Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Knitting Ruminations

I know it may not seem like it, but I've been knitting up a storm. This is remarkable because I am busier than ever with the influx of two older sons to the household and because it is HOT, HOT, HOT! I've been knitting for a very long time on another "Shrug This" of sorts...I finally finished it and I can't really say I'm disappointed in it, because I'm not, but it became something other than it was meant to be at its origin. And that's okay!

Don't get me wrong, I acknowledge that there is great satisfaction in finding a pattern, securing the exact yarn referenced, using the needles recommended, finding that you have achieved accurate gauge with them, then knitting precisely and obediently to the end of the pattern thereby achieving the product depicted in the pattern illustration. It's something like doing a puzzle and in the end, all the loose ends are tied up (or woven in, to continue in knitting vernacular) and you can see how each step took you towards perfect completion.

But sometimes, knitting evokes my sense of adventure and my creativity, and darn it, my bullish independence and I go my own way. This was such a project. I'd been saving this yarn for years, because I loved it so much--Elle's Mexican Wave--and because I couldn't even remember where I'd gotten it and like so many of the bundle bargains I am so proud to have secured, it was discontinued yarn so there was none else to be had. This operates in my sick mind in much the same way as setting up conflict in a story. The pressure is on and the stakes are high!

I've made two other sweaters from "Shrug This" and I love the ease of fitting the top-down on the fly and had an idea of how many stitches would be required for the top to fit properly. I wanted to jazz it up a little, so I put a cable down the edge of each front, mirrored to one another. I envisioned a fall sweater with the beautiful autumn colors (navy, green, orange) blending into softly gradated stripes, so I decided to lengthen the sleeves and the body to cover more skin. I didn't think of this all before beginning, you understand...it came to me as I worked on the piece and with each design change contemplated, I had to think through the ramifications. This, in my mind, is one of the great joys of knitting. I throw in a monkey wrench voluntarily so I can knit my way out of the dilemma and conquer the looming doom, emerging victorious.

The lessons I learned from all this futzing were just invaluable! I learned how to knit in a gusset under the armhole to accommodate flabby hamhock arms. I learned that cables need those stitches on either side to form a basis for the cable so it will be uniform and puff up instead of curling. I thought up a way to support the front edge (facing with grossgrain) that I recognized as a solution to other curly edges. I learned that acrylic doesn't give or stretch which is nice to define a lacy loopy big stitch, but sucks when trying to get a sweater around a big bootay.

In the end, what I have is a sleeved shawl, not a sweater. In order to fit the smaller top half of me around my neck and shoulders I had reduced the number of stitches (my first Shrug this had to be gathered you may recall) but I had never increased the number as the knitting progressed to the much larger bootilicious region. I considered steeking and knitting in a large triangle to the back or triangles along the cable edge in the front, which would have even made the cables sit up and look pretty--that is until I tried it on. And when I did, I saw the pretty pattern the yarn made along the back, the broadest canvas (oh yeah) , and I didn't want to mess that up, least of all with a giant yield sign. And from the front, the sides fell away in a perfect angle from their meeting at the neck, gently curling in undulating waves. I made the sleeves three-quarter length, and it seemed to be just the perfect coziness and shape to accommodate chilly evenings, yet stay out of my way as I worked on the next Frankenstitch.

So, I have a sleeved shawl. And if anyone asks, I meant to do that!

Now, here's the lesson I have drawn from it all--life is like this project. Yes, you can do it all the way you're supposed to...you can always do things according to the plan and the rules and achieve a good result. And you can take pride in that. But you can also roll with it, changing it up and making unexpected choices along the way. It may not look exactly like what you were expecting, but if you factor in how much you learned and the end result, you may see just how well it fits.

1 comment:

Rabecca Larson said...

This is why I think knitting is such an important life skill. There is just so much to be learned from it, patience and flexibility are just the tip of the iceberg! I think your sweater is lovely, and I acknowledge how hard it must have been to commit that yarn to a project, thereby eliminating all the other possibilities. I always have a hard time with that!
Working with a similar body shape, I always add more increases on my top-down projects. I also like to use decreases at the center back, to form "darts" and make the back fall more gracefully rather than bunching over the booty.

Nice work!