This week's episode is an exploration of I-Cords. Our letter this week is about how beholden you need to be to fiber content when substituting yarn for specific projects.
We mentioned I-Cords in last week's episode! This week we're talking about what they are and how you might be use them in your projects.
*Tools to create Knit an I-Cord: *
I-Cord Cast-On Video Tutorial from Brooklyn Tweed - includes video, and written instructions for both knitting flat and in the round)
Bind-off: - Clean, aesthetically pleasing finished edges to your project
I-Cord Bind-Off tutorial from Andrea Rangel
We'll be going live at 4:15 EST on Saturday, April 2 to celebrate the conclusion of the stashdown!
Send us your letters! email@example.com
NaN Hi, and welcome to Make Good, the podcast about yarn and knitting from scratch supplier. We're recording today in downtown Lebanon, New Hampshire, and we're really excited to be here. I'm Karen.NaN And I'm Jessica.
NaN What are we talking about today?
NaN This week, we are exploring I-cords. Last week, in episode 66 about plant fibers, we mentioned yarns that have chainette construction and explain that it's basically an I-cord, and then that was that. So if you don't know what an iCourt is, it was still not helpful information for you. This week, we're going to dig into what I-cords are and how to make them and ways that you can use them in your knitting practice.
NaN Can I tell you about the first time I ever encountered an I-cord and how I pretended I knew what it was and I did not know what it was?
NaN Please do.
NaN So it was before we opened the store, and you had knit a hoodie for Scarlett Violet, one of those kids, and it had, like, an icourd drawstring on it.
NaN I remember that. It was purple and cute.
NaN And you kept talking about how it was all done except for the I-cord. All done except for the I-cord. And I was just like, mmhmm, yes, the I-cord, no idea. And then you had, like, plunked a hanger up on a curtainrod and did some kind of wizardry with three strands of yarn, and it just felt like a ton of yarn and something was happening. And then you had a cute little drawstring for the hoodie.
NaN Yeah, it was pretty fancy. I find that I knit I-cords more often than I realize now that I've taken some time to reflect on them. But that was definitely one of my most intentional early I-cord additions to my knitting. And since then, it's just kind of been all downhill. Lots of I-cords.
NaN So what are they? What should people be picturing when we talk about I-cords?
NaN Okay, if you want a good visual of an I-cord, think about your shoelaces. Shoelaces are basically I-cord construction. But when you're knitting an I-cord, it's just a tiny little knitted tube, and the size of it is going to be relative to the weight of the yarn that you use to create it. So a lace weight I cord is going to be a skinnier tube than a bulky I-cord, but it's basically taking your yarn and knitting a tube out of somewhere between three and five stitches. And three is generally the most common number. But there's flexibility in that. As with all things knitting and that I-cord can be an independent tube of knitting that you use for decorative purposes, or it can be an attached knit part of your project that serves some function and decorative element. I-cord have been around for a long time, and some of the earliest references to icords, they were not actually called that. They were featured in Victorian needlework manuals, and in those texts, it was referred to as staylace. So for modern knitters, the term I-cord didn't exist until Elizabeth Zimmerman discovered stay lace in these Victorian needlework manuals. And she was so enamored with this knitting technique that she gave it a name. And it is the name we all use today. I-cord. But when Elizabeth named it the I was intentional, and it stood for idiot.
NaN That feels mean.
NaN From what I understand, I clearly did not know Elizabeth Zimmerman, but she was playful and experimental with knitting. And I think in that time period, which was probably like the 1960s or something, she meant this is it's idiot proof. It's foolproof. Anyone can do this. It's a thing that you should just try and play with. But the long name for the I-cord did not stick, and we just referred to it as the I-cord today.
NaN So how do you make one of these things? Like, what is the mechanical construction of an I-cord?
NaN Probably the most common way as a knitter that you would make I-cords is with your double pointed needles. And it will soon become clear to you why you need to use double points and not straight needles. So you're going to cast on whatever number of stitches you need. We're going to say three for our purposes because that's the most common number. And you're going to knit across those stitches. When you get to the end of your three stitch row, instead of turning your work and continuing to knit flat, because that would give you a little strip of garter, you're going to slide your stitches to the other end of the needle that they are already on and continue working them. So the yarn is going to be coming out of the back of the last stitch that you knit, and you're going to keep it to the backside of your work and then work into the first stitch on your needle. So your stitches are just sliding back and forth on a needle. So if you have straight needles with little end Stoppers, this would be impossible. But doing that brings the yarn around the back of the three stitch expansive fabric, creating a tube.
