Monday, 8 December 2008

The Devil in the Detail

(Editors note: this post is going to be pretty dull and possibly incomprehensible if you do not knit. And if you do knit, well it's probably still dull but hopefully useful!)

There is a certain gift in progress which is being knit in the round. It is also striped. As you may know, this can lead to the odd technical hitch. How so? I hear you cry! (Or words to that effect from those of you being kind enough to feign interest). Well, because knitting in the round isn't actually, you know, round.

Circular knitting creates a spiral - like a Slinky (remember those?) - and so the beginning of each round starts a step above the previous one. Not a problem if you're knitting in one colour, but if you try striping in the round you get a 'jog' - a point in the circle where the beginning and the end of the stripe don't meet.

There are various ways to eliminate the jog and create an imaginitively named 'jogless stripe'. I started off with the travelling jog, where you slip a stitch and move your marker one stitch to the left when you change colour. This is genius if you're trying to do intarsia or fairisle in the round to make sure the pattern matches up and it made beautifully neat stripes. However. In my case it was also leaving a rather noticeable diagonal 'snail trail' which would have travelled over a large portion of said knitted item. So I have had to change tactics.

Stationery jogs involve slipping a stitch without moving the marker, so each jogless join stacks on top of the other, instead of travelling sideways. But because I'm only doing two-row stripes there isn't much wiggle room, still it's not too obvious (I hope).

So, you want to change colour in the round:

Round 1: Place a marker where you want to make the change, and simply switch colours and carry on knitting.

Round 2: Knit to marker. Slip marker. Take the stitch below the next stitch (i.e. in the previous colour) and lift to on to the front of your left needle. Knit this stitch and the stitch behind it (i.e. the first stitch in the colour you're using now) together.

After that you just carry on for however many rows you want the stripe to have - or in my case just keep repeating these two rows. There's an alternative version where, instead of picking up a stitch from the row below, you slip the first stitch of the second row purlwise, but the effect is pretty much the same.

I know that over on Ravelry there are various discussions on this, for example with Brooklyn Tweed's Turn A Square hat pattern where some people have had issues with getting their stripes to line up. Again this involves a two-row stripe and I think that's what makes it tricky. You're stretching either a single lifted stitch or a slipped stitch over two rows to eliminate the jog and there aren't any 'spare' rows to give a little slack. Some Ravellers have found they need to pull everything quite snug to make the join work but I'm worried that over a larger piece of knitting this would cause a line of very tight stitches that bunch the fabric. And I've actually found that by leaving a little give the stripe is lining up more neatly. So it's probably a case of trial and error and depends on how tight you knit, your gauge and your yarn.

It's these little details and techniques that make all the difference, what some describe as the difference between something homemade and something handmade, and has made me incredibly grateful for blogs and websites a lot more detailed than mine. The TechKnitter is a famous example of someone sharing their technical expertise and has a dizzying array of topics. She's also brilliant at providing illustrations to demonstrate how to do them yourself (and has a great tutorial on both travelling and stationery jogs). And for those of you wanting to know about single-row jogless stripes, or 'spiraling', the talented Grumperina has tackled that one for you as well.

So, apologies for a very dull post. I'll go back to talking nonsense about elves and hubris and the trials of sock knitting tomorrow.

But today I'm strangely proud that I even care about jogless stripes. I'm not a perfectionist and all too often I fudge the detail when I can get away with it. But there's no denying that the pain-in-the-ass hassle of some techniques pays off in the end and makes the whole project look ten times better. And it's satisfying to think I took the time to learn a better way of doing something. Although of course I can't show you that yet, so you're just going to have to take my word on that until the New Year...

1 comment:

Autumn said...

Thank you! I've been pulling my hair out with the jogless stripe from the Turn a Square pattern. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on this... I'm now unraveling and reattempting for the third time... hopefully it goes better. ;)