Saturday, March 14, 2009

Prognosis: Negative

It all started out so simple. A plain black scarf with pirate skulls. How hard could that be? And considering it was a gift that was promised so many months ago, I vowed to dedicate all my knitting time to nothing but the Pirate Scarf. And, as a cherry on the sundae, I'd be learning a new skill since, as we all know, the only way to get skulls on a plain black scarf is with Intarsia.

I had never knit Intarsia before, but it didn't seem to be too difficult. All I needed was a skull and crossbones chart to knit from, and I could knit it into a basic scarf. Easy Peasy - or so I thought!

The first challenge came when I tried to find a chart for a decent sized skull and bones. Not an easy task. I spent way too much time surfing the pattern archives on Ravelry, as well as various sites on the net. Finally, I found one to my liking! Woo Hoo!!! It was a great chart that went with a pattern for a hat that was knit in the round.

Now, my peanut sized brain understood that when you're knitting in the round with a two-color chart, you're going to knitting Fair-Isle, and not Intarsia, but that was about as far as my logic got me. I just assumed (and you all know what that gets you) that it would just work it's way out as I knit & purled a flat piece of fabric. Result: Fair Isle charts for knitting in the round DO NOT work for flat knitting Intarsia. Fine, so now we know for sure. And off to the frog pond it went. And back to searching for a proper chart.
Needless to say, I did find a proper Intarsia chart for a skull and bones motif, and was very excited!! I could finally, properly, begin my scarf. So, off I went. First, I had to figure out how many stitches I would need to cast on to center the pattern just so, then grab my yarn and go.

Mmm, yummy wool blend goodness!

After knitting up a couple of inches, I began the chart. Stopping and starting with the different colors and yarn ends made for quite a confusing mess of yarn bobbins and tails on the back of the work. All of the untangling and straightening of the mess slowed me down some, but before long, the chart was complete! Yay me!

Confusing bobbin madness on the back side!

After I completed the chart, I had decided to just knit in black for a while, then randomly place a skull and bones here and there whenever I felt like it (the chart also included a pattern for a smaller skull that I was planning on using). After several inches, I noticed that my scarf was curling in on me more and more. I was beginning to get very annoyed, but reassured myself that it would work itself out.

When I was planning out the scarf, I knew I was going to be knitting the scarf in stockinette stitch, and everybody knows that stockinette stitch curls. But I was prepared for this! I, being much more clever than the number one ultimate rule of knitting, had figured this "inevitability" into my so-called design. You see, I had knit a 2x2 rib border at the beginning of the scarf, as well as used a garter stitch side edge.

2x2 Ribbed Border

Garter stitch edge

So there was no way my scarf was going to curl. It just seemed rather tube-like because of the way I was letting it drop as I knit, and I'd just block that baby out when I was done. But, as I knit on, the curlier and curlier it got, so I finally decided I needed an expert opinion. I sought out the sage advice of the owner of my LYS. After explaining the situation, I fully expected to hear "Of course you can block that curl out. Just pin it out and it will the beautiful flat scarf you envisioned!". But what I got was "It will never uncurl. That's the way stockinette is. You have to frog it back and use a different stitch." It was so definite and final, and my heart dropped a little.

I haven't had the heart to unravel all my hard work just yet. For my first Intarsia project, I'm actually a little proud of how it came out (minus a mis-placed stitch or two). So, the curly menace came out of the knitting bag to get pinned out and photographed, then back in it went for a time-out.

Pinned out & flat

Curled up front

Curled up backside

So, back to the drawing board for how to make a non-curly/flat pirate skull scarf. I think I should have it ready just in time for summer. Perfect!