NaN Right. It kind of like cinches the two ends of this very short three stitch or five stitch strip that you're knitting to each other.
NaN Cool. So you can also use circular needles to do this. Lots of knitters find that managing the cord in the way of this circulating thread across the back of the work is kind of fussy. So often, DPNS are recommended. But if in a pinch you just have circulars or that's your preferred method, totally fine, you're going to get the same result. But there are also tools that you can use to make I-cords, which are kind of fun and handy.
NaN Yeah. So I've made them using a Lucet, which is spelled Lucet. And if someone wants to correct me and tell me that it's pronounced Luce or something. I would absolutely believe you. There was somebody out at the farmers market who was selling them. And the one that I have is carved out of wood. It kind of looks like a tiny pitch fork, but with only two prongs. And they're flared out. You sort of wrap the yarn in almost an Infinity symbol, and then you dip the prongs in and out. We're going to link to a Wikipedia article on a looset, which sort of explains a little bit what the actual motion is. But it's basically just another way of making the same construction. And in my case, I made shoelaces, but I never got around to getting those little tube things that you put on the ends so that they don't fray when you stick them into your shoes. And I didn't choose yarn with nylon. Those shoelaces were short lived for multiple reasons.
NaN But you have lots of opportunity to make all sorts of cute aesthetic shoelaces stockyard is perfect for something like that. You've got a million colors available to you. It's a good StashBuster. There's also a tool called an I-cord knitting machine, which allows you to quickly hand crank an I cord. We are linking in the show notes to a YouTube video from Emma Farlander, who's doing a demonstration with this. But it basically is a little plastic tube that has a top that's kind of shaped like a Tulip. And these little hooks stick out of the top. And then it has a tiny crank on the side, like a Jack in the box. So you set up your yarn. You start cranking the tiny little crank arm. And instead of a scary clown jumping out at you, a tiny I cord starts falling out of the bottom of this funny little plastic Tulip. It's adorable, and they're super handy.
NaN So like a tiny, narrow version of a sock knitting machine?
NaN Yes. Same idea, same idea. Tiny scale, significantly more affordable. And then there's also another tool that you might have kicking around your house somewhere in your craft stash. Or if you know, little kids somewhere in their mountain of craft stash, there is something called a French knitter. It's also called a knitting Nancy or a spool knitter. And when I was a little kid, I was told they were called a French knitting loom, but they often look like a little wooden mushroom. I guess they could be plastic, too. And they have hooks at the top that kind of look like staples that come out of a staple gun, like they've got long legs, but those are arranged around the top, and there's a hole that goes down the center of the tube. And it's basically an iCourt knitting machine with no crank. You are manually moving the yarn and adjusting those stitches and letting them fall down into the tube to create this I cord that's going to come out of the bottom very cool. If you want to see how the French knitter works, we're also linking to a video from lion brand that is a YouTube demonstration of how to use this manual knitting ICORD tool that's not your knitting needles.
NaN So once you've started making these things, what can you use them for?
NaN Everything. I feel like this is kind of like our mini Skein episode where you can do all sorts of craftivities. But I-cords are really handy for things like drawstrings. So if you're knitting a sweater.
NaN Like a hoodie or shorts.
NaN Like the ripple butt shorts that I knit last year.
NaN Oh, yeah, that had nightclub drawstring in it.
NaN Baby booties. You want to tie those cute little boots that you make onto the baby's feet because babies don't really have ankles. All sorts of things. Basically, anywhere you need something tied up, you can use an I-cord. Decorative features on hats can be done with icourds. And I feel like this is another baby thing. You will see a baby in a cute little beanie that has a funny little curly, cute thing sticking out of the top. Or it's like tied in a knot. And I'm like, 99% sure, those are called umbilical caps, weird body part references, and baby hats, but I think it's designed to look like that for your newborn person.
NaN Babies aren't far enough removed from actual human umbilical cords to be making sly references to them in their clothing.
