Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hems and facings: part 3 of "better bands and cuffs"

Includes 9 illustrations
Q. Why do the edges of cuffs and bands want to stretch out?

A. In this series on improving wonky bands and cuffs, the first two posts have established that stretched out bands and cuffs are NOT YOUR FAULT--the edge of any knitted FABRIC wants to stretch out. Click here or here for more information about the whys and wherefores of stretched-out edges.

Q. If the fabric edge wants to stretch, how can I stop it?
A. Short answer: you can't. Because the stitches at the edge of the fabric are unsupported, the stretching is structural. Your best bet is to accept this property of knitting, and work with it: avoid putting the edge of the knitted FABRIC at the edge of your knitted GARMENT. (A note to perfectionists: This series will cover the tubular cast-off, which is something of an exception to this rule. But for now, the short answer is to separate the fabric edge from the garment edge. )

Q. The previous post showed a rolled stockinette edging. Is that always the best solution?
A. Although a rolled edging may be the easiest way to achieve separate the garment edge from the fabric edge, a rolled edge is not useful in every garment, or in every fiber, or at every edge.

Some knitters find the rolled edge too informal or too bulky. Some knitters just plain do not like it.

Also, a rolled edging may suffer from one structural defect of its own: In certain fibers, when used as a bottom edging of a long sweater, it MAY become squashed from sitting on it, so that the rolled edging in the back looks flatter that that in the front.Usually, this flattening is cured by washing and reblocking--stockinette's tendency to curl is simply one of the strongest forces in all of knitting. Yet, after constant wear in such "slippery" fibers as cotton, linen, or synthetics, a rolled edge on a hip-length garment may become permanently flattened around the seat.

Q. Is there another way to separate the fabric edge from the garment edge?
A. Yes. If a rolled edge will not work for you, the next easiest solution is HEMS AND FACINGS. With a hem or a facing, the edge of the FABRIC is held inside the garment--the cast on (or off) edge is the inside edge of the hem or facing, and knitting from several rows inside the fabric edge is folded over to make the garment edge.

Q. What is the difference between a hem and a facing?
A. In woven cloth, a hem is usually a self-facing (made from the same material as the garment, but folded over and tacked down) whereas a facing is usually, but not always, made from a different fabric sewn to the garment fabric at the fold-edge of the garment. In knitting, however, there is no real structural difference between a hem and a facing--they are both backings to bands of various sorts (bottom bands, cuffs, front bands). However, a hem is usually at the bottom edge of a garment (bottom hem, cuff hem) and usually CANNOT be seen while the garment is in normal wear. By contrast, a facing is usually at the front edge of a cardigan or sometimes at the neck (front band facing, button band facing, neck facing), and MAY be seen during normal wear.
Q. I thought that hems were always tacked (sewn) down, while facings sometimes are sewn down, but more often are left loose.
A. This is correct for woven garments, where front band facings typically are not attached along their long edges. In fact, this is even true for knitted garments with woven facings.
Below is a drawing showing an inside view of a famous-maker Norwegian sweater--a commercially knitted garment. This garment has a woven fabric facing for the neck and zipper. The neck facing IS tacked down, but the neck opening facing, around the zipper, is NOT tacked down, it is loose along both long edges, being tacked down only at the collar and the bottom of the zipper placket.
However, while a woven facing may not be tacked down, a knitted facing almost always is. (Actually, I've never seen a loose knitted facing, but as soon as I assert that ALL knitted facings are tacked down, someone will e-mail an example to the contrary!) Due to knitting's tendency to curl, a stockinette facing would curl up to become an rolled edging if it were not fastened down, while a non-curling facing (garter stitch, seed stitch) would prove too bulky for most situations. Bottom line: while woven facings may not be tacked down, knitted facings almost always are.

