Wednesday, October 1, 2014

More about knitting


I'm not a serious knitter, by which I mean that I haven't been knitting since I was a wee sprat, and I spend less time making actual things than just dinking around. I've only been doing it regularly for about 5 years, or less. This means that I am still discovering things about knitting that are interesting.

For instance, I don't think about knitting the way people who design knitting patterns do- 'make 1 increase every 3 rows for 6 inches, then bind off 6 stitches using smaller needles...' I usually think something like 'well, I think I just gradually make it bigger starting here, and when it's long enough, I'll stop.' That kind of thing works fine for making simple shapes without any fancy textures, but for something more complex I'm still in the woods.

Therefore, swatches. I got the Barbara Walker stitch dictionary about the same time as I found a bag of mini skeins at goodwill. They're the perfect size for swatches: they're small enough that by the time I decide the yarn is too prickly, or the pattern is just stupid, I'm done anyway. I've learned some things about the nature of knitting this way:

Merino yarn really is a amazing as everyone says it is. It's lightweight, cushy, springy but not to springy, holds its shape well, and and looks a little glossy when worked up.

Fancy textures just look like crap when knitted in variegated yarn. No matter how beautiful that striped yarn looks with its 5 different colors in a ball, it will knit up a splotchy, uneven, formless mess. And you will not be able to see that fancy stitch clearly. Just don't even bother.

The most interesting thing that I've realized is that knitting has syntax. That is, patterns cannot be knitted backwards. In one sense, well duh. But it's why they don't reverse that is cool. Think of it this way- since knitting is basically just rows of loops going through other loops, it ought to work just as well if you go from the top to the bottom as from the bottom up, right? Not really. It works for plain knitting, because every row has exactly the same number of loops, and each loop stays in the same relationship to the other loops for the whole way. But if you knit a pattern, you change the relationship of each loop not only to the loops next to it, but in relation to the row before and the row after it! I'm sure experienced knitters would roll their eyes at me here. Whatever. The idea was a new one to me.

I tried to reverse the order of a particularly complex and beautiful pattern because I wanted a sweater knitted from the top down rather than bottom up. Did not go well. I never did manage to approximate anything like the original pattern, because I couldn't figure out the increases and decreases. On the other hand I gained an appreciation if swatching. Those are my swatches up there. I have a whole bag of them and they look like quilt pieces so maybe someday I'll make a very strange and off-putting cushion cover out of them.

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