Many Whorls, One Vision

This is the first photo of the final piece in my upcoming book. It’s a seamless, four-color self-lining double-knit shoulder bag. The strap is adjustable — one long and one very short strap with a buckle — and there is a fold-over flap that buttons down. I call it Whorl’d Tree. I see the pattern as a sort of stylized view of a forest from inside — the brown of the roots, the green of the canopy, and the water flowing in between to feed it all. Of course, it’s my hope that other folks try other color combinations — I’m sure it’d be very striking in flame colors and black too. The fabric is ridiculously sturdy, verging on inflexible, which is good for a bag — I can put a #2 knitting needle in this one without worrying it’ll poke through. The pattern is only on the outside — the inside is all white, with blue edging, and a completely serendipitous side-effect of the pattern: there is a relief pattern of the whorls on the inside. If my tension was a little better, I probably wouldn’t have those, but honestly I like them, and so have other people who’ve seen it in person. I have many model shots of it as well but will be saving those for the book. The cast-on is at the bottom of the piece (sorry for the bad/blurry photo) and uses a 2-needle double-knit cast-on I designed as well as a very strange needle configuration — 2 circulars and 3 DPNs are necessary to make this work properly, at least until you’re about 1/3 of the way up the  bag.

The piece is done in Valley Yarns Northampton — but could just as easily be done in Cascade 220. Because of the self-lining, it takes 3-4 times as much white as any of the other colors.

These are just too cute. No, really. I may be sick.

Despite my ambivalence toward children, I thought these things up long ago. The only issue has been the construction. I am big on seamless designs, or at least designs that only require the picking up of stitches. Sewing together is great for afghans, but I feel it shouldn’t be relied upon for smaller items, except perhaps some knitted toys. Baby booties are just glorified socks, so I quickly departed from the modular designs I was planning on using and researched other baby booties, sock construction, and sizing. I knit quite a few baby booties — but only one of each, so as not to be in any way useful for a real baby — while trying to understand sizing and the merits of various types of construction. The problem was that most booties are either actually sock patterns, so they fold flat in a vertical orientation, or they focus on the body of the boot, making the sole an afterthought. For these, I really wanted to make the sole the focal point, for obvious reasons.

These are the first in what I believe will be a series of works which will use a combination of doubled-yarn work and double-knitting. I determined that one can use the stitches I call “2k2” and “2p2” as shaping elements in the double-knit box posted earlier, but one can also use them more thoroughly as body stitches, in this case, garter stitch. At any point in the work I can separate the two ends and use them to make double-knitting, which is only a little off the gauge of the garter stitch, easily blocked into uniformity. In the case of these booties, blocking isn’t necessary since it’s best to have the sole be just a little smaller than the top of the bootie anyway.

Without Struktur, everything falls apart

Well, not really, but since appearing atop my article in Twist Collective, this hat has been the most-requested unpublished pattern. I was never really happy with the original pattern — the closure I used made it kind of pointy and I didn’t want to publish it that way. On top of that, the chart I based it on was lifted directly from Jessica Tromp’s amazing website. In light of that, I wasn’t at liberty to publish it anyway. I made some efforts to do my own chart that looked similar, but never came out with anything quite as elegant as Jessica’s. So, at Cat Bordhi’s recommendation, I emailed Jessica and to my surprise she was very happy to let me publish the pattern! Of course she’ll get credit for the original chart. So that left me with the responsibility to do better with the crown of the hat. Some fiddling around with decreases later, I had a few revisions of the chart and settled on this one, in which the decreases actually seem like they’re part of the design, and don’t interrupt the chart at all. I love this hat now — it’s one of my favorites. The other neat thing about it is that I knit it in the space of a week — the fastest hat I’ve ever done, and I could have done it even quicker if I decided I didn’t need the fold-up brim.

I gave the hat a new name (not that it had a name before), calling it “Struktur”. The German meaning of this word is particularly apt for any knitting project, but for one that looks like it’s made from skeletal building blocks assembled by M.C. Escher, it was perfect.

You can see more views of this hat here, here, here, here, and here. For those who are interested in the pattern, I am planning to wait until the book is published but it is possible I may release this pattern ahead of the book if demand is high enough.

One good tie deserves another

The paucity of good tie patterns in knitting has irked me for some time. Most ties are overly-complex, constructed in the same way you’d sew one, or overly simple, looking somewhat tacky, or done on the bias, which makes the damn thing too stretchy. No offense meant to anyone who’s designed and published a tie. I’m sure there are some good ones out there. I figured out a while ago that double-knitting could be well applied to ties — the fabric doesn’t curl, it has no wrong side, and you can literally do any charted pattern on one without worrying about the non-existent wrong side. Hence, these two.

Silk City and Silk Road
Two ties, and probably still enough yarn for two more!

