Archive for the ‘fair isle’ Category

Soleus

Hey! Are you still there? Well, so am I. Do you still knit? What do you know? Me too! My first year of medical school took me away from this space too much; I hope things will be different this next year. Nevertheless, would you believe I knitted 12 sweaters, 5 pairs of socks, 4 pairs of mittens, 2 hats, 3 lace stoles, and a blanket since we last spoke? I just haven’t had much time to post about them. All in time, of course.

I thought my first post back should reflect how I’ve spent my time lately, so I’d like to share a sock pattern I worked up while studying.

Named for the calf muscle, Soleus is the first in a series of patterns with an anatomical theme. The pattern is available for free on Ravelry.

In addition to playing around with a new naming scheme, I’ve had the pleasure to collaborate with two fabulous designers on a collection coming out this fall. Amy Herzog and Kirsten Kapur, and I have joined forces as the BHK Cooperative. Our first project, the Charles Collection, will be appearing in a few weeks. Inspired by and set in the knitterly city of Boston, the collection features flattering sweaters and accessories in classic styles, all photographed by the talented Caro Sheridan. Here is a little preview!

Fair Isle-Style Steeking:The Quick and Dirty Tutorial

In the last few weeks, I have received more than a dozen emails about steeking, the technique of cutting one’s knitting. I always refer people to Eunny Jang’s Steeking Chronicles, because they provide a wonderful overview of why and how knitted articles are cut. Eunny’s tutorial covers how to plan for steeks and offers an overview of hand sewn steeks, crocheted steeks, and a bit about machine sewn steeks. I would encourage anyone interested in steeking to read the entire series because it is well worth the time.

However, for those who just want to know what they need to do to secure their knitting before a cut, I thought I would put together a really quick tutorial to cover the absolute basics of crocheted and machine-sewn steeking.

Why cut your knitting?

Why not? Would you rather purl back every other row? Or worse, purl back in a stranded color pattern? It’s easier and faster to work in the round with the right side facing you the entire time. Although it sounds terrifying and difficult, cutting your knitting is shockingly easy to do. Really, it ought to be harder.

The key to success is to support the edges alongside the cut to ensure they do not unravel. This support can come in several forms: grippy, feltable wool stitch fibers holding themselves and each other in place, or feltable crochet chains, machine sewn lines, or hand sewn lines running down either side of the cut site. If the garment is made using multiple colors of non-superwash wool at a very fine gauge, it may not even be necessary to add extra support; the wool itself will provide enough, felting together at the steeks over time. Indeed, many traditional Fair Isle steeks were not supported with crochet or sewing at all.

This tutorial applies to Fair Isle-style steeking, in which extra stitches are cast on specifically for the steek. It should be noted that in Scandinavian-style steeking, the garment is worked in the round with no extra stitches; the cut is made directly into the garment pattern itself. Most steeks in contemporary patterns are done in the Fair Isle style. Given the choice, I would prefer to use crochet chains over a sewing machine any day. I am clumsy with a sewing machine and I do not trust myself not to make a dumb, difficult to reverse mistake. Experiment with both methods to determine what works best for you.

In the examples below, I will demonstrate the cut being made down the center of a column of stitches (as shown here, in Eunny’s steeking tutorial), although it can certainly be done between two columns of stitches. For my swatch and waste yarn, I used multiple colors of Harrisville Designs New England Shetland. I knitted the swatch in stripes to make it easier for you to see exactly what I was doing. For a more detailed look at the pictures, click on any image to access higher resolution versions.

The Crocheted Steek

Advantages: It’s fast, easy, and does not require sewing (or a sewing machine).
Disadvantages: I would say it is not as secure as a machine-sewn reinforcement; however, given the proper yarn choice, it will be strong enough.
Requirements: WOOL. Feltable animal fiber. Just say no to superwash wools, plant-based materials, and acrylics. This is not negotiable: the yarn must be able to felt and felt well. You will also need to have some feltable wool scrap yarn, a crochet hook several sizes smaller than the needles used for the garment, and be able to crochet a simple chain. Phenomenal crochet skills are not necessary: I learned to crochet only for this purpose, am barely able to produce more than a chain stitch, and have never had a steek fail because of my meager crochet skills.

1. ) With the garment upright, turn the work 90 degrees so that the bottom edge of the steek stitches is on the right. Identify one column of stitches as the steek column, the location of the cut. With a crochet hook, pick up the right half of the stitch to the left of the steek column stitch and the left half of the steek column stitch.
Since I casted my swatch with the white yarn, you will notice that the half stitches I picked up in this foundation row were both white. For every other row, the left one will be white and the right one will be blue, based on the striping of the swatch.
Crochet Steek Reinforcement

2.) With feltable scrap yarn, make a loop on the crochet hook and pull it through.
Crochet Steek Reinforcement

3.) Loop the yarn over the crochet hook once more.
Crochet Steek Reinforcement

4.) Pull through the first loop. There will be only one stitch on the hook.
Crochet Steek Reinforcement

