Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I cord bind-off, I-cord selvedge border

Today's post is about knitted-in-place I-cord bind-offs AND edgings. Along the way, I'll show you a little trick for two-color I-cord.  (Today's post is not about attaching I-cord which was knit ahead of time--that is called "applied I-cord" and is a trick for another day.)  

Below: this little trivet has a two-color I-cord bind-off across the short end, which segues around the corner right into an I-cord border along the long edges (selvedges).

The pattern for the little trivet is at the bottom of this post--a stocking-stuffer, perhaps?

We'll start with the bind-off  (short edges), and get to the edging (long edges) in the second half of this post.

There are many tutorials for I-cord bind-off out there, but I do it a little different, so bear with me.

Here are the pithy directions.  If these make sense to you, no need to crawl through the rest of the post:
At top of work, with right side facing, CO 2 st via backwards loop technique. For same color I-cord, use running yarn from the top st of the fabric, for CC I-cord, use the tail end of a CC skein. K3. * Slip these 3 sts back onto L needle maintaining orientation.  K2, K2 tog tbl.    Repeat from * until all fabric sts are bound off, BO I-cord. 
This differs from the usual instructions by substituting "k2tog tbl" for "sl1, k1, psso."  IMHO, this substitution makes a neater, more tailored cord.
For more detail, read on...

--Step 1: At the top of the work with right side facing, use the running yarn to cast on two backwards loops onto the left needle. These are shown in lighter orange.

--Step 2: Knit three stitches: these would be the two you cast on followed by the first of the fabric stitches--which has been colored brown in the below illustration. After knitting, slip these off your right needle, returning them onto your left needle without twisting or reorienting the stitches in any way. What you have should look like this--

After slipping, the running yarn protrudes from the fabric three stitches in from the edge.  This is not a mistake. Rather, this is how I-cord is made: the running yarn becomes a traveling strand drawn across from the outermost (first) to the innermost (last) of the three I-cord stitches.  Because the traveling strand will take the shortest path, it pulls the first and last stitch together, making the (if you stop and think about, magical) result of a round cord knitted flat. The traveling strand has been shown long, flat (and colored green) in the below illustration, but in reality, the whole 3-stitch assembly is round and the traveling strand becomes invisible.

--Step 3: Draw the traveling strand to the edge of the work, then knit two stitches in a normal manner.  **Working through the back loops** knit the third stitch (brown) together with its neighbor to the left (darker brown) as shown below.  In so doing, the lighter brown stitch becomes the edge of the I-cord and the darker brown fabric stitch has been bound off into the I-cord.

Below: Inserting the right needle into the back loops of the two brown stitches.  Note the running yarn has been colored blue to identify the part of the running yarn which turns into the stitch holding together the two brown stitches.

After knitting the two brown stitches together with the blue yarn, you will wind up with a total of three stitches on your right needle--the blue, which is the last (edge) stitch of the I-cord, as well as the two orange stitches which make up the other two-thirds of the I-cord stitches.  The traveling strands which connect the I-cord's first and last stitches have been colored green, and shown long and flat, but in real life, the cord is round and the traveling strand, invisible.

--Step 4: Slipping these three stitches off your right needle, return them to the left needle. The running yarn will again protrude from the fabric 3 stitches in from the edge.

You can also see that knitting through the back loops not only twists the stitches but also puts the first I-cord stitch (lighter brown) over the top of the fabric stitch (darker brown) thus hiding it.

Here is a reality check: this is what a same-color I-cord in progress looks like "in the wool" at the end of step 4, with the stitches returned to the L needle.

--Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you get to the end of the live stitches.

If working flat, when you run out of live fabric stitches to bind off, bind off the I-cord.  Finish by running the tails at both ends of the I-cord into the hollow core of the I-cord itself, never to be seen again.

