Sunday, December 5, 2010

Evil Penguins

The teensy sweaters in the post below are part of a multi-project pattern issued by Knit Picks called Snow Day.

Here's the pattern image:

Since uploading the below photos, I've also finished the stripey cardigan (the orange, blue, and white one in the pattern pic). It looks great!

After finishing all the sweaters, I decided to give the penguin a go. I mean, it's freaking adorable. From the moment I cast on, the problems began.

First, you start with the basically ball shaped head. Knitting in the round, starting from very few stitches, sure, I've done this before. But, according to the pattern, you are supposed to do a lifted increase after every stitch in the very first round. This is impossible because THERE IS NOTHING TO LIFT. No matter which cast-on I tried, there was nothing for me to work into to do the Make 1. I had to do a backwards loop increase, which I have never liked because it's so effing hard to work into on the next round, but whatever. Correct stitch count achieved, right? And then I could do the lifted increases the pattern asked for ever subsequent time.

But of course, the problems were not over. The head was worked first in white, then the rest in black, so there was no need to float any color strands. However, once I got to the body, EACH round is part black and part white, so I had to start stranding. As anyone knows who has done colorwork, this immediately doubles the thickness of the finished object. Now, this is a TINY penguin. At its widest point, it's only 26 stitches around of fingering weight yarn on size 2 needles. Having it be this thick meant there was barely any space inside. I could already tell stuffing it was going to be difficult.

Thickness was not the only problem with the stranding. The other, and somewhat less significant problem unless you're rather OCD, is that EVERY time I floated the black strand, it showed up clear as day on the front (white) section of the penguin. I just kept telling myself, eh, this penguin's white section is just flecked with black feathers, sure, no problem, just vary where you do the float so it looks randomish. I could have dealt with that, I suppose, even though the lack of a pristine white section was bugging me.

So, I got the head done, I got the body done. It didn't look too horrible. The pattern is written so that you hold most of the white (belly) stitches of the penguin apart and work some short rows with the black (back) stitches to curve around the bottom for the feet, and graft onto the held stitches. But before you do this, you can take the opportunity to stuff the penguin.


Even with a stuffing tool, I had an incredibly hard time getting any polyfill into the body at all - the opening was just too narrow. Then, once I did manage to cram it in there, I could not, no matter what I tried, get the stuffing through the tiny neck section into the head area. The stuffing merely compacted at the neck and turned into a hard lump. And all this is separate from the fact that with all the uneven stranding I was forced to do, the body is not particularly willing to round itself out properly and keeps bunching in weird places that the stuffing can't even reach.

And all of this is going on in a creature that is roughly one by three inches.

When I realized it was never going to work, I yanked out the now solidified polyfill clump with a crochet hook and started unraveling that evil thing with a vengeance.

Quitting at this point meant that there were still further problems that I had anticipated, but never reached - for example, once you've stuffed it and grafted the toe, you're supposed to do the beak and the eyes. How the HELL was I supposed to tie off or weave in the ends INSIDE the penguin that has already been stuffed and sealed? Even if I hadn't stuffed or sealed it yet, the thickness of it and the narrowness of the neck meant that I couldn't even turn it inside out if I wanted to. Same goes for the wings, which are made separately and then sewn on. Where would the loose ends have gone?

Whoever wrote this pattern, whether it was Nina Isaacson (listed as the author on Ravelry) or some other Knit Picks staff member, clearly didn't think it through very well. I'm not sure how they even got the sample made. I may still attempt to knit a penguin ornament with the same basic shape as the one in the pattern, but I would have to dramatically reconceptualize the construction. For starters, even though I don't really like seaming, I'd have to completely do away with the need for stranding and just work the black and white sections separately and flat, like the pattern instructions tell you to do for the wings, which I never even got to. I would also have to do the eyes and beak BEFORE starting on the rest of the body, and finish and sew on the wings before seaming and stuffing the body.

Maybe... just maybe.