Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Towel toppers and the “u-turn” flat stitch

As usual, I spend most of this past Saturday in transit to and from our cabin in Centre, Alabama. However, I’ve learned to use the car trip time wisely by loom knitting and since Saturday was the day before Christmas Eve, I had all the more reason to do some last minute gift knitting. I had previously bought some small burgundy with ivory striped cotton towels along with the cutest little primitive heart-shaped buttons and I had dug through my bargain yarn stash for some sand-pebble color yarn, so I had everything I needed for the road trip. By the time I returned home, I had four little towel topper gifts completed, a new way to work an old stitch, and a towel topper pattern that had been refined several times.
Starting the towel topper
First, divide the top of the towel into 12 units, then with two strands of yarn threaded on a darning needle do a running stitch along the marked edge creating 12 double-strand loops. Leave 4 inch yarn tails on either side of the towel to later work and secure into the completed first row of the topper. Using the Knifty Knitter 12-peg flower loom with the right side of the towel facing out, bring the towel up through the middle of the loom and cast the twelve loops along the towel’s edge onto the 12 pegs of the flower loom. With two strands of worsted weight yarn held as one, cast on by e-wrapping above the towel loops, then knit by lifting the towel loops over the e-wrapped loops. This will complete your cast on edge.
Which stitch?
The e-wrapped or twisted knit stitch just seemed too loose for this particular project. The flat knit stitch produces a truer version of the stockinette stitch, but it can sometimes get a little tight after several rows. Also, if you manually loosen stitches, they don’t always have a uniform look. While playing around with the position of the working yarn, I discovered what I call a “u-turn” flat knit stitch. This is accomplished by bringing the working yarn in front of the peg above the existing loop, making a “u-turn” around the peg, then knitting off by lifting the bottom loop over the u-turn loop. This produces an even tension stockinette stitch without the tightness you get from the regular flat knit stitch. This is the stitch I used on most of the towel toppers I made.
Towel topper body
To create the base of the towel topper body, work 1-4 in rounds (working in a circle) and 5-22 in rows (working back & forth). Rounds 1-4: work a “u-turn” flat knit (UFK) stitch on each peg. Begin decreasing on row 5 by lifting the peg1 loop off and placing it on peg2 and lift peg12 loop off and place it on peg11 (this leaves pegs 1 & 12 empty). UFK pegs 2-11 on both rows 5 and 6. Row 7: work end peg decreases then UFK pegs 3-10 on both rows 7 and 8. Row 9: work end peg decreases then UFK pegs 4-9 on both rows 9 and 10. Row 11: work end peg decreases and UFK pegs 5-8 once.
Towel hanger strap
Row 12 begins the towel topper strap used for hanging the towel on the cabinet handle. Since the strap will be flipped to the front of the towel with the wrong side facing out, the strap is completed using purl stitches. Rows 12-22: purl 4 stitches back and forth on each row, which has the appearance of three columns of stockinette stitch from the reverse side. After completing the last row of purl stitches, bind off by going to the opposite end of the working yarn, lifting the next to the last loop off and placing it on the last loop. Knit off, and then move the loop back to the vacated peg. Repeat this procedure two more times ending with one loop. Put a crochet hook through the last loop, chain 4 or 5 stitches, then attach the chain stitch to the opposite side of the bind off edge to form a buttonhole loop. Sew a large shank button at the top of the towel topper body, a couple of rows below where the hanger strap starts. Finish off any loose yarn tails.

On the right, is the group of completed towels. The one in the lower right was the first one I did and is slightly different from the others. I worked the decreases unevenly and had not quite mastered the hanger strap. Also, I used only one strand of yarn in the running stitch on the towel. I try to think of all these little things as "lessons" instead of "mistakes."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Snowflakes on the loom

It’s "Christmas in Dixie, there’s snowflakes on the loom” (apologies to the singing group, Alabama). Well, after much frustration, many froggings, pattern re-writings, and two failed attempts, I have mastered the loom knitted snowflake. The basic snowflake is made using only six pegs of any knitting loom, rake or board. I used the “short row shaping” method and one strand of yarn to create a circular piece. After figuring out the basic pattern and using different looms, I incorporated lace, loops, flat knit and twisted knit stitches to give the snowflakes an individual look. Large gauge looms give a lacy look, but with fine gauge looms you can vary stitches for more visual variety. The snowflakes work up pretty fast, requiring about 30 minutes each to complete. The most time consuming part of making them, is waiting on the fabric stiffener to dry.

