Category Archives: North Truro Counterpane


I’m delighted to announce that at least one other human being has the courage, fortitude, and profound lack of reason to attempt my North Truro Counterpane. Not only is she doing the pattern, she’s simplifying it a bit by cleverly knitting some of the pieces together, avoiding several seams in the process


High-fives to Sandra B. who is busy knitting on this right now, but who took the time to send me the snap above. She made my day! (The photo above is hers, reproduced with her permission).

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[Repost of material originally appearing 7 August 2006]

More North Truro questions from my inbox:

Why are there blue boxes on the hex graph? They’re not in the symbol key.

That’s an example of what happens when you write for yourself, use the same graph oodles of time, and then release it into the wild without doing a due diligence review. I shaded them for myself, as a reminder that those stitches were supposed to be purled because on the first couple of iterations, I’d forget and breeze right over them in stockinette. When I publish a full version of the pattern I’ll remember to kill the blue shading.

How do you cast on at the center of the hex? Your directions just sort of assume that there are six stitching somewhere. How do they get there?

For this particular piece, I usually cast six stitches onto one needle, using a half-hitch cast-on. Then I move three stitches onto a second needle. I hold the two needles like this,


and using a third needle, begin working my rounds, starting with the first stitch I cast on. I’ll introduce more needles as the thing grows, redistributing the stitches (or mentally spanning one side over the spot where two needles meet if required). By the sixth round, I’ll have all seven needles employed (one per side, plus one in the hand).

Do you use the same cast-on for all the units?
No. For the squares and triangles, I do a standard long-tail cast-on, but work it over two needles held together. This introduces a bit more looseness into that first row, which can be impossibly tight in a non-stretchy yarn like my cotton. Credit for this very simple trick goes to my mom, who showed it to me an aeon ago during her initial fruitless attempts to teach a 10-year old me how to knit.

How many hexes did you knit this week?

Sadly, none. It was super hot here last week. I couldn’t bear to knit anything at all. This weekend though I have started in again, easing my way with a sock. Pix as soon as I find my misplaced camera and the batteries to power it.

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[Repost of material originally appearing on 28 July 2006]

On the North Truro Counterpane, it really is an ideal summer beach project. The pieces are small and quick to finish. I’ve memorized the triangle and square units (I still have to refer to the pattern for the big hex). The soft cotton handles nicely in hot weather. I can sit and knit a pile of pieces during the day, then sew them onto the growing blanket in the evening. Or now that I’m home, I can knit pieces one by one and sew them on as I finish them. Note that I’m not bothering to block these. I suppose I should, but given the sheer number of units, doing so would be unwieldy. In this case laziness wins. As far as my rate of production now that I’m home and back to knitting only an hour or two in the evenings, I’d say that I can complete about one meta-motif in a week. Not a fabulous rate of progress to be sure…

I’m considering posting the graphs for the units here if enough people are interested. It won’t be a finished pattern, as I will not be doing the calculations for yarn consumption needed for various size blankets, nor will I make a yarn recommendation (the stuff I used is an anonymous coned Webs special, roughly between DK and Sport in weight). So having said that – here’s my progress.


Between beach work and finishing up at home (in and around the Baby Surprise and other projects) I managed to complete two more meta-motifs, and start a third. I’ve got eleven now. The blanket is sitting on a 6×8 foot rug, so it’s just about 5.5 feet across its widest dimension. I am still aiming for something to put on my queen size bed (about 7.5 feet x 8 feet) so I’d say I’m a little over a third of the way there.

The biggest drawback of a project like this? No. It’s not that it takes a geological age to finish – even more if you only work on it seasonally like I do. It’s the *)#$-load of ends to darn in after sewing all those pieces together.

