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German Short Rows

Short rows are the perfect technique for shaping knitting, and there are many different ways to knit short rows. Many of them are a bit fiddly, and some will even make a small hole in the knitted fabric where the turn is. My favorite technique is German short rows because they are easy to work and the result is a nice, almost invisible, turn.

Here, I’ll show how to work German short rows in stockinette. The project I’m working on is a striped version of my own Cook a wolf sweater pattern that I’m currently writing. I use short rows to shape the shoulder of this sweater, to give it a small slope that makes the sweater fit better.

After knitting on the right side

Here, I am showing what to do after finishing the knit stitches on the right side. Having reached the number of stitches the pattern states, turn the work so the wrong side is facing you.

Now, slip the first stitch as if to purl with the yarn in front of the work. Then, pull the yarn over the needle, pulling the two legs of the stitch long. After that, purl the stitches on the needle:

After purling on the wrong side

You basically do the same when you finish purling the required number of stitches on the wrong side. Turn the work so the right side is facing, slip the first stitch as if to purl with the yarn in front of the work, then pull the yarn over the needle, pulling the two legs of the stitch long. After that, knit the stitches on the needle:

In both cases, there is now a pulled-over stitch on the needle. This stitch looks doubled, but it is one stitch and should be worked as one.

Knit the pulled-over stitch on the right side

When you reach a pulled-over stitch on the right side, it looks like this. In this video, I knit two ordinary stitches, then the pulled over stitch, and then two ordinary stitches:

And similarly when you purl the pulled-over stitch on the wrong side. In this video, I purl two ordinary stitches, then the pulled-over stitch, then two ordinary stitches:

And this is what the shoulder looks like after being closed using a 3-needle bind off – you can just see that the stripes are narrower in one end, and that’s all it takes to improve the shaping of a sweater shoulder:

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A Decorative Rib

I am writing a pattern for a simple sweater with a simple shape and a gauge of 18 sts / 10 cm (4 inches). I’ll publish it as Cook a Wolf later.

I usually knit several versions when writing a pattern, and one of the versions of this sweater has a decorative rib edge that combines a normal rib with a zig-zag rib from Barbara Walker’s Treasury of Knitting Patterns. Walker calls this rib “rick rack ribbing”.

Here is the bottom edge of my sweater with the decorative rib. When I use normal rib, I usually use 10% fewer stitches for the rib than for the body. With this decorative rib, I use the same number, as the rick rack stitches are constantly crossing over, and that draws in the edge.

The rick rack stitches are actually a mini-cable, so the zigzagging look comes from the fact that the stitches are crossed. There are only two rounds, but they are difficult to explain in words, so I’ve made videos showing these stitches. They are shown for working in the round. The videos only show the special stitches, in the picture above, they are surrounded by purl, knit, purl.

Round 1: knit the second stitch through the back loop, then knit the first stitch:

Round 2: knit the second stitch through the front, then knit the first stitch:

It can be a bit difficult to get the needle through the front of the second stitch. I hold the stitches from the back, that makes it easier.

Repeat the two rounds.

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Danish Tie Shawls

The Textile Museum in Herning, Denmark, owns a collection of hand knitted objects from the area around Herning in Jutland, Central Denmark. The collection contains shawls, underwear, socks, and footless socks. I work at the Textile Museum, and I’m currently giving a series of workshops centered around the knitted objects. A good group of about 10 knitters attend, and together we analyze the construction of the objects and try to recreate them, often in several rounds of knitting and discussion.

The first series of workshops was about shawls. The most well know shawl in the collection is doubtless the shawl that Danish knitwear designer Åse Lund Jensen examined and published a pattern for. She was very interested in historical knitting, and this very pattern pointed me in the same direction. So seeing the original shawl was very exciting. It is knitted from several green yarns with a black lace edge:

A bit hard to see, but the neck area is knitted using a thinner yarn. This is also the case with several other shawls in the collection, and I think it must be to make the shawl fit better:

The objects’s registration is not very informative. All it says is this: “Grey, knitted, with black edge. Typical, used in the 1880-1890’s and before and after. Practical piece. Herning parish, Hammerum shire. Gift from Mrs Jensen, Vestergade 85, Herning. 29/9-1931”. That’s all (and I really think it’s green, not grey. But I like the description “practical piece”).

Åse Lund Jensen died in 1977, and knitwear designer Marianne Isager took over her company and back catalogue of patterns. That is the reason that this and many other Lund Jensen patterns have lived on after her death. Some years ago, the shawl pattern became very popular in a striped but otherwise identical version known as “Chamomile”. A very nice example of knitting heritage being passed on, I think.

