Sunday, October 07, 2007

Liz invents a new kind of knitting (maybe)

I'm working on another Christmas project right now. My little brother asked for a new pair of elbow-length fingerless gloves like the ones I made him last year for his birthday (never blogged, long story), but with several changes. He wanted these made from yarn that wasn't itchy (and that gorgeous merino was? shoulda kept it for myself!), and in a black-and-white pattern that looked sort of "tribal." Oh, and he wants separate fingers this time.

I began to think about what I could do within these parameters. I bought four skeins of Dale of Norway Svale (cotton, viscose, and silk) in black and white--hopefully this won't be itchy, but if he thinks it is he is obviously insane. And I landed on the idea of a comet design, with the ball of ice and dirt on the back of the hand and the tail streaming down the arm.

How to convey the sleek lines of a tribal-style comet in knitting, where two-color designs almost by nature end up looking geometric? I started to think about the way lace creates pictures. Increases and decreases, negative space and positive space. The yarn over holes create negative space--an absence of fabric--and the knits and purls create the positive space, usually the picture itself. Lines of increases and decreases can look like stems or can firm up edges.

Can these principles be applied to two-color knitting? I hoped they could, even though I wasn't sure I'd seen it done before. We don't have positive and negative, we have main color and contrast color. What if the streaks of the comet's tail were shaped by decreasing on one side and increasing on the other?

Not only is it possible, it is awesome.

I began with a gauge swatch, and then I cast on, deciding to use the bottom of the piece as the "real" swatch. I did a turned hem and began a 1x1 stripe at the bottom edge. Hate knitting a turned hem together with live stitches? Try it in fair isle! Anyway, yarn dominance is especially important if all you're doing is stripes. By holding the black yarn in my left hand and bringing it from underneath, while the white was in the right and came from above, I ensured that the gauntlets would be, as it were, black with white stripes instead of white with black stripes.

Once I had enough to get started, and to know for sure what kind of gauge I'd have, I figured out how big an area I'd have for the pattern itself. Then I freehanded my comet on graph paper, and then filled in the black squares with a pencil.

Knitting from this chart and trying to take notes of where my increases and decreases were started to get a little scary, so I started filling in a new chart as I go. After all, I'm going to have to flip this around and do it again on the left gauntlet. This second chart also increases the chances that I'll be able to write up the pattern for others to use.

This is the result, now just over halfway to the wrist:

This picture, taken with flash, will hopefully show you the interesting twists and curves created by increasing and decreasing in the black zones.

And this last picture, taken without, kind of shows how this really is black with white stripes instead of the other way around.

I have two questions for you, dear readers.

First, have you seen knitted goodies like this before? I haven't except maybe those crazy kneesocks from Knitters? Vogue Knitting? with the circles? Anybody know what I'm talking about? If I'm the first to do this I'd like to be solid in my bragging rights. If I'm not, I'd like to see how smarter people than myself have done it and, especially, written directions.

Second, what should I call them? I spent some time on Wikipedia looking for cool comet names, but none really stuck out, though I guess I could live with Halley's Gauntlets. I also kinda like the German word for fireball, Feuerkugel (foy-yer koo gull). Any other suggestions?



At 10/07/2007 10:36 AM , Blogger Amelia said...

Two words: So Cool.

At 10/07/2007 12:23 PM , Blogger noricum said...


I don't know if you're the first, but there's nothing wrong with "unventing" a technique... it still took an amazing amount of creativity. I've seen colourwork in cables before, but I don't think I've seen anything exactly like this.

At 10/07/2007 12:34 PM , Blogger AuntieAnn said...

Very, very cool. I can't think of anywhere I've seen anything quite like this, either. I haven't read a lot about colorwork yet, though. He'd better be happy with them! If not, I'm sure someone else would be!

At 10/07/2007 4:24 PM , Blogger sherriknits said... constantly amaze me. I liked that German word. I have never seen this myself, but not sure that's saying much. What a lucky brother you have. :)

At 10/07/2007 7:18 PM , Blogger Heather said...

Amazing! You are going to submit the pattern somewhere, aren't you?

I'm not a fan of the German word. It reminds me too much of the "kuchel" (sp?), German for cake, I think. It's been over 10 years since my German studies, so I could be wrong.

At 10/08/2007 9:09 AM , Blogger knitty_kat said...

gulp - this is awe-some! I really am stunned. I have no suggestion for the name, but I'm sure whatever you come up with, will soon be the "in thing" to knit.

At 10/08/2007 9:41 AM , Anonymous Melissa said...

Too cool!

What about naming the gloves after that awful Ben Affleck movie about the comet that's going to hit earth. Was it Armageddon?

At 10/09/2007 7:48 AM , Blogger ssailorss said...

I made some fair isle legwarmers (on size 3's ..ugh) last year. I suppose that's similar enough. They were supposed to be socks, but my heel looked awful.
Those are pretty awesome looking.

By the bye, the French word for fireball is aƩrolithe. (ay ro leete) I guess an aerolite is a meteorite.

At 10/11/2007 12:22 PM , Blogger SusieH said...

I have never seen colorwork that "moves" the way you are knitting these, with the decreases, etc. They look freakin' amazing!!

At 10/13/2007 4:01 PM , Blogger Sara said...

Didn't Elizabeth Zimmermann attempt something similar (i.e. softly moving colorwork) in Knitter's Almanac? I don't remember if she did it the same way, though.
Anyway, this is great "unventing".


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