Sunday, January 11, 2009

Working in Circles - Part 1, Knitting

The circle reminds us that things occur in a cycle of renewal. January starts the new year with a promise that a blossom-decorated spring will follow a dreary winter. A circle is also what we call a group in which work is undertaken more joyously and effortlessly than it is done alone.

Mosey with me for a few posts on a tour of this simple shape, which can be elegantly understated or laced and decorated in high style.

Let's start with a project that I have been analyzing. It is a flat circle washcloth that was knitted by the grandmother of one of my knitting students, Jack. It has a simple organic look that reminds me of a sand dollar. Here is the reverse side:

This washcloth is knitted in short rows on two single pointed needles. The circle is started with a cast on row of stitches evenly divisible by three. In the case of the washcloth above, there are 33 stitches in the cast-on row, which is the radius of the circle. You can see the starting point at about the eleven o'clock position in the above photo. It would be even nicer to start with a provisional cast on so that a seamless join could be done with a kitchener stitch at the end.

Sixteen wedges are separated by sixteen spokes in this wheel design.

Each progressively shorter row in a wedge section has three fewer stitches worked than the previous row. In the sample above, no stitch wrapping was done before turning.

When an entire garter stitch wedge is completed, you knit all the way to the end and then purl the complete row back. This creates the spokes of the wheel that can be seen in reverse stockinette on the right side and stockinette on the wrong side of the finished cloth.

A flat circle can be knitted like this along the radius with short rows on two straight needles, or it can be worked with a group of double-pointed needles either from the center out or in to the center from the circumference.

As a learning exercise in reading stitches, I am trying to duplicate this washcloth. If successful, I'll post a photo and the final instructions when I'm finished. I'd also love to show or link to photos of other knitted flat circles, so if you have any, let me know.

Personally, I haven't experimented much with knitting flat circles except in creating the bottom of circular bags or the top of berets. There are some beautiful knitted doily patterns around that I have never tried because crochet always seemed nicer for doilies--but let's save that for the next post.

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