Friday, 11 September 2009

Friday evening

I have no idea how it happens to be Friday. The week has simply flown past, and all that I seem to have done with regard to knitting, is to make lots of swatches. Can't think why.

Anyway. Several things, this evening. First, I came across this on Helen's blog, and I think it is excellent fun.

I have a sad suspicion that I would be completely unable to resist disarranging all the books. This probably says something about me - but perhaps I'd better not go there.

I am still playing around with combined knitting, and liking it more and more. My hands aren't used to it though, it uses muscles in my hands and wrists which apparently don't get this exercise with my usual method. Also, I think I want to go back to straight needles, I am sure the whole thing will go faster and easier.

Annie uses these beautiful things. She did offer to lend me a pair for the duration of the workshop, so that I could try them out - I was daft, and said no. I should have said yes. I really, really should have.

However, I did hold one. (Be still my heart..) They are brilliant, light and perfectly balanced. I want some. Although these also look rather good - I do like Knitpicks/Knitpro needles.

Now. Rowing out. I have had several queries - combined knitting is good for avoiding rowing out, but what exactly do I mean by that in the first place? A little explanation seems to be in order.

When we knit Western style - as the vast majority of us do, here in the UK - it takes very fractionally more yarn to work a purl stitch than it does to work a knit stitch. So with this method, purl rows tend to be just very slightly looser than knit rows. (This has absolutely nothing to do with which hand holds the yarn, by the way - it is the way that we form the stitches that causes this difference.)

This is the reason why many people (in fact I'd go so far as to say most people) get a slightly different tension when working in the round compared to working flat - no purl rows in the round, you see? So tension working in the round tends to be firmer than tension working flat.

Many of us compensate for this tiny extra length in each purl stitch by tightening each purl stitch just fractionally more then each knit stitch - we usually aren't even aware that we are doing it. And then we end up with an even fabric.

But if we don't do this - or don't do it consistently - then the purl rows can be visibly looser than the knit rows.

You can see the effect of this, below - looking at the reverse side of the fabric at the top left, you can see rows of purl bumps sitting together in pairs. The looser row in between each pair is from a purl row.

And you can also see - top right, in particular - that alternate rows on the right side of the fabric are slightly looser.

This is 'rowing out'.

It is much more apparent when using a non-wool yarn, as in this case - Rowan's Wool Cotton, which is 50% cotton.

And it also tends to happen when the knitter (me) is not paying due care and attention to her work. (Ahem.) I was flying along with this pullover and I did get it finished in time, but it is apparent that I should have been taking more care.

With combined knitting, things are different. The way that the stitches are formed means that the knit stitch and the purl stitch take exactly the same amount of yarn - and all that is needed to produce a beautiful even fabric, is to keep an even tension.

So, if we want to get a good even fabric, we can either work Western style and adjust for our slightly looser purl stitches, or work combined style and not adjust anything at all.

And if you want to know more about Combined Knitting, you cannot do better than read Annie Modesitt's excellent website, where you will find All You Ever Wanted To Know About Combination Knitting (but were afraid to ask)........!

What else ..... I was talking to my mother about the combined knitting workshop. She was very interested, and much to my surprise she knew all about this method already. She told me that she hadn't heard of anyone using this method since she was a little girl - (she is past 80, now) - that her mother knew how to knit this way, although she usually worked 'the normal way' - and that she had thought nobody worked like this any more.

She remembers seeing a group of old ladies knitting garments this way when she was a little girl living in Perthshire. She says that they were working with the yarn in their left hands, incidentally, and with one needle anchored at their waist. My mother is past 80, I should add - she learnt to knit when she was quite little, as did I.

She described to me the way that these ladies were working - knit stitches and purl stitches sitting differently on the needle, so they could tell which was which without having to look - and winding the yarn for the purl stitches the opposite way from 'normal' - under the needle rather than over.

And that is combined knitting, I do believe.

She was very taken by the speed at which these ladies were working, and also by the fact that they never looked at their knitting. She told me that she had wanted to learn to work this way, as well. So her mother tried to teach her, but she couldn't get the hang of it.

So. Combined knitting was alive and well in Scotland, before WWII.

Interesting, yes?

1 comment:

Helen said...

And I would be the one straightening all the books. Sad, I know.

One of my Scottish grannies showed me how to knit but she didn't sit still long enough for me to get the hang of it so I don't know if it was combination or not; I can remember her spending some time showing me how to loop the yarn round my pinkie... but not enough, unfortunately.

My mother was left-handed, so I couldn't learn from her either. In fact, it's amazing I learned at all.