Q. Start at the beginning: what's the easiest kind of hem or facing?
A. The very easiest band backing (whether hem or facing) is a folded-over ribbing band. The ribbing is simply knitted twice as long as wanted, then folded over and tacked down on the inside of the garment. There is no fold mark at the halfway point--the band simply rolls over, presenting a broad, fat edge. Like the rolled stockinette edge, this broad fold-over edge can really take the abuse. Below is a photo of the cuffs and bottom bands of a little sweater jacket that's been through several kids, and is ready for more.
This kind of band is not restricted to ribbing--there are other fabrics well suited to "life on the edge," and these (seed, moss, garter) can be used for a doubled over band also (although ribbing works best, IMHO).

Q. A rolled over ribbing band seems awfully thick. Is there any way to reduce the bulk, but still have a ribbed band at the edge of my garment?
A. Yes. Instead of doubling the entire band, you can knit a few round of plain stockinette, then fold this little strip over and tack it down. After this short edging of doubled fabric, the rest of the ribbing is knit in a single thickness. The idea is very similar to a rolled stockinette edging, but instead of the rolled edging being left loose, it is tacked down. Below is a close-up of a mitten cuff made this way.
It also seems to me that this, or something like this, was a traditional method of starting fisherman sweaters. Below is a closeup (detail) of a photo found on page 21 of Gladys Thompson's masterwork "Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys & Arans (Dover Books, NY, 1971). The bands on this very old (1920's) sweater are doubled, perhaps by this method, or perhaps by simply using two yarns to cast on the edges, as was done with other guernseys pictured in the Thompson book.
The notes with the guernsey photo state that the garment was 40 years old when the photo was taken (1955) and that its owner wore the garment in the British Navy during WWII, when the garment would already have been over 20 years old! I believe that both of the above photos shows why it really pays to strengthen the edges of your bands.

Q. Are there other kinds of hems besides ribbed ones?
You bet here are, lots of them! Since hems are not a new idea, many traditional hems have developed--look in a good fabric dictionary book, and you'll see examples. Of the classics, a picot hem has to be one of the prettiest and daintiest. The method is simplicity itself: for bottom-up sweaters, cast on and knit the hem. After the inside of the hem is as long as you want it, on the"right" (knit) side of the fabric, work a row of *k2tog, yo." For top-down garments, reverse the procedure. A few rows or rounds of plain knitting past the yo row, you will see that the fabric wants to fold on the line of yo's, and the prettiest little lacy edging will show at the fold. (see photo below).
Another important kind of hem is the stockinette hem folded on a reverse stockinette (purl) fold-line. (addendum, February 2011: more about folds) This is a classic hem because it works like a dream--for various esoteric structural reasons, stockinette WANTS to flip right up and fold at a line of purling--it is a force of knitting as strong as the desire of stockinette to curl and stay curled. This classic stockinette hem takes advantage of this property, which looks very well (see photo below).
BTW: Here is a
TRICK to avoid a big "bump" at the end of the fold (purl) round in circular knitting. When you get to to end of the purl round, slip the first purl stitch which you created at the beginning of the round . That's right, simply slip that first purl stitch from your left needle to your right needle, without knitting it. Magic! The bump will never appear and the beginning of the round will not show.

This classic foldover stockinette hem is made by working a length of stockinette as long as you want the inside of the hem or facing to be, working a purl row on the face (knit side) of the fabric, and then continuing in plain stockinette. The short part of the fabric before the line of purl is the hem or facing, and is tacked down on the inside. A variation is to knit the inside portion of the hem in a thinner yarn than the outside (garment) yarn, and this reduces the bulk of the hem considerably. This very common in commercially made garments, but is a trick which can also be used by hand knitters (see photos below).
Q. You talk about "tacking down" the folded over hem or facing. How is that done?
A: Tune in for the next post--this one is getting W*A*Y too long.

PS: A BIG thanks to MARTHA in the comments--who caught a typo in the directions for the picot edge (now corrected).