This brown tie shawl also caught my eye, and made me fall in love immediately! It has been in the museum’s collection since 2004:

The objects’s registration tells us the following about the brown shawl: “Tie shawl. Material: Brown wool. The tie shawl is shaped. Has a lace edge. Ties in the tip of the triangle. Several repairs. Donor inherited it from her grandmother Karen Marie Møller, b. 1841, d. 1921, married to blacksmith Jens Peter Kristensen (later took the name Møller) b. 1840, d. 1925”.

Here’s a better photo of the edge:

I have knitted quite a few swatches and several whole shawls based on the brown tie shawl. First a light blue version, which was on display along with the original in a special exhibition at the Textile Museum. I also made a brown version, using naturally dyed wool from my other page, Midgaards Have.

Finally I knitted the shawl in Rauma Finull, a yarn very well suited as it drapes well at this gauge, but also holds the shape so the lace tips can be blocked. Blocking shawls is a Shetland technique, and as far as I know the technique was not used for Danish tie shawls. They were knitted at a very dense gauge to use as outerwear, not for decoration.

My version of the shawl is modern. I worked it at a much looser gauge, so this will not work as outerwear in rough weather. But it can be an indoor “practical piece”, keeping the body warm and arms free for working around the house. It can also be decorative, especially if worked without ties. The construction is also modern. The historical shawls were worked from the outside, beginning with a large stitch count and decreasing on both sides of the work using only the knit 2 together decrease. The edge was worked separately and sewn on. My shawl is worked from the neck out and the edge is knitted on – I just find that easier! Here is the shawl worked in grey Finull:

Pattern

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Provisional Cast On

Provisional cast on is one of my favorite knitting techniques. It is a cast on that you remove later, freeing live stitches that you can knit. I sometimes make a provisional cast on in the middle of a stockinette sweater if I haven’t decided how long it will be. Or if I’m not sure I have enough yarn. A provisional cast on is sometimes a good idea instead of an edge that stays when knitting sweaters both top-down and bottom-up. By finishing all edges with bind offs, I find that it is easier to make edges that fall perfectly. And bind offs on all edges also make them identical.

There are several methods for casting on provisionally, so I am going to show the one I think is the easiest. When using this method, you crochet the provisional stitches around the knitting needle. Below, I show the method both for left-handed and righ-thanded people. I am left-handed, so I know how impossible it is to study photos to learn something new while simultaneously having to mirror the photos in your head!! I made the right-handed photos by mirroring the images.

Use another type of yarn than the one that will be used for knitting. A smooth cotton yarn is perfect. Use a crochet hook with about the same size as your knitting needle. To begin, make a standard slip knot:

Put the knitting needle below the crochet hook, making the yarn end hanging over the needle:

Carry the yarn up the back of the needle and over the hook:

Pull the yarn through the loop that was already sitting on the hook – there is now one stitch on the needle:

Carry on in the same way – for each stitch, the yarn goes over the front of the needle, up its back, over the hook, and pull through the loop:

Cut the yarn when enough stitches are cast on. From now on, things look the same for left- and right-handed people. The cut end is on the right side:

Tie the working yarn to the right side. I just tie an ordinary knot, then knit the provisional stitches:

Later you’ll come back and remove the white yarn. Untie the knot and put the live stitches on to a needle as the provisional stitches are unraveled. In this case, my purple yarn end is rather short, it is more practical to leave a slightly longer end in the beginning. That way, the end can be used to knit the first few stitches before adding more yarn.

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Knitted Cast On

The knitted cast on is a method to cast on stitches to the right of existing stitches or a slip knot. In Danish, one of the names for this cast on is a “school cast on”, indicating that this was the cast on girls used to learn in school. I have a housewife’s handbook from 1951 called “Femina”. That book calls the knitted cast on “knitting up new stitches”, a fine description. Femina uses the knitted cast on when constructing a buttonhole, but it is also a good cast on for modular knitting.

Here, I am showing the knitted cast on to the right of existing stitches. The work is placed as if one was about to work across:

First, knit one stitch as usual:

The left needle is inserted into the stitch from the back. This movement can also be thought of as putting the stitch back on the left needle through the back loop:

The right needle lets go, and one stitch has now been cast on:

To cast on more stitches, just repeat the steps above. Each time, work in the right stitch on the needle.

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Splicing Yarn

This technique for changing yarn makes life much easier, especially when knitting a thicker yarn where sewn-in ends can be bulky and easily seen.

