Knitting Aphorisms Revisited
February 17, 2014
Last night was a dark night of the knitting soul. As I was doing the final (500+-stitch) rounds of Quadrature, I had to consult the pattern again to read the bit about some increases required only in the final rows of the B cables. (The B cables are the ones on the sides; the A cables are the ones on the corners. They are the same. OR SO I THOUGHT.)
This was when I discovered, with a kind of handheld-camera, horror-flick terror, that I had misunderstood the pattern. The A and B cables really were different, in a way that I completely missed, in the two weeks it took to knit them. To explain, here is the B cable. See how it rises from an uninterrupted field of garter stitch? That’s what I loved initially about the pattern. There is no cable “panel,” no column of identifiable backround stitches. The cable is just THERE. So elegant. So magical.
And here is the A cable, as I have worked it (again I would like to mention in passing that the outer rounds are more than 500 stitches):
See? I made a cable panel. The background is still in garter, but because I made the corner increases in straight lines, there is a visual panel effect. This was not intended by the pattern. The pattern tells you to move your A markers as the cable width narrows, so that you are always making the increases just outside the edge of the cable, so they disappear.
Quadrature is a good pattern. I picked it because, to me, it combines the look of an old-fashioned baby blanket with the clean lines I love. It’s not fussy, but it still has a sweet baby-blanketude about it. But as much as I love the pattern (and will knit it again), I feel it asks a lot of the English speaking knitter. The original pattern is in French, and the translation is not exactly to English. It’s sort of Franglais. It would not pass an English-speaking technical editor. (People who know me: yes, I speak French. I don’t speak Knitting French. I used the English translation.)
Is that why I messed up? No. I messed up because I was cocky. I thought I understood the instructions on the first run-through, and I didn’t read it carefully enough. I would have been helped A LOT by some pattern notes, up front, in English, telling me to watch out for that whole move-the-markers thing, emphasizing that it was important. I was led astray by an instruction that it was OK to remove the A markers if I was comfortable doing so. I didn’t understand that the reason for that instruction was because THE CABLE ITSELF was a stitch marker, a visual cue that THIS IS WHERE TO MAKE THE INCREASES. And the chart for the A cable shows this narrowing quite clearly. So while the fault was mine, everybody can use a little clarity, a touch of emphasis.
I almost always rip back to fix a mistake. I subscribe to Elizabeth Zimmermann’s saying (paraphrased) that ripping back just means “more of my favorite hobby.” I’d rather fix an error and feel proud of my workmanship, than know my knitting has a fixable flaw in it. We have skills so we can use them; that’s my philosophy.
But this baby is due in 9 days. And I remembered another of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s sayings (again paraphrased from memory), that if a mistake doesn’t affect the integrity of the knitting (such as, for example, a stitch that splits the yarn, or a hole that is going to unravel and get larger), and isn’t glaring, then just carry on. This is related to the “can it be seen from a trotting horse” theory of mistakes. So instead of ripping at 1 a.m., I slept on it, pondering my aphorisms and hoping maybe Elizabeth Zimmermann would send me A Sign.
This morning, the baby-to-be’s dad emailed me to say things are moving faster than they expected.
I took that as A Sign.
And really (brace for rationalization), this isn’t so much a mistake as a Design Feature. (Looking through the Ravelry project pages, I see that other knitters have also done panels at the corners, without even commenting on it.) If I had seen Quadrature with cable panels, instead of floating cables, at the corners, I still would have liked it. I still would have knitted it. It looks good. All of those increase lines are straight and true. This blanket has integrity.
But I’m still going to make another one, with floating cables at the corners. Of course I am. I will not be able to stop myself.
Thank you, Elizabeth Zimmermann, for giving us stars to steer by, and the occasional Sign.
Happy Monday, everybody.
P.S. Olive thinks it’s OK. (This photo is pre-blocking. Once they’re washed, Olive is banned from knits for newborns.)