Thursday, May 19, 2011

Learning Lessons

Warning:  This post is about knitting!!  If you aren't interested, now is the time to abandon ship.  Don't say I didn't warn you....

Recently, I've become addicted to knitting.  Just ask my family.  I've made scarves, neck-warmers, and what I call a couch potato blanket.  These are all basically rectangles.  I learned to make button-holes for the neck-warmer.  But in the end, they all called for simply the basic ability to knit or purl back and forth.  I wanted something more challenging . . . . more creative.

Then I discovered double pointed needles, which give one the ability to knit seamless tubes (like socks and hats).  I've made a couple of socks (not a pair, mind you, just 2 different socks out of yarn left over from other projects!) I think I've got the hang of the heel-turning technique.

This weekend, I was reminded of how double pointed needles came to my attention in the first place.  There was a review of a pattern that I saw on-line for a pair of open-toed socks.  The pattern called for the socks to be knit flat and then seamed  at the back to make the tube shape.  The commenter said that she liked the pattern, but she had made hers on double pointed needles to eliminate the seam.  I had no idea what that meant, but it sounded good to me.  I found that I could order a set online and get them delivered in my mailbox quicker than if I waited until the next time I was in Mobile.  (See my first project)

Now that I know how DPNs work, I decided I'd try to convert a flat, seamed pattern to one knitted in the round. I didn't want to try the socks, but I remembered some wrist warmers constructed the same way so I decided to give them a try.  I learned some lessons in the process that I thought I'd collect and pass along here. And the first 2 are for those of you non-knitters who, despite the "Knitters Only" warning, have persevered this far:
  1. (just a generalization to start off with)  Google is a wonderful thing!  For just about anything that you want to learn how to do, there is a video or forum on-line that will give you more information than you thought possible.  People love to show you what they know how to do. 
  2. (another generalization) Don't be afraid to try something new, just because you've never done it before.  If it doesn't work, see if you can figure out why.  Begin by expecting a learning curve.  Start small.  Start with a trial sample.  Start by using what you already have.  This applies to so many things in life.  (knitting, sourdough baking, and driving a standard transmission come most immediately to mind) 
  3. (now for some knitting specific stuff) When I first started knitting and had to lay the work down, I wasn't sure which direction to go when I picked it back up.  I've learned that after the 1st stitch, the working yarn always comes from the right needle.  At least in the Continental style that I use.  The best way to tell is to work some stitches and pay attention to which side the working yarn is coming from.  Remember what you see and know that it will always be that way in a regular row.
  4. Knitting in the round instructions always say to distribute the cast-on stitches evenly on the (usually 3) needles.  In the beginning, I thought that meant divide by 3 and come as close as you can.  I have learned that it is best to divide the stitches in a way that works with your pattern.  In the wrist warmers I made, I cast on 28 stitches and the first several rows were worked in a K2-P2 ribbing.  That's a 4 stitch pattern.  Instead of distributing the stitches mathematically evenly (9+9+10), I did it "pattern-wise" evenly (8+8+12) in multiples of 4.  That way, I always start a new needle with the beginning of the pattern.  No more "did I just K1 or K2 or P2?"  (ex: Your pattern says to cast on 30, and calls for a K2P1 ribbing.  You would need to divide the stitches in multiples of 3.  Not the obvious 10+10+10, but rather 9+9+12)
  5. The wrist warmers needed a hole for my thumb.  I had ignored this for as long as possible, but there came a point that I had to address it.  If I had been using the pattern as written, I would have simply left a gap in the seam.  Now, however they were seamless, but still needed a gap.  I remembered from my sock-making that when making the heel, there was back and forth knitting using the regular method.  After thinking it through, I decided that if I could knit all around using 3 needles, I should also be able to stop and reverse (i.e.turn and purl around using those same 3 needles.)  So that's what I did.  I turned the work and purled back to the marker, then turned again and knitted to the marker, then turned and ...You get the picture.  When the gap was about an inch or so high, and I was on a knit (rather than a purl) row, I stitched across the gap to close up the top of the thumb hole and was back to knitting in the round again.
I warned you that this was really a knitter's only post!!
And I realized that I started this several days ago and had never quite finished it.  It's time to get it out there and I'll follow it with the actual pattern I came up with for the wrist warmers and a picture of them.


    1. So, do you think anyone can knit? I can cross stitch: I tried knitting once and gave up in frustration. Is there hope for me?


      Purlless Pearl :)

    2. I gave up once, too, then sat in the backseat on a long car trip watching a friend. I found a book and then online videos. I'd say "yes," anyone can if they really want to. Just understand that the first few attempts are trial runs and not expected to be any more than that. Wash-cloth sized trials are great!

    3. I may have to try it again: thanks for the encouragement!