Friday, July 13, 2007

Knitting with Spaghetti

Every year on vacation I try to take a class and learn something new in the fiber arts techniques. Last March, I took a beginners class in weaving. This summer, I decided I would like to learn how to knit two socks at the same time using circular needles. I have watched other knitters using this technique and I must say, it looked efficient, straight forward and (I so foolishly thought) should be fairly quick to learn if one is already proficient at knitting complicated sock patterns using double pointed needles.

One should not tempt the Knitting Gods.

Lois, the cheerful proprietor of the Allyn Knit Shop, greeted me and gave me a worksheet which listed all of the recommended materials. I spent the next thirty minutes happily fondling sock yarn and picking out colors. That task accomplished, Lois suggested Addi Turbo and Addi Lace needles to start the learning process rolling. She explained that Addi Turbo needles are silver with grey connectors and Addi Lace needles are bronze with pink connectors. Since the knitter (victim?) alternates knitting between each set of needles, Lois said the two colors help prevent using the wrong needle by mistake. She then suggested the first attempt using this method should be a basic sock with 2 x 2 ribbing at the cuff. I listened carefully, still under the happy delusion that this was going to be fun.
The first step required me to cast on sixty (60) stitches using the silver circular needles and one ball of sock yarn. I then changed to a second ball of sock yarn to cast on sixty (60) stitches on the same silver needles for the second sock. Using the long tail method of casting on, I boldly started my knitting adventure. This was to be the first and last row I approached with confidence.
The second step was to take the bronze circular needles and knit the first thirty (3o) stitches from the silver needle using the first ball of yarn, then switch to the second ball of yarn and knit 30 stitches from the second set of cast-on stitches. Suffice it to say that I am not used to knitting with needles that are somewhat impeded by another set of stitches blocking my way. Stitch #25 must have sensed my vulnerability. Suddenly and without any warning, it leaped off the knitting needle and converted itself from a quiet little knit stitch to the more nefarious dropped stitch. I was confronted with two long strands of yarn strung between the neatly purled stitch and waiting cast-on stitch.

Experience has taught me it is both quicker and easier for me to simply yank all the stitches off my needles when I drop a cast-on stitch and start over, rather than try to pick up a dropped stitch. In disgust, I yanked all the stitches off the needles, only to realize in that split second before all the stitches dropped to my lap that I only needed to redo the cast for ONE sock not BOTH!

Determined not to let some pointy sticks or some insolent yarn get the best of me, I doggedly cast on for a second time and started the transfer of stitches once again. After five minutes of careful concentration, I had successfully divided the stitches for both socks and was ready for the next step.

Step three requires that the knitter hold both strands of yarn to the back on the project and TURN the needles 180 degrees so that the silver needles are in the front of the work and the bronze needles are at the back. It was at this point that I realized that knitting with two sets of circular needles for the first time is very similar to trying to knit with two spaghetti noodles after they have been in boiling water for 2 minutes. The ends of the needles hung limply together attached in the middle by the beginnings of the socks. The yarn tails of my cast-on had somehow wrapped themselves solidly onto the entwined twin strands emanating from the balls of sock yarn, which had themselves inexplicably changed places with each other. You know things can't be going well when you hear your teacher mutter "Oh, my!" behind you.

Fifteen minutes of careful untangling left me ready for the next step. It sounded easy. Using the silver needles I started off......Knit two.....Purl Two.....Knit Two......why don't the stitches look right? @#$%^%$!!!!! I needed to start off the row with purl two! I de-knit the 14 wrong stitches and started over. Purl Two.....Knit Two....Purl Two....Knit Two.....All. The. Way. To. The. which point I realized that I had forgotten to change to the second ball of yarn at the end of the first thirty stitches. I think I showed remarkable restraint when I resisted the urge to fling my knitting into the middle of the parking lot (and then jump up and down on it for good measure)! Groaning, I deknitted the last 30 stitches, changed to the second ball and tried again.

By now more than 90 minutes had passed and I had managed to knit a humiliating one and a half rounds on two socks. Taking a deep breath, I held the yarn to the back of the work, turned the needles, and stared in disbelief as the yarns once again magically, and with great determination, changed from an organized knitting project to a twisted, ugly mess.

And so the afternoon progressed. The three hour session seemed like three minutes (if those three minutes were underwater without air tanks or a snorkel!) I had managed to knit six, that's right, folks, SIX whole rounds! I was exhausted and had the beginnings of a migraine. Thoroughly humbled, I carefully packed up my project, thanked Lois for her patience, and slunk off to my car.
I still want to learn this technique (if only not to let it defeat me!) but I think I'm going to have to wait a little bit before I try again. In the meantime, I have this great little tote and some interesting sock yarn. It should look pretty cute on top of the bookshelf with my other knit decor!


Tina T-P said...

Ok, so that's why I crochet. T.

Mel said...

Oh, dear. That sounds really quite maddening. Can I share a quick bit of personal experience? I knit my first pair of socks out of Sockotta, and because of the cotton content the yarn was really quite unforgiving. I wonder if 100% mightn't work better for a first pair of circular 2-at-a-time socks?

Not to mention, that's four socks worth of yarn. But at least is isn't nutty expensive.

zquilts said...

Oh My ! If YOU are this frustrated with the technique - I won't even try this! I'll stick to knitting one sock at a time !

Danielle said...

I knit my first socks on 2 circulars, but toe up. It was alright, but I really didn't feel any desire to knit another pair until I tried them on dpns. Much, much more enjoyable!

Keep trying and I'm sure you'll get it. Once you get going in the right direction, it gets better, but it does take longer for each round as you're knitting 2 at once! :)

Sharon said...

Thank you, Kathleen, for showing that it isn't just me who thinks that method is whack! (Did I say whack?) I mean, I can appreciate that some knitters swear by the technique, and I admire your resolve--you got much farther than I ever could. But I'm content to soldier on with my dpns.

ChrisKnit said...

Look at me!!! I am spinning

5elementknitr said...

Would it help to put the skeins into two separate ziplocs?

This works for me when I do sleeves or front/backs of tops and CO for both at the same time.

Knittin' Kninja said...

I received the Harlot's book yesterday! Thank you so much!!!

ahousefullofboys said...

Hey there,
Don't give up it is worth it to say you've tried it. But I still prefer to do one sock at a time on 2 circs. It is easier to fix mistakes on one at a time than have to go backwards on one that may have no mistakes at all.

sophanne said...

Sometimes we are thinking exactly the same. Only I decided that the technique that I needed to learn was 2 socks on one 60" addi turbo-no lessons-just web tutorials. The thing of it is, I totally grasp the mental concept of it all. It's negotiating the physicalness that left me beside myself and with a similar pile of spaghetti.

The title of your post also made me laugh because whilst teaching 2 grandkids to knit last summer (age 6 and 4) the younger of the 2 was really not ready to knit. After much enjoying of yarn and needles, we decided to declare that he knit "Italian Style" He turns the ball of yarn into spaghetti. He has since taken to it like a fish to water (cruising through lumpy bumpy style at Thanksgiving) and has now surpassed his older sibling. With so many knitting "styles" out there. I though Italian would be a good addition.

uberstrickenfrau said...

Yeah, this is why I haven't even TRIED to do the two socky thingy.
I was reading on Sophanne's blog that your from NM-ME TOO!!! In fact I'm leaving to go see my mom in ALB in a day or so. Wow, such a small world!

sophanne said...

So here's what I learned at the LYS today.
From the Obvious Information Office-

Before I try to knit TWO socks using the magic loop, maybe I should just try one. (I'd never done that)

The sock expert at the store suggested that I get 2 socks started on dpns and transfer them to the circ.

I may try again before the summer ends.

Yarnhog said...

There's nothing like feeling a little competent to get the knitting goddess to smack you down hard. As I tell my son, it builds character. said...

I hear your pain - keep trying, you'll get there.

HomeJewel said...

Have you tried Magic Loop method? You can do one sock at a time or 2 socks at the same time. What I like is that you don't have to buy so many needles - just one long 40-inch circular needle (I use Addi Turbo).

This site has video tutorials on Magic Loop and also 2 circular method. You might find it helpful.

Don't give up yet :)

Helaine said...

Thank you for this post that would had been me. I would had tossed it in the parking lot and set it on fire!!! BTW do you live near allyn knit? I work in Port Orchard and can meet you if you want to meet another wa state knitter.

Hugs, Helaine