Sunday, April 20, 2008

In praise of the Feather & Fan -- and Stitch Markers

This traditional knitting pattern is probably my favorite afghan pattern. It looks good in thin or thick yarn, makes a good scarf, stole, or throw. It's the simplest complicated-looking pattern ever. For all its wavy, lacy effects, every row has the same number of stitches. The pattern is only a 4-row repeat, and 3 of those rows are simply knitting or purling across! Doing the pattern in a single yarn focuses on the contrast between lacy and solid sections. If you change colors after each repeat, the focus is on the wavy texture (good for an ocean/water theme).

Even the one thinking row isn't hard at all, just increasing and decreasing across. It is good to have a row where you have to think: this is the row where you can tell quickly if there are any problems. If things aren’t lining up properly, you will see it on the pattern row.

This is also the introduction to the miracle of stitch markers for many new knitters. If you haven’t used markers in your knitting, you may think they are just one more silly gadget the yarn shop folks are trying to foist on you to get your money. Considering that markers cost only a buck or two (or a whopping 5 dollars for more sturdy ones), that is hardly an effective tool for yarn shops to get more of your money, but I know it may feel that way.

If you feel you don’t need markers and just start working a feather and fan blanket, you will spend more time counting (up to 150 or however many stitches) than enjoying your knitting. And it's really easy for the pattern not to work. The pattern won't look like the picture... and how come the circular needle isn't long enough -- and how did you get 500 stitches on there? It happens.

Out of exasperation, you may break down and buy some markers. Then, once you start placing a marker after each repeat of the pattern, you will know the joy of having to count only to 18 (or 17 if you are using some variations of the pattern) -- a much, much smaller number. More experienced knitters may count to 3 (for the first set of decreases), to 6 (for the increases), and then look ahead to make sure there are 6 stitches to the next marker for the last set of decreases. Life becomes so much simpler and pleasant that you laugh out loud! And you will appreciate the order and joy that these little rings bring to your life when they aren’t busy disappearing into the sofa cushions.

And on the rows where you just knit or purl across, simply slip each marker to the other needle when you come to it. That way, they're waiting for you when it matters.

Just a satisfying pattern.

1 comment:

Milehimama said...

I don't knit but I crochet, and I've always just used bobby pins as markers. Would those work for knitting, too? I HAVE to use them if I'm making a hat, or else it won't fit anything human! LOL

Thanks for your comment on my blog!