On Siblings and Cousins

Hello everyone! I had promised in my last post that I would begin a new series on my website where I will discuss one knitted gift at a time. So today is the first post in the ‘Gifting Series’. As the name suggests, I’m trying to time my post with the upcoming festival of Rakshabandhan in India. For those who are unaware or those who need someone to jog their memory, Rakshabandhan or Rakhi (as it is popularly called) is a day when sisters tie a thread or band around their brothers’ wrists as a mark of gratitude for the protection that their brothers have provided them over the years. It is an annual festival and this year it falls on the 3rd of August.

I’ll start by saying that I am neither a huge fan nor totally indifferent to the festival of Rakhi. Having an elder sister – who has always provided more than ample protection – I never felt the absence of a brother. The festival was never celebrated in a very big way by us, but my mother sends rakhis to her two brothers like clockwork every year. That is not to say that I have ever hesitated from tying my own share of Rakhis to my dear cousin brothers and in collecting a gift (sometimes money) in return. I firmly believe that traditions are good and can be followed as long as they bring happiness and do not cause distress to anyone.

Having said that let me tell you a bit about my cousins. I have 9 cousins on my mother’s side and 3 on my father’s side apart from my sister and myself. The ranks have obviously grown now that they are all married and have children of their own. My cousins were my first friends. I remember spending delightful summer holidays at my Mama’s (maternal uncle) house in Dehradun every year lazing around, playing games, going on picnics and doing other things children used to do before in the 90s. Similarly, some of the best vacations of my childhood were those that we took en masse with my Taujis (paternal uncles), their wives and their children around Christmas every year. I have always felt comforted by the knowledge that I can always call upon my large group of cousins whenever I get into trouble and need help. It’s like a really big security blanket, one I have come to greatly rely on.

The same applies to my sister. I have made many friends over the years but my sister remains my best friend. There is nothing I can’t say to her, nothing for which she will not forgive me and no extent to which she will not go to help me out and vice versa. Best part – she married a kindred soul who has filled the shoes of an elder brother to a T. I cannot imagine my life without either of them.

So in the spirit of the bonds I share with my sister and my cousins, I decided to celebrate Rakhi in my own way this year – by knitting the Rakhis at home. I will share with you two simple designs that you can make at home within an hour or two. They are definitely not as ornate as the ones you get in the market, but I feel nothing shows how much you care as much as something that is hand-made.

To make your Rakhis, choose any yarn and needle size (circular or straight). Remember the principles of Gauge I had mentioned earlier – the thicker the yarn and needle, the bigger the knitted fabric.

The Circular Rakhi

This conventionally shaped circular Rakhi can be knit in one piece from start to finish. You first need to knit the string part by knitting an I-Cord. To knit an I-cord, you will needle to use either Double Pointed Needles (DPNs) or a circular needle.

Cast on 3 stitches on your needle leaving a 6 inch tail and knit the first row. Now shift the stitches to the other end of the DPN or circular needle, so that the yarn attached to the ball is away from the side you are knitting on and then knit those 3 stitches. You have to continue knitting those 3 stitches remembering to shift the stitches to opposite ends of the needle each time you start a new row. If you keep knitting in this way, you will start getting a tubular fabric. Continue knitting till the tube is at least 4 inches in length.

Knitting the I-cord

Now we will knit the circle at the center of the Rakhi, for which the pattern is given below

Row 1: KFB 3 times (6 Sts)

KFB expands to Knit in the Front and Back. It is a simple way to increase a stitch by knitting twice into the same stitch. Start by knitting the stitch like you normally would but don’t take it off your left needle. Instead, insert your right needle in the back leg of the stitch and knit it once again. In this manner, you would have knit once in the front and once in the back of the same stitch.

Row 2: P 6

Row 2 simply requires you to purl all six stitches. Continue knitting and increasing stitches using the KFB increase.

