knit project

220 x X* = Insanity

*Where X is the number of times I’ve counted to 220.

I started a new knitting project—Lucie Sinkler’s #23 Sleeveless Top from Vogue Knitting’s Spring/Summer 2003 issue. I like the shape of this top (which is not sleeveless, but rather has cap sleeves) and the fact that it’s seamless. I don’t like the air vents at the sides, so I’ll be leaving them out. (If you had seen the chart for those things, you’d do the same.)

I’m using Knit Picks’ slippery Shine Sport in Currant and slippery Addi Turbo needles. (Don’t ask if I swatched because I didn’t.)

Only one thing is better than yarn the color of Pinot Noir.

I cast on 220 stitches using my favorite Chinese Waitress cast-on (which took 45 minutes), joined for knitting in the round checking several times that I didn’t twist the line of stitches, and began knitting. It starts with three garter ridges, which means three rounds of purling 220 stitches.

I finally got to the stockinette rounds and added a little cable detail that’s supposed to continue up and along the raglan decreases.

After about six hours and 12 rounds, I had this:

3,960 stitches, 660 of them purled.

After I realized that I had twisted the line of stitches and would have to start over, I had this:

And then I had this**:

Zero stitches.

And then I had this:

The only thing better than yarn the color of Pinot Noir.

And then I had this:

My knitting hubris will prevent me from doing this next time.

You’ll notice that my cast on has little binder clips on it. This tip to clip your stitches in place so the slippery yarn on the slippery needles doesn’t deceive you into believing that they’re lined up properly is from the surprisingly helpful book Knitting Tips & Trade Secrets.

I again cast on 220 stitches and again joined for knitting in the round, absolutely certain that I had not twisted the line of stitches. I worked one round, counting each stitch as I knit it, and came up with 210.

Can someone please subscribe me to a wine-o-the-month club?

**To rub a little salt in my wound, when I tried to frog the yarn onto the ball winder, it kept knotting itself because of the twist, so I had to hand-wind it.

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A Bit of My Knitting History

I learned to knit in the fifth grade, but it wasn’t until high school in the early 80s that I started serious knitting. I knew and used only three things: Vogue Knitting magazine, straight aluminum knitting needles, and the long-tail cast-on. I didn’t even know there were other ways to cast on.

I didn’t understand anything about gauge or those stupid swatches that were always recommended to obtain the correct one, so I substituted whatever yarn I liked, regardless of weight. I did, however, always use the recommended needle size. Needless to say, I never adjusted the pattern to account for the different raw materials, so sometimes the sweater fit and sometimes it didn’t, and I never really knew why. I just cast on for my size and started knitting.

And they were always sweaters. Not hats or scarves or anything easy. And on top of that, they were designer sweaters that now no one knits because they’re so involved. (Hey, Vogue Knitting—look at the number of projects on Ravelry for these silly designs and get a clue to stop publishing them.) Nothing in plain old stockinette stitch, either. Everything I knit was charted.

I had never heard of stitch counters (or stitch markers, for that matter), so I used tick marks on a piece of paper—usually one of the little subscription cards that came with the magazine—to count the rows. I never thought to use a ruler or other sort of straight edge on a chart, so I was always having to find my place and count stitches. (As I remember and write this, I’m not sure whether to think I was a dummy or the bomb.)

I knitted Perry Ellis’s #27 Theatre Sweater from Vogue Knitting Fall/Winter 1985. In acrylic. (Please, please forgive me.) I knit it in the original primary colors with a bright blue background with mustard faces and red ribbons. I don’t have the sweater anymore because a younger, dumber me donated it to a thrift store.

My knitting formula in the 80s.

I also remember knitting a sweater that was a sort of sampler of bobbles and bells and other complicated stitches. By Adrienne Vittadini, I think. It’s so old vintage, it’s not in the Ravelry pattern database. It was supposed to be a cropped sweater, but I wasn’t paying attention to that part of the pattern, and it ended up tunic length. I used Sugar ‘n’ Cream cotton (a yarn usually reserved for dish rags) in white, and the thing weighed a ton. It was knit in pieces then seamed together, but I didn’t trust myself to execute the seaming (i.e., set-in sleeves) properly, so I took it to a yarn shop and asked the owner to seam it for me. She said it would be a couple of weeks before she could get to it, but called me two or three days later to say it was done. She was anxious to see how it would turn out. I don’t remember how much I paid her, but it was worth it. The sweater was fabulous. I don’t have that one anymore either, because I bleached it one too many times trying to remove a rusty water stain on the left shoulder. It came out of the washing machine in shreds. (I didn’t know anything about doing laundry, either.)

As I’ve matured as a person, I’ve matured as a knitter. I knit with wool or wool blends almost exclusively. I understand the importance of dye lots. I discovered circular needles and knit everything I can in the round. I know a bunch of different cast-ons, the Chinese Waitress Cast-On being my current favorite. And I use proper knitter tools, like stitch counters and magnetic boards for charts.

I still don’t knit swatches, but I think everyone else should.