Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I'd Like To Use a Lifeline Please


Knitting lace requires faith. While forging forward, the work looks like a blob of yarn and funky stitches. Blocking the piece will reveal the negative spaces and beauty of lace.

When knitting, it's important for me to be able to look at a stitch and emerging pattern to see where I've been, and where I'm going. This ability is referred to as reading the knitting. Once a pattern is established, I should be able to tell if I'm on a right side, or wrong side row, or what the next stitch should be. The rows below supposedly tell me all of that information. Even though I thought I was a good reader, apparently, I'm not so great at reading my knitting.

When I first began to knit in earnest (something other than garter stitch scarves), I elected to knit lace. I joined a knit along (KAL) and jumped into it with all the enthusiasm I could muster. This was also the first time I tried knitting with a chart. It seemed so simple, just another variation on knit and purl stitches with a yarn over here and there. Simple, it was not. In the first place, I had to learn to use symbols in place of written words for instruction. Additionally, charts are read left to right and from the bottom to the top-this was a whole new language to me. In the second place, knitting lace involves creating negative spaces. For every stitch that creates this negative space or hole, there is a corresponding stitch taken away, usually ending a row with the same amount of stitches that there were at the start. How the knitter takes a stitch away is known as a decrease, and can be left leaning, right leaning or centered. Combined with the yarn overs, these stitches create a lace pattern. With the certain knowledge that I was way over my head and drowning, I restarted that project (Pink Lemon Twist's Mystery Shawl) over and over, choosing to rip out every single stitch every time I made a mistake. I was just so confused as to how I should fix dropped or forgotten stitches. Yarn overs preceding a purl stitch were particularly troublesome. I don't know why it took forever to learn to bring the yarn over to the front of the work before I purled, but it did. I'm embarrassed to tell you how many times I restarted Mystery Shawl 3. In microbiogy, we'd say TNTC (too numerous to count). Completely frustrated, I started reading the message boards to glean the insights of more experienced knitters. Surely, I couldn't be the only person with issues.

On the boards, I learned the importance of using a lifeline. A knitter's lucky charm, the lifeline allows me to rip out my stitches down to the line (a piece of contrasting yarn, or dental floss if I'm knitting with lace weight yarn). Some knitters don't need a lifeline and are quite capable of seeing which stitch goes where-all the way down a knitted piece. Either I lack the experience of these fiber artists, or I just can't see things the way they do. Subsequently, I use a lifeline. I always place my lifelines through the stitches of a wrong side row, in this case, a purled row, taking care on the next row, not to knit the lifeline into the fabric-it needs to be left alone. On this particular project, I place the line at the end of the last row of the 4 row pattern. This way, if I have to rip it out because of a mistake, I know I can rip to the end of a 4th row, pick up the stitches and restart at row 1 of the pattern. I'll place my lifelines every 3 or 4 pattern repeats so if I do encounter a problem with my stitches, I'm ripping only a little bit out, not an entire piece. Wisely, I also leave more than one lifeline in- just in case one comes out. Even if I can't be taught to read right, I can be taught tricks to compensate.

Just like my inability to accurately read my knitting, I'm having a hard time reading the verbal and non-verbal messages I'm receiving about my job. I'm staying put for now, and I'm trying really hard to be as optimistic about how things will shake out with my department as I am about how the lace will block. Wish I had a lifeline for this decision.

13 comments:

Miss 376 said...

It's only since doing the blanket blocks that i have knitted with a chart, certainly a new way of knitting for me.

Rudee said...

I like chart knitting Miss. It's less cluttered and easier to keep my place.

Brenda said...

Well, if that doesn't challenge the old mind I don't know what would! I am happy to hear that you frogged lots of things when first learning though. I can't tell you how many times I have done that with socks so far. I need to ask you what in your opinion was the EASIEST pattern to follow to make socks. I want to remember that you told me already, but I can not remember. Did you say Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's method? I do have her book for a simple sock formula, but it did not work for me the first time I tried it. I know that once I learn it it will seem so simple to do, just getting it done right for now is hard. Lace..on my, that looks and sounds very hard. The chart...is that anything like counted cross stitch? I can usually follow instructions ok...not sure what is going on with the knitting though.

Rositta said...

Rudee, I read about "lifelines" in the Yarn Harlots first book and used it on my lace scarf. It really was a lucky charm since I didn't have to use it even once. I hate charts and won't use them. If I can't read the written word, it's not for me. Positive thoughts for your job...ciao

debra said...

Seems to be going around.....I think that when the time is right the answers are there. Waiting and being with the silence can be a challenge--for me at least.
xox

Sandy said...

I enjoyed reading about your knitting. Having tried knitting years ago, I could have used lifelines for sure. I gave up on it though. Crocheting seemed a little easier and I did an afghan but never knew how to finish it off around the edges, so it sits somewhere in a cabinet, this huge afghan not finished.

Tough about the job stuff but hopefully all will be okay.

Betty Flocken said...

It's beautiful Rudee. I'm confused on the the steps and charts.. I have never been good at that.. I'm reading on to learn more about your work.

Rudee said...

Sandy, you could probably take that afghan to a local yarn store, and for a fee, they'll finish it for you. Beats going to waste. If you don't want it, or don't use it, you could donate it as is to a shelter. I'm sure they'd love to have it.

Rudee said...

Brenda, I'm thinking of sites to send you, but if it's a size issue, you may need to make more decreases at the gusset to make them fit more snugly. That's the beauty of a hand made sock-they can be made to fit. Now if it's a gauge issue, you may need smaller or larger needles to make it work. Smaller needles =more stitches to the inch. Larger needles= fewer stitches to the inch.

Sandy said...

good idea Rudee..however, as I wrote in a post above, I'm going to try it again ...and maybe now I'll learn how to finish one. I actually am not even sure I still have this one.

Railbird65 said...

Thank you for this entry. It made be realize that I am not alone in my lace/chart ordeal. I have been working on the Soap Bubble Sweater from Interweave Knits and I have just started by 10th c/o (getting dangerously close to TNTC) and near the frustration point! I am going to use a lifeline, my plan is to use one of my interchangeable needles & thread it through the tightening hole and hopefully pulling the lifeline through as I knit the row.....we shall see.

I actually typed up the pattern in words just for my own use....but I am looking at the chart as I go along....

Again thank you.

Rudee said...

You're welcome. Just remember to put the stoppers on the ends of the interchangeable line so it stays put.

Railbird65 said...

It has been working out great for me....thank you so much for sharing this idea. As I have been progressing, I'm making it a point to read the chart - it won't hurt for me to learn this skill.