A woman on the edge

Today I’m travelling, all the way from one side of the continent to the other.  I left Port Ludlow at 8:50 this morning, and I’ll arrive home tonight at about 2am – and the only good thing about how long it takes to get from one side of this continent to the other is the knitting time. I’ve been working on the blanket off and on while I’ve been here, and while it’s slow going when I’m working long days, I’m still within a row or two of being finished the centre section.  This morning, after I had coffee and organized my life into a suitcase, I actually realized this, and managed to get myself really well sorted for the day ahead.

First, I really cleverly took the circular needle I’ll need for the border out of my suitcase and put it in my carry on.  (Rather proud of that moment, since the blankie has been on straight needles until now, and that rather important realization could have easily come somewhere far, far up in the air, when I clued in that I had hours of knitting time and no needles. Two points for me.)  Then I remembered that I should really block at at least a corner of the blanket – so that I have a decent shot at figuring out how many stitches to pick up on the sides of this.  I put down a towel, laid a corner of the blanket down on it, and placed a wet washcloth over that.

notblockedyet 2015-06-17

I touched a hot iron to that washcloth, holding it in place to generate steam that would get driven down through the wool.  I was careful not to apply pressure.  I want the steam, not to press the fabric beneath.  (Squashed knitting is usually not pretty.) I lifted the iron and cloth, spread the fabric a little more, then hit it again with the steam.

blocked 2015-06-17 (1)

It’s not a perfect system, but not a bad way to get a quick and dirty idea of what I’ll have when I properly block the knitting.

blocked 2015-06-17

Now, all I need to do is knit the stitches on the straight needle onto the circular, then do a quick bit of math to figure out how many stitches to pick up along the sides.  I’ve never been happy with the standard advice as a regular rule. I’ve long been told that I should pick up 3 stitches for every 4 rows on straight edges (or 4/5, or 2/3, depending on who’s telling me) but the truth is that when we’re told that, it’s a generalization to avoid you coming up with a “custom” number when you’re knitting a pattern – one that won’t work with the numbers the designer had,  or because it would take to long to explain the rule that’s based on your individual gauge.  I know the rule though, and it isn’t even hard – so that’s what I’ll use.

Stitch gauge over Row gauge,  then reduced = the ratio you use for picking up.

blockedmeasure 2015-06-17

In this case my blocked stitch gauge is about 7 stitches per inch, and my row gauge is 9 stitches per inch.   I can’t reduce that, so I’ll just use it.  7/9 means that for every 9 rows, I’ll pick up 7 stitches.  (That’s pick up one in each of three rows, skip a row, pick up four, skip one.)

I’ll do that along the side, then unpick my provisional cast on at the bottom (that’s the blue yarn) and then pick up and knit stitches along the other side. Then I’ll be in the round, and ready to start the border. I’ll also probably also be home.

I’m pretty excited about both.

71 thoughts on “A woman on the edge

  1. Pick-up ratios are hard to generalize. Usually I pick up 3 sts to 4 rows, except on armholes where I usually do 2 sts for 3 rows. But then there’s garter st, when usually you want to pick up 1 st per ridge. And then there are always situations where the standard ratio doesn’t work. I go with my standard ratios, then pause and have a look. If it’s not right, I change something. The only sure thing is that using a ratio is infinitely better than those old pattern instructions that told you to pick up “412 sts around the front border and neck”, leaving you with the prospect of dividing the border up with pins and picking up a calculated number of sts in each section.
    Can’t wait to see how this blanket turns out. I’d love to see photos of each one, side by side, for comparison.

  2. Thank you so much for posting that formula! I’ve just been more or less guessing all these years! And the blanket is already gorgeous 🙂

  3. I shudder at the thought of picking up that many stitches! It seems I almost always get it wrong and have to do it over and over again… even when they say exactly how many to pick up! Seems I have trouble staggering them evenly. Got a formula for that? I could use it! 🙂

    • More arithmetic, division this time. Divide the number of stitches to be picked up into equal parts, perhaps quarters. Divide the length over which they are to be picked up into the same number of chunks. So, in my example, pick up 1/4 of the stitches over 1/4 of the length. If there are any corners to be turned, remember that most corners will need at least three stitches, so adjust your pick-up accordingly.

