It sneaks up on you

This weekend I finally got around to finishing up the last bits of work on my Gwendolyn cardigan. I seem to have the well-honed ability to under-estimate the amount of time finishing will take me, and in this case it had sort of slipped my mind that, oh wait, even when I’d finished the sweater parts, I still had to do the hood and the button-band before seaming everything up. Whoopsie daisies. But it’s done now and having a nice Soak bath before blocking, while I take an easy day recovering from a bit of a cold and resting up before spending the week with a super fun knitting visitor coming in for vacation time and knitterly hijinks. (How many knitting stores is too many knitting stores to show her around Toronto? We will find out.)

Mar4-GwendolynBath

Gwendolyn is a lovely pattern to be sure, and one that asks a moderate amount of challenge from the knitter without being fully overwhelming. I like Fiona’s designs (unsurprisingly, since I am fond of cables), and I also admit that I prefer seamed sweaters when I can get them. The seamless sweater definitely has its benefits and I’ve knitted a few of those in my time as well, but there is something very satisfying and structural to me about working up a nice seam and watching the completed garment come together seemingly before one’s very eyes.

Mar4-GwendolynSeam2

This is a pattern that requires you to work up the side seams by seaming reverse stockinette (with the purl side facing), rather than seaming up regular stockinette (with the knit side facing) which I tend to encounter more often and admittedly gravitate towards as a personal preference when designing seamed sweaters myself. As I worked this up I remembered the first time I learned and used that skill – it was many years ago when I knitted my first Ribby Cardi by Bonne Marie Burns of Chic Knits, and man, I was so annoyed. I’d gotten good at seaming regular stockinette seams by that point (and sort of liked it), but had never done it for reverse stockinette, and the idea of seaming up on those purl bumps just seemed far too aggravating. I remember I did the first few inches of the first seam as sort of a haphazard effort, only to eventually cave and go find out the real way to do it.

Mar4-GwendolynSeam1

I went and consulted the nearest knitting reference manual that I could find, which I am pretty sure at the time was my sister’s copy of Stitch & Bitch. The pictures and written explanation were clear, and after a couple of minutes I had it down. (I actually still recommend this book as a clearly written, priced-to-own beginner’s manual. Those books have a lot going on. While I’m here, I also love my Vogue Knitting reference book, and Nancy Wiseman’s book on finishing techniques.)

Last week I was also having a bit of back-and-forth chatter on Twitter with Kate (a Toronto knitter/tech editor/teacher), about how we write knitting patterns and managing the amount of knowledge/explanation that we include in the instructions, and how hard it is to know where to draw the line. How much do we explain? How much do we expect knitters to have to find out for themselves?

Truthfully, I’m still figuring out the answer to that. I enjoy knitting, I enjoy teaching, and if I can impart a bit of knitterly wisdom like how to work a cable without a cable needle by tucking it into some pattern instructions, then boy howdy I’m going to do that. But I do know that, inevitably, every knitter is going to get to a point in their knitting lives when they encounter a new instruction or a technique they’ve never heard of before. It might be something the pattern/book explains to you, or it might not. When that happens, you get the opportunity to learn something new, and run scurrying off to the nearest reference manual/fellow knitter/yarn shop/internet to figure out how to do it.

Mar4-GwendolynSeam3

Eventually, though, you’ll get to a knitting instruction and it’ll sneak up on you that – wait a sec – I already know how to do that, and you’ll just carry on doing it. Years ago I annoyed myself into learning how to do a reverse stockinette seam on a Ribby Cardi (now long since gifted away), and now I can do the same thing on my own Gwendolyn cardi for me, and just go right ahead and do it. (Thankfully, though, there are still plenty of frontiers left to cross. Years later, me and kitchener stitch, we still have our battles – err, learning opportunities to manage. It’ll be good – eventually I’ll annoy myself into learning how to do it properly, and then I’ll have to find something new to figure out.)

