Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Sound of One Hand Stranding

The kippah project has yielded one technical development: this is my first experience with two-color work in crochet. In theory, this sort of thing is easier in crochet than in knitting, because the “floats” of the unused color are trapped automatically under every stitch. Thus there’s no concern about length of float, and getting correct tension is (supposed to be) easier.

I like stranding two colors in knitting, so I was eager to reach the pattern section of the first kippah. (Also because it would represent the end of the anxiety-provoking center section, in which you’re never sure you’ve increased properly until after blocking.)

Almost immediately, however, I discovered that I was going to hate the crochet version, because when I knit fairisle, I carry one color in each hand, so I don’t have to drop a strand and pick up a strand every time I change color. Even working to pick up the new color in the proper orientation (to prevent excessive twisting), the crochet was going to be excruciating.

Somewhere in the second or third round, though (you know, like 5 hours into the process), I noticed that it was getting a little better. A little after that, I noticed why: I wasn’t dropping the second strand. Like this:

The more I think about how I’m doing this, the more impressed I am that I’m doing it at all: I must really hate dropping and picking up strands. But here’s what’s going on, as I understand it:

--Instead of holding the fabric between my thumb and my non-index fingers, I’m grasping the fabric between those fingers and my palm.

--The yarn over the forefinger is tensioned pretty much as usual, which for me is between the non-index fingers and the back of the fabric.

--The yarn over the thumb is tensioned between the front of the fabric and my palm.

The tension is still a pretty sticky wicket. Unlike stranded knitting, there seems to be little or no advantage to patterns that use the colors equally (two light stitches, two dark, etc., as opposed to one light, 5 dark). The thumb strand has a tendency to go slack, even when it’s the one used more often.

Now, as for working the stitches:

--Stitches worked with the forefinger strand are almost normal:

Reach through the fabric, draw a loop through; reach over the top edge of the fabric and the float strand, grab yarn and draw a loop through.

--The first half of a stitch worked with the thumb strand:

Reach through the fabric, bring the hook up and forward over the dormant forefinger strand. Continue to move the hook forward until it’s in front of the active thumb strand as well, then duck it down a little bit so that it catches the active strand. Move the hook back; the strand is now running up the back of the hook then over the top and forward—it’s not caught in the “hook” part at all.

Now twist the hook enough to catch the yarn as you come back through the fabric.

--The second half of a stitch with the thumb strand:

Oh, look, we’ve got another helpful volunteer! For those of you who haven’t been into the shop around lunchtime lately, here’s a little more of Truffle:

And now back to the matter at hand:

Hook comes forward over the thumb strand (and also therefore incidentally over the dormant strand), strand comes up the back of the hook and down over the top into the notch, pull loop through.

There you have it. And in case you’re keeping track, as of 7 a.m. today, 8.2 kippot are complete, with 1.8 to go. Fortunately, I’ve got the whole ride to Pittsburgh in the car tomorrow. Unfortunately, I’m pretty clearly going to run out of yarn midway through kippah #10.

Fortunately, I anticipated this last week and ordered another skein.

Unfortunately, an online vendor who shall remain anonymous botched my order.

Fortunately, I still have hours and hours today to find out which other retailers of Euroflax have the right color and weight in stock—and are near the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Any part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

And it’s not like I had anything else to do with my time today.

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