Modular Knitting (or working in bite size chunks and creating a fabric one square at a time)

I have recently reignited my love of modular knitting (also known as domino or mitred knitting), and have quickly remembered how satisfying it is to work in bite size pieces while creating knitted items with wonderful drape courtesy of the resulting bias in the fabric. This post is an accompaniment to a modular scarf workshop that I had the pleasure of teaching last month at the Ashcroft Arts Centre in Fareham and is intended as an aide memoir to those lovely ladies who attended and also as a beginners guide for those who would like to experiment with a different method of knitted garment construction.

The term “modular” refers to any type of knitting where modules are made individually and the next module is created from the previous one by picking up and knitting stitches from it. However, it is most often used to describe the specific method of creating a module by decreasing a cast on number of stitches until only one remains. Various shapes can be created by the placement and number of the decreases, the simplest being the mitred square module in garter stitch.

Garter square module

To create this simple square, an odd number of stitches are cast on. This cast on edge will create two of the edges of the resulting square, with the centre stitch the corner. A stitch marker comes in very handy when working the modules as it can be used to mark the centre stitch. For each right side row, two stitches are decreased either side of and absorbed into this centre stitch using an appropriate decrease. One that I particularly like for this as it has a non directional appearance and an aesthetically pleasing little bump in the centre (hence easy to spot if it accidentally begins to wander off), is the centred double decrease or s2kp.  This is worked by slipping two stitches together knitwise, knitting the next stitch, and then passing the two slipped stitches over. The result is two stitches decreased.  This is continued until only one stitch, the centre stitch, remains and the result is that the initial cast on edge is gradually brought in towards that stitch, thereby creating a square.

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The creation of a mitred square, showing the fabric bending around the centre stitch

Once the square has been completed the next one can be joined to it by picking up and knitting the stitches along the top of the finished square for one side of the new module, and then casting on the remaining stitches to form the second side of the new module. The process is then repeated.

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A diagram showing an example pick up from the top of a square module

The diagram above shows how a second square module with the same bias direction can be created from the top of the first.

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Picking up modules from squares placed as diamonds 

Of course, squares can also be turned on their sides to form diamonds and in this case the centred decrease is now a vertical element. When a module is created in between the two below, the pick up occurs down one side of the first module and up the side of the next, with the centre stitch in the corner where those two modules touch, as shown in the photo above.

While mitred modules in garter stitch create squares, other stitches such as stocking stitch, create a more elongated diamond shape. It is great fun experimenting with these to see what happens and what design possibilities these shapes present.

Scallops

If three or four decreases are placed along the cast on edge, the module begins to curve. This is the modular construction technique I used to create my Sparkle design which was awarded second place in the Rowan international design competition a few years back.

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A scalloped shape modular design

So, as you can see, modular knitting is a versatile method of knitted fabric construction which, due to its bias, can create very flattering garments.

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“Did you tell them why it’s called Weimwood, Mommy?”

For those of you who wish to take your mitred squares to the next level, I have just published a modular shawl pattern called “Weimwood” (so named as it was inspired by and conceived during my daily runs with the Velcro dog around the local woods) which uses mitred squares and triangles in three different 4ply yarns (sock yarn is fabulous for this design) and in different sizes to create an eye catching asymmetrical pattern.  The modules are worked in garter stitch with a simple eyelet pattern along the bottom of each and the shawl is finished off with a classic picot cast off edging.

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Weimwood shawl pattern

The pattern is available in my Etsy shop as a digital download and can be purchased here.

I hope this post has inspired you to have a go at modular knitting. As you might have gathered, I’m a huge fan so I would love to have passed on a little bit of my modular addiction to you.

Until next time, happy knitting.

Stash busting 1940s style

I hope you all had a good Christmas and a belated Happy New Year to you. I spent mine with a traditional Christmas bug which gave me the perfect excuse to lounge around in my PJs, listening to audiobooks and knitting all day. Inspired by the fabulous “Knitwear Chanel to Westwood” exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London (still on and well worth a visit), and confined to my armchair, I dug out my steadily expanding collection of “VIntage” knitting patterns (my definition of “Vintage” being those that were published before I was born!).  I have a particular fondness for the neat silhouettes and intricate stitch patterns of 1940s sweaters and a couple of them have been shouting at me to be re-worked in modern day yarns for some time.  After a quick cataloguing exercise and in true Make Do and Mend style, I gave myself a “no purchasing” rule and the challenge was set.

The first to be reworked was this lovely lacy sweater pattern which I had picked up from a University pop up shop a couple of years ago.

"1940s knitting pattern"

1940s knitting pattern

I had previously tried to recreate this in a 4ply but it just didn’t work being too bulky for wear under jackets but not warm enough for an outer sweater. So this time, persuaded by my Stash, I redesigned it for Rowan Felted Tweed, still taking the delicate lace pattern but making it substantial enough for a winter sweater by using a lightweight double knit yarn and adding a roll neck and three quarter length sleeves.

"vintage lace sweater redesigned in Rowan Felted Tweed"

Vintage Lace sweater redesigned in Rowan Felted Tweed

I have written the pattern for this sweater in three bust sizes (34in, 36in, and 38in) and will be making it available for purchase shortly so if it’s your kind of sweater, watch this space.

The second sweater to be re-worked is this 1945 pattern, available for free from the V&A website.

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I often think that some of the fabulous variegated sock yarns available are wasted hiding in shoes all day so this seemed to be the perfect opportunity to show off some beautiful Drops Fabel sock yarn which I had purchased last year, along with a couple of balls of the now sadly discontinued Rowan Cashsoft 4ply which I had stashed away.  Here is the colourful result as worn by Dora (as I was needed behind the camera for this shot) perfect for brightening up the next couple of months while we wait for Spring to arrive and just enough warmth over a long sleeve T for centrally heated houses. It was a bit touch and go at the end as to whether I’d have enough yarn (I was knitting both sleeves at the same time) but thankfully I just made it!

"wavy stripe sweater in 4ply yarns"

Wavy stripe sweater in 4ply yarns

So, I am a couple of sweaters richer, my virus is on its way out and evenings are noticeably getting lighter.  Welcome 2015!  I am looking forward to seeing where you take me this year 🙂