Sunday, January 9, 2011

Haruni, thou art my teacher.

Today I learned something. I've been working my way through a beautiful Haruni, a gorgeous and free shawl design by the talented Emily Ross, and today I finished repeating Chart A and moved into Chart B, to make the leafy border. It forms a bunch of interlocking leaf shapes, each of which is crowned by a triple decrease. Which are supposed to be centered.

When I started Chart A, I thought that the chosen triple decrease was less than ideal. It's a sl2, k1, psso decrease - slip two stitches, knit one, and pass the slipped stitches over. I followed the instructions as I read the - slip two, knit the third, pass the slipped ones over. Sure it came out centered, but not very symmetrical. It didn't lean, but I always ended up with the rightmost stitch on top of them, giving it an unbalanced look. Not a bad one, just a little unbalanced. So I went through the entire section of Chart A that way - 7 repeats, in fact, since I wanted a larger shawl than the original pattern calls for.

When I started Chart B, I found the decrease really just looked bad in the pattern - some of them were centered atop previous sl1,k1,psso decreases and it really looked bad then. So I thought I'd look up if there were any other triple decreases out there I liked. I was in a coffee shop at the time, so I could only use the crappy mobile web app on my phone (which is most certainly NOT anything fancy as an iPhone), but I did find a promising article by TECHKnitter (if you haven't visited her blog, please do. It's helped me immensely in developing my knitting skills.) It described some common decreases. Hey look, it has a triple decrease. My word - it describes how to do the sl2, k1, psso decrease. And - wait - hers look good.

Then I realized it. I'd gone through the entire shawl doing them all wrong. If you do it as follows, the way I did, it comes out looking unbalanced:
Slip one stitch knitwise. Slip another stitch knitwise. Knit 1. Pass both slipped stitches over together.

(I also tried slipping them separately and purlwise, it looks more or less the same).

However, if you do it correctly:
Slip two stitches together knitwise (enter them like you were going to k2tog, but slip instead), knit one, and pass the slipped ones over.

Then it looks beautiful, the middle stitch is on 'top' of the bundle of three, and it comes out perfectly.

Why didn't I think to check when I started this shawl? There is absolutely no way in hell I'm going back and redoing all of chart A. The asymmetric ones actually don't look terrible, I think they give it a sort of quaint or old-fashioned look. But at least the Chart B section will look better because of it. And I must apologize to Emily Ross for my thoughts about the triple decrease - it wasn't her choice of decrease at all. It was my failure to actually go and look up the stitch so I knew how to do it correctly.

Well, we knit, and (hopefully) learn.

As a side note, this project has been really good at teaching me techniques. I learned the proper way to do a sl2,k1,psso, of course. I tried using lifelines for the first time today, and I came up with a really convenient way to run one - I'm sure other people have unvented this, but I was proud of it. I tied a piece of sewing thread through the keyhole of my interchangeable circulars (knitpicks Harmonies, by the way, and I love their pointiness) and just go through the row. As you work along it, the circular will pull your lifeline through for you (I used unwaxed tape floss - strong, won't leave any residue, and small enough I could poke it through the hole). If you try this, watch out for one thing - it will run your lifeline through any stitch markers you are using. Either take them out for this row or use a different method, especially if you have lots of stitch markers.

Unfortunately, I discovered on the next row that I don't really like knitting a row with a lifeline through it. I ended up pulling it out because it got on my nerves.

I also learned how to frog edge stitches. This pattern has a three-stitch wide garter stitch border, with a slipped stitch edging. Last night I realized I'd forgotten to slip a stitch about 30 rows back. I tried to ignore it, but as I am becoming increasingly aware, I just can't ignore things like that. Eventually I pulled up my big girl panties and dropped the three edge stitches and unwound it all down to the row below the missed slip. I've dropped stitches in the middle before, and I'm used to working with free strands. I had thought trying to work with free loops would be a lot tougher, but it's actually pretty easy to tell which side the is 'lower' side. As long as you start with the bottom side, it's not really any different than knitting it the first time was.

So let's close out this rambling post with two pieces of advice I wish someone had told me a long time ago.

1. If you aren't sure how to do a stitch, look it up. Preferably find a resource that shows you what the finished stitch should look like, so you can compare yours to that.

2. Don't be too afraid to try a new technique. If you're really worried, try it out on a swatch instead of on a real piece of work, but do try it. It can really pay off in adding something super useful to your repertoire.