My Knitting Is Laughing At Me

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!

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 purl

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!

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!!!

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.

– Sandi

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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18 thoughts on “My Knitting Is Laughing At Me

  1. Oh, *excellent*!!! (Wild applause). I especially like using the ribbon that way.

    I’m knitting this blanket for my granddaughter, and I’ve been wondering if I will use the border as written or try something different. Your adventure is quite encouraging.

  2. I’m knitting a lace (ok, 1 repeat only) edge on an otherwise plain cardigan to give me the courage to knit more lace. So far so good and I’m up the main body of the cardigan (almost ready to split the fronts from the back). I was checking in with the pattern and it turns out I totally missed the increases that correspond with the decreases I already did for the waist shaping, but I don’t think it’ll be a problem. Its the neck shaping that’s got me worried because the cardigan has no “collar”, it’s knit in lace weight (the pattern is the geodesic cardigan from the winter/spring knitscene with the lace repeat from the apres surf hoodie in the summer 2008 IK) and I didn’t think the gathers at the chest would flatter me, but the cardigan pattern seemed straight forward enough to tweak with the lace edge. Any suggestions for the neckline ?? I’m not sure the lace will work around the neck.

  3. I so agree with Elizaduckie – mistakes are an opportunity for creativity! They can also be viewed as an expression of your interpetation of the design – and you don’t have to beat yourself up about having made a mistake! Who will know if you don’t do anything thing but smile as the recepient of the lovely designed gift is astonished, grateful, and so appreciative! Well done to you, and they will love it! Silence can be so discrete and elegant! Just get the gauge right and design away!
    Knit on!

  4. Awesome solution. Thanks for sharing all the challenges. I am teaching a few friends to knit and mistakes are a big topic. I always tell them to not worry, there is always a fix or solution. We don’t always have to “Tink” or “Frog”!!!

  5. Awesome solution. I am teaching a few friends to knit and taling about fixes is a constant conversation. Thanks for sharing and I will share this with them, too!

  6. I teach 4th grade, and the motto for our learning year is, “Always make new mistakes”… that way you know you are learning. If you never made a mistake, it would mean you were stuck doing what you already know. What a tiny and boring little world that could be. Learning is messy. It MEANS mistakes. And figuring out how to solve them, and providing inspiration for doing things differently. Well done, Sandi.

  7. I love your approach to this, Sandi! Last year I was making the Crocus Cardigan set, an adorable little baby sweater with hat, and I just couldn’t get the hat to “join, being careful not to twist.” I cast on, joined, knit and found a twist three times. The third time, I decided not to fight it any longer. I left the band twisted, then, after finishing the hat, pulled out Nicky Epstein’s book of knitted flowers, picked a nice flower that harmonized with the crocus pattern, knitted it, and sewed it on over the twist. Result, a perfectly nice and slightly fancier hat!
    OK, now for a current problem: I’m making a Multnomah Shawl, which has a garter stitch section (starting at the neck) then a Feather and Fan deep outer edging. Trouble is I think I started on way too small a needle–my garter stitch is on 4’s, should probably be 6’s. Do you think I could get away with switching to a larger needle, six inches in? Wouldn’t it just make a subtle third band between the two? Tempted but not excited about frogging this silky Misti Alpaca if I don’t like the new look.

  8. This week’s challenge: a raglan cardigan for myself. I’ve sewn all the seams, tried on and found that the neck opening is waaaay too big. Since I kept live seams for the edging, I am now going back in and knitting some more, following the line of decreases. Hoping it doesn’t look too wonky where the “knit in one piece” seams meet the “sewn together” seams. Then I will make a big honking collar and install the zipper. Fingers crossed!

  9. I boggle at your skill and bow as one unworthy. I can only dream of knitting at your level! (I also share your taste in sculpture…. I annoyed my travelling companions by wanting to circle that carving repeatedly instead of getting on with checking in for our flight.)


  10. Hi. I recently knit a beautiful little silk cardigan in Rowan Pure Silk, garter stitch borders and otherwise all stockinette. Mysteriously, when all was done and sewn up, I discovered a purl stitch right in the middle of one sleeve cap. Well, with all the sewing done, I didn’t want to both take out the seams and unravel the sleeve cap. I enden up by simply sewing a knit stich on top of the purl stitch, “pushing” the purl bump behind the new stitch. The spot is not quite as smooth as the rest of the stockinette, but it saved quite a lot of work.
    Also, in another sweater, in a ribbing where I mistakenly knitted a stitch instead of purling it, I sewed a fake “purl bump” onto the knit stitch in order to keep the ribbing looking right. (Though knowing that nobody but myself would have ever noticed 🙂 )
    Happy knitting, Trine/Goodlifeknitting

  11. Regarding your border, it was a great solution to end each needle in the middle of a side. Also, guage samples are not only for beginning a new project. Making ing a short sample of the border with one corner would save loads of extra knitting as you work out the design. You might have found out about the “picking up knitwise or purlwise” situation before you committed to knitting all those rows on the actual project. I enjoy your column, especially how to tackly the UFO’s.

  12. You or someone at Knitting Daily demonstrated another way to knit a buttonband. In the demonstration 11 stitches were used. It was a unique way to make this. I have just finished a cardigan and don’t want to use buttons or make button holes. Can you help. please. It was about a week ago around the beginning of June 2010. Thanks for any help you or anyone else can give me.

  13. I have finished a cardigan for myself. All but the front bands. I don’t want to put buttonholes and buttons on the band. Last week, or the first week of June, you aro someone demonstrated a band. The demonstrator used 11 stitches in her instructions. I did not keep the instructions and now cannot find them anywhere in your e-magazines. Could you help. thansk