Knitting Knook

Green Makes Red

So about a week ago, I reached the mid-way point of the intarsia pattern of the Ravenna satchel and what keeps running through my head is the slogan to a TV commercial that used to air when I was a kid: Calgon, take me away!

For I am overrun by strands of yarn and self-made bobbins.

As one woman so aptly writes in her project notes on, the Ravenna satchel is not a traveling project. The farthest my own satchel-in-progress has traveled is the few feet it takes for me to pull it from its perch on my sideboard to the nearby floor, where I then sit with skeins of yarn, my accessories bag, and the intarsia pattern sprawled around me. I barely move until I’ve accomplished the two rows I’ve set out to knit each morning.

I know, I know: “Two rows? That’s all she knits?”

I admit while there have been a time or two in which I’ve accomplished at most four rows in one sitting, it usually takes me anywhere from fifteen to thirty minutes to knit one row. It all depends on how many times I have to stop to add in a new leaf or flower bobbin (which requires counting the stitches in the pattern and measuring out the correct length of yarn), fix stitches that have been pulled too tightly when switching colors or advancing a row, untangle the random bobbin, transfer yarn from one hand to the other, etc, etc.

Please tell me I’m not the only one to plod through this part of the pattern!

Looks decent from this side
Looks decent from this side

Considering this is the first time I’ve attempted intarsia, I may have—to use a tired cliché (my apologies, fellow writers)—bitten off more than I can chew without a lot of grumbling and swearing. (Uh, Mom, you can ignore that last bit.) I’ve done two-stranded color work before, where the non-working yarn is carried behind the working yarn, so I understand the need for wrapping the strands together to prevent holes in the pattern. And because I’m able to knit both Continental and English, the transition between colors is not an issue, either.

What is my problem, then?

I believe it’s the plethora of green leaves in the pattern that makes me see red.

Here is the thing about intarsia if you’re going to do it correctly: intarsia means you don’t carry the yarn behind your work, so if you are knitting a pink flower on a pale blue background, you need one bobbin of pink yarn and two bobbins of blue yarn—a blue bobbin for each side of the flower. Each bobbin, then, not only represents dangling strands of yarn prone to tangling, but also a starting and stopping point, i.e., loose ends with which to grapple during the knitting process and weave in at the end. Oh, joy!

In the lovely Ravenna satchel, we have twenty-nine leaves and seven flowers, to say nothing of the background color interspersed between them. That means we have…no, I can’t do the math; I’ll start to cry. But I think you get the picture. If not, look at the one below, taken almost two weeks ago.

Awash in wool spaghetti
Awash in wool spaghetti

Seeing as how on any given row I could be knitting up to six leaves and four flowers, I…um…haven’t strictly adhered to the rules of intarsia. One needs to maintain his/her sanity, after all. To that end, I have chosen to carry my background color (Clarity from Knit Picks) behind the leaves that are five stitches or less across. I may come to regret this in the felting process as the instructions say puckering can occur, but if that’s the case, at least you’ll know not to do the same thing should you ever attempt to knit this bag. 😉

I think if it weren’t for the many leaves, knitting this section would prove much less frustrating and taxing. It makes me wonder how the bag might look if one simply added all those leaves via needle-felting at the very end.

Maybe someday, once I’m fully sane again, I’ll try it with a new mix of colors and report back my findings.


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