This year, I wanted to find some time for a running project of trying out unfamiliar knitting techniques. Now, there are really only two ways to make a stitch when you’re knitting: you can insert the needle from the left and knit, or insert the needle from the right and purl. But that’s after you get started – persuading the yarn to organize itself and stay on the knitting needle long enough to serve as the very first row is a completely different problem.
There are many, many ways to create that first row of stitches, but the pattern I wanted to try out called for using “Judy’s Magic Cast-On” to create a decorative two-colored edge. Actually, I tried JMC several years ago, but the instructions I had then were so vague I couldn’t even create a first stitch – no matter what I did, the yarn slithered off the needles. This time, I had much clearer directions (written by Judy herself).
It’s straightforward enough, sort of – hold two needles side by side, hold two yarns in your left hand with one looped around your thumb and the other around your index finger, and alternate wrapping one yarn around one needle and the other yarn around the other needle. What could go wrong?
Trust me, I found a way. If you wrap the yarn clockwise when it ought to go counterclockwise, you too can create a mess and have the thrill of ripping out everything you’ve done after that. But eventually I managed to cast on 104 stitches of each color. (Yes, 208 total.) Yay me! Problem solved, right?
Um. Not exactly. JMC was invented to start socks from the toe end, with twenty stitches or thereabouts. I had 208 stitches to deal with. What I discovered when I started knitting the second row was that the yarn wrapped around the two needles got tighter and tighter and tighter the farther I went, until I just couldn’t coax a needle into the next stitch at all.
I wound up using a different decorative cast-on technique. Maybe next I’ll try a pair of socks and find out if I can make Judy’s Magic Cast-On work there.