Oh, the frabjous joy when you (well, me) discover the wonders of a new knitting technique. I feel the knitting Gods must have guided my hands when, on a day in the not-so-distant past, I landed upon Harry Potter knitting charts on Ravelry. I think I’d been searching for HP cross stitch charts and Google, in its infinite wisdom, blessed me with knitting charts instead. As is so often my wont, I downloaded the free charts without reading the entire Ravely post. The charts were for a scarf. I decided to knit an HP scarf for son no.2’s 30th birthday. ‘What a marvellous gift this will be,’ I remember thinking. ‘ Why, it’s the sort of gift I wouldn’t mind for myself.’ And so, I began knitting the first chart using intarsia. I soon became overwhelmed with the amount of floating yarn which rapidly built up at the back of my work. ‘This will look rubbish on a scarf,’ I internally wailed. ‘Nobody in their right mind would want to sport such a hideous object,’ thought I. ‘Further more this scarf is going to be tiny!’ It was coming out roughly 4” wide. Clearly something was drastically amiss.
I went back to the Ravelry post to find the words ‘double knitted’ and actually read the entire post. I then spent a couple of days watching double knitting YouTube videos, finding only one which clearly, and with little fuss, taught me this magical method (appropriate for an HP scarf.)
So, my problem had been I’d cast on the required 41 stitches for my scarf, using two coloured yarns intarsia style. When double knitting, I should have cast on 82 stitches and then treated two single stitches as one double stitch. And each single double stitch must be first knitted and then purled to create a two-sided scarf or garment. The constant knitting and purling of each row of double stitches is indeed a faff. It’s an exercise in tedium (for which it appears I’m well suited) and it’s guaranteed to make your arms and shoulders ache, but the end result is marvellous. The end result is in fact miraculous, for your finished scarf will be reversible, it will feature intarsia style images without the mass of ungainly yarn at the back. It will also be of a delightful, squishy double thickness which will strangely please your knitting heart. I may never go back to bog standard knitting. I may never knit another stuffed toy again.
However, my first exercise in double knitting is full of flaws. Such was my haste to get on with the HP scarf for the 30th birthday deadline, that I neglected to learn all the techniques for producing an aesthetically pleasing finished scarf. I did not knit the first and last double stitches of each row together, as advised to do so on YouTube, in order to achieve joined up sides for my scarf. Because I knit and purled the first and last double stitches of each row, I ended up with two separate sides to my scarf which I sewed together from time to time as my knitting progressed. This resulted in a distinctly wobbly, home-made look, and I wish I’d listened to my YouTube teachers.
I cast on my double stitches using my trusted English cast on method. I’ve used this method, and only this method, through 30 years of knitting and didn’t know it’s called the English method until YouTube threw up other cast on methods for double knitting. These other cast on methods were like entering a knitting minefield. Which method, I wondered, would actually blow my head off with its intentional unfathomable complexity?
I couldn’t be bothered with the ‘long tail’ method one YouTuber showed me for double knitting. Believe me I tried, and gave up in exasperation. This method is like playing cats cradle, only by yourself. Why on earth would any sane person faff about trying to hold two yarns in one hand, whilst performing a weird under and over thing with the needle in their other hand. The thumb method is no better. Why use your fingers and thumbs (and become all fingers and thumbs in the process) when you’ve got two perfectly good needles?
The full set of HP charts knitted up to a 7-foot scarf. This was beyond me time-wise, so I stopped at 5 feet, choosing the chart images I liked best to achieve that length. I used wool/silk yarns in Gryffindor-like colours and size 4 needles which I later realised made the scarf too wide and sort of chunky, more like a blanket. This first project taught me what not to do. Double knitting itself is easy, but it’s also easy to make mistakes. It also took me a while to get my head round how the charts worked. The images are charted upside down when you knit the first half of your scarf and the right way up for the other half. This ensures the images are the right way up on the bit of scarf that goes round your neck and then hangs down the other side. The charts are also read right to left for odd numbered rows and left to right for even numbered rows. It’s easy to cock that up. It’s also easy to cock up the knitting and purling of each double stitch, should your mind wander, so there’s definitely more concentration required.
Below are some superbly photographed images of the scarf. I don’t know if the dog is meant to be Sirius, or Lupin as a wolf, and if the building is Azkaban. I majorly cocked up one of the owl wings and had to hand stitch over it to remedy the situation.
I’ve now begun a Lord of the Rings scarf for son no.3 which is coming along in a neater, less bulky and nicely joined up way.