Friday, October 11, 2013

It's something daring, the Continental

This knit is going to be a birthday gift when I get it finished. Hopefully in a couple weeks. Wish me luck. Knowing the recipient is a busy gal who probably doesn't have the time for handwashing delicate pieces, I picked out a couple of sturdy yarns that can be thrown in the wash, Cascade 220 Superwash and Heritage Silk. Machine wash warm, tumble dry low. Disco. 

The pattern is Array by Shibui Knits, a neat textured cowl worked up in two different weight yarns. (It's free! Check it out!) It is an easy colorwork knit with dramatic results. The overall fabric is basically seed stitch, meaning lots of bumpy texture in the hand, and the colors worked in columns lend interesting visual appeal. The set-in striping sort of reminds me of bar codes -- perhaps an interesting idea for a modification! -- or, for some irrational reason, binary code. So I named it Tron. Because y'know that's people stuck in a computer. And the colors are near perfect. 

The downside? It's sllloooooowwwwww. The color effect is achieved by working stitches of only one color each round and slipping stitches of the second color. This means that every row actually requires two rounds to complete, and every other row is basically knit as 1x1 rib in terms of yarn placement. 1x1 rib is possibly the slowest knitting pattern EVER. Besides perhaps double knitting. What is this? 1x1 rib double knitting (ish). Didn't realize that before starting! Oops. Not ideal for a "quick knit" project, is it? But it looks so darn cool. And it's a perfect sturdy, modern, and stylish cowl.

In the spirit of being a problem solver, I have tried out several different knitting techniques on this piece including my normal right-handed 'flicking' (sore hand from moving yarn back and forth so much), back to traditional English 'throwing' (super slow), taught myself how to do a Norwegian purl (purl with yarn in back! nicer. left-handed.), and finally managed to pick up Continental style (winner!). 

I've been trying to teach myself Continental knitting ever since I picked up my needles again, but always had a hard time with the motions for the purl stitch. What did it for me was actually going through the Norwegian purl first. Yes, I was desperate! I didn't even know there was such a stitch. I've got Mad Google Skills. There is a fantastic video tutorial here. For the stitch, not the Skills. Anyway.  In an effort to reduce the number of movements to do a slip stitch to a Norwegian purl, I found myself naturally moving the yarn from back to front as I pulled the slipped stitch off the needle. And bam! Continental purl. Snuck up on me without even thinking about it. Progress is coming along much faster now. My stitch marker is pleased.

It's something daring, the Continental
A way of (knitting) that's really ultra new
It's very subtle, the Continental
Because it does what you want it to do

Continental knitting is fast for me now, but even the knit stitch used to be hilariously slow when I first tried it out (hence, learning flicking to go faster). My problem was controlling the tension of the yarn with my left hand. My normal wrapping technique (i.e. wrap randomly around my right fingers until it feels right) made the yarn too tight and awkward for the Continental style. In the end I don't wrap at all, and it somehow just works. That might be 90% of knitting -- just do something approximately the way someone else does until it feels right and gives you the same results. This was frustrating at first because the yarn seemed loose and floppy compared to how I knit right-handed, but with practice it's gotten more under control. I also find (not surprisingly) that my gauge is slightly looser, which has been a plus on this project -- the fabric lays nicer. Having worked a few shawl projects without a gauge swatch (what's that??) and being puzzled when they turned out smaller than I expected, I now think I must be quite a tight knitter with certain weight yarns (ahem, fingering), probably related to my aforementioned technique for keeping tension as I knit. 

For this project changing my knitting style really helped, kind of like the time I taught myself to knit from left to right for a project that had lots of stockinette stitch. It will be interesting to try this out on something else (probably a fingering weight shawl.....) to see if the looser gauge solves some of my problems and if I like knitting this way when there are no challenges of speed to overcome. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for chiming in and leaving a comment!