The Quality of Flatness Is Not Strained
May 30, 2009
Over the Memorial Day weekend, I encountered a piece of knitting that was in such deep trouble that the theme song from “COPS” came into my head, unbidden. “Bad boys bad boys, whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?”
The Bad Boy In Question
Background: A couple of years ago, Diana’s friend, whom we shall refer to as “LB”, started a log cabin blanket inspired by Joseph’s Blankie of Many Colors in our first book. LB had recently returned to knitting after a long hiatus. She had been awakened from her slumber by the mere sight of Noro Silk Garden in a luscious colorway of reds/pinks/greens/browns for which I do not have the shade number. She had the idea of making a log cabin blanket using many skeins of this single colorway. She had some concerns about taking up a large project after such a long vacay from knitting. She asked me whether I thought she could handle it.
I based my advice on the following facts, which are not in dispute: At the relevant time, LB could cast on. She could perform the knit stitch, all day long if need be. She could bind off.
Accordingly, I advised LB that I thought a large log cabin blanket was well within her range. It is possible that I may have used the colloquialism, “standing on your head.” I will admit that I was encouraging and reassuring. It is fair to say that I “egged her on”.
So LB worked on this blanket for many months as her exclusive project in the limited knitting time available to her.
Then somebody noticed something. (Ruh roh.)
Diana brought the blanket to me last weekend, for analysis and treatment. (Dum de dump dump.)
Do you see the issue? Hint: look at the bound-off edge at the top of the picture. That curve is not a trick of photo styling. It was hard to take a picture that showed the extent of the problem. In essence, the blanket was not in the traditional, 2-dimensional, that is to say, FLAT, shape. Each log cabin strip had been bound off, neatly and properly, but to a much tighter gauge than the knitting of the strip itself. The repetition of these tight bind-offs led to an effect on the shape of the blanket that can most charitably be described as “sculptural”.
It was shaped like a bucket.
Now, Ann. When cuddling in a handknit blanket, there is much for the conoisseur to notice and appreciate. There is the softness, there is the drenchy color, there is the cozy warmth evoking memories of one’s time in the cradle, and in the case of a Noro blanket, there are mysterious little bumps of fluff to wonder about. But do you ever think to remark upon or praise the one indispensable quality of a blanket: flatness? No, you do not. You take flatness totally for granted. You walk all over flatness.
Until it’s gone. A non-flat blanket is a sad, unfoldable thing. I did not quite know what to do about the situation. How to fix the problem without breaking the spirit of a knitter newly returned to the coven.
Here’s what I did. Judge me if you will. I was faced with a Situation, and I did the best I could.
I ripped it.
It took about an hour, no kidding. Just to rip out all those tight bind offs. The flurf fairly flew. I wound and wound.
But the Senior Knitter’s Canons of Professional Responsibility were clear on what I had to do next: make it right. I had to knit those 8-plus skeins back where they belonged. If I sent LB back a nasty plastic bag of kinked-up yarn, a knitting career would be cut down in the bud, the victim of hopelessness and futility. There was garter stitch to be done, and I was just the knitter, in just the frame of mind, to do it.
(Note the flatness.)
(I hate to brag, but, you know: pretty dang flat.)
(Tip for newby log-cabinners: lay your project down frequently for a Flatness Check. If it is not utterly flat, take action to flattify. Take time to save time!)
According to Ravelry, there have been hundreds of log cabin blankets knitted according to our “bind off & pick up” method. I thought it was pretty foolproof, but this tight bind-off issue is so obviously a possiblity–I can’t believe we didn’t see it coming, and I also can’t believe that we haven’t heard from other knitters who had the same issue, and would like to wring our pretty necks.
There is a solution! Of course, one could just BIND OFF LOOSER, but asking a tight binder-offer to loosen up is just going to make them nervous and tense and they’ll probably bind off even tighter. A bind-off can be made looser simply by binding off this way:
*Knit 2, pass first stitch on the right needle over the second stitch on the right needle, transfer remaining stitch to the left needle; repeat from * until all stitches have been bound off.
This should loosen things up, although it will change the appearance of the edge slightly. Another solution to LB’s problem would be to avoid binding off the strips altogether, by just leaving them on holders or spare circular needles until one worked one’s way around to that strip again. This is a method some knitters use to work log cabin patterns, particularly if they hate binding off. Since I don’t hate binding off, but do hate having to devote 4 circular needles to a single project, I go with the bind-off method. Having 3 of the 4 edges bound off while you are working also makes the project much more portable. But if you’ve got a tight bind-off causing Failure of Flatness, it’s time to regroup and rethink.
I am having fun getting LB’s blanket back to where she left it. Knitting a ton of garter stitch is not.a.problem.
P.S. I shoulda known somebody would ask about the quilt. Here ya go.. Yes. My name is Kay, and I am a catalog quiltaholic. Catalog quilts on sale? No resistance.