* * *

This post is part 3 of a series. The other posts are:
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 1: Opera and Soap Opera (November 1, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 2: Why cuffs and bands are wonky, and what to do about it (November 14, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 4: Knitting shut hems and facings (December 9, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 5: Sewing shut hems and facings (December 23, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 6: Your steam iron: a mighty weapon in the fight against curling and flipping (December 25, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 7: Zig-zag bands (December 29, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 8: Provisional tail method of 1x1 tubular cast on (January 11, 2008)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 9: Tubular cast off for 1x1 ribbing (it's pretty) (January 15, 2008)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs: the wrap-up (January 23, 2008)

--TECHknitter
You have been reading TECHknitting on: "hems and facings for knitted garments."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Why bands and cuffs are wonky, and what to do about it (part 2 of "knitting better bands")

Includes 7 illustrations
The previous installment of "knitting better bands" showed that stitches along the edges of garments, stitches such as Wanda and Lon, stretch out because they have a lack of family support. Instead of being supported by 8 adjacent stitches as are stitches in the middle of a fabric like Norm, edge stitches are supported by only 5 stitches. In other words, edge stitches have a completely exposed edge along which there are no stabilizing stitches.

Without stabilizing stitches, edge stitches want to S-T-R-E-T-C-H out, and this is true no matter what KIND of stitches these are--ribbing, garter, seed stitch--the edge stitches will stretch regardless. So, when the edge of the FABRIC is the edge of the GARMENT, the garment edges--bands, cuffs--will be wonky and stretched out. The good news is that this is a structural problem: it's NOT YOU! No! It's the structure of the fabric edge to WANT to stretch and wonk-ify, and this is an unavoidable, built-in characteristic.

Now this problem is nothing new to knitting, and there are two solutions. The first solution is the most common: This is the oft-repeated advice to carefully adjust the amount of yarn IN the edge stitches. In other words, this is the "Goldilocks" solution: cast on (or off) your edge stitches "just right," not too tight and not too loose.

The obvious problem with this approach is that it can take years of experience to find that happy medium. Expert knitters can do this, but beginning and even intermediate knitters often RUIN their otherwise lovely garments trying to follow this advice.

When the error is NOT ENOUGH yarn supplied to the edge stitches, the result is a TOO TIGHT band. Who has not seen a lovely sock, the cuff of which is biting painfully into the flesh of its proud creator? Who has not seen a lovingly hand knit sweater with a neck cast off so tight as to be a nose scraper when dressing or undressing?When the error is TOO MUCH yarn supplied to the edge stitches, the result is a TOO-LOOSE band. Who has not seen a cuff which flops over the wearer's hand, no matter how often the cuff is pushed up onto the forearm? Who has not seen socks with saggy bands which will not stay up?If the Goldilocks solution of getting the fabric edge "just right" tends to be a challenge for non-expert knitters, what is the second alternative? Well, if edge stitches are inherently objectionable, do not make the fabric edge the garment edge. That's right--if edge stitches are icky, just banish the nasty little creatures from your garment edges.

Edge stitches like Wanda and Lon, with their precarious 5-stitch support system, are a poor choice to locate at the edge of a garment. It would be far better to have the garment edges be the far superior kind of stitches with an 8-stitch support system, the kind of stitches normally found inside the fabric--a stitch like Norm, of the previous post in this series.

I will admit that the first time you hear this solution, it sounds like a magic trick. Knitted fabric has to start somewhere, right? So how can the edge of a garment not be the edge stitches? In actuality, this is no kind of trick at all--the knitted FABRIC will have an edge, but that edge will NOT be the edge of the GARMENT. The stitches at the edge of the garment will be 8-stitch supported (or some equivalent) and will therefore be far less likely to want to stretch, bag, roll or sag.

There are several variations on this theme, and today we will start with the simplest: the rolled edge. Additional alternatives will be covered in future posts.

