More sampling with Super Saver yarn

What a fun week! We started by thinking about the overall size and layout for our flag afghan. In Tuesday’s post, we considered why Red Heart Super Saver yarn is a good choice for such a project, and made a swatch to obtain our base tension. Wednesday’s post had us use this information to refine our numbers and get the information to make a simple, striped flag. Yesterday, technology helped us create knitter’s graph paper and chart our design. Today we’ll “block in” our chart, complete a second round of sampling, and talk a little bit more about borders.

Testing the Chart

I photocopied a section of the tracing of the vergina sun to “block in” my chart. With an erasable highlighter, I colored in the design of the sun’s rays on the graph paper. When the tracing lines intersected a square, I had to decide whether the square should be the gold or red. The guideline is when the line takes up more than 50% of its area in one color, make the square that color. It gets tricky when it’s a close call – you need to use judgment and experimentation.

I picked up my needles (US 8 [5mm]) and my Red Heart Super Saver. As mentioned on Tuesday, swatching is a chance to try border stitch patterns. In this case, I opted for seed stitch. I used a “semi intarsia” technique with separate bobbins for the contrast color (gold) and carrying the background color (red) across the back. To my dismay, my center circle came up into an oval, and my stitches looked distorted!

The pulling in of the work across the circle is obvious, and the background yarn peeks through the gold of the design areas.

Analysis: when I measured my tension over the red areas, it was fine, but, when I measured across the circle in the center of the sun, I had two more stitches and three fewer rows to 4″ [10cm]. Two stitches over 4″ may not sound like much, but, over 48″, that is the equivalent of casting on 24 stitches too few. At this rate, my afghan could become over 5″ narrower in places!

A “tug test” of my sample told me that part of the problem stemmed from having too much tension when carrying the background yarn across the back of the work. In addition, this stranding gave the gold areas of my design an odd-looking texture. I don’t usually “weave” my resting yarn over and under the stitches on the back of the work, as many knitters do; I usually twist the yarn every few stitches. I could see that wherever I raised the background yarn, it pulled the gold stitch in. Wherever I lowered the background yarn, the gold stitch bulged out, and the red yarn “peeked through” on the right side of the work. This sample offered two valuable lessons.

Detail of the center circle, showing the stitch distortion.

So, I began again. This time, I photocopied a larger area of the chart. I only tweaked it in one place to adjust the spacing of the horizontal ray in the center of the design. This time, I used a marker to block in the diagram, and I chose blue for the background – if I’m going to be making an entire afghan in red, the change was bound to do me good.

The blue sample’s chart. The dotted lines across the top and down the left, show where the pattern gets worked in the opposite direction. The small numbers in the chart are the number of stitches across each area. This saves counting squares, and, because the chart will be worked back down again, it is a real time saver. For this chart, I used orange numbers for the sun and blue or black numbers for the background.

This time I did a proper intarsia technique using separate bobbins for each block of color. I also tried a different stitch for the borders, as I wasn’t thrilled with the way the seed stitch borders fanned out at the bottom and top, and pinched in along the sides of the red sample.

I cast on, again with 8 US [5mm] needles, worked six rows of moss stitch and proceeded to work the chart with a five stitch border of moss stitch on each side. A few rows past the center circle, I stopped to measure and voila – my circle was within ⅛” [3mm] of round. It’s hard to get much closer than that in knitting! I was also pleased with the way the sun’s rays looked. True, I have many, many more ends to weave in, but the results are worth it.

About eight ends had been woven in before I remembered to take this photo of the back of the blue sample.

The moss stitch border worked out well, too. In the full afghan I will make it about double its size (12 rows and 10 or 11 stitches on each side). When I placed my full-size chart over the knitting, the stitches are perfect, and the knitting is only out one row to the graph over 7″ [18cm]. I will tweak this as I knit the blanket.

The finished blue sample. The moss stitch border suits the stocking stitch well, and the placement of the chart shows how closely the knitting worked up to it.

Working from a full-size chart is going to be cumbersome. Technology can help here, too, by

  1. Taking the full-size chart to a copy shop and reducing it.
  2. Using charting software to transfer the chart into a smaller size.
  3. Photographing the chart with a tablet or camera and printing out an enlargement of the photo.
  4. Using a spreadsheet to create a smaller chart then outlining and coloring in cells.

Now that my testing has proven itself, I can happily cast on all 204 stitches and begin my old Macedonian flag.

I hope you have enjoyed Fun with Flags. If you design your own piece using this week’s blogs, please write and tell me about your adventures. On June 20, I’ll be talking more about charting motifs and working with Super Saver yarn by Red Heart.

This is part 5 of 5 in this series.
Go back to part 4: Charting for flags and Super Saver yarn

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