Friday, October 12, 2007

Mermaid Fingerless Gloves, Part 3 - Sinister Left Mitt

Here at last is the final installation of my Mermaid Glove notes! Knitting my sister's gloves helped me nail down my best solutions for the problems presented by the mirrored monster. I suspect there are even better ways to solve these issues, but for those who just want to get the job done I've set down my method.

Before I dig in on these instructions let me tell you what the two biggest issues are:

1) The stitch pattern looks very different if reversed because a Ktbl has a natural direction to it.

2) Pattern rows don't naturally flow one to the next when knit in the opposite direction.

A little background on Issue #1: As I started the left glove the first time, it occurred to me that the Ktbl twist direction might be a problem. I looked really closely at Steph's photos on Craftoholic and thought that they looked like normal Ktbl's in spite of being knit in the mirrored pattern. I started my own left glove using a normal Ktbl and after one pattern block of 22 rows I was horrified. A normal Ktbl stitch recedes slightly on its left side, so that the scales of the right glove have a feeling of depth. The ridges all slope toward the center of the scale. With this feature reversed the pattern looked totally different. The scales came out flat and lifeless.

When I put the gloves on this effect was alleviated, but that wasn't good enough for me. I wanted a total right/left match, so I had to figure out how to make a mirrored K tbl. When I started over with my new, mirrored Ktbl stitch, I still saw some difference between the two gloves. I was mystified until Susan from WormSoup pointed out that the twist in the yarn itself also changes the appearance of a stitch! In the final product my left and right glove almost look like they're slightly different shades of purple, but that's probably something only their maker would notice.
The point of all that text was to tell you that you may want to swatch before you make any rash decisions on whether or not to use the mirrored stitch. It's really not difficult once you get going, but not everyone will care enough about the subtleties of texture to make it worthwhile. I also suspect that the stitch may come off one person's hand differently than another's, so the normal version might even look ok on both gloves for you.

In addition to the issue of learning this strange stitch, there can also be trouble with gage. You're trying to make matching gloves in two different stitches, so don't take for granted that gage will cooperate. My right glove is slightly longer than my left, but fortunately it's not noticeable when they're on my hands.
Issue #2 concerning the pattern rows… Well that's just strange. I spent some time staring at the chart with a big glass of red wine, but never saw the logic of why this pattern behaves so bizarrely when reversed. (Not sure that the red wine helped much there.) I've taken careful notes of what I did to deal with that however, and they're listed below as well.

So here goes…

Part 3 - Mermaid Gloves, Sinister Left Mitt

Let's start with how to make a mirrored Ktbl stitch. I really did find these pretty easy once I got the hang of it. To make this work the stitch that's waiting to be knit must be facing toward the right instead left. Insert the right needle into the loop from the left by going behind the left, (front), leg of the loop. Catch the strand of yarn by sweeping the left needle underneath it from the left. Pull the yarn through the loop. You should have a new, right-facing loop on the right needle. Notice that even though the new stitch is not yet twisted, the one below it is. I've added some rough sketches so that my words will have a chance at making sense.
Caution: Check your gage! With the new stitch the left glove may very well knit up at a different gage from the right. (I sound like such a knitting author! Who ever really checks gage?! Then again, how many of us frog while regretting that??? Choose your poison…)

Onward to the actual glove. (All references to "Ktbl" actually mean the mirrored Ktbl.):

After cast on start the 1Ktbl x 1P rib on a Ktbl instead of a purl. Doesn't make that much difference, but if you're a perfectionist like me you'll appreciate the hint. Knit the rib to length per Part 1 of my instructions.

When you reach the beginning of the chart start at the left edge and read from left to right. Notice that on rows 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, and 22 the previous row's yarn overs must be reversed to face right before they are knit. Those are the rows where a Ktbl is knit onto a yarn over, and as I mentioned above mirrored Ktbl stitches must start out facing right in order to work. (I found that this made it very difficult to tog the yarn over with a Ktbl in rows 1 and 12, but for me it was worth it.)

Here's the first rub with the reversed chart. After row 11 the reversed chart tries to put two yarn overs together. Ignore the first yarn over in row 12. Past this row the stitches on each needle will resume beginning and ending with left-most and right-most chart stitches respectively, like a normal pattern.

After row 12 you'll see that a new scale is growing at the beginning of each needle. This scale is actually knit to the previous needle's stitch pattern, meaning that as the pattern progresses the very first scale in a round is actually knit to the previous row's pattern. Nothing to worry about, but do remember that detail when checking your work!

Once you've knit the 22nd round that entire first scale will really belong to the previous row. You'll still need to work that scale before you can start again with the row 1 pattern. Before (or as you knit) row 1 move one scale's worth of stitches from the left needle to the right at each break between needles. This makes your start point for the round shift over one scale, (12 stitches), for each vertical pattern group, or three scales all together before you start the thumb gusset. I could not find any more elegant way to deal with this crazy pattern.

Thumb gusset: The thumb gusset is worked the same way as it is for the right glove, by omitting all of the Ktbl tog's in a pattern block. The trick becomes selecting the best pattern block for creating the gusset. I'd recommend the sixth, (last), block. With the shifting stitches, your initial cast on knot will have moved 180 degrees around the glove. Putting the gusset in the sixth block keeps that starting knot symmetrical with the right glove and slightly to the underside of the piece.

There's one last potential pitfall. At this point your cast on knot has moved, your gusset's in a new place, and basically all frames of reference have gone out the window. Be very careful when re-establishing the beginning of the round before starting the fingers! My recommendation is to use the 1 x 1 rib to bring you to the vertical pattern edge next to what will be the pinky finger and reposition the work on the needles as required for that start point. It's a really good idea to put the glove on and make sure the thumb gusset is next to the opposite vertical pattern edge, and also that it's on the correct side of that edge! Knit one full row of rib per Part 2 of my instructions.

From here on the project should actually be fairly straightforward to mirror. Use the table of stitches from Part 2, but be sure to remember to mirror it.

The last step is to leave me a comment on FurrPurls with a web reference that will let me see your finished product!! (And, of course a heads up on any errata that you notice along the way.)


Whew! Glad that's done. The Mermaids really are lovely, but I'm so, so ready to be working on something new. That absolutely huge pile of Fiesta wool's been calling to me incessantly! And there might just be some newly arrived wool calling too…


monica said...

Thanks for posting a comment about your Mermaid Gloves. I love yours!! I thought about doing the mirror images but decided I was too lazy and after reading your post about it I definitely won't do them.

ringer said...

Thanks for all the details on the mirroring. That is a beautiful pile of yarn you have. But I think my favorite part is seeing your sketches - count this as one vote for more sketches, knitting-related or not!