13 October 2014

How to: Slip stitch colourwork

I was talking to somebody about slipstitch colourwork at the knitting group I go to, turned out the person had never heard of it and, long story short, because my latest cowl pattern in Knitscene Winter 2014 uses this exact technique, I thought I'd do a little how-to post to cover it.

ETA - After a little reflection on mosaic, I think the lack of familiarity here is really the lack of recognition, because in truth slipped stitches are used often in knitting. Just think of heel flaps, brioche, faux seams, slip-stitch cables or even horizontal floats; all of them use slipped stitches of one sort or another. Here, by introducing another colour we're simply accentuating these slipped stitches and as a result creating some beautiful patterns and the slightly nubbly, warped texture that come with them.

Slip stitch colourwork encompasses a whole range of different stitch patterns, from stocking stitch and garter based that often create a picture-like pattern, to geometric mosaic (these are more rigid in appearance), and to those that include cables or knit and purl stitches to create texture and movement of the stitch pattern. You can easily use more than two colours to work such patterns or even use variegated yarn as your base (or your contrasting colour), but no matter how simple or complex the stitch pattern is, all of them will rely on the same rules:
  1. You only work with one colour/strand of yarn at a time 
  2. Each colour is worked over two rows
  3. The Right Side row always sets the pattern and the Wrong Side row duplicates it
  4. Some of the stitches in a row will be slipped and that's what creates the pattern

In this simple swatch the boxy pattern is created by slipping the green (main colour) stitches while working the contrasting colour rows. 
The pattern is worked in multiples of 4 stitches over 8 rows with the red border marking a single repeat.

First the two rows of stocking stitch are worked with main colour. On row 3 the contrast colour (blue) is joined and as you can see that all the magic of creating that mosaic effect is happening on the following two rows. Slipping some of the green stitches, unworked, onto the right hand needle creates an elongated V on the right side of fabric. These V's sort of sit atop of the fabric pulled up from the 2nd row until you work them again in row 5.

I will go over the stitch pattern row by row to show you how it's done here:
Row 1: With main colour (MC) knit.
Row 2: With MC purl.
Row 3: With contrast colour (CC) knit 2 sts, slip next stitch purl-wise on to the right needle with yarn in back, k1.
Repeat the step above to end of your row. You should see the pattern starting to emerge.
Row 4: With CC *purl 2 stitches, slip the following stitch purl-wise on to the right hand needle with yarn in front of it; repeat from * to end.
After the first 4 rows of pattern the elongated MC stitches will have created long V's on the Right side of knitting.
The following two rows are worked in MC again and so on.

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