Join me on a photo tutorial of making gloves from Mawata Silk Hankies! This project is inspired by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s silk mittens, as you can read about in yesterday’s blog post. Here are 4 hand dyed hankies, about 1 ounce or 30 grams total, two in shades of green, and two in shades of tan and brown. Yes, I tried to match the yarn that will be a woven scarf thing….eventually….when I’ve lost my fear of the ‘big’ loom.
So what do you do with a silk hankie? In order to knit with the hankie, you must go through much the same process required to spin them. The first step is to peel off one layer. A hankie is actually about 12 cocoons that have been stretched over a frame. You want just one cocoon at a time. If you look at the edges, it is generally pretty easy to see the separate layers. Be sure you have the top one, and peel it off.
Now that you have one layer of the hankie, using the fingers of both hands, poke a hole through the center of it. You may have discovered by now that silk is very sticky and snaggy…….if you are having a lot of trouble, you might like to do this with smooth gloves on (like dishwashing), or treat yourself to a scrub made of olive oil and salt or sugar. Anyway, poke your hole, then pull it into a circle with both hands. (My other hand is taking pictures, yours can just pull!)
You will continue to pull the circle out, thinner and thinner. Keep your hands about a foot and a half apart, pull until the silk moves a few inches, then move your hands around the circle a bit, and repeat. You’ll go around a bunch of times. Some places will be thicker than others and need more attenuating. Just keep at it. This can be hard on the hands, the silk can be tough to pull, especially if your hands are too close together. If you pull too hard and it breaks, your first one is free……you’ll need to break the circle eventually anyway! In hand knitting, extra breaks are no big deal, just join them when knitting. For doing this on the knitting machine, though, you will prefer as few joins as possible.
For my gloves, I didn’t want a stripey look, so I’m combining my colors to make something more subtly striping and tweedy. To do this, I’m pulling two hankies of different colors together at the same time. I’m using the lighter green with the darker brown, and the dark green with the tan. I want to repeat the patterning on the second glove, so I am pulling two layers from each hankie and setting the second hankies aside in an organized-ish stack as I go.
I found that attenuating the hankies went faster (and with less hand-hurting) if I pulled each separately until it was about half to three-quarters the length I wanted and only pulled them together for the last bit. This also let me concentrate on the thicker bits and made a more even ‘yarn’. I did some experimental swatching earlier, and came up with a thickness I liked. I’m shooting for a fingering weight yarn, and pulling the hankies out to about 20 feet (7-ish yards) in length is about right. If you are using one strand at a time, you would need to pull it only half as much.
To save myself from painfully disentangling fluff and getting snagged on everything in my studio, I stored my attenuated silk hankies on cones. TP tubes would actually work better, you want to feed this off the side while knitting…..letting it unwind from the top leads to snags and snarls. I also learned that if I put a slight bit of twist in the ‘yarn’ as I wrapped it on the cone, I would have much less trouble feeding it off later. To give myself a break from attenuating and bending over the machine, I alternated the yarn making and knitting. You can certainly do all your attenuating ahead of time, but I suggest keeping the layers of stretched hankies separate on your storage devices….insert a layer of tissue or wrap, it will make undoing it later much easier.
Now on to the knitting machine. This is my Brother 930 with matching ribber, set up to do 1×1 ribbing. I’m using a glove pattern from this ‘free’ pattern generator (if you decide to use it, do please donate….I’m quite happy so far with my pattern. There are hand knit patterns there, also.) I used some leftover sock yarn to get some knitting on the machine, then a row of ravel cord. The picture below is taking the ribber carriage across by itself to drop the ribber stitches. This will make it easy to pull the cord out later and a have a perfect ‘broken toe’ cast on.
After this, knit one row on zero tension, set the main bed to slip, knit one row, then return the carriage to knit and set both carriages to T5 (or whatever you are using from your swatching). The thought of this rustic yarn in the tension device gave me the heebie-jeebies, so yes….I become the yarn feed for this project. Besides being sure the silk is coming off the cone smoothly, you must be careful to pull the silk up as you change directions so you don’t get accidental loops on each side. It behaves quite well….when kept under tension.
Another trick is pulling the needles to be knit out, on every row. While swatching, I had a problem with a dropped stitch and realized how impossible a task such a thing would be to latch up. So the goal is to not have any dropped stitches. This is the best way to ensure that every stitch knits off, every time.
What do you do when you reach an end? Fold each part back onto itself, clasped in a Russian Join. You can twist the old end back and forth on itself a bit to get it to hold long enough to get knit in.
This is a slub and some noils. You will see these from time to time. If they aren’t too large, just let them knit in, it won’t hurt anything. (Exhibit A of why we are pulling the needles out on every row!)
Huzzah, I’ve finished the ribbing! The pattern gives details on how to knit off half the stitches so you can scrap them off and rehang them, but I got out my handy-dandy garter bar, since it is faster and less fussy. Below, you can see the stitches on the left that I need to move to the needles on the ribber bed on the lower right. (And hey, you can see the ribbing! Yay!)
After pulling the stitches onto the garter bar, I did some careful gymnastics and got it turned and facing the other direction, now just a quick pull of the stitches down onto the ribber bed…..
And it is time to say goodbye to the glove again for awhile. I’m sad about this disadvantage of machine knitting, but glad I’ll have the gloves finished sooner.
From that point, I continued following the pattern up to where it calls for scrapping off the finger stitches. Again, not thrilled with scrapping and re-hanging, especially with this not-fully-formed yarn, so I decided to knit the stitches by hand with scrap yarn, pulling them to non-working. To fit the extra ‘between the finger’ stitches in, I needed to move the index finger stitches over a few, but I’d prefer that than to lose my work so far. Here we are….all ready for that index finger. I hope to finish this first glove tomorrow.