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October 1, 2011 / Gillian

Day 2: To Frog or Not to Frog

Hardly a single knitter hasn’t at least once experienced the looming specter of crushing defeat.  Whether you’ve bitten off more project than you can chew or simply misread a direction, everyone has had that moment when they’ve had to choose to frog or not to frog.  I’ve been there many, many times.  Let me count the projects: my first shrug, the vine yoke cardigan, the Yggdrasil afghan, entrelac fingerless mitts, the grotto wrap, entangled stitches…I could go on.  Not all these projects ended up being frogged, but for each one I faced a moment when I could clearly see a very green and froggy future.

The key in these situations is to remember that each project is an individual.  You aren’t going to like every person you meet and the same goes for projects.  Just because they’re pretty, doesn’t mean that they’re enjoyable.  There are projects that, while a beautiful finished project, are just more complicated to create than you may feel is worth your effort.  For educational purposes, I’m totally willing to debase myself in front of my audience.  I am far from perfect and my mistakes are many.  My mistakes have made me the knitter I am today.

In order to make this post end on a happy note, let’s start with the epic fails before cataloging the frogs that turned into princesses.  I won’t go completely in chronological order, but since nostalgia is fun, let’s start with my first frog.

The first frog is  probably the hardest to handle, especially if you’re an obsessive chronicler like me.  On Ravelry I have a fantastically easy to manage notebook of all my projects and I revel in photographing my pieces and keeping tracking of them.  To date I have 219 projects on Ravelry.  In my case, I had finished around 30 projects when my first epic fail came knocking.  The project in question was “My First Shrug”.  I hadn’t tackled an adult sized sweater yet, and I was looking for something that I could finish sort of quickly that I could wear with pride.

After a trip to Michaels’ I discovered what looked like a really cute shrug pattern on a skein of Caron Simply Soft Shadows.  This piece was a lesson in reading the comments.  If I had looked more in depth at the Ravelry page for this pattern I’d have seen the many complaints regarding the sizing of the pattern.  As it turns out, even the small size came out huge, even when knitted in the proper gauge.  I had gotten well into the first sleeve before I started feeling that funny feeling in my gut.  It just seemed too big.  At first I persuaded myself that I just needed to keep going and it would turn out fine, but after awhile I began to seek advice from online knitting friends.  On their advice I looked at the Ravelry page again.  Disaster.  No amount of sticking-it-out was going to get me where I wanted to go with this piece.  I was so sad and disillusioned that I decided to frog it and put the idea of a shrug on the back burner.  At the time I wasn’t experienced enough to adjust the pattern to fit, so for me at that time frogging was the best option.

In the category of biting off more than you can chew, let’s discuss the entrelac fingerless mitts that weren’t.  This piece was supposed to be an awesome challenge for me to conquer.  As it turned out, these mitts owned me backwards and forwards.  Though I can safely say that I have mastered flat entrelac, rough entrelac is something I simply cannot put on my knitting resume yet.  We all have our weaknesses.  This project failed for many reasons, one of which was my failure to check gauge.  I’m not sure whether it was me or the pattern, but since I don’t know I’m going to say that it was me.  I should have used smaller needles, but I simply didn’t feel like it and the mitts were just too large to fit correctly.  I most definitely didn’t read the pattern carefully enough and definitely made a mistake or two in that regard.  The biggest boo-hoo about this project was that I used some gorgeous Mini-Mochi yarn that – while lovely – is not easily froggable.  In fact I still have that partially finished mitt and no matter how I try, I cannot reclaim my yarn.

As much as some frogs are simply the fault of the knitter’s impatience or inexperience and sometimes the fault belongs to a poorly written pattern, sometimes you’re left with no one at whom to point your fingers.  For me, that situation was the Grotto Wrap.  I had been eying the Grotto for some time.  It’s a beautiful lace-weight wrapped cardigan with cable-braids down the sleeves.  I’d picked out some pretty purple lace yarn from Knit Picks and I was totally ready to go.  The pattern was printed out and I was excited.  I thought it would go really quickly since, despite the lace yarn, the needles required were sizes 9 and 10.  This piece was so exciting and I wanted everything to go perfectly, so I even made sure to check my gauge and I was dead on.

