Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Going to Yarnover? I'll be the one in a sweatshirt (the consequences of process knitting)

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--trying 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 turns into a TECHknitting blog post, while the project falls 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. That gave 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 growing 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. WHAT was I thinking? Not that the result isn't lovely--it is, very. Yet 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's 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. Similarly, test knitting going well translates more FO's of that one pattern, 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 the 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. 

prototype of pleating
The second contender is a green alpaca sweater lacking only a collar and sleeves--beautiful silky material knit at 7 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 this 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, and so, not really suitable for public wear.

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