      Hope that helps. It’s much less threatening to say arithmetic. Math sounds frightening.

  4. Ooh, thanks for that. It’ll be a while before I have the nerve to tackle a pick-up-around-the-edges blanket, but it’s great to know I’ll be ready!

  5. Safe travels and best of luck on the pick up! Sounds like perfect plane knitting –you can’t get away so you’ll just get all the picking up done! (Tho maybe that is just me, who’ll sneak off to another project because I’m avoiding picking up stitches)

    • Ha, the sweater I was working on and loving has been jammed in a bag for a couple of weeks, since I decided to do the neck and button band before the sleeves so I would know exactly how much I had for each sleeve. It is wool, so I wouldn’t be wearing it anytime soon anyway.

  6. Ahhh… ratios. I just had the most wonderful flashback from the April retreat. I’ve referred back to my little Jill Draper notebook many times – it’s full of knitting genius!

  7. Wow…that center seemed to come together really quickly! And thank you for that stitch-picking-up trick: I always have trouble getting the ratio right.

  8. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!! This makes so much more sense to me. I can’t wait to try it out. The blanket looks lovely.

  9. Wow! You nailed that description. I haven’t been knitting long, and I have not knitted anything where I had to pick up stitches on the rows yet…so when I started reading, I thought, “There is no way that I will understand what she is talking about!” But I kept reading and kept understanding, and I think I’ll even remember it when I need it, as my knitting gets more complicated! Thanks so much!

  10. Best money I ever spent, knittingwise, was Anne Hanson’s Crafts class on buttonbands– it helped me enormously in figuring out ratios and learning how pick up stitches neatly. Obviously helpful for buttonbands, sure, but for edgings, too!

  11. Given the amount of time you dedicated to us each day at the retreat, I’m shocked you got anything done on the blankie at all, but then you’re fast…crazy fast. Safe travels home.

  12. I read the title of your post and was scared that some catastrophe had occurred – so I’m glad that it’s quite the opposite. I just flew the opposite direction, about the same distance, to “babysit” my mother after surgery (she’s already doing very well in recovery), and will vouch for the knitting time on airplanes (and in terminals). I’m only about a row from starting the edging on a massive shawl, after what feels like months of knitting.

    • I felt the exact same way, so much so I had to scroll to the bottom of the post to see the outcome. I could just imagine A) not being able to use the cirs for some bizzare reason. B)l leaving the carryon bag behind C) scorching the blanket or D) horror of horrors, leaving the blanket behind! Whew!! Glad it was a great lesson in math. Which of course will be used over and over again all through Ravelry!!

  13. Y’know, Steph, I hate math. Always have. However, as a book designer and occasional website builder, I do have to use maths sometimes, and I can do just about enough of it to get me through the job without too much cussing. Your description here of what you did and why just makes my day. I hope you knit yer little bike-riding bum off on the way home and make major progress on the blankie, and I’m pretty sure you’ve done all humanly possible in a hotel room to ensure perfection. YAAY for you !!!

    And welcome back home, too; glad you enjoy the Pacific Northwest as much as we who live here do! [hugs]

  14. p.s. to you and your readers: Stay the heck away from the airport at COZUMEL (just a squirt south of where you vacation in Mexico), because they will take your needles!!! Whine all you want, you can’t get on the outbound plane from there with knitting needles, even on a United Airlines flight that got you there (with your needles) in the first place.

  15. This is a really great explanation of how to plan your travel knitting for maximum enjoyment/productivity, and a much better system for picking up stitches than dividing up the edge with markers. Thank you and i hope you will soon be home in your own bed with much blanket progress under your belt 🙂

    • It’s probably a Stephanie original, most of the babies get blankets designed just for them. It is gorgeous though.

