Daily Color: “Descend with the painter into the dim tangled roots of things, and rise again from them in colours, be steeped in the light of them.” –Paul Cezanne
Six months ago I sat down with a pile of Koigu. I chose 8 skeins, each a different colorway, and began playing, arranging the skeins in various ways, dreaming up a linen stitch wrap. 78,000 stitches later, it's done.
In my experience, knitters react to linen stitch in one of three ways:
1. Never tried it.
2. Tried it once, loved the result but HATED working it and would rather eat glass than ever use linen stitch again.
3. OMG this is the most fantastic stitch ever I can hardly imagine ever knitting anything but linen stitch again oh the texture and what it does with colors!
I fall--hard--into the third category. Maybe it's because I love weaving but have never learned how, or because I am frustrated painter, but how could I not want to do something that results in fabric like this?
I have used linen stitch with many different kinds of yarns and fibers, solids, multicolored, tonal, fine, not so fine, and loved the results every time, but by far my favorite yarn to use with linen stitch is Koigu Premium Painters Palette Merino. The colors blend and flow like a pointilist or Impressionist painting, the fabric is soft and supple yet sturdy, the drape and hand delightful. What's not to love?
But back to this wrap. I decided to work in stripes rather than blocks of color, but I wanted the colors to evolve from one end of the wrap to the other, so I staggered and overlapped the skeins, working in alternating 16- and 8-row bands: each skein began with 16-row stripes, then shifted to 8-row stripes when I ended one colorway and introduced the next. I carried the inactive yarn loosely up the edge, intertwining it with the working color every other row. I added new skeins by spit-felting the first 4 or 5 inches of the new color with the last few inches of the old color, so there were very few ends to weave in.
The wrap is warm, soft, not too heavy, and can be worn in a variety of ways.
I will not be creating a specific pattern for this design; this is a one-of-a-kind wrap! But if any hardy souls want to try making a similar piece, here are the technical details: 1400 yards of fingering weight yarn, one color or many; US size 10 needles (I used 24" circs but long straights would work); gauge: approximately 6.5 stitches to the inch before blocking, approximately 6 stitches to the inch after blocking. Cast on 120 stitches and work in linen stitch, alternating colors as you choose, until piece measures about 5 feet or desired length. Bind off, checking tension frequently to make sure the bound-off edge is neither too loose nor too tight, but just right.
Though it may be tempting to skip blocking, I urge you to block this piece to relax the stitches and smooth the fabric. Soak in cool water with a few drops of wool wash, carefully wrap in a large towel and press out excess water, then gently stretch and pat into shape. You will be surprised at how much the fabric will grow! Dimensions before blocking: approximately 59" x 19"; after blocking: 66" x 20". (Note that I patted the fabric out somewhat larger than this, but it shrank back a bit as it dried. If you want it to dry even larger, use blocking wires to hold that larger dimension.)
I do love this wrap--but I'm trying not to get too attached to it, as I hope to sell it. But as I worked on it, I daydreamed about and planned the next linen stitch wrap...