Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dear Dorothy

It's been a slow blog week. I'm blaming the rain. And preschool holidays. And a soul-sapping exhaustion that seems to have seeped into the spaces between my bones and my skin. And the rain. Baby number four has arrived, a little girl for my dear friend Kate. She's the recipient of this and these. Welcome, lovely Hannah. 

But apart from that, there's no other news. No finished projects to photograph and report on. No pots of goodness bubbling away on the stovetop. Nothing. So I've decided to get a little bit 'Dear Dorothy' and respond to a recent email from a friend here. And we'll call it a blog post. And then I can sleep knowing I haven't skived for another day.

This was her question:

i am trying my hand at knitting, along with jemma, and we are starting with scarves. We have been knitting one row then purling the next, which looks nice but the scarf wants to curl in. what did you do with lola's beautiful red sits so flat. if it's simple, let me know so i can give it a go. Thanks!!!

Well, Jo, funny you should ask. When I returned to knitting, about 10 years ago now, I did the very same thing. I remembered how to knit and I remembered how to purl, so I got myself some wool and some needles and began with alternating rows - it's called stocking stitch. Before long I had a lovely knitted tube that no amount of stretching or pulling could make sit flat. So with my next attempt, I gave up on anything fancy and just knit each row. Knit knit knit knit knit. It's called garter stitch. I had far more success. Garter stitch sits very flat and has the added advantage of being the same on both sides, which, for a scarf, is a good thing. I chose to make mine multicoloured, as you can see in the picture below. I still have it and I still wear it. It's not the height of handmade fashion, but it's got a sentimental something.

Back in those early knitting days, I used to enjoy grabbing a ball of thickish yarn, a pair of thick needles (10mm or so) and knitting a really quick, really chunky garter stitch scarf. I found this worked well with those yarns that are uneven in texture, or extra fluffy, or the novelty types (which I not-so-secretly hate).

As for your other options for a flat-sitting but easy-knitting scarf, you need to look towards your ribs. You'll still be using the basic knit and purl stitches, but you will alternate every stitch (or two or three) rather than every row. This makes for a bit more work - you're bringing the yarn forward and backward between stitches as you move from a knit stitch to a purl stitch and vice versa - but the result is very satisfying. Rib is the stitch you usually find around the cuffs, neck and hems of your jumpers and cardigans. You have a few options.

The most basic is single rib - you knit 1, purl 1, all along the row. Then on the reverse side, you knit into the purl stitches and purl into the knit stitches. To make it easy for yourself, cast on an even number of stitches, and then you'll always start each row with a knit stitch. Over time you get to learn by the way the stitch looks whether you'll knit it or purl it. If you accidentally end up doing the opposite and knit the knit stitches and purl the purl stitches, you'll get moss stitch, which is nice too. The button bands on these cardigans are moss stitch.

Then you can choose to vary your rib. Double rib is where you knit 2, purl 2, etc, then knit 2, purl 2 on the reverse side. Or you can knit 2, purl 1, knit 2, purl 1. On the reverse of this one, you'll knit 1, purl 2, knit 1, purl 2 etc.

And as for Lola's Frenchy chic red scarf, I chose a broken rib stitch for that. On the front it's single rib - knit 1, purl 1, knit 1, purl 1. And on the back, you purl every stitch. Easy as that. Actually, easier than a normal rib because that purl row gives you welcome relief from all the to-ing and fro-ing with the yarn on the k1, p1 side.

And as a final note, to help your scarf stop curling up, it helps to give it a nice soak in wool wash and lay it out flat somewhere to dry.

Happy knitting! I want photos of the finished products, please xxx

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