Here’s a nifty project for the travelling knitter: a counting aid, a cunning computational device & a receptacle all in one! Put your knitting notions in the pouch, grab your knitting & head to the beach. Or knit one in time for going back to school.
I’ve always been interested in how knitters count, whether with M&Ms, chocolate bar pieces (my favourite, though a bit problematic if you have to rip), stitch markers, row counters, pen & paper, or a fancy iPhone app. A while ago Francesca of Fluffbuff shared a great low-tech trick for labelling swatches & I mentioned how much I love lo-fi solutions. The great thing about them is that there’s no right way to use them; you can get as creative with their use as you do with your knitting. For example, you could use your abacus to…
- count the rows you knit, in increments of 1, 5, 25, and 125 for each row of beads (up to 760, if I’m not mistaken).
- keep track of simultaneous increases & decreases.
- do soroban-style calculations; here’s a lady with a slightly crazy voice explaining how.
- “pre-code” your knitting pattern so that you don’t have to bring it along.
My Mum even suggested that you could use it visually, to remember surface shapes and patterns.
This is an easy-peasy project which any beginner could make. The whole thing is just stocking stich, after all. The trickiest part was the sewing, but all that took was a bit of patience. Don’t be scared by the zipper. This was the first time I’ve sewed in a zipper, and seriously, there’s nothing to it; if you’ve ever set in a sleeve, I can assure you that this is much easier!
I think it’s inevitable that the bead “swags” will sag a little. I actually like them that way because they look like a beaded fringe, and it doesn’t interfere with their use. But if it bothers you, you could always place a piece of cardboard or plastic canvas between the knitting and lining, to keep the knitting stretched out.
ABACUS POUCH / PENCIL CASE
You will need:
Less than 50m / 55yds of aran-weight yarn
4.5mm / US7 needles, or size to get gauge
21cm / 8in zipper
10 beads in a light colour
10 beads in a darker colour
1 large bead for zipper pull (optional)
Approx. 22 cm x 22cm / 8.5in x 8.5in fabric for lining (optional)
A tapestry needle
A sewing needle & thread
Gauge: 13 sts / 20 rows to 10cm / 4in.
Finished size: 18cm x 11cm / 7in x 4¼in.
A Word on Yarn & Bead Choice
I recommend an acrylic or acrylic-blend yarn, so that your pouch is less likely to sag or felt with use, or pill when you slide the beads around. Use needles smaller than the yarn calls for, to get a sturdy fabric. The beads need to be the right size to stay put when strung on the yarn, but should slide along easily when pushed. Large beads that stand out too far from the fabric make it difficult to gauge the length of the “swags”, so I recommend medium or smallish beads. Mine were 1cm wide.
Knitting the Pouch
String your beads onto your yarn in this order: 5 of the lighter shade, 5 of the darker shade, 5 of the lighter shade, 5 of the darker shade. The beads you will knit first are therefore strung on last. A small crochet hook will help, if you can’t get your tapestry needle through your beads. You’ll need to keep pushing your beads along as you knit.
Work 4 rows in st st.
ROW 5: K8, sl 10 sts pwise wyif, push 5 beads up to the last knit stich, so they lay in front of the slipped sts, leaving enough slack for the beads to slide k next 2 sts tightly, k6.
ROW 6: Purl across.
ROW 7: Knit across.
ROW 8: Purl across.
Rep. rows 5 – 8, 3 times more. Work in st st until piece measures 11cm / 4¼in, ending with RS facing.
Next ROW: P across. (This forms the fold).
Next ROW: P across.
Next ROW: K across.
Next ROW: P across.
Continue in st st until back measures 11cm / 4¼in from fold. Cast off.
If you choose to line your pouch, hem your fabric all the way around, then sew it 1cm / 0.5in in from each side of your pouch. You may want to stretch your pouch as you go.
Open the zipper, pin and sew it onto your pouch. I recommend working by hand, unless you’re a sewing machine whiz. Try to sew just under the cast on & cast off chains, as they will border the zipper nicely.
Mattress stitch the sides of your pouch.
Thread the cast off tail onto your tapestry needle, and pull your needle away 25cm / 10in from the pouch. Twist this length of yarn, keeping the rest of the yarn untwisted (you’ll be using it to secure the tab, but trim it a little, if that makes it easier). When you have enough twist that the yarn kinks up on itself, fold it in half, and even out the twist. Then insert the tapestry needle near where the tab emerges. Fold the tab into a loop, and sew the loop down. Secure the threads with a knot. You’ll need to cut the needle loose, but it should be ok, as long as you’ve knotted it well.
Cut a length of yarn approx. 25cm / 10in long, and pull a loop through the eye of your zipper. Then pull the ends of your yarn through the loop to form a lark’s head knot. Thread a large bead through both strands of yarn, secure with a knot. Trim off any excess.
Weave in your ends & you’re done!
More abacus craft from around the web: