Saturday, January 25, 2014

Khajiit Cowl: Those Pesky Short Rows

Love 'em or hate 'em, there's no getting around it: This cowl is loaded with short rows. Count them yourself: There are over 100 short row turns in this project! If you love the method you use to make them, you might as well move on: there's nothing for you here today. But, if you're like me and you despise the method you learned so much that you usually avoid projects that require short rows, then read on.

The method I learned (and thought I was stuck with) is the wrap-and-turn method. This requires the knitter to perform a series of maneuvers at the end of the row before turning the work. Moving the last stitch to the right hand needle, bringing the yarn to the front, moving the stitch back to the left needle, ad nauseum, blah, blah, blah. You know this method. The Dreaded Wrap and Turn Short Row. 

Forget all that. Poof, gone from your mind. 

Instead, knit to the point where you will turn the work, and then just turn the work. No nuthin'. Just flip it over. 

Then, do a very snug yarn over on the RIGHT hand needle (the yarn passes from front to back if you’re about to work a knit row, and from back to front if you’re about to work a purl row), then slip the first stitch from the left needle to the right needle, and continue on your merry way.  Julia Farwell-Clay uses this yarn-over short row in her Hiro sweater, which is where I learned it and instantly fell in love. 

When you encounter the yarn-over as you work back to it, check to be sure it's mounted correctly, then knit it together (or purl it together, as the case may be) with the stitch that follows it. Tada! No hole, no moving stitches around, no wrapping-and-turning, no knitting gymnastics of any kind. So simple. Just be sure the yarn-over is performed very tightly, and you won't have any gaps or holes to deal with. They are almost impossible to find in your work. 

Now, if you are also like me and need to see this for yourself, there is always a You Tube video out there for visual learners, and this particular one gets to the point rather quickly:

This is week three four of knitting the Khajiit Cowl, and it is slowly making the elegant bend that becomes the hood. I'm midway through the section labeled as Section Two in the pattern, where the cowl begins to resemble a giant sock heel. 
Side View of the Khajiit in progress after
completing the Section 2, Part 1 short rows. 

Yes, it's nerve wracking, especially since you work different sections of the cable pattern in Chart C on the same row. A chart or map is a must, as is tracking every single cable pattern completed on every single row or round. But this is such a lovely object that the end will definitely justify the means. 

Center Front
Center Back

I'm pretty sure I've reached the halfway point, hallelujah! There is one more complete set of the same short rows I've just completed to do, which concludes Section Two. Section Three is the home stretch.

Onward through the fog.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The S Word: Swatching the Khajiit Cowl

I am always surprised by the number of knitters who hate to swatch, like it's some evil chore like washing venetian blinds or ironing shirts. (Those are definitely on my 'avoid like the plague' list). The very same knitters spend a lot of time knitting up garments only to find they don't fit or look all that great. And then complain about it!

Knit the gauge swatch. It will save you tons of hours in the long run, and you will get an accurate picture of what your knitted fabric is going to look like. Just as importantly, you will have a fairly accurate idea of the end size of your project.
Yes, I color coded my charts.
Saves a lot of time and agony.

It's especially critical when working with cables, since the knitted fabric draws up significantly. I will use my own swatch as a case in point: The swatch here is knit up in two needles sizes. The bottom sample of the swatch is knit with the recommended size for the Khajiit Cowl, which is 5.5 mm (US 9). The honeycomb pattern is elongated just a tad, and the fabric is a little sloppy and loose. More importantly, it is not the correct gauge of 24 stitches and 28 rows; it came in at 23 stitches and 26 rows. That doesn't sound like much, but over 208 stitches, that's an additional 1.5" to the overall circumference of this cowl.  The top of the sample (above the garter stitch rows) was knit with 5.0 mm (US8) needles. The fabric is slightly denser, and the honeycomb pattern is rounder. The additional density spells warmth and better wind resistance. It is also the stated gauge for the project of 24 stitches and 28 rows. Voila!

How long did this take me? I'm not a super speedy knitter, and cables slow me down further because I am still of the ilk that uses a cable needle. My swatch clocked in at just under two and a half hours, and I ripped back four entire rows and a couple of partial rows in the process. What's a couple of hours when I now know what the fabric is going to look like and how it will fit the recipient? There's also the added bonus of playing with the stitch pattern for a while so that it's more familiar. 

Just pop a movie in or cue up your favorite playlist of tunes and get going.