top of bag opening gave us a chance to try some of the weird triangles used in entrelac.

Beyond the project, Gwen answered many questions. One of the things that ought to stick with me for future reference is that entrelac is a biased fabric so it stretches. This means that entrelac sweaters tend to look better if they have negative ease. Gwen was wearing her awesome Touch Me entrelac sweater, and it definitely fits better if it has to stretch just a little bit. I was going to de-accession the chenille yarn in my stash, and then I saw that sweater. What a good bad influence!