28 July 2006


And now: The Most Frustrating Evening of Knitting Ever (or, Never Frog from the CO Edge Up)

These two sleeves are not identical. Can you spot the Problem Row? (Click on the picture to see a bigger version)

Okay. So, there's this brown Fair Isle sweater with a gauge problem (scroll down to the bottom of the post). I had one sleeve, the bottom third of the second sleeve, and the body done. The gauge was all mis-matched in the main color parts, but the Fair Isle parts were fine, and after blocking and becoming enamored of the Fair Isle in the body, I *really* did want to rip any of that out (I was also slightly afraid that doing so would create a gauge problem there, too). So, I decided to frog the top few inches of the body, and the top and bottom few inches of the second sleeve. If I could re-knit this in the gauge I was originally getting to match the bottom of the body and the first sleeve, all would be well.

Since I had no idea what got my gauge off in the first place, I had to take a couple weeks off, working on other projects before I could deal with this.

So, two days ago, I frogged the top part of the second sleeve. I re-knit, up to where I'd stopped, and beyond, all the way to the top of the sleeve. Huzzah! - no problems. It knit up just as it should. The secret, I believe, is to NOT THINK ABOUT KNITTING WHILE KNITTING. This seems to keep my gauge right on track. I recommend watching Sopranos re-runs as the best way to achieve this Zen-like state.

So, all proud of myself and convinced that the Bad Knitting Voodoo had vanished, I set out to frog the bottom couple of inches of the sleeve, which had been too tight. I had started with a provisional cast-on, so I didn't even have to laboriously pick apart the edge.

Now, I know that when you start knitting down from the bottom edge of a piece, you're really knitting the loops *between* the loops you were knitting upwards before, so that you end up with once less loop, and so a careful eye will spot a slight difference at the start of the row/round.

I had full confidence that I could handle this. I've read Montse Stanley cover to cover - I can do anything.

I planned to rip only to the last row in the main color, so that the switch wouldn't affect any of the Fair Isle section, and I didn't particularly care if the round join looked a little odd, since it's the underside of a sleeve. I started ripping, and...something strange happened. The loops all obediently popped right out of their places until I got to the beginning of the round, and then I found that the loose end of the yarn went right *through* the loop, instead of being looped through, if you know what I mean. It was a knot, not a loop. Like the last loop on a bind-off, when you put the end through by itself to secure the last loop. Except it wasn't a bind-off row. As far as I understand knitting, it ain't got no business having a knot (that is, anything but a loop inside a loop) anywhere but the first or last stitch. And it's not like this even happened just where I had made my M1 increases -- those were every 5th row, and I found this knot thing 2-3 times at the beginning of every round. Yes, 2 to 3 times. Sometimes it was 2, sometimes 3. This *really* makes no sense, since every row should be the same, at least.

I began to contemplate how the cuff bottom that I vaguely remember having knit myself in the usual way had, in fact, been knit by aliens in some weird alien way that makes no sense and is very bad for frogging. I ran this theory by my husband, who made sensitive, supportive noises.

So, I frogged each row by pulling the entire length of the unravelled yarn through those 2-3 loops at the beginning of every round. Normally, frogging a couple inches of cuff should take about 5 minutes, if not less. This took a good hour, and the closer I got to the Fair Isle section, the more the wool MC yarn started to stick to itself or catch little bits of the alpaca I'd used for the Fair Isle, so that it didn't want to rip out.

I had planned to frog for five minutes, get the needles into the last row of MC, ready to re-knit down those few inches, then take a break and have a shower before dinner, since I was sweating like a loon under all that wool and alpaca. Suddenly, Hubbster was saying (gently, so as not to provoke) that dinner was kind of ready already, and I was sitting there with a huge, knotty pile of kinked wool all over me, and only half the cuff frogged. I found myself unable to pull words together to respond to Hubbster. I could only make noises, and gesture.

