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Leaps of Faith

May 18, 2012

It takes a lot of courage to start any fiber project. You’re spending hard-earned money on the yarn and needles, and you know you’re going to be spending precious time, as well. But if you’re addicted to the textures and rhythm of working with fibers and turning them into something beautiful, you’re more than happy to forge ahead, no matter how tricky that sock heel might turn out to be. Throw caution to the winds, never mind that you’ve never knitted lace, and go ahead and dive into that lace scarf! The yarn’s beautiful, the color’s luscious, and it’s perfect for your daughter/sister/mother/friend. We knitters love — in fact, we crave — challenge, but it does at times demand a leap of faith.

Take directions, for instance: haven’t you found yourself saying, “They can’t mean that!” or “What the heck is this supposed to do!”  I clearly remember the first time I ran across directions to use “waste yarn” to save a space for the thumb opening in mittens. Margaret Radcliffe explains and illustrates this classic technique beautifully in her Circular Knitting Workshop (see photo here).

Waste yarn (photo from Circular Knitting Workshop; John Polak, photographer)

Whole patterns in themselves can demand leaps of faith: Elizabeth Zimmermann’s famous Baby Surprise Jacket is a classic; Morehouse Farm’s Fishknit Scarf, with its dropped stitches, is another. Casting on to make one of Cat Bordhi’s Moebius baskets, and then, my goodness, throwing it into a washing machine to felt it when the knitting’s done takes a brave, persistent soul – but how much fun it is and how intriguing! And what stranded knitter hasn’t paled at the thought of steeking, which requires you to take scissors and cut openings in a beautiful sweater you spent hours knitting in the round.

Cat Bordhi’s design for a Moebius basket (from The Knitter’s Life List; John Polak, photographer)

Dropping stitches, cutting knitted fabric, following patterns when it’s not clear what’s the top and what’s the bottom or whether there’s any “right” side at all – each of these requires a leap of faith, but each becomes magical when you discover the logic and beauty of each new technique — and it works! The methods may seem like madness, but successfully accomplishing them allows you to add another notch in your knitting needle of accomplishment.

Crocheted steek swatch (photo from The Knitter’s Life List; John Polak photographer)

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