Picture Descriptions
The picture at the top features my first three successful snowflakes, which are approximately 4 inches in diameter. The top snowflake was completed using 6 pegs of the blue Knifty Knitter and a flat knit stitch. The two bottom snowflakes were done on 6 pegs of a 3/8” gauge loom. Stitches were varied, along with blocking techniques to create unique looks for each snowflake. The picture below shows my first two trial-and-error attempts. However, all is not lost, because the snowflake on the left has the potential to become a flower in future incarnations. Sorry, I can’t say the same for the one on the left. Many times I knit while half-watching TV. This didn’t work well while doing this particular snowflake (notice the oversized petal at the top). This is due to the constant changes in stitches, decreases, and increases with every row which require your undivided attention. I like to refer to the mutant snowflake on the right as my “pirate snowflake” because I was watching “Pirates of the Caribbean: Deadman’s Chest” when I lost count and made the terrible blunder. Oh well, the third time was a charm -- as long as you aren’t counting all the frogged attempts.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Annabelle, my treetop angel

As promised, Belle, my little ornament angel, now has a very big sister. Annabelle, a 10 inch tall treetop angel, took a couple of days to complete, mostly because I was creating, frogging and re-creating her as I went. I've always loved the crocheted angels and decided I wanted to loom knit something similar. Never mind that there was no pattern to be found for a knitted angel for neither the looms nor needles, or at least not one like I wanted so I decided to create one. My angel is made of the following separate components and then joined together: halo/head/body piece, arms, 2 joined wings, a skirt and skirt ruffle. Three different Knifty Knitter looms were used: 5 & 8 peg spool loom, 12 peg flower loom & 24 peg blue round loom. This is a brief summary of what I did:
The halo/head/body piece was done on the KK 8 peg spool loom. A combination of twisted knit, purl and flat knit stitches were used to shape and give the illusion of a face, hair and halo. The neck was formed by stuffing a cotton ball in the head and tying a strand of yarn around the neck area. The arms are I-cord made on 4 pegs of the KK spool loom and pulled from the inside through stitches in the “shoulder” area of the body. The skirt, done on three different looms, was the most complex of all the pieces. The bottom ruffle was done first by making a very long piece of I-cord prepared on the KK spool loom using 3 pegs, then attaching it to the blue KK loom by pulling the stitches onto the pegs as a cast on edge. Two types of lace stitches were used in the main part of the skirt then switching to flat knit and decreasing to 12 pegs, the skirt was transferred to the 12 peg flower loom. Once on the 12 peg loom, the waist of the skirt was finished by using a combination of twisted knit, flat knit and decrease stitches. Finally, the wings were completed in decreasing rows of lace stitches and attached at the corners to make a unified set. The various pieces were then joined. Fabric stiffener was added while the piece was blocked on a large plastic soft drink cup and then left to dry over night.
This was a challenging project, but I absolutely love doing things like this. I’m currently working on loom knitted snowflakes, which are also a bit of a challenge, but they are coming along nicely. I’ll post the results as soon as I’m finished.

This picture shows the size difference between the two angels. Annabelle (right) has a wing span of 7 inches and is 10 inches tall. Belle (left) is only 2½ inches tall.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Stockings & KK spool loom ornaments

The twins two Large Christmas Stockings done on the Knifty Knitter 31 peg red loom were completed a week ago, but I've just now got around to adding their names. Embroidering on knit, also called Swiss embroidery or duplicate stitch, is not my favorite thing to do. Hopefully, I’ll improve with practice. I adapted my own pattern for the stockings, because my daughter-in-law wanted plain stockings with only the children's names added. I really wanted to something fancy, but I contained myself and did the plain design. Now that those are out of the way, I'm going to do one that will look like it fell out of a Dr. Seuss Christmas nightmare just to appease my inner child. The detailed pattern I used for these stockings is available here, but here's a brief description of what I did:

For the cuff I did 29 rows of alternating knit & purl stitches to form a garter stitch pattern, then did a hang-hemmed like making the brim on a hat. The leg part of the stocking which varies from 32-36 rows is knit stitched. Short rows are worked starting on 15 pegs of the loom, decreasing to 5 pegs and increasing back to 15 to form the heel. The foot is 18 rows or approximately 6 inches and the toe is 2.5-3 inches: 3 rows of regular knit stitch and 6 rows of flat knit stitch then do a gathered bind-off.

