21 January 2015

+JMJ+

Knitting Diary: Improvised Slouch

When I first started knitting, I couldn't help comparing it to my guitar playing. The reason I gave up the latter was that even after two years, I felt that I was completely blind--or perhaps I should say, deaf--when it came to the theory behind the music. I got as far as noticing that different songs can have very similar chord structures (and appreciated what a music writer meant when he said that going from G to Em is a "musical cliche") and was able to strum along to a bunch of the simpler ones on the radio . . . and I learned all about scales, which helped me to pick songs apart note by note . . . but that was it. What I wanted more than anything was to understand how to write a bass line for a song, but I never figured out how to read the chords and notes of a melody and to fit them into a new arrangement with some bass--and none of the articles or video tutorials I found really helped me out. It was frustrating and sad, and it sapped me. 

Knitting is a whole other world. Within a couple of months, I had figured out how to use knits and purls (both regular ones through the front loop and "twisted" ones through the back loop) to create all sorts of patterns; and today, I can look at most knitted projects and know exactly what to do to reproduce them. (I'll be off here and there, of course, but my approximations will be close!) I can even design my own stuff. And last week, I took my first baby steps in that direction by attempting an "original" hat.

I went with my idea of an ideal hat, which is something quirky and loosely-fitted, such as the the Picadilly wrapped pompom beanie, hood and cowl on the left. The catch was that the pattern wasn't free, so I had to figure it out from the photos--very much as I used to figure out chords and strumming patterns by listening to tracks. And I got sneaky about it, too, reading the project notes of those who had already made it, to work out the stuff that I couldn't tell just by looking--very much as I used to stare hard at other guitarists hands in their YouTube covers of the tracks that I wanted. And after I realised that the Picadilly is supposed to have short rows--a new technique that I hadn't tried yet--I got extra excited about making it.

About six inches later, having messed up about eight rounds of short rows and continuing to mess up although I had started changing things up so as not to, I gave up and unraveled what I had. The short rows will have to wait for another project.

Then I tried the I Heart Pompoms hat on the right, which is very similar, except that it has wide "beehive" ridges instead of the subtle texture of scattered short rows. Well, what I couldn't figure out from either the photos or other knitters' comments was how much to increase by after the ribbing--and six ridges later, I realised I had a tight beanie rather than a slouch on my hands. =P This design being much simpler, I was willing to unravel it until the ribbing to try again . . . but as I was doing so, I knotted up the yarn so badly that it's still a huge tangled mess in one of my knitting boxes right now. I may have to take scissors to the most Gordian of the knots. =(

But although I gave up on specific projects, I didn't forget my greater goal to make myself a fun, baggy hat. I merely adjusted my expectations: instead of trying to figure out some "secret" pattern, I decided to adapt an available one. And what I went with was the Seed Banded Slouch Hat, which you see now. That is, I "stole" the instructions for its seed band to use in a hat that would look nothing like it.

Instead of the three bands that you see on the brim of the hat on the left, I wanted some ribbing. I also thought that the wide stockinette areas were a little boring, so I planned to gussy them up as well. Finally, I was still all about a hat with a drawstring and pompoms--and not just because making an i-cord for the drawstring and the pompoms themselves would be a new skill to add to my collection. Indeed, if I had known in advance that both my yarn store and I would run out of the yarn I was using and that I wouldn't be able to add those two dear details to the design, I would have abandoned this idea for another or stocked up on another kind of yarn before starting. But I hadn't known, and that's why I now have the following "slouchy beanie" in my life . . .


And those of you who have hats of your own and recognise that mine is on a laptop are now wondering just how huge my head is. I mean, you knew it was big, but in that other non-literal sense. =P

These days, I seem to make all my hats bigger than they should be . . . because of the first two I made, which are smaller than they should be. (I made them for myself, but would now like to palm them off on some newborns. =P) So enormous is this latest one, that it seems reasonable to believe that if I had cast on a mere eight fewer stitches at the beginning, I might still have had my drawstring and pompoms at the end! (If I could go back in time and talk to myself, however, I'd go for sixteen fewer stitches on the cast on and fewer ribbed rounds on the crown.)

