Playing with Tiles à la Escher

April 28, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Posted in Knitting | 3 Comments

Sometime last fall a call for test knitters for On the Shore came up in the German testing group on Ravelry. It’s a  blanket pattern inspired by art work by M. C. Escher, which I love. After seeing the pictures, I knew I had to sign up. Jana graciously accepted me as a tester, although I have no idea what she’d have said if she had known in advance how long this would take me. Knowing there was no way that I’d manage to finish the blanket in anything under 5 years or so, I opted to knit one of the accompanying pillow covers. While this was a smaller and more manageable project than a whole blanket, pillow covers have their own challenges, and it’s about one of those I want to talk today.

But first, so you know what I’m talking about, here’s my finished pillow:

In order to be able to put the filling into the finished cover, you need an opening and a way to close it. The pattern calls for use of a zipper, which after somee thinking about I agreed with as the most elegant solution. The zipper is supposed to run along the side through the middle of two of the turtles. The pattern avoids having to knit half turtles by knitting two additional turtles and folding those back on themselves to have a clean line in the middle for the zipper. I didn’t like this solution, because I’d end up with three layers of fabric (two layers of knitting and the zipper) in those places.

So, what did I do instead? I decided to actually split those turtles in half. To make the assembly easier, I started with the whole pattern at the tail, and split the pattern after row 15. I doubled up the middle stitch of the pattern, so it became the new selvedge on both the right and left sides. Otherwise the pattern was worked exactly as on the chart. Increases were made between the selvedge stitch and the rest, for decreases I included the selvedge stitch out of necessity. I ended up with two split turtles that would come to lay head to head in the final assembly. To stabilize things, the birds and fishes bordering those two turtles were added befor dealing with the zipper. I figured it would be easier to insert the zipper before assembling the whole pillow, so I blocked just the part with the split turtles before dealing with the zipper to make sure the pillow wouldn’t grow when blocking, since the zipper is rigid and won’t grow at all.

I tried to get a straight edge for sewing, but wasn’t entirely successful, due of the structure of increases and decreases that make up the pattern for the turtle:

To make life easier for sewing, I grabbed a crochet hook and worked a row of chain stitches right next to the edge:

Here’s a view of both sides:

The effect is subtle, but provides the needed stability. I then proceeded to add the actual zipper. For applications like this, I like to buy endless zippers that I can cut to size myself easily. I don’t have pictures of the process of sewing in the zipper, but there are basically three steps:

  1. Use pins to position the zipper where you want it to be. Make sure the left and right side are symmetrical. I wasn’t entirely successful with this, since the two fishes in the middle don’t meet at exactly the same place. But it’s near enough.
  2. Using a strong sewing thread in a contrasting colour, I basted in the zipper by hand, removing the pins in the process. If you’re inserting a zipper into a knit item, it’s important to leave a little bit of space between the zip and the edge of the fabric, otherwise you’re in danger of catching your selvedge in the zipper or the zipper not being able to move properly.
  3. I then sewed the zipper in with the sewing machine. Since everything is held together by the basting thread, this is a no sweat operation. Just choose your stitch length quite a bit longer than you would do for normal fabric when working with hand knits. Afterwards, remove the basting thread, and you’re done.

This is how it looks like:

Only then I proceeded to sew the rest of the seams. I’m happy with the result, although that turtle is probably not the best pattern for such a delicate operation!

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