What’s something you’ve learned from knitting lately? It’s never a dull moment, that’s for sure. Happy Monday, and happy knitting!

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23 Comments

Filed under finished object: sweater, knitting knowledge

23 responses to “It sneaks up on you

  1. Can’t wait to see your FO shots for this one, I know it’s going to be a stunner! Nothing is as satisfying to me as a good, neat seam. I don’t know what that says about me, but I just LOVE grafting the perfect seam!

  2. As I usually do my socks toe-up, the first time I made the Skew pattern was my first encounter with Kitchener stitch . I had had it demonstrated at my LYS a few years before, but it never stuck with me. Now I’ve done a few pairs of top down socks and Kitchener is relatively easy. My next challenge is creating a pair of socks to use some lovely yarn I have in my stash :)

  3. Carla

    One thing I’ve learned from knitting recently? To check my work every few rows. I’ve mentioned the lap blanket I’m making for my church’s prayer shawl ministry. It was half-done when I discovered a dropped stitch many, many rows back. There was nothing to do but take out down to that point. Would have been much easier and less frustrating if I had found it earlier.

  4. That even though I’m a better knitter than the last time I knit a lace project, I still need to pay attention :(.

  5. Oh yes, I think we are all still learning that one! ;)

    G

  6. Cheryl

    I am working on the Lauriel sweater from Little Red in the City by Yosolda. It’s a great sweater, but I’ve come across some things I’ve had to practice first, like left and right leaning lifted increases. I was afraid of them at first, now I think they are tremendous. They hide increases nicely.

  7. I too don’t mind seaming. Besides a better fit can be had it it a sweater in pieces as opposed to knit all in one. It is a nice change though to have one of those and when it is finished it is truly finished. Your work is beautiful!

  8. I knit Herbivore for a friend’s birthday and learned the proper way to execute a yarnover. Until that project, I hadn’t bothered to acknowledge that there was a difference in the way one wraps the yarn around the needle. As I merrily knit along, I could see how strange and inconsistent the holes were looking, and I remembered a blog post you’d written about that very subject once upon a time, so I looked it up, then found a picture tutorial and I was off!
    I’ve been knitting most of my life, so it was humbling, to say the least :)

  9. I’ve always veered away from short rows and have recently learned how clever (and not so scary) they really are. : )

  10. Julie White

    My favorite: it’s a learning opportunity!! YAY for learning! :D

  11. I’m happy to see that I’m not the only one who loves to graft and seam. I also love to do the kitchener stitch, go figure! What I’ve worked on recently is really learning how to purl continental style. I know how to knit continental, (it’s so much easier to hold your yarn in both hands when doing color work) but I hated purling… I’m still working on mastering the technique… :-)

  12. Actually, I just started knitting about a month ago and after knitting a st st for what seemed like eternity in order to make a panel for a little backpack (in the Stitch n Bitch book), I decided to teach myself how to use DPNs. On my third try, I’ve finally got it and I’m so proud of myself! It’s a k1 p1 too! For some reason DPNs seemed a lot less daunting than the circular needles but hopefully I’ll learn that soon too.
    I look forward to learning a bunch of new things from you while I keep knitting along.

  13. SewIKnit2

    I do wish that pattern designers would give at the least some clues or tips, suggestions etc on how to perfect the fit or finish by use of optional couture techniques. It would be helpful to the experienced or confident knitter who might wish to use these but might lack confidence in deciding they COULD be used.
    yrs ago I had lessons at a sewing class and we were taught and encouraged to use sewn couture finishes and “improve” upon things on our dressmaking patterns eg inserting concealed zip or “interlining” and changing the “roll” of a collar that turns back on itself to “lie” in the correct way. Same with button holes, we learned how and where to sew button holes to suit our preferences/figures and our choice an weight of fabric and that of the button to be used – rather than just use the pattern tissue piece of “button band” with them marked.
    It is difficult, and would make a pattern very longwinded and likely offputting to add all the detail, but with most pattern designers in the knit world now raveling in their own groups, with FB pages etc, perhaps they could use these mediums to expand upon their expertise for benefit of the knitting customer to improve the experience of the pattern?
    Always enjoy reading your blog!
    Happyknitting, Sue x

