I don't proclaim myself a fearless knitter. To me, anyway, that seems kind of self-indulgent - what's there to fear? It's a hobby, not so precious that trying something new is sacrilege or an act of heroism. Cutting a steek is not like, say, needing to perform gravely risky surgery on the only astrophysicist left on Earth, with failure meaning the whole planet falls into the sun. Perspective, perspective in all things.
That is, I thought so until Friday, when the sleeves of the Nowegian Jacket reduced me to dizzy, squeaking hyperventilation. I'd outlined a cuff treatment I felt pretty good about - it involved a deeply-slit cuff, finished on either side with a turned-back edging. This was to be accomplished by working a narrow four-stitch steek, binding off and cutting when the notch was deep enough, working the edgings, then picking up along their top edges and continuing with the sleeve. Easy to dream up, easy to describe, and as it turns out, absolutely terrifying to execute.
The steek, cut, and looking quite docile and obedient. The unraveled half-stitch of gold at the bottom edge was to be expected; the blue steek stitch and gold border stitch appeared to be holding together just fine. I didn't reinforce in any way in order to minimize bulk at the edge - those stitches needed to go inside the hem, and thus needed to be kept clean and unencumbered. Besides - faith in Shetland wool was easy, glib nonchalance easier.
The reverse of the stitches picked up all along the gold border stitch. Notice that there's NO STEEK LEFT - it's unraveled completely. I say again, THE ONLY THING HOLDING IT TOGETHER ARE THE PICK-UP LOOPS. I didn't believe there was such a thing as scary knitting until I saw adjoining stitches, one by one, working free and coming undone as I picked up, totally helpless to stop it.
The picked-up edging knitted up, the loose steek strands waving and bristling and trying to escape with every tiny flex and twist of the needles.
Picking up the reverse-side loops for casting off together with the live stitches of the edging to make a folded hem. I say again, PICKING UP THE LOOPS THAT FORM THE ONLY BARRIER AGAINST COMPLETE RUIN. Even with a teeny needle, the mere act of picking them up loosened them dangerously, opening up their already-tenuous hold on those very short cut ends.
I didn't take pictures of the three-needle bindoff. It was horrible - stitches on both needles are stressed more than usual to knit them together. The cut ends were only 3/8 inch long or so - stretching the loops to put the third needle through freed them completely a couple times. The blindness caused by beads of sweat in my eyes (also: bloody, bitter tears) was not helpful in mustering the concentration necessary to keep fitful, spastic jerking and jarring at a minimum.
Was it worth it?
Because those ends are actually tightly encased inside the hem, they're held securely now. They'll start to felt with the first wash, but the whole shebang is already remarkably solid and stable. Lesson? Fragile relationships with sanity are best preserved by avoiding stupid mistakes - even Shetland wool won't hold if coning oil isn't washed off before cutting. Duh.
Even given all that, I might eat the yarn before I'll do it a second time. Please, someone tell me asymmetric looks are in this year?