Cast On Cast Off!

It’s no secret that by the end of the 17 days of Ravelympic project finishing, I wanted nothing more desperately that to cast on something – anything! In fact, I had plenty of good reason to do so, as all my primary projects were off the needles, so I had nothing for audiobook time or movie (or convention speech) time, or travel time. Needless to say, the first moment of knitting time I had when the big event was over, I cast off on a new knitting adventure.

Started project number one was a cinch. I’d put most of my shawl yarn away, but my Thórdís Icelandic Shawl kit was sitting temptingly on the sofa for at least the past two months, and I was hungry to dive into it. I did pause to question my sanity when I read that it required a cast on of 339 stitches, though. One of my smarter moves was to skim through the pattern, and I saw that later on, I was supposed to pick up 339 stitches along that edge. No question what turn that was going to take with me. I used a provisional cast on, which I do in my own special way. The first time I did a provisional, I used a piece of waste yarn and found it less than pleasant to even get the stitches from that onto my needle when the time came. Then I had a brainstorm. Next time, instead of using waste yarn, I used a spare cable from my Knit Picks Harmony needles, then put a cap on each end. It worked like a dream! I think it’s one of the brightest things I’ve come up with in terms of knitting, and I pat myself on the back every time I get to the point of retrieving the live stitches. All I do is remove the cap on one end and screw on my needle tip, and I’m set – 30 seconds! I’m sure others will start doing this eventually – or perhaps even are – but I’m happy to have come up with the idea on my own. :o)

Anyway, back to the cast on… I sure didn’t want to mess this one up, so I put what I believed to be 350 stitches on each needle, separated every 50 stitches by a marker to make it easier to double check myself. I counted it, then counted again as I knit my first row, then compulsively counted one more time. Only then did I take the last 11 stitches off the back end. It took a while, but it was worth it to have the peace of mind it gave me.

In general, this shawl has been moving along very quickly and easily. The pattern is pretty easy, combined with the chart, but I’m not sure I’d like to do without either one. I also believe there are a few errors in the chart, but I’ve become comfortable enough with lace knitting that I’ve been able to sort everything out. I’ve even had a first with this. After discovering an error that only I would see, but which would drive me nuts, I let 10 stitches drop for 8 rows, picked up the ninth row and re-knit that section, which, of course, had to be all in a lace segment. It took me about 90 minutes to get it right, but I’m so proud of myself for being brave and conquering something new, that the shawl almost became secondary to the achievement! I’m now working in the top section, which is a very easy to remember solid Shetland type pattern, so no patterns and quick knitting – and the rows are becoming blessedly shorter by 8 stitches every two rows. This is the perfect kick back and relax project for me, and I’m loving it!

A few days after that, it was time to cast on for my tote along/video time project. My problem was that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for this one. I finally settled on a simple razor shell scarf from Crystal Palace Kid Merino – very fuzzy lace on size 9 needles. I figured I should set it up and get comfortable with the pattern here at home before it started traveling with me. Turns out that was a very good idea. For some reason, I kept making little mistakes in my work, and as easy as the pattern was, I can’t figure why. Tinking was a nightmare, frogging impossible. I hated the way it was looking, despite having loved the one on display at Fiberworks. I gutted it out through 10 inches, willing myself to love my own just as well, but I was getting a strong urge to see if it would flush, so finally accepted that it was time to stop. I worked it back into yarn, and listed it on Ravelry dirt cheap, along with all the rest of the Crystal Palace Kid Merino I’d purchased. There are no two ways about it; I just hate knitting with super fuzzy yarn. :o* No gorgeous fluff of angora shawl for me, I’m afraid… My decision to frog the whole thing was so sudden and spontaneous that I didn’t realize until after the fact that I’d not even taken a picture…

Now it was back to the drawing board for an easy to take along project. I’m not comfortable enough with socks to tote those, yet, so I finally thought to cast on for a Baby Surprise Jacket from Elizabeth Zimmermann’s beloved pattern. Before you ask, no, there are still no grands on the way, but I’ve been itching to try this pattern since I first discovered it. The fascination of turning a knitted amoebus into a jacket enchanted me, and I thought with it being all garter stitch, it might travel well. I have a whole tub full of yarn bought for BSJ’s, so the biggest problem was deciding which was first. I finally settled on some Queensland Bebe Cotsoy, which I have to say is pure delight to have running through my fingers, and it’s adding more than a little energy to an already addictive pattern. My first big mistake was trying to cast on and set up the project while watching The Hunt For Red October, and it ended up taking me most of the movie before I was actually knitting. However, I’m buzzing right along now – if we don’t mention the 10 rows I frogged when I discovered that I’d slid by one stitch on my decrease. I know… I could have just slid back and been the only one who noticed it, but my grandma does this whisper in my ear bit from beyond the grave, so I fix whenever I possibly can. Thanks, Grandma…

Anyway, this isn’t going to be my tote along either, as I know full well that I’d knit right past the increase or decrease spot, and I have to keep too close of an eye on which row I’m working. It’s great for movie time, though, and I find myself wishing we’d watched the other political party’s convention, so I’d have had more speeches to knit through.

I’ve grown fond of picking up my sock project when I just want to knit for a few minutes or am listening to a knitting podcast. And I’ve also now spoiled myself rotten. I’d heard over and over again that once a person actually puts on a pair of handknit socks, they’ll be sold. I don’t know that I would guarantee it happens to everyone, but I’m totally smitten! I can scarce bear to take my one and only pair off, so it was mandatory that another pair go on my needles asap. After some debate, I decided my second pair would be another of Cat Bordhi’s patterns, since the Coriolis fit me so beautifully. Then I pawed through my sock yarn tubs for a ridiculous length of time and finally settled on some Panda Wool in a gorgeous brown and burgandy. The Fountain Foxgloves I’d chosen suggested the standard toe, and being one to like learning new things, I thought that was a good thing. I did my swatch, then figured out what I was supposed to do, grabbed two of my size 0 DPN’s and went for it with a Judy Becker Cast On, which I’m quite fond of, I will add. Seems it’s a good thing I’m fond of it, because picking up my needles was the last sane thing that happened for quite some time. The chore at hand was simply to put 6 stitches on each of two needles, knit down one and up the other, then back down again. Yeh… right… It turned out to be one of those times that I’m glad my hair was tied back. Otherwise, it would have been standing straight out on end like some gigantic halo, which based on my mood at the time, I most certainly didn’t deserve. I can’t ever remember having such a fight with my knitting, even with the first project I tried – self taught! One or another needle would pop out, stitches were committing suicide at an alarming rate, and I can now do Judy’s cast on with my toes, I’ve done it so often. However, I persevered, and after two hours, I was actually four rows into the toe increases – and breathing normally again. I tucked my little treasure away and put a few rows on my BSJ to unwind.

No, that’s not the end of the story…

The next day, with my car finally home from the mechanic, I decided I’d best make that run to my not quite so local yarn shop an hour away. An hour driving alone gives me too much time to think, and one of the things I thought was that it was going to take me a whole lot longer to make a pair of socks with dark brown yarn on size 0 needles with 9.5 stitches per inch than it took using medium dark blue at 7 stitches per inch – and I want new socks fast right now. So I forced myself (Wanna buy a bridge?) to buy another sock’s worth of Merino 5 while I was laying in some much needed laceweight yarns and some short DPNs and… Well, that’s another story…

Anyway, I dug my size 3 needles out again that evening, and checked my cast on numbers for the largeer gauge socks. As I started to put the requisite 10 stitches on each needle, I stopped dead in my tracks. 10??? Then it hit me… Two hours of wrestling with that sock the night before, and here I’d been supposed to cast on a whole lot more than 6 stitches – 12, to be precise. No, I don’t have a photo of the deceased sock toe in brown, either. Frogging it while humming taps gave me a moment to rethink things, though, and when I put the yarn up, I decided to dig out my two size 3 circular needles. Part of the struggle on that toe had been that I was trying to knit on one of two needles that was splinted to another, and if I used the circs, the “other” would be a flexible cable. I was right; it worked much more easily, and I actually got to keep my very first cast on!

This picture shows a rather embryonic sock. I’m getting close to the end of the toe increases now – thankfully. Absolutely no disrespect intended to those of you who love working socks on circs, but I have to say that I just plain do not. In fact, it drives me nuts – as far as that happens to be… It just seems so fiddly to have to push the stitches across the cable and up onto the other end of the needle constantly, and I find it more difficult to guard against laddering, too. I can’t wait to get past the increases and change back to my beloved DPN’s. I’m glad someone invented the technique of working on circs, as it unquestionably saved me on this project. I’ll use it as needed, I’m sure. And I certainly am not going to be judgemental toward anyone who prefers it – so long as they don’t give me a bad time for my DPN’s. I’ll even happily teach others how to do it. It’s just not my first choice for socks, and I’m in this for the fun!

And, I’m finally back to working on my spinning wheel! Yippee!!! Just wait’ll you see her!

Now what am I going to use for a tote along project???? Sigh… Suggestions?

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