Sunday, July 17, 2011

Helical Knitting

In my continuing quest of being a know-it-all, when it comes to everything, I took a class yesterday with the Knit At Night Guild (KANG) on helical knitting with Kenny Chua at Park Avenue Yarns in League City.

First off I was late in arriving.  I misread my GPS and would have ended up in Galveston Bay if I had continued on the right road for way too long.  The shop looked wonderful but the parking for such a large class (about 20 of us) was inadequate.  I ended up parking in a puddle on the side of the road and did a very graceful leap out of the car.  

Yes, we had some rain (Yeah!) so puddles were to be expected.  My inexperience with this phenomenon meant I wasn't watching where I parked.  Lesson re-learned!

Kenny is a young chemical engineer by day and a wonderful knitter by night.  He has had patterns published in several mass media magazines like  Knit Simple, Knitter's Magazine and Interweave Knits.  He is a good teacher but seemed uncomfortable up there when, I think, almost everyone in the room was older than him.  I hope he keeps at it as he is very knowledgeable with a delightful sense of humor.

Helical Knitting is a response to those of us who knit striped garments and accessories in the round.  Instead of knitting back and forth on two needles, knitting in the round means you are always knitting in one direction, usually on needles joined with a cord.  

Knitting traditionally (back and forth on two needles) does not have a problem with stripes.  You want to join colors, wait until the end of the row, tie on a new color, cut off the old color and continue knitting.

Knitting in the round does not give an opportunity for a hard stop as the end of the row never happens until the end of the item.  Striped items usually end up with a jog in the stripes, setting you up for an unattractive indication of where you changed colors.

Helical knitting is a response to that difficulty.  Essentially you knit the different colors so it looks like you are knitting in a spiral.  Since you are only knitting a single row of color per stripe the colors spiral up the item being knitted without a bunch of joins and without the slope implied by knitting in a spiral.

It really is a very clever way to knit a striped item and I encourage you to check out Kenny's website for some beautiful examples of helical knitting.

Here is my output from the class:

The only place where you can see a join is just where you join the colors to the base brim.  Here its the addition of the yellow to the rust at the top of picture.

Otherwise the changes in the colors is completely invisible.

We were using Berroco Comfort worsted weight yarn in four colors.  Although I am not in love with this yarn, it really is relatively easy to work with and is completely machine washable and dryable.

How do you accomplish this miracle of knitting stripes without a join?  Here is a website with some very technical instructions and another site with a different approach.

If you just want to dive in and give it try here are a couple of things to think about:
  • Number of colors - not more than six, 
  • Number of stitches - the more the merrier.  We worked on a 105 stitches to a row hat.
  • Stripes cannot be taller than one row for it all to work.
Here is a basic explanation on how to do it:
  1. Start with a base - in this case we used a 1 x 1 rib on needles two sizes smaller than the needles used for the body of the hat.  We used 98 stitches for the ribbing on US size 6 needles.       
  2. Optional - increase the ribbing stitches from 98 to 105 in a plain stockinette knit row.
  3. Divide the number of stitches in a row into four equal amounts if you are using four colors.  In our case we divided the 105 stitches into three sections of 26 stitches and one of 27 stitches.
  4. With the same yarn as the ribbing,on the larger size needles (we used US size 8), knit 26 stitches, drop the yarn (DO NOT CUT) and pick up your next color.  Knit 26 more stitches drop it and pick up the next color.  Knit 26 stitches, drop it, pick up the last color and knit 27 stitches.
  5. Knit 26 more stitches with your last color, drop it and pick up you ribbing color yarn when you reach where it is hanging.  Keep dropping and picking up yarn colors as they appear.  One part of each row will be twice as long in one color as the other two parts but just go with it.  And yes, your yarns get tangled but deal with it however you want.
  6. Admire the magic!!
There was a bonus in this class in that we learned a brand new cast-on called a tubular cast on.  I did it completely and utterly wrong.  I am going to You Tube and my reference books to try it again as it really made a lovely edge to the ribbing.

I still don't know it all but I will continue my quest.  After all , my ex once said i was right about things 95% of the time so I just have 5% of everything else to figure out.

Have a good week!

1 comment:

delia hornbook said...

Wow that looks interesting i have never seen or heard of this, that is why blogland is such an amazing place. Enjoy your new craft, dee x