Wednesday, May 14, 2008

DysFUNction and Games

A post about my very first double-knitting project has been sizzling through my brain for months. However, the sizzle could not find its market until now, because this gift was for a baby who was only just born last week, and for maximum home-wrecking potential, I didn't want to ruin the surprise.

A friend of mine first piqued my interest about double knitting by sharing pictures of her first attempt. It was inspired by Games magazine and involved switching up the yarns for the cool photo-negative design effect that double knitting can have. Just looking at her creation, my dumb cracker mind was both befuddled and intrigued.

Having done Skully for my very first sweater (my very first non-rectilinear garment, in fact), I knew that a design was a Bad Idea, but that didn't mean I couldn't do a simpler double-knitting project. When I saw the Hoover Blanket pattern on Knitty, I realized that I could produce a double-knit item AND contemplate how to ruin my nation at the same time. Then I remembered that my nation had been pre-ruined for my convenience, so I could turn all my attention to knitting.

The Hoover pattern on Knitty has instructions for a double-knit one-color blanket or a double-knit 2-color blanket. My first issue was that I wanted a three-color blanket for nefarious purposes: You see, the new parents are a mixed marriage. Although they were both primarily raised in scenic State College, PA, one of them has an affinity for Herbie Cornhusker. (Personally, I decline to comment on whether this affinity is regrettable or not.) In fact, when the Zombie King and I were attending their wedding shower in SC, he spied the animatronic Herbie Husker in the hearth room, and before I could throw my body in front of him with a mighty "Nooooooooooo!" he had already pushed the button, very nearly queering the whole marriage deal for our friends.

No permanent damage appears to have been done at the wedding shower, but if anyone can fix that, it's an anthropologist hell bent on syncretism in college sports preferences. That would be me. I wanted a blanket that would be Penn State Blue on one side and Nebraska Red on the other. And, obviously, in the interests of peace, love, and understanding, the border needed to be white (cream, actually) in honor of the teams' shared color.

So the Hoover Blanket pattern was a good starting place, but I needed more help than that. I actually did the world's most clashing proof-of-concept swatch with some lemondrop Lamb's Pride Bulky, Bears Orange Mirasol Miski, and Noro Kureyon Kochoran in the lime-blue-grey colorway. PRETTY! The swatch demonstrated that double knitting was doable, if aggravating, and I decided to press on.

Time out for a postmodern aside: Chicagowench CLAIMS that somewhere in this time period, she warned me that I was essentially knitting TWO baby blankets. I remember no such warning. No such warning at all. Perhaps I could not hear her over my own Lost-in-Space flailing and shouting of DANGER! DANGER! DANGER! in her direction, because she was plotting something made entirely of crazy for her contribution to this child's early life. End of postmodern aside.

The most baffling thing to me about this whole double-knitting exercise at the gamma-irradiated swatch stage were these two parts of the pattern instructions:

"When working with two colors, double-knit, you must always move both yarns together. That is, both yarns should either be in front or in back of the work, never one in front and one in back."

Check. Understood. But then:
"*K1 CC, sl 1 purlwise* across row to border.
Turn and work back the same *K1 CC, sl 1 purlwise*."

Now, see above re: dumb cracker mind, but doesn't that mean that one lonely strand is moved aaaaaallll the way across the piece without being worked into it (because you're just slipping every other stitch, rather than doing anything with them). I pondered this for a while and was about to embark on something truly stupid until some uncharacteristically helpful spirit suggested I have a looksee at's video on double knitting, wherein I discovered that this slipping business is strictly for CHUMPS and SUCKERS, because you can just PURL those babies and not have any issues with sad, limp, and neglected strands of yarns. Rockstar.

From there, it was comparatively smooth sailing. Of course, it's just stockinette and garter stitch, which can be boring, but the contrasting colors and remembering to move the yarn back and forth correctly saved me from total boredom. I was also relieved to find that I could pretty easily fix any you-got-your-chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter errors when I moved the yarns improperly (usually just a matter of dropping and ducking stitches under the offending strand), although I did end up doing something monumentally stupid and more difficult to fix when I was trying to knit in the dark while volunteering at a Magnetic Fields concert at the Old Town School of Folk Music. (I do this all the time without fucking up much more difficult projects, so I'm going to blame the fact that I was ALSO trying to have a simultaneous conversation with another knitter about Firefly, Buffy, and the fact that Women & Children First has a monthly Buffy discussion, which I Did Not Know.)

The other difficulty I encountered with the project is that I am not nearly anal enough to responsibly handle a project that has 4 skeins of yarns going simultaneously (1 each for the body colors, plus 1 for each side of the border). When you add to my innate slovenliness to the fact that I knit the majority of this in the hospital during the ZK's month-long, life-threatening-illness-palooza, that is a metric assload of seriously tangled yarn under the bridge. My half-assed ways also led me to untangle just enough to make it through the row a lot of the time. This, in turn, led to some ugly-ass interfaces between the colored center and the borders. No problem, thought I! Wouldn't it be a nice little detail to have ACRES AND ACRES AND ACRES of applied I-Cord to mask that interface? ZOMG. It has been a while since knitting has brought me that close to seppuku. (But it does look really nice, if I do say so myself.) The other problem with the multi-skein nature is, of course, befuzzing. Before shipping off this baby, I shaved and lint-brushed it within an inch of its life, and STILL it has fuzzies, even if they are nanofuzzies that I can see.

Somewhere along the way, I did realize that red, cream, and blue ends up looking like the perfect blankie in which to swaddle your fresh batch of America baby, but by then I was so in love with the comedy gold of this blanket concept that I was happy to explain the premise with more zeal and commitment to the bit than wench's little man brought to his dragon-knight costume.

Just yesterday, I got my first picture of the bebe greatly enhancing the blanket's beauty. This was accompanied by a sly note from one parent noting that she clearly prefers the red side. Let the games begin!