We went to Sydney for a holiday, for a week. I did not intend to take any knitting with me as I knew I would be busy, and thought I would give my hands a rest. However, just listening to my mother describe a woman knitting on the plane on one of her recent trips was enough to make me change my mind.
Fairisle knitting is not very travel-friendly: too many different balls of yarn, a bit of concentration required to avoid too much unravelling. So I began a new project, a scarf. I rarely knit scarves, thanks to the amount of time (years) it took me to knit one when I was a teenager. I remember doing a lot of stretching and pulling, trying to make that scarf longer. The stitch pattern was a mistake – I think stripes created by knitting five rows of stocking stitch then repeating a knit row to create a strip facing the other side, a horizontal rib in a way, so that the work kept shrinking instead of growing. The yarn was also a mistake, some sort of mohair mix or fake mohair; whatever it was, it was too itchy to wear. I think I may have used the needle size recommended on the yarn label instead of a few sizes larger, which not only speeds growth, but makes for a more drapey and comfortable scarf.
This time I grabbed a pair of short 5.5 mm needles (18 cm long, made for children), some 8 ply wool (200 g ball), and a Bendigo Woollen Mills scarf pattern that I bought some years ago. I tossed them into my case, with the attitude that if I felt like knitting I could, but as the materials occupied so little space, I did not need to feel obliged.
The only time I knitted was while we were in the apartment, which was not a lot of time. We were busy, out each day enjoying Manly beach, the zoo, the Powerhouse museum. Yet I knitted most of the scarf while we were there. I finished it a few days ago, at home, so it took less than two weeks, and none of that time was spent knitting furiously. I am surprised.
Some scarf knitting tips:
- The fringe can be wound off the ball of yarn at any stage, even before knitting has commenced. I like to knit a bit of scarf (or blanket) first, to get an idea of how far apart I want the tufts of yarn, and how many strands per tuft.
- Ignore the instructions about measuring pieces of yarn for the fringe. Instead, find a book of a suitable size, or a DVD cover, and wrap the yarn around that the required number of times. The long side of a DVD cover is my favourite length.
- If you want to use the whole ball of wool, no more, no less, once the work is in progress, measure a convenient length of yarn from the needle (a metre, a side of the table in front of you), and mark the end of that length by making a slip knot. Knit to theend of the length (make sure you also marked the beginning of the length on your needle if it was not the beginning of a row),then count how many stitches or rows you worked. From that you can calculate how much yarn you need to knit a row.Allow a good bit (half row) extra for the cast off row. I also know that I require a little more yarn for a knit row than a purl row. For this scarf, I needed to allow enough yarn for three rows of garter stitch and then casting off, so I measured 4.5 metres from the end of the yarn (enough for a little over 4.5 rows) and madea slip knot in the yarn, so that when I approached it I knew it was time to finish the scarf.
- The ends can be incorporated into the fringe. I just caught them in the crochet hook along with the fringe yarns.
This is written with awareness that not everyone likes a fringe on their scarves. People who know me would probably prefer it if I did not have fringes on my scarves either. I fiddle with them too much, although I try to leave them alone, and toss the ends of my scarves to my back partly to combat this tendency.