In addition to the large stockings, I’ve been busy making little ornaments and/or pins using the Knifty Knitter spool loom. I just love doing what I fondly refer to as the “little quickies” on the spool loom.

Mini & micro stockings: These are a good example of results you get using the same loom and yarn, but different types of stitches and varying the strands of yarn. The first three stockings were made on the 8-peg end of the Knifty Knitter spool loom: the first was e-wrapped using two strands; the second was e-wrapped using one strand; and the third was flat knit stitched using one strand. The tiny micro stocking, which is about 2¼ inches tall, was completed using one strand of yarn. The cuff is garter stitched and the stocking is flat knit stitched.Wreaths: Here is a picture of three out of five of my little wreaths that survived- I threw away two of them. The two casualties were made using a twisted flat I-cord on one and a braided I-cord on the other and had possibilities, but I just didn’t like the design. The three survivors were made using either a different number of strands or pegs, and varying lengths of I-cord. My favorite of the three is the one on the right, which I will be adding to my pattern box on the right side bar.

Candy Canes: I’m addicted to making candy canes. The ones pictured are only a sample of what I’ve made and were grouped to show what they look like by changing a few details. All were made on the 5-peg end of the KK spool loom. The first one on the left was made using one strand of red and one strand of white yarn then alternating the colors on each row. A pipe cleaner was added to hold for shaping. The center one was made by doing two rows of white and one row of red; always start with white and end with white. Fabric stiffener was used for shaping. The one on the right was done like the first one, but using two strands of yarn. My favorite is the one in the middle.
Instructions for the candy canes are available in my Pattern Box on the right.

Friday, December 08, 2006

"Each time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings"

The title of this blog entry is from the all time classic Christmas movie, It's a Wonderful Life. In the case of my loom knitted angel, a bell became an angel. One of the challenges of loom knitting is creating multi-dimensional shapes on what is basically fixed pegs. Belle, my little angel ornament, is the result of an experiment in overcoming the shaping restrictions on looms. Her skirt, which is based on my Knifty Christmas Bells pattern, is very full and flared at the bottom, but tapers gradually to the waist without bulky gathers. With the exception of her halo & wings, this little 3 inch Christmas tree ornament is made entirely on the pink Knifty Knitter spool loom using white worsted weight yarn. She is made in three pieces: the bell-shaped skirt, and two 4½ inch lengths of I-cord which form the head/body and arms. The skirt is knitted on the 6-peg end of the spool loom using two strands held as one. The I-cord is knitted on the 5-peg end of the spool loom using one strand of the same yarn. All 5 pegs were used when creating the I-cord for the head/body section, but only 3-pegs were used for the I-cord arms. After the three main pieces are joined to form the angel, a small piece of silver pipe cleaner is shaped into a halo and attached to her head. Finally, Belle "gets her wings," which were made from 2½ inch wide sheer wired wedding ribbon. The 3½ inch piece of wired ribbon is pinched together in the middle and tied to her back using the gathering yarn from her waist. This is a very general description of how Belle is made. I am putting the finishing touches on the pattern and will be adding it to my Pattern Box on the right side bar over the weekend.

Also, I have completed several other Christmas tree ornaments: mini & micro stockings, candy canes, I-cord wreaths, and a mini snowman, but I just had to post an entry for Belle first. I am currently working on a loomed snowflake, poinsettia and a large angel made on the blue Knifty Knitter which can be used either as a tree topper or a decorative centerpiece. In addition to the little stuff, I have two large Christmas stockings waiting to have names embroidered on them and several Christmas hats in the works. So much to do, so little time.