Monday, February 22, 2010

Freakshow.... a knitting story.

Once upon a time, a beautiful, smart and extremely talented princess (it's my story, I can describe the protagonist however I want to...) decided to expand her knitting repertoire with fair-isle (knitting with two colours or more). She had done some fair-isle in the past with moderate success, but really needed more experience and practice with the technique. She had also discovered (at around the same time) that mittens and gloves were extremely satisfying to knit (perhaps even MORE satisfying than socks) and, living in Canada, had friends and relatives galore to foist her knitted hand covers off on.

One day, shortly after (or maybe before, I can't remember) Christmas, she went into one of her favorite yarn stores and stumbled across a Tanis Fiber Arts, Fiddlehead mitten kit and immediately added it to her other purchases. This was an impulse buy because, although the colours were beautiful, the main colour of the mitten was supposed to be white (it's actually a light grey, but close enough) and white was not a good colour for her. This minor problem was fairly easily solved (or so she thought) by using the contrast colour stripes as the main colour and using the white as the contrast colour. She cast on and began knitting. It was then that the psychology phenomenon called the Stroop Effect, raised it's head and stared right in her eyes..... in short form, Stroop determined that it is harder (or at least slower) for people to read the words BLUE, RED, GREEN, when the colours of the words are different than the words (ie: BLUE, RED, GREEN). It turned out that the chart for the mitten was in black and white and if used the way the kit was intended, the white squares corresponded nicely with the white yarn. The princess, however, was a decently practiced knitter and adept at reading charts, so the fact that she had changed the colours around (darker colours would be white on the chart and white would be black on the chart) should not have bothered her.... The Stroop Effect was strong, however, and about 5 rounds into the pattern, the mitten started to look very wrong..... she had followed her brain and swapped the colours to the more natural white for white, colour for black....... She said some very un-princess-like words and pulled the mitten out.... she then cast on and began again. She would defeat Stroop..... and she failed.... two more times.....

Eventually, she learned that Stroop is a very powerful effect and grabbed her pink highlighter and coloured all the white squares pink....... She won....... against Stroop anyway.... the mitten had more surprises for her. Her next lesson was which style of circular knitting worked best (for her) when knitting fair-isle mittens.... after trial and error, she determined that knitting with two circular needles was easier.... it was then (on her third colour change on the chart, or about 1/3 of the way through the mitten) that the mitten started to look better.... Her tension was looser and the colours lay flatter. She had even learned (thanks to another knitter at one of her knit nights) how to catch the yarn when stranding the one way she couldn't seem to figure out on her own. All in all... the mitten was going well.... BUT she should have remembered about that tension change when she switched to the two circular method...... and how tension effects gauge.... and how gauge effects size.... she didn't think of it, however, and if she had, probably would have ignored it and kept going anyway.........

She finished the first mitten and marveled at it's beauty. It was a little puckered around the cuff when she was having tension difficulties, but a bath (for the mitten) and a STRONG block (think *S-t-r-e-t-c-h*), solved that problem. So she cast on for mitten number two and picked up the stitches of mitten number one to do the lining as her travel project. Now the mittens were separated and wouldn't be compared to each other until they were finished. Mitten number one was in her handbag as her travel project and mitten number two was sitting beside her place on the couch ... but they wouldn't be separated long..... they were her only project... they would be together again soon......

The Princess had read a few comments on Ravelry (I really do love Ravelry) about the lining of the mitten not fitting into the mitten when finished and decided to solve this problem by knitting the lining with smaller needles. She picked up the stitches and followed the pattern. The designer had compensated for the liner size issue by making it smaller, so she went against her initial impulse and switched the needles back to their original size..... and practiced her speed knitting.... the lining was done quickly and it was HUGE...... MUCH to large to fit into the mitten and although she was sorely tempted to leave it be, she did the right thing and ripped it out and re-knit it on the smaller needles..... MUCH better...... but then she made the liner too short for the mitten.... a problem that she decided to solve (once again) with blocking......

Mitten two was coming along nicely.... the stranding was lovely, the mitten flowed off her needles like a dream..... and before she knew it, she was finished...... she tried on the first mitten and looked at the second.... something was wrong...... VERY wrong...... they were different. The colours were the same, they had been knit by the same person on the same needles and yet.... the second mitten was well, a tad on the large size... especially in comparison to the first....... That's when the tension/gauge/size issue dawned on her....different tension=different size.....Her lovely mittens were ruined.... unless she could find someone with extraordinarily mis-sized hands (man hand and child hand?), she was screwed........ and to make matters worse, when she washed and blocked the mittens and the second mitten grew even BIGGER (which she forgot to take a picture of).

In desperation, she threw the second mitten in the dryer......... and it shrank...... it's still larger than the first mitten, but maybe, just maybe..she can find someone who won't mind "slightly" mismatched mittens...... They are still beautiful, after all......

The end.


  1. I know nothing about knitting... but that picture of the mis-matched mittens... for some reason strikes me as very funny. lol

    Great story. :)

  2. That princess is sure a determined lady!!
    I bet she would do very well against any dragon, although she might find that she made it her friend instead of slaying it !!!

    Love those mittens!!!

  3. You are so funny!! I suppose you have to find the humour in things you swear at or you might end up as the title of the blog post!!! Those mittens are lovely and I am eager to see how the 2nd pair turns out! Or will there be a 2nd pair???.....