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?)