Knitting: August 2011 Archives
Sometimes it takes a little something out of the ordinary to create some excitement in a familiar hobby. My knitting habit goes in waves, sometime ebbing and sometimes tsunamis of excitement. The bigger waves are created when I discover a new technique, stitch or medium that just gets my juices flowing. This assignment definitely got the juices flowing. This week I was knitting with fabric and it was eye-opening. Not only is it a quick knit (insert eye rolling here) but it was very different. "Oh course", you might say, "you are not knitting with yarn. Duh... that's different"! But it was different in other ways too. #1 Tension was easy so I just let the strand hang loose. It didn't flow through my hand like yarn and the knotted ends caught on my fingers. Even with my massive US 17, the gauge was tight. I think you could even knit with some US 19's. Knitting with fabric is an awesome way to use every last bit of fabric- so waste not, want not. Knitting with fabric is the PERFECT way to round out your Christmas list as well. Not just because it is quick but because you can knit rugs, bath mats, trivets, dog beds, picnic blankets, nap mats and more stout articles that one is always in need of. When using quilting cotton, these projects are very absorbent and cushy. Here's how to get started (tension relief ahead)
Using either remnants or whole pieces of fabric, clip into your selvedges about ½ in. in, in 1 in. increments. Pull apart the strips (the clips just get each strip started). Knot each strip together and roll up into rag balls (you can also purchase rag balls on eBay, but rolling them up is good fun for stray children who would otherwise be making messes). Start knitting!
You can organize your fabric strips into color families to knit project in certain colors to make stripes or a solid piece. If you choose fabric that features a print, your finished piece will have a variegated look but you can still choose dominate colors. Try knitting a lace pattern for an interesting entry way rug or knit it up in muslin for a Christmas snowflake using a doily pattern. Have fun thinking outside the box while creating a one-of-a-kind gift for a loved one! I'm making a bath mat for my little one's bathroom using 3 stripes of quilting cotton, 2 of blue and one of pink. To make one stripe, I cast on 10 sts using my Lantern Moon US 17 needles and am knitting to 24 in. and then bind off. Repeat for the other 2 stripes and then stitch the 3 together using a mattress stitch or crochet them together using a size 17 hook. It will be super cozy on her little toes.
I often teach friends and neighbors to knit. Invariably they show up with a ball of worsted weight yarn and 2 ridiculously long straight needles. One of my first recommendations I make if I think they will stick with knitting is to invest in a set of interchangeable cable needles. But even if they are unwilling to take that step, I encourage my students to use cable needles as their default needles as opposed to straight needles. My reasons are thus:
1) Multipurpose. You can only knit straight on straight needles, while you can knit straight and in the round with cable needles. This means you can change needles less if you have a project that jumps from knitting in the round to straight and back again.
2) Weight distribution. Even when working straight on cable needles it is gentler on your wrists because the flexible cables allow knitters to rest most of the weight of a project in their laps or on a table in front of them. This is a good option of those with weak muscles, arthritis or people just getting in the game who haven't built up their knitter's bulk yet.
3) Odd jobs. Cable needles can serve as stitch holders, can be used in provisional cast-ons and other odd jobs that straight needles can't even dream off.
4) Lighter. Though not terribly so, over many hours the lighter weight of cable needles over straight needles can reduce fatigue, muscle strain and can speed up your project.
But how do you knit straight on cable needles? Easy, it is just like have a string tied to each end of your straight needles. You knit from your left needle to your right and once you get to the end of a row (this is easy to tell) switch your left needle to your right hand and vice versa for the other needle and start your next row. It is easier done than said and will really open your eye, expand your project load and reduce your needle inventory. You can start with one and go from there. I would encourage you as I do my students to invest in an interchangeable needle set; it is worth its weight in yarn!
Once you get past the basics of knit, purl, increase and decrease, you will probably start branching out to more challenging or more interesting techniques. One of the most beautiful is Entrelac: a knitting technique that gives the impression of patchwork or basket woven knitted fabric. I particularly love entrelac because there is a definite starting and stopping points and it is easy to find where you put it down even years after you last knitted your project. Entrelac is created by a beginning row of knitted triangles, then of knitted squares. Each previous square is knitted together with the next while picking up stitches from the previous row. It is this process that allows each square to be diagonal from the row below. It is a lot of fun once you get used to it and is easy to learn. You can practice with just a few triangles and squares till you have it. Entrelac is an excellent intro to color work since each row or block could be knit with a different color and you don't need to worry about bobbins or stranding. Or you can choose an awesome painted yarn (like Lion Brand Amazing Yarn or Berroco Origami) that changes colors gradually to give the appearance of color work when really you are using the same yarn throughout.
Here is a simple entrelac practice pattern by Knittyotter that only uses 18 Sts. Try experimenting with Entrelac with different weights of yarn (lace weight for a drapy shawl or chunky for a cozy lap blanket), colors (diagonal stripes, each block a different color using 4 different colors, or knit one color till you run out and then adding another till it runs out or until you reach the size you like) or textures. Entrelac is a great way to try new yarns, use up yarn balls or as a stash buster since each block uses just a little bit of yarn. Make a Boho Chic scarf but combining any and all yarns, from mohair to wool to cotton, giving heed only to coordinating colors instead of fiber. Entrelac of any kind makes a perfect gift since it looks like it took a great deal of work or time when neither is true.