26 Jun 2019

Slip those stitches!

I once watched a theatre production of "The Importance of Being Earnest" in which the redoubtable Lady Bracknell sat on stage apparently knitting. In fact she was slipping the stitches from one needle to another so that the work never got any longer! However, that did avoid the possibility of a ball of yarn wandering across the stage and tripping up any actors...

However, slipped stitches are really useful even when you do actually want to knit something and can be used for shaping, textural interest and strength.

So what is a slip stitch? Basically it is when you leave the next stitch unworked and move on to the next part of the work. Usually the stitch is slipped purlwise without twisting it and with the yarn carried at the back of the work. If you just see the instructions "slip 1" or "sl 1" then that is what is meant. The stitch will then be worked on a subsequent row, producing an elongated stitch which also serves to tighten the stitches to either side. 

You will probably have seen this being used at the edge of a flat piece of knitting to produce a selvedge as in the photo above, which shows the base of the BYOB Market Bag being worked, and you can read more about that here.

Sometimes, however, the stitch being slipped is worked knitwise. You insert the knitting needle into the stitch as though you are going to knit it but then just move it to the right-hand needle without working it further. This turns the stitch so that it is now facing in the opposite direction. 

One of the first places you might encounter this is with a decrease such as a "slip 1 knitwise, knit 1, pass slipped stitch over", often shortened to SKP. In that case, the slip stitch is lifted over the next one and forms a left-leaning decrease as an almost-mirror image to the "knit 2 together" or k2tog right-leaning decrease. 

The photo above shows the lace panel from the BYOB - Bring Your Own Bag pattern. In this one I have paired the k2tog's with another left-leaning decrease, the SSK (slip-slip-knit) giving a decorative finish to the stitch. 

In both those examples the yarn is carried on the wrong side and does not appear on the front face of the work. However, there are a number of stitches where the yarn being slipped forms an integral part of the final appearance of the fabric. 

The Somertide Placemats I featured in my last blogpost are a case in point. These use a lovely slip-stitch pattern called Double-Banded Rib from our book Reversible Knitting Stitches.

On the front face, the stitch has wide slipped stitches which give an interesting surface texture to the design. These banded stitches also help to provide an extra thickness and insulation to the fabric which is important for something like a placemat where you want to protect your table from hot or cold dishes.

The reverse face shows tight columns of knit stitches with narrow lines of Garter Stitch between. The fabric lies beautifully flat and the slipped stitches give added strength to the overall design.

The slipped stitches in this pattern have strengthened the final fabric in two ways. Firstly, the stitches to either side are shortened because the unworked stitches now have to span two rows instead of just one. This pulls the stitches tighter and keeps the fabric firm.

Then secondly, relatively inflexible bars of yarn are now being carried across the unworked stitches reducing the natural stretchiness of the knitting. The resulting fabric is much thicker and sturdier. These qualities make it eminently suitable for items such as tablemats, rugs and bags.

If you want an even sturdier fabric, then you can select a slip stitch with a shorter length of travel. For example, in Anna's Nokomis Beach Bag she has used the Single-Banded Rib stitch pattern. This is similar to its sister pattern, Double-Banded Rib, but is worked over just 2 stitches instead of 4 so the "bar" of slipped yarn is much shorter.

This gives it extra strength while still retaining a very interesting surface texture. The bag is further strengthened by cotton bands sewn onto the final design giving a very practical and good-looking bag.

But for a really sturdy knitted fabric then one of the best choices is Linen Stitch. This is a simple stitch to work but grows slowly as stitches are slipped on every single row, as opposed to every 2 rows as in the examples above. The result is a fabric that resembles weaving is both the appearance and the feel of the final fabric. In fact, it is sometimes called Tweed Stitch because it looks so much like a woven material.

The photo above shows another of Anna's wonderful bag collection. This one is called the Sierra Shoulder Bag and I can attest to how strong this bag is having seen it in action carrying large volumes of items back to her apartment from Tesco's!

The above examples mostly show neat grid-like patterns, but slip stitches can also be used to decorative effect by forming diagonal and zig-zag patterns as in Anna's Calypso Handbag above. Anna has used bands of colour in this design, but the stitch pattern also looks good in a single colour. 

