Thursday, January 14, 2016

Pinstriping: vertical columns of color, added after the knitting is finished.

lots of photos and illustrations plus a video--
Pinstriping on knitting--what is it?
click any picture to enlarge
Pinstriping is vertical Fake Latvian Braid. Like Fake Latvian Braid, pinstriping is added via a crochet hook and the slip-stitch, after the knitting is done.  Yet, although they are the same basic technique, FLB is horizontal (and stackable) while Pinstriping is vertical (and not-stackable).

Why pinstriping is great
Although pinstriping is worked on a ribbed fabric, once the pinstripe is applied, the fabric  looks like smooth stockinette interrupted by a single column in a contrasting color.  In part, this is because the front side of a slip-stitch looks for all the world like a column of knitting.

Another reason pinstriping looks knitted in is because the pinstriping nestles into into the purl column.  This leaves you with a surprisingly smooth, neat surface.  Have a look at the "horizon" of this pinstriped scarf and see for yourself.

No bumps or ridges are visible along the "horizon" of this pinstriped scarf
Pinstriping looks good on the back, too. When you flip the fabric over, the purl column with the pinstripe worked into it shows as a knit column with a "stitched" appearance down the middle. In the sample below, I think I like the back of the fabric better than the front!  If you like the look, too, the reverse side pops best when you work the pinstripe in a high-contrast color and/or a bulkier yarn than the main fabric (or both).  Even if you don't go as far as using the reverse as the "front," you can still take comfort that a pinstriped fabric looks well enough on the back to be used for reversible items like scarves, afghans and lap robes.

Sometimes, I almost think I prefer the "stitched" appearance of the back--this fabric would be excellent for an understated man's sweater, for example.
Another advantage: because it is applied what is essentially a ribbed fabric, pinstriping helps counteract stockinette curl. Yes, pinstriping allows you begin to approach the knitters' holy grail: a stockinette fabric which does not curl.  In truth, it curls somewhat, but mostly on the edge before you get to the first pinstripe.  Past that, a pinstriped fabric really does lay waaaay flatter than a comparable stockinette fabric.  Again, this is due to the fact that a pinstriped fabric isn't really stockinette, it just looks that way.  In actuality, it is a ribbed fabric, and ribbed fabrics don't curl.

Not completely flat, perhaps, but much flatter than plain stockinette

Why pinstriping is not-so-great
All is not roses. Pinstriping only looks knit-in on a relaxed, undisturbed fabric. When you stretch the knitting, the pinstriping doesn't go along, as you see from the photo below.  Specifically, the fabric behind the pinstripe stretches but the pinstripe itself stays unstretched because it's only connected to the fabric back, not the stitches alongside. I, personally, don't mind this look, but if you would, save pinstriping for knitting which doesn't get stretched: oversized sweaters, neck scarves, afghans or hats with not too much negative ease.

On this stretched fabric, the pinstripe did not go along for the ride
Another thorn in the rose is that pinstriping column after column can get kind of boring.  OK, I'm not going to lie to you, it does get boring. On the plus side: once you get it, you can do it while watching TV or on a conference call. Another plus: the look is good and pinstriping is much easier than other technqiues which give the same look, such a bobbin knitting or standed knitting with floats. Bottom line: it IS dull, but focus on the relative ease and the good result.

Geek notes
Before we get to the how-to, here are a few technical notes.

GEEK NOTE #1:  To counteract stockinette curl, the usual quoted minimum for ribbing is 3/1.  In other words, one in every four columns needs to be a purl column. To really counteract roll on a flat-knit scarf, you might want to go with an even more frequent rib like a 2/1 rib (one in every three columns is a rib). However, as you see, even so wide a rib as a 5/1 (gray scarf with gray stripe in the photos above) lays much flatter than a plain stockinette fabric would.

GEEK NOTE #2:  Ribbing can be formed AFTER THE FACT on a stockinette fabric, so if you have a curled up stockinette scarf laying abandoned in a drawer, rejoice! You can radically transform the scarf to lay flat by dropping ribs, then go further and make it a pinstriped scarf with today's trick.  

GEEK NOTE #3: Machine knitters--who can quickly whip up stockinette scarf-blanks--might find these tricks pretty neat, also. 

How to, VIDEO
Here's a little video (there are step-by step illustrations in the next section of this post)

For further information on the slip stitch, have a look at these TECHknitting posts: Basic Crocheting for Knitters--slip stitch and Neat Little Edging.

1. Start by holding a strand of yarn behind the target purl column, the pull through a loop to the front using a crochet hook

Step 1

2. Keeping the drawn loop over the barrel of the hook, insert the head of the hook into the next purl stitch up, and catch the yarn over the hook.

Step 2

3. Draw the second loop up to the surface of the fabric, then draw the second loop through the first.

Step 3

3A: Close-up of the step 3

Close-up of step 3

4: As in step 2, keeping the drawn loop over the barrel of the hook, insert the head of the hook into the next purl stitch up and again catch the yarn over the hook. By repeating steps 2 and 3, you will create a "pinstripe," which is a line of slip stitches on the fabric surface.

4. Pinstripe on fabric surface

Start off using a crochet hook of the same size as your knitting needle was. Here is an equivalence chart for hooks and needles.  If your slip-stitching distorts the fabric, move up to a larger (or even MUCH larger) hook.  Eventually, you will find the size which makes a nice even loop when working at your natural tension (and of course, practice pays off--your tenth pinstripe will be waaaay more even than your first one).

Direction of the stitch
Slip stitching yields a V-shaped stitch, pointing towards the original hook insertion point.  If you start the pinstripe at the bottom of a bottom-up knit--as with the blue pinstripe on the below photo--the column of pinstriped slip-stitch fits the surrounding knit columns exactly, looking as if it were worked in place with the original fabric.  If you work the pinstriping opposite to how the fabric was knit--as with the yellow column--you get an opposite-pointing V, a subtle effect.

Dealing with the ends
At the beginning and end of every pinstripe, there's an end to work in. There are several different ways of managing this.

First, you can start and end with a tubular cast-on or tubular cast-off.  The hollow running inside the tube is the perfect place to hide the tails at the end of each pinstripe--simply run 3 or so inches of the tail into the tube--best to use a crochet hook or dull-pointed yarn needle. Tension the yarn slightly, snip close to the surface of the fabric, then stretch the fabric once and the tail will retract, never to be seen again.

Similarly, you can work this exact same tail-hiding trick using an I-cord bind-off and hide the ends in the little tube of the I-cord, as was done on this pinstriped scarf.

The colorful ends are hidden in the applied I-cord edging at the top and bottom of this scarf

Another trick with pinstripes close together is to work up one column and down the next, which leaves only a short horizontal carry on the fabric back. This actually helps counteract the tendency of knitted fabrics to flare along their top and bottom edges.  However, the slack must be adjusted judiciously, you don't want a stiff unyielding edge, either.

Yet another trick is to leave a length of yarn showing at each end of each pinstriped column, thus creating a fringe.  This would be excellent for a scarf, afghan or lap robe. (And here is a bonus link to a post showing how to keep your fringes in good order.)

A final trick will be shown in the very next post, which gives the pattern for a colorful hat, and features yet another method of dealing with ends--in fact, the hat pattern to come completely eliminates ends--stay tuned...

Until next time--Good knitting!

Addendum: Pinstriping found in the wild! February 2016: ...Check out these great socks ...    (Russian language blog...)...March 2016, check out this scarf ... September 2022, check out this vest on Knitty (free pattern).