Saturday, February 16, 2013

Lace Sampling

pore: (verb) to examine closely, as in "to pore over a pile of books"

Finishing a large project like my red sweater is very freeing. I love the adventure of plotting the next foray into some magical combination of yarn and pattern. Planning a knitting project is taking into account both the form and the function, and tempering them to my liking.  Oh, it can be fun! At times, sifting through the endless possibilities can be overwhelming.

As I search Ravelry for inspiration, I notice that it enables me to knit other people's patterns--which is great for those times when I need to focus my energy due to some time constraint--but it does not help me much when it comes to the ideas that have been cooking in the back of my brain as I knit. Sometimes all the brilliant patterns out there simply do not achieve the effect I am seeking; especially when it comes to texture and lace stitches, staring at finished products can feel a bit stifling. (Sidenote: colorwork seems to run by different rules, as do simple textures like garter stitch; maybe this is why the revered Elizabeth Zimmermann enjoyed both so much.)

I have some wonderfully open-ended resources right here in my home: books that are chock full of stitch patterns that I pore over when I'm feeling the itch to venture out into the unknown. Most of the time, I pull the books down, study the pages, keep them out for a couple weeks, then move on. The books go back on the shelf, and I tell myself that someday I need to sample sampling. I even have a book by Susanna Lewis that is based on a lace sampler. So why has it taken me so long to actually sit down and cast on a few stitches to try it out?

Poring over a picture or written pattern does not compare to poring over a lace stitch pattern firsthand by working it. You can pause after an individual stitch and see where it has been and watch where it is going. Now we're exploring! After only two stitch patterns, I begin to understand why such an accomplished knitter such as Ms. Lewis would say that studying a lace sampler would teach her new things about the way lace works. After all, you can tweak a lace pattern by adding or subtracting stitches or rows, or by changing knits to purls, or by eliminating the resting rows. Suddenly, a static photograph pales in comparison to the overwhelming possibilities that lay before me in the form of live stitches. It is almost unnerving.

In her Treasury of Knitting Patterns (I highly recommend it!), Barbara Walker will sometimes take a few lines to introduce a stitch pattern and explain how it logically grows from another stitch by a simple change in placement of one of the elements. My mind does not do much with a written explanation, though; I need to see it firsthand. As I knit along, I find myself asking questions: what if I stretched out the pattern by adding another row in this spot? Or what if I added a column of knits here to make it broader? Ooh, what if I framed this with stockinette? The possibilities are endless, and they are freeing.

Lace Sampling

I feel like an adventurer, the world open before me, and I have set sail.

1 comment:

  1. Man, you weren't kidding when you said you left the other yarn in the dust. Sounds like you're having a lot of fun with this sampler!