Vivian sweater knitting, stalled

posted in: Creativity, Knitting | 6

Well, I got my cable-crossings fixed on the Vivian sweater and reached the point where the body and sleeves are joined for the working of the upper body and shoulder area . . . when I ran into one of the problems so common to offering knitting patterns in multiple sizes. The Vivian design comes in ten sizes, so this is hardly surprising.

Consequently, here's the state that this project will be in for a while:

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One of the aspects that drew me to this sweater was the designer's fluid handling of the cables, including details like the one shown at the asterisk in this photo, where a cable from the body runs unbroken up the sleeve-joining line:

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Well, on the size I am knitting, the points where the body/sleeve joins occur fall three-quarters of the way through those adjacent cables (the joins also take place on a cable-crossing row, although a solution to the first problem—keeping those cables intact—will automatically solve the second). A review of blog posts on Ravelry indicates that this mid-cable join problem also affects at
least one other size of this design.

The designer was smart in hiring a tech editor to do the grading. Yet while the tech editor probably got the math right throughout the size grading, she (or less likely he) didn't check what happened with the cable panels on each size to be sure they stayed true to the fundamental design concept. It's a complicated matter to accomplish this; getting the math right is a major task on its own; tech editing is not one of the best-paying jobs on the planet; and designers don't earn enough from selling patterns to pay tech editors, in turn, for the levels of skill required for their contributions to the finished pattern. Nonetheless. My work on this project is stalled for a while.

There are a whole bunch of ways to solve this problem and I fortunately have the skills to figure out what they are—I've been a tech editor myself in the past and have solved similar problems on many patterns. If I'd been designing this sweater from scratch, I almost certainly would have set up the body patterns a little differently way back there at the cast-on in order to accommodate this transition. As it is, I need to either use one of the on-the-fly options that are still available . . . or re-knit the body after deciding how to revise the set-up. The latter is a drastic solution I prefer to avoid. So my next step is to carefully examine what happens in the remaining instructions for the sweater and see if any of my Plan B, C, or D alternatives feels acceptable.

That's not what I wanted to be doing this knitting for: it's supposed to be a sufficiently interesting project to provide relaxation and a sense of accomplishment while I'm doing other work that is intellectually challenging—some of which also seems endless, with few "sense of accomplishment" points.

So here it is, stalled. Until I have time to use well-developed traditional knitting and/or tech editing skills to think my way around the problem.

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This is the primary reason that I don't publish my own designs very often (at least for sweaters). I like to design intricacies that are hard to translate from one size to others without drafting the additional sizes separately. From the designer's perspective, I understand completely why and how this sort of thing happens. I also hate to think that designers have to limit their ideas to those that can be smoothly implemented in a wide range of sizes: this constraint truly does put strict boundaries around what one can envision doing with the craft.

Once it's completed, I suspect that I'll love the sweater. Even if I decide to revise the patterning on the body, and completely re-knit it.

This situation is also reminding me why most often I spend the time (which I didn't have when I started this sweater) to create my own designs.

Knitting group is tonight. It's my weekly break from The Project's work, except when I take part of The Project to work on. And now I don't have a knitting project that I can just pick up and work
on there. I'll need to figure something out by late afternoon. I don't feel like starting another pair of socks. I may take graph paper and see if I can noodle at the charting to start figuring out how to fix this, although I'd rather just KNIT right now.

Knitting is a crucial component of my personal stress-reduction ecology. It balances out the stresses of the other intense work that I do. At any given time, the work on my needles can't require the same sorts of problem-solving skills that my other work projects are drawing on: it needs to help refill the reservoir. Yet it can't be boring, or it won't accomplish that goal. Mindless work of almost any sort is not helpful.

The temptation, of course, is to design something from the ground up. While creatively satisfying, I don't have time right now.

Maybe I'll find some leftover yarn and start another of Woolly's hat designs. That'll fill my stress-reduction requirements for at least a few days.

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On the other hand, I finished a really interesting editorial review about 11:15 last night. My completed notes arrived moments later on a computer in Europe—at 7:15 a.m., nicely in time to start the work week, as requested.

On previous days, I'd been able to edit for 60 to 90 minutes, then spin samples for The Project for 20 to 30 minutes. It was a nice way to balance the physical demands of both types of work. Yesterday, though, I needed to stay at the computer and just crank through the editorial tasks without the effective alternation. Part of the time I worked with a warm rice bag draped across my shoulders to help with the physical tension: a good solution, but spinning is preferable and works better. I just don't know how to edit and spin at the same time.

The author has a full draft of a book of about 108,000 words (about 430 standard typed pages); has already cut 20,000 words (80 pages); (1) needs to cut another 20,000 and (2) focus more tightly on the topic while (3) making the information accessible to people who are not experts on the subject; and needs to meet a to-copyediting deadline in a couple of weeks.

My job was to skim through the whole thing and provide big-picture ideas on how to accomplish (1), (2), and (3). Challenging, but a great intellectual puzzle. This author will meet all those goals, and I'm glad to be able to facilitate the process.

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I came across a pertinent quote from Cokie Roberts in yesterday's USA Weekend (page 2). She is writing a book about women during the mid-19th century:
"'Everyone just thinks they were sitting around knitting,' Roberts tells
us. 'But they were doing lots of interesting stuff, too.'"

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Today I turn again to spinning samples for The Project. . . .

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6 Responses

  1. So sorry about the sweater. Funny, I adore mindless knitting for stress relief, particularly when in a group of people chatting. We’re all different.

    I often like Cokie Roberts. She is really going to wish she had not said that. Just wait until Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (Yarn Harlot)’s “The Knitters” hear about this.

  2. I usually like Cokie Roberts’ observations a LOT. My analysis is that the only knitting she’s ever done must be stockinette and/or garter-stitch scarves. Assuming Stephanie gets wind of this particular comment (and I suspect she will), I look forward to hearing what comes of it. . . .

    Wonder what yarn I’ve got around here that would produce a nice hat? Lots. The question is deciding and matching yarn to pattern.

  3. Just sitting around knitting, eh? Maybe you should send her the sweater! Congrats on helping the mss you were editing along–it’s the same kind of problem-solving that’ll lead you to figure out how to handle the sweater design issues, I expect.

  4. Yes, Susan, the problem-solving techniques required for the sweater are mighty similar to those required for sorting out a manuscript. Which means it's the same brain-set in action. I'm wandering around my mental warehouse (of book and magazine memories) and the web now looking for something easy but not mindless to knit. 

  5. I hate it when a project that’s supposed to be relaxing and just engaging enough turns into a serious problem. It’s hard not to put it away forever at that point. I had a quilt that I had started to machine quilt and got about 1/3rd of the way through before I realized my design wasn’t working. I put it away for several years before I could face picking out all those stitches and starting again. On the other hand, I listened to a book on tape as I picked, and was able to do it painlessly by the time I was ready to face it.

  6. Countless times I heard that comment when I ran (and worked in construction) a construction company, when I trained and competed horses, when I farmed, when I camped/fished etc … too many people were surprised to see a die-hard “outsidey” on her break knitting or crocheting or spinning.

    So it’s not just Cokie.

    Good luck with the mindless knitting.

    I have a goldfinch singing outside my window right now – I guess it’s just sitting around singing and not doing anything. 🙂

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