The Adventure of the Llama on the Corner, Part Three

fwf-logo-v11For an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here.

For the first part of this adventure, click here.

It’s not there yet.

This project, this mitered shadow knitting project, is knocking for me a loop right here on stage in front of you all. I won’t whine, though–this is what I signed on for back in the first column. When it doesn’t work, I’ll show you.

My last word on the first set of a squares…

Llama 2.7

…was that I liked them enough to move forward with them. That feeling didn’t last long.

As is so often the case, they’re weren’t “bad.” Just not right.


The wide borders took up a lot of real estate. The shadow-knit spaces inside were puny. Squashed. And they were supposed to have been the main event. This, plus the changes in color, plus the texture of the yarn–it was all becoming too much.

Time to re-think and to simplify.

Over-complication is a perennial issue for me. When making plans, the imaginative half of my brain gallops while the sensible half trots. My notebooks fill up with schemes for projects with unusual structures and complicated color work and fine yarns and interesting texture, and

There’s an old saying in classic menswear that if a man wishes to be eye-catching but remain elegant, he gets one thing. One statement piece. That may be a boutonnière, a pocket square, a bowler hat, a bright bow tie, a boldly patterned jacket–but he must pick one and only one.


As a wise fellow behind a Savile Row counter once said to me, as I ogled an ornate silver set comprising cufflinks, tie clasp, money clip, pocket watch with chain and fob, lapel pin, and signet ring: “Respectfully, sir does not wish to appear to be a Christmas tree.”


You may or may not agree with that notion, but I find it helps me whittle my designs down to a point where they don’t sag under the weight of too many Interesting Features. Also, to a point where they become something you can knit with only two hands and one brain.

What was the one thing to show off in this cowl? Why had I started this in the first place?

It was, I remembered, the potential magic of the shifting patterns in a piece of shadow knitting created with multiple changes of grain. I hoped that as the viewer’s viewpoint shifted, pattern would appear or vanish in different parts of the piece at the same time.

The borders interfered with that, so I took them out. I also made the spine as small as possible.

What had been arranged like this over seven stitches…


…I now arranged over only three stitches.


That caused a very abrupt change in grain at the decrease point. Now the differences between the two halves of the square really popped. Exactly what I wanted.


I used a centered (sometimes called vertical) double decrease (sl2-k1-psso), which turns three stitches into one and gives you a neat, symmetrical bundle with the central stitch on top. It looks like this:


Here’s how you do it.

  1. Work to the three stitches involved in the decrease.
  2. Slip the first two stitches together, as if to knit, from the left needle to the right needle.
  3. Knit the next stitch.
  4. Past the first two stitches, together or separately, over the knit stitch.

I use this double decrease all the time. It doesn’t lean to the right, like a knit three together (k3tog). That’s nice when, for example, you are bringing together a pair of converging lace diagonals. In fine and/or slippery yarns, it’s also much easier to control. When I k3tog in fine silk or cotton, I almost invariably drop one of the three live stitches before I’ve got them all secured. Not so with sl2-k1-psso.

I made these new squares little smaller, too, thinking they might look less clunky.

My square pile started growing again.


Then I got another idea. A much better idea. I think.

Dang it.

See you in two weeks?

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

HiKoo® Llamor (100% baby llama; 109 yd per 50g ball), available in the Peruvian Palette, the Natural Palette, and the Carnival Palette
addi® Olive Wood Circular knitting needles

About Franklin

Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His new book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Book was brought out by Soho Publishing in May 2016 and is in its second printing.

He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.

Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Twist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via

He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).

Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site ( or his Facebook page.