If working circular, (ie: around a continuous edge, such as the live stitches at the top of a cowl or live stitches around the bottom of a hat) there are three ways to end the work, depending on your relationship to perfectionism:

  • --if you are a perfectionist, you can undo the two backwards loops at the I-cord cast-on, then Kitchener-stitch the beginning of the I-cord to the end where they meet.  Remember that the Kitchener stitching itself has the height of one round of I-cord, so plan to factor that in.
  • --if you are an ordinary mortal, then, at the end, knit an extra two or three rounds of I-cord loose of the edge.  Next, bind off the I-cord by threading the tail through the three live I-cord stitches.  Finally, using a crochet hook, pull the end inside the core of the I-cord where the cord first started. The result is like a snake eating its own tail.  I call this a "dive-join" because the end of the I-cord dives into its own beginning. Dive-joins create a little bump, yes, but nobody--except you--will ever notice.
  • --if you are somewhere between ordinary mortal and perfectionist,  duplicate-stitch one or two stitches over the dive-join to disguise the break in fabric pattern. Lower in this post, there is a photo of a dive-join which has been disguised in this way.

In step 1, cast on two backwards loops using the contrast color yarn. Then, using the contrast color for all the knitting, simply follow all the instructions of steps 3 and 4.   Here is a closeup photo of a contrast color bind off--orange on a white background

The red boxes show where the white blips would be if you pushed the 
stitches of the I-cord apart to see them. 

As you see, the blip of the white stitch (the one being bound off) is pretty well hidden. If the blip shows more than you want it to, sharply pull the I-cord up and the fabric down.  This seats the fabric stitches deeper inside the I-cord fabric.  You can also fluff up the edge stitches with a slim dpn to hide the blip even deeper inside the I-cord.  If you're still having an issue, knit the I-cord with a larger needle or fluffier yarn, or both, so there is more bulk with which to hide the blip.

If really want to get fancy, you can work an I-cord bind-off in two (or even more) colors, but it is something of a pain the neck:  you have to work with a cut length of yarn and you'll also need a crochet hook or a blunt-nosed yarn needle.  (OTOH, hiding the ends is easy--you simply slide them into the hollow core of the I-cord.)

I have worked this two-color trick on the live stitches of the fabric ends (a bit lower in this post, that I-cord you see on the selvedge will make a how-to appearance, and the same trick as shown here to add a color to I-cord binding off live stitches can be used to add color on selvedge stitch borders, as well).

OK, so for the color, let's say you want to insert a 4-round-long dash of green into an orange I-cord. Start off working in orange. Go as far as you want to go in that color, ending on a step 4.  Drop the orange yarn and, starting with step 3, work 4 rounds of I-cord in the green, again ending on a step 4.

--Step 5: Now it is time to again knit with the orange yarn.  But, there is a problem: you dropped that color several rounds ago, so how to get at it? If you simply draw it across the back, you'll get a long loop laying on the fabric surface--not nice.

After much fooling around experimentation I think what shows least and is easiest is to actually cut the orange yarn to about a twenty-inch length, thread it onto a blunt needle and draw that entire length THROUGH the four rounds of green you just knit.

Keep pulling the orange through through until the cut ends pops free. Now that the orange is the correct spot, use that for knitting, starting off on step 3.  Continue with orange for four rows, ending on a step 4.  Don't yank the orange through the green: that would distort the last stitch of the orange and would make the green segment stiff and short. Be mild in your tension, this is like adjusting the traveling strands in two-color knitting(And that's because...it IS two color knitting!) 

--Step 6: Repeat step 5, except thread the green yarn through the core of the orange stitches and knit the desired number of rounds with green.

--Repeat steps 5 and 6.  As you run out of yarn, cut a new length to use.  At the end of the work, you can work in all the loose ends, they will be hidden in the core of the I-cord.

This post does not show an I-cord cast on.  This is because  if you start your knitted item with a provisional cast-on (COWYAK is an easy one), at the end of your project, you can remove the provisional cast on to get live loops. With live loops at both ends of your fabric, you can bind OFF both ends via this trick and get absolutely matchy-matchy ends. 

I cord can be attached to the  selvedge (long edge) as a flat-laying border or trim (a "purfle" as the old folks used to say, as opposed to a "ruffle" which was also a trim, but does not lay flat).

If you are simply adding the I-cord at a single selvedge, you have no worries.  However, if you wanted to go around a corner--such as we are doing here to get from binding off live stitches to edging the selvedge-there is a trick for that.  Specifically, you have to add slack at the corner to avoid cupping and curling.  If you fail to add slack, your corner will never lay flat.

To add slack, simply  knit a round or two of I-cord loose of the edge, by which I mean, knit this little stretch of I-cord as a free-standing cord, not attached to the underlying fabric.  Once you have the necessary slack, you then begin to attach the I-cord along the selvedge.  By knitting this extra row or two, the I-cord can make the bend without distorting the underlying fabric.

