Need a holiday handknit? Time for a Schmatta!

Two-Timing, and an Exhortation

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Dear Wind Beneath My Wings,
Ferocious knitting mojo down here right now–I don’t know what has come over me, but really, I’ve been knitting like . . . well, like you. Give me five minutes sitting still–waiting for the pasta water to boil, waiting for a parent-teacher conference–and I’m cranking a few rows. And this new project is pretty much perfect for this sort of thing.
It’s Mary Neal Meador’s Margaret sweater from our book. In a really slutty moment, I cast on for this before I had finished sewing up Yank. I try to be serially monogamous about garment-knitting, but my resolve pretty much failed once I wound up a skein of the Harrisville Highland that I bought in Portland at the home of the Northwest’s Fastest Knitter, Knit Knot Studio. I was swatching at first, but it grew . . . you know . . .
Turns out I had to go up two needle sizes to get gauge–the pattern calls for size 5, but I ended up at size 7 to get 18 stitches/4″. Somehow the psychological crutch of a larger needle makes the whole project seem easier.
I think this yarn is one of the greats. There’s a sturdiness to it that makes me crazy–it’s not lush and soft, it’s resolute and unrepentantly traditional in its texture. I know it will soften up when I wash it, which is nice, but I love working with this even in its scrurchy state.
An Exhortation for the Invisible Cast On
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Now. This project begins with a provisional cast on, because you’re knitting the bodice first in three pieces, then picking up the stitches along the bottom and knitting the skirt down from the waist.
I know a lot of people are fond of the provisional cast on that uses a crochet chain of stitches, but I am here to encourage you to try another provisional cast on method that is, in my opinion, easier, faster, and does not require the step of cranking a chain of crochet at all. No crochet hook required. Just your working yarn, a piece of waste yarn, the knitting needles that God gave you, and a flip of the wrist are all you need. The result is shown in the photo above: a set of loops ready to be knitted, with a thread of waste yarn through each one.
I learned this from Eunny Jang’s blog, the sadly dormant See Eunny Knit. I know she’s all busy editing Interweave Knits and all, but honestly, her blog was a thing of beauty and wonderment. Her archives live on!
About this lovely invisible cast on, she writes: “My favorite invisible cast-on is ridiculously simple–it amounts to making a series of yarn overs in a figure-eight around both the needle and a ‘holder,’ usually a bit of waste string. Using a smooth, fairly thick waste yarn for the foundation will go a long way towards keeping the stitches from twisting around the needle, and eventually make picking up the stitches much easier.
Here’s the how-to. Scroll down to Invisible Cast On for her instructions.
I found a video that shows this cast-on in action, with in the same elegant result, but the motions are a little different from Eunny’s. Here’s the video–scroll down to Invisible (Provisional) Cast-On.
This is the sort of stuff that makes me happy.
Love,
The Wings Above Your Wind

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20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. I am endlessly grateful that, at the beginning of my knitting career, when I was first called upon to use a provisional cast on, I found this method first. It is beautiful, elegant and easy. Now, every time I see someone using the crochet chain provisional cast on, I can only shake my head.

  2. What a beautiful sweater, especially with your choice of color! I fear that at 5’2″ and an hourglass figure (6 o’clock=straight up and down), the sweater would overwhelm me.

  3. I use that cast on all the time for provisionals. Often, instead of working it over waste yarn, I work it over a spare cable from my Knitpicks Options (other interchangeable knitting needles are available). It means when I need to work with those stitches again, I just screw my tips on and away I go.
    It’s also a nice start for a top-down hat. Work the cast on over your yarn tail, and then when you’ve finished, you can just pull the tail up snug and your hat is done.

  4. This method always makes me think of Cat Bordhi’s super-fun Moebius cast-on, with the “dolphin, butterfly! dolphin, butterfly!”.
    In support of the crochet-chain method (which I use when I need to provisionally cast on just a few stitches, as for the Puff Daddy), let me say that no crochet hook is required; you can finger-knit a chain of stitches.

