Double Knitting = Double Fun!

Most of October was spent in the pursuit of double knitting. I attended the Boston Knit-Out and saw the double-knit hats by Alasdair, who announced that he was teaching some classes. I immediately signed up for a basics course (seriously, I grabbed the flyer from him and ran off with my cell phone and credit card fearing it would fill up. I should have known that I’m just a weirdo).

With double knitting, you’re working two sides of a fabric at once, creating a result that is doubly-thick with color work on both sides. There are charts and planning and it takes a bit of concentration to execute properly. Depending on your technique and desired result, you may be slipping some stitches or working with two colors at once. Complicated with a neat result. This is what I love.

So here was my first swatch, worked during the class (front and back):

You’ll note that the scroll is mirror-imaged. This is the classic double knit effect. Stitches that are red on one side are green on the other. However, part of what drew me to the class was Alasdair’s work. He’s been experimenting with different techniques and has worked out how to do double knitting with completely unrelated patterns on front and back, in more than 2 colors. He described the basics to me at the end of class and I worked out a chart for a small swatch that I later worked on at home. As the class ended, I signed up for the 2-sesson double knit hat class he was teaching and wandered off with my head aswirl.

Here’s the second swatch. Note that even though the motif is the same on the front and back, it is not mirrored!

In class, Alasdair showed us a long-tail techique for a two-color cast-on that set up stitches in the correct color for each side. And he showed us a cast off that used both colors with a neat effect. Here’s the cast-off:

And I wanted to do something similar for the cast-on. After a bit of fussing with different long-tail techniques, I realized that the cast-off looked a lot like a crochet cast-on, so I played with that. And came up with something I like a lot. In the following photo, the top swatch shows the long-tail cast-on Alasdair taught in class. The bottom shows the crochet cast-on I developed.

Armed with all of this, I was ready for the hat class. In the first session, we picked a motif for the sides, worked a gauge swatch, did some calculating for fit, and cast-on. Of course, I worked my crochet cast-on even though it took twice as long. We worked on the sides that day and left with instructions to be ready to decrease for the top when we returned. Alasdair showed us how to do decreases in double-knitting (think cabling and you’re not too far off) and recommended a 6-section swirl crown. He showed how to chart it and talked us through adapting a pattern to the triangle chart. Of course, I wanted to adapt my pattern to the top and couldn’t see how to do it with the swirl. So I adapted the top to a 3-triangle double-decrease chart, still giving me 6 decreases on every round, but giving me a Y on the top instead of the swirl. That worked beautifully.

Here’s some shots of the finished hat:

The top:

The top from the other side:

A view of both sides at once:

A shot of the cast-on!

And finally, a shot of it standing proudly:

All in all, I love this technique and the hat is fun. The one problem is that it’s not quite long enough to cover my ears entirely. This is because the crown is
completely flat instead of sloping. I’m not quite sure if it was my tricorn adaptation or my gauge, but I could have worked another inch on the sides before starting the crown. And with another inch on the sides, I could have chosen a slightly taller motif or repeated it. Oh well.

As for my 2-color crochet cast-on, I’ll document it soon. Even if you’re not double-knitting, it’s a great technique for a two-color rib. And I have just such a project coming up.