NaN And yet somehow knitters have embraced this, and it's super cute. If umbilical cords are not really your aesthetic thing.
NaN The sentence I never thought I was going to say that's a brand new sentence in this world.
NaN You're welcome. Then you can also incorporate I-cords with cute little features like a strawberry hat or a pumpkin hat. And it will be of the sweet little stem that sticks out of the top of their fruity little heads. So cute grownups and kids can wear them.
NaN You could also attach them. If you knit a hat with ear flaps, you could knit an I-cord coming out of the bottom of the ear flaps to tie the hat under your chin.
NaN We're going to link to a blog post on the Tin Can Knit website, and it features their beloved bonnet, which is that cute little short row shaped elephant style bonnet. And the shaping makes the hat itself come down over your ears. And it's got I cord edging and long I-cord strings to tie under your sweet little chin. I've got a fun one for you.
NaN Okay. Applique sounds fun.
NaN You can knit yourself a whole palette of I cord colors and kind of do anything with them. You can tack them onto your sweater like hand stitching, but instead of embroidering, you're kind of tacking down the ICORD tubes into shapes. I've seen people put flowers on sweaters and hearts, and I court animals, and I feel like this is an amazing opportunity to take a sweater that you already have and turn it into a temporary because you maybe don't want the sweater to always look like this ugly sweater for a holiday party.
NaN Oh, sure.
NaN I don't know. My favorite ugly sweater has a scary unicorn on it.
NaN That has, like, beads and all sorts of fancy stuff. But I feel like I-cords the opportunity to take your long string. It's like drawing with a magic marker. You've got a thick tube of color, turn it into anything, and just with a couple of stitches, you could tack it into place and then remove it after the party or decide that it's your new favorite thing.
NaN I think with enough patience. I mean this in the same way that you need patience to knit with beads because you have to preload them on the string. You could make an ICORD with bells in it. Like tiny little bells.
NaN And really make somebody's life joyful and or completely miserable.
NaN It sounds so fun.
NaN We already mentioned shoelaces. Definitely invest in those little plastic tube Shrinky dink things that go on the end. Otherwise it'll start to fray when you lace your shoes and just fall apart and be really hard to get through your shoelace holes. Little cords to hold your glasses, like the ones that go around the back of your neck. And then if you take your glasses off, they just kind of hang.
NaN Librarian chic.
NaN That's right.
NaN Fashion. You could make decorative things for your home, like Garland, which you might think. I'm not knitting Garland, but you know what? You should try. You probably are. It's a great way to use up festive stash. We're also going to link in the show notes to an article from Interweave Knits about some of their project suggestions for I cords. The first one is macrame plant hangers, and we have one at home with a plant in our kitchen. And I was staring at it the other morning and I was like, oh, wow, it really is just an ICORD. It's probably rope, but it's chain construction. I was like, this is fascinating. We've had this in the kitchen all this time, and I've never stopped to consider. There's also instructions for braided bracelets. Super fun. Friendship bracelets are back in style friends. So make some I-cords and give one to your knitting bestie. Jump ropes more craftivities. This is outdoor fun for you.
NaN Hold on. No.
NaN I mean, you could do this with a plant fiber, but jump ropes are often, like, weighted or something. I'm just picturing trying to jump rope with some floppy Merino wool and being the saddest, most annoyed person immediately before I fall on my face.
NaN I mean, you're not supposed to fall on your face. Never do that part. But I think you could experiment with hemp or cotton. Some fibers are heavier than others, and you might have something in your stash that's really well suited to a jump rope. You'll have to experiment and see. This is where I'm really excited about this article that we're linking to. There are instructions for I-cords that are braided into coasters, which okay, fine. And a little bit bigger. Trivets handy useful in your kitchen and rugs. I'm so excited about the rugs I'm finding super appealing, and it might be a fun project over the summer.
NaN Okay, so let's say you don't want to make something that is just an ICORD, like an independent icourd project. You want to incorporate it into a different project. You could do an ICORD cast on on a sweater or something on anything.
NaN So I did an icourd cast on for the first time last summer during our Knit Along for the make good. Sorrel I knit the summer sorrel T, which is knit top down and the neckline is an ICORD cast on, and I loved it. It is super beautiful. It's a really tidy, clean, decorative edge and kind of has the same aesthetic as piping.
