Thursday, August 7, 2008


In which a near tragedy is averted.

Have I mentioned that this shawl is stretching me in all kinds of interesting ways? It's faroese, which I've never knitted before. And it's actual lace knitting, which I haven't done in any large-scale way before. Oddly, the thing that really got me the first couple of rows of wrong-side lace knitting was remembering to read the chart from left to right. I guess I've gotten used to only ever having to look at the RS rows, from right to left, and then just merrily purling my way across the wrong sides. Not this time, buddy. And even when I did remember to Do Things to my WS rows, remembering to read the chart the other way required a bit of extra brain work. I'm thinking of this as my anti-Alzheimer's exercise for the month (or the year, maybe?).

Well, it turns out that there is one more unforeseen consequence of lace knitting where stitch movement takes place on both sides of a garment: the propagation of dropped stitches. I found this out the hard way on Tuesday evening, when I took the shawl out to work on, and saw what appeared to be a gaping hole. I stared at it in bemusement for a few seconds, completely unable to parse what I was seeing, as I have had a consistent stitch count, and there was no reason for there to be any sort of hole in my knitting. But when I looked carefully there, lo and behold, were little stitches waving at me. Freely. Completely unattached to other little stitches.

I was horrified.

Further examination revealed that they all came from one dropped stitch. But what with all of the k2togs and ssks and sl1 k2 tog psso, that one stitch lead to another, and another, and dang if there wasn't the mother of all holes in my knitting. Oy. The best I can figure is that I somehow missed grabbing a stitch when I was executing a p2tbl, because I never lost the correct stitch count, which would have been a big enough hint even for me to notice.

So I grabbed the stitches I could see and proceeded to attempt to work them all into place. I ended up capturing everything, but it just wasn't looking quite right. What I ended up with was something that a non-knitter probably wouldn't notice in a blocked shawl, but a knitter would. I was disconsolate. But there was no way I was going to rip anything out; all of those yos and ssks on both sides would just unravel beyond repair.

And before you ask, no. I had no lifeline. I'd sworn to myself that I'd put one in, but everything was going so well (I know, this is like not getting health insurance because one is healthy at the moment).

I stared at it. I tried to decide if I could live with it. I stared at it some more. I showed it to Rick, and he could see it, which made me think that maybe I couldn't live with it. I cursed. Then I hit on the brilliant idea of calling my very favorite LYS first thing Wednesday morning and asking their resident diva whether she might be able to schedule me for an immediate emergency private lesson to learn how to repair knitting mistakes. I've been meaning to take her class on this topic for ages, but, like the lifeline, hadn't done it because things were going well. And because generally I can wing a repair well enough on my own. But not this time.

Debra said she'd help. Rick very kindly agreed to work at home yesterday afternoon so I could go kid-free (can we get a round of applause for a Very Good Guy?), and I headed over. Deb took one look at the repair and said nope. Nothing to be done. Sucks to be you. Prepare yourself to tink back nine or ten rows to get to that place and start over. We're talking thousands of stitches. In reverse. Double oy.

I must've looked horrified, because she explained very clearly that maybe she could repair it if it were her project, and she'd been working with the pattern for a while and knew how it went together, but that even then she wasn't sure, because it is difficult to pull a dropped stitch up in a project like this. I felt a little better that I hadn't been able to fix it, but was still having trouble accepting that we couldn't work through this together, like reasonable adults. Apparently, however, Debra likes a challenge, because after a few minutes of her saying no I won't do this, and me saying but I know exactly which stitch we'd need to drop to try again and come on don't be a girly-girl, we were somehow crouched over the table, knitting needles everywhere, teasing that stitch back down to the scene of its crime while she said over and over but I said no, do you see what you've done, I wasn't going to do this but here we are even though I said no... And then we were elbow-deep in chaos.

And by "we", I mean "her". It was an awesome sight. Over the next hour, I watched her reason her way through the pattern, figuring out just by looking at the repeats I'd gotten right (which is a bigger number than the one I'd gotten wrong, I should say) where each stitch needed to go next, and what floating yarn to pick up to make it do that. By the end, she had recreated something that was so close to what it's supposed to be that, when the shawl is blocked, I don't think even a knitter is going to be able to spot where I went wrong, without knowing where to look and using a magnifying glass. It was awe-inspiring.

