Saturday, May 5, 2012

Grafting Cables and other forms of torture

I finished the cable border on Yggdrasil. It took longer than I thought it would. Because I hadn't knit on it in a while, I was deceived by the distance between where I knitted to when I put the blanket down and where I needed to be. I thought "that's maybe ten minutes worth of grinding" but it was really closer to 3 hours. But that section is done now and unless I get a hankering to do the largest size, that's the last large cable border I'll have to knit.

Now, when the cable border is finished, you graft the beginning and the ending together so that it appears continuous. In my mind this was an easy task. I like grafting well enough. It's pretty straight forward once you realize what you're doing (which, for the record, is mimicking stitches by controlling the entrance, connection, and exit from each loop of yarn. The traditional knit-purl-purl-knit format mimics stockinette because it keeps the working yarn on the "wrong side" of both pieces, which are held with the wrong sides touching. Ergo, you enter a the first stitch on the right side, drop it off the needle, and then thread the yarn through as if to purl, connecting the stitches through the back and coming up through the center of the second stitch. Then you enter through the first stitch on needle 2 purlwise, thereby bringing the yarn to the wrong side of that section, and leave knitwise.)

That turned out wordier than I had initially thought it was going to be. All that is to say that when you're grafting together, say, ribbing or cables you need to be careful about how you enter the first stitch, connect it to the second stitch, and finally exit that second stitch.

Now here's where it bites you in the butt. When you do a provisional cast on with the intention of  grafting later, you cast on the number of stitches you will be working (no huge surprise there. Need 20, cast on 20.) When you expose the live stitches, though, you now have the number of stitches you cast on minus one. Why? Well, you're working with the undersides now, and if you think of it like a big strip of rick rack (which shouldn't be too hard if you've ever frogged your work.) you know that the zig-zag has peaks and valleys, and since you started with a tail, the line starts and ends with a peak.

So now you're grafting 20 stitches to 19 stitches. So you say to yourself, "no big deal, we'll just fudge it a little and it'll all work out." and if it were stockinette, it would. But it's not. It's cables, and the stitch pattern in Yggdrasil puts that first cable on row 1. Accuracy matters if the basket weave is going to look right. But it never will. No matter what you do, it'll always be just a liiiiittle off center and a liiiiittle strained . There are only 3 loops in the bottom of each of those cables (5 loops associated with the cables, but only 3 are directly related. Remember the rick rack.)

And so I finally gave up after the 3rd try today. It's grafted and it's ugly and I'm sad. Would you notice it from far away? No. How do I know? Well, I only figured it out after my first failed attempt and I've been looking at peoples projects for years. Now that I look at them again, they all have that wonky join.

So... my advice is don't do the provisional cast on. Do something without a lot of bulk, maybe a backward loop, but certainly not long-tail or tubular, and whip stitch the bugger together later. 20 stitches to 20 stitches. Matched up perfectly.

I'm going to go over one of the cables (the ugliest one) again with some duplicate stitching to clean it up when all is said and done. That should help.


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