The Hell with Her Cast-On

I want to discuss the advancing theory that knitting is good for your health, lowing blood pressure and heart rate and generally bringing on bliss.

The latest expert to dig out her knitting needles is Jane Brody, 77-year-old health and food columnist for the New York Times.  She cites her own knitting group and describes herself as a “highly productive crafter.”  I remember (because I too was writing about cooking and food) that a long time ago, kidney beans were Brody’s elixir – they would solve all of life’s problems.  And now this.

She cites her own experience in a knitting group, and quotes from the esteemed Crafts Yarn Council.  She keeps pictures on her phone of all her finished products, and looks at them when she feels blue.  Accompanying her online column is a picture of her holding a large blanket festooned with 64, I counted, little cars.  While she was knitting those little cars, if Jane is like other knitters cited in these new reports, her blood pressure and heart rate went down with every one of them.

Jane, old friend, I have a question for you.  Have you ever tried executing the Twisted German Cast-On?  What about the kitchener stitch?  Or my personal favorite, the one I tried again this morning, Emily Ocker’s Circular Cast-On?  If you’re an artisan and not just a needle-clicker, you know unique techniques for special occasions.  This morning’s attempt at the Emily Ocker etc etc was my fourth.  Like the previous three, it was a failure.

In the case of Emily Ocker’s etc etc, you are going to be making something circular and thus, under ideal circumstances, you want your initial very few stitches to be arranged in a circle too.  Here’s how you make this happen:

With palm facing, make a clockwise loop around the last three fingers of your left hand, with the tail end lying over the ball end at the outside of your hand.  Hold the tail end firmly to your hand with your left thumb (leaving approximately 12″ for the tail);  the tail should be trailing toward you and the ball end away from you.  With a  DPN in your right hand and the the ball end facing you, wrap yarn around needle as if to make a YO, insert needle tip into the loop of yarn on your left hand, (from bottom to top) wind yarn around needle as if to knit and draw this stitch back out through the loop.”  That gets two stitches on the needle.

The preceding is from a Brooklyn Tweed pattern.  Brooklyn Tweed is the perfect child of Jared Flood, a photographer and knitwear designer and scholar of the knit stitch.  He can make anything more beautiful, more intellectual and way way harder.  One of his favorite cast-on methods, now gone from my memory and my pattern stash, took a page and a half to explain.

But here’s why knitting groups are good for the health:  when I told my dozen or so knitting friends that I’d had an epic fail on the Emily Ocker’s Circular Cast-On, they looked mystified and said the perfect thing:  why would you want to torture yourself with stuff like that anyway?  Exactly.


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