Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What makes hard, hard?

This discussion was started over at Mason-Dixon knitting. What makes a project hard? A candidate for the hardest sweater pattern ever written was put forth - "Katherine Howard" from "Tudor Roses" by Alice Starmore. There's a list of skills needed, including sideways crap, intarsia cables, and other madness. Someone in the comments summed it up brilliantly with "What, no steeks?"

So what makes a project hard for you? Is it a matter of skills you have a like or dislike for, or a matter of experience, with things you've never tried before? Or are you like me, and don't really do 'hard' and judge things more along the lines of 'too much bother'?

Most importantly, does the 'beginner, intermediate, experienced' skill level thing on most patterns help you at all? Or would you rather have a list of skills needed to knit the sweater and make up your own mind?

(Just for the record, the only thing I find truly hard is trying to keep track of multiple charts or decreasing methods, or both, all at once. Even then it's not that hard, but it's VERY often more trouble than it's worth.)

Mostly I'm asking because of this whole design project, but I'm also curious.

Oh. And my own candidate for hardest thing ever knit: Shetland 'wedding ring' shawls. They're huge, you have to pay attention to every darn stitch with multiple charts, increases, decreases, and sideways borders going on, and they're done on tiny needles. It'd be the project from hell that never ended. I keep thinking I should knit one, on principle, to say I did it. But I always find something better to do.

19 comments:

Mistress of the Stash said...

I guess I judge things the way you do. There's nothing worse than knitting a pattern that has so much fuss and bother that it takes the enjoyment out of it. There are a couple of those that are banished to a special, dark corner in my closet. ;)

As for the skill level, I'd rather have a list. Some people feel socks are hard, but they find Intarsia easy and fun. It just depends on what your strong points are.

NeedleTart said...

Now, see, I love multiple stitch charts, not intarsia(at least not again). Something about the geometry of it all thrills me (though The Husband has said that I am a cheap date). I would agree that anything where you have to count the stitches every row (or every half-row) would join my list of "Gee, that's interesting. Think I'll knit another aran" knitting.

Laural said...

I personally would rather have a list of what I would have to do in the project. Because a)I judge the same way that you do (is it worth my time to learn to steek?) and b)I don't exactly read entirely through patterns beforehand, I'm more of what you would call a casual skimmer than a prepared knitter.

I hate stuff labeled beginner, intermediate...etc. What makes someone a beginner? I learned to knit, purl and cable and then my first project was a ribbed hat in Nahua wool on DPN's.

Theresa said...

I would have to agree on the Shetland wedding ring shawls. It's not that I think it is too hard or that I can't master the skills. I'm just not willing to do it.

Laura said...

For me, the hard stuff are always the projects I end up doing - I like rising to the challenge!

But I don't do "too hard" - currently, fancy colour work, or steeking. Or going back 20 rows to fix a mistake in lace - that's what ripping is for.

of course, I also hate seaming and picking stitches up, and dpns give me the heebie-jeebies (the potential for the needles to just drop out increases too much for me to trust them). They're not easy, just icky.

debsnm said...

I look for "hard" projects, I like to test my skills. For *YEARS* I didn't do anything but blankets and sweaters because everyone always said sock were hard. Then I knit a sock, just to see, and it wasn't hard. I have at least 6 single socks, because I was trying different yarns, patterns, etc., to see what was so freaking hard. I knit a fake Navajo design jacket in 3 days over a weekend. Bulky yarn, big needles, and nobody told me that colorwork was hard. After I made it, somebody said - gee, that's so hard. It wasn't hard, it was interesting.
My biggest challenge in knitting is that I need instant gratification. I can knit a huge blanket, as long as there's some kind of pattern, and I can see it emerging, and see progress. I can do colorwork for the same reason. I can see pretty quickly how the patterns are working out. So far, the only "fussy" thing I've done is that stupid picot bind off for the Opera fichu. I almost didn't finish, that thing made me so crazy. The main reason I want to knit lace is for the challenge. Knitting and cutting my knitting just seems like a waste of time for me - I don't mind sewing seams, it means I'm almost done. Again, no patience. LOL

Amy Lane said...

Yeah--I'm more of a "too much bother" sort of thing...I UNDERSTAND all the skills needed, but, really, if it's gonna take that long I could finish something else...

I like the list of skills idea...that way, it would make a 'difficult' project more of a challenge and less of a bother...

Anonymous said...

I also would rather have a list of skills needed to do the project rather than a beginner or experienced label. Right now I'm going through different patterns and looking for skills I'd like to accomplish and giving the finished projects as gifts. I've taught myself entrelac (I think that's how it's spelled, with the short row retangles). I really enjoy things that are different and change, as long as it's not on size 3 or smaller!!

TrishJ

amy said...

I would say I judge on "too much bother." The reality is, if I want to knit right now, it has to be something I can do while kids are around, while I'm answering questions and so on. I agree that the "beginner, intermediate, expert" classification is fairly useless. I can design my own sweaters, but I haven't tried Fair Isle. My first project was a Christmas stocking on DPNs, turning the heel and everything, and I altered the pattern to suit me. Is that a beginner project? Who cares? It's what I wanted to make. Right now I find complicated color work too fussy, but I can see doing it in the future, when I have more time to focus while I knit because my kids aren't so young (*sob*).

