Monday, December 11, 2017

How to work a Provisional Cast On

A provisional cast on is a method of beginning a project using waste yarn that will be unpicked later, leaving 'live' stitches which can be loaded onto your needles for grafting. A few of my cowl patterns call for a provisional cast on: Cinnamon Stars, which is knit in the round as a long tube and then grafted, and Folia Loop and my latest Aether Cowl, which are both knit flat and then grafted.

I like the perfectly invisible graft that this technique makes possible - for me, it's well worth taking the extra trouble when casting on. My favourite provisional method is the Crochet Provisional Cast On, which involves crocheting around your knitting needle using waste yarn.

The Method:

Begin with a slip knot on the crochet hook. Hold your knitting needle behind the hook, at a right angle.

* Wrap yarn behind the needle and around the hook, then hook it through the loop already on the crochet hook. One stitch has been made on the knitting needle. Move the yarn back behind the needle, and repeat from * until all stitches are cast on.

Chain a few extra stitches and fasten off. Now you can begin working with your 'real' yarn (yay)!

When the time comes to graft both ends of your knitting together, you can easily 'unzip' the waste yarn beginning at the end with the extra crochet chain tail, transferring the live stitches to a knitting needle as you go. If you find you have one stitch too many, you can drop the final half-stitch.

If you'd like to try an alternative method, Marnie MacLean's Plenty of Provisions article in Twist Collective article has a good run-down of the various methods, complete with step-by-step photos.

Blocking Tip:

One advantage of working a cowl flat is that it gives you the option of blocking it flat before grafting. After knitting the final row of my Aether Cowl, I left the cable from my interchangeable circular needles in place, and wet-blocked it as a long rectangle:

The cast-on end, with waste yarn still in place:

After blocking, I unpicked the waste yarn, slipped the live stitches onto my needles, and grafted the ends together using Kitchener Stitch. Have you tried Kitchener Stitch for garter stitch? It actually has fewer steps to remember, since the moves for the front needle and back needle are identical. For tips, check out my follow-up tutorial: How to graft garter stitch.

If your finished graft looks a little wonky, you can 'spot-block' the graft using a spray bottle of water and stretching it out flat to match the rest of the blocked fabric. Hello, invisible graft!

Friday, December 8, 2017

New patterns: Aether Shawl + Aether Cowl

My final new pattern release of the year is a double shot: a laceweight shawl and a fingering-weight cowl, both featuring a geometric lace pattern inspired by sparkling stars. The shawl is a light, ethereal triangle knit from the bottom up, and the cowl is a quicker knit, worked flat and then grafted.

I took the name Aether from classical science, where it was thought to be a fifth element filling the sky above the terrestrial sphere. In later centuries, the aether was hypothesized to be the medium through which light travels. My starlight-inspired lace pattern is made up of mesh triangles on a background of garter stitch, forming a mosaic of starbursts - a more complex take on the lace from my Hextile Wrap design.

The shawl requires one 100g skein of laceweight yarn. I used a beautiful merino/silk blend from Miss Click Clack called Shark Bay Lace, which has a wonderful shimmer thanks to the silk. The interesting greenish-gold semi-solid colourway is called Fracta Aurea Olivae, which I think translates to 'broken golden olive'.

Shawl Features:
  • a delicate triangular shawl featuring geometric lace and garter stitch
  • worked from the bottom up
  • the garter stitch border begins with picked-up stitches around the diagonal edges
  • techniques include garter stitch and simple lace, picking up stitches, and a stretchy bind-off
  • a one-skein project in laceweight yarn
  • suitable for solid or semi-solid-dyed yarn
  • easy to enlarge by adding pattern repeats
  • pattern includes full written instructions as well as charts.

The cowl is also a one-skein knit, but in fingering-weight yarn. I used Skein Yarn's Top Draw Sock, a very soft merino/nylon blend, in a calm greyish lavender called Très Chic.

Cowl Features:
  • a light, drapy cowl featuring geometric lace and garter stitch
  • worked flat beginning with a provisional cast on and grafted to form the loop
  • techniques include garter stitch and simple lace, a provisional cast on, and grafting
  • a one-skein project in fingering-weight yarn
  • suitable for solid or semi-solid-dyed yarn
  • easy to enlarge by adding pattern repeats
  • pattern includes full written instructions as well as charts.

The model for these designs is the amazingly talented Francoise Danoy of Aroha Knits, who I was lucky enough to meet in person during her recent trip to Melbourne!

You can see all the details and purchase the Aether Shawl and Aether Cowl patterns on Ravelry.