Well, that sorted itself out rather nicely, didn’t it? I’m not feeling at all doomed at present. (This should be said cheerfully, so that the foreshadowing of another crisis I don’t see coming is as entertaining as possible.) A lovely knitter who had the yarn (Hi Brenda!) has sold me her big fat skein, and it is en route from her house to mine. She got it in the mail straightaway, and I’m still knitting what I’ve got, so unless there’s a customs thing as the yarn tries to cross the border… I should be okay. (We will recall that last time, I believe it was customs that exploded my whole plan, so I think that’s a good sign. Usually it’s a new emergency each time, and I’ve already done that one, so either this will be smooth sailing, or the fates are going to have to start getting really creative.)
I’m charging along at a good pace over here too, I spent the weekend teaching this past weekend at The Stitchery in Rhode Island, and had just the loveliest time, with the bonus of lots of time on planes and in the airport, and now I’ve just about got the middle of the blanket done, which means it’s time to start planning the border. Someone asked me the other day how much planning of these blankets I do before I start knitting, and the answer is “rather less than you would hope.” I do knit a swatch, and I do choose the stitch patterns I’m pretty sure I’ll use, or improvise them, if I can’t find what I like, and I do make charts (I use Stitchmastery these days.) I don’t come up with the exact way that those elements are going to go together – that part’s more… let’s call it loose. When it comes to picking up the stitches all the way around the centre part, I don’t fake it. It’s way too important to get right, so I use the standard formula for figuring out how many to pick up.
I take my (washed and blocked) swatch, and measure my stitch and row gauge.
In this case, I’ve got six stitches to the inch, and 9 rows. To figure out how many stitches I’m going to pick up along the side, I turn that into a fraction (stitches/rows) which is 6/9, and then reduce the fraction, the simplest I can make this one is 2/3. That means that I’ll pick up 2 stitches for every 3 rows. Got it? I know the regular advice is to pick up 3/4 or 4/5 or 2/3, but my stitch and row gauge are different with every blanket and stitch pattern, and so I do the math. I get a much tidier result and it only takes a minute. Then I give it a go along the side of the swatch to see if it works, before I pick up hundreds of them.**
Lo and behold, it did work. That’s the perfect ratio, that edge lies there as flat as my first catastrophic go at vegan pancakes. I don’t need to do any stitches along the cast on and bound off edges, because I’ll pick up stitches at a 1:1 ratio there – like always. (That’s the rule. 1:1 for stitches on top of stitches, and stitches/rows for along the sides.) Sometime when it comes up we’ll talk about what I do with a diagonal, but in the meantime, voila.
This blanket is going just fine.*
**Stop it. Don’t be superstitious.
**Please note that this system, diligently measuring, trying it on the swatch… all of that, is a system that I’ve settled on after a few blankets where I picked up 47465 stitches around the edges of the thing, and then realized after a few heartrendingly long rounds that it wasn’t right, and had to rip the whole thing out amid a flood of tears and whiskey while missing a deadline. I’m pretty proud that I’ve given up and started doing the swatch and math after only 45 years of knitting, disappointment and sloth.