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!

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