Saturday, September 13, 2014

So Many Things To Say About Knitting (And Something for Everyone!)

For starters, here's what I've decided to knit (for the second time):

Indicum Pullover by Hilary Smith Callis
I made it about a year ago and the only thing I don't like about it is the yarn I used. Remember this stuff? Um, it pills like a bitch and the colour scheme is iffy. Honestly, I've never experienced yarn that is more pill than stitch.

Please tell me (because I'm feeling a bit concerned) that this colour combo is going to channel a totally different vibe than my last version:

My circular swatch in Quince Finch... (I realize it doesn't look like a tube here...)
These are the colours I'll use:

Finch in Petal

Finch in Twig
It's been months since I've knit with wool?! I've been working with cotton/bamboo, linen, silk... It feels utterly odd to have pure wool on the needles. People, wool is SO SPRINGY! I mean, it recovers like a coil, not that it's in any way reminiscent of spring, alas.

What is it with me and the browns, when it comes to this sweater. I'm not really into brown, though I do feel that the cool pink of the petal offsets it beautifully and I also don't think of Twig as a brown. It's more like a mushroom tone so let's call it a true neutral.

I bought this yarn specifically to remake the Indicum and, it occurred to me, if I really don't want to reinvent the wheel (aka spend a lot of time fitting), I should do what I aimed to. Hilariously, my knitting tension has changed so much in the last year, I might as well be knitting a different sweater.

About Knitting Tension (which is so dependent on other factors)...

What factors are these? Well, namely knitting style and (weirdly) needle length. I'm not speaking of the gauge of the needle, but of the proportions of needle to cable (I always work with circulars) and the length of that cable. The shorter the cable in relation to the work, the tighter the gauge - at least for me.

Y'all know I switched up my knitting style last year. I now flick (a right-handed method that maximizes efficiency of movement) rather than throw (regular British-style wherein ones right hand leaves the needle to wrap the yarn). It's impossible for me to quantify this (cuz I haven't bothered), but I'd estimate my speed has increased in the degree of 30%. This method is also so ergonomic that I rarely experience any muscular tension as a result of long knitting sessions. I highly recommend it!

Of course, knitting methods are as individual as the knitters who use them. I say, give a knitter some needles and yarn, and you'll see every method you could have (or couldn't have) imagined in your wildest dreams.

I have tried Continental (left-handed) knitting a few times and, while I can swing the knit stitch (with weird tension) the purl stitch continues to elude me. Mind you, I've got a great groove going with flicking.

However, my knitting has gone from uber-loose to, um, in the realm of moderate-tight. I've been knitting with very slippery yarns this summer so the full impact of my tighter gauge did not make itself known till I made the swatch (above).

Last time I made this sweater, I didn't get gauge on the recommended needle size (my stitches were larger / the sweater would be looser). This time, I've had to go up a needle size - and I still wont' get gauge, cuz my stitches are relatively tighter than the recommended gauge. That's a pretty bizarre shift.

In order to ensure I'm going to get the size I need - and the fabric I prefer - I may actually have to knit on a larger needle than recommended?! Given that I'm the girl who usually goes down 2 needle sizes to approach recommended gauge, that's bizarre. In general, I do prefer my new tension - it creates a more knowable finished product and one the fabric of which appeals to me more. But it's never helpful to be at either extreme. I suppose this could be a momentary thing?

About That Swatch (Above) and How New Knitting Styles Facilitate My Work:

The swatch above shows double-stranded knitting (colour-work). Those who can work 2 colours of yarn do so in a variety of ways. Previously, because I threw the yarn (hand comes off the needle) and I couldn't work in both left-handed and right-handed styles, my only recourse was to drop one colour strand when I'd pick up another (all done with right hand in throwing style). However, when I learned to flick (and the hand doesn't leave the needle), I realized that I was half way to being able to work both colours without having to drop one strand. Alas, it involved learning how to Continentally knit (left-handed, hand doesn't leave the needle) for one yarn strand while flicking, for the other yarn strand.

The net result is that each strand of yarn is worked by a different hand, to improve efficiency. (FWIW, it takes a long time to pick up and drop each strand (my former way)... And it's SUPER fussy.)

But seriously, to knit 2 ways at the same time, with two different threads, takes a wholesale shift in brainwaves. You really have to stop thinking and just work.

