KNIT HACK Short Rows & Mrs Watson

Mrs Watson In Progress

Spring Knitting ADD: Part 2

Yesterday I spilled about my Spring Knitting ADD, and told you about the project I’m working on when the weather is warmer, Gillespie. Today is part two, the project I’m working on when the weather is chilly, MRS WATSON.

I’ve had my eye on Mrs Watson for a little while since it is designed with my favourite sweater yarn, Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light. The pattern is written by skilled shawl designer Martina Behm, so it’s got cred. After knitting six sweaters with the yarn I’ve got a few leftovers, and I figured I can probably work up something fun – hence multiple colours! I also like that the pattern has an interesting shape – it kind of looks like a leaf.

Mrs Watson KNIT HACK

Knit Hack: Colour Code Your Short Rows

 

The stripes in this pattern are formed by working short rows (wrap & turn), which aren’t hard, especially since you don’t have to pick up the wraps (a benefit to working in garter stitch). Keeping track of where I am in the short rows was less easy, especially if I was distracted, or recovering from a post Knitters Frolic hangover (it usually takes me a week to get back to normal after a big event). No problemo, I devised a Hack!

Hack Materials

Rainbow Locking Stitch Markers

This hack requires a very inexpensive, but specific product: stitch markers in the colours of the rainbow, two of each colour, and a total of 8 colours.

knit hack stitch markers

We are going to colour code our short rows with coloured stitch markers, so you know where each wrap is supposed to happen, and in which order they are going to take place.

1. Organise your stitch markers by colour, in the order of the rainbow: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple (I put peach after orange, and aqua after green). If colour theory isn’t your forte take a picture of your markers in order to help remind you later.

2. At the start of each short row pattern repeat, with your work in front of you, READ through the short rows (do not knit it) and place the markers, *in order*, whenever the pattern says to wrap & turn (W&T). Your first W&T will be red, your second will be orange, the third will be peach, the fourth will be yellow, etc.

Placing the Markers

In Leaf Pattern 1 of Mrs Watson, the instructions are as follows (omitting the actual pattern numbers – I don’t want to step on Martina’s copyright):

Row 2: K to X sts before centre st, w&t.  So we count to X stitches before the centre stitch, and place the first marker (red) on the needle there. Turn the work like you would if you were actually knitting.

Row 3: K to last Y sts, w&t. We count to Y stitches before the end of the row, and place the second marker (orange) on the needle. Turn the work like you would if you were actually knitting.

Row 4: K to Y sts before next wrapped st, w&t. We count to Y stitches before the next marker (the red), place the third marker (yellow) on the needle. Turn the work like you would if you were actually knitting.

Row 5: K to Y sts before next wrapped st, w&t. We count to Y stitches before the next marker (the orange), place the fourth marker (green) on the needle. Turn the work like you would if you were actually knitting.

 

This forms the first side of the short rows … now on to the second side …

Row 6: K to …. last X sts, w&t. We count to X stitches before the end of the row, place the first marker (red) on the needle. Turn the work like you would if you were actually knitting.

Row 7: K to Y sts before centre st, w&t.  So we count to Y stitches before the centre stitch,  place the second marker (orange) on the needle there. Turn the work like you would if you were actually knitting.

Row 8: K to Y sts before next wrapped st, w&t. We count to Y stitches before the next marker (the red), place the third marker (yellow) on the needle. Turn the work like you would if you were actually knitting.

Row 9: K to Y sts before next wrapped st, w&t. We count to Y stitches before the next marker (the orange), place the fourth marker (green) on the needle. Turn the work like you would if you were actually knitting.

You might be wondering why you need more colours of stitch markers? As the pattern progresses you’ll have more short rows in each section, and therefore need more markers.

Working the Short Rows

Ok, we’ve got our markers in place – now it’s time to reap the benefits! Again using Leaf Pattern 1 of Mrs Watson as an example:

Row 2: P1, k to X sts before centre st, w&t.  We follow the pattern and work to the first marker (red), slip the marker off the needle, wrap the next stitch and turn the work (W&T).

Row 3: K to last Y sts, w&t. Work to the next marker (orange), slip the marker off the needle, wrap the next stitch and turn the work (W&T).

Row 4: K to Y sts before next wrapped st, w&t. Work to the next marker (yellow), slip the marker off the needle, wrap the next stitch and turn the work (W&T).

Row 5: K to Y sts before next wrapped st, w&t. Work to the next marker (green), slip the marker off the needle, wrap the next stitch and turn the work (W&T).

Etc, yada, yada, yada … you get the gist of it – the markers you have placed will guide you where to w&t, and in which order they need to be done. Once you’ve finished your wraps there shouldn’t be any more markers on the needle. If you are extra cautious about keeping track of your wraps you can use locking stitch markers and place the marker that has been removed directly into the wrapped stitch – there won’t be any question after that.

