14 February 2016
Because I already have technical ability in knitting, my aim was to use this workshop as an opportunity to push the boundaries of the craft. I also decided that, I would extend the workshop to include crochet.
Before I started, I identified some potential areas of risk:
- That I might be inclined towards making a series of swatches based on different open work stitches
- That I might be inclined towards making a series of samples based on my handspun ‘art’ yarns
Neither of these two approaches would serve to further my creativity and expand my visual vocabulary, so I decided to stick to a simple formula. Initially, I would concentrate on using unconventional materials with simple stitches such as garter or stocking stitch. Only after I had built up some experience in these would I venture into using more complex stitches and possibly my handspun yarn.
Limiting the use of handspun yarn was difficult, because it has so much inherent character and interest (particularly extreme examples, as advocated by Lexi Boger) (1), such as thick and thin single, coils, spiral plied, autowrap, core-spun, twists, tail spun, trapped objects/fibres.
SAMPLE KN3. Rowan big wool (bulky), garter stitch, 19mm needles
What I learnt from this sample: Commercial yarn can produce uninspiring samples!
I wanted to explore how I could make a more ‘net like’ stitch by alternating rows of plain garter stitch with a single row where each stitch was wrapped around the needle multiple times (to give an elongated stitch). The resulting sample is pleasing, but unremarkable.
SAMPLE KN4. Rowan big wool (bulky), trellis stitch, 19mm needles
What I learnt from this sample: Trellis stitch gives a rather dense net when formed from bulky yarn, even on large needles.
This is a stitch which results in an open knitted structure where threads are twisted. I did this sample in a plain commercial yarn so that I could use it as a reference to help me determine it’s suitability with other yarns/fibres. As a sample on it’s own it is not particularly interesting. It could be transformed by using a thinner yarn or more textured thread.
SAMPLE KN5. Handspun yarn with buttons, garter stitch, 19mm needles
What I learnt from this sample: The handspun yarn gave lots of character and texture, but was too thick to produce a knitted net on these needles.
I started by threading some buttons onto a strong plying thread (see below)
I then spun some yarn from commercially dyed 100% merino fibre. I plied this yarn on my Ashford Country Spinner, using the plying thread strung with buttons. I spaced the buttons as I plied (see below)
As the yarn was very textured, I chose to knit a sample garter stitch square.
The resulting knitted fabric has an interesting double-sided texture but the yarn was too chunky to produce what I would call a ‘knitted net’.
SAMPLE KN6. Handspun yarn, stocking stitch with dropped stitches, 7mm needle
What I learnt from this sample: Dropped stitches can be used to give interesting effects, although a thinner yarn would be required to explore the potential fully.
I used some of my handspun commercially dyed 100% merino (a balanced yarn of 2 plied strands of singles) to knit up a swatch where I intentionally dropped stitches.
If I’d just dropped ordinary stitches they would have unravelled right down to the cast-on edge. I wanted more control, with the resulting ‘ladders’ having different lengths and starting points. When I got to a point that I wanted a dropped stitch to stop, I knitted an increase (by knitting into the front then the back of a stitch). The stitch I would later drop would be the one knitted into the back. Thus the stitch couldn’t unravel further than this point (being anchored by the stick it was increased from). To compensate for the extra stitch generated, I knitted 2 stitches together on the following knit stitch. I continued in stocking stitch. When I got to a suitable length I carefully slipped the stitch off the needle and unravelled the fabric down to the point that the increase stitch was generated.
The fabric above is the result. It is quite uniform because the yarn is not very textured. This could create a very different and dramatic look in yarn which is thinner (or by using a larger needle) or by using yarn which has a halo.
The concept of the ‘dropped stitch’ also interests me conceptually, as an analogy for a lost possession or a missing person.
SAMPLE KN7. Plastic strips, garter and stocking stitch sections, 19mm needles
What I learnt from this sample: Plastic ribbon gives interesting textural effect, although a larger needle would be needed to produce a knitted net.
