Monday, July 31, 2017

Design Series: Raven Rocks Scarf, Part 1 - The Yarn and the Stitches

Every November, I usually get the same semi-panicked msgs and phone calls from friends: "Can you knit a hat for me to give to [insert name]" and I usually say "yes, if you buy the yarn and here, pick out the yarn you want from this website" with a link to Miss Babs. I know, two posts in a row where in the first paragraph I link to Miss Babs hand-dyed yarns, but it's a good yarn in pretty colors and has never yet let me down. For hats the past couple of years, I've been defaulting to Kunlun DK because it just feels so amazing and I love working with it. I love working with it even more if someone else buys it. (I'm no dummy.)

So last year when I placed an order for a few skeins of Kunlun DK, I tossed the dice and ordered a giant skein of Killington, a Polwarth wool and Tussah silk blend, in a bright pink called "Floyd." (You get it, right? Pink Floyd? ha!) I had no projects in mind, but I new the very generous yardage -- an 8.5 ounce skein is about 700 yards and my skein came in at just over 9 ounces -- would let me knit anything from a small sweater or vest to a shawl.

The wool arrived and it was a better pink than I could have imagined with a soft yet sturdy feel. I know this yarn can withstand a little rough handling and some unknitting and reknitting. Spoiler alert: it totally does hold up and that's after I unknit/reknit the same section FOUR times!

By now, the better part of a year has passed and I'm finally ready to get started on a new project. I pull out my hank of Killington, wind it into a ball and start thinking.

Here's what I know.
  • I want to knit a scarf or shawl. A neck accessory.
  • I want to knit some lace or some texture. The color is a bright bold pink, but it's mostly solid so it can work with lace or texture and they won't fight each other.
I know from experience that for extra drape and to show off lace, I'll want to use a needle that is larger than suggested on the ball band. Miss Babs suggested US 3-5. I'll go with US 7 or US 8. (Side note, I'll probably just stick with US sizes because it's easier for my American brain. Apologies to the rest of the world that is tired of constantly making allowances for Americans.)

So if you want to follow along with me, pick out a sport weight yarn in a solid(ish) color and find your US 7 or US 8 needles.

Then we get out the stitch dictionaries and sketch books. I like to sketch shapes on paper but patterns I like to sketch in Stitchmastery, a knitting chart program. I skipped the shape sketches this time because I know I want either a triangle or a rectangle and, well, that's a boring shape to draw. I do settle on the idea of knitting from side to side, starting at a point, increasing one edge so that there is a triangular shape, then decreasing to the other point. It's a shape I've been toying with lately.

I also pick out two stitch patterns I like that I had already "sketched" in Stitchmastery, so I'm not sure where I found them originally. When I can find the source, I'll post it. I wanted two patterns that complement each other and, super importantly for charting, have a row repeat that matches up. (This is where you become glad you paid attention in math class and remember your common denominators and common multiples.

The first one is basically a garter stitch that is broken up by vertical columns of single stockinette stitches. I think it looks a little like bricks. I've used it before in a hat pattern but I love it because it's so easy to work, with or without the chart handy. In a hat or other circular project it's even easier, but every right-side row is knit and all the patterning (and it's only knits and purls) happens on the wrong-side rows. The pattern repeats every 8 rows.

The second stitch pattern is a lace that combines knits and purls for texture and the pattern repeat is offset, giving even more dimension to the finished fabric. Also, almost serendipitously, the pattern repeats every 24 rows -- a multiple of 8! The repeats will sync up and remove the necessity for a knitter to work from two different charts across a row.

Charts for both patterns are below. These are not charts for Raven Rocks Scarf pattern, just the stitches. Next time, I'll show how I go from basic chart to pattern chart.

Bricks Stitch pattern
Stitch multiple: 4
Row multiple: 8
Arched Lace pattern
Stitch multiple: 6 + 7
Row multiple: 24