techniques

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One of the questions that often arises for me is how to make the best use of handspun, bulky, and novelty yarns

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These yarns are often expensive, detailed, and bulky, and there is often not enough to make anything of any great size. I want to make something with these yarns, large enough to be useful, and that shows the artistry in their making.

I find that many crafters approach knitting from the perspective of a spinner or approach spinning from the perspective of a knitter. I think spinners who come to knitting often want ways to use their handspun yarns and want to knit something very simple, which makes sense when using many novelty yarns, but the detail of the yarns can get lost in the stitches.

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Knitters who come to spinning often want simple yarns in fabulous colours and fibres to use for more knitting focussed projects.

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I have tried both, and both have appeal, but I would like to propose a third way – there are techniques and styles and projects that can make use of beautiful handspun yarns of every description and show them to advantage, and here I must confess that many of my ideas in this area are heavily influenced by Debbie New.

I bought both these yarns from Milkyrobot’s Etsy Store

Girls Throw Snow (40 yards / 36.5m):

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And Earthworm (46 Yards / 42m):

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When they arrived I was really unsure about what to do with them. I was worried that they were too intricate to show all their detail and too short to make much if knit by themselves. Every centimetre of these yarns is beautiful, and I would hate to hide whole sections of them behind cables or on the back side of something.

For the Girls Throw Snow yarn I mixed it with some grey fingering yarn I had lying around that matched one of the accent colours, and knit it in an irregular version of Debbie New’s squiggle lace using large needles (pattern):

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For the Earthworm yarn I wanted to make things more interesting and combined several yarns:

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In a long strip:

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That I crocheted together into a scarf at the end using Debbie New’s labyrinth knitting technique (Ravelry link):

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I especially like the way the mohair lace weight makes transparent sections.

These projects show these yarns as I wanted them to be shown and have enough knitterly interest to keep mine.

I could probably be induced to produce a pattern for the Earthworm scarf too, if enough of you leave comments on my blog here.

I have been meaning to try a few new techniques for a while and yesterday I did! Yes, instead of working on any of the multitude of active projects, or even mending the sweater in my knitting basket with a hole, I tried two new things.

New technique #1: broomstick lace

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I tried a few crochet stitches for the gathering part and a few different numbers of loops being gathered. I can see how this could work, and I think I could start working with it now. It would probably be a scarf or shawl, but I can see the logic of it.

I have some nice alpaca/silk lace weight that would be just the ticket.

I used this nice tutorial from the January issue of Yarn Forward for instructions:

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As someone who likes learning things from written instructions, I appreciated this article for its comprehensibleness.

New technique #2: hairpin lace

The other new thing was hairpin lace:

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This one was harder to get my mind around. There is something about the twisting the hook around to the back part that did not immediately make sense to me from the still pictures, but after a few fits and starts I made a base strip.

I used this tutorial from the Spring 2006 issue of Interweave Crochet:

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Though it made my head hurt a little, the instructions were comprehensible enough for me to figure out, so no complains there — and I think the technique is more difficult to conceptualize than the other, but don’t the Stitch Diva designs make it all seem worth it? The instructions were much better than the ones that came on the back of the package the frame came in — go figure.

For this I definately need to work a pattern or two from someone else. I just don’t quite get the logic of it yet, but there are lots of beautiful patterns in the world that people would be happy to give or sell me. I was considering this one.

Okay, so I was a little disheartened about the whole Christmas present sweater fiasco. I was so demoralized about having to undo the stitching and unraveling the sleeve caps (again) that I kept procrastinating on fixing the problem. Then my mother came to visit, and she suggested just pinning the extra fabric, stitching it, the trimming it, and finishing the edges.

Now I have read about this kind of thing, and I know you can cut your knitting in this way, but I was never sufficiently frustrated to try it before (you see, I am used to my projects turning out).

The whole exercise has been a success and here is a little tutorial in case it ever happens to you:

Here is what the shoulders looked like before:

The beginning

They were in fact worse than they appear in the photo if you can credit it.

The next step was putting the sweater on inside out and pinning it where the seam should be:

After this I basted the shoulder where it seemed like it should be, I did a few iterations of trying on and fixing the seam:

After I was happy with the seam placement, I sewed another line of stitching about three quarters of a centimetre from the first one and trimmed it:

Eek, my knitting is cut. This is something I never wanted to happen:

But in the end it was all worth it, as now it is actually wearable:

So that is the last of my Christmas presents for 2007, yeah!