I cut strips from a carrier bag, about 1cm wide. I knitted these plastic tapes directly.
The resulting knitted fabric is heavily textures and holds the ridged well. However, it is not really a ‘net’ because the negative spaces between the stitches are difficult to discern.
SAMPLE KN8. Plarn
I made a continuous plastic strip as before and spun it in my Ashford Country Spinner into a thin, single yarn.
I used two different carrier bags. It was difficult to get two the same weight and colour. Although I checked to make sure that the bags did not say they were biodegradable, I have a suspicion that they may have been – only time will tell!
8a) Crocheted net, 8mm hook
What I learnt from this sample: Plastic bag strips ca be spun into ‘plarn’ which makes an interesting textured (3D) net/surface.
I started by making a simple crocheted net of chain stitches and double trebles (see below)
I wasn’t expecting to like this net, as I usually prefer natural fibres, but I was really drawn to this sample. It is interesting is because of it’s thin delicate openness. I like the fact that it doen’t lie flat, so makes unequal squares shapes of negative space which in turn cast shadows onto surface on which it rests. Because this yarn is a ‘single’ (unplied), it has twist in only one direction, making it ‘unbalanced’. This is what encourages it present these interesting distortions. The colour combination also works really well, and I think I could probably add to this sample with contrasting textures.
8b) Knitted plarn net, garter stitch, 9mm needles
What I learnt from this sample: Plarn can be knitted into a sample full of character. It combines well with yarns of contrasting thickness and texture. Sometimes folding a sample gives a more interesting result than viewing it flat.
I decided to go beyond a simple square swatch this time. I started by knitting garter stitch, then I made elongated stitched by wrapping the yarn either 2 or 3 times around the needle during the knit, then slipping the large loop off in one go when knitting back on the following row (I prefer this method to using odd sizes of needle).
I went out of my comfort zone, by knitting protrusions at the edges – what Ruth Lee referred to as ‘fronds’ (2). I also added sections of Rowan kid silk haze (a fine silk yarn with a halo of angora), to give a contrast of texture.
I initially hated this sample – it just looked like a mess! However, as it lay folded up on the windowsill as I worked my other samples, it’s appeal started to increase (see below).
There is an attractive wild scruffiness, partly because of the way the plarn is constructed as an unbalanced yarn and also because of the loose tied ends and mixed fibres.
After years of being a ‘tidy’ knitter (and crocheter), I am at last beginning to feel less inhibited.
SAMPLE KN9. Crocheted net, string, 8mm hook
What I learnt from this sample: A coarse crocheted net can be made with ordinary garden string. It’s textural qualities give it potential for combining with contrasting yarns/fibres.
This sample uses the same stitch as sample 6b). I like the was the coarse ‘hairs” protrude into the negative space between the stitches.
SAMPLE KN10. Crocheted net, textured handspun yarn, 15mm hook
I repeated the method in samples 8a) and 9. with several different yarns to explore the effects of their texture. I crocheted this as a single sample.
10a) Navajo ply with autowrap
What I learnt from this sample: Autowrap is a fabulous spinning technique. It produces a plied yarn which, when crocheted into a net provides contrast of weight and interesting incursions into the negative spaces.
In this first stage (above), the purple merino single has been Navajo-plied. At the same time, I have allied a fine cotton thread to autowrap. The resultant yarn has produced a really interesting texture and contrast between the two thread weights. I can imagine this working even better with complementary colours.
10b) Navajo ply with trapped yarn and fibres
What I learnt from this sample: An interesting texture with potential for furthers sampling and development
In the second section, I took odd fibre and yarn threads and caused them to be trapped in the single as it was Navajo-plied. The resulting crocheting is a lovely loose, free open net.
10c) Plied into coils
What I learnt from this sample: Yarn spun into coils interacts to modify the shape of a crocheted net. It has fabulous textural qualities.
In this sample, I used a thin strong thread to ply with the single, pushing the single into ‘coils’ as I spun. I intentionally make the coils looser sometimes and tighter others to give an uneven effect. I love the texture of coils which combined fabulously with the crocheted net. It seems to wriggle and squirm.
