Monday, November 20, 2006

Decision-making: Not my strongest point

Norma asks: What are you knitting on THIS INSTANT?

Nothing. I'm sitting at my computer typing. Ha.ha.

With Saturday being the start of Knit Unto Others, the fact that I had a strong belief that Dulaan knitting should be done in wool because it is warm, my (erroneous) belief that I had no wool that was unspoken for, the fact that Dulaan knitting is due in July while the Red Scarf Project is due the end of January, and the fact that I still had a considerable amount of the one pound of Caron red yarn (acrylic) from last year's Red Scarf Project, this weekend I cast on for a red scarf.

Almost immediately, I regretted this decision.

I did some swatching because I wanted to modify a pattern from a Vogue knitting Scarves book (the pattern called for sport weight yarn and I was using worsted). I tried size 10 needles and hated the look of the resulting fabric (I guess I'm too used to making tight-knit socks these days). I switched to size 8 needles. This was better, but I wasn't enjoying the yarn so much. Undaunted, I figured out the modifications of the pattern that I needed, ripped out the swatch, cast on, and completed about a foot of scarf.

I hated it.

The pattern had horizontal ribbing along the bottom edge and vertical ribbing along the sides. This created a look of concentric rectangles in the finished scarf which was very nice. But the vertical ribbing pulled in the sides too much, making the bottom look weird. And this being acrylic I wasn't confident I could block the problem away. I ripped it out.

By this time, I had really started to dislike the yarn. It was stiff and unwieldy. It didn't help that A was sitting next to me knitting a scarf out of KnitPicks Andean Silk, an oh-so-soft alpaca, silk, and merino blend. I pondered what I should do next. I looked at various pattern books. I couldn't come to a decision. I sat and watched tv and mised out on prime knitting time. I went to bed.

The next morning, sitting in front of my lightbox, I cast on for another red scarf, this time a basketweave pattern with a seed stitch border. I thought that maybe part of the reason I found the yarn unwieldy was that I was using bamboo needles and the yarn wasn't sliding off the needles as easily as I am used to with my Inox express and my addi Turbo needles when I knit socks. But, I didn't have size 8 metal needles, so I went back to using 10's. I wasn't sure I liked it, but I kept on trucking. I put my knitting down to wash some dishes, then went to my room to listen to my audiobook and do some serious knitting. I still didn't like it. After knitting about a foot and a half of scarf, I decided to take a nap.

When I woke up from my nap, I ripped the damn thing out again.

I hated the scarf.

I didn't like how it looked, I didn't like how it felt, I didn't like the fact that my hands hurt after so little knitting when they normally didn't hurt at all even when I knit for a long time. About the only thing I did like about it was that it seemed to be knitting up quickly and thus would blessedly be over soon. I thought about how much I usually like knitting and how it is a peaceful experience for me. How it is a welcome respite from the lab which I hate and resent every minute I am stuck there trying to finish this damn PhD. I thought about the kind of karma I was imposing on this scarf as I sat there and resentfully and painfully knit it. It was like the opposite of a prayer shawl--one of those shawls infused with prayer as you knit it that you give to someone who is needful of comfort. I thought about what a dreadful thing it would be to give a scarf with such gloom associated with it to some poor college student who had enough problems without wearing The Sinister Scarf of Depression and Anxiety. I thought about how much more I would enjoy this project if I had a softer yarn to work with and how much more the student would enjoy wearing a soft scarf next to the delicate skin of the neck. I decided to buy some red superwash wool yarn.

In the meantime, I needed something to knit. I dug through the box of yarn that I had with me. Much of my stash had been sent to California. But, I found two balls of Cascade Pastaza (I have lost the ball bands, but I think they may be numbers 28 and 85) which I had originally intended to use to make a bag from the Handknit Holidays book. I started the project but had abandoned it on the needles when I realized that no matter how small my needles were I was just not going to get gauge and the bag would take up much more yarn than I had. I cast on for a hat for the Dulaan project.

I wanted the hat to be plenty warm, so after about an inch and a half of two by two ribbing, I started the evergreen tree fair isle pattern that was in the original bag pattern. For the bag, I had planned on using the flower pattern, but that repeat was a little wider than I thought I could keep track of while watching tv. I got less than 10 rows done before it was time for bed.

I looked at the hat. The fuzziness of the yarn obscured the colorwork somewhat and my floats were not as even as I would like them to be. I had alternated between holding both yarns in one hand and holding one in each hand to see which felt better (the verdict: neither; but I'm going to keep trying the two-handed technique). The hat, though, was stretchy enough to go with the ribbing, that is, the fair isle part didn't become obscenely constricted as it had other times I have tried fair isle which meant I wasn't pulling my floats too tight which I think had been my problem in the past.

I'm going to keep working on this hat. It is not perfect, but have wanted a chance to practice stranded colorwork and this seems like a good opportunity to do so. Also, I remember Norma had once said that she liked the Dulaan knitting because it let her try new things and if there was some imperfection in the finished piece, that was okay because a slightly imperfect vest or hat or scarf or mittens was better than not having anything at all and that's what would happen if she didn't send the item in. I think it is quite a nice hat, really. You can tell that there is a pattern there, even if it isn't crisp as in traditional fair isle, and the stranding on the inside will act as another layer against the cold. I would probably not use the yarn for a garment for an American to be worn against the skin as it is a little itchy when you put it against your face, but I do not think this will be a problem for the Mongolian children who do not have the same luxury of having wussy, pampered skin as we do.

I'm going to order red superwash yarn from KnitPicks today to use for the Red Scarf Project. I still think the best thing for a college student is something that can be tossed in the washing machine. I have a sample card of that yarn and it seems quite soft. I have some other yarn to order from them anyway (like more wool for the Dulaan Project among other things).

So that's it. That's how I decided what to knit for the Knit Unto Others knit-along. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but it finally got done. Lord, am I worn out from the experience!


  1. Anonymous2:36 PM

    So why do we knit again? ;)

    Good for you for sticking to it--I'd have tossed that red ball across the room after the second try!

  2. Are you sure you were working on a scarf? It sounds like my homespun baby blanket came back to haunt you.

    How can I get in on this knit along?

    Meanwhile, I have a scratchy Scarf Project piece on the needles. This is my duh knitting for the bus and whatnot where one feels scratchy anyway no matter what you're knitting with.