Nowadays, every woman who gives thoughtful preparation to her wardrobe includes a variety of knitted or crocheted garments, because of their artistic beauty and their comforting warmth. Wherever women meet, the art of knitting and crocheting is discussed–the newest garments, the best stitches, the prettiest colors. Many have recently been converted to the charm of this work, realizing that machine made garments do not equal in softness, beauty, and distinctive elegance, those made by hand, and that, therefore, the time spent in knitting and crocheting is both pleasant and profitable.Pleasant and profitable. That goes right to the heart of why I fell in love with knitting.
Pleasant, in the sense that needlework steadies me sufficiently to keep me out of the Police Blotter. Profitable, in the sense that after the pleasure fades I am left with something tangible and (amigurumi and novelty fruit handbags aside) useful in exchange for my time.
The longer I'm at it, though, the less I find I care about the tangible outcome. I had been knitting for years before I learned about gauges and swatching; once I learned about them, it was another few years before I learned to care. I didn't want to swatch for the thing, I wanted to make the thing. A rogues gallery of the elephantine and miniscule hats that followed would be shown here as evidence, if said evidence had not been destroyed.
After the fifth gift hat a friend refuses to wear because she could easily fit her own head and those of both her children inside, you start to get the message: Swatch. Swatch, and learn something.
Nowadays I love practicing, experimenting, playing with process.
When I get the "What's that you're making?" question, about half the time the true answer is "Nothing in particular." But that draws puzzled looks and prolongs the conversation, so usually I just say it's a scarf. Non-knitters are satisfied, since they can't tell the difference and don't really care. Knitters glaze over at the word "scarf" and will happily change the subject, which allows me to go back to swatching.
A new-to-me technique is my favorite thing to swatch. Recently I sat down with a book that's been on my worktable in the "PLAY WITH THIS" pile for ages, Alasdair Post-Quinn's Extreme Double-Knitting: New Adventures in Reversible Colorwork. Full disclosure: I saw the book before it came out, and liked it. I liked it so much that there's a quote from me on the back cover, saying so.
But this was the first time I really sat down and threw myself into working from it. I'd played with two-color double-knitting before; but it was of the slip-this-side-then-slip-that-side variety and I found the process tedious and the results unsatisfactory.
I like Alasdair's method, though. You get a firm, handsome, dense fabric with it. And when I say dense, I mean dense enough to wear as a winter hat in Chicago when you are a bald male of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern descent and therefore are genetically designed to crumple at the first blast of January wind from Canada.
Alasdair takes "Extreme"–a sadly overused word these days, often denoting either a modest level of skill or an immodest level of bad taste–seriously. His basic method in two colors is a bit of challenge to begin with; but he blows past two-color reversible patterns into working it in the round, shaping it, adding extra colors, working different patterns on opposite sides of the same fabric, double-knitting cables and other textures, and building three-dimensional double-knitted objects. He would probably have zoomed onward into metaphysical double-knitting that alters the time-space continuum if the editor had not at last told him to Put a Lid on It.
I waded into the shallow end with a wrist warmer. The design in the book is cute–a pair of opposing spirals–but as usual I had to get funky and Make It My Own so I adapted a pair of charts from a book I bought at the university bookshop in Reykavik. One is either a flower or a snowflake. The other is a dragon, a griffin, and a Boston Terrier all at the same time.
The result–worked in DK leftovers from my stash–was fun to knit. It's a real charge to flip your work inside-out and see the same pattern with the colors reversed.
This was fun enough that I know I'll take another crack at it, albeit with smaller needles. Alasdair urges you to work at a tightish gauge, and he's right. This specimen, worked with a size 4, would benefit from sliding down to size 2.
My wristlet looks more than a little frowsy and is much too big for my wrist, yet I keep getting compliments on it at the coffee shop.
Yeah. Cup sleeve. I know I said it was going to be a scarf, but I really meant to say cup sleeve.