Of Rats and Jen (Inactive)

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

The Thrill of Knittery – the Agony of De-Finger

Filed under: Retired - Folkcat's Fiber Crafts — folkcat at 6:18 pm on Thursday, September 15, 2005

I’ve been feeling a little off the last couple of days, and blogging is one of the things to have suffered in that slump.

In spite of it, though, I managed to do some work on a new knitting project. I’ve decided to tackle a multi-piece, semi-fitted garment for the first time. Socks don’t count, really – they’re elaborate tubes. What I’m talking about is a sweater vest.

The goal is to inexpensively enhance Gryphon’s career- and interview-oriented wardrobe. I actually picked up the pattern something like 3 or 4 years ago, I think. Lately, however, my return to knitting, and my involvement in the community of knitting bloggers, has propelled me into tackling more and more projects of types I’ve never done before.

The pattern isn’t a fancy one. It calls for basic worsted weight yarn. In spite of never having knit a sweater-like garment before, however, I have already modified this. The original pattern has you knitting a back and a front, and seaming them at the sides and shoulders. You then pick up stitches for the arm- and neckbands to complete the vest.

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Copyright 1988 or so – Some Styles Never Die
My immediate thought was that every seam you have to stitch is another place where something can go wrong. Not to mention more work to do. So I’m working this in the round as a single piece.

I spent a day making swatches to figure out what needles to use. Turns out I want to go one size down from the 5’s and 8’s called for in the pattern. This meant digging through my circular needles and figuring out that I had no size 4’s, and I had one size 7. The size 7, though, is too small a length, and it was showing signs of the metal plating chipping at the join with the cable – which was itself coming very loose. I was also going to need size 4 dp’s to work the armbands on.

I really didn’t have the budget available in my crafting funds to buy new needles. I talked it over with Gryphon, though, and he decided it was worth stretching the household budget to supply me with the proper tools. As he said, “You’re knitting at what I consider a professional skill level. If your tools are poor quality, they’re going to wear out faster than they would for someone who’s just knitting occasionally. It’s worth spending the money to get you the right tools for the job, tools that will last longer and will give you better results.”

*sigh* I love him. He understands my work, and he appreciates and supports it. So we went to our LYS yesterday, and bought three – yes, three – sets of Addi Turbos, sizes 4, 5, and 7, as well as a basic set of size 4 dps. A stretch to the budget, yes, but they’ll last far longer than equivalent money spent on lesser brands.

Showing a small cough and running a low fever Wednesday, (and short on sleep from an uncomfortable night), my plan was to spend the rest of the day quietly at home. So, of course, after we got back with the needles, I got to work on the sweater vest.

The yarn is Red Heart Super Saver. Oh, shush. I know some of you out there are cringing, but A) it’s a very suitable yarn for the results desired, which are a basic, crisp-looking sweater vest that we can throw in the washing machine; B) it was on sale at A.C.Moore, which means this is costing less than $5 per vest; and C) …well, “C” is for I don’t Care what anyone thinks, because after all, there are no bad yarns – only yarns that don’t suit your personal tastes and purposes, and shame on anyone who thinks it’s appropriate to think less of someone for using them.

For what it’s worth, I have been showing Gryphon some of the higher-quality yarns at the LYS – the superwash wools and the better acrylic/wool blends. (Machine Washable is a must-have quality.) He really liked the feel and colors of the blends, and we’ve calculated that it would cost around $30 for enough blend yarn to do one vest. It’s on the list for when we can afford better – which may be a while. Meanwhile, considering that I can knit him six vests for that same $30 – we’re going with inexpensive.

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5 Inches Already – and no, that’s not purple, it’s navy blue
I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I worked with a basic worsted-weight yarn. Once upon a time, that was almost exclusively what I knit with. My signature piece was a Fisherman Knit afghan, all cable stitches and all worked in one piece on circular needles. I must have knit that thing at least 20 times in my life.

But it’s been a while -the latest bout of knitting (the last two years), I’ve been working with lots of Lion Brand Homespun, and with smaller weights of yarn – DKs and sock yarns and laceweight. This sweater vest is the first significant amount of acrylic worsted knitting I’ve done in a while.

A fact which was really driven home when I was reminded – if I don’t protect a certain joint in the little finger of my right hand as I knit, I get a nasty, painful callus that can develop into a blister.

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The Start of the Pain
The reddish patch in the center of the circle is the beginning of this again, resulting from how much I’ve knit on the vest in the last day.

Fortunately, this is easily avoided. I just have to remember that it’s going to happen. But so long as I wrap that joint with a simple adhesive bandage – with the pad on the inside of the finger – it’s protected from whatever rubbing it is that causes the problem.

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It’s That Simple
I’ve never really understood why this happens – and now, I don’t understand why it only happens with basic worsted-weight yarns. I knit Continental Style, which means my right hand never lets go of the right needle. But it’s not like I have a death grip on the thing.

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Showing the Position of the Little Finger Around the Needle
The only theory I have is that at the range of size generated by worsted weight yarns and appropriate needles, the skin inside that joint of that finger rubs together in a bad way.

So, I just have to remember to approach my crafting like any professional athlete does, and put on my protective gear before I start. It probably wouldn’t hurt to flex and stretch the hands a bit, too. And to remember to put the needles down at least once every 45-60 minutes, and do the flexing and stretching again. (And probably get up and walk around a little, too, and let my eyes focus on something farther than 12 inches in front of me.)

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