Saturday, April 16, 2016

And so it begins

There is a Saturday knitting group, meets every five weeks or so and each session focuses on a technique or detail. We meet yesterday and the focus was flowers - but I was distracted. Alongside the five-weekly topics there is a year long project - this year is is a colour work challenge. The goal is to explore some aspect of colour work and develop a better understanding. Lorna, group inspiration and leader is working with a knitting belt and traditonal fair isle patterns and her own hand dyed yarn. Others a working tams or colour work tubular scarves and exploring different combinations of colours. Me - I am planning to become more proficient with a knitting belt and the 2+1 arrangement of long dpns.

Once I decided what I was going t work on I ordered some shorter needed, Etsy provided these three sizes in stainless steel, from BobNWeave, there are lots more sizes on offer but these work with the fingering yarns I like best for colourwork. EBay provided a cheap and cheerful all round set of 11 sizes from 1.5mm to 5mm, also in stainless steel.

So with needles sorted and no excuses with the camp sweater all done and off at camp - I began.

The first challenge for a left handed yarn handler like me, one who works with both yarns in the left hand was to fathom out how best to tension the yarns with a belt supporting the right needle. I decided the best thing was to knit a swatch.

I picked some yarn similar in weight to my pectoral yarns and began. At first I tried to carry both yarns in the right hand - and that produced interesting results, that is to say the tension of the foreground and background yarns was very very different. Long ago, before I converted to knitting with two yarns held in the left hand I had briefly tried to knit with a colour in each hand - and found it almost impossible to remember which colour went with which hand movement. The coordinated amongst you will laugh, probably out loud, but even when I could see the orange yarn was in eb left hand - my brain seemed to take an age to work out that it was the left hand, that one there that I had to move. So with the knitting belt I avoided working with a yarn in each hand - until nothing else worked and then eventually after consultation with knitting friends and Ravelry group who all asked 'if I had tried a yarn in each hand' I thought insipid revisit the technique.

I'm glad i did, and glad that others kept recommending I try - as this time, many years after my initial tries my eyes, hands, brain all seem to be better at working together. You might notice that the practice swatch begins with ropey tension and ends with much more even tension between the two yarn colours,

And so I begun my knitting belt project, a tubular cowl, designed by Wendy Johnson, the Leftovers Cowl in the real yarns (not that the other yarns were imaginary -- just they were not the ones selected for the project). So far so good, I'm eager to knit up all the brown and work the patterns in the various shades of pink. The pink yarn is Schopel Wolle Zauberball 100, in Villa Rosa, a single, and the blue is from the same manufacturer but applied yarn named Admiral in a lovely soft deep blue. The orange chain is my provisional cast on - all easy to be unzipped when the cowl is done and the two ends ready to be grafted together for a seamless join.

The project and details are listed on my Ravelry page, here, the Makkin Cowl. Makkin is, I am told, the Shetland name for a knitting belt, and also the practice of knitting with a belt.

Na Stella.


Sunday, April 03, 2016

Top down cardigan and buttons,

A few decades ago I bought a knitting book, the kind that is a kind of dictionary, with instructions for lots of different knit textures explained. It was one of the Mon Tricot serries, they seemed to have published dozens of similar titles. This one listed several hundred stitch variations and on the very last page illustrated the process for knitting a top down, saddle shouldered seamless sweater. I was intrigued, amazed and baffled by how one could do that. All my knitting up to then had been flat, knitting sections of a garment and then seaming them into something 3D. Since then I discovered the Internet, dpns, circular needles, and many many resources for knitting seamless 3D garments. But I've never lost that sense of wonder at the ability to construct a seamless knitted garment. I've lost count of how many seamless garments I've knit, but I know how many seamed garments I've knit, none.

I love the entire concept of seamless construction, and top down even more. I love I can see the garment take shape as it is knit. I love I can try it on and adjust the shape or length as I work. I love I don't have to wait until I have knit each piece and then seam them together before I can evaluate the fit and style.

And mostly I love I can finish the garment as I knit, I can weave in ends and then when I work the final stitch I weave in that single end and it is done! With cardigans, especially ones with buttons there is also sewing on the buttons. This time I've added a new ''finishing' order to knitting a cardigan. I am knitting Slanted Sleven, where the buttonholes are worked into a band that is formed as the cardigan is worked, this time I decided to stitch on the buttons as I worked rather than after I finished.

I choose dark shell buttons, and the back of them is darker - so I planned to sew them 'wrong side up'.


I used a heavy top stitching thread to sew the buttons on, and a blunt wool needle. I matched the buttons to the button holes and worked from the top of the center front down - keeping the top down theme. Instead of using a new and separate thread for each button I snaked it through the knit stitches on the back of the band to reach the next button position. I worked a few half hitch knots to secure the thread after each button before working on to the next location.


The thread was a good match - and just disappeared into the knitting. I've added two buttons to the markers for the next so button holes, and I've left a length of sewing thread to stitch the buttons on as I work the holes.

Which means I have only to knit until this is hip length and then add sleeves. And that last stitch will mean, cutting the yarn, weaving in the end and blocking.

I do appreciate the advantages of top down knitwear construction.

Na Stella