Three things to notice about the above photo.  First, you can see the I-cord has been knit loose of the edge in order to create the required slack for getting around the corner.  Second, note the stitches being held in waiting along the upright needle.  This is an every-other-row fabric method pick-up of stitches through the selvedge, and we'll get to that in the very next part of this post.  Finally, if you want to see what the corner actually looks like anchored down, the last two photos below both show a fastened-down corner. 

Once you have sufficient slack in your I-cord to get around the corner, your work is not done.  The problem is, there are no live loops waiting to anchor the I cord to the selvedge.  You must therefore make some appear, and you have two choices about this.  Confusingly, both choices are called "picking up stitches." May I suggest that you go to this post and read all about both methods?   I'll wait here til you're done.

Anchoring via the fabric method: Choose the every-other row method--the illustration just above shows two stitches picked up this way onto the upright needle.  Then, knit the first picked-up stitch together with the first I-cord stitch just as you did along the cast-off edge. When you get to the second row, where there is no stitch waiting to be picked up, you would knit the three I-cord stitches loose of the fabric edge, just as if it were a free-standing I-cord. On the third row, you'd again knit the I-cord onto the stitch picked up out of the fabric, and so on.

Anchoring via the added-yarn method: As shown in the photo below, with this trick, you have one loop per row, placed on a knitting-needle yarn holder.  Because you have picked up one stitch per row, there is no need to knit every second round of the I-cord loose of the edge.  Instead, simply proceed as if you were working a cast-off edge. In other words, each round of I-cord is anchored to a picked-up stitch loop, just as if it were a live loop being bound off. Here is an illustration of a contrast color I-cord being knit onto live loops along a selvedge, where the live loops were obtained via the added-yarn method.

When you get all the way around all four corners, you are facing the identical situation as mentioned above for circular knitting.  That is, the end of the I-cord has come around to meet the beginning.  You would therefore "dive join" the ends according to those same directions, again--it's just like a snake eating its own tail.   Here is a photo of a dive-joined ending--it is just at the corner, and I took two duplicate stitches where the end of the I cord dived into its beginning .  You might be able to feel it a little bump, but you pretty much can't see it--have a look for yourself. (Also, note how nice and flat that corner lays due to added slack--no cupping at all.)

Dive-joined I-cord, joined just at the corner, disguised via duplicate stitches 
Good knitting


Bonus stocking-stuffer trivet pattern (this could be made into a neck scarf by simply knitting it longer.  If you want it wider, add stitches in groups of 4) 

Materials: Scrap amounts of worsted weight yarn in three colors, knitting needles which, in your hands, give a nice fabric with this yarn, and also knitting needles three sizes smaller.  Crochet hook and/or blunt nosed yarn needle.

Directions: Using needles three sizes smaller than you usually use for worsted-weight yarn, CO 27 sts in waste yarn.  Work a row or two in stockinette, ending on a knit row.

Switch to main yarn.

Row 1: p
Row 2: k
row 3: p
Row 4: establish ribbing patt as follows: *k3, p1, repeat from * to within 3 st of end of row, k3.
Row 5: *p3, k1, repeat from * to within 3 sts of end of row, p3
Switch to larger needles.
Rows 4 and 5 make up the ribbing pattern.
Continue in ribbing pattern until you have worked a total of 29 rows from beginning of piece.  Upon completion of row 29, you should have just finished a purl row. Switch to smaller needles.
Rows 31, 32 and 33:  continue in rib pattern.
Rows 34: purl
Row 35:k
row 36:p
Turn work, remove provisional cast on from bottom and put those stitches on a dpn or stitch holder. You are now ready to add I-cord bind off as shown in the above post.

Optional: steam block piece before adding I-cord (makes it easier to handle).

Siting the color blips: Obviously, you can put these wherever you want.  I put the color blips on the bound-off ends only, not on the selvedges.  There there are 7 total ribs, and I centered the two green 4-round-long blips on third and fifth ribs respectively.  Due to a quirk of the structure of color knitting, you must change colors one I-cord round BEFORE the rib stitch itself if you want the color change centered on the rib.  This is because the first green stitch actually anchors down the last orange stitch.  Try and see for yourself.

