Midweek update: Dashing around

I spent the weekend thinking about knitting but not actually …you know… knitting. The tendinitis in my elbow is back, but I don’t think that’s why I didn’t knit. Anyway, I read things and generally goofed off and took it easy, which explains why the house isn’t ready for guests for this Saturday’s Xmas dinner.

Late on Sunday, after posting about the ‘glove integrative’ experience I had that morning, I stumbled over a video by Jeny S., the knitting brain behind Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bindoff. I don’t remember what I was looking for, but I found a video of her slip knot cast-on. After having done three attempts with this, I can tell you that I think I’m going to really like it. At least… I think my version is the same as what she’s doing! I’ll post some photos later and someone who knows what it’s supposed to look like can tell me!

I was trying to figure out what I could take with me this week as train knitting (hard to knit an afghan on the train) and had settled on Dashing by Cheryl Niamath. I figured that I might actually be able to finish a pair before the New Year and our 11 mittens in 2011 insanity. Yes, I’m knitting a pair of mittens while waiting for the start of a mitten-knitting challenge.

I owe a pair of blue fingerless mitts to a friend, so I went stash diving and pulled out a skein of Country Classic Yarn for Socks.  I got this from the bargain bin at the much-missed Fuzzy Mable’s in Lancaster, S.C. It’s funny how, despite having miles of luxury yarn, I end up knitting with discount-bin yarn so often. The yarn’s very stiff and scratchy, but Rav commentary leads me to hope that a vinegar bath for the FOs should solve that problem.

Anyway, my first shot at knitting the pattern was a joke. My cast-on was too loose, and the called-for needles gave me something that looked more like a legging than a mitten for a small woman.

I’ve frogged the 10 rows and started fresh Monday night, going from US 7 needles to US 4, (3.5 mm) giving me something that looks more like fabric than fishing mesh. I’m still figuring out the cast-on, so it’s taking me forever to get started. I cast on for the left glove Monday night, knit six rows on the morning commute, and cast on for the right glove Tuesday night. I’ll do six rows on that cuff, then put them together on a 40″ circular needle so that I can knit 2-at-a-time and not have different-length gloves (see “Admonishment” below for details!).

Glove dreams

Something fun happened today; fun for me, anyway! I had one of those internal events that happen sometimes when I’ve been studying a new subject really intently; a whole bunch of disparate information twisted around and turned into …well, I guess you could say “understanding.”

I’ve been thinking about how mittens and gloves of all types are constructed to fit around the fairly complex structure of the hand. I’ve completed a few mittens and fingerless mitts, along with one full glove. I’ve also read a lot of patterns while preparing for the 11 pairs in 2011 challenge, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to reduce the strain around the upper area of the ‘thumb join,’ where most of the holes appear on my projects.

This morning I got up as usual at 6 a.m. to feed the cats and bring in the paper, then went back to get a couple more hours of sleep. However, rather than sleep, I fell into a very relaxed physical state that felt as if I were sleeping, but my brain was turning over images of hands, the shapes of various thumb gussets, how the holes looked in the most recent pair of mittens I made, some stuff I recently learned about bridging gaps with backwards-loop cast ons, and a slew of discussions on the mitten and glove forums on Ravelry, along with several dozen comments I read about various patterns, where the knitters had given detailed feedback on mistakes they had found and how they’d attempted to fix the problems. All of this just flowed together and I started understanding why things work the way they do in various glove designs.

Whew.

I’ve had this happen several times in my life, and every time I’ve gone from following instructions by rote to understanding what was happening. The last time was when I suddenly “got” what was really going on in my fabric when I was learning to knit cables.

A scan of my hand with grid lines drawn on itOne of the images that stuck with me from the “dream” this morning was of me scanning my hand and overlaying the scan with a knitting chart to help me figure out where to increase and decrease for better fit.

I’ve actually done the scan now, but realized that all I really need is a good set of measurements of my hand (or the hand of the person I’m planning to knit gloves for), and the image of my hand isn’t as important. I’ll probably work from a drawing but it can easily be a schematic of a hand with the various measurements plugged in where needed. Hmmm; I wonder if a spreadsheet of those numbers would help. I might be able to set up a spreadsheet where I could enter variables like stitch and row gauge, finger length, distance from top of thumb opening to base of little finger, thickness of the palm, etc. and get back row and stitch counts for each section of the pattern.

Anyway, when I finally got out of bed at 8:00, I went and found my copy of Anne Sahakian’s Charting Mitts & Gloves, and it was as if I were looking at a different book. What had seemed entirely abstract—when I first tried to read the book last summer—was now plain and sensible. She’s done most of the work already!

And… to top it all off, during this “dream” I figured out how to construct a stress-relieving gusset in the thumb web area. It is really very simple; I’ve only my relative inexperience to ‘blame’ for why I took a while to figure this out. My idea is to cast on extra backwards-loop stitches across the thumb gap, then decrease gradually in subsequent rows, creating a diamond-shaped gusset.

One of the things I realized is that in the glove and mitten designs I’ve done, all of the increases after the cuff are on the thumb side. But my hand bulges in both directions. I think that on tight-fitting gloves I’ll add a small number of increases on the side opposite the thumb to account for this shape.

No surprise; when I described this idea to some of my friends on Ravelry, I discovered that this idea is in use in some glove designs. It makes so much sense as a construction detail that I knew someone had to have figured it out already; I just hadn’t stumbled across it yet. If there’s a surprise, it’s that more patterns don’t use the technique. I want to cast on and try out my idea, but it won’t be for a while. I’m trying to get a couple of my current projects finished so that I have attention to pay to the 11/2011 challenge.

11 pairs of mittens in 2011

If you had any doubts that I have rocks in my head, please retire those doubts now. I’ve joined a “knitting challenge” for next year on the RavelryI Make Mittens” group. We’re going to be trying to make 11 pairs of mittens (or gloves; so long as the finished object covers your entire hand) in one year.

Not only that, but I’ve volunteered to help run the challenge…!

I’m trying to assure myself that this is nowhere near as crazy as the 10-shawls-in-2010 and similar challenges I heard about last year.