I think it can be generally agreed that we, as knitters, crocheters, crafters in general, don’t always mind “taking the long road.” We could buy sweaters, socks, hats, scarves, mittens, etc, yet we choose, persist, and persevere in making our own. Doing it our way. Making things work to achieve a particular end.
And then some of us take it to the next level and break out the big bottle of Advil and decide we’re going to design things. Granted, as we’re typically designing things which have been around for a while (sweaters, cardigans, socks, hats; there’s nothing new there), we’re usually putting our own spin and ideas into a very rough template of sorts. Not to denigrate the achievements of the many brilliant, talented designers out there, but we all know that if we’re going to design a pullover, we need at least four openings—torso, head, two arms—and the fronts and backs are going to have to join together at some point. How we go about getting there can be wildly different and varied, but still, the common, recognizable characteristics of a sweater are universal and archetypal. You know what I mean. My point, which I sort of lost, is that while we’re creating things within a sort of structured template (no matter how Cat Bordhi goes about restructuring sock knitting, at the end she still ends up with a sock), the ways we go about creating those things can be incredibly frustrating and aggravating, even though it’s (usually) rewarding in the end.
A week or so ago, I decided to make up a shawl pattern on the fly. I had received a skein of yarn (The Asylum for Wayward Yarn’s Dinger Sock in “The Governor’s Daughter”) and had no idea what to do with it. I started with one incarnation, using a stockinette potion on large needles (size 7; way too big for fingering weight). I wanted to start a lace pattern, and realized it would just come out looking like a bunch of oddly spaced holes due to the incredibly large gauge, and ripped the whole thing back. Then I turned to the Barbara Walker stitch dictionaries and went at it again.
I did not take notes. I did not write down anything that I did. I could tell you which lace pattern I used if I went back to the book and looked it up. It was not intuitive; indeed, I frequently had to make changes on the fly, because I didn’t plan ahead for any part of this. I made up a pattern for the edging (there may very well be a written down version of what I did, but I don’t know it).
Personally, I think that there are pros and cons to both the “plan ahead” and “dive right in” schools of knitwear design. Planning ahead can smooth out or eliminate some road bumps along the way; diving right in allows to you get a feel for whether an idea will work without spending hours trying to anticipate every potential trouble spot. I did do some basic charting for the lace portion (BW’s first two stitch dictionaries only include written instructions, which I have trouble with), but even that sort of failed me when I got into the actually knitting.
The lace pattern blocked out wonderfully, which is great, because I got really tired of fighting with it kind of early in the process—I used fewer than 300 yards on this shawl, and had it not stretched out more, this would have been a teeny, tiny project. I am happy with the finished result. I wish it had worked out magically and perfectly from the very beginning, but that’s operator error and nothing to do with the yarn or the stitch pattern. One day, I’d like to revisit this idea and make it actually work, but for now, I’m putting this idea to rest and moving on, under “strict” supervision.