A Final Word on Birch
September 29, 2003
When I finish a project, I like to make a 3 x 5 card with the top ten things I learned while making it. OK so I don’t make a 3 x 5 card, and I don’t actually sit around and try to improve myself. But it does seem that enough folks are trying Birch that I really ought to, in the Red Tent Sisterhood of Knitters sort of way, share. Most of these things were shared with me by knitters who actually know what they’re doing (including you, o psychotherapist), so I send warm positive thoughts their way.
Top Ten Things to Remember When Knitting Birch (clip n save!):
10. Make a swatch first, using a friendly and unfurry yarn. Study this swatch. Notice how the holes of the birch leaves line up. These holes are your landmarks along the way as you get started. Every other row generates a new set of holes. If your leaf holes aren’t lining up, you are in what we call “trouble.”
9. Use the brilliant chart by Rowanette Duc Ta. I could not have done this without the chart. I am in deep negotiation with Duc to somehow mooch this chart from her for everyone. I have offered her naming rights to Mason-Dixon Knitting and think this will tip her our way: “Duc Ta’s Mason-Dixon Knitting.” UPDATE: Duc Ta has kindly let us provide the chart, the KEY to Birch: Duc Ta’s Beautiful Chart. And we don’t even have to rename the blog.
8. Use needles with sharp points. The bamboo circulars I used were too blunt, and it was hard to do decreases because of them.
7. Cast on those 299 stitches early in the morning, after two or three cups of coffee, when your self-esteem is shiny brite. Kidsilk Haze is a weird yarn, thin and hairy.
6. Begin by knitting two rows of garter or stockinette, depending on which version of Birch you’re knitting. These two rows will make it easier to start the first pattern row. I did stockinette because I thought the pattern was purtier that way. But it does mean every other row is a long, long purlfest.
5. ::Controversial:: Use stitch markers for the first repeat of the pattern. I used a ton of them–one every ten stitches–because I knew I could never get more than ten stitches out of whack. The markers made it much fidgetier to knit, but after two failed attempts, I figured slow and fidgety beat fast and really screwed up. I ditched the markers after the first repeat and felt like a faith healer had taken away my crutches.
4. After the first repeat, you will feel a) frustrated. b) unproductive. c) hateful toward whatever animal it is that generates mohair. You will, however, see a bunch of little birch leaves, and this will spur you on. Yea! Only 26 more repeats!
3. Beware two bugabears: a) The dropped decrease stitch. There are many, many decreases, and Kidsilk Haze makes it easy to think you’ve knit two stitches together, when in fact one of them is not caught. You find the dropped stitch three rows later, patiently sitting there because the yarn is so fuzzy that the dropped stitch doesn’t go anywhere. How I fixed those dropped stitches is something I do not care to revisit at this time. b) Knitting two stitches together by mistake. The yarnovers in particular cling to the stitch beside them, so make sure they’re separated.
2. Finishing: The delight at finishing cannot be overstated. Whooeeeeee! At least one Stevie Nicks-style swirl is required.
1. Blocking: Some folks don’t block their Birches, and that’s just fine for them. But my Birch turned into something much finer after I put a sheet on the floor and used a zillion pins. I soaked it with my Rowenta spritzer feature, and let it dry.
Good luck, y’all. You have nothing to lose but your mind.