Lost Arts studio

A lot of the fiber arts I enjoy are things like tatting, netmaking, chair caning, and even weaving, where people will come up to me when I demonstrate and solemnly tell me, "That's a lost art."

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Location: SW Outer Nowhere, Michigan, United States

On the Internet, nobody knows you're a chicken. (With apologies to Peter Steiner.)

27 March 2006

Peg-Frame Knitting

I feel like I owe knitting frames, the hand-operated, peg-knitting kind, my journey into knitting on needles.

I was taught to knit as a child both by my mother and by my German-American great-grandmother, and I garbled together the two sets of instructions and "re-invented" knitting. For a long time, every time I picked up needles, I invented a new way to use them. Finally I settled on purling Continental as "knitting". If you purl every row in a garter stitch flat piece, no one can tell how you made it. But I made my knit stitches in a peculiar awkward way. So knitting never became something I felt skilled at, let alone fond of.

Enter the knitting frame. About two and a half years ago, I was demonstrating tatting at the Michigan Fiber Festival. We set up a table and demonstrate this not-so-lost art, promote our lace group (the West Michigan Lace Group), answer questions, endure remarks about "never having the patience", and we try to have enough of us demonstrating that some of us can go scout out the vendors!

Since I weave as well as tat, I enjoy not only the booths with tatting books, shuttles, and more threads than I could use in two lifetimes, but also the whole span of fibers for weaving, the displays of Angora rabbits, the barns of sheep and goats, and the sheep herding demos.

I happened to walk by a booth with knitted scarves for sale, where a woman was doing something with yarn on a "thingie". I started to walk on past, and my brain yelled at me, "Hey wait! What was that thing?" I turned around and talked with her, and she said it was an Amish knitting frame (this was the company -- unfortunately their website is no more) and yes, it was a lot like spool-knitting.

The rest, as they say, is history. First I yielded to the fascination of knitting on a frame, and then, as if frames had been knitting training wheels for my brain, I made the jump to needles.

The most common knitting frame out there is the "Knifty Knitter" made by Provocraft. These come as a set of round plastic frames in different colors. Provocraft also makes a double rake (two rows of pegs on either side of a gap) that is purple.

There are basically two types of knitting frames: single and double. A round frame is a single rake curled into a circle. Single rakes make a regular, single-layer knitted fabric. A spool knitter (also known as a corker or knitting nancy) could be considered a very small single rake.

A double rake, sometimes called a knitting board or scarf board, is used by wrapping the pegs so the yarn crosses the gap, and the finished knitting goes down through the gap. It makes a thicker fabric which can have a stockinette-look surface on both sides. I know of one company, Decor Accents, that makes round double rakes. These can be used to make the double rake fabric as a tube for a hat. (I think this is so clever I can hardly stand it.)

When I first started, I would have said the two types were round or straight. But since a single round frame can be used to make a flat piece, and a double round frame can also be used to make a flat piece, I changed my mind. Now I think of the round frames as a special case of single or double.

Since lately I've been learning about and playing with double knitting, I've been trying to figure out if I could make double-rake fabric on needles. I think I've sort of got it figured out. It should be possible. But I haven't actually tried it, and I'm thinking it wouldn't be easy. That particular thing remains easier on a frame than on needles.

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