Knitter’s Inventory

I’ve been thinking this morning about my “knitting journey.” This fall I’ll hit my 4-year mark from when I started to learn to knit. I have 54 finished projects in my list on Rav, or about one F.O. per month. More than I expected, really. But I’ve never been interested in churning out projects. I’m a lot more interested in learning new things.

Looking at the list that way shows that I’ve been true to my focus; most of those projects are first of a kind for me, or steps in learning, where I’ve done a clumsy first effort and progressed to a harder or more-finished project on the next project of that type. My only ‘gimee’ projects tend to be for charity knitting… for instance, the mittens I made early this year using super-chunky yarn.

I haven’t done anything often enough to get really good at a particular technique, but I don’t believe that learning happens in a linear fashion (at least for me). I seem to learn in a way similar to accretion, where each bit of learning (when it actually sticks) builds a bit more of the structure. So learning to do stranded color work leads to increases in my skill in yarn handling and tension control, and learning to cable helped me learn to ‘read’ my knitting on my lace projects.

Overall, I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made so far. My frustration with my current convertible mittens centers on the feeling that I didn’t push myself. I suspect that I’m going to thin out my queue of any simplistic patterns and focus on things which… after two months or more of work… I’ll be thrilled with, not just happy the project is done.

Some things that have changed for me over four years of knitting:

  • I thought that I’d always do simple patterns. Now I look for complexity.
  • I thought I’d always use thick yarn. Now I work mostly with fingering weight.
  • I loved rugged-looking, uneven yarn at first. Now I love smooth, tightly-wound yarn.
  • I used to compulsively buy any yarn that appealed to me. Now I have so much yarn in my stash that I (generally) only buy for specific projects. Any time I think… “ohhh, that yarn is so cool!” I try to remember the ultra-cool skeins lurking in my stash, which have never yet seen a moment of use.
  • I thought I was alone being a guy who knits. I’ve discovered a rich community of men who knit, but even more importantly, I’ve discovered that the Charlotte knitting community is incredibly welcoming to male knitters. In fact, I’d say that I’ve had only a tiny percentage of knitters anywhere react to me in anything but a warm and helpful fashion.

What has not changed…

  • I still haven’t found time to really learn to spin, nor prep the fleece I have in my stash, nor refinish the spinning wheel. (However, at least I know about these things now!)

Some snaps of the 1st Broad Street convertible mitten

I finally got some photos uploaded of the first of the pair. I’m about half way up the palm on the second mitten, about to get to the fingers.

Looking at these, I realize that I need to get photos of someone wearing them.

I used Jeny Staiman’s Interlock Bindoff (from the Spring/Summer 2011 issue of Knitty) for several of these fingers… and I love it. Which is not the same as saying that I’ve memorized it.

Finger detail
Finger detail
Back of the convertible mitten
Back of the convertible mitten

I’m particularly pleased with the job I did in picking up stitches across the back of the hand (where I joined the pop-cap portion of the mitten). I haven’t previously done a particularly crafty job of such tasks. I stretched the fabric out across my left hand, and working in strong morning light during my 30-minute train ride to work, I was able to pick up one side of each stitch across the back, using a steel US #0 DPN.

Palm of the convertible mitten
Palm of the convertible mitten

Something for me: Morningside Neckwarmer

I wanted to take a break from mitten knitting and make myself something. A friend recently kidded me for wearing a “store bought” woven scarf. She said something along the lines of “why aren’t you wearing something you made?”

Truth: the scarves I’ve made were boring, or seemingly took forever to make. Or both. A possible solution? Make a neckwarmer instead!

I’ve had Jared Flood’s Morningside Neckwarmer in my queue for a long while, and aside from looking good, it has the added attraction of being in a stitch pattern of which I know nothing. Learning new knitting skills = not being bored with a project!

I cast on a few nights ago and by the second round had run into a brick wall. Naturally I kept going until the end of the third round (stubborn, or merely thick-headed? You decide!), and finally broke down and frogged it. I think that what had happened was that I dropped a stitch or made one too many yarnovers; at any rate, my stitch count was off and I couldn’t follow the stitch pattern, which depends on a slipped-stitch-and-YO combo being in the right place for a K2Tog on the next row.

After a second cast on (and I’m a fan of this double-strand cast on, it makes for a nice, even, comfy-looking edge) I started knitting again the next night. This time most of the stitches where where they should have been, and I was able to see what was going on with the fabric. Where I missed several YO in random places I was able to make a “save” by picking up the ladder and putting it where it should be. I’m about 12 rows in now, and if you ignore the bottom inch of the tube where I had some lingering problems, you can start to make out the ribbing from the brioche stitch.

My first attempt to knit brioche stitch
My first attempt to knit a brioche stitch pattern

I’ve never knitted in-the-round on a 16″ circular except when doing Magic Loop, which by now is my standard knitting method for most of my projects. I started wondering if this little 5″ circle would expand to fit over my head, so I transferred the work to a long cable from my Denise set. Uh, yeah. It’s very big. Much larger than I expected from the pattern photos. I’m going to knit until it’s the recommended five inches in length, then transfer to a longer cable and try the thing on, but I suspect that I’ll end up making this a lot taller than the pattern calls for, to give it a better chance to give me good coverage and warmth under my coat’s collar and at the top of the zipper.

Jared Flood's Morningside Neckwarmer

a simple brioche circular scarf, cowl, or neckwarmer

Jared Flood's Morningside Neckwarmer