22 October 2006

the Irish Hiking Scarf of Sisyphus

Deep breath. Another.

I have spent the last four days knitting and unknitting the first 12 rows of the Irish Hiking scarf. I've tried to make the cables with a straight, wooden cable needle, a metal, gullwing cable needle, and a metal, u-shaped cable needle. I would have enlisted the help of a friendly unicorn to hold the stitches until I needed them again. I would have invoked the knitting fairy to hold the stitches on her wand...

Two out of three cables would come out fine and pretty, but the last one on the row would be a holey mess. Even if I thought I could stand that elongated last stitch, I couldn't maintain my concentration, and I'd find myself knitting across purl areas, purling across knit areas, and dropping stitches - all in anticipation of the next row of cables.

Yes, I looked at several websites that showed how to do cables without needles. Neither the pictures nor the instructions made sense to this mildly-dyslexic knitter. I'm sure the technique would be liberating if I had a clear idea of how cabling works to begin with, but - I don't. Yet.

Ridiculous. But not hopeless. I did not give up. Ever the librarian, I did some research and found two tips in two books in one Barnes & Noble. (Bless Barnes & Noble. The cafe is my English-Breakfast-tea-and-scone haven in my untidy world.)

The first tip: holes and elongated stitches can be avoided if one loosens the stitches. I usually knit very loosely - so loosely, in fact, that I have to go down at least two needle sizes - but this scarf and its cables have been tight tight tight. If I loosen up on the cables, at least they won't pucker.

The second tip: if you have trouble controlling those little cable needles, try a double-pointed needle instead. I dashed from Barnes & Noble to Michael's and bought a package of bamboo DPNs. YES!

If all goes well, I'll be a happy girl, because I love entwined, serpentine cables, and I want to try them in all sorts of patterns with all sorts of wool.

To be continued ---


KnitNana said...

Oh, yes! I use dpns (on my all of ONE cabled projects to date...lol) and I really like it. You'll get it, I have faith in you!

Jennifer said...

Stay the course and persevere. You'll be happy you did!

KSD said...

Oh, I'm so happy with myself --- I didn't have to look up the Sisyphus reference!!!

Hang in there, Friend.

Anna said...

I use dpn's to cable with - I find that using a smaller dpn helps a lot.

One reason that end stitches get enlarged is because they are picking up slack from unevenly knit stitches in the previous row -- and knitting evenly in cable work is darn near impossible for me! I've found that knitting the purl stitches between cables more tightly helps with it for me. If you are only running to the problem of the large stitches on the last cable, it might help if - on the wrong side row - you knit the first k2, p2, k2 more tightly. Then when you were knitting over them on the RS they would be able to absorb that slack more readily without the stitches getting to large.

Marji said...

Doesn't matter what you use, just use what you are most comfortable with. That said, I wouldn't recommend frustrating yourself with cabling without a cable needle (or straight dpn, whatever) for awhile yet. The point of cabling without a cable needle is to go fast, and right now you just want to go, without dropping stitches. So use something to hold onto those stitches until you are comfortable with the process.
My guess is that the problems you are experiencing are due to tension issues. If you are getting tighter, try to relax and not sweat it so much. It's just knitting. If your stitches that have to traverse the width of the cable are tight, it will create pull on the next stitches in line, which will result in something that may look like holes, which aren't really holes. Try finishing a row, then several rows past it, then tug hard on the knit fabric to try to even it out a bit. You'll be surprised at how much tugging and seeming abuse your knit fabric can take.

Practice will result in prettier cables, so keep at it. Good luck.