Brave Knitting

Remember when you started to knit? Remember the panic that your first sighting of PSSO inspired? Maybe you didn’t panic. But I did. Anything that took four letters, four capital letters, pretty much had to be rocket science. Or brain surgery. Or maybe brain surgery on a rocket.

When I started knitting a friend did my first cast on, showed me the knit stitch, then set me loose to work on a scarf. She also cast on scarf number two for me. On scarf three I did my own casting on. By then, I was absolutely sick of garter stitch, so I bought a stitch dictionary and started dreaming. I loved looking at all those stitches, but also trembled with fear when I looked at the abbreviated directions.

I knew P meant purl and had a vague memory from my childhood of a purl involving sticking the right-hand needle sideways into the stitch, so I picked a simple K/P pattern to start and got to work doing what I fervently hoped was a purl. As the rows progressed my scarf looked like something, but not like the pattern in the book. I was using a bulky chenille, mind you, so the whole stitch definition thing was a bit iffy, and I just kept going. My project was turning into a scarf, so at least I had that much right.

As that scarf was finishing up, I mentioned during a phone call to my mom that my purl stitch didn’t look right. She asked what I was doing, I described it, and she said, “You’re doing a stitch, but it’s not a purl stitch. The stitch you’re doing is called ‘knit to the back.’ To get a purl, you have to move the yarn to the front of the needle.” So, I’d bollixed up that pattern, but now I knew three stitches, and I did have another scarf that wasn’t exactly in garter stitch. Whee!

With the purl mastered, there followed a long spell of knitting scarves in pretty much every K/P pattern I could dig up. Purls distributed about a knit background in zig-zags and boxes and grids and hearts and what-have-you. I kept flipping through my stitch dictionaries (I had several by that point, of course), looking at the stitches with that imposing PSSO and longing to try them, but fearing to try them. Until one day, instead of just shuddering at the sight of all those capitals and flipping back to the easier stitches at the front of the book, I figured it couldn’t hurt to read the key and find out what PSSO meant. Oh, “pass slipped stitch over”; I can do that.

My knitting life has been full of little breakthrough moments like that. I want to try something, want to try something, want to try something… but I’m so convinced it will be absolutely beyond me that I don’t give it a go. Until that day when, shazam!, I stop fretting, actually look at how it’s done and realize I can do that.

Knitting in the round? Terror, terror, terror, shazam!
Picking up stitches? Terror, terror, terror, shazam!
Knitting a sock? Terror, terror, terror, shazam!

Knitted-on border? Terror, terror, terror….

I got Victorian Lace Today two Christmases ago, but hadn’t started any of the projects in it because all the prettiest ones required knitted-on borders. The problem that really sent me to a screeching halt on last summer’s mystery stole was the move over to the swan “wing,” which required, in essence, a large, diagonal, knit-on border that became the second half of the stole. I’ve been admiring the lacy edges on the wonderful shawls my friend Chris knits and longing to make similar things myself, but… knitted-on borders.

Now, Chris has been trying to tell me for some time that knitted-on borders aren’t scary. But I wasn’t ready to believe her. Of course Chris finds them easy, I thought, she’s an amazing knitter, not a mere mortal like me.

… terror, terror, terror…

shazam! Yesterday was the day. Having read up on the topic the night before and with my friend Chris looking supportively over my should, I began my first knitted-on border—a lovely wave-like curve along the hem of my Fan Stitch Half-Circle Shawl.

Not only am I knitting on lace, I re-graphed the pattern so that the lines of the lace would fall ideally along the edge of my shawl, and I added a fine strand of black alpaca to the yarn I was using to give a darker cast to the lace that would help it stand out from the body of the piece.

A year and a half of worrying, ten minutes of courage, and the impossible is not only possible, but fun. How many more times do you suppose I’ll learn that lesson in my knitting life?

P.S. If all this talk of knitted-on lace has inspired you, click here for a wonderful assortment of stitch patterns.

August 16 2008 12:14 pm | Uncategorized

3 Responses to “Brave Knitting”

  1. Chris on 16 Aug 2008 at 4:02 pm #

    You didn’t tell them HOW MUCH FUN it is. Or how it is the magic similar to turning a heel. “Wow, look what I did!”
    Someday you can teach me steeks!

  2. CatBookMom on 17 Aug 2008 at 9:58 am #

    Great post! Yep, those moments of wide-eyed realization that “Oh. THAT’s all there is to it?” are wonderful. I did my first knitted-on border a couple of years ago, the Highland Triangle Shawl from ‘Folk Shawls’, all 8 stitches per row of it. I found that my Denise needle points were the perfect needles for just 8 stitches, lol!

    Looking forward to seeing the finished shawl!

  3. lella on 27 Aug 2008 at 11:34 am #

    I love your Knit progression essay! Fine stuff!

    The only thing that still scares me is steeks. I’ve done them but have to go lie down before coming back into the “operating room” to actually cut into them. ;)

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