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The Knitting Diaries: Of Needles and Pins

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Not that you can tell from the photos above, but I’ve spent most of this week working on the first sleeve of my sweater. The first couple of attempts failed because I just couldn’t stand the huge holes on either side of the extra stitches I cast on under the arm. Apparently, this is a common problem with sweaters and the Internet is filled with hints for fixing it after the sleeves are knit. Most recommend sewing the holes up which I didn’t want to do.

Read more of my adventures in knitting below:

After hammering on various sites and search engines, I finally found (on a forum at Ravelry) a woman who picks up extra stitches under and around the arm and then she decreases those stitches on the next round. And this is the technique I used. The weight of the needles obscures the underarm area so it’s not really clear from the photo but, I have only the smallest of holes under the arm now! And I’m pretty sure I can bind those areas with a duplicate stitch when I weave in the yarn end.

Another problem was that I kept losing count of my rows as I knit.  You can see in the photos that I’ve got a cute red row counter dangling off my needles.  Well, I have these moments of inattention that leave me occasionally wondering if I’ve turned the counter or not.  (so stupid) And since I’m not using lifelines on the sleeves (learning to use double pointed needles is complicated enough) I didn’t have a start point for my count.

It wouldn’t be that big a deal — who cares if a sleeve has an extra row or two – except that sleeves come in pairs …. and it’s nice if they match.  So, that was frustrating.  The last time I ripped out the sleeve (really because of the holes)  it was also because I had lost track of my row count. And, I considered the problem while I worked on the hole issue.

You can see my solution above — a small coil-less safety pin that I looped through a stitch on the first row. That’ll stay right there.  It shows me where I started this set of rows and (as I progress through the sweater) subsequent safety pins will make it easy to keep track of how many sets I’ve done (they’ll be 4 in this section)

I’m learning that knitting is all about counting … rows, stitches, sections … if you don’t like to count, you might not want to knit.  But, even if you LIKE to count, finding a system that works for you will make the whole process a lot more enjoyable!

8 Responses

  1. Wow, that looks complicated. Getting those sorts of details right takes a lot of thought and planning. And especially careful design. I think sewing after seems like cheating. But then, easy for me to say.

    I learned to knit when I was a kid from one of my zillions of aunts. I loved it. But for some reason abandoned it when growing up. I’m not sure I’d want do anything that hard, but scarves seem pretty tempting to try.

    • I was going to stick to scarves for my first year but, when I saw this sweater, I fell in love. And decided that I HAD to make it for my daughter.

      It’s kind of crazy for a first big project — It’s a complicated pattern with short-rows pulling the neck down, shaping for bust/waist/hips, intricate pattern for the ribbing and lace around the neckline.

      But, the instructions are VERY clearly written and organized. And I’ve just taken each section as it came along and worried JUST about that.

      So at this point, I’m really glad no one talked me out of doing it. I would could never have learned all these techniques without a project like this!

  2. My first sweater was a top down double cable. I had only knit a couple of dish cloths before I attempted the sweater. The great thing about knitting is being able to rip out mistakes and try again. Working on learning how to knit socks.

  3. Safety pins, yay! That’s how I keep track. For instance, on a sock, I set a safety pin every 20 rows. Counting is then easy: number of pins times 20 plus the remainder (e.g., 4 x 20 + 10 = 90 rows for calf). At the end of that section, I write down the total, for the second sock.

    That business of making extra stitches to avoid holes: That’s how I work my short-row-heel socks.

    I am so impressed by your fearlessness (and willingness to rip). As you say, the payoff is that now you know how to do these things.

    • I learned my willingness to rip as a computer programmer. Sometimes I’d find myself programming around seriously convoluted logic and I KNEW that if I started over I could make the whole process clean and simple. So, I’ve thrown away many thousands of lines of code.

      And that’s true with knitting. I don’t want to knit a sweater that was off almost at the beginning. And I LIKE to knit … so ripping stuff out just gives me more to do.

      I do what you you do with the markers!! My first project – a scarf – called for a cast on of some-hundreds of stitches (It was knit length wise) and I put markers every 25 stitches & double markers every 100.

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