Once upon a time in a terrible place not far enough away I was an employee in a call centre run by an evil controlling micro manager.
This micro manager was concerned with all the important things. Like if I said 'bye' instead of 'good-bye'. If I used the client's name 3 times, even if they just rang up to confirm something simple. And she would never, ever deign to explain why something had to be done a certain way because if I was a good employee I would do exactly as I was told every minute of the day even if there were 1,995,974,327 little rules to obey and she wouldn't tell me which were the really really important ones to get right and which ones there was some latitude on. Because as a good little robot employee I was supposed to get them all right all the time.
Then one day a visitor from another part of the organisation told me something simple. He explained why it was important to use one particular phrase when granting clients an extension of time to pay their bills instead of another. Apparently they had slightly different legal meanings which could result in a huge difference if the client never paid their bill and we had to take them to court.
And the funny thing was that from that day I ALWAYS used the correct phrase because now I knew WHY it was important. I still messed up lots and lots of the other little rules because no-one ever explained to me why they were important. But I never messed up enough to be fired and one day my saviour came and swept me away to a new job in accounts away from the evil micro manager. And years and years later I heard she had left the organisation under a dark cloud for claiming to be sick when instead she was down at the pub. So it all ended happily ever after, if not quite as quickly as I would have liked.
"So what has all this got to do with knitting?" you may ask.
Well although my mum taught me how to cast on and knit and purl, I have taught myself most of my knitting skills from books and magazines and articles and blogs on the internet. And wonderful as all these resources are, they often exclude the little 'why' tidbits that one person teaches another when passing on the love of a craft. Every now and then I can feel the gears turning over in my head as I realise something that is so blatantly obvious that no-one ever actually explains it but which would have been really really useful to know one project back.
For instance, in my current short row ribbed scarf (yeah, yeah, pictures will come one day when I find the camera), the author gives out the tidbit of information that the "slip, slip, knit" decrease is preferable to the "slip one, knit one, pass slipped stitch over" decrease because it forms a tighter and neater decrease. Which probably explains why my first short row scarf was a lot bumpier than the one pictured in the pattern.
So of course I use the "slip, slip, knit" decrease on this scarf and surprise, surprise - no bumpy joins!
Now grateful as I am now for that bit of information, I can now add two more little tidbits to anyone else learning their knitting skills by perusing blogs like mine. And which would have been so easy for this author to include except she didn't because it was so blatantly obvious to anyone who knows what they are doing.
Firstly, if you choose to knit this short row ribbed scarf pattern (which I highly recommend as it is quite a fun pattern which gives a nice result and an interesting variant on the standard scarf), you will find it a lot easier if you realise it is a 3,3 ribbed pattern (that is 3 rows of stocking stitch alternating with 3 rows of reverse stocking stitch). This tiny tidbit of knowledge will save you hours of counting stitches trying to work out what row you are up to BECAUSE IT WON'T MATTER. IT WILL BE BLATANTLY OBVIOUS. YOU WILL AUTOMATICALLY KNOW WHETHER TO KNIT OR PURL A ROW BECAUSE YOU UNDERSTAND THE WHY of the pattern.
Sorry for shouting, but I can't help getting excited when I've worked out something.
I just wished I had worked it out before muffing up a section early in the scarf which I hope no-one will notice except me.
The second tidbit gem has to do with the business of slipping stitches knitways or purlways. Now it is important to follow these guidelines as if you don't, at least with the short rows scarf, you will end up with a hole in the middle of your work.
But again, you don't need to follow the written pattern blindly, if you understand the WHY behind this business. When doing short rows you turn around the work before you get to the end of the row and if you are changing which side the 'bumps' are on it is important to wrap the yarn around the turn stitch or else you end up with a hole. You automatically wrap the yarn when making sure the stitch is slipped knitways or purlways but GUESS WHAT! If you concentrate on ensuring the turn stitch is 'wrapped', it becomes obvious whether you need to slip knitways or purlways.
Hopefully this will make sense to someone and help them on their knitting way.
But if they are like me they will be reading this as they look at their last project thinking "so that's why it ended up bumpy and full of holes. Wish I had read this before I knitted it."
I'll just go away now and stitch up a few holes in my scarf that formed before I worked out this wrapping and slipping business for myself.