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Getting in Shape

April 4, 2012

No, this isn’t a reminder that now that it’s spring it’s time to get back into that jogging routine. I’m thinking quite literally outside the box: knitting geometric shapes other than squares and rectangles. After all, much of what we knit is pretty rectangular: scarves, throws, backs/fronts/sleeves of sweaters, even mittens and socks, with some shaping for style and fit. But think of all those other intriguing shapes from Geometry 101 – triangles, of course, but also hexagons, pentagons, and other multi-sided shapes. Or, what about knitting stars or hearts, or abandoning mathematical patterns altogether and learning about “jazzknitting” developed by Ilisha Helfman? (I spent a wonderful day at this year’s Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat exploring Ilisha’s creative techniques.)

Gingko leaves inspired by Ilisha Helfman

When I’m dying to get to the main event (my next sweater project, for instance), swatching can seem like a barrier that I’m tempted to skip over. But I’ve discovered that swatching for no other reason than playing with yarn and needles can be totally relaxing and absorbing fun. The swatches shown here are the result of some of these experiments. I’ve found shape-knitting a terrific way to use my stash of variegated yarns. Make a play date with your yarn and needles, and try some.

Patterns for geometric shapes by Margaret Radcliffe

If you can’t let yourself be completely process oriented and you find yourself wanting these items to be products, the possibilities are endless: ornaments, gift tags, pockets, appliqués, patches, edgings. You may want to join different shapes together for a scarf or throw, or use heavier yarn and big needles to change the scale of the item altogether.
This is only the tip of the iceberg, but here are some links that will take you to a few patterns and sources to get you started:
Triangles, circles, octagons: Margaret Radcliffe’s The Essential Guide to Color Knitting Techniques and Circular Knitting Workshop
Stars: Cecile Renaud’s Knitted Christmas Star
Ilisha Helfman’s Jazzknitting
Joining pentagons and squares: Kathy Gometz’s modular shawl pattern at Colorful Stitches (Lenox, MA)

Pattern for star by Cecile Renaud

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