It’s all in the details

Two observations: first, it’s huge. Mom didn’t want huge. Mom wanted an oversized bandana. Hopefully it relaxes a little after it’s dry and handled a bit. Hopefully. I cross my fingers. Second, I have nowhere to sit and knit, since the drying it taking up the entirety of my couch. I’m resenting this shawl for interfering with Kimono sweater knitting.

Just kidding ;). I don’t want the shawl to hear me and resent me and get even bigger ;).

In the meantime, reading through all your comments (wonderful comments – thank you!) on the votive sleeves made me realize that there were some important points I didn’t address.

Some general thoughts about knitting with wire: it is certainly a very physical undertaking. All movements are exaggerated and a lot more force has to be applied to “the yarn” in order for it to mold into a stitch. There are a lot of false moves – trying to get the wire through the stitch, but not being able to do so on the first try. Here, take a look for yourself: (why is it that everything Annie touches is cool enough to warrant a video?)

Update: The video has now been taken down, thanks for watching! Drop me a line if you’d like me to direct you to its location.

The video is short and small because I pay for my own bandwidth. I will take it down in a few days. It was filmed using my Canon PowerShot S500, and edited in a Mac OSX environment using iMovie. This is a .mov file and can be opened with QuickTime or RealPlayer.

I know it may be hard to see the wire. I encourage you to make a bigger and better video and share it with all of us!

What do you think? Pretty gruesome, eh? Now I think you can imagine why this is more time consuming than knitting with, let’s say, wool, and why my arms hurt after knitting with wire for too long of a time.

Another thing occurred to me while talking to Betsy – it seems to me that the best way to ensure success when you’re knitting with wire is to minimize wire movement because it’s much easier to make “virgin” wire behave than wire that’s already been molded in some way. For that reason, I think knitting Continentally, where the yarn sits idly prior to becoming a stitch, is the way to go. I can’t quite fathom what it would be like to wrap (“throw”) the wire around the needle as you would when knitting English style, and then pull it through the loop. Furthermore, knitting in the Combined style (à la the one and only Annie Modesitt, and what I’m doing in the video) is even better because the purling is much less movement-intensive.

Laura asked me to show the seams of the votive sleeves, and I’m happy to oblige.


The first one was created by traditional grafting – I was joining the live stitches at the end of my knitting with the cast-on. This was very tricky to do, because grafting involves a lot of wire maneuvering, and I think by now you know that it’s hard to work with wire that’s been shaped before. Furthermore, as the wire is shaped and re-shaped more and more, it becomes frail. In this case, when the grafting was about three-quarters complete, it broke, and I had to use the cast-on tail and work in the opposite direction. A big mess resulted.

The second one was created by simply weaving the working wire in and out of the live stitches while joining them to the cast-on edge. The wire traveled through each stitch only once, remained straight and strong as a result, and it was very easy to even give it a gentle tug at the end to straighten everything out. It’s not seamless, but it’s much easier to do.

There you have it! I hope that this sparks your interest, and that now you’re fully armed to decide whether knitting with wire is something you’d like to try!


17 thoughts on “It’s all in the details

  1. Emy

    One more suggestion is to use knitting needles that you won’t care so much about as the wires sometimes *cuts* into the needles, rendering them less smooth.

  2. Laura

    Wow! It was neat to see your movie–but I can’t say it does anything to increase my (nonexistent) desire to knit with wire. It looks kind of painful! LOL!

  3. atu

    blocking does that…. deceptively small things get huge…. if it’s too big for your mom, I volunteer to take it off your hands 😉

  4. Laura

    Thank you for showing the seams! I’d say that the second one looks practically seamless. I’m very impressed.

    Now I have to find another computer to watch your video 🙂

  5. Christie

    You’re really making me reconside my supposed inablity to lace shawl knitting! I’m sure your mom will love it [even if it’s a little bigger!]

  6. Betsy

    I totally see what you mean now about why contential knitting is so much better for wire knitting, i.e economy of movement. I will have to practice with yarn if I ever want to knit with wire again. 🙂

  7. Purly Whites

    Very interesting about the wire. Not something I think I’m going to try soon, but I love yours.

    The shawl is big! I bet it will get smaller when it’s doen blocking.

  8. cadi

    It’s actually easier to knit wire using a crochet needle.

    I do not mean crocheting with wire which can be done (although it’s an entirely different technique). Since wire actually holds it’s shape, you don’t necessarily need the needle to hold your stitches open; think of it as working with the stiches laying flat as if already finished instead of the working stiches being twisted slightly to the side while on the needle as normal.

    So all you so is simply use the crochet needle to pull the stiches though the line of loops. Purling isn’t even necessary to make stockinette as you can work from the front side the entire time.

    Another trick, look for “dead soft” wire it’s much easier and you have a longer work time before it breaks. Hardened wire will break in a heartbeat; half hard is the minimum softness that you’ll want to work with. The content of the wire can make a serious difference too, i.e., niobium, nickle, aluminim, and copper based wire will always be harder and less maliable than silver even if they can be made in prettier colors. Jewelry suppliers often carry sterling and fine silver dead soft wire especially for knitting and it’s really not that expensive (maybe $10 to $15 an ounce and I dare you to use that much).

    Learned all this from a workshop I took back in jewelry school, then spent the next year or so incorporating knit peices into my jewelry designs. It can take a little figuring out, but it’ll save your hands and the wire as well.

    Wow…sorry to jammer on. I’ll shut up now.

  9. Kristen

    Amazing shawl! I started it a bit ago and haven’t touched it since but now I’m inspired again. Hey, I’m in grad school and haven’t knitted a fraction of the stuff you have! What’s your secret??

  10. Stephanie

    Just wanted to mention that I’m a thrower and I’ve never had any trouble knitting with wire. Just in case there are other throwers out there who might be scared! 😉

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