picking up

I’m a very by-the-book person, I like to follow recipes and I like to be told exactly what I need to do, to the last detail. Things like cooking simply don’t come naturally to me and I don’t trust my skills or feeling enough to improvise on the spot. I think it’s mainly because I lack experience in it. Once I get really good at cooking by the book, I tell myself, then I’ll be confident enough to experiment.

Similarly with knitting. I’m in no rush to start making up designs or altering other people’s designs to a great extent. I’m still gathering my experience, learning skills, figuring out what does what and what happens when I do this and what are the mistakes you can easily make with that, etc. As for whether knitting comes naturally to me, well, most of it doesn’t. I enjoy it and utterly adore it (have you noticed maybe? :) but most of it is a learned skill which I am perfecting as I go. I may have a knack for it, but it definitely doesn’t come naturally.

Except for one thing. The skill I adore because I get it. It just goes. I seem to understand it on some instinctive level, and all that hesitation because of lack of experience or fear of making a mistake simply disappears when it comes to it. I don’t have the slightest worry about improvising when it comes to it. I trust my feeling. My fingers know what they’re doing. Picking up stitches is my thing.

And let me tell you, the freedom provided by that feeling is amazing! I guess that’s what all the masters-at-improvising feel like all the time. Nevermind though, I cherish my moment. :) And lately I’ve been casting on (by coincidence) a lot of projects which involve picking up. I was going to show you photos of this one on the pick-up round, but I got a little carried away – sorry. :)

There was also another reason – picking up stitches on this project wasn’t easy (as it usually is). Here’s the thing – when writing a pattern that involves picking up, designers can incorporate some features which make it easy later to see where you should reach for the stitch and easy to put your needles through the spot. For example, they can have you slip the last stitch of every other row, which makes a nice little loose edge to pick up from later. They can also do some math and give some thought to the number of stitches you’ll need to pick up, and to the fact that this number should correspond to the number of spots you pick up from. I once worked on a baby pullover where the stitches for the sleeves were picked up from the main body of the pullover. The pattern said “Pick up so and so stitches in the space of 5cm each side of the shoulder seam.” Which would’ve been fine, except that the number of stitches that I picked up on every attempt was so and so minus 15! The designer just hadn’t done their math. Yeah I could have crammed the stitches and picked up several from the same spot, but that would have made the sleeves puffy, which definitely hadn’t been the designer’s intention. I trusted my instinct and picked up the natural number of stitches. It worked out well.

On this project I had to trust my instincts again. The designer hadn’t thought of the slipped stitch trick, so by the end of the 111 picked up stitches my fingers were aching from the shoving and pushing they had to do through tight spots. As for the math, I had to work it out on my own because of a slight difference in gauge. It wasn’t the slightest bit of a problem. I just followed my instinct which told me I could modify this.

And from here onwards it’s going to be just stockinette and decreases. And very soon, there will be a finished hat. :) Since I’m taking a plane ride today, it should really be very soon. I’ll be back on Sunday, with lots to show you, I hope. Have a wonderful weekend – Thursday’s as good a day to start it as any! ;)

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About fridica

I started knitting completely by accident, when I was visiting my parents for a holiday in 2008. On a boring Sunday afternoon, I decided to dig through their stash of books to see if there was anything interesting to take back to my apartment. A knitting manual happened to be one of the books I found. I got curious, my mom immediately dug out her old needles and yarn stash (which she hadn’t used in a decade at least), and in a few minutes we were both casting on - she by memory, I by following the instructions from the book… :) Since I normally prefer learning from books, this was ideal.. I took the book home with me, and very very soon - I was an addict.

21 thoughts on “picking up

  1. Thanks for the post, that’s really useful to know about the picking up stitches bit with this hat. I’m seriously tempted to make for myself having seen how nice yours is looking.

  2. your picked up stitches look so professional!! I have to admit, I’m usually fumbling a bit blindly when I do picking up, and I agree that slipping the first stitch makes it waaay easier. This was a neat post, thank you!!

  3. I know how you feel because I usually have to do my own math every time because it is only rarely that I can get hold of the yarn the pattern calls for. This means I have to do a lot of calculating and recalculating. And I hate it! For me, knitting is all about relaxing – that’s why I wish I could print out the pattern, sit back and knit happily away. Alas, that seldom happens :(

    • I used to think exactly the same as you, but since I’ve been in London I’ve found out two things: 1. Even when the original yarn is available, I usually end up going for something else. It’s just nice to add that unique touch to your project, you know. And sometimes yarn substitutions end up giving you a completely unexpectedly nicer result! 2. When I do get the orignal yarn, it’s not always that great. For example, I got the yarn called for in the 16 cables hat pattern and now I can’t seem to get gauge with it. Or rather, I get gauge but I don’t like the feel of the fabric… So even when you get the original, it’s not necessarily going to work without some trouble… :)

      All that said, I know all about the pathetic choice of yarn we have back home and I’m dreading the return to it…

  4. I love the hat! I love hats in general, too bad I don’t wear them. Like never :-)

    As for picking up stitches, I’m just working on Sophie bunny from Ysolda and I already finished Elijah elephant and there were quite few stitches to be picked up too. So I kind of feel like a pro as well :-)

  5. I used to obsessively divide the edge to be picked up from into sections with safety pins and work out how many stitches I had to pick up from each bit so I had the exact right number at the end, but then I had a lightbulb moment when I did a pattern which just told me to pick up three stitches for every four rows up the side of the knitting, and one for every stitch across the top. Now I do that for most things, and just have a quick look to made sure it looks right, and it makes life much easier!

    • That’s so great that you found your perfect formula! I usually pick up every second stitch along the edge, but when I did that on this project it turned out that I had half the number of stitches I needed. That was quite easy though – I just ripped back and picked up every stitch :) Good thing ripping picked up stitches is the easiest thing in the world :)

    • Thank you – I’m not travelling quite as much as you did this summer, but I managed to squeeze in a few short trips and quite enjoyed them! :)

      p.s. Sometimes describing something is much more complicated than doing it – just keep that in mind ;)

  6. I just started doing a little more picking up stitches myself and had to read a bunch of directions before it ‘clicked’ and all of a sudden it’s easy and works well. It’s fun, too! But I’m not going to go making tons of things I have to pick up stitches on… :)

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