Cross-Knit Looping On The Edge

Last winter I read a post from backstrap weaver Laverne Waddington about how she uses cross-knit looping as an edging. That set wheels turning in my head. I did a little sampling in September, and finally finished a project — a bag with I-cord handles that hangs from the “ears” on the back of the chair  by my spinning wheel.

I wanted to use the cross-knit edging technique to combine components knit the “regular” way —  that is, with a pair of knitting needles, pulling up yarn from a continuous ball. (Looping, on the other hand, uses one needle and you the entire length of shorter thread through on each stitch.) I knit the base of the bag in stockinette, then did sections of garter stitch, sideways ribbing, and stockinette in the round (which I turned inside out).

Once the knit components were finished, I butted the edges and joined the sections with cross-knit looping. When all the pieces were assembled, I finished the rim with more of the same. Here’s what that looked like:

Cross-knit looping as an edging

 At the end of each row, the thread passes through the fabric. That puts you in position to stitch the next row — simple and brilliant.

First stitch in new row of cross-knit looping edging

It makes a lovely selvedge, and adds stability to the edge.

In the pictures, you see me working with the bulk of the fabric to the left. I tried different hand positions throughout the project but didn’t photograph them. Usually, I decide on a preference based on how gravity “drops” the thread and how my non-dominant (left) hand is positioned to help with tension control while my dominant (right) hand manages the needle. I’m going to try another piece with different hand positions, but think I prefer working with the bulk of the fabric to the right (not the way you see pictured).

When the bag was assembled and edged, I used regular looping to add a deep outside pocket (for knitting needles), a short outside pocket (for my MP3 player, with spinning podcasts), and a big looping freeform flower with a dense center where I can stick tapestry needles and find them again.

Thank you, Laverne, for the inspiration to do something different with cross-knit looping!

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Plying, Playing and Winging It

Before leaving for Amana last week, I managed to ply my first yarn on my new spinning wheel. Since I was pressed for time (and didn’t think of it until later), I didn’t check the Wraps Per Inch or weigh the yarn.

Eyeballing and winging it are well within my comfort zone. I know I can always come up with a solution if I run short. But taking a few minutes to check the weight and WPI would certainly make it easier for someone else to begin a similar project. Next time.

This time, though, I guessed that I had enough yarn to make a small pouch using a couple of looping variations. This fairly bulky yarn let me work on a scale that was good for demonstrating to the public. Like most looping, this was a good project for a situation where there were many distractions (like good conversations and the siren call of the cookie table). I did manage to make an unintentional decrease in the cross-knit section. The world did not stop spinning on its axis as a result.

Starting from a needle chain base, I worked the bottom in Burundi stitch (a complex looping variation that intersects with multiple previous rows). I finished that section with a row of double-crown (a knotted looping variation). Then I switched to cross-knit looping, which looks like stockinette stitch in knitting. A few more rows of Burundi help stabilize the rim. I added a tubular strap with a loop on the end that goes through another loop and around a button on the opposite side of the bag. The button I made from looping stuffed with the extra-kinky bits of the yarn that I broke off rather than fight with on the body of the bag.

I finished with exactly two inches of yarn to spare.

The double-loop closure should be secure enough to attach to a belt loop. I’ll use this bag for my digital camera. But I want a bit more protection for the screen side, so I’ll add an outer pocket, which will also give me a place to keep paper, a pen, and an extra media card. I’ll also add a tab and button at the top as insurance to make sure my camera can’t pop out. My plan is to pull out the walnut dyebath for the yarn I’ll use for the pocket and tab. With a bit of color contrast to add interest, who’ll know that I ran out of yarn? You won’t tell, right?

By the way, en route to Amana I stopped at Borders in Madison to go to the restroom and check out the magazines. I bought the May 2010 issue of Yarn Forward, a British knitting magazine, which has a tutorial article on naalbinding by Swedish fiber artist Barbro Wilhelmsson. Looks like you can buy a digital version of the issue here.

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Cross Knit Looping Two Ways

I got pretty excited over the weekend, and it wasn’t because of an Easter candy sugar rush. It’s because I found a tutorial on cross-knit looping posted by Laverne Waddington on Backstrap Weaving. She shows how this looping variation can be used to edge a woven or knit piece:

It completely wraps around the edge and so can be used to hide a less than perfect selvedge or, by working it in a completely contrasting yarn color, it can add more life and interest to a piece.

Cross-knit is one of my favorite looping variations. I generally work it in the round for things like bags. Once you get started, Laverne’s description for this edging is very much like working in the round with what I call a return to jump from the end of one row to the beginning of the next row. Toward the bottom of the post where you see Laverne’s folded card images, imaging the return passing through the fabric (instead of along the lags of the previous row, for those of you who are following along in the glossary from a class).

For me, I think it would be easier to manage the thread if I held the work in a top-down orientation and worked from left to right (I’m right-handed).

This is an edging I definitely want to try. In the meantime, I’m posting an image of cross-knit looping worked in the round. In this MP3player cozy, I started with a needle chain oval base and worked from the base to the rim. In other words, the piece was held upside-down as I was working it. I’ve rotated a copy of the image to give you a better sense of the orientation.

The rolled edge on this piece gives you a peek at what the back side of the fabric looks like. And if you’re playing along at home I’ll just mention that I worked this project in a wool-mohair yarn with spit splices. Can’t wait to see what happens when I run a Google search for that phrase.

Do you plan to give Laverne’s edging a try? Or are you working on other looping projects or samples?

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The Age Of Discovery

Last week I made an MP3 player cozy using a technique called cross-knit looping. While I was stitching, I had some time to think about how much my world has changed recently.

In rural areas like ours, internet options are very limited. Until two months ago, we were still on dial-up. Now, with a faster connection, pages load before I’ve lost interest and I’m learning a lot. In the last few weeks, I feel like I’ve traveled around the world and through time.

That reminded me of an article I read some time back by Jennie Durkin. Published in 1989 in the Bulletin of the Needle and Bobbin Club, it’s called Loop-Stitch Embroidery: Peruvian and Elizabethan. Thanks to the University of Arizona, here’s a link to the PDF.

Durkin’s study of Peruvian textiles led to her recognition of an apparent connection between the embroidery version of cross-knit looping (from Peru’s Nazca region) and Ceylon stitch (which apparently was not used in England before the reign of Elizabeth I).

A skilled embroiderer in the Elizabethan age would have been able to look at a sample of a foreign technique and figure out how to reproduce it. There may be no direct connection between the Spanish conquest of Peru and the English court, but there were plenty of indirect routes by which the connection could have been made. As she says,

“The absence of direct contact did not prevent the spread of potatoes and tobacco by the later 16th century. The nature of the interest in embroidery at that time required only one example to reach a competent embroiderer.”

As my voyages continue in my own Age of Discovery, I can’t help but wonder what the Virgin Queen would have worn if her ladies had been reading the blogs.

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