5.) Here, you will see the beginning of a single crochet chain. Continuing up the stitch columns, pick up the right half of the left stitch (white) and the left half of the steek column stitch (blue).
Crochet Steek Reinforcement

6.) Loop the yarn over the crochet hook again and pull through. There will be two stitches on the hook.
Crochet Steek Reinforcement

7.) Loop the yarn over the crochet hook and pull through both stitches. There will be one stitch on the hook.
Crochet Steek Reinforcement

Continue in this manner following steps 5-7 until the last stitches at the top of the column have been worked. Break the yarn and thread it through the last remaining loop to secure the chain. The chain will look like this:
Crochet Steek Reinforcement

Now, turn the work 180 degrees.
Crochet Steek Reinforcement

Repeat steps 1-7 outlined above, picking up the right half of the steek column stitch (blue) and the left half of the right stitch (white).
Crochet Steek Reinforcement

Return the work to the upright position so that the chains run vertically down the steek stitch block.
Crochet Steek Reinforcement

Notice how the crocheted chains splay out to the sides. You will be cutting between the two chains, taking care not to snip ANY of the yarn used for the chain. Starting at the bottom of the work with small, sharp scissors, carefully cut up the middle of the steek column.
Crochet Steek Reinforcement

View of the steek from the right side:
Crochet Steek Reinforcement

View of the steek from the wrong side:
Crochet Steek Reinforcement

View of the edge:
Crochet Steek Reinforcement

The Machine-Sewn Steek

Advantages: It’s fast, provides a very sturdy reinforcement, and can be used with any kind of yarn.
Disadvantages: Running the knitted fabric through the sewing machine risks catching floats on the sewing machine plate and distorting the fabric a bit. A line of tiny stitches will also prove difficult (I would say impossible) to rip out if you make a mistake.
Requirements: A sewing machine (duh) and a small stitch setting. This can be done with fibers that do not felt as well as with those that do.

1) Identify one column of stitches as the steek column, the location of the cut (in my example, it is a blue column). You will be sewing straight lines down the center of the stitch columns on either side of the steek column (shown in white below). Take care not to catch any of the floats on the sewing machine plate and try not to pull the fabric through, as this will distort the edge.
Machine sewn steek reinforcement

2.) Beginning at the top of the work, lower the sewing machine needle into the center of the first stitch to the left of the steek column. Before you sew down the entire column, it is best to backstitch a little bit to ensure the stitching will not unravel. With a small stitch, sew a straight line down this column of stitches, backstitching again at the bottom.
Machine sewn steek reinforcement

Machine sewn steek reinforcement

Repeat this process with the column of stitches to the right of the steek column.
Machine sewn steek reinforcement

Starting at the bottom with small, sharp scissors, carefully cut up the middle of the steek column.
Machine sewn steek reinforcement

Machine sewn steek reinforcement

OK, I cut it, what now?

Now that you have a lovely, secured cut edge, you may be wondering what to do next. Chances are, the pattern will call for you to pick up stitches near the cut edge for button/buttonhole or armhole bands. Identify from where exactly (relative to the cut edge) those stitches will be picked up.

Here is an example of picking up stitches near a cut edge:
Picking up stitches for the ribbing

Once you pick up and knit these band stitches as directed, the stitches remaining closer to the cut edge will form a facing that can easily be tacked down to the inside of the garment. Here are some examples:
Blanket stitching the facings down

Facings tacked down with blanket stitch

The guts

Now, go forth and cut away!

Min Ulla Set

Min Ulla Set

What was that bit about not having winter accessories to wear together? I am happy to report that problem has officially been resolved. Thank you for all of your lovely comments and encouragement along the way.

Min Ulla Set

Let me introduce the Min Ulla Set! The scarfhat, and mitten patterns are available as Ravelry downloads for $6.00 each. The set of three patterns can be purchased for $15.00.

Min Ulla Set

Pattern: Min Ulla Scarf, Hat, and Mittens (Ravelry link)

Yarn: Berroco Ultra Alpaca in #6289 Charcoal mix and #6201 Winter white, 4 skeins each color for the entire set

Needles: US 6 (4 mm)

In early October, I approached Berroco, Inc. with a swatch and sketch for this design and the company generously donated the yarn for the project. As I mentioned before, I tried this pattern out on a hat with Harrisville Designs New England Shetland leftovers, but it was clearly the wrong choice. Can you imagine how long it would have taken me to knit this at a fine gauge? I still have not yet finished that sample hat! I really wanted a worsted weight yarn, and one with a bit of a halo to it as well. Berroco Ultra Alpaca was a great choice because the yarn is smooth enough to show off the stitch definition but soft and fuzzy enough to make a really warm set.

