I've always been a little intimidated by intarsia. The thought of maintaining even tension at the color changes, never mind weaving in hundreds of ends, drives me a little bit crazy. Perhaps a not-so-little bit of self-delusion is what kept me from realizing that I can do intarsia until I had completed at least one third of Veronik Avery's Bear Claw Blanket. Each time I knit one of the claws – a mitered square, with each side a different color – I just thought: "oh, I'm changing colors mid-row."
It wasn't until I went hunting for a method of twisting the yarn that produced something other than a tangled mess that I realized that what I was doing was actually intarsia. So thank you, Veronik, for allowing me to maintain that bit of self-delusion until I could get hooked on the project. You see, the description just talked about things like "garter stitch" and "mitered squares" - nice, easy techniques that would not get a beginning knitter's guard up.
And yes, I was something of a beginning knitter when I started this piece; I had only been knitting for a couple of years. Thus it was with a beginner's confidence that I ignored the designer's comment, and I quote, "this is not a quick project." That won't apply to me, I blissfully thought, after all, I knit rather quickly, if I do say so myself. Let's see, the pattern was published in the Spring 2005 Interweave Knits, I started it the following fall, and it is now May 2009.
Wow, it took me three and a half years to finish this blanket. It sure was worth the wait, don't you think?
Jared Flood over at brooklyntweed has long been a proponent of garter stitch and I really must agree with him after this project. Even after knitting what felt like mile after mile of border stitches, I still love the feel of the simple garter, especially when combined with Veronk's clever construction.
This is by no means a quick project. Between the many components of the project itself and other distractions, only a very dedicated knitter could expect to complete this project within a couple of months. That said, it is well worth the effort. The construction is seamless and very clever. Plus, you'll learn intarsia without the heart-stopping terror (and, to be perfectly honest, awe) that a Kaffe Fasset piece inspires.
Fair warning: this is by no means an inexpensive project, either. I can't remember what I spent on yarn for this project (I'll have to try to remember how much yarn I bought when I update this project's Ravelry page) but it was certainly more than I spend on most sweaters, even with substituting Dale of Norway's Baby Ull for the suggested Koigu.
One last shot:
Now that the blanket's done, I'm happy to have a break from all of the intarsia squares and miles of garter. But I'm not finished with this pattern; I think a worsted weight version knit up with charcoal grey and a deep blood red would be pretty fun, too. That means it's time for me to work through a bit more of the stash before I can justify a big purchase like that.