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Technical Writings 2

  • Counting Stitches
  • Potholders: Short Row Squares (PATTERN)
  • Biblical Prohibition against Wool-Linen Combinations
  • Short Note on Andean Spinning
  • Knitting with Wire

  • Technical Stuff 1
  • Miscellaneous Writing
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  • Counting Stitches

    Counting Stitches for the Chronically Interrupted (that's you mothers/fathers with small children)

    I was increasing for a cable sweater for DH in a dark fiber (hang my head in shame--but I have to use up the synthetic stash) in poor light. Now, with cable patterns, you have to use lots more stitches than in a regular sweater and dark colours aren't the easiest to count, especially after the massive increase which comes at the transition from ribbing to cables. I kept losing count and finally I grabbed a spool of white sewing thread and did the following.

    I didn't invent this tip, so I can't take credit for it. You count 25 stitches, depending on the nature of the constant interruptions (if you're really in a bad way, then maybe you should mark every 10 stitches!), and then lay the white thread over the knitting, under the needle, between the stitch just knitted and the stitch to be knitted. Then you knit another 25 stitches and do the same, flipping the thread in the opposite direction, towards you instead of away. When you've finished, it's very easy to count the groups of 25 stitches and if you lose your count, you have an easy-to-locate marker only a few stitches back, to resume counting. This could be very useful if you are doing a Starmore Fair Isle with 300 stitches (Lois, aren't you doing a vest with more than 300 for your husband?) and don't trust the count.


    Potholders: Short-Row Squares

    [These are felted potholders formed by turning shortrows.]

    I suggest that you use large needles (I use 5.5 mm), as you will put the squares into the washing machine to felt them. The felting makes them much stiffer and thicker.

    I adapted the short-row hot pads from EZ's baby blanket. Here's the general outline and you can fine-tune it to the size you want. Do you know how to do short rows? You knit to the middle of a row, not the very end, then turn and knit in the opposite direction. You can leave a hole or you can wrap the yarn around the adjacent stitch, depending on preference. For hot pads I usually leave the hole.

    Cast on 10 stitches. Knit 1 row. Now to start the short rows:
    K 9. Turn. (you'll stop short one stitch)
    K 9 (to end of row).
    K 8. Turn.

    K 8 (to end of row).
    K 7, turn, and so on until you have only 1 stitch left.
    Now you k 2 stitches (the one you have left and one of the stitches you left behind when you turned a short row). Turn.
    Knit 2 (to end of row).
    K 3. Turn.
    K 3 (to end of row), and so on until you have ten stitches back on your needle. You'll notice that you turned a perfect right angle. That is 1/4 of your potholder. You just do that 3 more times and you'll have a square. You can graft to the cast-on row or sew it or whatever. Whatever you do won't be noticeable after it's felted.

    Variations: I often do segments in different colours, like one of the side triangles in grey, another in brown, another in black, depending on the colour of the fleece. The white doesn't felt as readily as the coloured wools and the piece might need an extra trip through the washing machine. After the hot pad has reached the size and thickness you want, it's best to handwash it in the future, unless you want a - -very- thick and dense coaster to put under your hot mugs.


    Biblical Prohibition against Wool--Linen Combinations

    From: PVanHorn

    Here is an obscure little Bible reference my daughter and I found in a Bible quizz book. The question asked: The ancient Mosaic law forbade the Israelites to wear clothing woven of _____ an________ together. Why? The answer was: linen and wool. The explanation was a surprise, though. I thought it was because of incompatability due to shrinkage, strength, or stability of the fibers. It said that a fabric made out of these two materials blended together "increases the power of passing off electricity from the body; in hot climates it brings on malignant fevers and exhausts the strength. " (from "Who? Why? What?" by May C Smith.)


    This isn't obscure at all, for orthodox Jews. The commandment is still valid for us today. I regularly check new clothing labels when outside Israel to make sure that they don't contain linen and wool together.

    The origins of this prohibition are biblical and may be found in Deut. 22:11 and Lev. 19:19. This commandment is also discussed in the Mishnah (m. Kilayim 9), a compilation of the Jewish law passed on orally and put into written form in the 2nd century, CE. The rabbis interpreted the prohibition to cover "carding" or "smoothing" (shua), spinning (tavui) and plying (noz) them. If any one of these processes has taken place (they cover 99% of textile preparation), then it is forbidden to combine the fibers. So, for example, felt made of linen and wool is prohibited because the felting process smooths the fibers. In practice, the prohibition covers items such as wool garments sewn together with linen thread, wool suits reinforced with linen interfacing, wool and linen woven together (linsey-woolsey), garments knitted or woven from wool-linen blend yarns and garments where one piece may be made out of wool and another piece out of linen. It is permitted, however, to wear a linen shirt with wool trousers or a skirt, as these are separate. Just as a note, I should add that most observant Jews avoid wool-linen combinations in pretty much everything-- blankets, towels, rugs, Torah scroll covers, marriage canopies, etc.

    Centuries of Jewish tradition have assigned this prohibition to the category of commandments for which no rational reason exists (like the prohibition against mixing meat and milk), so I am a bit skeptical of Mary C. Smith's explanation.

    From the practical perspective, I keep flax stored apart from wool and clean the spindles before I switch from one to the other.


