Perfect Handknit: Too Proud to Live, Too Sorry to Die
September 23, 2005
Dear Kay, and the Future Searchers,
[For those just joining us, a quick review: We are deep into a group quest for the Perfect Handknit. If we were MSNBC, we'd have a graphic in the corner that ticks off the days: "Perfect Handknit: Day 23." It's not a hostage situation, exactly, although we may have lost a few participants to grief at the wrong yarn being named the perfect yarn, confusion about why we are doing this, and general claustrophobia. We try to take stretching breaks every hour, but people don't want to put down their knitting.]
Now. I have been ever so busy digesting the Prouds and Sorries. So proud! So sorry! We are one proud, sorry group.
Let’s take a look at the themes that emerged from everyone’s comments. (Thank you all, by the way, for sharing what had to be painful memories.) We’ll examine Sorries first. Let’s just get that out of the way.
Knitters of Constant Sorrow
Our first mind map reveals a regular wagon wheel of woe:
[click on image for supersize version]
Big areas where things went wrong:
Style: A lot energy was given to this area. Problem styles included garments that were wide, cropped, heavy, too “out there” to wear in public, had cabley epauletlike shoulders, and tank tops made in chunky yarns. Sweater that “reaches knees” was a problem.
Fit: One of the main problems is that people ended up looking like things they didn’t want to look like:
“Makes me look fat”
“Looks like body armor”
“Look like a box”
“Look like ready to pop stuffed cartoon brick house”
“Look like Sasquatch”
“Look like Klingon”
Other fit problems: too small, too big, tight neck opening, sleeves too short, “early” hats that did not fit the heads of the recipients.
Materials: The wrong yarn doomed many a project. Anything scratchy, itchy, hot, shedding, wirelike was trouble. Not to name names, but . . . acrylic, eyelash, Rowan R2 paper, lopi, Lion Brand Homespun and Woolease. Special fury was rained on acrylic chenille: wormed, shed, biased, was “slubbed yuk.” Oy! Sounds like the Katrina cleanup.
Gauge: A constant cause of Sorries. Gauge fluctuated during knitting, swatches had to be reswatched 12 times. And many Sorries resulted from failure to swatch at all.
Difficulty: Problems happened when a pattern was a first attempt at something, indeed the first attempt at a sweater.
Pattern: Trouble came when when knitters changed the stitch pattern, tried to resize it, fell victim to bad math, didn’t fix a mistake, forgot the lace pattern, “I didn’t know what I was doing.”
End Result: Sorries often happened at the end of the day. The knitter didn’t like the final product, the recipient didn’t like it, it smelled bad.
Places Sorries are Kept: Weirdly, Sorries don’t necessarily go away. They live on in “the drawer of shame,” “a big plastic Hefty bag under the bed,” “his closet,” and “on our hippy teddy bear waiting for a ‘Dead’ tour.”
In sum, the hard lessons learned here can guide us away from the itchy, the boxy, the ill-gauged, the sweater that makes us look like a Klingon.
Prouds: Blue Ribbons All Around
[click on map for supersize version]
Everybody has that project that hit the sweet spot: yarn, pattern, difficulty. A great yarn, a well-written pattern, a bit (or a ton) of difficulty–put those together, and that’s what makes us happy.
Hat: Chemo caps.
Socks: Broadripple, Go with the Flow, with Lorna’s Laces Flame.
Blanket: Cableknit. Baby.
Shawl: Leaf lace, Lady Eleanor Wrap from Scarf Style, Birch from Rowan, Kiri, own handspun cashmere laceweight shawl, cashmere lace shawl.
Dress: Butterfly lace dress from Rowan 37.
Tank: Shapely Tank.
Animal: mint green elephant. Purple felted monster.
Tea Set: Annie Modesitt’s Fiesta Ware.
The most Prouds had to do with sweaters: beautiful, beautiful sweaters. For men, babies, friends. Intarsia, Fair Isle, cabled, striped. Designs by Kaffe Fassett, Alice Starmore, 1984 Phildar patterns, Rowan, Interweave, Bonne Marie Burns.
Prouds, Sorries, HAPPIES: The Perfect Beverage
[click for 40-ounce Schlitz Malt Liquor version]
It’s a miracle any of us finishes anything.
Nominations Are Open
Taking to heart all of the above, please nominate the sort of project you think constitutes the Perfect Project. No need to get specific about the details of pattern. I’m talking hat, shawl, sweater, socks–a general category. We’ll have a vote once all the nominations are in. Deadline: Saturday, September 24, 11:43 pm CDT.
I hereby declare it Happy Hour. Two-for-ones until seven o’clock.