Monday, August 13, 2012

knitting through the Olympics

So, I finished my Olympic project—just as I watched the closing ceremonies! How did you do with yours?

Mine was a pair of scarves—made from recovered yarn from two of many scarves I have made but not worn. Some of those scarves were easy, some were lace, but all suffered from not being quite the right shape for me—triangles with not enough tail and/or not enough curve at the neck.

So I thought about what had worked for me, and that took me back to my Shape It! Scarf from The Knit Stitch (a center triangle with long tails for wrapping). Could I use that as a model? It was garter: I want this one to be lace. How to shape the lace?

Many, many, MANY swatches followed. Finally I had a plan . . . and then I had the base . . . and then I started working the extensions . . . and then I ripped . . . and then an altered plan followed . . . and then I ripped some more.

I finished two scarves, but I think I knit the equivalent of four! Rip, knit, rip, knit. That was my Olympics.

Which was perfectly appropriate while I watched the challenges faced by the best athletes in the world. Why should anything wonderful be easy? Don’t we learn most from struggle?  And doesn’t the combination of struggle + triumph give us our podium moments?

I have met knitters who refuse to rip—some from denial, some from sheer stubbornness. (One student hung up on me at the end of a knitting call in which I suggested she rip.) And then there are those who will rip, but sadly and with an assumption of failure—that they have wasted time and effort and should have known better.

Not so! Albert Einstein said Anyone who never made a mistake never tried anything new. Henry Ford said Failure is an opportunity to begin again, more intelligently. And in my next book (dedicated to pattern drafting and all the skills that support it), I talk about the necessity of ripping. It is, simply, an inevitable part of the process.

This is how it is with athletics. All through the Olympic coverage, we heard of the challenges each athlete faced. Despite their successes, they were more defined by how they overcome adversity. And why should knitters be different from inventors, artists, or athletes? Learn, *struggle, learn better, do better; repeat from *. This is life.

So here’s one version of my Olympic project. The pattern will be up on Ravelry—as the Lace-Meets-Leaf Scarf—as soon as I get home to a model and a good camera. (That’s the other thing about athletics or knitting: the right equipment matters!)


  1. It is lovely! I agree about ripping--just a chance to knit more and get it right. :)

  2. That's right! Ripping means finding more knitting!
    I am about to rip out something red to do a third one! I certainly

    When I get a proper camera (and more importantly a model that is not me) I'll post photos of it worn. It's very pretty with the tails falling to the front.

    Thanks for writing!

  3. Dear Sally. I have been asking you for weeks what I should do with my To the Cottage Pullover. I haven't written or called or anything, just asked you in my own brain. See, the swatch and reality don't match and I'm realizing that the back of the sweater is too small. Can I just finish the back and make the front larger? Should I make the back into the front and make the back larger? But now I see that you have heard me. Your blog post tells me to rip. I will go for the gold and make it a sweater without compromises. Thank you for all you write and all you design. (P.S. I won't be ripping right away so if you think that I can just make the front larger I'll be happy to take your advice.) Love, Penny

  4. DON'T RIP!!!! Not everything has to be ripped!!!!

    Funnily enough, the fix I am going to give you is in my next book, in the section WHEN THINGS DON'T TURN OUT AS EXPECTED.

    So, here's what you do.
    1. Because it is too small, call it the BACK.
    2. Determine how much too small it is: best if you wash it and dry it to know EXACTLY what this measurement it. (Let's say you wanted 22" and this is only 20", so it is 2" too small.)
    3. For the front, cast on the #stitches for the back PLUS TWICE THE AMOUNT BY WHICH IT IS TOO SMALL. (In the sample, this would mean casting on 24" for the front. I know this seems wrong, but 20 + 24 = 44, which is the circumference you were looking for.)
    4. Work the front to the ARMHOLE: in a drop shoulder, this is 1/2 the final upper sleeve width from the end of the piece. (If the final upper sleeve width is 20", you would work to 10" from the end.)
    5. AT THAT POINT, bind off the extra width at the beginning of the next 2 rows for the front. (For the sample front, you bind off 2" at the "armhole," and what remains is now 20" wide, the same as the back.) Finish the front how the pattern directs.

    You have made a garment the circumference you want with a bit of a square shoulder shape. The side seams will be slightly skewed to the back: no biggee.

    It will work! Have faith and fun!

    1. Thank you Sally. If there's a designer I would follow blindly it's you (that's the faith part). I am really beginning to look forward to your next book. Aloha mai, and thank you thank you thank you.

    2. Wow, I'm happy for the faith part. But I'm also hoping that after the next book you won't have to follow ANYONE blindly! All power will be yours!

  5. It's beautiful! I will watch eagerly for the pattern. May I also say that since taking a class with you at Creative Fibers in CT last year I have been faithful to ripping when need be. You converted me to the foolishness of knitting on and the value of honoring my craft and my work.

    1. So, finally, after many edits and many versions ('cause I can never stop with ONE let alone TWO let alone THREE) and photos, the pattern is available on RAVELRY: lace-meets-leaf scarf.

  6. What a lovely note! Thanks so much.

    The scarf is really fun to knit. BUT, more importantly, it wears well. So once I can show that, the pattern will be loaded.

    I loved my time in CT!