A glove by any other name - 1$5.00

Of course you could just knit gloves on double pointed needles. Life would be more simple if everyone did things the same way, but not everyone likes dpn, and sometimes you want to try something different, just because you can.

These gloves are knit on straight needles in double knitting, so there are no seams either. They require the same amount of making up that gloves on dpn: just weave in ends.

Difficulty

Average

Size

One size

Finished measurements

11 inches [28cm] long (with cuff, without cuff 8 inches [20cm])

8 inches [20cm] around palm

Materials

Filatura Di Crosa New Malizioso [100% wool; 55yd/50m per 50g skein]; color: 4; 2 skeins

1 set US #9/5.5mm straight needles

Gauge

10 sts / 15 rows over 4 inches [10cm]

A glove by any other name - 2 A glove by any other name - 3 Double knit gloves

 

I want to knit everything on straight needles — absolutely everything.

I knit gloves on straight needles, see here and here. I also knit sweaters on straight needles, see here and the new issue of Magknits coming out in March. I also knit hats on straight needles, but that is a little less extraordinary, see here and here.

Double knit gloves

I partly dislike circulars and partly it just seems fun to do it that way.

I am so excited about my next pattern, which I will be posting this weekend if all goes well. I have a new (though perhaps unvented as opposed invented) way of making gloves on two needles, so I hope you will check back.

Here is a sneak preview.

Gloves on two needles never look like anything special when you are knitting them, then the metamorphose into something right.

I have come up with another method for swatchless knitting.

Debbie New has a few in her book Unexpected Knitting. They include knitting on the bias and adding stitches each side, like knitted dishcloths. At this point, I should say that I am only talking in a theoretical way at this point as I have never knit anything as practical as a dishcloth. This way you knit a piece with a right angle and then when your sides are as long as the shortest side, you start decreasing at the same rate, if you want it to be rectangular, you continue increasing on one side and decrease on the other.

She calls her other method log cabin knitting, and she casts on a few stitches knit a few rows, binds off, and picks up more stitches off one of the sides, knits a few rows, binds off, repeats. This can make a square or I suppose whatever rectangular shape you want, like a log cabin quilt.

I imagine Debbie New as the most fun person in the whole world to have in a knitting group.

Her ideas are great, but I have formulated another way, though it really only works when you design your own patterns.

My method was inspired by Norah Gaughan’s Roundabout Leaf Tank from Knitting Nature. In it, you start with a strip of knitting and knit long enough to go around your hips then you start knitting it together with the beginning of the strip in a spiral making up the body of the sweater.

Morse code vest - stitch closeup

What I figured, was that you could just cast on some stitches and start knitting without making a swatch, because you could measure your gauge from your first piece and work out your pattern for the whole garment. Then you cast on enough to make the other side of the front or back or enough to do the whole rest of whatever you are are knitting and at the end of your first row, start knitting your new piece together with your first piece.

The stitch I use to knit the two pieces together is as follows: work in pattern to last stitch of RS row, slip 1 with yarn in back, pick up and knit 1 stitch from the first row of other piece, pass slipped stitch over, turn, slip 1 stitch with yarn in front, knit to end.  This stitch works when picking up from the left edge of the right side of knitting; I have figured out how to do it on the left edge of the wrong side, but it is more convoluted.

If you would like to knit a design I knit this way, please see my Morse code vest.

Now that you think you have enough yarn and know your gauge, and I hope you did a good size swatch to judge texture and colour as well as gauge. We need to decide how you want to construct the coat. I am sure the original was constructed quite simply: worked in garter stitch in one piece to the arm holes then the sleeves worked separately and sewn on at the end. This is easy enough to do, and if you decide to do it this way, I would suggest a good technical design book, such as the Vogue knitting: the ultimate knitting book, I love this book, and I really wish I had my own, but instead I monopolize the library’s copy.

If you go this way, then my advice is likely of little use to you. Other writers have made it all quite clear in other places. I however would like to suggest a slightly different way . . .

Please bear with me here, what I would suggest is constructing the coat in one piece from the top. This has several things to recommend it: most importantly you won’t run out of yarn before you finish the second half of the last sleeve. Perhaps it is just my bias, and there are ways to measure how much yarn you need: e.g. work a square of a set size, such as one foot square, weigh it on a good scale and divide it to get the weight per square inch and multiply it by the number of square inches you have worked out your sweater will be, but I never do this, and working from the top means you can just continue until you are happy with it or you run out of yarn.

