Warning: Extreme Graphic Intarsia (Mature Audiences)
March 16, 2006
Intarsia is one of those techniques that is not so much in vogue these days. (Or in Vogue, for that matter.) You got your lace, your cable, your fair-isling in all directions and dimensions, but you don’t see a lot of cool new intarsia designs. (Important exception: skull and crossbones motifs. Those are classic. Those we will always, always keep alive in Our Craft.)
About 10 years ago, as a fairly new knitter, I didn’t look at patterns the way I do today. Today I look at a picture and think, “Cablicious!” or “Lace-intense!” or “WTF?” Back then, I only thought, “Purty!” And proceeded to buy 18 colors of cotton yarn without realizing that the idea would be, when I got home, to knit with all 18 colors at the same time, following a chart. With the result, at the end of a long and tangly process, being a sweater that made me look eggzackly like a sofa (or a love seat, I was slimmer then) in a Laura Ashley slipcover. Even if you are very careful to avoid reindeer, bells and candy canes, an intarsia sweater can quickly go Christmassy on you. I gradually came to avoid them. Intarsia was for children and Other People.
But the other day I stubbed my toe on a basket, looked down, and saw an abandoned WIP. Memories rushed back. Years ago, in one of Kaffe’s ‘passionate’ or ‘glorious’ books, I saw a room that he had done up all in squares. A vintage postage-stamp quilt, squares on the ceramics, squares everywhere.
And you know, I love a square. One particularly alluring item was a needlepoint cushion with overlapping squares, approximately a million of them. The book included a full-size chart to make this needlepoint, with different black and white symbols for each of the tapestry wool colors. In my youthful hubris I thought, ‘Hey! I could knit this chart, no problem!’ I started out heedlessly. Bobbins? To heck with bobbins! Brandon Mably says to just ‘pull from the tangle’, no? I like the zen of that, and if it’s good enough for Brandon, it’s good enough for me.
Y’all. When Brandon says ‘pull from the tangle’?— This would be the tangle.
The tangle was not the real issue though. The real issue was the chart. It is no fun to follow an elaborate intarsia chart. You are no longer knitting. You are reading and stopping and checking and losing your row and figuring out a system to keep track of your row and then you are deciding maybe to knit something else for a minute, just until the Advil kicks in.
After just one partial row of boxes, I abandoned the project– tangle, needle, connected balls of yarn– and all, for a good six or seven years.
Then I had An Idea. An idea that couldn’t have occurred to me seven years ago. A truly Kaffe-ish idea. Why not knit the overlapping boxes WITHOUT A CHART? Can you stand it? Boxes are SQUARE. Knitting is square. You can SEE THE BOXES in your knitting. They are meant to OVERLAP so you can do them any whichway. LET’S DO IT!!!
To make it more fun (could it possibly get more fun?), I ditched the notion of a cushion cover (so ‘1999’), and decided to just make a piece of fabric. And bam! to kick it up one more notch, I would knit it really fast. Over and out. Speed intarsia. An afternoon’s knitting, and wherever those boxes stood, they would be bound off.
This is what I got. You just have to believe me when I tell you, it was a hoot and a half to knit this thing.
What am I going to do with it? I’m feeling a little…..blankety.