NaN And if you're not familiar with piping, it's generally seen in sewn clothing. If you think of, like, nice jammies that your grandma wears. So when you show up at 09:00 on a Saturday morning and grandma's got coffee out that hasn't gotten dressed yet, you know what I'm talking about? The jammy pants that are like woven fabric and long, and a little buttonup jammy top shirt that has a little breast pocket in the collar. The edge work on those fancy, fancy jammies piping. And if you're a sewerist, there are some contemporary sewing patterns that are nice jammy sets that incorporate piping. You've probably seen it, even if it's not coming to mind immediately. The nice thing about the icourd cast on is that you can really substitute it for any cast on technique. It's kind of clean, solid edge, but because I cords have elasticity to them, if you need kind of a stretchy edge or an edge with some flexibility, it will serve that purpose, too. And we are going to link to an iCourt cast on tutorial from Brooklyn Tweed in the show notes. And this tutorial includes a video and also written instructions for both knitting an ICORD cast on flat and in the round, so you've got all your bases covered for starting your project with an ICORD.
NaN You could also use it for your bind off, which is a really tidy aesthetic way to finish off a project.
NaN I also did a lot of icourd binding off last year. I did it most recently with my Great Gingham Ragland by Jessie May that I just knit. But last year when we did our very first Knit along, which was the Penguino, there's tons of ICORD bind off in that project. So if you're going to do an ICORD bind off, there are a couple of things to know Besides that, it looks fantastic on everything. It uses a lot more yarn than most bind off techniques, because instead of just binding off single stitches. Like, you knit a stitch, you knit a second stitch and you pass the first stitch over the second, you are knitting two additional stitches to start the bind off row, which helps you create the icourd tube. And then for every stitch you're binding off, you're essentially working three stitches. So huge yarn requirements versus a traditional simple Bindoff technique.
NaN Yeah, that would do it.
NaN And it's really slow because it's all of that extra knitting. So if you're finishing a project and you're crunched for time, you're like, I am done with this sweater and I am going to bind off, but I have somewhere to be in a half an hour. Don't do that because you're going to be late to your event. And if you're even a tiny bit worried that you're playing yarn chicken, give it up. Pick a different technique. We are going to link to an ICORD bind off tutorial from Andrea Wrangle, and this should give you all the information you need to be able to confidently move forward and bind off your project with a cute little Toby edge.
NaN What about, like, not part of a cast on not part of a bind off, but just the yarn itself? Because we were talking about chain at construction yarn a little bit last week. Why would you do that? What does it do for you? Why is it nice?
NaN So chain at construction yarn. It's also sometimes called chain plied yarn provides structure and bounce to fibers that don't have those things on their own. We're looking at you plant fibers, linen, hemp, bamboo, cotton, things that just kind of are what they are. They're not stretching. And it also gives bounce and structure to protein fibers that don't really have those qualities either. So think about alpaca, which is kind of floppy and drapery or silk that doesn't have a lot of spring to it. That type of yarn construction really gives it the snap and the movement that you love about wool. It also creates elasticity. So you can use those fibers to knit a garment and have it hold its shape and not just be floppy and hanging and heavy. It creates some snap to the yarn.
NaN We talked about a similar feature of some different animal fibers because you're knitting a tube, there's this hollow core to the tube, and that will trap air, which actually makes it warmer, creates a little bit of insulation between your body and the air outside of your garment. And it makes it feel lighter because you have this sort of literal buoyancy to it because there's air inside.
NaN Yeah. It's an excellent yarn construction for really heavy fibers, too. I don't mean heavy like it's bulky, weight yarn, but the actual weight of the fiber is dense, so it causes that drape and hang. It lightens it up so it makes it easier to work with and makes a more flexible, less rigid and physically weight heavy garment.
NaN We're going to post, like a close up of the chainette construction yarn that we happen to have in the store because it's jumbo weight, like it's really big. And so you can see all of this just with your eye. And that, I think, will be helpful, definitely.
NaN Because it's not the most common yarn construction. So it's entirely possible that you've been knitting for years and you've never come across it or had the opportunity to work with it. But having some more information might inspire you to give it a try and see if you like it.
NaN So what's on your needles?
