I'm not a designer, but I play one on TV.
Recently, the yarn shop owner suggested I design a reversible cable cowl and teach a class on it. Piece of cake, I thought. I know how to make a cowl. Easy peasy. I know how to cable. Easy peasy. And I even know how to make cables reversible. What could go wrong?
I expected the process to include some trial and error. I started with two identical skeins of yarn, thinking I'd play around with design ideas using the first skein, then I'd knit the final product with the other. Piece of cake.
My first idea involved a reversible, i.e. ribbed, cable on a field of garter stitch. Garter is reversible, so it seemed like a good choice. Except that the cable didn't really stand out against the highly textured garter. No worries. It was only my first attempt.
Next I tried ribbing the whole thing, except for a column of garter alongside the cable. Now, the rib was obscuring the (ribbed) cable, and the whole thing merged together. And oh, did I mention that I was doing this in a fluffy, bulky alpaca yarn?
Next attempt: 2-stitch wide column of garter next to the cable. It was better than any of the other attempts, but I still wasn't very happy with it. Piece of cake had now turned into piece of pie.
Next attempt (and I was feeling a little hot and sweaty at this point): Stockinette stitch on one side of the cable, reverse stockinette on the other. At least it was reversible, if not symmetrical. But the edges rolled. Blueberry pie. (I don't like blueberry goo).
I took a few days off from "designing" at this point. It had begun to feel less like designing, and more like trying to hit a small nail on the head in the dark with a very tiny hammer.
I had started with my first idea, then continued with the same piece of knitting, trying another and another idea, until I had a long sampler that looked like I had been experimenting with synthetic marijuana while knitting.
After a few more days off, I thought of another possibility: setting the cable off with yarnovers. I tried it. It looked OK. The longer a piece I knit, the more OK it looked, until I decided I really liked it. Piece of French Silk pie !
I eagerly wound the "real" skein of yarn and quickly knit a fresh sample, using my highly refined pattern. It only took about two days to complete the knitting, and then I had only the seaming to do. It was then that the project turned into pie-in-the face.
I had envisioned a cowl that was truly and fully reversible, that is, with an invisible graft between the cast-on edge and the bound-off edge which looked the same on both sides. Better minds than mine have contemplated this issue, and there are two unavoidable truths: First, if you use a provisional cast-on, you will wind up half a stitch off when you try to graft the beginning of the piece to the end. And, while it may be somewhat easily hidden on stockinette stitch, it is blatant on 1x1 rib. Second, if you use a standard cast-on and bind-off, you can seam the piece, but then there will always be a Wrong Side with an unsightly seam. And mattress stitch is very difficult on 1x1 rib. (Any geniuses out there who know how to do it, let me know.)
And no, I will not tell you how many complete cowls (except for joining) I have knit to date. Just let me say that until I solve the joining problem, I will be knitting only swatches to try out my further ideas.
Stay tuned for the ultimate resolution. I'm going to compromise and set the bar a little lower this time. We'll see how well I can do the Limbo.