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Math4Knitters, Crafty Living: Show 74

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Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
This is much, much easier than it looks.

Math4Knitters, Crafty Living: Show 74

Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
This is what the cloth looks like, from the back, after one set of smocking gathers has been finished.
Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
This is the cloth, before smocking. The main section bows out slightly because it has more stitches than the ends, to make up for the slight decrease in width smocking will cause. In this case, the cloth went from 10" across to 9" across.
Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
This shows what smocking looks like when it's done with the same yarn, not a contrasting yarn. Even at worsted-weight sizes, it hangs together nicely.
Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
This is what it looks like after three gathers. I tried to make my sewing very consistent. The cotton yarn and the contrasting color made it much more visible than normal.
Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
All in all, I really like this technique, even though you can see that I got distracted and wasn't perfectly consistent.
Lara Neel - The Journal Gazette
You can hide your strands any way you like in the back of the work. This is less of a problem when using the same yarn to smock as you used to knit. Also, this is a good reason to apply this technique more to pieces that are knit in the round.

This week's show features a smocked dishcloth pattern, a chat with Therese Shere and a limited-time-offer to try out KnitFinder for free.

Smocked Wash/Dish/Anycloth

This week's free knitting pattern is an exercise in smocking. No, it's not a return to the Infamous Cloth Series of 2010. I have come up with a somewhat novel approach to smocking your knitting, so I wanted to start out by showing, in a flat piece, how it all works.

Smocking is more generally well-known among people who sew cloth. Basically, the fabric is bunched up and sewn to itself at regular intervals to create patterns that can range from very simple to quite intricate. The pattern I've seen most often connects vertical lines in a staggered way that creates diamond shapes on what would have looked like a fluted or ribbed fabric before smocking.

Some knit pattern stitches that are called "smocked" involve juggling different stitches around on the needles and can make really interesting fabrics. An example of this is the pattern stitch used in Smock It To Me from Knitty.

Smocking is often worked in the way described by KnitLit Kate in this blog post.

Starting with a ribbed background, although smocking can also be worked on stockinette, Kate used thread guide lines to make her connections. Instead of being knit into the fabric, the smocking gathering is done after the fact with a darning needle.

That's the technique I used in this cloth, but I also took it one step further to make it even easier to work. I've added purl bumps along the knit ribs in the fabric, so that you don't have to count rows as you're smocking or use guide lines. In the end, especially if you use the same color and weight of yarn for the smocking as you did for the knitting, it's hardly detectable.

If you are lucky enough to own Mary Thomas's Knitting Book, then you might recognize the technique I'm using as what she calls Honeycombing. On page 146 of the Dover edition, she writes, "Honeycombing owes its origin to being a legitimate method of controlling fullness on a linen fabric, and on a knitted fabric it has the same effect, so extra fullness must be allowed."

It seems to me that the reverse could also be true - smocking could be used to reduce the width of a fabric. I'm planning a hat pattern and a baby sweater that both rely on smocking for some of their shaping and a lot of their style. Watch this space.

Into the Valley

After my chat with Jay Petersen, I googled "Valley of Despair." I hadn't heard it before, and I don't know the context of it for Jay, but I found it referenced on several blogs about management strategies.

The premise is, when you introduce something new to people, they go through three stages with it. The first is "Uninformed Bliss." "The Valley of Despair" is the second stage. Lastly, hopefully, "Continuous Improvement" arrives.

I think they left out "cursing," "sweating," and "swearing off all of this."

I'm taking a class later this summer on entrelac, so I'm hoping that I don't hit that valley part too hard.


I really enjoyed my chat with Therese. We talk, mostly, about her wonderful online project, KnitFinder, and I accidentally described my most recent Valley of Despair moment, when I failed to immediately be good at spinning this past weekend.

Free Trial

Therese has been kind enough to offer a free trail of KnitFinder for my audience. You can try out a full subscriber version of the site for a limited time. Take this chance to see all that the site has to offer and play around with the full index versions. Click "Log In" at the top of any Knitfinder page, then log in with username demo and password math4knitters. It should work from May 29, 2011 through June 5, 2011. Enjoy!