Construction and Comfort Zones

Dear Knitters,

Thank you for taking a look at my first blog post for Maine Yarn and Fiber. In the deep recesses of my past, I’ve been a computer programmer, web designer, and amateur writer. It’s not a foreign concept to write something on my laptop, but putting my thoughts and opinions out on the wacky interwebs is pushing my comfort zone a bit. In a good way, as my daughter used to say.

Same could be said for my knitting. How about yours? Have you defined what you like to knit and settled right in? I have. And I haven’t. I don’t like color work, never attempted Fair Isle. I don’t want to talk about it. But construction techniques are a different story. Over the winter I knitted Sleeves by Martina Behm and Outer Space by Stephen West. I just finished Tourmalite by Carol Feller. All distinctive for their techniques and how the garments take shape. Here they are in the order I knitted them.

Sleeves is a shawlette with - you guessed it - sleeves. I used some stashed Peace Fleece dk weight in Father’s Gray. This project starts down at the wrist, knit flat using shawl construction techniques (I’m trying not to give the pattern away here). Once the desired width is achieved, the sleeve is joined to work in the round and worked up to the shoulder. Next comes the second sleeve and pretty soon you’re joining them and building the back from the top down, all the while incorporating the sides of the sleeves. Brilliant. It was a fast knit and intriguing in the way of a cozy mystery. No dire consequences, just knitting. I will probably knit this again. Martina Behm explores construction techniques in several of her patterns, which is probably why her work is so popular. I could go on and on about her. Maybe we’ll do a designer series of posts sometime.

Modeling in crocs and pjs.  don't judge.

Modeling in crocs and pjs.  don't judge.

Next I made Outer Space and, I have to say, the title isn’t far off. It’s a sweater with an asymmetrical yoke done using short rows with ridges of stockinette and garter stitch. Remember the old TV show with the tilted flying saucer? I’m guessing that’s where West got the name for this pattern. There is a lot of room for customization, from color changes to sizing based on yarn weight. I used Peace Fleece - my go to sweater yarn - worsted weight, in the Kalinka Malinka Blue colorway. From the beginning, I was making changes while still enjoying the project. I shortened the funnel neckline because I didn’t want a big cowl. The double thickness of the neck was fun to work. I hadn’t used the technique in a while. The sleeves become a matter of choice as West only gives a suggestion. By the time you divide for sleeves, you’re close to the elbow. My width was fine so I just knitted to a three-quarter length in stockinette and finished off with a couple of garter rows. I also modified the bottom as I didn’t care for the dramatic triangle down one side. I simply reversed direction of the short rows, lengthening the other side to nearly match the longer one. If you’re looking for a sweater that’s out of your comfort zone, this one might just break atmo.

My great grandmother's rocker

My great grandmother's rocker

Lastly, I just wrapped up a Tourmalite shawl by my personal short row goddess, Carol Feller. If you get a chance, check out her free short row class on Craftsy. She gives some great ways to use short rows from custom fitting to set in sleeves. She doesn’t mention my favorite method, German short rows, but that’s a story for another day. I made my Tourmalite with Noro Taiyo sock yarn in my semi-annual foray into commercial yarn. The pattern really showcased the color movement and the I’m very happy with the result. The i-cord edging brought the whole piece together. I’m looking forward to wearing it.

As you can see, construction is my boundary stretch. It arouses my curiosity and I so admire the workings of a mind more mathematical than mine. How does one decide to take a yoke and turn it on it’s axis? And then make it work? Go figure. No, wait. He already did that. Same goes for the Sleeves build. The sleeve shape is formed by increases and decreases so that by the time you reach the neck you realize Martina Behm must be somehow related to Einstein. If you want to explore her further, I highly recommend this hat. It starts with a triangle. Of course.

Now for the best part. None of these patterns are terribly complicated. Unusual, for sure. But not difficult for an intermediate knitter or even an adventurous beginner. Tourmalite was the easiest because it’s not in any way a sweater. It’s worked flat but gives the opportunity for a couple of advanced techniques, short rows and i-cord bind-off. The others are fun, especially if you’re comfortable with sweaters.

So what are you interested in when it comes to knitting? Do you like simple? Do you like stitch work? Color work? Do you prefer to work in the round or flat? Whatever it is, do it. Just go ahead and knit what pleases you. And every now and then, when the idea of poking the edge of your comfort zone tickles your brain, step out a bit.

Come to the shop and we’ll brainstorm with you. Go online and do some pattern searches. Check out videos on YouTube or articles on Knitty.

There’s a lot to knitting. You don’t have to conquer every technique to have fun. I have no plan to knit Fair Isle and I’m having a blast.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your day.