I recently knit a neck piece out of Feza's Alp Premier yarn. It was fun - the most challenging part was counting to 231 for the cast on (tip: plop a stitch marker of some kind every 20 stitches or so, and count abacus-like as you progress and forget how many you've done.)
It's a great pattern for a beginner, because it's all knit, and the shaping is done through binding off a (sometimes) large number of stitches each row.
As you know, all knit fabric, called garter stitch, is reversible, so everything looks the same. Think about that, as you are slowly cruising through 200 stitches. It takes so long you forgot what you did at the beginning of the row. Was this the 5th time you bound off 4 stitches? Or was it the 6th? And you have to do that for 12 rows. It's easy to lose count.
Here's a few ways to keep yourself organized:
1. Keep a row tally. This means having a row counter at your side or around your neck. A scrap of paper works well, too. My daughter likes to put out 12 chocolate chips, and each time she starts a new row she treats herself to a chocolate chip. When they are all gone, she's finished that section. For this pattern, that method might cause you to gain weight. From 231 down to 3; that was a lot of shaping!
2. Count your stitches, and do the math. If you have cast on 231, and you bind off 4, then you should finish the row with 227, and so on.
3. Look at your rows, and read your knitting. Count the bind off sections (this is not always that easy, especially with this yarn, which uses so many novelty types.)
4. Watch your tail.
This is the real point of the blog; the usefulness of that cast on tail. Especially in garter stitch, where even though a fabric is reversible a designer will still insist one side is the right side, and shaping will often occur on the same side throughout.
I did the knitted cast on for this project (next time I'll use my favorite, the long tail. I wasn't sure I'd have enough left over for my fringe. But there was plenty.
Depending on your cast on method, your tail will either be on the right or left of your stitches as you begin row one. Glance at the little dangle there. For the knitted cast on, the tail is on the left; for the long tail, it starts on the right. And let me mention while I'm at it, don't be stingy with that tail. It should be at least 6 inches. This is so you'll be able to hide it later using a tapestry needle. If it's too short you won't have any flexibility with the needle. Plus you should weave around at least 8 stitches in different directions to hide it successfully and keep it from playing peek-a-boo with you later, after it's gone through a wash. So don't be miserly. If it's too short it will pop out on you, guaranteed.
What does your 6 inch dangle tell you while knitting garter stitch? It tells you odd from even numbered rows and it tells you if you finished a pair of sequences. For instance, I may have forgotten how many times out of 12 that I performed a certain bind off, but just by looking at my dangling friend, I can tell if I need to stop and count (tail on right side) or if I can just do what I did last row (tail on wrong side and I'm doing the same at the beginning of each row in pairs.) So at least one more, and then I should stop and think and count and maybe eat another chocolate chip.
Your tail is your friend. In human evolution maybe we once had one and now it's lost, but while your fabric is evolving as you knit, don't let that tail disappear until you are finished and ready to weave in your ends.
Here's the link for that pattern. I have another version, written a little more clearly, so if you need help don't hesitate to stop by the shop, leave a comment here, or email/text/Facebook