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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Exercises in patience

These past few days, the ideas have been coming fast and furious, and I've sketched out a lot in the hope that I can find time to complete even a fraction of them this year.  I've always admired shawls but find they take a lot of time--designs are often complex and quite challenging, even for experienced knitters.  My ultimate hope is that all this practice will speed up my work, though faster doesn't always mean better, as I've learned.  I worked up a swatch for a chart I drew out on graph paper, which took quite a while with a size 2 needle and lace weight yarn; as it required at least 60 rows before I could see the pattern accurately, I grew impatient.  Still, I got enough to see not only all my mistakes but that it wasn't working the way I wanted.  

I couldn't consider this wasted time, however.  As I blocked the swatch, I noted several things--the center of the "leaf" (I wanted a feather) pointed down at the end, which could work for something else, and I had way too many holes in the thing--the design seems to get lost in them.  The bottom should be more rounded, as this colorway says "Peacock feathers" to me.  Realizing also that I'd drawn it the wrong way (knitting graph paper isn't made in squares; stitches are "taller" than they are "wide," and the paper corresponds to that), I redrew and tried again, changing the sk2po in the middle to a k2tog/ssk knit combo and got something closer to what I wanted, but it still didn't seem right (and I didn't bother taking a photo of that one).  By the third chart, with all its erasures and redrawing (I always draw in pencil!), the poor graph paper was getting as frazzled as I was, so I simply put it aside and worked on this for a while:

This, too, contains obvious flaws, and I wrote that out instead of charting it, though charting first would probably have saved me some effort.  Having a love/hate relationship with knitting charts--which seems really odd since I designed cross stitch charts for years--I have concluded that for complex designs, charting will be the best starting point since I am a visual learner, and learn I have from these exercises.  I've learned that this doesn't work well for an across-the-end shawl, as it's fairly busy, for instance, and will now frog the whole thing and rework it so this part goes across the bottom instead (with the triangles lined up better).  So hours & hours of work are now undone, but I really don't feel bad about it.  Art (and I cannot think of a well designed shawl as anything less) takes time, and if we don't take the time to get what we want, why are we even knitting in the first place?

Knitting is not for those who expect instant gratification. I have kept that in mind this week as my sketchbook fills and more ideas crowd into my head--I'm not even counting the designs I see from others that I would love to do, either.  One saying that floats around among knitters is, "She who dies with the most yarn wins," but I want to enjoy and use it while I'm still here--and exercise patience as I go along, for that, in the end, will be well worth the effort.  I'm excited to begin again.  Charts four and two, here I come.

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