Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Red Scarf-age

...or, How to badly knit a scarf for the Red Scarf project.

There are so many things wrong with this scarf, it was almost a crime to mail it in to the Red Scarf Project, but, mail it I did. (I apparently have a high tolerance for shame.) I take 80% of the blame for this monstrosity. I blame one of the yarns used for the other 20% of the problems. But before I get deep into whine mode, let me step you through my process:

This jumbled mess of knitting is actually a scarf, knit lengthwise, in the round, with a steek that will be cut and become fringe, and is shown here prior to finishing or blocking:


Here's the 22-stitch steek, knit all in stockinette. All new yarns were joined in the middle of that steek, which is clearly obvious by the indentation in this photo:


And even more obvious on the flip-side, where all the tails hang:


Extreme close-up of live steek stitches with needle removed:

Eek! Live stitches! The sky is falling!

And here's the steek, post-surgery:

Mad woman cuts her knitting. News at 11.

The giant circle is now a long rectangle. Here it is with the steek stitches unraveled:

I sorta liked that curly look, but knew it was only temporary

Here is the curly fringe all knotted up and ready for a bath:

No bathtub shots. We're a modest blog here at Virgin Wool, after all.

But I will show it blocking:
My porch is the only place where I can block a scarf where it won't be in my way or walked on by cats.

Finally, it was time to even out the fringe. Here's the carnage:

And here's the Red Scarfage, ready for mailing:

Now for the knitty gritty details...

First, the specs:

Pattern: Maia's "Scarf Around" (download pdf file here)
* main color: Lion Cashmere Blend in # 113 (red) - (bought at Ben Franklin's 50% off sale)
* constrasting colors:
** Artyarns supermerino, three different colorways
** unlabeled Sari silk yarn
Needles: U.S. size 8 Denise interchangeable circulars on 40" cable
Gauge: who cares?

Next, the positives:

I loved knitting with that Lion Cashmere Blend (72% merino, 14% cashmere, 14% nylon) -- it is incredibly soft and sproingy, delightful to knit with, delightful to touch. It retails for about $9 for an 84 yard ball, which is more than I am willing to pay for any Lion Brand yarn, cashmere content not withstanding, but I got it at a 50% off sale, and snapped up all they had. I'd definitely knit with it again, but again, probably wouldn't buy it unless it's on sale. I'm a brand snob that way, I guess.

I also loved Maia's pattern and the idea of knitting a lengthwise scarf in the round. In practice, however, I struggled. Which leads us right into...

...the negatives:

Knitting a lengthwise scarf in the round, in actuality, is somewhat of a pain. 274 stitches on a 40" cord requires a lot of stopping & starting to allow for sliding the stitches around that giant loop. I feel like I spent more time sliding stitches around than actually knitting them, which added to the time it took to knit this scarf, refuting my original assumption that knitting it in the round would be faster. For anyone who doesn't like the Magic Loop method of knitting socks because of the sliding-stitches factor, you would HATE this method of knitting a scarf, because the sliding is magnified ten-fold.

In all fairness, however, I think that many of my problems were due to the tools I was using. Perhaps if I used a shorter cable (?), a smoother/skinnier cable (like an Addi Turbo), skinnier yarns (not the Sari silk) and larger needles, it would have been less of a struggle. Hard to say, at this point, though.

Knitting with the Lion Cashmere Blend and the Artyarns Supermerino yarns wasn't as difficult as knitting with the sari silk. That yarn can be quite bulky in places, making the stitches tighter and therefore harder to slide around the cable. In hindsight, I should have switched to larger needles while knitting that yarn. Now I know.

One of the yarns I used, and I'm not sure which, bled terribly in the scarf's Eucalan bath. So much so that, instead of a rinse-free wash promised by Eucalan, I had to rinse about three times before the water ran clear. The color that bled was red, so I'm thinking the Lion Brand yarn was the culprit, but there's no way of knowing, I suppose. If anyone else has used this yarn and knows if it bleeds or not, I'd love to hear it. I still have about six balls of this yarn left for some future project.

The pattern, as written, has you alternate rows of a solid red yarn with rows of sari silk yarn, which is what I planned on doing, but changed my mind after that first section of sari silk became such a chore to knit. I then decided to use different yarns (the ArtYarns supermerino) for the stripes in the middle, with one more stripe of sari silk on the end, before finishing with the solid red again.

One final negative, which is 100% my fault. I made the rookie mistake of binding off too tightly. I'd read (and promptly forgot, apparently), that when knitting a scarf lengthwise, you should bind off really loosely (with a needle at least one size larger), otherwise, you have one side that's very tight and one that's very loose, and the scarf then has a natural arc in it, so when stretched out, it has a dorky rainbow shape, instead of the expected long rectangle required of a scarf. You can sorta see it in the blocking picture, above, although I did not post the more rainbow-y pictures, I suppose out of shame. (See, I do have a sense of shame, apparently!)

Anyway, because of the weird final shape of the scarf, the ends were not nice neat horizontal edges, but rather, somewhat diagonal, and so my next dilemma was, how do I cut the fringe? Do I cut it straight across to form a horizontal bottom edge on the fringe, or on the diagonal, to match the scarf edge? I decided to cut it straight across, which turned out to look pretty stupid. The shame just continues....

After all was said and done, I was so ready to be rid of this scarf, I immediately folded it up, packaged it and put it in the mailbox, and it was picked up by the mailman within five minutes, gone from my sight forever. Foisted upon some poor orphaned college kid. That's adding insult to injury, is it not? Probably a good thing I don't have kids.

My apologies to orphans everywhere. Next year I'll try to do better.


Liz R. said...

It looks great to me, mary!!! it's gorgeous!

I hate Sari Silk! I have tried repeatedly to knit with it and it drives me crazy!! It reminds me of trying to un-knot my daughter's long, thick and wavy hair every day before elementary school. It doesn't help that I am extremely anal-retentive and the thick/thin fibery strands frighten and upset me!!

Suzanne said...

You are WAY too hard on yourself! I love the look, the colors, the silk. The bind off? unlikely to be a problem. It looks great and cashmere for charity? You ROCK!

LaurieM said...

Some kid might love it more because of it's faults.

emmy said...

From where I am sitting it looks great. I think the finished blocked scarf is very pretty and will be greatly appreciated. Your steek looks good too!!

Thanks for the tip on the hat!I think I have an adult version for that hat somewhere! I am going to email that link to my sis and let her choose!

Anonymous said...

It is the thought that counts. The end product looks like a winner to me.
And believe me you have grown from that knitting experience, and someone will have a lovely, warm scarf to strutt their stuff this winter.

jane said...

That scarf looks GREAT and you should be proud of the comitment you made to spend so many hours knitting for others!!!! Some of us more selfish knitters feel ashamed!!! Jane

janine said...

Great scarf and a really useful tutorial too :-)

mary lou said...

Isn't it amazing how good the final product can look when the in-process looks so funky? Great scarf and nice post.

Bess said...

Oh my! That is Lovely!

What a beautiful gift to give someone. You should be very proud.