Episode 25: Try, Try Again

When it comes to this project, I’ve been defining success in terms of action. As long as I’m doing something — no matter how misguided or improbably correct — it still counts as successfully working on the dress. (Note that my definition of success will be much more rigidly binary come June 15, 2013; either I’ll be wearing a dress I made myself or I won’t be.) It’s sort of like being a writer: The only thing you have to do in order to succeed at being a writer (not succeed as a writer, mind you) is to write. For the last month, I’ve been riding a wave of success even while failing miserably by any standard other than the vague, easy one I’ve set for myself.

After a not-so-minor panic attack induced by seeing the dress pattern laid out all over and around my bedroom, I took a few days, nursed a bottle of gin, and regrouped. I tackled the first piece that looked like a shape I could manage (another rhombotenuse!), spent days extrapolating the lace pattern out on graph paper so that I could increase in pattern, and then I successfully knit for a few weeks.

Now we come to the point where I complain about something ridiculously specific and attempt to make it engaging to my non-knitter readership. In this case, I’m defining success by pageviews.

Math Sucks: Why Blocking Is the Devil’s Curse

By Antoinette Pomata

Math has never been my strongest subject, which is the least I could possibly say about that. It’s why I flunked dropped out of music halfway through college; I had assumed that as long as I could read the notes that were written by people who understood math, I didn’t have to understand the math myself. It turns out in knitting, as with music, asking Beethoven to dumb it down for you will only get you so far.

Sorry, that was awful. Let me try again.

I almost always knit from patterns written by other people, because it means they’ve done the math for me. When I started this project (specifically, this iteration of the project), I had no idea how much math is involved in the creation of a garment. The fact that I’m making the lace in the shapes of the sewing pattern — shapes that would otherwise just be cut out of fabric, but now have to be freeformed by increasing and decreasing strategically — turns the math from geometry into calculus. The big problem with knitting math is that it’s impossible to make a fraction of a stitch. For example, let me show you my work from the first piece of the skirt:

Based on the blocked* swatch: 32 stitches x 32 stitches = 6″ x 6″

32/6 = 5.333 stitches per inch

5.333 rounds down to 5, because you can’t make 1/3 of an increase

5 /= 5.333, as evidenced here:

That’s the pattern for the piece of dress I was making, covered in plastic wrap (so that the paper didn’t get wet), covered in a clearly inadequate amount of lace.

*Quick brief on blocking for non-knitters: When you knit lace, it comes out all lumpy and scrunched and fucked up. To make it look like normal lace instead of a toddler’s cat’s cradle, you run it under the sink for a couple of seconds, squish it between a couple of towels to partially dry it, and then pin it to a surface — in this case, my guest bed — in the shape you want it to be. Once it dries, it should hold its shape. As you can see, no amount of enthusiastic pinning is going to unfuck this one.

So obviously my math was bad, but the problem is I don’t know how to fix it. To my embarrassment, I enlisted my fiancé to help me with my homework; at lunch, we (he) plotted out the math for the next piece I was going to attempt. That was before I had attempted to block the rhombotenuse, which means he was banking on my math for that one being correct. Which, as we’ve already covered, it decidedly ain’t.

The important thing is, as long as I’m working on the dress, I haven’t failed. Even if I have to make that first piece over again, which I undoubtedly will, unless I stop moving forward in some capacity I’m still succeeding. So tonight I’ll go home and make pouty faces at the fiancé until he agrees to let me cheat off of his math, and we’ll work on unfucking this thing together.

Odds that I’ll still be working on the dress in the car on the way to the ceremony in 14 months: 10-1.

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