Music and knit tips

Just got tickets for the Show of Hands concert on December 1st with Richard Shindell guesting.  Richard's song, You Stay Here, as sung by Steve Knightley, has been one of my favourites recently and when I have just a bit more time I'm going to learn it - best anti-war song I've heard in years.  I love the modal tuning that Steve Knightley uses on the mandocello. 

Been reviewing my best selling designs for this year and Stomp, a dress I designed for Vogue Knitting seems to be the outright winner.  I don't know why it's so popular, calling for  techniques that many knitters shy away from -  cables and fairisle.  However, I've been amazed by the number of knitters who have risen to the challenge and there are many fabulous pictures on Ravelry of finished projects.

So for those of you who may have been put off by the rigour of the techniques, I thought I'd share a few thoughts on knitting fairisles and cables.

Many knitters are afraid of cables, but actually they’re not difficult to master and are a great way of getting movement and texture into your knitting.  The technique is simply a way of crossing one set of stitches over another and looks best when worked against a contrasting background stitch ie a stocking stitch cable on a reverse stocking stitch background. Basic cables are worked by placing the first set of stitches on a cable needle and holding them at the back or front of your knitting, depending whether you want the crossing to slope towards the right or left.  Holding the stitches at the front will result in a left-sloping cable and holding them at the back in a right-sloping cable.  By working a right- and then a left-sloping cable across a row you’ll get a symmetrical cable meeting at the centre. 

Two-colour stranded knitting (Fairisle)
Many knitters remain in awe of this technique, but once you have mastered stocking stitch, it’s just a matter of organising your yarn and making sure you don’t pull the yarn too tightly.  Carry the contrast yarn loosely on the wrong side, either weaving it in or stranding it.  Do not strand the yarn over more than 3 stitches.

I usually teach the two-handed method, but this does involve being able to work simultaneously with the British method (throwing the yarn)  in the right hand and the Continental method (picking the yarn) in the left hand.  This produces an even, pleasing effect and is wonderfully rhythmic when working in the round where all rows are knit rows.  

However, when knitting back and forth I’ve found that a lot of knitters have a problem with the tension on the purl side.  A speedy and even alternative is to use either circular or double-pointed needles and work across the row, knitting every Colour A stitch and slipping (purlwise) every Colour B stitch.  Do not turn the work at the end of the row, but slide the stitches back to the right hand point of the needle, drop Colour A, pick up Colour B and work every stitch that should be Colour B, slipping every stitch which was previously worked in Colour A.  Then turn the work and proceed in the same way on the purl side.  When working in the round, work one round with Colour A and then one round with Colour B to complete each single round.  If after slipping a group of stitches you always stretch them out smoothly on the right-hand needle before stranding the yarn, this method makes it easy to control the tension of the strands and avoids the fabric becoming gathered.  

In my new book Sweet Shawlettes, there are several small projects which can get you up to speed with both fairisles and cables, without making the commitment of knitting a whole sweater.  Here's one of them, Miss Garricks, a fairisle cowl, named for two Shetland sisters and trimmed with vintage crystal beads to reflect the colours of their island home.


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