Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fake Latvian Braid, deco bind-off version, perfect for scrap projects

Fake Latvian Braid: Why a bind-off version?
The previous post introduced Fake Latvian Braid (FLB). Today's TECHknitting shows "deco bind-off FLB." Although they look the same, they're worked differently, and are good for different things.  Regular FLB is perfect for adding color afterwards, while deco bind-off FLB turns out to be very good for unifying and protecting scrap projects knit as-you-go. Those horizontal beige lines on this tam?  Those are today's trick worked on a scrap project.

Lazy Knitter's Scrap Tam.  The horizontal beige lines dividing the stripes, which give the tam its distinctive look, are made with deco bind-off FLB
(This tam is one of my go-to FLB bind-off scrap projects, works for men and women.  The recipe will appear in the next post--it is called the "Lazy Knitter's Scrap Tam.")

This tam was knit over the course of more than a year. Each stripe was added as the scrap yarn became available, then bound off, waiting for the next stripe.  To my mind, this approach has advantages over the usual kind of scrap knitting. 
  • The strong horizontal feature added by bind-off FLB separates stripes of different colors (and even different yarns) while at the same time unifying the project by repetition of the horizontal element. Scrap projects look less "afterthought-y."
  • Because each stage of the project rests in bound-off condition, no needles are parked in the work, out of commission. 
  •  No loops are left trembling at the edge, getting shopworn on a stitch holder or yarn while waiting to be transferred back to a needle.  The project is neat, tidy and secure, ready for the next stage.  
  • IMHO, knitting up what you have, then binding off to await more scraps is a big improvement over having scrap yarn laying all over the place, waiting for "some day." It makes a great take-along for traveling (grab any bag with a partly-knit project, waiting to go) and a good hiatus between larger projects. 
Do you wonder why this trick has "deco" in its name? That's short for "decorative." Even though this IS a bind off, today's trick is a kind of a bind-off meant to wind up in the middle of the fabric. Stated otherwise, today's trick is a bind-off applied to decorate the fabric surface, not to form the edge of a garment. Garment-ending FLB requires a sturdier edge and more all-around finished look, and therefore has to be worked differently. Garment-ending FLB bind-off (and its sister--garment-starting FLB cast-on) will be the subjects of a future post.*

Deco Bind-off FLB: the technique
Deco bind-off FLB is a nothing more than a chain bind-off, followed immediately by a method of stitch pick-up through the chain which forces both arms of the chain to the fabric surface.  In other words, it is a decorative contrasting color bind-off in the middle of a fabric, followed by picking the stitches up again. This bind-off/pick up combo creates the decorative horizontal Fake Latvian Braid in the fabric, and it looks like regular FLB because a knitted chain bind off and a crocheted slip stitch are identical on their business ends.

Unlike regular FLB, which is an afterthought process, deco bind-off FLB interrupts the structure of the fabric.  This means you cannot drop a column through the FLB to correct errors below.  Therefore, have a good look at your fabric and fix all errors before you work this trick.  (Of course, real Latvian Braid isn't anything you'd want to drop a column through either.)

Single contrasting color (cc) bind off FLB
A contrasting color deco bind-off FLB is worked over 2 rows or rounds, each with its own step. Both steps are usually worked using the same color, but it there are alternatives for step 2, pick up, which are discussed more thoroughly below, under two-color FLB.

Step 1, bind-off:
Work a chain bind off. The result is as below.

Step 1 of deco bind-off FLB: chain bind-off worked in a contrasting color

Pro-tip 1--circular knitting
In circular knitting, the different rounds are actually coils of a spiral. Therefore, a bind-off ends one row higher than it begins. In order to avoid that gap where the end of the bind-off meets its beginning, you have to bridge over by using one of the tricks shown in this 2009 TECHknitting post.)

Step 2, pick up:
Create live loops above the bind-off FLB by picking up stitches through the bind off, this is usually done in the same color yarn as was used for the bind off, but, again, there are more alternatives given below.  The reason to use the same color yarn is so that the bottom portion of the picked-up stitches don't show through the bind off as contrasting color icky dots. I have highlighted with bright red dots on one stitch, the bottom portion which might show.  I made the pick up stitches a slightly darker blue so you could SEE them--you are free to imagine them to be the same color or different.

Step 2 of deco bind-off FLB: live stitches picked up through the chain bind-off

This bears emphasizing: because the arms of the chain are going to be the decorative element, both arms of the chain must be forced to the surface of the fabric.  Therefore, the stitch pick up is done under BOTH arms of the chain bind off, as illustrated above.

