Monday, September 23, 2013

Knitting Refound

I cannot believe it has been over 2 months since I last posted.  I have been super busy as well as not home much.  Visit my ipernity site for pictures of my recent travels.

Knitting was a strong tradition in my mother’s family: I have beautiful pieces knitted by my ancestors at least 3 if not 4 generations back.  In her spare time my mother always had some kind of needle in her hand:  sewing, embroidery, crocheting or knitting.  However, I think knitting was her passion.    I love knitted wool garments and pretty much only wear hand knitted socks.  Although my mom passed away in 2005, she left me almost 12 pairs of socks she had knit for me.

My mother knitting something on dp's in summer 1936. She would have been 11 years old and clearly have been knitting for some time to be doing this.
So it was assumed I would share that passion and some extent I did. I started 
'knitting" when I was about 6 or 7. I was given one of the mushrooms with 4 pegs to get the basic idea and build some of the fine motor skills needed to knit.  To a tomboy keener on catching snakes and building dams in the creek, this was mind numbingly boring.  But I did finish a couple of pieces. 
My first knitting device.  It's about 55 years old....
 I then learned to crochet – I liked that better – but I also learned to knit properly and by the time I was 13, was knitting scarves and hats and the like.  I eventually knitted a few sweaters, but liked knitting socks, mittens and other small projects best.  Since my mother was so prolific and kept my whole family – especially our daughter – in all the wool garments we would want, I had little motivation to knit.  As my career in forestry and in teaching developed, I pretty much knit on the very rare occasion.

There was also the problem of technique.  Since I am first generation in the US from Germany, I learned to knit continental, aka German style.  However, my mother actually had a limited palette of techniques and stitches.  I never saw her do but very limited color stranded work or cables.  She loved brioche and seed stitch.  She never knitted in the round, except for socks.  She never used circular needles. She only knew one way to cast on - I am now a fan of German twisted (aka, old Norwegian).  She did not use Kitchener stitch - which I find very useful and not all that hard.  Look up the free course on Craftsy on grafting.

Last year a friend, who knits and who knew I had once knitted, gave me two beautiful skeins of wool.  I looked on line for patterns and was overwhelmed at how much info there is on the web, that there is a site called Ravelry, that there are so many great video tutorials and Craftsy courses about various techniques, etc., etc. Paradise Fibers, a huge yarn shop, is within walking distance and I was amazed to see the selection of wools, needles and other accessories.  So much had changed.  It was like opening a treasure chest! 

I changed how I knit from continental to combined.  Don’t believe all the nay sayers who insist that because the stitch mount changes while purling, that you can’t do some things.  Bull.  You just change which leg of the stitch you use when the mount is reversed.  I used to hate purling – now it is a breeze and my knitting is much more even, mainly because the eastern purl stitch is a true mirror of the continental knit stitch and uses the same amount of yarn.  That is not the case in pure continental or in pure eastern.  Since I started life as a left hander but was forced to use my right, this way of purling synchs with my brain better.  

I used to only use sets of 5 double points to knit socks and mittens.  Now that I have discovered magic loop, I doubt I will use them much.  In fact, I doubt I will use any of my straight needles, as circulars seem to do it all.

I LOVE color stranded knitting and am now working on a vest using Fair Isle patterns and techniques via a course on Craftsy.  I discovered that using two hands to hold the yarn better for me.  That meant I had to learn English style knitting.  It wasn’t easy at first and I still have trouble with holding the yarn at the tension I like, but it is coming along. 

 I also found that even with my right hand, my purl is eastern style. Why am I purling with my right hand?  I am making a mitten cuff in corrugated rib, which means the knit stitches are in the main or background color and the purl stitches are in the pattern color.  Because of yarn dominance, you usually hold the pattern color in your left hand and the main in your right, so that the pattern color stands out.  (If you are holding both strands in one hand, the pattern yarn must always come from underneath the main color.) However, when doing corrugated ribbing, you need to reverse that so that the purling recedes and the knitting stands out.  I did it both ways on this first cuff, and upon close inspection; there is indeed a difference!
My first attempt at corrugated ribbing.  You can see the line where I switched which yarn is in the right hand (or comes from underneath).  The top looks better.

I am also learning about blocking.  I never blocked socks except to lay them out on a towel. Then I read this post by Liat Gat  and realized I needed to do this.  I looked at the commercial sock blocking frames and was amazed at the price.  I am making a pair of socks for my brother-in-law, who has big feet.  I doubt I will make too many of this size, so I really did not want to buy anything.  So I made my own.

First you need a pattern – found here.

I happened to have some foam core poster board.  I wet a piece of the board and was reassured that the paper covering is water resistant.  If in doubt, you can apply packing tape over it.  After all, the sock will only be slightly damp, not wet. I traced and cut out the large sock outline and extended the cuff. To promote drying, I cut out the center, leaving a little more than 1 inch of foam board around the edge.  It is still stiff enough.  I made 2, attached a piece of yarn to each and then fashioned a small hanger out of wire, so I can hang them from my clothesline.  The ends are bent away from each other so the socks hang apart which allows more air flow around them.  One sock is being blocked now.  If I like the results and performance, I’ll make a set in the size I knit most (fits me and most of my friends, including my husband).

Sock block set I made from foam core poster board for size 10.5 socks!
 So the learning goes on.  I have found a passion for knitting I did not have before – I also believe I have a lot more patience and since I am retired, I certainly now have the time.  It’s a good counterpoint to quilting and much more portable – I even take a small kit backpacking so I can work on a sock in camp!  I will be writing more about knitting as well as about quilting in the future.

1 comment:

capitolaquilter said...

the photo of your mother is so special, what a treasure and the mushroom priceless. I recently refound crochet and am happy to have something more portable than quilting as well.