Row 3: K 1, KFB 4 times, K1 (10 Sts)
Row 4: P 10
Row 5: K 1, KFB 8 times, K1 (18 Sts)
Row 6: P 18
Row 7: K3, KFB 3 times, K6, KFB 3 times, K3 (24 Sts)
Row 8: P 24
Row 9: K 24
Row 10: P3, P2Tog 3 times, P6, P2Tog 3 times, P3 (18 Sts)

Till Row 9 the pattern is fairly simple and a half circle would have formed by now. Once you reach Row 10, you will need to start decreasing the stitches to complete the circle. To decrease stitches, you will just need to Purl 2 stitches together (similar to the decrease K2Tog).

Row 11: K 18
Row 12: P1, P2 Tog 8 Times, P1 (10 Sts)
Row 13: K10
Row 14: P1, P2Tog 4 times, P1 ( 6 Sts)
Row 15: K2Tog 3 Times (3 Sts)

You have to keep decreasing stitches up to Row 15 until you are left with 3 stitches again. Then you will begin knitting the 2nd half of the string using the same I-cord method as above until you get a string of 4 inches length.

Bind off the 3 stitches and cut off the yarn leaving a 6 inch tail. In this Rakhi, you will not need to weave in any ends as both the cast-on and bind-off tails can be used as a part of the design.

Basic structure of the circular Rakhi after bind-off

The basic structure of your conventional circular Rakhi is ready. You can now decorate it in any manner you like by embroidering a design using a different coloured yarn (like I have) or by attaching some other decoration.

Circular Rakhi

The Rose Rakhi

We’ll make this Rakhi in two parts – knitting the rose part first and attaching the string later. Let’s begin with rose first.

Cast on 6 stitches using any type of cast on (I am using Long Tail Cast On)

Row 1 Knit all stitches (6 stitches)
Row 2 K1 *YO, K1 till the end* (11 stitches)

Row 1 requires you to knit all the stitches. For Row 2, knit the first stitch and then repeat the pattern YO, K1 till the end of the row. One very IMPORTANT thing to keep in mind is that here the YO is a bit different. Usually the YO is counter-clockwise around your right needle, here it will be clockwise. The reason for doing so is to make sure there are no holes in the fabric on account of YOs – the twisted YOs will cover the holes that the conventional YOs make. After Row 2 you will have 11 stitches.

Row 3 Knit all stitches (11 stitches)

Row 3 requires you to knit all the 11 stitches. Be careful when you knit the YOs. The YOs will look wrong on the needle and will be leaning in the wrong direction. This is because you have done a twisted YO in the previous row. But you will knit the YO in the same way as a conventional YO i.e. by inserting your right needle in the front leg of the YO from front to back.

Row 4 K1 *YO, K1 till the end* (21 stitches)
Row 5 Knit all stitches (21 stitches)
Row 6 K1 *YO, K1 till the end* (41 stitches)
Row 7 Knit all stitches (41 stitches)
Row 8 K1 *YO, K1 till the end* (81 stitches)
Row 9 Knit all stitches (81 stitches)

Knit the remaining rows in the same way as Row 2 and 3 making sure that you make your YO by wrapping your yarn in the clockwise direction and knitting it in the next row just like you would knit a conventional YO.

Once you are done knitting all 81 stitches, you can bind them using any bind off you like. As you are binding off, you will notice that the fabric will have started curling on its own. Once all the stitches are bound off, you will be left with a zig-zag sort of fabric which would be curling on it its own. Take one edge of the piece and start curling it to form the shape of rose petals. Use a tapestry needle to sew the petals together. Your rose is ready.

To make the string, cut off around 3 pieces of yarn of 20 inches each. You can use a yarn of a different colour if you like, the way I have done. Hold the three pieces together and tie a knot on either end or braid them together, as per your choice. After that, sew on the string to your rose using a tapestry needle. Voila! Your Rose Rakhi is ready.

Rose Rakhi

Like I said earlier, the Rakhis I have shown you are not very ornate, but you always have the option to use brighter colours, beads or gota to make your Rakhis look more pretty and conventional. I didn’t have all that material at hand so I stuck to simple colours and designs.

In any case, like I always say, it is not the look rather the thought and the effort you have put in that will touch the heart of whoever receives these Rakhis as a gift.

My best wishes to all of you for a fun filled and happy Rakshabandhan

~P

Materials that can be used to knit these rakhis

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