BTW:  you get around to the bottom of the work, where the live stitches were freed from the provisional cast-on, you'll see that the rib seems to growing out the middle of two knit columns, instead of coming out of the middle of one knit column. This is because knitting is 1/2 stitch off at a provisional cast-on edge.

Why knit the first and last few rows so tightly?  Due to the structure of knitting, fabric edges want to flare. A tight first tight rows at beginning and end of the work help counteract this nasty tendency. (Good trick for the cast-on and bind-off edge of any strip of knit fabric: scarves, afghan strips, etc.)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Picking up stitches along a selvedge

Getting live loops where there are none requires you to pick up stitches. But what does "picking up stitches" mean? Part of it depends on WHERE you are picking up stitches.  Per the below diagram, one common type is picking up along a vertical edge.  This is called picking up through a "selvedge" (sometimes spelled "selvage" or "selvedge") and is the subject of this post, which is the first in a series.

* * *
As you see on the below schematic of a cardigan sweater, the most common place for a vertical selvedge pick up is along the "long edges" of a cardigan sweater, in order to knit the button bands (shown in darker green, below).

The different types of picking up--today's post is about picking up through the vertical (dark green) "selvedges" which are the "long" fabric edges on this schematic of a cardigan sweater. Future posts will show horizontal and combo pick-ups. 

There are two methods of picking up stitches along a selvedge.  The first, called the fabric method, involves actually picking up loops out of the fabric itself. The fabric method comes in two versions: the every-single-row version and the every-other-row version.

Here are several illustrations: the first shows the every-single row version.  In this method, you pick up one arm of every stitch along the selvedge.  This is done by tracing up the first full column of knitting, and pulling onto your knitting needle, the innermost arm of each stitch in that column.

As you might imagine, this is a fairly primitive process. There is little slack in these edge stitches, and after catching the first one or two stitches, brute force is required to squirm the loops up onto your knitting needle.

There are several tricks you can use.  A very slim dpn helps to park the loops upon.  Another variation is called "pick up and knit" where you park only one or two stitches on the holding needle, then knit those off right away, and then pick up another one or two. Obviously, pick-up-and-knit gives the same end result as picking up the stitches first, and then knitting them all off at the same time--it's just easier, slack-wise, because knitting each stitch AS you pick it up allows for more slack at the time of pickup as only a stitch or two has to be dragged up to stretch all the way around needle. Yet, whether you use a slim dpn or the pick-up-and-knit trick, pulling every stitch right out of the side edge distorts and stresses the underlying fabric, and I would not recommend it.

The second, somewhat more refined version of the fabric method involves missing a row, then picking up a loop, and repeating this process, so you get a loop on every other row.  This fits with the actual structure of knitted fabric better--if you have a knit selvedge, the edge generally falls into a pattern of a longer loop paired with a shorter loop, you would (obviously) pick up the longer loop onto your needle. This is something of an improvement over the every-single-row method: with more slack, there is less stretching and stressing of the underlying fabric, less brute force.

If you are running a slipped selvedge, where one edge loop spans two rows, you might want to consider ignoring the actual loops of the slipped selvedge.  They are so large, the danger is that they'd get stretched out if you used their arms to pick up onto the holding needle.  Instead, consider moving in to the first full column past the selvedge for your pickup.

The second method of picking up stitches is called the added-yarn method.   In its classic incarnation, it is worked by holding a yarn behind the fabric.  As illustrated below, you then reach between the arms of the first full column of knitting with your crochet hook and fish forward a loop. Each loop is parked onto a knitting needle as it is formed.  Some knitters prefer to draw the added-yarn loop up into the space between the first and second full columns of knitting.  If you prefer that method, you'd draw up loops by inserting the crochet hook as the two red dots at the top of the illustration indicate.

The added-yarn method is rather more respectable in knitting circles than the fabric method, because this added-yarn technique does not distort the underlying fabric. Further, the line of yarn traveling up the entire length of the selvedge helps spread stress evenly along the column of knitting, which cannot be said for the fabric method.

There is another added-yarn method which is much better for picking up when you are planning to knit a layer of fabric, such as a facing.  Since, I have already written an entire post about my "beautiful method" I won't repeat that here, but if you go and look, I'll be waiting here when you return.

