Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mobius Fun

At my Tuesday night knitting group, one of the women was making a mobius wrap. I have seen a lot of these and I even have one that I want to make in my queue. The one she is making has colored stripes in it and she was showing us how she was slightly disappointed that the wrong side of the knitting was going to be showing. The math loving male knitter that is a part of the group piped up to remind us that there is no wrong side because a mobius strip only has one side.

At first, I just brushed it off as a terminology discrepancy. A Mobius Strip is cool because it does only have one side, but in knitting there is a right side and a wrong side. The knitting use of the word 'side' doesn't rely at all on the mathematic definition of a 'side' that is important to the mobius concept. Sometimes in knitting the right side and the wrong side look exactly alike, but where there are color changes like the ones in her wrap there is a difference. I've been showing you pictures of the right side of the baby blanket I am making but here is a picture of the wrong side. The color changes are not nearly as tidy on the wrong side and this is what is showing on her wrap.

Despite thinking it was a communication issue, I couldn't get over this dilemma. I know that knitting is heavily math based, and I know that I've read about knitting mobius strips as wraps and scarves. I just felt like we were missing something about how they work and how they are knitted up. Yesterday I decided to call on an authority and had my hubby teach me what he could about mobius strips. We got all excited and cut up strips of paper both to make a strip and to try and figure out where the 'wrong side' was showing on the shawl. (Keeping with the theme, all of these strips were made out of the Knit Picks receipt I had sitting on my desk.)

I haven't gotten to see her wrap since yesterday to verify, but I think I may have discovered the source of the dilemma. She told me that knitted mobius's are really easy to make. you knit in the round like you would any tube but before you join you twist the stitches. As you knit the tube gets longer, and it has a twist in it. I think the problem is that this is not a mobius strip. Rather it is a loop with a twist in it. A mobius strip only has half a twist. A twisted loop is still really cool, because you cannot untwist it, but there are still two different sides and two different edges. In the case of what she is knitting she cast on one edge and she is knitting each row to the other edge. A mobius strip cannot work that way because it only has one edge.

As Mike and I tried to figure it out, I looked up the mobius scarf patterns that I knew of. They came in two varieties. One was a twisted loop and not a genuine mobius. The others were constructed the same way you make one with a piece of paper. They were knit up back and forth like a regular scarf, then given a twist, and the ends were sewn together. They were authentic mobius strips, but where's the fun in knitting it like that.:P

We played with paper strips some more and I cast on a couple of disasters trying to figure the puzzle out, and the real dilemma turned out to be the one edge. When you knit, you make something one row at a time which means you are adding to one edge. The Mobius is troublesome because it only has one edge, but that edge is twice as long as the strip from which it is made; or twice as many stitches as you would actually want your thing to go around. Mike figured it out that your cast on edge for a knit mobius strip would actually have to be the center of the finished object. So you would actually knit the strip from the center out.

If you look at this picture, the cast on would be the orange stripe. Row one would be the blue stripe, and the purple stripe is row two. It would continue to work outward like that for as long as you wanted.

How to Make a Mobius Strip

This is in no way a pattern but rather just a talk though of the conceptual stuff.

First, you cast on the number of stitches that would determine the right size of your loop. Basically the number of stitches that would make a tube of the right size plus a few to accommodate the twist.
Then you need to join them like knitting in the round, but instead of knitting the stitches like you would for a regular tube, you pick up stitches from that cast on edge. This would give you two sets of live stitches facing opposite directions from the cast on. This is how you get twice as many stitches. When you knit them up, it is like knitting two different loops (one above the cast on and one below) but they are connect and that connection makes the twist.

Here is the one I made. The most trouble I had with it was that it was really small to work with. I only used knit stitches, but as you can see the bottom half is stockinette, and the top half is reverse stockinette. I think that is because those stitches are facing in different directions. I think to fix that you would just have to purl the second half of every round. I want to try it again both to figure out how to make it all stockinette on the 'outside' and I need to make one with a colored stripe in it to see if it would fix the 'wrong side' issue. Until then if you know of any barbies with cold shoulders, I have a wrap that would suit them just fine.

I had a ton of fun working on this with Mike yesterday. I learned a lot and it really inspired my knitting. We did completely reinvent the wheel though. I eventually found a pattern for a scarf that is conceptually knit up the same way as my little practice piece. It doesn't matter though, because a couple hours after we figured it out, Mike sat me down and asked me to teach him how to knit! He's pretty good for a beginner. I'm going to have to put him to work.

No comments: