2.07.2011

provisional CO fiasco

Recently, I've taken up a lot of lace projects - especially since I'm knitting for myself this year. I just adore lace! It's entertaining, challenging, and not to mention beautiful when completed. My non-knitting friends always "oooooh and aaaaah" over my lace projects (once they're blocked of course)! So, in the midst of knitting and constantly browsing through triangle lace shawls, I've become attracted to lace stoles and scarves as well. I've always loved scarves and their wider sisters, stoles, but I seem to have never knit true lace ones before now.

So, I came across the Spring Leaves stole pattern AGAIN for the umpteenth time, and I just had to cast on immediately. You know that feeling! Well, guess what! This pattern has you cast on provisionally. That way you can knit in one direction and when you are finished with that side, you can pick up your cast on and knit the opposite direction. This allows the pretty lace pattern (in this case lacy leaves) to all face the same direction at the ends of your stole. ALRIGHT! I'm going to be honest here: I had never done a provisional cast on up until then or at least properly that is. I'd avoided it like the plague and found alternative methods of doing things when it was asked of me to accomplish. Now that you know my deep dark knitting secret, you can take a deep breath! I'm not really the Superwoman Knitter you thought I was!

This dilemma of NO provisional cast on's set me on a YouTube and internet search for the most perfect way to accomplish my first real attempt at using a provisional cast on. I defaulted to my tried-and-true favorite knitting specialist: techknitting.com. TechKnitter is so smart, helpful, talented and deserves lots of gold stars for her tutorials/pictorials that she offers for FREE on her blog. Hands down my favorite knitting technique blogger!

After lots of debating, I decided to use her COWYAK method (not sure why I can't link to the article directly, but you can find it under the "NEW Revised Unified Index" and then scroll down to "CAST ON: provisional"). COWYAK stands for "CAST ON (with) WASTE YARN AND KNIT." Simple enough, I thought...

Silly me! I finished my first half and went to pick up my 77 sts that were provisionally "waiting" for me on the other end. Now, I'm a woman who does have some patience (I knit lace for goodness sakes!), but I don't seem to have much patience for activities that stress me out and give me heart burn (like live stitches in my half finished lace stole). I probably spent 30 brutal minutes or more just picking up the stitches one by one, counting, examining, counting, staring, shaking, cursing... you get the idea. I vowed never to put myself through knitting hell like this again. Knitting is supposed to be my calm producing agent in all the chaos of life, not the instigator of my cortisol levels rising!

Obviously, my obsession with stoles and lace scarves had not diminished, but now only increased after my dramatic experience - probably because I knew deep down I had to conquer this ridiculous fear of provisional cast on's. Us, knitters, can be so stubborn sometimes. Why can't I just be satisfied with what I know and know well?! So, I found another smaller project with a provisional cast on that was less stressful if I needed to rip back, behold the Traveling Woman Scarf. This time I was determined to find a different method to use and remembered that Knitty had had an article a long while back about a magical provisional cast on. It had the word Magic in it, so it had to be good! I went searching through Knitty and quickly found this article. Ummmmm... this was definitely the article I had vaguely recalled, but I wasn't knitting socks though! Crap! I kept reading the instructions and going through the article over and over when the light bulb came on and I thought "Hey, I can use this same method, but just knit each side flat versus in the round."

I grabbed some scrap yarn, found a YouTube video to follow along with and set to work. BTW, Cat Bordhi is a riot to listen to! Once I got the hang of the cast on itself, I knitted 10 or so rows in one direction using only one of the needles/sides, set that down and then picked up my other circular needle I had used to cast on with (the one that was chillin' utter style as Cat would say) and started knitting the opposite direction. It totally worked!! I was so happy that I did a little dance! Note: you do need to have two of the same size circular needles to use for this method, or use interchangeables and swap out needle ends as needed.

The real test came when I used it on the scarf project itself. I cast on that same evening, knit one bottom lace end of the scarf, and then just picked up my waiting circular needle at the other end and knit in the opposite direction. It was MAGIC! My only alteration I made was to drop the first and last five stitches and reverse them from knit to purl stitches, because the edges of the scarf are done in garter stitch and I wanted the pattern to not be broken here. Wow, oh wow! I was as happy as clam in high water!

