This is a two-parter! The topic for day 6 of KCBW is aspirations: "Is there a skill or project that makes your mind boggle at the sheer time, dedication and mastery of the craft?" Because I have links and no pictures to show you in this regard I'm also going to tell you about a project I recently finished - so, something totally unrelated.
On to the aspirations! I have to say, I don't think there's a particular technique out there that really frightens me. I certainly have preferences as far as what I enjoy doing, but I don't have anxiety about doing one particular thing. Is this because I'm largely self-taught? Maybe. Is this my personality? Probably. Am I some kind of daredevil sociopath knitter? Likely. One thing I've recently resolved to do is post more here about unsuccessful projects or ways in which I've screwed up. Because I screw up a lot. Because I've now screwed up so often that I can tear things out with abandon and take on daunting feats of reconstruction without blinking an eye. I'm desensitized, I suppose. I didn't realize this until I was teaching one of my Macro Mitts classes at Loopy. I forget exactly how it happened, but at some point I was helping one student, and tried to help another student at the same time and led the latter one astray. It was my screw up, and she noticed that her mitten wasn't looking the way I should have within a couple rounds. I felt bad because it was my fault, obviously, but I also felt like a knitting class should be a "safe space," so to speak, where students can try anything without anxiety. So I took her mitten, started dropping down some problematic stitches, and putting it back together. The students were horrified at first, but when I admitted that I'm pretty good at fixing mistakes because I make them all the time, we all laughed and moved on. At any rate, I learned something about myself as a knitter that day, namely that the reason I'm not afraid of trying new techniques is because the act of screwing things up and then fixing them (or just tearing them out and admitting it was an ill-conceived idea in the first place) has become thoroughly mundane.
So what, then, boggles my mind, if not any particular technique? Of course it's no secret that I love stranded colorwork, but all the stranded projects I've completed have been small accessories. As we all know my argyle vest has languished for far too long. Although I'm fairly adept at stranded knitting, the one thing that still completely amazes me is any large-scale stranded project, especially sweaters. I have a few of these in my ravelry queue, and a few million more in my faves. One of my absolute all-time favorite large-scale stranded projects (how's that for a mouthful) is Misa's Owl and the Pussycat dress. I mean seriously, just look at that. It's awesome in every possible sense of the word. It's really cool; it's mouth-gaping awe-inspiring; it's even kind of terrifying.
As for large stranded knitting projects that I would love to make for myself, my favorites are sweaters with all-over abstract patterns. I'm not normally a big fan of anything too explicitly representative in stranded knitting; that's just my preference. Flowers and plants and celestial beings are fine; people and animals are not for me. It's a weird taste thing and I'm not going to try to justify it. There are two patterns by Kirsten Jensen in my queue that are pretty much the ultimate, as far as I'm concerned: Urban Mandarin and Platte River. Kirsten's charts have such a distinctive look about them, and the feminine shaping makes an extremely wearable sweater, in my opinion. The thing about those sweaters, however, is that they're knit in sport and fingering weight, respectively. It's the scale and the time commitment that's doing the boggling here. I really aspire to be able to execute something like that. The third all-over stranded sweater in my queue is from the first issue of the St. Denis magazine (so, sport weight yarn as well): Gothic Snowfall. Again, that sweater has a nice tailored shape that I would actually wear. And I love that big collar.
So how do I plan on accomplishing this goal? Well the first step is obviously to complete my freaking argyle vest. There's no reason that thing should have taken me 2 1/2 years or however long it's been. In order to finish that project I'll have to steek for the first time. (EEK! Excitement!) Secondly, I have a few other garments in my queue involving stranding on a more limited basis. These patterns would make great stepping-stones. First there's another vest, this one also from the first St. Denis mag (can you tell I love those magazines?): Abstract Leaves. Although this uses finer gauge yarn than my argyle vest (Abstract Leaves is on sport; Argyle is on Cascade 220, so DK/light worsted) it also calls for US4 needles. And from what I can tell the construction is pretty much the same, but with less dramatic shaping. Second, there are three sweaters in my queue involving colorwork yokes (by three great designers!): Orange Pop, Adelaide Yoke, and Solveig Yoke. These projects are eminently completable because the vast majority of them involve straight stockinette in a single color (such great TV knitting, or end of the day braindead knitting!), and the colorwork portion is limited, and offers a great opportunity to play with fun colors. Really the only question is which one to embark upon first? And for something completely different, take a look at Rustic Bodice by Melinda Hunt. I have such a crush on that sweater! The panel of colorwork down the front is such a unique construction idea. And from what I can tell from those pictures, it looks like Melinda has a very similar body shape to my own, and that the sweater would look great over my curves.
And for those of you who are still reading, thank you, and here is the aforementioned FO! These are the Burning Stripes socks by Susan Luni. These might just be the fastest pair of socks I've ever knit, just because I got completely addicted to those stripes. Sure, they're just striped socks; they're also the most clever striped socks you could ever make. You carry both colors in a contrasting stripe down the back of the socks, all the way through the heel. And the heel is really the money-shot on these. Check it:
That's a boomerang heel, which is basically a standard short row heel (obviously you're carrying the contrasting yarn in a vertical stripe the same way you have been up until the heel) but with a couple rounds of knitting in the middle. Susan has cleverly orchestrated the pattern so that the stripe pattern is unbroken over the instep, and divides perfectly evenly into the contrasting lines on the heels.
As for modifications, I made a few. Obviously my socks are fraternal twins. The pink/purple yarn is zauberball crazy. I steered clear of regular old zauberball because single-ply sock yarns absolutely don't work on my feet. The white yarn in the more contrasty sock is some unidentified merino-bamboo-nylon blend I picked up on clearance a while back. I have a few small scraps of it, so it works great for things like this. Then on the less constrasty/more colored sock, I worked from both ends of the zauberball.
I made two changes to the heel, just to make it foot my foot better and to make it work better for me as a knitter. As it is written, this is a great heel. But keep in mind that I have big huge flat feet, so short row heels don't normally fit me very well. Rather than working the heel over 50% of the stitches, as one would normally do, I worked it over 37 of my 60 total stitches. So it's big, and it fits my foot better as a result of this. Secondly, the pattern has you work short rows with yarn overs rather than wraps. I had always done short rows with wraps, so on the first sock I made (the one with the white yarn) I made the heel as written. While Susan's sample socks have nice tight short rows, I was ending up with these loose stitches at the ends of the short rows. I think the yarn over short row technique just isn't the best for me as a knitter; I have no issue with that technique being written into the pattern. So on my second sock I used my usual wrap and turn technique and ended up with a much more attractive heel.
Thank you to those of you who stuck with this blog post to the bitter end, and since today is the last day of KCBW, hopefully I can pull off one more post later today!