Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Going to Yarnover? I'll be the one in a sweatshirt

a sweatshirt...
Process knitting
I spend the summer in the garden, but in the winter, I spend a great deal of time knitting--not wardrobe knitting, you understand, but test knitting--knitting to try out ideas.  

Most of the test knitting starts OUT as project knitting, yet test knitting and garment knitting don't intersect around here as much as they should.  Once a technical problem has been worked out, the solution tends to turn into a TECHknitting blog post, while the garment which birthed it tends to fall into the UFO pile.

Few items larger than a hat have escaped the gravitational pull of the UFO pile in years--not since TECHknitting blog started in the knitting season of 2006 and gave its process knitter author (me) an excellent excuse for never finishing anything.  Worse than that even.  The blog gave me the excuse to start lots of new things to see how they'll work out.  Thus adding to the pile.  Sometimes on a daily basis.  Of course, I can't pull the needles out of a work in progress, or re-purpose the rest of the yarn bought for the garment.  That would be against the rules.  That would be admitting defeat.  Consequently, not only do I have a black-hole for garments in my UFO pile, but the pile also eats knitting needles.  Meanwhile, its gravitational twin is developing from the ever-increasing stash of no-go yarn.

open loop boucle--what was
I thinking? 
Sometimes, the UFO pile grows because I've made a poor choice.  I'm now working with a open-loop boucle mohair, and must have been insane to buy the yarn.  Not that the result isn't lovely--it is, very.  Yet open-loop boucle is a very bear to knit (the needle keeps catching in the loop, rather than around the strand).  And of course, mohair of any kind is a very bear to unravel.  Since test knitting requires plenty of both, there is no combination I could have chosen less suitable.  Beautiful as it is, this one is clearly headed for the UFO pile, and sooner rather than later.

Sometimes, test knitting goes so well that I'm tempted to recreate the garment several times--the pocket hats were like that, I think there were 7 in a row, and innumerable little felted purses have been worked up around here.  Then I'm reminded of a study I once read.  Turns out that making faster and bigger lawn mowers didn't reduce the time folks spent mowing.  No indeed.  Instead, their lawns got bigger, and they spent the same amount of time mowing, or even more. Faster knitting and better patterns translates to 7 pocket hats rather than one or two; a fleet of little change purses waiting to be wrapped as gifts, but no more progress on the UFO's, alas.

Project knitting
At the end of April, I am going out to teach my first knitting class in over twenty years--Yarnover in Minneapolis, a project of the Minnesota Knitter's Guild.  All my existing wardrobe sweaters are ratty and are themselves experiments--no two arms of any one sweater have the same kind (or even same rate!) of increasing, no two socks in the for-wearing fleet have the same kind of heels, my wardrobe features mostly not-fully-successful garment designs (prototypes of sweaters either improved--long since knit and given away) or abandoned after the one prototype.  In short, my wardrobe consists mainly of ratty experimental remnants--great for the supermarket, not so good for my first professional knitting outing in two decades (Lord, where does the time go?)

It is clear, is it not, that I must have a new sweater for the occasion?

I've been rummaging the UFO collection, looking for a sweater pretty near completion. Yet while there are three leading candidates, I don't hold out a lot of hope.

I-cord edging by some method
already half-forgotten
The lead contender is a giant gold/green sweater-coat, missing only a bottom trim and a zipper.  This was put aside while I cogitated on zippers and trims--I got zippers figured out, but am still messing around with new ways of attaching I-cord to fabric.  Attaching I-cord to the live loop edges was a snap, but I'm still messing around with a new trick for attaching to bound off edges.  If I just edge it and wear it, I'll forget how I did it--I've pretty much forgotten the live-loop method already.  Since spring is sort of coming, as well as sample knitting for Yarnover, there is no time for that kind of knitting/ illustration/ blogging project now. That sweater is probably going to be on hold for a while longer.

prototype of pleating
The second garment is a green alpaca sweater lacking only a collar and sleeves--beautiful silky material knit at 7 (seven!) sts  to the inch (!!) on which I am messing around with pleating.  However, the first few pleats aren't as pretty as the pleats made last, and I suspect that there might be yet an altogether better way of doing this by a completely different method than any yet tried.  The idea of wearing this experiment in front of my fellow teachers and eagle-eyed students, well... What I should do is pull out and re-do, but what I will do is probably let this wallow on the UFO pile a while longer.  Or forever.  As a perpetual UFO, it'd earn its keep being a pleating prototype. Some version of this pleating will probably emerge some way, some day, but the sweater? I wouldn't lay bets on it.  And, do you know, I'm not worried about "wasting" the yarn either--it's so pretty that some day it's sure to earn a spot in the "better yarn" box at the estate sale.  Just think how happy it will make some knitter yet unborn.

prototype of beading
The third garment is an experiment in beading by a variety of methods. The first beads put in aren't nearly as nice as the end of the job, and again, I expect there may be an altogether better way of doing this, anyhow.  It's the learning curve made visible, it's dejavu all over again.