Kristen said...

I'm here to jump on the "too much bother" bandwagon. Once you get the hang of K and P, and you read your first Elizabeth Zimmermann book, you realize that every knit project is made one stitch at a time. Therefore, each project is just as easy as the next.

Alwen said...

Hm, what is "hard" to me? I guess the hardest thing for me is "slogging," as in "slogging onwards through a project I'm thoroughly sick of."

I guess I'd rather a list of skills, since in so many ways I'm a knitting beginner, but I'm a beginner-and-geek who likes to feel my brain stretch, viz. "double knitting from two different charts (one on each side)".

Louiz said...

I would say for me "too hard" is doing more than two things at once. Maintaining a pattern and decreasing at the same time is fine, just so long as I don't have to start putting stitches on a thread too...!

Oh, and possibly purling in colourwork which I haven't tried yet. (I believe this might be necessary at the end of the steeked jacket if I remember what Julie said right)

Rae said...

HM. That's a really good question.

Right now hard for me is having a yarn that I love but not finding the right pattern for it. The socks I'm knitting with the yarn pool so badly that I detest the piece. This has happened several times with the yarn (hence no FOs with it), so hard for me is finding the right pattern that will work with this yarn.

Hard for me is also matching patterns to yarn. I have a tough time with substitutions, and I often feel like I'm shooting in the dark when I decide to substitute. There's no real math or reason or logic that I follow (because, well, I haven't taught myself yet how to really know how to make substitutions -- I've asked for help from my LYS, but their 2 min explanation just doesn't stick).

Another (last, and then I'll shut up) hard thing is color selection. I'm color phobic. Your article on color was so helpful, but I'm still petrified of color.

Rae said...

Oh, and I hate the labels "beginner, intermediate, advanced." I just read the pattern and determine if it's worth the effort for me to learn it. If I really like the pattern, I can learn it. I might not have 40+ years of knitting experience, but that has nothing to do with whether or not I can learn a pattern. I may be a novice in skill (practice), but that doesn't mean I can't tackle a really hard pattern.

Catie said...

the following of a pattern and decreasing gets me right now - especially when there is a neck and arm decrease and they are offset and they decrease after different intervals

list of skills would be good - i have no idea where I am in the continuum of ability - I think of myself as a beginner, but am cruising along on lace with no stumbling at the start, and cabling is usually my friend... so yeah, if the list of what is hard/easy were standardized or abandoned to the skills needed list I would be happy

Roxie said...

Now you see why you were picked as a thinking blogger. Listing the skills needed makes much more sense than the "beginner, intermediate" labels. Heck, anything that isn't knit and purl solid color on two needles is labeled "intermediate."

I can do anything if I want to, but the more attention I need to pay, the less I am likely to want to. Lace is something where one mistake snowballs on you. If you make a mistake in colorwork, you can always go back and duplicate-stitch it right. So lace is "too hard."

B said...

I'm in the too much bother category. I suppose my knitting experience would make me an advanced beginner, but I'm a fearless knitter (which the ladies at the yarn store love). I've heard people say fair-isle is hard, but I love it. I think large projects like blankets are hard for me, but that's because I get bored easily.

Rushton said...

I love knitting lace. But give me a pattern book from the 1920's - 1950's instead of a chart. I once read a comment in a knitting book that "everyone can understand a chart." That person is misinformed. I'd like to say that in a much more nasty forceful way, but I don't know you, so I won't. That statement is just as arbitrary as "Beginner, intermediate, advanced." After 40 years of knitting, a beginner chart is incomprehensible. I knit Fair Isle from old patterns or make up my own. I greatly appreciate authors who include both charts and verbal directions in their patterns because I've not given up trying to interpret if a diagonal across 3 squares is one stitch or three or if empty squares mean for me to knit those last 12 stitches, when lo, I have 13 on my needle. Dirty words under the breath here while I frog yet ANOTHER row trying to read this SIMPLY INCOMPREHENSIBLE beginner chart!
Pardon my rant, I'd love to find some of your patterns, but please, *K1,P2,K2tog* repeat 9 times from * is just so easy...why mess with hundreds of years of success!
BTW, I'm a list of skills person myself, although I'll read the whole pattern and work up to the part where I have to dig out instructions or go online for a tutorial. Still learning after all these years. My latest is knitting English with my right, Continental with my left to really stun the locals when knitting 2 socks at once. I like the way my yarns stay completely separate that way.

Camille said...

I don't really have 'hard'. I just have things I haven't tried. I'm knitting the alpine lace scarf, and even though it's labelled advanced, I'm finding it really enjoyable. Previously the only lace I'd knitted was with 4mm needles and worsted weight yarn.

But I also have a tendency towards gratification. With the lace I can see what I've done and how wonderful it looks, so I'll keep going. But with the pinwheel jacket, I had to leave it alone till a time of high stress when mindless knitting would be perfect.