Given the amount of stress and distortion of the underlaying faric, the every-single-row fabric method is probably one to avoid.  But, for a quick item which receives no stress or tugging (edging on a neck scarf muffler) the every-other-row method works well enough.  In fact, if you do this enough, you get to where you can simply knit right through the edge loop without even bothering to anchor it on a knitting needle first--a true "pick-up-and-knit" trick.

Yet it is undeniable that, from a structural--and even from an aesthetic viewpoint, the added yarn method is all-around better: less stress and a prettier back-of-fabric.  For the front bands on an adult's cardigan sweater, which get tugged all the time and which are always on display, the added-yarn method is really going to be better. For this high-end use, I would not use the fabric method.

Now we come to the question of the RATE of pickup.  In a nutshell, the problem is that stockinette (the most common knit fabric) is not square.  A typical gauge in worsted weight yarn is 5 st/in, 7 rows/in.  If you attach two such fabrics to one another via picking up stitches along a selvedge, you can see the mismatch which will occur between rows and stitches.  In other words, if you pick up at a rate of 1:1 (one loop per row) you will get 7 loops where you really need only 5.

The blue square and the red square are both knit in stockinette,
but they are 90 degrees offset.  You can see the mismatch
between the row and stitch gauge where they adjoin.
The gray arrow shows the direction of the knitting on each square.

So, how to adjust the rate of pickup? There are many different opinions about this.  I think probably the most common trick is to simply skip rows on the pickup process. So, if you were using the added yarn method, with a 5-stitch:7-row pickup ratio you would skip drawing up loops in 2 of every 7 rows.  This would bring your live stitches on the needle to the exact number you need for a 5-st/inch gauge.

However, IMHO, this is not the best approach.  If you think about it, skipping rows makes for an uneven gappy edge, and the underlying fabric will respond by flaring or puckering.

I myself would strive for the most even pick-up possible.  Once I had my loops live, I would then worry about my gauge.  An even pickup followed by an increase or decrease has less of a gapping problem because the foundation, at least, is even across the underlying fabric.

With the every-other-row fabric method, I would be picking up only 3½ stitches per 7 rows, or more realistically--since I can't knit ½ stitches--I am picking up 7 stitches per 14 rows.  This is lower than my target rate of 10 stitches picked up for every 14 rows. (basic algebra--I hated it too--says 10 st picked up for 14 rows is the exact same as 5 stitches picked up for 7 rows.) So, I must INCREASE the number of loops on my needle.  In the first row (the one I am going to knit into the fabric selvedge loops) I will make this adjustment.  Into every group of 7 stitches on my needle, I will add three, more-or-less evenly spaced loops via the backward loop method (or any other increase you like).

The spacing isn't even, I fudged the spacing
to be able to illustrate two increases

With the added yarn method, I would pick up through every stitch.  Obviously, I will get one loop per row, a 1:1 ratio. At this rate of pickup, I will have 7 picked-up stitches on my needle for every seven rows, but I really want to have 5.  So, I will have to DECREASE the number of stitches on my needle to get to a target pick up rate of 5 loops picked up per 7 rows by getting rid of 2 stitches per group of 7. On the first row I will knit right after the loops have been picked up, I will work the decreases: k2tog's or ssk's are very handy and easy decreases to use, and I will space the two required decreases more-or-less evenly across each group of 7 stitches.

If you are knitting BANDS, an even better trick (imho) is to sufficiently change the GAUGE of the knitting you are going to add on the newly-picked-up stitches, so that this new knitting is at the natural pickup gauge of 1:1.  With the added-yarn method, this means you need not decrease. With the every-other row fabric method, you would double your number of stitches by k1, m1 in the first row to get to the same 1:1 ratio as added-yarn method (one stitch picked up for each row of selvedge).

The band-facing is picked up
via the "beautiful" method,
which is an added-yarn technique. 
In fact, changing gauge is what I myself nearly always do, especially with front bands on a cardigan, and here is why.  The gauge of knitting suitable for the body of a garment is much looser and stretchier than the gauge suitable for the front bands of a cardigan. The front bands should be knit more tightly (and it wouldn't hurt the cuff, neck or bottom bands of a garment to be knit tightly, either). If you adjust your needles down far enough, and knit tightly enough, the change in gauge makes the 1:1 pickup rate work.