NaN I have a new project.
NaN Yay. So I haven't given up on my Soric, but I was wooed by the siren song of all of this plant fiber talk that we've been doing recently. I was rearranging some displays in the shop and I moved I don't know how many so many skeins of dapple from Brooklyn Tweed, which is a blend of Merino and organic cotton.
NaN It's really nice. It's beautiful.
NaN The colors are very tonal because the plant fibers and the animal fibers take the dye differently. It's super soft. It's an intriguing yarn. And it occurred to me I have not worked with this yarn. Perhaps I should. I spent some time agonizing over patterns and I thought tank top. It's tank top time, and I landed on the Sarah Swatty top. I'm not sure if I'm saying that correctly, and it's by Julie Mackessy. This top is kind of exciting and fun. It starts off where you're knitting four triangles and basically the tops of the cups on the front of the tank top because it's like a little V neck tank top and the shaping is the same on the back. So you're knitting these four points. So I'm getting to use my Barber cables to hold these funny little triangle pieces off of my needles while I get to quickly move through it and then start knitting the next one. And once I get all four done, I'm going to join in the round and crank out a tank top really quick. And I'm 98% sure there are I cords involved. They become the straps that join the front panels to the back panels. So more I-cords in my life, they're just everywhere. And I didn't realize that I actually loved them because I hadn't thought about how often I knit with them. What's going on in your knitting life, Karen?
NaN Yeah, I'm still being super indecisive about my project. For our trip, I started picking colors for the slippy V, and I still think that might be what I'm going to knit. I don't know why this feels like so much pressure. I think it's just because also we're going to be going to shops when we're in Scotland. And so there are yarns I haven't met yet. And do I want to be knitting with question Mark? Question Mark? Question Mark.
NaN You're spoiled with choice.
NaN I'm just going to go find a sheep in a field, and I'm going to give it a haircut, and then I'm going to.
NaN Oh, I'm Super going to follow a sheep around a field. I'm going to hug one. Yes. And with its heart, it's going to hug me back.
NaN And it's little Sheepy head. Yeah.
NaN It's going to be good. Maybe a cow, too, if I'm lucky. That's my real goal for this trip. Yeah. Yarn, whiskey, Highland cows.
NaN Are you ready for a letter?
NaN I think I am today.
NaN This week's letter comes from Wendy.
NaN Hi, Wendy.
NaN Do different fibers lend themselves to different projects? Here's why I ask. Some people say that the Fox Paws by Zandi Peters should not be knit with stock yarn or super wash or any yarn that is not 100% wool because the stacked stitches have to stretch weird and other yarns are not flexible enough. Does that mean it must be worsted spun fingering weight, or does any of that matter? And then the pattern suggests Knit Picks palette, 100% wool fingering weight.
NaN So, Wendy, this is a good question, and you're looking at knitting Fox Paws specifically, but I think that the general principles here kind of apply to any yarn substitution. I don't know how stacked stitches work because I've not knit this pattern, so I don't have good personal understanding of the difference in construction and what fiber works best for that. But knowing that Zandi initially knit this pattern and suggests using wool, that's fingering weight is a good guide for you when you're choosing your yarn for the project. I'm going to say the thing I say, like, every week, everyone, you need to knit a Swatch, and you maybe need to knit multiple swatches for a pattern that has fabric like Fox Paws, where it's such unique construction. You need to do it to understand how the stitches are going to behave. Now that's not to say you need to buy tons of different yarn options and spend a fortune swatching and buying for the project and then figuring out like, Ugh, I bought three different versions of this and none of them work. What you can do is take this as an opportunity to try and make your stash do some work for you. So you probably have some fingering weight yarn in there that's like stock yarn. It's super washed, it's got some nylon content in there. And if you're thinking because you like a particular Dyer or just general color purposes, you would rather work with that type of yarn for this project, find some partial skins in your stash and just start swatching to see if the fabric is behaving how you want it to. Because there are only so many options of super washed, fingering weight nylon containing yarn out there, they're all very similar to each other. So if you can take tools that you already have at home and get a feel for how that's going to work, or decide that it's totally not going to work that will direct you in choosing your materials for your project.