Hubbster is a very clever boy, and offered me beer. Not regular beer, which I despise, but green-apple flavored imported Belgian beer, which is something else entirely. A drink. This one thought penetrated my flummoxed, wooly brain and I flung away the whole mess and drank my beer. Also ate, and did all the other necessary things, so I could return to my cuff with renewed energies. Hubbster asked, conversationally, over dinner, as if this was something normal people discussed, what had gone wrong with the knitting. I explained my alien theory. I worked myself up into believing that if I could just get to that last row of the MC and pick up the loops (the loops between loops, I remembered, because I'm so clever), then all would be well.

I went back to frogging, but all of a sudden, for reasons I am completely unable to explain, the last MC row was already more than half gone, and I had a big fuzzy knot that included both the wool MC and the alpaca CC, and the knitting that remained still in place was totally unrecognizable as knitting. I would have taken a picture of this for you, if I hadn't been completely hysterical.

This is when I started to laugh and cry maniacally, and to grab my scissors and start hacking at random. This is when Hubbster started like a frightened deer and hovered nearby, ready to help but making sure not to get too close to the scissors.

I hacked off the MC yarn -- in the process making all that laborious frogging a complete waste of time, since I could have just snipped the yarn at that point in the first place. In the emotional state I was in by this time, this was enough to make me weep. Now I was left with the first Fair Isle row instead of a plain row to pick up. It was a simple one, just one-by-one stitch in the MC and CC. But the stranding, being so short, was indistinguishable from the loops, and here I was trying to find "loops between loops"! I tried several times, and each time the expletives got louder, and more sacreligious.

Okay, so I wasn't thinking all that clearly. But finally it did sink in - trying to pick up stitches in this row was probably REALLY STUPID. That maybe trying to pick them up in the next row, which was plain CC, would be easier. It was. I picked them up, I knitted down. Miraculously, my gauge when I knit down was fine. The row where I picked up is a bit tight, and of course the frame-shift caused by picking up the bottoms of loops and knitting in the opposite direction is much more noticeable this way than it would have been if I'd managed to do it in a plain MC row. And yes, I'm well aware that it would have been MUCH easier to have just ripped out the whole second sleeve and started from scratch, since we're only talking about a few inches of knitting here. But pray keep in mind that, having decided I want to keep the Fair Isle bit and blithely believing that frogging from the CO edge wouldn't be any harder than frogging from the top, I had already frogged the top part and re-knit the entire top of the sleeve. In the right gauge. If I tried it a third time, clearly, the gauge would have gone back to Bizarro-world gauge again. Everybody knows that's how the Knitting Voodoo works; you can't mess with it.

So I showed the sleeves to Hubbster, the intended recipient of the sweater, and asked him if he could see the difference. Not that he really had a choice at this point, but he claims in all honesty to be completely oblivious to even the slightest imperfection in the sleeves, or indeed in any of my knitting. Nice Hubbster. He grew up with the sort of grandmother who never, ever swore except while knitting, at which point she sometimes became quite colorful, as I'm sure we can all imagine. So he's well-trained.

Last night I frogged the top part of the body -- no alien invasions here -- and am now re-knitting it, apparently at the correct gauge.

Clearly, the Sweater Gods have had it in for me lately. Equally clearly, the Sweater Gods were called in for vengeance on behalf of the two unfinished sweaters sitting in my closet for about a year and a half now. I let too many sweaters sit in the closet for too long, and now they're ganging up on me. Maybe I've read too much Harlot, but I fear my own knitting. Honestly, I've never seen anything like that frogged cuff, I don't understand it, and I think Other Powers have to have been at work.

The smart thing to do, here, would be to finish those last two sweaters in the closet before I start the new, really exciting one using the KnitPicks Palette Sampler. But I'm afraid, so afraid. Plus, I stuck them in the closet in the first place because they didn't seem to be quite living up to their potential. Does anybody know any sweater exorcisms??

Next post: I use a power drill. And yes, it's related to knitting. Muhahahaha.

1 comment:

bradyphrenia said...

wow, that's quite the story. your alien theory sounds quite plausible to me. why would you have random gauge changes unless someone other than you was working rows when you weren't looking? evil forces, i tell you. muhuhahahaha