Need a holiday handknit? Time for a Schmatta!

Knitting Aphorisms Revisited

Dear Ann,

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.

quadBcable

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):

quadAcable

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.

quadblocking

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.

Love, Kay

P.S.  Olive thinks it’s OK. (This photo is pre-blocking. Once they’re washed, Olive is banned from knits for newborns.)

quadolive2

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54 Comments

54 Comments

  1. If Olive gives it a paws up, you it’s good (and it is quite lovely – let’s move on here).

  2. Awesome post. A complete primer on a) useful EZ sayings to guide us b)first class knitting rationalization and c)the trotting horse litmus test. Loved every word & stitch of it. Also, nice photo with the diagonal cable reaching out to us. I can see that’s what the story is about ;-)

  3. I totally get your initial impulse to correct the mistake. But how gorgeous is this blanket?! That’s one lucky soon-to-be-newborn. Moral of the story (as demonstrated by Olive): Sleep on it.

  4. Kay, this blanket is so lovely and elegant. I am glad you did not sweat the pattern “variation”. If you’re going to start on the next one soon, my birthday is in ten days….
    Just saying. : )

    LoveDiane

    P.S. What kind of yarn did you use?

    • The Spinning Mill worsted merino that I got at Rhinebeck in 2012. 500 yard skeins with NO KNOTS. Lovely stuff.

      • It does sound lovely. I wonder if they’re located near the New York City area.

        Also, Kay, I checked out the Ravelry link you gave us. The pictures there don’t seem to be different from your blanket (they also showed a cool way to fold it).

        Well, blessings to the little recipient to come, and to the fam.

        LoveDiane

  5. Nearly everything I knit contains a “design feature” somewhere. I am a crazy perfectionist in many areas of my life, but knitting is not one of them — unless an error is so egregious that even a non-knitter could find it in the dark. Your blanket is beautiful and has your unique take on the pattern. Gifts don’t come any better than that.

  6. It’s beautiful. And…”All of those increase lines are straight and true.” Is this the Ernest Hemingway of baby blankets?

    Also, I understand the Olive-banning of the blocked object, but think that Olive’s hairs, saliva, etc. could be considered part of the gift, as in, “Here’s a blanket to comfort and warm your baby and strengthen his/her immune system.”

    • No hand knit I make would ever be free of dog hair, even if I tried! Olive seems to love it.

  7. The blanket is very beautiful and will keep the baby warm. Good choice not to rip it back. It that a sweater Olive is wearing or work-out gear? She looks very fetching!

    • That’s the harness she wears for her leash, gentler on her neck than attaching it to her collar. She would hang herself when an unexpected squirrel appeared. Not good at impulse control, is our Olive.

      • My Bonnie and Clyde also wear harnesses for that same reason, except for them the trigger is spotting an echidna. Gorgeous blanket by the way, and I agree with the theory that it has enhanced design features.

  8. I volunteer at my church running food service events for 12-400 people (yes, 400). One of the most critical things I have learned and have taught my team to use as a guiding theory is, “Until it goes out, no one knows what is it supposed to look/taste like. If it isn’t the plan, but it’s still good, zip your lip and enjoy your little secret.” Someone told me just last week what useful advice that was as she was panicking about having to alter the soup for 200 people when she learned that the number coming was actually 250. Of course, this whole blog post might sort of put a kink in that approach this time. But it really is lovely.

    • 400 people!

  9. Beautiful blanket for a lucky baby – and a nice photo op for the very photogenic Olive!

  10. Such a beautiful blanket. Olive knows a good thing when she sees it and says there are no mistakes anywhere!!

  11. A beautiful, exquisite blanket made with love. What baby could ask for more? When you teach the young one knitting in the future, you can reveal your design element…and show them the second one you knitted.

  12. As a knitter of a certain age, with years of experience under my belt, “cocky” is my biggest sin! It trips me up every time I let it rear its ugly head. The blanket is lovely, I wish I had made it. Keep it as it is!

  13. The blanket looks gorgeous. The baby will never know about the design feature until he or she is old enough to read knitting blogs! Heck, the baby’s parents probably won’t know unless they read this blog or have knitted this pattern themselves.

    Nice to see Olive in the blog again. I’m surprised we didn’t get to see her modeling some much-needed knitwear during this crazy winter!

  14. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m about to embark on that blanket myself, so I will try harder than usual not to be too casual with the project notes.