Franklin Habit on his Panopticon blog featured an imaginary conversation between Albert Einstein and the Queen of England, neatly encapsulating a nearly-circular dialog between a knitter and a knitee.  I can go Franklin one better in concept, if not in execution.  My internal dialog in the matter of actual project knitting--of actually declaring that I'm done messing around with a technique and it's time for finishing sweaters? That's a dialog between the Red Queen, so logically illogical, and the Mad Hatter, so stuck in time, with no resolution in sight and an ever-growing UFO pile.

Bottom line: if you'll be at Yarnover, and you see a knitting teacher in a sweatshirt?  Stop and say "hi" to me, OK?

* * *

  • This is a "humor-style posting" of the "exaggeration type."
  • I expect to arrive at Yarnover in a sweater.  
  • Probably. 


Sel and Poivre said...

It doesn't sound to me like you have UFO's. You have, "finished" with those knits you list....its just that your criteria for "finished" regards the technique rather than the garment.

I'm currently working on a pullover using your instructions for jogless stripes (and a bunch of brightly coloured worsted remnants). For what its worth, since I'm using the fruits of your experimental labours, when I take that knit across the finish line I'm going to cite it as a Techknitter FO!

Jean said...

For the missing needles, perhaps you need to set up an Amazon wish list, so your devoted fans can keep you stocked up?

-- Jolie said...

It makes me smile to see I'm not alone in the quagmire of trying to improve on the details. I'm fortunate that my established working method is experimenting on a separate swatch. But I know the pain of the pile -- February was Knitting Needle Liberation Month in my house.

I hope you have a great time at Yarnover and want to teach more! After that, what can we do to lure you to Atlanta?

Kathy... said...

I'll be in your class, so I'll be checking out your wardrobe! LOL. Totally looking forward to YarnOver....and a class with you in particular!

C said...

I think this is one of my favorite posts from you. It's nice to get an insight into the knitter behind the TECH! I feel a little better about my own UFO pile now. I wish I could fly out to Minneapolis to take your class, but instead I'll wish you luck on completing that sweater!

Charade said...

In the true spirit of a process knitter, I think you should wear no knitted garments, thereby cementing your reputation as the planet's foremost TECHknitter. Wish I could be there for your presentation!

Aside: That open-loop boucle mohair reminds me of the old "buffalo robe" afghans made from curly-haired buffalo hides and cherished by Native Americans to this day.

gayle said...

Maybe you could borrow a sweater?
Enjoy the class!

northernknitter said...

I chuckled when I read about your needle black hole. My significant other is always puzzeled when I have to go to my LYS for yet another pair of 4.5 mm needles :) Just googled Yarn Over - oh am I disappointed to miss a chance for a class with you - Winnipeg is not that far away - maybe next year !

northernknitter said...

I chuckled when I read about your needle black hole. My significant other is always puzzeled when I have to go to my LYS for yet another pair of 4.5 mm needles :) Just googled Yarn Over - oh am I disappointed to miss a chance for a class with you - Winnipeg is not that far away - maybe next year !

Angeluna said...

What a wonderful post. And I think it would be most fascinating and informative to see your garments with evolving improvements. Just wish I could make it to your class.

random Cindy said...

Oh dear. I am so that way about sewing. Thankfully I tend to do small projects with knitting so I have not run into the same problem. Yet. I imagine it could happen. At least with knitting you can always frog and still have yarn. With sewing, once you've cut the fabric you're stuck.

Caitlin said...

This is probably my favorite knitting blog to read. I love Yarn Harlot and many, many others as well, but I think I'm a process knitter at heart (the very fastest way to get me to buy a new pattern is to promise that it's an entirely new construction technique).

You're killing me here though! I want to see these half finished projects so I can try to figure out how to do it too! That's my favorite thing about knitting "figuring it out".

The beaded project is especially enticing.

Lucy said...

But you've come up with all the solutions to knitters' problems, and very smart and creative ones. That's great achievements! And you're so generous to share these wonderful knitting techniques.

