Reveal and conceal, Stage 2, Workshop 2, Knitted nets

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:

  1. That I might be inclined towards making a series of swatches based on different open work stitches
  2. 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 ATTEMPT: Boston vine, garter stitch 19mm needles

What I learnt from this sample: Some vines are too brittles to knit with even after soaking.

I was disappointed that I was not able to knit successfully with the vine. Although ‘green’ (alive) and flexible, they were not sufficiently flexible to form knitting stitches and frequently broke. This was not improved by soaking the stems overnight. Unfortunately I have not been able to include this as a sample because it was too fragile.


SAMPLE KN1: Raffia, garter stitch, 8mm needles
 
What I learnt from this sample: Loose, bunched raffia produced ‘scruffy’ results. It is difficult to joking and knit with the different width and length of sections.

This is a messy sample, I think because I used a raffia ‘bundle’ Instead of raffia ‘yarn’. This gives a ‘thick and thin’ effect with lots of joins. It may or may not be what is required in a particular piece and in combination with other yarns.


SAMPLE KN2. Crêpe bandage, garter stitch, 19mm needles

What I learnt from this sample: It is difficult to cut crepe bandage thin enough to produce a knitted net.


The crepe bandage is a knitted, stretchy fabric with an attractive rough surface texture.

I cut the bandage in half lengthways before knitting it to make a longer length of yarn (9m) but I don’t think I could have cut it down further because it frays such a lot, and would have been likely to have broken.

I love the texture, but it’s not really what I would call a ‘knitted net’. I would like to try again with perhaps bigger needles and/or a more open stitch.


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 idea of this sample followed on from the finding sample of 13. I was interested in the effect made by the areas of high and low density line, and I wanted to try and exploit this further by making a 3D shape in crochet. 
 
I started by crocheting a chain and looping joins (slip stitch) in several places to try and make a dense ‘core’. I The worked length of chains with ‘nodules’ (i.e. small balls of dense crochet) at intervals. This was supposed to form an ‘outer ring’ around the centre sphere, similar to planets in a solar system orbiting the sun. e.g. A 3D version of the drawing below:
 
The sample was disappointing (see below)
 
 
The areas of low and high density were not really distinguishable (I think because the line curled back on itself and did not hold the shapes that I intended). I still think this is an interesting idea. It’s a pity that it didn’t work with this thread.
 
 
SAMPLE KN15: Fishing line, crocheted chain, 8mm hook
 
What I learnt from this sample: A simple crocheted chain in fishing line will naturally form a 3D snake-like sculpture.
 
Again using the same fishing line in samples 13 and 14, I made this sample with the intention that I could use it to weave with. In the event I found it rather interesting and decided to keep it as a sample for reference.
 
 
I was fascinated by the snake (worm?)-like properties of the sample, and the 3D shape that it made. It has a lively, organic feel which is rather compelling.
 
 
SAMPLE KN16: Nylon strimmer cord, garter stitch, 9mm needles
 
What I learnt from this sample: The strimmer cord makes and undulating knitted fabric and combines beautifully with contrasting threads. However, it is uncomfortable to knit with and can only be purchased in small quantities.
 
Having noted the ability of sample 13 to form an undulating knitted fabric, I wanted to try a thicker thread. I chose a lightweight strimmer cord, in clear nylon.
 
 
Following on from the success of sample 12, I thought it would be interesting to introduce some contrasting threads and knit them together with the strimmer cord. I knitted sections of the cord on it’s own (smooth, shines) and also together with Rowan Kidsilk Haze (fine, hairy) and crochet cotton (matt, white).
 
 
I am especially pleased with this sample for lots of reasons:
 
  1. The undulating knitted fabric that the strimmer cord makes, and the way that the stitches are transparent and you can see through them.
  2. The contrast of density, texture and shininess what are achieved by introducing the different threads.
  3. 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.
On the downside, there was not much meterage of cord on the spool, and it was difficult to knit with. My hands started to ache knitting just this small sample, so I would be reluctant to take on a large project using this product.
 
 
SAMPLE KN17: Polypropylene bailing twine, garter stitch, 40mm plumbing pipe
 
What I learnt from this sample: Knitting on plumbing pipe makes large stitches which immediately add drama. Polypropylene twine makes a textured fabric similar to nylon.
 
The aim was to push the boundaries of scale with this sample. I bought some recycled bailing twine and knitted a simple garter stitch square. 
 
