Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"Woodlands" : a Knitting Adventure

For those of you who follow my blog (all five of you), finally I post. It has been well over a year since my last blog post, so it is high time. I have not been idle in the last year. The biggest news is that I finally got a pattern published. Laura, the owner of Northcoast Knittery--aka, My Second Home (I really should be paying rent.)--tapped the really quite tremendous talent here in Humboldt County, and has put together a pattern book. This is not some low-key xeroxed and stapled deal, but a beautiful, glossy book chock full of great patterns. It's not just my homegrown pride saying this. I literally would knit every pattern in this book (and likely will, at this point). Really, IMHO, it's THAT GOOD. And the kicker? I get to be a part of this illustrious group.

The book is called "Woodlands", And it features eleven knitting patterns. My own design is a seamless creation called "Arden". Arden is described as a garment that falls somewhere in the middle of being a cardigan a shrug and a bolero. That may sound a bit daft, but it really is true. This sweater really was designed to meet my needs, since the original I made purely for myself.

The design inspiration for Arden was born in the '90's and of necessity. In one of my many yarn trawls, I poked through a shop in Calistoga, California that is now no longer there. At the time, it was chock full of yarns, some of which were unusual. This visit took place in the pre-internet days when yarn was not all that readily available outside of a LYS, apart from a handful of catalogs. There wasn't even eBay at that point. In any case, I spent some time poking through bins and ended up buying two big mohair muffs of yarn by Patons called "Knit n Save". The muffs were a full 450 grams of yarn: enough for a whole garment. They were both ombred--one in blues to greens and the other in reds to hot pinks. There was a sweater pattern on the ball band, and I knit it up in the blue/green yarn. It was pretty typical of the early 1990's--oversized and fuzzy. I did a decent job knitting it, but frankly, I hated it. It was baggy, shapeless and unflattering. I had intended to knit up both balls, but decided I wasn't going to waste my time on another sweater of a pattern I hated. I also wanted to preserve the ombred color run, rather that knit separate pieces and therefore break up the colors.

 So there I was, pre-internet, pre-Ravelry, pre-eBay. I had pattern books, but none had a sweater pattern that met my needs. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, so if I wanted something specific, I had to create it myself. I decided to make a cardigan/shrug thingie, but really I was flying blind. It was my first foray into circular knitting as well. I decided that a cuff-to-cuff approach was my best bet. I picked a gauge I liked and started knitting. It really was weird--a series of increases and decreases, and finally knitting back and forth for the opening because I was determined not to cut the yarn. I had, not very long previous, knitted a Sandy Black design in mohair called "Triangles" and I had learned a technique for that to make a knitted welt that I really loved the effect of.

It entailed knitting several rows and then picking up the stitches in the back and knitting them with the live stitches, creating a knitted tube built into the fabric. I had a bunch of black mohair and decided to trim the sweater with welts knitted in black. Since I had a very limited amount of yarn I was pretty constrained and I can tell you I had NONE of the Patons mohair left by the end. I added a decorative patch of dark red at each cuff flanked by welts, but that was leftover Ironstone mohair from the Triangles sweater. I finished my sweater off with two black snaps in the front, creating a crossover that was invisible. Of course, while making this I wrote nothing down. I just knit. I was very proud of that sweater. I still am. The construction was not like anything I had seen. Even today, there is nothing really like it on Ravelry.

 I had always meant to reverse engineer it and write up a pattern, but never seemed to get around to it. So, when the call came from Laura in 2011 to put together a book, the first thing that came to mind was that sweater design. Even if the design was not accepted, I would, in the end, have a written pattern of my sweater, which was a goal in and of itself. With the various constraints in mind, I picked a yarn in the shop that I liked the look and color of and that would mimic the more outdated mohair. It took a lot of time and I procrastinated quite a bit in remaking the sweater, mostly because of stage fright. Could I really duplicate the sweater? Was I really good enough as a knitter to make something other people would like and would knit? I persevered, though and finally it all came together, with ample help from the designer group. I gave the sweater the working title of "The Green Thing" and that pretty much stuck until the book came out. I was so gratified when my design was chosen--my emotions falling somewhere between being proud and abashed. Still, this was no dream; the book project was real and this June it came to fruition and "Woodlands" was published. Just yesterday, my design was finally put up on Ravelry. My name in print--both in hard copy and online. It was a major milestone for me both as a knitter and personally. The process has changed the way I think in so many ways--about my knitting, about my abilities and about myself. A new book is now in the works and for that I have submitted three designs. We will see if they get chosen, but I still feel like a bright future of taking ideas out of my head and into really reality awaits me!