Monday, February 25, 2008

Say Yes! to Michigan

Hello! I just thought I would share the new scarf that I made this week. There was a contest through a group I belong to online -- Michigan Indie Crafters of Etsy (MICE). They are holding their first ever contest with the theme of "I Heart Michigan".

Members were instructed to create something -- anything -- that had to do with Michigan or a certain city, region or anything that obviously made it about the Great Lakes State. It didn't have to convey the contest theme literally. My first thought was to knit a scarf that had Michigan knitted into it, but how in the world do you do that?

I made it my goal to learn how to do what is known as "intarsia" (aka "picture knitting") for this purpose. It wasn't about the contest, the winner of which gets "a gift basket to be determined." But it gave me a deadline to teach myself something I had been putting off learning.

So, I got out one of my trusty knitting books and tried my hand at it by doing a small square. I wasn't sure what the heck I was doing, but I followed the directions in my trusty book "Stitch 'N Bitch" and sure enough -- success! So, that was a good first step.

Next up was how to possibly create some kind of pattern. I certainly wasn't going to be able to knit Michigan freehand. So, I thought about it for a day or two... I had never read a pattern before much less created one and then followed it.

Finally, I realized my scarf was 24 stitches across. I already had started it, with the idea of having royal blue -- in my mind to represent water -- and then about 2/3 of the way up the white Michigan, I would start in with magenta -- to represent a sunset of sorts. (And because I just thought the colors would contrast nicely).

SO, I typed up several rows of X's -- 24 of them to be exact -- representing the number of stitches I was working with. I then printed out a Michigan map we use in one of our media kids at work and enlarged it on the photocopier to be in proportion to the size of the X's.

I placed the cut out map on top of the page of X's and traced around it -- voila! Instant pattern. At least I hoped it might work...

So, the days went on and I kept saying "I have until February 7, no problem." Unfortunately, I had forgotten the pattern when I took my trip to Michigan last weekend, so I couldn't work on it until I returned on Tuesday, Feb. 5. BUT, that was election night and I had to work the night shift at the network in Chicago. When I got home around 11 p.m. I was a little wound up from working so late. I decided to see what I could do with this map to try to wind down.

Unfortunately, I think it had an adverse affect. I had the book out and what seemed like 20 little balls of yarn I was working with. I just kept plugging away... When I got to the part where I planned on switching to the pink, I already felt overwhelmed with all of the yarn I was juggling. So I didn't want to add two more skeins of yarn to the mix. I decided the whole state would be with a blue background and THEN I would switch colors.

I made it through the state, and thoroughly exhausted, at 2 a.m. I was quite impressed with what I had come up with! It actually LOOKED like Michigan. Granted, a short fat little Michigan, but you could tell it was Michigan! Intarsia success!

I spent every waking spare moment of Feb. 6 and Feb. 7 knitting away at the magenta, tucking in ends, trying to clean up the edges of my little state. That included a mad dash yesterday, getting my office assistant to stay a few extra minutes at work to help shoot photos in the parking lot next to our office and rushing the photos off to Daniel for some Photoshop work just after 5 p.m. Michigan time before he left his office. Again -- favors make this all possible. But I got the scarf posted around to my Etsy shop around 5 p.m. Chicago time -- a full 7 hours before the midnight deadline. Ahhh... I can breathe again.

Ultimately, I'm not completely happy with it. But I'm still proud of it. I think I did a great job, if I do say so myself, for my first time at this method, not to mention the fact that I did something with a goofy shape and not just a square or circle.

So, here's the finished product:

Now, it looks like only my scarf and a photograph are in the MICE competition. And I have no idea how this aforementioned online voting is going to go. If the public can vote, I'll have to get the word out. After all, this photo (seen here) maybe be prettier than my scarf (posted here), but there's no question I put more time and sweat equity into my little scarf.

So, fingers crossed. I'm sure if I do win, I will be lucky enough to win a basket full of chocolate -- which I detest. But even that will be fine with me. This contest forced me to learn something new, which I can now use in many ways in future knitting endeavors. So, I suppose I already won.

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