Sunday, June 3, 2012

Rip it up and start again


I spent a marvelous hour or so last fall at a yarn store in San Francisco called Artfibers. The owners formulate their own yarn bases and hand-dye them to produce a large loft of amazing, unique fibers. When I walked out after a happy morning swatching, I had 400 yards of Ming, a half-merino half-silk blend in a colorway that reminded me of bronze, copper, gold and amethyst.

Last night, having bound off an enormous Malabrigo wrap destined for my mother-in-law's shoulders, I couldn't wait to start another project. A scarf, a rectangular scarf that I can knit on my beloved Signature straights, worsted weight, large and satisfying stitches in a yarn that would be a treat for my hands and eyes.

I started out by looking for inspiration in my Ravelry stash and queue, but when I visited my yarn wall to poke through the yarn possibilities in person, the Artfibers cone practically fell into my hands. What better indulgence, I thought?I gathered the yarn and my needle roll and headed back to the living room to find a pattern.

I didn't expect that search to last all night and most of the next morning. Here are some of the patterns I tried.


Serafine by Molly Whiddon. I saw some lovely projects showing how this clusters and highlights variegated yarn. But after starting it, I was unhappy and wasn't sure why.

Tipsy diagonal rib scarf

Tipsy Rib Scarf by Pamela Wynne. Very promising, since this pattern was created for this specific yarn. But I only got a couple of rows in before I made a mistake, and since I wasn't sure that a simple knit/purl pattern was what I wanted, I moved on.


One-Row Handspun Scarf by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. The one pictured is by Raveler purpleemma in Ming. Isn't it beautiful? I kept coming back to this, hoping it would work. I love one-row lace patterns. They're what I so often crave when I crave a rectangular worsted-weight scarf on straight needles knitting experience. And this wasn't the only one I tried.


Sinful Ribbed Scarf by Classic Elite. Nope.

Pink Swish Detail

Swish Scarf by Lisa Sisk. Nope, but this is the one that made me realize what was wrong with all these patterns I was rejecting. The fringe you see is made by knitting six stitches in stockinette on one side of the scarf, then dropping them all at the end. The lace pattern wasn't doing it for me at all, but the stockinette was gorgeous. Aha! Need to look for patterns with major swaths of stockinette!

Unfortunately, stockinette and rectangular straight-needle scarves go together like ... things that don't go together well. Stockinette rolls up from side to side, and scarves have to lay flat. Was it possible that this yarn, which begged for beautiful columns of knit-stitch V's to show off its iridescence, would be incompatible with my desire for a simple unshaped scarf?


The Prismatic Scarf by Huan-Hua Chye. I thought this would be the one. There's three knit stitches between those slipped-with-yarn-in-front bars. But the bars were distracting rather than enhancing. They looked messy. I needed even more stockinette.

Bufanda para Arturo

SciWiNoNa (Scarf With No Name) by weezalana. Ahhhhh. Finally. A scarf with wide stockinette panels (five stitches across) and no yarn-overs or slipped stitches to detract from them.


As soon as I got past the garter border and started the pattern, I knew my yarn had found its pattern at last. The metallic sheen to the fibers, the deep tones of the colors, all glowed in the smooth stockinette surface.

One of the great virtues of knitting is its ability to be unravelled and worked again. I knit the first inch or two of this scarf half a dozen times in the past twenty-four hours. For a material so precious, it was worth the trial and error to find its proper match. Trust your instincts, learn from your mistakes. Rip it up and start again. The investment is small -- just time and effort. The reward is beauty, and the pleasure of making it. Few activities afford so many opportunities to do it over and get it right.

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