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My personal (but public) notes about my homebrewing, knitting and other random stuff

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Which side of the pond?

My mum has recently been reading my blog (hi, Mum!) and commented that several of the knitting terms I'd used were American ones - perhaps not surprising since the books I've been learning from are mostly American. It seems that knitting terminology is not universally standardised and, in particular there are British/American differences for some of the main stitches. The two main ones are what I referred to in these pages as stockinette and seed stitch, which I gather are more commonly called stocking stitch and moss stitch over here. They are, respectively, the standard knitting stitch of alternating knit/purl rows (except when knitting in the round - a pleasure I am about to sample - in which knitting every row produces the same effect) and the stitch obtained by alternating knits and purls on a stitch by stitch basis. I've seen the name moss stitch applied to a variation of the latter in which you take 2x2 blocks of the same stitch and alternate those - essentially a larger scale or coarser version of seed stitch, but I think the usual British practice is to use the name moss stitch for the 1x1 version. I'm not sure which of those usages I prefer, but I like stocking stitch more than stockinette stitch, largely because it's a bit more succinct, and also because it's stockings rather than stockinettes that we wear (well, I don't wear stockings myself, but you know what I mean). Doesn't really matter though.

On the other hand, one American usage I do prefer to the British standard is the use of the word yarn as the generic name for what we knit, reserving wool for the stuff that comes from sheep. By contrast, in Britain we tend to call it all wool, which leads to odd situations like having a 100% acrylic wool!

I've spent all afternoon today helping some friends move house (they enticed me with the offer of pizza), but I managed to get some knitting done this morning. I had a go at a little test piece designed to see the effect of needle size on knitting. I cast 24 (or was it 25?) stitches of DK yarn (100% acrylic :-)) onto a pair of 3mm needles and proceeded to knit about 2" of stocking stitch. I then swapped to 4mm needles, and changed the yarn colour for good measure (so that the needle size change would be easier to locate) - going from red to white, did 2 more inches and then changed to 5mm needles and blue yarn (all the needles are aluminium, 30cm (12") long). The effect can be seen in this picture:

You can definitely see the size increase (going from right to left) and it's even more pronounced on the purl side (I pinned the swatch down for the photo to try, with limited success, to curb its tendency to curl, but I took care not to stretch it unduly to distort the results). When examined closely, the (roughly) inverse proportion between needle size and stitch density (i.e., as one increases, the other decreases) is also readily apparent. By the way it's just a coincidence that the finished swatch resembles the French flag, as those were the colours I happened to have of cheap acrylic yarn. I suppose it also demonstrates that I'm not bitter because les Bleus beat us (Wales) in the rugby last week, but that wasn't the (conscious) intention.

My next project plan, other than to finish the scarf (which is still 2' long at the moment) is to have a go at knitting in the round, using a set of double ended needles. I've had a quick blast at a small piece (30 stitches or so, for about 1") in stocking stitch and am ready to cast on and try a slightly larger piece in 4x2 rib, which may or may not be suitable for a wrist band. I'm intending to cast on 42 stitches (a multiple of 6(=4+2)) and knit for a couple of inches, using blue acrylic DK yarn on 5mm needles (20cm long) - I'm not yet sure whether to use 4 or the full set of 5. Since it's just past midnight, I'll probably leave that project for tomorrow. After this one's done, I'm hoping to be able to get started on a pair of socks, or maybe a hat.
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