Saturday, July 5, 2008

knitting, knitting and more knitting.....

forward: you should know up front that this post is pretty long, but i did put pictures of my finished intarsia swatch somewhere near the bottom! not only does this post contain all the hilarity of my usual rants, but i've also tried to give an educational account of what happened, and a few things i discovered on my intarsia adventure. so for those of you who have always wanted to try intarsia *especially those who have always been told that it is HARD!!!* here is a first hand account of my experience with it. and for those who came to feel better about themselves and their knitting by reading about MY perpetual back luck, continue on!!
as you can see from the title, most of my spare time since my last post has been spent.... knitting. knitting on the creativity 350 super top secret project and the millionth redo of the yarn over cable socks. at least this time i have GOOD news about these projects, no major snafus again *but i'm not holding my breath*!

the best news of all?!?! i finished my sample of the intarsia section of the 350 project!!! i'm thrilled that it went so damn good! i get so intimidated by techniques that have always been labeled as "hard" or "challenging". that's why i can get pretty heated on the message boards on craftster or ravelry when someone replies to questions by saying "oh, (insert specific technique) is so hard!!!" i think that's why certain techniques, such as fair isle or intarsia, and even ENTIRE CRAFTS become virtually unheard of *can anyone say: spinning!!!* or considered antiquated. anyways, i'm getting off topic *so out of character for me, right?!*

back to the point, i finished the sample, which i decided to knit before starting my project mainly because i've never done intarsia, but also to see how the motif *which i charted by hand* looked and whether or not it needed to be changed (which i'm glad i did, because the chart did not translate well in some areas of the knitting). it took me three of four rows to really get the hang of the intarsia, to a point where i wasn't having to stop and refer to my book. but, in my opinion, 3 or 4 rows is a pretty small learning curve! intarsia's not as difficult as fair isle considering that you don't have to hold 2 *or more!!* yarns at the same time. instead, you simply drop the color you're not going to knit with anymore "the old color" pick up your "new" color and bring it UNDER the old color and then just start knitting, not worrying about the "old" yarn!! and it will be infinintely easier to understand what i mean by bringing the new yarn UNDER the old yarn, when you're actually trying it out for yourself *instead of just reading it* and there's a VERY helpful video on that shows in real time, from the knitter's view point (like what you see when you're looking down at your own knitting) with no cut-aways, so you see everything the knitter in the video does AND it shows the techniques in both continental and english in the one video. this video was my *AHA!!!* moment, as i was getting my instructions *which were very minimalistic* from a book, but i'm such a visual learner that when i saw the video, i instantly knew what i was doing wrong and how to correct it. so if intarsia is something you want to learn, then go watch that video!!!! *i know i went over the video in my last post, too, but seriously, that video was the single best help i could find on the web, even of the written tutorials, and so i think it would be pretty important for other people who may want to learn intarsia, and thus, worth mentioning......again!

to start off, here is an explanation of the basic principle of intarsia: you need a seperate strand of yarn for every different block of color in your knitting. the best way i've heard this explained is that to knit something with a solid pink circle on a brown background, you would need one strand of yarn for the right side of the background, one for the pink circle and one for the left side of the background (since the background splits and goes around the circle in two different areas of color). so, i deduced i'd need seven different strands of yarn for my sample:

1) the right margin of the background
2) the number zero
3) the space in between the zero and the 5
4) the number 5
5) the space in between the 5 and the 3
6) the number 3
7) the left margin of the background

and i was right, at least until i started getting further into the charted design and you go to grab your new color, and there's nothing there. so what do you do at this point?!?! well, i never found anything that explained what to do then. this was the one place i found in my entire swatch that i was absolutely stuck and had no idea how to remedy it.

so, here's how i figured out my solution. i was knitting the numbers "3-5-0" in my sample. BUT, there is one area enclosed by a solid line: the inside of the zero. so, once you get the bottom line of the zero knitted, you have to start a new strand of yarn for the background color.

