Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Modular knitting and crocheting

Modular knitting is increasing in popularity. Western society is mobile and this craft lends itself to being on the road. Did you ever try to make lampwork beads in an airplane? Or shove a floor loom into the back seat of a Jetta? Even if it was your Jetta? I'll bet you've been arrested less often than I have, too. Knitting and crochet are so portable compared to other crafts. Even if this were not one of my primary hobbies, I would probably do it as a lesser hobby, just to have something portable to do during school recitals and road trips. Especially if I am not driving.
I am grateful to see that the piecework knitting / crocheting repertoire has extended beyond granny squares, as they used to be called back in the day. There are some excellent books out there--I believe one is called Domino Knitting--that show you the many wonderful newer options. You can make intricate squares, triangles, bargello-looking patterns and more out of single color yarn that really show off your skills. Or, if you're more like me, you can make simple squares out of intricate yarn and no one will know what your skill level is because they'll be too mesmerized by the colors.
There are many benefits of modular knitting, which is another term I've heard applied to this method:
  • If you totally mess up a square, you can toss it out, if you are not adverse to doing so. That's a lot easier than ripping and backtracking, which I loathe.
  • If you don't like how the colors look compared to the other squares in your project, you can save the piece for another project. No work goes to waste and you are exonerated in your quest to be Green.
  • It's portable. Take a little or several yarns with you in a tote bag to the doctor's office or your kid's soccer field. Much nicer than lugging a large sweater around and you can skewer the opposing team's soccer ball with a knitting needle if you feel especially rowdy that day. (At the police station, tell them your name is D.J. Runnels.)
  • One of the most onerous tasks in knitting a garment is in continually measuring it or trying it on or double-checking your gauge. With modular squares, you can set one square on top of another and say, "Yep! Looks good to me."
  • You can add to the piece later, especially if it's an afghan or baby blanket. You could be 75% done and start using the so-called finished piece and just keep adding to it when you feel like it. Imagine making a baby blanket for a new mom and adding another row in a different color when mom has another baby. Imagine a four-foot winter scarf becoming a five-footer or six-footer as your schedule permits.
Yarn sold in our Etsy store.

A few disadvantages or considerations:
  • It's easy to come up with a garment that screams of 1970. You see this sort of thing at estate sales all the time and it often smells like moth repellent. Ewww. Maybe you want that. Maybe you don't. Several ways to avoid this trap are to use good wool instead of cheap acrylic--and darlin', I would hope you are not wasting your time with cheap Walmart acrylic when there are so many worthwhile yarns out there that will do your work justice. Secondly, you might knit instead of crochet the squares. Seed stitch would look lovely. Thirdly, carefully consider what you are making. An afghan made of squares makes a great deal of sense. A vest is likely to look like a throwback to an earlier decade, but then again, maybe you WANT that '70's look and that's okay if it's what you want. But you could also make modular rectangles, stripes or triangles instead and that will update your look considerably.
  • I tend to feel that modular crochet has more substance to it than modular knitting. Not always but often. Crocheters, feel free to whoop triumphantly. I am a knitter, so you just scored a victory here.
  • There's a lot more assembly involved. Some people hate piecing their work together. I kind of like it. You will do more fitting and measuring at this stage that you were able to avoid earlier, but at least you can make modifications.
  • What if you're all done knitting and now you're piecing together, say, a jacket and it's just a little too big around. The typical person might go ahead and leave it too big rather than take out some squares and end up with something too small. Okay, fine, I'll confess, that person would be me. Or I might make some "half-squares" to go into the side seam to get a better fit. Or what if you leave off one square on the sleeves and add some extra-long ribbing? We can be flexible with modular knitting and be willing to break the rules when needed. So what if it's not entirely made of squares. The jacket is there to serve you, not vice versa.
dj runnels
Life's an Expedition
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