Just a brief and bright headliner here to let you all know that Knit Stars has thrown open the enrollments window for brand-new Season 6 Live Colorfully online classes—and all previous seasons (we’re presenters in Season 3)! Our affiliate link takes you to Knit Stars to learn more and to enroll here.
A couple of weeks before the launch of MDK Field Guide No. 19: Marls, I got a marvelous package from world headquarters. Allison Volek Shelton had picked colors for me for two projects: the Spectra Sweater and the Marlogram Scarf/Cowl.
We have a rule around here that you and I don’t knit any project from a new Field Guide until launch day.
This requires Strength of Character on our part. For many weeks we get to see tantalizing photos from Nell Ziroli and her tiny team of sample knitters. We have the draft patterns, right there in our email inboxes. And then, after Sue McCain has worked her magic, we have the tech-edited patterns. Then the yarn arrives in the warehouse, and photographer Chris Sharp starts sending us photos of all the colors.
Our cast-on-NOW hormones rise to intolerable levels.
Yet our needles are tied. We have to wait. Rules are rules, Ann Shayne—we know this.
The Marlogram broke me. As soon as I saw that Allison had sent me two perfect cakes of Freia’s Ombré Merino Lace—both in the murkilicious shade called Squid Ink—I started to try and imagine how these nearly identical—but not quite identical—strands would look when marled together. I remembered that I’m the boss of my knitting!—so I defiantly cast on, about a week before launch.
Go ahead and strip me of my epaulettes, put me in the naughty corner with the lizard that lives in the bar code machine, take away my parking space at World Headquarters—I had to do it and I did it and that’s that.
Which means that I have some tips for other knitters who are embarking on the irresistible Marlogram. (And if you can’t resist the Squid Ink, we’ve just restocked it after selling out—thank you Tina Whitmore!)
Tip No. 1: Peace and Quiet at the Start
I got this tip from Cristina Shiffman, who also gave herself a head start on the Marlogram, and it applies to the start of almost any knitting project.
Even if Marlogram is destined to be your commute knitting, or your Zoom knitting, take Cristina’s advice and give yourself an hour or so of quiet time to get the project started.
You’ll need to learn how to keep track of the 10-stitch knit/purl sequence. You also need to learn the increases and decreases that create the biased fabric.
You’ll get it quickly if you give yourself the chance to learn it in peace.
It’s no fun unpicking stitches to get back to a mistake while folks are Zooming at you. Ask me how I know.
Tip No. 2: Count to Ten
The biggest challenge of the knit/purl sequence that gives the Marlogram its delightful textured fabric is that it’s an uneven repeat. It’s 10 stitches, and it goes like this: k3, p3, k3, p1.
That “purl 1” always wants to be a purl 3. It will lie in wait for you to stop paying attention for a second, and then you’ll purl 3 instead of 1, and your life will be ruined.
You’ll be knitting happily along, and you’ll get to the end of the first row of the 2-row pattern, and instead of 10 stitches, you’ll have 8 stitches left, because you snuck in an extra 2 purls somewhere along the way.
Markers are no help, because you’re knitting on the bias, which means you’re adding and subtracting stitches at the ends of the rows, so the markers would have to shift all the time. (Or maybe they would help, but I’m not clever enough to work out how.)
The solution I’m using: count to 10, over and over, all the way across the row.
Your mind catches the beat pretty quickly: the first 9 stitches are in groups of 3: knit 3, purl, knit 3—and number 10 is a single purl.
I’ve gotten so good at this that if somebody says the word “ten,” in any context, I think: “purl ONE.”
Will you still mess it up sometimes? Probably. Life is not perfect. Knitting exists to try our souls.
But counting to 10 has helped me a lot.
Tip No. 3: Through the Back Loop
At the end of every second row of Marlogram’s 2-row sequence, you are supposed to knit 3 together, reducing the stitch count by 2 stitches.
I was having to say a little cuss word every time I did this. It was a tight squeeze for my needle, and sometimes I even split the two strands on one of the stitches and had to do it over again.
Then Cristina told me that was bugging her too, so she knits the 3 stitches together through the back loop.
SO MUCH EASIER. You barely break your stride to work the decrease and turn the work.
And it looks just great.
A regular knit 3 together wouldn’t kill you. You’d get through it. It would be fine.
But it’s so lovely to just slide your needle through those back loops. Try it! You’ll like it!
Tip No. 4: This Thing is Beautiful
OK that’s not a tip but I needed to say it. For once in my life, I’m going to steel myself against the sad puppy dog eyes of anyone in my life who asks me if they can have it.
THIS IS MY MARLOGRAM.
If you see any unauthorized purls, do not tell me. I don’t want to know.