The point of this little design “problem” was to see if I could come up with a pattern that used the key features of jacquard knitting: reversibility, and stranding. Truly reversible jacquard knitting can only really be done on a machine (humans have but two hands, after all), but stranding does allow the hand knitter to come up with a pretty close approximation of a reversible, knit fabric. That’s actually not completely true: I believe there is a way to use a sort of mosaic technique to produce a reversible, stockinette-like fabric. I just don’t know how to do it.
Jacquard is named for the jacquard loom, a punchcard- controlled loom that helped automate weaving in the early nineteenth century. Its main feature was its ability to mass-produce—it allowed manufacturers to churn out great quantities of figured fabric (especially, difficult silks) without having to rely on weaving skills their workers may or may not have possessed.
But back to this project: because I couldn’t resist the opportunity, I threw in some Fair Isle attributes: Shetland yarn, gauge of 8 stitches to the inch, colors that “peak” in the center row, corrugated ribbing, knitting in the round with a steek to bridge between rows and color changes, and no more than two colors per row. Since the gauge is 8 stitches per inch, floats only need to be woven in if a color is used less than once in 8 stitches. I designed a pattern repeat that required color changes every 8 stitches or less so that the whole thing would be (in effect) reversible.
Here’s another look at the “lettered” design, which I call “J Nouveau”, because the design looks very art nouveau to me. In the beginning, we have a J that looks like this (left).
Reversed & repeated, the design looks like this:
Yes, I’m afraid I’ve made another little video documentary:
I’m planning to combine this with my Fair Isle sampler (it’s more or less the same size) and make a bag. Stay tuned!
On Art Nouveau design
- National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.) Exhibition
- Victoria & Albert Museum Design Glossary
- Art & Culture.com
Art Nouveau Fonts
- Canadian Tapestry
- American Textile History Museum Database
- Scottish Textile Heritage Online
- Textile Museum (Washington, D.C.)
- Rochester Institute of Technology, Cary Collection
- Jenson’s Will
- Le père du caractère romain: Nicolas Jenson (in French)
- Flickr Photos tagged with Nicolas Jenson
(Before I cut the steek, it worked great as a headband!)