Pro tip 2--more direct pick up
In the above illustration, the crochet hook is shown picking up the stitches through the bind off, and then the stitches are placed on the knitting needle, and this is a good reliable method. However, for the impatient, it is actually faster to pick up the stitches directly with the knitting needle, if you have one with a sharp-enough point. This kind of knitting-needle pick up is easier if you hold the knitting needle on the inside of the fabric and draw the stitches through the fabric towards you.

After step 2, you switch to the color for the next stripe. To prevent a jog where the color changes, work this first row/round of the new colored stripe as a jogless join.

As to stitch count:
  • in circular knitting, assuming you bridged over the gap, you wind up with the same number of stitches as you started with. 
  • in flat knitting, you wind up with one stitch less and therefore have to fudge in an extra stitch somewhere to correct the stitch count. 
Pro-tip 3--offset your tails
As shown in the above illustrations, the yarn is held IN BACK for the bind-off, and in FRONT for the pick up. For flat work you can use a continuous running yarn for both, no problem because the cross-over from front to back can take place at fabric-edge, there to be hidden in a seam. Using the same yarn for both reduces the number of tails to work in.   

By contrast, on circular work, you cannot invisibly cross over from back to front, but must cut the yarn after the bind off, leaving those tails to the inside.  You then begin the pick up on the outside, and afterwards draw the pick up tails to the fabric back, and work them in there.  This creates 4 individual tails which have to be worked in.  If you ended your first stripe, and begin your second stripe in this area, too, you will have those tails too--a total of 6 tails to work into the same small area.  

However, help is at hand. If you followed the hint in Pro-tip 1, your bind-off is a complete circle, not a coil on a spiral, as most circular knitting is. The pick-up round  is also a closed circle, and for the same reason. Therefore,  it is possible to offset the tails by simply beginning the bind-off a few stitches over--either way--from where the stripe ended.  Similarly, you can offset the pick-up from the bind off, and the start of the new stripe from the pick-up.  All these offsets gives more room on the fabric back for tail work-in. 

For the actual working in of the tails, I suggest the skimming method, either with a sharp sewing needle, or with a knitpicker.

Two-color bind-off FLB
Step 1, bind-off:
As with single color bind-off FLB,  work a chain bind off. However, like two-color regular FLB, you have to alternate the two colors by holding both colors on the fabric back, then drawing from each, alternately. The result is as below.

Two-color deco bind-off FLB

Step 2, pick up:
As with one-color deco bind-off FLB, pick up the stitches through the chain bind off. However, now the question is: in which color shall you pick up?
  1. It is possible to pick up in two colors. Upside: icky dots tamed. Downside: this adds bulk, because the yarn color not in use is stranded behind the already-bulky two color bind off.
  2. Pick one of the colors of the bind off for the pick-up. Upside: no icky dots on at least 1 color. Downside: you may have icky dots on the other color
  3.  Pick up using the color of the stripe below. Upside: no icky dots. Downside: possible show through on the other side of the deco bind-off FLB, in other words, the first row of new stripe.
  4. Pick up using the color of the new stripe. Upside: no show-through above the FLB. Downside: possible show through (icky dots) all along the bottom of the FLB.
Pro-tip 4--minimize the bottom loop
For choices 3 and 4,  two tricks can minimize the downside risks. First, if you use a thin small needle to make the pick-up loops quite small, the wrong-color stitches of the pick-up may hide behind the larger loops of the FLB.  Second, working the FLB quite large and loose, or in a bulkier or even doubled yarn further increases the chance of hiding the icky dots.
* * *
Besides the Lazy Knitter tam, this trick is great for scrap projects or all kinds--afghans, scarves.  As stated above, it's neater, too: instead of accumulating scraps of yarn all over, you knit them up as far as you can, then bind them off, waiting for more scraps to accumulate. Your project thus sits, nicely bound off while it waits. And again, this trick also brings unity to scrap projects:  if you always use the same color to separate the stripes, the project looks more unified, as with the tam in the opening photo.

Children's sweaters are a special case of bind-off FLB: bind-off FLB offers an easy way plan ahead for "growing" (lengthening) children's sweaters.  Because kids tend to grow longer before they grow wider, adding length can add years (or at least months!) of wear to children's sweaters.

To plan ahead in this way, either start bottom-up sweaters and sleeves provisionally, then bind them off in a contrasting, decorative color OR work the garment top-down and work a chain bind off in the cc. The point is that, with both of these tricks, you wind up with a chain bind off at the bottom of the garment.

Next, pick up your ribbing stitches through the FLB. For now, you work the ribbing on these picked-up stitches, then bind off the ribbing off any way you like. Below is a schematic of a child's sweater with an FLB bind off (heavy bar above the ribbing).  The schematic also suggests that the entire sweater can be made as a deco bind off FLB scrap project (lighter gray bars).

