Sunday, June 1, 2008

They're Breeding!

Holy cow! There are 23 knitted companion cubes in progress, according to ravelry. If you have access, count them here.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Knitted Companion Cube Assembly Instructions.

This is a set of notes on how to knit and assemble your own knitted weighted companion cube. I have tried to write it in a straightforward way for experience and inexperienced knitters alike. My goal is for everyone reading to understand how the cube is knit and assembled, without necessarily having the exact techniques called for yet.

Questions to the comments may be answered.

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If you knit and want to try or perfect: stranded knitting (epecially three-color), steeking, or seaming, this is an excellent piece.

The pattern:
25g 2-ply jumper wool pink (Jamieson & Smith 95)
50g 2-ply jumper wool light grey (Jamieson & Smith 203)
50g 2-ply jumper wool dark grey (Jamieson & Smith 54)

long circular needle
tapestry needle for seaming

(optional) sewing machine for reinforcing
(optional) crochet needle for reinforcing

This pattern is designed to take advantage of the fact that jumper wool sticks to itself very well. You can substitute heavier wool for a bigger, bulkier cube, but keep in mind that the middle of the cube has three strands running through it.

There are three major brands of jumper wool: The one I used (color codes supplied) Jamieson & Smith, which is available from online suppliers in the US including Schoolhouse Press. The cheapest (although not always fastest) way is often to call J&S and order direct. They are nice, as are the people at Schoolhouse Press.

Jamieson's is the other sticky jumper wool from the Shetland Islands. I've never used it. You'll need to either see it in person, or trust online color conversion charts like this, which suggests using 102 as the dark grey, 122 as the light grey, and 555 as the pink. Widely available online, retailers include Two Swans Yarns, and Camilla Valley Farms, and you can order directly from them on line.

Finally, knitpicks offers a two-ply fingering weight wool. There are far fewer color options, and I don't know much about the quality but it should substitute in correctly.

As this is a stuffed cube, and stranded (two or three color) knitting will always have rows and stitches per inch equal, exact gauge is unimportant. You want a firm material, with hole sizes comparable to yarn diameter, or maybe a little larger. I got this kind of gauge with a 2.25mm (US1) bamboo needle. Aim for 6-8 stitches per inch: would you hug this fabric?

The cube pattern is 39 stitches across and 40 stitches high. You're going to knit 6 sides, separated by 6 stitches of seam material, 3 stitches on each side, then cut them open (This is called steeking. Tutorials here and more than you ever wanted to know here.)

Cast on 6*39 + 6*6 = 270 stitches, join, being careful not to twist. Knit 3 rows alternating dark grey and pink. This is the bottom seam material. Establish pattern: 3 stitches of alternating dark and light grey, 39 stitches in pattern, 6 stitches alternating, etc to final 3 stitches alternating. Continue following pattern until 40 rows are knit. Knit three more rows of alternating pink and dark grey. Cast off.

Notes: your seams can look horrible, they'll be inside the cube!

For the vertical pink stripes, I didn't bother carrying the wool, but rather cut ~8-in long strands and knit those up in place. For the heart and horizontal stripes, I carried the pink along with the grey.

Wash and block the cubes—that is dunk them in cold soapy water, rinse them with cold clean water, and pin them out (or lay them flat with rocks or waterproof books/electronics) so that sides are roughly square. This will also felt the strands together slightly, making the material firmer.

When dry, reinforce the seams with a sewing machine (as discussed in above tutorial) as preferred, and cut open with sharp scissors.

Seam the cube together: join the four sides with mattress stitch in light grey, grafting along the side of the pattern so that seams are “inside.” Make sure all the hearts are pointing the same way! Add a bottom using mattress stitch and grafting as applicable. Add a top, leaving cube open on three sides.

Find some foam or styrofoam of the appropriate size. I used a piece of foam from an abandoned couch, other possibilities include packing material, old pillows, or even buying it from a foam store. Another option would be to sew a cloth cube to fit, and fill it with packing peanuts or cottonwool or leadpellets—the cloth is there to keep the smaller grain material from slipping out. Upholstery foam is easily (shockingly easily) cut with an electric carving knife. Be sure to clean both sides of the reciprocating blades when you're done. When I cut, I aimed for about 1/8th of an inch more on a side (1/4th inch total) so that the finished product was firm yet squishy. Complete top seams and tidy ends by pulling them inside the cover with a needle.


Why didn't you just knit it in the round without the seams? Seams add structural integrity. Without seams, the finished product would tend to be blobby rather than cubical. I also thought the bulk of the seams might suggest the additional shaping of the Companion Cube (and indeed strategic cutting of the seams might do this.)

Doesn't cutting open your knitting make you nervous? No. Shetland sheep must stick to each other something wicked when it rains, though.

The Enrichment Center reminds you that the weighted companion cube cannot speak. In the event that the weighted companion cube does speak, the Enrichment Center urges you to disregard its advice.