25 August 2006

Knitting Techniques
(*picture heavy post)

I haven't done much knitting the last few days but I have been reading about knitting. As I've been looking at some patterns and reading other people's experiences with them, I realized that I don't know enough about technique. Now, I can (usually) follow directions and get something that looks roughly like the picture that goes with the pattern. By reading blogs of those who know more than me, I have been humbled by the way other knitters just seem to know things--things like how to make jogless stripes in a sweater knit in the round, tips about when to bind off for a neck, when you want to put the stitches on a stitch holder, variations on left-leaning and right-leaning decreases, the way that different increases can be used as design features, and (the truly impressive) adding short rows and still maintaining the pattern.

According to some of the knitting books I've read (a few of EZ's books and currently reading Knitting in Plain English), once you know how to knit and purl, you are free to try anything. Actually, Righetti explains how once you understand how to do a knit stitch you are set to go. Well, when I first learned to knit that was essentially what my friend said. She started me off on a sweater, pictured below:

I only knew how to knit English, so I just held strands of all the colors in my right hand and just used whatever color was needed for a particular stitch. I didn't know about tacking the floats down every 3 or 4 stitches so I just carried along until I needed the color. Here are a couple of pics of the inside of the yoke:


I knew nothing about gauge and didn't own a tape measure, so I "eye-balled" the lengths--not good. The finished sweater, from neck band to the bottom is 30.5 inches. At first, I considered giving this to my boyfriend at the time who was over 6 feet tall (I knew nothing about the boyfriend sweater curse at that time). When he showed little interest in it, I decided to keep it. Let us just say that the few times I wore it, it came down to about mid-thigh. However, I went to school in the south so I only got a chance to wear it about twice a year, on the coldest days with leggings.

One of the main problems with this sweater (beyond the fact that it is waaaay too big):

That's right, I knit the ribbing on one sleeve tighter than the other. Even for me, that tight ribbing makes it hard to wear it comfortably. Also, I knew nothing about blocking so after I finished the sweater I took it to get dry-cleaned. I knew enough not to wash it like normal laundry since it was made from wool but not enough to avoid the dry-cleaner. It came back with a ton of pills. I was so upset that I took it back. I made the dry-cleaner cut off the pills but it has never been quite as smooth since.

At some point I should just recycle the yarn (felted bag?) but the sentimental value as my first knit project has stopped me. Now that I live in Florida, and have made many other knit items, I think I may be able to part with it.

Thinking I knew everything I needed to know about knitting (oh the arrogance of youth), my second project was a sweater for my mom. Now, over 10 years later, it is still not done.

the front:

the back:

one sleeve where you can barely make out the eyelet pattern (I'm not sure who told me that it was best to make them at the same time but they are both on the needle):

Again, I didn't have a tape measure so the back and front measure a mere 16.5 inches from the shoulder to the bottom. Granted, it is supposed to have a crocheted bottom edge, and cropped, boxy sweaters were much more in fashion back then but it is still too short. At a minimum, I should have made the large size for my mom just because this would have been too small for her taste anyway.

I did both with just the knowledge of how to knit and purl and how to read directions. In retrospect, I really needed some more basic information on finishing and the correct way to seam projects, information you can get from a good "learn to knit" book. Not that my lack of finesse has stopped me from continuing on my knitting journey. :-)

I have started reading some "standard" knitting books and blogs entries on techniques to get a clue. The phoney seams that EZ describes, genius. The personal research that Nona does on different knitting techniques, riveting. I can't say enough about Eunny's descriptions of how to master lace, steeks, grafting, and cables. (As soon as her techniques book is available, I am going to run right out and get it.) I already have a rather frightening queue of projects, but now I have additional projects that I want to try just to practice techniques.

Needless to say, I am going back to my reading and research.


twig said...

Yeah those first projects (we all have them) really make you humble don't they? *laugh* I can't imagine a fair isle as a first project, though. Even with its "issues" that's a project you should be proud of.

may said...

whoa, that was your first project?!

I definitely have a few 'humbling' projects from my earlier knitting days (they're stuffed away in my closet somewhere!)