Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Evolution of a Knitter

Yesterday I took a field trip to Capital Yarns to take advantage of their "Shop 'til You Drop" sale. The end result produced some stash enhancements and, more importantly, some revelations.

First, the stash enhancements.

On the left you see Cascade Yarns Success, an absolutely yummy blend of silk and alpaca. On the right is Dale of Norway's Tiur, slated for a pair of Priscilla's Dream Socks for me.

Regarding Success , I originally selected the two pink colors, thinking that it would make a nice shell. Then someone wandered by and commented that the green looked nice with it and ask if I was going to do something in Fair Isle. Too bad they don't have the green, I replied. I don't want to mix the wool with the silk and alpaca. Well, sometimes I'm not the most observant person. Clearly they did have a green. Now I'm in a quandary. How much do I buy? This stuff isn't cheap, even at 15% off. I resisted the temptation to buy all they had, opting for six skeins of light pink and five of green. I'm envisioning not Fair Isle, but something in a slip stitch pattern. Look for the FO in about 10 years.

The women at Capital Yarns were great. They made sure that customers could find what they needed, and were quite chatty. Which led to my revelation and a middle-of-the-night rumination on my progress as a knitter and budding fiber artist.

When I picked up knitting for the second time 10 years ago, I was overwhelmed by the yarn choices and couldn't see the possibilities in the different yarns. I needed a pattern and the exact yarn in order to make something. My first project was not a washcloth, or a scarf, but a shell. In a slip stitch rib. With ribbing at the armholes and a rolled neck. It was too much for me. I finished one half (which has since disappeared) and recently frogged the other half. And I didn't start knitting again until 2002, when I made a Feather and Fan baby blanket for the baby of a dear friend. That project was a success and I've been knitting ever since. Now I can walk into a yarn store and see potential in yarn. I dream about sweater designs. And I'm buying yarn for what I want to make with it, not what I see in a book or magazine (although I still do that, too). I can talk intelligently to experienced knitters and guide beginning knitters about yarn substitution. I suspect my first design attempts will be disasters, but I know that those mistakes will be valuable lessons, just like the lessons I'm learning in my first attempt at lace.

I've ripped this thing out so many times it isn't funny. My lessons:

  • Use stitch markers liberally, especially if there are several patterns going on at once; they prove to be invaluable to helping keep track of where you are in the pattern.

  • Count, then count again (and maybe again) at the end of each new pattern row. I have learned the hard way that I cannot trust the results of my first counting.

  • At the first sign of an error, resist the temptation to make a correction on the fly, and unknit and verify the pattern as you unknit. Doing so will help you understand the structure of the pattern better and will eventually show you the error of your ways.

  • Knitting and the world of fiber provides so many opportunities for wonderful journeys, both introspective and "extrospective." I look forward to continuing the journey and to meeting more of the wonderful women (and men, too) who make up the fiber community.

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