Monday, October 01, 2007

Seeing Red

Who would have thought that a simple red scarf would be such a difficult thing to knit?

I have a friend, M, who grew up in a pretty tough environment - shuffled around between homes, without much care from his parents. He went to college on a combination of aid and loans, but there wasn't money for anything else. And I mean not for anything else. Once, when several of us were talking about missing the college days of little work and less responsibility, he said he was glad to be working. As a student, he had $100 to get him through the school year - to cover laundry, supplies, out-of-dorm meals, and all those other expenses that come up for college kids. He spent one summer living in the woods, out of a backpack, because there was nowhere for him to go when school wasn't in session. So I can see why he didn't miss his college days.

The Orphan Foundation of America helps people like M. An 18-year-old can't be a foster "child" anymore, but they're not ready to go out and get a good job, either. So the OFA provides scholarships, sends care packages, helps with job and internship placement, and generally does all the things parents do for people who don't have parents to do them.

Knitters come in with the Red Scarf Project, an OFA program to provide handmade scarves to the OFA's college students. All you have to do to provide a bit of cheer to someone like my friend is make a red scarf and mail it to the OFA, maybe with a note of encouragement or a gift card. The scarves will be included in Valentine's Day care packages, so that somebody who hasn't received a lot of presents will get something new and handmade.

Sounds easy, right?

This red scarf is the fourth one I've cast on - and I cast on for the first one at least four times. I wound up cutting off the yarn from the beginning of the ball, because it was getting too beat up from being frogged. This scarf, which I'm pretty happy with, is the Asherton Reversible Scarf from SmarieK. I'm making it from Dale Baby Ull instead of a worsted, so I've added an extra pattern repeat and cast on 52 stitches instead of the 40 called for in the instructions.

The Red Scarf Project just asks for nice, drapey, 6-foot-long red scarves in a unisex design. I also wanted something that would be kind of fun to knit, which to me meant texture but no lace. I started by trying the recommended Ribbed Red Scarf, but finally frogged it for good on the fourth go. I overestimated how much I needed to add to account for my thinner yarn, couldn't reconcile the printed and charted directions on the first try (the slipped stitches kind of sneak in), and then gave up totally when I discovered that I was REALLY supposed to be knitting Row 2 according to the special supplemental chart instead of the way it was in the main chart. Then I tried my own design - a combination of moss stitch and ribbing - but found that the two made for a not-so-nice rippled edge. The Yarn Harlot's One-Row Scarf seemed like the answer, but it just wasn't that pretty for my skinny and boring yarn. So now it's the Asherton scarf, and while this picture represents only one pattern repeat, I think I'm committed.

By the way, M is now married, and a parent. He works with delinquent kids, helping them get back on the right track, so now doubt he's working with a lot of people from a background similar to his. So it will be easy for me to write a note of encouragement. And a happy ending is possible without a red scarf, but I'm sure one helps.


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