    Short Note on Andean Knitting

    >I have been reading Cynthia LeCount's book "Andean Fold Knitting". There
    >lots of photos of knitters who carry the yarn around the back of their neck
    >to keep the tension. The problem is that the photos don't give any
    >indication of how they work the thread in their hands. Does any one know
    >what exactly it is they are doing? I knit VERY loosely and would love to
    >learn to knit at such a close gauge as the examples in this book.



    Andean knitting is a bit different from European/North American knitting. It's actually purling. If you look closely at the photos, you'll see that when they work "in the round", they work (purl) on the side furthest from the body, rather than knitting on the side close to the body, the way most westerners do. The stockinette stitch side faces outwards.

    The yarns are moved into place with the thumbs, which is said to make changing colours very easy. The purling position and the tensioning around the neck contribute to a very tight tension and result in a densely-knitted fabric. Remember that they also re-spin their commercial yarns so that the yarns are tighter and denser.

    If you have Knitting around the World from Threads, the final article on different knitting styles demonstrates Greek knitting, with the yarn around the neck. I once knew an American-Italian student who tensioned her yarns the same way. This is the closest I've seen to Andean knitting style. If you want to try it, I suggest that you try 00 dp needles and fingering weight yarn and practice purling on the far side of your circular knitting.


    Knitting with wire

    I am by no means an expert on knitting with wire. If you decide to give it a try, then I hope that these hints may be of some use.


    Fine wire
    Copper works well. Just remember that if it is too fine, it will need some additional support for the edges and it may bend out of shape if someone sits on the piece. Of course, you can always bend it back into shape but eventually metal fatigue will take its toll and the wire may snap. If you choose to work in silver, try to find "fine silver" rather than sterling silver. It is more flexible and malleable, while sterling silver is inclined to be brittle. Size .3 mm is a good size to work with. Size .5 mm is rather stiff, only recommended for rather small pieces.

    I've never tried gold but others have. Stainless steel wire, found in many hobby stores, is not really suitable. It's just too springy and hard on the hands. If your needle slips out, the entire row can go SPROOIINNG and jump out of the previous row! I've used enamel-insulated "telephone wire" with interesting results and even burned off the insulation for special effect, but did not continue because of the risk of inhaling the fumes.

    Knitting Needles
    Don't use your finest ebony needles for this. The wire will scrape the finish and may break wooden or bamboo needles if you use too much force. I use old cheap aluminum needles.

    Small needle-nose pliers
    You should be able to find them at a craft store, hardware store or certainly a jewellery supply outlet. Useful for opening and closing jump rings (the little rings which join your masterpiece to earring wires, clasps, etc.) and for bending in the exposed ends of the wire so that they don't scratch.

    Jewellery fittings
    Earring wires, pin backs. Just remember that knitted wire is somewhat transparent unless you attach the piece to a backing of felt or other material. For pins, you may want to use a stick-pin rather than an ordinary brooch pin because the part where you mount the jewellery will be visible.


    Don't do a fancy cast on. Just the simple grade-school wrap-around-the-thumb backwards loops will do. You don't need a slip knot, needless to say.

    Knit loosely and slowly. Bend the wire carefully around the needle, so that the needle is not doing all the work by pulling the loop through. Knit carefully (or approach your design with an open mind) because wire is not easily un-knitted or re-used (some kinks always remain). You can use lace patterns, as long as you knit loosely enough so that you can do the k2togs easily. If you pull too hard, some fine wires will break.

    Increasing is best done with a yarn over or with a backwards loop. The "bar increase" (knitting through the front and then the back) is not easy to do with wire.

    Besides knitting lace patterns, you can also thread beads, charms and other small objects onto the wire. Just move them into place between stitches.

    Casting off is a cinch. Since knitted wire does not unravel easily, just cut off a long tail and loop it through the stitches, making little blanket stitches.

    Finishing hints

    Cut the wire close to the piece and bury the end carefully with a pair of pliers. Now stretch and flatten the knitting. If you find that the piece is too flimsy, consider reinforcing the edges by overcasting with a heavier wire threaded in a needle. My triangular earrings were knitted in copper and edged in silver. The contrast is striking when the earrings are curved because you can see the silver. You can also device a mounting-- for example, consider embedding the piece in a thin slice of Fimo clay or sewing it to satin-covered cardboard backing. Silver will tarnish, so you may want to spray it with or dip it into a protective solution.

    Final notes: I suggest that you start with a small piece, such as a pin or a pendant. This really is very hard on the hands. Further, knitted wire produces a fairly flimsy product, so unless you are willing to work with very heavy wires and special tools, you're not likely to produce a durable large piece like a vase for dried flowers.

    Costumers: I am occasionally asked whether chain mail can be knitted out of wire. It's possible but I don't recommend it. Too labour intensive and uncomfortable to wear. For the Society for Creative Anachronism, knitted chain mail just isn't authentic enough. You people already know how to use a hammer and anvil. For the rest of you-- if you're doing King Arthur with fifth graders, then I suggest that you knit tunics out of heavy yarn or twine and spray paint the "chain mail" silver.

    Arline M. Fisch, Textile Techniques with Metal (Lark Books, 1996). The Bible of wire knitting, twining, sprang, lacemaking, crochet and whatever else you might try to do with wire. It's now back in print and available from Lark Books and is full of gorgeous photos and detailed technical material

    Annelise Kraus, Knitting with Silver wire, Threads 52 (May 1994), pp. 42-43.


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