Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Reluctant Entrelac Experience

I finished something. And I have a confession to make. I really avoided learning how to do entrelac.

A) Because I thought it looked fiddly & fussy to do all those little short rows & all that picking up of stitches.
But mostly
B) Because it was really nice to be able to say "I don't know" when someone asked me how to do entrelac!

My list of things I haven't ever tried is getting smaller & smaller. I was stubbornly hanging on to entrelac. Now that I've jumped that hurdle what is next? Crochet?!?

In response to my earlier concerns, it's really not all that fiddly & fussy after all. Once you learn how to knit & purl back backwards, that eliminates a lot of the fussiness of entrelac. Thanks to Amanda teaching me how to knit back backwards for the Multidirectional Diagonal Scarf, I was able to make the mental jump needed to learn how to purl back backwards too for this project. Doing this eliminates the need to repeatedly turn the work and makes for a much more fluid experience. For me the myth of "fussy entrelac" has been BUSTED!

Since I am publicly admitting to having finished an entrelac project, I will forever give up the luxury of claiming ignorance when asked about this technique. Was ignorance bliss? Not really. I was sorry not to be able to give very useful help to at least two people making this very bag. It still isn't a technique given to a quick explanation on the fly though. It's one that I think most people have to sit down and just DO to fully understand.

Now that I've tried it, I can say that it had a very attention-holding fascination. Each little square held its own satisfaction, keeping me interested and rewarded every time I finished another square. When I finished 12 squares then I had the even bigger reward of having finished another tier. I think this must be what gamers feel like when they get to go to the next level! This particular project also had one of my favorite knitting elements - each tier of squares got smaller and smaller, making the knitting go faster and faster as it progressed, which felt like an ever quickening race to the end! This is why I love knitting a seamless raglan or Lopi sweater. This is also why I think that top down knitting takes a lot of the fun out and leaves the boring part to the end. (But we'll talk about knitting sweaters that fit some other time, ok?)

Anyway, all in all I give the entrelac Market Squares bag serious merit points for being simultaneously interesting and relaxing as well as being a great looking finished project. Originally published in Knitter's Magazine #63 Summer 2001 this pattern was also reprinted in the XRX book, Bags A Knitters Dozen. Mine is knit almost entirely in Cascade 220 with the multicolored squares knit in Plymouth's Galway Paint. If you look in the book or magazine you will see the original has a different handle treatment. I'm a grommet fan so I went with grommets for mine. While this project is definitely good enough for new yarn, it might also be a fun stash buster project for using up oddments of feltable wools. If you've wanted to try entrelac (or if you've been avoiding it like I was!) this might be just the project for you!


Heather said...

I want to learn to knit backwards!!

Elizabeth said...

It's easy! I'll show you. As many Multidirectional Scarves as you make, you will have ample opportunity to try it out! :-)

Jamisyn said...

I love it! Wish my washer felted like that!...maybe one day :). I never thought of knitting backwards...why didn't I think of that? Well, I'm sure turning a huge bag like that so often is much more annoying than a small little scarf! Beautiful, Elizabeth!