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Posts Tagged ‘Cornish’

When I posted about my Cornish Knit-Frock, I promised I would tell you a bit more about fixing a mistake and a nifty way of counting rows. Today I will do just that, and also want to share with you what I will do differently when I knit the next one, because I just know I will.

FIXING A PATTERN MISTAKE

When I had knitted about eight rounds of the patterns above the bars and seeds, I noticed that the chevrons in the middle, where actually not in the middle, I was one stitch off. I knew this was going to annoy me no end, so I decided to fix it. I could frog back eight rows, but I first wanted to try something else: I decided to drop down the offending area only, and knit it back up. If that failed I could always still frog back.

Here’s a picture of said offending area, one stitch out of kilter:

offending area

I carefully dropped back the stitches between the two garter stitch columns on either side of the upside down chevron (with apologies for the poor picture quality):

all dropped down

Then I used a pair of double-pointed needles one size smaller, to knit it all back up. This gets a little bit fiddly when you reach the end of the “row”, but that is why it is easier to use somewhat smaller needles. Also make sure you don’t mix up the strands that get tangled into egg noodles:

knitting back up

It didn’t take me too long before I had everything back in the middle. Definitely an easier fix than frogging eight rows!

all knitted up again

COUNTING ROWS WHEN YOU’RE NEARLY THERE

One of the things that I really don’t want to do when I’m doing some mindless knitting, is having to put down the knitting and measure, yet again, whether I’m nearly there for the ribbing to start. No, another 1/4 inch to go. So I had a brain wave after ingesting the eastern style knitting chapter in Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book (which, incidentally, has the best glove pattern ever) and a remark by Elizabeth Zimmermann about trying to keep progress when doing endless rounds of stocking stitch (possibly related to her pi shawl?). Once you are getting close to that point where you have to measure whether you have reached the right length, stop knitting a bit before you reach the end of the round. Now measure the length of your fabric and work out how much you have left to do.

Say, you are knitting a sleeve in the round and are 1 inch away from starting the ribbing. Now your row gauge is for example 10 rows (rounds) per inch. Here comes the trick: pick up your knitting and when you have ten stitches left to finish the round, knit that tenth stitch eastern style. In other words, wrap the yarn around the needle in the opposite direction you normally do (normally you would wrap clockwise, so eastern style you wrap anti-clockwise). This sets the new stitch up with the right leg at the back of the needle instead of the front. Continue knitting as normal. You will hit upon that weird tenth stitch and notice that you will need to knit it through the back loop to put it right again (if you didn’t knit this stitch through the back loop, it would show up as a twisted stitch). The next stitch, nine away to reach the end of the next round, gets knitted eastern style. Again, continue knitting as normal, and at near completion of the round, you will have to knit the ninth stitch through the back loop. Keep going like this and it won’t be long before the last stitch to be wrapped eastern style is also the very last stitch of the round. Voila, you are ready for your ribbing! I found this also works with purl stitches.

THE NEXT CORNISH KNIT-FROCK

When I will knit my next Cornish Knit-Frock, and I will, there are a few things I will do differently:

  1. I won’t bother with fancy seam stitches. A simple single stitch garter column is good enough for me, and it won’t curl under the stocking stitch.
  2. I will knit the whole thing in the round. No more separating front and back and peering over the needle to see what’s going on with the pattern. Instead, I shall knit steeks. It’s much easier to see what’s going on when you’re always on the right side of the fabric. I should’ve listened to Elizabeth Zimmermann.
  3. I will get myself a set of 40cm long double-pointed steel needles and a knitting belt or sheath. I broke two circular needles knitting my knit-frock. One broke at the join cable and needle as the fabric is heavy and it forces a sharp bend. Another pair got bent, as a knit-frock is knitted in a really firm gauge and manipulating the stitches puts a lot of strain on the needles.

What are your top tips and tricks for knitting ganseys?

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It has taken me over a year to complete, but I am now the proud owner of a traditional Cornish Knit-Frock.

This traditional fisherman’s jumper is also known as a gansey or guernsey. I based my design on a picture I found in Mary Wright’s Cornish Guernseys & Knit-frocks:

Mary Wright’s book is full of interesting facts and history of the traditional frocks and guernseys and good instructions on how to knit one yourself. I would encourage you to read it. The shape of a knit-frock (this appears to be the Cornish name for a guernsey or gansey), is very simple, which makes for easy knitting, but it also does not distract from the beautiful patterning. The bottom half of the jumper was frequently tucked into (high-waisted) trousers, so they usually have no patterns: it’s less bulky. The exposed part of the sweater is textured for extra warmth.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth century, many women knitted these jumpers inbetween their daily tasks to earn money, while their husbands were away at sea. To make this worthwhile speed was essential. Several things aided in making the knitting quicker: the jumper was mainly constructed in the round and knitted on very long double-pointed needles. They often used a knitting stick, which could be tucked into a waistband. The stick would support the working needle, making for very speedy knitting. You can read more about them on Kate Davies’s blog.

I knitted mine on circular needles, and manage to break two in the process… The cable broke on one pair, and I managed to bend the needles on the other. But, the effort was worthwhile:

I’m in love with the garter stitch arm strap. It also made for easy picking up stitches for the sleeves. The design feels like a coherent entity: the bars and seeds bands are like opening and closing brackets on the sleeves and chest. And the diamond motif is repeated in three different guises.

Some things in my knit-frock are not traditional: original knit-frocks were usually black or navy. The body was usually a bit longer and the sleeves shorter. I guess the longer body was to make sure they would stay tucked in. The shorter sleeves would keep them from getting wet and mucky during hard work on a fishing boat.

During the course of knitting this jumper I had to perform some delicate sweater surgery AND I found a new way of keeping track of counting rows. All to be revealed in another post!

PS can I draw your attention to the blanket I used as a background? It’s a Shetland blanket, woven by Crofter knitters in, you guessed it, shetland wool. I found it at Snoopers Paradise in Brighton for a mere £20.

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