In the Weeds
What to love (and do) about plant fibers
By Leslie Petrovski
During research trips to the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains in 2007 and 2008, archeologists discovered fragments of what appear to be the oldest textiles ever found: wild flax fibers dating back 30,000 or more years that had been twisted and dyed, most likely for cords or basket making.
That processed flax outlasted the millennia in a Georgian cave is hardly surprising if you know something about fiber. Plants are tough. Even soft-as-a-bunny’s-bum cotton is stronger than wool. And flax and hemp? Stronger still.
Plant fibers have their place in a knitter’s armamentarium. With summer approaching in the Northern Hemisphere, flora tend to be cooler to work with than fauna. They’re also absorbent, comfortable and machine washable. And you will never accidently full a cotton sweater.
by Franklin Habit
There’s a box under my bed where I keep certain things I’m slightly ashamed of. No, not that box. Another one. A larger one. The one with all the swatches in it.
I like to swatch. I swatch all the time. Even when I’m not planning to make anything in particular, I put yarn on needles and play with it. I swatch for the sake of swatching.
“What are you making?” somebody will ask me. “A hat,” I reply. Or, “A scarf.” I never say it’s a swatch, because the next question is always, “A swatch for what?” And admitting that you swatch for the sheer pleasure of it is like admitting that you feel slightly aroused whenever the office photocopier develops a paper jam.
Let ’Er Rip
by Franklin Habit
When I was but a lambkin of a knitter, treading timidly across the time-honored beginner’s obstacle course of scarf-then-hat-then-mittens, I had exactly one way of dealing with mistakes: I hoped very much not to make any. We all know how well that works.
I was teaching myself from books. They were not good books. They were flimsy, ugly things, sprinkled with advice as useful and reliable as a kindergartener’s schoolyard lecture on How Babies Are Made. Yet they did, in the end, lead me forward from knitting to purling to shaping to binding off.
But knitting isn’t always about going forward. It’s often, especially if you are me, about going backwards. It’s about undoing as much as doing. Yet the books were entirely mum about what do if your mitten went awry, or if you simply didn’t like the way part of it was turning out. What did you do then? Grit your teeth and soldier on? Throw it away and take up petit point or archery?
by Sandi Rosner
Never tie a knot in your knitting.
Always block the pieces before sewing together.
Whether you learned to knit from your grandmother, a class at your local yarn store, a book, or a YouTube video, you were subjected to a long list of knitting "rules." Have you ever stopped to question what you were taught? Much of what we think we know deserves to be challenged.
In this issue, we'll take a look at some questionable common knowledge. We'll talk about when, if ever, you should follow the rules, and when they are better broken.
Swatch It! Winter 2012
by Clara Parkes
Stitches are patient creatures; they stand in line and wait their turn. But once in a great while, an impatient stitch (or two, or three, or more) will jump the line. Needles don’t know the difference, so they take the line-jumpers next. By the time they get to the stitches that got snubbed, things are tense. The overlooked stitches are peevish. It takes a while—a few rows, depending on how many stitches jumped the line—for everyone to calm back down again.
That, my friends, is how cables work. They introduce a bit of a traffic snarl where once everything was going smoothly.
You can tell a lot about a yarn by how it responds to a cable. Does it go with the flow, or does it get all tense and pouty? Do the cables look crisp and sculptural, or do they stay low to the ground? As an added creative challenge, most cables are accompanied by purl stitches that help the cables stand out; they also help to buffer the cable complexities.