Knitting, like relationships, is work.

Casting on is a little like falling in love.

You see the pattern from the middle of a crowded pattern book, or a search on Ravelry, and you just know it’s meant to be. (Ravelry is totally the knitting equivalent to Match.com.) Finding the yarn is easy, and fun, and you know exactly what needles you want to use. Casting on is utterly delightful, and you tell yourself grand stories about your future with this project, always skimming over the hard parts. Knitting this, you think, will be a dream.

Sooner or later, though, you’re ready to pull your hair out. You’re exasperated, or you’re bored, fantasizing about another project… but for some reason, you’re committed to this one. You’ve promised it to someone else, or it’s a present (with a deadline!), or, in this particular case, it’s a commission.

Yes, my tedious knitting is more than just a hypothetical situation, unfortunately.

This was a bad project to take on from the beginning – if knitting is falling in love, this project was an arranged marriage. You see, I hate scarves. I’ve knitted exactly one, a purple cabled scarf that I ran out of yarn before it was long enough for anyone but my four-year-old niece. (I crocheted my beloved a Tom Baker Dr. Who scarf, but that was when I was just learning, and six feet of single crochet also goes a lot faster than six feet of knitting. Also, I love him, and he treated me like I was performing some sort of Biblical miracle by creating it.) One of my relatively few UFOs is a scarf for myself. I stopped working on it back when it became summer (summer in Arizona + wool blend = no) and never really picked it back up. I have never in my life made a garter-stitch scarf, and I never plan to.

But I was working in the library, and I was extremely broke, and my boss loved scarves. Collected them. Was utterly fascinated by my knitting, and told me from the first week I worked there that he was going to commission me to make him a scarf. He was my boss, guys. And then, he brought in the other scarf that he’d commissioned from a former employee, which… well. It looked terrible. Worsted weight, cheap acrylic, looked like it was done on size 15 needles. Stripes, with the ends woven in badly. I wanted to put the poor thing out of its misery. And I would never, in a million years, allow anyone to pay me to produce something that looked like that. I wouldn’t give something like that to someone I didn’t like. I wouldn’t donate to charity. So… I had to save him. I had to save my boss, who bled the colors of our university, from the indignity of this scarf. He told me he wanted something other than just stripes, so I combed my pattern books and Ravelry, looking for interesting colorwork scarves.

He picked the Uncle Argyle Scarf from Son of Stitch N Bitch (it’s on the cover). Picking yarn was another problem – who knew there were that many colors of gold in Cascade 220? And, as a scarf connoisseur, he brought in a couple of his favorite scarves, so I could see what his favorite width and length were. First of all, his favorite scarves? Were woven. Not knitted. Second, they were both 12+ inches wide. So, being eager to please (I mentioned that this was my boss, right?), I determined that I would just double the pattern width, make it a little longer, and felt it. Thus the Argyle State University scarf was born.

Uncle Argyle is a lovely pattern, by the way, and it’s working up beautifully. However: it’s double-knitted. Which means you have to do two stitches for every box on the chart. The chart is 30 boxes wide, which is 60 stitches. So if you double the chart, every row is 120 stitches, changing colors every. single. time. Tedious does not begin to describe it. And unlike, say, miles of garter stitch, where you can just watch a movie or listen to a podcast and let your fingers work, it requires significant counting, and making sure you’re in the right place, and so on. Plus keeping your two balls of yarn from tangling more than necessary.

In good news, though, I’m getting the hang of the way the pattern works, and can now see the way the stitches go together to create the fabric (and isn’t that just an amazing moment, when you stop seeing rows and stitches and start seeing the thing that you’re making? It’s like when you turn the heel of your sock, and suddenly you have A SOCK instead of just a cylinder. Incredible.). What this means is that it takes less of my attention with every row, because I look at the chart and don’t see boxes, I see pattern, so I have a good idea going into a row what it has to look like. I’m counting the chart much less.

I took a break in here and did a few more rows, finishing the third pattern repeat. I feel productive and satisfied. It really is a beautiful fabric, and that helps too.

To take the knitting-and-relationships analogy back around full circle, when you’re frustrated with your (healthy, functioning) relationship, it helps to take a step back and look at the object as a whole. The fabric you’re creating together is beautiful, and when it’s going well, it makes both of you warm and comfortable. Just because today you’ve discovered that you have to rip a few rows out or you’re having trouble with the increases, doesn’t mean that you have to frog the whole thing. (Frogging is when you yank the needles out and rip the whole thing out, returning your knitting to its native yarn state.)

And, hey, if you do end up frogging it? The yarn is still useful. Frogged objects, like ended relationships, aren’t failures.

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~ by Amber on January 12, 2011.

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