Sunday, August 9, 2009

Double Knitting – Fun and Frustration

Right now the fun is mostly on the virtual side and the frustration is with reality. Isn’t that so often the case?

I’m knitting a 50 stitch-pair swatch, currently with no color pattern, in order to learn the double knitting technique and get my gage consistent and solid. There are really four stitch motions, right hand knit and purl, and left hand knit and purl. The book that I’m using to learn is Double Knitting, Reversible Two-Color Designs by M’Lou Baber. Aside from liking the clear instructions, I’m also finding that the lovely and unusual designs are inspiring me to learn. I really want to be knitting one of those patterns!

So I swatch away. Originally my left and right hand each wanted to have their own unique tensions, with the right hand knitting up much looser. I worked at that until it was just the right hand purl stitches torturing me. Now I’m finally getting pretty close to even tension throughout. Of course pretty close probably won’t cut it for the ambitious project I’ve got in mind.

Here’s my swatch. (Vanity kept me from photographing the multiple swatches that came before this one! Please don’t think that I learned this technique in these few stitches.) The yarns are Blue Moon Fiber Arts heavyweight Socks That Rock in Rolling Stone and Rook-y colorways. My needle size is US#7.

It may be hard to see in these pictures but the dark side becomes less ridgy as the swatch progresses. Those ridges are the right hand purl rows.

That brings us to the virtual and totally fun side…

I’m planning a double knit vest using PaintKnits TM to take control of the way the multiple colors in the yarns flow onto the fabric. As I mentioned in my previous post, the concept is to have controlled pooling across an arbitrary two-yarn color pattern. I picked a near black Raven to contrast with a multi, and hope to see Raven silhouettes with pooling in the foreground against a pooled background color when I’m done. The critical factors are 1) the selection of two yarns with the same loop length, (easy… two STR heavyweights) 2) nearly dead-on consistent gage (yikes!), and 3) planning the design around stitch counts that will give me the color effects I’m looking for.

After I’d characterized one of my early swatches for yarn usage I dug in on some PaintKnits analysis. I scanned through a bunch of widths searching for those that would give me the most blatant pooling. Here’s a highlight of what I came up with:
The first and third widths I thought were ok. I really liked the second and last.

Now I needed to plan a vest using rectangular areas that would show off this pooling. At first I was stymied by the sizing. The pooling I wanted would only show up on fabric widths that simply would not go together in a vest that would fit me. Not in panels and not going around the body. The project wanted either too much width or too little.

Finally the answer came to me… I needed to knit the vest from side to side to get the flexibility on length! (Ok, so I also considered gaining a whole lot of weight, but that seemed to be a bad idea somehow.) Here’s a very rough first pass at what the pooling might do on the vest: I’m calling this a rough pass because my gage is still all over the map. To make this work I’ve got to get that under control. Then I’ll re-measure my yarn usage, tune up my computer model, and re-do the computer modeling as needed to plan the vest.

I suppose I’m still a long way off, but those colors on the computer screen sure are exciting. And that’s without any superimposed pattern from the Raven yarn yet. I’m psyched! Now if only my reality would match my virtual world of computer models! Maybe soon…

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