November 15, 2007


Nihon Vogue knitting class met the first weekend of this month. Where last I left off on this topic, I was being tortured by what seemed like an insurmountable amount of knitting homework. I managed to get quite a lot of the homework completed, but not 100 percent of it. I had enough done that I could participate in most of the class activities, and I remain optimistic that I will get caught up by the time the class meets again in January.

Project 1 in this class is a vest, and the vest is required to have 1x1 ribbing. One of my classmates had knitted a very long portion of ribbing on her vest -- practically the whole vest below the bust down to the waist was ribbing. 1x1 ribbing tends to be wobbly, and this classmate remarked on that.

Jean said, "If you don't like it, I can show you how to fix it."

Jean had the most mischievous grin on her face. She picked up a piece of the vest, balled it up in her fists, and made a scrubbing motion. Scrub, scrub, scrub. "Now you can torture your knitting!" she said. She unfolded her hands, and voila! That portion of the ribbing was no longer wobbly.


Why does 1x1 ribbing wobble? Back when I was knitting the lavender and white vest for the TKGA master knitter program, I experimented with all sorts of different ways to knit 1x1 rib. The ribbing wobbles because the left leg of the knit stitch is made in the same direction as the twist of the yarn; because of the energy in the twist of the yarn, the left leg of the knit stitch becomes prominent. If you are knitting a flat fabric back and forth, you'll get these alternating prominent left legs of stitches on the front and back sides of the fabric. It gives a wobbly appearance. In my O/C way, I knitted the ribbing for my TKGA vest many times over, trying different ways of wrapping the purl stitch or wrapping the knit stitch, to make that left leg prominence go away. I found that wrapping the knit stitch the wrong way makes the ribbing line up beautifully -- if you think about it, you are now wrapping the stitch in the opposite direction of the twist of the yarn, so there is no longer any tendency for the left leg of the knit stitch to get prominent. But the tradeoff in wrapping the knit stitch the wrong way is that you are using a fractionally less amount of yarn to create that stitch -- the less yarn in the stitch, the less elastic the ribbing will be. For my TKGA vest, I decided that I was better off having more elasticity in the ribbing, since it would have to fit around my middle, so I knitted the conventional way and just pulled my knit stitches as tight as I could to prevent that left leg prominence. Since I am already a tight knitter, I knitted that rib in a total death grip.

Now, I've learned from Jean another technique. I think the reason the scrubbing motion worked was that it released some of the energy in the twist of the yarn.

Posted by Karen at November 15, 2007 08:51 AM

Jean's the best - isn't she? I can't wait to start the next course. And it is hard work that homework. I can't wait to see what you all do next.

Posted by: Kelly at November 15, 2007 04:10 PM

I love that you are as much of a geek as I am about knitting. I work at a LYS and very few people care to know the technical reason behind why certain stitches look certain ways. Me? I gotta figure out the architecture of it. It haunts me! :)

Posted by: kendall at November 16, 2007 09:12 AM

Kelly: I think ultimately the homework will be satisfying; far more satisfying than the bazillion swatches plus one vest plus one argyle sock I would be completing if I were still pursuing Level II of TKGA's master knitter program. Both programs are challenging. Jean is pretty understanding and accepting of mistakes and all of those moments where we go wrong.

Kendall: Knitting geekiness. It's funny; I began knitting "seriously" about 1998, and although I thought I knew so much about the craft, I look back and realize just how limited my understanding was. And it was one of my goals then -- and remains one of my goals now -- to understand the physics of knitting. Why *do* those stitches behave the way they do? Funny. What I called physics, you call architecture. It's just a strand of yarn moving through loops, but how differently it can behave, depending on circumstances.

Posted by: Karen at November 16, 2007 11:22 AM