March 5, 2013

Scarves Through the Ages

My first real project was what I thought was going to turn into a shawl. I was in fourth grade, and in order to achieve the most authentic Halloween costume possible as a Kirsten American Girl, I had to have a shawl along with the skirt that my grandmother had sewn for me. Since literally all I knew how to do was cast on, knit, and cast off, and I had never made anything besides a "Thingymajigger" or a "Whatchamacallit" (to be covered in another post) or followed a pattern. I realized my mother wouldn't be able to help me either when she handed me two extra long crochet hooks and thought they were knitting needles. 

But actually she did help; she figured out where to take me to get help. I went Uncommon Threads, my LYS (local yarn shop), and I was definitely the only person there under 35. Of course I didn't feel out of place! But a very nice old lady sat next to me and gently figured out what I wanted, and helped me find an appropriate pattern (that she made up on the spot), needles, and yarn. I went straight to work as soon as I got home. And after that it was a stop-and-go kind of project. 

I didn't have it done for Halloween. The first time I actually used it was for a blindfold at fourth grade Fiesta Day. It's a wonder I didn't get head lice that day, because all of my classmates wanted to use that shawl (which was really just an extra wide and itchy scarf) as a blindfold instead of the bandanna  because they thought it was cool. See, I wasn't the only strange one in fourth grade; the greater part of my twenty-person class saw nothing wrong with my knitting habit!

"First Shawl" in garter stitch, finished spring 2006
Later in my fourth grade year, we rehearsed and put on a little skit during National Black History Month of the first Woolworth sit-in (it was the historical event adapted to the play version; the one with strawberry shortcake :P). We voluntarily cast ourselves in the roles we wanted in a first-come first-served basis. I was the first person to sign up, but instead of enlisting as one of the main parts, I just wanted to be the Grandmother so I could sit in a rocking chair and knit. No one challenged my position.

During the dress rehearsal, I knit to practice for my intense three minutes on stage (errr, the front of the classroom), although I would be sitting in the rocking chair the entire time. I guess the dress rehearsal took awhile, because ooops, I finished knitting my scarf before the dress rehearsal even ended. Fortunately, I had brought an extra knitting project to school with my that day just in case this very thing happened (got to be prepared!). So everything was okay, except I didn't think knitting with neon colors was as authentic as a furry scarf. Go figure. 
"Second Scarf" in garter stitch (two yarns combined) with fringe, completed February 2006
By this time, I had perfected the garter stitch scarf and saw no reason to not continue them and try to learn something more difficult. So I just continued them. And since everyone I talked to seemed really impressed, my elementary logic resolved that anyone would be really impressed with my scarfs. 

So I started gifting them out.

I used large needles and Homespun yarn, and learned that watching Mary Poppins through would be enough time to make a scarf. (If I watched all the special features--although remember, this is still in the VHS days--that scarf could get pretty long, as in anywhere between six and ten feet long. Obviously, this was the ideal length for a scarf.

I made one of these Mary Poppins scarves for my mother (of course she was absolutely thrilled). I made one for my best friend at the time, and she seemed to like it, too. I also gave one to my fifth grade teacher, who promptly gave me a glowing thank-you note the next day. Oh, the positive reinforcement one receives as an elementary schooler. 

I later made another one of these scarves with extra yarn and accidentally ended it too short. I almost gave it away, but I felt guilty and just decided to keep it. I have never worn it. So, if you want the scarf pictured below, let me know, because it's not doing any good collecting dust in my closet around the guitar.
"Mary Poppins scarf" garter stitch, Homespun yarn. Made 2007-2008 (?)
I made several other scarves during this time, including the garter fuzzy (always popular), and the stockinette fuzzy (which I never straightened out and have seldom worn). They are all special unto themselves, although they rarely make appearances each season. 
"Turquoise Fuzzy" Garter stitch, c. 2008

"Purple Fuzzy" Stockinette stitch, never blocked. c. 2008
A special story regarding yarn used in the purple scarf: I loved this yarn so much that I made a thirty-item list of things I wanted to make out of it. Included in the list are the typical scarf, mittens, and pillow (which were the only pieces that were actually produced), but then there was the sweater, pants, curtains, beanbag chairs, rug, blanket, and shower curtain. Like I would actually have the time to knit a shower curtain and then want to use it. 

After completing these scarves and a few others that were gifted away before I documented them, I took a hiatus in scarf-making that lasted the majority of my middle school years and freshman year of high school. (I spent my knitting time making hats, see previous posts.)

But in the fall of 2011, I decided that I wanted to make some scarves as Christmas presents, because I was dead sick of making hats and wanted to keep my fingers occupied. I hadn't done anything particularly advanced recently (or ever, really); the most advanced pieces I had done were mittens, knitted fish, or intarsia block work. Although I didn't have to reteach myself how to do the basic functions of knitting (my knitting brain stem was still alive and well), I still had a bit of cerebral growing to go to relearn and acquire new advanced techniques.

I had a few pattern books at home, but the ones I had either sported fashions from the 1950's (they were hand-me-downs from the grandmother and aunt departments), or basic how-to's from the 1990's. I wanted a pattern that was classy and therefore, not juvenile. To the World Wide Web I go!

There are a ton of knitting blogs out there that have free patterns. I also found a website with a list of such websites (how cool!), and I was introduced to Ravelry.com. I picked out a few of my favorite patterns that I saw, found some suitable yarn in my yarn stash (only 7 feet away from my computer), and dug in. 

"Chevron Scarf" in fishtail pattern, completed December 2011
I got this pattern from http://toothfairyinthemaking.blogspot.com/2007/04/fishtail-lace.html
"Earthy Scarf" in diamond pattern, completed Jan-Feb 2012
I got this pattern from http://olivemermaids.blogspot.com/2010/02/lace-knit-lengthwise-scarf.html.
Instead of knitting this lengthwise, I knit it the traditional way and made my scarf three diamond repetitions wide.

"Corkscrew Scarf" in garter stitch, completed December 2011
I got this pattern from http://www.straw.com/cpy/patterns/scarves/fizz-stardust-corkscrew-scarf.html.
Pay attention to the gauge! Otherwise, you will end up with a 10-foot long scarf like me (you don't know how long it will be until you cast off because it absolutely has to be knit lengthwise).
Through public knitting and my recipients' expressions, I became subject to a plethora of complimentary attention. Although I've been embarking on other projects recently, I have not lost my knitting momentum and continue to dive in to increasingly intricate endeavors. 

Stay tuned for more projects. Let me know if you have any pattern/concept recommendations.

Happy Crafting,
Elizabeth