With each meta-motif using 13 units (1 hex, 6 triangles, 6 squares), plus one plain triangle between units, so far I’ve got 28 ends x 11 meta-motifs (more or less). That’s 308 so far even though I’ve been leaving tails long so I can use them to sew the motifs together and avoid introducing even more to end off. I’ve not been fastidious about ending them off right away because I do sometimes need to go back and use an available tail for that purpose. Although I’ve been nibbling away at that greater total, I fear that even when I’ve finally finished the thing (invented half hexes and companion units to square off the edges plus a coordinated lace edging to finish all) I’ll still have at least another summer of just darning in before I’m truly done with my Truro.


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[Repost of material originally appearing on 3 August 2006]

First, here’s a picture showing one finished meta-unit, plus one that’s mid-assembly. You can see the swirl hex in the center, plus where the square and triangle units fit.


In the layout I’m using, these meta-units fit together with plain triangles inserted at the point where three meta-units meet.


I suppose I could have made just one big triangle for those spots instead of four smaller ones. That design variant will have to wait for a future blanket. In the next photo you can see how the concept above actually works:

Finally, here are some other arrangements for the same basic units. The swift will note that the one in the upper right is in fact the layout I am using:

In addition to these, the squares and triangles can also be used by themselves, or in combo. LATE UPDATE: The two layouts on the right are in fact different. While both employ entire meta-units, with plain triangles where they meet, the top one butts the meta-units up against each other by uniting the edges of the squares, the other unites the edges of the triangles. The differences are subtle, but the lines of the piece do look different if the lower right hand arrangement is made.

In terms of technique used and hints for seaming – the squares fit stitch for stitch along the edge of the hex. Due to decrease ratios, the triangles are in fact just a bit wide at the base. To eat up that extra width, I play with ease, plus I sew them in using mattress stitch. I take a slightly bigger “bite” out of the triangles’ sides than I do out of the edges of the squares to which I am sewing them. So far it has worked out well enough. Other spots where cast-on/bind-off edges meet are sewn together with whip stitch, picking up the innermost edges of the chains formed by the cast-on or bind off (or if no chain was formed, the equivalent edgemost stitch).

I do note that I’ve gone back and forth several times between working the hex, then sewing on the squares, or working the hex, then working the squares directly onto it’s live stitches. I had forgotten I had done this as I began this summer’s production, but looking at my finished blanket, I’m hard pressed to identfy the abberant sewn-on squares. I’ll go back to the knit-on method on the next meta-unit. In the mean time, I’ll just sit here in the heat and think about knitting, because at over 100-deg F indoors, it’s too hot to actually do anything more than sit in one spot and pant like a dog.

Now. Has anyone else tried the hex yet?

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[Repost of material originally appearing on 2 August 2006]

As promised, here is the third unit needed to build my North Truro Counterpane. I won’t say the last, because I still intend on squaring out the sides and adding coordinated strip-knit coordinated trim. That will require some half-hexes, half-squares and the trim itself. But I’m not there yet.

Like the square, the triangle is knit flat and is quite straightforward. In addition to the patterned piece graphed below, I also make some plain triangles to fit in between the larger meta-motifs. In essence they are the triangle graph below, but without any patterning. To make them I cast on 31, then work entirely in stockinette, employing only the shaping directions shown at the ends of the right-side rows.


[Click on pix above for larger rendition]

I think that I might have done the patterned triangle a bit differently if I were to assay it again now. I might have eliminated the YOs and companion decreases down the center on rows 1-11. Or maybe not. I’d have to play with it to see if I liked the meta-unit (and how multiple metas fit together) after assembly without those radial spikes.

Tomorrow I’ll discuss again how these go together, and present some alternate arrangements.

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[Repost of material originally appearing on 1 August 2006]

As promised, here is the square I use to build my North Truro Counterpane – the first of the companion units needed to build the thing along with yesterday’s hexes.

I could see someone making a blanket of only the squares, or only the triangles (tomorrow’s post), but I did design them to fit visually with the swirl counterpane to make up the larger star meta-motif. I like the contrast between the patterned, almost embossed central swirls and plain stockinette. The lines of the square extend and frame the swirl’s motion, spreading the design out beyond the borders of the hex itself.

