Wednesday, October 31, 2012


As I sat down with the unfinished cozy to write instructions for the seam, I realized that it's in black yarn. Nobody, myself included, would be happy if I tried to demonstrate seaming on a black sample, so I made a couple of quick swatches in orange and white. If you want to practice on them first, here are the chart and written instructions. You'll need two since they are too narrow to roll into a tube. A hint: If, as you're changing colors, you always pick up one color to the front of the other and the second color to the back, you will get less tangling than if you always pick up the new color underneath the old. (This, of course, doesn't apply to intarsia knitting which requires twisting the colors to avoid holes.) I always picked up the orange to the front and the white to the back.

Remember to slip all stitches with the yarn to the wrong side of the pieces.

Cast on 10 stitches in white.
Row 1: K10 white.
Join Orange.
Row 2: (K1 orange, sl1 white) 4X.  K2 orange.
Row 3: K2 orange, (sl1 white, k1 orange) 4 X.
Rows 4 & 5: K10 white.
Row 6: K2 orange, (sl1 white, k1 orange) 4 X.
Row 7: (K1 orange, sl1 white) 4X. K2  orange.
Rows 8 & 9: K10 white.

Repeat Rows 2 - 9 as many times as you want; my swatches have 9 rows of orange spots. On the last repeat, Row 9 is bound off in knit. When you cut the tails, remember to leave one of the tails long enough to sew the seam.

Thread a tapestry needle with the long white tail. Hold the second swatch to its right. (Remember to have both pieces with the front side forward and the bound off edges to the top. Tilt the pieces a bit towards you. You'll see that the bind-offs look like chains of stitches. Take the needle back to front under the first full chain on the right-hand piece then back to the left-hand piece, into the last chain there and under the front strand of that chain. The tail is now in position to sew the seam which is worked on the outside of the piece.

Now, I wouldn't be me if I didn't get a little annoyed by that little loop of orange that is sitting there. I turn to the wrong side and pull the strand a bit with the point of the tapestry needle. This will pretty much get it hidden.

Now we're ready to do the seam. Since the first and last stitches on every row are knit, the selvedges are basically garter stitch. As you know, a garter stitch fabric has nubby ridges. The upper part of the ridge is made up of the heads of stitches in one row; the lower part is made up of the threads running between the stitches of the next row. These two elements are offset from each other by half. By stitching under a stitch head and then under a running thread on the other side of the seam, we bring the two strands together in the same positions as on a continuous row of garter stitch. The colors in the diagram show how rows are supposed to line up.

Now, the fly in the ointment: this is not exactly garter stitch, For one, we have alternate colors being carried up the selvedge on the left hand side of the seam. This has a tendency to distort the stitches, forcing the heads into a bit of a slant. When in doubt, check for the stitch next to it and the running thread between them.

The other issue is shown in the bright pink in the diagram: when the running thread is next to a slipped stitch, the running thread tends to disappear. Once you are aware of this problem, it's an easy fix; just use the tip of your needle to push the slipped stitch a little out of the way

Every now and then as you're stitching, pull the threaded needle up and away from the direction you're working. This will snug the strands together without making the seam too tight.

When you get to the end of the seam, close up the cast-on chain as for the bind-off, but now make sure that the tail ends up on the inside. Secure and darn in all the ends.

And here is the finished seam. As you can see, the seam is visible on the right side only because of the color pattern. If this was in one color, or even in two-color stripes, it would be completely invisible.

Until next time.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Jack-o-Lantern Cup Cozy

I'm always stunned by the passage of time. It's the Fourth of July, then suddenly we're a third of the way through October. Fortunately, that leaves two-thirds of the month to knit and enjoy this little treat!

I've used Plymouth Yarn's Encore in worsted weight on US Size 5 (3.75 mm) needles. Gauge is 24 stitches and 48 rows = 4" (10 cm). The yarn has 25% wool content, but is still machine wash and dry. (This is a very important consideration for a cup cozy!) A crochet hook, stitch markers, and a cable needle are necessary equipment.

The cozy is worked in "Slip-stitch Knitting." Only one color of yarn is handled in each pair of rows. When the other color is required in a location, the stitch of that color from the previous row is slipped without it being worked. All stitches are slipped as if to purl, keeping the yarn to the wrong side of the project.

In order to round the "corners" of the jack-o-lantern, the base of its stem, and its smile, I threw in some one-over-one cable twists. Like all twists, these keep one stitch in front and one stitch in back. A stitch might be slipped from the cable needle without being worked or it might be knitted in the opposite color.

If you've never knit from a chart, it can seem a little daunting. (Okay, very, very daunting.) But, really, all it does is express knitting instructions in symbols with the advantage of showing a rough version of what the project is supposed to look like. I've tried to make my symbols intuitive so a slipped stitch is shown as an upright line and a stitch that is knit on both front and back is shown by a squiggle resembling garter stitch. Most importantly, I've used the colors of the yarn in all the symbols.

I've resisted using many abbreviations, but these are the few that I did:
RS: Right Side
WS: Wrong Side
RN: Right Needle
LN: Left Needle
CN: Cable Needle


List of Symbols

By convention, charts are read from bottom to top. The row number is on one side of the chart; right side rows are listed on the right-hand side and wrong side rows are listed on the left. Since the wrong side rows in this project mimic the color sequence of the right side rows, I've used one line of symbols for both. 

Since this is a small pictorial project, I've represented the whole thing in the chart. It shows that each row is 46 stitches. The blue lines represent where you might want to put in stitch markers. From the beginning (right-hand side) of the row, there are two edge stitches followed by 14 background stitches (2 stitches repeated 7 times). The picture occurs between stitches 17 through 31 inclusive. Then there are another 14 background stitches and one more edge stitch.

For the cast-on, I prefer to use one that will match the bind-off. This goes by a number of different names; this video calls it "crochet cast-on" and demonstrates a very easy way of doing it starting at about 1:30 in. I do it very firmly. This makes the bottom of the cozy a bit narrower than the top without having to use increases.

The bind-off is worked loosely in knit on the wrong side. Leave a long tail of the black yarn to sew up the seam. Secure all the ends. Wet it, if desired, and allow it to dry on a glass.

This is what it looks like before the finishing work is done. I will write about the very tidy seaming technique next time.

Until then.