Saturday, April 24, 2010

Modified Multnomah

Have you ever struggled with a skein of yarn that doesn't seem to know what it wants to be when it grows up? Well, I'm working with one right now. Meet Matuey the Cat:

Matuey came to live with me via a rav swap well over a year ago. I was in a sock yarn phase, and I was swapping for just about anything indie that I hadn't yet tried, just to see what was out there. These are definitely unusual colors for me. I have nearly no white in my stash, far preferring jewel tones and black or otherwise dark undertones to a white base. But, like I said, I was swapping for new stuff, and I'd seen Dashing Dachs before but never scored any. This skein came up on swap, and I jumped.

Upon arrival, Matuey was not what I'd expected. Well, that's not exactly true. I suppose I hadn't "expected" anything except a new and different sock yarn, and this certainly fit that bill. What didn't fit, however, was the construction of the yarn itself. First of all, it's a very light fingering weight -- 560 yds in 4 oz. Second, it's 100% merino; there's no nylon to help strengthen this very thin yarn. Finally, it's a two-ply. The notes on rav say it's a 4-ply, but god help me, I can't seem to find those other two plies. No, this is definitely a 2-ply, and I far prefer a 3-ply for socks.

So, I puzzled. What to do with this yarn, now that socks seemed out of the question? The colors seemed too wild for a lace shawl, which is what this somewhat fine 2-ply seemed best suited to. What, then?

Knit One Below, that's what. I bought the book not too long after it came out and was intrigued enough with the technique to cake up Matuey and start to play around. I thought maybe a pair of kid-sized socks for my daughter, who at that point really wasn't up on her feet all that much anyway. I could experiment, she would get a new pair of socks, and by the time she managed to wear holes in them, they would be too small anyway. I figured the wild variegations in Matuey's colorway would blend nicely with this dropped-stitch technique.

What I neglected to note as I started the sample sock pattern from the book was that the author recommended using a sock yarn with some elastic since the K1B technique is all stretch with no snap back. A couple of inches into the cuff, I realized that these socks would never stay on a human foot, and certainly not on a human toddler's foot. Annoyed, I put the cuff in time-out along with the now-caked-up Matuey.

Fast forward. I've completed an Aran cabled vest. I'm most of the way through a dropped-stitch scarf, and I'm contemplating what to start next. Another sweater or top, while tempting, still feels too long-term; I'm in it for the quick fix now. But this drop-stitch pattern is killing me. It's so simple I can't wait for it to be over. I know I want more of a challenge.

That's when I start thinking shawl.

Not a heavy-duty, serious lace shawl, mind you. I've had one of those -- beaded -- on the needles for the past couple of years, and I'm sure it will be there a couple of years from now. No, I mean one of those shawls that people seem to knock out in a couple of weeks. A small one that can be worn as a stylish shoulder scarf instead of a full-out granny wrap. Something that would get that freakin' caked Matuey out of the stash and into my closet once and for all.

I decided to try a Multnomah. I picked it because I'd heard a lot about it fairly recently, and while I never seem to get on the bandwagon until the band has packed up and gone home, at least with this one I could still hear the lingering echoes of music in the air. Also, it's a simple garter-stitch body (quick-n-easy; no years-long project, this) edged in feather and fan, which is excellent for wildly variegated yarns because it seems to break up pooling nicely.

Here's what my Multnomah looked like at about 100+ stitches across:

And, guess what?

I hated it. Hated it! Why, dear lord, why did it look so muddy, so bleh, all the colors sort of bleeding together and weird with the greeny-blacky streaks, and where had all that white gone anyway, it all looked yellow and I look horrible in yellow and maybe it will look better if I just keep knitting but, really, when is it time to cut your losses and call it quits and damn, I wonder if I can ditch this yarn on anyone else now, shit.

Matuey was turning out to be one great, big, pain in the ass.

As I gritted my teeth and prepared to frog my Multnomah, I started thinking back to that cuff I'd knitted. I'd liked the way the yarn had looked; I'd only frogged it because of the fit. How had the yarn looked so good in the cuff if it looked like such crap now?

And that's when it hit me: knit one below.

Here's what my Multnomah looks like now:

Isn't she purty? I'm working her using K1B techniques, which produce a non-curling edge and help prevent unsightly pooling. I'm so pleased that I keep stopping after every row just to stare at the colors. It's somewhat slow going as I'm now purling back every other row, plus all that knitting below tends to take the steam out of a good knit, but no matter. I lovelovelove how this looks now.

Let's just hope it stays that way.

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