Saturday, February 21, 2009

Upcycled Handwarmers

This might look like a mess to you, but my heart sang for joy when I saw the scrap heap of ribbed cuffs at the Pendleton Woolen Mill Store. Visions of lovely handwarmers with dainty embellishments danced in my brain. Oh what lovely hand finishing could be done to these machine-knit cuffs that must have been originally intended to be folded in half and attached to some basic jacket or sweater.

I thought I'd grab a few pair to practice on, and if things worked out, I'd come back and buy a bunch to embellish for the Etsy store.

This first taupe pair that I worked on took forever! The picture you see here is after approximately ten hours of work.

The primary challenge is to clean up the edges. This may look like a simple two by two rib, but it's not. In addition to having approximately 24 stitches to the inch in the center section and 16 stitches to the inch on the flared ends, these cuffs are an example of some kind of alien knitting. At first I thought perhaps it was warp knitting as opposed to weft knitting.

Weft knitting is what we do by hand. It is explained like this by Francoise Tellier-Loumagne in her most wonderful, gloriously-illustrated book, The Art of Knitting, Inspirational Stitches, Textures, and Surfaces. "Weft-knitted fabrics are created from one yarn whose loops link together in successive courses throughout the length." A course is what we hand knitters would call a row.

Contrast this with her explanation of warp knitting:
Warp-knitted fabrics are created from the knitting of a number of different yarns wound into a beam (as in weaving). These yarns form chains of loops along the length of the fabric, which are also linked together laterally in a wide variety of ways. In contrast to weft knitting, warp-knit fabrics are very difficult to unravel.
I'm not sure I'd call this circular cuff warp knitting, but my idea of quickly prettying one up was sure warped thinking. In these cuffs there are two sets of threads and I'm not sure exactly how they work. It seems like one set creates the columns of knits stitches on ribs facing outward while another set creates the columns of knit stitches facing inward. OR--one set creates the first knit column of each pair facing both outward and inward while the other set of threads creates the second column of each pair of knit stitches. There are no outward facing purl stitches. Instead you see behind the knit stitch columns the interlocking of the two sets of threads.

I do not have an engineering mind so I am probably not describing this well, but believe me when I say that this was a bigger mess of thread than the first photo looks like.

You had to carefully unravel in a completely different manner on the two opposing ends. There were lots of loose threads to start with because the cuffs had been roughly cut at both ends. Initially I used a pair of size 000000 knitting needles to slowly and carefully pick up the loops while I wore a pair of magnifying eyeglasses and also looked through a large magnifying glass that was suspended from around my neck.

Once I had the threads on the quadruple zeros I transferred them to a somewhat larger size 0000 and then proceeded to bind off the edges. Such foolishness!

Next, I did a single crochet edging, followed by a crocheted shell pattern.

On this red pair I got smart and saved a bunch of time by chucking the knitting needles and threading an embroidery needle with some fingering wool of a similar color as the cuffs. Running the thread through all the loops was equally as effective, and way faster than, the whole binding off with knitting needles routine. This pair got a little picot edging and some seed beads. The red pair probably took eight hours start to finish. (Guess I won't be trying to sell this work in my store!)

This pair is for a tango-dancer friend. Below you can see the various tools I've used is this journey.

I have one more pair in tan to finish for another dancer friend and then these cranberry lovelies are going to be for me:

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