Introduction to Double Knit – Part I
The hobby of knitting, at one time, was simple. You would pick out a yarn; it was most likely a worsted weight in assorted colors. With just 2 needles and some guidelines, you could be making a scarf. Then the yarn selection began to grow and over the years, we saw all the new fibers and combinations that were being offered. It was no longer just a Worsted World. The huge, biggie yarns are really trending now, and a lot of fun. We also have boucle and eyelash, sock and glitter. Just look at all the great color combinations on the store shelves. Then, there’s all the different size needles and the circular needles and accessories like stitch holders, markers, gauge guides, darning needles, gauge counters, double ended, ring markers, blocking wires, row counters, as well as all the different sizes of each one.
Then, we add knitting looms in all shapes and sizes with double knit and single knit, and knit in the round, and knit panels, long circular, adjustable, rake, sock, and on and on. It’s no wonder a person gets confused when they say to a friend, “I want to learn to knit, but I have never been able to figure it all out.”
As we go along and time passes, we keep seeing more new gadgets, and helpful tools. We ask a question and get an earful of knitting terms, complex explanations, and a helpful person saying, “its so easy and quick, anyone can learn to knit.” So you decide to buy a book, and find that there are over 350+ book titles with the same promise, “its so easy to learn this way.” So, you go to the internet and start reading, and joining groups and blogs and picking out patterns that you like, and save them. Then, there’s those terms again and the abbreviations, and the charts, and the gauges, and the various cast ons, bind offs, skip this and skip that, and finally you decide its just too confusing.
So after all the time and money spent, you want to come out with something, so you knit a scarf. You don’t like it- so you give it away, and feel good about yourself. You put the ‘stuff’ away, until later, when you may decide to try it again.
Has anyone been down this road before? Maybe 10 years ago, or, maybe just recently? I guess it’s like anything else you enjoy-it becomes a hobby for you, and your favorite pastime. It relaxes you, and you continue learning from all the media, knit friends, and personal experience. But for those just starting out, we are going to attempt to take some of the confusion out of just one form of knitting– double knitting on a loom! We are going to start from scratch, so that ‘anyone can learn to do double knit’. See, I said it too! So, let’s breakdown all the terms and uncertainty as we go. I’m Pat Novak and have been doing double knit on a loom for 15 years after designing and knitting with 2 needles for 5 years. But, its so amazing how much has emerged; I get confused with all the new and wonderful things and ideas I see coming out of other knitters. There are amazing designers out there. It’s sure a hobby that you never outgrow, or ever run out of new ideas and designs to learn. So, hopefully, once you get the basics, you will enjoy the journey of a continuing loom knitting education, from all sources. We want to offer these articles with the basic info, the ground roots, to get you started out, with lots of success.
What is double knit?
You hear the term when looking at fabric, or in clothing-it is called double knit jersey. It means that the fabric is woven with 2 layers of thread, which makes it stretchy and durable. It’s the same in knitwear that is double knit; you create a fabric with 2 layers of yarn that is woven together. Remember that-it’s woven together, or interlocked. It can be bulky and thick, or thin and lacey. Being interlocked is different from a knitted circular tube. This is why you do not get a knit side and a purl side to your knitting. The result is the same knit side on both back and front creating a reversible fabric. So, for the afghan or scarf, it can flip around and have the same look on both sides. This is especially beneficial when you add colorwork to the knit. This will come later.
Getting started doing your double knit, will require a loom with 2 rows of needles or pegs across from each other. The pegs are usually placed directly across from the other row. So, you need 2 rails that are connected at the ends. The spacing between the rails, is determined by some type of spacer, holding them in place. The amount of space between the rails determines the size of the stitches created. For example, we are showing the KB 10” knitting board. It has 2 rails, each with 24 pegs that are placed directly across from each other. The little block of wood between them is set at 1cm – 3cm apart. They are held together with long bolts and wing nuts. Each stitch in double knit requires both pegs, one on each rail. So this loom or knitting board has 24 double stitches. By weaving the yarn back and forth across both rails, the resulting knit will be interlocked, or one single double knit fabric.
Now, you are probably wondering what the fabric will look like in double knit-will it be too thick if it is double? Good question!
This all depends on the yarn chosen and the gauge of the knitting. Yarn can be used from very fine to bulky. We will show you the difference with #3 (DK) yarn (just a little thinner than worsted weight) vs #6 (Bulky/thick) yarn, and also the 2cm spacing.
But we also want to look at the comparison with different spacing between the 2 rows of pegs. This measurement between the peg rails will change the size of the stitch. With larger stitches, the knitted width can also change. For illustration, we will use the rail spacing of 1cm apart compared to 3cm apart. Then we’ll be looking at very thin yarn with 2cm spacing.
Here is a sample of working with 1cm spacing. This means there is 7/8″ between the pegs from one row to the pegs on other row. The yarn is #3 DK weight and the gauge of knitting is 4 stitches in one inch of knitting. You can see the rows on the ruler.
For a piece of knitting 4″ wide, you would cast on 16 stitches.
This is a nice tight, smooth knit great for most items.
Yarn shown is Paton’s Classic Wool, DK Superwash, all wool.
This sample was knit with same #3 DK yarn, but with the spacing of 3cm or 1-9/16″ from peg to peg. So the only difference in this and the previous one is the size of the stitches. The blue needle is marking the first stitch so you can see that there are only 2.5 stitches for each inch of knit.
So, to get the same 4″ of knitting, you would cast on just 10 stitches. If you worked with 16 stitches, you would get a wider piece of knit. You can also see in this sample that the stitches are much looser so it will create a more open weave; it is not solid, as you can see the white background behind the loops.
This setting makes really soft, loose knit scarves and shawls.
Now, let’s look at the difference with the same setting of 3cm on the loom, but use a #6 bulky yarn. The openness closes up and the knit is solid and bulky. Great when you want to achieve that chunky look and the extra warmth. As you can see, there are only 2 stitches for each inch. If you still wanted a 4″ scarf, you would only need to cast on 8 stitches.
This thick, bulky knit is really trending now in scarves and hats and warm afghans. Knitting at this gauge goes really quickly also.
This yarn is Loops and Threads, Cozy Wool, acrylic & wool
What if you want to do a lacy, open weave scarf, but you like the concept of doing it in double knit? Can that be achieved with a knitting board? Just look at these samples…is this what you were thinking about? Again, this is using the more open spacing of 2cm, which is 1.25 inches from peg to peg, but choosing to work with a very fine #1 yarn, and #2. You can achieve a very lacy look with ‘fluffy’ yarns as well in #1 and 2 weight yarns.
This yarn is Lion Brand, Sock-Ease in wool/nylon, #1. Here is same setting of 2cm with #2 sock yarn.
So, we can see that there are many looks to achieve with double knit, just as there are in single knit, and knitting with needles. This is why most patterns, that may seem intimidating at first, will always give you 4 ingredients: one is how the project will look when completed, two is the loom that was used and how it was set up, three is the yarn that was used, and forth is the gauge that was achieved, or, how many stitches = one inch of knitting. Next month, we will look at the some of the ways to cast on the loom, bind off, and some basic stitches. We will explore some little tips for getting going with the great hobby of double knitting on a knitting board loom. We’ll also look at a simple pattern using those techniques.