Hello log cabin fans and friends!
This post is Part 2 in my two-part series exploring the Log Cabin Cloths project in Mason-Dixon Knitting Field Guide No. 4. There are six cloths in total, and it seemed like a good idea to break all this juicy log cabin lore into two posts. For a guided tour of the first three cloths, start with How to Log Cabin: Start Small.
As with the first three cloths, each of cloths 4, 5 and 6 teaches a principle of log cabin construction or finishing. By knitting the cloth, you learn the technique quickly—nothing in log cabin is difficult—and when you’re done, you have an awesome cloth to display beside any dainty linen guest towels that you purchased when Gracious Home was closing its Upper West Side location (sob).
All log cabins are exciting, but cloths 4, 5 and 6 are extra-exciting, so buckle up.
Cloth 4: U-shape
Here’s the cloth:
Like Cloth 3 (L-shape), Cloth 4 demonstrates that log cabin strips do not have to follow a particular sequence. There is no need to completely enclose the center patch with strips on all four sides. To make this cloth, you start with a rectangle instead of the traditional square (white), and you enclose it on three sides. Of course, you could do this Courthouse Steps-style, too, by knitting a strip on one side of the center and then on the other, and then knitting the third strip on the bottom, but we did this one using the Classic Log Cabin method; the strips are knit in a spiral, but you stop after the third strip to get the U shape.
By knitting log cabins with varying arrangements, symmetrical or asymmetrical, we apply one of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s famous truths: we are the boss of our knitting.
Log cabin knitting is particularly easy to boss around, because the knitter can endlessly vary the arrangement and dimensions of strips.
Sadly, I don’t have a log cabin blanket in my home that uses U-shape blocks. Must rectify!
Cloth 5: Ninepatch
Here’s the cloth:
The ninepatch block has it all: a long center strip that looks like three blocks (but is really just chunky stripes: blue, then white, then blue again), a cross shape that is formed by picking up stitches and knitting a patch onto each of the two sides of the “center patch,” and, the most interesting part of all: miters (pink) knit into the corners of the cross shape.
Can you knit a ninepatch without mitering into the corners? Yes! There is more than one path to glory, and many ways to construct a ninepatch. (One way is intarsia. If you’re totally insane!) But knitting miters is fun, so that’s the way we do it for the Ninepatch Cloth.
While the ninepatch is beautiful on its own, in dishcloth/washcloth/coaster form, knitting up a bunch of them is a super fun way to make a blanket.
Behold the Ninepatch Blanket:
Inspired by a quilt I saw in my internet ramblings and couldn’t get out of my head, the Ninepatch Blanket is essentially comprised of three different sizes of Ninepatch Cloth. It may take a while to knit up the small, medium and large blocks that go into this blanket, but it’s color play, and garter stitch bliss, the whole way, with the satisfying moment of knitting those four miters into the corners to finish each block.
Because the color changes are arranged asymmetrically, the underlying ninepatch structure almost disappears when the squares are joined up.
Wait. How do the squares get joined up? Is there a lot of fiddly sewing involved? The answer is in Cloth 6.
Cloth 6: Three-Needle Bindoff
Here’s the cloth:
Cloth 6 teaches how to join up three pieces of garter stitch (or any stitch) without sewing. Pick up stitches along the edge of one of the pieces to be joined, and then pick up stitches along the edge of the other piece to be joined. (With any luck, it will be the same number of stitches.) Take a third needle, and work a three-needle bind-off, joining the two pieces together. (Needless to say, detailed instructions for doing this are in the pattern. Gosh. We don’t expect everybody to know this stuff. It took us years!)
Why is three-needle bind-off preferable to sewing? Because it’s not sewing? Yes, but it’s also a firm yet flexible join. Because it’s knitted, not sewn, it has the same tension as the rest of the blanket. I prefer it. (If you prefer sewing, by all means, sew. You’re the boss of your knitting!)
The other thing you learn by making Cloth 6 is how to work an applied i-cord edging, which is one of the neatest things ever. Applied i-cord always reminds me of the binding on a fabric quilt.
Do you need an i-cord edging on a blanket? Strictly speaking: no. Garter stitch lies flat and has a tidy edge, all on its own. But an applied i-cord edging is a clever technique and a fun way to spend a few hours in front of the television or listening to an audiobook, putting a final touch on a beautiful blanket.
Thanks to a UPS delivery yesterday, I am the proud owner of half of the blocks for the second colorway of the Ninepatch Blanket, and yarn to knit up the other half.
I love this colorway, in large part because I never could have picked it out. That deep blackish red with the pink and the cobalt: well done, Melanie the Palette Picker! I also enjoy the varied scale of these blocks. The big blocks (two of them for the blanket) are for deep contemplation or perhaps a long train ride; the wee ones are snacky and quick, and fun to hold in the palm of your hand.
These lovely blocks were knitted up by expert sample knitter/miter queen Francie Owens of Nashville, Tennessee, and bequeathed to me so that I can cook up some tutorials on the three-needle bind-off and applied i-cord. I’m looking forward to some quality time with the Ultra Alpaca, and eventually having another glorious log cabin blanket hanging out at my house and snuggling the human and canine youngsters.
Olive is already enjoying quality time with the Ultra Alpaca.
All the Alpacaz Is belong to Me.
I know she’s mine because she hit the center patch on the first try.
Happy log cabining, all!