Suzann said...

I am trying to start a cardi, using Icord cast on. Lets just say I haven't gotten past the try part. I expect someone someplace as figured out how to cast on with Icord. And not have the actually cast on stitches turn into 1 inch loops.
It is making me crazy. :-)

carolyn said...

I think you should wear these items with gusto. What other wardrobe item could express your approach to a hobby and general personality than an item that exhibits a constant trail and error... and the Japanese notion of kaizen? No process is ever set in stone. One must always adapt and improve.

Anonymous said...

I agree with several of the previous commenters: It is really nice to hear something about the knitter behind the TECH; I think you could with pride wear your experimenting-garments to knit-class, since this is kind of your trade-mark, and thirdly I am really in awe of: first, what all you have figured out, improved, invented, and secondly, that you share all that insight with your readers for free! That is internet at its best, the ideal form, thank you so much. Anna from Germany

pdxknitterati/MicheleLB said...

I think the green pleated sweater would be a quick vest. Now you only need a collar and armhole edgings...

Carolina said...

Great and funny post. You made me laugh. As they write in Costa Rica: Ja, ja, ja.

Gina said...

I agree with Sel and Poivre! You have finished what you want to do with your UFOs. Rather than wait until the estate sale, feel free to pass on to us product knitters who would love the projects already mostly done! I'd be happy to send you my address!
Gina Johnson

Barb said...

What a great post! Those people who get to take your class at Yarnover are so lucky, indeed! I'm a pretty new knitter but I always look at your site to see what you might have written on whatever problem has me stumped at the moment. So, once again, thank you so much for sharing your talent and knowledge. It is so appreciated!

Have fun at Yarnover. I wish I could attend, too!

Lisa in ND said...

I'm one of the lucky ones who will be taking your class at Yarnover, and I am so excited! The Techknitter and Clara Parkes in the same day! I'm working on my first adult-sized sweater with the hopes I can wear it at Yarnover, but I may very well be wearing a sweatshirt right along with you. See you in class!

A. Warped, knitter said...

Oh darn! I'm wrestling with how to knit a pleat and I came here hoping that you had figured out the best way to do it. Please, could you think about the pleat first?

Anonymous said...

No problem for the sweatshirt !! I like this post very much, it'll make many knitters less alone.
About mohair boucle, I have got 2 skeins from my sister as a present. She does not knit and did not imagine the problem.

But I have knitted one now and I am happy with the result. Metal needles helped.


Marjorie said...

I'd love to see what you do with that boucle. I have two different types in my stash, purchased in about 1975. I've swatched them both, and I've been considering playing around with knitting them together with a smoother yarn (leftover Zara is high on the list).

TECHknitter said...

Hi Marjorie: It has actually been worked up into a beaded cap and scarf, and never was thrown on the UFO pile at all! One day, when I get around to publishing about beading, that hat and scarf may surface. What a PITA, though, to knit boucle. And frankly? I turn out to prefer ordinary silk/mohair blend, like kidsilk or Douceur et soie or kid-seta--the boucle isn't as pretty as all that, after all.


knitbysue said...

What you wore to Yarnover yesterday was wonderful and it didn't look at all like a sweatshirt.
I enjoyed your afternoon classes very much. Thank you for all of your tips and tricks.

TECHknitter said...

Hi Sue!! Thanks for your comment. It was great to have you in the class--such a lot of fun. (The gold sweater-coat was finally finished only a couple of days before YO, so it nearly really was a sweatshirt for me! ) Best, TK

Maryann said...

Your blog is my favorite, and I loved this post. It makes me feel better that I've knit portions of the front of my current sweater 3 times, one of the sleeves 3 times, and the back and other sleeve 2 times! Keep up the good work, and a sweater that shows various techniques would be fascinating to see.

Rochelle said...

I can hear your neighbors now: "She's a professional knitter, but her wardrobe is so awful. Poor thing."

Em said...

Hi! I discovered your blog this past week-end, and will be learning lots from it.
Do you mind me asking what program you use to draw your "needles and stitches" diagrams? They are really clear and follow-able :)
Are there any plans to publish your blog in electronic or paper format?

TECHknitter said...

Hi Em--the illustrations are made with Adobe Illustrator--a vector drawing program. I am glad you find them clear.

As to publishing, hopefully one day that the entire blog will be converted to a knitting book. In the meanwhile, I am working on some patterns to be released as e-books or pdf's at some point in the foreseeable future.

Thanks for writing--TK