Yes, my knitting is laughing at me. The Star Light, Star Bright Baby Blanket? It is just a little ol' baby blankie, for heaven's sake. I have finished the inner rectangle; all I have to do now (she says blithely) is pick up stitches around the edges, knit a few rounds of garter stitch, knit a simple edging pattern, then bind off.
Easy peasy, right?
Oh, plueeeze. I've often thought that the patron saint of knitting is Raven, the Creator/Trickster of the First Nations' stories from the Pacific Northwest Coast. (Or, if you prefer: Coyote, Raven's Southwestern persona.) As Raven walks alongside us, beauty is created, beauty knits amongst us, knitting is of beauty, and then wham! We find a dropped stitch ten rows back in our beautiful lace knitting. Or we try on a sock knit in intricate twisted stitches…and it won't fit over our heel.
Or, as in my case, I plan a simple, yet beautiful, knitted-on border…and all along the way I sense Raven hopping alongside me, laughing in his rough birdish voice: "Can't! Can't! Can't! You can't knit worth worms, my girl! Can't!"
Begone, you tricksy old bird. I'm a knitter. I can do this.
Knitting With Confidence
Sooner or later, no matter what your knitting task, you will come to a place where you have to go off-road a bit. Perhaps something goes wrong, and you think, "There's GOT to be a way to fix this without ripping the whole thing out." Or, perhaps you decide you don't like that edging or this neckline, you want a different one. These situations require the skills to meet the knitting challenge, and the confidence to employ those skills.
I believe many knitters actually have more skills than they give themselves credit for. When I teach, I absolutely love that moment when a knitter's face lights up, and she (or he) says "Oh, I didn't know it was just that. I can do THAT! Sure I can!" Much of what I do, either in my teaching or in my writing, is to demonstrate new ways to think about one's skill sets. We're all taught to think in such a linear fashion: Follow the rules. Do the instructions, step-by-step. Make the knitting look just like the picture. We're not necessarily taught how to puzzle out the challenges. It's not the skills we lack; it is the confidence to set the rules and the instructions aside and to knit what we need to knit rather than what someone else tells us to knit.
In storyteller's terms: We lack the confidence to stand up to Raven and say: "Nonsense. I can figure this out! Now be off, before I start knitting with your tail feathers."
All-righty then. Back to the baby blanket. I know that I have the skills to rearrange the pattern details to suit myself. Let's see what happens when I take those skills into unknown territory.
Challenges in a Knitted-on Border
I'm halfway through the border at this point. Here are some challenges I have faced so far, along with the solutions I came up with. See if you agree with my solutions–and if you have a different approach, I'd love to hear about it in the comments!
1. What needle can I use for the loooooong edging?
Challenge: The center section isn't very big, but since I want to work the edging in rounds all the way around the entire edge, I would need at least a 40" circular, if not a 50" circular, in order to hold all those stitches. I don't own a super-long needle…
Solution: I am using five, count 'em, five shorter circular needles (already in my needle stash) to knit this edge: four to hold all the edge sts, and one as the "working needle." Think of it as using five flexible dpns; it's the same principle. Important tip: Because a lot of yarnovers happen at each corner, the ends of each "flexible dpn" are in the middle of a side rather than at a corner. In other words: Each circular needle begins in the middle of a side, goes around a corner, and ends in the middle of the next side. This ensures that I don't drop any yarnovers at the corners.
2. Pick up stitches knitwise or purlwise?
Challenge: I didn't even know this was a possible problem until I was waaaay past the picking up stitches stage and well into knitting the long border rounds. (Whoops.) I picked up the stitches knitwise, meaning that the bump for each picked-up st was on the back. Later, the bumps pushed the fabric to the inside, folding the border to the right side. In addition, the picked-up stitches formed an odd-looking band on the right side of the fabric. WIth a laceweight yarn, this band wouldn't look odd, it would look…well, open and lacy. But with this yarn at this gauge, it just looks…weird.
Solution: I absolutely refuse to rip this out and start over. Instead, I bought some charming narrow pink grosgrain ribbon which I am going to weave in and out of the pickup band to hide it. The ribbon will also serve to stabilize the edging so that it will not fold to the inside. (Take THAT, Raven Sir.)
3. Converting a lace border pattern for working in the round
Challenge: I chose a lace edging from a shawlette I had just made for a friend. The lace edging on the shawlette is meant to be worked back and forth along a single edge, in rows. I have to work mine in rounds, around a square. Could I convert this to work in the round, and what do I do with the corners?
Solution: I decided to treat each side of the blanket as a flat edge, and work the pattern as though there were four single edges. I adjusted the stitch counts so that the multiples worked out evenly on each facing side. As for the corners, I am working them as (yo, k1, yo), and as the stitches increase on either side of the corner, I am working them into the edging pattern.
4. A Big Honkin' HOLE!
Challenge: There's a huge hole in one corner. It looks like a yarnover gone wild. I've tried fixing it, it's just too big. It might block out. I doubt it. ARGH!!!
Solution: I have decided that I will have the ribbon trims end here with a big bow; then, I will knit or crochet a small removable star for the center of the bow. This will not only cover the hole, it will make the entire blanket look so cute I might not want to give it up. (Dear Niece Delaney: Yes, you will get this blanket for your first birthday, I promise. Love, Auntie Sandi.)
And with that, I think I have chased Raven off for a little while. How about you? Are you facing any knitting challenges this week? Tell me about them in the comments, and maybe we can come up with a solution together!
Oh, and try this: If your knitting laughs at you, laugh right back at it.
P.S. I mentioned that I a summer project in mind. I have yarn. I have needles. I have the pattern…what will I cast on for next? Tune in next Thursday and see!
Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. You can find her blogging here on Knitting Daily every Thursday. Want more? Visit Sandi's personal blog, wiseheart knits. Or, if you're on Twitter, follow her tweets under her new twitter name: sandiwiseheart.
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