ROLLED EDGE

A rolled edge is nothing other than a few rows or rounds of stockinette stitch at the very edge of a garment. As you know if you have been knitting for any length of time at all, a wide piece of stockinette fabric will roll up lengthwise, showing the reverse stockinette side. (For the reasons this is so, click HERE.) This property of stockinette can be harnessed at the edge of a garment by knitting enough rows or rounds so that the casting on (or off) is completely hidden in the roll of the fabric. A loose cast on (or off) is desirable: it will never be seen, and, being loose, it cannot constrain the natural roll of the fabric. By this trick, the fabric edge is NOT the garment edge: The garment edge is an 8-stitch-supported rolled bit of stockinette.

If the stockinette fabric is not elastic enough to "hold in" the edge of the garment on its own, there is nothing to prevent you from adding a few rows or rounds of stockinette to border a very firm ribbing indeed. The ribbing will hold in the garment edge and the rolled edge of stockinette creates a border to the ribbing while eliminating all possibility of a too-tight or too-loose cast on (or off).

Three final points:
  • First, it is easy to modify any pattern whatsoever to begin and/or end with a stockinette roll. Simply cast on loosely and knit several rounds or rows (usually somewhere between 5 and 12) until you can tell for sure that the cast-on will be hidden in the roll of the fabric. Then, proceed to whatever instructions the pattern commences with--whether it be a band of ribbing, garter stitch, seed stitch, or whatever. At the cast-off edge, simply make the band as directed by the pattern, and then continue on with several rows or rounds of stockinette, casting off loosely after knitting a matching number rows/rounds to the cast on.
  • Second, a stockinette roll garment edge assures that the cast on edge will perfectly match the cast off edge, because it matters not at all whether the casting hidden in the fabric roll is a cast-on or a cast-off. This perfect match may be hard to obtain with other combinations of casts on and casts off.
  • Third, a rolled garment edge is extremely sturdy. Powerful forces make stockinette want to curl. As anyone who has tried to block the curl out of a stockinette fabric knows, that is an impossible task. By harnessing this powerful curl, you actually protect the fabric edge. The curl is relatively broad--far broader, at any rate, than the single row of stitches at a cast-on or -off edge. This relatively broad edge means that a slightly different part of the curled fabric presents each time the garment rubs against wrist or counter or coat or pants leg. Compare this broad rolled edge to an exposed cast-on or -off edge: the unsupported yarns in the cast edge stretch out and so wear away on one another. Also, the same part of the cuff is always exposed to being rubbed, which accounts for the relatively common sight of frayed and running cuffs and bands, particularly in children's clothing. By contrast, rolled edges will typically last the life of the garment, even for utility garments such as hand-me-down children's mittens.
Below is a little gallery of stockinette rolls "in person," showing how effective this simple little trick can be on garments ranging from classy garments knit in luxury fibers to utility garments like booties, mittens and hats.

