Sunday, October 22, 2006

Advanced Cast-on Techniques: Channel Island Cast-On

Here is an slightly unclear picture of the classic Channel Island cast-on with single rib. In fact, it's so hard to see, I may edit this post later and replace it with a better picture...

But for now...

The Channel Island cast-on.

This weekend found me with a little time and a lot of curiosity, and I put both to use playing around with different cast-on techniques. I am thinking about putting together a series of advanced technique classes for the winter and one of the things I'd like to share is how to master the beautiful tubular cast-on and corresponding tubular (kitchener) bind-off. Both create an incredibly lovely edge for single or double rib. While there are several ways to achieve the tubular cast-on, the fastest method, using two strands, has proved elusive for many. So I've been investigating another approach which uses a provisional cast-on that may be easier to learn in class.

While looking for on-line references, I came across the CLEAREST instructions for Channel Island cast-on that I've ever seen. It creates a lovely selvedge edge of tiny picot knots when used with stockinette stitch. And it is truly spectacular in single rib. Channel Island Cast-On

After practising a few gazillion stitches, I felt a sense of peace wash over me. You think I'm joking but I'm not.... It's an amazing thing to knit a stitch that was invented hundreds of years ago by women on a couple of small islands off the coast of Normandy, to make sweaters of such beauty and function that they earned their own name: the Guernsey (or Gansey).

Back in Elizabethan times, knitting was a huge industry on these tiny, sunny, English islands where there was an abundance of sheep. In fact, knitting was so popular that a government ordinance in 1603 forbade men to knit during the summer months because the harvest was rotting. The Channel Island knitters were incredibly skillful and they made amazingly intricate designs in thick, oiled wool sweaters which fisherman wore out to sea. The legend is that every design was different so that when an unlucky fisherman washed ashore, he could be identified by the pattern of his sweater. One of the design elements was a beautiful cast-on edge of tiny picot knots, now known today around the world as the Channel Island Cast-On.

While knitting is the toddler of the textile industry, what's so endearing about it is the way in which different cultures arrived at the same end result using completely different techniques. Today, in our global world, we have the German Twisted cast-on, the Italian two-strand cast-on, the old Norwegian cast-on, the Channel Island cast-on, to name just a few. All beautiful, functional, and unique, but all leading to the same fabric: the knitted stitch.

When I worked that cast-on today, I felt a sense of place in this world. I was making something lovely that had been passed down for hundreds of years - from grandmother to mother to daughter - on a small island in the middle of a sea, and finally out to the global knitting community. Doesn't it feel great to be a part of that community?!

Yours in knitting,

1 comment:

linda said...

Or perhaps passed down from grandfather to grandson! this is a great looking cast-on. Thanks for the link.