Saturday, October 14

And Few Things are as Scary as Math

After finishing two of the socks on my "to-do" list and completely ripping out one of the others, I thought it was penance enough to the sock-knitting god. I immediately started the post-planning, pre-knitting phase of development for the Embossed Leaves socks for which I've been yearning.

I dubiously cast on a few stitches with my size 1 needles, knowing full well that the pattern was calling for size 2s, and also that I don't own size 2s. I knit a gauge swatch. It was the requisite four inches across, with garter-stitch edging. I was very proud of myself. Until I missed gauge by a longer shot than I thought was possible. I sighed, feeling very magnanimous, and re-cast on size 0 needles.

I knit another gauge swatch. (This swatch was admittedly much smaller than the first.) I knit on and on in plain stockinette, and yet when measured, the gauge was further off than the first swatch.

The pattern calls for twenty-two stitches! "What insanely tiny yarn was the knitter using, that she got twenty-two stitches in four inches?" I asked myself. Being of sounder mind than usual when contemplating gauge, I wrote down the measurements I achieved, and took up my size 00 needles. A few seconds of pondering how this might effect my mental health, I thought about things. I mean, really thought about them. Then I looked at and read the pattern notes. Apparently, this pattern-maker decided to measure her gauge over two inches, not four. It was no wonder that with needles two sizes too small I was getting over twice the number of stitches she noted.

I remeasured my swatch, and pulled out my size 1s again. And sighed a big heavy sigh. And knit another swatch. (Smaller yet than the second swatch, which was barely two inches across.)

With my size 1 needles, I can get 24 stitches per two inches, which isn't terrible. I crocheted myself a chain of 70 stitches (some extras for leeway) and got to work with my first attempt at a tubular cast-on. I have only a very basic idea of how these things work, having only read one article of instruction when I was very drunk and online at three in the morning, but I think I understand how it works. It only took me a round to discover that a measley 64 stitches wouldn't be enough for a baby sock with the gauge I was getting on my size 1s.

I decided to add another pattern repeat to my socks, but I feared that this would leave me with elephant socks. I contemplated removing a stitch or two of the contrasting purls between the leaves, but the idea wasn't making me happy. I like the striking contrast in stitches. I worried on this thought for a while, and then noticed that the entire sock pattern is sized for 7 1/2 inch feet, and my feet are a (rather disturbing) 9 1/2 to 10 inches around. (Depending on the area being measured. I have flintstone feet. Elephant socks, indeed.) Small work to put one extra pattern repeat in there with my slightly smaller needles and get a wearable product, I thought. Even with my very wide feet. It should work.

And I proceeded to cast on 80 stitches, using the 1X1 rib method* in the glossary of the magazine. This was hard (as all thing knitting are at first) to get a grasp of, but I appreciate the simplicity of the movement. If you're a fan of the long-tail cast on, I'd give the ribbed long-tail a try. It's pure genius, and it works the way my mind says it should - the opposite of what you do to cast on a knit-look stitch creates a purl-look stitch. This will be endlessly useful in my knitting.

I then proceeded to knit two rows of complete crap, because I only perfunctorily glanced at the directions for the first two rows.

Tomorrow, though, I'll be totally set to start fresh, and with a good set of notes regarding how to proceed. For once, I'm taking all of this knitting "failure to launch" in stride, and not letting it get me down about the whole project. I suppose that's the power of finding a pattern you love and denying yourself the urge to knit it for almost a year. My love for this pattern and this yarn is indestructible. Nothing can stop it, not even the dreaded MATH.


When you're casting on a purl-looking stitch, look at it this way. Instead of putting your needle over and under ONE and over and under THREE and back through the loop made by ONE and TWO, bring your needle over and under FOUR, over and under TWO and back through the loop made by THREE and FOUR. Make sense?

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