Tips, Tricks and Treats
Do we like?
I like, I think. The Endpaper Mitts have inspired a little 2-color frenzy in me; specifically, a 2-color accessory frenzy. Mitts and mittens are so tiny, so quick, so flat and simple and blank canvas-y. These are Proper Colorwork Mittens (in contrast to the wham bam mitts); I like to think of it as a project that brings together and tweaks the best elements of more traditional folk mittens (which are wonderful, but not my cup of tea).
For example, it's got a Norwegian-style thumb gore, except it's placed a little closer to the side seam and held separately to create a more natural fit than the palmside gore you usually see:
A better corrugated ribbing cuff - usually, corrugated ribbing is lovely, but pretty inelastic (and therefore useless when a cuff is meant to seal out snow). This slight variation is still pretty cool-looking in a vertical-stripey way, but is a lot more functional, with a sexy corded edge, to boot:
And then, the top of the mitt is a rounded square more in keeping with actual finger shapes than the super-pointy tops of most mittens. This was done with a little fancy footwork around the way the "frame" stitches are decreased with the top of the mitten, and then a 3-needle bindoff from the inside.
The pattern will be mirrored for the right glove to create a quirky little set, and then I'll write up the pattern. In keeping with my book theme, the scrolls on these were meant to bring to mind the lovely throwbacks printed by William Morris' Kelmscott Press - the idea that the functional should be beautiful as well, that craftsmanship matters, seems to me as relevant now as it was when the Industrial Revolution loomed.
(About the naming of the Endpaper Mitts: endpapers are the sheets joining the covers and text block of a book. There's one bridging the inside front cover and the first page of the book, and one bridging the inside back and last page. I believe all hard-bound books have them - in library bindings etc, they're the only thing holding the thing together; in better editions, they serve a host of functions, including taking the stress off the constant opening and closing of the book, covering the raw edges of the cover material, and just plain looking purty. Recto and verso was just my nerdy way of saying "left" and "right" - recto is the first side of a folded leaf you read (the right side), and verso its back. A diaper pattern is any kind of small, repeating allover pattern; though I always think of it as a diagonal lozenge arrangement, it can be any kind of small, tessellated decoration. I believe the root word just means "cloth", independently inspiring "diaper pattern" and "diaper" as in baby diaper - one didn't come from the other).
Fair Isle TIps
Some miscellaneous, almanac-style tips for first-time knitters of Fair Isle:
How do I keep colorwork from getting wonky around the DPN joins??
Things get funny-looking where DPNs meet because the color carried at the back wants to take the shortest path to the next stitch - basically, cutting the corner. You can avoid this in a couple of creative ways: first, try planning the joins so they fall at unobtrusive spots in the pattern (i.e., at side seams), or somewhere you'll consistently switch colors every stitch (if the carried yarn cuts a distance of 1 stitch, it isn't going to make much difference). Or, try to use at least four needles: that way, you can almost straighten out the join before you knit the first stitch on the next needle. Or, use magic loop. Or (and this is the way I do it), simply use a free finger on your right hand to hold the carried yarn tight into the corner when you're knitting the first stitch with that color.
Augh, my colorwork is super-tight/I can't get gauge!
First, try swatching to row gauge. That is, swatch to try and meet the row gauge given in the pattern, and see if you can meet stitch gauge with thorough blocking. You'd be surprised at how much stranded knitting will stretch laterally without looking significantly different. Also, try using wooden needles instead of slick metal. The wood will grip your stitches a little more and let you spread them out before switching colors - that's essential to even stranded knitting.
What do you mean, spread the stitches out?
Just that: say your chart calls for you to knit 3 stitches in color A, and then 2 stitches in color B. Go ahead and knit those 3 stitches in color A. Now, before you knit the next 2 stitches in color B, st-r-e-e-t-c-h out the three stitches you just knit on the right needle - not to the point of straining them, but enough that they're not all jammed together, so there's a little space between them. Learn to be consistent - always stretch your stitches the same amount, and do it every time. It'll become second nature eventually.
I'm being really good about maintaining an even tension, but the pattern still looks funny. It's darker in some places and lighter in others.
Are you being consistent with which hand holds which yarn? Or, in other words, is the same color coming from under and the same color from over every time you switch? Yarn dominance: learn it, live it, love it. It's most apparent in two-color patterns, and it's worth understanding. Basically, the color that comes from under (the left-hand color, if you're knitting in the standard two-handed fashion) will form a slightly longer stitch, or "present" a little more yarn than the color that comes from over (the right-hand color, usually). It's very subtle, but over large areas, it makes a difference. Make sure you're consistent about which color you hold in which hand, or you'll get sections of knitting that look just different enough to distract.
In general, I like to hold the "pattern" color in the left hand, and the "background" color in the left. This emphasizes the pattern color and makes it the focus; with very small patterns, letting the background color be dominant can obscure the pattern to the point of unreadibility. There are other factors, of course - the value difference between the colors, for example - that might tell you which yarn to hold dominant, but as a general rule, pattern under works pretty well.
Check out this post from NonaKnits for more reading and an example of the phenomenon.
How do I increase and decrease in stranded knitting?
At the end of this post, I talked in great detail about how to handle decreases in Fair Isle. Basically, you need to shape in a way that preserves the integrity of the pattern. There are lots of ways people increase in Fair Isle, but here's the way I do it: I tend to think it provides the cleanest, most "readable" and least obtrusive shaping.
Here's a chart that shows increases along a central purled stitch of background color.
The black blocks are "no stitch" blocks, increased out every other row until the shaping is once again complete and there are 23 patterned stitches on the needle total. A cuff-up sleeve would be increased this way, or the sides of a circularly-knit pullover - or the thumb gusset of the Endpaper Mitts.
Here we are, at the last row before shaping (the stitches on the needle are the ones highlighted on the chart).
The first increase row. When you get to those increased stitches (denoted by the yellow arrows), make a YO with the color called for that stitch by the chart
On the next row, knit those stitches in pattern, twisting the YO. This means that if you made the YO by bringing the yarn from front to back, you should knit into the back leg. If you made the YO by bringing the yarn from back to front, you should knit into the front leg. It doesn't much matter which you do on which side, but you should be consistent if you do choose to mirror them.
You can see here how neatly mirrored increases can be done with this method. Since the twisted YO "presents" so much yarn on the right side of the work (more than, say, a lifted bar increase would), the growing pattern looks very natural.