Saturday, February 21, 2009

reversible clothing


When I was about seventeen, I tried to design a reversible sweater using a chevron rib stitch. I completely forgot to consider how narrow ribbed fabric gets (tension swatch? what tension swatch?), and gave up halfway up the back or so. When my mum told my Croatian grandmother about it, she told me about this fabric that used to be sold at the market when she was a little girl. It was cheap stuff, not very well made, and it had one pattern printed on one side, and a different pattern printed on the other side. She thought the idea was you could make something out of it with one pattern showing, and then, when that was worn out, make a smaller something by taking apart the original item, and letting the other pattern show. That way it wouldn't be as obvious how thrifty you were being. She also said her father wouldn't let anyone in the family buy any of this fabric on point of pride (ie: it was for poor people, not them).

I learned a few things from this:
  1. It's not good enough to make a reversible fabric. You have to plan a reversible garment.
  2. If you're going to make something reversible, make it very cool-looking, so no-one can question your motives.
I've already had one reversible sewn jacket: a light swing coat my mum made me one year as a New Year's present. I did tend to wear it only one way out, but it was fun to show off, and nice to know that if I spilled some of my lunch on it, I could always turn it inside out. Me being me, that happened a few times.

Now I've got a copy of M'Lou Baber's Double Knitting (scroll down). Every single item in it is reversible, including the hats and bags. The photo at the top of this post shows how far I've gotten on the Central Park jacket, which has these gorgeous Art Nouveau trees and birds knitted into it. The bottom part is the tree roots. Then the foreground and background colours switch and show the trees reaching into the air, with the stylised birds flying between them.

In case you haven't done double knitting before: The technique itself just feels a lot like doing K1, P1 rib, and goes more quickly than you might think. There's absolutely no stranding or colour weaving involved, because you're always using both colours equally. I'd actually say it's easier to get into than other colour techniques like intarsia and stranded colourwork. The finished items in this particular book have no seams, which is a bonus for the anti-seam brigade. For this type of knitting, I agree seamless is the way to go, just because if you were seaming, you'd need to match two mirror-image seams stitch for stitch if you wanted it to hang right, and that would be trickier than the seamless alternative. As always, I prefer the best and simplest tool for the job.

I'm looking forward to posting the finished jacket here!

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