I am showing how to splice using href=”https://retrofutura.dk/en/product-category/rauma-vams-en/”>Rauma Vams, a thick 2-ply pure wool yarn. It felts really well. Splicing can only be used with pure wool yarns that felt well. It doesn’t work on superwash or fiber blends.

Here are the two ends that I would like to join. The two plies are easily visible:

Before splicing, I remove one ply of each end, leaving a 1-ply overhang of 2-3 cm. This means the splice will be the same thickness as the rest of the yarn, and completely invisible after knitting:

Then, I hold the yarn ends on my palm:

At this point, moisten the overlapping ends. You can dip your fingers in water, or use a bit of spit. The technique is also known as spit splicing, and some will even claim that enzymes in spit help splice the wool. This doesn’t make much sense, as spit doesn’t contain any enzymes that work on proteins as far as I remember! But spit is good because the lazy knitter in the comfy chair doesn’t have to get up.

When the yarn ends are moist, put the other hand on top and roll them using a movement perpendicular to the yarn. It’s fine if it feels warm between the palms, as the combination of moisture and temperature is what makes felting happen! The result:

The fibers are felted together, and the the yarn ends have been spliced. I usually give the join a little tug to see if it’s strong enough. If not, felt it some more.

Splicing is a very useful technique when knitting real wool. I imagine that the technique must be very old, older than knitting, probably. Nalbinding, which was the technique used before knitting, is hard to do without splicing, as new ends of yarn are constantly added. And wool yarns of the past would most probably have felted well. Splicing ends would also be an easy idea to come to mind for someone who spun all their own yarn, and thought of wool fibres as a material to be worked as you needed.

See more Rauma Vams?

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Madrigal

2021 is suddenly over. Another lockdown year gone, but also a busy and good year. For me the year where my pattern, Madrigal, was published in Pom Pom Quarterly 39.

Image from Pom Pom Publishing, Model and art director Lydia Morrow, photography Theodora van Duin, hair and makeup Kala Williams.

The pattern has different levels of repetition.

The most obvious is the color change when knitting a round, alternating stitches of two colors.

But the four colors are also repeated in the same sequence throughout the pattern, and at the same time, dominance is shifted for every 9 rounds.

Together, the multiple repetitions form a whole where no one color dominates over the others. Thus the name Madrigal, which is a type of choral music where voices weave in and out of each other, creating a whole.

Pom Pom’s color choice feels very modern, and it was interesting for me to knit the sample in a color combination so far from what I would have chosen myself! Here is the Pom Pom color combination along with 3 combinations that I chose:

Madrigal in 4 different color combinations.

My eye wants the Madrigal pattern in clear color combinations with a lot of contrast, which honestly belong in the 90’s, the decade where knitting almost died! The feel of the different combinations is truly different, but in the end, the Madrigal design works well in so many 4-color combinations.

All that’s required is 4 colors with good contrast, and that can be achieved by choosing one light, one dark, and two in-between colors. Or, work the pattern in more than 4 colors, without repeating a color sequence.

The pattern itself is an older story. I took it from mittens knitted by a friend of our family, who is in her mid-80’s and has been making mittens in this style for many years.

Here’s two mittens our friend made for my children. The small one looks centuries old, but this is what anything my son has worn for a bit looks like. Sand drizzles out of the small mitten if you shake it gently.

My children’s mittens.

Small repeat patterns on mittens are a part of Danish knitting tradition that has not been given much attention. I wrote an article about small pattern repeat mittens in the Danish knitting magazine <a href=”https://www.gavstrik.dk/medlemsbladet/”>Gavstrik 2021, nr. 1</a>. Here, I’ll just give a couple of examples. One is the front cover of the classic book by Vibeke Lind, Knitting in the Nordic Tradition (1981) where small repeat patterns are seen on the mitten on the top right and the black and white hat  at the bottom right.

The front cover of the Danish edition of “Knitting in the Nordic Tradition” by Vibeke Lind.

The Textile Museum in Herning, central Denmark, has a whole collection of small pattern repeat mittens. These mittens were the subject of a workshop series i held last year. Herning was at the center of commercial hand knitting of the 19th century.

Below are a pair of black and green mittens from Aulum, a small town in the same region of Denmark as Herning. The mittens are made by Kirstine Nyholm, who was born in the 1860’s. In 1886, she married Johannes Nyholm, and they lived in a house with a small field. This comes from the museum registration of the mittens, and the word it uses for their home tells us that they were poor people. The registration also says that Kristine Nyholm always made the mittens this way, and that she gave them to “people and their children”. The mittens are from the late 19th or early 20th century and are a lovely example of small pattern repeats. I am going to knit a copy at some point!

