Happy Stitches

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A Little Excursion into Fox Paws April 26, 2015

Fox Paws designed by Xandy Peters

Fox Paws designed by Xandy Peters

Fox Paws is a crazily unique design by Xandy Peters. I’ve long regarded knitting a creation from another designer as an excursion into their brain. It’s often an interesting journey. In this case, it resembled an extremely enjoyable potholing or spelunking trip.

My first acquaintance with Fox Paws was whilst on my way to speak to the Snohomish Guild in Washington. My kindly and thoughtful drivers factored in time to stop at a beautiful yarn store, Serial Knitters, should the traffic gods be with us. They were. The Fox Paws wrap displayed in the window stopped my in my tracks before I even entered. It was the most striking, beautiful and un-knitting-like piece of knitting I have ever seen.

It was extraordinary. I began to hear a little of its story: about the store knitalong and the fact that the Yarn Harlot had knit one fairly recently.

After Madrona, I headed east for some housebound winter hibernation and resolved to give this design a whirl. I don’t usually have much time for recreational knitting, it takes away from my available time to work on the designs I have brewing. I purchased Xandy’s pattern on Ravelry anyway (I sometimes just buy a pattern as a vote of support for the designer despite knowing I may never knit it. I file it under Retirement Projects).  At this point, I had been happily chugging away at my Blossom blanket for the last six months, and the rounds were a merry 1400+ sts in Kauni. Although I love Kauni, it is not the most satin soft of yarns. My hands were craving a bit of variety, and some indulgence with Cat’s Pajamas was very alluring. Done deal. I was curious.

I paused to read Steph’s blog post.  Her  knitting adventures always make for great reading, and she had dropped a few cryptic remarks about vows of silence and the k5togs(among others!) when I saw her at Madrona . A long road trip loomed, the perfect time for some recreational knitting. I would leaven the Blossom with the Fox Paws. Yarns were packed, always a last minute grab and go for me. I leapt in blind.

The first mistake I made was that I changed colour straight after casting on (reading error on my part), but I actually like it and copied it for the bind off. At first, I kept losing my place in the row (this is not a design to allow your attention to even momentarily wander) and this work is not easy to unknit or count. I quickly learned not to embark on a row unless I could go the whole way. Fortunately, the Trans Canada Highway across New Brunswick is singularly unexciting.  I was fine unless my driver had the temerity to try to engage me in conversation. I did find it a bit tricky to read the multi-line rows, it took total concentration to keep track of where I was and how many times I had repeated an action. This would have been a great time to make an audio pattern. (Speak the row out at knitting speed and record it on your phone. Play it back through your ear bud as you knit: no need to take your eyes off the work).

Throughout the growth of the first repeat, I found myself marveling at Xandy’s creativity and cunning (also wondering what mind-altering concoction she must have been ingesting at the time). This is a superbly clever design. There is an excellent logic to the design: the vertical stacks of stitches that make the fingers and the stalks have a pleasing consistency along the same row. It really helps if you are familiar with the k1-O-k1 increase before you begin (one of my favourite increases). The clumps of extra stitches do feel a little awkward on the needle, and the frequent slipping of two stitches back to the left-hand takes a little practice (you will get plenty). The joining method, which is heralded by the k5tog, is dependable and easy to remember once you have done a couple. The pattern is made additionally challenging because the pattern action rows (believe me this is James Bond kind of knitting action) take place on WS rows. This makes it harder to keep your bearings.

This is NOT take it to the guild evening kind of knitting.

In fact, peaceful music without lyrics is about all I could handle.  I limited myself to one pattern row per knitting session, and there were times when that was enough! Fox Paws is quite challenging but might well change the way you think about knitting stitches. I can only imagine the considerable work it took to design and write this pattern, Xandy has done a great job, hats off to her!

Cat's Pajamas Solids

The  Cat’s Pajamas colours that I used were: Lime, Hot Pink, Mango, Turquoise and Damson

If I were to make another Fox Paws, I would:

#1 Use wood or bamboo needles with lace tips: Addi lace or Hiya Hiya sharps.

#2 Once I have chosen the colours and designated them A – E, I would take the time to colour code the table of colours to save confusion.

#3 Practice the k1-O-k1 increase and the k5tog decrease. This decrease isn’t too bad if you slide all 5 stitches onto the taper of the left needle before attempting to stuff the second needle into them. Lace needles would help a lot.

#4 Develop a personal shorthand diagram for each pattern row.  I’d reduce the stacks of stitches to an annotation of stack 3 or stack 2 and reduce the joining method to  dec+2 or dec+3. This is not something the designer could or should do for you. It’s about how you picture it. In my mind this would be a combination of diagram and text.

#5  Read the knitting. Pay attention to the stacking of the double decreases (at the junction between repeats), if they don’t line up vertically every alternate row, something has gone wrong.  The k1-O-k1 increase at the top of the fingers should be  over the central stitch. It’s hard to fudge the numbers if they are off and this pattern is NOT easy to un-knit.

#6 Keep the stitches nearer the tips of the needles than usual.

#7 And lastly, I would NOT rely on stitch counting – it’s very hard to do and there are an awful lot of them on some rows!

All in all, this design is well worth the effort, and the results are just fabulous!

Happy Stitches!

Air Conditioned Mittens from A Little Book of BIG Holes for Hand-knitters!

Air Conditioned Mittens from A Little Book of BIG Holes for Hand-knitters!

As a side note: our Flash Sale on Bundles has been extended until Thursday!  Bundles are collections of patterns and other digital products which will be stored in your Notebook upon purchase.  Take a look, you might find something to inspire you!

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4 Responses to “A Little Excursion into Fox Paws”

  1. Bridget Says:

    Excursion. Politically correct. I’d call it the Adventure from Hedoublehockeysticks! BUT, I was one of those ‘counters’. After tearing it out several times, I wasn’t going to let it beat me. Hubby knew not to talk to me while I had it in my hands. I could read the stacking, but if it didn’t stack, I had to tear it back to a ‘normal’ row. HAHA, I crack myself up. A normal row? Anyway, it took me about 3 months to finish, but I DO love it. No call for it this last Winter, but I’m sure it will come in handy next year. I often wonder what was in Xandy’s mind when designing this. Anybody???!!!!

  2. pugster2013 Says:

    Your colors for the Fox Paws pattern were my favorite of all the projects. May I ask you how you decided which color to do next or was it just random? Thanks for any other tips you may remember.

    Pam Dunn
    Jonesborough, Tennessee

    • As far as I remember I just chose a bunch of colours of my Cat’s Pajama’s yarn that seemed to play well together, then designated them A, B, …. Etc. And then let serendipity take it’s course!


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