In my experience, this tighter gauge and a 1:1 pickup rate yield a very professional result for knitting bands on picked up stitches.  See for yourself: at left is a photo of a front band-facing tightly knitted at right angles to the main fabric (showing on the purl side) on a 1:1 ratio of picked-up stitches.  Although this band-facing is on the inside of the garment, it is the same idea as a band which would be seen on the outside of the garment. As you can see, the knit stitches line up straight across from the purl stitches of the main fabric, even though the knit stitches were picked up and knit at right angles. By going down several needle sizes, the band-facing was knit tight enough to make its stitch gauge identical to the row gauge of the underlying fabric.

I will leave you with an aside on garter stitch which has the unique property of being "square,"  For this reason, it is a very good choice for modular knitting, which often features attached squares, triangles or strips at various angles to one another.  In the context of picking up stitches, garter stitch is naturally picked up and knit at a 1:1 ratio without having to perform any tricks at all.  However, as The Provisional Kitchener states in the comments, this is only an APPARENT 1:1 ratio, it is actually a 1:2 ratio because garter has "got as many stitches as ridges in a square - one ridge being made up of two rows. Which means you pick up one stitch every second row (which is every ridge)."(Thank you PK, for this good catch!)

Good knitting

You have been reading TECHknitting on picking up knit stitches along a selvedge, (also spelled selvage and selvedge, go figure!)

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sweater-saver: reknitting the cuffs of a purple sweater

Poking around some drafts of blog articles written through the years, I came upon a sweater-saver  project from several years back. Although I thought this got posted a long time ago, I can't find it online anywhere, so here it is (again?)
* * *
This purple cabled store-bought sweater was beloved of its owner, but the cuffs were baggy and the sleeves too short.  I put on my "Garde Tricot"* hat and fixed it like this---

Below: The start, one cuff removed.  You can see how short the sleeves are.
 first cuff removed    

Below: A little known fact about commercial knits is that they are often knit of several strands of thin yarn simply held (not twisted, not plied) together, much like three-strand "Persian" needlepoint yarn or six-strand embroidery floss. It is possible that the thin yarns which are held together are themselves plied, but until the thin strands are knit together, they remain separate strands. This particular sweater was knit of three stands of two-ply.
three strands of 2-ply

Below: After unraveling the yarn, it was severely kinked.  I made each cuff's worth into a mini-hank, knotted in several places to prevent tangling, then reclaimed the yarn from both cuffs via steam un-kinking.

One cuff's worth of unraveled, kinked-up yarn
wound into a mini-hank 

Below: The problem was, the sleeves were so much too short that the unraveled cuffs contained not enough yarn to significantly lengthen the sleeves.  Further, there was no possible chance of a match.  I could match color with Persian yarn (with over 400 colors, you can come pretty close to matching most solid colors) but Persian yarn was the wrong texture. So, instead of using the reclaimed yarn as it was originally knit (one 3-stranded yarn) I separated ("stripped") one strand of the thin two-ply yarn out of each of the cuff-mini-hanks and  re-did the two hanks of 3-strand into three mini-skeins of 2-strand.  This magically yielded 1/3 more yarn.  Remember: the 3 thinner strands of yarns were not twisted nor plied together, merely held together, meaning it was possible (although tedious) to separate them.

Yarn skeined up as two strands of 2-ply

It is true that the two-strand yarn resulting from this trick is thinner, but there was no choice about this.  There simply had to be more yarn or the sweater sleeves would still be unwearably too short.

Cuffs re-knit narrower and waaaaay longer

Above: The cuffs were reknit narrower and much longer. They feature a rolled edge for sturdiness. I seem to recall there was so little yarn left over that I had to bind off part of the second cuff with a single strand of two-ply.

 Below: Overview of the reclaimed sweater.

Perhaps you know someone whose favorite sweater has a little problem?  What with the holidays coming up, you do realize that as a hand knitter, you are uniquely positioned to reclaim a favorite and beloved sweater?  Also that re-knitting a small part of a sweater takes a whole lot less time (ahem, cough, cough) than knitting a new one?