Mittens from Aulum, knitted by Kristine Nyholm for “people and their children”.

Lise Warburg gives a theory about small pattern repeats in her book “The Knitting Madonna” (I don’t know if there is an English translation of this book). She sees it as a relict of an older knitting tradition, twined knitting. Warburhg says that the small repeats come natural in twined knitting.

Older knitting traditions, ones that pre-date the actual knitted artefacts that have been preserved, are difficult to addresss. But it is remarkable that of all the mittens collected in the area around Herning, none have more than two stitches of one color before the other color is used. Is it only in this area, or did it cover a larger area? Nobody has made that study, yet.

But back to Madrigal. I love having mitten and hat sets, and I mostly grab for the matching sets on my way out the door, instead of using all those hats and mittens that don’t match anything. So I’ve designed a hat to go with the mittens. The small pattern repeat also works very well for a hat. Here is the Madrigal Hat in blue-yellow:

Madrigal Hat in blue and yellow. Model Eva Marie Reng-Andersen, photography Maja Theodoraki.

And here is the set in red-orange

Madrigal Hat and Mittens, red-orange color combination. Model Karin Tuxen, photography Maja Theodoraki.

The Madrigal Set is made with Rauma Finull, with a gauge of 28 sts to 10 cm (4 inches) in stranded knitting. If you have yarn – Finull or another wool that gives the right gauge – and would just like to buy the hat pattern, you will find it here. The mitten pattern can be found in Pom Pom 39, which you’ll find here. And kits with yarn in the different color combinations can be found here:

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AC-increase

This increase is used in my pattern Madrigal, but would also be useful for other stranded knitting where it fits in. I’ve called it AC-increase because the pattern colors in the Madrigal pattern are A, B, C, and D, and the colors A and C are used for the increase round. A is navy blue and C is pink, and C is the dominant yarn.

The AC-increase is worked by knitting two stitches in one, first a stitch with the non-dominant color A (picture 1), then with the dominant color C (picture 2).

Here, AC-increases have been worked in the last two stitches:

When the stitches are reached on the next round, simply work them one at a time as you reach them. The increase is quite well hidden – the arrows in the picture below point to a couple of AC-increases

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Memory Vest

Publishing a knitting pattern always makes me happy. This one even more so, since it is the first pattern I publish on this web page, and it is a pattern that I’ve been thinking about for a long time!

Some years ago, when I lived in France, I visited my aunt, who lives outside Paris. We spent Christmas and New Year’s together, talking a lot about many things, including my grandmother – her mother – Judith Harvest.

I have mentioned Judith Harves before on this page, and also the small stranded vest that she knit during the first half of the 70’s. When I visited my aunt that Christmas, she let me have the small vest that had been sitting in her attic for many years. That became the beginning of a much larger project for me. Here is the original and an almost-copy that I made:

The child’s vest from the first half of the 70’s. Judith Harvest’s original on the right and my heathered version on the left.

The vest is interesting because its patterning does not belong to one single knitting tradition, but incorporates elements from several different traditions.

Judith spent all of World War II in England, where strict rationing of yarn and clothes were in place. Before the war, in the 20’s and 30’s, Fair Isle knitting became hugely fashionable. The fancy Fair Isle garments were very colorful, but the colors were coordinated and used in patterned bands that were repeated.

Wartime knitting became extremely colorful. In many cases, it was not hard to tell that the colorful expressions were a necessity because of scarcity. Seen from the present, some of the wartime knitting is just beautiful, for example the cardigan at the bottom of this post in Susan Crawford’s old blog. The colors never repeat, but are visually held together by repeating the same pattern throughout.

Judith never let odds and ends of yarn go to waste, and a lot of garments that she made during the 60’s and 70’s are made largely with leftover yarns knit in Fair Isle-type patterns, sometimes with clear Scandinavian influences. For example, I’ve seen some of the small geometric forms from the Memory pattern in patterns from Norway.

A radical new knitting style emerged in Denmark in the 70’s – “hønsestrik”. The direct translation of the term is “chicken knitting”, a comment directed at the men at the “Red rooster” publisher who had rejected publication of the book that detailed the new knitting. Chicken knitting was an often chaotic mix of colors and shapes, rebelling against “big yarn” and its control of individual creativity.

I’m quite sure that Judith immediately recognized the creativity of chicken knitting, and she used elements of it in her own knitting during the 70’s. I also quite sure that she did not approve of its political messages.

