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Fun with knits and purls and Radiant Cotton

 

Apart from lace, one of my favorite knitting techniques is knit-and-purl patterns. Oh, sure, they need some concentration to execute, but they add texture to any project, and when worked in a smooth yarn they’re very effective!

Since we’re working with Fibra Natura Radiant Cotton this week (and wound up 7 skeins of Radiant Cotton yarn into cakes yesterday), we’ve got the perfect material to talk about knit-and-purl patterns!

 

In yesterday's post, I explained how to wind skeins of yarn into "cakes".
In yesterday’s post, I explained how to wind skeins of yarn into “cakes”.

 

An average knitter could happily knit for a lifetime without ever learning a yarn over, or picking up a cable needle, so many are the possible combinations of knits and purls. Even ribbing can keep a knitter going for a long, long time.

Knits and purls can be fashioned into ribbing or knit-and-purl patterns. “What’s the difference?” you ask. In ribbing, we use knits and purls, usually stacked atop one another (knits on knits and purls on purls). When we do this, the bumps of our purl stitches recede into the fabric, and the ”V” of the knit stitches are visually dominant on the surface.

The opposite is true for knit-and-purl designs, where the purl ‘bumps’ sit above the smooth “V”s of the knit stitches.

 

There’s a lot going on in this photo: you can see the purl ‘bumps” just under the needle in the ribbing section on the right, but those bumps disappear very quickly in the fabric below. In the seed stitch section on the left, the bumps of the purl stitches are always visible.
There’s a lot going on in this photo: you can see the purl ‘bumps” just under the needle in the ribbing section on the right, but those bumps disappear very quickly in the fabric below. In the seed stitch section on the left, the bumps of the purl stitches are always visible.

 

There are 28 stitches in the sample above, 15 of which were put into the ribbing side, yet the seed stitch side looks much wider. It is! We use ribbing to provide elasticity at hems and necklines of sweaters because it draws in horizontally. When the fabric draws in, the compressed yarn has to go somewhere. The bottom edge of the ribbing section shows that it sends that energy vertically.

The uneven bottom edge isn’t all the ribbing’s fault, though. Seed stitch expands horizontally, so, in addition to the ribbing pushing the edge down on the right, the seed stitch is causing some vertical take-up on the left.

Both of sides of this swatch are worked “k1, p1”, but it’s apparent that the placement of those knit and purl stitches makes a difference. We can see the purl bumps on the left, but only the knit Vs on the right — the purl bumps have receded into the fabric. From this, we can determine that seed stitch is a knit-and-purl pattern, and the knitting on the right is a rib pattern.

Isn’t this swatch a shining example of why we need to make tension swatches?

 

Two of these knit-and-purl pieces are knit-and-purl designs, and the other one is a rib pattern. Can you identify which is which?
Two of these knit-and-purl pieces are knit-and-purl designs, and the other one is a rib pattern. Can you identify which is which?

 

Armed with this information, we can more critically examine knit-and-purl designs and correctly categorize them.

Ribs can be broken up, which can help spread out stitches on a fabric. For the next two days, we’ll be playing with a broken rib pattern I found in a Japanese stitch dictionary book.

Knit-and-purl, rib, and broken rib patterns are great ways to practice working with charts. I’ll show both written text and a chart, so you can see how charts give visual cues as to how the finished knit will look. Join me tomorrow.

 

If we made this whole fabric out of k1, p4 or k2, p3, the fabric would draw in more than when the two combinations are alternated every 4 rows. Note the incredible stitch definition we get with Radiant Cotton!
If we made this whole fabric out of k1, p4 or k2, p3, the fabric would draw in more than when the two combinations are alternated every 4 rows. Note the incredible stitch definition we get with Radiant Cotton!

 

 

This is part 3 of 6 in this series.
Go back to part 2: How to wind skeins of yarn using a yarn swift and winder

Go to part 4: Chart or text your way to a radiant knitted dishcloth!

About Cynthia MacDougall

Cynthia MacDougall is a multi-discipline craft artist who teaches knitting. She has taught at venues from Kingston, Ontario to Olds, Alberta. A designer and technical writer since the mid-1990s, Cynthia is currently a contributor and knitting editor for A Needle Pulling Thread and KNITmuch magazines. She is also the owner of Canadian Guild of Knitters which she operates for the love of Knit!

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