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Knitting up the Raveled Sleeve of...Casting On - MoonScape [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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Knitting up the Raveled Sleeve of...Casting On [Feb. 10th, 2011|10:42 pm]
[Current Mood |accomplished]

My mother was an expert, inventive, and creative knitter.  When I was in college and for a few years after (the peak of her knitting, before her eyes began to fail) she taught me to knit. I never reached her level, but made scarves and caps and had started a sweater when we moved to south Texas where a wool sweater defines redundancy.  She knitted matching sweaters for Michael and me when he was a baby.  (Turquoise with an interesting pattern in a bronzy-mixed-blend yarn over it.  Loved it.)

So it's been a long, long time since I knitted.  Having touched it since Michael was born, anyway, and he's 27.  But a friend knits...and another writer, Robin McKinley, has friends who knit...and they got her interested too...and she started posting about her knitting lessons on her blog.  With pictures.  I began to remember how I'd enjoyed knitting and that I still have quite a stash of yarn, and so on and so on.

But there's this problem.  The thing is, to knit you have to cast on. Casting on is the first step in taking a couple of sticks and a length of yarn and making fabric with them--something that becomes something you can wear.  Casting on is not like the rest of knitting, exactly, and there are several approaches to it.  My mother forgot, in her long spell of not knitting, how to cast on--when she started again, about the time I was leaving high school, it took her days to figure it out.  I forgot, in the years since I had knitted.  Lot of people forget and have to relearn, but we all dread it.

But the near-memory of casting on began to nag at me.  My hands would sort of wave and fingers twitch, as if they could do it if they had the yarn and needles.

Finally last night I thought I remembered where one of the knitting bags was, in this house and not the other.  I found it.  It contained multiple skeins of Red Heart wool yarn, and one double-ended needle with some mint-green yarn being worked in a pattern.  Probably by my mother, and probably for Michael, and where the other three double-ended needles are/were, I have no idea.  I wasn't about to take my mother's little pattern piece off that needle, and you can't knit or cast on with just one needle anyway.

Tonight, getting up from the chill (feet finally not freezing) I came in here to try to finish what I was working on earlier in the day. Instead, after staring at the screen for awhile, I turned around, picked up the knitting bag and pulled out the first skein that had a loose end handy.  Looked on my desk for knitting needle equivalents.  Hm.  Two pencils.

Tied the first overhand knot around one pencil.  Thought.  Didn't think, but let the hands mess about.  And slowly--and clumsily--cast on a stitch.  Almost without looking.  The next one I looked at carefully. Two stitches on.  Three.  Four.  Look again--three's not right.  Pull it off and try again.  Three. Four. Five. Six....and there they were, nice cast-on stitches.

I was so excited I had to take a picture and then another and another.   Wow.  I remembered how to cast on and I did it with pencils.   My mother never did it with pencils (well, maybe she did and I just didn't know it...but not knowing it, this means I made it up myself.)   Pencils!  It's by no means ideal and I'll get back to real needles in a jiffy, but if I can cast on with pencils...can I knit with them?  

Er...no.   Getting a cast-on row off and a row of real stitches on is often a bit tricky ( I remember it being tricky)  and the blunt/steep end of these pencils make it hard to get the pencil you're moving onto into the little loop that's the cast-on stitch.   And besides...I'm not sure I remember how to loop the thread  and which part of the loop to pick up to move it over as a new stitch, with the old one underneath.  Several frustrating tries later, and in consideration of a sore throat, stuffy head, and cough, I gave up on that.  But...I can cast on.  With pencils!

(OK, all you expert knitters can now laugh at me.)  (And everyone can ignore the dirty computer keyboard.)


(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-02-11 03:39 pm (UTC)
I used to enjoy it. I also learned crochet from my mother, and both the crochet and the needlepoint lasted longer with me than knitting. (Knitting projects tended to be bigger and take longer; I could needlepoint a small piece faster than that.) We'll see. Today's the day for finding the old wooden needles (I do not know how far back in the family they go, but well past my mother's lifetime--she inherited them from her grandmother) and the other needles, and going from casting on to knitting a few rows.

I looked at a diagram from a site a friend sent me last night and realized that I was doing the right thing in trying to knit, but the pencils, though easy to cast on with, are not ideal for knitting...so my stitches were so uneven they didn't look right to me and I'd thought I was doing it wrong.
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From: ozdragonlady
2011-02-11 09:38 am (UTC)


1. you can cast on with one needle. (Dont ask me how, Ive never done it :) )

2. your pencils are probably not shiney=slippery enough for knitting. However, when you get some needles you can use one needle to knit your cast on row off the pencil, and then keep going with the other needle .. I wouldnt recommend carrying on much past reminding yourself how to do it tho, the tension will be messy :)

3. you can knit into the front or the back of a stitch, it just depends on the effect you want.

