Monday, December 07, 2009

For Everything There is a Reason*

or Eternity in 482 Stitches. Or, Why I Hate the Backward Loop Cast-on.

I've started my procrastination project. It's the largest of the Christmas knitting, requiring 3 skeins of Malabrigo Silky Merino. It's the Theory Shawlette by Sadie and Oliver. According to the designer, it is "sweetly simple" and (all evidence to the contrary) (here's the part I fell for) "a quick project with a delightful result."

I ask you, how could any project requiring a 482 stitch cast-on be considered quick? I don't really care that you bind off 320 stitches at the get-go. You have to bind them off of a backwards loop cast-on edge. Backwards loop cast-on, where if a cast-on stitch slips off your needle, you're left with nothing but a length of yarn to tell you if you've lost one. Or six. Backwards loop cast-on, the one where you have to keep your needles close together and your stitches near the tips, practically guaranteeing popped stitches, or you end up with an ever increasing float that you then need to try to work back into the piece. Requiring 480 stitches of backwards loop cast-on is an invitation to disaster.

The backwards loop cast-on, however, is so important to the design that there's actually a link to demonstrating it included in the pattern. I figured this was one time when I probably shouldn't exercise creative license.

Which brings us to the first row of knitting. The part where I discover that I apparently interpret BO stitches to count from the first stitch you slip over, and the pattern counts the stitch that does the slipping. Bottom line, I'm supposed to end up with 2 knitted stitches between every swoop of 4 bound off stitches, except unless I was paying really close attention, I kept counting "knit 1, bo 4" and using the K1 to bind off with. Every now and then I'd look back a few scallops and see a lone lorn knit stitch where there should have been two. Do you have any idea how unpleasant it is to un-bind-off a backwards loop cast-on? The only thing worse, I figured, was having to rip it out and start over.

Here's another wrinkle. I couldn't read the decreases. I don't know why I couldn't, but there it was. I couldn't figure out if what I had done balanced with what I had started with. I had no idea what I was supposed to end up with, only that given the pattern was one of those "repeat to end" kind, the work should have ended even.

Do you see the catastrophe looming here? Are you shuddering in anticipated dread?

Twenty-four stitch markers and several cups of coffee later, is anyone surprised to learn that I had extra stitches left? Or that I had no idea whether I had over-cast-on for stitches that had popped off my needle, or bound off a stitch too many a couple of times, or cast-on too few corrective stitches?

In needlepoint and counted thread work there are these things called "comp stitches." "Comp" for "compensating." You use them when the pattern doesn't fit the allotted space. I looked at those odd stitches. I contemplated the morning's worth of knitting that had resulted in one pathetic row. I considered the other household projects that had not even been approached. I decided comp stitches were the way to go.

After meditating on the instructions for the next two rows, at the end of which I am supposed to have 322 stitches, I figured out I should have had 80 swoops with two stitches between each swoop and two more stitches at the start of the row. I had 79 swoops. A lesser woman would have laid her head on the table and howled. I may have whimpered a bit.

Then I discovered the reason for the existence of the backward loop cast-on. Using the tail from the original cast-on, I cast on the additional stitches I needed, bound off 4 and knit 1. Just to make sure, I knit the next two rows exactly according to instruction.

Bingo, 322 stitches, and (insert heavy sigh) I'll never be allowed to malign the backwards loop again.

*Apologies to Ecclesiastes.

1 comment:

Diane H said...

Bravo - I would have caved at the 480 stitches to be cast on.