Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ravelympics Must Have (Been Outta My Mind)

I'm not a nervous knitter. Knitting is supposed to calm me. This is currently not the case.

I've had two Must Have nightmares now... in one week.

This project is making me a different kind of knitter. The anxiety is the first difference.

Generally speaking, I've determined I am an insanely casual, by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of knitter. Pretty much every project has taken the same route: either I get the urge to make something, or life circumstances dictate it (since most projects are gifts, birthdays, holidays, etc are usually the impetus).

I then go the my LYS with a project in mind (e.g., mom wants a sweater, she hates cardigans, so a pullover). I flip through patterns. I find the one I most love and skim the directions. If it seems remotely written in a language I can grasp, I choose it.

I then approach the LYSO, show her the pattern and ask her to show me what yarns might possibly work. From the options presented, I then get to examine, explore, touch, squeeze, caress yarns until I fall in love with a color and feeling. I buy.

Sometimes, I fall in love with a yarn and then have to work backward a bit. But still, it's all off-the-cuff and based on my impulses.

Occasionally, if I am very smart (read: rarely), I look at the pattern enough to ask the LYSO about any parts that are unfamiliar. But mostly, I take pattern and yarn home, grab needles and cast right on. No careful reading of pattern, no swatching, no planning at all. Just "oh, pretty! I buy and make!"

The inevitable kinks that spring up along the way, I've been able to get by through trial and error. I'm not afraid to rip back. I'm a pretty even combination of process and product knitter. I like completing things. I really, really like FOs. But, I'm also pretty okay with starting something over and over and over, while I try to learn how to do it. People who get knitted gifts from me understand that the birthday or holiday or gift-giving occasion date occurs for me like speed limits: I shoot for the best and try to stay in the ballpark.

But this Ravelympics experience is changing me.

I am swatching.....

I never swatch (bad, I know). But, I am nervous about sizing. I don't think I'll have time to incorporate the upsizing for the pattern, so I am hoping to create a more generous sweater through tension and needle choice. I needed to make some swatches to see if using different needles and trying to knit a little loosely would result in a somewhat larger project. Using US8 needles, I seem to be getting a little more and may get about an extra 1/2 inch per every four. That might work.

I needed to feel out the yarn. I don't tend to favor 100% wool yarns. I know a lot of people love 100% wool, but I like a little blend to soften things up. My very first project was 100% wool and I have sad memories of actually pulling it apart because I tended to knit kinda tight back then. Blends usually are my choice. But, through the magic of swatching I learned a little about how this yarn knits up and think I'll be okay. Also, I read this yarn softens quite a bit with washing.

I'm terrified of the pattern suddenly and reading it closely and obsessively. As I said, I'm not usually worried about the ins and outs of patterns. I generally knit along, trying to understand what the pattern means and just rip out what is clearly wrong and try again. This is fine when I have no time constraints. I most certainly have a time constraint here.

Plus, this pattern has more things happening simultaneously than perhaps others I've done. Some parts embody a four row pattern, others an eight or three row, and another comes in at twenty-three rows. All at the same time. I think I've had to do this before, but I can't remember how successful I was at keeping track and how much ripping back I had to do. Especially since, have I mentioned, I recently learned I cannot count? It is seeming more and more short-sighted to take this particular pattern on for a seventeen day project. But, I've put it out to the universe... So, I needed to try to learn the ins and outs, to minimize errors. To this end, I've made many, many swatches trying to both understand and learn/memorize the panels, etc.

This has also made me realize I am not an intuitive knitter. Patterns are completely mysterious to me. In most cases, they will eventually start to fall into place in my mind, but this takes an inordinate amount of time. Each time, I try to knit along exactly as the pattern is written (as much as someone as haphazard as I can) and just marvel that something resembling the photo emerges. I rarely understand how it happens. I'm just thrilled every time it does.

But, I don't want to take those fun chances here. There's a clock ticking, by golly! I need to arm myself by "getting" as much as possible before that torch is lit.

To this end, I've also for the first time ever, charted a pattern. I hear tell that someone else made an excel file of the Must Have pattern. I thought to try to get my hands on it. Then, following nightmare number two, at 3am, I decided it would soothe me to quickly make my own.

That's funny.

It took.... oh, forever. But I did it.

And know what? Eventually, parts of the pattern began to make sense! I'm not saying I have it cold or anything, but there was a point while making the excel chart when I started anticipating the next bit of stitches. Oh, happy day.

So, I now have swatches. I've learned the yarn and my tension. I've read the pattern eighteen ways to Sunday. I've made a bloody excel chart.

I need to really commit to a color, buy yarn and find buttons (though I may opt out of buttons altogether). Oh! And I've ordered what I hope are fun, speed generating new needles.

Nineteen days til torch lighting...


  1. Nice swatches!

    I put a picture of my "swatch" on Ravelry. Keep in mind it took me 3 days to get that far, and you were smart to make your own excel chart, I just used the one that was on the Must Have KAL group, there was a mistake in it and I had to rip out a bunch of rows. I have since fixed it everything and I am now back on track.

  2. Woo hoo! You're doing great! I found this pattern not entirely intuitive, so it's great you're doing this work to get a good grasp of it now. I suspect it will flow very nicely for you.

    Wonderful! (I also loved "Oh, pretty! I buy and make!" I'm right there with ya.)

  3. I know it is evil of me to even mention it before the Ravelympics but - have you seen the really nice sock patterns in this issue of (summer08)?
    I won't even mention the back issues becuase that would be too cruel.