29 January 2007

Double knitting redux

The adventure in double knitting project that became a cheque book cover is a classic walkabout what if project. I worried it quite a bit before finally giving in and making two pockets alike and joining them with a 3-needle bind-off.

I wasn't thrilled with that solution because I'm a bit of a purist. When I'm working with a technique I like to continue with it as far as I can. Ultimately, if the technique won't allow me to get the result I'm after I'll shift gears. Ultimately is the key word in that sentence as I'll worry, play and what if over and over before deciding that what I want to do can't be done or is otherwise totally impractical (usually falling into the too fiddly camp).

The sharp pointies (US 0/2mm) that I used to create the cheque book cover also put a rather painful hole in my left forefinger so I decided to explore possible solutions with ack-rylic and larger, blunter needles. The finger's still a bit less than healed enough to go the way of very sharp's but it is improving and not sore enoughto stop knitting.

I cast on 16 stitches and worked a couple garter rows before starting the encased double knit pocket. The set up row is pretty simple stuff: knit 2, knit into the front and back of each of the next 12 stitches, knit 2. After that it's a knitting two stitches at either end of the row and doing knit 1, slip 1 with yarn forward on the 12 centre stitches.

When the pocket is deep enough, the centre stitches get separated and half of the centre stitches are bound/cast off. This is just a basic pocket knit from the bottom up -- no biggie.

At this point, it's back to 16 stitches and knitting a single layer of fabric and this is where my _what if, can I, I wonder_ side kicked in.

If I were doing a plain double knit piece that started with a open end, I'd just cast on each side's stitches onto a double pointed needle and start the double knit (
alternating the knit and slip stitches) by knitting with a 3rd needle but I was already established in the piece and all of my efforts to just cast on the additional stitches were less than satisfactory.

I tried a couple of different variations of increasing across the centre 12 stitches (just as I had to create the closed pocket) before I had the duh realisation that if any two stitches come from the same root thread/loop, they will be connected on a layer and won't yield two separate layers.

My next solution involved waste yarn to later be removed. I knit into the front and back of the 12 centre stitches but unlike when I created the closed pocket, I knit into the front with my working yarn and into the back with my waste yarn.

To anchor the stitches, I knit the first two and last two stitches on each row with both my working and waste yarn.

On the next row, I went back to double knitting with the working yarn, until the pocket reached the desired depth. I finished the pocket with a K2, (K2tog)12x, K2 and then a couple of garter rows before casting/binding off.

Next I removed the waste yarn and picked the raw unfinished stitches up with my needle. I simply bound these stitches off with, in this case, my contrast ugly orange ombre yarn.

Doing a row of 1x1 ribbing on the stitches that were formed from the waste yarn would have eliminated the need to bind/cast off the stitches after the waste yarn was removed but I had some difficulty keeping the yarn positions straight in my mind (and in my instructions) so I've back burned that solution for later exploration.

Okay, so maybe a cheque book or other book cover doesn't seem like a very reasonable thing to knit or anything worth all this fuss. Truth be told, I had a VICP (very important crochet person) tell me that no one would ever bother to go to this much trouble and that I should never even consider writing this up in a pattern and that she couldn't really see the point of doing what I was doing -- oh well.

I've made it a general rule to ignore that sort of conventional wisdom in search of solutions that suit my knitting needs. There are knitters who wouldn't dream of trying to master knitting with double points and knitters who think that the magic loop method is loopy -- it's a big circus tent with plenty of room for different choices.

But, VICP's opinion aside, as a practical matter, this whole experiment yields a nice way to form a pocket when knitting from the top down that doesn't involve a second yarn source.
Compare this to the pocket in the "still on the needles" cuff down sock with pocket.

Most discussions of double knit pockets assume a bottom up construction that begins with a closed tube and most double knitting that starts with an open tube assumes that you're working in a double knit vacuum.

Look for more on double knitting including open tubes and ribbing solutions in later postings (this time I actually have the project and photos at the ready).

I think the biggest problem with the casting on solution comes from needing at least a 3rd needle that late in the project and then there's the whole juggling of stitches thing. That said, I'll probably play with that at some point too.

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