When the Student Is Ready…

The rest of the old Buddhist saying is, "…then the teacher will appear."

Well, usually I’m the knitting teacher — but in this case, I became the student. 

Last Friday, I was grousing about the short black socks I had knitted for DH while on the trip in New Zealand.  Although I had faithfully copied the original socks, DH confirmed (after a brief trial wearing) that the feet were really too short.  You’re probably familiar with the phenomenon of short socks sliding down the back of your foot and off your heel — and that’s what happened.

For now, I’m blaming the problem on the fact that I can’t hand-knit at the same gauge as the original machine-knit socks.  It’s true for garments that a bulky ski sweater requires more ease than a lightweight cashmere cardigan, and maybe it’s true for bulky socks too, for all I know.

Sadly, my first solution was immediately vetoed, and I will not be allowed to add colorful pom-poms to the back of the socks to solve the problem.

So, I was stewing about the idea of taking off the ribbing, ripping out the heel, adding more foot, and redoing the whole back end of the sock.  That’s a fair amount of sock to reknit — especially since there isn’t all that much to this pair of socks to begin with — and for the record, I’ll repeat that I had already broken two of my six new Knitpicks needles on these stupid socks.  Grumble, grouse, gripe — carp, kvetch, whine.

Then there was this knitting epiphany…

Going back to the Buddhist saying for a moment, I googled it and found this rendition (on what I’m going to describe as an "alternative" blog):

…I like to change the original saying to “When there is a need, Help is available.” Be aware of your need, and be open to help coming from perhaps the least expected source. I believe that when need is expressed – whether in prayer, meditation, a journal, magical diary, etc. – an answer will come.  Be observant, but not restrictive in your expectation of how the response will come.

It may come as a message given by a stranger. It may come in an unexpected way from a friend or relative, or from your employer, the local government, or other source…

Well, let’s just say I didn’t start a magical diary to solve my problem.  But on Friday, I was telling a few of the Friday group regulars about the stupid short socks, and how I was going to have to redo the stupid short socks — and before I gave any pertinent details, one of them said, "Well, it’s just a matter of undoing the toe and adding more to the foot, isn’t it?"

I started to say, "No, no, these were knitted toe…  up…"

Then the skies opened, and the angels sang.

As a matter of fact, she was right!

And Whoo-hoo!  that saves me a ton of work.  You see, you can pick up some stitches and work seamlessly in the opposite direction from the original — IF and only if your knitted fabric consists of complete rows (or rounds) of the same kind of stitch — either all knits or all purls.  So, this little trick is pretty much limited to either garter or stockinette — which is what these socks are.

Let’s see if I can draw how this works:

knit up and downOK, so take a look at the first picture, which shows a red row of five stitches.  There is a purple row, then a blue row, and a green row, all going in the expected direction.

Now look at the second picture — same five red stitches, with four pink stitches worked into the bottoms of them, going the other direction.

Now that you’re convinced this works for the middle of the fabric — the next question is, what about the edges?  Yeah, the edges are always a problem, aren’t they?  What you’ve got, in a purely technical sense, is an extra half a stitch hanging out on either edge.  This is clear from the second picture, with those red partial loops on either edge.

However, that second drawing doesn’t represent a real piece of knitting — it was more to help you understand how the rows hook together.

If you look back at the top picture for a minute, you can see that on the edge where the red row changes to purple, you’ll have an additional full loop there to work a stitch into.  On the other edge is your red yarn tail, and not much else.

If you add a stitch into the red/purple loop, and then work into the remaining four red loops at the bottom of that row — well, now you’re back at five stitches, aren’t you?  Of course, they are offset by a half stitch — in this case, they’ve all moved half a stitch over towards the red/purple loop end.

When you’re working in the round, though, it gets even easier — those extra half-stitches kind of merge together into one full stitch and it works like a charm.

BTW, this difference in the edges and partial stitches is also the reason why you can’t unravel a flat piece of knitting from the bottom up, but you can unravel a tube from either end…

… and I can hardly wait to unravel those stupid socks now!  This is going to be slick!

Thank you, Sheryl!!

  2 comments for “When the Student Is Ready…

  1. Patricia
    01/30/2009 at 10:32 AM

    Hey! Pretty cool. I thought as you did that going in the opposite direction wouldn’t work – unless you grafted two pieces together. I’m still skeptical – I’ll have to see it.
    The Pats

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