Cheating and the Dark Side of Knitting

My fingers are currently flying to finish the Cabled Poncho by Norah Gaughan from Vogue Knitting, a project I impulsively but with very good reason chose to make for a coworker and which I foolishly but for very good reasons chose to make in black.  For those who aren’t already a step ahead of me on this, both the fact that I am working in a nubbly black yarn and the fact that it is a Norah Gaughan pattern means I need a strategy – a plan – a way of cheating – if I hope to complete this otherwise easy project with my sanity intact.

Since Norah Gaughan tends to bend knitting design in every possible direction [Awesome!], her patterns can usually be counted on to have a challenge, unusual twist or obstacle of some kind to overcome.  In this case it is the need to keep track of an eight-row cable pattern that has its first cable cross on the fifth row while simultaneously performing a pair of central increases on three out of every four rows beginning on row three.  Apparently I am not the only one who found the instructions in the magazine to be sub-optimal, judging from the fact that Vogue chose to include an attempt at clarification in the Errata for that issue.  Figuring that there had to be some rhyme or reason to what was going on, I chose to take matters into my own hands and sketch out visually what happens on each row.  I discovered this fairly simple eight-row repeated sequence:

[Odd-numbered rows are RS and even rows are WS, + is my symbol for a row with increases, and X is my symbol for a row with cable-crosses.]

7 +
6 +
5 + X
3 +
2 + (except first time)
1 + (except first time)

Whew! Doesn’t it make a whole lot more sense when you see how it lines up?

The next challenge to overcome is working with a yarn that doesn’t let me read my stitches easily.  If I want to make any kind of reliable progress I need a strategy for keeping track of which of these eight rows I am on. This is what I came up with:

Blackstone 006   Blackstone 009

I took a length of brightly contrasting yarn, about 8-10″, and loosely wrapped it around one of the stitches in the first cable-crossing row.  I flip this yarn to the opposite side each time I begin a Right Side row.  As a result, each green stitch or blank space between them represents two rows.  I can pull the yarn up further as I need to.  As I work every fourth row, the green yarn will be hanging on the Wrong Side.  I tagged it to help me remember that whenever the tag is on the Wrong Side and I am working a Wrong Side row, I should NOT work any increases.  It also turned out that the tag is on the Right Side when it is time to work a Right Side cable-crossing row, so I noted this on the tag as well.  (The tag is also on the Right Side midway between cable-cross rows, but it is easy enough to look at the cables and tell by eye whether it is time to cross or if I am only half way there.)

I thought I might actually work a project with no changes this time, but I decided to stop increasing several rows sooner than the pattern calls for in order to prevent the poncho from becoming too long for my petite colleague.  I will continue to knit as many rows as the pattern calls for before dividing for the neck, but without the increases at the top it will pull in to create a bit of shaping for the shoulder.  I hope this will turn out to be a nice feature.  I made this decision because otherwise the “sleeve” edges would fall too short and I only wanted to make it shorter at the bottom hem. (If I had planned on making it shorter ahead of time, I would have just cast on fewer stitches to begin with.) I might also make the neck opening ever so slightly smaller and I am considering modifying the collar so that it does not stand up quite so much.  But all in all, I am working this beautiful pattern as intended and full steam ahead so that my friend can stop shivering as soon as possible.  Since I took the time to figure out a good way to cheat, I can knit away without slowing down to think!

Leaving Vancouver (But Not for Long)

BFL 003

I mean Vancouver, the linen stitch wrap pattern by Samantha Roshak in this case. My first of two, wisely or foolishly started at about the same time, is on the blocking board. The other is about a quarter done. (Another 3 months to go, in other words!)

It’s a lovely knit, in process and in product – as long as you are not too goal oriented. The Blue Moon Fiber Arts Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) Sport yarn is soft and ever so slightly fuzzy, light and warm at the same time. Except in my choice of colors (to suit the recipients), I actually deviated little from the pattern.

The pattern is worked in rows the long way, starting with a tubular cast on founded on Judy’s Magic Cast On. Brilliant! Nothing to change there. But I did decide to start at the edge opposite the recommended starting place, for absolutely no reason other than that it would get me to the “interesting” part, the contrasting stripe, toward the beginning of my project rather than at the end. It just seemed more fun that way, and it would let me fully evaluate my color choices earlier in the process, in case I didn’t like them.

The other change I made was to work a truly matching tubular bind off at the other edge, whereas the pattern instructs you to work in 1×1 rib for a few rows before grafting off the stitches. I assume this was simply for ease of working, but since either way I would need to work the stitches onto two separate needles, and either way I would need to Kitchener a bazillion and a half stitches, it seemed hardly any additional work to divide the stitches onto two needles after only one row of ribbing and work a couple of stockinette rounds before grafting off.

I think the most important thing I DIDN’T change was the recommended needle size. This is one project where swatching and blocking the swatch (or in my case at least imagining I did) will pay off, because it changes dramatically. My project just off the needles measured 24″ x 58″. Blocked it came in at 20″ x 84″, the length of my blocking board and pretty much what it was supposed to end up at. To accomplish this, once I made sure that my stitch gauge would stretch the correct amount on blocking, I judged my progress by the number of rows worked rather than measuring. 17 rows (yes, 17 rows!) = 1 inch of blocked width.

I may turn my attention to other things for awhile before I return to the second Vancouver, but I will return, no fear!

BFL 005

Pinstripe Mittens

I am working on my third pair of Pinstripe Mittens.

mittens 008

Those who know me know it’s rare for me to do the same thing twice, so I must like these! That’s a combination of the pattern, which is a neat design, and the yarn.  I got these three kits at Stitches East in October. The yarn is called Bertha from Dirty Water Dyeworks and it is rich and luxurious. Strangers on the bus have come over to ask if they could look closer.

knitting 272

Those who know me also know it’s rare for me to approach any pattern without deciding to change something somewhere. I’m a technique junkie!  I collect different ways of doing things with yarn and needles the way some people collect Hummel figurines or postage stamps. It’s no good to collect them if I don’t get to display them, so I am always on the lookout for opportunities.

My tweaks to the Pinstripe Mittens are relatively minor, and one of them uses a technique developed by Lucy Neatby herself so it seems very appropriate to apply it to her mitten design.

  1. Instead of casting on 144 (the number of total front and back stitches), I cast on 72 using the Old Norwegian Sock Cast on, which is pretty and elastic and I love using it on sock and mitten edges. (Your own favorite cast on would also work.) Then I worked one row around as K1 YO, bringing me to the total needed.  On the next round, in double knitting following the pattern, the knit stitches became the stitches to be knit for the front, and the yarn overs were the stitches to be purled for the back.  Smooth!
  2. On the casing, I used Lucy’s Threading technique for Double Knitting for the first and last rounds, instead of using rounds of knitting and purling in the main color as the way of closing off the top and the bottom of the casing. Note that this results in a contrasting stripe that is wider than the original pattern on one side, because all the rows of the casing are worked in contrast, whereas the pattern had the first and last rows in the main color on the right side. I also worked one more row in contrast than the pattern specified to create a casing of the right width before threading the top closed. I love this technique, and the quilted look it gives to the casing.
  3. Cording. Nope. Not a fan. I put a loop of 1/4″ elastic through the casings, slipping it through the shank of a big attractive button before sewing the loop closed. (Oh, Windsor Button, what are we going to do without you!) The button can be pushed through from one side to another if the wearer wants to put the reverse side out from time to time.

knitting 274

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