But perhaps the saddest bit is that the hat doesn't look good at all with the ribbing down, which is how I had always intended to wear it. So I have to roll the ribbed part up a bit, which means that I end up concealing those raised diagonal stripes that I took the trouble to add! But at least it's more stable on my head that way. =P


No, I'm not going to unravel it and try again. Not when there are even bigger "oversized" hats out there. I'm going to make it work, as they say on Project Runway. I've already found that when I have my hair down or put it in two big braids, it helps to balance the hugeness of the hat. Indeed, that's exactly how I wore it last Monday, when I showed up at the airport to wish Pope Francis farewell. And that's why, if I had to give this project a catchy name, the way all new patterns seem to have these days, I'd call it the Ambivalent Ultramontanist.

Image Sources: a) Picadilly hat, b) I Heart Pompoms hat, c) Seed Banded Slouch hat

19 comments:

Michael said...

My mother asked me today when I was going to learn to knit. I wasn't ambivalent in my answer :-) Then tonight I read this post. So much to say, regarding knitting and ultramontanism, that probably the best course of action is to say nothing at all. ;-)

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

It's interesting that your mother expects you to knit! Is is a tradition for the men in your family? Or is there a euphemism there that I'm missing? LOL!

Itinérante said...

I find this hat very cute and true, it suits the hair down style =D
Have you tried making two coloured ones or so?
I like the ones that has patterns like an emblem or something but I'd imagine them to be very hard...

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Thanks, Itinerante! =)

Some patterns are fairly simple, like stripes--and I've already made a couple of striped hats. Others are really complicated, though the theory behind them is straightforward enough for me not to feel too intimidated.

Here's a link to my Ravelry project page, if you're curious about other things I've made that I haven't blogged about.

Sheila said...

Wow, you are becoming quite an accomplished knitter in a very short time!

Personally I like it better with the brim down instead of rolled up. Looks good on you! And the name Ambivalent Ultramontanist ... I die. ;) I do hope you'll blog a bit about the Pope's visit. All we are hearing over here is one little comment he made on the plane on the way home. I've had to go look up some better coverage to see just how massive his Mass was!

On your Rav page, that gaberdine is so cool. I have never seen anything like that, but now I want one, to wear over a giant peasant shirt. I think that would be awesome.

Sheila said...

I mean that BELT. Grenadine (not gabardine) is just the pattern name. I feel dumb.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

the Ambivalent Ultramontanist is an awesome name.

Melanie Bettinelli said...

And it's a very cute hat. I like the color very much and I think it flatters you. Both in the brim up and brim down photos.

I think I need an oversized hat. I always wear my hair in a bun at the nape of my neck and all my hats either sit too far forward on my head because the bun pushed them up or sit too far back with a weird lump because they're stretched over the bun. Of course I don't knit, but my sister does. I think I've discovered a new project for her. As soon as she's done learning socks. She's going a little crazy about socks right now.

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Sheila -- Thanks! Knitting makes me feel like a duck in water. How did I not take it up earlier than this???

I'm knitting the Grenadine belt because I already have an oversized shirt that would look very much like a peasant's tunic with the right accessories! ;-) But since I'm short waisted, I'm knitting a narrower version of it. And it's quick and easy after you get the pattern down: the only reason I'm not finished yet is that I've been flitting back and forth between it and another project. But I'm sure I'll be able to post a picture this weekend. =)

Melanie -- Thanks for your kind words as well. =) Navy blue is the only colour that I'm 100% sure I look good in, so of course I wear it all the time. LOL!

Socks are the next big thing I want to knit! Maybe the next long weekend . . . ?

Itinérante said...

Wow your other projects are very cool!!

