Life is learning (and sometimes swearing)

One of the kicks I get from knitting is learning something new. Last week, for instance, we had a visitor at our knit and natter (we love having visitors) who showed us a knitting mill – a sort-of hand-powered knitting dolly for producing fine i-cord. I need one, and I need it now. But the big plus for me this week has been the provisional cast on.

OK, I can hear the gales of laughter now. I know, everyone can do this. Yeah, maybe everyone can – but the people I know who could actually show me use a crochet provisional cast on and, as almost everyone on the surface of the planet knows, I do not crochet. OK?

I’ve been knitting cowls for the various fairs and pop-ups I’ve been involved with this summer (it’s a testament to the sort of summer we’ve been having that big cowls have been flying out) and have also developed a little bias-knitted cowl-stroke-necklace which uses one skein of Louisa Harding’s fabulous – and about-to-be discontinued – mulberry silk:

neck warmer

I’ll pop the pattern on Ravelry just as soon as the mad rush is over, and as soon as I’ve come up with a catchy name for it. But the whole point is that even my fine-stitched seam is a little too untidy – for me, that is, nobody else seems (ho ho, did ya see what I did there?) bothered by it. So out came the books, including the wonderful Cast on, Bind Off, and out also came the bad language and the evil temper. But I did glean one thing – use smooth thread, like cotton, which can be pulled out easily.

Or, indeed, frequently.

However, I’ve got it now.

tah dah

Tah, as they say, dah.

This is entirely due to YouTube, though perhaps not quite in the way you’d expect. There are plenty of vids on there of people doing a provional cast on, some of which are clear but which I am too daft to follow, but many are either too fast or too badly filmed to follow (well, for me, anyway). Every time I hit pause in my attempts to flipping follow I dropped my knitting; cue more swearing.

But then I fiddled about and thought about what I was doing, or rather trying to do: wrap live stitches round a string. And I started from exactly the opposite point as the YT vids I’d been watching and the instructional books I found – I began with the working yarn at the bottom as opposed to the top and ZIP! It was like Audrey Hepburn being sung (or rather shouted) at by Rex Harrison playing Professor Higgins: by George, she’s got it!

the start

So here is the working yarn (the orange silk) and a short-but-long-enough length (too much is silly and leads to more bad language) of the waste yarn knotted together like this, with the needle on top of the yarns and in the middle. Oh, and using a circular needle is not easy. I know this. You just end up with a mystery third ‘yarn’ which inexplicably has a needle tip attached, and a lot more swearing.

I then take the needle under the working yarn from the top and lift it over the waste yarn, keeping the two threads to the left of the needle separated by the thumb of my left hand. Then I  take the needle and yarn and pass them under both threads (don’t worry about following this…) and pop them through the middle. Really don’t worry about following this.

ker zap

It looked a bit messy, but as you can see I had achieved live stitches wrapping round string. I went back for the next row and half the stitches fell off, so the next time I did it – after I’d chanted ‘under yarn, over waste, under both, through the gap’ as a mantra several times as I redid the cast on – I knitted into the back of alternate stitches carefully. And it worked!

I couldn’t quite believe that I’d got it. I pulled it out and did it again, still chanting the provisional cast on mantra. It still worked.

I couldn’t quite believe that I’d invented something new, solved a problem that surely must have affected more people than just me, but I did seem to have done so. Now I often have difficulties following knitting etc instructions others take for granted, and I suspect that’s because I am one of those naturally left-handed people whose handedness was changed from babyhood by parents who carefully made me use my right hand all the time – my instincts really came to the fore when I had surgery on my left hand (I’m a left-handed spinner, which is why I damaged that hand through being overenthusiastic/stupid) and found life really difficult, even when it came to simple things like pouring water from a kettle. I’m not alone in this. I know, I thought, such depth of insight for us ‘not actually southpaws but who ought to be’ lot should be on YouTube.

Er, it already is. I should have looked further.

Or possibly I should just have clicked on the first one that came up.

I’d run out of bad words by then, so I just shrugged. But hey, at least it’s there, and nobody will have to look at my nail varnish (or not) instead…

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8 thoughts on “Life is learning (and sometimes swearing)

  1. Bybyq

    I agree with you that in knitting there’s always something new to learn. I crochet and knit, and I found them as a constant challenges, it makes life feel like a series of achievements. I have never done provisional cast on but i have never stumbled upon a pattern that calls for it. Well done you 🙂 xx

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Quite a few of my own pattens would be definitely improved with it, so I’m glad to have cracked it. Makes the three-needle bind off so much easier!

      Reply
  2. Ellie

    Chanting is good. For the provisional cast-on waste yarn, try a slick cord, machine knitters have ravel cord. In desperation I have also used satin ribbon.

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      Cotton is working so far, but I Could definitely do with something smoother – thanks for the suggestion. Wonder if fine rolled leather thong would do? I seem to have lots left over from jewellery making…

      Reply
  3. Moni

    I use smooth crochet cotton for the waste yarn. I am also one of those converted southpaws: so much of what I do looks correct, but is a mirror image!

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      That’s another great idea – my cotton is OK, but a bit soft…

      (Knew there had to be more of us – oh, maybe this is the root of my inability to be taught to crochet? I wonder…)

      Reply
  4. DKnits

    Thank you for sharing this technique. I knew the crocheted provisional cast on, but this technique might come in handy when you need to cast on and you only have your knitting needles with you 🙂

    Reply
    1. kate Post author

      It does work, but I’ve found it a bit fiddly when it comes to joining the end or whatever – when you tale out the waste yarn. Mind you, I could have used a smoother yarn…

      Reply

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