Finnougoria I: the cap with Finno-Ugric diagonal patterns

The Finno-Ugric diagonal patterns are beautiful and can be worked into a cap design. This post has a free pattern for the readers of my blog.

The charm of the diagonal patterns

I learned a lot about the diagonal patterns when researching the history of the Komi knitting. Komi is the large territory of the Russian North. The research resulted in several posts about the history of this knitting tradition. The posts have many examples of patterns and items made with these patterns by the Komi women.

Traditional Komi socks, rare photo from the 1980s.
Photo: Nina Fileeva. Ms. Fileeva made many lyrical photographs of the northern craftspeople in the 1980s.

The diagonal patterns can be expanded, contracted and interlocked in all directions. They can grow one from another without loosing their shared internal rhythm. Several patterns locked together create a fabric that look breathtakingly complex, but, in reality, it is easy to knit.

The flow of Finno-Ugric patterns reminds me the lines from the poem:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.

T.S. Eliot, from Burnt Norton

Diagonal patterns and sizing

Enough of poetry. Back to knitting.
Here is a bit of nasty news: these beautiful interlocking diagonal patterns do not lend themselves easily to sizing. The stitch count in a pattern repeat should be divisible by 6. It means that you must reduce the item size minimum by 6 stitches – 3 in the beginning of the first pattern repeat and 3 at the end of the last pattern repeat. This is a LOT. Plus, there is a need to deal with a jog.

The design of this cap calls for 180 stitches (6 repeats of a 30-stitch pattern).
If you need to change the sizing, you can do it in other ways than reducing/increasing stitch count:
– use smaller/bigger needle size
– mix thicker and thinner yarns
– use thicker yarn for an inner layer (You will understand what I mean by ‘inner layer’ a bit later, when we get to Overview)
– make full inner layer instead of a partial one.
– replace several bottom rows with ribbing
In sum, design your own strategy to modify the size without changing the stitch count.

Project Overview

It took me several tries to get this cap right, so the pictures below are from TWO last versions of Finnougoria I cap.

Size: 59-60cm
Gage: 2.5cm x 2.5cm = apx 9 stiches x 11 rows

Completed version #1
and incomplete version #2 (final)

You can choose your method of construction to adjust the size.
I would assume here that you follow my way of making the hat.

The hat is knit bottom-up, without ribbing, but with double-layering on the bottom.
I used Judy’s Magic cast on to start a double layer.
Cast on 180 stitches on each needle. Put a marker every 30 stitches in both layers.
Two layers – the inner and the outer – are knit separately in opposite directions from the cast-on rows. While you knit one layer on shorter circular needles, the other layer rests on longer circular needle or moved onto a string of waste yarn.
I used #2 USA needles to knit the outer later, and #1 USA for the inner layer.

I started with knitting the inner layer first

After the inner layer is about 17 rows and the outer layer is 18 rows, fold the fabric and transfer all the stitches onto one #2 USA needle. The next row: continue, carefully knitting each inner and outer stitch together.

The crown is formed by reducing stitches in the beginning and end of pattern.

Both layer are ready to be joined
Joining the layers
The inside of the completed Version #2 cap.

Choice of yarns

I like mixing yarns. For this project I used “fluffy” mixed yarn for the white color and smooth yarn for the red.

Experiment – use different yarns!
The yarns are described below, in Version #1
The yarns of different textures made the fabric more interesting.
(Photo of Version #1)
Outer layerInner layer
Version #1
Red:
Claudia Hand Painted Yarns, ADDICTIONS, Fingering Weight,
100% fine merino ~35 g
White: two yarns mixed
Plymouth Baby Alpaca, Lace Weight
Kid mohair, Lace Weight ~30g
Plymouth Baby Alpaca, Lace Weight, doubled ~15g
Version #2 (final, as shown on model)
Red:
Cascade Heritage, Fingering Weight
85% merino 15% mulberry silk, ~25 g
White:
Rowan Alpaca Classic, DK weight
60% alpaca, 40% cotton ~25g
Plymouth Baby Alpaca, Lace Weight, doubled ~15g

One of the Facebook group members recommended brand Rauma Finull, because the red yarn of this brand does not bleed.

Tools

Circular needles:
#2 USA 36in. or 48in. (optional)
#2 USA 24in.
#1 USA 24in.

