A few days ago, I pulled my half-knitted Exeter jacket out of storage to start knitting again. I was about a third of the way up the back when I put it away a few months ago. Exeter is a very densely cabled jacket. In addition to the cable pattern, which requires some concentration, the jacket has some slight A-line shaping. The perrenial problem I face when I try to start up again on a project that has been put away for awhile, is trying to remember exactly where I was when I stopped knitting. In the case of Exeter, the 16-row repeat of the cable pattern is fairly easy to read from the knitting itself; a few minutes of thought and I could figure out which row of the repeat I should be on. The decreases for the A-line shaping are a different matter. How many sets had I made? When to make the next one? Easy peasy. Here is the piece I was working on:
See the little green removable stitch markers on the right side? I put a stitch marker on each decrease row. This means that I don’t have to count. I always know where the decrease was made.
Perhaps this doesn’t seem revolutionary to my fellow knitters. Perhaps you have always been marking your knitting this way. However, this is a new thing for me, discovered about a year or so ago. This is the way I used to keep track of increases and decreases:
I would write everything down. The one on the left is from my Laresca pullover. It has a chart, in which I note the left side decreases, center decreases and right side decreases in three columns; each row is numbered and circled as I finish the row. The one on the right is from the purple pullover I knit for Leah; this is just the sleeves. I write down every row, numbering each one in turn, and then putting an arrow under each decrease row. You might be able to make out that the first sleeve was too tight, so I ripped and started again. The second I called “sleeve – mach 2”. After finishing it, I knit the second sleeve making the decreases on the same rows.
This is the system I used for years and it has a number of very big drawbacks associated with it. One – it means I have to interrupt the rhythm of the knitting every row to grab a pencil and make notations. (This is a bigger drawback than you may think. The rhythm of knitting is intrinsically pleasing and part of the reason I knit.) Two – I sometimes forget to write down a row. This can be disastrous. Three – it makes my knitting much less mobile as I have to juggle paper and pencil in addition to knitting. And four – if I lose the piece of paper, I am screwed. I cannot tell you how often I have done that – I usually make these scribbles on the backs of receipts, or on napkins, or other such scraps of paper.
It was about a year ago that I noticed (in a way that it sunk into my psyche) that the really good knitters whose work I admired on Ravelry always marked everything (increases, decreases, buttonhole placement, pattern repeats, etc) ON THE KNITTING ITSELF, rather than on a piece of paper. I bought lots of removable stitch markers and I have never looked back.
Above is a photo from when I was knitting the Audrey sweater for Emma. You can see that I use different colour removable stitch markers – green for decreases and orange for increases. I cannot even begin to tell you how much easier this makes my life. For example, I almost always increase and decrease at a different rate than the pattern calls for. If I do this, and don’t keep careful track of what I did, then I can’t make a second sleeve to match the first, or match the front to the back of a sweater. Now, I don’t worry about it, the markers show where everything happened, and I leave them in until all of the knitting is done.
To me, these removable stitch markers are nothing short of a miraculous tool for the modern knitter. Why did nobody tell me this when I started knitting?
Now, I will indulge in what may seem like a sharp change of topic. (It won’t be, but you have to stay tuned for the punch line.) In June, we went to Lebanon for a fabulous family holiday. My husband is a second generation Lebanese-Canadian. His grandparents immigrated to Canada circa 1905. Doug has been to Lebanon many times to visit with his extended family there, and finally succeeded in convincing me and the girls to visit. (I have always been worried about the political situation there which I felt would not be safe.) It was the most lovely family holiday I can remember, with beautiful scenery, fabulous food, and lovely people.
Our cousin Amira planned a great day of extended sightseeing, which ended up in the late afternoon in Byblos (Jbail). Here is a snippet from the Wikipedia entry for Byblos:
Byblos is the Greek name of the Phoenician city Gebal or in Bronze Age times as Gubal (Greek: Βύβλος, Byblos Lebanese pronunciation: [ˈbiːblos]; Arabic: جبيل Jubiyl Lebanese pronunciation: [ʒbejl]; Phoenician: 𐤂𐤁𐤋, Gebal and Gubal ; Hebrew: גבל, Geval). It is a Mediterranean city in the Mount Lebanon Governorate of present-day Lebanon under the current Arabic name of Jubayl (جبيل) and was also referred to as Gibelet during the Crusades. It is believed to have been occupied first between 8800 and 7000 BC, and according to fragments attributed to the semi-legendary pre-Trojan war Phoenician historian Sanchuniathon, it was built by Cronus as the first city in Phoenicia. Today it is believed by many to be the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the world. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Leah is fanatical about history and standing in Byblos was a magical experience. You can stand on the site of Phoenician, Roman and Crusader ruins, along a beautiful coastline. Among the ruins here are the Temple of Baalat Gebal built in 2700 B.C.E. and Byblos Castle, built by 12th century Crusaaders (from the remains of Roman ruins). Byblos is also thought to be the birthplace of the alphabet.
The photo below shows Leah standing in the remains of the Crusader Castle. Amazing, no? And to think that the Medieval ruins there are so young compared to the layers of Phoenician, Assyrian, Persian and Greco-Roman remains on the site; it gives me goose bumps.Byblos is a truly wonderful site, so seeped in history and so incredibly beautiful. It was also, on the day we were there, hot. We scrambled over the ruins, with no shade, at the height of the afternoon sun, with the temperature nearing 40C and plenty of humidity. As a measure of our lack of planning, between us, Emma, Leah and I had one ponytail holder and one hair clip. We spent the first hour at Byblos sharing them, with two of us putting our hair up and one with her hair down, and after 20 minute or so, switching around. Finally, in desperation, I emptied my massive handbag out, searching in vain for another ponytail holder. And what did I find? Yes, you guessed it, the magical all-purpose miracle removable stitch marker:
Please note, dear reader, as evidenced in the above photo, how very tiny these stitch markers are. How, you may ask, could this help in the aforementioned predicament? My response: never underestimate the ingenuity of a knitter!