Monday, November 26, 2012

"Unlike most knitters do"; on Slipping



I've been having a fascinating conversation with a knitter on Ravelry. My correspondent, the clever Patty-Joy, left a comment on my Bigger on the Inside pattern, suggesting a correction to the pattern.

I quote her comment here (emphasis hers):

"Another urgently needed pattern update is to indicate at the very start of the pattern that, unlike most knitters do, you must not slip the first stitch as if you do you won’t have nearly enough stitches to pick up the Tardis section."
This surprised me enormously, I'll be honest.The section of the pattern she's referring to is charted, and there isn't a single slipped st in the chart. The first st of every row is worked in stocking stitch.  I wouldn’t have thought, when writing the pattern, that I needed to make a note to not slip, since the instruction is specifically to knit (or purl) the stitch. And nowhere anywhere do I talk about slipping stitches.

What struck me was that Patty-Joy was suggesting, effectively, that knitters routinely ignore my chart...

Now, as a teacher and long-standing knitter, I'm well aware that there is a school of thought that you are to slip the first stitch of every row. But I didn't think that it was that common in practice.

As a designer, I only expect knitters to slip a stitch when I tell them to. And as a teacher, I tell knitters to only slip when the designer tells them to.(In general, IMHO, slipping the first stitch is only helpful or desirable in two situations: if the edges of the piece are going to be exposed, a slipped-stitch selvedge creates a nice edge; and in the heel of a top-down sock, slipping the first stitch of every row is used to help knitters figure out where to pick up stitches. It most other situations, it makes your life more difficult: I find it makes seaming harder, and it reduces the places to pick up stitches - applicable in this situation.) So yes, Patty-Joy's statement surprised me. It surprises me that knitters do slip that stitch in the face of instructions that tell them specifically to knit (or purl) it. Which causes me to wonder how many people do, as a matter of course, slip that first stitch? Do you?

25 comments:

Deadlysmurf said...

Generally I assume that the pattern writer knows something I do not, and to follow their lead. (unless I'm already filling other gaps in the pattern because it's not a well written pattern)

I don't variate from the pattern unless I have committed sufficient time before hand to visualize if my brain-changes would work in that pattern.

If I've knit something before, I'm more likely to make changes to the pattern.

Jessica L'Heureux said...

No. I am also a designer and instructor and have run across a handful of people that have gotten into this habit and in fact gotten themselves into trouble because of this habit. I thought it was a local problem, due to a local instructor because when questioned about this they told me an instructor had told them to "always do this" and even implied that they were taught patterns were designed with this in mind. They have been corrected - through example and sadly, some disappointment. I am a "follow the rules and instructions" kind of knitter - not to say I don't stray creatively from time to time, but slipping edge stitches isn't what I would consider a creative stray. Do you know of ANY published works advising this action?

Erin said...

I do slip the first stitch. My grandmother (who taught me how to knit when I was eight) told me to do this and I've been doing it ever since. As a result it never occurred to me to NOT slip the first stitch!

Several months ago I did take one of your classes (in which you advised against the slip stitch) and I've been trying to remember not to slip ever since but I must admit that old habits die hard and I've ended up, more than once, having to take out a section of knitting with both slipped and non-slipped stitches!

Kristen Jancuk said...

designers couldn't possibly predict and account for all the potential knitting quirks being put into practice by knitters. i don't generally slip 1st stitches; on the rare occasion that it occurs to me, i check to determine if it would affect the pattern in any way before doing it. regardless, i definitely wouldn't expect the designer to tell me NOT to do something i've dreamed up in my own head. if they say "knit," and i slip, the result is no one's fault but mine!

Annika said...

I never slip the first stitch. I don't even know if I could remember to do so if instructed to!

aliceq said...

I don't even remember what I was taught about slipping stitches at the beginning of a row (I've been knitting for c. 50 years). But once I encountered the concept, with the notation that it makes for a neater edge, I tried it, once, on a sweater, and discovered that it made seaming difficult. Another sweater called for slip stitches on pick-up edges, and instructed the knitter to alternate picking up 1 and 2 stitches to get the right ratio. The button bands on that sweater look really messy, so I wouldn't do that again!

stephanie said...

It never occurred to me that there would be knitters who always slip the first stitch regardless of instructions, until a little while ago I had a student in class who said something like "you mean slip the first stitch, right? Because you ALWAYS slip the first stitch of the row." Like Erin, she was taught the practice by her Nan, who was firm on the point. I think knitters who do this are the minority though, and I admit that I'm surprised that they would do so - even when instructed to do otherwise.

That said? I sometimes slip the first stitch, when it makes sense and is helpful to do so... especially on heel flaps - and I do it even if the pattern doesn't suggest it. So maybe I shouldn't talk. ; )

Yarn Yenta said...

totally depends on the project.
I was told for years to never slip the first stitch on lace. It can tweak the blocking. BUT then I made suki which had me slip the 1st stitch. and i liked it, no issue with the blocking, but it was not a severe blocking.

on scarves i slip the stitch. also purlwise not knitwise. does that matter?