Double-pointed needles (if you do not know how to use magic loop):
#2

Markers: 12

Diagram

Important note: the pattern is free for the hand-knitters, but it is not for commercial use or mass production.

2 diagrams: the bottom and the crown.
The diagram shows 30-stitch pattern repeat. As your recall there are 6 repeats, 30 stitches each. The leftmost 31st stitch on the diagram is the last stitch of the last pattern repeat to fix the jog.
The rest of the important comments are right on the diagram.

Postscript

Let me know how your cap turns out.
While posting the pictures of this cap in FB groups, I found out something interesting about the items with red-and-white with diagonal patterns from the fellow knitters.
It looks like at the turn of the 20th century the sweaters, cardigans and caps in this style were very popular in Finland and the neighboring Russian territory on the shores of the White Sea called Pomorye. Pomorye was a melting pot, because it has the important old Russian sea port of Arkhangelsk. The Pomors – that what the inhabitants of the area were called – were a mix of the Komi, Hanty, Mansy, Finns, Russians and other ethic groups.
But this is the story for the later post.

“Komi” hat with ear-flaps

The diagonal patterns of Finno-Ugric textiles inspired the hat with ear-flaps. This is the last project of the year and the most challenging. I share design ideas in this post.

For about a year and a half I fiddled with the idea of a hat with ear-flaps. A “couture look” was my lofty goal:
– ear-flaps should be one with a hat
– a large-scale pattern should flow from the ear-flap tips to the top as if the hat is if it is custom-cut from a whole piece of cloth
– combination of contrasting and gradient colors

This was a technically ambitious project. Perfect to finish the year but a bit difficult to write about.

I will break up the post into two parts. Something to share with textile artists of every level.
The part about choosing yarns, patterns and colors is for all levels of aspiring knitwear artists. The brief instructions how to shape ear-flaps are for the technically sophisticated.

The cozy hat with Finno-Ugric diagonal patterns.
Bottom-up knitting.

Techniques used

  • Judy’s Magic Invisible Cast-on (to knit the inner and outer layers. The knitting goes in both directions. The cast-on becomes a fold line. There are plenty good YouTube videos about this technique – look up!)
  • Short rows, Japanese style (to create ear-flaps. I found instructions online as well.)
  • Stranded color work knitting (optional)
  • To prevent curling, the bottom of the hat is knit into two opposite directions from the cast-on row. There will be 7-8 cm (or 3 in) of double-layering over the ears and forehead.

Yarns, patterns and colors

Choosing yarns

Creative mix of different yarns – fluffy angora and smooth merino – produces a wonderful “watercolor washout” effect.

Background:
Forrest Green,
Dark Orange
angora-merino blendrated for #5-7 needles1 skein each.
1/2 skein of Dark Orange left
Foreground:
Medium blue,
Bright blue
Light blue
merinorated for #4 needles1 1/2 skeins from Katia Ombre gradient set

Choosing needle size

Ignore the recommended needle size on the label if you are making a hat. The fabric should be dense, but thin. It should retain the shape and to shield from the cold. I used #2 needles – a much smaller size than recommended.

Ideas for patterns and colors

I adopted the traditional Finno-Ugric textile patterns ( See the previous post about Komi textile patterns) as a basis for design. The diagonal patterns come in wide variety of sizes, but all of them are all based on a rudimentary 6×6 pattern.
The background colors are contrasting and of the same intensity (Forrest Green, Dark Orange).
The foreground colors are gradient of the same color (blue).
Change one color at a time to achieve the harmonious transitions.
The number of rows for each color combination should be a multiple of 6 (or close to it):

BackgroundForegroundRows knitted
Forrest GreenDark blue (not the best combo, alas…)apx 12 rows
Forrest Green Medium blue apx 36 rows
Forrest Green Light blue 6 rows
Dark OrangeLight blueapx 24 rows
Dark OrangeMedium blue6 rows
Forrest GreenMedium blueapx 18 rows
The diagonal Finno-Ugoric patterns used for the hat

Ear-flaps: very brief instructions

I must be honest….


1) It is easier if you can knit with either hand: there is no need to turn over the fabric. This is how I knit, but the ear-flaps are doable without a trick of ambidexterity. Just skip the stranded colorwork at the bottom edge of the hat.

