Thursday, January 26, 2006

Short and Sweet Works

My main knitting project now is either fisherman's gansey or figuring out how fisherman's ganseys were traditionally knit. In the last 24 hours, I have made significant advances in the "HOW" part of the project resulting in dramatic increases in knitting speed.

The gansey is based on a Gladys Thompson pattern (Filey Pattern V) that I have adjusted to a 42 inch chest and a 7 s/i gauge using a worsted weight yarn on US size 1 needles. This give a tight fabric with excellent stitch definition

I started the project on 18" DPN because that is what the preface to GT's book by Elizabeth Zimmerman and the introductory material by Thompson said were traditionally used for knitting these garments. However, I had a terrible time just joining the first round without a twist. After much fustration, I actually ended up knitting the first couple of inches of ribbing on my trusty circular needles. The stress on my hands was substantial.

When the cable on the circular needles broke, I knew it was tme to move foreward with research on the DPN/knittng stick technology. I made a set of 12 " steel DPN that had much longer taper from the diameter of the shaft to the tip. My original set of DPN had been made using the angle of taper from the (Boye) aluminium DPN. The new set of shorter DPN used approximatly the angle of taper from the (broken) AddiTurbos. This made a tremendous improvement-- many fewer dropped stitches. The point of the new needles is quit fine. The points are carefully rounded and polished, but quite fine.

The 12" needles are much easier to work with then the 18" needles. Twelve inch needles are suffienctly long that each needle can carry the 80 stitches assigned to it with more than an inch of bare needle at each end. There does not seem to be much tendency for the needles to slip out of the knitting.

The lower end of the right needle in inserted into a knitting stick that is tucked under a heavy leather belt. The heavy leather belt provides additional stability and support to the knitting stick holding the right needle.

The yarn is carried and controlled with the right hand, which also moves stitches down the right needle.

I learned to knit English method (yarn in right hand) in colledge, but never knitted much because I was just such a slow knitter. Three years ago, when I resumed knitting, I switched to contental method (yarn in left hand) to speed my knitting and actually get something knit. My knitting speed did increase significantly using the contental method. The knitting motion using a knitting stick is different from the English method that I learned, but after only couple of hours of experimentation, I am already knitting faster than I could ever knit using the contental method. Now that I know how knitting with a knitting stick is done, I expect that with practice, I will get much faster.

I notice that knitters in the old photographs are always shown wearing aprons. I never thought about that much untill last nignt. My new DPN with there fine points are just the right length to dig into the your lap. With in a few minutes of starting knitting with the new needles, I got up and put on a heavy duck apron, and I was already wearing a stout pair of denium jeans.

In short, there are some real downsides to the technology that I am moving toward. I have a bunch of new AddiTurbos on order, so I am not abandoning modern knitting technology. Long, sharp, steel DPN are dangerous. (And, they rust in an flash!) They are the knd of danger that your mother warned you about. I would not evern think about taking my new sharp DPNs onboard an airplane! On the other hand, sometime dangerous is fun!

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