I’ve spent the last two days playing around with the linen stitch, which looks like woven fabric. I’ve had a design in the back of my mind for a while which I think wants to be made in this stitch. Now that I’ve played with it, I now have three designs that want to be made in this stitch!
First experiment: Take four balls of different colorways, some with tonal shifts and some with tonal and color shifts, and use the linen stitch technique that Sally Melville uses in her Linen-Stitch Wrap in The Knitting Experience, Book 3, Color. She has you start with one color on a circular needle, leaving a tail (for fringe), working the wrap lengthwise, leaving a tail at the other end (for fringe), and sliding the stitches back to the other end of the needle to work the next row of the Linen stitch. I used a US size 6 needle, based on the Mini Mania Scarf cast on directions, which uses the Linen stitch for a lengthwise scarf. Here are my four cute little balls of fingering weight yarn.
From top to bottom, colors are MC, CC1, CC2, and CC3. I then set up a charted sequence that had six rows of MC (Row 1 and Row 2 of linen stitch both in MC), six rows with Row 1 in CC1 and Row 2 in MC, six rows of CC1, six rows with Row 1 as CC2 and row 2 as CC1, six rows of CC2, six rows of row 1 as CC3 and Row 2 as CC2, six rows of CC3, six rows of Row 1 as MC and Row 2 as CC3 and ended with six rows MC. Here is the result!
The color movement is really lovely. The technique was a pain! This little swatch (4 x 4.5 inches) took about five hours to do!! Why? In Melville’s directions, the first row begins with leaving a tail, and the second row also starts with leaving a tail, and begins with a slipped stitch, so that you are holding a tail in front of a slipped stitch. Also, because you are cutting the yarn at each end to leave fringe, you have these really loose selvedge edges. Yes, you do overhand knot every three tails as you go along, but the result is still loose fabric on the ends. To be fair, this probably wouldn’t be so bad on a wrap…you would need to work 450 sts before cutting the tail each time. On this sample, it was only 31 stitches, so it quickly became onerous, starting…stopping…starting…stopping. Adding a clothes pin on each tail helped maintain some tension on the tails…but I still got loose fabric on each end. Bah! Humbug! There has to be a better way. And my gauge was really dense with a size 6. Seems I am a tight knitter…at least with the linen stitch. Time to do some swatching with different needle sizes.
I’m planning a design with Elfin Tweed using the linen stitch, so I decided to swatch with it. I opted for the linen stitch pattern directions for odd number of stitches listed in the Mini Mania Scarf and knit back and forth. Here’s what I got:
To my surprise, I had to go all the way up to a Size 8 or 9 to get a fabric that I wanted for a garment. I will now work up a sizeable swatch in the linen stitch on Size 9 needles, wash it, and swing it around my head or stretch it a bit, to “get the life out of it” as Josh Bennett taught us to do. That action mimics the stretching that the garment fabric will do once knitted and worn, thus giving you a more accurate gauge. He also said to measure the entire swatch for the gauge, to the very edge. ”You knitted it all, measure it all.” After seeing how the size 9 swatch looks, I may opt for the size 8 and do a swatch as well.
Finally, I decided to use the linen stitch pattern directions for odd number of stitches listed in the Mini Mania Scarf and knit back and forth with two colorways, a solid and a variegated, and carry the yarn along the side. I started with a solid MC, moved to a variegated yarn alternating with MC every two rows ( in other words, Row 1 and Row 2 of linen stitch in one colorway, and then in the other, then back to original colorway), then rows of only variegated, moving back to alternating colorways, then back to solid MC. And here is that result!
I really like the effect, especially using the dark solid color alongn with a variegated colorway. I made sure the solid color alternating with the variegated colorway was visually the same width on each side of the center variegated section. Of course, the color repeat of the variegated yarn would look quite different in an actual garment given the rows would have been a lot longer, but the same principle of alternating with solid color for same width would apply. Also, I prefer this version of the linen stitch rows over the one in Melville’s book. This one always began with knit or purl stitches and gave a nice selvedge on each side. If I were to do the Melville “cut yarn on both ends for fringe” method, sliding the work back to the other end to add in another color, I would still use the equivalent of this linen stitch variation.
Here’s the linen stitch written for an odd number of stitches:
Row 1 (RS): *k1, yfwd, sl1, yb; rep from * to last st, k1.
Row 2 (WS): p2, *yb, sl1, yfwd, p1; rep from * to final two sts, p2.
Stay tuned for future designs using the linen stitch!