Tuesday, February 21, 2012

SWIFFER KNITS Guest Blogger Sara Stopek

 I personally don't choose to knit projects with acrylic yarn, but have purchased plenty of it over the years with the intention of experimenting with stitches for planning projects. But, what to do with all of that yarn that's taking up valuable stash space and never getting used? To me, acrylic does have some virtues (very washable; not expensive, so should be good for experimenting) and some not-so-goodnesses (not as pleasing to fondle/experiment with as say, silk or alpaca, it doesn't hold it's shape well, and it's very static-y)...

Did you catch the hidden virtue in that last 'not-so-goodness'?

How about knitting up a few Swiffer covers to reduce your stash?* They're easy (and fast, unless your acrylic is super-fine gauge); they're strangely entertaining: and it's a fine excuse to try a new stitch that you wouldn't want to risk messing up in a garment or with more expensive fiber. When they're dirty (twice – they're reversible), throw them in the laundry with your socks – what an eco-friendly way to make room for More Yarn!

1) Best for mindless knitting in front of the TV: CO enough stitches to make something a little wider than a standard Swiffer cover, and knit a whole bunch of rows, till it's long enough to wrap around the bottom of the sweeper and tuck in the top on both sides. Garter stitch maximizes the dust-grabbing potential on each side of the reversible gizmo, and (allows you to keep your full attention on Downton Abbey). Or you can alternate welts of stockinette and reverse stockinette stitch (knit a row, purl a row, knit a row, knit/purl/knit... or just knit, purl, purl knit, knit purl). Or up your skills another way: commit to continental knitting for this small project... Or continental-knit one in seed stitch. Now you've mastered continental – and the bumps will be great for sweeping, and they're reversible.

2) Lasagna noodle: If you haven't already discovered the myriad usefulness of short rows, they're easy (and useful!). A sweeper cover with wavy sides maximizes dust-attracting surface area. The basic idea is: CO enough stitches to have at least an inch or two on either side of the sweeper cover. Now garter stitch along for a while – enough to take care of the part that gets tucked in on the sweeper top, and start short rows.

(On a larger scale and in a beautiful yarn, this could be a groovy ruffly scarf... just sayin'.)

3) Centipede: CO your magic number of stitches, and knit the part that will go around the sweeper top in whatever stitch pattern pleases you (fine time to practice something lacy that you haven't quite worked out, yes?). When you reach the part that will actually sweep the floor, CO about half again as many stitches you're working with onto your left needle at the beginning of the row; immediately bind them off, and finish the row. Now, do that again, on the other side. Alternate the tentacle rows with a couple of plain rows. (Fine time to experiment with CO/BO methods.) No reason all the tentacles have to be exactly the same length...

 And here's one I haven't tried, but you might like to:

4) Ruffle! Knit this one back and forth along the longer edge of the sweeper cover. CO twice as many stitches as you'd need to match the length of the sweeper cover refill's size. Knit a couple of rows, then k2tog a row... knit the width plus a bit, and incr each stitch by your favorite method (or mix 'em up, or learn a few new ones – it's going to be collecting dust on your floor). Then knit a couple of rows and BO. The result will be kind of like the Lasagna noodle, but worked on the other axis... Another varient would be to do a 2-stage decrease (and increase at the other edge: Start with a multiple of 4 stitches, and knit 2, k2tog for a row, then knit a plain row... then knit 1, k2tog. Now you're turned 4 stitches to 3, then 3 to 2 – cutting your total in half in two phases.

For me, these mini-projects were liberating not only because I cleared some stash, which empowered me to acquire more, new, and (dare I say it) better yarn. I also let some minor mistakes go, where in a 'real' project I can be a bit of a perfectionist. Oops, wrong number of stitches? Clean it up in the following row with an increase or decrease, and congratulate yourself that the irregularity will probably give your sweeper-upper extra dust-eating texture.

Great house warming gift.
I say combine your least favorite yarn with your most-feared, yet secretly craved, stitch/method/technique, and let the results eat your dust. And if you get tired of your experiment before it meets the size needed to cover your sweeper... bind off and call it a "dust cloth" - and it, too, can be laundered with your socks.

Note for Crocheters - you can do it too in chains and double crochet.
*I own another brand of sweeper as well as a Swiffer – the dimensions and method of attaching the cloth are a little different, but easy to adapt.