Good knitting--TK

PS:  Here is another sweater reclaimed several years ago

*In the classical French kitchen, there are various stations, like a battleship, and one of these is "garde manger" which means "guard of the food."  Among other duties, this chef recycles high end food: yesterday's filet mignon becomes today's Beef Salad Pareisienne.  In the same way, I think there should be a "garde tricot," or "guard of the knitting" who takes yesterday's beloved sweater and turns it into a whole new fave. (That could be you!)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The mechanics of slip stitching (Fake Latvian Braid)

Includes 2 illustrations and a video
There haven't been many posts lately (sorry 'bout that...) but the most recent ones have been about applying slip stitching to the surface of knitting, a trick I call "Fake Latvian Braid," FLB for short. Today's post shows more about the mechanics.

The reason for today's post is that after the FLB post was published, quite a few knitters have written in frustration asking how it is possible to apply FLB slip stitching.  Since each slip stitch goes through the fabric, either you have to flip the fabric for every stitch (slow) or work without seeing one of your hands (awkward).

The answer is, for sure, not to flip the fabric.  Instead, the trick is to reduce the awkwardness of working with one hand out of sight.

I've actually been thinking about this for a couple of months because I'd like to be free to explore more slip-stitched techniques on this blog, making this is a matter of some importance to me. I'm thinking that working with one hand out of sight might be a matter of perhaps further developing the innate sense which each person has of their own body.

Over the past several months, I've asked people to touch their hands together with their eyes closed. It turns out knitters and non-knitters, young and old can do so, and this is true even with hands held to the side, behind, over the head: anywhere, really.  I conclude that each of your hands knows where the other one is in relation to itself, even if your eyes can't see both (or either!)

The relationship between your hands is good to begin with, and via practice, it can get even better.  As a matter of habit, hand quilters sew with one hand out of sight: the hand under the fabric rocks the needle back up to the top hand over and over again, each stitch the same distance from the next.  Quilting needles are sharp, so learning hand-quilting involves blood.  Luckily, crochet hooks are dull, so there's no blood-letting in learning to work the FLB slip-stitch with one hand out of sight.

As a background to the slip stitch tricks already published, and as a foundation for the possibility of more, here's an illustration of the L hand position for a right handed knitter who habitually knits "regular" (stitches to be knit held on L needle, completed stitches on R needle, so the knitted fabric moves from L to R.) For those who habitually knit from R to L ("mirror image") the right hand would hold the fabric.
The bottom illustration shows the hand position, the top illustration, 
the same with actual fabric and yarn, and with a crochet hook poked through. 
The right hand (not shown on this illustration) manipulates the 
crochet hook, with only the thumb of the left hand in front 
of the fabric, and the other fingers of the left hand behind the fabric.

I am right handed so my left hand holds the fabric and the yarn.  Admittedly, as a right-handed German-style knitter (yarn fed off the left hand)  using my left index finger to positon and feed the yarn in slip stitching is identical to feeding a knitting yarn, so my hands are used to it. If I were an English-style knitter (yarn fed off the right hand) the learning curve would surely be steeper. (In the silver-lining/lemons-from-lemonade department, learning to feed yarn off both hands makes two-handed color knitting easier)

In the above illustration, the top panel is shown from above the work, with fabric.  The bottom panel shows the L hand as it appears from the front, but without fabric.

The below illustration shows the two hands as they appear from the front of the work with fabric. As you can see, from the front, the only part of the left hand showing is the thumb: the method of of clutching the fabric means the fabric hides the other fingers of the left hand behind it.

The position of the hands from the front.  The only part of the
holding hand (left) which shows is the thumb, the other fingers
are behind the fabric

The right hand is responsible for manipulating the crochet hook, thus drawing the yarn from the back of the fabric to the front in a loop, then pulling that newly-made loop through the previous loop around the barrel of the crochet hook (which is what slip stitching is.)

If you prefer  moving pictures to still illustrations, here's a 2-minute video. Note that in the still illustrations above, I am applying the slip stitch to the reverse stockinette side of a fabric, whereas in the video, the slip stitching is on the smooth face.  However, the action of working the slip stitch (Fake Latvian Braid) through the thickness of a fabric using a crochet hook is identical, regardless of to which face the braid is applied.

Last thing:  The illustrations in this post and the video are meant only to show the hand position, rythym and gross motions. Neither shows the actual mechanics of how to catch the yarn around the hook, where to insert the hook, or anything beyond the barest hint of why FLB is so groovy. Instead, those details are found in these previous posts:
Good knitting (or should I say, slip-stitching?)