18 January 2016

Reversible Lace and I-Cord Selvedges

I think reversible lace looks especially nice with one-color Italian cast-on, incorporated i-cord selvedges, and tubular bind-off. It is a little tricky to transition between the cast-on and the i-cord and between the i-cord and the bind-off. Some of the maneuvers demonstrated in the videos might also work for transitioning between other cast-ons and bind-offs.

If you are using an even-number of stitches in the i-cord, then you can cast-on with knit-purl pairs when working Italian cast-on. For odd-numbers of stitches in the i-cord, you'll need to start with a purl rather than a knit. Notice, too, you can use a cable needle to rotate stitches to make them more knit-like or purl-like, as you need.

When transitioning to a tubular bind-off, work the same maneuvers you did to transition into the i-cord, but work those steps in reverse. A tubular bind-off to match Italian cast-on takes two "rows":
Row 1: alternate knit 1, slip 1 purlwise with yarn in front. The knits will all be knit, and the purls will all be slipped. Can be started on the knit or slip, depending on whether you have k1, p1 or p1, k1 on the needle.
"Row 2": Kitchener graft knits and purls together as if they were a sock toe. Dividing the knits and purls on to separate needles is helpful for many people, since that set up resembles a sock toe ready to be grafted closed.

Enjoy experimenting with i-cord selvedges!

17 January 2016

Italian Cast-On

One difference between beginning knitters and intermediate or advanced knitters is that novice knitters tend to only know only one or two cast-ons. A good cast-on can make an edge look professional, well-crafted. A poor match between cast-on and fabric can make a project look amateurish, even if the knitter has correctly executed the directions. For 1×1 ribbing — and, therefore, reversible lace — I like the look of one-color Italian cast-on. When worked in two colors, the cast-on can be used for double-knitting. It also works well for brioche knitting.

Notice that the maneuvers are essentially the same as knits and purls. Stitches are cast-on in knit-purl (or purl-knit) pairs, which is why this cast-on does not work well for plain stockinette.

To cast-on a knit stitch:
duck the right needle front to back underneath the front yarn,
wrap the back yarn as you would when making a knit stitch Continental style,
bring the yarn forward as if pulling up a knit stitch.

To cast-on a purl stitch:
duck the right needle back to front underneath the back yarn,
wrap the front yarn as you would when making a purl stitch,
take the yarn backward as if pulling up a purl stitch.

If you can remember these two maneuvers, you should be able to remember how to work Italian cast-on whenever you need it, without having to look it up every time.

16 January 2016

Reversible Lace — Decreases

Yesterday's post was about the holes in knitted lace. Today's post is about the partners of those holes  — decreases. If you just keep making yarn-overs in your work, the work will widen. If you want the fabric to stay the same width throughout, then the yarn-over holes/increases need to be balanced/offset with decreases. A "basic" lace pattern typically has the decreases and the yarn-overs on the same row. A really basic lace pattern has action only on right-side rows. Thus, the same number of stitches are on the needle at the end of every row, whether right-side or wrong-side.

A more advanced lace pattern may have action on both right-side and wrong-side rows. Or it may have rows with non-balanced yarn-overs. Or it may have both. The decreases that balance the yarn-overs do not have to be on the same row with their yarn-overs. Many beautiful lace patterns with rippling or scalloped edges are created using this method. But, these patterns can be trickier to work because the stitch count changes from row to row, even when the fabric is not intentionally being shaped. And this type of non-balanced patterning can even be a slick trick — the Hemlock Ring shawl/blanket is an example of a lace where a non-balanced pattern stitch causes the fabric to grow circularly.

Decreases also have direction. And those directions matter. A decrease leaning towards a yarn-over can make the hole smaller, diminishing the lace effect. Decreases lined up can make knit wales move around a fabric, making little outlines or adding details such as stem lines to leaf-shaped lace patterns. The two basic decreases are right-leaning and left-leaning. A regular right-leaning decrease is k2tog. A regular left-leaning decrease is ssk. Both turn two stitches into one.

When working reversible lace, these basic directional decreases now involve four stitches rather than two, because you are decreasing two stitches on each side of the work. One decrease is worked knitwise and the other is worked purlwise. These are essentially the same decreases used in double-knitting. For a right-leaning decrease, you'll need to rearrange two stitches, then work k2tog and ssp.

For a left-leaning decrease, you'll still need to rearrange two stitches. But this time, you'll work ssk and p2tog.

If you are working standard Western knitting, then the right-leaning reversible decrease involves changing the stitch facings of both purl stitches and the left-leaning reversible decrease involves changing the stitch facings of both knit stitches. However, if you are working combination knitting, then all the knits face right (east) and all the purls face left (west). For combination knitters, you will need change the stitch facings of all four stitches when working a right-leaning reversible decrease, but you won't have to change the facings of any stitches when working a left-leaning reversible decrease.

