I’m still getting to grips with swing knitting, as I’d love to replicate a Bridget Riley waves design in colourwork. Swingy short rows should be the way to do that, and the oeuvre of German textile artist Gabriele Kluge shows what can be achieved – just do an image search on “strickrausch”.
I’ve been a Riley fan since I was a student and first came across her work. I’ve experimented with reproducing her op-art as a digital image (instructions for producing images like those below are in my Bridget Riley-style Op Art Instructable, if you’re interested), but not yet in knitting.
Fortunately, the equally talented Frau Kluge has very generously posted a series of YouTube videos which show how to knit one of her own designs, a shawl called Peru. The 16 videos are really a primer for the whole Swing technique (although she doesn’t use that term, which seems to have been invented – and trade marked! – by one of her compatriots, Heidrun Liegmann). Basically, she knits her way through much of the shawl, explaining as she goes the rules which must be followed to produce harmonious waves while keeping the fabric flat and rectangular. She seems to be one of the first people – if not the first – to use light- and dark-coloured safety pins or removable stitch markers to keep track of where each short row starts and ends.
Finding these Peru videos has massively shortened my learning process now I’ve moved beyond knitting short-row sections that are all the same size and worked between fixed markers. I was gradually increasing my understanding of how to manage sections composed of more free-form short rows to create an undistorted yet attractive piece of fabric without having to plot it all out row by row on a spreadsheet, but there was a lot of experimentation still required to develop the principles to be able to cope with every situation.
The only problem with the Peru shawl videos is they’re in German. My German is only just up to the task, and I’ve been poring over my laptop with dictionary in hand trying to make sense of all the knitting-specific (and Swing-specific) terms and the chatty colloquialisms. I had a very old-school German teacher for ‘O’ Level who didn’t believe in teaching us anything beyond the “correct”, high German form of the language. It has left me somewhat ill-equipped for communicating in this age of informality, youth culture and textspeak. But I’m reasonably confident that I’ve garnered the basic information like:
- How to decide where to start the first short-row section, and subsequent sections
- When to place the different coloured markers, when to remove them and how to make use of them
- How to decide whether a left-leaning or a right-leaning section comes next
- When to deviate from the basic “rhythm” or “genetic code”, and by how much
- How to deal with the edges of the work
- How to even up the fabric at the end
I expect there’s more to it than that – for example, Gabriele Kluge offers a number of self-learning courses, including one on “deep fields” that are set at an angle of as much as 45°. But this is enough to be going on with for now. I’ve been knitting my way through a small version of the Peru shawl to check it ends up looking like it should, and so far, so good.
I want to carry out some experiments with shapes that are trapezoids rather than the parallelogram-shaped sections of knitting in Peru and other examples of Swing knitting I’ve seen. It looks like (digital) trapezoids will mesh together just as well:
so that’s something I’ll need to try with needles and yarn at some point in this journey of exploration.