Long story longer, I can produce a knit stitch (though not well) with my left hand but I still cannot purl left-handedly. I can, however, purl with my right hand (happily I can do it all with my right hand). To clarify, most of the time, when one does colour-work, one knits only. You tend to work in stockinette stich, in the round, so all the stitches are knit stitches. However, this sweater's colour-work is in RIB, specifically K2, P1. So, in creating the fabric I have to knit with one hand and purl with the other. Yes, it is harder and I can't choose which hand I'd prefer to do which action. Currently, I can only purl right-handedly and knit left-handedly.

I know that flicking has facilitated my ability to perform colour-work in a new style because the way one holds the yarn in the right hand, while flicking, is not dissimilar to the way one holds the yarn in Continental-style. So my brain has developed some plasticity which I'm applying to my (much less amenable) left hand. I can see a time when I might be able to do Continental knitting quite well.

So, that's today's news. What do you think of the colours I'm using for the Indicum? What do you think of the Indicum? How do you perform colour-work? Let's talk!


  1. I've become really comfortable doing two-handed colourwork in the round (all knit stitch) over the last year -- That Rams & Yowes blanket was the charm -- but haven't tried seriously to produce a purl stitch with my left hand yet. And I seriously dislike working Corrugated Rib anyway -- not even always sure if I like the way it looks, but it seems de rigueur in so many colourwork patterns. Love those soft rich colours, and look forward to seeing you rock out the left handed Purl! Go You!

    1. I can only imagine how that project pushed you forward. I see how I'm developing a way of doing this, even as I'm doing it. It's an odd thing to observe. My Continental tension is pretty whack, but I just read something that really helped me: Your tension doesn't have to be the same left and right handed. It's just got to produce a fabric that works.

      PS: I don't like corrugated rib either. But I don't know how to introduce colour without doing it...

  2. Love the Indicum. But I was not on board with your color choice until you pointed out that what I saw as cream is pink, and what you originally called brown you renamed as mushroom. Now I like it!

    Funny you should bring this up now: I just started a pair of colorwork mittens yesterday that have corrugated rib. Don't think I can be much help though, as I've been knitting colorwork with one color in each hand, Continental on left and English on right for at least 30 years, so it's second nature to me now. My normal advice re: colorwork is to keep the color you want to be dominant in the hand that is your dominant knitting hand - so the left hand for me, since I generally knit Continental. However, since you've found that your gauge is so much looser with Continental, this may be opposite for you.

    And I think it makes perfect sense that the length of the needle effects gauge. After all, a needle is really a lever, and the length of a lever has a great effect on the force needed to move it, which would transfer into how tight the stitch is.

    1. Egad, G. How could you not like it and then (with a quick use of terminology) change your stance? I mean, the colours are the same! :-)

      And I think you're right about how I'm using the 2 methods: using my non-dom hand to do the dom colour is working. It may be cuz it's the only way I can swing it, but it's still working!

    2. I know, it's crazy! But the names of colors are really important to me, and can totally sway my opinion of the color, as demonstrated above!

  3. I like the colours - dark enough that it will be wearable in winter, but light enough that it won't look out of place in the spring.

  4. I think your color combination is just lovely and am eager to find out what you think of Quince Finch. I must say that I have never understood the appeal of Malbrigo, yes it is amazingly soft, but the only time I knit something with it, before I knew what had happened it was a mass of pilly ugliness.

    I encourage you to persevere with the two handed knitting... I was a continental knitter for almost fifty years, and in the last few years have taken up two handed colorwork... it still feels odd to use my "off" hand, and isn't as fast, but it is soooo much faster than any previous techniques I tried.

    1. I've worked with Finch on a variety of occasions, Alison, and I really like it. I mean, it's not a delicate fingering yarn (it's on the plump side) but it makes a nice, elastic fabric.

      OMG, that Malabrigo is horrendous! And so expensive. It was an experiment (purchased online from Habu in NYC). Won't be using that yarn again. Even after blocking I can feel the lanolin in the fiber...

      Thank you for your perspective on the two handed knitting. I figure, I've not been knitting for so long that I might not be able to get around my natural preferences if I persevere.

  5. Sorry the original was pill-y and itchy. That color scheme had your name aaaallll over it.