The patterns from little vest became much less chaotic in my Memory Vest, since I’ve limited the colors, only using a limited palette. I decided on the name Memory Vest because I found a photo in one of Judith’s albums where my cousin is wearing the little vest. The picture was taken during a trip to England in 1975 where they visited the small town Watlington (in Norfolk).

Judith spent most of WWII alone in Watlington. Her husband, William Wildman, was killed in 1940, and his namy is seen on the monument. On the second photo, my cousin is leaned against a stone that bears the words “In Memory” and wearing the vest.

A page from Judith Harvest’s photo album, 1975.

I decided to make my version of the vest in women’s sizes, and the pattern has 7 sizes from XS to 3X, with a finished chest measurement of 83 to 147 cm (32 3⁄4 to 58 inches). Here, my sister is wearing the pink version with a white shirt under, the most classic of vest looks

Memory Vest, the pink version

Being a redhead, she obviously went for the pink version (what is it with pink and redheads?) although I had planned for her to wear the blue one! But we managed to get pictures with the blue version too, both with the classic white shirt and in a casual version with a long sleeve tee under

Memory Vest, the blue version

The Memory Vest is knit with Rauma Finull, which is an excellent yarn for colorwork. Because it comes in so many colors, but also because it blooms nicely when washed, holding together the knitted fabric. The vest is steeked, and when knitting with Finull, it is not necessary to reinforce the steeks, the steek stitches themselves and the picked up edges hold together just fine.

I have put together kits for the Memory Vest, in three color combinations: blue, pink, and green. You can find them in our online store:

It is also possible to buy the pattern only, you will find it here. You can of course work the vest using other yarns than Rauma Finull. Finull is 175 m / 50 g (191 yards / 1.77 ounces), and the vest is worked at a gauge of 25 stiches x 27 rounds = 10 x 10 cm (4 x 4 inches). It is possible to use a more slippery yarn, but then it is wise to reinforce the steeks with a couple of machine seams before cutting.

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Memory Vest & 3 Needle Bind Off

I’ve been working on a modern version of a child’s vest, knit by my maternal grandmother during the first half of the 70’s.

My maternal grandmother, Judith Harvest, was born in the northern Danish town of Aalborg in 1908. In so many ways, she is my entry point into historical knitting. Although she died when I was little, I grew up with her knitting. And of course, my mother taught me everything in knitting that her mother taught her. I am currently working on finding out more of my grandmothers’ story. So this is definitely not the last time she will be mentioned on this page.

I first tried knitting the patterns from the small vest in 2014:

The child’s vest from the early 70’s. Judith Harvest’s original on the right and my muted version on the left.

Now, I’ve dug up my notes on the vest, and I’m going to turn them into an actual knitting pattern. It will be called “Memory Vest” and will come in women’s sizes.

The colors of the original are both garish and somewhat uncoordinated. And that is not a criticism – it just goes to show that my grandmother grabbed into her yarn basked and used whatever came out. She did not plan patterns out beforehand. Look at the large red and yellow pattern band on the top part of the original. It is not centered around the V-neck, that’s what happens when you just knit! She must have thought that it was not a big problem.

My first adult version of the vest is in cool aqua shades with a light gray background. I am knitting it with Rauma Finull

And that finally brings me to the topic I was actually going to write about in this post: how I close shoulder seams using a 3 needle bind off. It is basically a variation on the standard bind off (or cast off, whatever you like to call it) where you knit 2 stitches and pass the first over the last, knit one, pass over, and so on.

In a 3 needle bind off, two stitches from two different needles are knit together (instead of just knitting one in the standard bind off). The 3 needle bind off allows you to knit two pieces together with a strong and slightly elastic join, perfect for a shoulder seam.

When the body is finished, I turn the work inside out. Here, the stitches for one shoulder are held, the front and back stitches each on their separate needle (or actually two ends of a circular needle in this case).

A third needle is inserted through one stitch from each of the two needles holding the stitches – the first stitch on one needle and the front stitch on the other

Then, the two stitches are knit together

Repeat for the next two stitches, that leaves two stitches on the right needle

Just like in a standard bind off, pass the first stitch (that was worked first) over the last

One stitch was bound off. Then, knit together the next two

And pass the previous stitch over. Keep going, knitting two together and passing the previous stitch over, until all stitches have been worked

Break the yarn and pull the end through. The bind off is finished.

When I worked my blue version of the Memory Vest, the stitches to be bound off in shoulder seams were all grey. If you find yourself needing to 3 needle bind off color-knitted rows, the best thing is to work in the color of the stitches, holding the yarns in the same way as when doing colorwork. The yarn used for the bind off will show just slightly on the right side.