Friday, June 15, 2007

A Plan for the Mitered Square Blanket


The reason that I labeled the post below this one "A Man A Plan A Canal Panama" is because I was thinking about rules that govern order, and how they can deviate from symmetry, or work backwards, or repeat, but still make sense.

A Man A Plan A Canal Panama is a palindrome: same words read from left to right as from right to left (or backwards, for English-speakers). If you're not a visual learner, try writing the phrase down, starting with the last a in Panama and working your way to the A before Man. Same thing, right? But a palindrome hides its order, its plan, if you will, and that's what I'd like to do with my mitered square blanket. Not too obvious an order, lots of different colors and shades and tints and tones. At the same time, a regularity, some underlying order at work, including both surprising combinations as well as places, as my quilting colleague puts it, for the eye to rest.

Tall order. But then we're talking about a knitter with high expectations and a very strong competitive edge. Here's the latest version of the plan: each square, made up of four smaller mitered squares, will consist of four colors. Two dominant colors and two quieter colors. Each dominant will be knitted up into two squares, one each with the quieter colors. When I sew them together, I'll place the same dominant squares at diagonals.

Now you'll understand why I had to diagram this out in my knitting notebook. Or you will if you learn in any other fashion than reading for comprehension. Years ago, a friend who is a teacher told me about this new approach in teaching, which directs the teacher to use lots of different methods of instruction, because a class full of kids will have multiple ways of learning. I didn't get it until recently, when I noticed that I absolutely have to write something down (typing works too) in order to grasp and remember it. So I took out my notebook, drew a four-square for each square that worked, labeled the colors A through D, and then labeled each smaller square within the whole with its color-letters. Then I got fancy on the computer, with some help, and labeled pictures of the squares that work and those that don't bounce.

Here's my favorite square:
A is lilac, B is lime green, C is dark purple and D is forest green. What works here is the dominant colors of lime and lilac at diagonals from one another, and each dominant playing off of the more subdued colors of dark purple and forest green. Here's another, with colors off because of the computer and my flash, but still illustrative of the plan:
In person, the dark stripes that are D are a dark charcoal grey, and the stripes that are C are the same lilac as in the square above, instead of what looks like pink. Here again, dominants at a diagonal. Better still, this square has four different colors meeting at the center and, my most favorite effect, different colors stripes meeting at the edge of each small square.

If you're still sticking with me, here's a square that doesn't work:

No pleasant diagonal movement of color and eye. Too much contrast: the subdued is dull and the dominant clashes. (The actual colors are a beet red, a beige, a purple and a very bright orange.) No color-wheel relationship. But that's a whole 'nother post. Time for dinner: risotto with saffron, green beans, bread, salad maybe, white wine.

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