A GALLERY OF ROLLED EDGES

1. (below) This simple silk garment is knit with rolled edges. As you can see, the edge of the garment is not the edge of the fabric--the stockinette roll meets the wrist and lower edge some rows in from the fabric edge, resulting in 8-stitch supported garment edge stitches. Strictly speaking, this garment does not have bands, the rolled edges take the place of bands. This garment is not a new one--it has been extensively worn, and the rolled edges have held up very well over time.
2. (below) This baby bootie has a rolled edge: very cute, very simple, very practical. There will be no struggle to insert floppy little baby feet into this generous cuff, and the rolled cuff has maintained its shape through countless washings. (Note the tie-lace--the stockinette roll is not sufficient to hold the bootie on, because it does not "draw in" like a ribbing does.)
3. (below) This hat band demonstrates a rolled edge as a border to ribbing. The hat is held on the wearer's head with an ordinary ribbing, yet the edge of the ribbing cannot be cast off too tightly due to the rolled edging. The wearer of this hat will not complain of ears feeling pinned to their head!
4. (below) These mitten cuffs also show a rolled edge as a border to ribbing. Snowballs, sled runners, zippers, velcro, mitten clips, teeth (used to pull on that second mitten) and all around little-boy tomfoolery would all spell doom for a simple cast-on (or off) edge: these wear out before the end of winter (at least around here--Wisconsin). By contrast, the broad curl of a rolled edge protects the lower cuff edge through many wearings (and wearers).
5. (below) "Fishsocks." The broad rolled borders makes the very edge of these socks stand out, and the ribbing draws them in again, giving this type of socks a "fishy" profile. They fit very well, however--the ribbing stretches to match the diameter of the rolled border when the socks are put on. Kids find these socks easy to draw on--the rolled border provides a handle. * * *
This post is part 2 of a series. The other parts are:
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 1: Opera and Soap Opera (November 1, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 3: Hems and facings:(November 22, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 4: Knitting shut hems and facings (December 9, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 5: Sewing shut hems and facings (December 23, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 6: Your steam iron: a mighty weapon in the fight against curling and flipping (December 25, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 7: Zig-zag bands (December 29, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 8: Provisional tail method of 1x1 tubular cast on (January 11, 2008)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 9: Tubular cast off for 1x1 ribbing (it's pretty) (January 15, 2008)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs: the wrap-up (January 23, 2008)

--TECHknitter
You have been reading TECHknitting on: rolled cuff and band edges

Monday, November 5, 2007

TECHknitting is one year old

Hello readers--welcome to TECHknitting's first birthday party. This post will race through a grab-bag of oddities, starting with a prize drawing, and ending with an announcement of a free fix-it workshop.
GREEN LIGHT GO:
PRIZE GIVE-AWAY

First things first. At this birthday party, the birthday child is giving away the gift. Perhaps you will recall that one month ago, on October 5, there was a poll asking about some proposed future content of TECHknitting. In order to entice responses, a prize was offered, a $20.00 gift certificate from KNITPIKS. As promised, the winner has been selected on this blogiversary date. That winner--as chosen by a completely dis-interested (and notably un-interested) child--is:


Thanks to Ted and to ALL who responded. The comments were really very helpful. As a result of these comments, the proposed series on "lining knitting" and on a "WIP carrier system" have been revamped. The delay will add significant time until the lining and WIP posts come out--perhaps as much as 6 months. However, the result will no doubt be a better, more cohesive overall treatment. Thanks *SO* much for your feedback, readers.

OBLIGATORY MUSING ABOUT AGE
Every birthday brings with it an obligatory musing from the celebrant about the passing of time. Fans of "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien may remember that Bilbo's eleventy-first birthday featured one. As Tolkien wrote:
[The audience] rather dreaded the after-dinner speech of their host (an inevitable item.)
Taking this warning to heart, here is the shortest, plainest musing possible: It seems hard to believe it's only been a year--it feels far longer since my office chair has become my second home. Some of you have become familiar presences--each comment adds to the last, and slowly a picture emerges of who you are and what interests you. Others of you do not comment, yet still perform that function so vital to any successful blog--you come to read. A big thank you to all, commenters and lurkers alike, for making it a really fun year. May good health, available free time, and continued interest enable us to travel through future years together, also.

A SPECIAL THANK YOU to "GUEST EDITORS"
One function of passing time is a brain which grows ever duller. (Announcement to young people: this will happen to you one day. Yes. Also, you WILL wear glasses one day. And be on a first name basis with your periodontist. Thank you. ) In my case, the aging brain has authored many typos, or inserted links which don't work, or "unvented" something already out there, or created illustrations of physical impossibilities, such as this-->

A special thanks goes out to all the readers who take time to send alerts in the comments, or by e-mail, or lately by Ravelry "messages." Without you "guest editors," TECHknitting would be a mess, but with your help and comments, this blog is turning into the kind of conversation hoped for a year ago. Sincere thanks.

