Sunday, March 29, 2009

Patterns that Lie

I haven't finished anything this week. After sewing up Peep-Bo, I moved on to "Jet," one of the patterns in 25 Bags to Knit, which I picked up at the Brattle Bookshop a couple of weekends ago for a mere $7.50. (There are actually only about 5 different patterns in the book, with 5 color variations for each, but it has great pictures and lots of color ideas.) I went to the stash for yarn to use and realized that this was a perfect opportunity to play with some of the Moonlight Mohair I picked up at OSJL a couple of months ago. I also picked up some Red Heart Designer Sport, since the pattern calls for a combination of mohair and DK.

Having learned the lesson of the Snuggie Monster, I swatched. Then I swatched again. Third time was the charm--I finally settled on 2 strands of the DK and one strand of the MM and made the 4 inches across 14 sts/19 rows. Hooray! Swatching to Success! Then I read the pattern again, and said "WTF?" The final size of the bag was listed as 7" x 7-1/2". The gauge indicated by the pattern is the aforementioned 14 sts/19 rows = 4". The pattern instructs one to cast on 50 sts. FIFTY. For each side. Even given a seam allowance, that would seem to indicate that the bag would be at least a foot across. NOT 7". However, like the obedient beginner I am, I followed instructions. I knit the entire first side. And it was, indeed, a foot across. I don't want a bag that's a foot across. I want a bag that's 7" across. I therefore chanted my new mantra and frogged the whole thing. Then I started again by casting on 30 sts. I now have the front of the bag finished, and it's coming in at a respectable 8" or so, which will give me the size bag I so earnestly desire.

I have a major beef now. There was obviously something wrong with the pattern. This happened on Peep-Bo, too, but when I looked online, I found corrections on the author's website (thank you Claire Crompton!). For 25 Bags to Knit, I dug everywhere I could to find a list of corrections and found nothing. The author apparently had a website at one time, but it was defunct. Neither publisher (the title pubbed in the U.S. and U.K.) had corrections available on their websites and I didn't want to wade through the process of emailing them and waiting for some editorial intern to look up from the slush pile in order to tell me that they don't keep corrections lists and I'd have to check the author's (nonexistent) website.

What are we beginners supposed to do when even the simplest patterns lie? How are we supposed to learn trust and affection for the patterns we work from when they seem to be universally untrustworthy? The only good thing I can see emerging from this pattern (hah) is that I'm learning what kind of knitter I am--a smartypants one. I've realized that I can read a pattern and see that it makes no sense, and then I can go back and fix it. I can figure it out. And I really like the figuring-out part, even if it means I frog everything I've done in the last week. The other thing I've figured out is that I really like the fabric the pattern in this particular project makes. It's straightforward--R1 is knit across, and R2 is k1, p1 across--but the result is a really dense, sturdy-feeling fabric that I would like to use again. Maybe on a cushion cover or something? I think, perhaps, that the best way to make sure I don't have to depend on patterns that lie or lists of corrections that may or may not exist online is to invent my own. Every project I do teaches me a little bit more about what I'm doing and how knitting works, and every bit I learn leads me closer to being able to invent my own projects. Knitting is a perfect balance between the indulgence of pathologically compulsive repetitive behaviors and the exertion of creative energy and problem-solving skills. It is the ideal expressive medium for the lazy, artistic, crisis-oriented neurotic. It is, in fact, the perfect pasttime.

P.S.: Speaking of pasttimes, K won Red Sox tickets at Abby's Boston Marathon fundraiser last night. Boston v. Seattle. Guess who's going with her! My dilemma with any Boston v. Seattle game is who to root for, but it becomes immaterial after the second $8 Bud Light. And there is seriously nothing more life-affirming than eating baseball food in Fenway Park, the oldest pro baseball stadium in the country. It's a shame it'll turn 100 the same year the world is supposed to end. But since the apocalypse isn't due till December, we should all still be able to go the party.

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