This weekend I taught a class at Black Sheep Wools to get folk started with knitting my sheepy socks design ‘Droving’. Earlier this year I blogged about my tutorial for Norwegian purl technique after teaching the same class. However, I didn’t explain why I recommend Norwegian purl technique for the rib in the Droving socks, nor for the On The Other Hand fingerless mittens, for which I first made the tutorial.
The cuff pattern for the Droving socks and the On The Other Hand fingerless mittens features a k3, p1 corrugated rib with some ‘lice’ stitches in the knit sections. In stranded knitting ‘lice’ are regular single stitches of the contrast colour, forming a fleck pattern. They are particularly associated with Norwegian ‘lusekofte’ (literally ‘lice jacket’) sweaters, in which they cover the whole sweater below the yoke. We think these ‘lice’ are also likely to have been the pattern used in the ‘spotted frocks’ that were made for trade in Yorkshire’s rural handknitting industry.
For reasons of yarn dominance, I always recommend that when using the two-handed method for working stranded colourwork the contrast colour is held in the same hand as the passive needle, which for most knitters is the left hand. In other words, the contrast colour should be worked using the continental knitting method. Worked this way the contrast colour strands below the main colour on the wrong side of the work. Then when neighbouring stitches are in the two different colours, the contrast colour stitch is slightly longer than the main colour stitch. This makes it stand out more, an effect called ‘yarn dominance’. I have previously produced a video tutorial explaining this.
So, for the lice stitches in the cuff to stand out, they have to be formed with the continental held yarn. As this colour is also forming the purl stitches in the rib, this means the purls have to be worked using a continental method. They can be worked using a standard continental purl, but this means moving the yarn contrast yarn back and forth, so that it is in front of the needles for the purls, and behind the needles for all the knits, including the main colour knits. Alas, because the next stitch is in main colour, it is easy to forget to take the yarn back behind the needles after working a continental purl in corrugated rib. That’s why I prefer Norwegian purl, for which the yarn is held behind the needles throughout.
Here’s the Norwegian Purl tutorial again: