In Search of Lost Time: Short Rows
I wanted to talk a bit more about my short rows ideas (this was not clear from my Ideas post, but I have two separate ideas involving short rows). I’m finding it very interesting how some of my designs just work perfectly on the first try, as if by magic, and others make their way into the world over a period of years, leaving many failed attempts in their wake. I wonder, do other designers experience this also? Or are the "slow" designs just a result of my ideas being way ahead of my knitting ability?
In the first short rows idea, the short rows all occur over the same stitches, making the front of the hat significantly taller than the back. This results in a cloche shape, with the top of the crown toward the back of the head rather than centered on top of the head. In the second idea, the short rows occur "randomly" throughout. I say “randomly” because, although it appears random, it's actually arranged so that after a given number of short row segments have been completed, the same number of rows have been worked for each stitch in the round.
My first try was Idea 2, in Zara. It starts with a ribbed band, as did all my hats at the time. The short row sections are in stockinette, with one strand of burgundy held together with one strand of lilac. Between the short row sections, I knit a few rounds in reverse stockinette, with two strands of burgundy held together. This hat was not actually a total failure; it was just kind of mediocre. I probably would have posted about it, but I wasn’t blogging yet. It fits well (at the time, it was actually my best-fitting hat – I was having some serious size issues back then). The biggest problem with this hat is the colors. I used one MC + one CC (instead of 2 CC) for the reverse stockinette bands on purpose, because I thought it would obscure the little jog that occurs where you switch to reverse stockinette. It does obscure the jog, but the whole thing just looks kind of, um, muddy. And, I no longer care about jogs. You can’t really get around them in circular knitting, so I’ve learned to just accept them. Another, more minor problem is that I continued with the short row sections for too long, then did a final band of reverse stockinette, followed by some very fast decreases in stockinette. Due to the decrease speed, the last band of reverse stockinette puckers a bit.
Second try: Idea 2 again, in camel and grey Margrite Bulky. After a ribbed band, everything is in stockinette stitch. The short row sections are in the grey. The ribbed band, and the rounds between each short row section, are in the camel. Problem 1: There is not enough contrast between the two colors, so the camel bands do not stand out enough against the grey background. Problem 2: The hat is ginormous. Biggest problem: My short-rowing technique is awful, and you can see little puckers and/or holes where the wraps were picked up. I wonder why that didn’t happen with my first try. I’m assuming it has something to do with using two strands held together.
Third try: Idea 1, in grey Misti Alpaca Chunky. The entire hat is in garter stitch. Minor problem: I didn’t know yet about the alpaca issue, so although the hat fit perfectly right after I made it, it quickly became too big. (I did manage to wear it twice before it grew.) Major problem: Since garter stitch was used throughout, the short row sections don’t stand out AT ALL. It may as well be a plain old garter stitch hat. The good news is that my short rows don’t look bad in garter stitch.
Fourth try: Idea 1 again, in brown Ribbon Twist. I figured I’d get around the Major Problem by knitting the short row sections in garter, as before, then doing the crown decreases in stockinette. This idea may have worked, had I been a better knitter at the time. However, I grossly miscalculated the point at which the crown decreases should begin. Newbie that I was, I figured I could fix that by decreasing more slowly. Result? The hat comes to a very pointy point on top, and looks like a Hershey’s Kiss. (It certainly doesn’t help that it’s brown.)
Fifth try: Back to Idea 2. Cashmerino Aran. (Side note – you can tell how surprised I was by all these failures, by the quality of the yarn I was using. Nowadays, when I try out low-confidence ideas, I use cheap yarn!) I decided to use garter stitch for the whole hat, so I wouldn’t have short row issues. I decided to use black and white, so I wouldn’t have contrast issues. I did the short row sections in black, with a few rounds of white in between. This idea may also have worked, had I been a better knitter. When you knit garter stitch in the round, you have to knit one round then purl one round. You get a subtle “seam” at the end-of-round, where you switch between the two. If you don’t pull the first couple of stitches of each round tight, you can get some gapping at the “seam,” which is a Bad Thing. There are also some tension issues when you are switching colors with several rounds between switches, and carrying the yarn up rather than breaking it. These two things combined completely overwhelmed me, and my “seam” was Gap City. With Puckerville in the suburbs. Also, I didn’t really like the color jogs - they were very noticeable due to the high color contrast.
Sixth and current try: I’m back to Idea 1. I’m using a skein of Noro Kureyon that I had in my stash. I’m doing the short row sections in garter stitch, with a few rounds of stockinette in between. Due to the self-striping, the short rows would have been visible (albeit in a more subtle way) even without the stockinette breaks, but I like them anyway (and besides, I could make another one in a solid yarn and it would still work). I’ve been trying the hat on as I go, and it fits. The short rows look good. The stitch jog (aka the garter “seam”) is very subtle and does not bother me. Using one yarn means no color jogs and no gapping problems. Last night I believed I was headed directly for success and then BLAMMO! I ran out of yarn. But it’s Kureyon! So I can get more, without worrying about matching the dyelot (or even the colorway, for that matter – anything that has a significant amount of either black or grey in it should work)! I’ll be off to the LYS this afternoon. Of course I can’t say “success” until the hat is actually off the needles, given my history of crown decrease nightmares, but it’s looking pretty good. I think I’ll buy 2 skeins, so I can take a similar stab at Idea 2 when this hat is finished. Time Regained!