Below are several earlier models with ear-flaps: the hats look just fine without all-over stranded colorwork.

Simple version of the hat with ear-flaps.
This plain model looks lovely: the ear-flaps are made of light-green angora and the body is of soft gray alpaca.

2) Try to practice with some junk yarn until you get the technique that is just right for you. The first experiments – especially with my brief written instructions – might not be promising. Mine were not. It took me quite a while to get the technique straight.

3) Planning is a key to success.

I created a diagram of the whole hat, marking not only front and back middle stitches, but also the beginning and the end of each ear-flap and the ear-flap centers.

Well, caveat emptor is stated…

Now back to the brief instructions…


The same instructions apply to knitting both layers of the hat. The double-layer part of the hat is about 7-8cm (3 in.) over the forehead.
From that point, the layers are joined.

The knitting of the inner and outer layers of the hat goes in opposite directions from the Judy’s Magic Invisible Cast-on row.

Use Judy’s Magic Invisible Cast-on (plenty of how-to videos on YouTube). The cast-on will become the folding line for the layers.

Use thinner yarn for the inner layer. I chose the combination of angora (baby blue, over the ears) and very thin wool-silk yarn for the rest of the inner layer. Both colors fit the color scheme of the outer stranded colorwork.

Cast-on: Judy’s Magic Invisible Cast.
The close-up of the cast-on. Note the tiny knots: they should end up inside the fold of two layers.

Place markers: back, front and mark the ears. Especially – the center of each ear-flap. It is critical for symmetry. Use odd number of stitches for ear-flaps: 1 central stitch makes things easier to track.

For inner and outer layer repeat the same procedure (with your minor personal adjustments, of course.)

Knit the whole first row in a round. Knit 2 stitches together 3-4 stitches before and after the center of each potential ear-flap.

Shaping an ear-flap with short rows

The picture is worth a thousand words. It shows how to shape the left ear-flap with ever-increasing short rows. The right ear is a mirror image of the left.

Instructions for shaping left ear-flap.

Note that you cast 12 stitches more than required: it is for controlling excess fabric from short rows.

The outer and inner layers are knit in more or less identical fashion: after shaping of ear-flaps is done, knit in a round 7-8 in (3 cm).

Both inner and outer layers are done. This is the bottom edge of the hat.
It looks like a tube with two triangular sacks sticking out. The sacks will flatten during blocking.

Now is the easy part: fold the layers along the cast-on line, transfer the stitches from both layers onto one round needle (one stitch for the inner layer, one stitch from the outer layer, one stitch for the inner layer, one stitch from the outer layer… until all on one needle). Knit together.

Continue knitting in a round into whatever shape you choose.

My version came out like on the picture below.
I wonder what yours will look like… Keep on creating!

Komi knitting I: an accidental discovery

I stumbled into little known knitting tradition of the Komi people after making my first tunic from Alice Starmore’s Fishermen’s Sweaters and designing my own vest. The diagonal patterns of the Komi socks and mittens mesmerized me.

In the previous post I featured the vest of my own design inspired by the Komi knitting.

One of my first projects was a pattern called Baltic from Fishermen’s Sweaters by Alice Starmore. I wanted to make something that honors my roots from the Baltic shore.

Alice Starmore wrote in the introduction to her pattern that she could not find any fishermen’s sweaters from the Baltic regions except the one Estonian sweater in the Finnish museum. She based the pattern on that sweater executed in a yarn of lovely gray shades. Starmore’s book was published in 1993. This was the decade when very little was known about the knitting traditions of the former USSR.

After I finished the Baltic sweater, I knew that knitting according to someone’s instructions is not my forte. I love to design my own things.

For my next project, I googled Russian redwork embroidery. There were plenty of images on internet. Beautiful and suitable for knitting.

The woven towel from Perm region of Russia

The modified weaving pattern from a towel end was just right for the vest.
The vest has a few interesting technical features. I will write about them in detail in another post.

I abandoned the rule of using same type of yarn in stranded color work. A mix of fluffy Katia Alpaca-Silk (doubled) and a gradient set called Katia Ombre (sports weight).
It is a pity that Katia Alpaca-Silk is discontinued, but to my knowledge, there is compatible yarn under label Drops.

The swatch for my vest.

