Only darkness everyday

I missed my husband and children fiercely during the four-day trip they took to Nashville without me this week. But in the make-lemonade category, I probably would have had a much harder time learning how to do two-color stranded knitting if they’d been here.

For my Ravelympics 2008 challenge, I decided to dive into colorwork, something I’ve been meaning to try for months. I selected my pattern (Endpaper Mitts by the great Eunny Jang), dug out the yarn I’d bought on sale last year, snagged a tool called a strickfingerhut from the Herrschner’s yarn sale on the off chance it would help, watched videos and read up on the Italian tubular cast-on, and waited for the torch to be lit.

I woke up on 8/8/08 eager to get started. And it’s a good thing I had an hour of extra time before I needed to be at work, because it took me 45 minutes to master the cast-on, with a long U.S. 3 aluminum straight needle tucked under my arm. I knit the cast-on onto my U.S. 3 circ and got two rows of ribbing done before heading off to work, and then at lunchtime — because I’d had a big biscuit sandwich for breakfast and wasn’t hungry — I went home to see if I could finish the ribbing and get to the colorwork section.

That’s when my longstanding penchant for not reading directions carefully caught up with me. The colorwork section mentioned changing to larger needles. What larger needles? I went back and looked. The cast-on and ribbing were supposed to be done with U.S. 0. And the U.S. 3’s I’d been using for the ribbing weren’t even the right size for the colorwork — the medium size was supposed to be 3.0mm needles, or U.S. 2 1/2.

Consider it more practice for the cast-on — after all, I’ll have to do it again for the second mitt. I found a U.S. 1 straight needle in big roll of miscellaneous needles my mother-in-law gave me last year, and that was close enough to be knit off onto the U.S. 0 circ. Luckily I had a U.S. 2 1/2 circ too. By the time I got home from commencement and turned on the magnificent opening ceremonies on the TiVo HD, I was ready to start the colorwork — finally.

It took almost one whole repeat to get the hang of the knitting thimble. I kept repositioning it, turning it around, experimenting with different ways to tension the yarn around my fingers. (Notice how in the picture above the yarn goes through the eyelets and then on over my finger? That’s not exactly right — a little while after taking this picture, I figured out that the yarn should go through the eyelet and then immediately down to where it wraps around the finger.) I was highly concerned about tension and floats (the strand of yarn on the wrong side of the work), because after all, it’s what all the instructions about stranded knitting tell you to be concerned about. It turns out that when you’re not dropping the contrast color in your right hand after every stitch, your tension pretty much take care of itself if you knit normally. I actually had to loosen up somewhat on the second pattern repeat after noticing that my CC stitches were disappearing a bit into the fabric because I’d made them too small, worrying too much about not having looseness in my floats.

I’m flying around the pattern now (relatively speaking — I’m a slow knitter in the best of circumstances). I can get the mitt over my hand with no problem, so the size is right and the stranded knitting isn’t too tight.

And just as I’d hoped, the effect is magical. I’m sure an experienced observer would see all kinds of deficiencies in my fabric. But like with my first sock, it’s just so unexpected that my manipulations with yarn and needles can produce something that looks like it’s supposed to look — a pattern of light on a dark background. I’m completely entranced. And although I needed time away from the kids to trial-and-error my way into it — and probably won’t be able to do it much now that the kids are back — I want to watch it grow in every spare second I have for knitting.

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4 Comments on “Only darkness everyday”

  1. As far as I’m concerned, Fair Isle and intarsia are magic. Looks good to my uneducated eyes. 🙂

  2. LeahS Says:

    Looks lovely to me. I like the colors you’ve chosen as well.

  3. Janice Says:

    The colorwork looks great! The thimble is interesting, I’ve never seen one in action. One tip–knit the FI inside out. That helps keep the floats from being abnormally short, especially when you turn your mitt and the floats cross that “edge” where you’re going from the palm to the back of the hand (or visa versa). Think of your knitting like a drinking glass… turn your knitting inside out and your needles will be on the edge farthest from you, the edge that you don’t drink from.

  4. Donna Says:

    I love the colours you have picked. Good luck in the ravelympics.

    Donna (electrogirl on rav, and your assassin in Sock Wars)

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