I have a natural proclivity to think things over and over, which looks a lot like procrastination. And I honestly cannot say that it isn’t.
Every year, I knit a hat for my extremely knitworthy sister-in-law. Every year, I follow a pattern. This year, I decided to design one myself. It took me ages to decide how I wanted the hat to look: I even went to a Christmas Market, hung around sipping Mulled Wine (= Glühwein) and had a look at people’s heads, to get inspiration.
By the time I got it cast on and knit the band, I realized that I had cast on too many stitches. I had to rip it out and start again. And then I realized that I had to keep it simple because I had so little time to get to it, in-between shopping, menu-planning, and prepping to have the house full of relatives for the Holidays.
The Yarn: Lana Grossa Cosy by Lala Berlin. A soft fuzzy alpaca-wool blend. With just a smidgen of Nylon.
Very cozy and cuddly bulky yarn with a nice hand. And a gorgeous halo, which means that this yarn does not love too much frogging, but on the positive side, the easiest yarn splice ( I prefer not to splice with spit. I use water) I’ve ever done.
I’ll get into my new design once I’ve got it all written down. Suffice it to say, I finished it on Boxing Day while we were all watching Paddington. And it’s now winging ist way to Japan where my sister-in-law is on Holiday.
Sometimes it takes a while to find the right match. Yes, I did carry the boot around in my handbag, just in case I found a snippet of time to stop in at my local yarn shop.
When I finally did, I didn’t have the boot, but I did have a colour sample taken using the ColorMate App. I brought home another skein of that lovely Debbie Bliss Falkland Aran, and two 50g balls of Cool Wool from Lana Grossa.
The Cool Wool was a closer match. So, the case has been solved.
Now all I need to settle with my knitting-bestie, is which boot sock we’re going to knit together.
I’m knitting Pam Allen’s Sheep Sorrel hat using Falkland Aran by Debbie Bliss in Claret. This is a soft, shiny organic wool, from a farming community in the Falklands. It’s a three-ply, with a good amount of twist, stitch definition, and has a good amount of loft (ie very springy and squishy) and elasticity.
The pattern is clearly and efficiently written, even including instructions on how to do the cables with and without a cable needle.
Why bother You can knit faster. You know when sections change, and know what comes next. You can find (and correct) errors faster. With a recurring pattern, you reading your knitting means you understand what the designer intended, and you can actually let go of the pattern (which means portability). Many people often praise patterns for being easy to memorize. Reading your knitting means you don’t need to memorize at all.
How-to Read the general description in the pattern introduction first. This will not click at first. But we’ll come back to that later.
Then look at the pattern section. Make a rough stitch chart if there isn’t one. (If there is, then skip to the next step). It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be good enough for you to understand. The Sheep Sorrel hat has a 15 stitch repeat over 4 rounds.
Do a mini-swatch
If you are a learning-by-doing knitter like me, making a swatch to learn a pattern isn’t such a hardship. Cast on the required stitch number plus 6 extra for a 3 stitch border on each side. Place stitch markers, so you don’t forget where your border sits. Knit three rows (for a garter stitch/ non rolling edge) and then get going. Once you’ve done two or three repeat, finish off with with three knit rows and bind off.
I wouldn’t bother cutting my yarn. This swatch isn’t to be blocked, so it is perfectly fine to rip it out after, and knit it into the hat.
I definitely am not a big fan of swatching in the round, however I wanted to see how quickly it would take me to learn the pattern on the fly. I took me four repeats, dear Readers. In my defense, a glass of red wine was involved.
On the fly
Once you’ve gotten into knitting the pattern, exactly as written (a stitch marker after each repeat will help you keep your place), stop and have a good look at what’s on the needles.
Now is the time to revisit that general description and compare it to what you have before you. Sheep Sorrel seems to be about panels and mini-cables (actually twisted stitches, but hey, let’s not quibble). We can see that the garter and patterned panels alternate and are separated by columns of cable. We also see that each column of cable has a p1 before and after it.
Once I realized this, I realized that one type of twist was used per column. Some columns twisted to the right and others to the left. That meant I could undo and repair any twist that was incorrect (if something looks like an S, then it’s wrong). I left one S, because nothing in this world is perfect.
At this point, I knit another round, without peeking, to see if I understood the pattern. Once I had done that, checked, then made my corrections, I knew I could let go the pattern and continue the required length of knitting. I wouldn’t say that I’ve memorized the pattern, but I’ve understood the logic behind it: I want to keep my panels going, and the cables twisting the right way round.
A friend of mine recently asked for my opinion on the best way to start knitting with wool. She’s been knitting for quite a few years with acrylics and has started wondering what was the fuss about all these natural fibres.
1 What’s good for you?
My friend just wants to put her toe in the water to test things out. I, on the other hand, decided that I needed to go cold turkey on acrylics, especially when I started making garments rather than just scarves.
3 Decisions Decide what you want to make, which natural fibres are right for you. Allergies to wool?then look to other animal- or plant-based fibres. What is your Budget?
4 Test & Evaluate
Test- small projects. Baby clothes, scarves, cowls, socks, wristwarmers are great small projects to get started. Nothing wrong with going with one ball, to get started. Make a large swatch, and see how it feels in your hands, against your skin, see how it drapes. Record your experiences in a Journal.
Get rid of the old stuff: donate, gift, use it up. Replace it with more natural fibres. Or you may consider blends.