Saturday, March 17, 2007

Project Spectrum 2007
February/March: Blue, White, Grey.
Okay, Ma'am. Move along.
Nothing to see here.

The grey SRK Monkey scarf WIP is officially on hold. I'm just not feeling the fun fur right now, especially with it being nearly the official start of spring. Sue me.

But I definitely want both a pair of armwarmers or fingerless-mitts and a cozy earwarmer/headband in the soft blue-grey worsted Misti Alpaca. It's still cold enough here for me to need them for my walks. And so I have a pattern dilemna: I want cables. Nice and intricate cabling to provide density for warmth and also aesthetic interwoven beauty. I've tried out several nice cabled patterns, but the alpaca makes the cables blurry unless the ribs are quite wide.

I really should be working on a nice vest I promised to make for DH with the repurposed beautiful blue/multi Manos (colour #111). But again I am stuck deciding on a simple pattern that will let this gorgeous yarn be the star. I have narrowed the field down to two favourite plans: I'm thinking it will be either in Entrelac or maybe just a simple regular 5 by 2 rib?...

In case you couldn't tell: my Project Spectrum plans for February and March were rather severely side-swiped by my new obsession with fair isle and learning to do stranded knitting well. I've tried a few swatches (sorry, no pix) and I think I'm going to love this stuff.

But I need to get my technique in the groove. My knitting has to have an element of flow in the mechanics for it to be truly satisfying. It's a meditative experience for me: the action needs to be on cruise control, whether my brain is on vacation with a simple stockinette or analytically challenged with pattern complexities.

After exploring various possible fair-isling strategies and gadgets, I realized the simplest skill-based approach is best for me. You may have one that suits you better - no judgement is implied. I'm a big believer in whatever works for you and if it ain't broke... But I love the basic two-handed Fair Isle technique video tutorial from the Philosophers Wool website. In a little under ten minutes, Ann Bourgeois demonstrates with very clear instructions how to do two-handed two-colour knitting. After watching her carefully a couple of times the penny suddenly dropped and I get it. Really, I do. This does not, however, mean that I can actually do it. Yet.

Sigh. She makes it look so easy to do stranded two-colour work this way. But you really need to build up that double-handed dexterity since essentially the right hand is working English style (aka - throwing) and the left hand is doing the Continental aka - (picking). It's an equal opportunity pain in the learning-curve: whichever style of knitting you habitually use, you'll need to become comfortable with the other.

I'm a picker. My German-speaking Romanian grandmother taught me how to knit the Continental style, which is very ergonomic with an inherent economy of motion that allows for some very fast and even knitting. I'm a bit ashamed to admit that in recent years I have secretly become rather smug about being practically the bionic knitter (better, stronger, faster). Well pride goeth before a fall. Despite being otherwise right handed, I find throwing or wrapping with the right hand incredibly counter-intuitive: it just crosses the wires in my knitting brain and something shorts out unless I concentrate very very hard. My brow furrows, my jaw clenches, my palms sweat.

I am not finding it fun. It's a little like practicing piano scales (don't even ask!) with your non-dominant hand for the first time - while wearing stiff padded gloves. But I figure I need to become comfortable (dare I say perhaps even proficient) in English style if I want to embrace this wonderful method of stranded knitting and thereby avoid the tangled mess I get when both yarns come from the same side.

So I'm going back to some of my Project Spectrum plans for project ideas to work out the kinks with my right handed English.

February/March Project Spectrum colours are Blue, White and Grey. The SP9 sock yarn "ChaCha" from Perchance to Knit is perfect Project Spectrum material: fine fingering-weight Kona superwash merino in a handpainted silver-grey, black, white and icy blue. Mmmm... Yummy project spectrum socks.

However, I think I would rather start to practise English style on something bigger than size 0 (2mm) needles. There's enough potential for cramping without asking for it. I need a project with a lot of straight stockinette, either flat or in the round,and probably in a worsted weight to begin with. After that I will do a simple sock to really get the hang of keeping the working yarn tension without cramping up my right hand. But first...?

I'm open to suggestions. Any ideas?


Carol said...

I learned the two handed knitting thing from the Philosopher's Wool website too. Practice with 2 contrasting colours in a worsted weight for a while. It'll come. After a while. Really!

Jenean said...

I read about your vertigo on Runagogo. I hope that you're feeling better!!