Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Should you knit what you don't love?

I was very excited a couple of weeks ago to decide it was time to cast on a shawl with the gorgeous orange-into-black Tomcat colourway I bought from a recent Twisted Fiber Art club.  The question was, which shawl pattern?

I really like the way a crescent shape works for me, so that was limiting right there - most shawls that aren't triangles or rectangles are semi-circles, which don't have the same hug factor.  Then I noticed that quite a few of the crescents I liked were knit side to side, or bottom-up, or some other way that I couldn't get excited about.  I wanted a nice easy but interesting vehicle to get some soft cashmere blend colour up around my neck, not to spend weeks poring over complex lace patterns.

Just as I was about to give up and design my own, which is something I really need to avoid right now, I fell for what I think, in spite of the story I'm heading down into, is very pretty:  Tess Young's Crowning Glory Lace Shawl.   Not only is it a crescent without a hint of a short row, it has a marvelous non-curling starting point.  Also: several rows with just pure knitting or purling, such that you can pause at the end of a complicated patch and pick it up again while visiting with friends.

Deciding Factor: the 'crowning glory' refers to the lace stitch which has a second name, referring to a cat's paw.  Could there be a better fit for my Tomcat yarn? I don't think so.

Introducing Tommy the Seven-Toed Cat

Well, I cast on the shawl the other day when I should have been finishing Bob's socks, and decided after the first repeat that I needed a bigger needle.  So I ripped out and started again and this is how I know I adore the start of this shawl.  It is awesome even when you are knitting it the second time, and it works.  Really, really well.

My first clue that something was wrong turned up on the first try, and was reinforced on the second when I could have adjusted my approach.  There is nicely balanced set of decreases that disappears partway through the repeat, to a decrease on one side only.  And that is hard for me to knit because I am a little compulsive about balancing things.

Naturally, I had to meddle.  I didn't understand why you couldn't just keep the decreasing pattern, and I decided I would add that in myself and make up the difference in stitches in the next row, which I did, and it worked great until I looked at the finished repeat and remembered that the stitch is called a cat's paw because it's supposed to have five holes above a very large central hole, and my version has seven.

Hence the loss of the balance in the pattern as written.  Oops.

Still pretty though!  Look:

Yet in spite of the pretty, I find myself saying H'mmm.  There's just something wrong, and I can't quite put my finger on it, but it's making me question whether I really want to go on.

Is it the fact that I'm not enjoying the motion involved in working the specific stitches for the cat's paw? (because even though they are pretty ordinary, I'm really not enjoying those motions.)

Is it the stretches of plain knitting that produce the ridges, combined with the lace, combined with yarn heavier than Tess envisioned, in a colourway that is going to start very soon to fade from one very distinct hue to another, which is likely to produce an accessory much more busy than I would ever wear?

Is it me feeling guilty about not clearing the half finished socks out of my basket of knitting?  or possibly the hat that only needs the crown knit?

GAH, I don't know.

What I do feel certain about is that the feeling isn't going away and it's not likely to as I get further along - not nearly as likely as the time is to go away, and the time is definitely not going to come back.

I'm going to try to sit on the problem for another day or so, because I wouldn't put it past myself to rip out this shawl and start knitting my second choice, only to decide to come back to this one.  Maybe what I should do is cast on the second choice in an alternate yarn, so that I can look at both and decide which I prefer? even though what I prefer is a shawl made out of Tomcat and socks made from the alternate, and anyway, I only have the one set of needles to work with?

(how is that possible, by the way?  nobody has more needles than I do, surely.)

Anyway, there I am.  Knitting something that for reasons I don't understand, I don't love.  And not feeling sure I should be.  Such a silly predicament for a sunny, lovely day!

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