Extreme Double-knitting Pattern Highlight #3

Good morning! It’s week #3 in my Extreme Double-knitting Highlight reel, and today I’m fit to be tied. Not really, but since things lined up this way, I’m posting about double-knit neckties. If you like what you see, maybe consider preordering the book?

Double-knit neckties have become kind of a signature concept for me — as a guy, I probably wear ties more often than your average knitter. So when I was brainstorming things to double-knit for the original book outline back in the late 2000s, neckties were not quite as far from the top of my mind as they might have been for others. I had encountered knitted neckties before but never found a truly exciting one. Most neckties had construction that was too complicated (knitting fabric the same shape as a sewn tie and then sewing it together) or too simplistic (not even bothering with the point at the bottom). None of them looked good, and all of them were obviously “knitted ties”. Double-knitting was an obvious solution: it doesn’t curl either horizontally or vertically because the two fabrics cancel out that tendency, and it can be used to do complex color patterns within a simple shaped garment. I took careful measurements of a “real” necktie and made a tie form that could be used to figure proper decrease locations for a necktie of any gauge, then used that to design two neckties:

Pattern #4: Silk City

This necktie and its more complicated brother below share some similarities. Of course, they’re both neckties. The original ones were both done in the same yarn (Crystal Palace Panda Silk, a silk-bamboo-wool blend) which, at the time of my redesigns, had not been discontinued, but had been severely limited in terms of color range. This seemed to me a harbinger of worse things to come, and sure enough, it has now been discontinued completely. I selected it because it was a fingering weight yarn with some silk content. Silk being a common tie-fabric ingredient, I figured this would make a nice necktie. When I had to find a substitute, I noticed that the silk content in this yarn was actually only 5% — something I surely knew back when I designed the original but had forgotten.

So when I chose a new yarn, I wanted something with a higher silk content, but still plain yarn in fingering weight and solid colors. This proved quite challenging, and what I eventually settled on met all but one of those criteria. Jaggerspun Zephyr is a 50/50 wool/silk blend, comes in a variety of lovely colors, and is a plain yarn — in lace weight only. I actually swatched this with lace weight, but as I struggle (with my big man hands) below US1 needles, I was unable to get a good gauge. But I was determined to use this yarn, and I discovered that it makes a really nice fabric if two strands are held together.

The pattern has changed very little from the original. Again, chart notation has changed for clarity — but there was another weird issue that I cannot remember my rationale for. For some reason, I had charted the pattern so that some of the charts had an even number of rows and some odd. This meant that you might end up following a chart beginning with a Layer-2 row (in opposite colors from the chart). This should not confuse a veteran double-knitter, but in a book meant to teach the technique it made no sense. I have fixed this issue in the new revision of the pattern: all charts, as they should, now begin on a Layer-1 row (the “right side”)

Pattern #5: Silk Road

The Silk Road tie was actually an outgrowth of a pattern design adventure I had embarked on many years earlier. You can read about the saga of the Victorian Raffia scarf in an earlier blog post. To make a long story short, when I was denied the opportunity to include that scarf in my original book, I decided to use some of what I had learned to expand on the necktie concept.

The fabric in this necktie helped me develop the “off-the-grid” style I mentioned in the last post. This is an extreme example; due to the all-over pattern of increases and decreases, there isn’t a single stitch traveling vertically in this entire pattern. Every stitch travels at a diagonal in one direction or the other. The spirals are also a little signature move that I have developed further in the patterns Atyria II and Hesperos in my book Double or Nothing. They look complicated, but they’re just a little visual trick that I’ve enjoyed playing with over the years.

The real challenge with this pattern was the decreases in the tie form itself. Combined with the constant increasing and decreasing, there were rows where decreasing simply meant leaving out a couple of increases, and others where it was a little more complicated. There are places where the rapid change in direction causes the fabric to ripple a little bit along the edge; I have done my best to reduce this effect but can’t eliminate it completely.

The main difference in this pattern is in its notation. I will freely admit that I did not have a good understanding of increase notation (decreases were OK) when I wrote the original book. I explained how to follow my notation, but it was not intuitive and definitely not the standard way of expressing increases in a chart. In later revisions of the pattern (which was, for a time, sold as a standalone pattern), I tried to make my notation clearer but kept the underlying issue intact. Eventually, I had an epiphany about how increases should be charted in a colorwork context. In retrospect, since I learned the technique from Kieran Foley‘s patterns, I should have learned from his notation as well rather than trying to reinvent the wheel. Later patterns, and especially the ones in Double or Nothing, use the corrected notation. With this revision, Extreme Double-knitting also joins the fold.

What Else is New?

I’ve got one very early update for Boston-area folks. I have not been teaching much in the Boston area, and I know that there are people who would be interested in taking a double-knitting class or 2 with me. The difficulty has been in finding a venue where I can get enough people to make a class worth my while. Most shops around here have been cutting back on teaching — using local talent rather than bringing in national teachers. While I am local, my fees are national-level, so shops need to fill classes to capacity to make them worth their while too. Many shops don’t have the space they’d need. So, while I feel conflicted about cutting the shops out of the picture, I am looking into ways to teach my classes in the Boston area without worrying about low turnout cancelling classes. The plan is to do a huge workshop extravaganza in April or May of 2019: I’ll be teaching two whole weekends, plus evenings spanning the week between those weekends. I’ll be running one of every class I teach, plus one extra intro class, Students will be able to pick and choose which classes they take; I will probably offer a discount for bulk purchasing of classes as well. If you’re interested in learning double-knitting or expanding your skills in it, and you’re in the Boston area or willing to travel here, get in touch with me and I’ll keep you posted.

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