I found this and it reminded me of you for some reason =P
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6ZjMWLqJvM

Sheila said...

Warning: socks involve short rows! Though they aren't difficult, per se. You just might want to practice them or watch some videos.

I *love* socks. I made some baby socks on borrowed needles, but I don't have sock needles of my own. But they were so much fun I immediately put them on my wish list, to get someday, because they are great.

mrsdarwin said...

Finding a bass line (on piano, anyway) isn't too hard for me, or coming up with alternate harmonies or other musicky kind of things, but improvising a knitting pattern seems unbelievably hard to me, rather like actually understanding chess strategy. I know that people do it, but knowing how they do it boggles my mind. I can crochet fairly proficiently, and I can follow a pattern, but I can't really deviate from the pattern, at least for fancy things like this.

I love your chapeau, brim unrolled. My daughter has one someone what like it, though not as crafty-cute or homemade, and it's a fun look. One day I'll have to commission you to make me one.

Banshee said...

Re: bass lines, I think most people "hear" it in their minds, reproduce it on an instrument or as sung harmony, and then write down what note the instrument made.

Since I'm a singer, harmony is all about "hearing" a hole that I can scoot a note into. (I think it's sort of improv math, although it's also listening to a lot of people do harmony until it's ground into your brain.)

So yeah, it's a lot harder to think consciously about it than to just do it.

I also suspect that info about polyphony, or specifically about drones (which were the first bass lines) would help.

FYI: Most people think of Irish music as melody-only. They don't realize that any Irish tune that's old enough to have come off the harp tradition is supposed to have a harp bass line (played with the opposite hand to the melody hand, usually). The same thing is true of a lot of older Scottish and Welsh tunes too. Makes a big difference.

Banshee said...

PS. That hat is so cute! And the diagonal stuff is obviously for the viewing pleasure of God and the angels, like the beautifully carved backs of statues in medieval cathedrals. :)

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Itinerante -- That animated short was riveting! But in her place, I hope I'd have the sense to pull my knitting back before it tumbles off a cliff! LOL!

Sheila -- I have been practicing! And I think the mistake I made the first time was moving the yarn forward before slipping the next stitch. *facepalm* If so, what an embarrassing mistake! LOL!

Mrs. Darwin -- What I had really hoped to stumble into were some rules for harmonies that I could apply from song to song. I did find a couple, which may or may not have had something to do with the scale a song was written in (It's all so vague now!), but I didn't have a "bird's eye view" of how they fit into the world of music.

As much as I like knitting gifts for people, I feel like warning everyone I knit for that nothing ever turns out exactly as I plan it. That is, I deviate from patterns even when I don't mean to!

Banshee -- I'm not sure how well I'd do harmonies if I had to improvise. I have made up alto parts before, but they're just for fun and for singing along under my breath.

Thanks for your great take on my hat! I feel better about rolling the brim up now. =)

Michael said...

It's interesting that your mother expects you to knit! Is is a tradition for the men in your family? Or is there a euphemism there that I'm missing? LOL!

No euphemism, lol. I think she was just making conversation. No knitting tradition among the men in our family, and I don't plan on starting one. :-)

Michael said...

To be more specific, my mother likes sharing things with me that are new in her life, and, like me, she has very broad interests.

The main difference is that I am less of a dabbler than her. For example, while we both have an interest in languages (and my family is very multi-ethnic/racial) I don't plan on coming up for air until I have mastered Russian, Septuagint/Koine Greek, and Mandarin. My mother on the other hand is content with conversational Italian (and maybe French) since one of her son-in-laws is direct from Italy.

DMS said...

I love that you are working on figuring out patterns. That sounds challenging to me! I think your hat came out fabulous and at least you figured out ways to make it fit better (braids are smart). I think it looks nice with the bottom flipped up! :)
~Jess

Enbrethiliel said...

+JMJ+

Thanks, Jess! =) I still prefer the flipped brim myself.