Monday, March 5, 2007

Slipping Stitches - Just The Basics

Slipping stitches is about as simple a technique as you will find in knitting, yet it can be used to create an unlimited number of color and texture patterns. The basic maneuver simple: put the tip of the right needle into the first stitch on the left needle. Slide (slip) the stitch off of the left needle without working it. It is now sitting on the right needle and you are ready to work the next stitch on the left needle. Easy! But there are a couple of fundamentals to be aware of.

Knitwise vs. Purlwise

There are two different ways you can slip that unworked stitch over. You can insert your right needle as if you were going to knit it.

This is called slipping "knitwise" (kwise) or "as if to knit". Slipping knitwise is often used as part of decreases (eg. SSK), because it turns the stitch in preparation for the rest of the decrease. However, when slip stitches are used as the basis for pattern stitches, they are most usually slipped purlwise (or "as if to purl"), as in the picture below.

This is because you generally do not want to turn the stitch (which would result in a twisted slipped stitch once it is worked on the next row or rows up).

Good directions will tell you whether to slip knitwise or purlwise. This information may be given as part of the row directions, for example "*K3, sl1 pwise; rep from *". Or there may simply be a statement at the beginning of the directions that says "All slipped stitches are to be slipped as if to purl (or purlwise)."

If the directions for a pattern stitch do not specify, assume that the stitch is to be slipped purlwise.

wyif vs. wyib

"wyif" means "with yarn in front" and "wyib" means "with yarn in back". These terms describe the placement of your working yarn as you slip the stitch. It is important to realize that the terms have nothing at all to do with the "right" and "wrong" sides of the fabric you are creating. They refer exclusively to the placement of the working yarn in relation to you as your work the pattern row.

"With yarn in back" means that the working yarn is at the far side of your work (the side away from you) as you slip the stitch. "With yarn in front" means that the working yarn is at the near side of your work (the side closest to you). This may or may not involve moving the yarn from front to back before and after slipping the stitch.

If I am working on a knit row and the directions tell me to sl1 wyib (slip 1 with yarn in back), I do not need to do anything with the working yarn. It is already at the far side of the work in position to knit. (You can see the position in the pictures above.)

If, however, I am working on a knit row and the directions say sl1 wyif (slip 1 with yarn in front), I will need to move the working yarn towards me between the needle tips and hold it there as I slip the stitch,

and then I move it back away from me between the needle tips after I have slipped the stitch.

This has brought the yarn back into position for me to knit the next stitch. (If you look closely, you will see that it has left a little "bar" of yarn in front of the slipped stitch.) Good pattern stitch directions will tell you whether to slip wyif or wyib.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

behavior issues

In this swatch I've slipped a stitch on the Right Side (knit) row; and on the return row I've purled it just like all the others. Then I've repeated the same two rows to form a vertical ridge. Notice that each slipped stitch is elongated vertically. Because of this, slipped stitches tend to compress the fabric lengthwise. This compression will not be very significant when the stitches are slipped on one row and worked normally on the return. It becomes more pronounced when the same stitch is slipped on two or more subsequent rows.

Looking at the back of the same swatch, you can see that there is a strand of yarn running across each slipped stitch. This is the working yarn that was simply carried behind the work as I slipped the stitches. As with color stranded knitting, this unworked float has a tendency to compress the fabric widthwise. Again the tendency is not too obvious when only one stitch in relative isolation is slipped. In some patterns, however, you may slip several consecutive stitches in a row. In this case, take care that the float is not pulled up too tightly. The relative number of stitches slipped in any row will also affect the widthwise compression, as you can see below.

At the very bottom, the pattern I used (excluding garter border) is
Row 1: K5, sl 1 wyib, k5.
Row 2: Purl.
What you can't see is that fabric wants very badly to form a sharp fold along that vertical ridge. So it might not be a smart idea to line up slipped stitches this way down the center of a scarf. It would be smart to use them like this where you want a fold, say for a facing at a cardigan front.

In the middle I changed to
Row 1: K1, sl 1 wyib, (k3, sl 1 wyib) 2 times, k1.
Row 2: Purl.
This gives a simple but rather handsome ribbing effect. These "ribs" could be spaced more widely apart, or more closely.

At the top I worked
Row 1: (K1, sl 1 wyib) 5 times, kl.
Row 2: Purl.
This, of course, is the classic Heel Stitch. It can be worked on any odd number of stitches. Actually, it can be worked on an even number if you just omit the final "k1" of Row 1. This makes a fairly thick fabric that pulls in widthwise yet is fairly elastic, and these are the characteristics that make it so suitable for heel flaps. But it might also be nice substituted for traditional ribbing at the lower edge of a hat.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Exploring Texture I

The characteristics of slipped stitches can be utilized in a number of ways to create patterns. In the swatch below, the pattern elements are formed by the floats created when stitches are slipped.

The bottom section is one of my favorites. Barbara Walker calls this "Slip Stitch Honeycomb". I have also seen it referred to as "Stamen Stitch". Because it is garter based, it makes a thick, cushy fabric with good insulating properties.

All stitches are slipped purlwise. Note that the patterning action is done on Wrong Side (WS) rows, with the yarn carried in back (away from you as you work), which results in the floats appearing on the Right Side of the work. It can be worked on any even number of stitches.

Rows 1 & 3 (RS): Knit.
Row 2: K1, *sl 1 wyib, k1; rep from *, end k1.
Row 4: K2, *sl 1 wyib, k1; rep from*.

The center section of the swatch is sometimes called Half Linen Stitch. Structurally it is almost the same at the honeycomb, but it is worked on a stockinette ground rather than garter. This results in a much flatter, thinner fabric, with a very subtle surface texture. In this case, the patterning action takes place on Right Side rows, with the yarn carried in front. This means that before each slipped stitch, the working yarn is moved between the needle tips toward you; and after each slipped stitch the working yarn is moved back between the needle tips into position to knit the next stitch.

Again, all slipped stitches are slipped purlwise, and the pattern can be worked on any even number of stitches.

Row 1 (RS): K1, *sl 1 wyif, k1; rep from *, end k1.
Rows 2 & 4: Purl.
Row 3: K2, *sl 1 wyif, k1; rep from*.

You could get a different effect by simply repeating Rows 1 and 2. If you do this, the little bars formed by the floats will line up vertically, giving a somewhat ribbed effect.

The top section of the swatch was an experiment.

Here I slipped two stitches with the yarn in front, then knit three on the Right Side and purled back on the Wrong Side. In following rows I shifted the motif one stitch to the left a few times, then shifted to back to the right, and so on. Don't know that I would ever actually use this in a project, but it was fun to play around and see what happened.