Stitch and Bitch: Or How to Go Crazy Knitting a Piece of Art

Stitch and Bitch: Or How to Go Crazy Knitting a Piece of Art
Knitting As Art: The Smoking Man

Stitch and Bitch: Or How to Go Crazy Knitting a piece of Art

You have to possess a certain amount of lunacy and patience to undertake a project like the one on which I am now working. I am well endowed with the first quality. The second—not so much. But I figured, after all of the things I’ve done, how bad could this be. I was about to find out.

How It Began

I have been knitting since I was a little girl; and, over the years, I have made some pretty cool things:

A Christmas Stocking for Alex

A Christmas Stocking for Alex

A Baby Blanket for Ainsley

A Baby Blanket for Ainsley

A striped bed covering for Alex's room

A striped bed covering for Alex's room

And a pair of Deco-style nudes for no place in particular

Nude 1--black on white

Nude 1--black on white

Nude 2, white on black

Nude 2, white on black

Some of the projects were simple (the striped covering); others, ranged from medium (the nudes) to downright hard  (Ainsley’s blanket). But they were all manageable and fun to make. And then, I tackled the bitch mother of all projects.

The Bitch Mother

It didn’t start out that way. Tired of working on blankets and bored with black and white, I asked Norman to design me an art piece—not a blanket—something colorful that I could frame. I had in mind Magritte’s whimsical man in a bowler hat with a big green apple over his face.

"Son of Man" by Rene Magritte

"Son of Man" by Rene Magritte

Or maybe Eustace Tilley, the dandy who graces the cover of The New Yorker's anniversary issue.

Eustace Tilly

Eustace Tilly

Well, Norman is anything but derivative. He wasn’t about to copy Magritte or anyone else. What I got was a suave, smoking gentleman--more like Fred Astaire--who is definitely artsy and not black and white.

Knitting As Art: The Smoking Man

Knitting As Art: The Smoking Man

So, design in hand, we headed for the knit shop where I found the perfect  yarn: soft, silky,and of course, not cheap ($400) since I needed a lot of it. But, I guess perfection doesn't come cheap.

Stitch and Bitch

The bitching started with the needles. I planned to use a size 7 or 8, as recommended by the yarn manufacturer. I made a sample (which I hate doing, but the shop's owner insisted). It was a good thing I did, because the sample ended up looking more like a blanket than a work of art.  I kept trying, and wound up working on size 3 needles to get the look I wanted. Size 3! You know what that means—more stitches per row, and more rows overall: 216 stitches per row and 384 rows for a total of 82,944 stitches. YIKES!  And BITCH!

Ready to Knit--At Last

I cast on the 216 stitches and for a while, I worked in only one color (white) for the border and several more rows. Okay—this wasn’t so bad. Then, I started on the hat. I had to attach and work across nine balls of yarn. Why not use bobbins? Not with 216 stitches per row. I’d be doing nothing but changing bobbins and attaching more yarn. So balls it was. Here is how the piece looked at the beginning of each row.

Beginning of a row

Beginning of a row

And here is how it looked at the end of the row.

End of a row: a tangled mess

End of a row: a tangled mess

Since I have to stop and untangle the strands after every single row, it takes about 20 minutes to finish one row. Bitch!

Shirley the Ripper

You’ve heard the saying, “to be a good knitter, you have to be a good ripper”? It’s true, and I’ve done a lot of ripping in my time—but I’ve usually done it on straight lines of one or two colors—so, no biggie. I couldn't even imagine having to rip this Goliath!  But somehow, I got my rows mixed up and worked the wrong numbers on every color for about 10 rows.

A page of instructions--easy to misread

A page of instructions--easy to misread

Continuing to knit would throw the entire pattern off, so it was either junk the whole project (a temptation) or rip. I ripped. It took four hours, and I bitched the whole time.

Moving On

I am now plodding forward again, (knit one, bitch one). I have just finished the hat ...

Finished hat

Finished hat

and am starting the eyes.

Starting the eyes

Starting the eyes

Norman says I am about one-third of the way through. With luck, I will finish before Christmas. I hope so, because I really don’t want to spew semi-profanities over the strains of “O Holy Night”.

P.S. If you're working on a project that is driving you crazy, come on over. We can bitch together.

 

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