Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Goldilocks Challenge: Gift Scarves on the USM

My husband John is teasing me about knitting warm scarves this week.  It's 80 degrees and absolutely balmy here - but I pointed out that it's very cold indeed in other parts of the world.  We'll get our cold weather later, I'm sure; Central Texas has real Drama Queen weather, harsh and changeable, when it feels like it.

Here are the gift scarves knitted on the Ultimate Sweater Machine.  First, at the top, is the man's scarf, the Papa Bear part of the Goldilocks project.  This was knitted with 3 balls of Lion Brand Tweed on Keyplate 3.  It was done over 46 stitches. The yarn is acrylic, required a light steaming so it wouldn't curl, and has a nice, smooth hand.

I thought Papa Bear got the classiest scarf.  It's really beautiful in person.  I do wish the pictures did these scarves justice - they are deeply textured and rich-looking.  Add fringe or tassels if you want.  Papa's scarf didn't curl much except at the edge, and I steamed it lightly.
The second scarf is the women's scarf made in Yarn Bee Baby Boucle.  It took 2 balls (that stuff goes a long way!).  I used 46 stitches again.  This was the most difficult yarn to knit with, thick and loopy.  Don't you dare try it first - use a smooth yarn first and you can deal with loops and hairs  later.  Use Keyplate 2 and 46 stitches.  It's an acrylic/polyester fiber and the finished scarf is rather floppy, not bouncy, and hardly curls at all. If you steam, don't steam much, or this yarn will go limp!  The  yarn is dyed in stripes in gorgeous colors, so no need to change colors.  When you run out of the first ball, try to start the second ball in that same spot in the wide stripes.  

 At the bottom, the Baby Bear part of the project - a child's scarf, knitted with worsted weight I Love This Yarn in a self-striping, random-looking combination of blue, green, peach, cream, and orchid.  It's bright and fun and was absolutely the easiest of the yarns that I tried for the scarves.  Here's your chance to use a bright, fun variegated yarn.  This yarn is a great choice for your first scarf; since it knits so smoothly.  You can go faster and you will definitely have less problems with this yarn!  I only used 38 stitches and Keyplate 2.  

You don't have to shop for exactly the same yarn I used, but I do recommend you start with something smooth, preferably worsted weight.  Look what a huge difference in the scarves, just from choosing different yarns! 

The child's scarf is the bounciest yarn, and also the curliest.  I gave it more steam to take the curl out.

Here is the procedure for knitting a scarf (video to follow - I have filming done but not editing).:

1.  Begin by watching the USM video and practicing so you're comfortable with the machine.

2.  Cast on 38 stitches (child) or 46 stitches (adult).  I suggest keyplate 2 for 4-ply worsted and 3 for a smooth bulky, but if a different plate works better for your yarn, it's okay.  You're going to do this by picking out the stitches for use, putting the green cards behind them, putting the folding hem weight over the needles and centered, putting the elastic cord in the hooks, and folding down the hem weight.  Now thread up a smooth waste yarn (in a contrasting color from your scarf), use the yellow card to push the needles back into "forward working position," open those latches (this machine does not have a latch opener on the carriage, so a closed latch will give you trouble) and knit 8-10 rows.  The waste yarn acts as a stitch holder.

3.  Pull out several yards of the scarf yarn and let that hang down (use to crochet finished edge later).  Now thread up the machine with the scarf yarn and knit back and forth until at least 6 feet in length for a man, at least 5 feet in length for a woman, or at least 4 feet in length for a kid.  Your preference, of course, as to length, but remember to measure without any weight.  

4.  As you knit along, you have to have weight all the time, so when the weight hits the floor (surprisingly soon), you'll have to roll up the knitting around the weight, pin it with a clothespin on each side, and that'll keep some weight on the work.

5.  When your scarf is long enough, you pull certain needles to hold - from the edge, the 3rd and 4th needles, then leave 6 needles in work, then 2 in hold, on across, ending with 2 in work.  Now push these needles back so the yarn drops right off of them and all the way back out of work.  We're unravelling 2 stitches deliberately in several places across the knitting. 

6.  Pull down several yards of yarn again for finishing up with crochet before you cut the scarf yarn.  

7.  Knit 8-10 rows with waste yarn, which acts as a stitch holder, then knit across with no yarn, holding the knitting with your hand, and all the knitting will fall off.    

8.  Using the latch tool, take the first 2 unravelled loops at the top of the knitting, twist them once, then unravel the next two loops and pull through the first 2 loops.  You only twist the first two loops.  Keep unravelling 2 loops and pulling them through the 2 loops on the hook.  I listen to TV or an audio book while I do this.  These loopy chains give a 3-dimensional texture to the scarf and help reduce the curl of the scarf.  Latch up the chains all the way down into the waste yarn at the bottom.

9.  Using about a G or H crochet hook and the yarn you left at the end, crochet in each open stitch (the waste yarn is still there, so you can see the loops to poke into - consult the video) and when you get to a cable, crochet right in the middle of it.  Remove the waste yarn.  Fringe or tassels are optional - I didn't do them, but if you do, you might like the looks of long tassels attached to the cables.  

10.  Use a crochet hook to finish the other end.  Hide any loose ends by sewing into the edge stitches.  

11.  Steam the whole scarf lightly and get the curl out.  If you don't have a steamer, use a steam iron.  Don't touch the scarf with the iron or steamer - hold it above the scarf, smooth with your hands, and don't burn yourself.  Don't overdo the steam - use a little, see if that's enough, then use a little more if needed.  These are synthetic yarns, so steam will change them permanently.  I like to steam the cabled side first, then flip it over and do the smooth side.

You can play around with the latched loop trim.  This is a great trim for afghans and pillows.  It's very nice to rip more stitches, maybe 3, down and latch up more loops, say 3 or 4 at a time, but I use that more for a thicker afghan and not so much for a neck scarf.  You can also do this trim by leaving needles out of work, but you have to leave a lot of needles out of work to make wide enough loops compared to using unravelled stitches for your loops.  The out-of-work idea does eliminate the unravelling step.  

Run into problems?  Please ask questions.  Do you think I left something out?  Bug me, and I'll fix it.


  1. I hope the video shows how to unravel and latch up the stitches you drop because I just don't get it.

  2. I think the videos will help with that! I show it twice. I move a little too fast but I think it'll be clear. They're up this morning, not perfect but finished and pretty easy to see. I'll get them embedded in a blog post later.