Sunday, January 18, 2009

Is It Just Me......?

I love Ravelry--adore it--spend WAY too much time on it. But, is it just me, or has it made knitting "hard?"

Knitting has been going on for a very, VERY long time, quite often by people who could neither read nor write. All the techniques we have--lace patterns, turning heels, steeks, buttonholes, spit joins, casting off--all of these were thought out by someone. Probably many someones as communications were rather limited at that time and it's highly doubtful than conches or tribal drums lent themselves to podcasts.

I learned to knit as a young enough child that my Barbie and her friends were the recipients of my earliest knitting endeavors and those "blankets" (term applied loosely as there wasn't a straight side in the lot) had all sorts of funny spots where I tried out different things JUST TO SEE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN. What does happen when you purl instead of knit? When you mix them up? Knit from the back loop instead of the front? They are supremely ugly blankets, but Barbie and her friends didn't complain--I suppose if you're doomed to go through life on your tip-toes a few odd-looking blankets aren't a real big deal--and I became a knitter who hasn't been afraid of trying any techniques--except steeking, and that's more a horror of cutting knitting than anything else and my first steeks will be later this spring.

Having knit for over 30 years now, I try to scan the "techniques" board on Ravelry and help when I can, but lately it's been driving me crazy. One day someone was nicely explaining that if you're slipping the first stitch on every row it MUST be done knit-wise (not purl-wise), and another day someone was SURE that one couldn't start a row with a yarn over (you can & it's a great technique for lace):What would happen if you slipped a stitch purl-wise at the beginning of a row? The Knitting Police would show up at your door? The Knitting Gods would smite you for your daring? Your sweater would spontaneously fall apart one day leaving you cold & naked on the street? Nope--it would just look a little different. My only suggestion would be to do the same thing on the entire garment, but that's only because it would look consistent. It will not fall apart if you do otherwise. Sure, stabbing yourself in the eye repeatedly with a size one DPN would be wrong (though it's tempting when working fair isle socks, I'll admit), but otherwise there are no real "wrongs" or "rights" in knitting. Sure, three sleeves in a sweater would be wrong for ME, but what about someone who actually HAD three arms? Then it would be right and, in fact, my two-armed sweater would be wrong at that point. A sweater than has shrunk to the size of a tea cozy might not be an actual garment any longer, but hey! It is a tea cozy. Or a dog sweater. Or a really interesting trivet. But it is still SOMETHING.

I will admit--it isn't just Ravelry. I once heard a clerk in a local yarn shop tell a brand-new knitter that the reason her hat didn't felt was because she had knit in in garter stitch instead of stockinette (and without explaining that the names of stitches apply to what they look like rather than how they are actually created, so that even though she thought she was knitting in stockinette by knitting one row then purling the next, because she was knitting in the round she had created garter stitch)! As anyone who has had the misfortune to have a spouse lovingly wash a newly-finished Aran sweater can attest, ANY knitted garment made from a feltable yarn will indeed felt--the stitch pattern won't matter. (I wish it did, to be honest. Then I'd sleep better knowing all those cables and twisted stitches would be safe) I've always been disgusted by that store, but I have kicked myself for years for not pulling the new knitter aside, explaining that she either had used a nonfeltable yarn OR hadn't felted it long enough, and that she should never set foot in that store again. I haven't been back since.

My latest pet peeve are the patterns people are offering for sale that are lifted straight from stitch dictionaries and they are trying to pass off as "copyrighted" designs. I admit, I have fallen for some of these things in the past. I have a scarf book (which I have kept to remind me not to purchase stupid things) which could be summed up in one paragraph:

Pick out a yarn/needle combination that you like, pick out a stitch pattern you like, cast on an appropriate number of stitches for the width of scarf you would like, add a non-rolling border (garter stitch, moss stitch, ribbing) if your pattern is based on stockinette stitch (knitted in some form on one side, purled in some form on the other) to the bottom and sides, knit until you have the length you want, add the top border, and cast off.

There--now I have saved you the $24.95 the silly book cost me and you will have far more possibilities.

So, in an effort to empower other knitters, I'm going to show you my latest experiments. Feel free to copy, change, experiment with these ideas, as ideas are all they are--not designs. If you have picked up knitting needles and yarn, produced a knitted object without impaling yourself, you have enough knitting knowledge to do the exact same thing:

I love variegated lace yarns, but because the color pattern changes are so striking, it usually detracts from any attempts on my part to knit my chosen lace patterns. After making the Pi shawl with my favorite variegated colorway,I noticed that my favorite part of the shawl--and the part that worked best with the color changes--was the most open part, which I had used the most basic of faggoting stitches (YO, Knit 2tog). Aha! Openness and simplicity might be the key! I decided to test my theory. This:was the next project. I used the same stitch, but this time as it was flat knitting rather than circular, I needed to do a purl stitch on the back (YO, P2tog), which is a stockinette-based pattern and would roll, so I added a moss stitch (K1, P1, but on the alternate rows, knitting the stitches you would purl for a rib and purling the stitches you would knit) border to the bottom and edges. I love the result and I love this scarf, but the (YO, P2tog) rows went really slowly, so I wanted to see what would happen if every row was (YO, K2 tog):Since this was a garter-stitch based pattern, I didn't add a border of any kind, and did in fact start every row with a YO. Because on the following row it was knit together with the previous stitch, it didn't form the same sort of loop as on the previous examples, but it did turn out well. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of the edge specifically. The scarf did have a surprising tendency to curl into a corkscrew effect, but unlike the rolling straight stockinette does, that was cured by blocking.

This time I wanted to put a border back on, and shift the stitches slightly by one stich on each row, so I cast on an odd number of stitches (53), and I knit one stitch before beginning the (YO, K1) across. What I have so far:I like the more honey-comb effect this is creating, and this might be my favorite version yet--aside from the color, which I'm not overly fond of. If I wanted to make the loops bigger, I could have used a larger needle--I'm using a 5, so I might have jumped to a 7, which would make it a bit more "drapey." Maybe that will be the next experiment.