NEWS about TECHknitting FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD
As a special sort of a birthday treat, TECHknitting has been the subject of a very nice little interview, by a blogger who goes out of her way to do "investigative reporting" from the knitting blogisphere. If you are interested, you can read the interview here. Many thanks to Ardrienne for proposing and carrying through with this interview.

TECHknitting was also the recipient of a lovely award from a fellow blogger, Leigh. *THANK YOU* Leigh!

The terms of the award require passing it along to 7 others. Unfortunately, when I try to whittle the list of favorite reads down to just 7, that old brain just stalls out. To paraphrase Bilbo:
"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like to, and should like to know more of you as much as I deserve."

AN EXCUSE to GO SHOPPING
This little grab bag item didn't seem to fit in any post coming up, so I'm sticking it in here.
Our local clerk of courts has produced a pamphlet for prospective jurors. She states that idle time can be expected and so encourages folks to bring along something to do. Books are mentioned, as are magazines, but the paragraph concludes with the warning that "metal knitting needles will not be allowed." So there you have it, dear readers--a reason, if ever you needed one, to go shopping. You'll need least one pair of non-metal needles for future situations like this in your own life. Heck, get a couple of sets while you're out.
WHERE to FROM HERE?
The series on knitting better bands which last posted here will continue on November 14. Sadly, work on hand requires me to turn away from blogging until then. See you in a couple of weeks!

RED LIGHT STOP
FREE FIX-IT WORKSHOP
We've now raced through all the birthday entries to this last item.

ATTENTION KNITTERS: Is your knitting being stubborn?
Acting out? Refusing to cooperate?


For readers near the Madison Wisconsin area, there will be a FREE "fix-it" workshop on SUNDAY, November 18, at the SOW's EAR in VERONA WI. from 11 AM to 1 PM, drop by any time. The kind folks at this fabulous yarn/coffee bar are setting up free hot drinks, and if you're hungry, you can buy a healthy light lunch there too. Hopefully, this'll be a win-win situation: I get to see what questions are out there in knitter-land, and so acquire fodder for future posts while you (hopefully) get the help you need to escape the maze into which your uncooperative knitting may have led you. I have no idea if anyone will turn out for this, and I can only hope to be equal to the puzzles to be presented if folks do show up, but I'll be there with bells on from 11 AM to 1 PM on SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 18.

--TECHknitter

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Opera & soap opera: how to knit better bands and cuffs, part 1

Part 1: WHY KNITTING SHOULD NOT BE LIKE OPERA
The house lights dim, the curtains rise. The crowd rustles, the orchestra strikes up. The figure in the spotlight opens his mouth. Out comes a stunning tone, washing over a thousand opera fans. The singer launches into the signature song of the handsome, lovesick young shepherd.

But...wait here just a minute! What's with THIS? That guy in the spotlight is no handsome lover! All the tricks of the make-up artist cannot disguise him. That "lovesick youth" is a barrel-chested, balding, middle aged tenor. Those audience members who are not true believers work hard to suppress a snort. But the opera lovers use their imaginations. In their minds, that ideal and fabulous voice convincingly transports the stubby middle aged guy into the young lover of the lead role.

This same thing sort of thing--the snort of those not true believers--may very well happen when a knitter shows up in a handmade creation.

Shown a handmade sweater, the knitters in the audience will zero in on the intricate cables, the luxurious fibers, the glowing colors. The marvelous fabric transports the garment into the realm of the ideal. But just as those who are not true believers in the opera audience want to snort at the idea of a middle aged youth, so those who are not true believers in hand knitting may focus what most knitters choose to overlook. Perhaps the beautiful fabric is framed by a sad saggy bottom band with a tendency to flip up. Perhaps the cuffs flare, perhaps the button band gapes, flips outward and sags. And perhaps the neck band flares out too.

Opera lovers have no choice about having good imaginations. Opera singers are years in the training and the massive lung power needed to thrill a thousand person hall is not typically housed in a frame which makes young maidens swoon. Opera buffs can see that the tenor is no Adonis, but choose not to. Opera appreciation requires a necessary self-delusion.