  14. I look forward to seeing your FO. I know it will be fabulous.

  15. I have to agree with Cheryl, left and right leaning decreases. Was reminded of that while knitting a pair of Nordic mittens in two very contrasting colors. Can’t wait for photos of the finished sweater :)

  16. Caitlyn

    Glenna, you raise the question of how much information the designer should impart in a particular pattern. SewIKnit2 suggests more, since new knitters may be interested in modifying or improving patterns but are unsure about the best way to do so for a particular pattern. As a new knitter, I’m inclined to agree with SewIKnit2: it’s wonderful that there are a half dozen different ways to do any one thing, and I understand (and appreciate) that everyone will have a preferred method, but some people overlook the fact that a new knitter just doesn’t have enough experience to have decided on a preferred way yet, and guidance is helpful. Excess information can be ignored, but lack of information may be a little more challenging to remedy.

    But I do wonder if those experienced knitters out there, the ones who often modify patterns without a second thought, ever encounter patterns with a lot of “extra” information and think to themselves “I already know all this” as they try to figure out how far they have to skip down to get to the next step. To all you experienced knitters, does this happen? How bothersome do you find it when it happens? Glenna, is this something that you, as a designer, worry about?

  17. Caitlyn (and SewIKnit2) you raise some excellent thoughts!

    Writing pattern instructions is definitely a challenging process – it’s impossible to know exactly how much explanation or extra support is going to be desirable by the range of knitters who will come to the pattern, so I think much of the time we err towards the middle ground; i.e. explaining a few specialized techniques and offering additional reference guidelines where it might be helpful. This tends to be my approach – I have to assume that whoever is knitting my pattern isn’t doing so in a void, that is, I have to allow some space for the knitter to draw on their own knowledge base or their ability to refer to other sources of information if they need to. (i.e.: looking it up, asking a friend, etc. Incidentally: this is how I first learned about the “turn” instruction. I needed someone to show me in person in 3-D space ;) )

    A lot of it is also a decision about how much space to give – the more we write, the longer the pattern is. Even for independently written patterns (that don’t have the same concerns about copy space that print magazines or books might worry about), if the page count grows significantly it means that the person buying the pattern has more MB to download and more pages to print out at home.

    And, Caitlyn I think you raise a good point as well that there can come a point where if we explain too much, the knitter could start to feel impatient sifting through paragraphs of info that they already know about, and so it’s a delicate balance!

    It doesn’t mean we don’t still keep trying, though – and it’s something I like being able to go back to on my blog, with more space for things like photo tutorials and tips posts. This is giving me ideas for more things in the future! ;)

    Happy knitting to all, Glenna

  18. Your seams are so beautiful, they put mine to shame! And just when I thought I was getting good at it… :P

    Also, I can’t wait to see your FO shots of Gwendolyn! It’s been such a long time coming and such a buildup, it’ll be fantastic when they arrive :D

  19. just got the kitchener stitch down, it’s not so bad.

  20. Lucy

    I’m still trying to learn how to make a fine gauge sweater or caridgan for me. I have lovely German shoulders and arms and they need to be quieted down by fine gauge knits. Unfortunately, patterns are difficult to find. I rely on Elizabeth Zimmerman’s books to help me, but I still haven’t been able to get the perfect size yet. Still learning to conquer it!

  21. Anastasia

    I’ll make you a deal. I’ll Kitchener stitch all your toes if you weave in all my ends ;) (I don’t have too many at the moment)

  22. it’s a deal, Anastasia! ;)

    G

  23. Great post! What I’ve learned this week is not to knit socks while running a fever. Then you might do something like forget to turn the heel and not realize it until you are decreasing for the toe!