More Fun with Garter Stitch!

The Summer 2011 issue of Knitscene featured an article by one of my favorite designers, Stephen West. I just bought his Spectra Scarf pattern, which is a circular scarf knit from a ball of self-striping sock yarn and a coordinating solid sock yarn. One of my knit-night buddies worked it up and it's just beautiful.

Striped Square Swatch
Intarsia Swatch
Curved Arch
Crescent-Shaped Swatch

Stephen loves garter stitch and he includes it as a design feature in many of his patterns; sometimes it forms the basis of the pattern and sometimes it's a design feature.

Here's an excerpt from Steven's Knitscene article, where he talks about garter stitch and its versatility.

Swatch Play: Garter Stitch

My first knitting project was a scarf-a radiant masterpiece, or rather a bright blue, acrylic, lopsided piece of fabric. As I worked on my masterpiece, I became familiar with the knit stitch, but as a beginner, I didn't appreciate the satisfaction of knitting every row. I quickly transitioned to new skills like purling, Fair Isle, and lace. In fact, I used to love purling so much that I modified all sock, hat, and sweater patterns so I could work them inside out, purling every round! Now as a more experienced knitter, I find myself constantly coming back to garter stitch.

The Swatches
The striped square swatch is a classic example of simple colorwork. It's easy to let the mind wander while inserting random stripes and blocks of color while knitting each row. Note that it takes two rows of one color in garter stitch to make a complete stripe. The blue/gray rectangle shows off basic intarsia, another fun technique to explore in garter.

Manipulating the fabric into different shapes with increases and decreases provides endless entertainment, as demonstrated in the solid triangle and parallelogram. The knit front-back (k1f&b) increase is perfect for garter stitch because it looks great on both sides, and the garter ridges hide the little purl bump formed by the increase.

A curved arch is achieved in the solid yellow crescent with short-row shaping. I'm drawn to clear graphic lines, and this short-row swatch really demonstrates the harmony achieved by the distribution of purl ridges.

The graphic effect is enhanced in the blue/gray crescent-shaped swatch. This example is a little combination platter of techniques, with the blue segments worked in intarsia while their sliced shape results from short-row shaping. Increases and decreases along one side add to the fabric's shape to create a scalloped edge.

Triangle Swatch Parallelogram Swatch

It's times like these when I am most grateful for good ol' garter stitch—using colorwork and shaping techniques at the same time is much easier when you know that each stitch in every row is a knit stitch.

We knitters are fortunate to have so many yarn companies and indie dyers to supply us with stunning yarns. I often find it difficult to conceptualize a design for a special yarn; but whenever I find myself wondering what to do with that one skein, I know that a garter stitch swatch is the best place to start. It puts the focus back on the beautiful yarn.

Then, I can apply whichever techniques I want to explore within garter stitch. All it takes is a little dose of creativity to make this handsome textural fabric into something completely unique and pleasurable.

—Stephen West, from the Summer 2011 issue of Knitscene

The Figurehead Shawl

Are you loving garter stitch again? Check out this pattern from Knitscene: The Figurehead Shawl by Alexis Winslow, shown at right. The kerchief-style shawl is worked in garter stitch in two-color stripes and finished with a scalloped edge. There's a button closure at the edge of the kerchief so it can be worn snug like a cowl. It can be worn with the kerchief point at the front (as shown in the photo) or at the back. Super cute and an easy knitting pattern, too.

Check out all of the fabulous garter-stitch designs (and the other groovy knitting patterns for women!) in the Knitscene 2011 Collection CD, available now.


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