Thursday, July 02, 2009

fun with knitting designs

Today I am going to channel my inner knitblogger (didn't know I had one? She's in there), so if you don't knit and are bored by discussions of crafts you don't engage in, this is probably a good time to look elsewhere.

I am having heaps of fun doing my first serious design work. I've adapted patterns and played with stitch dictionaries, and I've free-form knitted a number of hats, but this is the first project where I've had a clear vision and tried to figure out how to get there.

The vision is simple: Blue Ridge April. I was enchanted by the colors that my brother and I saw as we were driving through Kentucky and Tennessee this spring, and immediately decided that there must be a knitting project using these colors in my future. I pondered for several weeks, came up with a rough idea, and bought my yarn. Now the fun part begins. See here my first trial, capturing the basic idea and seeing how it might work:

The idea is to work in stripes of green and off-black, with splashes of the purple worked in in short rows to create some nice curving lines, and the yellow and pink as tiny accents. I worked off a very loose chart dictating the placement of the purple. Once I'd gotten to about this point, I had learned a number of things: first and most important, what my scheme looked like in the real world, and also some technical points surrounding short rows (I only found out about "wrap and turn" about halfway through, and I learned to knit backwards to avoid the bother of turning my work every two seconds). I decided it was time to rip the whole thing back, come up with a proper pattern, and then knit to that.

Behold: my first-ever written knitting pattern!

About 20 rows in, I am once again re-assessing. Is this what I want it to be? Does it look right? Even if I like the overall effect, am I prepared to live with certain little irregularities, or do I want to rip back and correct them? Is it all just completely wrong and I need to throw out all my ideas and start from scratch? Should I have waited to find a yarn that could give me the several shades of green I'd originally envisioned?

One of the many problems with this kind of dilemma is that, while knitting, one pretty much wants to keep on knitting. It's very easy to ignore suspicions of deep design flaws while you keep working stitch after stitch. I think there's a basic, engrained assumption that the more I knit, the closer I get to my goal: it's pretty hard to shake up this notion and remember that, if what I'm knitting doesn't look like what I want to end up with, working on it longer will not magically fix that.

So I've decided to put the shawl down for a while (did I mention it's going to be a shawl? I use the word loosely: more of a shrug or capelet-type thing, I'm still deciding what kind) and come back to it after a few days with some perspective.

In the meantime, I'm starting on my plan to use up some cotton/linen yarn that has been cluttering my stash for way too long. I bought it to make a tank top for which it was eminently unsuitable, tried it for a few other projects (none of them any better), and at last came to the realization that I don't even like the yarn. This is a problem, since I have more of it than I have of anything else (except some Patons Classic Merino, but I don't imagine I'll have any trouble coming up with a use for that). At last I have decided to make as many washcloths as I can stand. Having a quick, simple project, and the freedom to play with stitch patterns in the middle, should make it tolerable, even disliking the yarn as I do. And I do need more washcloths. Now I just have to decide what designs to put in the middle. Initials? Some kind of picture? Random geometry?

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