Slip stitch surface decoration: Fake Latvian Braid (Applied color knitting, part 1)
Today's post: a form of horizontal surface decoration added with a crochet hook, a trick I call Fake Latvian Braid (FLB). Here is a photo of an easy little 3-row high teaser, but this barely scratches the surface: FLB can be used for many far more intricate braid patterns as shown lower in this post.
Real Latvian Braid looks like a bar of knitting worked at 90 degrees to the rest of the fabric--a sort of horizontal trim. It can be worked in a single color, or in two colors, as on this mitten from the gallery, with its two lines of handsome black-and-yellow braid.
Real Latvian braid is a form of surface decoration created by a yarn stranded onto the fabric surface as the yarn travels from one stitch to another. It isn't difficult to do, here's a good video. Yet, whenever I see it, it reminds me of a similar-looking stranding you get from the slip stitch. So, with a bow to tradition, here's a TECHknitting version of Fake Latvian Braid (FLB) based on slip stitch.
Just like real Latvian Braid, FLB can be located anywhere in the fabric--so close to the cast-on that it look like it is the cast on, or in the middle of the fabric. Also like the real thing, FLB's can point right (tip of each stitch at the right) or point left. Unlike real Latvian Braid, which is knitted-in, FLB is a form of surface decoration done after the knitting is complete, making it easy to install, easy to remove, easy to re-locate.
|Fake Latvian Braid (front)--chained appearance|
The back part of the slip stitch anchors the chain, creating a dotted or "stitched" appearance on the fabric back
|Fake Latvian Braid (back)--dotted or "stitched" appearance|
The one-color version of this is the simplest. It is done just as you would use a slip stitch to stabilize a knitted fabric with the exception that it is always worked from the front face of the fabric, the point of the exercise being the chain decoration.
In the step-by-steps below,
- red dots show where the crochet hook is inserted
- green dots show the base of each pulled-up loop
- cc means the contrasting color yarn used to make the FLB (yellow yarn on the blue background)
|FLB step 1|
Step 2: keeping the loop around the barrel of the hook, insert the hook between the arms of the next stitch in the same row. Again catch the cc yarn, again draw a loop to the fabric surface, as shown below. This creates a new loop.
|FLB step 2|
Step 3: draw the new loop through the old loop.
|FLB step 3|
Step 4: repeat steps 2 and 3--as you draw up a new loop, the loop further down the barrel becomes the old loop.
|First chain made. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for additional chains|
FLB can be made rather flat, by using the same yarn for the FLB as for the garment fabric (thinner top braid). Or, you could make the FLB an almost structural element by using a heavier yarn than the one used for the background fabric, or even a doubled yarn (thicker bottom braid).
|Single-yarn FLB above, doubled yarn FLB below: note these braids point left|
As you see, the narrow end of the stitches the above photo point left. There's no mystery to this: the narrow end of the stitch always points at the insertion point. To get right-pointing FLB's, work from R to L, as illustrated in the step by step instructions. Yet, to change the direction in which the FLB stitches point, there is no reason to awkwardly change the direction of your slip-stitching. Instead, rotate the fabric 180 degrees, which turns the fabric upside-down, then work the FLB in whatever direction is easiest for your handedness. When you turn the fabric right-side up, the braid will point the other way. (See pro tip 5 for more about how to make fabric rotation easier.)
FLB can also be worked along the top of ribbing. The great thing is, when worked along the ribbing/stockinette transition line, FLB combats flip! In truth, I rarely PLAN to work FLB along a ribbing, mostly I trot this trick out to combat band-flip when it shows up--a true "afterthought" use.
Pro tips part 1
1) If you want to combat flip at the ribbing/stockinette transition, but don't want the decorative effect, make the FLB in the same color and no one except another knitter will ever notice.
2) This anti-flip trick is also adaptable for stockinette roll, see "uses," below. It also has a first cousin you can use to control flipping vertical garter stitch bands.)
|Two color Fake Latvian Braid at ribbing transition zone|
To avoid having the running yarns twist and tangle around one another (as they always do with real Latvian Braid), hold each yarn in a consistent location (one above and one below) and draw the yarns alternately and directly.
Working a three- or more color FLB is certainly possible, also, but with each color added, the amount of bulk at the braid-line increases substantially.
THREE ROW ALTERNATING-COLOR-ROW TRIM (2-way)
First up is one of the simplest--the post opened with this trim, and here is is again, this time with its schematic. This is a simple 3-row stacked design composed of alternating rows of solid color (so it's called "alternating-color-row" trim) with the middle FLB made in the opposite direction from the top and bottom FLB's (it's called a "2-way trim" because the FLB's go in two different directions).
|Three row alternating-color-row trim (2-way)|
|Three row alternating-color-row trim (2-way)--schematic|
THREE ROW 1/1 ALTERNATING COLUMN TRIM (1-way)
This trim is composed of 3 FLB's, each of which is worked in the same direction (which is why this is a "1-way trim"). Each FLB is made of single stitches of alternating color (which is why each FLB is called 1/1). The FLB's are stacked so that the colors line up in the columns (which is why this one is called "alternating column" trim).
