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.


laura said...

Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this. I LUBS IT!!!

also, the cake is a lie

Karen said...

Thank You! This is amazing and wonderful and you deserve a real cake, not a lie cake. Oh the Companion Cube goodness burns!

Jamie said...

Oh, golly, this is awesome! I've been trying to sew a plush one for MONTHS and I am stuck on making the corners 3D, but this looks sharp and awesome!

Kerman said...

Fantastic! this looks way better than mine (well, it was the first thing i knit!)

Anonymous said...

The Knitted Companion Cube rocks my world. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

why would anyone want to knit this!

Anonymous said...

This is awesome! My husband begs me to make him one now!

Anonymous said...

My boyfriend requests one too! One question: how long is the circular 2.25mm needle you used? Am I correct to assume that you knitted all 6 sides on the same circular needle? Just making sure I understand your awesome pattern-thank you!

wren said...

I used a 24" (60cm) circular needle, and knit the 6 cube sides in a grid 3 across and 2 high. But having my knitting squnched up has never bothered me--except for the business of joining it.

Based on that, I don't recommend it, but instead recommend doing all 6 on a longer needle--the bound off edge stablizes the horizontal direction a *lot*, which makes subsequent assembly far easier.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information...I'm now ready to begin!

Anonymous said...

Oh I wish I knitted! That is SO lovely!

*Sarah* said...

Hahaha this is amazing. My boyfriend will love it.

Anonymous said...

Yaaaaaay!!!!!!!!! I promised a friend I would figure out how to make him one. You ROCK!!!!

Joanna said...

You are my hero.

Mister Cow said...

i'm really confused right now, according to a comment, it seems like you knitted one giant piece, and cut it up into 6 pieces then sewed them back together forming a cube. but i thought it was six sides.

also, i'm extremely confused on why the pattern shows 39*40, but in the notes you say that you need to add six rows to the sides for stitching or something.

wren said...

Mister Cow ~ Pinoy:

You are correct in your reading: I knit a big object and cut it into the 6 sides (faces) of the companion cube then seamed them back together using mattress stitch. (There are 6 faces to a cube. Each face has 4 edges.)

I did this because seams make sharper edges and corners than plain knitted material--that's a tube. Socks, for example, don't have seams. And if you fill a sock with soft stuffing, you don't get any sharp edges. (So, yes, if I were to knit a Companion Sphere, it would be closer to seamless--this would probably involve knitting over a sphere-shaped stuffing.)

There are other things that this approach deals with--like the fact that all knitting is slightly non-square--but the stability issue was the main reason I went this route.

The chart *is* for the face only. I added 6 stitches between charted faces so that every seam (edge) would have fabric on both sides of the seam. Take a look at clothing--where there's a seam, a join between two piece of material--high end clothing will have more fabric (and it'll be more reinforced) on either side of the seam. Cheapo tshirts--no seam fabric, and often, those will sprout holes along seams. It's more stable and means that there won't be gapping between (in this case) faces.

I didn't include the steek stitches because they aren't typically presented in knitting literature, and because I thought having them would be more confusing.

Less confident knitters might want to add more stitches, to make it easier to sew and cut. Some people steek in stripes, some people in checkerboard patterns. It's on the inside of the cube so it doesn't matter, as long as all the colors in the row are represented in roughly equal amounts.

I hope this clears up your questions.

Anonymous said...

First i want to say i enjoy challenges but this is very difficult when the directions don't even make sense. I feel like the instructions were very difficult to read and understand, for the supplies it said circular needle, just one needle are u sure i really don't think you can knit that with 1 circular needle, also when you say cast on what is all the #'s exactly how many stitches do i need to cast on that's why i never attempted this, it just doesn't make sense. I think if your going to put a pattern out there for the world to use you need to also be able to write a complete pattern guide that allows the reader to visualize what you are doing and these instructions just don't do it. I have been a kitter for over 15years and this just doesn't make sense to me sorry.

wren said...

@Anonymous: I'm sorry you find this pattern unuseful. Sadly, since you have left me no means of contacting you, I guess you're just out of luck.

Also, I suggest you read more Elizabeth Zimmerman.

bethini said...

That pattern is too, too cool. I'm shopping for yarn this afternoon. Wonder if I can keep it secret long enough to surprise my partner with one?

Thanks for putting this together!

Keith said...

what type of casting on did you use?

wren said...

The crochet cast on, detailed here:

I didn't bother unzipping it, since the cast on edge is inside the finished cube.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for this pattern! Happiness aplenty. ^_^ I'm about to begin working on one for my girlfriend's birthday, but there's something I could use help with. I don't quite know how you knit the vertical pink stripes in without carrying the yarn. I'm fairly new to knitting, so if you could either explain this or refer me to a decent tutorial for the technique, Id really appreciate it! Thanks!

wren said...

Lucky girlfriend!

There are two techniques: a modified intarsia which is what I used, and duplicate stitch, which is possibly easier.

In intarsia, you start the pink stripe with about 2 ft of wool, knit however many stitches it is (4?) then continue, letting the pink dangle. then when you come back around to *that* stripe, you grab the pink wool, carrying it across the back of the stripe, and repeat. Since it's such a small stripe, and the inside will be hidden, you just need to make sure that carry-back is loose enough.

Duplicate stitch: don't knit the pink stripe, knit gray where it would be, then when it's done, thread up some pink wool, and carefully embroider over, following the path of the yarn you did knit.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the help! The cube is finished! I'm very happy with it, especially considering it was my first project. I ended up using the modified intasria technique, which worked very nicely. I couldn't find any good sizes of styrofoam or upholstery foam, so I had to go with a wooden cube. Not the best situation, but it's still nice and soft and can actually be called weighted. ^_^ Here's a picture of the finished project, and there are plenty more at different stages of the project there. Thanks for the pattern, it's made me very happy!

wren said...

Brandon, that is super cool! I'm glad it worked for you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Wren

I love your companion cube, it's gorgeous!

I'm new to knitting and from the finish of your cube it looks like it's been knit/purled in alternating rows. Is this correct?

Anonymous said...

Actually disregard the comment above - I looked up knitting in the round and answered my own question. I look forward to trying your pattern!

Karen said...

Finished my cube. Fab pattern. Thank you so much for sharing the pattern with us.

Anonymous said...

I don't know how to sew or use a sewing machine! Noooo! Is there any other way to make this? I'm a bit confused about the pattern.... Could I just knit one face at a time w/ the extra stitches around the sides to add to the structure, and then mattress stitch them all together? My husband is a diehard Portal fan and would love this!

EthicalHacking said...

really good!

Anonymous said...

This is amazing. My boyfriend's dying for one, and I think it's going to be a summer project, since he and I will be a few hours away from each other. He doesn't knot about the knit pattern, just a crocheted one that i told him about, so I have a feeling that I'm going to get a lot of joy from his reaction.
Your comments so far have been extremely helpful, and if I heen anything else, I'll post.

failed_rorschach said...

SWEET! I am so making this for my boyfriend! I've been looking everywhere for the perfect Valentine's Day gift; this and a cake similar to the game.

Green Orchid said...

That cube looks awesome. I like how it basically looks like a perfect square.

Mandy said...

Thanks! I really needed this. Yours looks soo much more like a cube, perfect!