Fiona said...

As a relatively new knitter, I would only slip the first stitch if the designer (no doubt eminently wiser and more experienced than me) instructed me to do so.

Suzy said...

Elizabeth Zimmerman was a first stitch slipper. And in typical EZ fashion, she said it was "knitter's choice" but she always did it. I only slip the first stitch when either instructed to do so, or in the two specific cases mentioned by Kate. But (interesting tidbit) when I took a Continental knitting class, the instructor told us to always slip the first stitch. Perhaps the slip first stitch habit is a continental thing? (EZ was also a continental knitter.)

Caroline M said...

If I'm following a pattern I'll do what I'm told if I trust the designer. In the absence of a pattern I'll usually knit the first stitch in lace because it gives a more elastic edge (or so I think) and I'll slip where I know I'll be picking up stitches afterwards. Slipping that first stitch looks neater but looks aren't everything.

If I was the designer and I'd carefully thought though edge treatment I'd be annoyed to be picked up where I hadn't fallen.

Back to lurking now..

Emily said...

I don't slip the first stitch unless the pattern says to or it is a gusset heel.

Rowan Falar said...

I tend to follow the instructions blindly for the first go round on a pattern. After that if I like the pattern, I tend to tweak it to personalize it. However, I don't automatically slip the first stitch.

I guess it depends on how you were taught.

Jenny said...

I almost always slip the first stitch (purlwise if on stockinette, knitwise if on garter). But if the pattern is knit in pieces for later seaming, or if there are any instructions for the picking up of stitches, I add a stitch to the edge as my selvedge stitch and pretend it's not there in my stitch count. Also, I'm a thrower rather than a continental knitter. I don't remember how I came to slip that first stitch (self-taught), but otherwise I find my tension is all wonky on the edges. It's SUCH a habit now, and it has affected a couple garter stitch patterns, since it makes the edge less stretchy. Though not as much as you might think, esp. in stockinette! Interesting that someone would think MOST knitters slip like that.

Kirsten said...

Jenny has sparked some dim memory of reading an instruction to slip the first stitch if you're having tension trouble. I'll hopefully remember to come back if I find the reference.

My grandmother taught me to knit, and she didn't slip the first stitch (also not a continental knitter). I do it on heels when instructed to, but I only recently started doing it on the edges of garter stitch pieces that will be a finished edge on their own (ie, not seamed).

I think Kristen put it well when she said "designers couldn't possibly predict and account for all the potential knitting quirks being put into practice by knitters."!

Kirsten

astoriaAnn said...

I've never even heard of slipping the first stitch. I've done it on heel flaps because most patterns say to, but otherwise, no.

Robin said...

I hate these sound bites that many knitters incorporate into their work without considering the outcome. I teach a hat class with homework and once had a student turn up, having slipped all the edge stitches. Even though she did not follow the homework instructions,she was furious to discover she could not easily pick up the correct number of stitches required. However this only happened once out of all the times I taught that class which indicates that most knitters do follow the instructions.

Anonymous said...

Why not add something about this to Knitty's abbreviations page. "Unless stated in the pattern, we do not intend you to slip the first stitch of every row" - there is no way that yours could be the first Knitty pattern that people who slip first stitches have had trouble with.

But isn't it also fairly simple just to pick up 2 stitches per slipped stitch if you have been slipping?

snoringcat said...

I find if you just tell someone to do something, they will blindly follow.
But if you explain WHY you're telling them to do something (why it's done that way), then they will be more likely to think before doing, and better prepared to reason out for themselves why it might work in some instances and not in others.

It's the old "teach a man to fish" analogy....

Pam said...

I'm the opposite of these people - I don't really like the result from slipping the first stitch, so I almost never do. If a pattern tells me to slip the first stitch, I still see what I think when I'm swatching before I do it on the garment.

vtknitboy said...

Really ? I don't know anyone who does that unless the pattern says to or unless u want a specific edging.

Karen said...

I am in the 'the designer will tell me what to do ' camp. Some projects benefit from a slipped first stitch and others don't, but I don't feel experienced enough to always know the difference. If I feel comfortable changing the pattern I will, if I don't, I won't. Having said that - unless the pattern says to slip the stitch I don't.

Barbara S. said...

Nope...not unless I'm told to. I know it makes a difference and figure the designer will tell me if I am to slip that stitch.

NathalieS. said...

I can count on one finger when I didn't slip the first stitch. I know myself, how my knitting should look, so all the pattern designer had written I inspect carefully, check, think through, and do it the way I believe is most effective. It may or may not match the pattern designer's way. And I don't think it's matter, since it is I who will wear the finished item, not the designer. So her/his opinion is OK, but I don't consider it a law for me :)

Anonymous said...

When I was first learning I was told by a lifelong knitter that I should always slip the first stitch. So now I know that was not correct, but what do I do with the cardigan that is ready for the button band and does not have enough stitches to pick up? Are there instructions somewhere to help with this issue?