The square is knit flat, back and forth on straights. I use two of my longer DPNs for all the smaller units. Since these are quick and almost never languish on the needles, don’t bother finding a pair of traditional straights with end buttons.

[Click on pix above for larger rendition]

Now, why did I go to all this trouble? For the classic reason. Why not?

I’m not a big fan of pieced quilting. I think it can be visually quite lovely, and value it as a medium for artistic expression, but I don’t enjoy manipulating all those little patches of cloth myself. I am however fascinated by simple geometry. Things like tessellations tickle my fancy. I can’t pass by a bit of interesting mosaic or brickwork without pausing to appreciate regular polyhedral tiling. Traditional Islamic non-figural ornamentation is a source of wonder to me. When I stumbled across Phillips Knitting Counterpanes I skidded to a halt and hung on every page.

Since then I’ve kept my eye open for more pieced counterpane style patterns of all levels of complexity. But I notice that very few are built on layouts beyond all squares, triangles, or hexes; or (at the most) on octagons plus small squares. I wanted to play with some of the more unusual layouts – to see if I could bend knitting around them. There are lots of ways to tile an area with simple regular polygons, and simple regular polygons are easy to knit. Why not mix squares and triangles? Or hexes, squares and triangles? Or (be still, my heart), dodecagons, hexes, and squares? North Truro is my first attempt.

I wonder what trouble i could get into if I departed the single plane, and ventured into the 3D world of polyhedra? Hmmm….

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[Repost of material originally appearing on 31 July 2006]

O.K. Apparently I’m not the only crazed loon out there that’s interested in knitting something with ten thousand ends. So in response to requests, I share my North Truro Counterpane.

Please note that as a pattern, this is still in Beta stage. I have no yarn quantities, gauge estimates, or recommended needle sizes. There also may still be an error lurking in the upper right double moss area on rounds 35-43, after the centered leaf motif. I think I’ve corrected it on this version, but since I mostly work my motifs on autopilot at this point, I can’t swear that I’ve payed close enough attention to test-knitting this particular edition of my graph. If you run into oddness, remember that the double moss area on each side of the center leaf should mirror. If it looks like you’re developing a rib on row 37 or 39, invert the knits and purls after the center leaf and all will be well.

In terms of materials, I can say that I’m using a insanely inexpensive unnamed coned cotton flake yarn found in the back room at Webs. It’s soft, with some open and relaxed sections, rather than a tightly spun mercerized cotton. In terms of weight it’s probably closest to fingering, with occasional puffy bits making it hard to describe. I’m getting 16-17 wraps per inch.

For needles, I’m using 3mms. NOT US #2s, which tend to be 2.75 mm, but true European 3mm needles. I’ve got a mix of 10-inch and 8-inch long steel DPNs of that size, and am working my hexes on four, moving to seven when the number of stitches on the needles makes that more comfortable (one needle per side, plus one to knit with). Now not everyone is as DPN happy as I am, so if you prefer using one or two circs, try starting out with a set of 4 DPNs, (two hex sides per needle), and using them until the piece is large enough to make the transition practical – probably around round 23 or so.

Please remember to note the one-stitch transition on round 35. I shunt the beginning of the row one stitch to the left on that round. You should knit the first stitch of Round 35 onto the last needle of Round 34, then work around, doing that terminal K2tog on the last stitch of each repeat and the first stitch of the next one. If you’re using circs and markers, move the marker to after that K2tog. The final repeat of Round 35 will work out even – the last K2tog will combine the previous final stitch of that repeat plus that stitch you knitted and transferred at the beginning of the row.

[Click on pix above for larger rendition]

I will post the graphs for the companion square and the triangles tomorrow. The hex can be used alone or in combo with the other units. In fact, the geometry of the thing allows several possible assembly layouts I’ll write more about that later in the week.