*which, by the way, i only noticed right now as i typed out the numbers, so i obvioulsy didn't know to account for it in my swatch!! this is just one of many examples that illustrate how i get myself into so many ridiculous, totally avoidable situations!!!*
anyways, so i would reach down for my new color, and the yarn would be in another place and NO WHERE *not even on that blessed video* did it say: "if this happens to you, the proper thing to do is to add another yarn"!!! so at first i thought stranding *which is what you do in fair isle* may be the answer, until the yarns started getting further and further apart, and i was creating more of a problem than a solution.

and so, i was left to rack my brain for the solution to my problem, when it hit me like a ton of bricks "DUH, add a new piece of yarn!!" in my opinion, the MOST important thing to remember with intarsia *and, unfortunately, the the most unmentioned* is this: you can add a new yarn ANYWHERE in your row!!! on the left, on the right and even SMACK in the middle of a row!!! i know, it seems like knitting heresy, but most of the places you will introduce a new color of yarn in intarsia is NOT at beginning of a row!!!

and now, here's my two cents concerning the war of words on knitting intarsia with bobbins versus no bobbins. i started out my swatch with my yarn on bobbins. i had 6 or 7 that i had bought AGES ago but never got the courage to use!! turns out, the one thing i DID underestimate about intarsia was how many strands of yarn i'd have hanging off the back of my knitting!!! and since i only had those 6 or 7 yarn bobbins, and i don't know how to make those nifty yarn butterflies that unwind from the center, i had only one other option which i had never heard of until i started researching intarsia on the web. this method came from people who absolutely HATED using yarn bobbins and/or butterflies and is perhaps the easiest way to handle your yarn when you know you're going to have a gazillion yarn butts hanging out back there.

now pay attention, this is tricky!!! you take the color of yarn required, measure off about a yard and a half *this is a matter of personal preference, but this was best for ME as i had only small blocks of color and my swatch was TINY, you can certainly do longer pieces on a bigger project, though!* so you measure off what you think you'll need, cut the yarn off the ball and add it to your piece and......... oh wait, THAT'S IT?!?! yes, really, that's it!!! it's so easy and it makes the yarn super accessible and you don't have to worry about tangles at all because the butterflies and bobbins are what REALLY facilitate those tangles. so when you need a particular strand, you just pull it loose, and i NEVER had a problem, not once! and briefly, i will end this topic by saying that i didn't have any problem using the bobbins, either, when i was at the beginning of my work. but once i started compiling so many yarn ends, that's when those bobbins get all tangled up in there, and if there are ANY rough parts on the bobbin that snag your yarn, you might as well forget it. that was my major problem with them, and let me tell you, snag my yarn they did! so for a small project, you may find you get along quite well with the bobbins. as for me, those brand new yarn bobbins are headed to my embroidery box, to be wound with floss.
and i'm going to try not to ramble on about this, but people make such a big deal about their work getting all tangled up with intarsia *like, tangled to a point where they have to totally start over on their project*. but i only got one such tangle in the entire process of my swatch. and that was when one of the monsters *still not sure which one, but the investigation is ongoing!!* got a hold of my finished (!!!) swatch, and i have NO idea what they did to it, but i found it, laying on the floor looking like a cat had gotten ahold of it. and luckily, although it took some time to untangle it, at the end of the debacle, everything was okay! so i'm not sure what other people are doing to their intarsia projects to get them to that point.

okay, if you're still awake and not comatose, here are some pics!!! and just know that i was in a hurry and i didn't take alot of time to pin it absolutely flat and straight, in fact, i only took these pictures was so i could put them on the blog- just for you!!!

here is the finished swatch in its entirety

and this is to show just how tiny the gauge is for this project!!! that's your standard size tomato pin cushion there

and here, in all its glory, is the back of the piece. note at the bottom are the bobbins i originally started out with but gave up quickly!!

oh, and a quick note about the yarn over cable socks- i started over with the different crochet cast on i described in the last post, which worked with great success!!!! i counted the stitches relentlessly, and am proud to say that i still have the correct number!!! i have finished the toe and started on the foot of the sock, where the stitch pattern begins and have only messed up very slightly once, but there is a good reason!! i was watching nanny 911 and was so repulsed by a mother who let her two daughters eat and drink their pot belly pig and cat's food and water, that i got distracted on one row. can you blame me for not paying attention to my knitting?!?!

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