Whatta Buncha I-Cord
August 6, 2007
The Log Cabin faithful have been writing in for the recipe for the Buncha Squares Blanket, which warms my heart. But today is another rainy Monday, and I could not live with myself if I posted the how-to without gorgeous technicolor fantasy photos (I do not rule out soft focus) demonstrating that This Blanket Will Change Your Life. So the recipe will await better weather. Today, I will speak of I-Cord.
You know how I like to fuss over the border of a blanket. I think this is my way of deferring the last goodbye to a project that has sat around my house in so very many piles for so very many months. Sometimes I do a skinny little border.
(Recipe: With right side facing, pick up along each edge, knit a row, purl a row, and bind off in purl on the wrong side. Join the corners by sewing a couple of little tacking stitches. It kind of curls backwards, so it looks like i-cord. It’s too curly on this example, but see how nice it looks on these afghans for Afghans?)
I also like to do Wide Boy borders. (Note to Belinda and everyone in the UK: I finally heard the term “wide boy” used on EastEnders last Saturday! SO excited!)
This is where I pick up on an edge, knit a really big chunk of garter stitch, repeat on the other 3 edges, leaving square gaps in the corners, which I fill in with picked-up miters. I LOVE THIS BORDER. But it is a whole separate Knitting Event. It takes forEVER. It is strictly for heirlooms and hopelessly obsessed knitters with no life.
Another option is what I call ‘picture frame’ borders. Similar to the Wide Boy, you pick up on an edge and knit a desired width of garter stitch, but on every right side row, you increase one stitch at the beginning and end of the row. When you have done this on all 4 edges, you will have created a border that looks like a picture frame with nicely mitered corners. All you need to do is sew the seams to join the miters.
[Pause to worry for a moment: Do I think too much about borders on blankets?]
I chewed on all of these choices for Buncha Squares. Buncha Squares is a knitted version (loosely interpreted) of Denyse Schmidt’s fabric quilt design called What A Bunch of Squares. (Go here to see what I’m talking about. You might be there a while.) When I am knitting a blanket based on a quilt, it is kind of a game to echo quilt details in knitting–which is impossible (OF COURSE I KNOW THAT), but fun to think about. The log cabin method of construction looks like pieced fabric log cabins, and to my mind it also works in a similar way. For example, as with fabric log cabins, you start in the center and work outward, and you can add on additional strips to “square up” a block that is too small.
I was trying to think of a border that would echo Denyse Schmidt’s choice of a narrow bias binding on Whatta Buncha Squares. I thought, what the heck, why do cheesy fake i-cord? Why not go all the way, just go ahead and i-cord around a 52-inch by 52-inch blanket (i.e., FOUR 52-inch edges)? It’s just knitting. I love knitting!
Then I had to think about the yarn. Denyse had used a beautiful lagoon blue fabric. I dug around and came up with a precious discontinued turquoisey teal skein of Rowan Handknit Cotton. Having just the one skein of this irreplaceable artifact, I hesitated. I remembered that I am quite taken with pieced bindings on fabric quilts. Pieced bindings tell you that one of two things has occurred. Either the quilter didn’t have enough matching fabric for a skinny binding, or she just couldn’t resist the urge to cut fabric and piece it together even if it made no sense to do so. I dug around some more and found a skein of Katia Jamaica, a lightweight cotton that self stripes, in perfect lakey colors. And so began the 5- or 6-hour process of knitting an applied 4-stitch i-cord all the way around the blanket.
I knit it at the beach.
Where inspiration for more blankets abounds.
(I love how people with mortgages and 9-to-5 jobs turn into nomads when they get to the beach. They just plop down and dig in for the day, with the bare necessities of shade and ground cover provided by rusty umbrellas and shredded sheets and towels, and nothing matches or looks Classy.)
And I kept knitting it way past all the good late-night TV. (Even “Frasier” was over, and I was still i-cording.)
It really does resemble bias binding, doesn’t it?
Look at that corner. Sa-mooth.
Because someone will ask, and I love to Instruct, here is how I did my i-cord, using straight, single point needles. You could also follow the Keyboard Biologist’s excellent tutorial on the double-point needle method. Both ways take about the same amount of time and involve the same amount of fiddling, so it’s a question of whether you prefer sliding your stitches or slipping them. I’m a slipper, but I’ve been known to slide. You may be a slider. We can live in peace and harmony.
Optional preparation: First I went all the way around the edge in off-white yarn, doing a cro-Kay edging. (Pick up 2 stitches, *bind off 1 stitch, pick up 1 stitch, repeat from * all the way around.) My thinking was that the i-cord would be more even and pretty if it was applied to this nice chain of bound-off stitches. I don’t think it was necessary, but it worked great, and kept me occupied for a good 45 minutes.
1. Cast on 4 stitches onto the right needle.
2. Choose a stitch on the edge. Stick left needle into this stitch to pick it up. (I didn’t pull a new loop through this stitch, but I treated it like a stitch. It has that right.)
3. Transfer the 4 stitches from the right needle to the left needle. (Now you have 5 stitches on the left needle.)
4. Knit 3, knit the last 2 stitches together. (Now you have 4 stitches on the right needle.) (And yes, to do this, you have to pull the working yarn all the way from the other end of the row. Just do it. It works.)
5. Pick up the next stitch with your left needle.
Repeat steps 3-5 until all available episodes of “Frasier” are over and you have worked back around to where you started. Bind off very neatly. Go to bed. (Seriously! Go to bed!)