NaN Some people say that Fox Paws should not be knit with stock yarn. So I have a couple of questions. Is this a kind of community consensus friendly warning kind of thing? I think there are two reasons people would be saying that, and one of them is that sort of semimystical adherence to the original thing.
NaN And that you could kind of take or leave depending on what you're going for and what you want. There are people who feel very strongly, I want to make this thing, and I want it to look exactly like the designer made the first one, or this is community consensus around seeing over and over that people who did use a wool nylon blend, it just came out kind of wonky. And they're just, like trying to save you the heartache. It would maybe be helpful in making this decision if you're able to assess whether you think this is coming from a place of devotion or a place of fear, whether you think this is coming from, like, aesthetic adherence or cautionary tale or cautionary tale. Exactly.
NaN Yeah. And it's totally not clear to me. But I think that if you want to do some investigating even before you start swatching, which I highly recommend every time always you can either look on Instagram hashtags for Fox Paws, or if you can use Ravelry, go to Ravelry and look through the project pages and dig into them a little bit. Find Fox Paw projects that you find aesthetically pleasing, and then go look for project notes and try and figure out what yarns people have used. And if there is a consistent aesthetic that you're like, I want to avoid this, and you keep finding that it's coming from certain types of yarn. If there's, like, a commonality in those projects, that is a cautionary tale for you, or you might find that there are all sorts of beautiful options and they're all knit with all sorts of different fibers. And that's kind of your permission slip to get creative and experiment with the fibers that you're going to use. But definitely particularly with that pattern, because it is so involved, you have to Swatch beforehand to know that you're going to like how your fibers behaving, regardless of what warnings exist in knitter world. And if you knit it and you finish it.
NaN Please tag us, because I love Fox Faz and I would like to see yours to make good Stashdown is almost over.
NaN What a wild ride. Friends, you've done so many amazing things. Your posts have been inspiring. I wish we had asked you all to calculate yardage because, Holy cow, you have knit so much and crocheted and woven so much. Shocking amount, many sheep.
NaN Don't tell them we're coming for them. No. So two days left. Yes.
NaN Where did March go?
NaN And it's totally okay. If you're not done. I'm not done with my project. I did one sock and not the other.
NaN Totally fine.
NaN But not everyone stuck with just one.
NaN You don't need to be finished. But we are going to choose a winner, and that winner will win a $150 gift card to scratch. To be that winner, you needed to have entered by using the hashtag makegoodstashdown and you need to be following both the scratch supply code and make good pod Instagram accounts. But we're going to let you know who you are and you're going to have fun shopping and to wrap up this whole event for all of us because this deserves celebration. On April 2, we'll be going live on Instagram at 400 Eastern standard time. And we invite you to bring your projects and join us because you're literally going to be able to join us. We want you to show us. It's like our make good Stashdown fashion show.
NaN We did this for the socks. The sock hop.
NaN The sock hop. Yep. To end the make good socks, knit along. But either way, we'll be live and we hope that you'll join us after this episode.
NaN We have one more episode before we take a break for a week or two because we're going to Scotland, which is super exciting. We're going to be posting pictures on our Patreon and we decided that for this trip, we're going to do it for everyone.
NaN Yeah. All Patreon supporters at any level will have access to all of our posts about this international knitting adventure. Hold onto your needles. It's going to be good. We're going to have fun.
NaN I think that might be it for us this week.
NaN It definitely is.
NaN You can find us wherever you get your audio podcast. You found us somehow, and here we are. You can also subscribe to us in possibly that very same place.
NaN You should rate and review us. It helps other knitters find us and the make good podcast knitting community is amazing and we just want it to keep growing.
NaN You can follow us on Instagram at makegoodpod or you can go to our website, makegoodpod.com for the show notes and to leave us a voicemail if you want.
NaN So fun. And as always, thank you. Thank you to our Patreon supporters. You all are a miracle. You help us do this every single week without ever taking on advertisers, and that's so important to us and clearly to all of you as well. So thank you.
NaN We actually had a cold email from someone who was offering to advertise with us and we were like, oh, oh, you never listen.
NaN You clearly have not heard to the end and keep sending us questions.
NaN You can send us emails at dear scratch at scratchupply co.com or fill out the cute little contact form on our website.
NaN You all have so many questions. We love it. We'll talk to you next week. Bye.