  16. I’m happy about the “ratio rule” for picking up stitches, because it finally makes sense.

    My husband, meanwhile, saw me reading this post and said, “Ah, so she hasn’t been arrested for sneaking her knitting past security yet.”
    Love him. 🙂

  17. Just wanted to add to the (justified) chorus of thanks for the method for working out ratios of stitches to pick up – that’s brilliant!

  18. Stephanie, I have recently been enjoying your blog. The timeliness of this posting is incredible. I’m making a stole that isn’t close to the stitch or row gauge of the pattern, and I’m okay with that because I like my fabric that I’m getting at my gauge. My concern looming ahead was how many stitches to pick up to create the border. Tada! You have provided me with the answer. Thank you! Thank you!

  19. Whoa…what you just said completely just blew my mind. How come nobody ever told me this before?!?! I hope I can remember this! So you have to block first though, that is the key? My head is swimming. I’ve been doing it all wrong, (I HATE picking up stitches by the way, especially armholes.)

  20. And you claim to be bad at math. You’d be the perfect at teaching a math class for knitters, it would be straightforward and easy to understand.

  21. It sounds like a perfect plan for picking up stitches! I’d never actually heard that particular knitting rule before and I may just have to bookmark this blog post so that I remember it in the future. Either that or writing it on the wall. However since I’m in an apartment the landlord might not take to kindly to the second option.

  22. Whew! I thought for sure this post was gonna be about knitting gone horribly awry. When I read the first four words of the second paragraph, “First, I really cleverly” I thought, “Oh nooooo, invitation to Knitting Fates smackdown!!!” What a relief that that isn’t the case. Here’s hoping you have a smooth and productive flight home. With NO Knitting Fates on board!

  23. I am curious, since you do so much traveling…what do you use for a knitting bag? Where do you store your “work in progress” while you are traveling on the plane, on the road etc.

    Inquiring minds want to know because we are in search of that “perfect knitting bag”, that will also double up as purse, hold your ipad etc. etc.

  24. oh, you are supposed to figure out how many stitches you are to pick-up before you start doing so . . . wow, how clever.

    The blanket is beautiful.

    Safe Travels!

  25. thanks for the tip – I’m so glad you teach everyone these great things!

    btw – was I the only one who thought of “seven of nine”?!?!? 🙂

  26. Ummm. Canada doesn’t actually end or start at Toronto! Though it is, of course, the centre of the knitting universe.

    • LOL when she said “one side of the continent to the other” I actually googled Port Ludlow to make sure I had the location right! As a resident of the east coast of the USA, I’d like to stand up for the rest of the continent east of Toronto!

  27. Such a lovely piece! The babies in your family are so blessed to have an Auntie Stephanie to shower them with handknits……..

  28. Just another tip – once you know how many stitches you need, pick up EVERY edge stitch on the first round, then adjust down to the number you actually need on the second round, knitting into the BACK of ever stitch. It’s easier to mark where you need to decrease when the stitches are on the needle. The twisted knit stitch on the second row snugs up the stitches to avoid any gaps along the join. One thing – if you are not knitting in the round, you have to go back to the start of the picked up stitches to do the second twisted stitch row – leave enough yarn when you start picking up, so you have yarn at the starting end for the first row – also you must use a circular needle. Sorry if this is a little confusing, one of those things that take much longer to explain than to show.

  29. Stephanie, My husband and I stayed at the Inn at Port Ludlow in April right after your knitting retreat there. There were still yarn bombings all over the place and the staff couldn’t stop talking about how much fun you and the knitters are to have stay there. Once of these days, I will come and attend a retreat. It’s a gorgeous setting. Love the pictures of the baby blanket. It will be beautiful when done. And, don’t you just love those little lotion bars they provide?

  30. Holy Carp Steph! No one’s ever explained the formula to me! It actually makes sense. Last time someone tried to explain it to me, it went like this…

    Them: now just pick up your stitches along the edge.
    Me: How many should I have when I’m done?
    Them: Just pick ’em up ’til you have enough.
    Me: I’ve never done this before! I have no idea how much is enough! *wails and gnashes teeth distractingly as they all move away from me on the bench there….*

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