Knitting is not like opera. Or at least, it ought not to be. Unlike opera buffs, we are not required to wear blinders in order to experience full enjoyment of our chosen entertainment. To the contrary, we can and should take a clear eyed look at our garments--not just the lush fabric, but also the saggy bands. If we take the first step of seeing the deficiency, we can improve our sweaters in the real world to match the ideal sweater in our mind's eye.

And yet--a willingness to face reality--to actually SEE those sagging bands--is "necessary, but not sufficient" as logicians say. It is necessary to see the mess before you can fix it, but just seeing the problem is not a cure in and of itself. To find a cure, an understanding of the underlying structure is required. And, in fact, there are actual structural reasons why bands and cuffs are all-too-often saggy and gapping. In other words, there is a real reason why bands want to flip over and cuffs want to flare, and it's not because you are deficient as a knitter. No. The story of why bands sag is addressed in the next part of today's post, wherein we go from actual opera to soap opera.

Part 2: WHY KNITTING IS LIKE SOAP OPERA:
The sad tale of NORM (who has the support of his family)
and WANDA and LON (who do not)

We pass now from actual opera to soap opera, and the sad tale of three apocryphal stitches named "Norm," "Wanda," and "Lon."

Let's start with Norm. Norm is a nice normal stitch, a stockinette stitch, found in the middle of the fabric. Norm has two direct siblings (blue) with whom he can share yarn: the stitches to the east and the west. These sibs help stabilize WIDTH--they share yarn along the row. To the north and south are "first cousin" stitches (green); these are the stitches above and below which stretch Norm out the long way. These first cousins help stabilize LENGTH--they pin out Norm's head and tail strands. These four stitches help keep Norm in balance--stretched out smooth to left and right, above and below.
Norm also has four second cousins: those to the northeast, southeast, southwest, northwest. Norm can't share yarn directly with these cousins, but Norm's siblings and first cousins can. The result is that Norm is surrounded by 8 close relatives. Further, each of Norm's 8 adjacent relatives have 8 relatives of their own, and so on.

When a poking elbow stretches Norm all out of shape, his surrounding relatives come to his rescue--his sibling stitches on either side share yarn with him, and his cousins above and below help him stay balanced--they keep him stretched out vertically regardless of the stress. Each of Norm's relations in turn can transfer any strain to their connected stitches, and so on. When the poking elbow withdraws, Norm will return to his original shape. In short, Norm is well-adjusted, and will always be well-adjusted, because his family surrounds him, supports him, and relieves him on any undue stress.

Norm lives in the middle of an interconnected community. This interconnected web of stitches shifts and re-adjusts constantly, sharing stress all around and making for a smooth lovely fabric ... until ... (cue scary music) ... the strain reaches the border of the fabric. Out there on the lonely frontier are stitches which AREN'T connected all the way around. Out there on the frontier are the ... EDGE STITCHES ... (horns and drums blare, then fall silent.)

Unlike Norm, nestled in the midst of a supportive community, Wanda is a stitch out on the edge. Like many edge stitches, she happens to be a stitch in ribbing. But the ribbing pattern is no consolation or help to her when stress comes along. Wanda and her edgy relatives start off well-adjusted enough, but soon wander from their original shape and position. When a poking elbow or a stretching hand comes near Wanda, she has fewer resources than Norm, so she tends to stray into the forbidden lands of puckering, flaring, sagging and gaping.