I haven't yet experimented with 3-into-1 decreases, but they should be similar. You'll need to rearrange six stitches from 6-5-4-3-2-1 into 6-4-2 and 5-3-1, and then work both a knit-side and a purl-side decrease.

15 January 2016

Reversible Lace — Double Yarn Over

Knitted lace is knit fabric with holes in it on purpose. The easiest way to make a stable hole in knitting — cutting the fabric would be an unstable hole — is to make a yarn-over. Yarn-overs and holes in general tend to be reversible by their very nature. Sweet!

When working reversible lace on 1×1 ribbing, you'll need to substitute a yarn-over with a double yarn-over. The notation for that can be yo2 or yo2 or even (yo)×2. Whatever way it is written, it means wrap the yarn not once but twice around the needle. Alternatively, you can just wrap very loosely if you prefer to wrap only once. When you come to the yarn-over hole on the next row or round, you'll need to create two stitches from it rather than one. Since the base fabric for reversible lace is 1×1 ribbing, work knit 1, purl 1 into the yarn-over hole. Interestingly, it is knit 1, purl 1 whether you are working back and forth or in the round.

If you have a lace pattern that uses dramatic increases, such as k1-yo-k1-yo-k1, then the maneuvers are even more complicated. But that is a topic for much farther in the future.

14 January 2016

Reversible Lace

I started off 2016 with a post about double-knit lace. If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you know one of my interests is reversibility, hence my obsession with double-knitting. But what if you don't want to double-knit? There are some patterns that are inherently reversible, such as garter stitch, seed stitch, balanced ribbing, or lace faggoting. What if you wanted to move beyond that narrow category? Lily Chin showed we can work reversible cables by simply cabling 1×1 or 2×2 ribbing. What if you did the same thing with lace? What would happen if you worked a lace pattern over 1×1 ribbing? And how would you do it?

It turns out that stockinette-based knit lace is surprisingly easy to convert to reversible lace. This works on the same principle as ribbles — 1×1 ribbing draws in and resembles stockinette on both sides of the fabric. This also has the same caveat as ribbles —purl stitches are not easily accommodated. Patterns where all the right side rows include only knits, yarn overs, and decreases and all the wrong-side rows include only purls, yarn overs, and decreases can be translated into reversible lace. This works for patterns where the wrong-side row is "purl all" as well as stitch patterns that have some action on wrong-side rows. Hence, it can work for some kinds of knit lace and some types of lace knitting.

As you can imagine, this discovery has had me perusing my stitch dictionaries with a fresh eye, trawling for potential new designs. I've been shooting videos, writing patterns, and developing the new class.

The first pattern I wrote is Kintla. This is a cowl pattern based on a lace and cable stitch pattern I found in Chie Kose Japanese Craft Pattern Book 500 Knitting Pattern World of Chie Kose (Tokyo, Japan: Bunka Gakuen Bunka Shuppankyoku 2010) pattern No. 268, p. 72, (ISBN-13: 978-4579112975) and Japanese craft book #1425 "1000 Knitting Patterns Book (700 Knit & 300 Crochet)" (Japan: Nihon Vogue-Sha 1992) pattern No. 334, p. 111, (ISBN-13: 978-4529021425). I don't read Japanese, but I do read Japanese knitting charts! The stitch pattern reminded me of frost crystals spreading across a window as there is a hexagonal element to the design. I used two skeins of Cascade Baby Alpaca Chunky I won at a yarn tasting. (Not feeding the stash monster! I get a victory point for that.)

I took the finished möbius cowl with me to a Center for Knit and Crochet board meeting in November in Washington, D.C. Our CKC president admired it and put it on. Within a few moments, I knew it looked better on her than it did on me. I've also wanted to do something to support CKC. Our members have been supportive and patient with us. So much of what happens in a nascent organization is behind-the-scenes. Thus, the Kintla cowl pattern will be an exclusive thank-you gift to CKC members.

This meant I needed to write a second pattern for my reversible lace class. After more swatching, I settled on "Vine Lace" from Barbara G. Walker A Treasury of Knitting Patterns Pittsville WI: Schoolhouse Press 1998, p. 218. Unlike the stitch pattern in Kintla, vine lace does not have any cables. It is a rather elementary pattern, as the wrong-side rows are purl all, the total pattern is a four-row repeat, and the two right-side action rows are identical in sequence and merely start the sequence in a different spot. I quickly knocked out a scarf using two skeins of Feza Harvest.
A quick scan of the scarf before blocking. "Back" is on the left, "front is on the right. Reversible!
I also shot several videos to clarify the maneuvers. Those will post in the coming days. I hope this unvented technique will cure your January blues!

