Monday, February 20, 2006

Knitting Olympics: Post-Game Analysis

Lacework is both entirely similar and entirely unlike to cable knitting. It's all about texture, which I love. It's all about watching patterns grow and take shape over time. It's also all about placing markers and counting and keeping track -- all with great care.

Lace and cable work require a high degree of attention. (Movies with subtitles are totally out of the question.)

I enjoy a challenge, so you'd think I'd enjoy knitting lace.

I haven't, in the past -- see previous posts on this topic -- and I pondered this question while working away on my shawl.

I think it's simply that I don't have as much control and understanding as I do with cables. I understand cables, in my bones. I can work them with my eyes closed. I can fix them - often in place, without even ripping rows back -- and I'm able to spot and diagnose a mistake simply by looking.

I'm not there yet with lace. I can sometimes spot a mistake just by looking at the knitting -- but not always. Most of the mistakes I found in the shawl were because my count was off, not because it looked or felt wrong. And mistakes are much harder to fix -- in all but a couple of cases I've ended up ripping back entire rows. (Thank god for the lifeline.) And I can't predict how a stitch will look by just reading the directions or looking at the charts.

A lot of this is to do with familiarity with the shapes and patterns, absolutely, but some of it is to do with the magical process of blocking. Lace changes completely upon blocking. I thought the Olympic shawl was kinda neat before I blocked it; I was blown away by the final result. Blocking for cables helps with construction and finish, but it's not as integral to creating the structure of the finished piece.

I advise my beginning students to stop fairly often and take a good look at their work -- to admire their progress, to check for mistakes, and to count their stitches. I consider myself an advanced knitter, and I wasn't taking my own advice.

And to properly look at lace knitting requires a good stretch -- stretch it out to mimic blocking, to see how it lies, how it looks, and what it's doing.

How many times did I want to throw it across the room? Twice. Once when I found the catastrophic mistake in the lace, the second time when completing the border... 8 rows of 300+ stitches in garter stitch.

Did I enjoy it? Yes, actually, I did.

Will I knit lace again? I just might. It strikes me that lace knitting is ideal for long stretches of plane travel, and the like, when I need something more absorbing than the average knitting project.

I'm proud of my Gold Medal: I achieved a challenging goal, I learnt a new skill, and now I've got my mother's birthday present all taken care of.

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