Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Making it up as I go along

I've never knitted anything with such skinny (technical term) yarn as the Wedding Ring Shawl, though I have knitted with such skinny needles. The result is that I'm learning a lot (ie making it up as I go along).

What have I learned?

I've learned that it is essential to have smooth hands and nails - according to Sharon, the most expert knitters in the Shetland Isles were exempted from the "heavy" work, to keep their hands in good nick for knitting with ultra-fine yarn. Unfortunately, there is no-one exempting me from the "heavy" work in this house, so other measures have to be taken.

I have purchased a pair of thin, white cotton gloves and each evening I slather (that's the only word to describe it) my hands in Neutrogena (as used by Arctic fishermen, and if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me), don the gloves and retire to bed. I look like one of those babies who have to wear mittens at night to stop them scratching their own eyes out.

I have purchased emery boards and keep one at hand all the time. I wash my hands almost as much as I did when I worked as a nurse and apply talc religiously before I start knitting.

That's just the hands - then there are the eyes. I had to get a magnifying glass and I sling that round my neck and peer at the miniscule stitches. I don't always use it because I feel a little "removed" from the action - like a surgeon performing keyhole surgery.

Then it comes down to the actual knitting.

I've made a copy of the chart. That is on the metal board with the magnetic strips positioned just above the row I am working on. This means I can see where I've been and check that the pattern is lining up correctly. I know some people prefer to write out (or chart) each row on index cards and just look at the one corresponding to the row they are working but I just think that would confuse me even more.

I have running yarn stitch markers separating each 12 stitch repeat. Other knitters have said they ditched the stitch markers at an early stage. This might be because the stitch markers do have to move occasionally to accommodate the triple decreases and moving a stitch marker which sits on the needle is much more difficult than moving a yarn marker that goes through the fabric and doesn't interfere with the needle at all. Whatever is the case, I've still got my markers and am finding them very useful.

As I am knitting each repeat I check that the pattern is lining up correctly. This is especially important in the side sections, which sometimes have a slight variation and also in the first repeat, because a mistake here could be repeated across the row.After I have knitted each repeat I check back over the stitches to make sure I have the right number and that all the yos are present (and in the correct place!). I do this every single time. I haven't always done it and it's a pain to find the pattern is off a stitch because a yo was missed on the previous row. It's not a big problem to fix but it's a pain if you have to tink even a few stitches because you didn't spot the absent yo immediately.

Speaking of tinking, those K1,sl1,PSSOs are a real PITA so I also have a sewing needle near me, to help in opening up these stitches if I have to take them back.

One more essential thing is to wear dark clothes, or at least have a plain, dark cloth on your lap, so that you stand half a chance of actually seeing what you are doing.

And after all that I have just completed row 64 (ie almost at the end of the first pattern repeat) and this is the scrunched up, dishevelled old rag that I have created:

It could be worse - I could be toiling round France on a push-bike with temperatures in the 90s, as it is, I'm watching it on the telly. What's my problem?


Mary Jones said...

Wow Kate, that's dedication!


allisonmariecat said...

Your post reminds me of those "clean rooms" in museums for very old artifacts, where the air is scrubbed and everyone must wear full body-suits and gloves! What a project!

Anonymous said...

It's a beautiful rag.
Another way to smooth hands, a teaspoon of sugar and a few drops of oil, I use olive, in your palm, scrub hands together then rinse with water and wash with a bit of soap. Takes care of the cuticle bits and rough patches and I have no problems with the yarn catching.

DianeM said...

It's getting long! What about a stretched out piccy? Pleeease

You have inspired me and I bought 900m of laceweight yarn today (gulp)

alice said...

The prettiest old rag ever, I'm sure! :)

Sandra Bennett said...

Breathtaking shawl, Kate. Thanks for showing it full as well as scrunched up...it gives a very nice perspective.