Now the problem is not that Wanda is completely on her own. Wanda does have directly connected stitches, but she has only 3, not 4. For her, the southern first cousin is missing. Wanda is also missing 2 second cousins: southeast, southwest. Deprived of family support along the entire southern border, Wanda is literally a stitch on the edge. When stress and strain comes in her direction, she has a far more limited family of stitches to come to her rescue. Further, the 2 sibling stitches on either side are under the same strain as Wanda. Wanda's whole community, the entire row of edge stitches, may succumb to the strain and ... (lonely trumpet rings out) ... the entire edge row stretches, widthwise. In technical terms, Wanda's tail strands (the two stands on either side of the body of the stitch) will react to stress by stretching horizontally because there is no force preventing them from doing so--there is no stitch to the south to pin the trail strands vertically. Wanda lack of stability in LENGTH (due to the absence of her southern cousins) means she will spread out in WIDTH.

Wanda is a bottom band stitch, or perhaps a cuff band stitch--she has been knitted in the same direction as the body of the garment. Wanda's particular form of stress comes from being located at the end of a column. Again, like many stitches at column's edge of a cuff or bottom band, Wanda is a ribbing stitch. However as the illustration shows, the mere fact of being part of a ribbed community of stitches does not alter the level of support--Unlike Norm with his 8 relatives surrounding him, Wanda has only 5 stitches surrounding, and this is true whether she is a ribbed stitch or not. The fact of being part of ribbed community only means the stitches around her aren't curling up--it doesn't mean she, as an edge stitch, isn't being stretched out along her unsupported bottom edge.

Wanda's fraternal twin, Lon, is a stitch at the edge of a front band. In our saga, Lon has been knitted lengthwise--his side edge appears at the edge of the front band. Like many of his front-band ilk, Lon happens to be a garter stitch. Lon's sad story is that, like Wanda, he tends to stretch, but instead of stretching widthwise like Wanda, Lon stretches out in LENGTH.

Like Wanda, Lon has only 5 relatives surrounding and supporting him, rather than 8, like Norm. Although he has two first cousins to help him stay stretched out in LENGTH, he lacks a sibling to the side, to help him stay stretched out in WIDTH. In this illustration, Lon is not supported to the east.

While Wanda is a stitch at the end of a column, Lon is a stitch at the end of a row. But both Lon and Wanda share the problem of reduced support--in Wanda's case the lack of support is from below, in Lon's case, the lack of support is from the east. (Of course, the same problem happens if Lon is on the edge of a front band facing the other way: a band facing west.)

Again, like many stitches at the edge of a front band, Lon is a garter stitch. However as the illustration shows, the mere fact of being part of a garter stitch community of stitches does not alter the level of support Lon receives. Unlike Norm who has 8 stitches supporting him, Lon has only 5 stitches, and this is true whether Lon is a garter stitch or not. The fact of being part of garter stitch community only means the stitches around Lon aren't curling up--it doesn't mean he isn't being stretched out.

Unlike the actual opera which opened today's post, the sad tale of Wanda and Lon resembles a soap opera. These two edge stitches, so lovely when created, have gone astray. They have succumbed to stress. While Norm can weather any stress due to his secure family connections, Wanda and Lon's lack of family support have made these two formerly good edge stitches go bad. They have stretched out and wonky, saggy bands are the sad result. Our next episode (see note below) will focus on how Wanda and Lon can find the support they need to look and act more like Norm, and how their new-found support will eliminate wonky bands forever.

* * *
This post is the part 1 of a series on better cuffs and bands. The series continues:
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 2: Why cuffs and bands are wonky, and what to do about it (November 14, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 3: Hems and facings:(November 22, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 4: Knitting shut hems and facings (December 9, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 5: Sewing shut hems and facings (December 23, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 6: Your steam iron: a mighty weapon in the fight against curling and flipping (December 25, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 7: Zig-zag bands (December 29, 2007)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 8: Provisional tail method of 1x1 tubular cast on (January 11, 2008)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs, part 9: Tubular cast off for 1x1 ribbing (it's pretty) (January 15, 2008)
*How to knit better bands and cuffs: the wrap-up (January 23, 2008)


--TECHknitter
(You have been reading TECHknitting on "knitting better bands, part 1: opera and soap opera")