  15. I like it better with the corner panels. I get that it’s a shock to realize one had gone off-script without noticing (it always shocks me, anyway) but honestly…I like this one better.

  16. It is always so helpful to read that other seasoned knitters misread patterns,as I have just done with the baby sweater on my needles. (I repeated the error in the other sections–design feature!) It turns out “work even” really meant “work even IN PATTERN,” which is not the designer’s fault but mine.

    I have had my eye on Quadrature for awhile and will have to remember to watch out for A and B cables when I cast on.

  17. Really gorgeous. Glad you slept on it.
    A little knitting hubris (knubris?) is occassionaly a sign for me to slow down. With my kind of AdD sometimes it helps if I write the instructions in long hand, it forces me to actually read them. Otherwise I blithely skim to the end and then -whump-the realization is much like the sound when the car ahead of you has failed to desnow their roof and it has flown into your windshield on the park way, and I quit. I give up. I have many wips to show for it. All in wonderful bags.
    Congrats for finishing!! it is a thing of beauty.

    • Love ‘knubris.’

      • Knubris sounds like an Egyptian god.

  18. The blanket is beautiful and will be a lovely hug wrapped around this new little baby! Stay calm and move forward!!!
    Must be the full moon…I’m knitting an Irish knit baby blanket and am 85% finished. I noticed a glaring mistake at the 25% mark and almost died! I brought it to my LYS yesterday where a large panel was ripped back (about 30″ worth of knitting). There is NO way I can even come close to the original gauge/tension. I now have a large panel of “spaghetti” and could just scream! I can’t even leave the mistake so my only option is to rip the entire blanket back to the mistake and start all over again! GROAN!!! I also started another Honey cowl this week while on an Amtrak train from Providence to NYC. I checked 4 times to make sure I didn’t twist it when joining the round…and guess what! It was twisted – and discovered several hours later! I’m taking up tiddlywinks instead of knitting!!! :(

  19. This is gorgeous – even with your design feature1 I was just thinking today about a baby gift I need to make. I’m thinking this might be a good choice, although I’m a little nervous about interpreting the Franglais instructions. My Spanglish is much better than my Franglais….

  20. Even I would have kept that one! Looks like it’s totally supposed to be there. The baby won’t even notice. ;-)

  21. I like it the way it is! Someone else mentioned ‘design features.’ I agree; my knitting is often modified–either intentionally or after the fact as I realize my mistake and count my own version of 500 stitches! Keep it as is and thanks for sharing it. I may make one of my own–several babies coming into my life soon.

  22. Blanket is great as is, with the Design Element! Your addition to the soup/stew/chowder that is Quadrature. Fantastic gift for a fortunate baby.

    Thanks for the insights into the Dark Night of the Knitting Soul……….we have them when we’re working on something meaningful – that’s how our souls are involved.

    Thanks for the great photos,too.

  23. Really gorgeous. This baby will, sans doute, grow up with fabulous taste, and I hope use the heck out of blanket!

  24. The Signs are clear. You must make your next Quadrature for Olive.

  25. I think, because of the crossing cables in the center of the piece, that the cables in question look like two different elements on purpose. If that makes sense. But I’m a quilter…could you move the knitting so I can see the quilt on the bed?

  26. The blanket is a beauty either way.

  27. The pattern is beautiful and your iteration (there, that sounds profesh and stuff) is also beautiful. And that’s coming from one who almost always rips back in the name of pride of workmanship — my teeth would also have been gnashing at the realization, but I’m storing away the example of this lovely blanket as a counterpoint to my perfectionism. Also I just bought the pattern! :-)

    As someone who reads and speaks French, but is still learning Knitting French (le jersey endroit! And somehow “point” has come to mean “stitch pattern” — my Larousse informs me that this meaning is specific to “broderie, couture, et dentelle”), just last night I was grumbling about the Franglais in a different French pattern. I wound up reading the French and English versions side by side, and found that all the useful notes had been cut from the English edition. The designer thanked someone for the English translation, but I felt like volunteering to re-translate it (now that I’d basically done that for myself anyway). What do we think — would that be gauche? Insulting?

    • Aaand looks like I just accidentally bought the French version of the Tout Korrigan e-book. Knitting French immersion! So I haven’t looked at the English translation of this pattern, but it seems like maybe the note you wished for was in fact present in the original French?