And boy howdy, did I learn a ton. She was kind enough to actually talk me through most of what she was thinking as she went, and while I'm not convinced I could repeat her feat, I think I have a much better understanding of how to approach a problem like that, and in a simpler piece I might have a solid shot at it. People, this is why we need to support our local yarn stores and their invaluable resources of experienced human beings (preaching to the choir, I know). There is no way anyone could have talked me through this online, no tutorials on uTube that would have shown me what to do. This one came out of years of experience, and an incredibly sharp mind that has some sort of spacial genius that I might not ever develop. Thanks to her willingness to go through that hour with me watching, though, I think I'm a tiny bit closer.

And yes. I've put in a lifeline. See? I can be taught.


Anonymous said...

I was holding my breath, silently pleading for you to bring it over to my house, I could do it for you--northern California's just a hop skip and a jump, right?--and then she went ahead and did it. Wow! Go her! And give her a hug from me! Very cool.

And your description of her working on it makes it very clear to me you were truly paying attention through what took a long time to do. Good for you. You'll get there yourself in no time.

Nana Sadie said...

I'm breathing again.
"Oy," indeed!

I'm glad you have a lifeline now. Don't leave it at just one, please?

I preach lifelines and I've NEVER knit lace on both sides of a garment.
(that said, what shawl do you think I am currently knitting without one...okay, which shawls?) soon as I pick them up to work again? I'm putting one in...promise!

It sounds as if Deb is a gem. Bless her.

(Myrna Stahman herself - the "Faroese Goddess" in MY book! - wrote instructions to me for repairing the screw-up I made in my Catharina on the edging. She's a gem, too!)

Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog: said...

A really great testimonial for using life-lines and supporting LYS!

the boogeyman's wife said...

but health insurance is such a ripoff! i've never used a life line either. glad you could get that worked out. ripping out is bad enough, but it always seems much worse with lace.


I don't use lifelines. Either I get it or I don't. And so I rip. That being said, sounds like Deb was your lifeline in real life! Good on her!

What I want to know is---what happened to the hawk?


Lynne said...

I, too, was holding my breath. Yay for Deb and her patient expertise, yay for you paying attention and learning by your mistake. [something I preach to my ESL students all the time]

And thank goodness for lifelines [human or otherwise].

PS My word verification is "iiqdds": read quickly "I quits" - glad you didn't!

M-H said...

This is above and beyond on the part of your LYS. I doubt that many would have done this - or even been able to do this. None that I patronise, for sure. I wouldn't even think to ask them - I'd have tinked back.

Helen said...

Breathtaking story. That bit of faggotting I did in the spring from VLT was enough to put me off both-side lace for life, although I look longingly at the Pink Puzzle Wrap from time to time. I rely too much on that purl row to get my feet back on the ground.

And although Debra is impressive, Rick is nearly as, for understanding how important it was to you. Bravo, Rick.

Anonymous said...

Yay! Repairing lace is such a challenge. I've done it before, but about 1 time in 4 I need to tink.

Which begs the question, why don't I use lifelines if I am repairing lace that often?!

And yes, your DH is a gem.

Mary Lou said...

Lucky you to have such a yarn shop and staff, supportive husband and the willingness to learn a few tricks. Repairing that sort of problem in lace is very tricky. Wasn't it nice to hear that from the YS, too?

Alwen said...

I think there is nothing in the world that has taught me more about knitting than the times I've messed up.

Sad: on my walk the other day I found a dead probably-sharp-shinned hawk. The local DNR office says since they already know West Nile virus is here in Michigan, and it's been a wet mosquito-y summer, I can just bury it. :(

Marianne said...

Huge round of applause to Rick! yes, indeed!

Holy moly!
I'm with m-h, I'm pretty sure no one at the lys here would be able to help and I would've been tinking.
SO glad you have your lys and Deb..ahemcoughcough..will there be some kind of treat for that woman? :^) How amazing that would've been to witness!
I've not knit lace with 'stuff' going on both sides... one of these days and what did I learn today? LifeLine.

Anonymous said...

Yay for Debra! I nominate her for canonization.

Now you put in a lifeline. But then again, not done yet and lesson learned. Positively inspirational.

EGunn said...

Whew! That is a sticky problem. I'm glad you got it fixed, and I'm sure you'll be up to doing it yourself in no time. The challenge depends on the pattern, but even two-sided lace isn't hard enough to make tinking better!