I would cast on for the little mandarin collar, then cast off and pick up the number of stitches to start the yoke, you could have a random increase of stitches and have a round yoke, make raglan shaping or work out a different shape and increase for the sleeve it in a line where the sleeve seam would be. I haven’t worked out exactly how this last option would work, but I think it could and it would minimize the difference between the shape of your sweater and the original.

Amber from Nakedly Knitting has pointed out a good yarn to use for this coat (here), Noro’s silk garden chunky, color 02. This is a beautiful yarn, and I am sure that the jacket she makes out of it will be georgeous, but whether it is mimicking the coat in the Golden Compass depends on what is the most important thing about the design to you.

If the general colour and shape are most important then this is a good substitute, and you can find garter stitch coat from a book or magazine and make a very good facsimile. But to me the most important thing about this jacket is the texture and specific colours. I love the way the colours slightly clash: the brown and the purple don’t really go with the red (see here), but they come together to make it sing. Noro yarns are beautiful, but they are too harmonious to make this coat the way I envision it. The hint of green in it tones down the red (here); purple makes the red brighter.

I also really like the effect of the areas worked in slightly different thicknesses. It gives the jacket brilliant texture and makes it unusual. I don’t want to make this coat, because I don’t think I can replicate the parts that make it most exciting to me.

On the other hand, the construction is completely unimportant to me. If I were making the coat, I would completely change the construction for various reasons, which I will expound on later.

I have been asked if I could give any advice on recreating Lyra’s red sweater coat from The Golden Compass, and I thought that this might be of interest to more people than just the two of us.

I think there are several big issues with recreating this coat:

  • It is impossible to get a really good close look at it. The pictures online are too small and the film itself moves around too much, and no one wants to wait for the DVD so it could be paused.
  • The yarn/other materials that went into making it will be difficult to come by, and one can’t really be sure what they were. I have read (here) that the coat wasn’t even made out if yarn, but fabric strips, twine etc. This is going to be very difficult to duplicate because costume makers are just better equipped. For all my moaning, I am an amateur in the field of having materials to hand, and I certainly don’t have enough.
  • I am not sure how much yarn this will take, but I know it will be a lot. If anyone actually wants to do this with yarn, I think it will take at least 2-4lbs (1.5-2kg) to make it.

If you still feel the coat is worth pursuing and you think you have enough yarn, you should work out your gauge. I would say that you need super bulky or comparable different yarns held together, and the gauge should be around 7-8 sts to 4inches/10cm.

I will write about potential next steps in the next few days.

If you have any questions at any time, please let me know!

I recently had a question about how I designed the short row shaping on my Urban Rustic Gloves. Here is the method I followed:

  1. Measure your hand, this includes the length of your hand from the base of your fingers to wrist, the length of all your fingers, the circumference of your hand at the palm, at the base of your thumb, at your wrist and all your fingers. I suggest you trace around your hand and write all the measurements in.
  2. Work out the number of rows you will need to go around the palm of your hand and mark the number on graph paper with each square representing one stitch. You may need to tape two or more pieces together. You will still need several rows of graph paper on each side of the palm.
  3. Work out how many stitches you will need to go around your palm at the base of your thumb and divide this number by two; add those rows to the two sides of your graph. This is the number of rows you will need to add using short rows for your thumb gusset.
  4. Work out the number of rows you will need to go around your wrist, subtract this number from the number of rows you needed to go around your palm. Round this number to make it even. This number divided by two is the number of short rows you will need between the base of your fingers and your wrist.
  5. Start shading in sets of two rows on your graph paper, starting with odd numbered rows, to place your short rows, until you have the right number of short rows. I staggered the length of these rows to make the shaping gradual; I suggest three lengths of rows alternately spaced to get even shaping.
  6. For the thumb gusset, divide the number of stitches by the number of rows, this will give you the number of stitches difference you need between each short row.
  7. To shape the ends of the fingers use one set of short rows each second row, ending approximately two stitches from the end. The first and last rows of the finger must not be short rows.

Note: Fudge the math anywhere you need to to make the pattern work. Knitting is stretchy and it pulls in a bit too. It took me a lot of attempts before I got it right.

If you have any questions, I would be happy to try to help.

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