Sunday, August 19, 2007

Of travel projects and charity knitting

I normally don't blog about my travel projects. They are, by definition, mindless knitting and often don't even show up in the 'inprogress' area of the side bar. I cast it on (without saying anything), take it out to the car and stuff it into the box that corrals all the car clutter and days, weeks, or months later (depending on the project and how much time I spend in drive thru lines or how busy my lunch hour is) the finished object emerges to be photographed. This gives the illusion that it sprang into being complete and fully formed, like Minerva from Zeus' forehead.

So far this year, the car project box has birthed several hats, 3 wash cloths and 10 afghan squares. About one item every 10 days to two weeks, not bad for 'stolen' knitting time. (And yes, some of the squares have not been blogged about. That's because they are for MY afghan and technically I can't start on it until the 'Black Blob 'o Doom' Afghan is done.)

But the current travel project (cast on yesterday) does deserve a post. The Red Scarf Project is heating up. The due date to get the scarves to the OFA is October 1. So my Red Scarf 2008 will be my lunch date for the next month or so.

It is Nashua Creative Focus Superwash worsted wool in (duh) colorway 'Brick Red/36' from the NSLYS. I figure Superwash or a washable Acrylic is required for student items. I well remember dorm laundry. You are lucky if the laundry soap gets in and things don't sit in a soggy and forlorn heap on the folding table when somebody empties your load out midway through!

The pattern is from Mary Thomas - "Twin Rib". It's another one of the Broken Rib patterns.

This particular Broken Rib is based in 1x1 ribbing, so it is reversible. But the ribs are separated by two stitches of seed stitch, so
Row 1 is *K3, P3*
Row 2 is *k1,P1*

In the photo, the stitch marker is to remind me which side gets the big rib. When your knitting is constantly being interrupted as a travel/car project inevitably is, you need to make that project as 'idiot proof' as possible.

Since the larger repeat is 6 stitches, you cast on for flat knitting in a multiple of 6 plus 3 to balance the pattern on a central rib. This scarf is 33 stitches across - just about 6 inches wide, lightly blocked.

There are a couple of tweaks. 'Tweaks' are things I like to do to make a scarf just a little more 'designer' and less 'homemade'. The first being my usual slip stitch edge. I like that edge for a scarf, as it neatens the long edges and makes running a blocking wire VERY easy. The only awkward place is the slip as if to purl, then purl on the K1,P1 row; it is rather counter intuitive. But you end automatically with a knit stitch on both sides. Easy, peasy.

The other tweak is a crochet cast on. One of the things that I long disliked was the way that opposite ends of a scarf do not match in the way they are finished if you use the 'standard cast off' and the 'long tail cast on'. Unless you do fringe or a point or some other design detail, the cast on and cast off are noticeable. And they sit right there next to each other when the scarf is worn. So to my picky eye, they should match!

When I discovered the crochet cast on (directions and video here), it solved that problem! It is normally used as a provisional cast on, and that's all I used it for at first. BUT one day I cast off on one project and immediately cast on for the next using the provisional version of the crochet cast on. I had one of those "HEY, waita minnut" moments. I compared the two edges and - They MATCH! The 'knit one, drop the previously knit stitch over' loops match the 'crochet around the needle loops' almost exactly.

To use the crochet provisional cast on a permanent cast on, just start with your project yarn and when you get to the last stitch to be cast on, instead of crocheting around the needle, transfer the loop from the hook to the needle. You are set. Unlike the long tail cast on, the crochet cast on has no right or wrong side. AND like the various knitted on cast ons, you don't run the risk of running out of yarn (always a plus). I've been using this for scarves and potholders and washcloths and such ever since. Basically whenever the cast on and cast off edges will live in close proximity when the FO is being used or worn.

It appears that I'm in good company. There is another set of closely matching edges - the 'long tail cast on' and 'EZ's sewn cast off'. It seems that the great Elizabeth had the same issue, but decided to match the other direction and change the cast off instead of the cast on!

Back to the project at hand. The requested dimensions are 5-8 inches wide (check) and approx 60 inches long. I have about a month (to allow blocking and mail time). So I need to do about two inches a day - this project may get some 'inside' knitting time just to be sure I can make the deadline. But you probably won't see it again until right at the end. Some projects look interesting while in-progress. Some don't. This is one of the later.

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