26 Feb 2012

Either Way Up - The Elizabeth Scarf.

I love reversible scarves – you can just throw them on without worrying whether you have the right side showing. Just wrap them around your neck and you're on your way.

However, this isn't the only benefit of a reversible design. I "discovered" an extra feature about reversible stitches a few years ago, and that is that they tend to lie flat!
I have always loved reversible knitting stitches. They seem to have such a quality about them and it is great when you either find another stitch which looks good from both sides. So some years ago I started to gather examples of reversible stitches and design a few new ones as well. Then I worked a sampler like a huge long scarf with about 100 stitches. And that is when I made my discovery... 

The whole scarf... every reversible stitch sample was flat!

I hadn't ever seen this written down before, so maybe I had made a discovery or maybe this was already known somewhere and I had "unvented" it, like Elizabeth Zimmermann once famously said when her "new" i-Cord discovery turned out to be Victorian corset lace!

So I started to think about this and after a while it made perfect sense. After all, it's the imbalance between knits and purls that make a Stocking Stitch fabric curl inwards. The purls are trying to force themselves outwards in one direction while the knits recede. Put too many of them together and the knitting will curve into a roll.

It's also the reason why Garter Stitch becomes so compressed: because the lines of purl bumps on the back force themselves outwards to form pronounced ridges while the knits recede into valleys. 

Reversible fabrics, though, have a wonderful balance between knits and purls on both sides and the fabric lies compliant and flat while showing stunning textural effects. Simple!

Our daughter Anna and I started to explore this more and managed to expand the number of reversible samples from my original 100 examples to over 250 different stitches! You can read about our explorations here and see all the stitches in our new book, Reversible Knitting Stitches.

In the Elizabeth Scarf shown here I have used one of my favourite reversible stitches from the book, Hatfield Check. This is an easy stitch to work but still has a lot of interest with a deep texture and contrasting vertical and cross-wise stripes. 

The ends of the scarf are defined with extra bands of Garter Stitch giving an added touch of interest, and the pattern includes a remedy for the splaying out that can happen in this situation.

I worked three different scarves using a variety of yarn types and thicknesses. In the green scarf shown above, I used a fine, fingering weight yarn with two ends held together. There is a lovely yarn made by Swans Island made from 100% organic merino wool. This weight of yarn is perfect for a scarf that will be worn under a jacket without being bulky.

Also, using two ends of yarn held together is a great technique for adding extra warmth into a garment without adding extra weight. You can read some more about that here.

The second scarf in the set has been worked in a slightly heavier yarn, a DK wool yarn from KnitPicks called Swish DK. It has a wonderful drape and this has already become one of my firm favourites this year. 

I made this scarf a little longer and have found it lends itself to all kinds of fancy scarf tie-ups as you can see here

The third version, a plum-coloured scarf, is in a chunky acrylic/wool mixture giving an altogether softer and bolder appearance. The added bulk will be good to stop those wintry draughts at your neck when you are waiting at the tram stop. 

To see more details about the Elizabeth Scarf pattern, please click here

Please also see the Blogpost: How long shall I make this scarf? which features this scarf.

Happy Knitting! 


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