Monday, July 28, 2008

A Couple of FOs...

Well, Knitting Fans, as of Saturday, Pookie the Sock Monkey is finished. This project was a heck of a lot of fun, half of which had to be the search for monkey accessories. In the end, I found that the hair and the glasses really made the monkey - who am I kidding? It's the mouth that makes the monkey! But other than that, a teddy bear was all that was needed. The body is made with Araucania Ranco Solid, and the limbs from some old Koigu stash.

As I have already mentioned, I took an alternate route when working on the arms. The pattern calls for knitting and stuffing the arms separately, then sewing them to the monkey body. I knew that would be a disaster for me - so I took two pipe cleaners, twisted the ends together to make one long pipe cleaner, and then pushed it through the body to establish where the arms would go. Next, I picked up 10 sts in my arm yarn around the pipe cleaner and knitted the arms just like the legs. The tricky part, I discovered, was that my working yarn kept wanting to become seriously entangled with the legs, the tail and the other set of needles. And that is when I discovered Monkey Bondage. I got out some rubber bands and just held the legs, tail and first arm together, and that made knitting the second arm far less of a bother, I was done with it in no time. It did look a little kinky, though...

Doesn't she look like a defiant kidnap victim? I swear I didn't arrange her free arm that way. She did it herself.

Every time I look at that face I start laughing, so I think my sister is going to enjoy this part of her gift.

And do you recall that basket of 3000 skeins of multiple colors of yarn that I showed you back in February? This is what it grew up to be...

The Color on Color Scarf from Scarf Style.

Now, I have a lot to say about this project, and I'm sorry, but you're going to have to hear it. First of all - and I don't think I have ever said this about a knitting project before - I would not recommend this to someone I like. Nope. Mugabe, Hitler, that guy they just arrested in Serbia, our president, the guy who mugged me 10 years ago and broke my cheekbone as well as the strap on my Coach bag - although it is unlikely that any of these people are knitters. But not to anyone I like.

And let me count the ways...

Let's begin at the beginning, shall we? The designer gives a list of 40-something different colors. Of some of those colors - many, in fact - you are asked to buy multiple skeins. One color alone calls for 6 skeins. Although the skeins cost a mere .75 per and I bought them at a non-profit shop and so wasn't charged tax, I won't tell you how much the whole lot of yarn costs. My husband reads this blog, after all.

As I worked, I found that there were roughly 3-4 colors that I ran out of completely. Totally gone. Zip. Many others, once I had finished the project, I found I had never used at all. Including 4 of those 6 skeins of the single color. Other than having to substitute colors where I ran out of the color required, and while knitting perfectly to gauge - in my book, this just didn't need to happen.

Next, with these nearly 100 8-yard skeins of 3-ply yarn, one must peel off one single ply and put it aside each time you change colors. And, as you can see, you change colors a LOT. So roughly every 10 minutes you are putting down your knitting, fishing in the basket for the next color, and then untwisting 8 yards of yarn. Bad language is sure to ensue, I promise you. It's just inevitable. Keep the children and any excitable animals out of the room.

We could pretty much generalize - and I certainly intend to - that most knitters are visual people. Granted, we have all seen strong evidence to the contrary. Nevertheless, when you group your 100 skeins of yarn into some sort of workable order, how would you do that? By color family, you venture nervously? Of course! The only tricky element to that method is that the colors as you use them are not identified in the pattern by color family, but rather by color number. This means that one must first look at the artistically out-of-focus photos that the pattern supplies, try to deduce what color group number 742 falls into, and then hunt it down so that you can spend 10 minutes peeling it apart before you can knit. A note: Colors 723 and 732 are not interchangeable. Just so you know.

I always weave my tails in as I knit so that I don't have to deal with them later. When I am changing colors such as in this pattern, this means knitting in two-handed Fair Isle for two inches to work in the tail. But you still end up with a whole little wheat field of tiny ends sticking out of the back. On the inside of a sweater, ok, I might not care so much. In a scarf that is guaranteed to flip over from time to time as you wear it, this is just plain ugly.

I'll be frank with you, there were several times that this project went into 'time-out' and languished in a basket under the coffee table, sticking its tongue out at me and waggling the fingers that were stuck in its ears while I worked instead on some more pleasurable project. And yet every now and then I would drag the basket out, work on the scarf a little more until I felt the pressure building up in my ears and I thought my head would explode, and then shove it viciously under the table again.

At last it came down to the 5 miles of 39 pieces of I-cord fringe one was meant to knit at the end, starting with the 12 inches of yarn ends the pattern asks you to leave as you change colors in these areas. I hate knitting I-cord. I HATE KNITTING I-CORD! And 12" of yarn gives you enough to knit an I-cord about the size of a mouse's willy before you have to change colors and knit some more. In the end, I settled for doing a crochet chain fringe instead, and am mightily pleased with the results.

Positive things to say? I don't begrudge a nickel of the money I spent at the women's and children's non-profit. And while I was teaching the 4th and 5th graders over the fall and winter, stopping to buy a few more hanks of this yarn each week on my way home was all too often the only carrot on the stick that made me keep on keeping on.

I have to say that I love the colors, and I love how they work together.

And I was really looking forward to embellishing the crap out of it when it was done.

For those of you who are members of Ravelry, there are some stunning COC's that are worked in several shades of Noro Silk Garden and are therefore shawl-sized. Absolutely stunning, and if I had had the wit to look there first, that is the route I would have gone.

Also, someone on Ravelry mentioned that the designer had originally intended to have the project felted lightly when finished.

So I did felt it, and this is how fast it felted in just five minutes. Yet that allowed me to cut off the yarn ends on the back of the scarf, and gave a lot more flexibility and greater possibilities when embellishing.

Then I went after it with seed beads, some of the leftover yarn using an embroidery needle, and sometimes with a crochet hook.

This gave it texture as well as added dimension, and that all important element, what my friend Monica calls Sassy. (She cracks me up.)

Final judgment? I love it and can't wait to wear it.

I'm sending the pattern and the leftover yarns to George Bush.


Blogger T said...

The colors are pretty. The workmanship and embellishments look wonderful. It looks snuggly.

The finished thing? I don't get it. I must be losing my artsy edge. :sigh: Pookie, though, really turned out to be something quite special!

BUT, I'm really in the land of comments to say WELCOME BACK to blogland. You were missed.

4:25 PM  

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