01 January 2016

Double-Knit Lace

I didn't blog about STITCHES South 2015 (8 months ago). The show moved to Nashville, Tennessee. Nothing wrong with Nashville, but that means I have to drive four hours and stay overnight adding significant hassle and expense to the endeavor. On the other hand, Alasdair Post-Quinn was on the schedule! (He is also on the schedule for 2016.) I teamed up with a friend from Atlanta Knitting Guild and attended overnight Friday into Saturday.

The one class I took was "Double-Knitting Lace and Openwork." I was thrilled to be able to take this class advanced class and to meet Alasdair. If you are an advanced knitter and are looking for new challenges, this class could be just the thing. And truth be told, I did mess up my swatch a bit in class as I was learning. But this is knitting! I came home, unraveled the swatch, and re-knit it to practice the techniques.

The swatch Alasdair had us knit provides three examples of different ways to approach the combination of lace and double knitting. (Alasdair has you use a different cast-on and edge treatment from the one I've used here.)

Double-knit lace swatch, front (left) & back (right).
The lowest of the three examples -- and therefore, the first part we worked -- is a method of joining the layers together at the yarn-overs. Let's call this the "connected yarn-overs" method. You'll notice how one color peeks through the other color. You don't see holes so much as you see pops of color, since the holes don't align but instead are slightly mis-matched.

The middle example is straight up double-knit lace. Call it "basic double-knit lace." Both sides are identical. If blocked properly, the holes will line up. As worked, these are two separate, unconnected layers except for the joins at the selvedges. Connected yarn-overs produces a piece of fabric that behaves as one thick layer. Basic double-knit lace produces a a big lace tube. If you incorporate a little color work — for example, changing color at the center line —the color changes would connect the two layers to make the fabric behave as one thick piece. You would want to be very careful with that type of design, as it could become very busy very quickly. Not everyone is ready for retro disco style to rise again.

The top example has lace on the right side but not on the wrong side. Call it "patterned lined lace." The idea here would be the fabric has a "right" side with lace. The "wrong" side would simply be a lining. In double-knitting, that wrong-side still has patterning to it, as you need the increases and decreases unless you want to spend a lot of time rearranging stitches on your needles. And once again, as with the basic double-knit lace, this is two unconnected layers unless you add another level of complexity by incorporating color work to tie the two layers together.

Alternative double-knit and circular intarsia lace swatch, front (left) & back (right).

I wanted to see what would happen if I tried some other methods, so I made a second swatch of my own design. I initially wanted to try the connected yarn-overs but with beads from the opposite sides poking through the holes. I gave up, as it was very difficult to figure out which offset stitch would show through which yarn-over hole on the other side. So I moved on to my second idea, which was still worked in double-knitting. Instead of united the two sides with yarn overs, I used beads at the yarn overs to join the two sides together. This "join at the beads" method is based on Mondragon loop, so it is an advanced technique and a bit fussy. The beads are added as you go rather than pre-strung. It would be possible to incorporate different color or texture effects with different beads. Each bead also shows itself on both sides of the fabric -- i.e. the swatch used 16 pony beads not 32. Cool!

The middle section is simply the lace pattern worked in circular intarsia rather than double-knitting, hence the change to a smaller gauge with the same needle. I got the same effect as the basic double-knit lace swatch — a lace tube. The difference is merely in the interlacing edges at the color changes (more about this later in this post). I happen to prefer the sturdier interlacing of intarsia over the thinner interlacing of double-knitting, but that is a very personal preference. Many (most?) people probably don't have an opinion. The effect is nearly identical; thus you should choose based on whether you prefer working double-knitting or circular intarsia.

The top example is another circular intarsia example. In this case, I worked the lace pattern on half the round and plain stockinette on the other half of the round. This produces a true lined lace without any pattern in the lining. Both layers are still separate. Again, there is the slight difference in interlacing between circular intarsia versus double-knitting. If you wanted to get fancier with the lining, this would be the way to produce a fabric where both sides were independently patterned.

Right-side view of double-knitting (left) and circular intarsia (right).

Inside-out view of double-knitting (left) and circular intarsia (right).
In the photographs above, I've worked the same soap sack pattern in double knitting (left) and circular intarsia (right) on the same size needles and with the same yarn. (Yes, I did get horrible rowing-out on the white sections. These swatches would so not pass Level 1 of Master Knitter.) I've turned the soap sacks inside-out in the bottom image so you can see how the yarns interlace at the color changes. The double-knit interlace is thinner but probably looks okay from either side of the fabric. The colored dashes produced by intarsia create a more rugged join, with the trade-off that the fabric has a definite right and wrong side. From the right side of the fabric, the difference isn't noticeable unless the join is stressed/stretched.

If you want to make reversible lace using a two-layered method, you need to consider:
  • thinner reversible versus thicker non-reversible selvedge joins
  • level of comfort with double-knitting versus circular intarsia
  • connected layers versus independent layers
  • mirrored reversibility versus two-faced fabric (both sides good but different)