Friday, April 26, 2013

Going around the twist with a Moebius scarf or shawl

I was reminded today that there is nothing harder than deliberately making a mistake. Last week, a customer purchased the yarn and pattern for the Jo Sharp Moebius Scarf from Knit Issue 10. Today, she came in with a beautiful double-moss cowl, without so much as a dip in the edge... certainly without the twist.
Jo Sharp Moebius Scarf

We went through the instructions together: they were pretty straightforward. You cast on, using a circular needle, and twist the cast-on halfway through the round. Knit the first pattern round. You now have a twisted loop - keep knitting until you run out of wool. Now, I've managed to do this several times without even thinking about it. However, each time the customer knitted her first round, we ended up with a perfect, even round of untwisted knitting. And although I've managed to mess up the starting round any number of times before, now that I was put on the spot, I couldn't get it to twist either. So we moved to plan B...

Plan B was to tap into the Garnstudio freebies. Garnstudio has a free Moebius shawl pattern on their website. Although the colours in the photo remind me of cheap toothpaste, the shawl itself has a very nice construction and - even better - it has photos and a video showing a technique to get the twist into the shawl. The very short version of their technique is:
  1. Do a long tail cast on over both your needles.
  2. Pull one needle through, leaving the stitches on the other.
  3. Pick up stitches along the bottom of the cast on edge.
You will end up with two lots of stitches: the stitches you cast on and the stitches you picked up. If you start knitting in the round, you will first knit the cast on stitches, then you will knit the picked up stitches, giving you a twist. Alternatively, if you're like me, you will accidentally unravel the second half of the work, giving you one round of straight knitting with a big gap in one side...**

From here, there was only one recourse - Cat Bordhi's tutorial videos on YouTube! Cat is a bit of a knitting celebrity in the US (and in Australia!) and does very good tutorials on weird and wonderful techniques, such as Moebius cast ons. All I can say about this is, somehow it works. I've watched it twice now, and it's like a magic trick - I can't figure out quite what's going on, but it works...

In the end, the customer couldn't face unravelling all those hours of work, so she decided on a clever compromise: she would pick up one stitch from the cast on edge in her cast off to make a fold - the fold will look similar enough that it won't be immediately obvious that the scarf isn't twisted.

My favourite option for a very easy Moebius scarf or shawl is to knit a rectangle, then twist it and cast off into the cast on edge to create the loop. You can also cast off normally, twist the work and sew the ends together to hold the twist in place. However, now I know some of the other options that are available, I'm very tempted to dig out some leftover Silkroad Aran Tweed that I have in my stash and give the Moebius scarf a try!! In fact, I'm tempted to knit three, so that I can try out the three methods of getting the twist :) I'm sure that my stash has more than enough wool in it to meet that challenge...

**I think the first failure was a combination of stage fright and trying to serve three customers at the same time as knitting a round: I've tried the Garnstudio technique again now that the shop is a bit quieter, and this time, it worked.Good to know!!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Melbourne in 1910

The other day, I found this in my Facebook feed. Fifteen minutes of silent movie era cuteness as a cinematographer films the streets and sights of early 20th century Melbourne :)

Some of the streets and buildings looked very familiar, even without their 21st century garnish of billboards. Some of the street scenes had me mourning the loss of lovely old buildings and their replacement by very large concrete blocks (reflective glass facades optional). The 'bustling streets' look practically deserted by today's standards, but trams seemed to be more frequent. I noticed several shots of gentlemen industriously sweeping the road, and was everlastingly grateful that horses in Melbourne now have to wear a large leather bag across their hindquarters! Most of the smartly dressed passers-by would have had their clothes made at home - some may have been 'flash' enough to afford the services of a professional tailor or seamstress.

I wonder how many of the shops would have stocked wool and yarn, and how many of the passing ladies would have had some crochet or a partly knitted sock stashed in their handbags in case they had some idle time while they waited for a train at "busy Richmond station"? I think the short answer would be - most. If you needed clothing in 1910, by default you made it yourself - and that meant lots of knitting, crocheting, tatting and sewing, which in turn would have meant lots of Local Yarn Stores (LYSs).

I'm eternally grateful for Progress (which has spared me from a relatively short life, with a Pin Shower as the highlight), but I can't help but think that shops filled with cheap, Asian-made T-shirts are a poor substitute for lots and lots of wool shops!!