Min Ulla Scarf

This Scandinavian-styled scarf is made in the round as a tube, its ends grafted together in the finishing process. Symmetrical about the center point, it is comprised of many very simple peeries of small repeats, along with a few more complicated snowflake and XOXO peeries. The scarf pattern is given as a series of10 charts. I broke the pattern up this way to make it a more portable project since smaller charts are easier to read. Although the charts may seem complex at first glance, upon closer examination, one will find that at the level of the individual round, the patterning is quite simple. After a while, the charts should only be truly necessary for the XOXO and snowflake patterns, or when starting a new peerie. Trust me, it’s true.

Min Ulla Set

The hat is knit in the round with a contrasting liner tacked to the inside of the brim for extra warmth. I could not decide on a brim pattern for the hat, so I included four different versions in the pattern. Two versions include small peeries like the sample hat shown, while the other two versions feature traditional snowflake patterns. Between this scarf and the other projects I’ve made with snowflake patterns, I was feeling a bit burned out on snowflakes by the time I started the hat; therefore, I settled on a version with peeries only instead. In the end, I think I prefer the look of the small peeries to large snowflakes at the brim. Each version of the hat is topped with a lice stitch, spiral crown.

Min Ulla Hat, Version A

This is the first pair of worsted weight, non-thrummed mittens I have made in a long time. I seem to have forgotten how quickly mittens knit up when not done at 10 stitches per inch! Amazing! Each mitten took me a day – a day with plenty of distractions too. I think I still prefer tightly knit mittens over worsted weight ones; however, these will certainly prove at least as warm as finer gauge mittens I’ve made because of the lining!

Min Ulla Mittens

Although I love lined mittens, my one complaint is that a lined thumb renders it practically useless. The last two pairs of lined mittens I’ve made have featured keyhole thumbs in the lining. Bonus? Not having to knit a second thumb.

Mitten with keyhole mitten liner

More photos can be found here.

Finally, I have one last pattern coming out in the next week – Hedge Fence Pullover – and then I swear, I’ll be done for a while. I have a baby to deliver, you know.

Addictive knitting: Min Ulla scarf

Because of the new patterns I’ve put up this month, I feel as if I haven’t been blogging enough about my current knitting. The knitting interest I lost this summer is back, and my projects feel even more addicting than ever. I credit both the chill of autumn and not having any wool sweaters that fit over my gigantic belly with its return.

Min Ulla scarf

Like the hat I posted last week, this began as a Scandinavian-style sampler to test out some stitch patterns for a hat and scarf set I was planning. After a few inches, I thought it would make a nice edging for a simple, stockinette scarf. A foot into it, I decided to make the edging longer because it was so much fun to knit. Finally, I capitulated and eliminated all of the stockinette. You cannot imagine how addicting this knitting is! What is fascinating to me is that with the exception of four peeries, all of the patterns are so very simple: 2-, 4-, 8-, and 16-stitch repeats. So easy are they, in fact, that I have barely consulted my chart. And yet, the scarf looks impossibly complicated. Isn’t that wonderful? So little effort for so much effect!

Only 18 inches to go!

Although I have not been able to work on it consistently this month, I try to log a few peeries every day. I have about 18 inches to go. And then the hat. And maybe some mittens. Please, someone stop me!

Must. knit.

The scarf is knit in the round as a long tube for extra warmth.*

The only problem?

Don't drop a stitch holder down there

Hypothetically speaking, if one were to lose a stitch marker down that hole, there’s little hope of getting it back. Not that I would be so careless. Nope, not me.

Stay tuned for Min Ulla progress!

* Actually, I knit it in the round because I was far too lazy to purl back.

Winter accessory binge and Tapestry Mittens

As it has grown colder in the last few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about my problem with winter accessories. You know, once I get an idea in my head, I cannot get rid of it! I have sketched, swatched, and stashbusted – finally, I have a plan! I’ll share more once my yarn arrives. In the meantime, I can show you what did not work, for one reason or another.

Every winter, I fall into a stashbusting hat binge. So far, I’ve managed one adult hat and two newborn caps. I rediscovered why people make hats: they’re such quick knits! It seems unfair that I have to learn this lesson every year. I think there will be a few more of these, if only because they knit up so quickly and effectively use up annoying scraps lurking in my stash.

Stashbusting hats

Yarn: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes, Cascade 220, Debbie Bliss Merino Aran

Needles: US 7 (4.5 mm)

This project came closer to satisfying my criteria for the ultimate winter accessory knitting; however, the gauge was all wrong. Still, it’s a good prototype for what will come.

Prototype

Yarn: Harrisville New England Shetland

Needles: US 4 (3.5 mm)

Finally, speaking of winter accessories, I have a new pair of mittens in Interweave Knits Holiday 2009! The magazine will not be available until late October, but the preview was posted on Monday.

Tapestry-Mittens

Copyright Interweave Knits

Pattern: Tapestry Mittens (Ravelry link), smallest size shown

Yarn: Classic Elite Yarns Fresco in Rum Raisin (red) and Sterling (gray), Classic Elite Yarns Classic One Fifty in Berry (purple)

Needle: US 1.5 (2.5 mm) and US 4 (3.5 mm)

Copyright Interweave Knits

Copyright Interweave Knits