Thursday, August 26, 2010

Constraints and Creativity

On Sunday, August 1, 2010, I started three knitting projects: a pair of socks, a shawl, and an afghan. Well, I finished knitting the afghan just before the Michigan Fiber Festival, and Tuesday I finished weaving in the yarn ends. (I’m still mulling over the cuff edge of the socks, and I’ve knitted about 15 inches on the shawl.)

The afghan is knitted from some brushed mohair yarns that have been in my stash for awhile. I used five colors: light purple, an orangey red, a raspberry red, a gold, and the fifth color is really 4 very thin brushed kid mohair yarns held together and knitted as one (orange, dark purple, lilac, and brown) that created a sort of “raisin” color. The other yarns are either “La Gran” or La Gran-like.

The construction is simple: garter stitch edges, with the body of the afghan knitted in the classic “feather and fan” pattern (multiples of 18 sts):

Row 1: knit
Row 2: purl
Row 3: *K2tog three times, (yo, k1) six times, K2tog three times*, rep from * to *.
Row 4: purl

I created “stripes” of color, with each stripe equal to one 4-row repeat of the feather and fan.

Here’s where the constraints come in. My first constraint: how much of each color was available. I had 10 skeins of the light purple, but only 1-3 skeins of the other colors. So, the light purple is the “background” or main color and I needed to be conservative on how much gold to use (only 1 skein).

My second constraint was self-imposed. I decided to maintain a color sequence of the non-main colors: A) orangey red, B) raisin, C) gold, then D) raspberry red.

I love the challenge of creating something new and interesting within constraints. I allowed myself to play with how many stripes and how thick the stripes could be. Knitting this afghan reminded me of my days long ago as a dance student at the University of Utah. We had composition & improvisation classes nearly every semester for four years. This afghan was like a slow growing improvisation within the color constraints that I had.

I found myself thinking really no more than 4 or 5 stripes in advance. I allowed myself to “go with the flow”, yet maintain the color sequence. Here’s the stripe order, with the main color (light purple) identified as “O” and the other colors identified by their letters as listed above. There are five “repeats” of the sequence of colors (A,B,C,D), but each “repeat” varies with the amount of “O” interspersed and how much of each color I used:


I rather like the regimented-to-irregular composition that resulted. Here’s a picture of the stripe sequence of the afghan:

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