Tuesday, July 17, 2007

at long last

This scarf doesn't just have a story. It has a saga!!

First, the details:
Yarn: burgundy cashmere laceweight, from Nandia cashmere
Needles: bamboo, size 5 circular
Pattern: 3 repeats of feather and fan lace, with 5 stitches of garter stitch on each side, and 5 rows of garter stitch at each end.

Now, the story:
I purchased this yarn in the winter of 2002/2003, which was a very cold and lonely winter for me. I reckoned that lace would get me the most knitting hours for my money (foreshadowing here: I didn't know the half of it!), and it was a pleasure to have something so soft, ethereally light, and richly colored.

But it turned out to be a bit of a pain to knit! As a novice lace knitter, each mistake took forever to spot and fix. And the slow progress was discouraging. After about two months of slowly working on it, I frustratedly put it down.

I picked it up two years later, when I was tagging along on Mountain Man's field work in South Africa. I had a great deal of down time on that trip, sitting under a tree or on a river bank while Mountain Man and his colleagues dug soil pits and collected rock samples. The scarf seemed like a perfect small project to tuck into my daypack.

I spent many, many hours on that scarf. And yet it hardly seemed to grow and was rather mind numbing to boot. It was only half finished by the end of that trip, when I put it down for another two years.

That scarf mocked me from the knitting basket, becoming a veritable symbol of my inability to knit lace at a reasonable rate. In time, I did knit other lace things. And so it was that I felt confident enough to pick it up when I went to a conference last month.

And this time, it whizzed right by!! I finished the scarf in only a fraction of the time that it had taken me to knit the first half. I did notice one anomaly though: over time, my gauge steadily increased, such that the lace section that was 8.75 inches wide in 2003 was 10.25 inches wide in 2007. Being the nerdy graduate student that I am, I decided to track a number of other variables that could possibly explain this trend.

Could it be that I knit more tightly when I was more angst-ridden (recall, I was happily traveling in 2005 and 2007)? Do I loosen up with increasing temperature, or as I become more desperate to see the project finished? Or is it that as I became more comfortable and experienced with knitting, I didn't cling so tightly to the needles? Anyways, with only 3 data points and much interaction between variables, it's impossible to tell. But it's clear that this is a matter for serious investigation!


Veronique said...

Great graph! Would needles be a variable in this project, or did you use the same ones throughout?
Oh, it must be so soft around your neck!

ab said...

hahaha, love it. Well, in the end it turned out to be fantabulous!

Macoco said...

Love the graph!! The scarf is beautiful so it worth the years and years of anguish to get it done ;)