I often talk about the different kinds of knitters we encounter out in the world. I don’t mean how one knits, as in English vs. Continental, etc. (although I talk about that as well). I mean more what drives a person to knit: wanting a particular knitted garment (product knitters), wanting to engage in the act of knitting for its own sake (process knitters). Of course, there are various mixes of the two. The latter group can be further broken down into those knitters who are seeking something repetitive and soothing to pass the time (therapeutic or meditative knitters), and those who are looking for a mental challenge and wanting explore the kinds of shapes and spatial manipulations they can create with string. I call this last subgroup “Because I Can” knitters. These knitters are often very spatial thinkers and problem solvers. They often look at knitting as a puzzle. I identify with each of these groups and have been driven in my knitting by each of these impetuses* at one time or another, as I think many knitters have.
*That is the correct plural of “impetus”; I checked.
The pattern I am sharing today, a moebius brioche rib cowl, is the product of a Because I Can episode.
Here is how it came about.
I had a couple skeins of Cascade’s Casablanca, one each in two different colors. (Really, I had unlimited skeins, because, you know, I have a yarn store – but I limited myself to two). There was no question about what I was going to do; I would knit a two color brioche cowl. I love working two colors of striping yarns against each other and brioche rib is the a great way to play with that effect, combining the shifting horizontal striping of the yarns with alternating vertical stripes of each color. Now, there are plenty of two color brioche cowl patterns out there, but I think I have discussed my “using another person’s pattern” issues before (and this all happened before I was in school, so I was still having these sorts of “I should design it myself feelings). Also, I thought it would be really neat if the stripes were more or less symmetrical, that is, the top the same color as the bottom and stripes matching moving toward the center. Obviously, it would have to be a moebius cowl (the kind that is worked from the center out, not just the twisted kind). Again, there are plenty of great moebius resources out there, and I did try several of them, but I was not happy with the transition from the cast on to the stitch pattern. Brioche is, you see, a very gooshy stitch and moving from a regular cast on right into it leaves a bit of a gap. In a regular garment, this isn’t too much of an issue, but when the pattern is growing from both sides of the cast on it doubles the effect, and I wasn’t happy.
The natural solution was to cobble together a Two Color Brioche Moebius Cast On. Now, I think this is perfectly reasonable cast on, and I honestly feel that the number of words in its descriptive title belies the actual difficulty level of the cast on itself. Still, when I have presented the pattern to prospective test knitters, they have shown a certain degree of trepidation. The pattern as it is presented on the website has a photo tutorial on the cast on, but the pictures aren’t quite as clear as I would like and, for space considerations, I had to separate the instructions from the pictures. So, I have rephotographed the process and will show it to you step by step. Here is the finished result. I, for one, think it’s worth it. If you absolutely disagree, I have non-moebius alternative instructions at the end of the post.
There are two basic parts to this cast on. Here we go.
Part 1: Two color cast on.
This is actually a take off on the Knit Cast On, which I don’t necessarily think I have described on my blog, but which is one of the more standard cast ons and can be found in most knitting books and in roughly a billion different places on the internet. If you haven’t come across it before, you should look into it; it’s very handy.
1.1 Start with a Slip Knot in CC (Contrast Color), placed on your LH (Left Hand) needle.
1.2 Insert your right hand needle into this stitch as thought to knit it and, holding your MC (Main Color) with your CC, knit the stitch with both colors (that is, yo with both colors and draw the two color loop back to the front of the original stitch, as you would were you knitting it). If this doesn’t make sense, look at the picture.
1.3 Bring your LH (left hand) needle around to the back of the two color stitch (or bottom or far side or right side – look at the picture and describe it in a way that makes sense to you).
1.4 Place the two color stitch on the LH needle. You can withdraw the RH needle and them put it back in to make the next stitch, or you can save a step and keep it there, because it is in the right position for making a new stitch anyway. Either way, you now have two stitches: one of CC only and one of CC and MC held together.
1.5 YO with CC and draw it through, making a third stitch.
1.6 Place stitch #3 on the LH needle as before, from behind.
1.7 Repeat steps 1.2 – 1.6, building up stitches on the LH needle. Remember, your new stitches alternate between CC only and CC held together with MC.
1.8 Continue this process until you have cast on the prescribed number of stitches (150 in the pattern). Your last stitch should be a two color stitch (that is, you will end on step 1.4. Place a marker on the needle; this marks the halfway point of your round. Note: your stitches will not fill up your entire needle at this point. If they do, you may need a longer needle.
Part 2: The Moebius Stuff
2.1 Position the needles so that the yarns are coming off the RH needle and the bottom of the cast on (the knotted edge) is traveling around the inside of the needle loop, not crossing over it at any point (that comes later).