I'm sure I'm not the only one that's done this before and I am by no means claiming stakes to this trick. Just wanted to share my l'il knitting story with you and what helped me to over come one of my many knitting fears! Do you have a stress reducing knitting tip you wanna share? Come on, tell us all your secret tricks!!

Hugs and stitches!

-Ve

18 comments:

Turtle said...

i adore knitting lace but yes, it can be so frustrating at times! I have found that i tend to always stop on a chart row that when beginning again will read right to left (as some charts go back and forth) I also use post its to help mark the row as i go, sometimes even a mini post it to mark my spot in the row as i go along. maybe a little more time consuming but really can help.

Maryse said...

So funny! I did a provisonal cast on this weekend and after I had made some research, I found a similar method on YouTube! I was so glad I did not have to pick up stitches from scrap yarn too!

nightpaws said...

What a coincidence! Just yesterday I started a circular shrug using the same caston as a provisional one. Great minds think alike (not that mine is great, just slightly crazy most of the time)

Catalina said...

Well I have to confess that I'm terrified of knitting lace! I will overcome it, but I'll do it at my own pace (I guess?) hehe.
What I do to avoid getting stressed by my knitting is to alternate a challenging project with one that I know I will be able to do with out much difficulty :)

Suzanne said...

Hurray for you! I'm so glad you referenced these articles and videos. I've got some lace in my mental queue.

sacha said...

So you and I are having similar experiences... I too had never cast on provisionally, but I decided to try it (thanks to YouTube) for the, much easier than a lace project, Mohair Bias Loop and... the casting on wasn't bad--- however, I wish I'd thought of your two needle method on the pick up---

Keya said...

I am so glad that you mentioned what works for the Traveling Woman scarf! My mother and I are about to begin our own little KAL with this pattern, and in 30 years of knitting, I've never done this type of CO. Definitely appreciate the mention of the video. Thanks.

Laurie said...

Another member of the Lace Knitter Fanatics checking in. LOL! I kind of fell into provisional cast ons in an easier way - the first ones I tried were in bulky yarn and very easy to master. I am going to check out the "Magic" one though!

My secret tip: If you're trying out a new technique, practice it with worsted yarn and #8 or #9 needles till you get the hang of it. I agonized over toe-up socks for a couple years till one day I just decided I was going to knit big old toes till I had it right. Took about three "sample toes", and I can't ever imagine NOT knitting socks from the toe up. YAY!

Susan G said...

I have wanted to make spring leaves for along tim e- but I too fear the provisional cast on - maybe now I'll give it a go with the cat bordhi method you suggested.

The Krazy Sheep said...

I have one name for you:
Elizabeth Zimmermann.

Seriously, go find yourself a copy of Knitting Around or Knitting Glossary on DVD. Best-Provisional-Cast-On-EVER. IMHO.

Ann said...

Come on over to the dark (aka "lace") side of knitting! Seriously, I'll probably print out your post & put it in my notebook, as I've always detested provisional cast ons too. Thanks for doing the research, and I hope your project gives you a happy ending.

flossie said...

lace knitting!!! I REALLY need to find a way to move through a chart so that I don't look far ahead and do the wrong row. It's a problem.

Gwenn said...

I've been trying to talk myself into a lace project, I have gotten as far as looking for patterns but that's it. Great post!

Brenda said...

I'm always leery of the provional CO too, because many patterns say to crochet a chain, and I never can get the chain to come undone properly. I too dicovered Judy's Magic Cast-on for this purpose and I love it.

Tas said...

I have a secret fear of big projects that require shaping, like sweaters. But I have a goal this year to do a tank top or a vest--something simple-ish and that will get me into the trend. Best of luck to you all!

Laura said...

lol. I can't say i have a stress tip for knitting b/c i use knitting for destressing.

Can't wait to read these tips!

Laura

aknitontheside said...

Recently I totally mucked up my crochet cast on and spent ages trying to rejig the stitches to look right. I found your method explained recently on a video within the Knitcircus online mag - genius! You can be sure that I'll be using this method from now on (and I've been doing Judy's magic cast on for toes of socks for ages now and can't believe I didn't think of this!! - duh)

Pavlina said...

Oh, have a glass of wine and watch a good movie while I knit is always great, unless it's a difficult pattern than it's distracting.

Have fun knitting Ve and I look forward to seeing you at Churchmouse in a couple of weeks, hopefully before that!

Love your cast on idea! Thank you.