Finally, there’s one more reason why this is just in Beta. I haven’t finished the total counterpane design yet. It is my intent to (eventually) draft out companion half hexes and half-squares, to finish the piece off as a rectangle, then trim the whole caboodle with a custom-designed edging that complements the design elements of the motifs.

Needless to say, I’m not there yet.

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Still plugging along. Progress will stall though after this for a bit
as I have some rather intensive fulling and knitting on the Mystery
Project to accomplish.

you can see, I’m missing a couple of solid triangles left and right of
the motif at the lower right, but the final result is becoming
increasingly more clear. I like the play of the large starry areas and
the solid white bits. Seaming is a pain, it’s true – but not so big a
pain as I thought it would be. Of course I’ve got a zillion ends at
this point. I may just take the odd moments of this week I can spare
from the Mystery Project and end off as many as possible. That would be
productive yet mindless work that could be done in stolen time.


Although I was out of town tending to family matters last weekend,
knitting was accomplished – mostly on the flights and in the airports
as I waited between planes. In addition to yesterday’s swatches,
I did some work on my counterpane.

As you can see there’s a pie slice that’s missing from the leftmost
motif. My guess is that my missing triangle is now loose in the
Orlando airport – a stopover on my way to my final destination. I
doubt my feral triangle will cause more than a moment’s pause as it is
swept up and tossed away. So it goes.

As this piece grows larger, I can say I’ve definitely overbought my
white cotton coned yarn. I have four enormous cones. I’ve
gone through about a third of just one of them. I think I’ll end
up using just two of them to make the whole thing. Here’s
consumption so far. The untouched cone on the left weighs
1250g. It’s the smallest of the four, with the others ranging up
to about 1300g. The nibbled into cone on the right weighs 825g,
and started out at around 1300g. Which all makes sense because my
blanket so far weighs about 475g. (It’s always pleasing when the
math actually works out).

Since I’ve got about 20% of my estimated total surface area done, but
have used only about 8.3% of my yarn (a third of one of four cones –
roughly a 1/12 of my total available yarn), I’ll have LOTS
leftover. Still, I don’t mind. It’s nice yarn and there
will be enough for another project (perhaps another counterpane).
As an added bonus, the stuff was a very inexpensive back room find at
Webs. I paid about $10 per cone for it. Since this project
will last for about eight months at the current rate of production and
I anticipate using only two cones, that works out to $2.50 per month of
knitting enjoyment. It doesn’t get any more economical than that.

How to knit on the cheap?? Don’t buy what’s trendy. Big fat
yarns and glitzy yarns command a premium, but plain finish yarns, even
first quality good wools and cottons can be had at very reasonable
prices (even without resorting to reclaiming yarn).

Think smaller gauges. This stuff isn’t particularly small being
very close to DK weight (5.5spi), but even DK is lighter than many of
the more favored yarns today. And think of? projects that
get their zing from the knitting rather than from the yarn. Yes,
they take a bit more time and attention than some plainer pieces, but
isn’t the entire idea to have fun knitting? No, if you are
on a limited budget you won’t be able to knit that fancy fulled
cardigan from imported Japanese hand-dyed, but I bet with a little
effort you could find a 100% wool sport weight yarn that would make a
smashing texture stitch or stranded colorwork jacket and not break the
bank – especially if you consider how many weeks of knitting time you’d
get by investing in such a project.


Still plugging along on the counterpane, at the approximate rate of one
meta-motif per week. Week seven ends with this accumulation,
shown on the top of the bed that it will (eventually) grace:

As you can see in spite of having completed one circuit, there’s still a long way to go:

I still stick by my estimate of approximately 26 motifs (plus half
motifs) to get good coverage for my queen-size bed. I might take
a break this week though and use my knit-time to tend the ever growing
forest of ends. That’s 36 ends per meta-motif. Plus 12 more
for the solid triangles shown above. Plus two more from finding
and cutting a knot out of my yarn. So I’ve already got about 50
ends to deal with in the fragment shown above. Which should keep
me busy for a bit…

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