Friday, 21 February 2014

Not So Fast, After All

I thought the Vite Cowl would be an ideal quick project for my impulse-bought Supa-Dupa extra chunky yarn, and to learn a few new techniques, starting with a provisional cast on. Cue a quick look at YouTube for instructions. (Thank goodness for YouTube and the crafters who take some time to record a technique and post it up for others to learn from, bless you all!)

The provisional cast on was easy to do, but was a bit confusing and difficult to get even, when using a lightweight waste yarn, on such large needles with such a bulky yarn, in a pattern which started straight in with yarn over increases and the like. It was also the first time I’ve used such big needles, so I struggled with tension for a few rows, then frogged it and restarted using a plain/English cast on.

20 rows in, I was not impressed. I didn’t really notice the left hand edge on the photos, but in this yarn on 15mm needles, the yarn overs (yos) resulted in big holes, so the leaves looked strange and there was a huge eyelet edge to no obvious purpose. The leaf shape also seemed a bit lost with the texture of the yarn, too. So I frogged it again.  I evidently needed to think about this.

I should have had a look at others' project notes to start with.  I had a browse through them, and my appreciation for their helpful notes and photos reminded me to add my own on Ravelry too.  Some photos showed the 'step' in the cast-on edge and first row or two, and the vaguely diagonal shape of the strip forming, as a result of the shaping, so I wasn't 'doing it wrong' at all. Some experimented with slipping a stitch at the selvedge to control rolling, but almost everyone decided that blocking was a good idea. Some of the photos showing recently-blocked work also show an edge with big eyelets like mine was, while in others it looks a lot more subtle, and nicer, so it must depend on the yarn used. I found a couple of modifications involving removing the left hand edge as a yarn saving measure, and it looked fine.  However, there was no detailed explanation or pattern rewriting in their notes, so I thought I had better experiment for myself, particularly as the yos start right on that edge, so without any selvedge stitches, what to do with the edge of the leaf?

There were a number of comments about the fiddly decreases (SSK  - slip, slip, knit and P2tog tbl - purl 2 together through the back loop). Someone commented that doing left-leaning decreases to create an apparently right-leaning leaf shape (on the right side) seemed counter-intuitive and several people said that they had changed the decreases to right-leaning K2tog - knit 2 together and P2tog - purl 2 together. Comments about doing half pattern repeats, the yarn overs being different to usual (er, how?) and getting lost because there are different stitch counts on the right/knit and wrong/purl side rows (there were?) left me feeling even more as if I had missed something and lacking in confidence.

I like to understand what I'm doing, rather than just following instructions. It was time to learn what the yo increases and various decreases were doing.

First I checked my methods - was I doing things like yarn over and SSK correctly? Yes, I was. (Amazing!)

I'm always looking for a hair band to keep my hair out of my eyes when doing my face, so a smaller scale strip of leaves would be ideal, and allow me to play with the pattern. I picked up a light green from my DK stash and a pair of 4mm dpns (more than long enough for a strip 18 stitches/2.5" wide).

I decided to leave off the 'eyelet' edge and just have two purl stitches on the RS (2 knit on the WS). The yarn is acrylic, so curls at the edge a bit, but the curl on the purl leaves quite a nice texture to the left hand edge.

I did a couple of leaves as per the pattern, just to look at the result of the SSK/P2tog tbl and what those left-leaning decreases were doing. Basically, the decreases move the edge of the leaf to the right. The SSK and corresponding P2 tog tbl create a raised, concave edge to the lower leaf.  It's subtle and pretty, but would probably be more visible and therefore work best with a smooth yarn. As the Supa Dupa has quite a texture of its own, a raised convex edge to the upper leaf would probably be more visible, so I switched the SSK/P2tog tbl to K2tog and P2tog. I reasoned that I was now outlining the leaf, so should move the decrease one stitch to the left and did a leaf that way. It was a bit weird and I liked the P2tog as a last stitch on the purl side at the end of a repeat, so I decided to stop over-thinking it at this stage, and just go with the changed decreases.
The decreases outlining the leaf shape match the increases made by the yarn overs in the leaf.  The differences in stitch count between sides of the fabric are due to two increases with only one decrease on the RS, then the other decrease on the WS. I found if I tightened my tension when doing a yarn over, the hole was a little neater.

Having stopped thinking so hard, and without having to fidget around to purl 2 through the back loops, the strip of knitting started to fly off the needles.

The picture shows a couple of leaves, the left one with the original left-leaning SSK decreases and the one with the right-leaning K2tog decreases on the right.

Having sorted that out, I was impatient to start the modified Vite cowl and decided to go with a provisional cast on after all, now that I know what the pattern is doing. I used the waste yarn doubled to create something more robust to start with and started knitting away.  I got through an entire ball (two pattern repeats) before I realised it was still too holey.  Despite the super-chunkiness, the 15mm needles are too big to give the balance of softness and shape, definition and drape that I was hoping for.  I did a little test swatch with 9mm needles - too rigid, even with a loose tension. I don't quite want my cowl to be able to stand up by itself.

So, it's been frogged AGAIN! I will have to go in search of 10mm and 12mm needles to fill the gap in my stash, to allow me to experiment to find the right gauge for this project.  Perhaps it will be fourth time lucky, but this quick project has proved to be not so vite, after all.

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