They’re both done in Crystal Palace Panda Silk (Thanks to Crystal Palace for the free yarn!). They’re entitled “Silk City” and “Silk Road”, respectively from top to bottom. Silk City was a snap — once I’d worked out the tie measurements and knitted gauge, it’s just a matter of planning out which rows to decrease on and keep working the pattern. The pattern itself has a ridiculous 70-row repeat, but it’s really all the same stuff, just shifted over a bit each time. Silk Road was no picnic; it was the one piece I dreaded designing most, not being sure I could work further decreases into the already increase/decrease-heavy fabric. Needless to say, I figured it out, but the limitation is that the decreases can only be put in every 16 rows if you want them to be invisible. So I decreased every 32 rows, which made the tie just a bit longer than its brother. They both tie just fine, however, without any awkward tail bit showing. I’m planning to include my tie blank in the book too, and will be interested to see what other patterns people put on it.

An apology to my readers

Not that I expect I have many regular readers, but I owe you an apology. My blog hasn’t been updated in many months because I am working feverishly on my book, knitting and charting and working out kinks in existing designs. I have never been great at blogging, which may be my downfall in the end because bloggers who don’t update every couple of days fall off people’s radar. I am hoping that I will get back on people’s radar due to the merit of what I will be posting. I have had several pieces knit by sample knitters and I am doing several myself (charting as I design them, or knitting them several months after charting them). All in all there should be 12 or 15 designs, depending on how they’re counted, plus technique illustrations and text. As an update, I have one design to finish working out and knitting, two to design from scratch (but they’re small projects) and one other small project to knit up. I have had some success in my initial illustrations (I have an Illustrator brush technique that will allow me to “paint” colored yarn, but I have to work out the stitch structures). I’ll try to post here more often — I do have some finished or mostly-finished projects that are ready for photographs.

Fun with double-knit shaping

Box Prototype, Open
Well, at least it stays put.

Cat Bordhi recommended I write a pattern for some small item that will allow people to try a bunch of different double-knit techniques in a single small pattern. She suggested that a double-knit box might take advantage of the potential structural stability of the fabric, and I agreed I’d give it a shot. I looked up some other knitted boxes — most were felted — and found that what I had visualized when she mentioned that was not really what people were doing. So I decided to have some fun with it. My first prototype was no good — the increases from the top were too frequent and what was supposed to become a 4-sided flat-topped box became a 3-sided thing with 1/4 of the top folded inside as the decreases fought for supremacy with the proposed form. Here’s the second prototype, knit in my favorite old-world yarn, Bartlett. You can see it closed here.

There are still a number of issues with it. The combination of double and single increases at the top (it’s cast on with 4 stitches, then increased to 8, then increased again to 16, then 24 before the single increases start) makes intuitive charting difficult, and even I made a color change where there shouldn’t have been one in the beginning. When switching from the top to the bottom, it’s very confusing to figure where you need to start so you continue to knit on the outside rather than the inside — but now that there’s a finished form I will have an easier time charting it as I do the final piece. I tried a new bind-off, but I liked the original one better (not pictured). I did have some fun with the shaping — you can see those odd little purl rows on the outside edges of the top and bottom — I had to design a new chart element to describe how those are formed. They make a really clean, non-reversible fold in the fabric. There are similar ones hidden in the corners of the box body and lid as well. The fabric is a little too flexible — I will probably go down another needle size before trying it again. The bottom is a little poofy — I may need to do more radical decreasing to make sure it stays flat.

But the important part is: it’s a learning experience. I understand the form better now, and it’ll be easier to do the next one, and I can deviate from the stripes and do some other pattern as well.

Moving, workshops and YouTube videos

It’s been a crazy past couple of months. I’ll try to recap. My wife Amanda and I put an offer on a condo, went to Belize for our belated honeymoon, came back, secured a loan, I went to Seattle for Cat Bordhi’s Visionary Retreat with a bunch of fantastic guys, ran up a huge phone bill closing the deal on the condo from Seattle between presentations, came back, closed on and moved into the new condo 3 days later. I taught 2 workshops, one to the Nashoba Valley Knitters’ Guild and one at Mind’s Eye Yarns, and I have been struggling to catch up with work, juggle my social life (which I really have to cut down on), and keep knitting toward the book.

I don’t know how I’m going to manage, but after the retreat I feel a little more confident.

I have told people in my workshops that they should visit my YouTube videos for refreshers on some of the workshop content. Now that the Winter 2009 Twist Collective magazine is down, it’ll be harder for people to find those links, so I’ll post them here:

Double-Knit Cast-On
Double-Knit Stitches
Double-Knit Decreases

Double-Knitting Overflow workshop at Mind’s Eye in Cambridge

The workshop in February filled up and generated a waiting list, so we’re running the workshop a second time on April 17th, again at Mind’s Eye Yarns. I’m not offering workshops anywhere else this season — rather, I’m focusing on preparations and knitting for my upcoming book — so if you want to take a workshop with me this season, Mind’s Eye is the place for it.

Double-Knitting Level 1 Workshop at Mind’s Eye in Cambridge

My first double-knitting workshop of Spring 2010 is scheduled for February 13, from 1-4, at Mind’s Eye Yarns in Cambridge, MA. If you haven’t been to this store before, it’s the place to go in Cambridge nowadays for great yarn, roving and spinning supplies. Lucy has been very good to me, always among the first to schedule when I run my workshops, and at a reasonable price. Sign up for my workshop — there’s not much time. I have info out at the various other shops I teach at, and will be posting here as soon as dates for my other workshops are nailed down.