The combination of thicker, fluffier yarn and thinner, smoother yarn allowed me to use larger needles ( #7 US). The vest turned out to be of right thickness and went reasonably fast.

Komi vest inside out.
I did not use steeking for neck and arm openings. The technique is not suitable for very soft yarns knit on larger needles.
Also, one has to catch floats every 3 stitches.

I noticed something during my searches, which turned a pattern selection into an amateur science project: many diagonal geometric textile patterns posted online were captioned as Perm region of Russia. Perm is a city in the Republic of Komi, a federal territory within Russia. The native population there was not Russian.

A little more research yielded an intriguing story of the ancient textile tradition which is little known to the world: Komi stranded color work knitting and Komi weaving.

What became clear from my amateur research that the attractive diagonal geometric patterns in hand-knitting that we think of as Estonian or Latvian or Russian might have been borrowed from the Komi people, who live to the west of the Urals Mountains. The Estonians, the Finns and the Komis are of the same Finno-Ugric ethnic group and they live on neighboring territories. The Komis adopted the technique of knitting earlier than their cousins. It came from their Asian neighbors.

The Republic of Komi on the map of Russia

The search for Komi knitting books brought only one result, but a lot of other fascinating materials. The history of the Komi and their knitting is a testimony how much the fate and heritage of a small ethnic group depends on twists and turns of the history. It is the story well worth telling.

In the next several posts, I will write about the light and dark periods of the Komi knitting.

Knitting a vest: all in one piece and no ribbing

Just in time for the winter! I made another vest for myself. This time I tried two ideas: smooth transitions of colors and patterns and to do away with traditional steeking and ribbing. Colorwork patterns from the traditional Komi textiles.

I love the diagonal patterns of the Komi textiles. They are easy to combine together: one pattern flows into another creating visually intricate fabric.
Also, gradient and contrasting colors add liveliness.
My vest looks complicated, but with a few design tricks it is not complicated at all. I jotted down here a few ideas for you, my fellow knitting artists, to use in your projects.

Side note
The Komi people live in the Russian North. Alas, the Komi textile art is not well-known beyond the Russian borders. I will dedicate my future blogs to the fascinating story of their colorwork knitting tradition, meanwhile, I recommend Charlene Schurch’s Mostly Mittens: Traditional Knitting Patterns from Russia’s Komi People to explore the fascinating geometry of the Komi folk art.

Materials and tools

I do not buy “sweater quantities”. The experiments with yarns of different weights and textures procured somewhere as odd lots at bargain prices are far more interesting. It is also a good thing for Mother Earth.
For this vest I used light gray Katia merino/silk (doubled), a set of Katia Ombre (blues), sock-weight red wool with a lost label from Savers, leftovers of recycled angora yarn (oranges and yellows) and good old Cascade 220 for the hem borders.

Because I combined thicker and softer yarn with thinner and firmer yarns, I was able to use larger needles (#7). Such combination did not make my vest bulky or shapeless.

if you decide to repeat the experiment with mixing yarns, Katia merino/silk (now discontinued) can be replaced by the yarn produced under the label Drops. Drops offers more interesting range of colors.

As to Katial Ombre, it can be replaced by any other label that produces gradient yarns in Sports or sock weight.

Design challenge

The goal was to design a true single-piece garment without ribbing and without steeking (steeking is not suitable for soft yarns. The delicate yarns do not “stick” well like famouse Shetland wool. The cut edges will droop miserably).

The vest is knit on round needles bottom up. From the arm holes it is continued in flat knitting up to the shoulder seams.

The true design challenge was to get rid of ribbing round arm holes and neckline. Here is my solution: at the tip of the neckline and round the armholes I created 6 stitches out of 3. Those 6 stitches are knit in reversible style: knitting with gray yarn, purling with periwinkle yarn. The reduction of the stitches under the arm and around the neckline was with the 4th stitch from the edge, if you are looking at the right side of the fabric. That stitch was always of the same color: it creates a nice line round the openings.
When the vest was complete, I ran a string through the tube formed by reversible knitting to prevent excessive stretching.

Another small, but important technical trick: I inserted a short row near the shoulder seam to accommodate shoulder slope.

Here is how the edges of the vest look from the wrong side:

The wrong side of the Komi vest

Pithy “how-to” instructions

I publish here only the technical drawing and the color chart of the vest.
Note that I’m of a very generous size, so adjust the stitch and row counts according to your size.