I hope that gives you lots of ideas for how to use slip stitches in your work, especially if you would like to make sturdy fabrics for tablemats, bags and other household accessories. 

There are, of course, many more examples of slip stitches and I haven't even touched on Mosaic patterns and other colour slip stitch patterns... So please enjoy hunting out other stitch patterns using slipped stitches.

Many thanks to Anna for the photos of her lovely bags. Please visit her website www.kikuknits.com to see more of her colourful designs.

Next time we will travel to Japan for another couple of "Postcards" from our travels. Until then,

Happy Knitting!


Anna's Website: www.kikuknits.com

19 Jun 2019

New knitting pattern - Somertide Placemats

Summer is finally here! As I write, the sun is filtering down through a canopy of green and there are hydrangeas and summer flowers all around. The table is set for lunch with glasses of fresh orange juice and brightly coloured table mats – perfect.

That's one of the highlights of summer, isn't it. Being able to slow the pace and enjoy leisurely meals together. So here's a new pattern which will make your summer dining a delight. The Somertide Placemats includes instructions for both placemats and matching coasters in a glorious combination of summer colours. 

They are worked in a wonderfully crisp cotton/linen yarn, Cotlin by Knit Picks which currently has 44 colours in its range, so you can select just the right colour for your decor.

You could make a table set with each placemat in a different colour or complete the whole set in one co-ordinated colourway. Select bright summery turquoises and azures blues to remind you of the crashing ocean waves you can see from your beach hutOr go for a more gentle colour palette of coral, seashells and sand. 

The pattern includes instructions for four different sizes of placemats so you can make the perfect set for your table, whether this is a small-sized setting for an intimate lunch or a long table out on the lanai with all your friends and neighbours. There are also instructions for matching coasters for a completely co-ordinated look.

The stitch pattern is taken from our book Reversible Knitting Stitches and lays beautifully flat. The stitch has a really interesting surface texture which adds insulation to help protect your table from hot or cold serving dishes.

The Somertide Placemat pattern can be found on my website, and is available for immediate download from the site.

Until next time – Happy Summer Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Merry it is in Somertide

14 Jun 2019

Merry it is in Somertide

I was musing on the idea of "Summertime" this morning and a poem came into my mind that my father used to read to us. He loved reading Middle English texts out loud and it always sounded somehow magical to listen to the flow of the soft almost-recognisable words. As I would sit absorbed in the recitations, the meaning would often come through even though the words seemed unfamiliar. 

One of his favourite texts was The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer (as I mentioned before here). However, he would also occasionally read some of his favourite poems or Minstrels' songs from those times. There were a number of different recurring themes in these – love, loss, battles fought and won, or the ever-changing seasons.

Here is one verse which was published in "Of Arthour and Merlin" in about 1331:

Mirie it is in fomer tide;
Foules fing in foreft wide;
Swaines gin on iuftinge ride;
Maidens tiffen hem in pride.

or in other words:

Merry it is in Somertide,
Birds sing in the forest wide,
Men go on jousting rides,
and the young ladies are adorned with pride.

I love that word Somertide – it just seems to capture the season so well. There's the warmth of the sun and echoes of family holidays by the sea all rolled into one word. 

I think I actually prefer it to our more modern word, "Summertime" which has an element of a clock ticking away in the name. It is certainly true that summer often passes by so quickly it feels hard to capture it before it has gone!

I'm going to come back to the idea of Somertide next time with a brand new knitting pattern for some summer placemats. In the meantime, please enjoy some of Tim's photos of summer scenes near my old home in Hertfordshire, along with some more verses from the same book:

Mirie is thentre of May;
The foules make mirri play;
Maidens finggeth and maketh play;

Merry is the month of May,
The birds play merrily,
and the young women sing and dance.

The time is hot, and long the day;
The iolif nightingale fingeth;
In the grene mede foules fpringeth;

The days are long and hot,
The joyful nightingale sings,
and the flowers spring up in the green meadow.

Until next time,

Happy Summer Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Last-Minute Knitting


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