Knitting the Gremlins Out

I’ve recently finished knitting the gremlins out of two projects I plan to take on a trip to visit family in California. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s not sufficient to simply cast on a project and throw it in my luggage. When I do so, I risk all sorts of gremlins appearing:

  • The yarn and needles may suffer from irreconcilable differences, and I have no other needles in my luggage to switch out.
  • The yarn turns out to be a knotty mess impossible to untangle while wedged in an airplane seat.
  • The project is too fiddly for good travel knitting.
  • The project requires more or different notions that I brought along.

So, if I’m going to take new projects on a trip, I always try to knit the gremlins out — I knit up enough of the project so that I get a feel for the pattern, and how well the needles work with the yarn. Sometimes, I knit a full repeat. Whatever I do, I try to make sure I won’t have any unpleasant surprises when I’m 36,000 feet up or otherwise far, far away from the nearest yarn store.

Project 1: The Rosebury Cowl

I’d been looking for a project to knit up three skeins of Debbie Bliss BFL yarn that I bought in Windsor, England. I finally decided on Rosebury, which is simple, pretty, and will use up just about all of the yarn. I cast on and began to knit.

Rosebury Cowl started


While I found out that I loved the color, and the pattern has just enough complexity to be interesting without being too fiddly, I hate the yarn. It’s splitty and fuzzy and lacks stitch definition. Ordinarily, I’d simply take it off the needles, place it in the donate bin, and choose another yarn. In this case, however, the yarn is a souvenir from a wonderful vacation, so I do want to knit it up.

The other gremlin? I realized that this project is just four repeats long, and that it’s going to go very, very quickly. If I take only this project, I’ll likely be underyarned.

Gremlins Tamed:

Well, probably not exactly. I’m using my 16-inch circular Chiagoo’s, which will help mitigate issues caused by the splittiness. Otherwise, I’ll console myself with remembering that the pattern is just four repeats. Four repeats, three balls of yarn, and it’s done. I’ll have a cute cowl that goes with a lot of items in my wardrobe, and a nice keepsake from our UK trip. This project will be all about the product, and I’ll have to live with the process.

With this project knitting up so quickly, I decided I’d take a second project to avoid being underyarned, which leads me to:

Project 2: The Mohair Smoke Ring

Recently, I purchased some mohair from Cloth Roads — handspun in Tajikistan. The laceweight wouldn’t take up much space in my luggage, so why not cast on a smoke ring? The pattern would be simple, and I’d get a neat conversation piece for my efforts.

Mohair Smoke Ring started


The only gremlin here was in the cast-on. I’m super-glad that I decided to cast this on ahead of time, rather than wait until I finished Rosebury. The pattern called for using a lace cast-on. Fine, I thought. Mohair has zero elasticity, so I had to have some sort of stretchy cast-on, because no way, no how could I count on blocking to get me a larger neck opening if I undershot the size I needed. For some reason, I just couldn’t make the lace cast-on look right, so I opted to try Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Cast-On (her companion to her bind-off method that works so well).

The cast-on method is indeed stretchy, but geez, is it fiddly. It took me a good part of an afternoon to get the stitches cast on in a manner I was happy with. And the first row of knitting? Another fiddly pain as I laboriously knit into each cast-on slipknot.

Gremlins Banished:

The good news was that once I had that first foundation row of knitting done, the pattern itself was an enjoyable breeze. The yarn is a glowy unbrushed mohair which is working well with my dark green wooden needles. I’ll be excited to get Rosebury finished so that I can concentrate on this smoke ring.

I’ve got both projects ready for the luggage, and I earnestly hope that no other gremlins are lurking in there.


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