When the kid outgrows the sweater, snip and unravel the bottom band/cuff ribbing. In my experience, this yarn is so worn it gets tossed, so pull out all the ribbing, or nearly all: you could choose to leave the first round, where the stitches were originally picked up through the FLB. If you do choose to leave the first round, I suggest tinking quickly, and remounting the stitches via the trick shown in this video. Otherwise, just pull the entire ribbing out and do a new pick-up.

Switch to your new color (or more of the same color if you saved some) and work a new stripe to length. Again bind off with FLB, pick up for the second ribbing as you did for the first, and you'll have a longer sweater (and one waiting for you to work this trick maybe one more time). The new stripe and ribbing are shown in red, below.

Pro-tip 5--tame puckering where FLB is followed by ribbing
Work the first round or so past the pick-up in stockinette, then switch to ribbing.  A row (or even more) of stockinette before the ribbing begins helps protect the FLB from the puckering which would otherwise propagate upwards from the ribbing's corrugations.

 The advantage of using bind-off FLB over snip-lengthening is that the horizontal line of the bind off disguises the worn fabric from the new fabric to be added, and adds a decorative element to the lengthening which makes it look like less of an afterthought--especially an issue if you use a different color or even a different yarn.  It also makes reworking of a sweater for a younger sib a whole lot easier.

Naturally, ANY striped garment--adult sweaters, for example, can also be made via this trick.  You work away at them interspersed with other projects, until the scraps are used up and the garment finished, sometimes over the course of years.

* * *
As promised, the very next installment of TECHknitting blog will feature a recipe for my go-to deco bind-off FLB scrap project, the Lazy Knitter's Scrap Tam.

Not only does this tam feature the bind-off FLB, but there is a minimum of stitch counting and even less measuring, which is why its first name is "Lazy."

Until then, good knitting


Jean said...

You asked for any corrections, right? (If not, ignore this, please!)

Pro Tip 1 should read: "In 'order' to avoid..."

As to organization, I don't feel strongly one way or the other, which means that I can really see how this would be a sticky point for you.

My first inclination is to put the FLB related posts all together, but I wouldn't be upset if the theme of applied color was the organizational plan. Ha! I'm hardly any help, but maybe others will feel more strongly.

Thanks again for all your hard work on these techniques!

TECHknitter said...

Thanks Jean, correction made! * Really * appreciate your writing. Best, TK

Emily said...

I'm so glad you're back to posting. And the idea for "stretching" children's sweaters is very timely, with 4 of them in the house and winter around the corner.

Pro Tip 4 should read "Prevent the FLB from puckering.." (without the word 'the') OR "Protect the FLB from the puckering..."

I would put FLB related posts together, but have some sort of cross-referencing index at the back of the book.

TECHknitter said...

Thanks for your corrections, as well as your thoughts on organization, I really appreciate your writing, Emily! Best regards, TK

Amy G. said...

Putting this here instead of taking the poll because I want to explain my reasoning. I would go for organizing by technique, for the reason you state above, but I would also include a pattern that uses the multiple versions of FLB. That way I could easily find decorative elements, but I could also see what they could look like together in one piece. It doesn't make sense to repeat all the directions with the pattern, so there would be some flipping back and forth at that point, but I don't think that would be too difficult.

troy and christina said...

Great ideas!

When picking up after the bind off, I would have picked up through the back loop of the bind off stitches. Have you tried this? It seems to me that this would still force the faux braid to the front while putting the bottom loop of the new stitches at the back of the work. Curious what you think.

Thanks again!

Carly said...

I like the sweater-lengthening trick!

Organization-wise, I think it depends on the organization of the book as a whole (which is probably the hidden question you're asking, not just about this specific piece).

And the organization depends on your intended audience.

The all-things-about-FLB-in-one-place option would be a great reference tool for experienced knitters who want to try new techniques or old techniques in new ways. This type of book could be used like a stitch dictionary, with people flipping to whichever technique they wanted. This organization option focuses on the individual FEATURES of the PRODUCT.
I think the problem with this option is that the person would have to know what they were looking for. "Hm, I've heard about this FLB thing, I want to try it out and see how to use it!" But if your techniques are newly unvented, it's going to be hard for people to even know where to look without reading the book cover-to-cover first.
This approach works great in blog posts, and appeals to me in that medium, but I'm not sure how effective it would be in book form. You could probably make it work with an introductory chapter that shows small sample images of every technique and lists what they’re useful for, before cross referencing the particular chapter where they’re described. That way people could consult those pages, say, “Oooh, that looks nice, I’ll try it!” and learn all they need about it.