  5. Judy’s Magic Cast-on works great for this sort of thing. And when you’re done, you cannot tell where the provision cast-on was.
    Instructions and video links here: http://www.persistentillusion.com/blogblog/index.php?pagename=techniques
    It’s for much more than just toe-up socks! :)
    I really, really want to make that sweater and this is the cast-on that I’ll use when I do. :)
    BTW, thanks for signing my book when you were in Portland. I wish I could have been there, but working at the LYS wasn’t so bad, either. :)

  6. I am just stunned that you usually are only knitting one garment at a time (or do you really mean garment and not project?). I have 3 things on needles right now and one blanket where the squares are all knit but I need to organize and sew up (to say nothing of the planned projecks in stash). The yarn is beautiful.

  7. I am seriously considering the possibility of a cardigan for myself, upon realizing I have not knit a sweater for myself since way before my first pregnancy, um, 14 years ago. And this may be the one, having loved the look of it from the book. And in person, seeing it at NY S&W.
    P.S.: pretty decent pics of both of you in a photo montage chez my blog: http://hitherandyarn.wordpress.com/2008/10/28/u-is-for-un-imaginary-friends
    This is the provisional cast-on I most often use too. I love Meg Swansen’s name for it, the “twisty-wrap”! So apropos.

  8. And the stuff that makes me actually want to finally give it a go. Thanks! And…now I want Yank too!

  9. I will be endlessly grateful for the phrase, “The wings over your wind.” Endlessly and eternally.

  10. I knit with Harrisville yarn all the time (they’re 20 minutes from my house — you should come visit some time) and it is wonderful yarn. Once your sweater is done and you’re ready to block it, go ahead and wash it as usual but then once it’s really rinsed give it a final rinse in what we used to call creme rinse (I think it’s called conditioner now) and that wool will feel even more wonderful.

  11. Love the sweater. EZ shows a similar provisional cast on in “Knitting Around”.

  12. Right on, Kay! I just finished a two-part Moebius class at Katonah Yarn Company (a VERY cozy and nice shop in a northern suburb of Manhattan). It was taught by the fabulous Rae, a wonderful teacher, and a really great knitter. During a leisurely moment on Day Two, we were commenting on how the Moebius cast-on is like the (non-crocheted) provisional cast-on.
    I like both ways. It’s so much fun to “zip” open the crocheted cast-on, at the pivital moment (and thanks for the tip about not needing a hook).
    Ann, can’t wait to see what message there will be on your sweater, initiated in a “slutty” moment…. :):)
    LoveDiane

  13. BOO
    THE HEADLESS HORSE MAN RIDES TO NIGHT

  14. Ann, was loving the informative nature of your post, and that yarn of yours is gorgeous! But I just about lost my cereal when reading that sign-off of yours. Absolutely priceless!
    OK, I’ve recovered now… back to the regularly scheduled cereal-eating… with a smile on my face. :)

  15. How in the name of all things good and holy have I missed that invisible cast on all this time?? I use the crochet chain method and somehow always manage to mess it up and have to cut the waste yarn in order to liberate my live cast on stitches. This method is beautiful and elegant and awesome! Thank you, Ann.
    Now back to flinging foul words at your book while I try to figure out the steek for the dotty blanket. Maybe I don’t really need to try this fair isles business after all….
    I, too, love, love, love the “The Wings Above Your Wind” sign off.

  16. I love that cast-on, too! I use it all the time when I do toe-up socks!

  17. Bad reader – I have not yet checked the links. Because I’ve done it before. But it is SO HARD TO JOIN IN A CIRCLE. Just saying. I did it for a hat with a hem (totally worth it), but omg, omg, omg. I did it about 70 times to get it joined in a circle.
    And now that I’ve typed all that, I think next time, I’ll just knit straight a couple of rows and then join in a round.
    Thanks for listening to my solve my hypothetical problems.

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