Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Stranded purling and other Takoma adventures

Knitting evokes every emotion imaginable. Frustration when your stitch counts don't match the pattern. Anger when the sweater of your dreams doesn't come in your size. Pride when you finish something beautiful. Confusion when that complicated cable chart just doesn't make a damn bit of sense.

And abject, overwhelming joy. I'm now so deliriously happy with my Takoma that I stayed up until 4:00 in the morning knitting and watching PBS' Downton Abbey. Oh my goodness, what a tremendous show! I can't wait until this evening when I spend another long night with Bates, my humble, honest, stoic, and heroic favorite character. He's so handsome - and fictional. Oh well, I have a nice boyfriend already. :-)

Last night, I added in the third color, a warm antique gold that coordinates nicely with the dark olive and contrasts beautifully with the deep red. Rich and luscious and vibrant - unlike my eternally sleepy dog! No matter what Moose thinks, I'm truly excited about this project.

Yesterday Robin (thanks for reading, girl) asked how the stranded purling is going. Excellent question. The Takoma is designed to be knitted flat and seamed, but many KAL participants are knitting theirs in the round with a steek. I decided to make the pattern as Julia Farwell-Clay wrote it, which means doing colorwork on both the knit and purl sides of this stockinette stitch piece.

I have to admit it's a bit tricky. What this means is that you knit conventionally from a chart, starting at the bottom right and moving to the left as shown in row 1. (FYI: The photographs below do NOT use the chart I'm using in this demonstration. I just wanted to give you a sense of how it works.)

At the end of the row, you turn your work. Now you're on the wrong side where you can see the strands from the previous row.

So now what? Well, you keep on stranding, but now you need to work backwards on the chart, moving from left to right, purling the stitches instead of knitting them.

Knit, purl, and repeat until you've completed the chart.

It didn't take me long to get the hang of this. But then things got really complicated. To shape the sleeves, you need to increase on each side every three rows - in pattern. YIKES. If I'm adding a stitch to the right of the pattern, where in the heck am I in this chart?  It boggles the mind! But it is doable.

This issues explains why so many people are knitting the Takoma in the round. It's a lot easier to keep in pattern if you're not having to envision which color comes next in a colorwork pattern that you can't physically see. What would help (and I haven't done this yet) is to take the charts, copy them, and paste them together so you can more easily see what should come next.

To be honest, I'm enjoying the challenge. My knitting brain likes to stretch from time to time. Plus I love the results.

I have another great idea to share with you today. One of my fellow Takoma knitters, redheadeb on Ravelry, knitted herself a hat as a gauge swatch. Brilliant! What a terrific way to practice the stitchwork and ensure that you're making gauge, too. Plus you get a hat when you're finished. I love it.

Okay, enough waxing on and on about the Takoma. I'm going off now to work on the Carnation pattern. I've got a bevy of earnest test knitters waiting impatiently for me to finish, so back to the grindstone. I'm grateful for every one of them.


  1. Have you seen the BBC's North and South? The guy who plays Bates is fantastic in that.

  2. Karen (kpankonin on Ravelry)December 28, 2011 at 7:17 PM

    I too loved the first season of Downton Abbey with Bates & can't wait for the second season. The actor who plays him also was in Larkrise to Candleford, which I've been a fan of ever since I discovered it on PBS. I'll have to look for North & South. I hadn't heard of that one, before.

    Julie, your Tacoma is beautiful. I love the colors.

  3. I can't wait until January for season 2!!!!

    The Takoma is gorgeous and will be fantastic because you are so into this project!! Love the enthusiasm. Love the beauty that results.
    You make knitting with all those strands look so neat, tidy and...easy!

  4. ps ...another knitting companion of mine is Doc Martin..he has me laughing so much I drop stitches!!! t_a

  5. I think Bates is my favorite character too. I love watching LarkRise to Candleford as well. I bought season 1 of Downton Abbey and can't wait until season 2 starts.

    Your Takoma is beautiful. I plan to try a colorwork project this year, but on a much smaller scale. The only time I tried it, the sock wouldn't fit over my heel. The floats weren't loose enough although I thought they looked o.k. when I was knitting it.

  6. Julie--You will make Takoma one hot mama sweater. Good luck--so far, so good!
    Downton Abbey is absolutely the bomb! We Tivoed it last year, and my boyfriend has already watched it more than once. I'm planning on rewatching just prior to season 2.

  7. I tried stranding on both sides once and I wasn't sure how to maintain tension at the beginning of each round while keep the edges from rolling in. But now that I think about it, it probably doesn't matter if they do, right? Since you're going to block each section before you piece it together. Hmmm ...

  8. So, you're hooked on Downton Abbey? Join the club!!!! I got the DVD as soon as the series finished airing in the US last year, and I can't tell you how many times I've watched it! Whew.
    Season 2 starts in two weeks, which seems like an eternity .... and here in the US, we don't even get the Christmas Special that the folks in the UK got to see. Boo hoo! By the way, our friends across the pond have already seen season 2! It sounds VERY juicy, I have to say.

    Oh, the Takoma. Right. We're knitting, right? ;-)


  9. Great explanation of stranded purling, Julie. I might could get the hang of it, but I think trapping the floats and yarn dominance would be a small obstacle. I'm probably overthinking that.

  10. Julie, I've joined the Takoma KAL and am so grateful to have found it! Thanks so much for going over the purled stranding - I'm doing it just helps sooo much to have validation!!! My brainy daughter suggested, just as you noted, to copy the pattern several times and paste together to be able to see the pattern grow. I loooove your furry model...inside he's feeling sooo excited to be a little helper!

  11. Thanks everyone! I am so psyched about this sweater and am loving how it's coming out. For those of you who are knitting it, I can't wait to see your creation.

    Robin, one suggestion regarding stranded purling (or knitting for that matter): I routinely keep the main color in my left hand and the contrast color in my right. Once in a while I have to do some extra crossing on the edge but otherwise this arrangement works perfectly.