If you decide to use the color chart below, remember the important task of centering the repeats of Bereginya pattern ( a stylized female figure ) along the hem. Bereginya means Mother-Protector in old Slavic languages.
Alice Starmore wrote the best instructions on centering and adjusting the border patterns in her books Fair Isle Knitting and Charts for Color Knitting. I recommend highly these two books if you are into stranded-color knitting.
By the way: the diagonal patterns of the Komi textiles are great for decreasing or increasing to fit a desirable size.

Bereginya border is 24 st X 18 rows. The leftmost strip of 12 st is the reduction of the pattern.
The repeat chart for “squiggles” is marked on the top of the pattern by dotted line.

Thank you for reading. I hope, you got a creative idea or two!

Scarf of many, many colors

Have many remnants of fine yarns? Here is the master recipe for the eye-catching scarf. it includes the concept of color change from the American weaver Richard Landis (see photos from the exhibit in Cooper-Hewitt Museum of design in References below) and Fibonacci numbers.

Inspirations

The inspiration behind the scarf was a wall hanging I saw in Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York City.

Nature’s design secret

Mother Nature programmed us from birth to find plants, especially flowers, beautiful. At the core of plant’s growth, arrangement of its petals and seeds is Fibonacci series.

Fibonacci numbers stack like this: starting with 2, the next number is the sum of the previous two:

1 + 2 = 3 2 + 3 = 5 3 + 5 = 8 8 + 5 = 13 13 + 8 = 21 etc. etc.

Fibonacci numbers have direct connection to Golden Angle and Golden Rule, two important design principles that the humans have been borrowing from Nature since the time immemorial. Some references about the natural patterns are in the section Literature below. Enough of science. Now let’s get to knitting.

Pattern

The pattern is simple – columns of rectangles.

It is the rectangle sizes, their spacing and color changes that give rhythm to this profusion of bright colors.

Each rectangle is the height of Fibonacci number – 5,8,13 rows.

Within each rectangle two complimentary colors (2+3), (3+5), (5+8) rows.

5 rows of background color separate the rows of rectangles. The width of rectangles is 3 stitches, separated by 3 stitches of background color.

The height of each row is picked rather randomly, but there are a few rules which do the trick.

Change only one color in any row. The next change of color – background or foreground – should be minimum 2 rows after.

Each two-tone rectangle is surrounded by “friendly” colors, i.e. background color, the colors of preceding and following rectangles should be in crisp harmony.

Vertically, as you knit, the color that ends the previous two-tone rectangle should begin the next rectangle of the same two tones. (aqua-blue, hunter-jade, blue-aqua, jade-hunter). This principle I stole from weaver Richard Landis.

To tie the colors together: repeat rectangles of a particular spectrum more often. I chose to repeat rectangles in range of dark green-apple green-chartreuse-yellow every other row. Mother Nature told us that green-yellow shades get along with many bright colors.

Materials, tools & technique

There are 22 colors in this scarf. It is 3 meters (9 ft) long.
The yarns were various luxury remnants: alpaca, wool-silk blend, thin kid mohair, angora. Anything you have for #1-3 US needles. It will all even out at the end!
For background colors I chose smooth yarns of subtler shade.
Kid mohair and angora gave a wonderful ‘haze’ to rectangles.

Technique: stranded color work, knitted flat. But the fabric resists any blocking and curls into a tube. So it to go with a flow: knit it as a tube.|
Needle size: #4 US

If I had to do it again…

… I would have knitted this scarf in a round, like a tube. It did not matter how many times I blocked it: it rolled back into a tube. No point to fight with physics.

That’s about it… Play with colorful yarns and Fibonacci numbers!

Now it is time to create your own pattern…

Here are a few examples of using Fibonacci numbers in pattern design. You can go from simple stripes to rectangles with as few as two colors.

References

Essay “Plant Numerology” in gorgeous book The Beauty of Numbers in Nature: Mathematical Patterns and Principles from the Natural World by Ian Stewart (The MIT Press) gave me the idea of using Fibonacci numbers.

The wall-hangings of Richard Landis was on display in Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum in New York City. I took a few less than flattering pictures. Landis frequently uses sewing threads for his weaving.