Does your knitting ever grip you to the point where you can't imagine that you'll ever want to work another technique? I still remember the fever of tubular cast ons that I went through after first discovering this beautiful way of starting a 1x1 or 2x2 rib. No other edgings were contemplated for quite a while. Eventually it fades, and something else will come along to inspire and excite me, but when I'm deep in the obsession, nothing can dissuade me. I seem to be in the middle phase of helical stripe fever. I've worked obsessively on the first few projects that use the basic technique, and now I want to apply it to every other project* in grabbing distance.
This is my helical Honey Cowl. The Honey Cowl is an extremely popular free pattern from Madelinetosh. It's available as a free download, and at time of posting over 23,000 projects are listed on Ravelry. Phew! That's a lot of Honey Cowl action! Until earlier this month I had never made one, but I was familiar with the pattern from Kay's many mentions of them... So when she said that she thought the Honey Cowl could be made helical, to get rid of the "seam" at the beginning of the round, it seemed like the perfect moment to dive in and see what the fuss was about.
I dug a skein of Wollmeise DK out of my stash (an unknitted purchase from last year's EYF!), wound it into a ball, and cast on. Without giving away the secret sauce of the design (you can go and download your own copy to find out how it works), the main stitch pattern is worked over 4 rounds, with rounds 1 and 3 the same, and rounds 2 and 4 the same, but offset by a stitch. When worked according to the pattern, you get a noticeable line at the start of the round, and the suggestion was that you could eliminate it helically.
And indeed you can! Having conveniently wound my yarn into a centre-pull ball, I used yarn from the outside to work the round 1/3 pattern all the time. Then I joined in the yarn from the centre to work the round 2/4 pattern. The trick is, that instead of having an even number of stitches as described in the pattern, you need an odd number. By having an odd number of stitches in each round, the even numbered stitch pattern (the round 2/4 stitch pattern) automatically offsets itself on alternate appearances. And this happens without a jog or "seam". It's a very pleasing modification to work. I even figured out that if I turn my cake of yarn upside down, so that the centre-pull yarn is at the base, while I work from the outside of the ball, the two ends don't tangle in each other. Happy helical days! Thanks for the nudge to give this a try Kay!
But the Honey Cowl isn't the only pattern to be calling out for some helical action... The Newsprint Cowl by Michele Wang was published over on the Purl Soho blog this week, and quite a few knitters popped in to the Year of Techniques knitalongs on Ravelry and in The Lounge to say that it was crying out for helical stripes. I absolutely agree that this would be fab with a helical stripe modification. You'd just need to wind the main colour into two balls, so that you could have a ball of yarn for each stripe of the pattern. Thank you all for the suggestions and your enthusiasm!
So how do you "helicalise" patterns?
For simple stripe patterns in the round, you just need to have a ball of yarn for each round of the stripe sequence (so for the 2 rounds main followed by one round contrast pattern in the newsprint cowl, you need 2 balls of main and one of contrast). For textured stitch patterns it depends on how the pattern works, but you usually need a ball of yarn for each round of pattern, and usually these will be the same colour as each other. So for example, when you work garter stitch in the round, one ball of yarn always knits and the other ball always purls. But on top of that you can sometimes tweak the instructions and alter the stitch counts to make the helices do the work of the stitch pattern for you (as in the Honey Cowl described above). You can see my video explaining how to work basic helical stripes over on Mason Dixon Knitting.
And to end with, here is a pattern that has already been helical-ed! It's my Cutcombe Sock design, and uses a Crazy Zauberball striped with a solid shade of Lang Jawoll. The socks are constructed with an afterthought heel, allowing the gradient of the Zauberball to continue uninterrupted through to the toe. The spirals are created with a slipped stitch pattern and helical stripes, and are a lot of fun to knit. You can buy the pattern here on our website (purchasing here also gives you the option to have your pattern in your Ravelry library, just follow the links at checkout), or through Ravelry , for £3.50 or there is an ebook called Spiralling Socks which also gives you Alcombe (a related sock with a heel flap construction) for £5.00.
If you are a newsletter subscriber, don't forget that you have until the end of the day on Friday to use your discount code in our online shop.
We are almost at the end of our first month of A Year of Techniques, and it has been so much fun seeing all the variations on helical striped projects appearing across the internet (thanks to knitorious, katsmoke and blithespirit, as well as to Kay and Ann for your enthusiastic blog posts)!
There's still heaps of time to join in with A Year of Techniques, simply purchase the print (£19.99 plus shipping) or ebook (£19.99) and you'll receive the helical Hyacinthus Armwarmer pattern immediately, and the following patterns will then be delivered automatically each month as they launch. The complete print and ebooks will be delivered in September 2017. Next month's pattern will be uploaded on Tuesday 4th April, which is now just a week away, so keep an eye on your inboxes!
*Well maybe not EVERY project, but more than one or two anyway...