10d) Plied with thread-on buttons
What I learnt from this sample: Some interesting textures, but further work would be needed to refine the combination of yarn and buttons/beads/inclusions, to find combinations which work better together.
Finally I used yarn plied with threaded-on buttons. I like this least, I think because there is no colour harmony between the buttons and the purple merino.
SAMPLE KN11. Garden plant tie (plastic-coated wire), garter and stocking stitch, 8mm needles
What I learnt from this sample: Plastic coated wire is extremely difficult to knit with as it resists movement on the needles. However, it has an interesting matt appearance.
This was a straightforward sample knitted in garter and stocking stitch. However it was like a non-slip mat and refused to slip along the needles making it extremely uncomfortable to knit with.
The sample on it’s own was somewhat unremarkable. However it may have application when used with a yarn of a contrasting texture (unusually it is extremely matt in appearance). Another advantage of the sample is that having a wire core, it is mouldable into different shapes.
SAMPLE KN12. Mixed yarn knitted sample in various stitches, 7mm needles
What I learnt from this sample: Combining two contrasting yarns and knitting them together introduces tension (either by contrast of texture, colour and/or weight). Certain can stitches amplify this effect. Inclusions (such as buttons) need thread which is sturdy enough to support them whilst being fine enough to contrast with the holes made by the stitches.
Initially, I thought about exploring the use of large needles with a fine thread, so I knitted quite a large section in garter stitch using salmon orange Coton a Broder (below)
The yarn made a lovely loose net with untidy stitches and edges. The fabric was interesting on it’s own but I also saw potential to develop it further by introducing contrasting colour and texture.
I set about making sections with different stitches and contrasting yarn textures. Below is the finished sample.
The honeycomb section (below) was made by staggered rows of “yarn over needle, knit to together” in a coarse, bulky yarn. Initially I loved it, but now I find it too uniform.
I also used the technique of wrapping the yarn round the needle several times to create large stitches (a follow-on from sample 3). This time I added interest by combining yarns of different qualities. The effect was especially interesting when I contrasted the silky, fine coton a broder with a thicker, coarser wooden yarn (below)
Finally, I made a section by knitting in buttons that I had threaded onto the cotton a broder before knitting them. I learned from sample 5 that to get an effect of the buttons obscuring the holes between the knitted stitches, I needed to use a finer yarn. The coton a broder was actually too far to the other extreme, being too fine to support the buttons within the knitted fabric!
SAMPLE KN13: Fishing line, garter stitch, 8mm needles
What I learnt from this sample: When nylon fishing line is knitted (even in a basic flat stitch), it makes an undulating textured surface. Areas of high and low density thread naturally form.
I chose a medium fishing line to knit my sample with. It came in an olive green shade (thinner line was clear, very heavy duty line, fluorescent yellow).
I just knitted a plain garter stitch square. I found that the line naturally formed a textured surface (probably due to being coiled on the reel?) It makes a beautiful, semi-transparent fabric.
SAMPLE KN14: Fishing line, crocheted sphere, 8mm hook
What I learnt from this sample: It is not possible to crochet a precise 3D shape using fishing line.
- The undulating knitted fabric that the strimmer cord makes, and the way that the stitches are transparent and you can see through them.
- The contrast of density, texture and shininess what are achieved by introducing the different threads.
- The way that the second threads (being softer to handle than the strimmer cord), form different shaped stitches, and by doing so, occupy the negative space between the strimmer cord stitches.
- When held by the cast-on thread an attractive spiral shape is made which reminds me of kite tails.
- What laid on a flat surface the sample is caterpillar-like – it has an almost organic quality (because whenever you lay it to rest it makes a different shape).
- The colours work will together and the contrast of the matt, hairy Kidsilk haze with the transparent ribbon form an interesting contrast.
- the ribbon holds it’s shape and sits away from the crocheted area because it has very fine wired running along it’s edges.
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