4. in order to make a neat edge, for the first stitch of the row I pick up the loop on the needle and the back loop of the stitch below and knit normally. There are other ways of neatening edges, which you can find in many books/internet places. Googling "beginners knitting" will get you plenty of references
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[User Picture]From: fair_witness
2011-02-11 12:27 pm (UTC)

Re: *grin*

1. Yup. I love the long-tail cast-on, done with only one needle. It's by far my favorite cast-on, to the point that I have to give myself mini-refresher courses every time a pattern requires me to take a different cast-on approach for something.
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From: kesalemma
2011-02-11 10:32 am (UTC)
If you want some help, try searching beginner knitting, or cast on on Youtube.

Oh, and then have a look at www.ravelry.com ;) you will need to create a profile to have a look, but it is an amazing resource of patterns, information about yarns, needles and other knitting related materials - and over 1,000,000 members. No, I don't have anything to do with owning or running the site - but I do love it ;)
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[User Picture]From: fair_witness
2011-02-11 12:21 pm (UTC)
Seconding the endorsement of Ravelry - I love that place. Best way for me to keep all my knitting stuff organized.

For helpful beginner knitting videos, I strongly, strongly recommend http://www.knittinghelp.com/ - I really like their free videos demonstrating various techniques, especially since they cover both English and Continental (aka "thrower and picker") approaches to knitting.

Oh, and Elizabeth? When I started knitting again, I practiced casting on with one of those Harry Potter wands Scott was selling at 'DilloCon a few years back. So practicing with pencils is not that crazy an idea.
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[User Picture]From: hugh_mannity
2011-02-11 03:07 pm (UTC)
Congratulations! And welcome back to the company of knitters.

There are loads of great videos at Knitting Help

I find that casting on with a needle a size larger than I'm going to be using makes for an easier first row and a more stretchy cast on edge, which can be useful at times.
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-02-11 02:49 pm (UTC)


The only clean keyboards are either a) new, or b) not used. I've seen far worse in 20+ years in I.T. :-)
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[User Picture]From: karalianne
2011-02-11 03:23 pm (UTC)

Re: keyboard

A couple of years ago I took up knitting again. My maternal grandmother had taught me to knit when I was nine or ten, so that was over 20 years ago, and I'd worked on the same project ever since (you know, the ubiquitous garter stitch scarf that invariably becomes a pot holder), picking it up every once in a while and knitting a row or two before getting bored and moving on to something else.

I remembered how to do the knitting cast on, but casting off was a different story. The first thing I made, from Dollar Store yarn, on Dollar Store needles, was a doll blanket for my niece. And I got to the end of the yarn and couldn't figure out how to finish it. I did figure it out eventually, but I actually asked my aunt, my mother, and my sister-in law before I figured it out - none of them could remember, either!

Now I'm addicted to knitting and crocheting and having all that gorgeous yarn in my life. It's a rather expensive habit, but I figure it's healthier than most other things, and the end result is useful, pretty, and/or fun. :D

(Also, I am having click-fail today; this wasn't meant to be a reply to the above comment. Though I do agree about clean keyboards.)

Edited at 2011-02-11 03:24 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: mrs_redboots
2011-02-11 03:35 pm (UTC)
There are a very great many different ways of casting on - I use at least four regularly, depending on what I am doing, and know several others - but the basic rule is that as long as it gives a tidy selvedge, it's fine!
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2011-02-11 03:48 pm (UTC)
I didn't see my mother cast on very often--I'd come home and she'd be well into something--so I don't know if she varied the casting on by the nature of the project. Right now--just getting back into it--I'm going to stick with the method that I remember, until it's more automatic.

What are the advantages of the different methods of casting on? What projects do best with which?
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-02-11 10:23 pm (UTC)
I have re-learnt how to cast on several times... Only recently did I learn that it is possible to do it more than the one way my grandmother taught me. I will spend a lot of time investigating the links in this post! For completeness, I will add my own favourite site: http://garnstudio.com/
They are a Scandinavian yarn retailer (hope that is the right word...) and have patterns in 14 languages and >100 videos showing different techniques for knitting (a dozen with different cast-ons) on their site for free.

(in Uppsala, Sweden)
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[User Picture]From: coalboy
2011-02-12 02:07 am (UTC)
I've knit off and on for 38 years, never really mastered any but the long-tail cast-on. I'm copying all these links!
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[User Picture]From: gifted
2011-02-12 12:48 pm (UTC)
Mum taught me to knit. She also forgot how to cast on after some years of not doing it, and casting on is the part that slips my mind too. I don't knit very often.

My grandma taught me to crochet, though I can't for the life of me remember how. She also started my interest in needlepoint and cross stitch, which I enjoy the most, and still do from time to time.
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From: (Anonymous)
2011-03-12 02:46 pm (UTC)
I’ve tried all sorts of coughing syrups, believe me, but none of them helps. Even though Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa www.geocities.jp/ninjiom_hong_kong/index_e.htm does not eliminates the cough I like to stick to this chinese syrup I’ve been taking since I was a kid: Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa. My grandfather is chinese, so I guess my mom got the advice from him. I was really surprised when I found that chinese market selling it here in Belgium. It does have a refreshing, soothing, sweetening effect…as long as it lasts…then back to coughing mode.
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