|Three row 1/1 alternating column trim (1-way)|
|Three row 1/1 alternating column trim (1-way)--schematic|
FIVE ROW 1/1 CHECKERBOARD TRIM (1-way)
This trim is like the one just above with two exceptions: There are 5 rows of 1/1 FLB instead of 3, and the FLB's are stacked so the colors alternate in the columns to create a checkerboard.
|Five row 1/1 checkerboard trim (1-way)|
|Five row 1/1 checkerboard trim (1-way)--schematic|
SIX ROW 2/2 CHECKERBOARD TRIM (1-way)
2/2 checkerboard trim is just like 1/1 checkerboard, except that there are 2 stitches of each color, and each square is two rows high.
|Six row 2/2 checkerboard trim (1-way)|
|Six row 2/2 checkerboard trim (1-way)--schematic|
FIVE ROW 1/1 ZIG-ZAG TRIM (2-way)
This trim is the two-way version of 1/1 checkerboard trim: in this trim, the second and fourth rows go in a different direction than the first, third and fifth. In other words, the same distribution of stitches either makes a checkerboard or a zig zag, depending whether the design is 1- or 2-way. You'll notice a little red-colorized tail of yarn at the bottom of the trim, the explanation is in pro-tip 3, below.
|Five row 1/1 zig-zag trim (2-way). Note the red colorized tail at middle bottom.|
|Five row 1/1 zig-zag trim (2-way)--schematic|
FIVE ROW 2/2 ZIG-ZAG TRIM (2-way)
This trim is the 2-way version of 2/2 checkerboard.
|Five row 2/2 zig-zag trim (2-way)|
|Five row 2/2 zig-zag trim (2-way)--schematic|
|Stabilizing FLB by drawing a yarn under the chains. This particular FLB trim is the 1/1 zig zag, so the yarn is drawn under offset yarns of the same color. For non-zig zag trims, the yarn is drawn under straight (not offset) columns.|
4) It is also possible to stabilize stacked FLB from the back, as shown below.
|Stabilizing FLB from the back--this is the back of alternating-color-row FLB|
See for yourself: The right side-up fabric is to the L in each of the below photo-series has a little green dot in the lower R corner. When the fabric is rotated 180 degrees (upside-down) the green dot rotates to the upper L corner. On both orientations, stockinette fabric appears as a "V," although on the upside down fabric (green dot at upper L) the V appears a half-column over. If you were to work an FLB on rotated fabric based on the appearance of the V, the FLB would also be a half-stitch off an FLB worked on un-rotated fabric. In other words, the stitches of adjacent FLB's would not align in the columns.
|Right side up vs. upside down (180 degree rotated) fabric: both look to be composed of V's although the V on the rotated fabric (dotted line) is half-a-column over|
You can solve this problem without having to mentally turn each V upside down if you use a quilter's magic marker (color fades in an hour) to mark the center of the stitches. When you turn a marked fabric upside down, it's easy to see where to insert the needles: the V's upside down (^'s) are easy to pick out via the dots.
|When marked, it's much easier to see the correct insertion point: the now- upside-down v's (^'s)|
- Refresh a tired sweater without unpicking a single stitch.
- Correct sagging: single-line or stacked FLB trim is quite firm, so any amount of sagging in cuffs, bands or facings can be quickly, beautifully and permanently corrected. New items decorated with FLB simply won't sag in the first place.
- Firm up too-loose garments: add a waistband to a saggy sweater, tighten a stretched mitten.
- Combat stretched-out seams and bands: Stretching hat bands, sagging shoulder seams and stretched out neck-backs are all gone with FLB.
- Make a matching belt to your sweater: stacked FLB will stabilize even a narrow fabric from rolling or stretching, especially if you stabilize the fabric per pro tip 3, above, then hide the back with a facing. Alternatively, you could make FLB reversible, by working some rows on the fabric front, and some on the fabric back--when the back of a chain shows, it makes a "stitched pattern" as shown in the third photo from the top, and this could be adapted as part of your design.
- Combat stockinette roll: as stated above in pro tip 3, a line of FLB worked along a ribbing/stockinette boundary combats band flip. It is also possible to tame stockinette roll with a multi-row trim right along the fabric bottom where the flip is. How many rows/rounds you have to work depends on how bad the flip is, but a 5- or 7-row trim usually flattens out even the most determined flip.
- Glitz it up: Add gold and silver yarn (or even metallised embroidery yarn) on a black mohair sweater=evening wear from an otherwise plain knit.
- Add a trim of school colors to a solid-color store bought sweater...
Guest Editor note: This entry is the first in a proposed book on color knitting, for which I need your help. Per a helpful comment from Gisella, each post relating to the proposed book is tagged as such (post label).
I can't thank enough, those who have written in the comments, via e-mail or Ravelry PM, offering to add your brain to the crowd-sourced editing effort (as Florapie called it).
If you're seeing clumsy phrasing, typos, mistaken illustrations or any other thing which troubles you, please let me know via the comments, Ravelry PM, or e-mail: TECHknittingAThotmail.com
The very next post will be bringing you the first actual organizational question, here in this guest editor space at post-bottom. In the meanwhile,