      This is in italics at the beginning of the cable instructions: “Aux tours 23 et 31 (33 et 47 pour la version 3), les marqueurs A sont déplacés de façon à réaliser les augmentations au plus près des torsades. Si vous vous sentez sûre de vous, vous pouvez déplacer les marqueurs A dès le début du diagramme ou même vous en passer et augmenter directement à droite et à gauche des torsades.”

      (For the non-French speakers out there, my rough translation is: “On rounds 23 and 31 (33 and 47 for version 3), the A markers are shifted so as to place the increases closer to the cables. If you feel sure of yourself, you can shift the A markers at the beginning of the chart, or even [skip/ignore/remove] them and just increase immediately to the right and left of the cables.”

      Sounds to me like you really may have been led astray by a bad translation!

    • If you can offer something the pattern lacks I say go ahead an offer it! Can’t hurt a thing, the designer can always decline.

  28. What a lovely blanket! I might have to knit one for the next baby in my family. And I would not have ripped back either.

  29. Oh, the serendipity of it all. I am 20 rounds from finishing that very same blanket and did the very same thing. There have been several points in the English instructions that I found a little ambiguous. My blanket’s recipient is also due in 9 days, but the blanket has to be on an airplane headed for your very neighborhood in 7 days, so I am on a knitting schedule that allows for no ripping back. I discussed this pattern with the delightful Maryanne Graves of Yarn Therapy, and she floated the suggestion of working it from the outside in. Seeing how hard it has become to push all that knitting around the circular needle I think it would be worth a try.

  30. Elegant, as another reader said, it is. A thing of beauty. As for the “design feature”, this is a unique blanket for a unique new wee one. I love it. Thanks for sharing, and fanning the longing to knit myself a blanket. Having just finished knitting a cowl, my needles are calling for a new project.

  31. How entirely and truly odd. Your comments were received most gratefully, as the arrival of a charming grandson has “Quadrature” pattern in a project bag and the hunt on for yarn. But for what a look at my pattern revealed; a b s o l u t e l y no (en oh) cables. It’s a mystery. The version without cables looks…impoverished. (Readily fixed, go to site etc etc.)

  32. I am conflicted, I don’t want my comment to in any way downplay the fact you took the only sensible and obviously correct approach, but just in case there’s an over-achiever out there looking to make a name for themselves, you did exactly what I would have done too :)

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  34. It’s beautiful. It’s a great design element. No one would’ve known if you hadn’t decided to bare the dark night of your knitting soul. I might have to make it, and I don’t even like cables very much . . . Thanks for the reminder not to be too self-assured.

  35. Ok, so I now own the e-book and can’t wait to knit the blanket and sweater. No babies around, but one will come along, don’t you think?

    • They seem to do so pretty regularly. Wise decision.

  36. Truly I like your way better than the original pattern. In the pictures on Rav the corner cables appear to be on a somewhat haphazard panel. It looks like working the increases next to the cables just makes a bit of a mess. Your way is cleaner.

  37. To the unknowing, it looks fantastic… heck, now that you’ve explained it all, I am “knowing,” and it still looks fantastic! I’d definitely knit it again, though. I can’t imagine how directionless we’d all be if we didn’t have Elizabeth Zimmermann to guide us.

  38. It’s beautiful! May I ask, did you make the incredible quilt that is the background? wow!

    • It’s a Crate and Barrel summer sale quilt from 2010…..she said sheepishly. Graphically very nice but stiff as a board. I may make it myself one day.

      • I’m sheepish now! Baaaaaaaaa Baaaaa

  39. Yesterday I was grabbing a friends phone number from facebook and through some unremembered post I ended up here. I am so ashamed!!! I haven’t been reading much in the blog world lately (life gets in the way) and I somehow lost track of this one (hand to forehead). Ordered the e-book for this pattern, ordered the yarn, got the pattern in French instead of English, realized how bad my French is, asked for it in English and realized that I was leaving all my other WIPs behind in a cloud of dust. Today, when the English pattern arrived, I was amazed to find out just how much of the French I understand, read a few earlier posts on the blog, decided I needed to put Pandora on and get to work, so, thanks to you, me and Rosanne Cash are getting through the big shredding and filing box in my office and looking forward to a yarn delivery!

  40. The blanket is gorgeous.

    Almost as wonderful is seeing Olive again! I have been wondering how she is doing.

    Minm

  41. I understand how you love the pattern as intended, but I have to say I think these corners give the design a polished look and more interest. Don’t fret — it’s a truly beautiful heirloom as you knit it.