Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Scarf Part I

This is a photo of my current project. It's a scarf to match the screaming, neon-bright, not-quite-pink, hooded jacket that I bought recently.

I have a pretty large yarn stash, but I almost never have what I need when inspiration strikes. This time I did! It is undyed, handspun Romney wool with all sorts of colorful bits spun in. It also runs thick and thin and thinner. I don't know when I got it, but it has to be at least a dozen years. The spinner is not on Ravelry or, for that matter, on the Web. But the yarn matches, and I am happy as can be that something will be leaving the stash (for a change)!

Now a scarf can be a very simple thing. If the yarn had enough texture to hide the stitch definition, I would just do garter stitch, no special selvedges or anything. I would probably use a provisional cast-on, mostly so I could bind it off at the same tension as the other end. Also if I got sick of that much garter stitch, I could stop early, twist it into a Mobius, and graft the ends together.

But this yarn doesn't have that much texture, so there are design decisions I want to make: pattern stitch and side selvedges and. . .

I have two skeins, one larger than the other. The larger one has bits of blue and green; the smaller one doesn't. If the first skein turns out not to be large enough, I will have a demarcation where the second skein starts. So the first realization is that I have to alternate the skeins, working two rows with one skein and two rows with the other. This is a common "trick" when you do not have enough yarn of one dye lot and have to add in a second.  (It's also useful when knitting with hand-painted yarn which can vary within the same dye lot.)

Another consideration is the stitch pattern. I had recently swatched a stitch called "3/3 Fancy Rib" from 400 Knitting Stitches. It is a k3, p3 rib, but instead of  just working this straight up, the stitches in the purl columns are slipped for 4 rows, then worked for 4 rows. The result is a puckered fabric which I thought would work well with the eccentric yarn. As a bonus, the stitches are slipped with the yarn to the right side of the fabric, so the colorful bits show more than they might otherwise.

The closeup shows the unblocked fabric.  It will be flatter when blocked and the strands between the knit columns will be more evident.

The stitch multiple is 6 stitches plus 3 for symmetry. Generally, edge stitches would be added as well, but how would I finish them? I realized that I could leave off those edge stitches and allow the outside knit ribs to curl under slightly thus giving a rounded edge.

To keep the sides neat, I am slipping the first stitch of every row. These outside stitches can become twisted if this is not done properly. The usual way to do this is to slip the first stitch of the knit row knit-wise and the first stitch of the purl row purl-wise. Because of alternating skeins, however, it turns out that the first stitch on every row needs to be slipped purl-wise.

And that, my friends, is how to make a simple project complicated. It is purely for my own satisfaction, of course, because who's going to check to see if my edge stitches are twisted? The lessons, however, are transferable to more complicated projects that do require that attention to the details that make them special.

Until next time.