2.2 Let’s just take a closer look. Again, the two strands of yarn coming off the LH needle are just your ends, so ignore them. The working yarn is coming off the RH needle.
2.3 Now, rotate the bottom bumpy edge of the stitches on the LH needle so that they are sitting on top of the needle.This will be a 180° rotation. Before you yell at me that this doesn’t make sense, look at the picture.
2.4 Notice that, below the bumpy edge, there are loops. These loops alternate between a single strand of CC and a double strand of CC and MC. They are just like any other stitch, except they are upside down. Holding working yarn in back, insert the RH needle into the first (CC) stitch from front to back. The working yarn is not pictured below because it is being held out of the way behind the RH needle stitches.
2.5 Here is a close up of the RH needle in the upside down stitch, because more pictures can’t hurt. In the background, you can see the CC working yarn, gearing up for action.
2.6 With CC, knit that upside down stitch. That is, YO with CC and pull that loop back to the front of the work. Just as though you were knitting into a right side up stitch. You have now completed the first stitch of the second half of your Cast On. Take a close look. Do you see where the next upside down stitch is? It’s a two color stitch with MC and CC…and it’s upside down, but we don’t care about that. That isn’t messing us up at all. It’s just like regular knitting. So all is copecetic? Good, because shit’s about to get real.*
*That’s a funny joke because this is all just knitting.
2.7 Bring both CC and MC to front. I realize that this sort of covers up that next MC/CC stitch we were looking at, but don’t forget where it is.
2.8 Now, find that little MC/CC stitch we were looking at. Insert your RH needle under the bumpy edge of that stitch from back to front. This feels a little weird and awkward. I totally get it.
2.9 Next, you will YO with MC (just MC) and bring that loop back to the back. That is, you have just purled that stitch with MC. Next bring MC to the back, between the needles, like you would do if you were switching from knit to purl (which, in effect is what you are doing). CC is still hanging our in front.
2.10 Bring CC to the back by passing it over the needle. In other words, YO with CC.
2.11 (we’re almost done!!) Now, repeat steps 2.4-2.10 until all the upside down stitches have been knit or purled into. If, when you come to a stitch, the bumpy edge is not on top, you may have to rotate it a little bit to get it in the right position. If this is the case, always move it the smallest amount possible to get it back to where it should be (the top). For example, if the bumpy edge has slipped toward you a little bit, don’t move it down around the needle, to the back and then to the top (I don’t really think you’d be able to anyway), just scootch it away from you towards the top of the needle.
When you have used up all your stitches, you will notice that you have returned to the general vicinity of your halfway marker. Notice, though, that the halfway marker is hanging below your needle tips from a lower loop of cord….
2.12 Your needle, at this point, should look to be roughly half it’s original diameter. This is because it is doubled. One half holds the original stitches, while the other half holds the stitches that we knit or purled into the upside down stitches. As you begin to knit, you will work the original 150 stitches, then the 150 stitches that are growing out of them. Your knitting, instead of growing lengthwise or widthwise or on the bias, will be growing from the center out. If you haven’t knit in a moebius before (bravo for making this your first crack at it!), this may not make much sense. Give it a few rounds.
2.13 Before continuing on with the pattern, (and it really does get easier from here), place another marker. Preferably, choose a marker that looks significantly different from your halfway point marker. This is your actual end of the round marker. In the pattern, each round is divided into two sections, corresponding to the two sets of 150 stitches.
Now, let’s have another look at the finished project. Think about its structure in relation the the process of casting on. Do you see how it grows from the center out? Can you see the center line that is where the cast on started?
Now, you may not be into 21-step Cast ons, and I totally respect that. If that is the case, I have an alternative for you.
Notice that the bind off I use is an i-Cord Bind Off. Instead of going to all the trouble of the moebius cast on I described above, you can make a twisted moebius with an i-Cord Cast On at the beginning and i-Cord Bind Off at the end. You would adjust the pattern as follows:
With US 13/9.0mm needles and MC, CO 150 sts using i-Cord Cast On (see earlier blog post for instructions).
Work Set Up Round as follows:
Set Up: *With CC, p1, yf, sl1/yo; rep from * to end.
Note: Continental knitters may find the “yf” instruction redundant.
Rnd 1: Work Rnd 1 instructions of pattern from * to * for entire round.
Rnd 2: Work Rnd 2 instructions of pattern from * to * for entire round.
Repeat Rnds 1 and 2 until cowl is desired depth (roughly 7 inches). Bind off using i-Cord Bind Off as described in pattern.
Well, that was fun. I hope you give the tricky cast on a try. Remember, it’s just yarn; nothing really bad can happen.
If you are looking for some color ideas, here are Casablanca combinations I would like to see put together: