Friday, September 3, 2010



I have a problem with knitting scarves. It's not that I knit them too often, nor that I knit them not enough. No, I have a real problem with scarves because they are Long (notice the capital L) and take a long time to finish right.


They're tricky, though, those scarves are...don't doubt it for a second. If you do, you're dead! No, not really, but it's true that scarves has a certain seductive power over we knitters. We see them, the classic, quintessential beginner knit project, in books and magazines, on Ravelry, and they look so chic and stylish or snuggly and warm. We see them, with their cable patterns and intricate motifs or maybe it's just the standard 2x2 ribbed scarf, simple, effective for both men and women. We see them...oh, yes...and we get it in our minds, "Wouldn't that be just a great project?"

Wicked Wine-02

So we stash dive, looking through our vast library of fibers and colors, determining what we have 2 or 3 skeins of ('cuz that's how much it'll take). Maybe a trip to the LYS is in order, you know, to find something special for this one. (We knitters need very little excuse to go to our LYS but "I need something special for this one project" is a classic.) Once we have it, we cast on and marvel, once again, at how quickly it goes. How can it not, right? The damned thing only has 30 - 40 stitches in a row. We're scratching out row after row...and we scoff, pshaw! I'll have this done in no time flat!


That was a week ago. Now, it's slowly developed into a labor of love, for yourself or whoever the lucky recipient will be of this long strip of knitted cloth. If you have a pattern motif, you've probably memorized it. If it's ribbed, you probably made a slip-up about 7 rows ago, exchanging a knit for a purl, due to the mind-numbing agony of repetition...but there's no way in holy hell you're going to rip out all the mindless toil you just put in. Oh no, I can't be bothered with that. This project has already lasted too long!

Toddler Scarf

Another week passes and you knit and you knit and you knit...and you see the scarf is too short. So, you knit and you knit...let's see what's on Netflix...and you knit and you realize the scarf is too short to wrap around your next. Onwards you knit and you knit and...zZzZ...what? oh! the scarf!...and you knit and it's finally long enough to toss jauntily over your shoulder...but not long enough to really wrap around your neck. Knit and knit and knit and you wonder why knitting machines didn't form a labor union and strike a long time ago. This is crazy! Will it ever be...

Three Sisters Scarf #2

...done! Finally, you stop a moment and take stock of your situation. After a seeming infinity during which you were clearly knitting but the overall length of the scarf never seemed to increase, not even a centimeter, you've suddenly entered the very delicate area near completion. This is a delicate and critical time in the creation of a scarf. This is the moment where you must decide how long is long enough...and how long is slightly too long. It's a finer line than you might think. Stop paying attention for even a few rows and you may find that an otherwise perfect, gorgeous scarf has suddenly become half-an-inch too long. Stop prematurely and your recipient will find it to be wonderful, albeit slightly irritating in that it's a mere inch too short to stay wrapped. (Luckily, knit wear stretches, so this is much less of a problem than the former.)

Hornburg-Politte Baby Blanket

The only things that might rival the scarf are blankets, which are not only as long as scarves, if not more so in some cases, but are wide as well. A blanket row is usually well over a hundred stitches, many time much, much higher than that. If you're knitting a blanket, may whatever gods there may be have mercy on your soul. It could take an hour to make it through one stinkin' row, many times longer than that if you're knitting a complex pattern.


Boneyard Shawl

The other rival to the scarf is the shawl, those tricky wickets that start out all cute and coy with their beginning 7 stitches (or 3 or 5 or some other small, odd number). They seem to bat their eyelashes at you like a ridiculous doe-eyes anime character, tricking you into their literal web with the beauty and intricacy of their lace patterns. But don't be fooled...the shawl is the mud-boggin' tractor pull of the kntiting world. Sure, you start with 5 stitches...but you increase at least 2 stitches every other row, many times it's 4. So 5 becomes 9, then 13 and 17 and 21 and...before you know it, your row has grown to 177 and 204 and 249...and on and on and on. Plus, it's lace...which means, "Pay attention, stupid." This shit is not hard, but one wrongly placed stitch and you'll be tinking back several rows to fix your own oversight. By the time you've gotten to finishing the shawl, you wake up and realize that you've been been binding off for the last 84 minutes and you still have a few hundred stitches to go. Like I said, the tractor pull of the knitting world. It starts out easy enough but grows exponentially until you collapse to the floor, knitting outstretched, mumbling, "Just one more row, I can do it."

Boneyard Shawl

And then it's all done. Very anticlimactic, don't you think? It's done and weave in those pesky ends, you soak and block until it measures perfectly. It's dried, folded, maybe gift wrapped with a lavender sachet...and you swear to yourself and all the universe tat you will never, ever knit another scarf again for as long as your knitting life may last.

But then you find that perfect pattern...and you do it all over again.