Orienting Yourself

The whole point of this hack is to help you avoid short-row distraction disasters. So if you are distracted and come back to your work, wondering where you are in it, here are some clues to look for:

  1. Mrs Watson is essentially shaped like a leaf, with a main vein up the middle and secondary veins shooting off the sides. In the short row repeat, with the Wrong Side (inside) facing you, the right side of the leaf is worked first, then the left side is worked second.
  2. You will always know which is the next marker/w&t that is supposed to be worked because they are placed in order of their COLOUR.
  3. You will know which wraps have already been made because the markers will have been removed (or are in the stitches)
  4. Keep an extra locking marker on hand that looks completely different than the others you are using, and if you put your work down place the odd one in where you leave off.

Tracking Hack: Mini Charts

Another little issue my short attention span ran into in this pattern was the formatting. Sometimes the way a pattern is laid out on the page gets in the way of my being able to keep track of where I am in it. For example, in Mrs Watson the pattern says “Work rows a – g in Body Pattern 2 and rows a – h in Leaf Pattern 4 three more times. Work rows a – g of Body Pattern 2.” Great! I understand what it says, but looking at it makes my head hurt.

Knitting pattern publishers write things in this way to save space. If they wrote it out in a way that made it easy for us to tick it off as we went it would take up much more space, adding pages, and making the publication much more expensive. I bought Mrs Watson digitally and printed it out myself, but it was also published as part of a hard-copy book, which is part of the reason why the formatting is less brain-friendly.

Not to worry, there are workarounds for situations like these. My grandmother was a very experienced knitter and used to keep track of stuff with little checkmarks in the margin. But in this pattern the pattern repeats actually repeat, check-marking each line won’t work, there would be marks all over the frickin’ page! In situations like these you need to employ an information management system:

1. Re-Write

If you are a newbie or live with a learning disability and really don’t remember what you are supposed to be doing at any given time, you can re-write the prescient parts of the pattern row by row. I suggest doing this as a cloud-based digital document (like in Google Docs) so you can make changes, always have a copy, and return to your instructions on the fly (you’ll have access wherever your phone or iPad goes).  If you have a digital version of the pattern the PDF file might even let you capture and copy the text, so you can put it directly into your document file (you’ll have to change the formatting, but the text will be there).

As you knit, just tick off the rows as you work them. This method will use much more paper, but it will help you keep track of both where you are AND what you are doing. Plus, you can make and preserve copious notes to yourself in the document- always good if you make it again.

mini chart hack

2. Charty McChartface

If you are more seasoned and just need a way to keep track of where you are (and not what you are doing) consider drawing a little table or chart. If you are less experienced you can make them in a cloud-based document program (again, useful for revisiting past work). I just scribble mine in the margins of my pattern (a nod to my grandmother). The picture above is a little chart I’ve made for my current section of Mrs Watson.

Title:  Each pattern repeat section gets a chart, each chart gets a title – the title is very important, it lets me know where I am in the pattern. I’m currently working Body Pattern 2 & Leaf Pattern 4, therefore I have crudely titled it B2L4 (on the right side of the picture).

Rows: The next part is the table itself: I’m alternating two different types of pattern repeats, Body sections and Leaf sections, so my table has two rows, labelled B for Body, L for Leaf.

Columns: The final part is the columns, which reflect the TOTAL number of times I have to do each pattern repeat.  The pattern reads: “Work rows a – g in Body Pattern 2 and rows a – h in Leaf Pattern 4 three more times. Work rows a – g of Body Pattern 2.” So I have to alternate working the Body and the Leaf sections a total of four times, and then do the Body one more time; I need a total of 5 columns. I’ve blocked out the last space of the Leaf section so I know that it does not happen.

I’ve got five boxes for Body and four for Leaf. As I work, I check off the box for each section after I have completed it. If there is a mark in the box, I know it is finished.

 

Mrs Watson

After explaining all this in detail I feel like you might feel like it is a complicated pattern, but I want to assure you that is is not. It does require a little bit of information management to keep track of where you are, but that’s about it.

Yarn Options

Any Sport weight or DK weight yarn is ideal. The pattern is designed with Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light, an alpaca-wool blend, but for a spring/summer version try a seasonal yarn like Cascade Ultra Pima Fine, Berroco Summer Silk, or Handmaiden Silken.

Other Materials

Notes

BTW, if you want to make your Mrs Watson larger, Berroco published some instructions HERE, but it involves repeating pattern repeats, so you’ll have to plan this before your start.

Mrs Watson Hack COMBO.jpg