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March 01, 2007

A Knitting Weekend

I spent most of last weekend sitting on the couch, knitting, and watching Trading Spaces. It was fun to watch a show about creativity and design while doing something creative. By the end of the weekend I had made (for myself!) a pair of "Hurry Up Spring Armwarmers" from Stitch 'n Bitch Nation. I wish I had a digital camera so I could post a picture because they are absolutely gorgeous. I used two strands of Knit Picks Memories yarn in the "Geranium" colorway. The armwarmers are ribbed on the bottom and have a cable pattern on the top that looks like vines with budding leaves (hence the name).

I had knit a couple of other pairs of armwarmers before, one for my sister Sophie and one for my friend Elizabeth, but I had used a different pattern: the one from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts. As a fairly cautious knitter, there are a few techniques I avoid whenever possible: any kind of seaming, anything that requires attaching new yarn, and picking up stitches. For this reason, the Last-Minute Knitted Gifts pattern was less intimidating because it just has a hole for the thumb, as opposed to the Stitch 'n Bitch Nation pattern, which has you create a thumb gusset, put the stitches on holders, and then come back to it, attaching new yarn to knit about an inch of thumb, as you would for a real glove or mitten. But after making two pairs of thumbless armwarmers and a pair of real mittens, I decided I was ready.

I probably should have been intimidated by the cable pattern, but I wasn't. I had knitted cables as a child and learned that, as long as you follow the directions and don't overthink it, cables are actually pretty easy. I didn't actually do anything with the cables I knit in my youth, mind you; I would just knit one pattern for a while, bind off, and knit another. Somewhere in a Los Angeles landfill there is probably a plastic shopping bag just full of little cabled acrylic rectangles. In any case, on Saturday morning, I bravely cast on and began knitting the cable pattern. There was, however, a major difference between this cable pattern and the ones I had knit as a kid: the instructions in Stitch 'n Bitch Nation were given in chart form, whereas I had previously only followed verbal instructions. Since words are read from left to right (in English, at any rate), that was how I read the chart. Several rows in, it began to bother me that the chart line numbers were presented at the right end of each row -- at the end of the row rather than the beginning -- which made it hard for me to keep track of which row I was on. After grumbling about that for a few rows, it hit me: I should have been reading the chart from right to left, since I knit from right to left! In general, I am not a perfectionist knitter, and when I find I have made a mistake I usually try to turn it into a "design element" rather than ripping back. So I scoured the pattern to see if doing it in reverse would make a difference, and was relieved to find that the chart was for the right armwarmer; the instructions said to reverse the chart for the left armwarmer. So I was just making the left armwarmer instead of the right. No problem. I kept going, but it still didn't look quite like the photograph in the book.

On Saturday night, I took a break from knitting to have dinner and play Trivial Pursuit at Shawn and Dave's. Somehow, getting away from the knitting for a while gave me a revelation: I hadn't quite been reversing the chart. Yes, I was reading it from left to right instead of right to left, but there were some parts of the chart where you read two boxes together, and I hadn't been reversing those boxes. In effect, every time the cable needle came into play, I had held it to the back when I should have held it to the front (and vice versa) and I had purled off of it when I should have knit off of it (and vice versa). I returned home sure that I would spend the rest of the evening frogging my day's work, but when I looked at the chart again, I got a new glimmer of hope. So I kept going, finishing the "left" armwarmer on Sunday morning. But it really didn't look right.

Hoping against hope, I cast on the right armwarmer around noon on Sunday and knit it reading the chart from right to left. It came out totally different from the "left". In other words, it actually looked like the picture! So when I finished it, I grit my teeth and frogged the left one. The second time around, I reversed everything in the chart and, miracle of miracles, it came out the perfect mirror opposite of the right armwarmer. Determined to have them finished in time to wear to work on Monday, I stubbornly kept myself glued to the couch until about eight-thirty, when I bound off the left armwarmer, reattached the yarn for the thumb, and quickly finished it.

Compared to the confusion about the cable pattern, reattaching the yarn for the thumb was nothing!

Posted by eklanche at March 1, 2007 07:25 AM


Bravo to the brave!! I have the same Stitch and Bitch Nation book and made several pairs of the wrist warmers with one BIG exception - mine have no cable at all. Reason? I'm faint of heart when it comes to the C word and haven't even thought about attempting it. I took a pass and ribbed mine all the way around. Perhaps sometime, when we're sitting on the couch together at your house or mine, I'll get up the gumption and ask you to get me started. And I do hope your spring hurries its way up.

Posted by: khilfman@earthlink.net at March 1, 2007 09:28 AM

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