Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Stranded Knitting

This week, I had two knitters asked me about how I made my stranded colorwork looking flat.  I chuckled because my knitting is always puckery until the magic of blocking does its job.

Something I'm working on. 
The mitten on the right is done and blocked 
and the one on the left is in progress, unblocked.

I'm a true believer of blocking.  It  absolutely transforms almost all knitting from ugly ducklings into finished looking pieces in the most amazing ways.

I figured I'd talk just a little about how I knit colorwork or just how I knit in general.  I'm no expert on this by any means.  In fact, I'm no expert on anything pertains to knitting.  I know few techniques but I don't know all the ins and outs of them.  I don't even ponder on them too much.  Techniques to me are just mechanics.  I'm a very visual and intuitive learner when it comes to knitting so I am not in the habit of analyzing everything I do.

So, in knitting 2 color stranded work, I've read  several recommendations of holding 2 strands of yarn in two fingers or even in two hands.  Well, I hold one strand at a time.  I only know how to knit the English way.  My hands somehow refuse to learn the continental knitting.  I cannot even wrap yarn around my finger to keep tension because my fingers tend to cramp up easily.  I hold yarn rather gingerly between my thumb and my index finger, then drop it and pick up the other color when I change color.  This definitely puts me on the lowest of totem pole of knitters according to many, many experienced knitters out there.  But hey, it works for me and that's all that matters.  I've come across many posts online where knitters insist on their preference of yarns or techniques being the only golden rule and defending it as if her entire self-worth is based on it.  To put it politely, it just makes me want to puke when I read self-righteous methodical opinions like that. I love it when people are sharing knowledge, but loath it when their knowledge becomes a dogma to be imposed on others.

Recently I saw a quick YouTube video of Interweave Knitting Daily about Managing Yarn in colorwork.  At the beginning of the video, Eunny Jang, an amazing designer and the editor for Interweave Knits, said, "It's really about what's most comfortable for you."  Thank you thank you thank you for saying that. 

Some people can make their knitting so flat and even that they look like machine knitted.  I am definitely not one of them.  Maybe I'd wish I am, but I really don't know 'cause I learned to appreciate the aesthetic of my "handmade" look. 

Even tension is the key to good looking knit.  I don't have that either due to the way I knit.  But I've learned a few habits that improved the look of my stranded knitting.
  1. I always rather err on the side of looser float on the back than tight.  
  2. I also spread out my just knitted stitch before I knit the next st when I change color.  It has become a muscle memory that I do it automatically without even thinking.  
  3. I use my needle to pick floats or stitches to make a wonky stitch look right, kind of a cosmetic fix afterwards. 
  4. Then I always, always, always block - wet block if possible (mohair is the only one I  had done wet block and was unimpressed with the result.)  I even sometimes cheat by ironing my knitting.  Some people may find this utterly horrifying, but hey it works for me.  I don't necessary recommend it as I'm not as precious with my work as many knitters are.  Once something is done, I kinda loose interest of it.  It's not necessarily a good trait but...   Always use an ironing cloth over the project  and always test it on the swatch if it was a major project, or if it has any synthetic fiber in it.  I do make sure the setting is low and only press it gently. Ironing probably damages the structure of yarn a little but as long as it looks fine to my eyes, I'm all good.

 See how uneven my stitches are, and this is actually a pretty good one for me.
You should see the ones when I made the yellow submarine cowls and hats.

As you can see, I'm definitely not a great example to follow in how I knit.  I'm more of a compensator.  I compensate by having few habits that helps my imperfect technique.  But I hope by sharing this it may make other imperfect knitters out there feel like they have company.  

So that's how I knit.

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