13 September 2017

Sequence Knitting Workshop with Cecelia Campochiaro

Scarves by Cecelia Campochiaro.

On 10 September, 2017, I joined 13 other knitters for an all-day workshop led by Cecelia Campochiaro, author of Sequence Knitting, held at my local yarn store, Black Sheep Knitting. Knitting is binary - it's either knit or purl - and Ms. Campochiaro has developed her own approach to combining knits and purls.

A scientist by training and employment, Ms. Campochiaro has an eye for color and a taste for luxury yarns. Her items are covet-able simply because of their fiber lusciousness and rich colors, in addition to the wonderful design and workmanship. I've knit one of her patterns, the Broken Garter scarf, available for free from Purl Soho.  This project is a very good introduction to the concept of sequence knitting.

The workshop covered a lot of material, almost too much for one day.  Some of the take-aways:

Suggested yarns
The focus of sequence knitting is on texture, and to establish the field of texture there needs to be many repeats of the pattern.  So stay away from bulky yarns, even worsted weight.  Also avoid most yarns with a strong tweedy flecking - the flecks may fight with the texture of the pattern.  And while the overall textures in the body of the knitted item are delightful, the inherently irregular selvedges not so much, and this will be accentuated in heavy yarn.

Ms. Campochiaro prefers to blend thinner yarns; for example, to knit with two strands of Isager alpaca merino held together, using size #7 needles, for the Weldon cowl.  Combining finer yarns reduces the likelihood of pilling, too.

Scarf knit in a dark, rough-ish yarn - harder to see the pattern.

Needles and gauge
When blending yarns, size for the heavier yarn weight - "sticky" yarns, such as alpaca, which have some fuzziness to them, will be fine worked with bigger needles.  Ms. Campochiaro has little faith in the needle size ranges on the bands of balls or skein, and has become a committed gauger - one who loves to knit gauge swatches.

Ms. Campochiaro with gauge swatch.

She casts on 20 - 25 stitches, starts with small needles, and moves to successively larger needles.  Selvedges of 3 garter stitches border the stockinette rows, and there are 3 garter stitch rows between each needle size.

For the red swatch below, worked in Catherine Lowe's Merino #4, Ms. Campochiaro began with 2.00mm needles (US 0) and worked up to size 3.5mm (US 4).  A befits a scientist, she prefers metric nomenclature, but I will translate.

Swatch, with key tag label.

Swatches are labelled with key tags (available at many hardware stores) attached to the knitting with coilless safety pins, available from Catherine Lowe's website.  (I think regular safety pins would work almost as well).  Ms. Campochiaro also uses these pins for blocking.

Key tag listing yarn used and needle sizes.

The swatches below are done in a variety of weights of June Cashmere; it was a treat just to stroke all these wonderful yarns. If I have a quibble, it's that I wish the scarf and shawl samples had been labelled with yarns used - Ms. Campochiaro mentioned them but I was  furiously knitting on my samples and it was hard to listen, write notes and knit all at once.

Swatches in June Cashmere.

Labelled swatches.

Ms. Campochiaro has taken workshops with knitter and color guru Kaffe Fassett (his first name is pronounced like "waif") and is a quick study, as she understands value and hue.  While I personally prefer the sequence patterns in solid colors,  there's no doubt that variegated yarns work well too. Generally, when using two colors, she recommends yarns that are close in value - not a sharp contrast.  The one exception to this is the broken garter patterns, where high contrast colors can work well. Ms. Campochiaro is partial to gray and black tones, which work well with her salt-and-pepper hair and fun orange specs.

When knitting back-and-forth, change colors every two rows; when working the round, swap colors every row.

Andrus sequence in solid cream  - displays texture beautifully.

The texture is more subtle with these color blends.

First, before any big project, do a swatch - cast on at least 24 stitches and knit for 3".  How many stitches do you need to cast on for any particular accessory?  A scarf needs to be 7" - 9" wide, so cast on anywhere between 30 - 60 stitches, depending on yarn weight (check your swatch) and desired final width.  (I would say that above 50 cast-on stitches is approaching a shawl, but the scarf/shawl boundary is fluid.)

Beyond the scarf
Ms. Campochiaro's methods work best for rectangles, cylinders, triangles and parallelograms - items with shapes that don't require asymmetrical increasing or decreasing, such as a neckline. Hats are basically cylinders up to the crown portion, so her methods work for these items.

Hat samples.

Close-up of hats.

One thing I like about her work is that Ms. Campochiaro is a fan of color tipping - adding a few rows of contrasting color at the edges of an item, as seen in the Delta Wing shawl below, with its chartreuse edging adding some punch to the gray.

Delta Wing shawl.

The 14 students in the workshop each received a useful handout and we worked on three "Practicums."  If you'd like to try a pattern, here's the directions for one of our samples:

Try this at home
It's hard to explain sequence knitting; better just to try it.
This pattern is knit back-and-forth, not in the round.

Cast on 26 stitches (or any multiple of 8 and add two more stitches)

The sequence is [K3, P3, K1, P1]
The pattern multiple is 8 + 2

Start knitting, and where-ever you end up in the sequence at the end of the row, continue exactly where you left off at the start of the next row. This is the essence of sequence knitting. The sequence of knits and purls is NOT a multiple of the number of stitches cast on, so the pattern shifts, repeating every 4 rows.

Now, this can feel like the knitting equivalent of bungee jumping off a bridge. So Ms. Campochiaro gave us a "cheat sheet", writing the pattern out for each row in the four row repeat. This information is not given in the book, unfortunately, but readers can figure it out for themselves and make their own cheat sheets.

The row-by-row pattern for the sequence is:
Row 1: [sequence], K2
Row 2: K1, P3, K1, P1, [sequence], K3, P1
Row 3: P2, K1, P1, [sequence], K3, P3
Row 4: K1, P1, [sequence]

Below is one of my samples in worsted weight yarn (bad choice) but you can see the diagonal pattern, emerging after 12 rows of knitting, in the bottom half of the sample. If you would like the sequence and "cheat sheet" for the pattern in the top half of the sample, kindly email me.

Sequence knitting sample and handout.