 
 
I was not expecting to like this sample, but was pleasantly surprised. Similar to the nylon fishing line and strimmer cord (samples 13, 14, 15), the stitches were naturally uneven (because of the twist in the twine?) and so make a bumpy fabric with contrasting areas of high and low density. Because of the size of the stitches, the sample is dramatic.
 
SAMPLE KN18: 6mm copper wire, crocheted net, 8mm hook

What I learnt from this sample: Copper wire forms well defined, round crocheted stitches. It is easy to work, reflects the light interestingly and finished samples can be mounded/shaped.
 
I really liked the irregularity of the holes in the crocheted net in sample 8a) and wanted to see if this could be recreated in wire. I also like the idea of wire being for able (sample 11). I made a net with identical construction to sample 8a)
 
 
As it happened the square net was more regular than I had anticipated. Interestingly the stitches were round rather than flat as they had been when constructed in plarn.
 
Being copper, this sample has a lovely lustre, and the additional advantage of being shapeable into different 3D forms (example below). It was also much easier to work than the plastic coated garden wire.
 
 

SAMPLE KN19: Commercial double knit, intentional holes, 8mm needles

What I learnt from these samples: The double knit yarn and large needles gave the loose net-like effect that I wanted. The holes were pleasingly large and irregular.
 
I had learned from samples 5 and 6 that to make an open knitted net which would show dropped stitches and holes would require me to use a relatively fine yarn with a larger than normal needle size. I used commercial double knit with 8mm needles (4mm would be the norm).
 
19a) Acrylic yarn, holes formed by “yarn over needle, knit two together”.
 
 
19b) 100% merino yarn, holes formed by “yarn over needle, slip stitch, knit one, pass slipped stitch over
 
 
There was very little to choose between the yarns (the merino being slightly more silky and drapery). The methods of hole construction gave very similar results too. Using large needles and double knit yarn gave an effective loose net.
 
 
SAMPLE KN20: Crocheted spiral chain with wired ribbon ties, Rowan Kidsilk Haze, 8mm hook
 
What I learnt from this sample: It is possible to crochet a spiral even in very soft drapery yarn. Ribbon with wired edges holds it’s shape.
 
This is an adaption of the crocheted net used for samples 8a), 9, 10 and 17. I wanted to see if the form could be extended into three dimensions.
 
I started by crocheting a chain in Rowan Kidsilk Haze. I made the first row of the net pattern as for the other samples, using double trebles with 2 chain in between. On the second row I added more double crochet for each square to form a curve (see below)
 
 
When I had completed the row I took a wired sheer ribbon. And started to tie it at intervals along the long edge. I did this intuitively.
 
 
The finished sample has lots of appealing qualities:
 
  1. When held by the cast-on thread an attractive spiral shape is made which reminds me of kite tails.
  2. 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).
  3. The colours work will together and the contrast of the matt, hairy Kidsilk haze with the transparent ribbon form an interesting contrast.
  4. the ribbon holds it’s shape and sits away from the crocheted area because it has very fine wired running along it’s edges.
 

 

Conclusions:
 
I have produced a lot of samples for this workshop, but it has been a valuable learning process. I found early on that to make a net, the needles have to be much larger than normally used (and/or the yarn finer). Combining contrasting threads worked well and I tried this approach in several of the samples using a variety of materials. I found that the use of scale (large stitches) gave dramatic results.
 
I started to explore extending the use of my knitted and crocheted nets into 3D shapes. I found that nylon or polypropylene synthetics make interesting textured surfaces, and I was able to crochet a spiral net. Some other attempts were less successful.
 
I have a clear view of which samples and techniques were most successful and which to take forward and develop further.
 
 

References:

  1. Boeger, L. (2012) Hand spun: New spins on traditional techniques. Quarry Books. Beverly, Massachusetts.
  2. Lee, R. (2007) Contemporary knitting for textile artists. Batsford.
  3. Anon (2006) The ultimate sourcebook of knitting and crochet stitches. The harmony guides. Collins and Bown. London.
  4. Boggs, J. (2011) Spin art: mastering the craft of spinning textured yarn. Interweave Press. Loveland.
  5. Kirkpatrick, R. (2012) Freeform crochet and beyond. Sally Milner publishing. Binda. New South Wales, Australia.
  6. Fisch, A. (1996) Textile techniques in metal for jewellers, textile artists and sculptors. Robert Hale Ltd. London.
  7. McFadden, D., Scanlan, J. and Edwards, J. (2008) Radical lace and subversive knitting. Museum of arts and design, New York.
  8. Teller-Loumagne, F. (2005) The art of knitting – inspirational stitches, textures and surfaces. London. Thames and Hudson.

 

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