Saturday, June 2, 2007

Mirabile dictu!

So I've spent the last week or so--countless hours of television!--attempting to reproduce the Knitty Corazon pattern (more or less), and I've finished the mittens, finally. They're blocking now and I'll post pictures when they're done drying. In the meantime, I'll show you the nifty new trick I learned. I've put the picture at left because, um, it makes the post look better, but think of it as a preview of the amazing, incredible, unbelievable (POW! KAZAAM!) afterthought thumb. It's genius, you guys.

First, I made a few modifications to the pattern. Quite obviously, I used different yarns. I decided to go with Knit Picks Elegance, a 70% alpaca and 30% silk blend, in coal and barn red (I'm not normally a red person, but I'm matching two scarves I already own and a hat I made a long time ago. This red is lovely as reds go, however). I love alpaca, even though actual alpacas are kind of weird looking and certainly not as cute as sheep. Alpaca is so soft and lightweight--and still warm, apparently, although it's already pretty damn warm in New Jersey right now. It's sort of like sticking your hands in flour. The Elegance developed a fuzzy halo, especially on the palm, where the colors alternate so frequently. It makes the colorwork less precise. I think the effect is neat, but may be a drawback to alpaca yarn if you don't like that.

The modifications to the pattern itself: those of you who know Spanish would, I imagine, recognize immediately that the word "corazon" means heart (I think?), but I spent my college years (and now, alas, part of this summer) on Latin and I didn't realize until right before I was going to start knitting that the design is actually made up of hearts. That's a little too cutesy for me. I made a minor change to the design and substituted a contrast color stitch to a main color stitch on the joins between each heart and made the effect more sort of abstractly floral. I also made the cuffs about 3" instead of the 2" called for by the pattern, and used size 2 needles for the cuff & top (I wanted to make sure I had a snug fit) instead of size 3s. Finally, and most noticeably, after knitting the top shaping decreases, kitchenering the top, and blocking the first mitten, I realized that I still hated the point at the top, and also that the mitten was way too long, so I ripped it back about an inch.

But! The amazing trick I learned by working this pattern was the afterthought thumb. It's so cool. I am really inching to start a new pair of socks so I can try out the afterthought heel, which works along the same principle. You knit in a piece of waste yarn in the spot where you want your thumb (or heel) and then slip the stitches with the waste yarn back to the left needle and continue working in pattern. Then when everything's all done, you come back and "unzip" the stitches on the waste yarn and pick them up. It's total genius. I did have to reinforce the base of the thumb, as the picked up stitches can make a bit of a mess at the joins, or, at least, they did for me. I imagine that none of that really made sense, and I can't say it really did for me until about the fifth time I read the Corazon pattern and meditated on what it means to "unzip" for awhile. It will suffice to say that it's awesome.

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