If at first you don’t succeed, frog, frog again

So it’s full-on autumn in Portland.  Jack and I went downtown last weekend, to Powell’s and the library.  We had lunch at the aptly named Yumm! Cafe, and as we sat by the window eating delicious rice and bean bowls and enjoying the rain and the passers-by, I kept noticing peoples’ hats.  On the streetcar, there was a girl wearing an utterly charming slouchy hat; there was a guy in a fantastic ribbed beanie outside of Powell’s.  This is one of those things, I suppose: since I’ve become a knitter, I’ve started to notice knitwear all over the place.

As we wandered downtown, I said to myself, “Self,” which is what I call myself, “Self, what I really need is another hat.”

Admittedly, I have a lot of hats.  I have fedoras and berets and a cute hand-knit cloche that Becca made me; I have a leather cowboy hat and a hat with ostrich feathers that I wear to the Renaissance Faire.  I even have a hat that I designed myself.  But what I don’t have is a warm wool hat that I made myself, which means I am clearly lacking in hats.

By Monday afternoon, this had turned into a full-fledged need, so I went stash-diving.  What I came up with was an unlabeled ball of very soft variegated purple yarn that came from the Knit Picks warehouse sale.  A few minutes with my trusty WPI tool and a little bit of research suggests that it’s a ball of Felici Sport in the colorway Sorcery.

The next step was eyeing my knitting shelf.  “Self,” I said to myself, “I have a lot of sock books.”  A lot.  Most of my physical knitting books have something to do with socks.  Which is great – until you want to knit a hat, that is.  I do have several technique books, however, and one of those is the rather useful Stitch ‘N Bitch sequel, Superstar Knitting.  The hat that caught my eye was in the cable section, Ysolda Teague’s Gretel Tam.

With all the enthusiasm in the world, I went to cast it on… and was thwarted.  It called for a “tubular cast-on,” which I wasn’t familiar with.  The diagrams in the book didn’t make any sense, either.  To YouTube!  Where I discovered that Ysolda herself had put up a tutorial for this particular cast-on, which wasn’t nearly as difficult as the diagram suggested.  It was a variant on the long-tail I usually used, in fact.

I got the hang of it, but I didn’t like the way it turned out.  So I ripped it back and tried again.  This time I got three rows in before I figured out the stitch count was wrong.  I have issues with counting, guys.  This is why I usually use a lot of stitch markers.  Could I be bothered to get up and dig my stitch markers out for this?  Of course not.  Which is why my counts were off.  I say “counts” because I managed to screw the count up at least twice.  The thing is, I kept fiddling with the numbers and they never came out right.  The third cast-on I got all the way out of the ribbing, onto the larger needle, and onto the first serious cable row before I admitted that I had a problem with my counts that I couldn’t quite figure out how to fix.  Also, the larger needle that I was using was the Knit Picks Zephyr, which is an acrylic that came with the interchangeable needle testing kit that I picked up a while back.  Now, ordinarily I like the Zephyr.  It’s smooth and flexible and fairly pointy – but I tell you, it’s worthless for cabling.  The pointy tip kept splitting the yarn, and the acrylic was too grabby to allow for cabling without a needle – or even with one, really.  And let me tell you, when I call that row a “serious” cable row, I mean it.  Normally, when you’re working on something that’s cabled, it’s a knit-and-purl pattern that includes cables.  You knit a few stitches, you purl a few stitches, you do a cable, etc.  This row?  Is nothing but two different cables, back and forth, all the way around.  And they’re not drastically different, which means that you really have to pay attention… and hope that your stitch count is correct.  Which, as you may remember, mine was not.

Out came the needle, all the way back to the frog pond.  I shook my head.  “This is not meant to be,” I told Jack, winding yarn.  “I need to find a different pattern; I can’t imagine doing this again.”

Off to Ravelry I went.  I dug through the patterns, I found one that looked good with self-striping yarn, I cast on.  Same number of cast-on stitches, though I used the long-tail cast on this time.  I knit a row of 1×1 ribbing.  I looked at that pattern, and I looked at Gretel, still open on the bed in front of me.  I thought about the two-cable row, and the difficulty it was causing me.  I looked at the other pattern, where the first difference was.  It called for joining in the round, and knitting an inch of 1×1 ribbing.

I hate 1×1 ribbing.

I blame 1×1 ribbing for my choice to turn and knit a second row of 1×1 ribbing, instead of joining in the round.  Because with the Gretel tam, on the third row you do a little two-stitch cable that magically transforms it into 2×2 ribbing.  This time, I found it delightful.  This afternoon I’m heading down into Portland to a yarn shop I haven’t been to yet (thanks to a mention on the always-lovely Playful Day podcast) to grab a new needle of an appropriate size.  They carry the square Kollage needles, which I admit I find intriguing.  They’re supposed to be easier on your hands than traditional round needles.

If there’s a lesson in this, I suppose that it’s to keep trying.  I have limited patience when it comes to being frustrated with my knitting, and if I have problems early in a project, I’m much more likely to just rip it out and do something else than to keep trying it until I get it right.  I don’t know if I’m finished with frustration on the Gretel tam, but now that I’ve told you guys (and the whole internets) about the project, I’m much more likely to push through and persevere with it.  My guilty secret: I don’t put new projects up on Ravelry immediately.  I wait until I make a little bit of headway, so I can have that “will-I-won’t-I” trial period before I share them with the whole world.

What’s your guilty secret?  Do you have an opinion about square needles?  Share with me in the comments, kids.

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~ by Amber on October 5, 2011.

2 Responses to “If at first you don’t succeed, frog, frog again”

  1. you’re utterly adorable in your questing for the perfect hat. It’s still pretty damn amazing that you’re able to make stuff like that. 🙂

  2. I’ve considered doing the Gretel before! Never did, partially because I’m poor enough that pretty much all patterns I use are free. :/ Still, must post pics when you finish!

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