TKGA Report: Level 3, Swatch 13

Photo of other side of Swatch 13

Swatch 13 is all about double knitting, a technique that mysteriously produces a fabric with two sides at the same time. If you do it right, you end up with something that is mostly hollow with two right sides in stockinette. If you use two colors, the color patterns will be inverted on either side. I had tried double knitting a couple of years ago when I took Alasdair Post-Quinn’s Craftsy class, which showed the amazing things that can be done with this technique when it is expanded to include multiple colors and stitch patterns other than stockinette. I found the technique intriguing, but didn’t get much further than knitting the first little sample project. The little knitted square was not entirely satisfactory, and I always meant to go back and take another shot at it. But then life intervened, and time passed.

Flash forward to a couple of months ago when I started working on Swatch 13, which is a simple piece of double knitting. Armed as I was with the vastly superior knowledge of knitting that I have acquired from Levels 1 and 2,  I thought it would be fairly easy. Not so. It’s not so much that it’s hard to do as it is that it’s hard to do well. It’s really just knitting and purling, similar to a 1×1 rib. When I started the swatch, I knew it wasn’t going too well, but I decided to finish it for practice, hoping it would improve as the swatch progressed. It didn’t. Here are photos of each side.

Photo of the first attempt at Swatch 13
My first try at Swatch 13. I have pointed out the obvious faults, in addition to an overall horribleness. I wasn’t paying attention when I took this photo, so the swatch is actually upside down!

 

Photo of the other side of Swatch 13
Here is the other side of Swatch 13. Notice how the pattern is the inverse of the first side.

Believe it or not, this swatch was actually blocked! On top of all of its other faults, the row gauge was off tremendously. It’s supposed to be pretty close to a square, but this was definitely a rectangle. And there’s a misplaced bar of color on one side caused by not moving the yarns together between stitches. The Kitchener stitch grafting is ugly, loose, and the worst I have ever done. In disgust I threw the wretched swatch into the reject pile and decided to move on for now.

So here we are, a couple of months later. I decided the time had come to take another crack at it. In looking at the first attempt and re-reading and re-watching my research materials, I decided that the trouble was mostly due to not being careful to pull the slack out each stitch after it is made. The extra yarn just sits there, waiting to cause overall tension problems. Also, I had held both yarns in my right hand. I decided to treat this like a Fair Isle project and hold one yarn in each hand. Unfortunately this meant that I had to purl continental style, which I only recently learned how to do for Level 2, so it’s not my strong suit. And I decided that I had to pay close attention to the chart and the swatch to avoid misplaced colors (no watching TV while knitting!). Finally, I would take my time with the Kitchener stitch and get it just right.

I still had some problems, but I was able to spot them and fix them before they got too far away from me. One of the biggest problems with double knitting is that because of the way the stitches sit on the needle, you can’t easily see your work until you’ve knit a row or two past any given point. So sometimes you can’t see the mistake right away, when it is easiest to fix. Fixing usually involves dropping the stitch in question, fixing it, then laddering back up with a crochet hook. One of the biggest problems I had was the stitches seemed to like to twist when I put them back on the needle, which makes for a twisted stitch if you don’t notice and knit it anyway. I had to be eternally vigilant and prepared to redo, sometimes several times, in order to get it right.

So here is the second try (I switched the order of the colors, so the purple is now the Color A face):

Photo of other side of Swatch 13
Here is the second try. The stitches aren’t completely perfect, so we’ll see if it passes.
Photo of second try at Swatch 13
This is the other side. Notice that it is pretty square. The row gauge is accurate this time.

 

This is much, much better. It’s not completely perfect, but I know that I have done everything in my power to fix it at this point. If it doesn’t pass, the committee will make suggestions for improving it, which are always useful and much appreciated by me