The things-about-FLB-in-various-parts (in separate chapters for casting on, casting off, applying colour, etc.) option would probably be more useful for a variety of knitters with different skill levels. Any level of knitter could say “Well, I know ways X, Y, and Z of casting on. I wonder which is best for this project?” Then flip to your chapter about casting on, compare techniques, maybe learn a new one, and pick the method best suited to their current project. This organization option focuses on the TASKS knitters are performing, and I think is more user-friendly.
With this option, I would recommend judicious use of cross references. After explaining a FLB cast-off in the casting off chapter, you could have a paragraph or sidebar or something saying "For more ways to use FLB, see X, Y, and Z!" Then, if someone really likes the look of the FLB, they know where to find more about. (And of course, a good index goes a long way in print.)

Disclosure: I work as a technical writer documenting software, so I may be biased toward the task-based approach. Users don’t care about what every option in the File menu does, they just want to know how to create a new document! But I think this can apply to knitters too, especially if you want to appeal to a wider audience. Experienced knitters might like to dive directly into all the hairy details about a new techniques, but beginners especially will appreciate the task-based approach.

TECHknitter said...

Hi Troy and Christina: I did try that way, but settled on the way shown here for two reasons.

First, in my hands, anyhow, I get an "icky color bump" ABOVE the pick up line. So, if I had a yellow fabric, bound off in green, and I picked up my live stitches through the green tails, I would get yellow bumps ABOVE the green bind-off, and this is because because the tops of the yellow stitches would be above the green tails. If I tried picking up through the yellow stitch tops, I'd still get yellow bumps.

Second, because I'm only picking up through a single strand of yarn, with tension, the fabric opens (pulls up) leaving a line of holes.

However, in knitting, everyone's results are different, and maybe in a certain yarn, or with a different tension, this could be a very useful alternative! If you try it, could you let me know?

(There is one circumstance under which that back tail is going to become important--and that is when we get around to the fabric-ending FLB cast off. (We catch that tail to "seal off" the bind off--if you mess around, you'll see for yourself...)

Thanks so much for sharing your idea. Best, TK

TECHknitter said...

Amy--I love the idea of a "pull it all together" project for each section.

Carly, you have exactly laid out the horns of the dilemma. I lean towards technique-oriented (all the applied color together) but I can see where flipping aorund between pages is crazy making. In the poll, the responses are coming back nearly exactly evenly divided, so far at least. Anyhow, whatever the heck organization there ends up being, at least SOME of these ideas are coming out some way...

Thanks so much to all who have written so far, for sharing your insightful analyses.

Best, TK

Lindsey Scheer said...

I voted for organization by technique (how it's made), personally I like a reference that gives me all the possible solutions & tricks for something (like cast on or bind off) in one place. Reading through lots of your blog post there seems to be a lot of tip/trick/technique stuff that would be good to group together. That's my 2 cents, but as many have said it could easily go either way.

Since you have to make a decision, I'd suggest an unofficial pole of your favorite "handful" of knitting resources to see what style you prefer working with :)

Alison said...

I would put all the FLB topics together in the book, because you state the book overall is going to be about colorwork. If I was reading a book about techniques (as opposed to project centered books which I rarely buy for my home library) and the same technique was in different chapters, then I would feel as if it was organised poorly. (just my opinion) An option if you want to also encourage folks to say, look at various options for surface design, or attachment variations, or three color patterns or whatever, could be to have a statement after each technique directing the reader to other options that solve the same problem a different way, and/or to have a secondary index in the back sorted by various options instead of just alphabetically. Rather like cookbooks that index each recipe, but also by primary ingredient, so you can look up Pie, and get all the varieties, or you can look up Apples and get all the things you can make with apples

TECHknitter said...

Thanks, Alison. Thank you so very much for writing. I will follow you suggestion and work very hard on the index, I love the analogy of "pie" and "apple," thanks. As far as overall organization, opinion is almost exactly evenly divided, it's spooky, actually.

Thanks again for writing. Best, TK

ali said...

i voted for grouping all FLB uses together in the poll. just fyi so i don't get double-counted!

that's my personal preference, but (based on a very informal search of my memory) i think more books with an emphasis on technique are organized by task.

i love when books have an index like the one alison described, especially when it's a physical book instead of something digital and searchable. it would be great to include something like a visual index with the table of contents, not as comprehensive as the real index, but organized by the scheme not shown in the TOC. i.e., "ways to use FLB" or "techniques for applied color" and photo/label/page #.

also, i love this hat idea! i was just trying to make a scrap yarn hat, but even though the colors work together, they looked like a hot mess of scraps when knit up. :) time to make a "this totally wasn't an afterthought" tam!