Saturday, February 24, 2007

counting beans, or playing with my food

I'm knitting mittens, and it's driving me nuts.

The first pair of mittens went well enough. I found a pattern I loved and fumbled my way through, producing a perfectly serviceable pair that I adore, errors and all, and wear every day.

I got more adventurous on the second pair, changing yarns (and therefore gauge) and size, as I was knitting these for my daughter. I chose a different pattern and, true to my nature, instantly made changes. (Can't do anything simple around here, nosiree bob.) This mitten, like the first, has an opening for fingers. It also had a new thumb gusset -- knitterly excitement!

The first mitten went pretty well. I only had to rip it back, oh, six or seven times, and that was for size issues. What really tripped me up was that thumb gusset: specifically, how to make it for the left hand. The pattern states,
Knit second mitten, being sure to reverse instructions to place flap on palm side of mitten.
(I didn't make the flap. I was following the pattern for the rest of the mitten. Well, actually, I changed the top, too, but that doesn't matter here.)

I just couldn't get that thumb gusset to end up on the left side of the mitten. What does it mean to reverse instructions? I counted stitches backwards and forwards, knit and ripped and knit and ripped.

What I needed was a visual aid. Legos? Playmobil flowers? I couldn't find enough similar pieces. No, I wanted something else:

Lima beans. Each line of beans represents stitches on a circular needle. (I'm using two circular needles instead of double-points.) They're joined into a circle, although I left the beans in straight lines. The arrows in the picture above point to stitch markers surrounding one knit stitch: the beginning of the (hopefully left-handed) gusset.

Now I've increased by making one stitch on the inside of each stitch marker.

Here is the final gusset round, having increased four times to make nine gusset stitches.

Now I've put the gusset stitches on a holder. I cast on three stitches to cover the gap, marked by arrows in the picture above.

Take the stitch markers off and hey presto, a side-seam thumb! It can be left- or right-handed!

Looking back at the original pattern, I see that the designer already knew that:
Knit second mitten, being sure to reverse instructions to place flap on palm side of mitten.

One reverses the instructions for the flap, not the thumb. D'oh.

I had tried the first mitten on so many times that it naturally formed around my right thumb. Because the first pair I knit had left- and right-oriented thumbs, I figured these did, too.

The pattern's author recommends Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns, so I surfed on over to Amazon and checked it out. I love that "search inside the book!" feature. Side-seam thumbs explained, just like in the pattern. I am such an idiot. And I'm buying that book.

It takes beans labeled with Sharpie pens to make me understand simple instructions. Please, when you meet me, speak very slowly and use short words. Visual aids will help. You'd better bring some beans.


Anonymous said...

Is this an example of linear thinking? Is this why I used "x"es on a graph paper to figure out how many 4" squares it took to make a quilt queen sized? Graph paper with the very smallest grid size, too! Guess it doesn't make any difference as long as we get to where we are going.

LLA said...

I think your bean solution is brilliant! Also, a nice use of limas - a bean of which I am the fan of in my household. The boys won't eat them on a dare...

I also admire your determination to get it sorted out! Yay, you!

Heather said...

Very clever!!

kayla_d said...

thanks for the comment and fabric storage ideas--i'm still working on that project! i would definitely need the lima beans visual to figure out those instructions, but knitting still sounds WAY too complicated!

Lyzzard said...

Good on you girl! Coffee Thursday sounds marvelous. Perhaps we can go yarning too?

Liz K. said...

As the "designer" of the mittens, can I admit how many times I made two left mittens? Or two right mittens? I guess two left, since I kept putting the flap on the wrong side? How about every time I made them. Seriously.

I do hope my instructions were clear, and am really open to feedback for how to improve the pattern.

normanack said...

The instructions were great -- it was me with the problem! Y'all did a fabulous job creating a terrific mitten and clear instructions. It just takes a doofus like me to make incorrect assumptions, mis-read, and mis-interpret the best of patterns!

The_Add_Knitter said...

Love the bean and sharpie technique! Every mitten I've ever done just knit up the same way and you flipped it over for the other hand, if that makes sense...
Love your blog--my maternal grandfather was also a (British) Socialist! The other one was a cartoonist, he drew 'The Phantom'. Not as cool as a pool hustler, however.

Wendy said...

Wow. I'm impressed: Lima beans. Extremely clever and enlightening!

Kelly said...

... and gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "bean counter." Thanks for the visual.

BeadKnitter said...

Where there's a will there's a way! Wouldn't have thought of lima beans. Glad you were able to figure it out. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Kim said...

I came over from Yarnival! Wonderful technique - and I loved the drawings you used to share your thinking with us.

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