“I could never do that. I don’t have the patience.” I get that comment a lot when I post pictures of my knits on social media. I usually just smile or respond with “Knitting doesn’t require patience, it teaches it.” I’ve been thinking about that a lot this past week as I’ve worked on my knitting.
I generally have three or four items in the works at all times. I like to have a knit that is small and portable like socks or mittens, a knit that is easily done while watching Netflix or listening to an audiobook and then a knit that is more complicated and requires undivided attention. And now I have one more criteria: something I’ve designed.
Toward the end of 2020, when I decided that my goal for this year would be to finally design and publish my own knit patterns, I made a promise to myself to always have something of my own on my needles. So, my three WIPs at the moment are: a pair of slippers (portable), a shawl I’m designing and a shawl I’ve been working on for a year.
Yes, that’s right. I’ve been working on the same shawl for a year. Which brings me back to how knitting teaches patience.
The shawl in question is a beautiful design by Lucy Hague called Ishneich.
The main part of the shawl is knit with garter stitch which transitions to a Celtic knot cable and is then edged with a lace border. It’s that Celtic knot cable that has been giving me a challenge. It has 22 different cable and twist stitches that form the design. And since the left and right sides of the cable mirror each other, there are 2 separate charts, one for each side of the shawl. While the main part was easy to knit while watching TV or listening to an audiobook, I quickly discovered the cable section required quiet and my undivided attention.
About a year ago, I had gotten through the garter stitch section and was excited to begin the Celtic knot cable. But about 5 rows in, I realized I had too many stitches on one side. Some of those 22 different stitches are elongated stitches where you wrap the yarn around the needle twice when doing a knit or a purl. That allows the stitch to stretch across the work for the cable but makes it a challenge when trying to count stitches on the needle, especially when there are over 300 stitches by the second row of the cable. So, I decided to rip it out again back to the garter section and start over.
The second time attempting the cable, I decided to use the written cable instructions instead of the charts. But again, after a few rows, I’d have either too many stitches or not enough on one side. The written instructions are long with each row spanning several lines of writing. I found it easy to lose my place. I decided to rip back and begin again, this time going back to the charts.
One issue I’ve found challenging with the charts is that the definition for the chart symbols is on a different page of the pattern and those instructions don’t include the symbol found on the chart, just the name of the stitch. The name of the stitch is listed with the symbol on the chart key. I found myself going back and forth between the definition, the chart key and the chart. I found it easy to lose my place.
Another challenge has been that there are cable stitches that are similar but done over a different number of stitches, sometimes in the same row. This made it easy to get confused as to what stitch I was supposed to be doing, especially when going back and forth between charts, key and definition.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve ripped the shawl back to the plain garter and restarted the cable, maybe 4 times. I’ve finally found a system that seems to work. I have the chart symbols and the explanation together on an index card. Before working a working a row of the chart, I read it first and pull out the stitch card or cards I need for that row. It seems to be going much smoother now (fingers crossed). This is still a knit that needs my undivided attention, so it doesn’t get worked on every day or even every week.
Why haven’t I given up? Because I’ve learned a lot each time I’ve had to rip back. I’ve learned how to “see” the pattern so I can tell when I’ve made a mistake before I get to the end of the row. I’ve learned how to execute certain stitches better, like the 1-into-5 stitch which gave me trouble on my slippery metal needles.
More importantly, I’ve learned to enjoy the process. The process of slowing down and focusing on what I’m doing. The process of working at something to get it right. The process of building patience one stitch at a time.
We live in a time where instant gratification is such a given that we’ve come to expect it. We can order something online and receive it a day later. I could have ordered a knit shawl from an online store and been wearing it for the last year. But when this shawl is done, and it will be done at some point, wearing it will be much more gratifying than anything I could purchase.
Until next week…..Kim