We meet again, intarsia

I’m the kind of person who’ll try anything twice. Just once isn’t enough; the discomfort involved in doing something new keeps you from making a fair judgment, so: twice it is.

I am doing intarsia again. It’s exactly as not-fun as I remember.

Garter-stitch intarsia, a.k.a. kill me now.
Garter-stitch intarsia, a.k.a. what doesn't kill me makes me stronger.

When I first started knitting, I got a copy of “Stitch ‘n’ Bitch” and plowed right through it. I think I only made one actual pattern from it, but I threw myself at every technique in the book. Cables? Sure. Knitting in the round? No problem. Full-fashioned increasing and decreasing? Absolutely. Fair Isle, lace double knitting — I took on whatever it could throw at me. The only one that seemed like more effort than it was worth was intarsia: lots of adjusting tension, endless tweaking and fifty bazillionty-eleven horrible little bobbins to keep untangled, all for a blocky, 8-bit picture of a ’80s-looking sheep? PASS.

Well, sort of. I only decided to give it a pass after I soldiered my way though a handful of swatches and proved to myself that I could make neat, even intarsia designs on demand. I needed to prove that if I wasn’t doing intarsia, it was from lack of interest, not lack of ability.

Things haven’t changed much since then.

Except — well, dammit, I found a project. It’s a scarf, but it’s OK —  it’s one of those mini scarves, so it won’t take me eight months, all my willpower and several speeches to myself about finishing what I start before I can wear it. And it’s got an Icelandic rose on it, which I love, and it’s got adorable style that’ll fit right in with my vintage clothes.

Aaaaand … it’s got intarsia. Slow, painful, deliberate, no-way-to-make-it-go-faster intarsia. The only saving grace is that’s it’s in garter stitch, so the stitches aren’t as visible, but that also means I have to retrain my brain not to purl along the wrong side.

As I counted out the color sections in the chart, I realized I could easily fudge it a little: I could carry one color of yarn on the back side of the work between two sections, instead of knitting each one with a separate piece of yarn that would have to be twisted with the background color on every row. “Only a true obsessive would do it the harder way,” I thought. “They’re really short floats, and maybe I could line the back of the scarf instead …”

I trailed off. Who would  rationalize doing something the easy way instead of just, y’know, doing it the easy way? You’d have to be some kind of nut to have to sweet-talk yourself into cutting corners. And slowly, slowly, it dawned on me: I am that nut. I’d rather grit my teeth and wind bobbins of yarn, constantly mutter and swear at them as they flop into my work, and pull and tug to perfection at — let’s see — four joins on every row, than carry some damn floats along the back that I didn’t want to see because they just weren’t perfect enough. And just the idea of fudging it, of doing it the easier-but-less-perfect way, was making me squirm. I’d rather do something right, even if it’s something I hate, than slack off.

Well, hell. After years spent trying to teach people around me to be more flexible, less particular,  and more forgiving of themselves and others, I turned out a knitting fascist. It’s the one area of my life where I am a harsh, merciless, bossy perfectionist. And worst of all … I think I kinda like it.