There are lots of stitch patterns that look tempting in the various stitch dictionaries on my shelves. Some I’ve been able to place on garments, but others just haven’t worked out – mostly because they were too wide or presented composition problems if used over the topography of a person’s body.
About 8 years ago, right after we moved into the house we’re on the cusp of leaving, I decided to take some of these difficult-to-place patterns and do up two sofa pillows. Anticipating severe pillow-abuse that only homes with small children face, I decided not to spend a lot making them. I got three large skeins of Lion Fisherman Wool from a discount crafts store; and pulled out a pair of US #8 needles and some of my stitch treasuries. I started right in, not worrying much about absolute size.
I chose a bunch of patterns from the treasuries, planning out my pillows around an average gauge of 4.5 spi and a target size of around 15 inches, square. If I was off a bit I didn’t worry, knowing my knit pillow tops would stretch to compensate. Just for kicks, I decided to use different patterns for each side:
If you’re a texture pattern junkie like me, in the top picture you’ll recognize Rocking Cable (Walker 3, p. 130) and Medallions with Cherries (Walker 2, p. 141) framed by Bulky Double Cable (Walker 1, p. 243). The simple lacy edging is adapted from #57 in Classic Knitted Cotton Edgings by Hewitt and Daly (p. 44), but I narrowed it a bit by eliminating the openwork along the top edge.
On the other side of these pillows I used Wheat Sheaves (Walker 2, p. 138); and a combo of Patchwork Cable II (Walker 3, p. 93) and Grand Swinging Cable (Walker 3, p. 91). Note that the Patchwork Cable and Grand Swinging Cable match up exactly in row count. I was able to tuck them in together side by side in a playful combo I intend on using someday for a kid’s pullover. That pillow is also framed with #89 from Stanfield’s New Knitting Stitch Library (p. 59).
Once I had my four sides knit and blocked, assembly was easy – even considering that Iput a zipper in each so I could remove the covers for washing. In fact, if you’ve never sewn a zipper into a piece of hand-knitting pillows are excellent practice pieces. To make life easier, I sewed in my zippers first:
I laid the two squares side by side, and pinned the zipper between them. Then I hand-stitched the zipper to each square. Once the zipper was set, I folded the two squares along it, so that the wrong sides were sandwiched between. Then starting at the foot of the zipper, I worked either I-cord or an edging up along the outer edge of my two matched squares, effectively joining them together at the same time as the edging or I-cord was created and skipping the sew-up-the-pillow step. I went around the three open ends of the pillow, joining as I went. When I got to the zippered side, I worked the edging along only ONE of the squares taking care not to foul the path zipper pull with yarn. My (now camouflaged) zipper nestles along that side at the base of the edging. “Zip open, shove in store-bought pillow form, zip shut” were the final steps of assembly.
To fasten the pillow sides together I used the second of the two I-cord attachment methods I described yesterday. The I-cord edged pillow worked exactly the same way, but instead of picking up both legs of the stitches running down the length of the previous round of I-cord, I held the two sides together and picked up the innermost leg of the edge stitch from each one. This turned the outermost legs inside as a selvedge, and made a nice, neat join without gappy holes.
The pillow with the lacy edging was done in a similar manner. Unlike the I-cord however, I had wrong-side rows on the lace. I did my lace trim, using three plain knits on the straight side as my point of attachment. I ended every right-side row of the lace with SSK, pick up one stitch, just like the I-cord. Then I flipped my work over, slipped the first stitch purlwise, knit 1, and continued with rest of my wrong-side row.
Just like in joining the first round of I-cord to my poncho, for both the I-cord and lacy edgings I had to adjust the ratio of stitches picked up to rows or stitches on the piece’s body. I believe I used needles two or three sizes smaller for both the I-cord and lacy edgings. I also ended up working 4:3 on the sides of the piece and 2:3 along the top and bottom. Experimentation at the outset and a willingness to rip back a few rows and try again are both always required when you’re adding a knit-on edging.
I’m pleased with the way these turn out, and surprised at how well the inexpensive wool I used has held up. The pieces were a bit stiff and slightly real-wool itchy when first knit, but softened up quite nicely when washed and blocked. Sure, there’s some pilling, but these pillows have survived 8 years of slumber party pillow fights, general abuse and spills of all sorts. They’ve resisted stains, and freshen up quite well after a general pill-pluck and washing with Eucalan. My only cautions on the Lion Fisherman yarn are that even washed it isn’t Merino-soft; and that my gauge of 4.5 spi worked but is a bit loose for it in garments. I think it would look better knit a tad more firmly as a true worsted.