Monday, 22 April, 2024

By The Fibreside

Knitting and spinning on the Sunshine Coast of BC

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Simple solutions

Back when I started the border of the Event Horizon Shawl, I divided the stitch count into 16ths. I did this for a variety of reasons. First, 72 is a lot more reachable than 1152, or even 288. 16ths seemed like good goals. Second, I knew from past experience that blocking a circular shawl without reference points is really very difficult. So I gave this a great deal of thought, and when I divided the shawl up into 16ths, I did it with pairs of stitch markers.

Folded in quarters, the pairs line up, with a pair on each end.
Folded in quarters, the pairs line up, with a pair on each end.

I made up eight pairs of coordinating stitch markers from my collection, taking great care to choose ones that I thought would stand up to being washed without breaking, tarnishing, or otherwise failing. Each one of the pair was exactly half-way around the circle from the other, which would make it much easier to line things up when it came time to block. But as I was knitting my way around the border, I couldn’t stop worrying about it. I couldn’t use the salad spinner to get out extra water, because the shawl was too big, so I would have to use the towel-roll-and-step method, and some of those stitch markers probably wouldn’t stand up to that. Also, what if the wet yarn snagged on the dangling stitch markers? What about attaching them to the border? I only have a few coil-less pins, and would have to use safety pins for the rest. Maybe I should go buy some of those plastic coil-less markers. If they came in enough colours, then I could just use those. But they’re plastic… Would they stand up to the towel-and-stomping? And when would I find the time to go to Michael’s?

Around and around these thoughts went as point after point was knitted, marker after marker was reached. And it wasn’t until I was almost done that the solution to all my worries hit me.

I am a knitter. Therefore, I have yarn. Therefore, I have yarn in a variety of colours. And also, because I’m me, I have a whole bowl full of my cut ends from the last several years.

Don't ask me why I keep this. But it's fascinating knitting geology...
Don’t ask me why I keep this. But it’s fascinating knitting geology…

Sometimes, the simplest solutions just don’t occur to us. We love our little gadgets, our pretty knitting jewelry, and can’t think beyond that. The really sad part is, I was involved in a discussion earlier in the knit-a-long about how to make stitch markers using contrasting colour yarn. And yet…

Stitch markers replaced by yarn ends.
Stitch markers replaced by yarn ends.

I unearthed eight different types of yarn ends from my end bowl, and suddenly, all my worries about the stitch markers breaking/snagging/tarnishing/falling off were gone. And did it work?

Pinned out at 16ths.
Pinned out at 16ths.

Of course it worked. With a pin at the centre and a makeshift plumb line that I used to go across and to measure right angles on the quarters, it worked like a charm.

Now it just has to dry.
Now it just has to dry.

I had room in the guest room (barely, and only after we moved almost every piece of furniture), and I only used pins this time (no wires). It’s blocking hard and I know it will draw in again once it’s unpinned, but it’s a half-inch shy of six feet across. For all the complexity of the pattern, for all that there were 1152 stitches in that final round and two rows for each stitch cast off in the border, a simple finish, gadget-free and just with some yarn and pins, seems fitting.

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