Things didn’t get off to a great start.  I used the work flat directions for the beginning of the sleeve that was worked in the round, so I ended up with garter stitch where I should have had stockinette.  Luckily, this time I listed to my gut and took a hard look at the piece and a hard look at the pattern and quickly worked out where I’d gone wrong.  Simple, I thought, I’ll cast on again.  Things were zooming along up the first sleeve when another feeling hit me.  I didn’t want to knit anymore.  I actively dreaded it.  Though knitting the lace with larger needles meant that it worked up faster, I found that I wasn’t enjoying the process.  With only some small regret, I decided that perhaps this piece wasn’t something I wanted to make after all.  Happily, this yarn was easily reclaimed and I used about half the total project yarn to make a lovely shawl which I’ll be giving to my mom for Christmas.

So sometimes you’re going to have to frog.  Not every project is worth frustrating yourself to finish.  More often than not though, you can turn that frog into a beautiful shiny princess with just a little effort.  It’s those experiences that have probably taught me the most.  Take for example the Yggdrasil Afghan, one of my most time consuming and most fantastic finishes.  This was a quick fix.  I am cheap and I have a small child, so if I’m going to use wool it’s got to be superwash.  A project as large as the Yggdrasil needs something like three thousands yards of yarn.  In a fit of cheapiness, I decided to use Caron One Pound.  Halfway through the first chart I was absolutely certain that I would never be able to do all the necessary cabling with the yarn I had chosen.  Simple fix, different yarn.  I switched to a still frugal, but not quite as dirt cheap Caron Simply Soft.  Results?

The perfect project.

Have you ever made a project you wished you’d frogged?  For me, that was the Vine Yoke Cardigan.  I used to be very overweight, and I’m still not used to being skinny so I quite often find myself overestimating the necessary size of a project.  This was the case for the Vine Yoke Cardigan.  It turned out lovely…except it was about three sizes too big for me.  This was another happy coincidence for my mom, since it ended up just about her size.  Next time?  Be real about your size.  Whether large or small, you are who you are and there’s no sense in making something for yourself that isn’t going to fit you.

Toughing it out to the bitter end may not always be the right answer, but neither is jumping instantly into the frog pond if things don’t seem to be going your way.  With that, we’ll end on perhaps my favorite frog to princess triumph: Entangled Stitches.  If you’ve ever seen these gloves, you know that they’re intricately cabled and so pretty.  I used a skein of my own hand-dyed yarn for these gloves so when they didn’t look like they were going to fit I was beside myself.  After finishing two fingers I discovered that the designer clearly had long, thin phalanges and as a person of petite size…well I don’t.  I pulled out the fingers I’d finished and set the glove aside for perhaps a month, trying to figure out whether I really wanted to frog it, or whether the gloves were worth saving.

The time away from the gloves was well spent.  Immediately after what seems like a fail it can be difficult to see that happy ending, especially when you want it so badly.  In this case, absence made the heart grow fonder and the longer I waited, the more determined I became that I could make these gloves work.  What was my problem, I asked myself.  I have short fingers.  Could there possibly be an easier fix?  How did I not immediately see it?  I simply had to leave off a few rows and I had the gloves I so passionately desired.  Once I finished the first glove, I breezed through the second one at what felt like light-speed.  I don’t think I’ve ever been happier not to frog.

Can you turn every frog into a princess?  Probably not.  Just remember, that every project – successful or not – is a learning experience and every learning experience makes you a better knitter.

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2 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Crafty Anfdy / Oct 1 2011 11:40 am

    If you only made one Mitten in entrelac, I say finish the project in a different way, make is a wine bag or a purse!

    • DrPurloknitz / Oct 1 2011 12:13 pm

      I’m definitely going to seam up the bottom and make it a little sundries bag. That yarn is way too pretty to waste!

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