Working helically

I’m sitting at my desk, surrounded by helical knitting swatches and samples. In case it wasn’t already obvious, I’m rather in love with this unusual technique! As I’ve published helical designs, there are a few questions that have popped up regularly, and one of the most common themes is around working other instructions at the same time as working helically.

What do I mean by that?

Most knitting patterns consist of a combination of a stitch pattern (colourwork, cables, lace, plain stocking stitch – endless options) and shaping (whether it’s increases, decreases, leaving stitches on hold, casting on, casting off – there are many possibilities). The stitch pattern creates the knitted fabric, and the shaping creates the form of that knitted fabric. When you knit in the round in the normal single helix way, you work complete rounds so it’s straightforward to write instructions that combine both stitch pattern and shaping. With the helical method I use, where you work to the last 3 stitches in the next yarn, you can’t pattern write in the same way, and it can cause a bit of confusion when you first encounter this sort of situation. The great news is that lots of knitters will already understand how to work two sets of instructions at the same time. Indeed, it’s a pattern writing tool that has actually been used for a long time! Phrases you may be familiar with would be things like, “keeping pattern correct”, or “continue to do this and at the same time, work decreases on the next…”.

For helical designs, I’ve divided the pattern instructions into two parts - the primary part is the helical knitting instruction. This sets up the way in which you are working the fabric, so that might be a stripe sequence, or it might be a stitch pattern, or perhaps both! The secondary instructions are then the shaping directions, and these are then worked at the same time as the primary instruction. The secondary instruction might be to work from a chart in a specific part of the round, or it might be to increase or decrease, or something else entirely. Chapter 3 takes you stepwise through some of the most common things that can trip you up when you work this way. Things like, what to do if you don’t have enough stitches remaining before the helical yarn change to work a decrease, or how to move a helical yarn change that would otherwise occur in the middle of a cable. Each of the most common situations is broken down with a photo tutorial to show you the solution.

This might all sound rather complicated, but the daft thing is that once you’ve got into the swing of it, almost all of this is actually very intuitive. And working this way helps you to understand your knitting and to read it more confidently, which is definitely a good thing!

If you haven’t already got a copy of Something New to Learn About Helical Knitting, you can get one via our website, where you will also find yarn and kits for the designs, or on Ravelry. The ebook costs £13.99 and I’ll be back tomorrow with details of the new patterns for chapter 3.